Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why Not Thank God for Abortion? [Jay Watts]

Yesterday my Twitter feed and Facebook Newsfeed blew up with Toure Neblett. Toure talked on  MSNBC about his past experience facing an unplanned pregnancy conceived in a serious committed relationship with a woman he was pretty sure he didn't want around for the long haul. (See Video Below) Since he was not ready to be a father - especially not with this woman- the decision of the girlfriend represented a great moment of freedom for Toure and prevented what he characterizes as messing up three lives. The abortion later opened the door for him to have children with a woman he presumably liked a good bit more than the former girlfriend and rise through the ranks of journalism to the point that he could share this story with us all. He wrapped up the tale by thanking God and country for abortion.

I wanted to look at his statement, because at the end of a weird week of videos and articles marking the 40th anniversary of the Roe/Doe decisions it gives a good a launching point for discussing the foundational issues in the abortion debate.  

Issue 1: Why not Thank God?

Toure – like many people that choose to leap headfirst into the abortion discussion – completely misses the point. The right or wrong of the abortion issue hinges on identifying the life we wish to kill and determining what our moral duties are to it, if any. What is the unborn?

If the unborn life in question is not a human in morally relevant ways - that is if they are not like you and me - then why not thank God for abortion? I am grateful for all sorts of medical advances that make it safer to deal with pathologies today than it once was. If I get appendicitis, then thank God for appendectomies. If you watch Downton Abbey and endured this week's excruciating episode then we can all thank God for medical advances that make it safer for women to receive emergency cesarian sections. Doctors delivered my first child by “urgent c-section” because my wife had high blood pressure and wasn't progressing in labor. I thanked God for our doctor's expertise. 

Notice there is a pretty big “IF” hanging in the air, though. I used the following illustration to make the point in a recent presentation. On December 25th 1992, I was driving to my grandmother's house in order to celebrate Christmas with my father's family and inadvertently caused the death of innocent life. Their was nothing I could do to avoid what happened, but innocent life was lost none the less. The scene tortured me, and I replayed it over and over in my mind. I was haunted... for about an hour and then I started drinking ice cold Cokes and opening presents and forgot all about it.

How do you evaluate my reaction to that scene? There is critical information missing isn't there? What was the nature of the innocent life I inadvertently ended? Does my emotional response seem a bit more appropriate when you find out it was a suicidal squirrel that ran in front of my car? (for reasons known only to the squirrel) I haven't the foggiest idea how many ants die every time I take to the road and never spend a single moment mourning or regretting the deaths of the bugs that routinely slam into my windshield. I would think it odd if a person told me they were bothered by the death of a dragon fly on the ride over to my home. If - on the other hand - I had inadvertently killed a child then my quick recovery due to Christmas presents and drink would demonstrate a dangerous lack of perspective and would call into question my entire character. It seems morally defective to get over killing a child so easily. I would expect to never fully recover from something so horrifying.

In the same way, the nature of the life in question is central to our evaluating abortion and our response to it. If the unborn are not human in the same way that we are then Toure's response is entirely appropriate, but he needs to argue for that. If he is merely emoting then his commentary is no more than, “Hurray abortion!” If he is sharing his preference then his commentary is no more than, “I prefer abortion to having the responsibility of raising a child.” It ought to be obvious that neither expression informs us about the nature of the act of terminating a human life prior to birth for reasons of convenience. They tell us something about Toure.

It is true information in the same way that my 8 year old daughter tells me something true when I tell her that it is wrong to not like bacon. She responds, “Daddy, when I put bacon in my mouth I don't like the way it tastes.” This is subjectively true information that tells us about the subjects, Toure or my daughter, but is true information that doesn't progress the evaluation of the issue. It fails to address the nature of the object, the nascent human life. Whether or not that life is human life and possesses moral worth are objective questions about the nature of something external to us. How we feel and what we prefer are simply irrelevant to the question at hand.

I fully admit that Toure's career trajectory may have been improved as a result of that abortion and that this fact makes Toure happy and grateful. But what was the nature of that life that was ended?

If it was a human life in the same way that you and I are human life then I don't care a whit how grateful he is about the outcome of aborting his child. It is wrong to kill others so that we can avoid inconvenient responsibility. Aborting the child was good for him, but it was the violent end to a life only just begun for another. A life that was deemed in another recent creepy addition to the discussion at Salon “So what if abortion ends life?” by Mary Elizabeth Williams, “A life worth sacrificing.” (more on this in issue 2) So he prevented messing up three lives by terminating one of the lives to spare the other two the burden of loving it. That is a less inspiring story.

We argue using science and philosophy that early human life is the proper object of the basic moral duties and obligations that are owed to all members of the human family. (See here) Toure responds that his life was made better by aborting a particular unborn human life. Bully for you, Toure. Now explain why you and others have the right to do so based on the nature of the life that was destroyed.

He comes close to offering an argument based on bodily autonomy rights by quoting the words of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and saying he can't imagine telling a woman what she can and cannot do with her body. The problem is that "I can't imagine..." is not the same as arguing "It is wrong to...". Toure frames the discussion by offering autobiographical information again. Then he demonstrates he doesn't have the slightest clue what bodily autonomy rights are by his silly statement concerning the unsolvable medical argument of when life begins. Scholars that argue bodily autonomy rights don't talk like that. They concede a living being and the intentional ending of a life of value. They simply believe and argue that the woman's right to control her reproductive system supersedes the rights of the unborn life. Toure's inclusion of that quote felt more like an intellectual accessory intended to dress up an otherwise ill conceived rant. He isn't the first person to throw around quotes he doesn't really understand to underscore his point and he won't be the last.

The rest is like a shotgun blast of arguments passing by in quick succession. He mentions the stability of the family, nation building, back alley abortions, and the bald assertion of the right to choose. He does so deftly while conceding that seeing life developing in the child he wanted caused him to waiver, but not enough to overcome his certainty that women need to be free to do with their bodies as they please. We will cover some of this in future posts. There was a lot there and little of it addresses the central issue in any way or would be accepted as justification for killing newborns for example. We are again presupposing they are worth less so we are free to do with them what we will. (Next post, Jay! Next post!)

Toure is free to thank God for whatever he wants. If the unborn are human in the same way that you and I are then he is thanking God for the freedom to destroy his children so that he can pursue his career unfettered. If he is a bodily autonomy rights guy then he is thanking God that his girlfriend didn't want to carry his child and destroyed the life growing inside her before it developed enough to have competing rights worth considering. If he doesn't believe the unborn are valuable human life then he is merely thanking God for advances in medical science.

Of all the options, the only one that doesn't make Toure sound like a self-centered creep is the last. But if that were his view it makes little sense to hope that abortions are rare as he does. If the unborn don't morally matter have as many abortions as you like. I don't hope that tooth extractions remain rare. Alas, this is just further evidence that this guy has no idea what he is talking about.

HT: John Stonestreet

Issue 2 – Abortion is necessary for the lifestyle and culture we live in to continue as it is. (Next Post)

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

When A Pro-Life Pastor Votes Pro-Choice [SK]

On Election Day 2012, a sizable minority of self-described “evangelicals” voted for a presidential candidate dedicated to the proposition that an entire class of human beings can be set aside to be killed. 

One of them was my former college pastor, a man who profoundly impacted me for good during my early 20s. Before chastising him, keep in mind that he personally raised funds to help the local crisis pregnancy center. So did his church. Yet he publicly voiced his support for the most pro-abortion president to date. Here’s a portion of what he posted on Election Day:
I am often asked how I can support our President and vote for him when his party platform supports abortion rights and gay marriage. Here is my reply. I do not agree with everything in either party's platform, but I weigh the overall stance toward people that is found in those platforms. While abortion is certainly wrong, I do not believe in single-issue voting. Neither do I see one sin as worse than all the others; to do so strikes me as hypocritical. When the Church attempts to impose its morals on society, it only breeds resentment among unsaved people.
He went on to observe that “Christian” is now synonymous with “judgmental” and that addressing people’s morals before introducing them to Jesus is backwards. “Moral standards are addressed to the Church, not to our neighbors.” He then said that “freedom of choice for behavior (abortion, homosexuality, etc.) isn’t that different from freedom of choice for belief (Mormonism, Scientology, etc.).” The response from a few of his former students was swift and biting, though some agreed. Below is the comment I posted the next day:
Dear Daniel,

Hopefully those questioning you will pause to consider the ministry impact you’ve made on many of us, all of it fruitful. They would do well to engage you through the lens of profound gratitude! I hope my own thoughts are conveyed through that very lens.

