Stress-testing the
mind of Christ

Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


notebook
Why shouldn’t we bomb abortion clinics?

I’m not arguing that we should. But it’s hard to find a principled reason not to.

Imagine you’re chillaxing at home when you hear a commotion next door. Peeking through the curtains you see that your neighbor is holding her toddler’s head against a block of wood, and is raising a machete in her other hand.

In this situation, you should:

  1. Go back to chillaxing
  2. Tweet that someone should look into the situation
  3. Call the police
  4. Immediately run outside and forcibly restrain her if necessary

If you answered 1, 2 or 3 you obviously need your head examined—though I fear there are people out there who would disagree. I am not talking to them.

The correct answer is 4: you yell at her to stop, and if she ignores you, you leap over the fence and try to grab the machete out of her hand—or at least make yourself a more inviting target than her child. You should, if possible, also call the police—hopefully you have your cellphone to hand, and the presence of mind to dial 911 as you’re leaping over the fence.

Anyway, my point is that it is morally obligatory to forcibly intervene when a child is about to be murdered and you are physically capable of stopping it. We should think less of you if you just stood by and watched. Even if you were wringing your hands. No one likes a coward.

You can probably see where I’m going with this, but let me make it obvious:

What is the relevant difference between a mother about to cut her child to pieces with a machete, and a mother about to cut her child to pieces with a vacuum tube operated by a doctor?

Since abortion is murder, morally-speaking, why do protesters outside abortion clinics not try to forcibly restrain women from going inside to kill their children?

A possible answer

Perhaps many abolitionists—that is, people who want to abolish abortion—haven’t thought in these terms before. But I suspect some have, and the reason they don’t use force is because it would be counterproductive in the long run. Since abortion is legal, restraining a woman would constitute assault. Thus, after the police settled the matter, the abolitionist would go to jail, and the woman would go back to the abortion clinic to finish the job anyway. A net loss for the abolitionist, especially in view of the fact he is now very limited in his ability to dissuade other women from entering abortion clinics.

Does this mean we should abandon the idea of force altogether?

On the face of it, surely the opposite.

Isn’t the problem with forcibly preventing women from entering abortion clinics not that it is going too far, but that it is not going far enough? Stopping women from having abortions by physically restraining them is impotent because abortion is legal. What we need is to eliminate the possibility of women entering clinics.

Obviously the most effective way to do that is to destroy the clinics.

This is an extreme solution—even to abolitionists. People tend to resist it. Yet I think it is perfectly proportionate given the extreme nature of the problem—as becomes clear when we use abolitionists’ own analogies:

If abortion is the new Holocaust, then abortion clinics are the new death camps

The Holocaust is an analogy often used by abolitionists. Indeed, just going by the numbers, abortion is 220 times worse, having so far killed about 1.3 billion worldwide since 1980 (in the US, 57 million since legalization in 1973); in contrast to the “mere” 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Yet when I look back on the events of Nazi Germany, I feel very strongly that citizens should have done far more about the extermination of the Jews. Surely citizens ought to have at least tried to use sabotage to disrupt the systematic extermination of an entire people? Indeed, it hardly seems a stretch to say they would have been justified in doing anything within their power to fight the regime, up to and including assassinating Nazi officers. But certainly destroying Nazi facilities would have been justified—perhaps even obligatory.

What, then, is the relevant difference that makes it wrong to destroy “death camps” in a situation 220 times worse than Nazi Germany? Given the sheer scale of abortion, should our response be not far greater?

Civil war?

The other analogy often used by abolitionists is American chattel slavery. Indeed, they consciously model their efforts after the abolitionists of the 18th and 19th centuries. But whether slavery should be abolished or not was the issue at the heart of the American civil war. It seems to me that the 600,000 soldiers killed in that war was a steep, but tragically necessary price to pay for the freedom of an entire race of human beings.

But in that case, why is civil war not a tragically necessary price to pay for the lives of an entire class of human beings? Obviously the political situation with abortion is not particularly similar to the political situation in 19th century America; but that isn’t to say that civil war is unthinkable in the modern day.

“It will damage our witness”

This is the common rejoinder I’ve received when discussing these ideas with other abolitionists. The abolitionist movement is centered around the gospel. We want the church to rise up and transform the culture peacefully so that abortion is criminalized as a natural consequence. Violent action would hinder the reception of the gospel.

