Thursday, January 18, 2007

MADD About Moral Incrementalism [Serge]

This is a reposting of something that was lost in the nuclear explosion in Valencia (sorry, I've been watching lots of 24 on the TIVO). I plan on contributing a post for the Blogs4Life symposium soon, and this will be a bit of a warm up.

I was listening to the radio show Stand to Reason recently when host Greg Koukl was discussing Dennis Prager's views on abortion. Prager questions the real views of pro-lifers, stating that if we really thought unborn children were valuable human beings, we would insist on the death penalty for mothers and doctors who perform abortions.

On the other side, Judie Brown of the American Life League does not understand why any pro-lifer would ever support a law that does not go all the way to make every abortion illegal. She claims that since South Dakota voters rejected the ill-timed and poorly written law that would have restricted abortion up until the time the pro-abortion choicers made their way to the nearest courtroom, they must "approve of virtually unrestricted abortion on demand. Any one who would support a law with an exception for rape and incest is not understanding that it is about "the babies".

Both of these views reject the idea of moral incrementalism. In short, moral incrementalism understands that for most moral issues, individual moral change happens not by leaps by by slower steps. Incrementalist strategy uses the small steps described by Hadley Arkes to initiate moral change.

To be clear, I believe that human beings are intrinsically valuable and that does not change if they are the circumstance of the immoral acts of rape or incest. However, would I support a law (after Roe is overturned) that has a rape and incest exception? Absolutely. And then I would continue to educate the public to change those exceptions. In the meantimes, children would be saved and there would be increased opportunities for hearts to be changed.

We can look to an example of how this strategy has played out regarding another issue: drunk driving. MADD began in 1980 and has had a very impressive impact on how our culture views drunk driving. Back in 1980, the culture simply accepted drunk driving as a matter of course. The penalties for driving intoxicated were often very lenient and not even enforced by our court system.

MADD's goal is very clear:

We want to completely eliminate drunk driving. With your help, we plan on making drunk driving the public health equivalent of polio.
To do so have they have embarked on a strategy to make many small changes in our laws that have had a significant effect over time: changing the national drinking age to 21, decreasing the legal blood alcohol limit to .08%, and hundreds of other small changes. The results are impressive: annual deaths due to alcohol related crushes have decreased from 30,000 to less than 17,000 from the initiation of these measures.

Clearly there is more work to do, but they have been successful by changing the hearts of individuals by their incremental legislative victories. Now imagine if back in 1980, the leaders of this organization were told by the alcohol companies that they didn't really want to decrease drunk driving deaths unless they supported the death penalty for drunk drivers. Clearly, that would be nonsensical.

Imagine also that some of those who were against drunk driving only supported legislation that went all the way in an effort to curtail drunk driving. Those who supported the MADD philosophy would be labeled compromisers and unsupportive of the overall cause. This also would make no sense.

Yet in the words of Judie Brown, this is what supported of this strategy in saving unborn human beings are guilty of.

We are not looking for an avenue that justifies the "lesser of two evils." We are looking for the chance to save every single preborn child without exception. Why? Well, because it's the babies, stupid!
She's got one word right.

Embarking on a winnable strategy that understands that human hearts of sometimes changed more slowly than we would like. To continue to speak the truth about abortion without compromise, but to support effective legislation (and legislators) willing to take small steps to change our culture. In this we are not compromisers, but effective Christian ambassadors.

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