By Dave Armstrong (1-23-07)
"kyl" wrote in comments under my last abortion post:
Hi Dave; I want to tell you about the Life Training Institute. You might know about it. It is definitely the best pro-life organization in the world. Scott Klusendorf is the LTI president.
Scott equips pro-life students and adults to make their case persuasively in the marketplace of ideas. Groups that use his training include Focus on the Family Institute, Hume Lake Christian Camps, Summit Ministries, and the MacLaurin Institute to name a few. His seminar Making Abortion Unthinkable: the Art of Pro-Life Persuasion trains pro-life apologists to defend their beliefs in a winsome and attractive manner.Scott uses the very best philosophical and scientific arguments to make the pro-life case. He trains literally thousands of people each year with the very best arguments. Eminent ethicist Francis Beckwith says "Scott Klusendorf is the best public advocate of the pro-life position I have ever seen." I strongly, strongly, recommend that you put the Life Training Institute on one of your blog posts. Tell as many people as you can about LTI. It is going to make a huge difference. Scott has an incredible pro-life blog too.
Yeah; it's a pretty cool group. Personally, however, I think legal abortion will only be overcome by a massive revival. It'll take a miracle. We may change a few minds by various means, but I don't think it'll be any major shift until actual revival hits. It may be another 20-30 years or more. I expect to be an old man by the trime I see major cultural changes take place.
Fr. John Hardon always thought that the 21st century would be one of great revival, because in history, terrible centuries were always followed by ones with revival and renewal. It's still a young century: not much indication of that yet, but God is at work bringing that about in ways we can't comprehend.
Thanks for your perspective on the abortion situation. I want to give some evidence that Scott's approach in general and Scott’s organization in particular should be encouraged rigorously. By the way, for discloser, I don't work for Scott. Fifty years ago philosophers widely regarded talk about God as literally meaningless, as mere gibberish, but today no informed philosopher could take such a viewpoint. In fact, many of America's finest philosophers today are outspoken Christians. In the journal Philo prominent atheist philosopher Quentin Smith writes "the secularization of mainstream academia began to quickly unravel upon the publication of Plantinga's influential book, God and Other Minds, in 1967 . . . in philosophy, it became, almost overnight, 'academically respectable' to argue for theism."
Why couldn't we make the same kind of impact in social ethics? Francis Beckwith writes:
It is my contention that in order to achieve true political success and to influence one's culture in the long run, one must present intellectually convincing arguments that may not be fully understood by everyone, but will be taken seriously by the legal, medical, and philosophical communities. Since it is inevitable that the ideas that are prevalent in these communities will trickle down to the masses, as evidenced by the apparent success of the intelligentsia-supported abortion-rights movement, (See Krason's excellent presentation of the history of the contemporary abortion-rights movement in Abortion, 7-75.) it is not exaggeration to claim that to influence the legal, medical, and philosophical communities is to influence the world.If we should not be anti-intellectual about apologetics in general, why should we be anti-intellectual about social ethics/cultural apologetics? By the way, Francis Beckwith has a new pro-life book from Cambridge University Press, the leading academic publisher in the world. What do you mean by [saying] abortion will only be overcome by a massive revival? I think you have to show why Francis Beckwith's and Quentin Smith's assessments are incorrect before you can use the word "only". Based what Plantinga did, and what Beckwith says, and some other things, I would argue that Scott's and Beckwith's intellectual type of activity is an absolutely crucial element that must take place to bring about an earlier revival, or at least make some major changes earlier.
Look how influential (negative influence though) the intellectual ideas of Immanuel Kant, David Hume and Darwin have been. In Love Your God With All Your Mind, J.P. Moreland writes "If a culture reaches the point where Christian claims are not even part of its plausibility structure, fewer and fewer people will be able to entertain the possibility that they might be true." Shouldn’t we create and sustain a cultural milieu in which the social conservative viewpoints are considered an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women? I ask these questions in a respectful way.
Sure, all that stuff's great. I've devoted my life to promulgation of an intellectually-respectable Catholicism and larger Christianity. You don't need to convince me of that. It's been my life's goal and passion since 1981.
But abortion is not simply an intellectual matter. It's a spiritual battle with the forces of evil. The battle will only be won, therefore, when there is a huge revival in the Church and Christians wake up.
The abortion industry is here today because Christians fell asleep in the 60s and eventually caved in to many of the tenets of the Sexual Revolution. Poll after poll shows that Christians are not that far behind the general public in things like divorce, cohabitation, pornography, contraception, number of children, etc. Abortion is here because the Christian community is so compromised and in bed with the world, that even something this horrible will not wake it up. Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., wrote:
[P]rofessed Catholics who practice contraception either give up the practice of contraception or they give up their Catholic faith.Why are there not marches in the streets every day? Where are the boycotts? In the Civil Rights era, many thousands of people were organized and people marched and did sit-ins. That was about inequality and equal rights. Pro-life is about the right to live at all and to not be butchered. So why the massive civil rights movement compared to Christians allowing abortion to continue without a huge social upheaval?
