Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cultural Relativism Makes Social Justice Meaningless

Take any college social science class today, whether it be anthropology, sociology, criminology, or others, and you will be introduced to the worldview of postmodernism, especially it's ethical theory: Relativism. Given how deeply entrenched the worldview has become in the study of human behavior, it's no surprise that many college students today will respond to pro-life arguments in ways that reflect their post-modern education. Since many college students, high school students, and even middle school students have adopted this line of thinking(With or without knowing it) it is vitally important that the flaws associated with this worldview be addressed. I intend to do so below.

One very common way this manifests itself is the all-to-common response, "Well, you're a white male!" This is a response that is becoming much more frequent, in discussions of a whole host of social issues. However, it has deeply flawed presuppositions, given that it stems from a relativistic mode of thinking. The way it does so is that it emphasizes the role that subcultures play in our day to day interactions. Since one subculture(White, heterosexual men) may have differing values than another group(White women, for instance) the values are relative to those groups, and the individuals within them. Hence, we have culturally relative values.

Cultural relativism, known also as "Society Does Relativism"(A term coined by Greg Koukl and Francis J Beckwith; Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted In Mid-Air) is probably the most common ethical theory taught in sociology courses today, right after Marxism and Utilitarianism. The theory goes like this: "Since different societies have differing standards of what is right and what is wrong, one society has no say over the ethical issues involved in another society."

This view is very popular among intellectuals today, and is the basis for much of sociological and anthropological study. One college textbook, A New History of Asian America, is a prime example, since it assumes this view outright, by critiquing the practices of European colonial powers, from the beginnings of the modern West, all the way to the present age, while holding the position that since the European Empires tried to influence cultural and ethical customs in different cultures, various human rights abuses were bound to be the result. (Note: the book was very well-researched and argued it's case persuasively; I do recommend it for aiding further study)

It is easy to see why, today, many social issues where questions of race and gender are going to be raised, tempers will flare. I have personally been told while doing pro-life outreach on the campus that since I am a white male, my point of view is no more valid than someone of another race or gender. This is one big reason why colleges tend to set up ethnic and gender based resource centers. College students are taught to assume that varying life experience's, based on race, gender, and other factors, all hold equal weight in the major issues of today. This, again, is an example of how cultural relativism has influenced ethical though within our society.

Several Key Flaws:

There are several key flaws in this line of thinking, that I think if they are addressed, can make discourse on controversial topics much more successful in the long run. For those who wish to learn more, I highly recommend Greg Koukl and Francis Beckwith's book, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air. I will be using many of the concepts from this work through the rest of this piece. Since the idea behind cultural relativism is that moral values are relative to the cultures they originate in, I will specifically be addressing this claim here. However, many of the same flaws also apply to individual relativism, given it's similar philosophy. "Says Who?" is the common slogan of the relativist, but if we take this line of thinking to where it will logically lead us, we will see that it is ultimately bankrupt.(As Greg Koukl has said elsewhere, we "Take The Roof Off" of the idea, and see what is left standing)

Flaw #1: Cultural Relativists cannot accuse other cultures of wrongdoing:

While this is a common objection that is raised by cultural relativists when they are examining the actions of other people groups, many times they fail to see that their line of reasoning also nullifies their own critique. For example, in my class on Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities last fall, the professor criticized the notion of Christian missionaries "imposing" their religious view on the people's in Asia and the Pacific they were encountering. The professor had remarked "Who were they to impose their cultural values on someone else?" Unfortunately, this also ends up being an example of "imposing" ones own cultural values. If a student had raised her hand and said "Professor, who are you to say that they cannot do that? Aren't you imposing your cultural values on them?" I have a hard time seeing how one can respond to this while still maintaining their relativism. If the professor had said "Well, obviously it was evil." Then she has rejected the notion that cultural values are relative, and has embraced the idea that there is at least one moral rule that transcends culture. The only consistent answer would be "Well, these are my culture's own moral preferences, but we shouldn't ask others to embrace them in place of their own values."