But this response seems weak to me.

Firstly, the reception of the gospel in our culture is icy. Hoping and praying for revival is virtuous, but it is not a substitute for taking immediate and proportionate action to prevent something similar to genocide. It would be nice if the whole culture would support us, but it may never happen. How long do we wait in hope of it—and how many children will we let die?

Secondly, this attitude takes the completely subjective, ill-informed and unconsidered opinions of non-Christians as a guide for how we should respond to evil. This isn’t a case where Christians have the freedom of conscience to do something (like drinking) but refrain so that non-Christians won’t perceive hypocrisy. This is a situation where Christians seem obliged to act. If I am in a situation where someone is being assaulted, and the only chance they have to live is if I intervene, then it is really irrelevant if the bystanders think Christians should be strict pacifists.

There’s also the issue of how much non-Christians should respect us for failing to have any strength of conviction. If we believe that abortion is murder, and that it is being done nearly 4,000 times a day in the US alone, and we know exactly where it is being done, and that if we don’t stop it no one will, then how much should anyone respect us if we do nothing? What kind of witness is that?

Sure, if Christians sabotage abortion clinics—even if they are very careful to avoid loss of life—plenty of people will consider us extremists or terrorists or anarchists or whatever. But does public perception of Christians matter more than saving millions of innocent lives every year? I just can’t see how.

“If we bomb abortion clinics, they’ll just get better security”

Maybe they will. Maybe the logical outcome of bombing clinics is escalation to the point of civil war. But so what? That does not, in itself, give us a reason to think we shouldn’t destroy abortion clinics, any more than it would have given Germans a reason to think they shouldn’t have sabotaged death camps. Civil war doesn’t seem like a prima facie unreasonable option, as demonstrated by the analogy of slavery or Nazi resistance—and especially in countries like the US where citizens have ready access to military-grade hardware and training.

What does this prove?

I confess I would be rather glad to hear a compelling case against bombing abortion clinics. The idea doesn’t sit well. But I haven’t seen one yet; and the idea of Christians allowing millions and millions of children to continue being legally killed every year sits even more ill than them rising up in violent protest.

What have I missed?

25 comments

  1. Christopher Wood

    Great question.

    Firstly, I could say the same thing about many societal problems. Slavery is still an issue (I’ll be posting an article about it tomorrow) – shouldn’t we be willing to do more to persuade the government to put more resources into stopping it?

    But given that abortion is one of the biggest issues, it deserves a big response. So that doesn’t help.

    In terms of recent precedent: Nelson Mandela’s use of bombs helped stop apartheid.

    But of course the ends don’t justify the means. I think the fact that it’s legal does matter, even though the law is immoral. That’s what makes the mother taking a machete to her child a bad analogy. We should show respect for legal authority (as well as respect for persons in not spreading fear) EVEN if that authority is murdering people.

    There’s a difference between an authority forcing you to commit injustice, and one allowing it. The state allows abortion, but it doesn’t exactly perform them itself – it merely allows mothers to permit it. Therefore I think the primary target of persuasion must be the mothers, rather than clinics or the state. From a purely practical point of view, bombing clinics may be persuasive, but there may be better ways.

    I’m not a total pacifist but I don’t believe even extremely immoral laws justify immediate violence. I don’t think we’ve done enough organizing non-violent attempts – long protests, picketing clinics, hunger strikes, etc). We should exhaust all such means first, even while the murder continues. After that perhaps it’s worth considering, I’m not sure.

    Also I’m not convinced that the civil war was justified by abolishing slavery.
    On a related note (my argument in no way relies on this): Why did Jesus not advocate revolt to stop slavery? Or general revolt against the Romans for that matter? They were doing a lot of murdering too.

    I have a feeling that our responsibility regarding the laws of non-believers is limited to some degree – but I don’t understand exactly how or why.

    BTW I replied to our other discussion: https://www.facebook.com/bnonn/posts/10152365916796133

  2. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I don’t find the argument from legality persuasive, because when we consider Nazi Germany, the fact that exterminating Jews was the law seems to place more responsibility on citizens to take action, rather than suggesting their response should have been tempered by respect for legal authority.

    I agree we should respect the rule of law wherever possible, even in the case of many bad laws. But laws permitting the murder of children seem to be precisely the kind that we should not respect.

    I think the primary target of persuasion must be the mothers, rather than clinics or the state.

