Dialogue: Pro-Life White Guys & Anti-Southern Prejudice

Dialogue: Pro-Life White Guys & Anti-Southern Prejudice May 15, 2019

This occurred on my Facebook page, underneath a New York Times article about Roe v. Wade possibly being overturned. Words of Deacon Steven D. Greydanus will be in blue; Mike Johnson’s in green, Michele Verret-Ayala’s in purple, and Nathaniel Sperling’s in brown.


Would it be a good thing for the country, though, if Roe v. Wade were overturned now?

Certainly, you know I’m pro-life and I think that Roe v. Wade was bad jurisprudence, but it seems like an overturning of Roe v. Wade at the present time could be a Pyrrhic victory, especially given that one of the conservative justices got his seat due to it being stolen from President Obama (when he nominated Judge Garland) and the other one was confirmed under a cloud (whether one believes Kavanaugh was guilty of that which he was accused or not–I remain agnostic on that question–the fact is there’s baggage, a dark cloud).

A reversal of Roe v. Wade could kick the Culture Wars up to a boiling point, sharpen our country’s partisan divide and make it more bitter, and serve as a motivation for the Democrats to play much nastier than some already are (i.e. they might try to pack the Court the next time they get power, etc.).

The country is in fact divided, much as in the 1850s, right before the Civil War. Then we had slave states and free ones. Now we have progressive, pro-life states like Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio, and decadent, death-obsessed states like New York, Vermont, Oregon, and California.

I think it’s better to overthrow Roe and allow hundreds of thousands of babies to live rather than be killed, than to not do so. Is it ideal? No. But it’s a lot better than having abortion be legal everywhere. I have said for many years that to totally eradicate abortion, a massive societal spiritual revival will have to occur.

Literally every single thing you just said is already happening, and will happen anyway. I don’t think you’ve been paying attention.

An agnostic friend of mine shares the article below with the comments: “To my religious friends, the ones who have sacrificed every ounce of their morality and reason for this one moment: I hope it was all worth it. The family separations, the hate crimes, the rejection of science and scholarship, the vile rhetoric, your disgusting, gibbering Mammon in power over all.” This is what we have done to the pro-life movement. [links to Guardian article about 25 white male pro-lifers — all pictured — in Alabama]

Your agnostic friend needs to get off of the internet for a little while and try going outside a little bit. He seems a bit… unbalanced.

I think my friend sees with some clarity, Mike.

Ah yes, those terrible white men voting against abortion. You and your friend really see this as a dark day, eh? Perhaps you should go outside a bit more too?

Those without ears to hear, let them not hear.

Those without eyes, let them lack perspective.

I’m sure God can handle the rectifying of a law that should never have been. It is like saying abolishing slavery was not a good idea.

Sounds like the Democratic primaries: led to two old decrepit white guys (both from New England: Crazy Bernie and Crazy Uncle Joe) and two younger idiotic white guys: Beto and Buttigieg.

Your problem here is that you are approaching the issue like the pro-aborts and secularists do (not being able to see past mere skin color). You need to get past trying to get them to like you and think you are wonderful and cool and “open-minded.” Yes, you’ll pay a price. You’ll be lied about and called a bunch of names, but so it has always been for Christians.

Funny you should mention it, Michele. Resistance to the abolition of slavery came from a place of deep cultural roots that in many ways remain to this day. Precisely the places where cotton was king, where industrial slavery was most rampant — places like Alabama — these are the places where racial divides remain strongest today, where racism is most entrenched. That’s where Republicans win most handily, and racism helps them win. And that’s where 25 white Republican men just voted to ban abortion. They’re voting for the right thing, but I can’t help abhorring how we’re getting there.

I’m still a bit confused over what he has a problem with here. Is the whole problem that the people who voted for the ban were white? If it had been 50% black men would it have been okay with him? What needs to be the optimal racial / sexual / gender identity to make the vote that he will then accept as good?

Mike: The very fact that you’re confused suggests to me maybe you’re the one who needs to get out of the house more and have long, thoughtful discussions with people who see the world differently from you.

LOL! That’s rich, deacon. The fact that I disagree with you and don’t understand your insistence that a vote is somehow bad because it was made by white people means I’m the one who needs to get out? In my life and line of work most people I deal with are far different than I’m guessing most people on this page encounter.

I see your problem genuinely is that it was white men who made the vote. I wasn’t really ‘confused’, more along the lines of ‘I really don’t want to be so uncharitable as to assume racism on the part of someone and assume he dislikes something merely because of the race of the people involved.’ I won’t make that mistake again. The race of who made the vote bothers me not at all. If President Obama had done something like that, I would have applauded him as well.

