by ProfDave, ©2022
(Jun. 7, 2022) — [Editor’s Note: This article reflects its composition just after Mothers’ Day 2022.]
What is going on? At least four mass shootings over this weekend plus Roe v Wade demonstrations last week (May 8, 2022), war in Europe and human smuggling on our southern border. Is someone or something trying to tell us something?
Mothers’ Day 2022 was marked by outraged “Pro-Choice” folks invading churches, picketing judges’ homes, attacking “Pro-Life” organizations and threatening more violence. Can you imagine a more inappropriate time and places? The “choice” – the only choice celebrated – is for mothers to un-mother themselves? Does anyone see the irony, if not the absurdity? The most powerful thing a woman can do is make a new human being. Is this frontal attack on motherhood on Mothers’ Day intentional?
The alleged provocation was a stolen internal draft from the Supreme Court presenting a cogent argument for reversing Roe v Wade. “Alleged” because this has been on the way for decades. We are evenly divided on something important. We have known for several years that the Court would eventually run out of ways to dodge the question, and for months that Pro-Life cases were making their way through the system. We knew that a decision would have to be issued this summer. Everyone knows that the court is leaning in a strict-constructionist direction (why Pro-Lifers voted for Trump in 2016) while the existence of an unconditional “right to abortion” in the Constitution is an inference several states challenge. So why the sudden outrage? Could they not wait a week?
The outrage has two dimensions. First, the criminality of the leak and the siege of the Court – has our democracy become a mob-ocracy? Second is the issue itself and the dark rage around it.
Judges take an oath to judge every case by the law and by the facts presented to them, without fear or favor – not by political correctness, party, color or celebrity. Right? It is illegal to attempt to influence them (or to tamper with witnesses). So why are Progressives, from the President on down, trying to do exactly that? This sort of thing has been growing in our society ever since O.J. Simpson (1995) at least. During the last two years trial after trial has been attended by riot or the threat of riot should the will of “the people” not prevail in the verdict of the court. Does evidence not matter? Is justice determined by public opinion, intimidation and lynch law? If so, why have judges and trials at all? We all know who is guilty – the policeman, right? In this case, the fetus, right?
Democracy in America rested on our common faith in the workings of democratic institutions to resolve conflict reasonably according to commonly accepted principles of justice, truth and ethics. We expected our representatives to represent us, our executives to act in the common good, our judges to judge impartially, and our civil administrators to administer without partisan agendas. Yes, and our news to be impartial and unbiased. Our constitutional republic was supposed to work as intended – well, most of the time.
Over the past decade or decades something has gone wrong. It has become more and more evident that there are some issues and policies that we are no longer willing to allow our civil institutions to handle in a civil and democratic manner. We are unable to accept the verdict of the ballot box, the policeman’s siren, the judge’s gavel or any such thing so long as there is a chance it might go the wrong way. We have to put our thumb on the scales. Or what amounts to the same thing, we suspect the other party of doing so. Thus in 2016 and 2020 perhaps a third of the country believed the election was stolen. Academic CRT, BLM, Antifa, the 1619 Project and many educators believe America has been systemically racist and unjust from 1619 onward. The courts are racist. The whole nation is a mistake.
No regime, no government or constitution can survive unless the population accepts it as legitimate. Significant segments of our educated elite have dedicated themselves to undermining the legitimacy of our democratic institutions. Significant portions of our population are refusing to play by democratic rules. Hatred and distrust are swallowing up truth, justice and community life.
We have a moral problem. There seems to be a jagged canyon through our society over what is right and what is wrong and how it is to be determined. “Don’t you dare impose your morality on me!” But we do. It is called “law” or “regulations,” and where the requirements of the law conflict with conscience, we may have a problem. But what is morality? Simply doing the right thing. Every day we make decisions between right and wrong. How do we determine right and wrong? Conscience. Human beings seem to have moral principles hardwired in our minds. When our nation was founded it was called natural law. Our legal system was based on it. Exactly what is right and wrong for us in different areas of life is given definition by ethical standards derived in turn from our God, our family, our community, and our professions. Usually – but not always – it is wrong to break the law and the law parallels the moral and ethical teachings of the majority.
The moral definitions of the West have been anchored for centuries in the Judeo-Christian worldview. Right and wrong were fixed and traceable to the Almighty. Ethics was an objective science. Mankind was sacred, responsible to God, yet subject to error and wrong choices. Others mattered and altruism was highly valued. What was right was predetermined and embedded in our conscience, social conscience and the law of the land. Yes, morality was imposed in the home, in the school and in the courtroom – always has been.
Today we are experiencing a moral insurrection against objective Judeo-Christian morality. Freedom from religion sweeps away not only God and our responsibility to Him (reflected in judicial oaths, for example) but the Ten Commandments and all the other moral teachings found in religious texts. Is it really wrong to kill, for example, or to commit adultery? Or is it more wrong to hold faith-based ethical positions? Relativism teaches that all moral precepts are subjective and questionable. There is no objective truth. No act is objectively right or wrong – it depends on the situation and upon – well, my definition of right and wrong. Morality is therefore subjective, depending on my truth, my values, my desires. I can justify anything. If God is dead, everything is permissible (Dostoyevsky).