    I agree we should be trying to persuade mothers. Unfortunately, the state has a great deal of involvement in this process as well. And the clinics in the US, for example, are independent but state-protected.

    Perhaps one line of argument I missed is that if you destroy the clinics, abortions will simply happen in hospitals. Obviously we can’t justly bomb those. Unfortunately, that leads to escalation, where doctors and politicians who push abortion get assassinated. This seems very morally questionable, and yet given the stakes it’s hard to offer a convincing reason not to take these kinds of actions.

    I don’t think we’ve done enough organizing non-violent attempts – long protests, picketing clinics, hunger strikes, etc). We should exhaust all such means first

    This does seem like a good point. In a sense, I guess my argument trades on the fact that so few people are willing to do anything, even in the Christian community. That leaves something like sabotage as the only viable option in terms of effective protest. If we could get enough people to act, and act consistently, then perhaps those kinds of measures would be unnecessary.

    Why did Jesus not advocate revolt to stop slavery? Or general revolt against the Romans for that matter? They were doing a lot of murdering too.

    It’s pretty difficult to take too much away from what we know of Jesus. The point of the gospels is to relate his ministry and atonement. For all we know, he did think the Jews should rebel against the Romans, but since that isn’t what he came for, he kept it to himself, or his disciples didn’t write those views down. In terms of slavery, that’s trickier. The system of slavery in the Old Testament is pretty different from chattel slavery, and actually has a good purpose. Kinda off topic though…

  3. Notstupid

    I assume you eat meat? Those animals are more developed than aborted foetuses which are not even conscious, do you think every farm, butchers and fridge should be bombed?

  4. Christopher Wood

    In a sense, I guess my argument trades on the fact that so few people are willing to do anything, even in the Christian community. That leaves something like sabotage as the only viable option in terms of effective protest. If we could get enough people to act, and act consistently, then perhaps those kinds of measures would be unnecessary.

    Surely if we can’t manage to convince the Christian community to even protest, we won’t be able to convince non-believers.

    Also it seems to me that without a huge amount of support from the Church, any violent means would be condemned by all sides, and written off as terrorism. Like you said, the best that could be hoped for is escalation, and that’s not a war that can be won by a small number of people.

    Getting back to a comment I made a few days ago, I think the Church is failing to engage in ethical discussion, both internally and externally (with society). Churches must discuss these things. We *can* change that, and we are both trying, but we could do more :)

  5. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    I’ve approved comment #3 purely to point to a simple argument which demonstrates why it is completely wrong-headed. Further comments along these lines won’t be approved here.

  6. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Chris: good points. Sabotaging abortion clinics would require a fairly well-organized resistance movement with a reasonable number of people, so there is definitely a pragmatic impediment.

  7. Christopher Wood

    The system of slavery in the Old Testament is pretty different from chattel slavery, and actually has a good purpose. Kinda off topic though…

    True that, you’ve prompted me to learn about it, and I’ll incorporate that learning into my article…

  8. Dr P

    Just some clarification: abortuaries in the USA are more than merely state-protected – they are state funded via confiscatory taxation cum forcing health car plans to cover their “services.” Clinics are also exempt from the QA requirements of other free-standing clinics vis-a-vis inspections, safety standards, & the frequent requirement of their physicians having to have hospital admitting privileges.

    Part of this discussion would seem to include Christian just warfare theory, a point of which is benefit of victory significantly outweighing risk of defeat with its liabilities. as brought up in an earlier point, God’s requirements for unbelievers is different to those applied to us; Torah is void of examples of believing Jews restraining Canaanite’s from immolation their offspring, & rife with examples of said Jews exterminating the whole lot.

  9. Christopher Wood

    The article I mentioned (thanks Dom): https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-wood/emancipated/10152308624658926

  10. Dr P

    CW: I challenge you to prove that Black Americans in the corrections system are there serving long sentences for trivial drug offences; having spent 18 years working in that system I find that claim delusional. Long sentences are usually. Meted out for violent crimes & multiple offences.

    However, if you wish to expend the definition of slavery, you could increase your stats by orders of magnitude if you include thralldom to the Welfare State. White Liberalism’s politics of guilt & envy has proven as deadly an embrace as the arms of Moloch.

  11. Philip C

    It’s hard for me to understand how you get so far out afield on this one Bnonn, if you are serious. Surely “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” do we not?

