Russell Moore on Glenn Beck

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80 Responses

  1. Joe Carter says:

    Bravo, Matthew! I love LoOG and appreciate all the contributors. But it’s not often you see such a strong stand for life and marriage being taken on this blog. (And the libertarian slap was like butter frosting.)Report

  2. Jaybird says:

    Matthew 8:1-10 New American Evangelical Edition

    1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

    2Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.

    3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a man who had lain with a male as those who lie with a woman, and having set him in the center of the court,

    4they said to Him, “Teacher, this man has been caught in laying with a male as those lie with a woman, in the very act.

    5″Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”

    6They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His hand picked up a big rock.

    7Jesus threw the stone and hit the man right in the head.

    8Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

    9When the crowd had seen it, they began to throw their rocks, until there was just a smear where the man was, in the center of the court.

    10Straightening up, Jesus said to the crowd, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”Report

  3. Travis says:

    You’re right, marriage is no small thing.

    It’s no small thing to deny rights to a minority group based on nothing more than the basest forms of prejudice and hatred.Report

  4. T. Greer says:

    Is marriage a small thing?

    If you are talking about its relation to the millions of American children who live in unstable one-parent households, then no, it is not a small matter at all.

    On the other hand, if you are speaking of the contentious debate over whether or not same sex couples shall call their legal partnerships “civil unions” or “marriages”, then yes, it is truly a small matter.

    The gay marriage debate is a rabble-rouser. It dominates the mind of the citizenry only because it divides us so well. It is the cultural marker of cultural markers, telling every one of us who fights for the cause and who stands against it, who ought to be raised to the heavens and who ought to be condemned for their obvious immoral bigotry. It is debate fueled by heat, not light. As its participants need no learning, experience, or any other possession but guttural emotion to participate it is never left wanting impassioned arguers.

    The tragedy of it all is that none of it really matters. To a spare and tiny minority it matters quite a bit – but even there the case is exaggerated, as there are many states where “marriages” and “civil unions” are the same in all but name. To think! All that zealotry and effort spent on a question of vocabulary! From the broader view it should be clear that this debate is a waste of our society’s resources. What side you take on the question- it matters not. The Republic has more pressing concerns. American society faces greater threats to its stability, societal cohesion, and common sense of morality than a small number of state-sanctioned homosexual relationships could ever pose. And the state’s refusal to sanction these relationships pales when compared to the other injustices America calls her own! Arguing about gay marriage is, as stated memorably by the blogger Fabius Maximus, akin to an argument over the living room decor of a burning house!

    I am no fan of Mr. Beck, but you have given me cause to shout “huzzah!” to his work. He, a rabble-rouser if there ever was one, has raised no rabble on the issues easiest to do so. He has plied the demagogue’s art not for the cause of the traditional culture wars, but for that which he deems vital to his country’s survival.

    If only we could all do the same.Report

    • Travis in reply to T. Greer says:

      @T. Greer, your argument is one that comes from a position of privilege — being able to marry the person you love.

      Telling those of us without that privilege that what we seek — equality — should be discarded because “the Republic has more pressing concerns” is unconvincing at best, insulting at worst.Report

    • Mike Farmer in reply to T. Greer says:

      @T. Greer,
      As a principle, when individual rights are at stake the number of victims being violated is not the point — one or a million – the operative term is “individual” — it’s just as wrong to violate the rights of one or a few as it is many.Report

    • @T. Greer,

      This is a great comment: stakes out a position, argues it calmly at helpful length. Thanks.

      It’s obvious why gay-marriage proponents would disagree with you. I disagree, too, for a reason mentioned very briefly by Ross Douthat in his recent series of posts. Look for more in a follow-up.Report

    • Imaginary Lawyer in reply to T. Greer says:

      @T. Greer, One could go back fifty years or so and put in “interracial marriage” in place of the inapt term “gay marriage” and have the same argument. It boils down to, no skin off my nose, therefore it’s unimportant.Report

      • This is in reply to Mike Farmer, Imaginary Lawyer, and Travis.

