MORE ON THE CONFUSION OF THE ORTHODOX

Fr. Patrick Reardon writes on the Touchstone Blog:

Two days ago James Kushiner included in this place his own criticism of the essay of Dr. Peter C. Bouteneff, “How Should Orthodox Christians Vote?” which was posted on Beliefnet. Boutneff’s very confused and confusing essay, we regret to say, has now been posted on the web page of The Orthodox Church in America. In response to it, other Orthodox Christians are weighing in. Yesterday Dr. Jonathan Chaves, professor of Chinese at The George Washington University, sent around to some friends the following sage comment, which he has given us permission to post here:

My take would be this: This essay is yet another example of the false “angelism” that afflicts so many of our contemporary intellectuals: “you can’t pin me down, I’m above the polarities of the moment.” But there is no “above;” at this point in history, the ideas that activate conservatives, certainly the traditionalist conservatives, are grounded ultimately in the great Christian heritage; contemporary liberalism is equally grounded in the Enlightenment and its essentially anti-Christian conception of human nature. A believing Christian today will have a very tough time accommodating to the current liberal doctrines, and will find that to do so will eventually necessitate relinquishing one Christian teaching after another.

Comments

  1. Abortion “rights?” This notion has to be unpacked first before we talk about your stew of abortion, birth control, blood transfusions, pacificism, vegetarianism, whatever. Your make the same mistake Dean did, but from a pro-abortion position.

    Abortion is a watershed issue, much like slavery. It creates the divide and can’t be washed (or minimized) away.

  2. Jim, in your comment I see the presupposition that there is the “neutral ground” that most people hold to, and that superimposed on this are various “religious values” which are limited to a certain section of society and therefore cannot be considered normative, and which also, because they are thusly limited, must be considered on equal terms (read: “dismissed as equally irrelevant”). But this is a distortion of the true situation. The world is composed entirely of competing ideologies. No less ideological, and therefore no less limited to a certain section of society, are the secular-nihilist assertions you make about “fertilized ova,” birth control, and so forth. It’s no longer valid to assume that progressive secularism is the universal base from which all opinions start. It’s triumphalistic and false.

  3. Dean Scourtes says:

    Actually I never intended to minimize the moral urgency of abortion. My objective was to discuss the process of denial and rationization that people from all political viewpoints undertake to make reality conform to their ideological beliefs. Because denial that the fetus is a person is one of the most egregious examples of this process I mentioned it first. My wife and I saw our daughter for the first time during an ultrasound at just 12 weeks into pregnancy and it was a powerful, overwhelming event for both of us. How can anyone say that if we had seen her a week earlier she would have been any less worthy of protection as a person?

    Accepting that the aborting of unborn human life is an issue of greater moral gravity than others however, does not give it the power to eclipse or cancel out other issues as objects of our concern. We can’t say “I’m right about abortion, so I can be wrong about everything else. I care about human beings while they are in the womb, but not after that.”

    Jonathan suggested that Democrats have to worry about reconciling their party affiliation with their faith, but Republicans do not, and I reject that. We all have to about reconciling their party affiliation with their faith because both parties fall so far short of the mark. Which is why Michael Baumann is so correct to remind us that our time is much better spent worrying about matters of the soul, and not the latest political poll.

  4. Dean Scourtes says:
  5. Dean, no one is arguing that different issues of moral character don’t exist. No one has argued that abortion absolves one of responsible deliberation on all other issues. The original point was that a hierarchy of values exists, and that abortion ranks higher than, say, a sales tax increase or garbage removal.

    As for Wittman, well, if he wants to throw his lot in with Kerry, be my guest. I don’t really buy the hype but Whittman apparently does.

  6. Jim Holman says:

    Bill writes: “The world is composed entirely of competing ideologies.”

    I would like to address this statement, because I think it illustrates an important and common feature of the conservative worldview.

    Throughout its history, Christianity has defined itself through opposition to other groups. Even by the end of the first century we see the proto-orthodox Christians opposed to judaizers, Judaism, gnostics, and “the world” in general. By the third and fourth centuries the opposition turned inward, and there were battles over various versions of the doctrine of the Trinity, and there were even riots in the streets of Alexandria over the issue. At one point it was difficult to say anything at all about the Trinity without being accused of heresy. Opposition to various ideas and groups continued, leading most notably to the split between protestants and catholics. Protestants have since carried on the tradition of opposition to an extreme, and there are now, what, something like 30,000 different protestant denominations, with splits based on every conceivable aspect of doctrine and practice.

    The tradition of opposition lives on as well in the Orthodox church. For example, I recently told a friend about this site. After reading through a number of the articles and posts, he said “I have a very good idea of what these people are opposed to, but little idea what they are *for*.”

    What’s interesting to me in this whole discussion over abortion, is that the entire discussion rages over the manner and extent to which one should be *opposed* to it. Dean always gets in trouble here — not because he is recruiting women to be patients at abortion clinics, not because he works at an abortion clinic, not because he does abortions, not because he is personally paying for abortions, and not because he is encouraging a wife or daughter to get an abortion. No, Dean gets in trouble here because he fails to show the right kind of opposition to abortion. He is not “scorched earth” and “take no prisoners” enough. He is not outraged enough. He lacks vitriol.

    And so for certain Christian believers there exists a culture of outrage and opposition, and this ties in very well into the current political climate. This opposition carries over into virtually every issue. For example, I recently heard a piece of a political ad while flipping through the radio dial. It was an ad for Republican What’s-His-Name, some guy I’d never even heard of. As soon as I heard the word “republican” I knew instantly that this guy was against taxes. I knew it even before another word was spoken. I knew that he would be against taxes regardless of where he lived, regardless of the economic conditions there, regardless of current tax rates, regardless of anything. And sure enough, as the ad continued, we were informed that What’s-His-Name would fight for Lower Taxes, unlike his l-i-b-e-r-a-l opponent. It was an ad that could be played anywhere. Just copy and paste in a different name.

    So I am not surprised to see that you perceive the world as a collection of competing ideologies. Jews, gnostics, and judiazers being of no interest now, the new agents of Satan are the secularists, liberals, and nihilists. These have now filled in the gap left by the Communists as they departed the world stage.

    You say that there is no “neutral ground,” but only ideology. I would say that this view is a result of having a flavor of religion that relies on opposition and the maintenance of conflict with “the other,” whoever the other happens to be. Thus, were all homosexuals, liberals, secularists, nihilists, and Democrats to leave the country, were abortion, divorce, and sex outside of marriage eliminated, that would not be enough. Somehow, somewhere, there would be yet another Enemy to be confronted, yet more opposition, yet more conflict of Good against Evil. I don’t know who the enemy would be, but I know there would be one.

    The culture of outrage has spread across vast stretches of conservative politics and religion, and in reaction to that it is now spreading to moderates (Democrats, really, who the new moderates, the Republicans having largely moved to the right) and to liberals. What has happened is that people now expect to be maintained in a continual state of outrage, and this is the net effect of all the political propaganda. Just as people who go to hockey games expect to see fights, people who listen to political information increasingly expect not to be informed but to get outraged.

    Jesus said that the peacemakers are “blessed.” At this point I’m not sure who the peacemakers are, but they certainly are not conservative Christians. In order to be a peacemaker you have to assume at least the possibility of neutral ground. Once you lose that working assumption you lose the possibility of real peace, and substitute for that the “peace” that comes from the conquest of enemies. It may have the appearance of peace, but it certainly is not the “peace that passes all understanding.”

    “Atque ubi colitudinum faciunt pacem apellant.” (They create a desolation and call it a peace.) — Tacitus

  7. Jim,

    I agree that much of the religious right’s opposition to abortion is odd. I don?t hear people within these churches arguing whether or not abortion is wrong, and the Church’s position doesn’t seem to be faltering. Perhaps I’m just out of the loop, but people in the Church don?t seem to be having high rates of abortions either. It might be interesting to see statistics on this, but I would presume that the vast majority of people having abortions do not refer to themselves as Christians of any kind. Christian who do have abortions, or had them, would have to admit that it was wrong in order to remain Christian. Rather, what seems to be argued here is the Church’s direct involvement in government politics regarding abortion, and I have to emphasize “direct”. If people in the Church are not having abortions, then this itself is a tremendous moral witness. That moral witness can have an affect on politics. However, if the Church is trying to directly stop pagans from having abortions through coercive government action, then this strikes me as a questionable virtue.

    St. Innocent of Alaska (today is his feast day) had to address the problem of abortion in regards to the native Alaskans he was evangelizing. St. Innocent was aware of the common practice of mothers in nomadic tribes to abandon their newborn infants on the ice if they couldn’t be carried. How did he address this? As bishop of Alaska, he forbade his priests from condemning this practice. He realized that as a priest, he couldn’t place a burden too great on a people who were just fighting for their own survival. To condemn one of these nomadic mothers from this practice could have meant compromising that mother’s own survival and thus her other children’s as well.

    I have to wonder that if the evangelical and moral thrust of the Church is in trying to stop pagans from having abortions through direct government action, then perhaps the Church is actually suffering from a spiritual abortion.

  8. Stephen, do you have a citation for the St. Innocent reference? This differs from the practice of early Christians who would take abandoned newborns in. Also, abortion in America is, of course, far from a question of survival. It’s really a method of post-conception birth control.

    The issue here is not stopping “pagans” from having abortions. It’s turning back the tide of the culture of death of which the public acceptance of abortion (abortion presented as a social good instead of the private shame it was in times past) was the first salvo in a dangerous dehumanization of mankind, starting first with the most defenseless.

    Abortions don’t stop until hearts and minds change — a challenging task but certainly possible as abolition proved. If the current dehumanizing trend continue, other problems (infanticide, sexual slavery, etc.) will only get worse.

  9. Jim Holman says:

    Stephen writes: “However, if the Church is trying to directly stop pagans from having abortions through coercive government action, then this strikes me as a questionable virtue.”

    I understand how someone with certain religious beliefs and values would oppose abortion on a personal level. I also understand that such a person would desire that other people would not get abortions. What I don’t understand is why they desire legally and politically to impose these values on those who do not hold such values — on people living in under a non-Christian, areligious, pluralistic government. I especially do not understand why one’s position with respect to law and policy on this issue has become virtually the ultimate litmus test in some churches.

    The typical argument is to compare abortion to other significant issues, such as slavery and genocide. But there is an important difference. The strong anti-abortion position primarily relies on theological and metaphysical assumptions that the majority of people simply do not hold, even after having been presented with them for years.

    Having actively tried to inform myself on the strong anti-abortion position over a period of years, I can honestly say that I simply do not see that a fertilized egg cell is a person. As far as I can tell, the majority of Americans join me in this opinion.

    That said, I do believe that there is a moral component to abortion, but it is a component that must be left to the individual. Albert Schweitzer said that anyone who had what he called “reverence for life” would prefer to sit in a hot and stuffy room with the window closed rather than leave the window open, thus attracting insects who would burn themselves as they approached the flame of a lamp. If the person who had reverence for life would do that for insects, how much more consideration should there be for human life!

    But in my view that is a personal moral decision that the person herself needs to come to. It is something that neither I nor the government should mandate for anyone. In other words, there are some moral decisions that must be left to the individual, even though we know that individuals often will not make the best or the right decision.

    Though most people believe that a decision on abortion should be left to the individual, based on having a sense of reverence for life most people also have a natural aversion to abortion. For example, the Salon.Com web site, certainly quite liberal, recently had an essay on the “I had an abortion” t-shirts available through Planned Parenthood. The reaction to that message was unambiguously and overwhelmingly negative. The anti-abortion folks would be better-served by appealing to and building upon that sensibility rather than saying that anyone who would permit abortion in any circumstance condones murder and genocide.

    This is the difference between the strong pacifist who calls soldiers murderers, vs. the one who makes the case for peace. As Stephen notes, the “tremendous moral witness” of the church could be extremely valuable. The key is how such a witness is presented. Saying “please join with us in valuing life” is very different from saying “you are participants in the culture of death.”

  10. Dean Scourtes says:

    Because reverence for life is an intrinsic part of our faith, the church has a moral duty to speak out against abortions, particularly those abortions performed for social convenience. Every human life is special and loved by God whether it resides within a womb or outside.

    Where I disagree with many in the anti-abortion movement is not in their goal, in their tactics and strategy. The moral case against abortion has been lost and drowned out in the shrill, divisive and emotionally inflamed “culture war” which seeks to pit American against American. Its time to stop using the abortion issue as a wedge issue to attack and divide people.

    Instead we need to speak in a voice that is kinder and softer (but just as firm) that draws listerners in so we case make the against abortion in a more convincing and compelling manner. We want to tell women that it is not restrictions on access to to abortions that oppresses their lives so much as the irresponsible sexual attitudes and behaviors that cause them to be impregnanted by men who have no interest in, or ability to help them raise the child.

