"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"the babies of the world will just have to wait"



"the babies of the world will just have to wait"

That is a line I came across recently, from a Christian dismissing the abortion issue in relation to this year's US presidential election.

Every year about 1,300,000 babies are aborted in the US. That's 5,200,000 babies over the next four years that won't get to "wait" -- they will be killed. The common reply is that neither candidate will make a difference with respect to the number of abortions. But that is simply not true. Obama promised a group of prominent abortion advocates that his "very first" act as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act [FOCA] into law. [watch the video] The passing of FOCA would result in approximately 125,000 more abortions per year. [source]. Given that, how could any Christian justifiably vote for Obama? What good could Obama possibly bring as President that would justify the killing of an additional 125,000 babies per year?

To conceive this more clearly, imagine that if Obama were to win, 125,000 babies per year would be sacrificed publicly on an altar on the White House lawn. That's a rate of 342 babies killed per day, or 14 babies killed per hour, or one baby killed about every 4 minutes. Imagine that every 4 minutes during an Obama administration, for the next four years, a baby is killed on this altar. Are the promised benefits of an Obama administration worth killing a baby every 4 minutes around the clock, 24/7, for the next four years?

Even in purely utilitarian terms, if we set aside the intrinsic injustice of killing innocent persons, it is difficult to imagine any comparable, let alone outweighing, good that could possibly justify killing a baby every 4 minutes for the next four years. Therefore, there seems to be no moral justification for voting for Obama. Obama supporters must either (1) not be aware of the implications of FOCA, or (2) not be aware that abortion is the killing of an innocent human being (see here), or (3) think that the good that Obama would do as President would be worth killing a baby every four minutes for the next four years.

Bishop Finn of Kansas put it this way:

"[I]f we are inclined to vote for someone despite their pro-abortion stance, it seems we are morally obliged to establish a proportionate reason sufficient to justify the destruction of 45 million human persons through abortion. If we learn that our "candidate of choice" further pledges – through an instrument such as FOCA - to eliminate all existing limitations against abortion, it is that much more doubtful whether voting for him or her can ever be morally justified under any circumstance." (source)

Bishop Hermann of the Archdiocese of St. Louis had this to say: "More than anything else, this election is about saving our children or killing our children."

Cardinal Egan of New York says this: "[H]ave you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it?"

Bishop Farrell of Dallas and Bishop Vann of Fort Worth issued a Joint Statement on this subject. Here's an excerpt:

The only moral possibilities for a Catholic to be able to vote in good conscience for a candidate who supports this intrinsic evil are the following:

a. If both candidates running for office support abortion or "abortion rights," a Catholic would be forced to then look at the other important issues and through their vote try to limit the evil done; or,

b. If another intrinsic evil outweighs the evil of abortion. While this is sound moral reasoning, there are no "truly grave moral" or “proportionate” reasons, singularly or combined, that could outweigh the millions of innocent human lives that are directly killed by legal abortion each year.
To vote for a candidate who supports the intrinsic evil of abortion or "abortion rights" when there is a morally acceptable alternative would be to cooperate in the evil – and, therefore, morally impermissible.

Over one hundred US Catholic bishops have spoken out similarly. (source) Why is this issue so important? It is not only the saving of the lives of these 125,000 children per year. As I explained in my previous post on this subject titled "Finding Unity in Morality", all our rights depend on the right to life. "Without the right to life, no other right can be defended." (Fr. Zuhlsdorf).

Many of us have been working to protect unborn children for many years. Part of the fruit of that work has been the appointment of several Supreme Court justices who understand that the Constitution does not give anyone a right to kill unborn children. McCain said this: "I will look for people in the cast of John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and my friend the late William Rehnquist -- jurists of the highest caliber who know their own minds, and know the law, and know the difference". Obama, as Princeton Professor Robert George has succinctly argued here, has clearly demonstrated himself to be the most pro-abortion candidate this nation has ever known, explicitly ensuring he would select Supreme Court justices who retain Roe vs. Wade. We've worked too hard to get this close to overturning Roe vs. Wade. Now is not the time to slacken our effort. Obama is right on this point, that in this election, Roe vs. Wade "probably hangs in the balance". (source)