. . . As Christianity expanded, the inevitable happened. Once professed Christians lapsed into their former paganism. We read in the first three centuries about the thousands of Christians who chose to be thrown to the lions, or beheaded, or crucified - rather than conform to the pagan immorality that was so prevalent in the culture in which they lived.
It is possible to misunderstand the Age of Martyrs of the first three centuries of the Christian era. We are liable to associate professing the Christian faith by refusing to drop a grain of incense before a statue of one of the pagan gods. No, the issue was much deeper and more serious. To be a Christian meant to refuse to conform to the pagan morality of those who did not believe in Christ. To be a Christian meant to reject the pagan immorality of the contemporary world - at the heart of which was the practice of contraception.
. . . Once firmly believing Catholics became confused, or bewildered, or simply uncertain about the grave moral evil of contraception.
The spectacle of broken families, broken homes, divorce and annulments, abortion and the mania of homosexuality - all of this has its roots in the acceptance of contraception on a wide scale in what only two generations ago was a professed Catholic population.
. . . The practice of contraception is a grave sin. Those who indulge in the practice are in danger of losing their immortal souls.
. . . Historians agree that contraception is a social practice that goes back to centuries before Christ. Medical papyri describing contraceptive methods are as old as 2700 BC in China, and 1850 BC in Egypt.
In the Roman Empire of the first century of the Christian era, contraception was universally approved and practiced by the people.
As might be expected, the followers of Christ were faced from the beginning with a hard choice. If they wanted to remain faithful to Christ’s teaching, they had to avoid contraception.
. . . Thirty years ago, Paul VI appealed to the conscience of the world when he warned about “the consequences of practicing artificial birth control.” His warning was prophetic. What have been the consequences of contraception in one once-civilized nation after another?
They have been myriad. But I would give especially seven, which may be listed in sequence.
• Fornication;. . . Once contraception became widespread, it was only logical for civil governments to impose a contraceptive way of life on all their citizens. Thus, everything controlled by the government reflects a contraceptive mentality:
• Breakdown of the family; and
• Murder of the unborn.
• The majority of employed people, working outside the home, are women.All of this, and more, can be traced, as surely as smoke proves a fire, to the contraceptive mania that is destroying the foundations of the human family.
• The salaries earned by husbands and fathers make it next to impossible for them to provide for the size and kind of family they would honestly desire.
• The feminist ideology deprives men of the dignity and respect they deserve and need in the modern world.
• The number of children of single parent, shall we call them families, has reached gigantic proportions.
• Countless children are no longer reared by their parents, but by paid personnel in so-called day care centers.
• Working mothers and under-paid fathers have become commonplace.
• The very idea of a stable and loving family has become - for millions - a starry ideal.
. . . Abortion follows contraception like the law of gravity.
This is obvious. As people come to equate sexual pleasure with the self-gratification, there is no limit to their lustful pride. Contraception has taught them to have their own way. They will stop at nothing to have their way, not even murder of their unborn offspring.
Respect for human life requires selfless love of human beings. As a nation is nurtured on contraceptive self-indulgence, it becomes a nation that kills innocent children—if they are an obstacle to the self-gratification of those who brought them into existence.
(Contraception: Fatal to the Faith and to Eternal Life, 1998)
Well, it's rather simple, I think: civil rights involved the people who were marching. They themselves had been discriminated against and they themselves were to benefit by their own civil disobedience activities.
But with abortion, the people who protest are not personally involved. We have nothing personally to gain. That's why it is allowed to continue, because people are so me-centered, that it never sinks in that 4000 babies are being slaughtered every day. After all, we don't see the slaughter. It's all hidden behind antiseptic hospital and abortuary doors. We never even see the baby who is slaughtered. He or she is hidden behind mother's bellies.
We allow all this to happen, while we look down our noses at the Germans in the 1940s, who went about their business with the smoke of Auschwitz or Treblinka ascending to the sky on the next block. What's the difference? I say we are far worse than they were, because we were a more Christian nation, and because we could have learned from their example. We also have all the advances in ultrasound, photography, medical technology, etc., so that we know full well what we are doing. We know we are slaughtering human beings (whereas, many Germans actually were unaware of the death camps).
We are even much more brutal than the Nazis in how we kill. I'd much rather be shot in the head or gassed, than torn limb from limb, burned head to toe, sucked into a vacuum cleaner, or having scissors put into my neck and having my brain sucked out, a minute before I was about to be born. Our numbers put theirs to shame: some 50 million or so legal murders since 1973, compared to six million. We have them beat by a factor of more than eight.
