April 24, 2014

The Left’s sloppy thinking concerning the defense of human life

Source: Wintery Knight

Secular leftists (as well as many religious leftists) hold the views they do not because the views are internally coherent, but because they they fear being ostracized by their peers for holding conservative opinions. Moral posturing — holding politically correct viewpoints — is more important than clear thinking in the secularist canon. This explains why the moral and cultural conservative is so often greeted with pejoratives rather than any reasoned rebuttal of his opinions. It is also why the defender of abortion loathes direct questioning. He knows his views are weak (applause is more important than any search for truth), and an informed moral and cultural conservative can dispense with them without too much effort.

In the video below Stephanie Gray, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform debates Dr. Mark Mercer, head of the Philosophy Department of Saint Mary’s University held at Dalhousie University on March 8, 2011. Gray knows her stuff. Mercer knows very little although he thinks he knows a lot. What Mercers holds as self-evidently true is not so self-evident when faced with an interlocutor better educated and more independent minded than he is.

Unfortunately, Mercer’s ignorance is reflected in Orthodox Church life as well despite the clear teachings of the Orthodox moral tradition which line up squarely with Gray’s defense of the intrinsic value of human life. In fact, these teachings are the foundation of Gray’s apologetic. It is important too that the Orthodox Christians who understand that a clear defense of human life in the public square is needed today more than ever also recognize where these weaknesses lie. We have to be clear, coherent, and brave in our defense of human life. If we fail, a tide of dehumanization will be unleashed that will leave us weeping like the Israelites by the waters of Babylon over what was lost.

One area of weakness I have in mind lies here: A patriarch who ‘generally speaking, respects human life’. Such muddled thinking in the upper reaches of Orthodox leadership is disconcerting to say the least, but it must be revealed and challenged if we hope to avoid a deeper confusion down the road over the questions that inevitably flow from the primary ones addressed in the debate. Secondly, the Patriarch’s statement does not conform to the teachings of the Fathers on abortion. This too must be clarified.

Comments

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    One question leads to another. The question “When a Fetus Becomes a Baby” “evolved” into “When Does a Baby Become a Person? What will the next stage be? Perhaps “What is a Human Person ? Which humanoids should have the right to be born and later on be afforded rights and privileges such as the ‘right’ to procreate, the right to live for a certain length of time

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    Scott Pennington says:

    While the Church’s opposition to abortion goes back to the Didache (and beyond, in a sense: Jewish Halakhah prohibited abortion for any reason other than to save the life of the mother), there is another factor involved here besides the valuation of human life, though that, of course, is paramount. Abortion has only really become a great, divisive issue since the role of women has changed in society. Separating abortion from feminism is impossible. The reason is that in a modern feminist culture, babies are not valued as an unqualified good, a source of bounty. In centuries prior to the twentieth, for the most part, children were seen as a blessing since they were also a source of wealth. Sons could work the family farm or business. They could branch off into their own farms or businesses and be a financial resource for the extended family. Daughters could be married off (hopefully to men of some standing) and thus provide political and financial connections for the family as well. When women didn’t, for the most part, question or reject their primary role as wife and mother – - their vital, essential role in reproduction – - abortion was not much of an issue. Aborting a child in the womb made about as much sense as burning stock certificates.

    That’s all gone and so a strong imperative has been created, due to a rejection of the Christian concept of the family, which militates in favor of “family planning” – - subordinating reproduction to feminist careerism. While this is a much more difficult and controversial subject to address, the problem of abortion simply can’t be effectively explained without taking this into consideration. While abortion is usually seen from the supply side (that a woman has a “right” to an abortion if she so chooses), the real problem is demand: a socio-political ideology which devalues and stigmatizes reproduction. Solve that problem and you solve abortion as a consequence. If you don’t solve the demand problem (i.e., the problem of feminism in all its aspects), you probably won’t make any headway (at least in a democratic society) against abortion.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Scott, neither can one disconnect the devaluing of reproduction from the overall economic shift in which consumption is the prime economic mover vs. production. Industrialization, the centralizing of production and its removal from the local community, the consequent devaluing/depersonalizing of labor to just another part of the industrialized process followed by the concentration of both capital and the control of labor into the hands of the bigs (Labor, industry, governement). The further breakdown of the family as an economic unit to the individual being the economic unit. Children are no longer an economic good, they are a drain on resources. Therefore the elite will not breed, they’ll get someone else to do that for them or find some way to ‘produce’ them. Feminism becomes androgny and therefore essetially mysoginistic and misanthropic. Children become hated. Men are castrated and women are made into false men. Androgynous men become ‘leaders’ and idols from Justin Bieber and his clones to politicians to bishops.

