Monday, December 13, 2004

Wasting My Time

I definitely have a martyr complex. It's never clearer than when I sit down, write a reasoned response to a ridiculous, leading question, and actually post it, just to see what the mob will do with it. I won't lie and say that I didn't know it was a wasted effort. I knew before I typed the first word that it would be the equivalent of mental masturbation; pleasing for the sake of the exercise, perhaps, but rather unlikely to yield fruit.

For example, last night I responded on "Sisters Talk," self-described as "one of the most popular lesbian blogs in the blogosphere." It is "progressive," "outspoken," and "straight from the hip." In other words, it's another one of those very socially left-wing blogs primarily aimed at insulting Jesus, President Bush and Stay-at-Home Moms, approximately in that order.

The blog entry that I was responding to was basically a strawman post. To quote the entry, the author asked "Examining the Pro-Life argument and measuring it against their support for the Iraq war, explain to me what's going on here. Do Pro-Lifers really care about protecting human life? And if they do care about protecting human life, how do they go about assigning value to a particular human life?"

This actually is a partially valid question. A true pacifist might argue that it's wrong to take human life, whether that life is an innocental fetal life or the life of a murderer, robber, rapist or terrorist, engaged in the very act of their crimes. Of course, the poster is not actually such a pacifist. She's just trying to corner the pro-life movement by totally mischaracterizing their arguments and screaming that they’re hypocrites for the contradictions she actually created herself.

I pointed out in my response that pro-lifers are actually a very diverse group. She was using a highly stereotyped caricature of “pro-lifers.” She was really trying to pick on conservatives as a whole; particularly evangelical pro-lifers, who vote Republican, support the President and the war, accept the death penalty, and happily wave the flag on the fourth of July.

However, that’s hardly representative of the pro-life movement as a whole. In my own personal experience, the most substantial bloc of pro-lifers are actually Catholic and not evangelical or fundamentalist. There are a variety of viewpoints from faithful pro-life Catholics on all of these issues.

Some Catholics oppose the President because, in their view, the Republican Party is more interested in economics than social justice. Many of these same Catholics do not believe that the war on Iraq satisfies the conditions necessary for a Just War, and they oppose it on those grounds. Many Catholics oppose the death penalty, quoting recent encyclicals from Pope John Paul II, who is clearly uncomfortable with capital punishment in the modern, Western world.

By contrast, other Catholics support the President because he defends traditional values and fights against the secularization of society. They support the war on Iraq because they consider it a Just War; a war in which a brutal, dangerous dictator was removed from power and replaced by a democratic system of government. Some of these Catholics will support the death penalty, pointing out that the church has supported and utilized capital punishment throughout the centuries, noting that there is no official church dogma banning it.

The reasoning of a Catholic on all of these issues is really very different than the reasoning of an evangelical. And that’s just one small set of examples of how the pro-life movement is really very diverse and impossible to generalize charitably. I haven’t even brought up the substantial number of people who don’t fall into the large category of religious objection at all.

In any case, from there I went on to argue from the viewpoint of the stereotypical conservative evangelical, pro-life, pro-death penalty position. I am not a conservative evangelical in favor of the death penalty, but I can empathize with their arguments.

My main point was that, while all human lives have equal and infinite worth and value in the eyes of God, that worth doesn’t abridge the right of an individual to protect their own life or the lives of their loved ones. A fetus and a serial killer are both beloved by God, but a fetus threatens no one, whereas a serial killer is a direct threat to everyone around him.

A pro-lifer does, of course, value human life and would vastly prefer that no one be killed ever, but they are not naïve enough to think that pacifism is the best way to secure peace, order, and a life-giving society. If serial murderers are left unchecked, the resulting effect is not more life, it’s less. A pro-lifer is aware of this, and in the interest of protecting life, they may resort even to the ultimate punishment to secure the greater good for the mass of innocent citizens.

It is understandable that some people might disagree with this view. But if one is being charitable, it is not difficult to, at the very least, empathize with it. After all, very few people could watch a rapist attack their two-year old daughter and do nothing to stop him because his life has infinite worth and dignity. Some people might maintain their pacifism because of a deeply-held conviction; I can applaud them for their strength of conviction, but my goodness, I know that every fiber of their being wants to kill the bastard raping their innocent child.

If the author had been looking for an honest answer, this would have been sufficient. If they had been seeking to understand, this should have been enough. Anyone can sympathize with self-defense and the need to protect one’s loved ones. But the author wasn’t really looking for an honest answer, or an understanding of the issue.

Her response included phrases like: “Now, I have children -- two of them exact. My children are no more important than anybody else's children, if that's the question you are asking me. Is it Sarah? I would not start a war in Iraq for no good reason, killing innocent people, just to save my own children.”

I, of course, never asked if her kids were more important than anyone else’s kids, though I should hope she sort of feels in her heart like they are. I certainly never asked if she would “start a war…for no good reason, killing innocent people, just to save [her] children.” What I asked is if she understood why someone would be aggressive in protecting themselves, their children, their families, neighbors, their nation and their way of life.

She goes on to say “Now, that wouldn't be so hard to accept -- if it were not coming from the same people who scream "oooh, Jesus says it's a life! Save the unborn child." That's bullshit and you know it. Aaah, but you won't admit it. Because to admit it means to admit hypocrisy.” Now mind you, she’d stated in her blog entry: “This isn't a debate about when life begins, or why women have abortions. Can we try to stay on topic?”

I had never brought Jesus into the conversation, nor had I insisted that life begins at conception or any such thing. She was once again stereotyping me, and my argument, largely because she refused to pay any attention to either one.She went on to state: “And yes, Sarah, it is fair to compare an unborn child to people in Iraq and people on deathrow. Why? Because using the same logic the bible bangers use: a life is a life is a life and God doesn't know the difference.”

Of course, that isn’t true. God does know the difference between a fetus and a terrorist and a murderer on death row. And someday, God will judge each one individually. He loves us all more than we can ever imagine, but He is neither stupid nor blind, and He is certainly capable of discerning the difference between a life terminated simply for convenience’s sake, and a life taken in self-defense. God will judge those who take life; and we must contritely and humbly prepare ourselves for that inevitable judgment day. He knows our hearts, wicked though they often are. May God have mercy on us all!

In any case, I was not surprised by the response I was given. I knew before I posted my very reasonable response that I was not likely to receive one in return. You shouldn’t throw your pearls before swine, but I keep posting, half in hope that someone will take what I have to say to heart, and half in simple recognition of the fact that writing all of these arguments out helps me to better understand them and the issues surrounding them.

Nevertheless, I don’t think I should go back to that blog and post again. I do not believe that I am of any real use there, and perhaps there is somewhere out in cyber space where I can actually serve someone in some real and substantial way.