Pro-choice abortion activists have often wondered why such a personal choice should be so contentious. After all, a woman’s decision to end her pregnancy is hers and hers alone; and those who oppose abortion can simply never have one. Individual rights are respected, personal choice is validated, and life goes on.
Of course this argument is disingenuous at best. A morally questionable act affects not only the individual doing it but society as a whole.
The Catholic Church has consistently condemned abortion, but the most telling criticism has been a moral one. Pope Francis in his recent Encyclical focusing on environmental issues has said:
Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.
Such moral principles are at the foundation of human society. If all life is not sacred, then exceptions can be made. Justifiable homicide, socio-economic determinates of crime, historical imperatives, retribution, can all be used to excuse violence, assault, and murder.
Respect for life is equally at the heart of social justice. The law has become a procedural tool for adjudicating disputes, but it is based on the “God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. Jefferson and his Founding Father colleagues designed the American political system to be a moral one, based on religious principles. They would be surprised and sorely disappointed to see how legalistic and procedural society has become.
Every time a life is demeaned – whether through abortion, violence, murder, or execution – the moral fabric of society becomes further unraveled.
John Paul II was perhaps the most unforgiving critic, stating in his Evangelum Vitae:
The encyclical states that today “in many people's consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured”. This is manifested in the everyday way of thinking, in people’s habits and also in the state legislation itself. All this “is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake”. This is a serious and really grave situation when “we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception.... (From Gaizler and Nyeky on Bioethics)
Such expediency and self-deception inevitably lead to an erosion of all moral judgment. Once morality is characterized only as a variable in an equation, it loses its primacy and universality.
In other words if the decision to terminate a pregnancy is made on the grounds of expediency alone, it will have inescapable consequences for all decisions with a moral component. It simply becomes easier and easier to ignore or dismiss moral responsibility.
Issues surrounding human sexuality are being vigorously discussed today. LGBT rights have been the principal focus for social activists who want to facilitate the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender Americans. What could be more simple, these activists act? Sexual behavior, a matter between consenting adults, should never be subject to legislation or restriction; and moreover the diversity of sexual expression should be encouraged. If you are not gay, or even do not approve of homosexual acts, so be it. Don’t engage in them and move on.
Perhaps the most contentious principle of the LGBT movement is ‘Gender Spectrum’. Binary sexuality – male and female – is an outmoded, discredited concept. No individual is either all male or female; and everyone should decide for themselves where they fall on the scale of sexual orientation.
This, proponents argue, has less to do with sexual preference – with whom to sleep – than it does with identity. Sexuality is within, they say, not without; all the more reason for the choice of sexuality to be individual, protected, and promoted. If you don’t like someone’s sexual identity, don’t adopt it and move on.
Well over half of Americans approve of same-sex marriage. Gay men and women opting for the most traditional of social institutions, have entered the cultural mainstream, disavowed their most promiscuous behavior, and chosen matrimony over sexual individualism; and Americans agree.
Yet the issue of transgenderism has begun to erode popular support for LGBT rights. While it is one thing to see two well-dressed men exchanging rings on the altar, it is entirely another to see what skeptics consider to be a distortion of the very principles of Judeo-Christian marriage, family, and procreation.
The Hebrew Bible is a testament to procreation, lineage and the consummate and fundamental nature and importance of the family. The New Testament is even more explicit about the family, the ‘one flesh’ union of man and woman recalling Creation, and the essential indissoluble relationship between Father and Son.
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mt 19:4-6)While many Americans have come to put their reservations aside and support gay marriage, the idea of men who are fully genetically and physically male but choose to dress, act, and socially and physically interact as women has stretched their limits of tolerance.
Once again it is not so much animus against individuals (“If you want to dress like a woman, go ahead”), but concern for the questioning of the moral and religious principles which have guided societies long before Ancient Israel.
Perhaps even more fundamental to this opposition is an increasing suspicion of relativism. There are no such things as absolute values, argue progressives. One religion is just as good as any other; all cultural practices equally valid; and any point on the sexual spectrum just as legitimate as any other.
Relativism, social and religious conservatives argue, opens the way to moral disorder. No civilization has survived without core values and universally-respected principles. Judaism was founded on the basis of Law, covenant, and commandment. There can be no half-truths in Christianity regarding the divinity of Christ or the nature of the Trinity. The heresies common in the days of the Early Church have been long been put to rest.
Although Gnosticism and Manichaeism still have their adherents, a belief in the fully human-fully divine Christ, his resurrection, his grace, and his redemption of sins defines most if not all Christians. In neither case – Judaism or Christianity – can one be on the fence.
The point is that in the eyes of many, there are such things as absolute principles which provide the foundation for society and culture. While relativism – a philosophy which denies permanence – champions causes, it erodes a respect for fundamental, historical values.
Of course every generation reviews and assesses the principles of those previous; and of course today’s society does not resemble that of 1692 Salem. Yet as ignorant as earlier eras might seem, and as twisted and illogical their interpretation of religion and social mores might appear, the basic and fundamental principles which underlie all human society – the nature of family and its role within society – were rarely ever challenged.
A disassembly of the polar nature of sexuality as a matter of cultural and social principle and a secular revisionism of Biblical injunctions against abortion and validations of life and procreation are tantamount to shaking the foundations of society itself – not just American society of 2017.
“If you don’t like it, don’t do it” can never be a moral principle; for morality is a common value as well as an individual one. Much has been made of America’s divisiveness and the importance of restoring community; but this can never happen without a respect for commonly-accepted principles of morality, ethics, and behavior.