Elijah stepped forward and said to the people, “How long will you sit on the fence? If theLord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (I Kings 18:21; New English Bible)
The year 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the infamous U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Even prior to that decision of the high court in 1973 the issue of the practice of abortion had been a hotly debated topic among Americans for some years. Over the years “reproductive rights” a.k.a. “Choice” has grown to become in many quarters not merely a controversy of law like police brutality or the decriminalization of marijuana, but anymore the defense of the legality of abortion has become (to borrow an expression) a “hill to die on.” One notices this when watching, listening to, or reading the comments and statements of many self-styled “elites” among the professions of journalism, education, mainline liberal Protestantism, and a disproportionate number of high profile “celebrity types.”
Where some see a mere political issue at stake, I see something more ominous, more sinister at work here. Having spent over 25 years of my adult life giving slavish, unquestioning obedience to the teachings of a charismatic, authoritarian cult leader (Herbert W. Armstrong), I have a somewhat different (perhaps even controversial) view of the nature of “pro-choice” ideology. Looked at another way, the slavish obedience most of those sympathetic to “Choice” borders on what in another context might be interpreted as the emergence of a new, bizarre religious sect whose object of devotion is something called “Choice.”
When I listen closely to the carefully scripted responses and “proof text” defenses of self-proclaimed “pro-choice” (almost exclusively liberal) politicians, news analysts, leaders of mainline denominations and academics on the subject of abortion, I grow more convinced that what we in the pro-life movement are dealing with is no longer just a radical-feminist driven ideological idea (as merely one part of a long litany of “equal rights” demands), but a full-blown (and growing) “cult” of “reproductive rights” or as they like to express it in the one-word, sound bite version, “Choice.”
To illustrate what I mean let me merely cite the shrill rhetoric and histrionics displayed by many self-proclaimed “pro-choice” politicians and jurists in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision (Gonzales v. Carhart). Recall that (unlike misleading headlines would suggest) this decision did notmake late-term abortions illegal, but only the current brutal method by which such abortions (called “partial-birth”) have been performed. Never mind the statistical infrequency of “partial-birth” abortion compared with the much more common abortion methods of live fetal dismemberment, or chemical.
A space alien visiting planet Earth and having watched one of these “pro-choice” legislators or legal “experts” “go off” would surely have returned to his planet confidenthe had witnessed the dawn of a newly founded religious movement among Earth’s inhabitants. Well, in one sense he would have been right. Over the centuries many a missionary has had his head clubbed into mush by irate island natives for doing nothing more than knocking over a statue of their local idol. Welcome to the “cult” of Choice.
Cognitive Dissonance Run Amuck
Another indicator one is dealing with a “cultic” mindset here is the manifestation of something called “cognitive dissonance.” The term was coined by Social Psychologist Leon Festinger to describe the ability of a person to sincerely hold two contradictory and mutually exclusive ideas as true at the same time. I can speak from firsthand experience that once a person is convinced of the “rightness” of a particular belief or position, no matter how absurd that idea may appear to a truly objective observer, no item of fact will deter that person from continuing to hold to that belief. When cognitive dissonance is factored in that same person is liable to affirm the truth of both statements, though the one may negate the other.
Regarding the cult of “Choice” we observe a similar phenomenon at work. Take for instance, the Catholic legislator who in the morning proclaims to the Catholic press reporter that she affirms the sanctity of life and reaffirms her devotion to the Catholic Church, and in the afternoon tells a “pro-choice” audience that he/she will continueto defend a woman’s “reproductive rights” (a polite way of saying “I’m going to do everything in my power to keep abortion-on-demand legal in all respects”), and affirms their opposition to any legislative efforts to diminish abortion-on-demand.
And again, I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of listening to one of these politicians say in one breath yes, they believe in the sanctity of life, etc., etc., and in the very next breath tell us “but I believe the woman should have the power to choose [whether to have an abortion].” Huh? Then again, what would you expect from someone who has enthusiastically embraced the One True Religion?
Like every religious or cultic movement the cult of “Choice” has its own set of rules that govern the words and deeds of its adherents. Let’s give these rules a quasi-religious title and call them:
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF CHOICE (I’m using the Protestant numbering here. It makes a better fit.)
Hear O America, I am ABORTION thy Choice that delivered you out of the land of Pregnancy.
1. Thou SHALT have no other Choice before me, for neither single parenthood nor adoption is true Choice.
2. Thou shalt NOT make or display for yourselves, or the general public, any graven fetal images, or any likeness of unborn offspring that are in the uterus, whether by fetal model or ultrasound image, artist illustration or computer animation.
3. Thou shalt NOT take the name of ABORTION thy Choice in vain, for NARAL Pro-Choice America will not hold her guiltless who claims there is another Choice.
4. Remember January 22 every year, to keep it holy, for on January 22 the United States Supreme Court made ABORTION-on-demand a constitutional right based on nebulous legal penumbrances of privacy (i.e.: “out of nothing!”).
5. Honor thy contraception and sterilization, that thy body may remain childless in the land in which ABORTION is always thy Choice, should they fail.
6. Thou SHALT kill (an unintended pregnancy), by means of RU-486, vacuum curette suction aspiration, saline injection, dilation & curettage, or any other method of thy Choice.
7. Thou SHALT commit adultery, incest, same-sex acts, or any other sexual deed, as it is also thy Choice.
8. Thou [news media] shalt NOT steal positive media exposure of pro-Choice advocates by granting unbiased news coverage, interviews, or equal airtime to informed, articulate proponents opposed to Choice, nor shalt thou grant any but the most superficial coverage to major national public anti-Choice events or outspoken anti-Choice political candidates.
9. Thou SHALT bear false witness to disguise what ABORTION really means, using instead vague euphemisms like “reproductive healthcare,” “termination of pregnancy,” and “removal of fetal tissue,” and similar phrases when making references to ABORTION.
10. Thou SHALT covet more and more taxpayer funding from state legislatures and the U.S. Congress for the purpose of increasing subsidies for organizations and other entities that provide ABORTION services (and calling it “family planning” and “reproductive health” funding).
A pertinent question: For those who have taken the time to notice such things, have you ever seen an instance where an ardent pro-choice advocate has ever consciously violated even oneof these rules? Does anyone on the political left, in the major news media, or in higher education dare? One snubs “Goddess Choice” only at his or her peril!
The Real American Idol
If “Choice,” then, has developed (especially in cultural elite circles) into nothing less than a cultic religious movement (and the One True Religion, no less), I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to personalize “Choice”, imagining it (or better yet, her) as a kind of national idol, a "goddess” if you will, who demands of her faithful unquestioning loyalty, and a willingness to put devotion to her above every other ethical, ecclesial or religious authority that might rival her preeminence. A farfetched notion, you say? One example should suffice: Back in January 2006 a group of 88 Catholic (and mostly female) politicians of one of the major political parties signed a statement declaring their loyalty to Catholic social teaching, and committing themselves to “making real the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching: helping the poor and disadvantaged, protecting the most vulnerable among us, and ensuring that all Americans of every faith are given meaningful opportunities to share in the blessings of this great country.” But when it came to the issue of abortion they did an abrupt about-face and attempted to make the argument that Church teaching in this matter did not apply to them. Of course not. Their vow of fealty had already been made at the altar of the goddess Choice (also revered in some quarters under the name “Reproductive Rights”), and like her female Olympian counterparts of ancient Greek mythology, she brooks no rivals, not even that Church whose teachings they claim to affirm.
An Orwellian World Called Choice
How then does Choice enforce discipline among her faithful? For the answer to that question we need turn no further than one of the great works of twentieth century fiction, 1984 by English novelist George Orwell. In his dystopian vision of the future, Oceania is the mythical country (empire, actually) in which Orwell’s story is set. The main character, Winston Smith, is a low-level bureaucrat in Oceania’s government, in the Ministry of Truth, located in an enormous pyramid-shaped building. The Ministry of Truth is in turn divided into four departments, each of which “concern[s] itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts.” Substitute “mainline liberal Protestant religious bodies” for “the fine arts” and you have a concise snapshot of the four cultural institutions of contemporary America that give unquestioning obedience to, not Oceania’s mustached dictator “Big Brother,” but rather “Goddess Choice.”
Review the “Ten Commandments of Choice” above and think about the many and varied ways in which the most popular news outlets (electronic and print), the entertainment industry, higher education, and the big liberal mainline denominations scrupulously obey each commandment. Indeed, atop the pinnacle of the building housing this Ministry of Truth stands a statue of its patron, the goddess Choice, stern-faced and dressed like her Olympian counterparts in full-length robe. In her outstretched hands she holds a pair of surgical forceps and vacuum curette, indicating the nature of the macabre “gifts” she bestows on her most devoted followers. Inconsistency: the rule not the exception…
We’ve all had the experience of watching the news or reading a news article about some absurd action or statement by a person or group defending abortion, and we’ve said to ourselves “that doesn’t even make any sense.” Ladies and gentlemen, as apostles of the “Ministry of Truth,” ardent worshipers of Choice have exempted themselves from any rules of logic or consistency. As the operative mental processes of that group are governed by a high degree of cognitive dissonance, one would expect logic and consistency to be the exceptionand not the rule and such is the case today. To cite just a few examples, these self-styled evangelists for Choice:
• Consistently seek to prevent even non-invasive and non-confrontational efforts by pro-life advocates from providing sidewalk counseling to women outside abortion mills. Does not “choice” imply more than one possible resolution to the problem of an unwanted pregnancy? Not to advocates of Choice!
• Consistently resisted calls to formally protest or publicly disagree with mainland China’s “One Child” policy which mandated forced abortions on women who “chose” to have more than one child. There is choice, and then there is Choice.
• Angrily resist calls for state or local safety and health regulations of abortion facilities to bring them up to the minimum standards of more conventional outpatient surgical facilities. Ironically, in many locales a tattoo or massage parlor is more highly regulated than the abortion clinic across the street (which purports to provide “health care!” Does that make any logical sense?
• Who also happen to publicly claim Catholicism as their religion turn a deaf ear to warnings by Church officials of their serious breach of faith on this critical issue, voting at every opportunity to establish Choice as a permanent American institution (or block attempts by pro-life politicians to restrict the practice of abortion in any way), thereby ensuring the destruction of the maximum number of defenseless unborn human lives. Gott mit us. Auswahl uber alles!
Idolatry exacts a high price in today’s culture, much as it did in civilizations past. God warned ancient Israel that idolatry would be its undoing. Today in America idolatry in the form of worship of the goddess Choice is decimating society and ulcerating the Body of Christ, the Church. When will the people of the United States see the abortion debate as a struggle not over a “political issue,” but recognize it as the life-or-death spiritual and cultural crisis that it is. In Old Testament times it was God v. Baal. Today it is the Lord of Life v. the goddess Choice. 19th century poet and diplomat James Russell Lowell composed a hymn whose opening verse aptly describes the road before us:
Once to every man and nation Comes a moment to decide, In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, For the good of evil slide.