Monday, September 09, 2013

A Comparison of Abortion to Slavery and Genocide.

Here's an article I published on Wordpress:

THE ABOLITIONIST: The Comparison of Abortion to Slavery

The Abolistionist Header
The comparison of abortion to slavery/genocide is usually dismissed for purely visceral reasons (are those really reasons?), so I thought it would be worthwhile to examine how the comparison is accurate and in which ways it may not be.  Let’s begin with genocide.
Genocide is the systematic murder of a people group, and abortion belongs in this category inasmuch as there is a subgroup of human beings, those still in the womb, who have been dehumanized in order to justify their destruction.  How is abortion unlike other genocides? Well, firstly the preborn aren’t part of a different ethnic group from their attackers, and secondly they have no means of resistance.
Next we come to slavery.  With slavery the “owner” was free to choose whether or not a slave had value and would survive.  Slaves were a commodity, and usually their lives weren’t ended unless the “owner” thought it would be more lucrative for the slave to die.  Likewise, babies en route to birth are treated as items for the auction block.  If unwanted, they are judged by society as having no value and are likely to be killed.  If they are wanted, society decides to treat them as human beings after all and act accordingly.Negro Fetus
Is human worth based on nothing more concrete than a community’s estimation?  Are you only what other people think you are?  Do individual members of society alone determine the value of life? Is perception truly reality?
Thank God this isn’t so!  There is a reality that exists and to which all perceptions must conform or be revealed as delusions. The author of reality is not you, or I, but the God who made us both and all else. You bear his image, the divine impression – however marred – and so does the human being now developing in her/his mother’s uterus.
To play at costs and benefits in deciding whether or not to kill such a being as you, I, or our counterpart in utero is no different than a slave owner deciding whether or not to sacrifice the lives of his human “property.” The mass-murder of the pre-born population accompanied by a campaign to dehumanize the victims and cover up the aftermath is no different than genocide. Allow your conscience to be informed by reason, and then let conscience dictate your actions. And if, like us, you accept the revelation that God made human beings in his image; welcome to Abolitionism.

Sunday, September 01, 2013


What IS manipulation?  Or, at least, what do people mean when they say it?  It's usually used in a negative sense,  to discount a person or their behavior.  I am motivated to write this after a local pastor said that my friend and I showing images of children killed by abortion came off as "manipulative and unloving".

First off, we ought to acknowledge that it is much easier to accuse someone of manipulation than to clear oneself from the charge of being manipulative.  But why is it so hard to prove innocence here?
I think it's because the word like others (i.e., "hate", "extremism", "sensationalism" "uneducated") is used far more often than it's understood.
So, let's try to understand it.

Firstly, it doesn't (or shouldn't) mean simply "deception", or similar words.  If that's all we mean, then we should just say deception and stick with words we know the meanings of.

I think what people mean most often when they say "manipulation" is close to the neutral definition: "to handle or control".  We don't like the idea of being "handled" or "controlled", of course, but this definition is problematic.


Well, because almost every effort to persuade, including every argument, story, and every educational talk is meant to bring about or control a state of affairs in the listener's mind and behavior; i.e., to "manipulate" a situation for good or ill.  We seek to get people to see things a certain way with argument, to bring them to the state of being entertained, intrigued, or enlightened by a story, to thinking along a common line by "education".

If someone is arguing or telling a story for the sake of arguing or telling a story, we'd barely bother to listen; (they may as well be speaking to a wall if the listener's response to their words doesn't matter.)  I honestly don't think this happens very often.  Usually when people speak, it's to elicit a response from their hearer, and the speaker usually has a specific desired response in mind.  If the speaker is successful in bringing about the desired change, they have "manipulated" their hearer (for good or ill).

So, the mere fact that we attempt to move the people on the receiving end of our communication can't be what we mean (or think we mean) when we accuse someone of manipulation.  Here's what I think we mean, or ought to mean, when we cry foul and object to "manipulation":

In a word, we mean behaviorism; or rather two words: "Mere" behaviorism.
When someone uses the predictable laws of psychology to get desired behavior out of you
(and here's the clincher), without regard to whether or not you:

a.) Are being motivated by the truth
b.) Understand what's causing you to behave in the desired way (the methods used to persuade you)
c.) Are helped or hurt (that is, without regard to you as a person).  

