Saturday, March 31, 2018

Answering the "Women's Perspective" Argument for Abortion

In continuing my posts looking at the effects of post-modernism on the abortion debate (You can access part one and part two here). I would like to highlight another way that the postmodern worldview has influenced the way members of our society view the pro-life argument, and give some practical tips for engaging this view. Since I have already addressed several of the fatal flaws in relativism, I will focus more specifically on how relativism manifests itself in the most common slogan of the pro-choice movement in the West today.

Many pro-life men(myself included) have had the slogan repeated to us that since we cannot get pregnant, we should remain silent on the issue of abortion. To put it another way, since men cannot experience the troubles that come with pregnancy, it is assumed (On this view) that they have nothing of importance to add to the discussion on abortion.

It is definitely true that men canUsually, at this point, pro-lifers will correctly point out that Roe V Wade was decided by men who could not experience pregnancy. However, this misses the point that the critic of the pro-life view is making: Pro-Choice advocates in this case are not saying that any view on abortion is nullified because it is held by a man(Though some do believe this). Instead, it is the ability to experience pregnancy itself that is the deciding factor in whether or not a woman can choose to end her pregnancy.

While this may seem sound to some, I think it falls apart under closer scrutiny.

First off, why should anyone accept the claim that the ethics of any action taken is solely up to how a person may feel when faced with that dilemma? Should only parents have a say in whether or not it is wrong to abuse a born child? I personally do not have children, but it would be crazy to assert that because I don't have kids, I cannot therefore step in to stop someone from abusing their own children.

Second, the pro-life argument does not rest on anyone's experience. Suppose every single person who opposes elective abortion was a male. What logically follows? Not much. Sure, pro-life men may not be able to sympathize with the emotional turmoil that a woman in a crisis pregnancy may be experiencing, but that proves little. The pro-life argument is that abortion is wrong because it intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. If it does not intentionally end the life of an innocent human being, then it is not wrong. No experience with pregnancy is needed in order to understand this.

As I stated above, there is a subtle form of relativism that does creep into the argument as well, especially when gender politics is raised. When many feminist groups(Not all) bring up the issue of men not being able to engage on the abortion issue, they are assuming a form of cultural relativism, that relegates values to distinct cultures and sub cultural categories. Since men and women would generally qualify as two sub categorical groups, they may end up viewing an issue such as abortion differently, and thus, one group does not have a view superior to another.

Now, aside from overstating one's case drastically (It's simply not true that all men oppose abortion while all women support it; in fact, many men support it for what they can gain, which is easy sex.) The idea also still assumes that the pro-life argument is completely subjective, and is true for some people but not others. The assumption is that since pregnancy primarily affects women, they should decide the morality of killing the child whom they are pregnant with.

 However, that isn't the way that rights(Including abortion rights, if they exist) end up working. To say that a right or a wrong only exists if someone or some people personally choose to accept it would completely undermine any claim to legitimacy for any right, including abortion. The abortion supporter is thus stuck asserting that the right to abortion only exists for her personally if she feels like it does, but if others feel like it doesn't, then she is out of luck.

It seems odd to think of a notion like intrinsic rights being something as superfluous as a desire for spicy food or chocolate ice cream, which means that any right that human beings have for simply being human is not merely a preference for a particular individual or group. Thus, a right that exists across individuals and groups is capable of being recognized by everyone. If that right extends to the unborn as well, then both men and women are capable of recognizing that right, and the injustice of when that right is taken away. Therefore, the assertion that the abortion debate depends solely on women's perspectives fails in this regard as well.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Social Parallels of the America that Enslaved Blacks and the America that Kills Unborn Babies.


There is truly nothing new under the sun. I have been taking some time to study the social parallels between the America that enslaved people based on the color of their skin and the America today that kills unborn humans based on their size and whether or not they are wanted. The parallels are thoroughly depressing. We have not changed or progressed at all as a nation. The south in the antebellum period of American history defended slavery by arguing that it was essential to social progress and economic success. Abortion is similarly defended as being a crucial right women have so that they can pursue their dreams and benefit their own social standing emotionally and economically.
            During the antebellum period, an entire group of people were not considered equal to other people. Current America would not dare utter the words, but our actions and laws show that we also view an entire class of people unequally. We have placed an entire group in a dehumanized category so that some individuals can make “progress” in their lives at the expense of someone else’s life.
            It helps to dull the conscience so that evil can be perversely twisted into something that is seen as “beneficial for society” by so many people. Slaveholders argued that the institution of slavery benefited the slave because it spared him from something worse. They masked their evil by saying they wanted to prevent the slave from possessing something he/she was not equipped to handle: freedom. I’m sure you have heard the statement, “Every child a wanted child”. Abortion advocates claim that we need to spare children from pain, poverty, and medical challenges in the future so we should end their lives by abortion. They say we should not allow an “unwanted” child to be born. Ending their lives is “benefiting” the children, women, and society, because it is supposedly preventing harm in the future that would be too difficult and burdensome to bear. History has repeated itself.
            Slavery advocates argued that blacks were intellectually and physically inferior to whites. Now some argue that the fetus is not valuable because it cannot function intellectually/mentally on the same level as another human. As for the physical aspect, if you are small, dependent, and less developed, then you are inferior in this country.
            In the America that enslaved blacks, it was simply assumed that they were inferior and not part of society like the whites were. It is also assumed that the unborn are not one of us and not part of society as born people are. They are unjustly excluded from the protections that grant rights to all “persons” in this country.
            Many Southerners saw the institution of slavery as the basis for freedom. In the same way, many people view abortion as essential to the freedom of women. To which I add the question, which women?     
            These parallels are paradoxically depressing yet encouraging in a way. It is encouraging in that now, the vast majority of Americans look back on the race-based slavery that existed and are appalled that that happened in this country. We rightly look back in horror at the injustice that took place. In the same way, one day abortion will be unthinkable. People will look back on this time and wonder how anyone could have ever allowed that to happen. They will wonder how we ever justified the evil of abortion and how we let it go on for so long. But as we understand that the nature of human beings have not changed, when that time comes and people look back on abortion in horror, they will have their own social injustice right under their noses that they justify. History indeed repeats itself. There is nothing new under the sun.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Hard Cases Make Bad Law [Clinton Wilcox]