Flaw #2: Cultural Relativists cannot complain about social injustice: 

Since a relativist, in order to be consistent with their own view, can't accuse others of wrongdoing, they also lack the foundation by which to object to obvious acts of evil. When relativists object to the practice of colonialism, slavery, and exploitation, are they implying that these are always unjust and wrong, for all peoples, in all times and places? Was it wrong for European powers to subjugate the less powerful and enslave them? Who is the relativist to say that was wrong? Is their cultural value of diversity and respect any better? "Says Who?" As soon as they object to an obvious injustice, they are no longer immune from having their cultural values critiqued by those who hold different values, including the European cultures that college professors loathe so much

Or, more recently, in modern issues like race relations, sociologists are very quick to object when a member of a racial or gender majority seeks to encourage a minority group to adhere to the same standards as the majority. As Thomas Sowell highlights in his book, Intellectuals and Race, cultural relativists will object very quickly when minority students are held to the same standards, whether they be legal, educational, or cultural. But, yet again, "Says Who?" Who is the relativist to apply their own cultural standards(In this case, sub-cultural) of cultural relativism, and say that this is wrong to do? The majority group is just following their cultural values, so what of it? The problem should be becoming much more clear.

Flaw #3: No Group's Experience is any more valid than another 

One of the first soundbites to be stated on the campus today is that we must "Listen to and value other groups experiences the same as our own." Now, I completely agree, we shouldn't ignore someone simply because they are different than us, but why? Some cultures or subcultures do indeed have different experiences. So what?  If all groups of people have their own values, who's to say when it's wrong for one group to ignore another? "Says Who?" raises it's ugly head again. To object to this outcome is to assume that maybe there are some objective moral rules that transcend culture and experience after all...

Flaw #4: The Good Guys of History Will Uphold the Status Quo, Not Challenge It

My good friend and Christian apologist Steve Bruecker hit the nail on the head in an article he wrote a few years ago, "The Joker Is The Hero of Moral Relativism". He points out that the logical outworking of the sort of relativism that leaves values up to the individual is that there is no more basis to call a sadistic killer(Like the Joker) immoral and evil. It's simply a matter of preference.

In a similar manner, when a culture begins to decide it's own values for itself, what are we left with? Anyone who attempts to change those values would be immoral, according to that culture's standards. This may sound great on paper, but the logical conclusion ends up being ghastly. Think of someone like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, William Wilberforce, or Dr. Martin L. King. When these individuals challenged their societies to respect their fellow human beings, regardless of any differences, what should the cultural relativist make of this? Did these men try to change the values that were relative to those cultures? We praise them(and should) for their courage, but the relativist is left with nothing to praise them or curse them with, other than the cultural norms he happens to agree with. If he is from a tolerant, just, and inclusive society, he may adore these men, but if he is from a racist, oppressive, and exclusive society, the relativist is no different morally(According to relativism).

To paraphrase the Christian pastor and Theologian Tim Keller, if your worldview's premise leads to the conclusion that you know just isn't true, maybe it's time to change the premise?( Tim Keller, The Reason for God)

Flaw 5: Social Justice Becomes Meaningless

As I have titled this piece, Cultural Relativism makes the very notion of justice within society a concept with no meaning whatsoever behind it. "Social Justice" is often defended with relativism.  However, when "Says Who?" is the only logical response to a complaint about a very obvious injustice, we've got a very big problem with our logic.

Historian H.W. Crocker gives a good example of this concept, in highlighting the British Empire's outlawing of the burning of widows on their husband's funeral pyres in 19th century India. When the British acknowledged that it was a traditional Indian custom, they simply pointed out that Britain had a custom of punishing men who would do such a thing to women. Somehow the cultural relativists in the Women's Studies departments of the modern university don't have a problem with this form of "imposing one's cultural values on others". Again, it may be simply because there are, in fact, moral rules and obligations that transcend societies., such as the rule that you don't treat women in that sort of manner.

So, if cultural relativism is the correct way to think of ethics and morals(Another oxymoron if relativism is true) then we are left with the conclusion that there is no standard of justice that a society must adhere to. There is no real basis for determining whether or not a particular action or law is inherently good or evil. This is outrageous. When the culturally relative sociology student loudly insists that "I have a right to abortion" or "I have a right to marry whomever I love", they might as well be having a sneezing attack. Under relativism, you can insist on being granted certain rights as loudly as you want. All it will take is for someone else to come along and insist louder than you that those rights don't exist, or that they can be revoked for whatever reason the society deems fit.

In conclusion, it seems that cultural relativism, while making for a good classroom discussion, is not of any good for any discussion on ethics, and what truly matters in life. In fact, when life, liberty and what it means to be human are at stake, we should do better than saying "That's just your view."






Thursday, February 1, 2018

Yes, American Conservatives Can Be Pro-Life

A common objection that is heard both among street-level pro-choice advocates, and even among the intellectual elites within academia is that the average pro-life advocate isn't really "pro-life" in their defense of human life, from conception until natural death. The accusation has become incredibly popular in recent years, taking on new life in the realm of political discourse. In criticisms of President of the United States, Donald Trump, many left of center commentators are quick to point out what they see as flaws in the modern pro-life conservative. They will say, "If you were really pro-life, you would work to end poverty, end police brutality, stop pollution, help refugees of foreign wars, and work to end military involvement in foreign countries...etc."

While this may make for a snarky meme or Tweet or post on Facebook, it is a statement with little substance, or intellectual support.

In a recent column at TownHall, LTI President Scott Klusendorf responds to an article written during the presidential election by an American Pastor who leveled these accusations at pro-life Christians who were voting for Donald Trump.

Political issues aside, as Scott points out, many of these criticisms miss the main point that pro-lifers are making in regards to abortion. We aren't arguing that society should be radically reworked to alleviate every social ill imaginable. Such a goal, while worthy, is impractical and impossible to achieve. To show this, let's review the pro-life argument:

Premise 1: It is a moral wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
Premise 2: Elective abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
Conclusion: Therefore, elective abortion is a moral wrong.

If both premises are true, then the conclusion necessarily follows from the two premises(For a more academic articulation of this argument, see Francis Beckwith's Defending Life, 2007). Any rebuttal of the argument that pro-life advocates are making needs to address one or both of these premises. If it doesn't, then the objection has failed, and the pro-life position still stands.

Aside from this, the objection that in order to be "consistently pro-life", one has to embrace other forms of social justice has a deep flaw in another way: It assumes the validity of it's own position, without actually making the case that these positions are true to begin with.

Take the objection, "If you were really pro-life, you wouldn't want any child to be born into poverty." While no one, whether politically conservative or liberal, should be accepting of poverty, these objections tend to ignore the different ways in which conservatives or liberals approach poverty to begin with. Most conservatives do, in fact, care about poverty, but fail to support government action to alleviate the problem. As economist Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute points out in a video for the think tank Prager University, poverty has been on the decline, primarily because capitalism is increasing. Simply asserting that pro-life conservatives are inconsistent in their stance on poverty because they support free-enterprise capitalism is lazy thinking.

Or consider the issue of police use of force. Many pro-life conservatives aren't skeptical of the Black Lives Matter movement because they value the lives of racial minorities less(That needs to be established as being the case, and not merely asserted). Rather, many are skeptical of the claims that police racism is a significant problem today. As thinkers like Heather MacDonald and columnist Larry Elder(Among many others) have highlighted, this argument fails to take certain data on violent crime within society into account, let alone the notion of policing and enforcement of law. Again, this is to simply assume one's case to be true, without even bothering to argue it in the first place.

Even so, assuming that pro-life advocates are in fact, inconsistent, what does this prove? Not much, actually. The argument that is being made is that abortion is a moral wrong, because it intentionally ends the life of an innocent human being. Pro-lifers appeal to science and philosophy to establish this, not appeals to one's character or behavior. The argument being made does not, in any way, rest on the moral character of the people making it. If pro-lifers were truly inconsistent in how they lived their ethic, that is a character flaw, not a flaw in reasoning.

One other point on this, the assertion makes one more major mistake: It assumes the unborn are not human. Let me explain:

Imagine someone said that unless you cared for the homeless, the impoverished, and others who are suffering, you could not oppose the killing of infants up to two years of age. Is that an outrageous standard? Of course it is. Would we say that this is not even remotely relevant as to whether we should be working to end this form of killing? Of course we would. So, if the unborn are human, just like those infants, why do we say this about them? Isn't it because we are simply assuming that they aren't fully human, like the rest of us? That is the question that must first be resolved: What are the unborn? We only apply this double standard to the unborn, because it is merely assumed that the unborn are not human.

In conclusion, the idea that pro-lifers must be politically and socially left of center in order to be consistent with their opposition to abortion in order to claim the title "pro-life" is just laziness; it isn't based on the sort of rigorous argumentation that is needed to establish that viewpoint in the first place.

Until this is realized, the statement will continue to rear it's ugly head, and will continue to be answered, honestly and truthfully.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Why Gender Justice Does Not Justify Abortion

                It seems to me that the main justification for the pro-choice position is from the need for gender justice. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explains, “Also in the balance is a woman’s autonomous charge of her full life’s course… her ability to stand in relation to man, society, and the state as an independent, self-sustaining, equal citizen” [“Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. Wade,” in The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, ed. Louis P. Pojman and Francis J. Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1994), 124]. She holds that the Court ought to have included in Roe an argument concerning gender-based classification, for it, along with reproductive autonomy, “influences the opportunity women will have to participate as men’s full partners in the nation’s social, political, and economic life” (Ibid., 119). Many defenders of the pro-choice position reason this way, including Justice Harry Blackmun, Alison M. Jaggar, Catherine MacKinnon, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and Kate Michelman.

            Philosophically, the argument is not difficult to refute. Would pursuing an economic or political opportunity justify killing one’s two year old daughter? Of course not, pro-choice people would surely agree. S/he thinks this is a bad analogy because the unborn are not fully human persons. But that is the very question at issue in the abortion debate. The pro-choicer is begging the question rather than making an argument that the unborn are not human persons.

            But if the argument is that easy to refute logically, why is it so influential today? Understanding the theory behind it may help answer this question. The ethical theory is act-utilitarianism, which says that a person’s action is justified by its bringing about greater happiness, in this case by providing her with equal access to socio-economic and political opportunities. The end justifies the means.

This reasoning has fatal flaws. You cannot know your or your offspring’s future, whether actual or possible. History is replete with examples of people who regretted past decisions or who were relieved that they did not do something they had considered doing.

Also, David DeGrazia, Thomas Mappes, and Jeffrey Brand-Ballard point out that act-utilitarianism seems unable to coexist with the notion of human rights [Biomedical Ethics, 7th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2010), 12]. One of the common arguments for enhanced interrogation at Guantanamo Bay was that these methods used on high-level terrorists could potentially save many lives by finding out about planned terrorist attacks. This is a utilitarian argument that many, especially on the liberal end of the political spectrum, rejected, for the prisoners have rights as human beings. By the same reasoning, one could justify killing an older, unhappy couple to relieve them of their unhappiness.  Or one could frame an innocent person on a capital offense to avoid deadly rioting.

Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen explain why it is that rights cannot coexist with any utilitarian or consequentialist ethic.

Within any such ethic, there will always be human beings who are dispensable, who must be sacrificed for the greater good. Utilitarianism fails in a radical way to respect the dignity and rights of individual human beings. For it treats the greater good, a mere aggregate of all the interests or pleasures or preferences of individuals, as the good of supreme worth and value, and it demands that nothing stand in the way of its pursuit. The utilitarian thus cannot believe, except as a convenient fiction, in human rights or in actions that may never be done to people, regardless of the consequences [Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, 2nd edition. Kindle version (New York: Doubleday, 2011), loc. 1420].

Michael Tooley, Alison Jaggar’s colleague at the University of Colorado, who also defends abortion, sees the problem. “It seems to me very doubtful that the broadly consequentialist considerations that Alison advances would suffice to show that legal protection of that right [i.e., the unborn right to life] is not justified” [Michael Tooley et al., Abortion: Three Perspectives (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 184].

            But pro-choice people who use the utilitarian gender justice argument base their demand for such justice on the human rights of women. Thus, they have a contradiction right at the heart of their thinking on abortion. You can either embrace utilitarianism or human rights, not both.

            I doubt that the persistence of the gender justice argument is animated by loyalty to utilitarian theory. Rather, the utilitarian gender justice argument is a species of Marxist proletarian morality, the notion that whatever helps the oppressed (the proletariat) in their class struggle against the oppressors (the bourgeoisie) is right. Abortion helps women in their struggle against a male-dominated society and thus must be allowed by law, otherwise the legal system stands against equality. Deleonist socialists make just that argument (see “The Abortion Issue: A Socialist View,” accessed January 18, 2018, http://www.deleonism.org/text/a-76.htm.).

