I intended to continue this discussion of the emotional aspect of moral outrage by talking specifically about the disparate emotional responses to the brutal murders of (1) one of my own children, (2) one of my nephews, (3) a child in Atlanta, (4) a child in the Sudan, and (5) an unborn child at our local abortion mill here in Cobb County, GA. I think that I may be tempted to further explore that at a later date, but briefly, I do not think that my emotional response to (1) and (2) are fueled by an emotional component to moral outrage as they are familial bonds and the resulting pain of loss. Even if there were morally justifiable reasons to murder my child or nephew, I would still be terribly impacted by there loss. I am not emotionally responding to a violation of my values in this case. I am emotionally responding to the loss of loved ones. My son being the greater loss because I love him differently than I do almost any other human being on the planet. I accept any plausible explanation anyone wants to offer as to why I respond differently to the identical immoral treatment of the other three. My rejection is in the idea that the current disparate responses are a necessary condition that can not be overcome. I accept that it is the way things are, I reject that it is the way things must be. I will focus the meat of this post on why I think that this is important to our ultimate victory over legalized abortion in the United States.
I think that I will try to state my position in a simplified form. Here are three different statements:
1 - We CAN end legalized elective abortion in the United States.
2 - We OUGHT to end legalized elective abortion in the United States.
3 - We MUST end legalized elective abortion in the United States.
Statement 1 speaks to the possibility of the endeavor. We have historical precedent in our country of righting wrongs and changing societal beliefs and prejudices toward people groups. In addition, we know that slippery slopes run potentially in both directions as Greg Koukl explains in this piece on partial birth abortion. If we can gain small legal victories we can start a slope that runs in favor of the unborn. Again, we have precedent in our nations history and in England as well (see Amazing Grace) to support our belief in the truth of the first statement. Ending legalized abortion in the United States is possible. We can do it!
Statement 2 addresses our intellectual arguments. What are the unborn? If they are human beings then we have a moral obligation to treat them as such. The LTI "Case for Life" page here develops these arguments more fully. Greg Koukl said:"If the unborn are not human, no justification for elective abortion is necessary. But if the unborn are human, no justification for elective abortion is adequate."
If they are human and we value all human life then we ought to end legalized abortion in the United States. We are morally compelled to take action because the legal killing of innocent human beings for elective reasons is a moral crime and a violent injustice.
Statement 3 addresses the urgency. Here is where I argue that we are at our weakest. One may wish to argue that we are less strong on number 1 than we once were, but I am certain that we can do this and that victory is possible. We are very strong on 2. The reason why we are weak on 3 in my opinion is NOT that we are unfeeling uncaring well meaning people. I firmly believe that we are handicapped in this fight in the emotional aspect of our moral outrage because of two reasons. (A) We are not the unborn. (B) The unborn can not defend themselves. Simply put, those who are actually the victims of tyranny tend to be more upset than anyone else about it.
I will again turn to a quote from Frederick Douglass, “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” Douglass is speaking to the very core of the issue I am discussing. The unborn can do nothing but quietly submit, and you see the resulting horror they are subjected to as a result. They are vacuumed to death, sliced into pieces, torn apart limb by limb, chemically burned and suffocated, their skulls are pierced and their brains sucked out, they are experimented on, their body parts are sold, and they sacrificed because they may be of some possible future benefit to others. They can not speak out and so they are the perfect victim.
The victims of tyranny are just more interested in the immediate end to their condition than the rest of us. To illustrate that point I want to give you an extended quotation from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail addressing the urgency of the movement:
“Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was well timed in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word Wait It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This Wait has almost always meant 'Never. We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that justice too long delayed is justice denied.
We have waited .for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, Wait. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean? ; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading white and colored ; when your first name becomes nigger, your middle name becomes boy (however old you are) and your last name becomes John, and your wife and mother are never given the respected title Mrs. ; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodiness then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.”
My fellow pro-lifers, our movement lacks this key emotional aspect. That is why I feel we are burdened with the responsibility to emotionally connect with the unborn at a higher level than we are now doing. The tyranny that dominates the unborn in this culture will never be thrown off with the cry of “no longer” from the unborn. We know that we can stop it, we know that we ought to stop it. Now all that is left is to convince a sufficient number of people that we MUST STOP IT NOW. It is not a problem for tomorrow. That urgency seems rooted in our emotional connection to the victims of this horror. I think that we need it to win the day.
Mr Douglass also said, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” We must set the limit now and push the culture back down the slippery slope that embraces the humanity, value, and love of the unborn. That is a gargantuan task. One that if we are properly convinced and motivated we can accomplish.