How an argument for abortion becomes an argument for racism

If you haven’t yet seen James Franco’s Philosophy Time video with Princeton Professor Elizabeth Harman, you need to watch it purely for the sake of watching Franco’s facial expressions. Check it out:

It’s pretty clear that Franco sees right through this ridiculous argument as well as any sane person would. But he politely allows her to clarify, which only solidifies that she is terrible at philosophy and at constructing a coherent argument.

Funny as this is, there’s something really distressing about it at the same time. This woman is a philosophy Professor at Princeton, she has college students on a weekly basis sitting in front of her and listening to what she says and believing what she says because she teaches at a prestigious school! These students will go out into the world armed with the belief that what they have been taught is true and right because they went to such a school! And what she is teaching, apparently, is a moral philosophy that will arm them to commit any number of horrific atrocities against their fellow humans. Ms. Harman’s argument is exactly the kind of argument that would allow the worst Neo-Nazi white supremacist to justify his actions – or the most callous abortionist to sleep at night.

Ms. Harman begins her argument with the claim that a fetus doesn’t have a moral standing because it doesn’t yet have experiences. Now, this is a very shaky argument, but it’s actually a better argument than where she ends up. It’s shaky because it doesn’t rest on anything quantifiable. What does it mean to “have experiences?” Does nerve sensation count? If so, you’ve eliminated the abortion option by the time you know you’re pregnant. But she doesn’t even defend this position. When Franco presses her on it, she ends up somewhere even more bizarre.

Here’s her final position, in a nutshell:

If someone else (in this case, the mother) chooses to give you moral standing, then you have moral standing. If that person had not chosen to give you moral standing, then you do not have it.

Okay, so let’s play that out for a moment…

Moral standing is not intrinsic, it is granted by someone else.

The “someone else” who determines my moral standing is whoever has most direct control or power over me (in the case of a fetus, the mother and/or doctor – hence the oft said, “It is a choice between a woman and her doctor”).

If I gain power or control over someone else, then I get to determine their moral standing.

If I don’t like a certain kind of person, I just need to control them.

Once I control them, I can do as I please to them.

With such a philosophy, a Neo-Nazi white supremacist can tell himself that the only thing he needs to do is be more powerful than the Black, or Hispanic, or Jew, and he’s justified. And if anyone tells him otherwise, he can simply point back to the same philosophical points Ms. Harman just used to defend the moral right of abortion. And while any of us would like to say, “No, that’s just not how it works!” the fact is that Ms. Harman is allowed to publicly present this kind of philosophy and still maintain her position at Princeton. And people are going out into the world armed with her philosophy.

See, here’s the thing – it doesn’t matter how many times you try to brush off or poo-pooh this assertion, the fact remains that every argument for abortion is an argument for racism, because every argument for abortion pits the value of one human life over against another. Just like racism.

I hate racism. And I hate abortion. More importantly, God hates racism, and God hates abortion, and for exactly the same reasons: they devalue a life he has created.

Now, I bring racism into this discussion because we just saw last weekend the ugliness of it on display in our country. Yet, the dust hadn’t even started to settle on that issue when news broke about Iceland’s national pride in their elimination of down syndrome eugenics program, and yet we didn’t see a broad sweeping condemnation and cry for action. It is literally the same thing! The white supremacists are calling for the elimination of people they don’t desire, and the abortionists are calling for the elimination of people they don’t desire!

You can’t hold defense of abortion in one hand and opposition to racism in the other. Racism and abortion both spring from the same soil, which is the philosophy of selfishness that says “My life is worth more than another’s.” Until we as a society are willing to dig away that poisoned soil, we will continue to see both rising up.

Racism, Outrage, and the Church’s mission

What happened this weekend in Charlottesville, VA was a shameful, grotesque, damnable display of racial bigotry. There’s no excuse for behavior that proclaims one race to be better than another, that parades under flags representing racial hatred and murder. This behavior is sinful, and anyone persisting in such sin will earn the consequences of unrepentant sin – condemnation.

It feels odd to have to make such strong statements. Not because they aren’t true – they certainly are. But odd because, until recently, I thought it was a given. I thought that saying, “I love Jesus and live to proclaim his Gospel,” would be enough for anyone to assume, “Yep, he’s not a racist.” The Gospel, as a package deal, carries some pretty anti-racism concepts, such as:

  • ALL people, regardless of race, are a part of God’s special creation called “humankind”
  • ALL people, regardless of race, are under the curse of sin, inherited from the first two humans
  • ALL people, regardless of race, are so loved by God that he sent his Son to be the sacrifice for sins
  • ALL people, regardless of race, are treasured by Jesus, who gave everything so we could have everything
  • ALL people, regardless of race, are desired by Jesus to be part of his kingdom and to give him glory

Whether or not you believe in Jesus, the Bible, or trust what the Gospel has to say, at the very least please understand that these are the truths that Christians express when they say, “I love Jesus and I live to proclaim the Gospel.” To any genuine disciple of Christ, the notion that we have to explain why we’re not racist feels like a redundancy. It’s like an AARP member having to state that he likes saving money – it’s just a given!

