Culture

The Joyless Worldview of the Pro-Choice Movement

doritos-ultrasound-ad.jpg

By Scott McClare

If you watched the Super Bowl a few weekends ago, you might have seen the ad for Doritos. It got a lot of attention because in the ad, a pregnant woman chastises her husband for eating Doritos during her ultrasound appointment, only to discover that her unborn child (visible on a monitor) also craves the chips and is reaching for them inside the womb. Though goofy, it was one of the more memorable ads from this year's game.

Apparently, the humour was lost on the folks at NARAL Pro-Choice America, however. They tweeted, after the ad aired:

That's an interesting choice of words: "humanizing fetuses." It assumes that a fetus is not human. But if it is not human, what is it? Canine? Porcine? No one can "humanize" the unborn. They are, by virtue of their human parentage, human beings. Humanity is intrinsic to our natures. It's not a title bestowed upon us because we happen to be "wanted" or made it through all nine months of gestation. Therefore, neither is our moral worth determined by these things. We have moral worth because we are human beings, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). And it is because we are made in the image of God that taking another human life without justification is evil (Genesis 9:6).

Still from the Doritos "Ultrasound" spot that aired during the Super Bow, Feb. 7, 2016.NARAL also calls out stereotypes of "clueless" dads and "uptight" moms. But that invites the question: what are they the mom and dad of? if that fetus ought not to be "humanized"—if it's only a potential human being, and not an actual one—then why call them parents? Are they the human parents of non-human offspring? Of course not. In writing this tweet, NARAL assumes the very thing they are denying: the humanity of the unborn. This is incoherent, even for Twitter—and for NARAL.

It is NARAL and other abortion-rights advocates who commit the error of dehumanizing the unborn. It's easy to see why: if the unborn are not human beings, then no defense of abortion is necessary. On the other hand, if they are human beings, then no defense of abortion is possible. It is the unjust taking of a blameless human life.

Of course, it is the technology used in the Doritos ad that strikes the pro-choice position a mortal blow. Sonograms show what was hidden away for millennia: the visible humanity of the unborn, even inside the womb. The late Bernard Nathanson was once the director of the largest abortion clinic in the U.S. after New York legalized abortion in 1970. In his career as an abortionist, he oversaw more than 60,000 abortions, estimating he performed 5,000 of them himself. Like many abortion activists, he wanted to destigmatize the procedure. However, when he began using then-new ultrasound technology as a tool in his clinic, he saw the effects of abortion in real time. Over time Nathanson was compelled to reconsider his pro-abortion stance, and became a significant pro-life advocate.[1] Ironically, one of Bernard Nathanson's other claims to fame was co-founding NARAL in 1969.

Since Nathanson's time, what was once a relatively minor diagnostic tool has become a major influence on how we view pregnancy and childbirth. The millennial generation, those born after 1980, are significantly more pro-life than their parents. This is at least partly due to advances in technology, such as the widespread use of ultrasound in prenatal care.[2] Sonograms have become commonplace. Millennials have seen ultrasound images passed around by their pregnant friends, or pictures of their as-yet-unborn siblings taped to the fridge as though they were just another baby picture. (They have also seen abortion take away a third of their generation that never got a chance to live.) We can't conclude from this that the pro-life side is winning. But we can say that activist groups like NARAL don't have the option of preaching at us that we shouldn't "humanize" the unborn. We have seen the sonograms, and what they depict is undoubtedly human.

Aside from disputing the propriety of bringing Doritos into an ultrasound appointment, the on-screen couple appears happy to welcome their unborn child into the world. I like to imagine this reflects the real-life joy of the filmmaker, Peter Carstairs: the "beautiful baby" in the ad is played by an actual ultrasound of Carstairs' then-unborn son, Freddie, and given a taste for tortilla chips with a little digital trickery.[3] It's a humorous take on a routine event in the life of an expecting couple.

Compare that to the humourless worldview expressed by NARAL's Twitter complaints. Throughout the Super Bowl, the person using their Twitter account found fault with this or that advertisement for not toeing the line of their particular variety of feminism. For example, in response to an ad in which comedian Kevin Hart plays an overprotective father following his daughter on a date, they tweeted:

Maybe they don't understand that we already get that it's inappropriate. That's why it's funny!

NARAL also retweeted this remark from one of their state affiliates, after an ad celebrating "Super Bowl Babies" who are supposedly conceived on game day, hinting that they're no happier about born babies than unborn ones:

Most of us would take a healthy ultrasound as a joyful event. However, in the dour worldview of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who view everything through the lenses of their own radical ideology, even an ultrasound appointment is political. The fictional joy of an on-screen couple, as they see their unborn son on a monitor, "humanizes" the fetus and supposedly threatens the rights of women. Our cultural commentary can do better than this joyless approach.


[1] Emma Brown, "Bernard Nathanson, Abortion Doctor Who Became Anti-Abortion Advocate, Dies at 84," Washington Post, February 22, 2011, accessed February 17, 2016, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/22/AR2011022206507.html. See also Bernard N. Nathanson, Aborting America (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1979) and Nathanson, The Hand of God (Washington: Regnery, 1996).

[2] Ken Blackwell, "How the Abortion Tide Turns," Washington Times, August 2, 2015, accessed February 17, 2016, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/aug/2/ken-blackwell-americans-becoming-more-pro-life/.