In the moral rebellion, essentially, might makes right. Crime and punishment are determined by the holders of power. Truth is a matter of passion and power. Morality is determined by my choice and by my special interest group, who I may call “the people.” In matters dear to us we are willing to resort to illegality, violence and deception. The law is what we want it to be, the truth is what we want it to be, and the use of force is justified to prove our point. Thus, as a society, we are coming to expect lawlessness, fake news, scams, riots and mass shootings. Do not forget the contribution of the desacralization of human beings — particularly the sacredness of the other human beings — and the elevation of pride in oneself and one’s interest group.
Marxism explicitly teaches that the morality of an act is determined by whether it advances or hinders “the revolution.” The new morality, influenced by social Marxism, tends to follow similar lines. Right and wrong are determined, not by traditional ethical standards but by utility for the cause – whatever it might be. “Truth” and “lies” are determined by our polemic class narratives, not by the facts of the case. And, at the end of the day, might does make right.
When we come to the present day, we can look at the “culture wars” on a deeper level as moral wars. Christians and Jews may be on both sides of the partisan divide, but moral ambivalence and conflict make compromise or resolution impossible. Human conscience, no matter how rationalized or cauterized makes even activists angry and uncomfortable as they flaunt their “liberation.” This is not easy. Is there no right and wrong in sex, gender and family? Is there no community institution safe from attack? Is nothing sacred?
This brings us to the Roe v Wade uproar. What is at stake is not a nation-wide prohibition of abortion, but only the right of states to regulate it according to the morality of their population. It is to be expected that reversal will reduce the net incidence of abortion and make it more inconvenient. Planned Parenthood may lose money. Progressives are already organizing for government and corporate payment of travel expenses and even to permit post-natal abortion. Crisis Pregnancy centers are gearing up to support an increase of women choosing life.
Is abortion right or wrong? The traditional Western answer has been unambiguous. Early Christians persuaded the Roman Empire that infanticide and abortion were wrong. They rescued and raised abandoned babies. At the same time Christianity has been at the forefront of women’s rights. Just compare other traditional cultures. Christian women have also been champions for motherhood and children. The majority of women considering abortion today, however, are not in anything like a good place and often under external compulsion. Most have, inadvertently perhaps, made their “choice” by yielding their bodies to a male who now refuses to support what he has engendered. The primary causes of abortion are recreational sex and male irresponsibility. Is she really free? Planned Parenthood supports only one choice – to end life. Crisis Pregnancy centers offer other choices that support both the woman and the child.
The underlying issue for Pro-Lifers is the implicit dignity and sacredness of the human being – both of them. Is it right to treat a human being as a disposable thing? “Thou shalt not kill” is written on our hearts. Christianity teaches that every human being is of infinite worth, made in the image of God. Can we kill a human being without trial whose only crime is to be? In 1967 it seemed debatable when “life” began and whether a “blob of tissue” was fully human. Since DNA and ultrasound, at least the science is now settled. At conception a new individual man or woman is genetically complete. He/she is in the mother’s body, dependent upon it, but he/she is not of her body. So, from the standpoint of objective science, we must accept abortion as killing a human being.
Enter the moral revolutionaries, who reject this scientific argument and the ethic of unconditional humanity. Instead, the Pro-Choice ethic is the unconditional sovereignty of the woman. A woman must not be forced to carry a child that she does not want. [Goodness knows how many of us alive today were unwanted at some point — several who are very dear to me.] The unwanted fetus, it is claimed, should be considered part of the woman in the same sense as a tumor and it is her inalienable right to dispose of it as she sees fit. It is not a real person unless 1) it is wanted or 2) it reaches a certain stage of development, such as healthy birth. The sovereign choice of the woman must be honored even if the infant is accidentally born alive – perinatal abortion. Indeed, no notice is taken of the decisive role of the father’s choice to support the life he has engendered or insist on its termination. In pagan Rome an infant had to pass the inspection of the father – or be put out with the trash (perinatal abortion again).
There are two lines of progressive thinking, individual autonomy (sovereignty) and the sexual revolution. Both are social ideals rather than scientific realities. First is the human right of a woman to control her own body. No matter what the fetus is (human or tumor or a “potential human”), it is believed to be hers to abort or to keep. Unlike Roman times, it should be the woman’s choice, not the man’s. Is it? If the man refuses to support his partner, or insists upon termination “or else,” what choice does she have? Yet she is supposed to be sovereign?
The second is the outgrowth of the sexual revolution. In the brave new world, sex is supposed to be free of consequences as well as boundaries. No consensual sexual activity may be restrained according to the revolutionary sexual ethic, and pregnancy is an offense against that ethic and the ultimate sex discrimination. Pregnancy breaks the rules of self-fulfillment and interrupts the flow of self-actualization. Any restriction on abortion is, of course, a restriction on the sexual freedom that caused the new life. Abortion is right; carrying a child is usually the wrong choice – except for deplorable “birthing people” – or not a choice at all.
