Should We Ban MAGA Hats on the March for Life?
In the debate over the actions of pro-life Catholic schoolboys this past weekend, it was hard to hear sweet reason. That was drowned out by the sound of bishops, schoolmasters, and conservatives throwing those boys under the bus.
And of course the shrieking of outright hatred for whites, males, white males, pro-lifers, and Catholics. These groups’ alleged “privilege” exempts them, you see, from the presumption of innocence. Just “smirking while white” is now a crime, which makes it okay for adults to fantasize about assaulting teenagers. Or encourage a Parkland-style massacre at their high school.
— Ryan Fournier (@RyanAFournier) January 21, 2019
We’ve seen this before, in the vicious dehumanizing of rabid mobs in the past. The French Revolutionaries who targeted for death every member of the aristocracy. (Then every priest or nun. Then every foreigner who happened to be in Paris. And then every peasant who lived in the Vendee region.) In the thuggish resentment which the Bolsheviks aimed at every shopkeeper or prudent farmer. Which the Nazis aimed at the (more educated, wealthier, “privileged”) Jews. And the Hutus aimed at the taller, more successful Tutsis.
If there’s one thing that paves the way for genocide, it’s claims of collective guilt. That makes the ideal anesthetic for the conscience. It steels your nerves for massacring Apache women and children, or starving all the Ukrainians or gassing all the Jews.
Maybe it’s not the ideal tool of moral analysis, then. That’s all I’m saying.
The Rat King Scatters
Next let’s consider a Twitter comment by Ross Douthat. Now, Douthat is the house conservative at The New York Times who essentially endorsed Hillary Clinton a week before the election. No, not in those words. Instead, he wrote that voting for Trump was analogous to shooting an abortionist, amounting to an act of civil war.
Even as the “evil white brats bully heroic deeply spiritual medicine man” narrative was collapsing and scampering off like a shattered rat king, Douthat struck a moderate posture. He wrote:
Good rules for life:
Don’t let your Catholic school’s students wear MAGA hats on a field trip for the March for Life.
Don’t *immediately* make a teenager a symbol of everything you hate about your political enemies based on a short video clip. Give it a day at least.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) January 20, 2019
To that I responded, promptly:
Imagine telling pro-choicers they can’t wear P**** Hats, or else bands of Euro-Americans in Viking costumes get to swamp them and blow hunting horns in their faces.
— John Zmirak (@JZmirak) January 21, 2019
In fact, it baffled me why anyone would say that pro-lifers should avoid supporting a president who helps them — the most pro-life president since Ronald Reagan, in fact.
The Seamless Condom
I dismiss, of course, in advance, anyone who answers with “Seamless Garment” blather. Who claims that when Trump deports or tries to deter illegal aliens, he’s denying their human dignity — just as abortionists do when they rip little babies apart. (Whereas when Barack Obama deported and deterred illegals, that was moral and totally cool.)
We all know now that the Seamless Garment was nothing more than a full-body condom to shield Italian-American and Irish-American Democrats from the blood of unborn children. That’s why LGBT activist Cardinal Joseph Bernardin created it, and it’s still the only purpose it serves today. Oh yeah, and to give bishops like Cardinal Blaise Cupich an excuse to offer Holy Communion to pro-abortion legislators, as long as they favor filling bishops’ churches with immigrants and coffers with federal money.
The Pro-Life Movement as Substitute Church
No, I want to address sane people, who are at least trying to tell the truth. I saw some other responses to this issue, which boiled down to the following:
The pro-life movement is a spiritual endeavor. It’s designed to reawaken people to the sanctity and value of human life, and show them God’s plan for all of us. It shouldn’t be divisive. Instead it ought to tap into all that is best in us. It should be all sunshine, puppies, and flowers. That’s the way we change people’s hearts, by being really winsome. Without that, we’ll never end abortion.
Here at least is an error with enough truth in it that we can get somewhere. Maybe refine it, and extract the gold from the dross.
I do realize that abortion is legal for deeply spiritual reasons. I wrote a whole essay about that, just a few days ago. If I might quote from it:
In a very profane but brutally candid monologue Louis CK riffs on this. If you can look past his crude language, he cuts to the heart of the issue. He admits that we’re killing babies, but then shrugs and grants women that privilege. Why? “Because life isn’t that important.”
[T]hat’s why abortion is legal. Because we’ve decided that life is fundamentally unimportant, so we might as well enjoy a little sex with minimal consequences. Before we drop into oblivion.
So yes, there’s a sense in which we are swimming upstream against Western Civilization, as it flows down the sewer. We’re arguing laws and rights to people who have internalized the Void. We’re peddling natural law to folks who are really in desperate need of an exorcism by Jesus.
Got it. All that is true. But it’s not the point.
Because if the pro-life movement is expected to do all of that — or indeed, any of that — it’s doomed to fail. We might as well cancel the next March for Life, wind down the Susan B. Anthony List, and close our pregnancy shelters.
Don’t get me wrong. Someone needs to stem the tide of nihilism. To remind people of the law that God wrote in the human heart. Even more, to convert them to Christ. Whose job is that again?
Instead of Crawling into a Whiskey Bottle
Oh yeah, the Christian church. But we’ve ceased to expect it do its job. At least, I’ve ceased to expect my own, Catholic, church to do it during my lifetime. I fully expect to go to the grave, watching our bishops dither and hem and haw over how high a percentage of actively homosexual priests is really too high. Speaking out boldly in public mostly on issues that hit its pocketbook, like immigration. Snuffing out every spark of bold faith and evangelism under a wet bureaucratic blanket. Gradually selling off the magnificent temples our poor, migrant ancestors raised to the glory of God, to pay the butcher’s bill for perverted priests and callous bishops.
Virtually every Catholic I know feels exactly the same. (Many Protestants must as well, for their own institutional reasons.) And what do we do with that feeling? Instead of giving up and crawling into a bottle of Irish whiskey, we pour our energies into something that leftist bishops can’t suffocate and degenerate priests cannot bankrupt: the pro-life movement. For some, it’s almost become an alternative church.
But it can’t bear that weight and was never meant to. It’s a hammer, designed to pound one nail: Gaining legal protection for unborn children (and now those threatened with euthanasia). It gathers Christians, Jews, atheists, Republicans, a few Democrats, some feminists and others who share that goal. That’s it.
As veteran prolife activist and filmmaker Jason Jones has written, it’s a deeply political movement, like the NRA or the pro-Israel lobby. It has specific goals in the real world of legislation. Its leaders must bargain, play hard ball, reward their friends and punish their enemies. If it starts to do so as effectively as other political movements it will succeed. If it plays at being the Christian church, it will fail.
It’s just that simple.
Somebody needs to fix the Church all right. But that’s going to have to be Christ Himself. Don’t put that burden on a bunch of teenagers marching in the streets. Instead, let them put on their MAGA hats if they want to. We need to win this.
Making abortion illegal would in fact renew the culture. It would reverse the Sexual Revolution, overnight. That would go a long way toward removing that massive obstacle to the Gospel. And that in turn would help reverse the wave of nihilism. And save people’s immortal souls.
But don’t mistake a hammer for a fire extinguisher. Or even worse, for the Fire of the Holy Spirit Himself.