Originally published in the Washington Times on October 7, 2018.
‘You must be singular or be damned’
One of the refrains we are hearing ad nauseum during the present battle over the U.S. Supreme Court is that all Christians are single-issue voters who need to move beyond their fixation on abortion to the bigger and more complex issues such as standing against war, fighting cultural oppression and defending basic human rights.
The siren of many progressives who are left-of-center seems clear. There is so much more that is wrong with the world than abortion. Leave women alone to make their choices and let’s move on to solve society’s real problems; those imposed upon us by the cabal of corrupt capitalists and the hegemony of Western tradition.
If you’re among these critics, I’d rather not argue, but, instead, simply ask a few questions.
First, did it ever occur to you that it is just a bit fallacious to lump “all” of any group of people (women, Jews, Muslims, blacks or whites, for example) into one big category? I know, you are likely saying that you didn’t mean “all” but your all-inclusive claim about all conservatives and all Christians does betray a bias and a bit of bigotry, and bias and bigotry always point to a weak argument and faulty premise.
In the future, you might want to be a little more disciplined in your logic before you start talking about “all” of those with whom you disagree.
Second, if you feel conservatives and Christians are too concerned with abortion and pay too little attention to the more endemic problems of the world such as gender equality, social justice and human rights, why do you think your list of injustices has any merit in the first place? On what basis do you make this claim?
Isn’t it because you are assuming that by definition “humanness” is an objective standard that no one has the right to offend, reject or take away? Don’t all the items on your list of grievances suggest that no human has the right to “choose” to compromise another human’s rights?
You see, the language of “choice” is really a ruse. It’s a distraction that really has zero bearing on this discussion. This really is not a debate about choice but, rather one of ontology and epistemology as much as anything. Bottom line: Does humanness exist and if so how do we define it and does anyone have the right to compromise it?
Another way to ask the question: Why do you march for #MeToo? Why are you supporting Black Lives Matter? Why do you want to help the poor? If there is no objective standard that serves as the basis for your belief in human dignity, then why do you care about women’s rights, ending racial oppression and fighting poverty?
Diminishing the value of one person’s life through one means such as abortion, minimizes the very standards you use to condemn the disrespect for human life through other means, such as racial injustice and economic oppression. When you argue that abortion is a debate about human choice rather about human beings, you are sawing off the branch upon which you must sit to make your case for human rights in the first place.
A final word on the issue of social justice: It is possible that those on the “right” might actually treasure justice as much as those on the “left”; and that it is not really a matter of debating values (such as mercy, equality love and compassion) as much as it is a debate about methods (i.e., how do we best achieve such goals?). Conservatives might actually cherish freedom, liberty and human dignity as much as you do. We just might have a different perspective on how to obtain those things.
I close with this personal note. I was once much more “progressive” than I am now. In my earlier years I was pro-choice and I used to be a leading voice for the “you can’t legislate morality” crowd. But I don’t hold that position anymore. Why? Well, there are many reasons but first and foremost, I woke up and realized it doesn’t make any sense.
I mean this literally. There is no sense, no logic, no intellectual integrity and no moral consistency in this argument. Legislation, if it is nothing else, is always based on morality. Otherwise there is nothing to legislate and the entire process becomes meaningless. William Wilberforce and John Wesley and a host of others who followed them recognized this.
These great leaders were indeed dangerously close to being “single-issue voters.” Wesley famously declared that “you must be singular or be damned” and Wilberforce, in like manner, spent decades with near tunnel vision arguing on the floor of the British Parliament to legislate morality by abolishing the slave trade. Thank God they were fixated on one issue.
Maybe, “single-issue voting” isn’t that bad after all.
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