As far as ‘how we got here’, nothing to help that now. I hate the fact that we literally destroyed the country, burned all the national wealth created up to that point and butcher 600,000 people to end slavery. But, ending slavery was a good thing, and I’m not going to sit and decry that slavery is now gone just because the means used to end it were unpalatable.

Unfortunate that is all you have to offer. It is good news innocent human life is being protected. And you bring up totally unrelated issues. Shaking my head . . . 

If we are to object to 25 white Republicans in Alabama voting to ban abortion, why would we not also object to every single Democrat legislator in the Michigan House and Senate (67 of ’em) voting to sustain it?

Yet the good Deacon chooses to tie into good ol’ anti-Southern bigotry and stereotypes (“the hate crimes, the rejection of science and scholarship”), rather than rejoice that childkilling would be restricted in one of the more progressive states today (Alabama).

Something just doesn’t add up there. Again, you have been trained to think like a secularist, in order to win their approval. That’s part of the whole game that secularism has set up in our present toxic environment.

I’d like to see you answer Mike’s dead-on question: “What needs to be the optimal racial / sexual / gender identity to make the vote that he will then accept as good?”

You object that they are all white men. So when would you not object? And why does it matter in the first place? The goal is to save lives.

God help us that we have to argue with our own about protecting innocent human life. No wonder slaughtering our children is still legal in many states, heavy sigh.

It is very sad, when the color of the skin and gender of persons voting to lessen childkilling becomes more important than saving the lives of these precious children.

Now of course Deacon Steven would deny that this is what he’s doing. He’ll say that it’s a “PR” thing and we have to produce a better image of the pro-life movement and so forth: lest our secularist overlords think we are backwards and redneck hicks, etc.

But the fact remains that he objects to the law (at least from what we know so far in these comments) — or, I should say, how the passage of a bill came about — simply because of who voted for it. And that is the triumph of standard far-left Democrat identity politics. The more folks they can get to think like this, the further their agenda advances.

Let’s not all dog-pile the deacon here, though. The general position of wanting to be careful of our means to achieve a political ends is a very real and serious concern. I wish more people on both sides of the political divide had it.

I think the main thing here is that it is misplaced on this point. Racial makeup is a silly argument to make. Should we then be against voting for proving healthcare to the poor if the vote was carried overwhelmingly by white men?

It is important, but it’s far less important than innocent lives being saved wherever possible. I still want to see his answer to your question.

When did I say I objected to the law? My exact words were “They’re voting for the right thing, but I can’t help abhorring how we’re getting there.”

Understood. Now, how do you answer Mike’s question? If it was a “bad way” (my description: not citing your words) to get there by 25 white guys voting for it, then when and how does it become a “good way”? I think it’s a perfectly relevant, absolutely crucial question to ask, given your protest. You don’t like that it’s all white guys. So when do you begin to like it?

And why is it not equally objectionable for all 67 Democrats in the Michigan legislature to be pro-abortion? Is that not a clone-like unanimity not unlike the 25 white guys (implied by your left-wing article link: bigoted redneck hicks) in Alabama? Except here they are voting for the death of children, and you agree that the 25 white guys are voting the right way.

You call for open-minded discussion. I agree. I’m doing what you call for. I wanna hear your answer.

[24 minutes pass]

Still waiting for that answer. This dialogue is gonna be posted on my blog shortly, with or without it. Your choice.

I think it’s a great and helpful discussion, and thank all participants. I believe the heart of the issue will be gotten to, if Deacon Steven ever answers Mike’s direct question. Personally, I think the question identifies the false (and outrageous) premise in play in the Guardian / agnostic friend’s reasoning: agreed-to by Deacon Steven.

Oh brother. For the record, I have not participated in a “dialogue” here. I’ve thrown out a few isolated observations and comments, that’s all.

The question I have is why are 25 white Republican men deciding this question in Alabama?

Because they were elected.

Why is it that Republicans win biggest in precisely those areas of the South where slavery was most entrenched and where the effects of racism remain most evident today? [links to Washington Compost article, “Researchers have found strong evidence that racism helps the GOP win”]

Correlation =/= causation. And indeed I’m not entirely sure there’s correlation there, having grown up in multiple places in the deep south.

Who cares what color they are?

Obviously racists care, Michele, which is why everyone should care.

Why are more than twice as many women Senators today Democrats than Republicans?

Why are sanitation workers overwhelmingly male? Because sexism? Or maybe certain ideological patterns tend to generate certain types of choices, political and otherwise?

