I’ve been thinking about cartoonists, abortion, and theological liberals lately.
My friend Annie was sitting in a doctor’s office the other day when a young woman came in to ask about an appointment. She wanted an abortion, she said, because she had plans for Labor Day weekend and wanted to get this done.
After a quick conversation with the receptionist, she left. Annie sat there in shock and then the tears began to flow.
Annie and her husband Mike are in line to adopt a baby due to be born in a month or two. To say they are excited and prayerful does not begin to describe them. Seeing the callousness with which that young woman wanted to be rid of her baby because “I have plans for the weekend” left Annie broken-hearted.
At this point, some in our audience will quit reading. They already “know” where it’s going and know they do not wish to go there.
That’s why there is little authentic conversation about abortions today.
And, may I say, I understand that.
Personally, I happen to be closed-minded on this subject. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of those issues in life with only one side: protect the lives of everyone, mother and child.
Theological liberals refuse to consider that the fetus inside the woman may actually be a human being and that to abruptly and intentionally end its life may be the most brutal act of which we are capable. If it does not meet the standards for homicide, it surely does for manslaughter.
Those who are hardened on the subject turn a deaf ear to such and mark the speaker (moi!) down as a right-wing nut or ignoramus who refuses to come into the 21st century.
Recently, I’ve been reading another book by a well-known cartoonist. As something of a cartoonist myself, and a lifelong admirer of the men and women who do this stuff well, I love learning how they do what they do and hearing their stories.
“In Your Face: A cartoonist at work” is Doug Marlette’s 1991 memoir and how-I-do-it. This prize-winning cartoonist had his life tragically cut short in an automobile accident some 10 years ago and we are much the poorer because of it.
Marlette began doing editorial cartoons for the Charlotte Observer at the age of 22. Later, he moved to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal and from there to Newsday. Much of this time he was also turning out a daily syndicated comic strip. “Kudzu” chronicled life in the small town of “Bypass, N.C.,” and gave the world a preacher with the wonderful name of “Will B. Dunn.”
Over the years, I have heard people identify Doug Marlette as a Christian. That always gave me a little pleasure since so few believers seem to work in his field.
When an irate phone caller accused everyone at his newspaper of being “a bunch of Jews,” Marlette countered, “Actually I was raised Southern Baptist.” In the book, he gives no testimony of faith or mention of church affiliation. The Will B. Dunn strips certainly showed a familiarity with Scripture and with the foibles of the church crowd. That strip adorned the bulletin boards of many a church and the office door of a lot of seminary professors I know. (When he died, his funeral service was held in a United Methodist Church in North Carolina.)
By these signs, I conclude that Marlette was a confessed Christian. Whether he was a practicing one I have no idea. (I’m bending over backward to make no judgment one way or the other.)
If he was a Christian, I think he would have been quick to identify himself as a liberal. The indications are all there.
My observation about theological liberals in any profession is that they champion themselves as the defenders of the weak and oppressed (a position dear to the heart of our Lord) while “taking on” the establishment, whether political or religious or cultural. Most cartoonists proudly admit this to be their approach, and I find that admirable.
The single case where liberals can be depended on to abandon the weakest and littlest has to do with abortion.
Liberals seem to be uniformly pro-abortion.
Not that they would call it that.
Liberals in political and religious life speak of protecting “a woman’s reproductive rights” and “her right to choose,” euphemisms which camouflage the stark reality: Abortion terminates the life of a human being.
The theological liberal never quite seems to know whether abortion ends the life of a human or (ahem) a potential human. To quote one of their champions, that is “above (their) pay grade.”
I find it incredulous that a thinking adult would say, “I don’t know whether this is a human being or not, but I’m in favor of killing it.”
Their single concern, they keep insisting, is with the poor woman (she’s always poor and oppressed in their scenarios) who is being denied basic human rights by large cigar-chomping bullies who are almost always men, Southern, Christian, fat, calloused and powerful. (Let me interject to say I get this. Editorial cartoonists make no bones about the fact that they oversimplify. The drawing on the editorial page cannot get into subtleties and all the complicating factors. However, it’s so easy to misrepresent and slander in one’s attempt to simplify.)
On page 6, barely into his narrative, Marlette introduces us to “Mrs. Mackey, the abortion lady.” She loves to call his desk at the newspaper office early in the morning.
Mrs. Mackey has been writing and calling me steadily ever since I drew an anti-death penalty cartoon years ago. She sends me literature and leaflets to persuade me to do pro-life cartoons.