My oldest daughter just received a significant scholarship to attend Northwest University, a conservative Christian school. I am profoundly grateful that Northwest judged her on her merits as a student and did not discriminate against her based on gender. I know that many women around the world do not enjoy such treatment. There is much to be done to secure the rights of women and girls worldwide. But there are right and wrong ways to do so, and zeal must not continue to lead us to oppress one group of people for the sake of another, which is exactly what is happening if pro-lifers are correct that the unborn are distinct, living, whole human persons. Everything we have argued against utilitarianism stands against proletarian morality. And Marxism’s history is stained with the blood of over one hundred million people whose deaths were justified by the ends. With 60 million unborn Americans and 1.4 billion people worldwide having been exterminated through abortion, the unjust history of Marxist utilitarianism continues. People deserve better because all of us, regardless of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency, have an unalienable right to life.

Friday, January 12, 2018

How To Get Away With Murder (By Holding The Poor Hostage)

Today I would like to briefly address one of the worst defenses of abortion that is given, and of Planned Parenthood more specifically. It is a common talking point by celebrities and lay-persons alike, but it is one with virtually no substance. In fact, it is really a barbaric statement when it is reasoned to it's logical implications.

                                                     (Photo Credit: Dank Pro-life Memes)

The claim goes like this: "Planned Parenthood should continue to get federal funding, since they provide a lot of services for poor Americans, especially women and minorities, that they wouldn't get elsewhere. Plus, abortion is only three percent of what they do!"

I had this stated to me repeatedly(and quite loudly) by a student during a pro-life outreach with Students for Life of America in the San Diego area late last year. She was outraged at the material on the display, which quoted the statistics found in the Planned Parenthood annual report.

Now, aside from the dispute over where lower-income Americans can go to get quality healthcare(It's a flat out lie that PP is the only organization in the nation that does provide these services, or will provide them in the future. A quick google search of local health care centers will prove that), the assertion also makes a fatal flaw: It "begs the question"; that is, it simply assumes that abortion is not the intentional killing of an innocent human being.

To show how this mistake happens, let's pretend for a moment that a local hospital purposely killed a certain percentage of it's patients in the pediatrics ward. If parents decide that their toddler is too much of a burden for them to take care of, they can have their toddler killed by the hospital staff, with no risk to the parents, whether medically, financially, or legally. To take this thought experiment a step further, suppose the hospital staff is caught dismembering the toddlers, and selling their body parts for profit to medical and research firms.

Would there be outrage? You'd better hope there would be.

Now imagine that after all of this outrage, the hospital's PR department states that since the facility provides free, life-saving healthcare for the poor members of the community, then the state health department would essentially be "killing the poor" by shutting down the hospital in order to end the killing of toddlers(Which seems to be the hospital's primary mission.)

In this case, the hospital PR department has essentially tried to get away with murder by holding the poor hostage. It's like a criminal telling a victim of his crime, "Don't go to the police, or else your loved ones will die." Should any reasonable person go on to defend such an action? Not if they were committed to protecting the most vulnerable among us.

It should be obvious that Planned Parenthood doesn't even care about the poor, no matter how emotional they are in the media. Especially when President Donald Trump offered to continue federal funding to them if they stopped their abortion "services", they refused.(This is not a post to defend President Trump; it is merely to make a point). It should be plainly obvious to anyone who values truth over easy to get sex: An organization that supposedly cares for the "poor and downtrodden" will only do so if it gives them leverage in the public square. No one committed to justice should support such a behavior.

In conclusion, the arguments given in favor of Planned Parenthood can only be morally justified if the unborn are not human. Because if the unborn are in fact human(And the evidence shows they are), then we have a literal case of an organization that is getting away with murder, by attempting to hold large numbers of the population hostage. It's amazing that anyone who is firmly committed to justice would be even remotely open to the idea that the poor and underserved could be used as a bargaining tool for political gain.

Monday, January 1, 2018

How The Christian Story Gives Life, Gender, and Sexuality Meaning

This week I was able to complete the newest book by Houston Baptist University professor Nancy Peacey, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality.



In her typical style, professor Pearcey takes the worldviews of the most hotly debated topics in our society today(Life ethics and sexual ethics) and relegates them in a way that is both understandable, yet still accurately conveys the philosophies behind the issues. She then goes on to argue for why the Christian worldview makes the most sense of the issues themselves(such as the importance and meaning of human life) in a way that doesn't lose the sense of urgency behind many topics.