First, I’m wondering if you could clear this statement up for me. “While abortion is certainly wrong, I do not believe in single-issue voting. Neither do I see one sin as worse than all the others; to do so strikes me as hypocritical.”

Why do you think abortion is “certainly” wrong?

If your answer is that it unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being (the only reason I see for saying it’s “certainly” wrong), why shouldn’t that be a dominant moral issue at the ballot box? Suppose a head of state has an excellent foreign policy and a good health-care plan, but he and his party are committed to the proposition that men can legally beat their wives. Wouldn’t that be reason enough to reject that party? Of course, you’re right to say that abortion isn’t the only issue any more than slavery was the only issue in 1860 or the treatment of Jews the only issue in 1940. But both were the dominant issues of the day. What’s wrong with Christians giving greater weight to those dominant issues?

Second, I’m unclear what you meant when you said abortion was no worse than other sins. Are you suggesting that dismembering a human fetus is morally equivalent to stealing a pencil? Perhaps you meant that, judicially speaking, all humans—regardless of their specific sins—are equally guilty of rebellion against their Maker. Thus, they equally need a Savior to pay their sins. If so, I agree. But does it follow from this that all sins are morally equivalent in terms of the evil done?

Third, I was unclear about this statement: “When the Church attempts to impose its morals on society, it only breeds resentment among unsaved people.” Is promoting legal protection for unborn humans an example of “imposing” views on society? If so, why should we see it that way? I don’t think pro-life Christians are “imposing” their views any more than abolitionist Christians were imposing theirs or the Reverend King was imposing his. Rather, they’re “proposing” them in hopes their fellow citizens will vote them into law. That’s how a constitutional republic like ours works. We’re not looking to establish a theocracy that we impose on non-Christians, only a more just society for the weakest members of the human family.

Finally, you are right to say that Christians must be gracious in our interactions with non-believers. I grieve thinking about times I’ve fallen short of that standard. Thank you for that important reminder about unduly offending people. The gospel is offensive enough!

Thankfully, we don’t have to choose between standing up for our moral convictions or pointing people to Jesus. We can do both. Last Thursday night, I debated Dr. Malcom Potts, an abortionist, in front of a largely secular audience at U.C. Berkeley. After the event, ten students from the skeptics/atheist club stuck around to converse with me for 75 minutes. They loved it! They thanked me for being an intelligent Christian and for making a case for life based on science and philosophy. True, they didn’t fall on their knees and repent, but I did give them something to think about. To quote my good friend Greg Koukl, don’t worry about closing the deal—put a pebble in their shoe.

With kindest regards and deep gratitude, Scott
There were other concerns with his post. As my friend Dr. Marc Newman points out, can you imagine Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing, “Freedom of choice for behavior (killing Jews or homosexuals, etc.) isn’t that different from freedom of choice for belief (Mormonism, Scientology, etc.)?” No one ever eviscerated me for rejecting or accepting Mormonism. But over a million unborn humans are destroyed each year in the name of abortion-choice.

I grieve that my former pastor supports a party where 90 percent of its current House membership voted against a bill protecting unborn females from sex-selection abortions. He voted for a party that supports forcing religious groups to fund insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs. He voted for a party that says doctors must perform or refer for abortion or go out of business. While he’s worried about Christians forcing their views on others, the party he supports is forcing Christians to comply with abortion mandates or face legal prosecution.

“It is important to note that nearly all moral issues are eventually politicized,” writes Pastor Michael Spencer. “But the fact that moral issues often become hotly contested political issues must not render them off-limits for the Church. Remember, slavery was also once a highly politicized issue and yet love for black brothers and sisters obligated white pastors and the church to boldly condemn the moral crime of slavery and to speak up for those who had no voice.”

Pastors committed to a biblical worldview must reconnect Christian thought and action, and promote a better understanding of what it means to have dual citizenship. Paul used his effectively for the kingdom. I pray that one day my former pastor will, too.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hey Pro-lifers: We are Not Winning [Serge]

I know I'll be showing my age here, and as an alum of the University of Michigan this brings back some tough memories, but I was recently reminded of an old football coach from Notre Dame - Lou Holtz.  Holtz was famous for talking up his opponents no matter how bad they were.  If Notre Dame was playing Little Sisters of the Poor of Southwest Montana, Holtz would spend his time saying how tough they were and how ND would have to play a perfect game in order to squeak out a victory.  They would then proceed to trounce them 55-0 and move on to their next "tough" opponent.  Holtz wanted to make sure that his winning team stayed motivated for the next fight regardless of what they've accomplished so far.

This cover from this weeks Time magazine reminds me of this tactic.  Unfortunately, in this scenario - we are not Notre Dame.

It seems this cover is very much like the "urgent" email alerts I receive from pro abortion choice groups that want more money.  It seems more likely to motivate the other side more than any concession that we are making solid ground

Lets take an quick look at our "winning side":

1.  The most pro-abortion choice president in history who once voted against saving infant who who born alive was reelected not by running from his pro-abortion choice advocacy but by touting it.  Any Supreme Court nominations that occur within the next 4 years will certainly strengthen the pro-RoevWade majority.

2.  We lost 2 senate seats because pro-lifers were unable to adequately articulate their views when asked about abortion in the case of rape.

3.  Our government is now mandating that all employers cover the cost of Ella, a so-called emergency contraceptive that has the same mechanism of action as RU-486.

4.  Although polls show that more people are claiming to be pro-life, their response at the ballet box continues to not support this claim.

What about the positives?  The article touts the fact that abortion providers are down and some areas of the country there is a scarcity of abortion clinics.  This may seem wonderful, but in reality it has very little impact on the numbers.  I'll use myself as an example.  There is no abortion clinic in the city in which I live so women seeking abortion need to drive 30 minutes to procure one.  There is also no abortion clinic in the city where I have another office - and this is the home of a large college.  However, women seeking abortion there have to drive about 40 minutes south to have one.  In other words, while it is true that our opponents goal of having abortion clinics as ubiquitous as Starbucks has not been that effective, abortion is still very easily obtained even in smaller cities.  The fact that an abortion minded woman needs to add an hour to her drive in order to intentionally kill her child does not seem like an awesome victory to me.

So is this simply a written version of "loser talk" that Jay never likes to hear?  Absolutely not.  The worst thing that we can do is to sit back because we believe we are on the verge of winning, when in truth there is very much work to do.  Instead of patting ourselves on the back for the small progress we've made, we need to soberly consider what else we can do.  We need to recommit ourselves to doing the hard work necessary to present the pro-life view in a true, winsome, and effective way.

I recently did the nutty thing of signing up to run my first full marathon in May.  This means that next weekend I plan on getting up at 7am when it is about 15 degrees and do a 2 hr run, followed by a dip of my legs in ice cold water while my wife and kids are eating pancakes.  What would motivate me to do such an insane thing?  Because I know that is what will be necessary to reach my goal months from now.  The worst thing I could do is to believe that I have already trained enough and am adequately prepared.  I am not, and if I'm unwilling to make the sacrifice to be prepared, I won't make it.

Most pro-life posts that I've seen are very self congratulatory and very proud of what we have accomplished so far.  Stop it!  Just get back to doing the hard work needed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Resolved [Megan]

There are few New Year's resolutions that compare with Jonathan Edwards' list. At the dawn of 2013, I am happy to borrow the first one and try my best to live it out to the glory of God.

"Resolved, to do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever."