“A worldview is a more or less coherent understanding of the nature of reality, which permits its holders to interpret new information in light of their preconceptions. Clashes among worldviews cannot be ended by a simple appeal to facts. Even if rival sides agree on the facts, people may disagree on conclusions because of their different premises.” -Michael Lind 
One of the hindrances to a productive political discussion is that of failing to understand our opponent. It is easy to think that those with political views different from our own are illogical or even just plain evil. We think they want to destroy the world as we know it. However, it is rarely the case that those who maintain opposing political views are dumb, irrational, evil, or any of the other accusations we tend to throw at each other.
We argue about the details, without understanding the bigger picture. Each position is built on foundational principles, those of which we tend to assume are true and obvious. We build a logical framework of our political beliefs based on an ideology, one that is cohesive and relatively consistent.
The problem comes when we argue about the superficial issues without understanding the underlying principles or worldview. We go around in circles with our opponents, but never really hear or understand what they say. When we evaluate our opponents’ beliefs based on our worldview, their ideas appear to be illogical. We misunderstand their motives and intentions. Then the name-calling begins, because we cannot figure out how someone could hold such a belief without having some mental or moral defect.
They are simply building on a different foundation.
Worldview affects so much more than just our political ideologies, but in an attempt to demonstrate the importance of understanding worldviews and the effects they have, we are going to look closely at differing political views.
Over the next few weeks, we will examine the dominant American political ideologies: conservatism, liberalism, and libertarianism. Because of the complexity of each view, we intend to focus primarily on their approach to economics.
My goal is to help people understand differing views by presenting each view fairly and rationally; free from the usual hate-filled misrepresentation that accompanies so many articles and debates. In an attempt to remove bias and give each view a fair representation, I have invited individuals who embrace each view to explain the underlying principles of the position they represent.
I regard each person invited to participate in this series very highly. They are intelligent, rational and respectful. I invite you, our readers, to participate in the discussion as we all seek to better understand one another. Each of the writers have included links for further reading. I encourage you to take advantage of the resources provided.
Since this is a blog that embraces a Biblical worldview, I want to challenge our Christian readers to also evaluate each view in light of their religious beliefs. It is often assumed among evangelicals that Christians must be conservative, in all areas. As you read, ask yourself if the view being presented is consistent with a Biblical worldview. Is there anything specific to each view that is contrary to the Bible?
I recently read a book called The Cross in the Closet. It is about a bigoted, obnoxious, conservative Christian, young-adult man who decides to “go in the closet” and pretend to be gay for a year in an attempt to overcome his bigotry. He even leads his family to believe that he is gay and he immerses himself into the LGBT community. It is the author’s personal journey from religious bigot to….well, I don’t know what. He’s opposed to any labels.
I had great hopes for this book. The premise fascinated me. The author’s attempt to walk in someone else’s shoes for a year, regardless of personal loss, was noble.
However, I must confess, when a friend first referred the book to me, my first thought was, “Great, another Christian-bashing book. Can’t wait to read it!” (Yes, you detect sarcasm.) My friend assured me it wasn’t, but our views of Christian-bashing are clearly different because I found it to be just that. It’s too bad too, because the author has a great message to share. If only he could have done it without alienating his target audience.
I won’t review the book directly because I’m not sure I would recommend it – and there are plenty of reviews already on amazon. I think it would offend most conservative Christians (because of his harsh stereotypes and eventual deviation from traditional theology), but I don’t necessarily think it would appeal to homosexuals either.
So you are probably wondering why I am even writing about it. I’m not so sure myself. The book has been bugging me, camping in the back of my mind and constantly pestering me.
It was an eye opener for me. Not about the homosexual community, which is not unfamiliar to me. But rather, about Christians. He is intensely harsh towards conservative Christians as he projects his once-bigoted self onto every other conservative, fundamentalist Christian. In fact, towards the end of the book he confesses to exchanging one form of bigotry (towards LGBTs) for another (towards conservative Christians).
Before the experiment, he was horrible to the LGBT community. Mocking them. Throwing condemning Bible verses in their face. Treating them like they had a contagious disease. Believing that God hates them. He showed no love, compassion, empathy or understanding. He said repeatedly that he was taught to be this way and seems to conclude that this reflects all conservative Christians and is a direct result of their theology.
The way traditional Christianity is represented in this book is not the Christianity that I know. It is not consistent with the Bible. It is not a representation of the Christians in my life. I hate Christian stereotypes. I hate the way the media portrays us. I hate the assumptions my non-Christian friends make about me. I feel like I am always fighting against these, always coming to the defense of Christianity. And I honestly don’t understand it.
I now realize this is because I project my views and experiences with Christianity on to everyone else, much like the author of this book. But I don’t see judgmental bigots.
I see a loving family.
I see grace, compassion, and forgiveness.
I see broken lives made whole.
I see relationships restored.
I see service and sacrifice.
I see loyal friendships where people lay their lives down for one another.
I see a Savior, who died for ALL of our sins.
I see hope, for anyone who asks.
Is it possible that these same people – who have richly experienced the grace of God in their own lives – are egging the cars of homosexuals? It is possible that they are spewing hate to their gay and lesbian acquaintances? Is it true that they elevate these behaviors to a level of sin that God cannot forgive? Do they ostracize the LGBT community, treating them as if they have a contagious disease?
I don’t know. I hope with all my heart that it isn’t true. But clearly there are professing Christians who do these things, and it breaks my heart. This is not the message of the gospel. This is not behavior that reflects biblical Christianity.
We don’t have to reject the Bible to embrace our homosexual neighbor. We don’t have to deny the gospel to sit in their living room and hear their stories. We don’t have to compromise our beliefs to have a homosexual couple over for dinner and to be their friend.
We don’t have to agree with people to love them. We don’t have to convince them to agree with us. We obviously haven’t taken the time to understand or to show we care. We’ve failed to demonstrate the love of Christ.
They see us as the enemy, apparently because that is what we have been to them.
Do we label them perverted, disgusting, untouchable?
Do we judge them?
Do we throw our stones, and revel in our self-righteousness?
Do we fail to understand the burdens they bear?
Could it be that the only message they hear from us is “Homosexuality is an abomination!?”
Could it be that all they see of Christianity is our fight against gay marriage?
Regardless of how we answer these questions, this is how many view us. My heart breaks. My heart breaks for the pain we cause, when we should be messengers of hope. We should reflect the love of Christ.
In the same way that those in the LGBT community don’t want to be labeled and want to be treated as individuals, I hope people will do the same for me. I hope they can stop rejecting all conservative Christians because of the idiocy of a few (or perhaps many, sadly) and give us a chance to bridge the gap.
I am going to go against the flow here and make the claim that Christian love is not the same thing as tolerance. Tolerance is good (sometimes). Love is good. They are not the same thing. As a Christian, I often get accused of not demonstrating the love of Christ because I’m intolerant. I confess: there are things I don’t tolerate.
Here is a definition for tolerance: “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.”
It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? I want to be fair. I want to be objective, particularly regarding other people’s views and practices. I want people to have the freedom to believe whatever they want, and to practice their beliefs accordingly. I want to embrace different races and cultures, and I want to accept their differences.
I’m not so sure I want to be permissive, at least not in an all-inclusive sort of way.
I have many friends who see the world differently than me and who hold completely opposite views in many fundamental things. I love having friends like these. They open up to me a view of the world that is entirely different from my own. They make me step back and look at my own beliefs in a different light. They make life so incredibly interesting. I love diversity, and it often saddens me that our tendency is to surround ourselves with people who are exactly like us.
Here is what tolerance IS NOT:
Tolerance does not mean that I have to accept their views, which are completely contradictory to mine, as also being true (resulting in a logical contradiction). Tolerance does not mean that I have to yield my moral convictions to someone else’s, in particular to a moral code that is chosen arbitrarily.
So many claim that a true demonstration of the love of Christ is through tolerance. And often times, they go so far as to claim Christian love is demonstrated through the illogical type of tolerance mentioned above.
In my experience, people who preach tolerance are often lacking in Christian love. And those who demonstrate Christian love are often intolerant, and rightly so.
So what is Christian love? What does it look like in the world of debate and differing points of view? Most of us have heard or read the following verses many times. But please stop and consider them in regards to tolerance and differences in opinion.
“Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.”
~1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV
How do I show love towards people who disagree with me?
I’m patient. I’m kind. I honor them. I seek their good and not my own. I don’t get angry. I don’t call them names or put them down to make myself look good. I don’t stop loving them just because we disagree. I am grieved by sin, and I rejoice over truth and virtue.
Christian love entails standing firm in the truth, but in a loving manner. Christian love does not include being permissive and tolerating sin or falsehood.
Here is an example, which may seem a bit extreme and ridiculous, but it should adequately illustrate my point.
Let’s say I find out my husband has been unfaithful.*
From a biblical standpoint, I have every right to end the marriage.
Scenario 1: Not loving and not tolerant
I scream at him and tell him I hate him and I pack his stuff up and throw it all in the trash. I tell the world what a scoundrel he is and how horrible he is for betraying me. I change the locks on the doors and sue him for as much possible child support as I can. I tell the kids what a terrible father they have. I hate him forever and ever.
Scenario 2: Tolerant and not loving
I tell him that I think adultery is morally wrong. He tells me monogamy is old-fashioned and outdated and he can’t get his needs met by just one woman. I tell him that isn’t true for me, but it must be true for him. I can’t possibly get mad because it is just a simple difference of opinion. I’m a bit upset that he lied (broke his vows), but he doesn’t think lying is wrong in certain situations. He said his vows 15 years ago and he was too young and now he has changed so they don’t mean anything anymore. I stick around, being tolerant of his affairs, but I remain faithful. He is tolerant of my monogamy.
Scenario 3: Loving and not tolerant
I grieve over his sin. I grieve over his betrayal. I tell him that adultery is morally wrong and that it is absolutely not okay in our marriage. He can choose to repent and work towards restoration – or he can continue in his sin and the marriage will be terminated. I show him love: kindness, patience, honor, perseverance, hope, etc. But I do not tolerate his sin.
There is no scenario 4 (loving and tolerant) because, in this case, the two are not compatible.
