Making Sense of “Pro-Life” Politics


Maybe it’s just that the Chem Trails are extra strong here in Kansas City, but the phrase “Pro Life” in its contemporary use has always perplexed me. When someone says that Christians should be Pro Life, they mean to say that Christians should vote for Republican Presidents to appoint judges to overturn Roe V Wade and Republican congressmen to draft legislation to outlaw the clinical practice of abortion, no matter how horrible the rest of their politics are. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the platform increases poverty, racial/gender/economic inequality, war, selfishness, and greed. Ayn Rand is the new Jesus. This version of Jesus touts Objectivism, which asserts “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.” Paul Ryan idolizes new Jesus. He also claims to follow old Jesus who said “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself”. An interesting paradox, to say the least.

Sam Harris likes to do thought experiments. It makes his racist ideas seem less racist on the surface, because he uses big words and a soft voice. In the spirit of Sam Harris, lets imagine a world in full implementation of the aforementioned policies, where the midterms broaden the GOP lead in the house, and, lets say Trump starts golfing every single day instead of his current historic pace, taking short breaks to dump on Muslims and African Americans with Groyper meme retweets, but staying mostly out of the way:

Abortion is punishable by death per the Eye for An Embryo Act. Rural and urban America continue to get poorer and poorer with less access to healthcare (“Patient Choice”), low wages without worker leverage (“Right to Work”), lower class mobility and understanding of historical context, (“School Choice”) and increased overall economic desperation (but a sweet flat tax!) leading to growing rates of violence (made worse by zero gun regulation) in an increasingly impoverished society. There aren’t even enough churches to take in all the kids, or single moms. Society has been re-organized so that women can’t choose abortion and have limited access to birth control, but at the same time divorce is still totally cool, because men gotta go do their thing, ya know? Lead and stuff. Abortions still happen daily, despite the risk of the death penalty. This was supposed to fix it.

But hey lets back up from Current GOP Platform Paradise for a second. I have no problem with people being against abortion. I am. I happen to actually think that most of the population is also against abortion, including most of the “Pro Choice” crowd. This may come as a shock to you, but I don’t think it should. Abortion as it circumstantially exists is a human tragedy. We ought to do everything we can to get abortion rates down as low as possible. God-willing, to end its occurrence entirely. We need results.

But I’m sorry; “Pro Life” is Fake News.

The premise behind the current evangelical Pro Life movement is to say that life is valuable because God created it, right? Life is precious. “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb.” – the Lord said to Jeremiah. *(But that’s when it stops making any sense, because the Lord gave the rest of His message to Jeremiah: “Once you turned about 12 years old, I couldn’t have cared less whether you died from starvation or cruise missiles. Honestly your only task is to have another Christian baby so its life will be valuable for another 12 years. It makes me happy.”)

I take issue with using the words “Pro Life” in one breath to say we have to protect embryos from abortion, and in the next three breaths drafting legislation to make it harder for a single mom working two part time jobs to get food stamps for her post-fetus, cutting access to lifesaving healthcare to millions of post-fetuses who weren’t born wealthy, and launching carpet bombing campaigns on brown post-fetuses caught up in their governments’ crimes, which can usually be defined as not being America. The Pro Life movement seems to make two definitive philosophical claims: human life begins at conception, and ends when it leaves America, has poor parents, becomes a teenager, or isn’t white.

That’s why I happen to believe the movement is largely disingenuous. I don’t think many of its followers are. I don’t think family and friends that fit this definition of Pro Life are being intentionally misleading: I see it as a genuine passion to right a wrong as they see it. I think it is seen that way largely because of cynical political strategists and PR campaigns, not Biblical truths. It is seen that way because Feminism is a threat to maintain a monopoly of power, not Biblical truths. It is seen that way because tax cuts are apparently so important that a child sex predator is needed for that extra vote, not because of Biblical truths. That’s when we hear that probably the most boring-looking centrist Democrat on the planet wants to abort babies up to the 5th year after full-term (conveniently ignoring the work he’s done for Kingdom of God to bring justice to the Klu Klux Klan). Or when we hear fantastical tails of underground baby body part smuggling based on the dubious interpretations of bad actors. It’s meant to scare you into altering your voting behavior, it’s not meant to champion the unborn.