She takes on each topic in individual chapters, where she then breaks down the topic into a number of sub-sections, each of which is jam-packed with the insight that she carries with her everywhere she goes. Starting with the issue of abortion, she takes on the underlying philosophies of many of the key thinkers on the pro-choice side of the issue; mainly, the sort of "dualism" that drives many arguments in favor of abortion: The fetal being may in fact be human, but not in the sort of sense that we are obligated to care for and protect.

This argument has been articulated by a number of thinkers in a variety of ways(Thinkers like Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, Mary Anne Warren, and others) have all argued that it is certain key functions that will give a human being value that is to be respected by society at large.

However, this view has a number of fatal flaws, the biggest and most apparent Nancy highlights in in her section on the issue: We now have no basis for fundamental human rights, and thus, human equality is a myth for the ash heap of history.

Nancy suggests an alternative that is worthy of consideration: The only grounds for affirming the most famous line from the Declaration of Independence, that "All Men Are Created Equal"(Nevermind if the founders didn't live up to this at all times. If the statement were to be rejected on that ground, we would have no standard to measure the founders life decisions up to) is best rooted in the idea of a Creator. Nancy argues that the Christian story provides not only the best explanation for human value, but for why we know humans are special kinds of beings with value in the first place.

She moves on to other topics in the later sections of the book, in particular, the implications of the sexual revolution in the West. Her chapter on the so-called "hookup culture" is particularly insightful, in that this cultural practice explains many of the biggest problems our society faces today.

Not only does professor Pearcey highlight the pain that "hooking up" for one night stands(having sex with someone that a person is not remotely interested in, other than for sexual interaction) brings to many young people, she goes on to argue for the Biblical worldview of sexual intimacy as having the most meaning when it comes to the question of sex. One segment of the chapter is a particularly insightful one: She gives an overview of the sexual ethic of the ancient Roman culture that the New Testament was written in, including the segments written regarding marriage and romance. In many circles today(Especially modern feminist circles), the Christian ethic as outlined in the New Testament by Paul and others is considered "anti-woman" and repressive.

However, as Nancy highlights, the Roman sexual ethic was not, in any way, "pro-woman", pro-child, or even pro-man. Surveying historical analysis of the time, it is noted that sexual interaction was a form of prestige, and men within society would have many sexual partners, regardless of the approval of their spouses. Women weren't even given a voice that was acceptable by the broader culture(There is a reason why many historians are astounded that the first witnesses in the Gospel accounts to the risen Jesus were women; Crafting a new religion to purposely woo the people would never have included such an embarrassing detail).

Enter in the Christian story. When Paul writes to the New Testament church that husbands should "Love their wives as Christ loves the church, and gave himself up for her"(Ephesians 5:25), he is saying something truly special: The Christian sexual ethic not only calls on men to show love to the women they are married to(Which Roman culture ignored the needs of women), but to love in a way that is self-sacrificing and other-centered. Far from a culture built on legalism, "chastity belts", and fear, the Christian sexual ethic gives the deepest purpose and meaning to the love expressed within a marriage between a husband and wife, by using marriage(and other non-romantic relationships as well) to give humankind a picture of the love behind all of reality: The love of the Creator for His creation.

In conclusion, Nancy's book couldn't be any more timely. With growing cultural tensions, and with subjects like abortion, assisted suicide, sex and homosexuality, and gender identity coming directly into the living rooms of America, there are at least three groups of people who would most benefit from her book:

1. Parents: Many Christian parents are unsure of how to instruct their children in the matters addressed in the book. With Queer Feminist theory(and the worldviews behind it) and explicit sexual material making their way into even elementary age schools, many parents are at a loss of how to give their kids a way to think about the subjects being taught. While this book is most assuredly not appropriate for younger audiences, it can help parents start teaching their children how the Christian worldview makes the most sense of our world, and the issues surrounding us.

2. Christian college students: Unfortunately, many Christian students are woefully unprepared for the constant barrage of worldviews that are thrown at them as soon as they step onto a college campus. From freshman orientation onward, worldviews such as postmodernism, Marxism, secular humanism, and sexual libertarianism are being practically(and, at some schools, even literally) shouted on street corners and from rooftops. When I first attended my school, CSU San Marcos, during the transfer student orientation, several of the women's studies professors encouraged the students to chant "Consent is Hot; Assault is Not" multiple times, and jokingly stated that even having "two or more" sex partners in bed at once was acceptable, as long as everyone agreed to be involved. These kinds of statements can make the task of not only living out one's Christian faith on campus seem daunting, but having a thriving relationship with Christ that is a public witness can seem almost impossible. I would recommend, not only read this book before the school semester starts, but master it. Detailed margin notes, highlights, and unreadable pages from underlining are a must.

