Category Archives: Abortion

Nebulosity, thy name is feminism

Aziz Ansari recently delighted mainstream feminists on The Late Show with David Letterman when he claimed that, “if you believe that men and women have equal rights, and then someone asks you if you’re a feminist, you have to say yes.” His contention was, essentially, that feminism is nothing more than the claim that men and women ought to have the same rights.

As nearly every westerner knows, feminism has an image problem. According to a recent Huffington Post poll, only 23% of women identified with the label feminist, even though only 9% of both male and female respondents claimed to disagree with the statement “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.” In this climate, Ansari is a welcome public supporter for many feminists (the ones who don’t think that having male genitalia necessarily makes you an oppressor, anyway). But is he correct? It’s certainly true that most dictionaries agree with his definition, but there are so many varieties of feminism, some of which frankly contradict the idea of gender equality, that it doesn’t approximate how the word has been used by many self-defined feminists.

To cite only one example, in an episode of the podcast Fully Engaged Feminism, Avory Faucette of the Radically Queer blog brought up an issue dividing traditional second wave feminists from more contemporary feminists–whether men who identify as women should be welcomed into the feminist fold. Said Avory, “it’s right for some people not to identify with the label feminist because” of the “radical feminist” notion that “patriarchy equals [having  a phallus].” They also discussed a feminist event at a pagan conference that excluded transgender men who identified as women because “their physical embodiment in a space was triggering” to women.

Despite what Ansari claims, the most accurate-to-life definition for feminism is probably the etymological one. A feminist is someone who has beliefs or doctrines centered around female concerns. Therefore, feminist thinking is woman-focused thinking. It should be obvious that this doesn’t necessarily tell us about its validity or rightness. Which women? Whose concerns? The feminist group Radicalesbians emerged out of woman-focused concerns that oppression of women was so central to men’s identities that any woman who has sexual or romantic interactions with a man is participating in their oppression. They therefore consciously chose to engage in only lesbian relationships. Is this equality-focused thinking? No, but it’s certainly a form of feminism. On the other side of the feminist spectrum, women like Suzanne Venker and Christina Hoff  Sommers have claimed that much of feminism has negatively affected women by putting pressure on them to pursue what are traditionally thought of as male-oriented activities (career, sexual “freedom,” etc.) when that often isn’t what they want. They are also women who are concerned about women’s issues, and yet they are often labelled anti-feminists due to a feminist orthodoxy that has nothing to do with feminism’s dictionary definition.

This brings us to the other major problem with saying feminism is simply synonymous with equality: it is, frankly, sneaky. Some issues which are considered to be essential feminist issues, such as open access to abortion or making sure that women have equal representation in the corporate world whether they want it or not (and data suggests that many don’t), are not obviously relevant to the cause of equality. But by saying that feminism (which is often seen to include pro-choice philosophy by default) simply is  the belief in equal rights between the sexes, one can sneak these controversial issues in and make the person who has accepted the feminist propagandist definition believe that they are common sense, since political equality between the genders is common sense.

As a Christian, I think that the safety, well-being, and freedom of women should be an essential concern on both a personal  and societal level. But when someone asks if I’m a feminist, I have to ask, “what do you mean?”

A Response to Brett Kunkle’s Philosophical Argument Against Annihilationism

Stand To Reason’s Brett Kunkle posted a video today with a philosophical argument against annihilationism. In short, he argued that since man is made in the image of God and is therefore intrinsically valuable, God would not destroy any human being completely.  I appreciate Kunkle’s and STR’s willingness to engage the annihilationist position, and I am therefore returning the favor.

Kunkle parallels his philosophical argument against hell with a common argument against abortion, which is that it is wrong to destroy an unborn child, made in the image of God, simply out of concern that they might have a low quality of life.

There are a number of problems with this parallel. To begin with, in the case of the unborn child we have a person who is innocent (one’s view of original sin aside). A better parallel would be to a prisoner convicted of crimes meriting execution. Though I’m not sure if Kunkle supports the death penalty in the present day, he no doubt would acknowledge that God has executed the death penalty (both directly and indirectly through the Israelite government) in the past and was just for doing so. Therefore it is inconsistent for him to argue that it is always wrong to destroy human life since, indeed, sometimes it is just. The appeal to pro-life arguments on abortion are therefore not relevant to this discussion.

Kunkle also uses lofty phrases in order to achieve a positive emotional response from his viewers toward his contention, such as the claim that God “dignified us with human freedom” and “respects our choices.” God is therefore obligated by justice to not destroy rebellious sinners but must instead torment them eternally, consciously, and without any opportunity for saving repentance. Say what you want about the justice of eternal conscious torment, but the last thing it could be called is dignified or respectful. Kunkle seems to know this on a subconscious level, and thus argues that, in contradiction to the claims of annihilationism, “unfortunately hell is eternal conscious torment” (emphasis mine).

But why should this be unfortunate? If it’s just and provides rebel sinners with dignity, why should we not celebrate eternal conscious torment? The unstated answer is that being tortured forever sucks. So, now that we’ve stripped the argument of its fluffy, emotional language and alleged parallels to pro-life convictions, what do we have?