        It has been suggested that strategy is the art of prioritization, the tissue that connects resources and end goals. Many have declared that this is an art the Republic’s statesmen have lost; I would suggest it has been lost on the citizenry as well.

        Injustice is wrong. It is wrong no matter the scale on which it is committed. This I will not dispute. It does not follow that we should address all injustice with equal vigor. Though we may not wish it, our existence is constrained by limitations. No man on this Earth possesses infinite time or energy, and by extension, infinite wealth, influence, or power. This rule extends to entire societies: our options are limited by the political capital, collective brain-power, and physical resources available to us. Our wants and endless. Our means are not.

        Thus the need for strategy. In a world of limited means we must make hard choices. Sooner or later you have to choose what is worth fighting for.

        Given this reality, there is no reason to be found in brushing away questions of scale and size.

        This is why the comparison between the “gay marriage” debate and the “inter-racial debate” is spurious. For the comparison to be valid one must strip the arguments over inter-racial marriage of their historical context. It must not be forgotten that those debates were part of the much larger Civil Rights movement. The collective concerns of this movement far outweigh the injustice same-sex partners face today. Indeed, the state-sanctioned discrimination of African Americans “fifty years or so” ago was undoubtedly the greatest injustice America could then call her own. Had that injustice had been left to fester it would have proven one of the greatest threats to the stability of the Republic had yet known.
        On both counts the issues fought over by the civil rights movement was simply in a different category than those theocrats and gay rights advocates fight over today.Report

  5. Mike Schilling says:

    I found the harping on Beck’s Mormonism offensive rather than eloquent. But I suppose that’s just me being a godless moral relativist.Report

    • @Mike Schilling,

      Let’s bracket Moore’s specific comments in order to look at the issue you raise. Richard John Neuhaus had a telling related comment on Mitt Romey:

      “It is not an unreasonable prejudice for people who, unlike Alan Wolfe et al., care about true religion to take their concern about Mormonism into account in considering the candidacy of Mr. Romney. The question is not whether, as president, Mr. Romney would take orders from Salt Lake City. I doubt whether many people think he would. The questions are: Would a Mormon as president of the United States give greater credibility and prestige to Mormonism? The answer is almost certainly yes. Would it therefore help advance the missionary goals of what many view as a false religion? The answer is almost certainly yes. Is it legitimate for those Americans to take these questions into account in voting for a presidential nominee or candidate? The answer is certainly yes.

      “For millions of other Americans, the above questions do not matter. And for those for whom they do matter, they are not the only questions that matter. Mr. Romney is a very attractive candidate in both substance and style. As in most decisions, and not least of all in voting, the question comes down to what or who is the alternative. We will not have an answer to that question for some months. But I can now register a respectful disagreement with John Fund when he writes, “We will be a better country if even people who don’t support Mr. Romney for president come to recognize that our country is better off if his candidacy rises or falls on factors that have nothing to do with his faith.” On the contrary, we are a better country because many Americans do take their faith, and the faith of others, very seriously indeed. Also when it comes to voting.”

      I am less worried than Fr. Neuhaus was about how various political developments might raise the prestige of Mormonism. While I find his position less than convincing, I also find it perfectly inoffensive.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

        @Matthew Schmitz,

        On the contrary, we are a better country because many Americans do take their faith, and the faith of others, very seriously indeed.

        But not nearly as seriously as Ferdinand and Isabella did, so there’s apparently a lot of room for improvement.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

        @Matthew Schmitz,

        Would a Mormon as president of the United States give greater credibility and prestige to Mormonism? The answer is almost certainly yes. Would it therefore help advance the missionary goals of what many view as a false religion? The answer is almost certainly yes. Is it legitimate for those Americans to take these questions into account in voting for a presidential nominee or candidate? The answer is certainly yes.