We should all strive to tolerate differing “opinions and practices.” However, expecting people to accept contradictory things as true is illogical. And being tolerant of different moralities is pretty much impossible. Taking a moral stance (which we all do) is not indicative of a lack of Christian love, in fact, if done correctly, it is an expression of that love.
*For the record, this is a fictional illustration. My husband is awesomely loyal and devoted to me.
Is there ANYONE out there who benefits from Obamacare?
I’m asking in all sincerity.
I have not read the 1400 page bill. I am not an expert on the politics of health care. However, I am a partaker of our health care system, and have used it fully. I also realize that we won’t see the full benefits of Obamacare until next year. But from what I have seen so far, it scares me.
I had the opportunity to meet with my health insurance agent recently. What an eye opener! When she sent us our new rates for this year, it did not compute. I thought they would go down. My medical risk went down (by three points!) and Obamacare surely would provide some relief! But instead, my rates went up. I immediately set up an appointment (with my agent, unfortunately President Obama wouldn’t see me).
There seems to be this strange assumption that health insurance is the same as health care. Obamacare does not provide affordable health care to anyone (except those few extra people who now qualify for Medicaid). Obamacare mandates health insurance.
Don’t think for a moment that just because you have health insurance, that you automatically get health care. I have found that paying for an expensive family policy provides me with very little health care coverage. And with the new Obamacare guidelines, I am actually provided with even less than I had before Obamacare.
Tell me this: Does a policy that has a $7000 deductible before it pays for anything other than a minimal number of doctor’s visits considered to be health care? If I still have to pay for my medication, additional doctor’s visits, any tests I need and most surgeries, is it really accurate to say that having insurance also means that I have health care? And if I spend almost $700 a month for this policy, how in the world am I supposed to be able to afford to go to the doctor and get “health care.”
I will say that this policy provides fantastic insurance that comprehensively covers all of my health care needs IF I meet the $12,000 max out-of-pocket (up 20% from last year). So, to get great health care, it only costs my middle-class family $20,000 per year (premiums plus max out-of-pocket). What a deal!
I know, you might be thinking, “These aren’t typical prices. She had cancer.” Silly me, I thought it was people like me that Obamacare was going to help. But to put it in perspective, this year our rates went up $100 per month. Not because of me. The rates of our children went up, our perfectly healthy, non-income generating, dependent children.
My agent explained it this way; Obamacare dictates that the rates for the most expensive (high risk) policies cannot be more than THREE TIMES the rates of the least expensive (low risk). That might make you think that means the high-risk rates (mostly elderly) would decrease, and perhaps they have, just a teeny bit (although mine didn’t). But what that really means is that rates go up for the young and healthy.
As a nice little bonus, I now have a $1000 prescription deductible. Yes, you read that right. Before I get any prescription coverage, I have to pay $1000. This is not included in the $7000 deductible. This is in addition to that. Once I meet my $1000 deductible they pay a whopping 50%. But don’t worry, I’ll meet that deductible before we are half way through the year.
The problem is, Obamacare makes little rules that are supposed to help us – like eliminating caps on prescription benefits. The insurance companies have to make that up somewhere. “How?” By raising our prescription deductibles.
Tell me President Obama, where is the relief to the middle class? Isn’t that what you promised? No more excuses!
I now have to make a choice: Pay my mortgage and feed my family OR buy a health insurance policy that costs more than I can afford and still requires me to pay for almost all of my health care. Hmmm…
I innocently asked my agent, “With rates like these, there must be a lot of people who just don’t buy insurance. What is the penalty if we don’t have insurance.”
Yes, that’s right. Just NINETY-FIVE DOLLARS. Per year.
Sign me up for that! I can’t afford $20k a year. I already had to pay almost that much. Twice.
I’m pretty sure that as long as I don’t have a cancer recurrence, we won’t come even close to that amount if we just pay for all our health care ourselves. If the cancer did come back, I’m pretty confident that all my medical expenses would be covered even without insurance. I’ve seen it happen over, and over, and over: hospital write-offs, grants, etc.
Although, perhaps as part of the sinking middle class, we may not be poor enough to qualify for many of those benefits. It really does pay to be poor. And it is just getting way too expensive not to be.
Once again I ask: Can anyone out there tell me how Obamacare benefits anyone, especially those who need the benefit?
Let’s look at some of my friends who make quite a bit less money than my family. Surely it will help them.
Some are on Medicaid. In some states (not mine) some will benefit from the Medicaid expansion. I confess, that will help some families.
The bulk of them don’t have insurance because they can’t afford it. They also don’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford it. Obamacare will now force them to pay money they don’t have for an insurance policy that will still require them to pay to go to the doctor, once again, with money they don’t have. How is that a benefit?
Instead, they will pay the miniscule $95 penalty and not have insurance. The only thing that changed was that they now have $95 less and still, no health care.
Forcing people to buy health insurance does not provide affordable health care. It seems obvious, although perhaps overly simplistic: the only way to make health care affordable is to reduce the cost of health care. This can only be done by confronting the giants that compromise the basic economic principle of supply and demand.
