George Tiller, etc.

In light of Tiller’s assassination it’s worth reading this 2004 essay by Gretchen Voss about her heartwrenching decision to have a late-term abortion. Voss’ story is sad, “pro-life” terrorism is sad, and “pro-life” hatred is sad. It’s terribly glib for anyone to assume that repealing Roe v. Wade will make this difficult issue any less thornier for all involved.

Speaking of old articles, here’s a bizarre fifteen-year-old one from the New York Times Magazine: “The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal”. It’s a really interesting piece on the wild pseudo-science of somatotypes that gets weirder with every paragraph. 

Lastly, here’s why kids should talk back to their parents; or, why teaching classical rhetoric to your children may improve relations (and make your kid a smarmy snot). Except, as usual, mythos gets short shrift (also: where’s Gorgias?). So other than logos, ethos, and pathos, you can also persuade by telling a story. Even fat ol’ Plato injected his philosophy with stories to better make a point.

Response to Sharyn Kopf

Sharyn Kopf is the latest pro-lifer to get a little worked up over my abortion editorial from a month ago. On its most basic level, that editorial argued the following:

1. If we don’t know if embryos are persons, then neither ‘side’ ought to be dogmatic about their position.
2. It is the case that we don’t know if embryos are persons.
3. Therefore, neither ‘side’ ought to be dogmatic about their position.

Unlike Mr Vasser — who attacked a wide range of perceived sins on my part — Miss Kopf takes a different tact by attempting (albeit circuitously) to criticize premise (1); most pro-lifers generally criticize premise (2), so we’ll see where her curious effort winds up.

To the zygote turned gamete who wrote the abortion article: Perhaps you should have subtitled it, “Aw, why can’t we all just get along?”

Her proposed subtitle misses the point, but minor quibble (maybe). More interestingly, she fails to name me. Hi, I’m Kevin. Let me do some armchair psychologizing: perhaps she prefers to see me as a “zygote turned gamete” because it de-personalizes things? In other words, if she admits that I’m a Cedarville student named Kevin then it gets more complicated. For her purposes, I’m no longer a 6th-year philosophy major with a unique past & complex psyche at the university she represents, but a liberal automaton programmed to spit out pro-choice pap without connection to desires, emotions, or personality. Makes me much easier to dismiss.

Since there seems to be an aversion to using scripture to support these dubious shades of gray—choosing, rather, to demote Psalm 139 to the status of “beautiful,” as if it’s merely poetry to be enjoyed or passed over at whim— allow me.

Aversion? Perhaps Miss Kopf ought to consider that certain Scriptural considerations were omitted simply due to space? Or, as I obliquely argued in the essay, that Scripture is largely silent on this issue? It’s confusing too how I “demoted” Psalm 139 since I feel I’m doing just the opposite. To me, calling something “poetry” or “beautiful” is not an insult. Maybe Miss Kopf feels differently. The implicit assumption here is that Scripture verses are primarily about the propositions we wrest from them, and only secondarily about genre or authorial intent. If, in other words, Psalm 139 is not a sturdy chair passage for pro-life arguments then it is of no real consequent to us. Peculiar reasoning to be sure.

Actually, the Son of God has a way with words, so I’ll let him: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.” Luke 6:22

Notice, first of all, that we’re going to be blessed when hated, ostracized, insulted and spurned for the sake of the Son of Man, not the sake of the recently-formed zygotes. Secondly, I wonder if Miss Kopf really wants to stand by this argument:

1. If I sincerely hold a belief to be true and are mocked for that belief, then that belief is in fact true.
2. That a zygote has personhood is a belief I hold to be true and am mocked for.
3. Therefore, it is in fact true that zygotes are persons.

Could it not just be the case that you are mocked because you’re being ridiculous, and not that you’re a martyr for some righteous cause?

What? No compromising? No—I’ll use your words—weakening our beliefs in order to “de-dogmatize the debate”? Golly, it almost sounds like he expects us to stand our ground and, as a result, be hated outcasts! Oh, wait … he does: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

This is where Miss Kopf would’ve benefited from an editor to clean up the juvenile tactics. Is this type of barbed rhetoric also used with constituents, media, donors and alumni, or does Miss Kopf only save her vitriol for students paying $100k for a Cedarville education? The sharp sarcasm seems more befitting a 10th-grader discovering an opposing viewpoint for the first time (“golly,” “oh wait,” “do me a favor”) than a college-educated PR director whose entire job depends on communication. I realize that sounds condescending, but surely I’m not alone reading the tone as shrill indignation: how… dare… he…! There’s an air of disbelief, as if she’s baffled that there exist any difference of opinion here. She might be startled to learn the number of faculty, staff, alumni, and students who’ve expressed support for my essay. In any case, her argument remains, as detailed above, rather unimpressive.

Notice the choice of words: “when men hate you,” “you will have trouble.” Do me a favor and read Hebrews 11—specifically verses 32-38—then tell me again how we should be weak-minded wimps who wander about “recognizing shades of gray,” and kowtowing to anti-God, anti-life claptrap.

I have to concede this point to Miss Kopf: I am a wimp, but not because of my opinions on abortion. Presumably she means weak-willed for she’s excoriating me for not standing up for the clear-and-distinct Truth of God, not that I’m of feeble mind (though perhaps she wants to maintain that as well). Perhaps this rebuttal is proof enough that “getting along” or “compromising” is not the real issues for here I am, standing up for myself and inviting scorn (does this mean I’m right by her criteria?). I strongly believe lots of things without being dogmatic about them in nearly the same manner that Miss Kopf (and Mr Vasser) are about abortion issues. That is what a lot of what weak thought is about: maybe I’m wrong! It’s not weak-mindedness, it’s reflexivity — including being reflexive about my weakening lest we be accused of self-contradiction (“All is interpretation and interpretation is all; and this too is an interpretation”).

What Miss Kopf fails to careful delineate is the difference between the issues that have shades of gray and the issues that don’t. Her scare quotes imply she doesn’t even believe fuzzy areas exist, but I doubt she literally means that. Scripture has more to say about music than abortion, and yet it’s safe to assume Miss Kopf is far less dogmatic about her musical choices than her pro-life position. Thus, instead of ranting against “weak-minded wimps who wander about ‘recognizing shades of gray’,” she ought to have spent her time arguing about why abortion is an issue without wiggle-room. What is it about this issue that excludes nuance? Furthermore, I’d press as to which parts of the abortion debate are black-and-white since within the pro-life camp there are differing opinions about various aspects of the debate.

If we’re not making “this world” angry by speaking out against sin and, in this instance, the mass extermination of human life, we’re doing something wrong.// Sharyn Kopf
Assistant Director
Public Relations
Cedarville University

I was going to comment on this last paragraph but I’ve gotten bored. I’m a weak-willed wimp anyways. At any rate, this post is dedicated to Shawn Graves.