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        Scott Pennington says:

        Michael,

        Agreed in full. The thing is, so long as we practice Western democracy, the odds are very slim that we will make much headway against any of this. That is the profound irony of American Christianity, it is inherently, blindly self destructive (even in its Orthodox variety). Americans cling fiercely to a form of government profoundly hostile to Christianity itself. They even wish to spread it throughout the world as if it were self evidently good at the same time as it destroys any traditional form of their faith. Perhaps they don’t even remember what Christianity is anymore. It all goes under the catch all rationalization that, “Oh, well of course, we don’t do that anymore. Times have changed.”

        I assume the economic decadence will change our form of government before revulsion at the moral decadence. De Tocqueville’s thesis (or whoever wrote that famous line about how democracies end) is being played out before our eyes.

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      Scott, you’re definately on to something here. If nothing else, it’s solidifying a philosophical construct that’s long been inchoate in me, that religion drives culture and culture drives religion, or at least they reinforce each other.

      We see this in the current debate on my blog about the Lavender Mafia. A certain priest gave a highly nuanced and sophisticated condemnation of “homophobia” based on his understanding that heterosexual sin is no better than homosexual sin (and I quote: “homosexuality is no sin because heterosexuality is no virtue”). Upon the re-reading of his thoughtful analysis, I did see that there was some point about sinfulness in general. However, since that time more astute intellects than mine brought out this point: that even though heterosexuality can be distorted (pornography, prostitution, promiscuity, etc.) it is still the normal reality of nature as God intended it. If nothing else, heterosexuality can find its sanctifying expression in matrimony, whereas homosexuality can never find a sanctifying outlet.

      Where am I going with this? Only that culture, nature, evolution even, point to the naturalness of heterosexuality. As does the Church. Working hard and saving money are societal goods; the Church condemns sloth. Eating and drinking are necessary to maintain a healthy life; the Church upholds them in the Eucharist. Etc.

      So going to your point about women in the pre-industrial age viewing their “primary role as wife and mother,” is IMHO, spot-on. At that point, short of a remnant surving a generalized societal collapse in which all vestiges of industrialism wiped out, how can this regime be effected? Perhaps those who are faithful to the teachings of the Church can actualize this in their lives but then again, the culture fights against them at every turn.

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        Scott Pennington says:

        “At that point, short of a remnant surving a generalized societal collapse in which all vestiges of industrialism wiped out, how can this regime be effected?”

        George,

        I honestly think that God will do it. He ordered the world in a certain way and when people deviate too far or for too long, He corrects them through the agency of the natural world He created (or by direct intervention).

        For example, in 1917 a gang of criminals operating under a particularly noxious ideology succeeded in taking over Russia. At the core of their philosophy was state ownership of the means of production. That this turned out to be horribly inefficient was irrelevant to them. Also irrelevant was the fact that it is contrary to human nature to separate the intensity of work from the desire to personally benefit from it. The only farms that really worked economically were the ones where the peasants were given part of the land to produce their own needs and realize some profit.

        This all led to a terrible economic situation and the saying, “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” Seventy four years after its inception, it went bankrupt and the system changed.

        Moral decadence will probably not be the thing that causes our system to collapse or morph into something less representative. Economic decadence is the more likely catalyst. Probably, we will soon face a situation where the demos will simply adopt an attitude of denial toward the reality of the need to make extensive cuts in our system of redistribution. In Europe, you saw riots. But the problem will be more serious, eventually, here. Imagine an IMF bailout of the U.S. Can’t? Who is the lender of last resort who would bail us out? Who has that kind of economic power? What you could see is a spiral of devaluation and lowering credit ratings, etc. This, of course, affects prices and lifestyles adversely.

        Or, the people who got us into this mess – - the demos – - could wake up and smell the coffee and collectively right the ship of state. But that would be against their short term individual interests. My guess is that it will spiral out of control and at some point some person or group with the power to make it happen will realize that the form of government will have to change in order to save the country from self destruction. There could be a military component to this as well. A weakened bankrupt state that is far overextended, when it implodes, might make an attractive target for all its enemies who have the means to attack. A real national security crisis could be the immediate catalyst which alters our form of government.

        Really, who can say? That’s what makes life exciting. I don’t really look forward to this type of excitement, but life has taught me that there really is no pendulum that swings back and forth. Decadence advances. It may take 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. For a short while it might take 2 steps forward and three steps back. But it does advance unless a firm hand is in charge to prevent it.

        It is possible – - I don’t think likely, but possible – - that the numbers will become so bad that even liberal Democrats like Paul Krugman will have to admit, behind closed doors, that spending has to be dialed down and this means serious cuts and austerity. The politicians who run the country could decide, much like European politicians operate, that they simply need to do this and sell it to the people through the press. But if some critical mass of both parties doesn’t decide to go down that road, it will get ugly.

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    Eliot Ryan says:

    The Profile of Russian Orthodoxy Rises in Western Consciousness

    … at a conference in Trento in Italy, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna has criticized Western society for abandoning Christian family values. He said: ‘In less than fifty years traditional concepts of the family and sex have been overturned; they have given way to ‘progressive’ standards, founded on a liberal world view’. He spoke of the unprecedented ‘social fracture’ that has appeared in all the Western countries following the ‘sexual revolution’ and the ‘feminism’ of the 1960s. It is this, he said, that lies behind ‘the radical transformation of family and sexual ethics’. He added that this has ‘not only radically changed the face of Western civilization but also created an insurmountable chasm between it and the civilizations where traditional family and sexual ethics have been preserved’. The virtual disappearance of families with several children, campaigns for abortion, the changes in the roles of men and women, their mutual subservience to economic constraints (both husband and wife being forced into wage slavery), the loss of a role for many men, all resulting in divorce and new attitudes to homosexuality and so falling birthrates, may lead to the possibility that Western Europe will die out.

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Eliot,

      Exactly. And thus the task of democratic opponents of abortion in the West is to make a revival of the patriarchy . . . popular.

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        Scott: The battle is bitter… Some of us are hoping for the revival of traditional Christian values in the West, while secularists have launched massive attacks on the formerly Communist counties, and ultimately on Orthodox Christianity. They are fighting hard to implement humanist liberalism with its political correctness, ‘human rights’, and individual ‘freedom’ ideas.

        THE THOUSAND YEARS OF WESTERN REVOLUTION AND THE GATHERING RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COUNTER-REVOLUTION

        The battle is bitter, as the secularists, with the full support of the Western media, launch massive hate-attacks on the Russian national idea – ultimately, Orthodox Christianity. Using as a shield Western humanist liberalism with its political correctness and ‘human rights’, the secularists, who so dominate Russian television in particular and its policy of zombyization, are bent on promoting individual ‘freedom’. This, of course, is not freedom in the Christian sense, freedom from passion, but enslavement to sin, the freedom to be enslaved to passion, to the mental and physical illnesses caused by narcotics, alcohol and tobacco, to venereal disease and sexual perversion, to abortion and the refusal to have children, resulting in a dramatically falling population. And although abortion in Moscow, for example, has decreased fourfold in the last few years, nevertheless the secularists appear to be winning in many domains, as ever dividing and ruling.

        This is the struggle which is going on in Russia today. Will Russia return to its own, historic path and destiny of Orthodox Christian values, becoming the spiritual leader of the rest of the Orthodox Christian world, or will it become just another Westernized secular and spiritually insignificant State? Will the Orthodox Russia that has been through Golgotha and seen the Resurrection be able to inculcate its values to the whole of Russian society and indeed witness to them before the atheist West that lost its Orthodox roots a thousand years ago, or will it wither beneath the onslaught of Western secularism? Will the demons of secularism occupy the vacuum in so many Russian souls, or will those souls be filled by the love of Christ and His Church? Will, in other words, the Apocalypse, that has now been brought so near by the Western Revolution that goes back to 1054, be postponed by the Russian Orthodox Counter-Revolution of Faith and the restoration there of Orthodox Monarchy, or will the end come within a relatively short space of time?

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    Dn Nicholas J says:

    Should not all such secular sins and heresies be the main topic for settlement at the upcoming(???) Great and Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church?

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      John Panos says:

      And you can be sure they won’t. I have a feeling the “Great and Holy Synod” will be neither great, nor holy, just organized. The proponents seem more interested in the EP’s authority in places where canonical Orthodox churches already exist that in combating sin and heresy. Looking at the roster of gay bishops in the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I’m quite sure no good will come of it UNLESS Russia puts its ponderous foot down and declares a real agenda.

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        John Pappas says:

        John Panos, the Russian Orthodox Church might be putting its money where its mouth is. They are not letting non-married clergy get ordained before thirty years old and they can only be priests in monasteries, not parishes. It looks like they have a problem with gays too but they don’t seem to be putting them front and center as Bishops and Metropolitans like the Greeks do. I read it on this site. http://www.aoiusa.org/blog/2011/02/roc-issues-stricter-rules-for-celibate-clergy/

        Maybe all this argument about dyptichs is really about who gets to be Queen for a Day.

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    Isaac says:

    While I certainly agree with the idea that being Orthodox and supporting abortion is antithetical, I don’t agree about how Christians should be dealing with these social issues. The reason Christians are seen as hypocrites in the US is because they try to get non-Christians live according to a Christian ethic while utterly failing to do so themselves. It makes no sense. What all Christians in the US should be doing is letting non-Christians go (just as God does) in terms of using the force of the law and, instead, striving to live in a such a radically different way that there is a clear contrast in approaches to life (which is what attracted many of the early converts to Christianity). When Christian abortion and divorce rates are close to zero that will do more to change people’s minds than any amount of legislation or public protest.

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      a non-OCA Orthodox Christian says:

      True, in the sense that Christians avoiding abortion and divorce will then become the majority as those who see no value in procreation will doom their lineage to extinction. We see this very phenomena happening in the pro-life marches. Many young people come to the these marches because they themselves are products of families who value life and pass those values on.

      But I see nothing wrong with Christians who want to take on the culture of death.
      Lila Rose and others of like mind all came from large Christian families. She took on Planned Barrenhood and exposed them for what they are:
      http://liveaction.org/lila-rose
      May God watch over her and those who work with her.

      Meanwhile, the feminists from the 1960s are all aging rapidly, and thank goodness many of them did not reproduce. May their own culture of death bring about the end of their evil philosophy. If feminists ever really cared for women they would be the first to cry out at the beheading of a New York Muslim woman or the honor murder of two Texas girls by Muslims. But they remain silent for fear offending the radical left. Feminism was never about helping women. Radical feminism was only about shackling women to promiscuity, abortion and death.

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      Geo Michalopulos says:

      Isaac, though what you say is true in the main, you are urging Christians to non-action based on the fallacy of “letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Such inertia is sustained by religious leaders who criticize ministries that are involved in society in order to excuse their own failures. This is exactly what’s at stake at present within the OCA, as the WaPo article so brilliantly attested to.

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    Isaac says:

    Sorry, but I am not sure how actually living a Christian life without using the force of the law to make non-Christians do the same is a call to “non-action.” I would say that politics are largely a distraction from the much harder calling of putting Christian teachings into practice in a way that makes Christians distinguishable from the larger culture and doesn’t breed resentments through the use of power that the “Moral Majority” most certainly did. Where in scripture, or in the witness of the early Christians, is anyone called upon to try to save the larger culture in which one exists by using the force of law to shape behaviors after Christian teachings?

    For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumblings of sinners by force … it is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have authority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force, but by choice. St. John the Chrysostom – Six Books on the Priesthood

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      Scott Pennington says:

      Precisely which sins did you have in mind that can’t be legislated against? Abortion, murder, theft, adultery, etc? Which can be legislated, which cannot, and exactly why the distinction (based on Christian teaching, not on secular sensibilities)? Otherwise, this seems like advocacy of anarchy. It is most certainly true that only those who are kept from evil by choice are given the crown. But, of course, that is no reason whatsoever for the law not to restrain evil. The reason for that is that the evil harms victims as well as the victimizer. I would not construe St. John Chrysostom as being at odds with St. Paul’s remarks regarding the sword being given to the government by God to punish evil and establish order, or his remarks about the government being a terror to evildoers as opposed to those who do good. Otherwise, St. John Chrysostom’s remarks fly in the face of the practice of Christians from the time of Constantine forward.

      “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
      For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” Romans 13:2-3

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      Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

      In the United States, we have no institution of moral adjudication (no national church, no monarcy, etc.) so cultural questions inevitably enter the political arena. Look at Proposition 8 in California for example.

      If the culture if given over to, say, a cheapened view of human life that the policy of abortion on demand represents than no political action can change it. If, on the other hand, there are people who recognize the dangers of such a view and recognize that others with antithetical views seek to co-opt politics to make their view the law of the land, then the former must resist and challenge the latter.

      Further your demand that no whiff of hypocrisy or nothing less than perfect virtue must be evident among those who hold a higher view isn’t reasonable. It merely cedes the ground to those who have no commitment to the virtue to begin with. If they did, they would not championing the destruction of human beings (abortion, infanticide, euthanasia) as enlightened social policy.

      If you are arguing that passing a law prohibiting abortions will not change the mind or heart of the ardent pro-abortionist, I agree. But resistance can, and that resistance has to be expressed in all areas of the culture including politics. It must be informed, coherently expressed, and so forth which it often is. See for example: Why a Planned Parenthood executive became a pro-life evangelist.

      And yes, hearts and minds in the Church need enlightenment as well. We have to clean up our own house too. That is why I posted the critique.

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        Eliot Ryan says:

        It is true that in the US there is no national church, but there is certainly a vast Christian majority (mainly Catholic and Protestant) Why are we in this situation? Are the Orthodox alone to be blamed for it? Numerically-wise their influence is very small. The secular-humanist culture is dominant because it owns the mass media, the universities, and the great foundations.

        Conservatives face daunting problems. We live in a country where the vast majority of Christians still put their children in atheistic public schools, thus helping our secular-humanist monster create more dumbed-down, brainless American adults. The result is that we have a culturally divided country: a dominant secular-humanist culture, which owns the mass media, the universities, and the great foundations, and a less influential Christian culture with its own publishing houses, bookstores, and schools. These two cultures exist in the same country but have radically different and opposing values. And the conflict between these two cultures can be seen in the abortion debate, the gay-marriage debate, the school-prayer debate, the textbook debate, the Ten Commandments debate, the popular entertainment debate, the dating debate, the tattoo and body piercing debate, the reading instruction debate, the abstinence debate, and so on. http://www.newswithviews.com/Blumenfeld/Samuel22.htm

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        Rob Zechman says:

        My experience has been that most folks (even those who say they support abortion rights) are generally uncomfortable with the practice and are often simply misinformed about the nature of the procedures involved. The problem is that the only people bringing the issue to the fore are unfortunately those whose voices are often the most shrill and extremist in nature. The rest of us simply sit by the sidelines (and that includes much of the clergy who do not wish to tackle difficult social issues from the pulpit and exemplified by the fact that Catholic and Orthodox women account for a surprising percentage of the abortions done).

        Interestingly enough, support for abortion has declined quite a bit among young adults (http://www.christianpost.com/news/poll-abortion-support-falling-among-young-adults-44267/).

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