I won’t even get into what Obambacare is doing to businesses that are already under the heavy load of a tough economy.
It seems to me Obamacare is just making everyone pay a whole lot more money for a whole lot of nothing.
I’d love to know how Obamacare has affected you this year (good or bad). Please respond and share your stories!
There are two principles that govern my debates. First, I like to understand my opponent’s views. Second, I don’t like to think that my view is obvious because, obviously, if it were obvious, then everyone would agree.
I find that I am unable to disconnect myself from my attachments to classical logic and reason enough to understand the arguments for extreme relativism. I tend to think that one can only embrace relativism by rejecting logic and reason, and who in their right mind would do that? Therefore, I hesitate to write about it or argue against it because it seems so obviously false to me.
Despite my hesitancy, I will delve into this issue. I don’t think that I can present any viewpoint or argue for or against anything else unless I first establish that truth is objective. All of my views begin with that basic assumption.
Relativism takes many different forms. I don’t intend to go into a philosophical discussion of relativism and the differing types, although I can point you to a very well-written article on the subject, written by someone much more qualified than me. What I want to address is the relativism I have encountered personally in debates with friends, family, and Facebook/blogging acquaintances.
I want to first make an important distinction. Believing that we can’t know absolute truth is different than thinking there is no absolute truth. When I use the term “extreme” relativism, I’m referring to the view that there is no absolute truth and that truth is relative to our experiences or beliefs. By truth I mean, “the way things really are.”
I doubt there are many people who are actually extreme relativists, and even fewer live as if they hold this view. However, people often argue as if they do (I can’t help but think they haven’t really thought it through).
It usually sounds something like this:
“That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”
“We must accept all religions as true. Each is just a different way to approach God.”
There are three fundamental rules of logic called “Laws of Thought.” These are the basis of logic and rational thought.
1. The Law of Identity states: “if any statement is true, then it is true.” A=A
2. The Law of Non-contradiction states: “no statement can be both true and false.” Or alternatively, two contradictory statements can’t both be true at the same time. ~(A & ~A)
3. The Law of Excluded Middle states: “any statement is either true or false.” A or ~A
(Introduction to Logic 9th edition, Irving M. Copi, Carl Cohen, pg. 372)
To most people, these should seem obvious. The true relativist has to be able to refute these. It has been attempted, though it is a very difficult task, and I don’t believe it has been done successfully.
To assert that two opposing beliefs are both true is clearly illogical. When people make the claim that all religions are true, they are claiming one of two things.
- Contradictory things are true (which is logically impossible, see #2 above). To hold this view, one must reject classical logic.
- There are elements in each religion that are true and there are elements in each religion that are false. Clearly, this is not relativism; rather it is making an absolute claim about religion and is no different than any other religious belief.
The other problem with extreme relativism and the most obvious one is that it is self-refuting. There are many different ways to present this argument, some simple and some more complex. Know that this is one of many forms:
If the statement “there are no absolute truths” is always true then the assertion is itself an absolute truth, thus making the statement false.
If the statement “there are no absolute truths” is only sometimes true (relatively true), then there are absolute truths and the statement is false.
I’m not sure why anyone would choose to hold this view, other than intellectual cowardice; that is, they don’t want to have to defend their own opinions. Relativism provides an easy way out.
When I started this series, I challenged you to use logic and reason, to set aside emotion and personal experiences, and to consider the arguments and not the people presenting them. I think it has been a success and I thank you for demonstrating that we can rationally talk about these things.
Today I am going to break all those rules. The truth of the matter is that abortion does affect people at a very personal level. And though we should focus on the arguments in determining the laws we set, I cannot advocate for the lives of the unborn without also considering those who have had abortions.
I have addressed the arguments, but today, I want to talk about the people — the millions of women and men whose lives have been affected by abortion.
One day Steph and I were discussing abortion when she said to me, “Do you realize how many women have had abortions?” Her heart of compassion was obvious as her eyes filled with tears. Her voice cracked as she continued, “And here we (the pro-life movement) are screaming ‘baby killers!’”
“Almost one in every three American women will have an abortion by age 45.”
I desperately want to overcome the stereotype that those who are pro-life don’t care about women. The truth is that most of us care very much about women.
Although the decision to have an abortion saddens me, I know that many of these women did it in desperation, hopelessness, ignorance, fear or to avoid judgment – often times from us, the very ones who are so vocal in fighting for the rights of the unborn.
I am not here to cause an even deeper wound.
Today, I want to show compassion and give hope. Although some women claim to have no emotional scars from having an abortion, I know there are many who carry a heavy burden of guilt and shame. This post is for them. This story is for them.
This story of hope and restoration was written by one of my dear friends…
In my late teens and early twenties, the world revolved around me. Decisions and behavior were based on what I wanted, and not how they would affect anyone else. As long as I was having “fun” and the good things cancelled out the naughty, that was all that mattered to me.
Then, something happened that made my world stop. At the age of 21, I found out I was pregnant. I did not want children. I didn’t really even want marriage. I was more than glad to let the world revolve around me and my agenda and so, though I realized the risk of getting pregnant was real, I did not think it would be a big deal to do whatever it took to stop the life growing inside me if the “inconvenience” ever occurred. Now, facing a positive pregnancy test, I realized I actually had a choice to make. I also realized it was not an easy choice to just end this life. I had thought it would be no big deal; an easy decision. I was wrong.