Over at the Seattle Times, Bettina Paek, a maternal fetal medicine physician in Kirkland, wrote an opinion article called "Abort a baby to save twin: Painful choice that is a mother's to make." She recounts a difficult story about Lisa and Nick, a couple having twins who shared a placenta and the same amniotic sac. Lisa experienced complications in the pregnancy. As Dr. Paek explains, it is uncommon for both twins to share the same amniotic sac, and when they do, they share the same blood vessels. As can happen, the twins' umbilical cords can get tangled up, cutting off blood flow. Since both babies share the same blood vessels, if one twin dies, the other soon follows. This was Lisa and Nick's situation, as described by Dr. Paek.

Lisa and Nick's twins had their umbilical cords wrapped around each other. One twin was alive and vigorous, the other one was dying, his heart rate decelerating rapidly. Once the dying twin's heart stopped pumping completely, the resulting change in blood pressure would cause the other twin to pump all of his blood into his dying brother. It was a tragic, difficult situation. The only solution was to close off the umbilical cord of the dying baby and cut through it. This would sever the vascular connection between the two brothers, which would result in the dying twin's death almost immediately. However, it would save the healthy twin. If Dr. Paek had waited for nature to take its course, it would be too late to save the healthy child.

This seems almost like a textbook example of a triage case: both patients are in mortal danger (even though the second twin was still healthy and vibrant at the time, he was in mortal danger because of his dying twin), and you can only save one. Which one do you save? In this case, it was only possible to save one child.

I don't fault Dr. Paek for her decision. She clearly considers this to be a tragic case and would have preferred both twins to survive. In fact, I agree that Dr. Paek did the right thing, and that the parents did the right thing by requesting the surgery. Not only could this be justified as a case of triage (act to save one patient or end up losing them both), but it could also be justified by double-effect reasoning: one twin was already dying, so the death of that twin was not aimed for -- the immediate death of the twin was foreseen, but not intended. If it was medically possible, the doctor would have saved them both (which seems clear from the context of the article). And while the doctor says her severing of the umbilical cord "killed" the dying twin almost immediately, she is not making a distinction between a direct and indirect killing. In this case, the death of the fetus was not caused by a direct action from Dr. Paek, but from an indirect action on her part, the severing of the umbilical cord.

Now here's the rub: this is clearly a medical emergency. But Dr. Paek wants to argue that the bill the Senate was going to vote on, outlawing abortion after 20 weeks (which, we know now, failed to pass a Senate vote) would criminalize surgeries like the one she performs. It would also criminalize, she claims, other "hard case" surgeries like abortions in the case of fetal abnormalities incompatible with life which, Dr. Paek asserts, make up the vast majority of terminations after 20 weeks. But as Secular Pro-Life has reported, it's simply not true that the vast majority of late-term terminations are due to fetal abnormalities. Women abort in the late term for socioeconomic reasons, just like they do in the early term, mixed with the fact that she either didn't know she was pregnant or was unable to secure an earlier term abortion.

Unfortunately, abortion-rights advocates tend to resort to the extreme difficult cases in order to justify all abortions remaining legal. But as has been rightly said, hard cases make bad law. Saying that we should legalize all abortions because there are extreme rare cases where it may be needed is like saying we should legalize speeding because there may come a day someone may have to rush a loved one to the hospital. Doctor Paek saved a baby's life in this surgery, but with abortion, the end result, and the aim, is a dead baby.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Love For Innocent Children and Guilty Adults [Mike Spencer]

When it comes to speaking up for preborn children targeted by abortion, the vast majority of churches choose silence over faithfulness. Although many churches have eloquent pro-life statements in their by-laws, few do anything to stop the killing even within their own four walls. The church’s refusal to blow Ezekiel’s trumpet for the preborn has become our great scandal. Could the heroes of Hebrews 11 whose faith compelled them to “shut the mouths of lions, quench the fury of flames, route foreign armies” and “administer justice” have imagined a day when shepherds who are called by God to protect the flock would instead surrender precious children from their own flock to the abortionist’s knife without so much as a whimper from their pulpits? God help us. God help the preborn.

There are many reasons for the church’s silence, but none of them are good ones, given the fact that Proverbs 31:8 clearly commands us to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” One excuse that is particularly troubling is when pastors spiritualize their disobedience with comments like, “Preaching against abortion will distract me from the gospel” - as if speaking up for helpless children and sharing the gospel of Christ are competing interests. Notice that no one in the Body of Christ ever argues this way with respect to victims of sex trafficking or the homeless. Only the preborn are treated with such contempt. And only in hell could one consider rescuing children from the abortionist’s knife a “distraction.” Jesus rebuked His disciples for this pernicious thinking when He told them, “Suffer the children to come to me.” Far from a “distraction” from the gospel, rescuing helpless children from abortion is the gospel in action.

Preaching against the sin of abortion, or against any sin for that matter, does not turn people off from the gospel; it turns them on to it. As Jesus taught, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:19). I was reminded of this truth several times in the months of January & February as I had opportunity to speak in 5 churches and at several other events in Washington, Oregon, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. In each church I spoke plainly and boldly of the evil injustice of abortion. I also spoke plainly and boldly of God’s grace, pointing those who’ve had abortions to the One who died to forgive them. I explained that Jesus not only offers forgiveness from the sin of abortion, but the Holy Spirit also promises to begin a sanctifying work that He will carry on “to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”, (Philippians 1:3). In other words, God not only forgives, he heals and restores. I pleaded with those who had abortions not to leave without speaking to me or to their pastor.  I was approached several times by both men and women. Far from being turned off from the gospel, preaching against abortion led these dear ones to recognize their need for the gospel. It was my joy to direct them to verses like Isaiah 53:5 and John 8:36 and to pray with them. In addition, I was able to connect one woman to a post-abortion Bible study through her local pregnancy care center.