In short, we have the argument that if human beings are made in the image of God, this makes them inherently valuable. If they are inherently valuable, God would not destroy them. But are we then left with eternal conscious torment as our best alternative? Absolutely not, for on this account it is also not desirable to torment inherently valuable, thinking, feeling persons for all eternity. If Kunkle’s argument follows, it does not lead us to the traditional view, but something akin to universalism or apocatastasis.

My proposed counter-argument to Kunkle is to acknowledge that neither annihilation or eternal conscious torment of persons made in the image of God is desirable, but in light of the scriptural witness to final punishment, and the fact of sinful rebellion, something must be done with those who refuse to repent. In the coming eschaton, wherein we will see firsthand God’s perfect reordering of the universe, is it preferable to imagine the unending torture of men and women who refuse to repent, or to imagine God as all in all?

Abraham Lincoln and the Abolitionist Arguments Against Abortion

Was reading over a book about the Lincoln-Douglas debates and found this section to offer an incredible parallel to the abortion debate we’re having today:

Lincoln is quoted as saying, in response to Douglas’ arguments for the rights of southern states to own slaves:
“The doctrine of self government is right—absolutely and eternally right—but it has no just application, as here attempted. Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has such just application depends upon whether a negro is not or is a man. If he is not a man, why in that case, he who is a man may, as a matter of self-government, do just as he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? When the white man governs himself that is self-government; but when he governs himself, and also governs another man, that is more than self-government—that is despotism. If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal;’ and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.”

In other words, Lincoln finds it perfectly fine for white men to do anything they want to black men, to treat them like property and not human beings, but only if they really are not human beings. If they are, according to Lincoln’s thinking, they cannot be treated as property. Similarly,  pro-life proponents rest their argument on the scientific fact that the unborn is a living human being and the belief that human life is objectively valuable; whereas pro-choice arguments tend to treat the unborn as a part of the woman’s body, and thus as her property to do with as she pleases.

Lincoln continues:
Judge Douglas frequently, with bitter irony and sarcasm, paraphrases our argument by saying ‘The white people of Nebraska are good enough to govern themselves, but they are not good enough to govern a few miserable negroes!!'”

In other words, Douglas accused Lincoln of arguing that slave owning states are somehow morally deficient. As a parallel in the abortion debate, I might paraphrase the oft-made claim from pro-choicers that they “trust women to make decisions about their own body” and that pro-choice women “think carefully about their decision to abort.” Of course, these claims are irrelevant smokescreens, and the implied accusation that pro-lifers are sexist instead of simply concerned about human life is also a non sequitur. On the slavery issue, Lincoln was quick to point out the vacuousness of these types of arguments and bring the discussion back to the real issue at hand:
“Well I doubt not that the people of Nebraska are, and will continue to be as good as the average of people elsewhere. I do not say the contrary. What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent.”

It seems that today we are still failing to reach consensus because we are having two different arguments. One side is arguing for the human rights of those who are considered disposable, and another is arguing for the right of privileged individuals to govern their own “property.”

Some Arguing for “a Man’s Right to Bruise”

Cody Cook
Black Box Press

Cincinnati, OH– A legal battle to defend “wife correction” (or as its detractors call it, “wife beating”) has reached the United States Supreme Court, and surprisingly it has found a lot of support.

Stephen Gates, a proponent for wife correction, had this to say: “if wife correction is illegal, then men who correct their wives will be made into lawbreakers. We should tear down any laws limiting this practice. I think that we should trust men to know when they can make the decision to inflict pain on their wives, and believe that they will know when it will be for the good of themselves and their chattel– er, spouse.”

Gates proposal not only extends to repealing all “wife correction” laws, but also for the allowance of new facilities where husbands can “safely” correct their wives with the help of experts.

“We should not only make wife correction totally legal, but also provide safe facilities for husbands to do so. Husbands who physically correct their wives at home could be hit with a frying pan or stabbed with a steak knife if their wives don’t accept the correction. This is very dangerous. We need to provide a safe environment for husbands who take on the very difficult decision to beat their spouse,” Gates said.

Those who are against “wife correction” have argued that “safe wife beating” is a ridiculous concept because violating a woman’s physical well-being can never be “safe,” and that we shouldn’t make it easier for men to abuse their wives.

“Just because a man gets hurt trying to inflict pain on his wife, that shouldn’t move us to offer him protection and allow him to keep doing this grave injustice to women,” said Sen. Susan Ruth (D-NY) Monday during a congressional hearing on this issue.

I asked Graves what he thought about Ruth’s statement that, “as fellow human beings, women have the right to be protected from physical harm.”

Gates gave the typical pro-correction response: “Well that’s because she’s a woman, isn’t it? Why should I let women tell me what I can do with my property? Susan wants to make this all about a woman’s right to protection from harm, but let’s not forget that a woman belongs to her husband and that it’s arrogant for her, some senator in Washington, to tell men what they can and can’t do with what belongs to them.”

I attempted to interview Sen. Susan Ruth to get more of her side of this debate, but she was unavailable due to a scheduling conflict– she was speaking at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser.