Friday, May 18, 2007

Pro-Life Diversity

No one who has studied the history of the United States could fail to appreciate the diverse influences which have combined to make this nation what it is. That diversity of influences is one of the things which has made our nation great.

Unfortunately, the term "diversity" has taken on a different meaning in liberal circles in recent years. These days, liberals often use the term as a means of suggesting that there are no objective truths, and as a means of suggesting that competing value systems are all equally valid, even when there is no logical way that they can all be equally true.

"Multiculturalism" is another word which has similary been transformed by liberals in order to mean something quite different from the literal meaning of the word. The word is now used by some liberals in order to suggest that it is arrogant to say that some cultures are superior to other cultures.

In short, both terms have become code words designed to signify belief in moral and cultural relativism. Dare to suggest that Christianity is superior to a belief in Hinduism or in Wicca, and some will accuse you of lacking an adequate appreciation for diversity. Ditto, in some cases, if you dare to suggest that democracy is superior to monarchy or dictatorship or totalitarianism.

The issue, for such people, is not whether or not one belief is more or less true than another belief. Instead, such people have replaced a belief in objective truth with a system of belief in which the only real sin is to suggest that objective truth exists and that some people are objectively wrong.

Of course, there are a number of ironies here. One of those ironies is that if in fact the premise is correct, then it would be arrogant for a liberal who highly valued diversity and multiculturalism to claim to be superior in any way to a person who valued neither one of those things. If it's wrong to say that another person is wrong, then liberals have no basis for claiming that conservatives are wrong about anything.

Yet, in practice, that isn't the way that it works at all. Some of the most judgmental statements I've ever heard have come from the mouths, pens or computers of liberals who claim that it's wrong to be judgmental. (If you don't believe me, check out some of the blog posts which have been written during the past several days in response to news about the death of Jerry Falwell.)

Ironically, many of these same liberals fail to recognize and acknowledge real diversity where it exists. That's particularly true when it comes to the pro-life movement.

To hear pro-abortion or "pro-choice" liberals talk, one would think that the term pro-life is synonymous with "conservative Christian" or with "conservative Catholic". This characterization comes in mighty handy for liberals seeking to uphold the current status quo with regard to the legality of abortion. By ignoring the substantial diversity within the pro-life movement, they can speciously argue that laws limiting or forbidding abortion would constitute the imposition of religious doctrine on the general public.

In fact, pro-life people are not all Christians, nor are they all conservatives. There are pro-life people who identify themselves (or have identified themselves) as Jews (particularly Orthodox Jews), Mormons, Muslims, agnostics, Wiccans and even some atheists. There are pro-life libertarians (who deny that their general opposition to governmental imposition of moral beliefs is applicable to the abortion issue) and there are pro-life homosexuals. There are pro-life people in the Democratic party and there are pro-life people whose positions on other political issues could be described as liberal. There are many, many pro-life feminists. In short, it is utterly ridiculous to assume that all pro-life people are carbon copies of one another.

Admittedly, one of the reasons for the stereotypes aimed at the pro-life movement is that some pro-life people have done things to contribute to the stereotypes.

One of my complaints is that when some of the most active pro-life groups hold public events, they often do so in a way which enhances the perception that they are in favor of a theocratic government. For example, I've participated in pro-life protest marches in which many of the people in our group loudly recited the Hail Mary prayer, making it appear to passersby that every one of the people in our group was Catholic.

I would not describe myself as "anti-Catholic", in the sense that some people in this country have been (and may still be) anti-Catholic, but neither am I a Catholic. I happen to think that the official Catholic position on abortion is the correct one (which is why I have no problem standing shoulder to shoulder with Catholics on that issue), but I also think that Catholics are wrong about a number of important doctrinal issues, and I'm not afraid to say so.

In the unlikely event that the Pope issued a proclamation tomorrow saying that abortion was no longer a sin and that abortions actually ought to be encouraged, it would have no effect whatsoever on my own opinions on that subject. It would make me sad to see that the Catholic church had lost its spine (as many mainstream Protestant churches have done in recent years), but that is all, because my opinions about abortion have little to do with what the Catholic church says or doesn't say on that subject.

The problem with reciting the Hail Mary prayer (or any prayer) during public pro-life events is that it reinforces liberal stereotypes about the pro-life movement, inadvertently giving credence to the idea that pro-life people do in fact want to turn the U.S. into a Catholic or Christian theocracy. I've spent enough time with pro-life Catholics and Christians to believe that that is generally a false perception. but I can understand why unbelievers might incorrectly come to that conclusion after attending pro-life events in which leaders have unwisely spoken in such a manner as to suggest that pro-life politics and Christian beliefs are synonymous.

There is a time and a place for everything, including public prayers and public recitations of scriptures. In my opinion, political events focusing on the abortion issue are not the proper time or place for such things. The last thing we need to be doing, strategically speaking, is reinforcing public stereotypes which hinder the probability of our success in the political arena.

In order to accomplish our political objectives, we need to forge alliances with all pro-life people, even with those with whom we may have very strong disagreements on matters unrelated to abortion. If that means toning down the religious rhetoric so that pro-life people who disagree with us about religious matters will feel comfortable marching with us in opposition to abortion, then that's what it means.

(Whether or not such parades are politically effective is a separate subject which I will very likely discuss in another blog post.)

When I've tried to discuss this issue with some fellow pro-life people, they have often responded in such a way as to suggest that I am somehow ashamed of my faith in Christ. To the contrary. Anyone who's read this blog often knows that I am very upfront about sharing my faith. But when I am talking about the abortion issue, I generally try to deemphasize the religious aspects of my pro-life convictions, because I believe that one can make a strong case against legal abortion, regardless of whether or not one is a believer in Christ. In other words, while it certainly is true that the Christian scriptures offer a lot of evidence to the effect that abortion is wrong, it is not necessary to resort to quoting the scriptures or quoting the Pope in order to come up with persuasive and compelling arguments against legal abortion.

If I believed that the claims of pro-choice leaders were valid --- that is, if I believed that the only way to make a case against legal abortion was to resort to arguments which assumed that Christianity was true --- then I would be inclined to agree with those who thought that abortion should remain legal. After all, there is a legitimate distinction between that which is immoral and that which ought to be illegal.

I believe, for example, that it's morally wrong for a person to reject Christ as Savior. But that doesn't mean that I think that all non-Christians should be thrown into prison on account of their unbelief! Not only would such treatment be completely forbidden by the United States Constitution, but in addition, I would question the value of any so-called "conversion" which was due solely to coercion, not to persuasion. Going through the motions of acting like a Christian is not the same thing as being a Christian.

Fortunately, it is possible to make a strong case against legal abortion even if one does not accept the idea that Christianity is valid, just as it was possible to make a strong case in favor of civil rights for African Americans without resorting to religious arguments.

For example, Nat Hentoff is a liberal Jewish atheist (and lover of jazz) who writes for the Village Voice. He was once accepted as a member of the radical left, until he had the audacity to speak out against legal abortion. Then he discovered that many of his fellow liberals were hypocrites, inasmuch as they claimed to believe in civil liberties such as free speech, while doing everything they could to suppress the free speech rights of those who disagreed with them about abortion. If I were to write an article entitled "Pro-Choice Bigots" folks might say, "Well, that's what you would expect a conservative pro-life Christian to say." When Nat Hentoff writes about the hypocrisy of his fellow liberals when it comes to the subject of abortion, it really packs a punch.

As another example, Dr. Bernard Nathanson may be a Catholic now, but he was born a Jew. When he wrote his book Aborting America, he was a self-proclaimed atheist. I still consider that book to be one of the best books I ever read on the subject of abortion. His arguments against the practice were not based on Christian doctrines or scriptures. They were based on science and common sense. And that may be why the New York Times refused to review the book when it was first published. The liberals who dominated that newspaper were committed to a simplistic perception of reality which assumed that the only possible way to argue against abortion was to cite religious doctrines. Nathanson's arguments (none of which relied on religious doctrine or dogma) undercut their cherished assumptions and posed a real threat to their ideologies. His arguments were particularly powerful because of his background. He'd been one of the first people in America to perform legal abortions, and in fact, he had played a major role in making abortion legal. Yet, like Norma McCorvey (the "Roe" in Roe v. Wade), Dr. Nathanson later repented of his actions and became an outspoken opponent of legal abortion.

I am not in any way ashamed to identify myself as a Christian. But I think it's important for us to understand that there are reasons why abortion remains legal in the United States, and one of those reasons is that the abortion industry has successfully persuaded a lot of Americans that it would be unconstitutional to enact anti-abortion laws which, in their view, would violate the principle of the separation of church and state.

It is therefore in our best interest, politically, to do everything we can to refute that argument by offering ample evidence of the religious diversity within the pro-life movement.

Likewise, we need to emphasize the political diversity of the pro-life movement, so as to assure people that agreement with pro-life values and pursuit of pro-life goals does not necessarily need to imply support for everything which has ever been done or advocated by conservative politicians.

Most importantly, we need to identify our priorities when it comes to deciding who we ought to vote for. Personally, I tend to vote for Republicans, but my allegiance to the Republican party is not as strong as my allegiance to the pro-life cause. I became a Republican because of my perception that the Republican party was the pro-life party. If that perception were to change, even on a temporary basis, voting pro-life would be more important to me than voting for the Republican candidate.

Let's say, as one hypothetical example, that Rudy Giuliani (a pro-choice Republican) was running against Glenn Poshard (an Illinois Democrat who made it clear, when running for Illinois governor against George Ryan, that he was pro-life). In such a case, I'd vote for Poshard, provided that none of his other positions were so egregious that they cancelled out his pro-life views. But that seems unlikely, because I happen to believe that legal abortion (which has already taken some 49 million lives in the United States since 1973) is by far the most egregious assault on fundamental human rights which this country has ever known.

Unfortunately, as Nat Hentoff has made clear, the Democratic party is almost completely intolerant of pro-life Democrats such as Glenn Poshard and the late Bob Casey. So even though I am having difficulty getting excited about the current crop of Republican candidates for President, I am still far more likely to vote for a Republican than for a Democrat.

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