The guy didn’t make an appeal either way. It would have been nice to hear what the other side was thinking. I sensed disappointment from him when I told him I was going to get an abortion, but he didn’t offer an alternative.
Rarely did I ever really want someone to tell me what to do. However, I was desperate and asked for the opinions of my close friends. My parents grieved with me, but wanted me to make my own decision.
My mom told me I should pray.
I thought, “Why would I pray? I have never ever been a willing listener. I have mocked the very idea of a God. Why would God listen to me now? I do not deserve to be heard.”
Between tears, I attempted prayer. I really thought it was pointless. Amazingly, I became aware that there was a God and, sadly, I did not know anything about Him.
And I did have an abortion. Alone. Though the guy said he’d come with me, he did not. Above the cold, hard platform where I lay, smiley face stickers on the ceiling stared back at me as I was vacuumed out. It hurt. I left, not feeling relieved, but more numb and broken. Now what? I should be happy, right? I tried to come to grips with the finality of it all.
For years afterward, I felt guilt and grief about killing my own baby. It constantly moved me, and there were times it was unbearable. I hid my feelings from those closest to me, especially if I sensed they didn’t understand how I was feeling. It was easier for me at the time, but I know they may have wanted to have helped me through the pain.
Something changed in me thereafter. I wasn’t an atheist anymore. Even so, I did not know what to believe. I had so many questions, but no answers. I kept searching, asking questions, visiting churches -– but none of it made sense to me. I always carried with me the heavy weight of shame.
As often happens for those without direction and for those who hold onto guilt like a long lost friend, I went back to my previous normal—back to the sin, back to the selfishness. It was the only way I knew. But I cannot deny the beginning of something divine happening within me during that time.
It’s hard to write my slow and stubborn move toward redemption by God’s grace in a paragraph. I wish I could say I ran to my Savior without wasting a second. I didn’t. But miracle of miracles, He met me where I was. He walked me through and helped me find answers. I didn’t realize he was there until I looked back. I had met my Savior. He forgave me. He freed me from the guilt and the shame. He helped me forgive myself. And He is the only one who can for each of us. For those of you who are desperate for your shame and guilt to be removed, there is a Savior—a redeemer—who can do just that. You need only ask. Fall on your knees and ask God to show you who He is.
One of the amazing gifts I received from God was a boyfriend who really listened to my heartache with compassion. I had so many questions about salvation like, “how could there be only one way?” and “how could I be sure?” He helped me by answering those questions. He encouraged me to go to a workshop for people who had aborted. Today, I am very blessed to say this man is now my husband.
Many other things changed in my life. Miracles happened. I had been suffering through feelings of condemnation. I felt that since I had been so cavalier about a life God had created, I would never deserve the privilege of having children of my own or of even working with kids. But no—God is compassionate and forgiving. He freed me from these feelings of guilt. I was now genuinely glad to hear pregnancy announcements! I was now full of hope! This hope was not just that maybe I could have a baby in my future. That was a big hope. But—even more amazing—God gave me the hope that he could change me and that he was unwrapping a beautiful and abundant life that I could never have dreamt up for myself. My life is not perfect–and this life has its own set of challenges, but with God and for God, they are worth fighting for.
God did a wonderful thing when He took away my desire for the things that were not good for me and when He made me new. I used to think I had decent confidence in how much I could control my life, and now I know that nothing surpasses the peace that comes from God who has loved me first, and in spite of, my imperfect self.
In Isaiah 61, it says that God will give beauty for ashes. In times of mourning, the Jews would heap dust and ash on their heads. They would lay in ashes and this defined their grief. Instead, God wants to pick you up out of the ashes and make something beautiful out of you. I am a testimony to that truth. Out of sadness, grief, and mourning come victory and healing and the tremendous love only God can bestow.
If you have had an abortion or are considering an abortion and need someone to talk to, please know that any of us here at The Civic Arena would love to talk to you. Contact us here.
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool. ~Isaiah 1:18
The two primary issues that encompass the abortion debate are the questions of the moral status of the fetus and the privacy rights of the mother. Every other argument hinges on these primary issues and it is hard to talk about any other argument without also addressing them.
There are two pro-choice arguments that I want to address before my riveting conclusion next week. I am not going to address the woman’s right to choose or the fetus’s right to life in the context of these arguments. I will evaluate the merit of each argument on its own.
I would surmise that both of these arguments are based on the presupposition that either abortion does not involve the killing of an innocent human life or that the woman’s right to choose takes precedence. Otherwise, they are just incredibly absurd, and I intend to demonstrate why.
Here we go…
1. “Abortion should be legal because it would be detrimental to society if all of those unwanted fetuses had been born.”
This kind of thinking would justify killing everyone when they turn 60. That would do away with the social security problem and Medicare, thus reducing the deficit.
For that matter, we should probably stop trying to find a cure for cancer and discontinue treatment. Cancer rates are astounding. In the U.S. 1500 people die from cancer every day. What would we do with all the people who don’t die from cancer? Think of the expense and drain they are to society (by living longer and draining the system through their extensive medical requirements).