When I was growing up, I thought that the only way to change a society's moral consciousness was through religious conversion. Of course I understood that we needed laws, but I believed that laws merely prevented anarchy; in my mind, they definitely didn't change hearts. That is why I thought efforts to change our country by way of political means were a misguided waste of time. But later I came to see that my gnosticism had prevented me from seeing that it is not either/or, but both/and. Plato explains both in his Republic and in his Laws, that the laws of a society shape and train its citizens in their dispositions to act, their appetites, and in their conceptions of right and wrong. As parents by their discipline shape and form the moral habits and appetites of their children, so likewise do the laws of a nation shape the moral habits and appetites of its people. We change our society both by directly influencing the hearts and minds of our neighbors, and by selecting leaders who will enact and enforce a body of law that will also shape the moral habits and conscience of all citizens. It is not an either/or, but necessarily a both/and. We must not fail in our civic duty, by falsely assuming that society is changed and formed only by our conversations and relationships with our neighbors. Our neighbors' morals are also affected by how we vote, because the laws and policies enacted by political leaders shape and form the moral consciousness of a nation's citizens. And the laws that in recent years have been put in place to restrict abortion are making a difference.

Some people I talk with think that the government should not "legislate morality". They do not seem to understand that the government of any people has a necessary duty to protect and defend innocent human life, whether already born or not yet born. The obligation to protect innocent human life is not just a Christian obligation, but is known to reason and knowable by reason. (cf. Declaration on Procured Abortion, 8) Consider this selection from (Evangelium vitae, 71).

The real purpose of civil law is to guarantee an ordered social coexistence in true justice, so that all may "lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (1 Tim 2:2). Precisely for this reason, civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something which-were it prohibited- would cause more serious harm, it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individuals-even if they are the majority of the members of society-an offence against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life. The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom.

May we not be known as the generation who decided that the "babies of the world will just have to wait". May their blood not be on our hands. Please do whatever is in your power to spread the word to everyone you know; the lives of 125,000 children a year depend on what we do right now. We are also praying a novena until next Tuesday; please pray hard. But don't just pray - pray and pass on the truth. We are our brother's keeper, even of those in the womb. They cannot speak on their own behalf; if we don't stand up for them and defend them, who will?

"Lord Jesus Christ, You told us to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. Enlighten the minds of our people [in] America. May we choose a President of the United States, and other government officials, according to Your Divine Will. Give our citizens the courage to choose leaders of our nation who respect the sanctity of unborn human life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of marital relations, the sanctity of the family, and the sanctity of the aging. Grant us the wisdom to give You, what belongs to You, our God. If we do this, as a nation, we are confident You will give us an abundance of Your blessings through our elected leaders. Amen." [Fr. Hardon]

16 comments:

David said...

Please God -- may we not be known as the generation who decided that the "babies of the world will just have to wait".

Thos said...

Bryan,

What would you say to the reply that the more worldly the world gets, the more people will hunger for the Church? I don't know anyone that wishes the world to go in the tank, so to speak, but do sense an evangelical longing for persecution, to take mediocre faith off the table as an option. "Let the lines be drawn."

I believe that the pain a mother experiences from abortion may be so acute as to shatter her soul. So I am not convinced that persecution is a net gain (even if it is for those induced to take the side of faith). But still, I wonder if I may be wrong about that.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Principium Unitatis said...

Tom,

I don't have any reason to believe that as the world gets more worldly, more people will get hungrier for the Church. I wish I did. I do think that the worldlier the world gets, the more the Church will stand out by contrast, and the more the Church will be purified. But I think it is wrong to wish or hope for the world to get worse. We are to be the salt of the earth. We are to love the world, as Christ loves the world, and gave Himself up to redeem it. Christians, more than any other group, should love the world and pray for the well-being of the world. Should we pray for purification of the Church? Definitely. But my point is that we shouldn't wish for an evil to the world as a means to purifying the Church. We can't justifiably pursue (or even desire) an evil means to achieve a good end. (I'm not implying you disagree.) We can and should pray and work for the well-being of the world, and the well-being of the Church.

As for the shattered souls, Christ, through the Church continually offers mercy and grace and forgiveness, even to those who have taken the lives of their own children. The challenge for us is to defend the unborn while simultaneously supporting (in charity and mercy) women who have done this or are contemplating doing this. Part of this is transforming the way we as a people perceive of children, from that of 'punishment' or 'burden', to that of irreplaceable and invaluable gift.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CatholicPresbyterian said...

I agree pretty much with everything you stated above, good post brian. I definitely believe that the governors of any given land have a more and ethical obligation to rule in accordance with Gods righteous precepts. The further they get from this the worse a nation will be. There is no neutrality. They will either be working for righteousness or against it. Sadly in our day we have seen far more fabian socialist and globalist politicians, along with much of the neo-con monopoly-captalist right, advancing blatantly anti-christian laws such as abortion, pornography, and oppresive taxation. I long for the day when the kings of the earth will be seeking out the wisdom of the Christ through his Church. Godspeed that day.

Tracie Williams said...

That is a great argument! Well said Bryan.

steve said...

Bryan,

If I am not mistaken, that quip sounds an awful lot like something I said on a blog you and I frequent. And if I am further correct, I do believe it was a quip in order to make a Calvinistic point about the problems of natalism, not necessarily deride those who have particular and persuaded views like yours. (As it happens, I was listening to a show on NPR today in which the topic of abortion in relation to the presidential candidates was the focus. The journalist who has been following the abortion debate for years explained the “purist” views as it regards conception and human life, those understood to be the views of organizations like “Right to Life,” etc. I found that I agreed with these hard-and-fast definitions. But just because I am sympathetic to these definitions doesn’t at all mean I am sympathetic to the particular politics or even some of the implications of what I consider a problematic natalism.)

If it helps you, I have found that my fellow (conservative and Calvinist) Presbyterians have more in common with your views than with mine on this issue. This has been cause for a lot of curiosity for me, I think because I actually find your views as expressed here way more consistent with your theology. I think the Catholics views are vastly superior when it comes to the “culture of life.” When I hear my fellow Calvinists count themselves amongst those who would champion a “culture of life” I have to confess great reservation; I don’t think they mean what Catholics mean at all. And I count them more responsible Catholics who have the acumen to point that out—perhaps most Catholics are just happy for the bench strength and ignore the fact that “culture of life” Calvinists are not exactly helpful to the greater cause. In other words, when Calvinist Protestants promote a “culture of life” (and by implication, deride the supposed “culture of death”) what they really mean is that they are simply pro-life/anti-abortion, full stop. They are mixed when it comes to issues surrounding war, end-of-life problems, etc.

But my Augustinian-Calvinism has never understood what I discern in the Protestant ranks to be the assumption that some human beings, namely the unborn, are “innocent” and “deserve” the sort of rigorous protection seen in pro-life natalism. It makes sense to me as to why evangelicals and Roman Catholics find themselves behind this program, but why Calvinist Protestants join in the fray makes little sense to me. To my mind, the siren song seems to be to want to be relevant to a very attractive worldly condundrum, to want to be found on the side of rightousness one way or another. In this way, my point isn’t so much about the immediate problem of finding a political or legislative conclusion one way or another. My poojnt is to see if I can get my fellow Calvinists to step back, drop the group-think for more than two minutes and reflect more carefully about what it means to get in lock-step with a worldview. I don’t think it is all that obvious that Calvinism = natalism, especially when natalism has all sorts of champions that include those whom a better Calvinism would find objectionable.

But my sense is that most find it much more comfortable to join you, evangelicals, Mormons, Atheists-for-Life and anyone else who has been persuaded by that facet of modernity which pedestalizes youth into weird elevations by protecting one class of human beings in ways the rest of us are never afforded. At the end of it, I am sympathetic to what might be considered pretty conservative politics (ok, I am happy with it ending at states’ rights, but as a voting constituent I wouldn’t even make the typical “violence against women” caveats…I’ll leave it to others to decide how “conservative” I am!); but my reasons have very little to do with what I am calling natalism and more to do with what I perceive to be just plain the right thing. And I’d much rather see my fellow Calvinists appreciate the dangers of natalism than any particular politics enacted.

Zrim

Barrett Turner said...

Zrim,

As a fellow Calvinist, I have no idea what you're talking about. Honestly, brother! What do you mean by "natalism"?

I don't understand your point about mistakes about the "innocence" of children. Should we not care about the perversion of justice in the courts once we realize that all parties are sinners against God?

I am seriously uncertain what problem you're speaking about. What is "natalism"?

Principium Unitatis said...

Steve,

Thanks for your comments. I agree with some of what you said, but perhaps for different reasons. Let me explain. A few years ago (maybe about four years ago now) I saw an article by a Baptist pastor (in Texas I think) regarding human cloning. The pastor said something like this: Well, I don't see anything in the Bible about human cloning. Therefore as a Christian I have to conclude that it is permissible, or at least I can't condemn it.

It was a perfect example, for me, of the philosophical vacuum in Protestantism that has resulted from sola scriptura. I encountered a dismissal of natural law and virtue ethics in my ethics class at my Presbyterian seminary. The notion that "Scripture is sufficient" is used to mean that not only all doctrine, but all *ethics* takes Scripture as its foundation and source. The role of philosophy is thereby eliminated, or when it is used by Protestants it is just used to defend whatever is derived from Scripture. (That's not true of some academic Protestant philosophers; but it is mostly true across the entirety of Protestantism/Evangelicalism.)

I've been teaching ethics at the university level for about eight years. I rarely appeal to Scripture, and when I do, it is for corroboration/confirmation, not as a foundational starting point. In my experience, most Protestants are deeply skeptical of philosophy, human reason, and the possibility of objective moral knowledge derived through the natural power of reason alone. So that leaves them with this dualism: science on the one hand, and revealed theology on the other hand. And hence you get the science vs. religion war. You also get James Dobson giving the green light to masturbation, and other Protestants giving the green light to oral and anal sex between a married man and woman. That's far-removed from the Catholic Church's teaching (based on the natural law) that the use of artificial contraception is immoral. In marriage, for most Protestants, anything consensual is ethical, since the Scripture doesn't say anything. But that assumption is based on an implicit philosophical position called skepticism. Skepticism is a philosophical position that denies we can know much or anything through philosophy.

It is as if they never read Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, or Plato's Republic or his Laws. (And most of the time they haven't.) So they fill in the philosophical hole created by their skepticism with a form of fideism, where, in fundamentalist fashion, Scripture is made into the comprehensive ethical manual for life. But that's not what it was intended to be; the divine commands given in Scripture were intended to supplement our understanding of the natural law through reason. And so as a result, in Protestantism, you get Texas pastors giving the green light to grave evils, simply because such evils are not spelled out in Scripture.

But let me address one point where I disagree with you. You seem to think I am a "natalist". That's not a term I use to describe my position, and I don't know what all you have packed into the concept behind that term. You do say this:

most find it much more comfortable to join you, evangelicals, Mormons, Atheists-for-Life and anyone else who has been persuaded by that facet of modernity which pedestalizes youth into weird elevations by protecting one class of human beings in ways the rest of us are never afforded.

I'm not arguing that some class of human beings should be protected in ways that the rest of us are not. We all, as persons, have an intrinsic right to life: unborn, born, sick, healthy, men, woman, educated, uneducated, intelligent, unintelligent. That right to life is an implication of justice, what is owed to persons as persons. It has nothing to do with youth per se. Nor is it a facet of modernity (although it was further clarified within modernity); it extends back to the beginning, to Genesis 1:26, and 9:6. Murder has always been understood as a great injustice, because one has irrevocably taken from another that which is of immeasurable worth, i.e. his very life.

So my argument is this: 125,000 babies would be killed per year under Obama. Even if we set aside the intrinsic injustice of killing innocent persons, no conceivable good could be worth killing 125,000 babies per year. Therefore there is no moral justification for voting for Obama.

Do you think that argument is not sound? If so, please show me where. If not, then please help wake up Christians (and non-Christians) to save the lives of these children.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Rene'e said...

For those who are unsure when life begins , it states in Scripture,"baby" "in my womb."

Luke 1: 43

"The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the BABY leapt IN MY WOMB for joy.

Thos said...

Bryan,

Thank you for the response. I agree with your position. I do believe there is an evangelical desire to see the lines clearly drawn in the culture. In a recent RCIA discussion about the Fall, the subject of God allowing it to occur came up. Would we "want" Eve to take the little green apple because the Glory of God was all the more revealed after the Fall? With your answer in this combox in mind, I was able to quickly categorize that discussion. Of course we could never wish for an evil to occur, but we can marvel at the perfection of the Divine design after it plays out. So it seems the proper attitude now is to long for good to prevail presently, and to be at peace that God will not be mocked.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Thos said...

I too wonder what "natalism" is all about. It seems to flow from a pejorativistic desire to be in the labelistic camp. Is it condescensionism at its finest? Am I lifeistic too? A matrimonialist? Zrim, what fruit is borne of the term?

Peace in Christ,
Tom

steve said...