"Manipulation" is an umbrella word then, which could entail deception or facts, intimidation or kindness, appeal to emotion or reason.  (I include c.) because parents do "b.)" to their children pretty often; when they offer them rewards for doing beneficial things (e.g. reading, going to the dentist) they do not fully understand the worth of, or punish them for the converse.  The same goes with societies and economies (carrot/stick methods), and I don't think without "c.)" most people wouldn't consider this kind of thing manipulation.)

But allowing what I've written above is true, does that mean that manipulation is always wrong?  If I'm hiding Jews from the Gestapo, and the Gestapo shows up at my door, I'm not terribly concerned with engaging them as authentic human beings.  My aim is to get certain behavior out of them: i.e., leave -without discovering my Jewish friends.  Whatever I say afterward, true or untrue, is by our definition manipulation.
Or, say I'm on a bus and I see a young girl getting aggressively and unwelcomely hit on by a Very Large and Threatening Man. There are few other passengers on the bus.  I could a.) confront the man, get pummeled most likely, and in an unconscious state not be able to help the girl any further. Or b.) attempt to distract him. So I attempt to engage the man in harmless conversation, asking about the time and the weather.  I don't care terribly about him, the time, or the weather, I'm just trying to get some behavior out of him; i.e. stop harassing that girl.

Both of these scenarios involve manipulating a dangerous person or persons, but most people would rather congratulate the manipulator in these cases on his/her "quick thinking", rather than turn the nose up at the method.  Yet even this must be a desperate method, since Paul (in Acts 24) seems a little conscience stricken at his use of manipulation (recounted in Acts 23) to get out of a mock trial where he was beginning to get slapped around.  Perhaps this is because he was doing it merely to save his own hide, or perhaps I've misinterpreted his words as a confession of guilt. Either way, it seems that it's the same sort of thing as violence or outright lying: methods only excusable when we're trying to save innocent parties in our care from evil ones and have no other recourse.  Acts of virtue at its wit's end.

On a tamer note, don't we "manipulate" all the time?
For instance - I'm nice to service staff for two reasons.  One, sympathy and recognition of their humanity, in God's image (so far so good). Two, because I am convinced of the maxim "you get more flies with honey than vinegar" (manipulation). Now is this properly wrong?  It's obviously not ideal, but it's hardly something most people would object to. And we do this constantly in our human interactions.  How many of you act deferentially to your supervisors because you pure-heartedly honor their position of authority?  How often do you act in a certain way to supervisors/co-workers in ways calculated to win acclaim/security without all that much thought to their individual God-given value?

Or, take the military.  A commander isn't terrible concerned that the units under his command understand why they're falling back now or attacking this spot or advancing there.  He isn't even (with exceptions I'm sure) ultimately concerned with the individual soldier's well-being as much as the outcome of the battle/war. In fact, a lot of basic training is specifically to ready men to be "manipulated" by commands; and most soldiers know this to be the case, even as it's happening - it is (if it were possible) consensual manipulation.

But what's my point in all this?  What am I trying to get you to do or think?

Precisely this:  Be careful, please, when you use the words "manipulation" or "manipulative"; that you're using them appropriately and fairly. Don't just use it to point out that someone wants a specific response from you, (because everyone does, and that's nothing remarkable).  They might even want a good, right and true response from you, and your objecting to that response doesn't justify calling it "manipulation".  Rather explain why you disagree with the rightness of that response.

If someone IS using predictable laws of psychology to get desired behavior out of you without regard to whether or not you:
a.) Are being motivated by the truth
b.) Understand what's causing you to behave in the desired way (the methods used to persuade you)
c.) Are helped or hurt (that is, without regard to you as a person).

Then, by all means object to it as manipulation, and even do them a favor and explain where they crossed the line.