  11. Michael Bauman says:

    As to Jim’s comment on Christians defining themselves by what we are against:

    I posted a comment many moons ago that attempted to answer the question What are Orthodox for? Fr. Hans even posted a part of it as an “article” for comment. It did not seem that most people were interested in pursuing the matter. In many of my posts, I attempt to argue from a position of Orthodox belief in man as Theophany and microcosm. To put it succinctly: We Orthodox are for the redemption of man and creation through the process of theosis. Theosis is only possible because of the grace-filled events of Jesus life–The Incarnation, the kenotic sacrifice on the Cross, His Resurrection, His Ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. While theosis is an individual event in many ways, it cannot be accomplished in isolation from other people, but only within the communion of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church–the living Body of Christ(such communion is not limited to just Orthodox by the way). Theosis entails, among other responsibilities, living a life of repentance, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. There is extensive literature on each one of those facets of sacramental living if one cares to look for it.

    Since the essence of my statement is at the heart of most of the posts by Fr. Hans, the Missourian, and others, and empowers Dean in his compassion for the poor and powerless, I am forced to conclude that Jim’s objection is not a real one, but a pretense to avoid seriously examining one’s opposition to authentic Christianity. However, as I have tried to remind people from time to time, we would all be better served if our arguments were more explicitly grounded in the revealed truth of the Church, rather than modern nihilist political doctrines no matter how attractively labled.

    If the Church teaches anything, it is that the only real dichotomy is between Jesus and the World. Yet, unlike Buddhism or other Asian spiritual paths, Jesus did not call us to leave the world, ignore it, or neglect it. He commanded us to be “in the world, but not of it”. We cannot just withdraw to some fake spirituality of bliss, to do so would to be to deny all that Jesus did and continues to do. He assumed our nature and our physical reality. He still has our nature and our physical reality, but totally transformed and transfigured.

    In some ways, Dean is probably more true to the direction that Christ calls us to, but is still justifying that direction with worldly politics–such justification makes him wrong in the end. To comprehend what we Orthodox are for, one has to recognize, at a minimum, that man is corrupted by sin and in need of salvation. You see, sin is an addiction, and just as no addiction can be overcome until one first realizes and admits that one is powerless by oneself to overcome, so it is with sin. We are either slaves to the unfathomable love of God (and so are set free and healed), or we are slaves to the rebellion against God and so are bound to suffering for eternity. We Orthodox are for real freedom through a willing submission to the love of Jesus Christ.

    We can and must make the living connection between the core reality of the Orthodox Church and the putrid, decaying culture in which we live. Even if we achieve no worldly “success”, we will be doing the Will of our Father in Heaven.

  12. Remember Dean, that the help for pregnant women (pre- and post-abortion) comes only from the pro-life side. The shrillness comes from those who demand unrestricted abortion yet never lift a finger except to open the door of the clinic. If you could get your liberal friends to compromise a bit, the wedge would blunt a bit but with pro-life views outlawed at the last Democratic convention, I don’t see much chance of this happening.

    Jim, if abortion could be reduced to just the question of the personhood of the fetus your argument would make more sense. Of course it goes beyond that, way beyond in fact, so that full term children have their skulls pierced and brains sucked out in the birth canal. Sorry for the graphic terms, but unless you are willing to allow some restriction on abortion (and you would have to provide the moral ground as well), your argument defends this practice too. These issues require a deeper moral analysis than you give it.

  13. Michael Bauman says:

    Jim, you say “That said, I do believe that there is a moral component to abortion, but it is a component that must be left to the individual.” That way runs anarchy, loneliness, despair and destruction. There is no such thing as “individual morality”. Morality is a component of our nature because we are called to community, to inter-relationship with others in a profound way. Morality is precisely that which gives a beneficent structure to society, protecting the weak, providing a foundation of justice to the wronged, and guidance to us all.

    If, as a society, we cannot simply agree that the most vulnerable, innocent human life has transcendent value and therefore has a transcendent right to protection, nothing else will matter. No other argument for law, justice or temperance will be upheld. Strength, power, money, and carnality will be the rule of day.

    God is three distinct persons in One. His being shows us that without communion and community, there is nothingness. Certainly, we have individual identity and worth, but only as we live and act in community. A basic principal of ecology is that no act of any living being is without consequence in the ecosystem. Such consequence may be large or small, but it exists and often times is multiplied across the system in unpredictable ways.

    When a mother chooses to abort her unborn child, she commits an act of betrayal against not only her child, but against her very own nature. To choose abortion is to choose death over life, ugliness over beauty, violence over peace, the will to power over self sacrifice, cowardice over heroism.

    Government policy now is such that it encourages, endorses, and provides special protection for death, ugliness, violence, power, and cowardice. Such policy degrades us all and our society.

    Does making abortion an illegal act cure the problem. NO! Does it help the problem–perhaps not, if that is all that is done. Governement policy should always be directed at the protection of its citizens and the encouragement of acts that support one another in times of trouble. “Individual morality” will never do that.

  14. Fr. Jacobse,

    This St. Innocent reference comes from Paul Garrett’s now out-of-print St. Innocent, Apostle to America published by St. Vladimir’s. I will get an exact citation.

    This example is in no way a justification for abortion, but rather, I believe, an example of a responsible hierarchy of values under severe circumstances. I’ve read that St. Innocent also dealt with other issues such as polygamy. Again, he advised his priests not to outright condemn this practice, but rather to gently encourage monogamy and above all to be cautious in not angering or embittering the natives over their customs. St. Innocent saw his role as not to condemn this culture, but rather to bring to them the light of Christ.

    I think that one of the reasons abortion is thought of by some people as a social good, or a “right”, is because of the tremendous political opposition against it. I believe that this political opposition has lead many people to a position of despair, and to feel that they have been cornered like an animal. Its really not suprising then that these people will also fight back like animals.

  15. Michael Bauman says:

    Stephen, you say “I think that one of the reasons abortion is thought of by some people as a social good, or a “right”, is because of the tremendous political opposition against it.”

    In my rememberance of the growth of abortion “rights” in this country the pressure has always been from those fighting against established norms. The political pressure you see came afterwards as a response to those wishing to deconstruct the Judeo-Christian ethical foundation of our culture.(I’m not saying we are or ever were a Christian country).

    That the response has perhaps hardened those who wish to allow women to kill their unborn children without restraint, condemnation, or guilt is possible but I don’t really believe it.

  16. Michael Bauman’s comments are correct. This is evident by the growing movement of women who have had abortions and now work against the normalization of abortion in the culture. Abortion has more than one victim as I pointed out in my review of Forbidden Grief: The Unspoken Pain of Abortion.

    Archbishop Anastasios also dealth with polygamy while he was serving in Africa. His solution was to keep the polygamous marriages already in place, but teach the unmarried people that one wife was preferred.

    The normalization of abortion was part of sophisticated public relations campaign launched decades ago by NARAL (now “Pro-Choice America” — a backdoor admission that prochoicers are slowly losing the war, BTW) that deliberately cast abortion as an issue of personal freedom against religious prejudice. They set opposition to abortion as a “Catholic issue,” a tactic that worked for a while until Catholicism articulated their opposition to the culture of death in clearer terms. Bernard Nathanson, a founding member of NARAL (along with Kate Michelman) and now a pro-lifer (and convert to Christianity) chronicles NARAL history in a series of books and articles. Some relevant links:

    http://www.priestsforlife.org/media/nathansoninterview.htm
    http://www.priestsforlife.org/testimony/nathanson.html
    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/abortion/ab0002.html

    Interestingly, Nathanson said if the Catholic priests were more united and organized when NARAL started it’s pro-abortion activism, they never would have been as successful as they were.

  17. Jim Holman says:

    Michael writes: ” . . . Since the essence of my statement [positive description of what Orthodoxy is for] is at the heart of most of the posts by Fr. Hans, the Missourian, and others, and empowers Dean in his compassion for the poor and powerless, I am forced to conclude that Jim?s objection is not a real one . . . ”

    It may be “at the heart,” but the positive aspects are seldom mentioned. Also, you yourself note that “I posted a comment many moons ago that attempted to answer the question What are Orthodox for? . . . It did not seem that most people were interested in pursuing the matter.” My point exactly.

    Actually, in what I have read about Orthodoxy or have read that was written by Orthodox writers, I have found that most of the material presented is positive. It is my contention that regardless of religion, as people move toward the ends of the political spectrum, that the negative aspect dominates. While you see this on both the left and the right, you especially see it on the right. Add conservative Christianity into the mix and that amplifies everything.

    I’m not referring to any particular individual here. But in my observation the “juice” for many conservative Christians has become cultivating and maintaining a sense of outrage, even to the point that being outraged about things becomes an end in itself.

    When you get into a mixture of fundamentalist Christianity and conservative politics, the negatives go way up. A few months ago I was listening to one of the many conservative talk shows. The host and callers were denouncing “tax and spend liberals.” I called in and asked the host a simple question: if you think taxes should be lowered, to what level should they be lowered? In other words, what programs should we pay for? A simple question, but the host had no answer. All he could say was “we pay too much for education.” Again, a negative. Why? Because that’s all he has. That’s the point of the program. And the point is to maintain the faithful in a continual state of outrage.

    Michael: “If, as a society, we cannot simply agree that the most vulnerable, innocent human life has transcendent value and therefore has a transcendent right to protection, nothing else will matter.”

    I don’t think it’s true that “nothing else will matter.” Societies struggle with all sorts of moral issues, and it can take decades or even centuries for certain moral sensibilities to develop. Societies can develop in selected areas of morality while remaining stagnant or regressing in others. To this day people look to the ancient Greek and Roman authors as sources of great wisdom, even as we know that they existed in societies that practiced slavery, infanticide, genocide, and various other flavors of cruelty and oppression. Our own society, compassionate in many areas, is marked by extreme moral blindness in other areas, and not just in abortion.

    The key to having a moral society, inasmuch as that is possible, lies in the development of a moral sensibility. Everyone here likes to compare abortion to Hitler and the holocaust. But what made the holocaust possible was pre-existing anti-semitism that permeated the culture (in the same way that slavery in American was made possible by racism that permeated the country.) What is significant about the holocaust is not just the fact that millions of people were systematically murdered, but that the murders were often accompanied by great cruelty. It’s one thing to kill a person. It’s quite another thing to torture someone, kill him, and and then laugh about it.

    But with abortion, that simply is not the situation. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Again, though most people approve of having abortion as an option they also perceive a significant moral aspect to the issue — thus the deep revulsion expressed by readers of the “t-shirt” article at Salon.Com. Here are a few comments that were posted after the article:

    “I support legalized abortion, but I hope the stigma never goes away. It is a regrettable option, and it should be discouraged in our society. . . . The subjects want open dialogue? That’s fine too, but the crux of the conversation should be making abortion more rare, not a fashion statement celebrating ‘no regrets’ for the fetus dismembered because it was convenient, but pregnancy was not.”

    “I was raised with the idea that the right to legal abortion was sacrosanct. However, my gut reaction while reading “The A-word” was outrage. . . . I’m not in favor of eliminating abortion, and I never bought in to the right’s propaganda that abortion is being used as birth control by irresponsible women. However, faced with numbers like those cited in this article, I confess it is hard not to wonder if that is what is going on. I’m not hearing these women talk about personal responsibility, but I do hear a whole lot about personal entitlement.”

    “I had an abortion in my 20s, which was an enormous relief at the time. I didn’t think much about it much in my 30s, but now in my late 40s, I think about it almost daily. After watching friends struggling with fertility and miscarriage, after watching other people’s babies grow into astonishing human beings, I began to think very differently about abortion. I wonder what kind of person my offspring might have become. I wonder why there were so many women encouraging me in 1980 to have the abortion, and why there wasn’t anyone encouraging me to have the baby and give it up for adoption.”

    Remember, these are not fundamentalists. These are liberal, pro-choice people. It should be obvious that they are not little Hitlers-in-the-making. But if you want to insist that all abortion has to be outlawed, you’re going to lose these people at the start. It would be vastly smarter and more effective instead to engage them where they are and build upon their existing thoughts and feelings. What will accomplish this is the positive witness, not the right-wing propaganda.

  18. Jim, different forums discuss things differently. Here the discussion of abortion often touches on the deeper cultural ramifications which necessitates a challenge to abortion ideology and the deeper decline it portends (infanticide, pediatric euthanasia etc.). To characterize opposition to this cultural drift as an unfair labelling of pro-choice progressives (“Hitlers-in-the-making” were the words you used) shifts the ground from the debate of ideas into the realm of personal attack with the implicit demand that the pro-lifers in this discussion defend themselves against it.

    But no pro-lifer has made such an attack. In fact, as my review of the book “Forbidden Grief” makes clear, the aborted child is not the only victim of the pro-abortion culture. And as I have mentioned to Dean, pro-choicers don’t do anything to help women in problem pregnancies. The support for women comes solely from the the pro-life side.

    One final point. You wrote:

    “The key to having a moral society, inasmuch as that is possible, lies in the development of a moral sensibility. Everyone here likes to compare abortion to Hitler and the holocaust. But what made the holocaust possible was pre-existing anti-semitism that permeated the culture (in the same way that slavery in American was made possible by racism that permeated the country.) What is significant about the holocaust is not just the fact that millions of people were systematically murdered, but that the murders were often accompanied by great cruelty. It?s one thing to kill a person. It?s quite another thing to torture someone, kill him, and and then laugh about it.”

    This glosses over the history of the Holocaust, particularly the acceptance of euthanasia by the medical establishment before the rise of Hitler — a development well documented in many places. (See my review of War Against the Weak.) Anti-Semitism existed before the Holocaust, but the moral justifications and mechanisms that found final expression in the Final Solution were relatively new. Remember too that the Holocaust killed 13 million people total, of which 6 million were Jews.

    So getting back to ideas: the ideas informing the culture of death were identical to the ideas that informed the Final Solution, paticularly in terms of preparing the German culture for the mass extermination of people — some of which you have defended, BTW. Any challenge to these ideas must be crystal clear, lest we too go down the same road. To characterize these challenges (“right wing propaganda”)as an attack on people unsure of how private morality affects public culture (their views will shift with the dominant culture) doesn’t answer the challenge, it merely shifts the ground.

  19. Dean Scourtes says:

    Father Jacobse: Of course I am disappointed that the statements of Clinton and Kerry that abortions should be “safe, legal and rare”, have not been accompanied by concrete proposals by any Democrat to actually make abortions rare. Similarly disappointing is the silence on the moral aspects of the abortion issue. Isn’t there anyone in the Democratic party with the courage to say, “You know terminating a human life because it’s birth would interfere with someone’s social calender in just wrong.”

    In this respect the Democrats are as guilty of pandering to the more extreme elements of their party as is Karl Rove to his. While Republicans have to kow-tow to the NRA, Democrats are genuflecting to NOW and NARAL. Maybe this suggests that there is something dysfunctional about our political system – a calculation for victory that gives added weight to the views of the most vocal and militant, while discounting the views of the siilent majority in the center.

  20. There are a few Dean, but they are not allowed to speak anymore. There has to be a fight to return the party to what it once was. A couple more years of major losses and the left wing McGovernites will be vulnerable to an overthrow. It won’t happen unless Hillary loses however. If she wins, the current regime retains control probably for another decade.

    BTW, Frontpage is running an interesting expose on Democrat 527 money. Jane Fonda has contributed $13 million to Soros’ efforts. The Shadow Party.

  21. Michael Bauman says:

    Just started reading quite an interesting book:

      The Architects of the Culture of Death

    A series of brief biographies of many of the most significant contributors to the death culture from Darwin to Peter Singer. Despite the brevity of each account much is revealed concerning what have become underlying assumptions of the death culture which even those of us who are working for a culture of life share to some extent.

  22. Michael, any info on the web about it? I’d like to suggest it to Townhall for a review.

  23. Michael Bauman says:

    Fr. Hans Here is a link to an inteview with the authors: http://ignatiusinsight.com/features/intvw_demarco_wiker_july04.asp

  24. Dean Scourtes says:

    You are asked to find a school bus driver to take children from the Sunday school on a field trip. Two men are available. Smith and Jones. Smith has a spotty driving record with many traffic violations and several collisions, but also belongs to a local anti-abortion organization. Jones has never had a traffic citation and has glowing references from a local school bus company, and he supports Roe v. Wade.

    Who are you going to hire? It has to be the one who can take better care of the children. Likewise when we elect a President we cannot decide only on the basis a of a candidate’s poistion on abortion, exclusive of all considerations. When all is said and done we have to elect the person who can best take care of our nation, and rid ourselves of any President whose policies have harmed, or could continue to harm, the nation.

    George W. Bush has performed poorly in his job as President, and by launching a costly, deadly and unprovoked attack against Iraq on the basis of false information, he has stained the pages of American history with dishonor. A vote for George W. Bush is a statement that says there is no level of incompetence, failure and lying too great to disqualify a candidate from your vote.

    Let us review:

    1) HE FAILED TO PROTECT THE NATION. Despite numerous warnings during the summer of 2001 of an impending terrorist attack on US soild George W. Bush took no actions to safeguard the nation. Former CIA chief Tenet has remarked that during the summer of 2001 “the board was flashing red”, with reports of a planned terrorist attack. On August 6, 2001 President Bush received a (PDB) President’s Daily Briefing entitled “Bin Ladin determined to strike withing the United States.” Bush took no action and resumed a month-long vacation. Today President Bush continues to grossly underfund important Homeland Security measures here in the United States.

    2) HE IS FISCALLY IRRESPONSIBLE. President Bush began his term with a budget surplus of over $200 billion and quickly turned it into a permanent structural deficit of over one half trillion dollars a year which threatens our nation’s economic security. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker recently remarked that because of the massive deficits there is a 75% chance of a major financial crisis in the United states within the next five years.

    3) MANY THOUSANDS OF AMERICAN SERVICEMEN AND IRAQI CIVILIANS HAVE DIED IN A WAR BUSH BEGAN ON THE BASIS OF FALSE INFORMATION. As the report released last week by Chief Weapons Inspector Inspector Charles Dueffler indicates Iraq stopped making weapons of mass destruction in 1991, and did not possess stockpiles of any on the eve of our invasion in March 2003. Yet the imminent threat posed by the alleged existence of these weapons was the primary reason offered by President Bush for going to war. Another reason offered by Bush, an Iraqi role in the September 11th attack, was disproven by the September 11th commission which found “no collaborative relationship” between Iraq and the september 11th attackers.

    4) THE OCCUPATION OF IRAQ HAS BEEN MANAGED WITH GROSS INCOMPETENCE. Last week we heard Paul Bremer former head of the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) admit that we never had enough troops in Iraq to secure the country. From not stopping the looting, to disbanding the Iraqi army, to allowing torture and abuse at US operated prisons in Iraq the occupation has been marked by miscalculation, arrogance and cultural insensitivity. There are over 50 attacks on US personnel a day, and bombing and vilolence that kill thosands of Iraqis every week. As result the CIA reported to the president this summer that Iraq will most likely experience continued instability and violence verging on civil war in the years ahead.

    5) BUSH WILL BE THE FIRST PRESIDENT TO LOSE MORE JOBS THAN HE CREATED SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich have not created jobs as he promised. There has been a net loss of over one million jobs since Bush was installed in the White House, and current job growth rates are not even great enough to satisfy new monthly job market entrants. Because of rising gasoline, health care and tuition prices middle class families are coping with heavy economic stress and struggling just to keep thier heads above water.

    Anyone who demonstrated a similar level of incompetence, failure and lying in the private sectorr would be fired, regardless of their religious views. It should be the same with the office of President.

  25. Missourian says:

    Dean:

    First, your analogy is flawed. You contrast a pro-life bad driver with a pro-abortion good driver. You analogize Bush to the “bad driver.” By implication, Kerry assumes the role of the “good driver.” However, your analogy assumes, without argument, that Kerry is a good driver.

    Even if Bush is a bad driver, you have not proved that Kerry is a better driver. You have assumed he is a better driver, he may be even worse.

  26. Michael Bauman says:

    Plus, the bus driver’s position on Roe v Wade is of no actual consequence to the children riding in the bus. A better way to look at it is that as flawed as the bad us driver is, he will do everything in his power to protect all the children on the bus. The “good” bus driver will take the most vulnerable children on the bus and throw them out the back door at 65 mph if they become a nuisance–especially the poor ones. While he will only do this “rarely” he does insist that the choice should be his and in fact he has a “right” to that choice.

  27. Missourian says:

    Michael:

    I have completely lost track of the bus analogy.

    I don’t understand how people believe that the United States has any option but to proceed forward with the best plan that can devised to pacify Iraq. Whatever the merits of the original decision, whatever the merits of the conduct of post-war operations, the United States must go forward. At this point, the issue is whether Bush or Kerry will be a better leader in the future. Kerry has been incoherent on many issues. He’s hopeless. I simply don’t see any leadership qualities in him. He expouses moral incoherence and hypocrisy on the abortion issue, among many. That leaves Bush… I wish we had Churchill or Lincoln or John Adams or Andrew Jackson …. we have Bush.

    War makes for cruel choices. We cannot walk out of Iraq after 1,000 combat deaths. These brave individuals were volunteer, professional soldiers, not civilians. We should honor them as heroes who died for a cause, not treat them as victims. It should be noted that we lose 50,000 people a year in highway accidents. No one suggests shutting down the interstate system. In WWII we lost 450,000 soldiers in combat. About 2,000 per week of the war. No one suggested that this cost was too high to stop Hitler and save Britain. Thousands of American soldiers were killed before they even took 10 steps onto Omaha beach. Tragic, but true.

    There is no way out of this but forward, and it will be a long, hard fight. On this point Bush has been totally consistent. This isn’t an academic debate, it is real war for our civilization’s existence.

  28. Michael Bauman says:

    Missourian, I was trying to add to your comment on Dean’s analogy. Since it was a totally false analogy, it was probably better to leave where you left it. In any case, my comment had no relation to Iraq at all, just the attitude of supports of Roe v Wade and the abortion should be legal, safe, and rare.

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