Slogans, Abortion & the Death of Debate

The search for truth is a common human endeavor, taking place by its very nature in dialogue and discussion, also in controversy…

~ Josef Pieper~

If I never hear another slogan, it will be too soon.  The soul of a man has three powers – intellect, will and passions.  The glory of man is that he has the ability to think rationally, to choose freely, and refuse animalistic submission to desire.   Man is supposed to be rational – to be someone who thinks, who deliberates, who allows his intellect to inform his choices, his will. 

This week we saw another controversy – the unveiling of multiple videos exposing Planned Parenthood officials who casually speak about the most appalling atrocities as if they were discussing last week’s weather patterns.   While its hard to imagine that we’ve come to such a place in our country – or that any human being could be so hardened as to speak about murdered children and their organs in such a way; what bothers me perhaps even more is that these videos reveal that most of us have forgotten what actually happens in an abortion.  Much of this is because we don’t talk about abortion – rather we talk about abstractions and slogans: “choice” and “freedom” – those sound nice, they don’t make us uncomfortable – but they can’t change what actually happens.

Slogans stop discussion and rational deliberation.  For decades on end, the pro-abortion movement has deftly avoided speaking about murdering children – rather it has simply repeated slogans over and over again: “pro-choice” and “women’s health” or the ever impious “keep your rosaries off my ovaries”.  The problem with slogans is that they obscure the truth.  Society will inevitably engender differing world-views, but when a person or a movement refuses to engage serious and rational debate, we have ceased to care about truth.  No one wants to speak about the unpleasant fact that we kill children before they are born, sell their organs and then assuage our consciences by focusing on the people who benefitted from the death of innocent children.   That is exactly what happens though, and the longer we sweep things under the rug, the bigger the clean-up job will be when someone pulls the rug outside to beat the dust out.  

I think people have been shocked when they hear these officials of Planned Parenthood speaking so casually about aborted children, it’s almost as if in all our talk of rights and freedom, we forgot that there was a violent act taking place in a mother’s womb – and that what was being killed looks a lot like a little baby.   Today I was reading an article on the recent release of these videos, and in the middle of my reading, my page was filled with advertisements calling for support of Planned Parenthood.   There was no apology, no rational justification – just a slogan.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – as they say repetition is the mother of learning, and if we just keep shouting the same thing over and over again, we can avoid talking about what’s actually happening.

All of us are called to love the truth.  That means that we let reality speak to our choices, that we listen to the people we disagree with, especially when they have anything intelligent to say.  Sadly however, so many do exactly the opposite – they have already made up their minds on most things, and then they force their intellect into submission.   Any evidence which doesn’t fit the conclusion is excluded or ignored. 

The point here is not to demonize abortion doctors or pro-choice politicians (although their stance absolutely baffles me); the point is that our political and activist campaigning has been operating at an unbelievably shallow level.   Marketing has a certain legitimate place – but it is not in rational discussion or in discovery of the truth.  The mass-marketing of pro-choice rhetoric has obscured the facts about abortion – it makes people stop thinking about a bloody little body and shifts the focus to abstractions.

Truth is a common endeavor – no human being possesses it outright – only God is truth, and that means that truth is something we must continually seek out.  St. Josef Pieper (ok – he’s not canonized, but in my book…) tells us that St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century believed that there was no such thing as a loser in a debate.  The whole point of a debate was that both parties grew in understanding the issues involved, and together they were to pursue the truth.  The goal was not to “win” – it was to draw near to the truth, which was a goal achieved only in common.   Perhaps we don’t have real debate anymore because we don’t believe the truth is big enough for all of us.

One of the best things you and I can do is to be men and women who love the truth, which means we don’t live off sound bites and slogans.  As appealing as these can be, they oversimplify things, they give cheap answers to complex issues.  Slogans and soundbites pop up in all sorts of places, but I have seen it most prominently in the pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage movements.  It’s tough to march through delicate and sometimes involved debates, but these shallow mottos are the intellectual equivalents of gummy bears for lunch.  It’s worth doing your homework – it’s worth listening, it is worth debating in a real debate – if only we had one.

Brothers and sisters, do you love the truth?  Are you willing to follow it wherever it may lead – we can help these arguments stuck in grid-lock by being people who love truth, not people who gloat when they are in the right.  

 Pray for an end to abortion, pray for those on the other side…pray