Abortion is evil because it kills innocent children, but the gospel of Christ is beautiful because it provides forgiveness for guilty adults. Faithful shepherds do not hide such hope from those who’ve had abortions. Christ calls pastors to thunder from their pulpits both the evil of abortion and the grace of God. The church that fails to fulfill either of these obligations fails to love as Christ has called her to love.

In short, we’re never forced to choose between speaking up for innocent children and pointing guilty adults to the gospel of Christ. Instead, by “speaking the truth in love,” we do both (Ephesians 4:5). 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Another Fatal Flaw in Post-Modern Thinking

"Who are you, a straight, white, male, to tell me what to do?"

A common objection that is often raised on the college campuses in America today is often leveled at male pro-life advocates as a way to simply silence the pro-lifer into submission. I was listening to a presentation by Gregory Koukl recently, on the material in his book Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, when this realization came to me. When this objection(which isn't even a legitimate response to the argument being made against elective abortion) is raised, it is simply a way to silence any disagreement. (I also recommend Douglas Groothius' excellent book Truth Decay, as a tool for critiquing relativism and postmodern thought)

One other example of this happening, during a college campus outreach in the San Diego area a couple of years ago, a similar response was raised when I was speaking to a crowd of students who had come to our display to hear what we had to say. After laying out a brief case for the pro-life view, one student simply said, "Well, that's a male's view, let's get a woman's view on the issue." I was dumbfounded.

How is one to respond? The best way I can think of is to simply turn the question around: "Who are you to tell me I can't?" Or more along the lines of "So what if it's a male's point of view? How exactly does that undermine everything I just said?" Wait and see what the response is; I can guarantee it isn't something most people have though much about. Let me explain.

First, what does one's racial, sexual, or any other characteristic have to do with whether or not their point of view on a particular matter is correct? The statement is based on the worldview of postmodernism, and it's descendent, cultural relativism. A cultural relativist holds to the view that all moral, social, religious, or other views are relative to the culture that produces them. With this in mind, it is helpful to see where the postmodern mindset leads to this type of thinking. As a variation of the "Who are you to say?" answer of the relativist, this one puts values as relative to the members of a particular community group, whether they be racial minorities, gender minorities, or anything else. So, many times, when a feminist group at the local college is putting on an event with the title of "A Feminist Perspective on (Fill in the social issue here)" this is precisely what we are seeing happen. "Why is a man telling me what to do?" is as similar a response as the rhetorical question "Says who?"

The biggest problem with this line of reasoning, based on truth claims and values claims being relative to particular communities, is that it also undermines anything any particular group has to say. After all, if it is all just perspectives and opinions based upon the socio-environmental experiences of the members of a particular group, then no one has anything remotely useful to add to any discussion whatsoever(Including the correction of run-on sentences). There is no real difference then between a women's rights group and their views and any other group. The mantra "You're just a white male!" can be equally applied to the person making the statement "And you are just a female." Why is one perspective automatically superior to another? The postmodern worldview can't pass it's own test. This ends up meaning that no one is obligated to take a feminist perspective on anything seriously to begin with, up to and including abortion.

Some might say, "Wait a minute, women are human beings to, and deserve to be listened to!" Precisely. To acknowledge this statement as true is to reject the relativism that leads to a valuing of a view on the basis of which community it comes from, as opposed to the reasons for that view. It is because women(and minorities) are equally as human as everyone else is what grounds out obligations to respect them as persons, not necessarily as a way of thinking. A man can be just as mistaken as a woman, and vice versa.

This leads us back to the conclusion that there are some objectively true ideas that can be held independently of community experiences. Questions like, "Are all human beings fundamentally equal?" "Do all human beings deserve equal rights?" and "Are human rights worth striving for and upholding?" Don't seem to be questions that should be left up to the individual or the group to decide how to answer. In fact, we can take this a step further: Do human beings cease to be worthy of justice and protection when we leave earth? If we were on another planet, like Mars, Pluto, Vulcan, or Tatooine, would the statement "All human beings have inherent worth and dignity" suddenly cease to be true? What about a mathematical claim, like 2+2=4; would that suddenly cease to be the proper formula if we left our own solar system, or traveled to another country? Thinking this way gets pretty goofy upon further reflection.

So, now that we've arrived at the conclusion that there are indeed objective, universal truths that transcend cultural and subcultural experiences(To deny this is to admit there is one objective, universal truth that transcends cultural and subcultural experience. There is no escaping this conclusion. It cannot be done), how does this correspond to the issue at hand, the morality of abortion?

The argument against abortion, as laid out in logical form below, is either valid or invalid; sound or unsound:

1. It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being
Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

This argument is no more undermined or refuted if presented by a straight, wealthy, Republican, Christian, white biological male than if it was articulated by a talking parrot. Anyone who objects to the pro-life position needs to show how the syllogism fails, not merely get angry that someone who has a characteristic they happen to dislike is arguing it. Anything less is an insulting way to say "Just shut up" when there is a needed dialogue to be had.
 
 


Sunday, February 25, 2018

"Inconsistency" Does Not Kill The Pro-Life Argument

With all the ongoing debate unfolding over the issue of firearm ownership in America today, it is necessary to respond to a very common objection that is usually leveled at pro-life advocates who happen to be on the Right side of the political spectrum.

The common objection leveled at pro-life advocates who happen to support legally owning firearms might make for a snarky meme or Tweet, but it is often ill-reasoned(if reasoned at all).