        By this standard, everyone should be inclined to vote primarily for their co-religionists. I’ve seen countries like that — Lebanon and Iraq come to mind — and they’re not places I’d like to live.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          @Jason Kuznicki,

          It does make me wonder what the young Neuhaus (still a Lutheran) thought about the election of 1960.

          The question is not whether, as president, Mr. Kennedy would take orders from Vatican City. I doubt whether many people think he would. The questions are: Would a Catholic as president of the United States give greater credibility and prestige to Catholicism ? The answer is almost certainly yes. Would it therefore help advance the missionary goals of what many view as a false religion? Report

          • @Mike Schilling,

            You’ve hit on why Neuhaus’ argument doesn’t convince me. The election of Kennedy was greeted by Catholics of a moment of arrival, but it also helped create a political atmosphere in which the yearning for acceptance and the (necessity of re-election in Democratic primaries) led the Kennedy and Cuomos and Bidens of the world to openly rebel from the Church’s teaching on life. The temptation was too great, and Catholics, far from gaining prestige for their faith, brought it disrepute. People were afraid of theocracy, but the real danger was the loss of a much-needed moral witness.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

              @Matthew Schmitz,

              While those that openly rebel against the Church’s teaching on capital punishment, torture, and preventive war are still good, observant Catholics? Sorry, the cafeteria door swings both ways.Report

            • Rufus in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

              @Matthew Schmitz, Did Kennedy want abortion legalized? That’s pretty interesting- I really had no idea. Admittedly, I’m not great on US history.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

              I think the second “Kennedy” is Teddy.Report

            • @Matthew Schmitz,

              Each of those cases is a little more complicated than abortion, leaving at least a little more room for understandable (if still culpable) error.

              Torture, for example, differs from abortion in that it is a moral description rather than a specific act. Torture is like “murder;” we’re not always sure when it has occurred. Abortion, on the other hand, is like stabbing. There’s no need to define what it is or isn’t because the noun refers to a very specific physical act. So we can say “Yeah, torture is wrong.” But then we have to decide what torture is and isn’t. That said, I’ve written a fair amount on how American policies really did permit torture, and I think Catholic politicians and citizens had an obligation to oppose them.

              I’m no catechist, but I believe the Church recognizes that there might, theoretically, be cases in which capital punishment could be demanded of necessity, unlike abortion, which is always and everywhere wrong. But it’s hard to see when those cases could ever emerge (unless the person was some kind of fearsome Magneto and able to break all bars). Again, to be clear, I oppose capital punishment, and have participated in some (sadly) very silly rallies against it that were infected with far-left-fringe nonsense. But we can’t always choose our allies.

              I think Iraq was an unjust war, and that should have been obvious. But it was nowhere near as obvious as the injustice of abortion.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

              @Matthew Schmitz,

              Is using a method of birth control which might, in a small number of cases, prevent a fertilized egg from implanting performing an abortion? Is saving a woman’s life at the cost of her unborn fetus’s performing an abortion?Report

        • Koz in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          “By this standard, everyone should be inclined to vote primarily for their co-religionists.”

          Not necessarily. But it does mean that you have be able to evaluate things in terms of their theological content and make nuanced judgments afterward.Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Koz says:


            I did say “inclined.” I did not say that they would do anything of necessity. So if I read you right, you’re not really disagreeing with me. Still, I’d prefer that theological judgments were private matters, and not criteria that help us decide how to vote. (Quick choice: Pro-life atheist? Or pro-choice but trinitarian Christian?)Report

            • Koz in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              Prolife atheist in a heartbeat.

              More to the point, the idea is that voting according to theological evaluations doesn’t have to be our default algorithm a la Lebanon but that doesn’t mean we have to hermitically seal away the whole thing.Report

      • Lyle in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

        @Matthew Schmitz, Taking the comments about Mormonism, lets go back to 1928 and replace Mormonism with Catholicism and Al Smith, and the quotes work. Catholics at the time were assumed to be slaves of the evil pope who had grand designs to rule the world. Or to go back to 1854 and the concept of the American Party and Catholics, let alone the KKK in the 1920s where Catholics were right up there with the colored. What will the view be like in 2110 about this and the view of Islam today? While I and most of us won’t be there to see, it would be interesting to know.Report

  6. Bob says:

    “…eloquent warning….”

