pacifism and the culture wars
“Saving” marriage obviously means objecting to gay-marriage. But what does this have to do with abortion? Can someone please explain to me what on earth King means? Seriously, I have no idea. ~ Alex Massie, responding to Steve King
King had said, “If we don’t save marriage, we can’t remain pro-life” and in a sense he’s right though not at all in the way he intended it. There are a number of fires burning in the ongoing culture wars – from immigration to censorship to gay rights and of course, abortion. Some of these are more controversial than others. Some are a whole lot less morally clear than others. And almost universally, the way the culture warriors fight their battles – on the left and the right – is by waging divisive wars, demonizing the other side, and through the incessant politicization of our culture.
Look, to me, the gay marriage debate is not really a controversial item anymore. I think it’s unequivocally right that gays to be allowed to marry, and for Churches to choose who they do and do not marry. I believe both the religious and the homosexual population will be protected this way, though I think there’s another trial in store for religious homosexuals, but that’s another story. In this sense, why Rod Dreher, for instance, is making this about religion is beyond me. That struggle will be made within the Churches and the individuals who attend them.
However, the issue of abortion is much more difficult. No matter how hard I try to see it from a pro-choice perspective – and I do try – I cannot think of a fetus as merely that, as merely an extension of the mother. I think of a fetus as a baby, and I think of babies as people with basic human rights. As such, I think of abortion as a violation of that baby’s right to life. I don’t consider girls who receive abortions or their doctors as murderers, though. I don’t think of pro-choicers as “evil” and in fact, I have a lot of sympathy for the moderates in that camp, because I think more people than not – pro-life and pro-choice – would like to see the end of abortion, they just often disagree about the means by which to achieve that end. There are deep cultural beliefs at play here, and it’s wrong to think of the other side as “the enemy” or as bad, immoral people – it misses the larger point, and denies them the compassion and respect they deserve.
In fact I disapprove quite strongly of the tactics used for decades now by the pro-life movement which are, as I mentioned earlier, the typically divisive tactics of the culture wars. At times, the real fringe has gone so far as to use violence, which is so hypocritical and immoral and really self-defeating as to be totally incomprehensible to me still. I suppose part of where I am coming from is that when it comes to our little manufactured wars – terror, drug, or culture – I am a devout pacifist. I will not fight them, because they almost inevitably lead to more pain, more chaos, and in the end, devastating defeat.
I think the culture wars need to end, and a culture of compassion needs to rise in their place. The only way to responsibly end abortion is not to ban it outright, thus creating a massive, unregulated, unchecked black market, but to tackle this on a cultural level, providing much needed counseling, support, and compassion for young mothers – as well as viable adoption options, that are easy and potentially even financially beneficial. I know this is being done on some level; I know that this generation of pro-lifers is wiser in many ways than the last – but it’s not being done enough, not even close, and certainly not to the level it needs to be in order to make any widespread cultural changes. Part of this is because young mothers contemplating abortion are worried about being judged, intimidated, ridiculed, or made to feel shame and guilt – made to feel somehow less than human, when in fact they are very human, and afraid, and confused. They should be met with love.
Look, part of the problem is that people have started to view the culture warriors as the bad guys: too judgmental, too power hungry, too quick to condemn, and a lot of the time that’s a justified critique. Fact is, the loudest and most divisive are always the ones driving policy and doing the most PR work. That needs to change. It only gives more power to the loud, divisive members on the other side.
One way the pro-life movement could gain some ground is to abandon the very futile and wrong-headed (or wrong hearted?) war over gay marriage. I mean, this is going to be in the end a huge failure for social conservatives, and the young people in this country are going to look at their causes en masse – abortion, gay rights, etc. – and judge them all as part of a larger whole. So when popular opinion is very, very much in favor of gay rights, and justifiably so, then popular opinion is going to be against the culture warriors and all their causes including abortion. Guilt by association. Why couple the issue of life with the issue of denying two gay people who love each other the right to be married and receive the same legal benefits and social respect as two straight people? It doesn’t make sense, either tactically or morally. It smacks of hypocrisy.
It’s time for the shrill, discordant politics and alienating rhetoric of the culture warriors to be replaced by true, genuine compassion and the necessary action that requires. Yes, we need to “save marriage” but in the sense that we need to save it for all Americans, not just straight Americans, otherwise we really can’t remain pro-life, because that cause will be lost as well.