Why are Republicans so much less willing than Democrats to put up and support women candidates?

You’re worried about how this was resolved because too many of the people involved had the wrong plumbing? Are you being serious or are you trolling us? I honestly can’t tell anymore. I’m willing to be you also are totally dedicated to the ‘Women make 70% of what men make because sexism’ too aren’t you?

Good Lord, and you think I’m the one that has to get out?

By the way, you’re starting to go down a dangerous path. This whole why are certain sexes and races doing XYZ more than others will get awfully uncomfortable for you if you proceed too far. Just fair warning.

Likewise, why is there not one single pro-life Democrat in the Michigan legislature? All 67 just voted for the death of children.

None of that (interesting as it may be to talk about) answers Mike’s question. Avoiding it doesn’t get you off the hook. You brought up this identity politics stuff. So have the courage of your convictions and answer.

Yes, I agree it’s not true dialogue or totally constructive dialogue, because you have refused to grapple with the central issue, that you got yourself embroiled in.

Mike brought it right down to brass tacks, and now you are squirming. You should be, because you’re now trapped in your own internal logic and the logical reduction of this silly line of reasoning.

How much clearer can I be? Pro-life is winning in Alabama because white Republican men are winning in Alabama, and Alabama’s racist history is part of that. 

Pro-life is winning in Alabama because white people want to hold onto power, because they don’t want brown-skinned immigrants coming and voting them out of power, and many of them are totally fine with stealing kids from parents and detain people indefinitely or whatever it takes. 

I realize I’m speaking to the wind, but here’s the reality: The GOP base is white and getting whiter, and white people are a declining percentage of the population. Sooner or later demographics will catch up with the Republican party, and everyone who put all their eggs in that basket will lose everything. 

Yes, the Democratic party has gone all in on the culture of death. Why do you think that’s hard for me to say? I’ve never said otherwise.

Who cares if they are women? I am a woman. I am not oppressed. I don’t need other women doing my bidding, especially those fighting for the right to kill their children. If I want to ignore my vocation, and go “be someone” outside of my family life, then I can. I have no desire to do so.

Dear God, thank you for granting Deacon Steve the gift of reading the hearts of men.

If your view, one that itself is bordering on racism, the only reason someone will vote for a white person in Alabama is because they are white. In your eyes, this state apparently filled to the brim with klansmen couldn’t possibly have voted for someone because they are pro-life, or because they like their economic policy, or because they promised to do something about potholes on the highway or some such. No, the motivating factor has to be racism. You are talking like a bigot, Steve.

I don’t have to read men’s hearts. The data is pretty compelling. [links again to the Washington Compost article, “Researchers have found strong evidence that racism helps the GOP win”]

Great points Mike. Also, wanted to mention Louisiana, where both black and white, democrat and republican, male and female, support life!!! And that is the “South”.

And Louisiana and South Carolina also voted for Indian-American Governors, and South Carolina for a black Senator. We haven’t had either of those in Michigan.

I don’t know what happened to Michigan…was that not the blue collar backbone of America at one time?

Yes; it still is in many ways, but, as with the rest of the country, the urban vote is overwhelmingly Democrat. We did at least manage to vote for Trump in 2016, and likely will again, the way things are going.

This [Deacon Steven’s rhetoric] is simply Mark Shea Lite, minus the bombast and flair and color) and it looks like you will not answer a simple question. I think it’s sad. You’re more than sharp enough to know that you have gone down a dead end street with this argument and that there is no way out. But you’ve chosen to ignore the question and engage in non sequiturs and insults. You’re better than that.

In fact, the GOP is making huge inroads into both the African-American and Hispanic-American communities, which is why the liberals are scared to death and don’t have a clue what to do about it (thus, they up the usual personal attacks). See:

“Poll: 50% of Hispanic voters approve of Trump, GOP regains ballot lead” (Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, 3-29-19)

“There will be a record number of Hispanic voters in 2020, and that could have a major impact on Trump’s political fate” (Matt Lavietes, CNBC, 2-7-19) [Excerpt: “a more recent NPR/Marist poll revealed Trump’s approval rating among Hispanics soared from 31 percent in December to 50 percent.”]