    That’s a joke, right”Report

  7. Jason Kuznicki says:

    So because Glenn Beck isn’t a social conservative, he’s “disingenuous”?

    My, you have high standards.Report

    • @Jason Kuznicki,
      Social conservativism is on it’s last leg — it’s just a strong leg.Report

    • @Jason Kuznicki,

      Sorry if I was too cryptic, but my claim has nothing to do with social conservatism. I think it shows a lack of moral seriousness to wave away these issues as mere sideshows. It does not show a lack of moral seriousness (merely a failure in reasoning) to take the liberal position.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

        @Matthew Schmitz,

        And it does not show a lack of moral seriousness (merely a misunderstanding of the relationship of church and state) to take the conservative one.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          @Mike Schilling, this is what infuriates me about what passes for Social Conservativism these days.

          *I*, of all people, consider myself pretty socially conservative. Marriage is a positive good. People shouldn’t get divorced. Abortion is pretty much bad. Our culture is more or less good, we need to preserve it. That sort of thing.

          Why? Because Social Conservativism *WORKS*.

          It *IS* best when two people get married and stay married until death do they part. It *IS* best when kids are raised by two parents who love each other. These things are *POSITIVE GOODS*. More than that, everybody benefits the more of these things that there are. Not just the folks in the marriage, not just the kids.

          The problem is that Social Conservatives these days are acting exactly like the progressives at the turn of the Century (the other one, not this one).

          Prohibition was a bad idea. The idea that you could legislate the Irish into stopped getting drunk and beating their wives was folly… but the Progressives knew that they could will a better world through the power of legislation.


          Anyway, Social Conservatives today now stumble (like a drunken Irishman) into the exact same fallacies as the old Progressives… as if suitable legislation could result in fewer Irishmen beating their wives.

          They need to spend more time being role models and less time explaining how unimportant it is that they, personally, be role models but the (arbitrary and surprisingly “progressive”) rules they come up with be followed.Report

          • Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird says:

            I agree — plus I think we need a new definition of “social conservative” — I don’t see marriage s a social conservatve issue, but an individal issue. I don’t know of couples who get married because they want to carry on tradition and benefit the stability of society. It’s just individuals have wanted to committ and have children, or spend their lives with someone they love. If Individuals have found certain ways of living they prefer, then this is fine, but to seek to legislate this behavior for everyone is not good, unless the way of living and acting violates the rights of others.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Mike Farmer says:

              @Mike Farmer, let’s bust out the Bastiat:

              “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

              Social Conservatives are the new socialists.Report

          • Rufus in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, Wow, this is really not far from where I’m at. It’s irritating to be told that marriage is a social-stabilizer that forms a pillar of our culture, and to agree totally with that, and then be told, “THAT’S why we have to make sure it’s an exclusive club, because otherwise it’s not as special.” I’d actually like to see a lot more advocacy not only for marriage but for staying married.

            Similarly, I find it irritating to be told that there’s one and only one way to be pro-life, which is to vote for pro-life candidates.

            I’ll give an example of why this bothers me. I used to live in a very low income housing complex back when I was working on the road crew (I know- state worker- boo! hiss!). Anyway, many of the women who lived there were about my age (24), single, already had two or three kids, and were working two jobs and trying to make ends meet with serious challenges- lousy day care, no good pediatric care, delays for months at the public dental place, absent fathers, no scholarship opportunities, low access to healthy food, and just the sheer difficulty of raising kids while working 60 hours a week. It was not an environment that rewarded childrearing, to say the least.

