Monday, February 28, 2011

When Spiritual Platitudes Replace Good Arguments [Scott]

I wrote yesterday that Abby Johnson's comments must be viewed within the context of discussing particular abortion-control legislation aimed at limiting evil insofar as possible given current legal restraints. Nowhere does she say she endorses permanent legislation permitting rape abortions but expressly says, "that no matter the circumstances, a child never deserves to be killed." However, as we work for that goal, "it's important for us to win some battles before we win the war."

In response to my post, a particular "pro-life" group known for self-righteously attacking other pro-lifers submitted two comments which I refused to post. The first was a long rambling quote from the group's website. The second was uncharitable to Mrs. Johnson, so I did not post it either.

However, a Facebook discussion about the morality of incremental legislation was instructive and I've posted the relevant portions here (names hidden). It illustrates the tendency of some purists (not all) to use religious pronouncements instead of rational arguments. My point in highlighting this tendency is not to claim I'm right (though I think I am) in the discussion that follows, but to show how some Christians think they can pull a spiritual trump card that frees them from addressing their opponent's arguments. From their alleged perch of Spiritual maturity they lecture the rest of us. Effective pro-life apologists do not operate that way.

So we can kill a little for awhile? Pro aborts get that if we are "choosing to kill a few" we are NOT legitimate pro lifers and they call us hypocrites and rightly so. Abby thinks she is doing what is right but so did Paul before God opened his eyes. To be politically correct is to Godly wrong.
We are not chosing to kill--the abortionist is. We are choosing to save as many as we can while we work to save all. You assume this is immoral thinking but you don't provide any evidence to back up that rather bold claim. You simply assert it.
Sadly, (I really hate admitting this!) I was once blindly following other "Christians" in the exceptions camp, then God, in all His love, grace and mercy showed me the error of my thinking.
Raw assertions that you are following God while the rest of us are ignorantly following a compromise do not an argument make. What's divisive is the intellectual dishonesty that takes Johnson's comments completely out of context and then falsely demonizes her.
It's all about "what does Jesus say," not what any of us think or say, we should always go back to the truth( the word of God) with people. Jesus said he came to bring a sword-- the truth rightly divides. The prolife movement is and always has been a big circus with so many different agendas. There is only a remnant that is truly working towards one goal together. Which should be The Gospel, sharing Christ so that people become born again. Then disciplining. We need to share Jesus, it's Jesus that changes lives, not us. The power to change is in Jesus, His Holy Spirit does the changing. Sometimes in loving one another, there is correction involved; but it should always be done God's way not our own way. Only we ourselves know the motives of our hearts, and our hearts do not lie and we know it. The Prolife movement is in serious need of the Truth being shared in all it's fullness...there is too much mixture.
There is no need to over spiritualize things here. The issue here is quite simple: Did Abby justify rape as a legitimate reason for abortion? That's the claim, and the evidence for it is nowhere to be found. Instead, the very video used to attack Abby shows that her attackers took her statements completely out of context, as noted in my comments above. The biblical thing to do in such a case is simply to admit the error, apologize, and move on.
Scott do you share the Gospel in your training, or do you just try to steer people away from committing abortion? Just curious....
And your point is? If your neighbor is beating her two year old to death, should you just preach the gospel to her or steer her away from killing her kid? When your own kids misbehave, do you simply preach the gospel to them or do you take action to correct the bad behavior? Moreover, you present a false choice. Pro-lifers can do both, depending on the circumstance. But, if you feel I must justify my pro-life work by preaching the gospel, take a look at this presentation and then tell me if I'm good enough to meet your standard.
Scott, Do you have children? Will you give one up to save someone else's? This makes no sense but the pro death people laugh at the hypocrisy. THEY get it that we will compromise and let some slip through the abortion mill without protection or voice. Jesus said to leave the 99 and go after the ONE. I am with Jesus.
Your solution is to protect no one until we can protect everyone. And that's the position of Jesus? How does it follow that because I can't save all children I shouldn't try to save some? I'm not the one compromising when I support incremental laws aimed at limiting the evil done. Rather, the abortionist is compromising because he's forced to give up the current status quo--namely, that any child can be killed at any point in pregnancy for any reason or no reason. Whenever I chip away at that status quo so that some lives are saved, I am not compromising. I'm improving the moral landscape. True, I don't intend to stop chipping away until all children are protected, but until that day comes, I will work to save as many as I can given current legal restraints--namely, the federal courts which disallow direct legislation protecting all unborn humans. Moreover, the premise of your statement is completely false. I am not the one who decides who lives and who dies. Rather, the federal courts have done that in Roe, Doe, and Casey, to name a few. I'm just trying to limit the evil done until those court decisions are overturned. What's wrong with that?