3. Pro-life advocates: A popular slogan of the United States Army is to "Train how you'll fight", and pro-life work is no exception. Unfortunately, I have noticed that many pro-life advocates can end up on the "front lines" under-equipped for the worldviews they will encounter when on the streets. This book will change that. Pro-life advocates will be equipped to understand not only the viewpoints of those they will meet who are defending an abortion-choice viewpoint, but also will be ready to respond with grace, truth, and compassion when needed most.

Love Thy Body hits bookstore shelves tomorrow nationwide, and I would argue, this is the most important book for Christians to pick up in the New Year of 2018.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cheetah Cubs, Human Development, and Moral Status

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park(Where I currently work) had a new member added to the family recently: A baby cheetah. While she is small, the animal care staff at the Park have jokingly stated that she is pretty much already in charge of the facility that she is currently living in.

(source: ZOONOOZ)


When I saw her the other day, a thought had occurred to me, regarding the issue of current potential and fundamental status: Though our capacity, physical characteristics, or our inherent potentials may change, we do in fact remain the same kind of being over time(ie "the substance view of personhood"). Given that many arguments in favor of abortion attribute a potential for personhood(or, more loosely, humanity itself), I think this little cub can help us think through how to assess the moral status of a being before birth, as well as afterwards.

For example, given that the cheetah cub in question has not fully developed yet, she is currently unable to do what cheetahs are most famous for: Running at 60-70mph while engaged in the pursuit of prey. I have seen these "Cheetah Runs", and they are over in just a few seconds. Yes, it's true, this is something that is unique to a certain kind of being: cheetah beings. However, can a cheetah not possess this ability, and still be understood as a cheetah?

Chris Kaczor gives a good illustration of this concept in his book The Ethics of Abortion in which he points out that a cat that is unable to purr is still a cat, though that cat has not completely lived up to his full potential as a member of a particular species. However, that being in question is still a cat, even though "felineness" is currently unable to be fully realized at this moment.

Back to our cheetah cub, while she may not be able to run at extremely fast speeds, she has the potential to do that one day, which is rooted to the kind of thing she is, not some characteristic that may be accidentally gained or lost(such as the number of hair follicles in her fur coat). Even if she never developed the ability to run, she is still the same kind of being, but is merely lacking the current capacity to live up to her full potential. To(loosely) paraphrase Dr. Frank Beckwith, she isn't a potential cheetah, she is a cheetah with potential. It would be absurd to say that she is merely a mammal, and won't become an actual cheetah until she is able to run.

How does this relate to the debate over abortion? One of the most popular arguments heard on the street level, and articulated more formally within the academy, is that the early embryonic being or fetal being is merely a "potential" human being or person. The reasons for thinking that the being in question is merely a potential human can vary from cognitive functioning, to appearance, to the presence of bodily functions. And yet, for all these qualities that must be achieved in order to gain status as a human being, they miss an important point: Human beings the only kinds of being that can develop these attributes, and do so merely with time. If someone hands me a license to operate a type of vehicle, I have attained the status of being licensed; however, no one had to hand me a pair of eyes with which to proofread this post: I attained that attribute(reading and comprehension) over time based on the kind of being that I am, a human being. One has to be a human being first in order to develop, from within, the characteristics that human beings inherently possess.

And even if I lost many of those attributes, I am still human, though I would be tragically lacking in the things I need to realize my humanity fully. It could also be the case that a human being currently lacks the ability to realize or achieve every capacity they hold, due to age. That doesn't mean they are of a different order of things separate from human beings; it means they simply belong to the category of younger human beings. And if the capabilities that are realized due to age are not what determines the kind of being one is, it seems then that this extends all the way to when one began to exist, which is obviously in the time before birth(and according to embryology, at the moment of conception, did one gain all the capacities that had yet to be realized and matured)

It seems odd to say that our current, temporary lack of a capability is what defines whether or not we are entitled to the most basic right anyone could have: the right to exist, and to be able to recognize those full potentials that we may have. Indeed, it seems even more tragic to permanently and violently deprive someone of the goods of life whenever it suits our preferences.