Then a bunch of guys go marching under Nazi flags and call for racial segregation, while claiming to be Christian. Then we’re told that we cannot claim to be Christian and not denounce them immediately, otherwise we are giving approval and are, in fact, racists ourselves. It’s confusing. You’re sure that the eternal truths you hold to have not changed, yet because of the actions and opinions of a relative minority you have gone from “Disciple of Jesus” to “Closet racist” overnight.

Identity drives purpose

Does that matter? If my black neighbor faces injustice daily because of his skin color, do I really have a right to complain about how people see me?

No, I don’t. However, my reaction to this discomfort does matter, and that reaction is going to be driven by how I see myself. Identity drives purpose, and if I accept the identity of “closet racist” then my behavior will be different than if my identity is “disciple of Jesus.”

This is important.

Yesterday someone sent me this article: How to Tell If You Go to a White Supremacist Church. Here is his basic proposition:

“If your church does not spend a significant amount of time this weekend denouncing, condemning, and speaking out against the actions of the white supremacists gathering in Charlottesville, VA in the strongest possible terms, your church is racist as hell.”

In my church this past weekend, I watched a baby receive the miraculous gift of Baptism, where God pours his Holy Spirit on a child, claims that child as his own, and puts saving faith in the baby’s heart. There was an affirmation of Baptism for two twins who were born early and baptized in the hospital. We confessed our sins and heard the absolute forgiveness of our God. We heard a sermon about the importance of contentment. Having recently accepted a position on this church’s ministry staff, I was received by the congregation, along with my wife and two others who are also serving on staff positions. The congregation prayed for us and encouraged us to faithfully serve them with the Gospel. Throughout the service, the grace of God was emphasized as we gathered around his Word. (Aside, my friend had a pretty good response to this article as well. Read it here. Also, I stole his post picture.)

Now, if I accept the identity of “closet racist” and accept the assertion that my church is “racist as hell,” then my reaction by necessity is to make some major changes. Either I need to find a new church (the advice of the article), or launch a major campaign to fundamentally change the heart and spirit of my congregation. But what would that do? The Gospel is, in and of itself, anti-racism, so why would changing the focus from the Gospel to social action be the solution? It’s like changing a cancer patient’s treatment from chemotherapy to pain relievers in the hopes that feeling better will make him better.

If I see my identity as “disciple of Jesus,” then I want to dig deeper into the Gospel. I gain a better understanding of the great love Jesus has for me, and this translates to a deeper love for others. When I see hatred, bigotry, racism, etc., I am motivated toward action.

How does that action look? That’s up to individual Christians to by led by the Spirit to bear fruit in keeping with their gifts. Some Christians might take to social media to take up campaigns to raise awareness. Some Christians might hit the ground and be involved in their own demonstrations. Some Christians might choose to attend prayer vigils in solidarity. Some Christians might choose to work one on one, helping the disenfranchised and meeting their needs.

Some Christians might find other causes to champion. That’s another side to all of this, and please forgive this very related tangent. I’ve seen many of my Christian friends stating in no uncertain terms that if you are not outraged and outspoken about the racism on display this past weekend, then you are endorsing it. That if you don’t speak up, then you are no better than the racists themselves.

Selective outrage

What about abortion? What about the sex slavery that underlies pornography? What about the hundreds of drug related deaths per day in our country? Why aren’t we outraged about those things? Why aren’t we speaking out about those daily? Are we endorsing abortion, pornography, and drug abuse? Are we no better than the abortionists, sex slavers, and drug lords?

I’m not saying we are. But I am saying that we are being somewhat selective in our outrage here. Talking with a friend of mine today, he put it this way:

“We as Christians are often selectively outraged, and our outrage isn’t God’s outrage. God gets angry. He is furious. And while injustice outrages us, it’s only certain injustices… oddly enough, often the same ones our culture tells us to get upset about.”

