Thursday, June 18, 2009

That's "Dr. Serge, Master Apologist, Sir" to you! [Serge]

At least that's how I would like Senator Boxer to address me if I'm in the unfortunate position to be in her presence. Of course, I would not be so rude to interrupt her in mid-sentence to tell her this, as she did with a brigadier general yesterday:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Trevin Wax Interviews Scott Klusendorf [SK]

The interview is here. Topics include the current state of the abortion debate, recent polling data, the death of Dr. George Tiller, and my book The Case for Life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 14 [Serge]

In light of the recent murder of abortionist George Tiller, Rich, Scott, and Jay unequivocally condemn this crime. However, are pro-life advocates partly responsible for this act by creating an environment that creates vigilantes? Or are we inconsistent with our pro-life beliefs because we condemn this action? We respond to these specific arguments in part one of two of our roundtable discussion.

Rich also begins a new series entitled "Adventures in Cultural Cognitive Dissonance". Pro-abortion choice advocacy may not only effect your ability to think morally, it may also challenge your ability to think consistently.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

LTI Podcast Episode 13 [Serge]

Life Training Institute Podcast episode 13 is up! Some recent polls suggest that for the first time a majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life. Rich, Scott, and Bob discuss these polls and the implication for the pro-life cause. Rich analyzes an article from the popular magazine "Self" about why women in their twenties are becoming pregnant while single. Hint: it's not because of lack of sex-ed or access to contraception. Lastly, Rich responds to a listener e-mail which questions the ethics of using vaccines derived through cell lines originally obtained by abortions.

Answering a Question about my Moral Outrage Comment [Jay]

In my previous post I said the following:

"I whole heartedly agree that the moral outrage of those opposed in principle to abortion is not appropriate in light of the moral offense"

A commenter responded:

"Please clarify this. Are you saying that pro-lifers are not outraged enough over abortion?"

Here is the clarification both in the comment thread of that post and here because I thought it was worth posting and that the quesiton was fair and deserved answering. I hope it clarifies my position.

I intentionally did not use the term pro-lifers. Largely because I am not certain that the term itself is particularly descriptive. Pro-lifer seems as broadly defined as anti-slavery was in the pre Civil War United States. So many factions that wildly disagree on tactics and convictions identify themselves in that category from the absolute pacifist to Scott Roeder. So if I said something to the effect of, “Pro-lifers are not morally outraged enough over the moral offense of abortion,” I am not even certain such a statement has any real meaning.

My point was very intentionally worded. There are a majority of Americans that see themselves as pro-life and a larger majority of Americans that consistently express that they believe that abortion ought to be restricted. Why? Do they identify the unborn as human beings with moral value? Do they believe that abortion is the unjustified destruction of human life? I am not certain on what grounds we oppose abortion outside of that reasoning.

I am blessed to talk to a lot of people about this issue from pastors to lay people. The overwhelming majority of Christians that I hear from are in principle opposed to abortion on the grounds of the humanity of the unborn.

Now we have three distinct elements. What is happening? Who is it happening to? How am I responding? I personalize the third element because people approach problems differently in a group than they do when the question is pointed personally at them.

What is happening is inarguable. It is merely a matter of gathering the data and confirming that this many number of abortions have happened under these circumstances. This is a matter of facts that are not disputed. To whom is this happening is the key point of the contention. What are the unborn?

My statement merely made the following observation. If you accept the undisputed facts of what is happening and believe that the best evidence (both scientific and philosophical) demonstrates that it is happening to human beings of moral worth then the third question is now profoundly important.

I faced that question personally one day when the truth of what we are in the midst of settled fully on me and was forced to evaluate all three of those elements. As the first is a constant, I must deal with the second and third. I was convicted that my personal response to the first two elements was woefully insufficient and began to demand of myself that I do more. That I personally invest in standing against so grave an evil.