Then we get to the question of whether a legal ban of abortion could actually be effective to decrease abortion rates. We have good reason to believe it is unlikely to stop the “back alley” abortion phenomenon. This is evident in states where access is extremely limited or the process is made legally arduous. We also have reason to believe it is becoming widely more accessible as medicine and technology improve. And this was acknowledged way back in 1869 in a newspaper edited by Susan B Anthony called The Revolution (boy we don’t have publications like that anymore, or I guess publications in general), the writer wrestles with anti-abortion views and the skepticism of banning it,

Much as I deplore the horrible crime of child-murder, earnestly as I desire its suppression, I cannot believe with the writer of the above-mentioned article, that such a law would have the desired effect. It seems to me to be only mowing off the top of the noxious weed, while the root remains.

There are aspects with which I continue to struggle.

First, a tool that became a force for that same wave of societal conflict and change was birth control. Before birth control, only men could have casual sex without the risk of needing to take months off from work, thereby missing out on promotions or even losing their jobs. And. They. Did. Like, alot. Even holy people. Birth control imperfectly but significantly balances this for women. This one hardly poses an ethical dilemma for me, personally. Even regarding ’emergency contraception’. I know there are some radical theories of personal identity attesting that every sperm is sacred. I’m a nice guy, and a therapist, so I don’t call people idiots very often. People who believe that are being idiots. See, I can’t even fully do it. Mike Pence, you’re an idiot. (okay I can do it)

More problematic for me is an inconvenient truth: Access to abortion essentially liberated women from a hegemonic patriarchal order, allowing them the choice of staying at home to raise children, rather than the obligation. The continuity of social norms aren’t shifted by people suddenly waking up and thinking ‘oh yeah, women should have the same rights, jobs, and wages as us men. Here you go.’

A functionalist sociology theory does not seem to get us there. Equilibrium will not suddenly change to include rights it hasn’t considered in 200 years. It requires conflict, and it requires change to that structure. Without the conflict that legalized access to abortion forced, women’s rights in the 20th and 21st centuries looks completely different. This is a source of internal conflict for me, and one with which I’m honestly still ethically wrestling.

I’ve always idealized myself Kantian, and acted like a Utilitarian. I think we all do to an extent. (Even libertarians! Every libertarian I’ve met has driven on roads, and a few even wear seatbelts). I confess that the universal moral value of “Life” is a claim I set to make when I hit “New Post” and I acknowledge the theoretical inconsistency. Did I mention I got a “C” in philosophical ethics in college? That was 2008, and I’d like to think a decade later that I could bring that up to a C+.

I happen to agree that human life is inherently valuable and precious, marked by the image of its Creator. I also happen to agree that we need action in addition to renewal of the heart to protect the sanctity of life. I also like what the term Pro Life appears to suggest at face value.

It’s time “Pro Life” was taken beyond a cardboard public relations campaign. I’m not the first person to have this idea, perhaps obviously, and thankfully. Pro Life has largely stemmed from ideas of “Consistent Life Ethic” or “Seamless Garment” theologies of pacifist Catholics in the 1970’s. There’s also the New Pro Life Movement, which outlines a much different set of values and policies than the current ethos of front-loading value onto the nine months following intercourse. Here’s my new pro life policy platform. Keep in mind, this isn’t an attempt to establish a specific political movement, this is merely a set of policy positions that I consider to be actually “Pro Life”.

God’s creation of and love for people Christ sanctifies and gives us equal meaning, value, and purpose. Every human life is sacred from womb to tomb. Inequality is an anti-Christ. Therefore, I value positions that are truly pro-life.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I fight systemic, personal, and cultural racism in all forms. This includes continued a historical framework for understanding in the history of slavery, genocide and oppression on American soil, requiring initiatives to counterbalance existing systemic forces of oppression. I support reparations.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I acknowledge and champion a broader Feminist struggle for women’s rights. To champion this cause is to fight patriarchal hegemony through fighting sex trafficking, rape culture, sexual harassment culture, economic inequality, and access to resources like medical care.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I wholeheartedly support Medicare for All as the ethical stewardship of a nation that has amassed enough wealth to provide for the medical needs of its many inherently precious lives. This will save a lot of babies, it turns out, because prospective mothers will know that they will have adequate healthcare for themselves and their child.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I support programs that fight poverty and income inequality at home and abroad. At home, I support New Deal and Great Society safety-net programs of SSI, SSDI, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and public housing. As the challenges of post-industrial globalization and automation evolve, this includes newer programs such as paid family medical leave, expansion of existing social programs, a tax structure that discourages massive wealth accumulation, and ultimately an economic and political system that counterbalances the fallen human nature of selfishness and greed.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I oppose moves of aggression for American Empire, neo-colonialism, the military industrial complex, genocide, oppressive occupations, and “nation-building”.