The objection goes something like, "Oh, you call yourself pro-life? Yet you own a gun, which is designed to take human life. You aren't really 'pro-life' in any meaningful sense, but pro-fetus."

Let's review the pro-life argument, for clarity:

Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
Premise 2: Elective Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Therefore, Elective abortion is wrong.

Setting aside for the moment that the word "fetus" is often thrown out lazily as an emotional ploy to dehumanize the unborn without any further comment(and nevermind that the term is a clinical one meaning "little one" or little child in Latin to describe the entity within the womb), the assertion turns out to simply be a very lazy slander of the pro-lifer's viewpoint, as well as a misunderstanding of their viewpoint on gun ownership as well.

To illustrate this, suppose instead of killing the unborn, we were discussing the killing of newborns. This is not as far fetched as it seems, since some pro-choice philosophers like Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, and others have suggested this as the logically consistent position to take if one defends abortion on demand. Ancient Rome also used to practice abandoning newborns(often baby girls) and leaving them to die.

Now, imagine the gall of saying to someone who thinks this to be evil, "Well, you aren't pro-life if you own a gun, which is used to take human life, or oppose government funded healthcare, or stopping police brutality. In fact, you're just pro-neonate." The objection, even if true, is worthless in a discussion over what should be done to stop the intentional killing of newborns. It's simply a red herring that adds nothing of value to the discussion.

I have addressed the question on the blog in past posts as to whether those who oppose government funded solutions to social problems are inconsistent(And, as I have pointed out, this simply assumes that policies at the federal level are the only option that is worthy of consideration, when that is precisely what needs to be argued).

However, what about owning a firearm? Does that make the fatal flaw in the pro-life view?

Nope. Again, going back to our syllogism, we see that abortion is wrong because it intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. Contrast this with the vast majority of legal gun owners: Is anyone really going to suggest that there is a morally relevant comparison between a young woman using a firearm to protect herself from a rapist or mugger, for example, and an abortionist killing an unborn human via suction or dismemberment? Or if a man buys a handgun in order to protect his wife and kids if a person with evil intent enters his home, why should we assume that this is morally equivalent to elective abortion? Unless someone has completely bought into the notion taught in some women's studies courses that an action is evil if it is somehow comparable to rape, the comparison is ridiculous on the face of it.

While we may continue to debate the finer points of gun ownership(And we should, because this is how a healthy and free society is supposed to function) throwing out slanders and personal attacks against an opponent's position on other issues does absolutely nothing to aid needed discourse. It only serves to make tempers flare more than necessary, and turn arguments into fights at every turn.
 
 


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cultural Relativism Makes Social Justice Meaningless

Take any college social science class today, whether it be anthropology, sociology, criminology, or others, and you will be introduced to the worldview of postmodernism, especially it's ethical theory: Relativism. Given how deeply entrenched the worldview has become in the study of human behavior, it's no surprise that many college students today will respond to pro-life arguments in ways that reflect their post-modern education. Since many college students, high school students, and even middle school students have adopted this line of thinking(With or without knowing it) it is vitally important that the flaws associated with this worldview be addressed. I intend to do so below.

One very common way this manifests itself is the all-to-common response, "Well, you're a white male!" This is a response that is becoming much more frequent, in discussions of a whole host of social issues. However, it has deeply flawed presuppositions, given that it stems from a relativistic mode of thinking. The way it does so is that it emphasizes the role that subcultures play in our day to day interactions. Since one subculture(White, heterosexual men) may have differing values than another group(White women, for instance) the values are relative to those groups, and the individuals within them. Hence, we have culturally relative values.

Cultural relativism, known also as "Society Does Relativism"(A term coined by Greg Koukl and Francis J Beckwith; Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted In Mid-Air) is probably the most common ethical theory taught in sociology courses today, right after Marxism and Utilitarianism. The theory goes like this: "Since different societies have differing standards of what is right and what is wrong, one society has no say over the ethical issues involved in another society."

This view is very popular among intellectuals today, and is the basis for much of sociological and anthropological study. One college textbook, A New History of Asian America, is a prime example, since it assumes this view outright, by critiquing the practices of European colonial powers, from the beginnings of the modern West, all the way to the present age, while holding the position that since the European Empires tried to influence cultural and ethical customs in different cultures, various human rights abuses were bound to be the result. (Note: the book was very well-researched and argued it's case persuasively; I do recommend it for aiding further study)

It is easy to see why, today, many social issues where questions of race and gender are going to be raised, tempers will flare. I have personally been told while doing pro-life outreach on the campus that since I am a white male, my point of view is no more valid than someone of another race or gender. This is one big reason why colleges tend to set up ethnic and gender based resource centers. College students are taught to assume that varying life experience's, based on race, gender, and other factors, all hold equal weight in the major issues of today. This, again, is an example of how cultural relativism has influenced ethical though within our society.

Several Key Flaws:

There are several key flaws in this line of thinking, that I think if they are addressed, can make discourse on controversial topics much more successful in the long run. For those who wish to learn more, I highly recommend Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith's book, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air. I will be using many of the concepts from this work through the rest of this piece. Since the idea behind cultural relativism is that moral values are relative to the cultures they originate in, I will specifically be addressing this claim here. However, many of the same flaws also apply to individual relativism, given it's similar philosophy. "Says Who?" is the common slogan of the relativist, but if we take this line of thinking to where it will logically lead us, we will see that it is ultimately bankrupt.(As Greg Koukl has said elsewhere, we "Take The Roof Off" of the idea, and see what is left standing)

Flaw #1: Cultural Relativists cannot accuse other cultures of wrongdoing:

While this is a common objection that is raised by cultural relativists when they are examining the actions of other people groups, many times they fail to see that their line of reasoning also nullifies their own critique. For example, in my class on Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities last fall, the professor criticized the notion of Christian missionaries "imposing" their religious view on the people's in Asia and the Pacific they were encountering. The professor had remarked "Who were they to impose their cultural values on someone else?" Unfortunately, this also ends up being an example of "imposing" ones own cultural values. If a student had raised her hand and said "Professor, who are you to say that they cannot do that? Aren't you imposing your cultural values on them?" I have a hard time seeing how one can respond to this while still maintaining their relativism. If the professor had said "Well, obviously it was evil." Then she has rejected the notion that cultural values are relative, and has embraced the idea that there is at least one moral rule that transcends culture. The only consistent answer would be "Well, these are my culture's own moral preferences, but we shouldn't ask others to embrace them in place of their own values."