  1. Question: Do any of the so-called incremental laws have the authority to save even one preborn baby? The answer is, "No."

    If a sidewalk counselor spoke with a mother going to Planned Parenthood for an abortion and tried to talk her out of it, and the mother said, "But I was raped," should the sidewalk counselor then say, "In that case, carry on. Sorry to have bothered you?"

    If someone came to you and asked, "Will you kill someone for me?," and you said, "I won't, but I know someone who will," how is that any different than supporting abortion regulations? "No, I won't kill your preborn child who was conceived in rape, but I know someone who will." It's exactly the same.

    If we don't stand up and say every preborn child is valuable no matter the circumstances, and should not be killed no matter the circumstances, then the blood is on the hands of those who say, in this political climate, we just have to put up with certain preborn children being killed.

    I cannot understand those who would never support the regulating of killing already born children, do support the regulating of killing preborn children.

    I ask you, what is the difference between the two?

  2. This article is so important for people to read. I see this all the time, particularly on Facebook, and it's almost impossible to have a good dialogue with someone who just responds with little spiritual slogans that have nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

    It's been said that sometimes when a moral relativist says, "that's just your view," they're really saying, "shut up." I think Christians that say, "Jesus did it my way," are often doing the exact same thing.

  3. Scott,
    Take a look at my post above and I think you'll see the flaw in your logic.

  4. Clarke D. Forsythe's recent book on prudence shows why critics of the incremental strategy are misguided:

  5. A friend posted a link to this blog on Facebook. Here is the comment I left on her page:

    The author of this blog wrote, "Your solution is to protect no one until we can protect everyone. And that's the position of Jesus? How does it follow that because I can't save all children I shouldn't try to save some?" What came to my mind as I read this was that Jesus himself walked the Earth for approximately 33 years and it was only during the last three or so of those years that he healed people, and only those who lived within the territory he or they could cover on foot or by boat. That left out a LOT of people! Why didn't He figure out a way to heal EVERYONE who was here while he was here? And why didn't he stick around instead of leaving it up to us? And why, for that matter, didn't he come sooner? Perhaps the oldest question in the world is why does God allow suffering? Why doesn't he intervene? God allows an awful lot of awful stuff to happen (which he is perfectly capable of transforming into good in the end) while he's waiting patiently (though actively) for us to get the message and learn to love one another. "Because I can't save all children I shouldn't try to save some?" If God had that attitude, he never would have sent His Son!!!

  6. Hold on...LOTS of incremental laws save babies. We have informed consent laws and anti-coercion laws and laws against partial birth abortions. All of those have saved lives. We're we not supposed to pass those either, simply because we can not yet eliminate Roe v Wade. From what I have seen in my 18 years of prolife work...incremental laws do FAR more damage to the abortion movement. If they are so ineffective, WHY do they fear them so much! They panic, scream "slippery slope" and fight them tooth and nail.

  7. Abby Johnson is a work in progress. She's still learning. When she saw what an abortion really was for the first time, she was so horrified that she quit her job as Planned Parenthood Director and came over to the pro-life side. She's new to the pro-life cause. So be gentle with her. It was the gentleness of the pro-life protesters at her clinic that helped win her over. So be nice and help her overcome any left over glitches from her pro-choice past. She's got a lot to offer the pro-life movement.
    For me, I used to be pro-choice. I became pro-life slowly, but more extremely each passing year.