            Okay, so now there was also an abortion clinic about a block from that apartment complex and every day the pro-lifers would march around with their signs and yell at people and pat themselves on the back for bearing witness. Then they’d leave and drive back home to the suburbs. Not surprisingly, none of the single mothers in that complex were taking off work days to go picket with them.

            Now, look, I know the Catholic Church has been a lot better than the evangelical megachurches about addressing social issues, and I certainly understand the ethical argument against those clinics. But, after a while, it seemed to me that the “pro-life” position in America is all-too-often to look at a woman in that sort of poverty who finds herself pregnant and considering having an abortion, and to say, “Man it’s too bad that we can’t do anything to convince more women like her to keep her baby (aside from screaming at them on the sidewalk) until the Republicans overturn Roe versus Wade for us”.Report

            • Matthew Schmitz in reply to Rufus says:


              How do you feel about the rollback of no-fault divorce laws?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Rufus says:

              @Matthew Schmitz, How many of Newt’s marriages could have been prevented with better divorce legislation, Matthew?

              Is it a non-zero amount, do you think?Report

            • Rufus in reply to Rufus says:

              @Matthew Schmidt, The problem with most issues of social conservatism is that when I express my feelings, I am very aware that I’m really am talking about feelings– about very subjective and personal things. And maybe I’m a bit irrational. That said, my personal feeling is that, absent abuse, it would be better for society if divorce were harder to obtain, and much harder in the case of parents. My wife is a therapist and I once asked her what social condition she sees most often at the root of her patient’s psychological issues. Actually, I phrased it as “what social issue, if we could make it magically disappear, would prevent the most people from coming in to see you?” Her #1 answer, not surprisingly, was sexual abuse. But she said nearly as many of her clients are still struggling with seeing their parents get divorced, often years or even decades later. That trauma is hardly even acknowledged anymore. Having been there myself, it’s very hard for me to imagine leaving my wife if we had kids- even if things got really bad, I’d rather not put a child through that.

              Of course, all of that is very subjective and emotional. And the flipside of it is that I’d really like to see society be much more honest with young couples about the struggles that married people really do go through and why they’re worth going through in order to honor your love and commitment to this other person. I’ve been to a lot of weddings lately and some of the expectations these couples have are painfully unrealistic. I just hope they know that, when those expectations aren’t met, it’s still worth staying together. Even when it’s a slog.Report

            • Rufus in reply to Rufus says:

              @Rufus, Even putting it as “honoring your love and commitment” sounds mealymouthed and cliche. Let me put it this way: in my marriage, there have been times that being married was, for various reasons, totally fucking miserable. But they always ended at some point and what made it worth going through those times was knowing that leaving my wife, whether it would be easier or harder than going through them, would be a betrayal of my own feelings and a bit like cutting myself in half.

              That’s the sort of thing I wish people would tell young couples when they get engaged.Report

            • Simon K in reply to Rufus says:

              @Rufus, Regardless of whether easy divorce is good or bad, wouldn’t removing no-fault divorce as an option mainly just re-introduce the business of manufacturing or finding fault? Which of course only the well-off can afford. I don’t really hear anyone (except perhaps some elderly lawyers and daytime TV scriptwriters) longing for days of paid co-respondents and private detectives being regular features of divorce courts.Report

            • Simon K in reply to Rufus says:

              @Rufus, That’s interesting what your wife says about parent’s divorces. My wife – whose parents are divorced – has pretty bad memories of the disintegration of her parents marriage, but considers the actual divorce to have been a turning point after which things got better. I’d love to see people put more effort and work into their marriages and, but if they can’t do that, or if it isn’t working, I tend to buy the argument that divorce is better for the children as well as the couple. Now admittedly, relatively easy divorces may lead people to work less hard on their marriages than I like, but it seems like the least bad alternative.Report

            • Rufus in reply to Rufus says:

              @Simon K, Yeah, I guess with my parents, I handled it okay and my sister never did. My father changed into a much better person after my mother left him and is one of my favorite relatives today, while my mother got a lot worse and I sort of dread her drunken calls at 11:00. So, on the whole, it was mixed and maybe I lean more towards wishing they’d worked through things, although of course I’m biased!