Mr. Saletan appears to believe that if the third element of that thought process is not murderous rage then the second element of belief in the unborn as fully and morally human is insincere. I obviously disagree. But I do think that there is a reason that so many people are convinced of the humanity of the unborn and so few of them allow that belief to activate them in a truly meaningful way beyond voting cycles. Abortion is like swimming in the Olympics. Once every four years we get all worked up about it, but then it fades into the background until the next election or a Supreme Court nominee is made. The problem is that the abortion machine continues to run unabated throughout the years whether anyone is running for office at the moment or not. So how do we activate this larger group to see the need to personally invest in this struggle in a meaningful way?

Well for me, it happened because I had the chance to evaluate those three elements and then see for myself that I could do more. When I went beyond merely objecting to abortion on passionately held principles and began to allow the conviction that this violence must be actively opposed by me personally to inconvenience my life.

I do not know what it looks like when all of the people that are principally opposed to abortion express the fullness of their moral outrage, but I pray to God it looks like something more than what we are seeing now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Response to Saletan on Tiller [Jay]

William Saletan is often insightful and interesting and I often benefit from reading his ideas on bio-ethics in spite of the fact that we profoundly disagree on most every issue. That is why it almost impossible to fathom that he wrote a piece as base, stupid and thoughtless as this particular reflection on the murder of George Tiller.

Without going into exhaustive detail, Saletan’s basic point is that George Tiller was a brave man that lived his pro-choice convictions to the fullest by being willing to do what other people who claim to be pro-choice did not have the stomach to do. To quote:

“You think you're pro-choice. You think marching or phone-banking makes you an activist. You know nothing. There's you, and then there are the people who work in the clinics. And then there are the people who use the forceps. And then there are the people who use the forceps nobody else will use. At the end of the line, there's George Tiller.”

Wait. There is more. What about the violent murderous factions of the pro-life movement? Well I will let Saletan air his own idiocy:

“You think you're pro-life. You tell yourself that abortion is murder. Maybe you even say that when a pollster calls. But like most of the other people who say such things in polls, you don't mean it literally. There's you, and then there are the people who lock arms outside the clinics. And then there are the people who bomb them. And at the end of the line, there's the guy who killed George Tiller.”

You see in Saletan’s world today (I say today because I am hoping this article was a bad idea on a bad day for a writer who ought to be better than this trash) the true believers are the extremes and the rest of us are compromised. Pro-lifers do not organize lynching parties regularly for abortion doctors because whatever we may say we do not really equate the unborn with real genuine human beings.

Ay me. I am not certain how to address this. Sometimes people write things that are so obviously silly that it is best to leave it alone, but Saletan is not usually silly or thoughtless. Let’s get past the incredibly offensive comparisons of Tiller, his killer, and the men and women who have served honorably in combat facing unspeakable horror to secure the blessings of liberty for you, me, and many other ungrateful inhabitants of foreign countries. Let’s get past the stupidity of his basic claim unless Mr. Saletan wants to fully embrace this idea and admit that he clearly thinks that Africans are less than human as the genocide that has occurred on that continent did not drive him or other liberals into an uncontrollable murderous rage. As I have not seen him or anyone else from the left forming militias to confront Muslim communities over female genital mutilation am I to assume that he does not really believe that Muslim women have reproductive rights and bodily autonomy the same way non-Muslim women do?

You see Mr. Saletan is adult enough and intelligent enough to know that the world is full of terrible evils that stretch our abilities to find appropriate responses most especially when these atrocities are state sanctioned and supported. Samantha Powers wrote A Problem from Hell to discuss that very issue as it pertained to genocide. Some things are so awful that there is no “good” response to them. Abortion is such a thing. It should not surprise anyone that there is no satisfying course of action for our side in the face of the state sanctioned destruction of millions upon millions of innocent human beings.

Two things that I do think are worth addressing. First, why does the recognition that abortion is a violation of objective moral values that govern how we treat other human beings obligate me to murder abortion providers? It does not. Mr. Saletan and others that seem to grasp moral values sometimes fail to recognize the secondary component of moral duties. You see, I am not obligated to adhere to objective moral values simply because they exist. Atheistic explanations of objective moral values as necessary abstractions similar to numbers can account for the existence of basic moral values, but they cannot explain why I am obligated to adhere to them or duty bound to follow them. As a Christian, my moral duties are rooted in moral commandments from the Creator from whom all objective moral values are derived. More specifically, I understand my duties and obligations through the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity Jesus Christ and the special revelation of His Gospel and the power of His resurrection.

Does the Incarnate Son of God permit me, Jay Watts, to expand the divine Kingdom through murderous violence? Nope. Then I have to find another way. And sometimes that means that we have to endure unspeakable evil without returning hate for hate, violence for violence, and murder for murder. So I am no more demonstrating a lack of conviction on the humanity of the unborn by not killing abortion providers than Martin Luther King Jr. was demonstrating a lack of conviction on his own humanity by not murdering Bull Connor.

Saletan does make two almost interesting points. I whole heartedly agree that the moral outrage of those opposed in principle to abortion is not appropriate in light of the moral offense and am considering that very subject as central to a book that I am in the very earliest process of writing.

The other point he comes close to that I think is worth consideration is best articulated by sharing an exchange I had quite a while back with an abortion provider. I had written a critique of his blog post and in his response he listed all of the violence that he has been subjected to from the pro-life side over the years of his practice. After cataloguing the list of offenses, he asked me this question: What is the ideological equivalent to the violent pro-lifer on the pro-choice side? He meant it to be a trap as he believed that such an equivalent did not exist.

I shared with him the following response. “I am sorry that you have been forced to endure such violence at the hands of those that claim to represent the pro-life position. Such actions are in contradiction with the gospel of Jesus Christ and the spirit that ought to govern our methods of fighting the evil of abortion. But you are wrong when you claim that the pro-choice side has no ideological equivalent to the violent pro-lifer. Who on your side is so committed to the pro-choice position that they have taken radical action in support of that view? Who believes so strongly in a woman’s right to choose that they go so far as to facilitate the destruction of the unborn life in question? Though many people claim to be pro-choice, I would wager that the majority of them could not make their living ripping nascent human life to pieces in support of the cause. You ask the question who is the ideological opposite of the violent pro-lifer on the pro-choice side and you are the answer. The abortion doctor is the ideological opposite of the violent pro-lifer. “

Is it any wonder then that these two ideological extremes draw one another? Is it any wonder then that when these two groups meet there is so often terrible violence? I abhor the violence of both extremes. And Mr. Saletan needs to understand that I am duty bound to my Lord to find a better way to object than to organize additional murder.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tiller's Murder Goes Against the Pro-life Argument [Serge]

I couldn't agree more with Jay's post. It should be an imperative for those who claim to be pro-life to understand the grounding behind our moral reasoning. Tiller's death not only brings difficult practical issues for our movement, more importantly it was an evil act that undermines and controverts the moral basis behind our claims.

The moral logic of the pro-life position is that human beings are intrinsically valuable. We don't obtain that value when we reach a certain point in development, or when we have certain capabilities. Likewise we do not lose value when we inevitably lose our capabilities or become ill. Our intrinsic value also does not depend on our behavior. It is clear that human beings have a tremendous ability to do evil and to perform outrageous actions against others.

This intrinsic value is what we ground the concept of human rights. Let me be clear; if human beings are not intrinsically valuable, then there is no pro-life argument. A vigilante murder of an abortion doctor undermines the very basis and grounding of our argument.

As we endure the inevitable media backlash that will result from this tragedy, we must continue to strive to understand the basic pro-life argument and to work to have others correctly understand the logic of our position. This murder will not only draw attention from the truth of our position, but actually undermine it. This act deserves our strongest condemnation.