Sunday, April 03, 2016

Wise as serpents and harmless as doves

This is a sequel to my earlier post:

i) I've now skimmed a number of articles by people on both sides of Trump's statement (about the need to punish women who procure an abortion), viz. David French, Joe Carter, Ted Cruz, Doug Wilson, Denny Burk, Robert George, Ross Douthat, Scott Klusendorf, Russell Moore, Albert Mohler. Some are better than others. 

Then you have the critics of the critics, viz. AHA, Marcus Pittman, Jordan Hall, R. C. Sproul, Jr., and Bnonn Tennant. Of these, Bnonn's response is easily the most intelligent–which comes as no surprise. 

Regarding AHA, Abolitionists indulge in moral showboating to make themselves feel pure and spotless. The same mentality as Social Justice Warriors. 

Ironically, it reminds me of nominally prolife Republicans who vote for prolife bills when the bills have no chance of passage, or when they know the bill will be vetoed. A free vote. They vote prolife when they are in the minority. But when they have to take a vote that will actually stick, they balk. 

ii) The problem with critics of Trump's statement like Doug Wilson and Russell Moore is how they infantilize women. It's very paternalistic. They use minimizing arguments in reference to women that they'd never use in reference to a (male) teenage thug who shoots the 7/11 cashier. Isn't this the classic "victim of tragic circumstances" defense? No doubt the thug's behavior reflects deficient moral formation. No doubt that often reflects his upbringing. But conservatives don't think that's exculpatory. It's not the absence of moral formation that makes people evil. Rather, moral formation suppresses our natural inclination to commit evil. 

iii) Abortion apologists sometimes try to put prolifers on the spot with the following question: If you believe abortion is murder, and if you believe in in capital punishment, don't you think mothers who consent to abortion should be executed? 

That line of questioning is designed to make them squirm, blink, backpedal, and expose their inconsistency.

I see AHA accusing prolifers of pulling their punches in response to Trump, but I haven't seen AHA run on a plank of executing mothers who consent to abortion. Maybe I missed it. But given how AHA attacks prolifers for their (alleged) inconsistency, isn't that the logical alternative that AHA ought to take and advocate? And if AHA isn't doing that, then isn't AHA pulling its punches? 

There's no statue of limitations on murder. Just since Roe v. Wade, there've been nearly 60 million abortions in America. Some mothers have multiple abortions. And some of those women have died.

But do AHA, Jordan Hall et al. think we should execute about 50 million American women (give or take)? Is that what AHA is proposing? 

iv) The attacks of AHA in the wake of Trump's statement are opportunistic. What AHA is too blind to appreciate is that that prolifers face a genuine dilemma. The establishment is always itching for a chance to discredit the prolife movement. Always spoiling for an opportunity to remove the one obstacle to killing babies. 

The quandary this creates for prolifers is how to respond when too much candor will hurt the innocent. Prolifers are in a situation somewhat analogous to sheltering Jews from Nazis. If you're too forthright with the Nazis, they will use it against the Jews. You can't hang a sign outside your home that says: 

Jewish refugee center

If you're living under Nazi occupation, and you wish to shelter Jews, discretion trumps outspokenness. Likewise, the French and Italian resistance didn't aid the Allied war movement by standing on street corners denouncing Hitler, Vichy, and Mussolini. 

By the same token, if a prolife politician says mothers who consent to abortions deserve to be punished, his candor endangers the innocent. It's no virtue to be frank and forthcoming when the innocent will suffer as a result. Just as Nazis are not entitled to the truth if they exploit the guileless to murder Jews, prolife politicians have no obligation to make statements that expose babies to even greater risk of harm. There's no duty to say things that are counterproductive to the cause of saving innocent lives–anymore than good Samaritans who wish to hide Jews from Nazis have an obligation to engage in self-defeating behavior. 

The statements of AHA, Marcus Pittman, and Jordan Hall play straight into the "war on women" narrative. And that endangers babies. That brings the effort into disrepute. The abortion lobby lies in wait for any damaging action or statement it can twist to tar the movement as a whole. 

v) Now, just to forestall any misunderstandings, I'm not suggesting that prolifers need to lie about their true agenda. There is no hidden agenda to punish mothers. That's not in the cards. To say mothers who murder their babies deserve to be punished is an ethical statement about just deserts, not a plan of action. 

vi) Moreover, prolife politicians who are asked that question don't have to dissemble. To begin with, the question is academic. There's no reason a prolife politician should allow himself to be drawn into that particular debate. A politician is a man of action. The only pertinent questions are policy questions. Whether mothers who consent to abortion should be punished is a question that's designed to foment unfounded prejudice against the prolife movement. 

There's no general duty to say whatever you think. Indeed, there's sometimes a duty to say less than you think. To be tactful. To cover for the innocent. 

Rather than answer that hypothetical question, a prolife should simply reformulate the question. Instead of debating that counterfactual proposition, he should say the real question is about protecting babies from harm. That's an entirely legitimate way of framing the issue. And that's a strong way to frame it. That puts abortion apologists on the defensive. "You mean, you don't think we should protect babies from harm?" 

vii) Finally, I'd distinguish between politicians and pundits. There needs to be a division of labor in the prolife movement. Because social commentators aren't running for public office, they can get away with making impolitic statements. It is important for some Christians to discuss the culpability of all consenting parties to an abortion. Unwelcome truths need to be spoken–especially when they are unwelcome. But everyone doesn't have the same responsibilities in that regard. 

By the same token, a high-level advisor to a prolife executive, lawmaker, or judge may need to be more circumspect in his public statements than a garden-variety pundit.

No comments:

Post a Comment