  8. Have we all thought about the fact that even if all abortions become illegal except in the cases of rape and incest, that now all the mothers will simply lie? We can claim "rape" without pressing charges against the rapist, right? And if we start to smell a rat because over time the "Reason for Abortion - Rape" claims go up, who is really going to go in and police who is telling the truth and who isn't?

    I struggle as I think through this, as most of us seem to. But I'm leaning more and more towards 100% illegality, no exceptions. Slavery didn't go away until 100% of it went away. Stopping the slave trade first did not put an end to the injustice - only the complete illegality of it did.

  9. Deb,

    I appreciate where you are coming from but there are a couple of mistakes that need to be addressed in your question.

    First of all, according to Marvin Olasky's fine book Abortion Rites, even when aboriton was 100% illegal except for when the life of the mother was threatened, women lied and doctors helped them to claim that their lives were constantly in some peril or another. So does this mean that because thousands of women and doctor's lied every year that we ought to legalize every abortion? We couldn't police it and absolutely failed to enforce the laws that existed, so why have those laws if they didn't stop abortion and people lied anyway? Because the laws limit evil and inform the public and there is no question that abortion is more problematic the more permissive society is toward it.

    Second, the slave trade most certainly has not been stopped. Statistics say that we have sex slaves in the United States right now and that more people live in slavery around the world today than ever before. It did, however, dramatically change after the American Civil War. It is illegal, those that seek to enslave others are seen to be violating the basic human rights of others, and the systems that relied on slavery to profit others were forever altered.

    But did these things happen because absolutists got their way? Absolutely not! Lincoln was not a abolitionists when he won the presidency, he was anti-slavery. He wanted to change the laws to prevent the spread of slavery, limit the power of the slave states, and begin the steps that would isolate the slave states from the future of America. Pure abolitionists thought he was a sell out and not sufficiently committed to the cause. The country would never have elected a pure abolitionist.

    And it was the election of an anti-slavery president that set into motion the series of events that embroiled our nation into Civil War. A President who would only commit to limiting the evil of slavery as a first step to ending it. That led to the end of slavery as it was practiced in the United States and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments of our Constitution and only after terrible bloodshed and unimaginable loss of life. So let's not romanticize the end of slavery. It was more than a century of political battles that ended in the most violent war the U.S. has ever experienced.

    God bless,

  10. Here's the problem. "Lots of slaves" were saved from slavery, too, by laws that said "we'll admit both Maine and Texas as states" (hypothetically) "so long as there is no slavery in Maine."

    That's a law that affirms the inherent freedom of the black man in Maine.... But one which also affirms the institution of slavery in Texas, and condemns all black men in Texas to remain as slaves.

    So is this law, pushed by "anti-slavery politicians" really anti-slavery, or does it perpetuate the institution? Do these anti-slavery people have the blood of slaves from Texas on their hands, even though they "saved" people in Maine from slavery?

    When we push regulations, we FAIL to argue that there is an inherent Right to Life because regulations undermine such a concept. They rid society of some abortions while seeming to say that other abortions are more okay. By prohibiting all abortions except for rape/incest, we let people believe abortion is okay in those circumstances. Instead of teaching there is an inviolable Right to Life, we're just teaching people there are "good abortions" and "bad abortions" and as we "clean up" the law to allow only "good abortions" we make society comfortable with those abortions which society deems "necessary."

    We may never get to save those rape/incest babies, because then we have to start over by making the Right to Life argument from scratch, which confuses people in society because we just spent all that time saying some abortions were more horrific than others. We, in fact, would have to argue that those laws we just passed were wrong because they didn't respect the Right to Life.

    That, in fact, is what many/most pro-lifers are starting to do -- leaving behind the regulation mentality.

  11. Thanks for the response, Jay. The slavery to which I was referring was the post-Civil War era. I am aware of the slavery/sex trafficking going on in our nation, In fact, I understand a city in my state, Toledo, OH, is the 4th highest city for sex slave trafficking in the nation.

    When post-Civil War slavery became illegal, all blacks could put down their farm tools and walk away. 100% of them. Not just some - all. No exceptions. That does not eliminate the problem we have today in a more hidden society of slavery, but the type of slavery we face today would likely still exist even if the former type of slavery was never outlawed.

    Maybe a better example from history is the liberation every captive received from the death camps after WWII. The Allies set *all* of them free, not some, all. No exceptions.

    I think the point being made from anti-imcrementalists (which, by the way, have you read Rebecca Kiessling's note on her FB page?), is that with all the exceptions being left in since and before Roe v. Wade, abortion is still legal today. This gradual fight has been going on for years with little or nothing to show for it. Have abortion rates really been in decline?

    But to argue the other side, discrimination against blacks did not become 100% illegal overnight, did it? First it was the buses, then the lunch counters, then the bus and train stations, then schools, then all public facilities, then etc... until finally segregation was outlawed completely in all public and private institutions. Do we still have problems with racism? Yes, but at least we can't point the finger at permissive legislation as the fault.

    I don't know which side to "choose", and frankly I'm not sure I have to. We all want abortion made 100% illegal in all circumstances, right? I am right about that, yes?

    Please go to Rebecca Kiessling's FB page and read her note. I'd be interested in your thoughts about it here on the blog or on her page.

    Thanks again Jay. And thanks Scott for your blog and for allowing us to post our thoughts. Lots to think about.


  12. Hey Deb,

    I am typing this on my phone so forgive me if it looks weird.

    I get your point, but let's revisit both of your examples of absolutist action. Slavery was actually not all slaves, 100% free. The Emancipation Proclamation was the first government enforced freeing of slaves and it DID NOT free all slaves in the U.S. In fact, it only freed the slaves in the Confederate States of America that declared themselves not under the Constitution. Maryland's slaves were not freed and since the CSA did not honor U.S. law it really did not free ANY slaves. So was it a waste of time? The absolutist logic forces you to answer yes, but we know that is nonsense. It was an important step to get to the end of that system of slavery.

    Now onto the concentration camps. They were not freed all at once but as we got to them. The same for the POW's in the Pacific theatre. So was it wrong to free some as we reached those places when we knew that others still suffered? Of course not. Again, your own examples support what is called pejoratively incrementalism, as if that were a naughty word.

    And finally, of course we ALL want ALL abortion ended. The question is how will we likely get there. If you and I disagree on how we get there, it is not helpful to demonize each other.

    God bless,

  13. Hello Jay,
    I hope you do not think I am demonizing you. The thought isn't even crossing my mind. I'm just trying to process all this, and I'm grateful for the time you're giving me to flesh it out. The message of "no exceptions" is brand new to me.

    Oh, I think I see where you might think I was questioning you, when I asked if we all really want to see abortion made illegal in all circumstances. I was not being facetious; I stumbled on to this blog and didn't know until after my first 2 posts that you are with Life Training Institute! I know there are many pro-life people who still think exceptions need to be in place (I was one of them) even in the end. I truly didn't know your position on that.

    I am hearing you in the extended explanations you are giving with my examples. It almost sounds like we have no historical example of an "absolutist" legislation that was ever put in place, is that right?

    I think what might help me is to see how abortion rates have changed with incremental steps. For example, do you know if abortion rates went down in Ohio when that state passed the Parental Notification Act? I'm not asking you to look up anything; I'm just thinking out loud here. Like I said, I'm new to the "no exceptions" teaching, and I'm trying to wrap my mind around if that's what it's going to take or not.

    It just seems with every incremental step we've taken, the pro-aborts have found ways to get around them, or just plain lie, or there is no one to enforce these laws and these places are truly "getting away with murder." It's discouraging. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir.