But back to the immediate topic: the battle won't be won with intellectual arguments. In fact, with apologetics it is the same way. No one is truly won to Christ or to the Catholic Church by mere argument. The apologist performs almost entirely a negative role: we remove obstacles to belief. God then gives grace for the person to move forward in his spiritual life, and/or into the Church. It's His doing, not any apologist's. Any apologist who thinks it is his work, rather than
maybe 1% of the entire picture (if that), is deluding himself and ought to cease doing apologetics immediately and get his head on straight.
Likewise, for this diabolical evil of institutionalized abortion to end, the entire ethos of the country will have to change, and that requires supernatural revival. We need several generations of Christians who will start having children again (stop contracepting and learn to love children so much that they produce many more of them), at a rate far above the "maintenance" level of 2.1 per family.
In fact, if Christians (especially Catholics) had simply continued having children the way they used to, and had not quickly caved into the contraceptive mentality, so that the numbers of children of Christians are scarcely any different, then abortion would already have been a thing of the past.
One-half of all these additional children that would have been born (since, say, 1967) would have now been of voting age. If they had been raised properly, as disciples of Jesus, they would then vote the pro-abort politicians out of office and we could quite possibly overturn abortion by constitutional amendment. That could have happened by now, if only Christians had been Christians, and had lived out a biblical worldview rather than a two-thirds (or more) secular worldview where we are scarcely distinguishable from the secular world.
All the Christians had to do was have children and raise them as radical disciples of Jesus. But we chose not to. Christians continue to vote for Democrats, who (by and large, and overwhelmingly on a national congressional and Senatorial level) favor the murder of children. I always think of the example of good ole John Glenn, the astronaut. This guy (a Senator from Ohio now) voted to keep partial-birth abortion legal (the ghastly description of what that is, was posted elsewhere).
Cultures are transformed on the natural level by Christians having lots of children and raising them in the faith, and they then go out and change the society. We clearly see this among Muslims, in many countries now. Look what is happening in Europe. That is because Muslims still have lots of children. They have a more biblical view of family size than most Christians today.
But revival is still required, even given that scenario, because so many souls will be lost to the surrounding secular culture. It takes spiritual and personal revival to remain in the faith, and to remain on-fire with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and progression in the spiritual life.
It takes prayer, it takes penance, it takes the Mass, and the Eucharist, and confession, and constant seeking of advancing in the spiritual life; good works, charitable acts, etc. It's a spiritual battle. We don't convince pro-aborts by intellectual argument. We convince them (if at all, and it is rare) by love and a radical willingness to reach out to them.
Now (don't get me wrong), your group is certainly good and needed, and perhaps the best way to go about strictly educational, intellectual approaches to persuasion (it's an ongong argument in the pro-life movement of how best to go about persuasion and political action).
All I'm saying is that the battle ultimately will not be won in that way. Abortion is too deeply entrenched in the culture. It's too diabolical and evil. It's now part of the fabric of our culture, sad to say. It's like trying to reverse the scrambling of an egg. How do you do it? Sometimes whole generations have to simply die out, and God works on the next one that isn't, perhaps, so brainwashed from the outset that it is hardened to spiritual and moral reality.
The philosophical community could change because there is no personal stake in abstract academic arguments about whether God exists. Philosophers like diversity of ideas because that makes it more interesting for them, just as it is far more interesting (and challenging) for me as an apologist to dialogue with an articulate, amiable critic of the Catholic Church than with someone I agree with.
That's completely understandable, and far different from a culture immersed in self-centered sexuality, and sexual "freedom", that is used to being able to have sex without any consequences. Abortion is tied into personal expedience and the feminist myth of "the free woman" who can be just like a man in just about every way except physiology.
My definition of radical feminism is: "the hatred of men along with the simultaneous desire and goal of being as much like them in every way as possible." Identifying with the oppressor . . .
Since men don't and can't have children, it was crucial to radical feminism (in its overall unisexist philosophy and mentality, trying to obliterate any gender differentiation) to create a situation where any woman could be child-free as well, so as to not be beholden to men and female biology. And so it happened.
Some Catholic observers today (I believe my mentor Fr. Hardon was among them) believe that nothing short of flat-out persecution will wake the Church (i.e., us laymen, along with compromised bishops) up out of its stupor. Fr. Hardon was fond of stating: "Unless we recover the zeal of the early Christians, the days of America are numbered." It will probably, sadly, take much blood and suffering. That has always brought about revival in the past and it will again. We can only pray at this point that it is not too late to require martyrdom for our unimaginably great sins of omission. Perhaps a revival alone without persecution can accomplish the paramount goal of a culture that again respects life. I suspect not. There is a reckoning and a judgment for 50 million unjustly murdered dead that will take place, one way or another.