The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Posts Tagged ‘abortion

Sentiment and principle

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There has been an outpouring of grief and shame following the horrific pictures of a Syrian child lying drowned on the shore of the Mediterranean. If you think those photographs are painful, read the account of the father who tried to fight his way through the surf to the beach, losing his wife and then his two sons to the waves, one by one. It is truly agonising. Many have agonised.

It has prompted a spurt of sympathy for the flood of refugees pressing into Europe from various points east. News footage pummels us with insights into the horrific sufferings of their previous lives and their often-incredible journeys. We are stirred by video of them arriving in ‘free Europe’ to the acclaim of cheering crowds who pour out their affection verbally and practically. Nations are – to use the dry rhetoric of government – increasing their refugee quota, spurred on by the feeling of the populace and their knee-jerk reaction to what they have seen.

This is not a comment on the appropriateness, or otherwise, of offering refuge to some or all of these men, women and children. It is not a question about whether or not the flood of refugees contains a trickle of terrorists. It is not in any way an attempt to dismiss the gut-wrenching misery suffered by people made in the image of God, or the gut-wrenching grief we feel as those made in the image of God when we see that suffering before us. It is not a comment on compassion fatigue or our almost voyeuristic fascination with suffering.

But I wonder how long such a response will last, and what kind of investment it will sustain? It won’t be long before those refugees, if they are permitted to stay, are no longer wrapped in the warm embrace of liberal sentiment, but facing the cold reality of life in foreign countries which will not prove to be the Promised Land. They will quite likely be living in enclaves where either they are banding together for security, or among – even surrounded by – others who quite possibly resent them and will manifest their resentment. Even many of those moved to tears by their sorrows and sufferings will find those tears drying up as the realities of life bite and time passes. The tears will be stimulated again by fresh atrocities but the old ones will quickly drift away. Many will feel much and do nothing.

I wonder if the same thing has happened or is happening with the Planned Parenthood videos. Remember those? Yes, just a few weeks ago many were up in arms because of the footage of those who work for Planned Parenthood negotiating the transfer for gain of the body parts of murdered children. Even many of those for whom abortion per se is no issue were stirred by the graphic nature of some of the pictures and the callous nature of the conversations. But again, the consequence has not been the sustained mobilisation of a great mass of committed humanity against the murder of the unborn. Rather, we are troubled by the gross appearance of the thing. Doubtless, if it can be tidied up and carried out in a ‘humane’ way – because there’s nothing like a properly humane murder to assuage the conscience – then we shall go on quite content with the fact of abortion. Sentiment will be assuaged, and life can go on as normal.

I wonder if we could go back even to the slave trade. There is, it seems, little doubt that the primary opponents of the slave trade used powerfully emotive arguments to raise the profile of their cause and enforce their principles. The appalling testimonies of ex-slaves, the diagrams of human beings packed like sardines into the squalid interiors of slaving vessels, the protestations of ex-slavers, some of them converted – all of these served to further the cause. But the cause itself did not advance because of this, nor was it eventually won because of this. It was advanced and won, under God, by men and women who were moved by more than sentiment. It was carried forward by those who were governed by principle.

Reasonable sentiment need not in itself be sinful, but it is not always substantial. Sentiment can be swayed, one way or the other. Sentiment in one direction can be turned back by an opposing sentiment that seems equally reasonably. Sentiment tends to be reactive; it is rarely proactive. It bubbles up in a moment and melts away just as quickly. The sentiment that wishes to find a home for poor refugees might be overcome by a different sentiment when they move in next door. Principle – especially Christian principle – should be grounded in enduring truth. It is anchored in such a way that tides of sentiment or waves of feeling (whether that be weariness in pursuing principle or opposition to the principled) will not carry it away. Principle stands against pressure. Principle identifies and reacts to the fundamental issue, not the peripheral and perhaps unpleasant phenomena surrounding the issue. Righteous principle takes full account of misery, but it is moved by a regard for fundamental reality – matters of truth, mercy, justice, peace, righteousness. Righteous principle acts proactively out of allegiance to God in Christ. Christians need to be a people of principle.

Mere sentiment can be dangerous. In the unprincipled – and, once we have abandoned any notion of enduring, fixed, eternal truth, truth grounded outside of our experience and feelings, we have no real basis for true principle – sentiment can move individuals and groups far and fast. It can even leave them horrified by what they accomplished under the influence of sentiment and in the absence of principle. Principle can also be dangerous if it is the wild-eyed conviction about things that are foul and vile. Then unrighteous zeal can drive a person or group to truly terrifying extremes. But principle grounded in divine truth, with appropriate sentiment yoked behind, can and should accomplish much.

So, we will, in this fallen world, hear or see many things that horrify us. Many of them should horrify us. But they do not properly and persistently move us because principle is lacking. Perhaps we also hear and see things that ought to horrify us and move us, but do not because principle is lacking. How many vile things do we see – perhaps even enjoy – without a proper feeling reaction? Principle is not unfeeling; it actuates and directs feeling in proper channels. When faced with a moral challenge, we would do well to ask not only, “What do I feel?” but “What should I feel and what should I then do?” We must dig down to and stir up righteous principle. Reasonable sentiment might galvanise and stir us, but only righteous principle will guide and sustain us.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 9 September 2015 at 13:11

Horrible but logical

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Wednesday 6 February 2013 at 17:46

Posted in While wandering . . .