    Thanks again for your responses, from your phone even! I appreciate your time. I see Scott has a book out - I think I will go out and see if I can pick up a copy tonight. I have more studying to do.


  14. Deb,

    I didn't mean you, and I am sorry you took it that way. I meant that in general.

    I have enjoyed our exchange.

    God bless,

  15. Ed,

    We never say that some abortions are worse than others and to continue that canard is to undermine dialogue.

    I made it very clear in a separate post on this subject before, but I will say it again. Our message never changes. Abortion is wrong because it is the unjustified killing of innocent human life. THE OTHER SIDE compromises on their position when they begin to move forward on legislation that puts limit on abortion.

    So when the compromises were made on the introduction of new slave states in the Union it was not anti-slavery people defining the Africans as inhuman. THEY WERE ALREADY DEFINED THAT WAY LEGALLY. It was a group of people being allowed to set limits on the abuse of a people based on a growing national division over the identity of the African slaves as people.

    So if we are able to push limits and language into the legal discussion that changes the status quo, keeps the national attention on the issue of abortion, continues to affirm the full humanity of the unborn, and highlights the growing division in this country over this issue how is that telling the other side we encourage the killing of children conceived in rape?

    As to the lie that the other side sees this as hypocritical, well even if it were true, so what? I will happily meet them anywhere and anytime in debate and straighten them out on that. But they do not see it that way. They scream and holler and yell with every concession. They write articles and call for rallies and push their pro-abortion politicians into hyperbole overdrive. Why? Because they admit that every concession is a move toward the ultimate eradication of abortion. That is why they fight things like The Born Alive Infant Protection Act even though it has no enforcement provision. They are losing on principle and writing articles lamenting this and talking about it on discussion panels. Is this just part of their clever plot to lull us into a false sense of security?

    No one that represents this ministry has ever written or said that children conceived in rape deserve less legal protection. The other side says that no unborn life deserves any legal protection. We say that all unborn life deserves protection. If they showed up on my door and said, "Hey, we now agree with you on 95% of the cases we see that it is wrong so we are willing to work with you to stop those immediately," the reasoning that is being offered is that I must respond, "Keep the abortion mills running full throttle till we agree on all 100%." That is madness.

    I propose that it is possible to affirm that their new position is closer to the truth, shut down that 95%, and then immediately look them in the eye and tell them, "We are not done yet. You are wrong on the rape and incest cases as well and they must be stopped."

    Do you honestly think that Scott, Rich, Francis Beckwith, Hadley Arkes, or any of us that support incremental legislation would be thrown off if they said, "We thought if we gave you this then we would be done." Do you think we would drop our heads and slink off feeling foolish? No. We would clarify that we have always and will always maintain in writing, speech, and political action that all unborn human beings deserve the basic protections under the law.

  16. Jay,

    YOU don't have to say "some abortions are worse than others." You don't have to -- in the minds of America's citizens your legislation says that for them. In fact, most of them will never hear your words at all -- all they know is there's a proposed law that would eliminate what they think of as "some of the problems" with abortion, and which will presumably mean legal abortions are better, and without so many problems that make the practice so controversial.

    So long as pro-lifers play this game, pretending abortion is a policy issue, rather than an absolute matter of right or wrong, of a principle that says all human beings have a Right to Life, then we're going to confuse the public.

    It makes it worse when pro-lifers like Scott go out there and ridicule "extremists" or "purists" like me who are demanding recognition of a Right to Life right now, not later. The public simply sees the "Right to Life" position as extreme -- even some pro-lifers say so, but those reasonable pro-lifers are willing to take on the "problem abortions" so that only the "necessary abortions" remain.

    Once you've banned 95% of abortions there won't be any public demand to go back and save the other 5% because those will be the "good abortions that pro-lifers have never opposed."

    If anyone wants to understand my perspective, click on my name above to go to my blog, and read Personhood Works, Regulations Don't.


