Those to Whom Much is Given, Much Will Be Required

Now and then I get comments from people who I wish could meet each other, because they are talking to each other, but in separate conversations where they never see each others’ remarks.

So, for instance, last week, I shared part of David French’s powerful indictment of the utter failure of the MAGA “prolife” movement due to its radical committment to misogynist, sociopathic selfishness. His basic argument: why in hell should any woman who does not share a belief in the personhood of the unborn undertake the enormously self-sacrificial act of birthing and raising a child from a crisis pregnancy when the transparently phony “prolife” cult of Trump presents them with such a spectacular display of self-pitying sociopathic narcissism and refusal to lift a finger for anybody but themselves?

Here on my blog, a reader replies:

That is a possible take.

Personally, I’d be more worried about the trajectory of a nation that is willing to protect abortion with the exact same framework as religious expression. That also suggests a certain libertine, don’t-give-a-shit-about-others mindset at work, but no matter.

Trump is a corrupt turd, no argument here.

Meanwhile, as I was thinking about how to reply to this comment, a friend of mine, a Catholic deacon named Nathan Allen, made this comment about the French article over on the Book of Face:

The real battle all along was converting the culture, and the pro-life movement utterly blew that. By becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, they have made the task of converting the culture all that much harder. People don’t trust hypocrites, and anybody who was saying back in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president that character matters in our leaders, and then supported Trump, is a hypocrite. 

And that’s really it. At the end of the day, the pro-life movement depends for its existence on a set of moral and metaphysical presuppositions that are ultimately rooted in the Christian tradition. I think those propositions true. But I do not think them necessarily obvious, much as I think other propositions in the Christian tradition true, but not obvious. It is true, but not obvious, that you find your life by losing it, that the way of salvation is by taking up the most disgusting instrument of shame, torture, and death the ancients could imagine, that what looks like bread and wine is, in fact, the glorified body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, that even the most repellent human being is made in the image and likeness of God and derives his or her dignity from him.

The paradox of all these truths is that they really are core aspects of reality that we deny only at the cost of great violence to what Jesus taught, yet (as bitter experience has taught the Church) they cannot and must not be asserted by violence or force. A person may regard the source and summit of Catholic devotion–the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist–as an idiotic superstition and even blaspheme him in the Eucharist. But a Catholic may not answer that blasphemy with violence and can never persuade the blasphemer to believe when he cannot see simply by calling him a monster or trying to punish him. Yet what conservative Christians in the US have done for the past 40 years is tell both women in crisis pregnancies and those attempting to help them in good faith that they are monsters of evil for not seeing what only revelation reveals. And, more and more, they are doing so even as they prostrate themselves to a man who speaks of the least of them (in whom Christ assures us he is likewise present) and calls them “vermin” to the thunderous applause of “prolifers”.

The “prolife” movement has reached this disastrous point (with the honorable exception of the Consistent Ethic of Life folk) because they lazily accepted a narrative which told them that all who disagreed with them were simply “evil”. Monstrous babykillers who simply refuse to see what was plainly obvious: that abortion is nothing more or other than murder.

But the reality, of course, was never this simplistic. And the staggering selfishness of the MAGA “prolife” cult when asked to make their own, often incredibly trivial, sacrifices for the sake protecting human life has made a spectacular hash of their attempts to impose fantastically more difficult sacrifices on the backs of others without lifting a finger to even respect, much less help, them.

So, for instance, Jewish tradition, having developed along different lines from Christian tradition, honestly does not see abortion the same way, in no small part because it has never had to wrestle with the implications of the words, “he was conceived by the Holy Spirit”.

This does not make Jews monsters. It makes them human beings attempting to navigate their moral obligations to God and neighbor in the light of their religious tradition and their conscience. And, in America, that means that Jews (along with the other 87% of Americans), not only do not want 13% of Americans to impose an abortion ban, but indeed make very formidable arguments that the attempt to impose an abortion ban is an assault on religious liberty.

Christians in the 13% are, of course, free to disagree about the humanity of the unborn, just as they are free to disagree with their neighbors about the reality of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. But as the gospel teaches, (and the tragedy of Christian history shows in its breaches of the gospel) Christians cannot bring people to accept the humanity of the unborn or the divinity of the Eucharist by declaring that those who can’t see it are doing so out of “pure evil” that simply refuses to see what is plain as a pikestaff. Still less can they do so with force, fear, blood, iron, and law. That, among many, many other reasons, is why ideologues like James Altman are so catastrophically, horribly wrong when they deliver themselves of monstrous ipsi dixits such as his declaration that the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto had it coming when the Nazis wiped them out Because Abortion.

And it’s why the attempt by the 13% to impose their will on the 87% must end in tyranny by or oblivion for the “prolife” movement if it continues on its current trajectory.

The revelation is preached in love and freedom or not at all. That’s why those in the “prolife” MAGA cult of death, with their continual message that they will sacrifice nothing while their culture war targets must bear incredible burdens have done a piss poor job of bringing people to the relationship with Christ that is the only thing capable of enabling a human being to see why they should be willing to undertake such burdens as the rearing of a child in a traumatic pregnancy. Instead, they have gone all in on simply trying to wield law, punishment, force, fear, the threat of prison, travel restrictions, and even the threat of execution, all while prostrating themselves to a rapist like Donald Trump. They demand that millions of women who do not for the life of them share a belief in the personhood of a microscopic zygote sacrifice the rest of their lives to care for that zygote while themselves declaring that the immunocompromised people right in front of them had better die and help decrease the surplus population to the tune of a million Americans rather than they have to wear a mask to the grocery store or get a shot. They tell poor families that they will not help them get a living wage as they conceive their fourth baby, and that Mom should be jailed if she cracks under the pressure and seeks an abortion. They consistently refuse the minor tax burden of paying for universal health care while telling poor women they must, on pain of severe temporal and even eternal punishment bear a lifelong burden of poverty, enforced by the MAGA “prolife” cult that calls them “vermin” who are “poisoning the blood of America”.