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Grace trickling down

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 22 January 2011 at 08:43

Posted in Christian living

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Quizzing the candidates

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Taking a leaf from the book of Guy Davies, and drawing on some briefing from DayOne, the pastors here at Maidenbower have submitted a series of questions to our local Parliamentary candidates (from the three main parties).  The Christian Institute has also produced an election briefing.

With the first of the UK’s televised debates by the leaders of the main parties threatening to alter the political landscape, this could be an interesting election.  We sent the note and asked the questions below of the three candidates with a view to discerning their personal opinions on various issues, and helping the people of God here – and in Crawley more widely – to make a decision about their vote in the upcoming election.

I will post the answers as they become available.

Dear Candidate,

We are writing on behalf of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, and other Christians in Crawley.  We are taking a keen interest in the election, and consistently pray for the government and other civil authorities at local and national level.

As a means of helping the individual members of this church and other churches, we should be very grateful if you would take a few minutes to consider and respond to the questions below.  These are some of the questions that may help Christians in Crawley decide how to vote in the upcoming election.  We hope to make your answers available to the members of the church at Maidenbower and other interested Christians.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these questions.  We very much look forward to reading your answers.

Questions for candidates standing for Crawley at the General Election (May 2010)

1.         Is our society broken?  If it is, how does your party hope to fix it?

2.         Do you believe that Christian values have a beneficial role to play in contemporary society?  Is Christianity merely a private matter, or should it be allowed freely and publicly to influence the words and deeds of those who believe?

3.         Do you believe that marriage is for a man and a woman alone and that it is the duty of the state to do all it can to strengthen and encourage the institution of marriage?

4.         Do you accept that people who believe that heterosexual marriage is the only proper context for a sexual expression should be free to say so without falling foul of the law or losing their jobs?

5.         Do you believe that churches/religious groups should be free only to employ people whose beliefs and lifestyle are in accordance with the specific teaching of those churches/groups?

6.         Should school governors be given discretion over the contents of sex education lessons and should the concerns of parents be taken into account when deciding what children are taught?

7.         If elected, would you oppose any extension of Sunday trading hours in shops?

8.         If elected, would you support a reduction of 24/7 licensing?

9.         If elected, will you oppose the introduction of Sunday elections?

10.       Do you believe that the law on abortion is too lax, too restrictive or about right?

11.       Do you think that the law on euthanasia should be changed?

12.       Local issues:

  • Crawley does not seem to have a great reputation locally or nationally.  Is this fair, and what – if necessary – should be done about it?
  • Do you oppose or support the idea of a second runway at Gatwick Airport?
  • If elected, will you actively be seeking to obtain a new hospital for Crawley?

13.       Why should the people of Crawley vote for you at the upcoming election?

Chris Oxlade ∙ Henry SmithJohn Vincent

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 16 April 2010 at 09:31

When is a baby not a baby?

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Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 11 September 2009 at 17:23

Posted in Ethics

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Tom Ascol reminds us that the majority of victims in abortion worldwide are girls: “the feminist movement that championed abortion in the name of women’s rights now finds its hands red with the blood of the very half of the species whom they pretend to represent!”

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 5 March 2009 at 07:37

Posted in While wandering . . .

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What does it mean to be pro-life?

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Justin Taylor quotes Frank Beckwith to show that there is a difference between merely seeking to reduce abortions and seeking the abolition of abortion.

Beckwith says:

Reducing the number of these discretionary acts of killing simply by trying to pacify and/or accommodate the needs of those who want to procure or encourage abortions only reinforces the idea that the unborn are subhuman creatures whose value depends exclusively on someone else’s wanting them or deciding that they are worthy of being permitted to live.

He illustrates as follows:

Imagine if someone told you in 19th century America that he was not interested in giving slaves full citizenship, but merely reducing the number of people brought to this country to be slaves. But suppose another person told you that he too wanted to reduce the number of slaves, but proposed to do it by granting them the full citizenship to which they are entitled as a matter of natural justice. Which of the two is really “against slavery” in a full-orbed principled sense? The first wants to reduce the number of slaves, but only while retaining a regime of law that treats an entire class of human beings as subhuman property. The second believes that the juridical infrastructure should reflect the moral truth about enslaved people, namely, that they are in fact human beings made in the image of their Maker who by being held in bondage are denied their fundamental rights.

Just as calling for the reduction of the slave population is not the same as believing that slaves are full members of the moral community and are entitled to protection by the state, calling for a reduction in the number of abortions is not the same as calling for the state to reflect in its laws and policies the true inclusiveness of the human family, that it consists of all those who share the same nature regardless of size, level of development, environment or dependency.

Let us not set our sights too low: even if our eventual Wilberforces can only move in increments, let their ultimate target be the right one.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 28 February 2009 at 13:29

Posted in Ethics

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