One of the focal points of the January Women’s March was the right not only to have an abortion, but the demand that it be provided as a free service across the country. In other words, women were taking to the streets to say, “I don’t just want to be able to kill my child, I want my country to kill my child for me!” Which is worse? To call for segregation of races, or to call for a national program of selective murder? Why are Christians racist if they don’t openly condemn white supremacy, but anti-woman if they do openly condemn abortion?

The problem is the same in both cases, because both are a symptom of our common disease of sin. The solution is the same – the Gospel, which reveals all the wickedness in all of us and offers the same absolute forgiveness for all of it. We need Jesus. And the Christian who uses the Gospel to fight racism is no better or worse than the Christian who uses it to fight abortion, or porn, or drugs, or any other societal problem.

The Church’s Mission

But it must begin with the Gospel. This is the Church’s mission. Not to make a utopia on earth, but to win souls for heaven. Not to make people nice and better, but to give people eternal hope and an eternal future.

Another thing the Gospel is set against is legalism. Legalism is when we declare that, to be a Christian, one must adhere to a certain set of rules or regulations. For instance, it would be legalistic for me to say that in order to be a Christian, you must give up alcohol (something I’d never say anyway, because frankly, I like beer). It would be legalistic for me to say that in order to be a Christian, you must attend worship a certain number of times per month. It would be legalistic for me to say that in order to be a Christian you must make certain statements about racism, bigotry, and injustice.

Certainly, I would encourage you to denounce such things, just like I’d encourage you to attend worship. But to call your faith into doubt because you didn’t take to social media in the most outraged way, or to claim you harbor sinful racism in your heart because you didn’t speak up enough, would be to go against the Gospel. So, Christians… stop doing this. Stop laying burdens on the hearts of your fellow believers.

The same Gospel that has cleansed you of your sins has cleansed your brothers and sisters. Celebrate that. Cherish that. Come together under that Gospel. And yes, go take action where action is needed. Encourage one another to be the disciples of Jesus that you are and fight for change.

Then come together again… and again… and again as a Church to hear the Gospel that motivates your action. Not to hear rousing speeches about how to fight injustice, but to carry out the mission of the Church. To make disciples of all nations. To carry his love to all people of every race.

How Do I Talk to My Child About Abortion?

“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Jeremiah 31:15

But is there weeping here in America?

A few heartbreaking statistics:

I say heartbreaking rather than shocking, because you’ve seen these statistic before. I have too. So often that it might be easy to just see numbers and forget what they really mean.

Let’s make it simple: 3,000 times a day a baby is killed, and at least 2,500 of them sacrificed on the altar of “don’t make my life more challenging.”

Abortion is again forefront on our national conscience. Planned Parenthood has been exposed by (as of now) eight videos, which implicate that not only are they America’s top abortion provider, but are also selling human fetal tissue for profit – a federal crime. The callous demeanor of the people in these videos just highlights how far we’ve strayed into the mire.

All the publicity and conversation generated by this has inspired some interesting conversations around my dinner table, and maybe around yours too. For parents of young children, it raises the question – How do I talk to my kids about this issue? How young is too young to explain it to them?

The problem we parents face is that we can never keep our kids insulated from the evils of the world. If they don’t hear about it from us, someday they’ll hear it elsewhere: A friend at school, a news program, a conversation you didn’t know they were overhearing. It is their nature to hear far more than we expect. If we can’t keep them from it, then we need to be proactive in teaching them about it.

When we approach a sensitive subject with our kids, it’s good to do so with lots of prayer. Ask the Lord to give you the words, and the grace to handle the questions appropriately. Remember that God has given your children to you; while that may seem like an awesome responsibility, it also means he isn’t going to leave you out to dry. God will equip you. At the same time, he wants us to be wise in our approach.

My wife and I have talked about this issue with our kids more than a few times, and young as they are, we think they get it. In fact, A. consistently declares that he is going to be president someday so that he can make abortion illegal. (Good goal, kiddo.) I feel pretty confident in approaching this, so here’s my suggestion for a simple way to explain the issue to your kids:

“Every child is a blessing from God. Sometimes people don’t know that, or sometimes they just don’t want to listen to God. They try to say that a baby in a mommy’s tummy isn’t really a baby. They have a doctor take the baby out before it’s time, and the baby dies. It’s very wrong, and very sad. But Jesus wants them to know that he loves them, even when they do this. He forgives them, and he wants us to let them know that he loves and forgives them. He also wants us to let everyone know that babies are a blessing.”

1. Every child is a blessing from God. Our culture has become so murky with the notion that the value of life is determined by its quality, or by how it came to be. Let’s give our kids the worldview that all life is precious, no matter the circumstances surrounding it.