Flaw #2: Cultural Relativists cannot complain about social injustice: 

Since a relativist, in order to be consistent with their own view, can't accuse others of wrongdoing, they also lack the foundation by which to object to obvious acts of evil. When relativists object to the practice of colonialism, slavery, and exploitation, are they implying that these are always unjust and wrong, for all peoples, in all times and places? Was it wrong for European powers to subjugate the less powerful and enslave them? Who is the relativist to say that was wrong? Is their cultural value of diversity and respect any better? "Says Who?" As soon as they object to an obvious injustice, they are no longer immune from having their cultural values critiqued by those who hold different values, including the European cultures that college professors loathe so much

Or, more recently, in modern issues like race relations, sociologists are very quick to object when a member of a racial or gender majority seeks to encourage a minority group to adhere to the same standards as the majority. As Thomas Sowell highlights in his book, Intellectuals and Race, cultural relativists will object very quickly when minority students are held to the same standards, whether they be legal, educational, or cultural. But, yet again, "Says Who?" Who is the relativist to apply their own cultural standards(In this case, sub-cultural) of cultural relativism, and say that this is wrong to do? The majority group is just following their cultural values, so what of it? The problem should be becoming much more clear.

Flaw #3: No Group's Experience is any more valid than another 

One of the first soundbites to be stated on the campus today is that we must "Listen to and value other groups experiences the same as our own." Now, I completely agree, we shouldn't ignore someone simply because they are different than us, but why? Some cultures or subcultures do indeed have different experiences. So what?  If all groups of people have their own values, who's to say when it's wrong for one group to ignore another? "Says Who?" raises it's ugly head again. To object to this outcome is to assume that maybe there are some objective moral rules that transcend culture and experience after all...

Flaw #4: The Good Guys of History Will Uphold the Status Quo, Not Challenge It

My good friend and Christian apologist Steve Bruecker hit the nail on the head in an article he wrote a few years ago, "The Joker Is The Hero of Moral Relativism". He points out that the logical outworking of the sort of relativism that leaves values up to the individual is that there is no more basis to call a sadistic killer(Like the Joker) immoral and evil. It's simply a matter of preference.

In a similar manner, when a culture begins to decide it's own values for itself, what are we left with? Anyone who attempts to change those values would be immoral, according to that culture's standards. This may sound great on paper, but the logical conclusion ends up being ghastly. Think of someone like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, William Wilberforce, or Dr. Martin L. King. When these individuals challenged their societies to respect their fellow human beings, regardless of any differences, what should the cultural relativist make of this? Did these men try to change the values that were relative to those cultures? We praise them(and should) for their courage, but the relativist is left with nothing to praise them or curse them with, other than the cultural norms he happens to agree with. If he is from a tolerant, just, and inclusive society, he may adore these men, but if he is from a racist, oppressive, and exclusive society, the relativist is no different morally(According to relativism).

To paraphrase the Christian pastor and Theologian Tim Keller, if your worldview's premise leads to the conclusion that you know just isn't true, maybe it's time to change the premise?( Tim Keller, The Reason for God)

Flaw 5: Social Justice Becomes Meaningless

As I have titled this piece, Cultural Relativism makes the very notion of justice within society a concept with no meaning whatsoever behind it. "Social Justice" is often defended with relativism.  However, when "Says Who?" is the only logical response to a complaint about a very obvious injustice, we've got a very big problem with our logic.

Historian H.W. Crocker gives a good example of this concept, in highlighting the British Empire's outlawing of the burning of widows on their husband's funeral pyres in 19th century India. When the British acknowledged that it was a traditional Indian custom, they simply pointed out that Britain had a custom of punishing men who would do such a thing to women. Somehow the cultural relativists in the Women's Studies departments of the modern university don't have a problem with this form of "imposing one's cultural values on others". Again, it may be simply because there are, in fact, moral rules and obligations that transcend societies., such as the rule that you don't treat women in that sort of manner.

So, if cultural relativism is the correct way to think of ethics and morals(Another oxymoron if relativism is true) then we are left with the conclusion that there is no standard of justice that a society must adhere to. There is no real basis for determining whether or not a particular action or law is inherently good or evil. This is outrageous. When the culturally relative sociology student loudly insists that "I have a right to abortion" or "I have a right to marry whomever I love", they might as well be having a sneezing attack. Under relativism, you can insist on being granted certain rights as loudly as you want. All it will take is for someone else to come along and insist louder than you that those rights don't exist, or that they can be revoked for whatever reason the society deems fit.

In conclusion, it seems that cultural relativism, while making for a good classroom discussion, is not of any good for any discussion on ethics, and what truly matters in life. In fact, when life, liberty and what it means to be human are at stake, we should do better than saying "That's just your view."






Thursday, February 1, 2018

Yes, American Conservatives Can Be Pro-Life

A common objection that is heard both among street-level pro-choice advocates, and even among the intellectual elites within academia is that the average pro-life advocate isn't really "pro-life" in their defense of human life, from conception until natural death. The accusation has become incredibly popular in recent years, taking on new life in the realm of political discourse. In criticisms of President of the United States, Donald Trump, many left of center commentators are quick to point out what they see as flaws in the modern pro-life conservative. They will say, "If you were really pro-life, you would work to end poverty, end police brutality, stop pollution, help refugees of foreign wars, and work to end military involvement in foreign countries...etc."