    I mean, is our problem really that people have a centralized place to go to murder babies, or is it that we desire to murder babies for convenience?
    Is the problem that we have medical professionals legally able to take life for money or is it that they are willing and have a customer base?
    Your analysis misses this. As they say, the heart of the problem is really the problem of the heart. Fleshly weapons tend to wilt in ones hand. After all, there was a reason Israel was not to make allies of the neighbors and instead trust to God. They didn’t listen, and how well did that turn out for them? Did it turn out well for Abraham that he decided to solve the problem of childlessness in his flesh? Did it work out well for Judas when he decided to move things forward, or the Sanhedrin when they had enough and rolled up their sleeves to work it out? Or a little closer to home, did it work out for secular America when the hippies bombed Sac State in the 60s to bring justice to injustice?

    Further, the analogy is flawed, as Christopher pointed out. The Nazi state compelled men to die, the abortion state permits mothers to do the work. In slavery the analogy would be that the blacks could voluntarily enter into it.

    I think your articles on convincing people abortion is sociopathic, and defending it as a right is the attitude of a sociopath is far, far more effective to putting an end to the horror than to advocate a bombing campaign.

  12. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Philip, my analysis doesn’t miss what it wasn’t intended to address. Nothing you’ve said engages with the arguments and analogies I’ve given. Do you think Christians in Nazi Germany should just have preached the gospel? Or should they have tried to stop the mass extermination of Jews by other means as well?

    The analogy doesn’t fail, since 1.3 billion people have already been compelled to die by their mothers—with state assistance.

    And if you have taken away from this that I am advocating a “bombing campaign”, you clearly did not read very carefully.

  13. Dr P

    Rather than go to war, other nations could have opened their borders to the Jews; they chose not to, & the USSR even torpedoed a refugee ship denied landing by Turkey.

    Per abourtion in the USA, easy access to Moloch’s money coupled with laws making the adoption process onerous work against the adoption option.

  14. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    That’s also a good point, but it would again need to be coupled with education. Most women don’t even consider adoption, at least in the US. Making it a live option will take more than changing some laws.

    Also, changing laws is exactly where we are failing to make any headway. Otherwise abortion would be criminalized.

  15. Dr P

    True indeed, B, but what do you mean by education? A change in law which no longer rewarded bastardy could be quite didactic.

  16. Philip C

    I understand your argument just fine: abortion is worse than Nazi death camps since far more child deaths are involved; we were morally right to resist the Nazis by force; we should resist abortion by force.
    You’re troubled because that’s logically sound.
    But I again dispute the comparison. For the analogy to hold the mothers would have to be driving their children to the death camps, dropping them off, and driving away of their own free volition. The tell is that your argument gives no landing to stop the slide once begun. Nazis should have been resisted at all levels. Goering should have been targeted personally for death. Their doctors, their politicians, their army, indeed their populace who knowingly joined in the slaughter should all be killed if needed to stop the death camps.
    Therefore abortion doctors, pro-abortion politicians, and pro-death sympathizers need to be killed too. Once you get on the freeway with this argument I see no off ramp.

  17. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    For the analogy to hold the mothers would have to be driving their children to the death camps, dropping them off, and driving away of their own free volition.

    Why is this crucial to the analogy?

    What difference does it make that they stick around to help the doctors perform the murder (indeed, they can’t perform it otherwise since the child is still inside them)? Doesn’t that make the situation analagously worse?

    Once you get on the freeway with this argument I see no off ramp.

    I’m not denying that. But the fact it is troubling doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

  18. Dr P

    How about not getting onto the on ramp in the first place? The first Christians in Rome ended infanticide by exposure by adopting those children off of the pile, thereby shaming the heathens. What do we do in comparison to our forebears? What would an armed, violent Christian response have accomplished besides the killing of a lot of Christians?

    PS: resistance to the Nazis paled in comparison with collaboration with them, especially by the churches.

  19. Philip C

    For the analogy to hold the mothers would have to be driving their children to the death camps, dropping them off, and driving away of their own free volition.
    [But] why is this crucial to the analogy?

