Mainstream prolife organizations rightly denounce violent resistance to our national abortion policy. However, they often resort to sweeping disclaimers which are clearly overstated. After all, the Bible doesn’t say it’s always wrong to break the law or resort to violence.
It’s easy to come up with examples like the French Resistance, the plot to assassinate Hitler, or hiding Jews from Nazis, which seem to be morally permissible or even obligatory.
So what’s the answer? Well, here’s part of the answer: our social obligations are concentric. Social obligations are a matter of degree.
There is, for example, a lot of domestic abuse that goes in behind closed doors in the Muslim world. But it's not my personal responsibility to directly intervene in all, or any, of those situations. On the other hand, it is my personal responsibility to defend my own dependents.
Then there are other situations which fall somewhere in-between. For instance, many parents are bad parents. They let their kids throw temper tantrums at the checkout stand.
The screaming brat could use a good spanking. Indeed, the negligent parent could use a good spanking.
Yet it’s not normally my duty to spank someone else’s misbehaving child. I might confront the negligent parents. But I don’t have the same duties to his children that I have to mine.
So our duty to protect others ranges along a continuum. This doesn’t mean we have no duty to protect neighbors and strangers. But it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Social obligations come in varying degrees. We should calibrate our response accordingly.