People come to believe in Jesus and the moral implications of his gospel when they see that his disciples do. When they see people claiming to be disciples while tying up heavy burdens for others as they refuse to lift a finger to help them, they quickly work out that this is nothing other than a game of control. And they do not fail to work that out when the people doing the controlling offer only a sop to their own consciences with an occasional donation (if that) to a Crisis Pregnancy Center that provides a puny amount of help before launching women in poverty out into a world where the MAGA cult “prolifers” support working doggedly to punish poor families for having children.

And that’s the thing: I don’t expect non-believers to make Christ-like sacrifices. Why should they? It is those of us who claim to be his disciples who should be bearing the heavy burdens that those who do not yet believe may say, “See how these Christians love one another” and seek to know and follow their Lord in self-sacrificial love. As Jesus says:

That servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. (Lk 12:47–48)

For 40 years, conservative Christians have been laboring to force non-Christians to do and bear much through law, iron, force, fear, and punishment, because we have been fighting to not have to do the hard work of taking up our own crosses, bearing the burdens of others, and laying down our own lives in loving sacrifice. And that is why so many millions of “prolife” MAGA cultists are now committed body and soul to a rapist who pledges to make other people suffer.


6 Responses

  1. One of your best, Mark.

    No, it’s not obvious. I tell people abortion will be ended in America when 85% of people are convinced abortion is so very wrong and so very obviously wrong that they’re willing to forbid anyone doing it (even themselves). They’ll be wrong about whether it’s obvious, but no matter. Until people understand that making “a society in which it is easier for people to be good” doesn’t devalue their own virtue, it isn’t going to even begin.

    There was an old man parading a cardboard sign outside the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis last Sunday that said something like “Roe is Returning”. I’m enough a Jeffersonian I hope not, for political/structural reasons. But also for political/structural reasons, the “right to abortion” is being written into state constitutions. Partly because Serious Catholics™ aren’t serious about “a society in which it is easier for people to be good.”

  2. Thank you Mark, for this excellent post. I echo both you and Tom that it’s *not* obvious and absent religious conviction, close to impossible. I struggle with it in ways that I don’t with the Real Presence, in part because reproductive biology is just much more wild and weird than simple Birds and Bees.

    I had a conversation with a Church friend not long ago, that quickly devolved through rape and incest exceptions (which aren’t necessary because those are rare cases) and maternal life exceptions (which aren’t necessary either because those situations are rare too, it just gets published because it’s dramatic) to her final point, which is, “all these women just want to have sex and not have babies”.

    Which is the culture we’re in, and *that* isn’t changing either. And laws aren’t going to change it.

  3. There is this moving scene in Gandhi where he says that “I am prepared to die for this cause, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.”. The pro-life people are the exact opposite – they are not prepared to make any sacrfices , but they are ready to kill . Which leads me to believe that this is nothing more than an exercise in vanity for white Christians, and the gullible ones who follow them

    The masses know about the moral emptiness of the prolife movement. Each in their own way, have run into this racket. I am not white. So I’m acutely aware of the decades of polices and laws that were birthed by the legislators and judges who were handed power by the prolife movement. Because it impacts me day to day. Black people have known for a long time about the prolife racket. It did not start with MAGA and Trump. It was there from the origin of the prolife movement (Reagan’s dogwhistle at Neshoba ), and Trump just ripped off the covers off it.

    And that’s me , a catholic, who actually lived it – who received advise that termination of our pregnancy was advisable for trisomy 18, and chose otherwise. I DETEST the prolife movement to the core – for what its doing to the Church and for the damage its inflicting on the real cause to save lives.

    I can only imagine what normal people who are non believers experience when they run into prolifers. Prolifers are the people handing over the power of government and courts to people who destroys the rights of workers, demonizes anyone who is not white or christian , opposes any attempts for a living wage, healthcare, retirement.

    “Hey, help us save babies, so that we can screw you over” comes across as very very credible, doesn’t it?. Should I listen to these hypocrites, who are making my life more hellish, when as it is I can barely get along ?

    Roe overturned, and the price was abortion enshrined in law more and more, and the Churches social teachings burnt to the ground . It would be well-deserved outcome for the decades of moral fraud – still ongoing – executed by the USCCB and the privileged Catholics. Pyrrhic victory is coming for them, but not before the last remaining tatters of moral dignity is spent, by electing Trump once more. Whatever shreds of dignity remaining has to go, and the rotten core needs to be fully exposed before any real expiation can start.

  4. When humans are seen as objects and feel themselves as being objects there is a constant internal struggle to find oneself as having value and to defend oneself from being seen as less than. The “basic fault” in all of us in this narcissistic society is that we are not good enough. The spiritual narcissist is one outcome of this “basic fault” whose rigidity and lack of empathy are defenses against their awareness of their own sense of worthlessness while being projected onto others. An object can only recognize others as objects rather than valued human beings.

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