He describes her approach.
She begins in a soft whispery voice that is meant to ooze Christian charity and patience but is actually pushy, insistent, and much like a fork on a blackboard. I have become Mrs. Mackey’s personal responsibility. Her mission, for which she will no doubt reap rewards in paradise, is to convert the wayward cartoonist or at least force him to use one of her cartoon ideas.
Catch the condescension that compliments Mrs. Mackey while dismissing her as a nut. We imagine readers elbowing one another, laughing at the naiveté of this simple-minded woman who is heaven-bent on saving the lives of the unborn. How foolish of her to think that by persistence she can convince a sophisticated, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist to do anything.
Mrs. Mackey was well-known around that newspaper office. When a secretary rings Marlette to say he has a caller, she says, “No, it’s not Mrs. Mackey.”
On page 19, the dreaded anti-abortionist shows up again, this time with an idea for a drawing.
The phone rings again. “New York Newsday,” I answer. “You’ve got a pile of dead unborn babies on the left and on the right a pile of dead bodies. Over the babies it says New York City, 1990. Over the bodies it reads Auschwitz, 1939. The caption says ‘Progress?’ with a question mark.”
“Not bad, Mrs. Mackey. I’ve never seen this whimsical side of you before.”
“Do you like my idea?”
When Marlette hedges, Mrs. Mackey is ready.
“Do you know how many unborn babies died in New York City last year?”
“Goodbye, Mrs. Mackey.”
The one abortion cartoon Marlette runs in the book was inspired by a Supreme Court decision making “abortions tougher for the poor.” He says, “I began thinking of limos, yachts, country clubs, furs, jewelry–which reminded me of the phrase ‘If you have to ask how much, you can’t afford one!’ I drew a Supreme Court justice at the door of an abortion clinic greeting a poor pregnant woman with that line.”
The cartoon is supposedly championing the poor. But what about the defenseless baby in the mother’s womb? Too bad; he will have to fend for himself. No one but right-wing nuts speak out for that guy.
By the way, what did the Supreme Court do to hurt these poor women? It ruled the federal government was not required to fund their abortions.
Such is the reasoning of the theological liberal, whether a politician, professor, preacher, or cartoonist.
Do not look for to any liberal for consistency, but only for the accepted viewpoint of his group to be spouted. He is catering to his audience, preaching to his choir.
Do not look for a well-reasoned presentation. Do not wait for him to give an explanation and defend the charges against his position.
He will not attempt it because there is no defense.
Some issues have only one side and this is one of them.
I am quick to admit that “preaching to one’s choir” is a favorite pastime for all of us. Go to any preaching conference if you want to see how it’s done. Conservatives preach to conservatives (do liberals have preaching conferences? None that I’m aware of.) Everyone leaves feeling as though they have done something important. Liberals go to NOW conventions and preach to the choir, as do conservative politicians at Tea Party meetings.
At this point, someone will accuse me of slamming Cartoonist Marlette when he is no longer around to defend himself, of speaking ill of the dead. I am not slamming him nor speaking ill of him. I’m telling what he wrote, repeating what he said, reporting what he drew. Our Lord said, “By your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).
Mr. Marlette scoffed that Mrs. Mackey would no doubt be rewarded in “paradise” for championing the unborn.
Along about now, I expect he knows the truth of that.
There are no words to say how much I admire this woman.
Think about it….
In Isaiah’s day, the Lord God pleaded with His wayward people, “Come now and let us reason together….” (Isaiah 1:18).
That’s my great hope, that people would think about this, even if they are unwilling to discuss it. We wish the young woman whom Annie saw in the doctor’s office last week would give thought to what she is planning. We wish those who parrot the party line about “reproductive rights” and the “right to choose” would just think about this and come to their senses.
When Becky and Matt were waiting for their adoptive baby to be born, Becky’s mother told me what was going on so I could join them in prayer. The birth mother was having health issues and there were other factors.
That child is now almost nine months old and as healthy and sweet as any infant ever. The family lives several states away and the only way I see her is by photos posted on Facebook. Having prayed for them through those scary and difficult days, I feel almost like the child’s uncle. When Becky posts updates telling how the child called her “Mama” for the first time or was christened in church, my heart swells and I send up a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord.
Mrs. Mackey will indeed be getting her reward in paradise. As will many others I could name.
Let us bless the all the children, in particular the least among these.