While this may make for a snarky meme or Tweet or post on Facebook, it is a statement with little substance, or intellectual support.

In a recent column at TownHall, LTI President Scott Klusendorf responds to an article written during the presidential election by an American Pastor who leveled these accusations at pro-life Christians who were voting for Donald Trump.

Political issues aside, as Scott points out, many of these criticisms miss the main point that pro-lifers are making in regards to abortion. We aren't arguing that society should be radically reworked to alleviate every social ill imaginable. Such a goal, while worthy, is impractical and impossible to achieve. To show this, let's review the pro-life argument:

Premise 1: It is a moral wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
Premise 2: Elective abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Therefore, elective abortion is a moral wrong.

If both premises are true, then the conclusion necessarily follows from the two premises(For a more academic articulation of this argument, see Francis Beckwith's Defending Life, 2007). Any rebuttal of the argument that pro-life advocates are making needs to address one or both of these premises. If it doesn't, then the objection has failed, and the pro-life position still stands.

Aside from this, the objection that in order to be "consistently pro-life", one has to embrace other forms of social justice has a deep flaw in another way: It assumes the validity of it's own position, without actually making the case that these positions are true to begin with.

Take the objection, "If you were really pro-life, you wouldn't want any child to be born into poverty." While no one, whether politically conservative or liberal, should be accepting of poverty, these objections tend to ignore the different ways in which conservatives or liberals approach poverty to begin with. Most conservatives do, in fact, care about poverty, but fail to support government action to alleviate the problem. As economist Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute points out in a video for the think tank Prager University, poverty has been on the decline, primarily because capitalism is increasing. Simply asserting that pro-life conservatives are inconsistent in their stance on poverty because they support free-enterprise capitalism is lazy thinking.

Or consider the issue of police use of force. Many pro-life conservatives aren't skeptical of the Black Lives Matter movement because they value the lives of racial minorities less(That needs to be established as being the case, and not merely asserted). Rather, many are skeptical of the claims that police racism is a significant problem today. As thinkers like Heather MacDonald and columnist Larry Elder(Among many others) have highlighted, this argument fails to take certain data on violent crime within society into account, let alone the notion of policing and enforcement of law. Again, this is to simply assume one's case to be true, without even bothering to argue it in the first place.

Even so, assuming that pro-life advocates are in fact, inconsistent, what does this prove? Not much, actually. The argument that is being made is that abortion is a moral wrong, because it intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. Pro-lifers appeal to science and philosophy to establish this, not appeals to one's character or behavior. The argument being made does not, in any way, rest on the moral character of the people making it. If pro-lifers were truly inconsistent in how they lived their ethic, that is a character flaw, not a flaw in reasoning.

One other point on this, the assertion makes one more major mistake: It assumes the unborn are not human. Let me explain:

Imagine someone said that unless you cared for the homeless, the impoverished, and others who are suffering, you could not oppose the killing of infants up to two years of age. Is that an outrageous standard? Of course it is. Would we say that this is not even remotely relevant as to whether we should be working to end this form of killing? Of course we would. So, if the unborn are human, just like those infants, why do we say this about them? Isn't it because we are simply assuming that they aren't fully human, like the rest of us? That is the question that must first be resolved: What are the unborn? We only apply this double standard to the unborn, because it is merely assumed that the unborn are not human.

In conclusion, the idea that pro-lifers must be politically and socially left of center in order to be consistent with their opposition to abortion in order to claim the title "pro-life" is just laziness; it isn't based on the sort of rigorous argumentation that is needed to establish that viewpoint in the first place.

Until this is realized, the statement will continue to rear it's ugly head, and will continue to be answered, honestly and truthfully.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Why Gender Justice Does Not Justify Abortion

                It seems to me that the main justification for the pro-choice position is from the need for gender justice. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explains, “Also in the balance is a woman’s autonomous charge of her full life’s course… her ability to stand in relation to man, society, and the state as an independent, self-sustaining, equal citizen” [“Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. Wade,” in The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. Louis P. Pojman and Francis J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1994), 124]. She holds that the Court ought to have included in Roe an argument concerning gender-based classification, for it, along with reproductive autonomy, “influences the opportunity women will have to participate as men’s full partners in the nation’s social, political, and economic life” (Ibid., 119). Many defenders of the pro-choice position reason this way, including Justice Harry Blackmun, Alison M. Jaggar, Catherine MacKinnon, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and Kate Michelman.

            Philosophically, the argument is not difficult to refute. Would pursuing an economic or political opportunity justify killing one’s two year old daughter? Of course not, pro-choice people would surely agree. S/he thinks this is a bad analogy because the unborn are not fully human persons. But that is the very question at issue in the abortion debate. The pro-choicer is begging the question rather than making an argument that the unborn are not human persons.

            But if the argument is that easy to refute logically, why is it so influential today? Understanding the theory behind it may help answer this question. The ethical theory is act-utilitarianism, which says that a person’s action is justified by its bringing about greater happiness, in this case by providing her with equal access to socio-economic and political opportunities. The end justifies the means.

This reasoning has fatal flaws. You cannot know your or your offspring’s future, whether actual or possible. History is replete with examples of people who regretted past decisions or who were relieved that they did not do something they had considered doing.

Also, David DeGrazia, Thomas Mappes, and Jeffrey Brand-Ballard point out that act-utilitarianism seems unable to coexist with the notion of human rights [Biomedical Ethics, 7th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2010), 12]. One of the common arguments for enhanced interrogation at Guantanamo Bay was that these methods used on high-level terrorists could potentially save many lives by finding out about planned terrorist attacks. This is a utilitarian argument that many, especially on the liberal end of the political spectrum, rejected, for the prisoners have rights as human beings. By the same reasoning, one could justify killing an older, unhappy couple to relieve them of their unhappiness.  Or one could frame an innocent person on a capital offense to avoid deadly rioting.

Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen explain why it is that rights cannot coexist with any utilitarian or consequentialist ethic.

Within any such ethic, there will always be human beings who are dispensable, who must be sacrificed for the greater good. Utilitarianism fails in a radical way to respect the dignity and rights of individual human beings. For it treats the greater good, a mere aggregate of all the interests or pleasures or preferences of individuals, as the good of supreme worth and value, and it demands that nothing stand in the way of its pursuit. The utilitarian thus cannot believe, except as a convenient fiction, in human rights or in actions that may never be done to people, regardless of the consequences [Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, 2nd edition. Kindle version (New York: Doubleday, 2011), loc. 1420].

Michael Tooley, Alison Jaggar’s colleague at the University of Colorado, who also defends abortion, sees the problem. “It seems to me very doubtful that the broadly consequentialist considerations that Alison advances would suffice to show that legal protection of that right [i.e., the unborn right to life] is not justified” [Michael Tooley et al., Abortion: Three Perspectives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 184].

            But pro-choice people who use the utilitarian gender justice argument base their demand for such justice on the human rights of women. Thus, they have a contradiction right at the heart of their thinking on abortion. You can either embrace utilitarianism or human rights, not both.

            I doubt that the persistence of the gender justice argument is animated by loyalty to utilitarian theory. Rather, the utilitarian gender justice argument is a species of Marxist proletarian morality, the notion that whatever helps the oppressed (the proletariat) in their class struggle against the oppressors (the bourgeoisie) is right. Abortion helps women in their struggle against a male-dominated society and thus must be allowed by law, otherwise the legal system stands against equality. Deleonist socialists make just that argument (see “The Abortion Issue: A Socialist View,” accessed January 18, 2018, http://www.deleonism.org/text/a-76.htm.).

My oldest daughter just received a significant scholarship to attend Northwest University, a conservative Christian school. I am profoundly grateful that Northwest judged her on her merits as a student and did not discriminate against her based on gender. I know that many women around the world do not enjoy such treatment. There is much to be done to secure the rights of women and girls worldwide. But there are right and wrong ways to do so, and zeal must not continue to lead us to oppress one group of people for the sake of another, which is exactly what is happening if pro-lifers are correct that the unborn are distinct, living, whole human persons. Everything we have argued against utilitarianism stands against proletarian morality. And Marxism’s history is stained with the blood of over one hundred million people whose deaths were justified by the ends. With 60 million unborn Americans and 1.4 billion people worldwide having been exterminated through abortion, the unjust history of Marxist utilitarianism continues. People deserve better because all of us, regardless of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency, have an unalienable right to life.

Friday, January 12, 2018

How To Get Away With Murder (By Holding The Poor Hostage)

Today I would like to briefly address one of the worst defenses of abortion that is given, and of Planned Parenthood more specifically. It is a common talking point by celebrities and lay-persons alike, but it is one with virtually no substance. In fact, it is really a barbaric statement when it is reasoned to it's logical implications.

                                                     (Photo Credit: Dank Pro-life Memes)

The claim goes like this: "Planned Parenthood should continue to get federal funding, since they provide a lot of services for poor Americans, especially women and minorities, that they wouldn't get elsewhere. Plus, abortion is only three percent of what they do!"

I had this stated to me repeatedly(and quite loudly) by a student during a pro-life outreach with Students for Life of America in the San Diego area late last year. She was outraged at the material on the display, which quoted the statistics found in the Planned Parenthood annual report.

Now, aside from the dispute over where lower-income Americans can go to get quality healthcare(It's a flat out lie that PP is the only organization in the nation that does provide these services, or will provide them in the future. A quick google search of local health care centers will prove that), the assertion also makes a fatal flaw: It "begs the question"; that is, it simply assumes that abortion is not the intentional killing of an innocent human being.

To show how this mistake happens, let's pretend for a moment that a local hospital purposely killed a certain percentage of it's patients in the pediatrics ward. If parents decide that their toddler is too much of a burden for them to take care of, they can have their toddler killed by the hospital staff, with no risk to the parents, whether medically, financially, or legally. To take this thought experiment a step further, suppose the hospital staff is caught dismembering the toddlers, and selling their body parts for profit to medical and research firms.

Would there be outrage? You'd better hope there would be.

Now imagine that after all of this outrage, the hospital's PR department states that since the facility provides free, life-saving healthcare for the poor members of the community, then the state health department would essentially be "killing the poor" by shutting down the hospital in order to end the killing of toddlers(Which seems to be the hospital's primary mission.)

In this case, the hospital PR department has essentially tried to get away with murder by holding the poor hostage. It's like a criminal telling a victim of his crime, "Don't go to the police, or else your loved ones will die." Should any reasonable person go on to defend such an action? Not if they were committed to protecting the most vulnerable among us.

It should be obvious that Planned Parenthood doesn't even care about the poor, no matter how emotional they are in the media. Especially when President Donald Trump offered to continue federal funding to them if they stopped their abortion "services", they refused.(This is not a post to defend President Trump; it is merely to make a point). It should be plainly obvious to anyone who values truth over easy to get sex: An organization that supposedly cares for the "poor and downtrodden" will only do so if it gives them leverage in the public square. No one committed to justice should support such a behavior.

In conclusion, the arguments given in favor of Planned Parenthood can only be morally justified if the unborn are not human. Because if the unborn are in fact human(And the evidence shows they are), then we have a literal case of an organization that is getting away with murder, by attempting to hold large numbers of the population hostage. It's amazing that anyone who is firmly committed to justice would be even remotely open to the idea that the poor and underserved could be used as a bargaining tool for political gain.

