Morning in America
The end of an era
I have never been more elated to be wrong.
Eight months ago, while I was still working under a pen name, I recorded an episode of Jay Shapiro’s Dilemma podcast where we discussed abortion and pro-life ethics. Towards the end, Jay asked me what I saw on the legal horizon as I looked into my crystal ball. Did I think Roe might be overturned? Was there a chance?
I said I doubted it. I was a pessimist by nature. I was inclined to disillusionment when it came to SCOTUS. If it came down to what Justice Roberts had had for breakfast that morning, forget it. I further said this was a delicate thing, because I had pro-life friends who still got excited with the simple faith that the arc of history, though long, bent towards the fall of Roe. I hated to see them get their hopes up for something that seemed so far out of reach. I thought they could save their emotional energy by being pessimistic, like me.
Well, I was wrong. My friends were right. God bless them.
It is difficult to convey what this means to my non-evangelical readers who have not grown up in America. In the UK, it’s common wisdom that if one is traveling over the pond, one ought to abstain from speaking about either gun rights or abortion rights. By chance, we have just seen back-to-back decisions on both of these issues within the same week. Those watching from Britain or Europe, or watching from the US as immigrants from these foreign lands, may feel themselves rather detached from the coming surge of celebration and teeth-gnashing. What is it about America that something like Roe vs. Wade is so transformative, in its presence and its absence? What is it about Americans?
I can’t answer this question without noting the obvious: that Britain and Europe are to a significant degree post-Christian, in a way that America is not (yet). I say that even while I believe the pro-life case can be put compellingly to all true humanists, not only Christian ones. I say that even while I happily welcome anyone of any or no religious persuasion to join me. But the statistical fact still remains that an atheist pro-lifer is a lonely pro-lifer (unless he makes some Christian friends). It naturally follows that where a robust Christian population is absent, so also is a robust support structure for pro-life activism.
There may come a day when America, my America, my land, this land that I love, walks in a similar twilight. But today is not that day. Today, I think of all those family, friends and strangers who have worked, wept, whispered in prayer, and shouted into a megaphone for a deaf nation. I think of the two great commandments that drove and animated them all—to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbor as themselves.
I think both of those who are still with us and of those who now worship on another shore, in a greater light. I think, with great sorrow, of those like my old friend Mike Adams, who dedicated the best years of his life to pro-life advocacy, persuasion, and training for the next generation. Mike killed himself two years ago, too battered by his own demons to keep fighting. If only he had lived. If only he had known. If only.
I think of all those men and women who have already, for lo these fifty years, been tangibly proving that they “care about women,” “care about babies after they’re born,” and so on down the list of banal leftist clichés that have been spewed our way over the decades, by the sort of people who haven’t thought seriously about having a child, let alone adopting one, let alone adopting more than one. I note, with raised eyebrow, the terrorist plans underway to set about attacking Catholic churches and pregnancy resource centers. As someone put it in a dark joke-tweet, this is the state of the discourse in 2022: “You don’t care about pregnant women!” “Well no, we have numerous buildings and institutions expressly set up for that purpose actually, how can we help you?” “Oh really, where? Let’s go firebomb them!”
In a recent video essay, my friend James Wood has suggested that in this day and age, thinking Christians should work to recover a theology of the demonic. I don’t assume this suggestion will be equally meaningful to all my readers. But I submit that you can’t contemplate what drives men to organize a “Night of Rage” against Christian charities whose sole purpose is aiding pregnant women, and not wonder if there is a dark something or other lurking back of it all.
There’s also something dark, though rather delicious, in the desperate way this Washington Post piece tries to dampen an inescapably inspirational story of unexpected motherhood in Texas. Young Brooke Alexander realized she was carrying twins just as the state’s restrictive new law went into effect. At first, she panicked, but when she visited a crisis pregnancy center, she was also scared by some of the phrases the center workers used when describing abortion— “vacuum suction,” “heavy bleeding,” “punctured uterus.” (Here the Post inserts a plaintive parenthetical that “serious complications from abortion are rare,” and that abortion “does not increase the risk of mental illness, breast cancer, or infertility, according to leading medical organizations.”) When Brooke saw the babies on an ultrasound, she found herself, like Mary, saying “Yes.” Now she and her boyfriend are married, making do, and making grownup plans for their future together. To those who find this outcome less than satisfactory, I recommend more coping and seething.
Some pro-lifers say we should now set about “working to make abortion unthinkable.” They may mean this in the sense that slavery is today considered “unthinkable” in the West. Well meant, but it’s unclear to me what new “work” is to be done to that end that pro-lifers have not already been doing so indefatigably for so long. And there is a sense in which abortion will always be “thinkable,” as all violence is “thinkable.” But it can be made illegal. The law cannot make an abortionist love the child in the womb. But it can stop him from stabbing her, and we think that’s pretty important.
Much work is yet to be done. But much work has already been done. Let today be a day of rest. Let there be joy. Let there be tears. Let there be morning.
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
As a fellow delighted-to-be-wrong pessimist, let me say, heck yeah.
My state (Missouri) has already signed the papers to outlaw abortion. Feels good to live in a place where murdering babies is illegal, and man if that isn't a strange thing to say.
Love this essay. I'm no literary critic ... far from it ... but to me this seems a perfect concoction of tone, structure, and argument. Bravo!!!