“Ideologies,” writes David Wells in Above all Earthly Pow'rs," are “worldviews with an attitude.” They are viewpoints one seeks to impose through power and intimidation. The intent of every ideology is to control and with the passage of time (coupled with the desire to be triumphant), ideologies become simplistic and intellectually lazy. One of the chief ways they express themselves is through dismissals disguised as arguments.
Ideologies are also intolerant, though they’re often expressed in the very language of tolerance. Consider this reply, sent to me by an abortion-choice blogger named Kevin (sorry, link lost):
“The problem is that anti-choicers are invariably intolerant of the pro-choice position. It’s not enough for them not to favor abortion in their own cases, or even to make themselves a nuisance by bugging other people who make other choices for themselves. Inevitably, they seek to force others to live by the values of the anti-choicers, through legal restrictions, harassment, and often violence or murder. That’s the difference between tolerance and intolerance, between holding a view and using force to make others comply with it. That’s the difference more anti-choicers need to understand.”So, is Kevin saying peaceful pro-lifers are wrong to live out their convictions in the public square? If so, who is he to impose that view on us? And what, exactly, does he want pro-lifers like me to do--become abortion-choicers? Moreover, Kevin has it all wrong: Pro-lifers aren’t imposing their views with intimidation (except for the very few who resort to violence); they’re proposing them in hopes the American electorate, at some level, will vote them into law. That’s called democracy. Yet Kevin’s own (tolerant) position seems to be “agree with me or get out of the public square.”
In short, I understand his position perfectly: We pro-lifers can believe anything we want as long as we don't act as if our view is true. As I wrote him at the time, his own view is anything but tolerant:
“Privately, you'll let me and other pro-lifers say that no human being regardless of size, level of development, or dependency should be killed without justification, but if we try to act on our convictions through the democratic process, you scream foul. In the real world of politics and law, the only view you'll tolerate is your own. Seriously, do you really think abortion-choicers don't force their views? Try running that by a private medical school that is now being told by "pro-choicers" that it must provide or refer for abortion training despite its strongly supported belief that elective abortion is unjust killing. Try running that by the 29 states where the people, acting through their duly elected officials, passed laws against partial-birth abortion, only to be told by the federal courts--with the blessing of "pro-choice" groups--"you must allow that procedure." Common, Kevin! Get off your perch of alleged moral neutrality and admit that you'd like to restrict the advance of the pro-life worldview as much as I'd like to restrict the advance of the abortion-choice one. Everyone takes a position here and you'd like yours to win and mine to lose.”Despite Kevin’s protestations, this is not a debate between anti-choice and pro-choice, tolerance or intolerance. I’m sure he and I are both anti-choice (intolerant) on a whole lot of things like spousal abuse, racial discrimination, the dumping of toxic wastes in our rivers. He is also anti-choice (I assume) on the question of killing toddlers for fun. At the same time, we're both pro-choice on women choosing their own husbands, careers, pets, and cars that they drive, to name just a few things. Hence, the real issue that separates us is not choice versus anti-choice, but "What is the unborn?" Are they or are they not members of the human family--like toddlers, for instance?
Until critics of the pro-life view persuasively answers that question, all their glib dismissals are far from persuasive. They hint of a people who’ve truly run out of ideas.
That’s sad, because there are thoughtful abortion-choicers who take the pro-life position seriously and engage it at a sophisticated and reasonable level. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I wouldn’t for a moment glibly dismiss arguments put forth by David Boonin, Judith Jarvis Thomson, or Dean Stretton (to name a few) as beyond the pale of rational thought. Though I disagree with their conclusions, each thinker has made an important contribution to the abortion debate and helped me think more carefully about my own position.