Monday, January 1, 2018

How The Christian Story Gives Life, Gender, and Sexuality Meaning

This week I was able to complete the newest book by Houston Baptist University professor Nancy Peacey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality.



In her typical style, professor Pearcey takes the worldviews of the most hotly debated topics in our society today(Life ethics and sexual ethics) and relegates them in a way that is both understandable, yet still accurately conveys the philosophies behind the issues. She then goes on to argue for why the Christian worldview makes the most sense of the issues themselves(such as the importance and meaning of human life) in a way that doesn't lose the sense of urgency behind many topics.

She takes on each topic in individual chapters, where she then breaks down the topic into a number of sub-sections, each of which is jam-packed with the insight that she carries with her everywhere she goes. Starting with the issue of abortion, she takes on the underlying philosophies of many of the key thinkers on the pro-choice side of the issue; mainly, the sort of "dualism" that drives many arguments in favor of abortion: The fetal being may in fact be human, but not in the sort of sense that we are obligated to care for and protect.

This argument has been articulated by a number of thinkers in a variety of ways(Thinkers like Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, Mary Anne Warren, and others) have all argued that it is certain key functions that will give a human being value that is to be respected by society at large.

However, this view has a number of fatal flaws, the biggest and most apparent Nancy highlights in in her section on the issue: We now have no basis for fundamental human rights, and thus, human equality is a myth for the ash heap of history.

Nancy suggests an alternative that is worthy of consideration: The only grounds for affirming the most famous line from the Declaration of Independence, that "All Men Are Created Equal"(Nevermind if the founders didn't live up to this at all times. If the statement were to be rejected on that ground, we would have no standard to measure the founders life decisions up to) is best rooted in the idea of a Creator. Nancy argues that the Christian story provides not only the best explanation for human value, but for why we know humans are special kinds of beings with value in the first place.

She moves on to other topics in the later sections of the book, in particular, the implications of the sexual revolution in the West. Her chapter on the so-called "hookup culture" is particularly insightful, in that this cultural practice explains many of the biggest problems our society faces today.

Not only does professor Pearcey highlight the pain that "hooking up" for one night stands(having sex with someone that a person is not remotely interested in, other than for sexual interaction) brings to many young people, she goes on to argue for the Biblical worldview of sexual intimacy as having the most meaning when it comes to the question of sex. One segment of the chapter is a particularly insightful one: She gives an overview of the sexual ethic of the ancient Roman culture that the New Testament was written in, including the segments written regarding marriage and romance. In many circles today(Especially modern feminist circles), the Christian ethic as outlined in the New Testament by Paul and others is considered "anti-woman" and repressive.

However, as Nancy highlights, the Roman sexual ethic was not, in any way, "pro-woman", pro-child, or even pro-man. Surveying historical analysis of the time, it is noted that sexual interaction was a form of prestige, and men within society would have many sexual partners, regardless of the approval of their spouses. Women weren't even given a voice that was acceptable by the broader culture(There is a reason why many historians are astounded that the first witnesses in the Gospel accounts to the risen Jesus were women; Crafting a new religion to purposely woo the people would never have included such an embarrassing detail).

Enter in the Christian story. When Paul writes to the New Testament church that husbands should "Love their wives as Christ loves the church, and gave himself up for her"(Ephesians 5:25), he is saying something truly special: The Christian sexual ethic not only calls on men to show love to the women they are married to(Which Roman culture ignored the needs of women), but to love in a way that is self-sacrificing and other-centered. Far from a culture built on legalism, "chastity belts", and fear, the Christian sexual ethic gives the deepest purpose and meaning to the love expressed within a marriage between a husband and wife, by using marriage(and other non-romantic relationships as well) to give humankind a picture of the love behind all of reality: The love of the Creator for His creation.

In conclusion, Nancy's book couldn't be any more timely. With growing cultural tensions, and with subjects like abortion, assisted suicide, sex and homosexuality, and gender identity coming directly into the living rooms of America, there are at least three groups of people who would most benefit from her book:

1. Parents: Many Christian parents are unsure of how to instruct their children in the matters addressed in the book. With Queer Feminist theory(and the worldviews behind it) and explicit sexual material making their way into even elementary age schools, many parents are at a loss of how to give their kids a way to think about the subjects being taught. While this book is most assuredly not appropriate for younger audiences, it can help parents start teaching their children how the Christian worldview makes the most sense of our world, and the issues surrounding us.

2. Christian college students: Unfortunately, many Christian students are woefully unprepared for the constant barrage of worldviews that are thrown at them as soon as they step onto a college campus. From freshman orientation onward, worldviews such as postmodernism, Marxism, secular humanism, and sexual libertarianism are being practically(and, at some schools, even literally) shouted on street corners and from rooftops. When I first attended my school, CSU San Marcos, during the transfer student orientation, several of the women's studies professors encouraged the students to chant "Consent is Hot; Assault is Not" multiple times, and jokingly stated that even having "two or more" sex partners in bed at once was acceptable, as long as everyone agreed to be involved. These kinds of statements can make the task of not only living out one's Christian faith on campus seem daunting, but having a thriving relationship with Christ that is a public witness can seem almost impossible. I would recommend, not only read this book before the school semester starts, but master it. Detailed margin notes, highlights, and unreadable pages from underlining are a must.

3. Pro-life advocates: A popular slogan of the United States Army is to "Train how you'll fight", and pro-life work is no exception. Unfortunately, I have noticed that many pro-life advocates can end up on the "front lines" under-equipped for the worldviews they will encounter when on the streets. This book will change that. Pro-life advocates will be equipped to understand not only the viewpoints of those they will meet who are defending an abortion-choice viewpoint, but also will be ready to respond with grace, truth, and compassion when needed most.

Love Thy Body hits bookstore shelves tomorrow nationwide, and I would argue, this is the most important book for Christians to pick up in the New Year of 2018.