Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Leaves without fruit

I'm going to comment on a post by Matthew Martellus:

It's a very repetitious post. I won't respond to the same formulaic claims more than once. 

Any abolitionist I know (and I know quite a few) would applaud such actions and seek to do likewise if ever placed in a similar situation. Steve Hays, however, would beg to differ.  In a recent post, he contends that such actions are at odds with the abolitionist tenet of immediatism.

Actually, my argument was more specific. It's at odds with what abolitionists like Rance Bennett (whose post I was responding to) say about "discriminatory" laws. And Martellus goes on to reiterate that claim: "all the while denouncing discriminatory legislation…" So that's the specific frame of reference–"discrimination," not "immediatism." 

But, since it is obvious that a denunciation of Wallenberg neither follows from our actions…

Which simply means their actions are, at best, inconsistent, and, at worst, hypocritical in relation to their stated position. 

On the other hand, a legislator has the power to put forward legislation that will establish justice (and thus legal protection) for all human beings who are murdered within his jurisdiction.  The ministrations of a private individual with respect to other specific individuals are necessarily limited to a specific time and place - they cannot be universalized.  On the other hand, the actions of a legislator are, by nature, universal (in that they apply, or potentially apply, to all members of his jurisdiction), and are only reduced in scope by the specific and intentional addition of qualifiers to the proposed legislation. 
As such, it should be clear to anyone who is seeking to be judicious in this matter that there is a fundamental asymmetry between the scope of actions taken in the capacity of a legislator and actions taken in the capacity of an individual ministering to other individuals.  And if there is a fundamental asymmetry between the two groups, then it should be clear to any fair-minded individual that whatever "logic" undergirds the criticism of the actions of legislators does not necessarily apply to the ministrations of private individuals.

i) To begin with, Wallenberg wasn't just a private citizen. To the contrary, he was a government official. A diplomat. In addition, his official mission was to rescue Jews from extermination. For instance,

So the wall that Martellus labors to erect between private citizens and public officials, between private good deeds and official policy, crumbles. 

ii) What is more, notice his moral and intellectual sleight-of-hand: "a legislator has the power to put forward legislation that will establish justice (and thus legal protection) for all human beings who are murdered within his jurisdiction."

Of course, that's fatally equivocal. That just means an individual lawmaker only has the power to propose such legislation. That's hardly something he can push through single-handedly. Success or failure is contingent on the cooperation of his fellow lawmakers. 

We believe, from Rom. 13 and other passages of Scripture, that all legislators have a moral duty to propose and approve laws that provide justice and legal protection for all individuals - not least of all those who are being murdered unopposed on a daily basis. 

It is not within the power of an individual legislator to make his fellow legislators approve laws that provide justice and legal protection for all everyone. Since he can't compel that outcome, in what respect is it his duty to indulge in empty gestures? That's just moral grandstanding. It changes nothing. Improves nothing. Where does Rom 13 (or other passages of Scripture) say a lawmaker has a duty to engage in futile moral posturing? 

And as such, we believe that any legislator whose "stand against injustice" consists of proposing and/or approving measures that discriminate against 99% of the victimized population has failed greatly at his moral duty.  

Yet another example of moral and intellectual legerdemain. There's a fundamental difference between introducing discrimination and reducing discrimination. How is a lawmaker derelict for curtailing injustice to the best of his abilities? 

And this in no way contradicts our position that the legislator has the moral duty to propose and contend for legislation that protects all individuals in his jurisdiction.  

i) That's been tried–repeatedly:

ii) Moreover, this is yet another example of his ethical and intellectual legerdemain. Martellus sets up a false dichotomy. Sure, we can keep on proposing broader laws. But if that fails, what's the fallback? 

Now, in contrast to our convictions, Steve Hays seems to believe that it is morally permissible for legislators to spend their careers proposing and approving measures that discriminate against a vast majority of the victimized population but provide protection only for a comparatively minuscule few, provided that those are the only measures they believe have a reasonable chance at getting passed through the legislature.  

i) Notice how Martellus chronically resorts to the same sleight-of-hand. Prolife legislators aren't creating discrimination, but curtailing discrimination. Absent legal restrictions on abortion, the law discriminates against an entire class of humans by making all unborn babies liable to murder. 

ii) Notice how Martellus devalues the lives of "a comparatively minuscule few." 

iii) The proper job of a lawmaker is to pass good laws and block bad laws. It is not the job of a lawmaker to spend his career doing nothing of consequence. He doesn't need to be a lawmaker to do nothing of consequence. The duty of a lawmaker is to make a difference. Make things better. Not just have a nice office on Capitol HIll. Have a Congressional staff for the sake of having staffers. Make speeches for the sake of speechifying. 

These organizations have the power to lobby for legislation that protects all human beings, but they do not.  

And if lobbying fails to achieve that goal, what's the fallback position? 

Now, Steve Hays would contend that incrementalism is a valid strategy (and perhaps the best or only feasible strategy). 

Actually, I don't begin with an a priori strategy. That's one of the errors of AHA. You only know what's feasible by giving it a try. 

On the other hand, history (to say nothing of the Holy Scripture) has not demonstrated that incrementalism is anything close to a good strategy for reforming a society.  Most significant societal reformations have occurred through the actions and example of a small uncompromising minority, not a large segment of the population that decided that evil was best eradicated a century at a time through compromise after compromise.

Here's an example of Biblically sanctioned "compromise": And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment (Mk 10:5).

If, on the other hand, he were in a position to dictate deportation policy for the nation of Hungary as a whole, he would definitely be at fault if he could have enacted a policy that would have saved all Jews but instead chose to let the vast majority be deported to Germany and almost certain death.

And, by parity of argument, prolife legislators are in no position to save all babies. They don't have the votes or voters to pull that off. Not for now. 

I personally find it amusing that our critics like to hone in on the fact that there is a company within the AHA movement that manufactures and sells resources to abolitionists at large. If making shirts is such an abominable activity…

Martellus resorts to hyperbole. The point is not that such doodads are "abominable." The point, rather, is that hawking trinkets is no substitute for meaningful action. It's just a decoy that deflects attention away from the absence of results. By contrast, prolife organizations do have practical strategies that change the status quo. 

And yet, over the last three years, AHA gear has been invaluable for both raising awareness of abortion across the country (and across the world), as well as for reigniting the abolitionist movement in America.  The culture is being seeded with the ideology of abolition, and contrary to the aspersions of our critics, it has already borne much fruit. 

Notice the studied duplicity of AHA rhetoric. On the one hand they set the bar very high. On the other hand, they slide under the bar. The measure of progress isn't consciousness-raising, but the abolition of abortion. By their own oft-repeated sloganeering, that's the only "fruit" that counts. The total abolition of abortion. AHA confuses leaves with fruit. Thus far, AHA is a leafy, but fruitless tree. Lots of leaves, no fruit. 

Claiming to "seed" the culture is hooey unless and until the seed blossoms into the total abolition of abortion. That's how AHA defines success–in contrast to the half-measures of the prolife movement. I'm simply holding AHA to their own metric. 

AHA plays this bait-n-switch, where they stake out a "uncompromising" rhetorical stand, but then substitute movement "growth" or "seeding" the culture for concrete results. Don't be taken in by their shell-game. 

And we have no reason to believe that it will not continue to bear even more fruit in the future.  We are not surprised in the least by the growth the abolitionist movement has experienced, as that is part of our strategy, and AHA gear, far from being a silly side attraction, is an essential part of that.

The growth of a movement driven by social media unremarkable–as well as worthless unless is yields concrete results. And not just any results will do. AHA disdains results which fall short of total abolition. By their own admission, it's all or nothing. Very well–that's exactly how I judge them. 

In the second accusation, Hays is essentially accusing us of bearing false testimony against others.  


But if Hays does actually have solid, objective evidence that we are bearing false witness against pro-lifers, he should present it.

I did. In fact, he quoted part of it: "we are in effect telling the culture that, as long as certain conditions are met, it is OK to go ahead and murder your child."

I, for one, would be greatly interested to see it.

To the contrary, he's far too much the partisan insider to recognize what's staring him in the face.  

The first accusation ("groupthink") is quite laughable, given the widespread disagreement (and often vigorous discussion) that exists between abolitionists on numerous topics.  If "AHA" really did have a "groupthink quality," one would expect to see abolitionists marching in lock step with one another, trying to avoid disagreement like the plague.  Of course, if Steve Hays actually took time to honestly investigate the abolitionist movement, he would see how ludicrous his accusation is.

Notice the schizophrenia of abolitionists like Martellus. On the one hand he constantly accuses critics of misrepresenting what AHA really stands for. On the other hand, he touts diversity within the movement. Once again, he's too close to his own movement to register the incoherence.

I remember back a few years ago back when these supposed "in-house narratives" were being formed.  There was no small amount of disagreement and discussion among abolitionists about our specific stance towards the pro-life movement.  Even today, there is still disagreement and discussion on these topics, especially among those who are new to the movement.  The reason that we more or less have unity on these kinds of positions is because we have taken the time to discuss them at length, and come up with good reasons for what we believe.  

Sounds an awful lot like an…organization

Well, it is certainly fortuitous for us, then, that we never claimed that HR36 mandates abortion!  What we actually said (and what Hays quoted us as saying), was that HR36 fails to meet God's moral standard of law regarding murder - namely, that all murder is unlawful, without exception.

Here's what I quoted:

It is very simple. God told us not to murder. “Thou shall not murder.” He didn’t say that you could murder, as long as you counseled the mother about breast cancer. He never said that you could murder, as long as you have your parents' consent. He said “Thou shall not murder.” That’s it.

Since HR36 is the target, the insinuation is that HR36 commends or commands murder. 

What we have said is that it is immoral for legislators to put forward and contend for legislation that abandons 99% of the victims to destruction...

AHA constantly resorts to this devious rhetoric. You can't "abandon" victims whom you were never in a position to save in the first place. 

…all the while posturing as if such an act was a great "step forward" in the fight against abortion.  

Saving babies is a step forward. Refusing to save babies when you could do so is a step backward. 

Steve Hays apparently likes to make much ado about how short-sighted "AHA" is, how confused "AHA" is, and how wrong and irrational "AHA" is.  But in reality, it is much ado about nothing.  

I agree with Martellus that AHA is much ado about nothing. And that's the problem. 

We are abolitionists, and we refuse to compromise with abortion.  We believe that to do so is not only a violation of divine mandate, but also ineffective for actually achieving abolition.  And as such, we will continue on, regardless of how many strawman versions of our ideology are constructed, or how many false accusations are leveled against us.  We are united under our King, and He is faithful.  And by His grace, we will not rest until abortion is abolished.

Boastful words to camouflage the lack of concrete results. 

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