We don’t justify atrocious acts just because it is beneficial to society. Or perhaps we do…but we shouldn’t. In addition, this is only an assumed detriment to society. No one can know whether or not those babies would be detrimental or if they would be beneficial.
2. “Abortion should be legal because women are going to get abortions anyway. Let’s ensure they have a safe, sterile environment.”
Let’s apply this line of reasoning to other crimes:
“People are going to steal anyway, so stealing shouldn’t be illegal.”
“People are going to kill anyway, so killing shouldn’t be illegal.”
We don’t make something that is morally reprehensible legal just because people are going to do it anyway. And we certainly don’t make things legal in an attempt to protect the perpetrator. Women might have abortions anyway. Hopefully making it illegal and inaccessible would prevent most abortions. There may be some back alley abortions, but that doesn’t justify the legal killing of millions of fetuses that otherwise would have been born.
I do not think government has an obligation to help people whenever they make a bad decision or put themselves in a difficult situation. That said, because I have compassion for the pregnant teen or the single mom, I think we should voluntarily help needy women who are facing an unexpected pregnancy. We can also do things to prevent unwanted pregnancies (methods for doing this are clearly controversial but not the topic of this post).
I urge those who are passionate about ending abortion, regardless if you are pro-choice or pro-life, to give your time and resources towards helping women who are facing an unexpected pregnancy.
Let’s not condemn them. This is not the time to get on a soapbox about the value of sexual purity. A pregnancy is a miraculous gift, regardless of the circumstances and it should be celebrated. It is not a punishment for immoral behavior. Let’s show compassion. Let’s back up our principles by taking action. Let’s demonstrate how valuable we think a fetus really is.
There have been times in my life that I have been hesitant to speak out about abortion because of the difficult situation these women are in and my inability to do anything about it. Here in Boise, there are options for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. There is help provided by privately funded organizations with a passion for helping women. Being involved in or supporting these organizations gives me the confidence to speak up. I can make a difference! I can effect change! And I encourage you to do the same, to help women via privately funded organizations or on a personal level.
Here are a few organizations here in the Treasure Valley:
- Stanton Health Care - provides pregnancy care and support
- Lifeline Pregnancy Care Center - provides pregnancy care and support
- The Salvation Army – Booth Memorial, provides housing and schooling for pregnant teens.
**If your view has not been represented, I encourage you to bring it up now. I think most of the arguments that I have failed to address in a blog post were discussed quite thoroughly in the comments.**
***I have included a small, graphic picture of an aborted fetus at ten weeks gestation. PLEASE don’t roll your eyes and stop reading due to this. It is a part of the point I am trying to make. I appeal to you to patiently follow me through all of my points and hear my conclusion. ***
The next pro-choice argument brings to the surface the heart of the debate, at least from the pro-life point of view. The argument goes as follows:
“If you can prove that a fetus is human, then I’ll concede abortion is wrong and should be illegal. Until then, I’m pro-choice!”
Science indicates that the zygote, embryo and fetus are all human and alive: DNA, a heartbeat, etc. I use the word “human” as opposed to “non-human” (e.g., monkey) and “alive” as opposed to “not alive” (e.g., table). I am not a scientist so I won’t attempt to explain anything scientific. There are many websites that already do that.
For some reason these facts don’t persuade everyone. I often ask myself: What would actually change someone’s mind? What proof could I provide? Science has told us all it can. And if the answer that science provides doesn’t convince us, then the question becomes a metaphysical one.
The real question is not whether the unborn child is human or whether it is alive. The real question is: When does human life have value? When does it have rights of it’s own, as an individual entity?
Here are the pro-choice arguments I most often hear:
1. When it is born: I really can’t make sense of this point of view. Most people would cringe at the thought of a baby being aborted the day before it is born. Babies can be born perfectly healthy weeks before they are due, so it seems odd to say these fully developed fetuses aren’t valuable humans simply because they possess the attribute of “not being born”.
2. When it can feel pain: It is certainly more merciful to not perform an abortion on an entity that feels pain. However, an inability to feel pain doesn’t indicate a lack of value. This view, taken to its logical conclusion, would indicate that a person who is paralyzed lacks value. For that matter, anyone on a general anesthesia would temporarily lose their value. Clearly, the “ability to feel pain” alone does not determine value.
3. When it can survive on it’s own (fetal viability): There are plenty of examples of humans that cannot survive on their own and we consider it wrong and illegal to terminate that life: An injured person on life support (who has the potential for recovery), a newborn baby, the disabled and the elderly. The case of an unborn baby is unique because there is only one person (the mother) who is capable of taking care of that life. However, I can’t see why that would change the value of that life.
Most (not all) pro-choice people I know are against late term abortions. At some point, choice is no longer relevant. At some point, they believe the baby is alive, human and has value. Somewhere in between those first few weeks and that last trimester, that baby becomes valuable and most would consider it morally wrong to abort.
The answer is clear: the fetus is alive, human and valuable the moment it has it’s own, unique DNA. And if that isn’t good enough, everyone should at least concede that it’s valuable when it has a heart beat. But still people don’t.