2. Sometimes people don’t know that, or sometimes they just don’t want to listen to God. We want to teach our children how to see this with compassion. We also want them to recognize that people don’t see the world the same way we do. Sinful ignorance and sinful rebellion may be different attitudes, but they amount to the same thing – a failure to see the truth. This also helps our children understand why someone would do something we would consider horrible. “They just don’t know.”

3. They try to say that a baby in a mommy’s tummy isn’t really a baby. Let’s put our kids on guard against the sterilization of terms that we see all around us. “They use words like fetus and embryo and tissue to avoid saying what it is… a baby.” But once again, we want to build compassion in our children. The woman who has been convinced to have an abortion has been convinced to believe that it’s not a baby.

4. They have a doctor take it out before it’s time, and then the baby dies. This is, perhaps, the hardest part. How much do I tell my child about what is actually happening? Do I give details? Is there some way to sugar coat it?

I believe we need to be honest and straightforward with our children about what is happening. We’re often afraid they’ll be emotionally scarred by hearing what to us sounds gruesome. Remember that your child probably has no frame of reference. Unless they’ve witnessed childbirth and/or death, they probably will have a distorted (and possibly somewhat silly) mental image with all of this. And that’s okay. It means they won’t be traumatized by knowing what is happening, and in time they will get a clearer picture. Don’t hedge on the reality of what abortion is; your child is trusting you to give them an honest view of the world.

That doesn’t mean we need to go into gory details. Depending on the age of your child, you can keep it as simple as they are ready to handle. I think my phrasing here is good for kids as young as 2-4 years old. For older ones, maybe you need to explain a little more. However, it’s better to err on the side of simple, straight, and honest.

5. It’s very wrong, and very sad. We also want to be honest with our kids about the moral and emotional implications. No matter what you’ve heard, read, or been told, here’s the simple truth: Abortion is murder, and murder is wrong, and it always leaves scars. A woman doesn’t have an abortion and come out better the other side.

6. But Jesus wants them to know that he loves them, even when they do this. He forgives them. The worst reaction a Christian can have to abortion (other than accepting it) is to shout words of condemnation and loathing at those who have gone through it. Do you need to call it sin? Yes. Will you ever change a heart by telling a young woman how disgusted God is with her? No. Let’s make sure our kids grow up knowing that Jesus loves all sinners, and forgives all sinners. No matter what they’ve done. This is the most important message we can give our children.

7. He wants us to let them know that he loves and forgives them. Our job is not to change people’s actions so that they become more moral. Our job is to introduce them to Jesus. So when we confront the problem of abortion, the primary goal is to speak grace. That’s even more important than stopping abortion from happening, though stopping it is a good goal. You can earnestly reach out with the Gospel and also work to forbid abortion. But those who focus entirely on stopping it lose sight of the greater goal. So, keep the horse in front of the cart, and then you get both cart and horse where you want to go.

8. He also wants us to let everyone know that babies are a blessing. Don’t underestimate how much your child will want to help make a change. They can be a part of this. Donate time to a pregnancy center or march for life somewhere, or pray about this before going to bed at night. Those things honor God and are part of the mission. The pro-life movement has its place in this battle, and our little ones can be a part of that.

In the end, you know your child best, and you are the best person to tell him or her about abortion and what we can do about it. Be the voice of truth in your child’s life, and help them grow up to say what God says about this. Have you found some good strategies for helping your child understand this sensitive issue? Please use the comments section to share!

I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” – Jeremiah 31:34

What the Birth Control Debate is really about

The other day I received a letter from the benefit plans office that handles my health care. They wanted me to be informed about how the Affordable Care Act would and would not impact my health care plan, especially in regards to the issues surrounding mandatory birth control coverage and so on. My reaction as I read through the letter went from bland curiosity to mild concern to outright frustration.

The letter explained that while the ACA requires that all employers make birth control – including abortion-causing methods such as IUDs, the “morning after pill” and so on – available to all female employees, because we are a religious organization we are exempt from that “mandate.” (For clarification, my health care is handled through my church, which participates in a group health care plan for church workers). However, it went on to explain that because the ACA still requires these options to be available, our health care plan does include those options, but that portion is subsidized by the federal government.

So, we object to these abortion-causing birth control methods and neither want them available nor want our money to go to them, and the federal government responds by saying, “We will make them available, and you will just pay for them out of your taxes instead.”

In other words, they don’t get it. The problem isn’t whether or not the money comes directly out of our pockets. The problem is that they exist at all, compounded by the fact that we are asked to pay for it one way or another.

Continue reading “What the Birth Control Debate is really about”