Friday, March 7, 2008

Social Justice is So Hot Right Now

“I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”
- Barack Obama

Last time I checked, the nebulous principle to which Obama refers, the one he is striving to identify abortion in violation of? How about the right to life? I know, I know, it's a tricky moral issue best left to the careful contemplation of the individual, but you see, when individual autonomy is threatened by, oh I don't know, untimely death, those of us who live must raise our voices.

Yes, even when our "opinions" violate the "rights" of others; even when our "religious convictions" muddy our politics. Because you see, some issues, no matter how unsavory, cannot simply be relegated to the realm of personal belief. By denying the dignity of the weakest members of society, how can we expect to achieve any moral greatness?

How do we generate compassion for strangers dying in deserts a half a world away in a populace that is accustomed to destroying life in its own midst at the slightest hint of inconvenience? We hear a lot of rhetoric about the war in Iraq, about how the truly pro life voter must consider the ramifications of being a dreaded single issue voter and please, for the love of God you simpletons, won't you consider the ramifications of a vote for a candidate who would continue the bloodshed in the Middle East?

Good point. But what about that old adage that charity begins at home, a reality that history has proven time and again? We beg Americans to have mercy, to think of those who suffer at a dreadful cost for our convenience, but we turn away from those in our midst who would inconvenience us by their existence. Abortion is the ultimate entitlement issue, you see, in a world where "individual rights" reign supreme. Yes, by all means, buy that hybrid car and help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Please, attend that fundraiser in support of war orphans.

And consider not turning a blind eye to the terrorism and the social injustice that is being committed every day in our own land. Consider the fact that one in four of our own brethren will not survive until birth. Consider the eugenic arrogance of assigning value to the life of another human person, based on arbitrary circumstances and events beyond that person's control. Sounds familiar, huh?

Our present capacity for genuine compassion for the human person is retarded by the pervasive spirit of utilitarianism that colors every aspect of modern life. So reluctant are we to tread on the toes of someone else's personal opinion, so reluctant to make a value judgement, we've lost all ability to assign real value or to make sound judgements.

So by all means, keep your beliefs to yourself. Sip your latte, read your morning paper, and sigh heavily over the sterilized reports of violence and destruction filtered to us from across the globe. But by all means, keep your religious convictions out of politics. Stand by in silence while those who are deemed "inconvenient" are exterminated for the greater good. This has worked out nicely for us, as a species, in the past...

16 comments:

  1. When one makes the claim that 'I personally would not chose an abortion, but...', they are simply couching their pro-choice stand. If they still regard themselves as 'opposed' to abortion (for themselves only), they delude themselves.

    The issue of religious convictions countering secular notions is ludicrous. For the person of Faith, (actually, even the person of no faith) one's convictions must always be on display, otherwise how do we know what convictions are in play.

    Finally, regarding your 'heirarchy' of Pro-Life issues, I do agree. Yet, it must be said that the Pro-Life community often couches itself when it comes to matters of war, capital punishment, torture, fraternal care for those in need, etc. Thus we move forward with one foot on the gas and another on the brake, with someone still punching holes in the gas tank.

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  2. IMO, this comes in under the whole idea of human rights. Almost nobody denies that human beings have a right to life individually and collectively (liberty and whatever is I guess more debated). The problem is: who is human?

    The idea of viability strikes me as totally absurd, because a) what is viable changes thanks to progress in medicine, and b) "fetuses" are capable of independent actions in the womb long before they are viable.

    There is just no way that we as non-omniscient people can say with 100% surety when an unborn child comes over the line from cellular blob to "human". The only way to be 100% SAFE (religion aside) is to bite the bullet: conception is the beginning of life, its genetic inheritance is human, therefore it is "covered" by human rights.

    Personally, I am opposed to capital punishment as well, for the same reason.

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  3. http://irishanddangerous.blogspot.com/2008/03/obama-is-antichrist.html

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  4. The core problem with Obama's "logic" is that he thinks there is no such thing as objective truth. Rather, we should choose whatever benefits the most people, ie- utilitarianism. So we are suppossed to think, "I have my opinions about sports, politics, and "religion." Some of my ideas concern fun, some about government and law, and some about God and the afterlife. But I should never try to push my opinions on another person." I would love to hear someone say, "Well personally I am for abortion, but politically I am oppossed." Why would you never hear that? Because it draws out how idiotic this line of logic really is. You are essentially saying, "Abortion is objectively wrong and I would vote to limit it. But personally, I think abortion is acceptable." Why is it any less insane to hear Obama's use of this logic?

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  5. hee hee... I think I'm gonna like it here!

    Blessings... *Linda*

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  6. "The core problem with Obama's "logic" is that he thinks there is no such thing as objective truth."

    I don't know about that. Obama seems to think it an objective truth that women should have the right to choose abortion. He believes in other rights having an objective reality.

