March 3, 2012 by J. Truett Glen
I recently read an article written by two ethicists out of Oxford concerning the moral validity of infanticide (the killing of babies after they have already been born) that disgusted me and caused great alarm within my soul. Being the academic minded man that I am, after my initial grief and anger I processed the content of the article and began to reason against what these men had said. I will not go into the specifics of their argument in this post, but I did want to discuss the reactions of many that have read and heard about this article and those who then judge the reactions of the disgusted masses.
If you do an internet search for this article or the names of the professors you will find well-researched and gracious ethical responses to what these gentlemen have proposed, but you will also find references to death threats, slanderous words, and other violent language that has been directed towards these two Oxford scholars. There are those in the academic and medical community that agree with these men and have agreed with them for some time now. This is not a “new” concept as scholars such as Peter Singer were writing books validating infanticide back in the 90’s and earlier. The “extreme” hateful sounding reactions have normally come from those who have not been worn down by the subject over the years of study and argument in academic environments that will not stand for violent responses to most subjects (except for possibly war and discrimination). However, the majority of humanity does not live in the “academic” environment, but instead live in a land of moral consistency and shared values. The lands obviously change over the years in what they approve of and value, but they work on the notion that they all share a common understanding of what is not acceptable, of what is not good. So when people from these lands (who are more connected to the academic land than ever before) hear of such notions as the acceptable killing of babies after they have already been born, well, they are shocked, disgusted, and angry.
However, no one wants to feel that they or their friends or “set” are deserving of hate speech, so they must quickly move to vilify those who are vilifying them. This is not a conscionably hard thing for many progressives in the academic and media sets to do because they have already placed such people in a category of incompetence concerning areas of science and “true” morality. I do not mean to demonize all progressives or academics but I must be honest in my assessment of some within those sub-cultures. I have talked with them over the years and many of them are my friends. So I feel I have observed them in their natural setting and I have heard their slanderous references concerning the “common” man. I have listened to them speak of “f___ing idiots” that don’t understand progress, toleration, and science. In turn, I must admit that I have heard conservatives speak of these “progressive” minded individuals in the same way. It is all ugly. However, there are times when I agree with initial angry reactions to people and ideas. Biblical images come to mind of the Israelite who had seen the “people of God” fall to the level of practicing human sacrifice and cannibalism and in response he rips his clothing and throws ashes on himself as he wails in the streets for his people. Humans grieve in many different ways but often our grief takes the form of disgust and anger. We don’t rip our clothes in the streets anymore here in America (and when we did it was to celebrate our favorite rock star), rather many allow hateful words to slip from their lips and show forth from their blogs. Others simply choose to hold even tighter to their community of agreement while they still can…while consistent morality and shared values can still be had.
I do not condone the ugly responses of those who express their grief in a way that Christ would not condone, but I do question my subdued academic response to many of these tragic ideas. There certainly are ideas that come forth from the mind of sinful man that deserve our disgust and wailing in the streets. Yes, there are some very confusing ethical dilemmas out there that deserve very patient debate on the part of everyone involved, but there are also lines and beliefs that should never be crossed because they protrude from the very fabric of what makes us humans. One of those beliefs is the value of all human life; in the womb or outside, functional or debilitated. Let us grieve in our hearts at the sight of truth suppressed and begin again the process of expressing that which is good, holy, and right.