I value the sanctity of life, therefore I oppose the death penalty. “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:13

I value the sanctity of life, so as a voter and activist as professional and family life allow, I will champion political leaders and movements who align with these policies.


Thoughts on the Grandest of Noses

Before I continue, let me just disclaim: I had a hard time writing this, because I didn’t want to. Yes, I’m devastated to have to live in a world without Robert Engel – known instead to me and the rest of his “grandgeese” as Grandpa Bob – and without my future kids getting a chance to know him like I have, as well as all the rest of my friends and loved ones. But what I mean is it’s a shame for me to try to sum up how he meant to me in a few short paragraphs: it was much more fun to live it, and this account of him is more than likely going to fall short. Well, this is me giving it a try anyway. So here we go. Continue reading

On health care


Health care is good, and everyone should have health care, just like everyone should have firefighters to rescue them from a burning building, and police officers to call when they feel threatened. It’s a basic building block of not only society, but of humanity. The poor and marginalized deserve it as much as the fortunate do. America is the only functional western society that seems to fail in making such a provision.

Continue reading

A counter-cultural weekend

Ah, Branson, Missouri.

The Bible Belt’s Vegas.

Instead of strip clubs and casinos, these neon lights indicate enough twangy country music, slapstick comedy, and gaudily dressed cowboys singing the national anthem to make me vomit red, white, and blue. One is more family friendly, but both are indubitable ways to live an empty life, void of responsibility.


Last weekend I visited my family while they were on vacation before moving to Italy, as dictated by Uncle Sam. Silver Dollar City is like a Renaissance fair, if by “renaissance” it is implied the time period in the poverty-decimated South after an unsuccessful run at cessession. It serves as a family meeting place a couple times a year now, and before that we were season ticket holders. It’s not too bad though, there are some exciting rides and fascinating displays. My H&M/obscure band shirt wardrobe tends to stick out like a sore thumb, but letting your inner hillbilly out can be oddly therapeutic. Life can’t all be npr radio and books. I’d like to see a book teach you how to have a rootin tootin, good ol Ozarkian day in the sun. (I’m sure it could, but usually the most experienced in this area aren’t the of the book writing variety…)

My ‘flaming liberalism’ apparently still embers, in spite of it all. I was in line for a ride today, when the lady in charge took notice of my apparel. Wouldn’t you know it, I was wearing my “Jesus Loves Pornstars” shirt, referring to XXXChurch ministries. I guess this radical message of Jesus loving everybody, particularly social pariahs, is a message unfit for public exposure, since she threatened to have me thrown out of the park if I didn’t zip up my jacket or turn the shirt inside-out. I was well on my way to pariah-hood myself. Yikes.

I didn’t want trouble on this particular day, so i gave her a “really?”, and zipped,
for the duration of the ride, anyway.

It got me thinking about how incredible it is that, in name, this part of the United States of America is the epicenter of cultural Christianity. BibleBeltTraditionalThe Bible Belt. No where else in the world are you going to find such a dense sociopolitical institution of Christian fundamentalism as you will find here. It’s incredible. It’s like Indonesia or Iran for Islam. We have Christian businesses, theme parks, schools, and entertainment industries. I find it incredibly discouraging however, that in all the time I have spent in this region, I find myself being alienated more and more alienated with the more questions I ask and the more serious my theology becomes. There are Christians everywhere here, but I find it really hard to find a church that seems to have their priorities set on following Jesus’ teachings rather than electing politicians.

When I left to study abroad in England, I was honestly pretty worried that the only church I would find would be some cold, ritualistic cathedral with the 30 or so fragile remaining Christians in Europe reciting sing-songey liturgies of dispair and agony. I did not expect to find a passionate church so excited about grace, love, and serving others while having an adept understanding of their theology and the realities they face as a church in western society, like the one I did find.

No flags, no attendance boards, no political ultimatums, no appeal to tradition over effective ministry, no blaming other denominations.

Just church. And a sense of urgency. It’s Europe, after all… the belly of the beast, right? They don’t have time to screw around.

You know, we could use that in the ‘epicenter of Christianity’ in the South.

The last day we spent at Silver Dollar City, I wore a shirt with a slightly less in-your-face message, but equally alienating me from my audience…