    Because there are three forms of government: the civil, the familial, and the church. These distinctions are important. Women can be head of the state, (see Thatcher) but cannot be pastors in the local church. “Give to Caesar what is Caesars, give to God what is Gods.”
    In the case of Nazi Germany, the thugs supported by the taxpayers came to your door to kill you. They were acting as agents of the state. When they showed up at your door to collect your children and put them in ovens it was open war and you should shoot them.
    In the case of abortion your own Mother drives you to your death. She’s a private individual, not acting as an agent for anyone. She has decided to kill her own child, how are you going to stop her? Force of arms?

    Advocating bringing heaven to Earth by force is popular with liberals, but I don’t see it compelling at all, nor how you got hung up on it.

    My Kingdom is not of this world, if it was, my disciples would fight… but now my kingdom is not of this world.

    Our problem is with the people who visit these clinics. Anything else is clipping the head off the dandelion and thinking you’ve solved the problem.

  20. Christopher Wood

    Dr P: It would’ve been better if you’d commented on my article, since this is off-topic…

    The first Google search I tried found the data in the first result:
    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=usa+drug+sentencing&l=1 section “Race and mandatory sentencing”

    As for “slavery to the welfare state” – sure that’s a trap for some, but not nearly as many as are slaves to poverty (i.e. slaves in the normal (OT) sense). I agree the welfare state is not the best solution, but churches & charities don’t have enough funding to give many people a way out. Lack of opportunity and debt are massive problems; see https://www.capuk.org/ for a great example of an organization actually doing something about the latter.

  21. Christopher Wood

    It strikes me that while abortion is a terrible tragedy, we’d be better off focusing on preventing the deaths of children whose parents *don’t* want them to die. 99% of deaths under five years old occur in developing countries, and often preventable for as little as US$10/year (for water filtration straws). Waterislife.com

  22. Christopher Wood

    As for preventing abortion, I think there is only one non-hypocritical action to take: to offer mothers going to get an abortion to adopt their baby.

  23. Tomek K.

    One not so small thing, not only Jews died in the death camps. Many millions of people of other nationalities (almost 5 millions) died in the death camps (the most of them were Polish people and Gypsies). Many of the death camps ware build on territory of previous Poland (conquered by Germans), because most Jews in the World at that time lived in Poland and ware Polish citizens, and it was cheaper to kill them in the death camps situated on this territory being under occupation of Nazi Germany. And in Poland German conquerors decided, that if any person would help even one Jew the punishment for this would be death of his/her whole family.

  24. Dr P

    Forgive my delayed response, Chris, but long sentences for druggies usually comes from multiple offenses. Frankly, if I could, I would end the bogus “war on drugs” as well as taxpayer funding of so-called rehab programs, which amount to nothing but “3 hots and a cot” for inveterate abusers.

    Per poverty and lack of opportunity, you fail to recognize that the Welfare Plantation perpetuates both, as well as the breakup of families and reducing inner city men to mere inseminators. Indeed, were it not for the fatherless boys of adolescent mothers, I’d be working for an HMO rather than a state prison. “Don’t get pregnant out of wedlock; but if you do, you’ll live off of the taxpayer for the rest of your life, and we’ll send buses around to get you to the polls to vote for the Democrats, so mind Auntie Hillary.” This is as close as it gets to a perpetual motion machine.

    I fear that your doubtless bona fide offer to adopt those babies set to be festal offerings for Moloch will be politely declined, as such will result in less welfare payment and summons the horrifying specter of going out and performing productive labor or having to go back to school. Therefore the only thing to do is to treat these people like so-called alcoholics and “raise the bottom” by ending the Welfare State, making decisions like adoption and even keeping legs crossed more feasible. As the Germans say, “Hunger ist das beste Chef;” St Paul concurred.

  25. Mav

    I’m really glad I found this article, because I’ve been struggling with this line of thinking for a long time. Both the article and comments have been very valuable to me.

    “I mean, is our problem really that people have a centralized place to go to murder babies, or is it that we desire to murder babies for convenience?”

    The same logic could be applied to slavery. “Is our problem that people have a system to purchase others, or is it that they desire to purchase others for their convenience?” The civil war occurred, and now here we are in the U.S. without slaves.

    “In slavery the analogy would be that the blacks could voluntarily enter into it.”

    I think you are trying to create an analogy between the mother and slaves, but really the analogy is meant to be between unborn children and slaves. Unborn children don’t volunteer to be murdered.

  I don’t post ill-considered articles and I don’t sponsor ill-considered comments. Take a moment to review what you’ve written…