              I should probably mention that my wife has a contract with a private high school, so she sees a lot of kids from that privileged background. Many of them have parents who, whether or not they should have gotten divorced, got divorced badly: using the children to hurt each other and so forth. So that plays an obvious part in how the kids handle it.

              Honestly, I really think the divorce issue should be addressed more at the other end of the marriage. I could be wrong, but I think a lot of people who get divorced probably shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place, or had kids for that matter, but there’s sort of a societal expectation that everyone does it. That was probably the case with my parents. They loved each other, but they definitely shouldn’t have gotten married given their ideas about marriage. I do wish the social conservatives realized that not all of the “traditional” ideas about marriage were healthy. And sometimes I think people really need to sacrifice their preconceived notions about marriage. We’ve had friends get divorced for reasons that boggle my mind.Report

          • Koz in reply to Jaybird says:

            “These things are *POSITIVE GOODS*. More than that, everybody benefits the more of these things that there are.”

            This is a plausible argument (one that I disagree with for this or that reason).

            But have you ever thought of this, Jaybird, that arguments like are relying particular spiritual premises and are therefore considered to be religious by many or most people (maybe even yourself)?

            Let’s say I said every child in the womb is a unique expression of God’s gift of life therefore abortion is bad and ought to be illegal. Would you be tempted to think that’s a religious argument and therefore out of bounds?Report

        • @Mike Schilling,

          I’m not sure what this means, unless one subscribes to a thoroughgoing pop-Rawlsianism wherein no political action can have any non-public basis. That position is not only logically self-defeating, it lacks any connection to the (rather narrow) text of our Constitution.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

        @Matthew Schmitz,

        I suppose I was touchy here because Beck’s position on these issues is very close to my own, or could easily be, at least.

        I support same-sex civil marriage in large part because I have never heard a convincing case that it will harm traditional marriage. If I did, I’d have to really, really think carefully about my commitment to equality, and what I’m willing to sacrifice for it. But I don’t see any serious danger, so I don’t have to worry about that. Equality it is.

        Now as to abortion, I am not very interested in discussing. I am filled with doubts about abortion, and I don’t see what I regard as a satisfying argument on either side. Whatever I say on this issue leaves me unsatisfied, and I know it. So I listen a lot more than I talk about abortion. Maybe one day I’ll take a stand, but I’d rather not invest too much in it publicly. (If you must know, I lean pro-choice. I don’t like it though.)

        Given Glenn Beck’s reputation in many circles as a blowhard, I have to say that I respect him if that’s also where he is on the issue — conflicted, and therefore quiet. I think a lot of people are just the same.Report

  8. Francis says:

    Let’s say, for sake of argument, that our descendants will separate “real” pressing issues of our time from “fake” pressing issues of our time (PIOOT) by measuring the impact of the PIOOT on them. By my calculation, real PIOOTS include:

    1. global warming;
    2. peak oil;
    3. the capture of a large portion of the economics profession by political parties;
    4. the growth of anti-science movements generally, from AIDS to vaccines to AGW to economics to understanding the risks of terrorism, etc.,
    5. massive disparities in wealth;
    6. the capture by the wealthiest Americans of
    increases in GDP, and
    7. the rise in religious fundamentalism as a palliative to these issues.

    Fake PIOTTS are:

    1. easy access to abortion,
    2. gay marriage, and
    3. the scourge of Hollywood.Report

    • @Francis,

      Francis, there are a few embedded moral assumption here. Your list makes sense only if you already believe the unborn are not members of the human race with a right to be welcomed in life and protected in law. There are a few others, but that’s the most glaring.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

        @Matthew Schmitz,

        When I see death certificates, autopsies, and funerals for every fertilized egg that failed to implant in the uterus, I’ll accept that society believes that life begins at conception.Report

        • @Mike Schilling,

          There have been many societies that condemned abortion but didn’t do any of these extravagant things. I see the thrust of your rhetorical point, so to speak, but it’s a bit of a historical non sequitur.Report

          • Simon K in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

            @Matthew Schmitz, Not really. It just implies that those societies didn’t really believe that “life begins at conception” either. That there was some other reason why they condemned abortion. I believe the historical record also bares this out, and that the position that life begins at conception is in fact a very recent one – for a start you need to know what conception actually physical is, which is pretty recent knowledge.Report

            • @Simon K,

              Good point, Simon. People really didn’t know about conception. Today we know that a self-determining organism — a human — emerges at that point. That’s a matter of scientific fact. What remains unsettled is what else that fact means. Does the organism have a right to not be intentionally killed? If so, how do we protect that right given the demands of principle and the limits of prudence?Report

            • Francis in reply to Simon K says:

              @Simon K, The only thing that happens at conception is the formation of a new single cell, albeit with a unique strand of DNA. Only a relatively small number of specialists can determine whether this cell is even human. Asserting that it is a matter of “scientific fact” that this organism is “self-determining” is an abuse of law, science and philosophy all in a single sentence. Not bad.

              As a matter of fact, this organism is the opposite of self-determining; it has absolutely zero chance of survival for 20+ weeks without the complete support of its host.

              I will admit that many people find the question of balancing the interests of the pregnant woman and her fetus difficult. They draw on analogies, religious and philosophical texts and comparative legal and social systems. Personally, I think it’s an issue between the woman and anyone else she wants to consult, be it her doctor, the sperm donor, her priest, her therapist or her family and friends. I think that the State is particularly ill-suited to involve itself in the issue.

              Critics of Roe have blasted the court for blocking any discussion of the issue. This line of reasoning is pretty much crap. Nothing prevents the anti-abortion movement of creating a social movement where normal people don’t get abortions, because it’s just not done. I’m not talking about forcing women who want to get an abortion to get a sonogram, or be forced to overcome various burdens; I’m talking about creating a culture where life is more highly valued. But that, in turn, requires providing pregnant women who might otherwise choose abortion to have real alternatives — like a better health care system than the one we have now, or paid vacation days so she can go to the doctor when she needs to, or paid maternity leave, or greater state support for early childhood.

              When was the last time that social conservatives made as big a push for those kinds of social programs in front of state legislatures, as opposed to seeking additional burdens on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion?Report

            • Simon K in reply to Simon K says:

              @Matthew, The key question for me is when personhood begins. Different societies have had widely different perceptions of this – Thomas Moore, famous early modern philosopher, martyr, etc, and Catholic, wrote to a friend shortly after the death of his own sickly baby that he “thanked god the wretched thing was dead” since it had been crying for days. Babies at that time were not considered people, let alone fetuses. Obviously a fetus is an organism and a human one at that – the question is is it a person?

              But this is a peculiarly modern way of looking at things – to care you have to already have the idea of a liberal state whose job it is to protect its citizens. So you then care about whether organisms are people, since its a precondition for citizenship (!). By and large I don’t think earlier cultures that objected to abortion did so particularly because it was killing so much as it disturbed their particular social order.

              But we’ve really painted ourselves into a corner here, since I don’t think there’s any way to answer the question! Personhood isn’t completely objective and to the extent it is, seems to grow gradually with the individual – as some comedian put it “in Jewish culture the fetus isn’t considered viable until its graduated from medical school”.Report

      • Francis in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

        @Matthew Schmitz, so, IVF is a great moral evil? Really? Just how many Americans do you expect to persuade of that viewpoint?

        Do you really expect people to legislate that victims of rape (or, even more oddly, consensual incest) must bear the fetus to birth?

        Do you expect that the federal government will ever criminalize interstate travel for the purpose of obtaining an abortion? [Is that even an appropriate exercise of federal power?]

