Too conservative? Too liberal? No, it's JustLifeby TERRY MATTINGLY (Scripps Howard News Service)
October 31, 1992, Saturday, City Edition, October 31, 1992
Before the Democratic National Convention, leaders of a group called JustLife asked if they could testify against the party's stand for abortion rights. No way. Before the Republican National Convention, JustLife asked to testify in favor of sharp defense spending cuts, with the savings invested in programs to help the poor, unemployed and defenseless. Once again, the doors were closed.
It's hard to label JustLife director Dave Medema and others in this pro-justice, anti-abortion and pro-peace group. Some people suggest they're closet conservatives, in league with the Religious Right. Others hint they're too liberal.
"We are pro-life, yet we struggle with groups that only seem to be interested in pro-life issues. . . . On peace and justice, we take many of the same positions as so-called liberal groups. But they reject our pro-life stand," said Medema, whose organization frequently works with Evangelicals forSocial Action and similar Catholic groups. "We're just trying to take a consistent, biblical approach to all of these issues. We believe they are all connected."
This unique organization's political arm - called JustLife Action - has beenlooking for a few unique candidates to endorse. They found 33 Democrats and four Republicans. Founded in 1985, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based JustLife backed 46 candidates in 1988 and 54 in 1990. It didn't endorse a presidential ticket in '88 and will not do so in '92.
"This has been a tense, partisan political year. We've seen Republicans we wanted to support forced to toe the line on military and economic issues," said Medema. "But to be honest, the main reason we endorsed fewer people this year is that the Democrats put so much pressure on their pro-life candidates. . . . People were told to change or be killed off by their own party."
JustLife Action endorsements were based on 15 House and 15 Senate votes. Forexample, the group backed family and medical leave legislation, which was vetoed by President Bush, and also supported efforts to stall the Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars" program. JustLife backed "parental notification" bills to slow abortions and fiercely opposed efforts to pass theFreedom of Choice Act, a sweeping piece of pro-abortion rights legislation.
"At this point, FOCA is the 200-pound gorilla in the whole abortion arena," Medema said. "It's going to be very hard for Democrats to avoid takinga stand on that." On the Republican side, JustLife believes the key issue will be the development of a post-Cold War military and economic policy. With President Bush facing probable defeat, his party will slide into open conflict.
Key questions: Will the Religious Right keep pushing a pure right-wing military and economic agenda? Or will Republicans make room for "bleeding heart conservatives" who want to create new strategies to help the poor?
"For years JustLife has been saying that the Pentagon budget is a moral issue," said Medema. "It's a social issue. It's an economic issue. It's a biblical issue that should matter to people who believe God cares about the poor and the weak."
Medema is used to being frustrated. Often, it's hard to walk the high wire between political and religious polls on the right and left. JustLife leaders struggle to find practical ways to achieve idealistic goals.
Irony and paradox are facts of life. For example, consider this quotation: "What happens to the mind of a person, and the moral fabric of a nation, that accepts the aborting of the life of a baby without a pang of conscience? What kind of person and what kind of society will we have, 20 years hence, if life can be taken so casually?"
JustLife leaders note that these words do not come from Sen. Jesse Helms, but from a 1977 address by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Terry Mattingly teaches media and popular culture at Denver Seminary. He writes this column weekly for the Scripps Howard News Service.
St. Petersburg Times