“Republicans confident Trump can pick up black voter support in 2020” (Emily Ward, Washington Examiner, 3-27-19) [Excerpt: “African-Americans have reliably voted Democratic since 1948, a trend that is unlikely to change. But a Morning Consult poll taken March 15 shows Trump’s approval rating among blacks sits at 12 percent, four percentage points higher than the eight percent of black Americans who voted for Trump in 2016. And according to [Horace] Cooper, a two or three percent shift in the black vote in certain states, such as Wisconsin, Florida and Texas, could make a big difference in the election — though Cooper predicted an increase of four to five percent of the black vote for Trump, which “would put between four and six more states in play that Trump didn’t carry last time.” “]

I will tell you [Mike], just once, that I never said I had a problem with the color of the people voting for this bill.

You are bearing false witness [that] Republicans are racist. But that is okay, right?

I believe the data shows compellingly that strongholds of industrial slavery, where racism remains overt today, are precisely centers of Republicanism. I don’t think evaluating data is racist or judgmental. 

Mike: As divergent and even opposed as our points of view are, and as formidable as the challenges to this discussion are, I want to say I appreciate the irenic and self-critical moments I have seen from you. On such things all our hopes of productive discussion lie.

Dave: Do you still think I haven’t responded to the question “Is the whole problem that the people who voted for the ban were white? If it had been 50% black men would it have been okay with him? What needs to be the optimal racial / sexual / gender identity to make the vote that he will then accept as good?” Or is there another original question you’d like me to respond to?

You have not replied to that. What you need to do is to give us the hypothetical scenario in that vote which you would not be ashamed of, and not think that racism was a key factor. An example of a true answer would be, “if out of the 25 Alabama pro-life legislators, 8 [or 12 or 13 or whatever] were black, then I wouldn’t say it was a PR problem for the pro-life cause and racist-influenced: as a predominant or important causal factor.”

You suggest racism (and also anti-Hispanic prejudice) is heavily in play; therefore, it’s fair game for us to inquire as to what it would take for you to not make the charge.

You also have consistently ignored my turn-the-tables rhetorical question regarding why you don’t make the same point about all 67 Michigan Democrat legislators opposing pro-life. Why is that not at least as objectionable as 25 white men voting to save as many human children from butchery as they can?

The question in its complete form suffers from the complex question fallacy. I can’t say “if out of the 25 Alabama pro-life legislators, 8 [or 12 or 13 or whatever] were black…” because answer to the first question is “No.” 

Specifically, the answer to “Is the whole problem that the people who voted for the ban were white?” is no. The skin color of these particular 25 people is not the whole problem. 

As I tried to say, many times, one begins to approach to the problem by asking: why is this decision being made by 25 white men? Why are there no women or people of color in this lineup? How did we get to this point? 

Because the real problem is this: The map of “places where conservative white men win a lot of Republican elections” correlates remarkably with the map of “places where cotton was king and where measurable racist attitudes remain strong,” and statistically it’s hard to argue that that correlation is purely coincidental. 

What would it take for me not to make the charge? I want to see Republicans do what Mike admirably did above, and what I try to do: own one’s failings.

I want to see Southern Republicans to acknowledge that racism remains a real problem in our country, a real problem in the South, a real problem for Republicans. To say this is not to let off Democrats or the North; they have their own problems with racism. But conversion starts with owning one’s own failings. 

Archbishop Chaput, in the wake of Charlottesville, wrote: “Racism is a poison of the soul…the ugly, original sin of our country, an illness that has never fully healed … If we want a different kind of country in the future, we need to start today with a conversion in our own hearts, and an insistence on the same in others.” 

That’s what I want to call myself and others to. I am pro-life. Challenging Roe v. Wade is something I’ve worked toward in different ways all my life. I’m not a Republican today, but I’ve been a Republican for most of my life and voted for Republican presidential candidates for most of my life, precisely for this reason. I have never been a Democrat and have never voted for a single Democratic presidential candidate. 

In calling on the pro-life movement to acknowledge the complicity of its own base in racism, I’m calling to my own. I’m not saying this as some cheap shot against the other team. The pro-life cause is my cause, but we have a real problem here, and our blindness to it, our refusal to see it, has done terrible damage to our moral credibility, and it will only continue to do more. 

I genuinely don’t understand the point of your turnabout question. The Democrats are all in on the culture of death. The indefensibility of the actions of the Michigan Democrat legislators speaks for itself. What exactly do you want me to say about it?

I think I already understood all that. It’s a completely different discussion (the causes of and solutions to racism). I would love to discuss that, too (I’ve been intensely interested in the question for literally over 50 years, as a native Detroiter), but I’m a big believer in one topic at a time.

As a major in sociology (at Wayne State University in Detroit, which had about 1/4 black students; my high school was about 85% black), I have long held that causes of societal issues such as racism are exceedingly complex and multiple in nature. These sorts of discussions are poorly served by the quick, almost proverbial “bumper sticker”-types of charges. They require open minds and long, long discussions.