        Do you honestly conceive of a society where it is normal for a prosecutor to charge the 18-yr old daughter of a colleague for murder because she obtained an abortion in that state / another state / another country? You really think that such a legal scheme would not engender another Prohibition-era intolerance of the law?

        If you believe that legal personhood attaches at fertilization, then the foregoing positions logically follow. But the likelihood of these positions actually becoming (and staying) law is microscopic. Americans are perfectly happy in having a muddled, inconsistent view of fetal and maternal rights (that almost entirely adversely affect the less privileged). That’s why abortion is a fake PIOOT. It may be a pressing issue to you, but it’s simply not a PIOOT for our society.Report

        • @Francis,

          In short, no. Principle is always and everywhere limited by prudence. The truth is, though, that our current abortion regime is anything but muddled. It is actually one of the most extreme in the world. Would you support a system more like Germany’s?Report

          • North in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

            @Matthew Schmitz, Abortion on demand in the first 12 weeks with a 3 day waiting period and then abortions allowed after that only when meeting specific criteria. Not bad. But of course the point is that abortion foes would never tolerate such a situation and would continue their legal and extra-legal campaign for a total bad. Since any compromise on the pro-choice front would go unreciprocated the pro-choicers of course won’t compromise. And so the grind goes.Report

            • Simon K in reply to North says:

              @North, The question is, is there some part of the pro-life camp that would calm down with a slightly more restrictive regime? There probably is, to be honest – many people are in the “abortion makes me extremely uneasy but I don’t really want to prosecute women or their doctors for murder” camp. Most of us, probably, but the position can be either “pro-choice” or “pro-life” depending primarily on cultural factors, not actual policy preferences.Report

          • Travis in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

            @Matthew Schmitz, would you support a social welfare system more like Germany’s, so that mothers and families would be better able to take care of their children?

            Most “pro-life” folks, it seems, stop caring about what happens to the child the minute it’s born. Impoverished single mother? She’s a welfare queen! Cut her benefits! Down with AFDC! Who needs family and medical leave? Slash Medicaid! SCHIP? Socialism!

            How about this: I support a total ban on abortion, with the exceptions of life/health/rape/incest, if every child, mother and family is guaranteed a life free from poverty, hunger, homelessness and illness.Report

            • Matthew Schmitz in reply to Travis says:


              I prefer Finland’s system, actually, but basically “yes,” absolutely.Report

            • @Travis, that’s very much the sort of compromise I’d go for: more restrictions on abortion together with massive expenditures on support systems (health care, education, housing assistance) for mothers and children. I may not be a representative pro-lifer, though.Report

            • Travis in reply to Travis says:

              It’s great to hear that.

              But that’s not what’s heard from mainstream pro-life organizations — who have joined in common political cause with a party whose stated mission is to destroy what little social safety net exists in this country. There’s been no such proposal from the GOP.

              I’m not comfortable with the idea of abortion. I’m even less comfortable with the government requiring a woman to raise a child without providing that woman what she needs to do so.

              An unfunded mandate, you might say.Report

    • Koz in reply to Francis says:

      Abortion is beyond a doubt a pressing issue of our time. It’s a pretty weak mentality to think otherwise. If you don’t believe this, let’s just ban abortion and see what happens.Report

  9. Koz says:

    Dr. Moore’s complaint is unpersuasive to me, largely for the same reason that I myself am very apprehensive of Beck’s place in our culture. That is, Glenn Beck has supposedly said a lot of things, many of them very important but some of them plain flaky.

    But it’s not at all clear to me where Beck is heading, and I don’t believe anybody else knows either, including Beck himself. If we did know we could write things as definitive as Dr. Moore’s speculation’s but then again if we did know Dr. Moore’s speculations may have been wrong.

    Finally, it’s worth noting that it’s difficult to imagine a professor at a Baptist seminary being approvingly cited here for anything other than taking Glenn Beck down a peg or two.Report