Friday, October 24, 2008

An Answer to My Friend Rob

Recently, my buddy RobK wrote a reply to one of my posts:

Dutch, I notice that you like to compromise on this issue - and convince others to do the same.

The battle over life is the most fundamental human rights battle that we have ever faced as a people. Yet, you call those who are standing up and fighting the good fight "extremists." You have defended voting for the most extreme pro-abortion presidential candidate ever put forward. You suggest supporting a law that includes the notorious "health of the mother" exception is good enough. No one could accuse you of being an extremist on the right to life. Perhaps lukewarm?

Christ was seen as an extremist. Many of the saints, particularly the martyrs, were seen as extremists. They refused to compromise the truth, the values at their core. Yet you are willing to compromise for political expediency.

My friend, your political stance on abortion is flat out wrong. Whenever I cling to something wrong (as I once did on this very issue), it was because of my own sin and my wanting to be god. What are you clinging to that lets you make this compromise? Whatever it is, I pray you can let it go. You may not recognize it, but you are doing the work of the wrong side on this.

I was very touched to get this reply, especially by the last paragraph. From what I can tell, Rob is a great guy, he runs the Catholic Dads Blogspot, which is a wonderful resource, and I don’t doubt for a minute that he wrote this to me in a spirit of genuine friendship. Being called “lukewarm” in the Pro-Life cause was quite a rebuke, one that I hope I don’t deserve; because if it is true, then I will have to answer, not to Rob, but to my maker.

Rob is right in saying that I have been urging compromise on this issue. We have been batting the issues in this campaign around for some time now, and I don’t think that they need one more re-heating. What I would like to do here is address the issue of compromise itself, and why it is necessary.

We Must Not Compromise Our Faith

Rob is quite right in pointing out that the Saints never compromised and that is why they are Saints: they rendered unto the Lord what is the Lord’s. It is my fervent hope that I am as true in my faith as even the least of God’s Saints. Though I am a sinner, I am not a blasphemer, nor an heretic, nor a schismatic. I accept in its entirety the Teaching Authority of the Church and try to form my conscience in line with its teachings on faith and morals.

In a Free Society, in fact, in order for it to be a Free Society, everyone must have absolute religious liberty and, for the most part, we have that here. Jews are allowed to run Kosher butcher shops and to refrain from working on Saturdays. Dry Baptists are never forced to drink spirituous liquors. Jehovah’s Witnesses are never forced to accept blood products. Even during Prohibition, Catholic priests were allowed to use real wine when celebrating the Mass.

The only thing that I could see that would make me refuse to compromise on some issue is if it would not allow me to practice my Catholic faith in peace.

Democratic Government is About Compromise

There are thousands of sects, denominations, cults, and independent churches in the United States and I am free to go to any one of them. However — there is only one government and I have to share that with my fellow citizens. And the way Democracy works, when it works, is to arrive at a consensus position on the pressing issues of the day that most citizens can accept. In order to be good citizens we must participate in the process of arriving at this consensus. When this process of arriving at a consensus breaks down, then democracy ceases to work and the whole system is in danger of failing.

Take for instance Prohibition. This was put through on a wave of patriotism during the Great War. There was alleged to be a grain shortage because of its diversion to make spirituous liquors, drunkenness was alleged to be dragging down productivity in war plants, and, frankly, the spirit of the times didn’t allow “wets” (ho actually formed a majority) to publicly advocate their position. So an ill-conceived law was put into place and, precisely because there was a widespread consensus against it, the result was lawlessness.

Our Democracy Has Broken Down On The Issue Of Abortion

Are you against the pill and the IUD (both of which are abortifacients)? Are you against in vitro fertilization (which usually results in one or two births for every ten fertilized blastocysts)? Of course you are, and so am I. But society is not. Support for these things is simply overwhelming, so large that no one even bothers to collect polling data on them. The civic anti-birth-control leagues mentioned in Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt (1922) are a thing of the past. Everyone knows what Roe v. Wade is, but I doubt if even one in twenty registered voters has even heard of Griswold v. Connecticut. Will you admit that the battle here is lost?

Surely, you are not holding out for a candidate who is against every crime against the un-born, are you? No — you realize that an overwhelming majority of Americans want birth control and IVF, too many to be denied, and that they will have them. Similarly, a supermajority of Americans favors first Trimester Abortion.

But as soon as you get to third, or even second trimester abortion, support vanishes and even larger majorities favor outlawing these particularly horrific practices.

So why then do our laws not reflect this? A quick look at abortion law around the world shows ours to be the most liberal. Most countries have rather tight restrictions on late-term abortion, yet we do not, and I believe that this is because our democratic system has broken down on this issue.

The Democratic party is held hostage to a fanatical feminist pro-abort faction who will not stand to see the law changed, while the Republican party gives lip-service to the social conservatives that make up their coalition, while most Americans want this issue to be resolved with a compromise position (according to polls, only 29% feel there is no room for compromise on this issue).

Since we probably have no chance of getting an out-and-out ban on abortion, why not try to get a ban on late-term abortion? After all — it might just save a few babies!

Would A Ban On Abortion Be Effective?

Many years ago, I met a very nice, very carefully brought up, filthy rich widow. She told me that back when she was young, in the 1920’s, that girls in her “set” were so woefully ignorant of birth control that they just got pregnant and when to their society gynecologist for a “menstrual extraction.” She had had several of these, and it was years before she realized that this was just the polite euphemism for an abortion. Quite illegal at the time. You see — the rich have always had their abortions. The poor have always had them too, though usually at a higher cost in mortality. And we should add that a survey of Chicago Police blotters from the first three decades of the last century revealed that the most common form of homicide in Chicago at that time was infanticide. That’s right, even during the lawless days of Prohibition gang-wars, half of all murders in Chicago were committed on the newborn.

Abortion is completely banned in Chile, El Salvador, and the Philippines, yet they have some of the highest abortion rates in the world. Belgium, which has laws almost as liberal as ours, has the lowest.

Ask yourself: how best can we save babies? By enacting a lot of laws that will be dodged? Or by trying to change the culture?

We Must Change the Culture

We cannot vote in a new culture. We cannot vote away lust, or promiscuity, or the glamour of evil. These things are the fruit of the soil of culture. Movies, television, novels, popular songs — these are the things that shape the morals of a nation, not the ballot box.

Back when we were kids, broadcasters had a sense of public responsibility. Pre-marital sex was taken to be forbidden, a lot of “flesh” was not shown on TV, bastardy was stigmatized, criminal behavior was not glamorized, drugs were understood to be soul destroying. Now — I guess anything goes.

Okay — I don’t know what we can do about the pervasive degradation of our culture, but I do know that’s where the problem lies and, in a democratic society, we can’t change cultural attitudes at the ballot box.

The Failure of Democracy Is Possible

In July of 1932 the elections in Germany brought 319 Communist and Nazi deputies into the German Reichstag. This was more than half. This meant that a majority of deputies were committed to destroying the system, and that’s just what happened. By January of 1933 Hitler was Chancellor. It took him just over a year to completely dismantle German democracy. The extremists had won.

Now, I’m pro-life, but I’m not an extremist. Yes, I accept the Church’s teachings on this. Yes, I want abortion to be banned. In fact, I have an horror of abortion. But I am also well aware that the public does not agree with me on this.

We are, in this country, becoming very polarized. From my point of view (and, yes, this is a Democratic point of view) I am shocked at what I am seeing. Virulent postings on YouTube accusing Obama of not being an American citizen, of being a crypto-Moslem, of being in league with terrorists. I hear the shouts of people at McCain and Palin rallies calling for Obama to be killed, and don’t hear either candidate denounce such threats. I remember how the election of 2000 was essentially stolen by the Supreme Court and how Kerry, who had actually served in Vietnam, was slandered by Swift Boat Veterans as a coward, while Bush, a draft dodger, was let off.

A few weeks ago there was an ugly crowd in front of Chicago’s historic Water Tower. They held placards that said, “Don’t Make It the Black House” (try telling me that isn’t racist!) and they were yelling at anyone with an Obama button: “Baby Killer!” (Rob, would you yell that at someone? Anyone?)

What this country needs to do is to come together.

Not everyone who supports the war is a genocidal imperialist, any more than people who want peace are in league with the terrorists.

People who favor social justice are not fostering “class envy,” any more than people who are concerned about economic growth are merely being selfish.

And — there are people of good will on both sides of the abortion divide.

What Is To Be Done

I don’t think that any vote I could make this fall will end abortion, but I do think that we can vote for, and get, peace.

I, for one, am voting for peace.

Rob — I hope that this analysis has clarified my thinking to you, perhaps even made you see that I am not “lukewarm” about being pro-life, but whatever you think, please let us remain friends in Christ.

1 comment:

RobK said...

Hi Dutch, I read your post/reply and wrote something up myself. It makes for a long post and seemed far too long for a comment box. You can read it at my blog.