    As for Obama's statement quoted in the post, I think he's right (while being wrong). We should outlaw abortion, but not for simply religious reasons. Legal protections of the unborn should be founded on principles of reason. Legislating based on exclusive matters of faith will ultimately destroy religious freedom.

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  7. Using the hoax of 'religious reasoning being foisted upon unbelievers' as a pretense to support abortion rights is a canard. Which is what Obama is alleging in the quote that opened this post.

    Obviously, it's meant to throw people off the track as he asserts no other 'reason' to defend innocent human life.

    No where in the ProLifers demand for protection of innocent human life is there a call to take on any religious articles of faith. None whatsoever. No demand for a worship of God, etc. Rather there is a call to respect human life in all its stages. There is no necessity to be a 'Diest' to have this conviction.

    On the other hand, the essential conviction that one must maintain in order to proclaim a pro-choice system is the belief that one life is more important or valuable than another.

    Kyle: I disagree that Obama finds 'objective truth' in abortion rights as you assert. If anything he exalts a 'fiat consensus'. Which by the way is very modern and was not a 'truth' or 'right' that was even dreamed of or claimed even a few short centuries ago.

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  8. Tausign,

    To clarify: when I say that Obama holds abortion rights as having an objective reality, I mean that very broadly. The language of rights, in which the “right to choose” language is based, was largely a development of the Enlightenment to conceive of an objective moral language after the moral thought of the “dark ages” had been dismissed—or so I’ve read. The Church has adopted, and one might say baptized, the language of rights. Now what the Church means by rights and what Obama means by rights may be very different indeed. Obama may not see the “right to choose” as a particular of the Natural Law or of a personalist conception of human dignity. His standard may not be timeless moral principles. It may not be objective in that sense, but he seems pretty adamant that women have the right to abortion. He’ll see no moves against it, even if he has to work against laws protecting babies who have survived abortions.

    Maybe a good question for Obama would be, “If you were the only person under the sun to believe in a woman’s right to choose an abortion, would you maintain your position?” Or another: “Can you conceive any circumstance in which women would cease to have abortion rights?”

    You may well be right that Obama is being manipulative. That said, while the pro-life cause is not dependent on any religious principle (an atheist can oppose abortion), there are many arguments made in the public sphere against abortion that do depend on certain religious ideas. Human Life International, for instance, says its mission is “to promote and defend the sanctity of life and family around the world according to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church through prayer, service and education.” That, at the very least, sounds like an appeal to religious teaching.

    I welcome religious ideas to the public sphere, but I don’t think the coercive arm of the government should be used to enforce religious beliefs or laws dependent upon strictly religious principles.

    Obama has opened the door to hearing secular arguments against abortion; he should have to answer them.

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  9. Kyle said..."I welcome religious ideas to the public sphere, but I don’t think the coercive arm of the government should be used to enforce religious beliefs or laws dependent upon strictly religious principles."

    Fine, neither do I, but where is this happening in America today? If a secular law or principle coincides with a religious tenet does that make it untenable for non-believers? Thou shalt not murder, steal, bear false witness; are these rendered out of bounds from secular law because they are part of the Ten Commandments?

    The issue of 'Church government' was settled at the time of the American Revolution, when many of the original colonies were defacto Church States...ie Connecticut was governed by Congregationalist beliefs.

    Give me an example of where a faith demand is required of the general population? Is mass attendance required for nonbelievers? At most what could be alleged is a protection of freedom of religion or respect for religious tolerance enacted in law...or a consensus to give tax shelter to Church property or the like.

    We back off far too fast from demonstrating our convictions (let alone asserting them). Even if the ProLife movement finds it's strength in religious conviction and the greater percentage of it's adherents are practicioners of religion...so what? As long as the the religious adherents are not demanding religious faith with its practice or obligations of others (an impossible request), then they have a perfect right to participate fully in the public square.

    I guess it boils down to this. To see human life as HUMAN, and to RESPECT it, really doesn't require an article of faith.

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  10. Tausign wrote:

    "If a secular law or principle coincides with a religious tenet does that make it untenable for non-believers? Thou shalt not murder, steal, bear false witness; are these rendered out of bounds from secular law because they are part of the Ten Commandments?"

    Not at all. Each of these can be argued for based solely on reason. That they also have a legal source in Divine Revelation in no way rules them out of bounds.

    "Give me an example of where a faith demand is required of the general population?"

    Thankfully, I have none to give you--yet! When former candidate for president, Mike Huckabee, says "what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards," that strikes me as a possible attempt to root constitutional law in Huckabee's interpretation of God's standards. Now, if what Huckabee means by "God's standards" is simply the moral law accessible by reason, then fine, but is that what he means? What I see as an objective of groups like the Christian Reconstructionists and others is to make biblical law the basis of civil law. I would like to think these groups don't have much power, but I'm not so sure.

    "We back off far too fast from demonstrating our convictions (let alone asserting them). Even if the ProLife movement finds it's strength in religious conviction and the greater percentage of it's adherents are practicioners of religion...so what? As long as the the religious adherents are not demanding religious faith with its practice or obligations of others (an impossible request), then they have a perfect right to participate fully in the public square. I guess it boils down to this. To see human life as HUMAN, and to RESPECT it, really doesn't require an article of faith."

    I agree. I think we're on the same page here, Tausign.

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  11. Tausign and Kyle, you both make excellent points, and you've elevated the discussion 'round these parts in the area of philosophical depth.

    I think it's worth mentioning that asking a Christian to refrain from evangelization is essentially akin to refusing a Muslim the opportunity to engage in daily prayers. There is a unique element intrinsic to Christianity that necessitates proclamation of the Kingdom, (not to be confused with door to door evangelization!)

    To label oneself "privately" or "personally" religious, if the professed religion is Christianity, is an oxymoron.

    Profession of faith is necessarily a very public thing; only a relativist can justify such a schizophrenic division of morality. Whether or not the world knows why Christians believe what they do, it is vitally important that we maintain consistency in our public and private lives.

    St. Francis said it best: "Preach the gospel at all times -- If necessary, use words."

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  12. "To label oneself "privately" or "personally" religious, if the professed religion is Christianity, is an oxymoron."

    True. And Christians ought to proclaim the Gospel, publicly and passionately. We are persons, after all, communal creatures, made to respond as a community to a God who reveals. I don't think religion ought to be relegated to the "private" sphere.

    My chief concern in all this discussion is to highlight the reality that the freedom Christians need to live and to share their faith depends (at least in the USA) upon their having religious freedom, and that religious freedom evaporates if the State is used to enforce adherence to precepts of principles of an exclusively religious nature.

    The State should protect the freedom to evangelize; it shouldn't be used an instrument of evangelization. Right now we have religious freedom, but that can disappear if we are not careful.

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  13. Kyle we are on the same page regarding our concern for the unborn.

    But you seem to fear a loss of relgious or other freedom because of overzealous Christians who are anxious to convert secular institutions into relgious ones.

    I have to say that I really don't share that concern. My fear is just the opposite: that we will lose our religious freedom, or be subject to persecution, or perhaps even maginalized to a point where our convictions and priorities don't count. In fact I think we have been emerging from such a period of marginalization only in the last few decades.

    Can things go overboard? Sure. But it's not a concern for me here and now. I am much more concerned about government involvement in areas that are eroding our families.

    I have watched over my lifetime the state of the family become emascualated in every conceivable way. The price our nation had paid already has been ghastly...not only in numbers of abortions...but in tens of millions of altered lives to brokenness, poverty, drug addiction, alienation, imprisonment. All of this due to a near total unravelling of our nation's moral fiber.

    So if some candidate wants to talk about rebuilding our moral state of affairs and putting 'God back into our lives'...I'm not running away...I'm saying 'How can I help you'.

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  14. I’m all for talk about rebuilding our moral state of affairs and putting God back into our lives. Has our nation’s moral fiber unraveled? Sure. Our country dearly needs a renewed spirit of religiosity!

    It is because of the extent to which our society has embraced a culture of death, alienation, and despair that I am perhaps overly cautious about religion’s return as a powerful force in our society. What I don’t want to see, but what I fear is possible, is an excessive swing of the pendulum away from irreligious moral bankruptcy to excessive religious fundamentalism, particularly a fundamentalism coupled with a figurative dagger to our throats.

    Are my fears baseless? Believe me, I hope they are. Yet I look at our society and I see that, despite the best efforts of our founding fathers to prevent future tyrannies, we have over the life of this nation centralized, consolidated, and expanded the power of the State. We live in a relatively free society, but it’s one in which nine men, in one court decision, can rule the fate of millions by stripping certain people of any legal protection; and seemingly the only way to reinstate such legal protections is first to change the figures who sit on the court—after they retire! How in a democratic republic did nine men acquire such power and impunity? What check and balance is there upon them?

    I suppose I’d be less concerned about these matters if our government were much less powerful, or if we actually had a systems of checks and balances.

    Could America go the other route by becoming more atheistic? Could religious people here find themselves, as you say, losing our religious freedom, or being subject to persecution, or perhaps even being marginalized to a point where their convictions and priorities don't count? I think that’s possible as well. I hear that’s what is happening in Europe. It may even be more likely than what I have expressed concern over. Time will tell.

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  15. Time will tell...your perspective is well noted, and truth be told, I do sense it's chill...I will keep a vigilent eye. I suspect that we are somehow reflecting our own surroundings...yours in Texas...and mine in Connecticut.

    Yes the centralization of power is very scary...I yearn for a fuller embrace of subsidiarity. Peace and all good.

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  16. Enjoyed the discussion, Tausign and Jenny. Peace and have a blessed Holy Week!

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