By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong (1-17-13)
I had the following exchange with a fellow Catholic on my Facebook page (which is public). His words will be in blue.
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One correction: he said [someone who wrote an article on our culture] 400 babies a day are murdered. It's actually 4,000+. Abortion is 9-11 every day; a Connecticut slaughter x 143 every day, and all perfectly legal and of no apparent concern to the vast majority of Americans, who are willing to sit idly by and let it happen, and vote for people (e.g., our illustrious President) who want to slaughter and murder even children who survive a botched abortion outside the womb.
. . . why, when something bad happens (Columbine, Connecticut, 9/11, whatever), we immediately have to go, "Yeah, but abortion!" and then show how abortion = Tragedy A x 1,000 or whatever. Yes, we know abortion is horrific, but we can grieve and express horror at other tragedies without having to refer every single thing back to abortion.
I do it, myself, because it is clear that there is not the same outrage about abortion as there is about any massacre that occurs. If the whole society is abject with grief over 9-11 or about these horrific massacres, why is it not outraged at the legal slaughter taking place each and every day?
In other words, one makes no sense without the other: we don't accept illegal acts of terror, but legal ones are perfectly fine. Or to put it another way, if the massacre grieves and disturbs us, then so must also abortion. And if the latter did, then we would be expressing about abortion what we do when these massacres happen. But our society doesn't; therefore it must not be outraged about abortion, and/or clearly regards preborn human beings as not human. Therefore, this same society must be reminded. I'm basically preaching to the choir on my page, but it is also public, and some pro-aborts may also read it.
I would ask you, why do you even make such a comment, and what is it about the points I just made that you disagree with? If you agree with them, then the comment was unnecessary. If you don't, why? Is this essentially the old tired "one-issue" canard: as if abortion is not the leading moral issue that we have to deal with today?
Dave, I do not disagree with any of your factual information, but I do disagree, or rather feel that it is not proper, to approach one outrage by always pointing out that bigger outrages exist.
It is when rank hypocrisy and ultra-selective outrage is in play. We pro-lifers are outraged by any violence like this, because that is what abortion is about, too. We oppose all of it, whereas the pro-abort position opposes murder of those outside the womb but not in it.
It's like, suppose you are talking about the 1890 Massacre of Wounded Knee, about how horrible it was, etc. and then a Holocaust survivor in the audience stands up and says, "Yeah, but it wasn't as bad as the Holocaust!" Well, that technically may be true; 300 Indians versus 6,000,000 Jews? No doubt the Holocaust was a "bigger" disaster; but I think the comment would still be objectionable and awkward on the grounds that there seems to be something improper about utilizing one tragedy to draw attention to another -- utilitarianizing one horror in order to draw attention to some other horror.
I think there is a limited sense in which this is true. It is only valid if there is an ignoring of one sin, while trumpeting the other. The Nazi Holocaust has been well-acknowledged and lamented. Therefore, the best reason for bringing it up in this context is not present. But there is often selective outrage with regard to the Holocaust as well, with so many people concentrating on Jews only, when in fact there were many millions of non-Jewish victims in the camps as well (Polish, Catholics, Protestants, Gypsies, homosexuals, handicapped, mentally ill, political prisoners, resisters, etc.). Even such a great Jewish man as the "Nazi Hunter" Simon Wiesenthal noted this. He refused to draw arbitrary lines where murder was concerned.
There seems to be a propriety in treating each of these terrible acts in their integrity without using them to compare to others -- to simply grieve without having to say, "Yeah, but this and this is also going on..."
Okay, so what would you think if two buildings were burning: In one, 28 children were killed; in the other 4,000 children were. Both are literally happening. Yet should we be grieved and outraged at the one with 28, with news stories all over the place, while ignoring the other? Would that make any sense? We both know that the only "difference" here is that the children in the school massacre are born, whereas the ones murdered every day in abortion mills are hidden and preborn. There is no essential difference at all. Yet our society acts as if there were. If a pro-life group dares to have a funeral ceremony for the slaughtered abortion victims, or puts crosses on a church lawn, it's considered wide-eyed radical or "one-issue": somehow abnormal and obnoxious. Why? It's because we make distinctions where there are none: as if a preborn human being is not a human being, and has no right to life.
All we're saying when we do this is, "we agree that it is a huge tragedy that 28 people (mostly children) were murdered by a madman. Now what about the 4,000 every day that are legally tortured and murdered by abortionist madmen? Why do you grieve the one but not the other far greater crime?"
A Native American who heard the statement would rightly be offended that someone was trying to "use" his community's unique tragedy to draw attention away from it to something else.