Thursday, December 7, 2017

Book Review: A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide

Just yesterday I was able to finish this short book by pro-life activist and apologists Jonathon Van Maren and Blaise Alleyne. For those who are not familiar with the two, they are directors at the well known Canadian Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and Jonathon is the host of the radio-show/podcast The Bridgehead, which hosts activists, intellectuals, and authors on a variety of subjects in the ongoing "culture wars" in the modern day West. Subjects covered include sexual ethics, pornography, abortion, human trafficking, pro-life history, religious liberty, and other hot topics.

The book A Guide to Discussing Assisted Suicide is a great expansion of the role that The Bridgehead plays in training pro-life advocates to successfully and persuasively communicate their views in the public square. The book is short(about 90 pages) and can be read through in a single sitting. In the introduction, the authors point out that many people who hold pro-life views on the issue of assisted suicide have been left challenged and frustrated when it comes to communicating a pro-life ethic on the issue, which the books hopes to alleviate. Personally, I have found myself in this category, without much understanding of assisted suicide and what the underlying philosophies and arguments are. With the culture gradually becoming more accepting of the practice, Christians and pro-life advocates need to be able to graciously engage on the topic, while acknowledging common ground with those who disagree.

This short work accomplishes just that. Van Maren and Alleyne do a good job of framing the issue of assisted suicide, by pointing out early on that the key issues aren't choice, autonomy, or dignity, but is instead the issue of suicide itself. They break down the views on the issue into three areas: The Split Position, the Total Choice Position, and the Pro-life Position.

Starting with the Split Position, they point out that many of those who hold that assisted suicide is a morally acceptable and even preferable response to human suffering will in fact support limits on the ability to choose to commit suicide. They come up with a handy tactic to highlight this hesitation, called "Trotting out the teenager", an expansion of the trotting out the toddler tactic used in the abortion debate. By pointing out that many people would NOT encourage a teenager who was suffering depression to engage in suicide, the issue then isn't choice or autonomy, but instead whether or not there are people we should protect and offer help to, instead of letting them engage in self-harm.

This leads to a "reduction ad absurdum" by the authors, who point out that if we would stop one person(say, a teenager) from choosing suicide, but not someone else, then we are engaging in a form of arbitrary discrimination, by assuming that some lives have more value, and are therefore more worthy of our care and attention. When this is pointed out, many begin to see the radical implications of a "right to suicide" ethic. Personally, I had never considered this angle before, and it was a great way to get myself thinking on the issue.

The second view, "Total Choice", is a bit more radical, in that it assumes that any person, at any time, may choose suicide for any reason whatsoever. While relatively few hold this view, some do, and the authors give a way to respond to this. One way is to, again, take the view to it's logical conclusion, and show that many will try to prevent suicide in one group pf people(say, a broken-hearted teenager) but will allow or encourage suicide in another group(the terminally ill). They highlight that many, even Peter Singer, who has advocated for "involuntary suicide" will make sacrifices to aid an ailing family member or loved one.

Before presenting the pro-life ethic as the preferred ethic on the issue, the book gives a brief but shocking look at the incidents and escalation of the acceptance of suicide in countries that have endorsed the practice. From horrifying stories out of Europe, to the gradual acceptance by the elderly of thinking they have a "duty" to their children to kill themselves, so as to prevent future burdens, Jonathon and Blaise highlight the dangers of a cultural acceptance of assisted suicide, or suicide in general.

Lastly, the authors present the pro-life ethic on suicide, in that suicide should not be endorsed or presented as a valid option, but instead both compassion and loving care are the obligations we owe to the suffering. The authors highlight several medical institutions to aid those who are suffering, such as palliative care, dignity therapy, and other methods of healing from suffering.

Overall, the book is a handy resource for anyone who wants an introduction to the issue of suicide and assisted suicide, and in learning how to communicate their views on the issue. I'd say the book can easily be considered the "Case for Life" of the anti-suicide pro-life movement, and should be recommended reading for pro-life ethics courses. The emphasis on tactics and common ground is especially important; with methods, stories, and thought-provoking scenarios taught through the book.