In the classic novel, 1984, George Orwell depicts a futuristic society grasping for the utopian dream. Under the omniscient eye of Big Brother, the facile populace is re-educated in doublethink--the ability to accept the Party's definition of truth while ignoring apparent contradictions. "War is Peace," "Ignorance is Strength," and "Slavery is Freedom" are the truths to be embracedfor ascent to the perfect society.
Although Orwell fashioned his story around the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, he could easily have taken his cue from an author who lived nineteen centuries prior. In the opening chapter of his letter to the church in
"...have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice...they invent ways of doing evil...they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless."
If the dystopian world of 1984 and Romans were limited to futuristic fiction or biblical myth, it might easily be relegated to the curious; but sadly, the underbelly of doublethink has become shamelessly exposed in contemporary society. Consider the book, The Sacrament of Abortion, by feminist and New Age writer, Ginette Paris who writes,
"Our culture needs new rituals as well as laws to restore abortion to its sacred dimension, which is both terrible and necessary...a sacrifice to Artemis... sacrament for the gift of life to remain pure."
Amazing. Ms. Paris and her ilk contend that abortion is not wrong, it's sacred! In complete Orwellian fashion, we are asked to accept that "Murder is Life" for the unborn. If you think I'm stretching here, consider the latest product offered by Planned Parenthood at its online store--a T-shirt that proudly bears the statement "I Had an Abortion."
When I first heard about this I was both dumfounded and skeptical. How could there be a market for a product celebrating the taking of human life? So I visited the Planned Parenthood website and found that for $15 you too can buy the "I Had an Abortion"T-shirt. Bewildered, I scrolled the page to read the accompanying pitch,
"The T-shirt delivers a message that is intendedto confront and subvert the sense of shame surrounding abortion...[the motive of] anti-choice activists...is to place a scarlet letter in our minds and then to re-criminalize abortion; ours is to spark discussion and cast off shame. Women who have abortions are the same women who have children, and they make both of those decisions with thought and heart and moral deliberation...It is our duty to empower women who wish to share their experience...free from the stigma, prejudice, and censorship others wish to impose."
After an initial state of shock-and-awe, I began to understand. We just need to quell this shame thing by affirming women in their courageous choice for abortion. Then all of their unnecessary unease will be lifted, right? Not quite.
The truth is, such unease is rooted in something much deeper than societal acceptance and shame. In Losing Our Virtue, Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision, Theologian David F. Wells explains that shame is the sense of discomfort we feel when we are exposed to others in a way in which we feel embarrassed. So while shame requires an audience of disapproval, "No audience is needed for feelings of guilt...[because] guilt is the emotional response to our violation of a moral norm."
We may be able to avoid feelings of shame, but we cannot avoid what Christian ethicist J. Budziszewski calls guilty knowledge--a moral awareness resident in our deep conscience. Budziszewski tells of a pro-abortion counselor commenting "I am not confident even now, with abortion so widely used, that women feel it's OK to want an abortion. They say 'Am I some sort of monster that I feel all right about this?'" So despite a climate of affirmation and shamelessness, guilty knowledge emerges, ironically, in the form of guilt for not feeling guilty. Unfortunately that gnawing discomfort also surfaces in some very harmful ways.
For example, recent psychological studies report that women who abort are eight times more likely to seek psychiatric treatment, three times more likely to attempt suicide, and almost four times more likely to become substance abusers. But listening to Planned Parenthood we are asked to believe that those casualties are the result of anti-choice rhetoric, not some imprinted moral code. Regrettably that sentiment resonates with many well-meaning Christians.
Influenced by the pragmaticism of moral relativity, many believers feel that although abortion is wrong in principle, it is a lesser evil than bringing an infirmed or unwanted child into the world. That's a notion with which self-described, neo-pagan Ginette Paris would agree. Ms. Paris, whose beliefs align closely with the radical feminism saturating organizations like Planned Parenthood, draws inspiration from the Greek goddess Artemis---who is paradoxically both protector and hunter--stating,
"It is not immoral to choose abortion; it is simply another kind of morality, a pagan one...As Artemis might kill a wounded animal rather than allow it to limp along, so a mother wishes to spare the child a painful destiny."
In a rather ominous tone, G. K. Chesterton once remarked about the mystical hatred of childhood recurrent in various expressions of pagan religion. In The Everlasting Man Chesterton reminds us that the Hebrew prophets continually warned their countrymen about lapsing into pagan abominations characterized by "war upon children" and sacramental murder of the kind espoused by Ms. Ginette.
In contrast with those pagan notions, the biblical message is that all of humanity is sacred. Irrespective of ethnicity, socio-economic standing, infirmity, or state of physical or mental development, each person is imprinted with the indelible marks of her Creator. For the Christian, then, the abortion issue boils down to that of personhood. If life in utero is not human, then no justification for abortion is necessary; if it is human, then no justification is adequate. Perhaps in foreview of this modern dilemma, the Psalmist has provided the needed clarity for a culture infused with the doublethink of Planned Parenthood and neo-paganism,
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
--- Psalm 139:13
It seems that the ancients understood that the life beating in the womb is more than a zygote, embryo, or fetus; it is a person, carefully and wonderfully shaped by his Creator.
Regis Nicoll is a Centurion of Prison Fellowship Ministries Wilberforce Forum. After a 30-year career as a nuclear specialist, Regis has worked as a freelance writer addressing current cultural issues from a Christian perspective. His work regularly appears on BreakPoint online, Crosswalk, and the Crux Project among other places.
In addition, Regis publishes a free weekly worldview commentary to demonstrate how Christian thinking can be applied to every sphere of life. To be placed on this free distribution list, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.