Barrett,

I perceive this debate to typically revolve around two groups who seem to think that the individual rights of one class of human beings trumps those of another (feminists think women win out over unborn and natalists think the unborn win out over women). What I mean by natalism is simply the assumption that, by virtue of being young or in vitro or weak, etc., that this class of people somehow deserve an heroic level of protection that no other human being does. While I do see it in modernity's elevation of whatever is new and young over whatever is old (as well as the fact that both feminists and natalist also share in modernity's emphasis on individual rights), I see very little in Augustinian-Calvinism that implies this sort of classism and individualism. Rather, precisely because of what you say (that all parties are sinners against God), I see it to imply that we are all subject to the same injuries of life, including death. My point isn't that, contra most Calvinists, Augustinian-Calvinism gives us a clear answer to the immediate questions surrounding the political-legislative questions, but that it steps back and calls into question the competing views that many seem to take for granted as grounds for one political answer or another. A better Christianity will never be found captive to the traditions of men but always calling them into question, even when we feel strongly about the traditions we choose to get behind. And we flirt heavily with idolatry when we don't take care to see that.

I find your question about the "perversion of justice in the courts" to be a great example of how many derail this conversation and just shut it down. You might as well ask me, "Don't you think giving guns to kids so they can shoot themselves in the head is wrong"? Well, yes, but that doesn't settle questions about gun control, etc. Such questisons move us from a satid conversation to ideological rant. And nobody ever gets anywhere with a rant.

steve said...

Bryan,

My interest is not in showing you where you are not sound, since, as I said, I find Catholic reasoning much more sound and consistent when it comes to these issues based upon the theological and philosphical presuppositions. In other words, I get how you to come to your conclusions. What I don't get is how fellow Calvinists end up there when they don't share said presuppositions. But maybe these are the same ones signing on to or otherwise championing things like "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," I don't know?

What is further interesting is that they seem unaware that to follow your argument is to give up on Presbyterian ethics like liberty and the spirituality of the church. They may wail over dead babies, but I find the exchange of the historical Protestant witness even more cause for grave concern.

steve said...

Tom,

I appreciate the fear of a pejorativism (I do love my -ism's, don't I?), but it is merely short hand in order to indicate something, that's all.

If I can endure Bryan's implications of fideism and fundamentalism, surely others can endure this one. My sense is that just because it is a new term many jump to inferring something pejorative.

Barrett Turner said...

Steve,

Brother, I asked you a question to continue the conversation. I sincerely meant the question about what the heck you meant by natalism because I had never heard such a term before. Since the internet seems to facilitate uncharitable readings due to the nature of the medium, I understand why you might think I'm being more argumentative than you would if were across a pub table. I have this sinful inclination to jump on my first impression of a comment. Lord have mercy.

I actually think your notion that "Augustinian-Calvinism" challenges all human traditions is closer to shutting down conversation than questions asking you to explain what you mean. That AC should "challenge all man-made traditions" stumbles on the problem of men teaching you AC. How do we distinguish between man-made traditions (which are bad, as Paul says) and traditions relayed through men (which is how God has chosen to teach the gospel!). It is not immediately clear that the criterion is that true tradition "challenges all man-made" traditions. This begs the question, you see what I mean?

Further, how can AC, strong biblical theology I think, not demand that Christians care for the "rights" of other people? I know that "rights" talk has been corrupted by the liberal tradition, but that tradition has its roots in the Christian tradition (see Nick Wolterstorff's new book on Justice). In fact, in class right now we're translating Proverbs 31:1-9, which is all about how a good ruler will uphold the "diyn" of the poor. The word in this context means "plea, case" or "justice/judgment" in a legal sense. If God's Word talks about the legal right of persons to justice (also Ex 20-23 and other casuistic sections of the Law), why can't Christians? If God commands the care for the widowed and orphaned in the same breath as speaking about remaining unstained from the world (James 1), why do we assume that all talk of justice de facto must be corrupted by sin so that no justice is possible (which is what you're explanation sounds like)?

I'd like to keep talking about this with you. I'm interested in how you respond.

In Christ,
Barrett

CrimsonCatholic said...

I appreciate the fear of a pejorativism (I do love my -ism's, don't I?), but it is merely short hand in order to indicate something, that's all.

For the sake of accuracy, then, it would be better to remove the "Augustinian-" preface from Calvinism, because St. Augustine's (Aristotelian) ethics clearly did not map onto what you label as Presbyterian ethics. Moreover, St. Augustine supported the inherent dignity of human life in the womb, and he would presumably qualify as a "natalist" by your perspective. Thus, it is misleading for you to describe your own position as "Augustinian" when St. Augustine has nothing to do with it.