Once again, I ask: What would change their minds? What would convince them? Perhaps showing pictures of the mutilated body parts of an aborted fetus? That seems to mostly offend people and I can’t help but wonder why. If the fetus isn’t alive, why would seeing pictures of aborted body parts be disturbing? It is just a blob of cells – right? Facing the reality of an abortion shouldn’t be offensive, and if it is – if it does trigger an emotional reaction – we have to ask ourselves: Why? When faced with the reality of abortion, I think we all see it for what it really is.
Roe v Wade adds this vacuous clause “unless the personhood of the fetus is established” without giving any substance to it, without defining what it would take to do that. It doesn’t matter what we do or what answers we provide, all they have to do is just deny (on no grounds) that my answer doesn’t qualify as personhood – yet never giving any indication of what it would take to qualify or why the answers we provide don’t count.
Look closely at the picture. How could anyone possibly call that a blob of tissue? It has fingers and toes. Look at it’s little intestines and organs and it’s face. This is an aborted fetus just eight weeks after conception, still in the first trimester. All of its systems and body parts are there. It is fully human. Why can’t people see this? Because it is so small? Because it is removed from sight, hidden within the mother’s womb? Because they can’t hold the baby and interact with it? How do these things disqualify it as human? How can anyone possibly say that we haven’t proven the personhood of the fetus?
In what ways has the “personhood” of a born person been established outside of the same answers we might provide about a fetus? Shouldn’t I be able to kill ANYONE and just scream that no one has proven that people have moral value or human rights or inherent value or whatever you want to call it? What exactly is the quality that we have and they don’t? Because, as far as I can tell, we should have the same moral status. Other than the differences mentioned in the pro-choice arguments above, a fetus has all the same qualities that a newborn baby does.
Establishing the personhood of a fetus is an unfair and dishonest requirement. It’s not my job to determine when life begins. I’m not the one terminating the life of an unborn baby. I’m not the one who wants the right to abort. The real problem with this pro-choice argument is that it shifts the burden of proof onto those who claim that human life begins in the womb.
With 1.3 million abortions being performed in the U.S. each year, pro-choice advocates have a moral obligation to know when life begins. They have a moral obligation to provide an answer that is better and more logically consistent than the answers I addressed above.
As long as they refuse to make a substantiated determination, as long as they push the burden of proof onto the pro-life side (and make it impossible for us to do so), they are making the claim that as long as we don’t know abortion is murder, then it isn’t wrong. At some point, the baby is a human life in the same sense that you and I are, whether we know when or not. If the baby is aborted after the point of becoming a valuable human life, then it is certainly murder.
Ignorance doesn’t make it not murder.
The people wanting to terminate the pregnancies and the people performing abortions have a moral responsibility to ensure they are not committing murder*.
*By murder I mean the intentional termination of an innocent human life.
“You are a white, middle-class American woman with a strong social support group. Therefore, you cannot possibly understand the plight of a pregnant teen who feels all alone and has no other options.”
“You hate women.”
“You want the government to tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.”
“You are only pro-life because of your obedience to religious dogma.”
These are the arguments I hear most often from the pro-choice side. These are not arguments. These are personal attacks and judgments about me that have absolutely nothing to do with the argument. My ability to empathize, my opinion of women (of which I am one), and the motives for my beliefs are irrelevant to the truth of my argument.
These people are guilty of committing the ever-so-popular fallacy of Relevance, in particular, ad hominem. The funny thing about ad hominem arguments is that they are often times effective in terms of persuasion, but they are lacking in establishing truth. If you can get people to feel negative towards the person arguing, you can generally get them to feel negative toward the person’s arguments.
Dirty little trick.
In evaluating an argument, the person presenting it (their experience, motives, or character) should not be considered.
My general response to all these non-arguments is: “What’s THAT got to do with it?!?” However, in this instance, I will take this opportunity to defend myself. I don’t have to tell you my life story to tell you that I know pain, suffering, loss, abuse, loneliness, and rejection. Empathy and compassion come easily to me.
I was raised by a single mom, who spent her career fighting to provide opportunities for displaced homemakers. I know the issues. I am aware of the hardship that an unplanned pregnancy can bring.
I have walked the journey of an unexpected pregnancy with friends. I have seen their struggle.
I have been in the delivery room with a single, pregnant woman as she clutched my hand so tightly I thought every bone would be crushed. And I saw the tears as her baby was taken and given to the adoptive parents.
I had a close friend who was date-raped as a teen and chose to deliver her baby and give it up for adoption. I know the rejection and judgments she faced because of that decision, even years later. She told me that seeing that beautiful baby – seeing something so good come out of something so awful – did more healing to her heart than months of counseling.
I have seen the hopeless couple, with deep wounds from not being able to have a child of their own be turned to joy at the prospect of being parents through adoption.
I know far too many people who have had abortions, and I know their stories. Some were devastated by it, and to some, it was as trivial as getting their teeth cleaned.
All that aside, these stories are not relevant to the pro-choice/pro-life debate. It doesn’t matter if I can empathize. It doesn’t matter if I have experienced an unwanted pregnancy. It doesn’t matter if I have terrible character or stellar character. It doesn’t matter if I’m a man or a woman. And it doesn’t matter what my motives are. We should not evaluate arguments based on anecdotal stories, emotions, or a person’s ability to empathize. We should not attack people when we should be addressing arguments. When I hear these fallacious responses, I always chuckle to myself and think, “Is that the best you’ve got?” And most of the time, I think it is.
The first pro-choice view I’m going to address goes as follows:
“UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should the government have any say in what a woman does with her body.”
I’ve also heard it argued like this:
“The whole abortion debate comes down to, ‘do you own yourself or does someone else own you?’”
Let me start with a little personal history:
My conviction about abortion came when I saw that first ultrasound of my 10-week-old baby in my womb, the unmoving, lifeless form of what could have been. The depth of my grief over my miscarriage surprised me. My feelings about abortion were solidified through three subsequent pregnancies that resulted in my three beautiful children. At any moment during any of those pregnancies, if someone had taken those children from my womb, I would have considered them a murderer. The violation of my body and personal rights in the process would be insignificant in comparison to the fact that my baby would be forever gone.
Just a few months after my last baby was born, my life was forever changed by a cancer diagnosis. The next day, I had to wean my baby girl. I didn’t have a choice. At a time when I desperately wanted to hold my children close, I was forced to push my baby away, to neglect her cries for food and comfort.
I recently heard a pro-choice advocate call a baby in the womb a “uterine tumor.”
I am familiar with tumors. Comparing an unborn baby to a tumor triggered a response in me, and one that is not sympathetic to the pro-choice point of view.
Let’s first define tumor:
A tumor is “an abnormal growth of tissue resulting from uncontrolled, progressive multiplication of cells and serving no physiological function; a neoplasm.”
Regardless of when you think a life becomes human, a fetus is not a tumor. Sadly, that is how many view it: Abnormal. Unwanted. No function. I suppose that the person who holds this pro-choice point of view believes that for something (or someone) to have value, it must also be able to function.
The pro-life camp argues that life begins at conception and therefore, abortion is murder. The pro-life camp naively believes that if they can only prove life begins in the womb, then the pro-choicer will concede that abortion should be illegal.
I propose that these pro-choicers, the ones who think a fetus is a tumor, are so passionate about their right to choose that the “humanness” of the fetus is irrelevant. And even if we could show that that life has value, even if we could show that abortion is morally wrong, it wouldn’t matter. For they believe that the mother’s right to choose what happens to her body is a stronger moral right than any right the fetus might be entitled to. They make no claim as to whether or not the fetus is a human life. It does not matter.
Let me reiterate. These are the people who say, “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should the government have any say in what a woman does with her body.”
This view leads to the inevitable conclusion that a woman can abort her baby all the way up until birth. For that matter, she should be able to walk into her doctor’s office anytime after the fetus becomes viable and demand the doctor induce her or do a c-section (simply as a matter of convenience); even if that includes months in the NICU; even at great risk to the baby. It is her body, and her choice. Right?
I have to confess that when it comes to a woman’s right to choose, I cannot sympathize. I did not have a right to choose the cancer that invaded my body (a pregnant woman does have control over whether or not she gets pregnant). Nor did I have much of a right to choose as they put all those toxic chemicals in my body and my hair fell out and body parts were removed. Sure, you could say I had a choice, but when the alternative is death, it doesn’t really feel like a choice. Going through cancer treatment eliminated my feeling that my body is my own and that I have all these “rights” pertaining to it. I do have rights that should be protected by law, but they are minimal. My voice is laced with sarcasm as I say, “Oh, I’m so sorry your body will be uncomfortable and that your life will be inconvenienced for 9 whole months, and you might even end up with a C-section scar or stretch marks. That must be so difficult for you.” It is really simple: if you can’t handle a pregnancy, don’t have sex. I wish cancer were that simple. I wish I had that much of a choice.
The attitude of entitlement that permeates our culture is the core of many of our social problems. The Constitution does not guarantee us the right to comfort. It does not guarantee us a life free from pain or difficulty. It does not guarantee us the right to avoid the consequences of our actions.
What is the role of the government in telling me what I can and can’t do with my body? I cannot use my body to murder another person. The government cannot force me to have medical treatment. They cannot force me to have immunizations. The government can restrict whom I have sex with (the other person must consent and must be over-age). The government can currently dictate what medical procedures the elderly can or can’t have (ask anyone on Medicare).
The government’s right to tell me what I can and can’t do with my body comes down to this: I cannot use my body to take away or violate someone else’s rights. And in some more controversial cases, I cannot use my body to hurt myself (drugs, suicide, prostitution, wearing seat belts).
Prohibiting abortion does not force someone to undergo a medical procedure. It only prevents a medical procedure that results in the death of another individual entity. They are not forcing the woman to do anything. The woman already made a choice that resulted in pregnancy – a natural, cause and effect process.
My conclusion is that it DOES matter whether or not the fetus is human. The mother’s right to “choose” is not a greater right than the rights of a dependent human life. There are circumstances where the government does have a say in what a woman does with her body.