There is a deeper level, a moral level, to this revolution of values. Not all of us are aware of this. Pro-life arguments rest primarily on unconditional human dignity and value – a bed-rock Judeo-Christian value. Beginning with Roe v Wade (though it was a states’ issue before that and may be again) and the sexual revolution, the sense of this value has eroded. Many of us, at least in day-to-day life, no longer feel any responsibility to God, to the past, or to the future. We tend to see ourselves, not God, as sovereign and to live for today. On the one hand stands “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” and on the other “To thine own self be true.” The latter is winning.
Responsible only to ourselves, human dignity is a relative thing. Humanity itself is dependent on self-actualization. Thus, my cousin can speak of “personal sovereignty” and “potential human beings.” Seen through that grid, children in the womb – little hitchhikers – are parasites at least until they can say “Mommy.” Parenthood interferes with parents’ plans and personal growth. The cost is high and the gratification delayed. Human beings gain their value from being useful and lose value by being dependent. The fetus, allegedly, has not begun conscious self-actualization and is the ultimate in dependency and uselessness. Consciences are muted regarding those who are unlike us, too young or too old to relate to, political enemies, or otherwise handicapped and disqualified.
There are disturbing implications of the erosion of human dignity. While racial, class and economic justice are themes of moral rhetoric, “other people” are rated on the basis of their group membership. Are some groups (races, parties, classes) less human than others? We love our own posse but feel perfectly justified in hating our “oppressors.” Identity politics, arguably, creates more issues than it solves. We saw this in the waves of riots since the summer of 2020. If the humanity of a fetus is only potential or relative, what about our demented grandma? Can we become formerly human? Am I still human if I can no longer contribute to society? Under this theory assisted suicide and euthanasia are becoming quite the rage.
Deeper yet is the question of sovereignty. “I am a rock, I am an island.” Really? The revolution part of the moral revolution is about who is in charge. Am I in charge of the moon and the stars? Am I sovereign over good and evil, real and not real, even my own existence? Am I responsible to anyone beside myself? Is it really “my body?” What about my family – the parents that gave me my body, those who care about me, the fruit of my body yet unborn? What about my community – do I owe nothing to them? My friends? My country – that gave me such opportunities, freedom and security as I have? Am I a self-made asteroid lost in deep space? Am I responsible to no one, not even reality? Not even God?
The new moral individualism seeks to be free from responsibility to others and even to God. Aye, there’s the rub! Ultimately the revolution is against the Creator, the Higher Power, that made us and reality as it actually is – yes, and in some cases we rebel against reality itself. Truth is what the revolutionary faction believes it to be. Reason and logic are partisan arguments of dead white men. Reality is what revolutionaries will it to be – a fetus can be human or medical waste, girls can be boys and men can get pregnant. Evil can be good and good can be evil. There is no right way to live, to do relationships, to build a family or anything else. After all, having denied the sovereignty of the Creator, there is no compulsion to recognize the rule of nature or the structure of natural law. Does the world actually work like that?
On the moral level, we do have one sovereign choice: to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the ultimate Sovereign. We can accept or reject the built-in moral grid of conscience we have been given and the world as it really is. But we cannot determine the consequences. “Choose ye this day whom you will serve:” yourself, the imaginary gods of your own understanding (sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, power, money) or the Almighty-I-AM? Remember, saying ‘yes’ is just as free as saying ‘no.’ If we say ‘yes’ to the Sovereign above and beyond our own selves, there is a horizon and a north pole. Reason can govern our passions. We can care for the humanity of others. We can live in a real world where there is true truth and a right way, life has hope and things make sense. Sanity is possible.
The madness of Mothers’ Day 2022 – and whenever the decision falls – is not merely about the rights of the woman versus the rights of her child, but of nature versus will, of the Judeo-Christian conception of humanity versus expressive individualism. Underneath that are questions of morality: what is right and wrong and how it should be determined. Finally, who is sovereign over reality: me or the Almighty? Then we have to determine whether the question is to be resolved by law or by mob.
With all the levels of conflict which are involved here, it will take the wisdom of Solomon for the Supreme Court and the nation to get out of this episode intact. After sixty years it is hardly imaginable that the abortion controversy will go away. The ultimate goal of the Pro-Life movement is not to make abortion illegal, but unthinkable. There is some evidence that they are gaining. Their commitment rests on faith and conscience. The passion among Pro-Choice advocates is based on existential rebellion against the restraint of sexual urges by nature and nature’s God. Apparently, these passions are exaggerated without limit of law or reason. Roe v Wade has been a key legal weapon. Without it, will they use reason or insurrection? There seems to be no middle ground. Delegating the issue to the states just spreads it to 50 jurisdictions and has already launched a competition in extremism that is even more divisive. Fasten your seatbelts!
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.