October 16, 2011

Time moves forward, it never does a 180

Matthew 21:28-32:
"There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

Which of the two did what his father asked?"

"The first," they (the chief priests and the elders) answered.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."

As I watched the video "180", this parable kept repeating itself in my head. The videographer approached his topic with good intent, but that does not make his approach right and it does not make him righteous. The lesson I took away from the video is that American youth have very poor critical thinking skills and they are easily manipulated. To draw a parallel between Hitler's extermination of "undesirables" and the free exercise of an adult woman's choice for her own life is, at best, extreme. These two issues are not the same. They are not even close.

Hitler's grand plan was created by Adolf Eichmann and sold to the public by Joseph Goebbels. No one can say for certain what the true motivation for such a slaughter might have been. Eugenics was certainly a major factor, as well as the wealth and land the government was able to confiscate and sell off in order help pay for the war effort. The ready presence of a mass body of people for scientific experimentation was also an important consideration. None of these reasons justify their actions to us here and now, but to those men in that time and place these reasons and others led them to design a method for the mass slaughter of somewhere around six million men, women, and children. To call the Holocaust "evil" is to deny the very realistic justifications these intelligent, rational people came up with in order to move forward with their plans. We must face the reality of these justifications, recognize them for what they are, and fight to prevent them from ever being used in this way again. Yes, at first blush, almost anyone would wish Adolf Hitler's mother had aborted him during the first trimester and saved us the nightmare of World War Two.

That would have been a terrible and tragic mistake.

If Adolf Hitler had not lived there is no telling what kind of world we would be living in now but I can guarantee you this much: we would still be arguing over abortion!

The horror of World War Two was a massive wake up call for planet Earth. Free trade, the benevolent hegemony of American "imperialism", the G8, the G20, the United Nations, the power of a global market to drive innovation and design, none of that would have been possible if Adolf Hitler and Emperor Hirohito had not tried to divide the world between them. It would be nice if there were some way to rationalize traveling back in time and preventing the birth of Adolf Hitler, or at the very least, his rise to power. The problem is, there is no way to insure his absence would give us a better world.

We'd still be stuck with the League of Nations. The United Kingdom would still have the most powerful navy in the world. Germany and France would be the industrial center of the entire world. China would be controlled by Japan and Japan would be so powerful no one could stand against her. By now, the Emperor of Japan might very well be the Emperor of the World and that, my friends, would be a far uglier, far more oppressive, and far more primitive world than the one we currently live in. Like it or not, everything you see around you, both the good and the bad, is the direct result of Hitler's rise to power. The creation of a super-nation bent on global domination in the heart of the most industrialized economy in the world forced America to abandon her preferred isolationism and rise to the power she is today. We had no choice!

According to the video, in the first thirty-seven years after the Roe v. Wade decision 53,310,843 American babies were aborted. I don't have any way to verify this statistic, so I'm going to assume it is accurate. That means, American abortion doctors have slaughtered nine times the number of human lives the German National Socialist Party destroyed during World War Two. Using the very same logic as those who would prefer to see Hitler aborted, one might wish that Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington had been aborted as well. I'd bet a dollar to your dime the producer of "180" would never suggest those two women were the moral equivalent of Adolf Hitler! And yet, that is the logic of his argument. If abortion is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust, then the two lawyers who carried Roe v. Wade to victory in the Supreme Court are the moral equivalent of Adolf Hitler.

I hate abortion. I really do. I believe it is murder. Unfortunately, there are millions of young women living in industrialized societies who do not agree with me. I do not have the right to tell them to carry their unwanted child to term and then give it up for adoption. I lived with my wife through two more or less trouble-free pregnancies and births. Even so, it was at times an incredible burden on her both physically and emotionally. Once the children were born, the first two years were an enormous economic, physical, and emotional burden on our marriage. We almost did not survive as a couple. If it were not for my wife's greater emotional fortitude and my own sense of morality, we probably would have wound up divorced while the children were still toddlers. The toll was so great that at one point I left and she dragged me back. We talked through it. We negotiated a different apportionment of the burdens, then we moved forward one day at a time until arriving at the here and now.

I agree with the videographer on this point: there is no moral justification for murdering an unborn child. I agree. Given a choice, I will always prefer a pro-life politician to a pro-choice politician. I applaud states like Georgia (see: MSNBC Lies About an Anti-Abortion Bill) where legislators seek for ways to overturn Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, Rep. Bobby Franklin (the author of the Georgia bill) wound up dead before he could get his bill passed. And no, I'll not fuel conspiracy theories by claiming foul play in Rep. Bobby Franklin's demise when the public record calls it a natural death. If someone wants to build a conspiracy around it they'd better have some irrefutable evidence because people in high stress jobs die of heart attacks all the time.

Nonetheless, all of that aside, I am not God. I do not have the right to demand people agree with me. I do have the right to argue against their choices and to exercise every intellectual and rhetorical skill I have to convince them to see things my way, but in the end, the choice is theirs. As long as they keep voting against politicians who favor pro-life legislation, then Roe v. Wade will stand. I don't like it. I argue against it every chance I get. None of that makes abortion in America the moral, social, and cultural equivalent of the Holocaust! To draw such a parallel will only weaken your argument with anyone who has the critical thinking to point out that murdering people on the basis of their religion is not the same as individual women exercising their personal control over the life growing inside them. It is equally tragic, but there is no moral equivalence.

The only way to create a moral equivalence would be to demand they accept the Bible as the only morality worth following, and while this is true for me, they are free to ignore it if they so choose. When we start demanding laws based on religion we are no different than the Taliban, Iran, and any other society where a single religious creed is the sole arbiter of social morality. That road leads straight to a religious version of Hitler's Third Reich and a far more destructive world than the one we live in now.

Biblical collectivism is no different than Marxism or Fascism. The only difference is the foundational justification. Individuals must be free to make their own choices, even when those choices disgust or horrify me. For some people the murder of a child after it is born is a much different issue than the murder of a child before it is born. I don't like it, but I cannot control how they think and I have no right to demand the law use my definition. No, this does not please me. It is, however, the reality of the world we live in. The only way to preserve my religious freedom is to allow them the freedom to disagree.

Now, if they try to force me to demand the abortion of a child I've fathered (such as would happen in China), then we enter into a realm where I do have the right to demand my child be allowed to live. China's "one-child per couple" law can be seen as a moral equivalent to Hitler's Holocaust, but Roe v. Wade is not. If it is not my child, or if I am foolish enough to impregnate a woman who favors abortion, then that changes things yet again. It is always about the rights of the individual and until that child is born, there are some women who will never see the life growing inside her as an individual. The only thing I can do is not impregnant a pro-choice follower while working to convince society to change their cultural assumptions. On that level, 180 succeeds. It is one man's attempt to persuade the greater culture.

Many people will think I am arguing against the intent of the film. I am not. I support the intent. I am arguing against the weak, pitifully easy to dismiss premise that abortion in America is no different than the Holocaust in Germany. Such an argument is historically invalid and critically flawed. We have got to do better than that if we are going to change modern culture. Much better.