[3] Tiffany Dunk, "Aussie Filmmaker Peter Carstairs May Have a Big US Break Thanks to the Superbowl," News.com.au, January 5, 2016, accessed January 17, 2016, http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/aussie-filmmaker-peter-carstairs-may-have-a-big-us-break-thanks-to-the-superbowl/news-story/bb221ab85850d1299ff4ead86a056aed.

The Church: Dominant, Sub-, or Countercultural?

By Ian McKerracher

As part of the dominant culture, the role of the Church was well-defined for everyone involved. It was a role that lasted, off and on, for the better part of one and a half millennia. The Church was to be the conscience of the culture and the arbiter of morality and ethics. This role was valid for most of the past centuries of the Western worldview, since the time of Constantine, who enabled the Christian Church to bear the task of formulating orthodoxy and orthopraxy. If you wanted to know what was right or wrong, you could go to the Church and get an answer to your questions.

When the Church wandered from that role and sought a voice or a part to play in the wider culture, she tended to do very poorly. Cast into the role of a military power, many times she spawned religious wars and power grabs. Cast into the role of Science Journal, many times she opposed the best science of her day.

Bear in mind that all this was accomplished with the Church as a significant player in the culture. In today's climate, there is a renegotiation going on between the Church and that same wider culture: especially in North America, but also in Europe and whereever the touch of Western civilization has landed. This is what those in the Church who are looking back to the "glory days" are balking at. The renegotiation is trying to relegate the Church to a much-diminished role. They no longer want the Church to be the arbiter of their morality. They want to do their own thing without any outside interference. They want the Church to be confined to a limited subculture status.

The question is: Should the Church submit to that diminished role? Should we just accept that the culture around us is no longer listening to us, and so we should enter into a new phase by looking after our own interests just like all the other factions of society do? Do we just go quietly into that good night?

I want to say that there is another way: a third way between being a major player in the dominant culture (a role no longer available to us anyways) and being an inwardly focused subculture only concerned with the issues that the greater society allows us. This third way is being a counterculture. In the role of counterculture, the Church actually begins to revert to its original model provided by the pages of Scripture. It appears to me that the place for the Church is and always has been here. We were not designed to play the role of dominant culture, as evidenced by the great failures of the Church in the past. We also are not just one of many of the subcultures scattered throughout our world. The Church has a unique position in the culture—or should have.

For the Church to pursue this role, it is imperative that the Church start becoming the church! We should ask ourselves: if there was a group of people who have the Spirit of the Living God inside of them, what would they look like? How would they be different from the surrounding culture? What would their priorities be?

One sure-fire way to answer these highly charged questions would be to look at the culture outside and away from the Church, and begin to do the opposite things. I am not suggesting that the Church be "oppositional," thinking that would make us more attractive. That idea certainly has not been very successful any time it has been attempted. Attitude is everything, and being a jerk is still being a jerk even when you have the Truth. Let's just remember that those outside our congregations don't have the overwhelming reality of the Living God inside of them, and so they would act in a way that shows they are not being informed by Him. If the dominant culture, including those in political power, in educational power, and in the power of the media, are not being influenced as freely by the Holy Spirit as Christians should be, then the way they conduct themselves and the pursuits they deem valuable should reflect that difference. We could just observe their attitudes and actions and assume that we should look different.

Flower_Power_demonstrator
Flower_Power_demonstrator

We have had many countercultural groups over the course of history, with whom we can make comparisons and be instructed. They appear and disappear like waves on the historical ocean, and sometimes leave us with the faint smell of salty fishiness in the background of our collective consciousness. The hippies of the last century were much more than a weird fashion show with great music. They were countercultural in the true sense of the word. They redefined, for themselves, the notions of success, relationships, and personal autonomy. At the time, the Vietnam War provided a focus point for them to counter. Conventions of hair length were turned on their heads, along with dreams of picket fences in the suburbs, paid for by a personal commitment to a corporation for life. Those same hippies had children, who are now the "Occupy" people trying to change the social contract, or the social justice warriors that stride through the Internet, cutting a vast swath of vitriol, fueled by a sense of the unassailable rightness of their causes. These are examples of negative countercultural movements, which have suffered (or will suffer) the ignobility of being dashed upon the rocks of reality as their ideas become mainstream.

The Church has a history of very positive countercultural actions over the course of her story. Though many of the chapters of that glorious story have have been besmirched in modern times by a media hostile to religion, there are episodes of Church history where she rose to the occasions of her greatness by being present and accounted for to bear the weight of serving the victims of the poor policies of the dominant culture. With a true and robust redemption to offer those victims, the Church shone like a beacon, cutting through the fogginess of the anti-intellectualism that founded (and still confounds) the collective insanity that characterizes a life outside of God's good graces. Whether it is waiting in a boat below bridges where women cast their unwanted babies; gathering money and resources to help the poor at home and abroad; or providing care for disenfranchised, hospitalized, or incarcerated people, the Church was doing social justice long before it came in vogue to demand it from others. And she did all this with a clear-eyed vision to be an instrument in the Hand of the Master Builder of the Kingdom of God: to be involved in something infinitely larger than itself, a Kingdom where Love rules!

It doesn't take long for anyone focusing on those kinds of questions and looking at the latest rendition of the Church to realize: we aren't that, in whatever way we apply Scripture as a map to define what "that" is. Church-wide repentance is a great option! I heartily endorse it as a way to return to the original scriptural mandates set upon us by our Lord. As for the politics, bureaucrasies, and other power centres of our world: let the dead bury their dead. Let's follow Jesus.