He or she might feel that way, but I think it is ultimately irrational, because if violence is opposed over here, it is consistently opposed over there, too. We can't close our eyes to one instance (a far greater one) while decrying another. This is the key. This is why I brought it up, and to me it makes perfect sense. When I visited a Holocaust museum in the Detroit area, I visited the rabbi there and talked about abortion. I wasn't minimizing the Holocaust of the Jews in the slightest; what I was saying was, "Obviously, all decent people must decry what happened in Nazi Germany; abortion is our current Holocaust that we need to also confront, on the same basis." He responded, not by being offended on your basis (not at all), but by agreeing. Then he said that if he talked about pro-life, the women who worked in the place would give him misery. Case in point. This is why pro-lifers are so often silent or silenced by our society.
If individual human life is truly and utterly unique and unrepeatable, then are we amiss in suggesting one tragedy is worse than another just because more quantities of humans are killed? Is four humans killed "worse" then three killed?
Yes. I should think that perfectly obvious.
We can't quantify human life like we do money, where having ten dollars is "better" than having five. Not that abortion is not the preeminent moral outrage; it is -- but not simply because "more" are killed. Killing even one human being is a terrible act that deprives the universe of something utterly unique; from our point of view, it is a crime of eternal magnitude.
All the more reason to scream from the rooftops about 4,000 instances a day of "depriving the universe of something utterly unique". The more the outrage occurs, the more we should be alarmed and driven to do something about it. But America wants this murder to continue. We just re-elected the most bloodthirsty President ever.
Even a single death of an innocent is worthy to be grieved and anguished over without needing to refer it to something else. Because each human life is unique, each tragedy is unique. So, I do not contest your points, and I understand the desire to use the tragedy as a means to creating awareness about abortion, which people are so numb to. Why aren't Americans outraged about abortion? Well, millions of Americans are outraged; we're called Pro-Lifers, so it's not that there is not adequate awareness. It's that the other side doesn't care. But I do feel uncomfortable with "using" this tragedy to "make a point."
I do not: not once my reasoning is fully understood, and I have laid it out. It makes perfect, eminent sense. By your reasoning, we should cry and lament the burning building with 28 people, while not mentioning the one down the street with 4,000 burning to death, because that would supposedly undervalue the 28 dying in the first building. That's crazy. The very fact that we value life means that we should talk about both: and the one with the greater carnage proportionately more, because those grave sins are multiplied every time another murder is committed.
Lastly, my purpose was not to highlight abortion. I merely wanted to correct the numerical error in the article, which was off by a proportion of ten [it said 400 babies a day were murdered]. Then I gave my thoughts. I'm glad you commented, because it gives me a chance to explain further. I think your view is basically a sophisticated variation of the "one-issue" thing that is brought up times without number. It never does have any valid justification, and I don't think it does here.
I do actually agree, at the same time, with your main point that every tragedy has validity in its own right. What I disagree with is the notion that mentioning another tragedy in the same context, of the same thing (murder), somehow undermines or minimizes the first. I don't think so, because they are both of a piece, and to condemn one is to (consistently) automatically condemn the other. But our society refuses to do so.
That's all I'm getting out -- each tragedy is unique and valid in its own right. Don't read too much into my reasoning; it was more of a gut reaction than a well-thought out position. I just thought, "If I were to try to make this point to a parent of one of the kids killed, what would they say?" Granted, that person would have a very myopic view of the situation at that point. I grant your points.
I agree with that. I disagree that it is "improper" to mention abortion in the same context.
I wouldn't make the point to a grieving parent. That would be obscene and truly callous and cruel. But that's not the case in a public article written for the public.
I appreciate your openness to what I am saying.
[another woman in a more private discussion objected on the same basis, and stated that "lives lost are not 'points' in a debate about abortion or gun control."]
My replies do not require any lives lost to be " 'points' in a debate." That has nothing to do with anything I am saying. Rather, it is about our society's differentiation between the value of one life (preborn) and another life (born): as if the former is less valuable: hence we don't hear the same outrage about 4,000 a day as we do about 28. The latter (in a morally sane world) would presuppose the former. But it doesn't.
Abortion doesn't even need to be debated, strictly speaking, because it is so self-evidently wrong (i.e., once one truly knows what it is). It's intuitive moral knowledge. If every person were forced to actually see an abortion take place, it wouldn't be legal for a second. The question then becomes: how is it that so many do not immediately see that it is intrinsically evil?
Nor is it merely "emotionally charged" to apply biblical injunctions (key to the abortion rescue movement itself: that I was part of) such as:
Psalm 82:2-4 (RSV) "How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? [Selah]
 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
 Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
Proverbs 24:10-12 If you faint in the day of adversity,
your strength is small.
 Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
 If you say, "Behold, we did not know this,"
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
and will he not requite man according to his work?
Jeremiah 22:3 Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
This is the "prophetic" function of Scripture, that we Christians ought to exercise in cases such as abortion. It's passionate but it need not be some out-of-control "emotionally charged" thing. One can be passionate and rational and controlled at the same time. Again, that's what the rescues were about.
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