I still don’t know what would have been acceptable to you in this vote. You cited an agnostic friend making truly extreme and bigoted statements about pro-lifers, and a Guardian article that thought it was somehow relevant to post photos of 25 Alabamians (of which my mother’s father was one, by the way). That was all brought on by the fact that 25 white men voted for this bill in Alabama.

So all we’re asking is: “at what point would you not have objected?” Meaning: “how different would the racial or gender or ethnic composition of the voters had to have been, in order for you not to object to it as detrimental to the pro-life cause, in terms of process or image, or however you would describe that aspect?”

I think Mike was perfectly sincere in asking his question. I know I am in reiterating it, and virtually begging you to respond. I think this is the bottom line in this discussion.

It isn’t for the larger, huge discussion of racism in America, but it is for this particular discussion, that you introduced. What you brought up was not the topic of the linked article, or of Nathaniel’s first comment. You brought it up, and so we are challenging you to back up some of the assumed premises in play.

So your problem is, why is the Republican party mainly white men? Alabama’s population is 25% black, according to the census. Assuming an even application, 25% of those 25 white men would mean you have five non-white there, ideally.

But then we must consider that, according to what I’ve looked up on the outcomes of the 2018 midterms, black Americans voted 90% for Democrats. Now, I don’t think this is because 90% of blacks in America just love abortion or some such, but because they saw other interests they cared about being championed by Democrats instead. And we add to this that the Democratic party is overwhelmingly pro-abortion, you’re not going to get much pro-life help from that side. So…. My point here is, what exactly do you expect, given those statistics?

But you’re also focusing only on Alabama. There are plenty of non-white, and women pro-lifers in office in Louisiana, and is that not also an old southern stronghold? The answer is: perhaps because that’s just who got elected.

As I pointed out above, our local government here is about 60% black. But our demographics are not anywhere near that. How did it come to that??? Well, they were elected, that’s how.

To add a bit more to this. I could see your concern if, IF, the platforms these people got elected on were problematic. Now I didn’t follow the actual election in Alabama, but looking up these two men’s platforms from that time, it seems they were pushing pro-life causes and the biggest thing that seemed to be under discussion was state infrastructure spending. So… in this case, I don’t share your alarm bells.

Dave: I agree with the points you make in your second paragraph. The most important point I disagree with is your statement in the first paragraph that “It’s a completely different discussion.” No it’s not, because of the point I made in my fourth paragraph: 

“The map of ‘places where conservative white men win a lot of Republican elections’ correlates remarkably with the map of ‘places where cotton was king and where measurable racist attitudes remain strong,’ and statistically it’s hard to argue that that correlation is purely coincidental.” 

Alabama is a state where a candidate as gross as Roy Moore is totally viable and even popular. This is a candidate whose answer to the question “When is the last time America was great?” was to invoke the days of slavery. True, he didn’t think slavery made America great; he even acknowledged that slavery was a drawback, but still, those were the days.

When Alabama seceded from the Union in 1861, almost half of the state’s total population (45%) were slaves. Alabama resisted the emancipation of slaves through the sharecropping system. Segregation and legal discrimination remained in effect in Alabama until the 1960s. As you know, that was not so long ago, and it still shapes people’s attitudes today. 

We can’t look at those 25 white Republican men dominating the Alabama Senate, and say “But the fact that white Republican men dominate the Alabama Senate has nothing to do with racism.” The maps say otherwise.

I give up on the question being directly answered. But in a large sense, your non-reply is indeed an answer. I think it indicates that you know down deep that you were trapped (in the logic of your position). You would soundly refute your own arguments if you answered, and so you choose not to. Most people are that way, so you’re not alone by a long shot.

LOL. I honestly can’t even fathom the epistemic closure you bring to this discussion. I regard that as a failure of empathy and imagination on my part. I want to be able to understand all points of view, however different from mine. I admit you’ve defeated me today — my mirror neurons can make nothing of your position. And vice versa, it seems, except you don’t appear to realize it.

Good to admit that you’re out to sea. I perfectly understand your position, and reject it. I held it, myself, back when I was a good little liberal. It’s true to some extent, but it breaks down as a meta-analysis. If your neurons one day become more conservative, I think you’ll be able to grasp how we are reasoning. Right now, the moderate filters in those neurons are too dominant. We all have our blind spots.


Photo credit: Joe Sepielli (7-9-05); L’Bow at the redneck games in East Dublin, Georgia [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]

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