  17. And Jay, to clarify on the anti-slavery laws. In non-states, the status of slavery was more or less undefined. It was the "anti-slavery" politicians who wrote laws that said slavery will be prohibited in Maine, but slavery will be explicitly protected in Texas. They institutionalized slavery in Texas, where is wasn't necessarily institutionalized before (and there was still some doubt as to whether it would be -- real abolitionists still wanted a complete ban on slavery in every new state, but the "anti-slavery politicians" labeled them as extremists, and went on without them).

    I believe regulatory incremental laws are just like that -- they say we ban some abortions, but other abortions are explicitly protected by this "pro-life" law. That's where you and I and Scott part ways, because I'm unwilling to sign my name to a law that says "you may kill a baby if you were raped" (even if it's already legal -- it's only legal WITHOUT my help, unless I sign a law that allows it in some cases).

    Lastly, you and Scott engage in straw man arguments too, when you say we are unwilling to see any progress without total progress. No, we're willing to ban abortion state by state, or we're willing to do things which put restrictions on abortion WITHOUT lending credibility to the practice. There are few ways to do this, but they can be done. It's just that incrementalists are set in their ways and won't listen to how they can make incremental laws that don't tacitly recognize a "right" to abortion in some circumstances.

    It was Roe v. Wade (Endnote 54) where the court indicated if there are exceptions in the law, then it's impossible to argue an unborn child is a person. It was a supposedly "pro-life" law, with exceptions, that Roe v. Wade used to determine the non-personhood of the unborn child (if an innocent child is a person, then there should never be any circumstances when they could be allowed to be killed).

    You can't regulate something that's not legal. Regulations only legitimize some/most abortions and undermine the concept of a Right to Life.

  18. Alright Ed, we are about to wrap up this comment thread here as I fear we are ending the end of our productive dialogue.

    The "real abolitionists"? Does that group include those so committed to their ideals that they questioned the commitments of Frederick Douglass when he attempted to form broader anti-slavery coalitions with free soilers and Republicans because he believed that those broad coalitions would hasten the eventual conflict over slavery? A belief that seems proved correct. Do the "real abolitionists" include those who criticized Frederick Douglass for purchasing his own freedom and violating their principle that men should not be a thing that are bought and sold? Oddly enough, he was more interested in actually being free rather than upholding another man's principles and remaining a slave.

    Those Free soilers and Republicans, like Lincoln, many who hated slavery for the wrong reasons and sought to limit it in ways that failed to satisfy the purists did good work for our nation. It is easy to criticize them on the other side of a brutal war that tore our country apart in exactly the way they feared would happen if they pushed too hard. I suppose they should have relished the coming bloodshed as their country was torn apart before their eyes.

    As to the idea that we go after so-called purists, that is another canard. Two times in the past five years that I have been here at the LTI Blog we engaged this debate. Once in 2007 in response to Dr. Dobson being attacked as an enemy to the pro-life movement, a charge so ridiculous that it would be laughable if it were not true. The second time was the last few days when Abby Johnson was attacked. Other than that we spend out time respectfully declining debates and opportunities to engage out of a desire not to expend our energies confronting people that do not perform abortions.

    I have never had a problem with people pursuing separate agendas in pursuit of the end of abortion. What I will not sit by and silently watch is those who consider themselves above the fray accuse others of being out of touch with biblical teaching and say that we have blood on our hands.

    As to what the rest of the country is learning from things like PBA and BAIPA, well Dr. Beckwith is absolutely right. EVERY SINGLE POLL demonstrates that those public debates moved the general population more toward the pro-life position. So I need more than your word to believe that those debates set the movement back in the way that you claim.

    Your citing footnote 54 has already been addressed in another comment thread as well as by Dr. Beckwith.

    Now, as I told Rebecca, since you have never and will never actually perform an abortion and are fighting to end it as I am there is only so much upside to continuing this thread. I feel like we have reached the end and with the approval of my ministry partners this thread is closed.