Sunday, January 27, 2008

Inching up to the Fence

A saying I have used a lot is that I think being on opposite sides of the fence from another should be a process where both folks get closer and closer to the fence, until both folks are leaning on the fence chatting - rather than screaming at each other from a distance. Then, maybe, occasionally, one of them can see whether it is possible to kick some of the slats out of the fence that separates them.

That obviously makes me a moderate - a position in which I am quite comfortable. Now, the ideologues on both sides view those folks leaning on the fence chatting as less than pure, and less than right. They, of course, are pure and right - and a bit hoarse.

There are a couple of posts over at the Stand to Reason blog that warmed my heart - because they both point to the dialogue occurring in the middle. The middle is, of course, where dialogue occurs. The first dialogue is a direct one. Steven Wagner

specializes in training college students to engage their campuses in large-scale discussion on abortion . . . Steve is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Southern California, and he is currently working on his Masters Degree in Philosophy of Religion and Ethics at Talbot School of Theology.
and examines in "Kissling and Michelman Refuse to Dismiss Pro-Lifers as Irrelevant" an Los Angeles Times opinion - "Abortion's battle of messages" by
Frances Kissling, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, is the former president of Catholics for a Free Choice. Kate Michelman is the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and the author of "Protecting the Right to Choose."
Michelman and Kissling outline the issue for the pro-choice movement pretty clearly:
Science facilitated the swing of the pendulum. Three-dimensional ultrasound images of babies in utero began to grace the family fridge. Fetuses underwent surgery. More premature babies survived and were healthier. They commanded our attention, and the question of what we owe them, if anything, could not be dismissed.

These trends gave antiabortionists an advantage, and they made the best of it. Now, we rarely hear them talk about murdering babies. Instead, they present a sophisticated philosophical and political challenge. Caring societies, they say, seek to expand inclusion into "the human community." Those once excluded, such as women and minorities, are now equal. Why not welcome the fetus (who, after all, is us) into our community?

Advocates of choice have had a hard time dealing with the increased visibility of the fetus. The preferred strategy is still to ignore it and try to shift the conversation back to women. At times, this makes us appear insensitive, a bit too pragmatic in a world where the desire to live more communitarian and "life-affirming" lives is palpable. To some people, pro-choice values seem to have been unaffected by the desire to save the whales and the trees, to respect animal life and to end violence at all levels. Pope John Paul II got that, and coined the term "culture of life." President Bush adopted it, and the slogan, as much as it pains us to admit it, moved some hearts and minds. Supporting abortion is tough to fit into this package.
In recent years, the antiabortion movement successfully put the nitty-gritty details of abortion procedures on public display, increasing the belief that abortion is serious business and that some societal involvement is appropriate. Those who are pro-choice have not convinced America that we support a public discussion of the moral dimensions of abortion. Likewise, we haven't convinced people that we are the ones actually doing things to make it possible for women to avoid needing abortions . . . If pro-choice values are to regain the moral high ground, genuine discussion about these challenges needs to take place within the movement. It is inadequate to try to message our way out of this problem. Our vigorous defense of the right to choose needs to be accompanied by greater openness regarding the real conflict between life and choice, between rights and responsibility.
Wagner welcomes the article
In fact, they make the pro-life case better than many pro-life advocates . . . I applaud the honest assessment Kissling and Michelman have made of the best of the pro-life movement . . . they have worked hard to understand pro-life arguments . . . That's the attitude I encourage both sides to adopt in my book, Common Ground Without Compromise in which I . . . help pro-life advocates take seriously the legitimate concerns pro-choice advocates typically emphasize. These include honestly confronting the very difficult circumstances many women face and being realistic about solutions to the problems of unwanted pregnancy

It appears from their article that Kissling and Michelman are calling for an internal discussion of the effective pro-life challenges they've highlighted, but I would encourage them to go further. Talk to pro-life advocates about them. We're ready to listen, understand, and build common ground first in order to really hear your concerns and perspective.
The other bit of "slat kicking" has Stand to Reason pointing to a John Mark Reynolds's post - "Is Huckabee Confused About the Proper Role of Christianity and Politics?" - discussing Mike Huckabee's comment on making the Constitution conform to God's will
"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."
.It is a great post on which discusses:
  • general vs. specific revelation
  • that some truths could be gained through human reason, itself a common grace of God to all humankind.; and
  • that "Christians discovered through history that freedom of conscience was one of God’s great gifts to mankind."
among other things.

Melinda, in an earlier post - "Presidents and Pastors" also looked at Huckabee's quote
The Constitution should never be changed to conform to God's standards - at least that's not the reason we should change it. What's right and good is certain God's standard, and the rationale for Constitutional amendments should be made because it's right and good, not because it's God's standard. We should amend the Constitution for appropriate and good reasons for societal welfare.
Both posts echo many of the criticisms from the left of Mike Huckabee's comment - something neither side may be entirely comfortable with.

Certainly, some folks reading this at the two blogs where it is posted will object from both sides of both fences. They will call those folks on their side traitors for giving up the purity of their position - and accuse the opposition of much worse. Certainly, they will not agree to the views of those across the fence from them.

However, this post is not about views on abortion or theocracy - it is about the "music" of chatting and slat-kicking.

No comments:

Post a Comment

How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly