Backfire: The Facts Were Bad Enough

Backfire: The Facts Were Bad Enough July 16, 2015

America takes a look at the whole Planned Parenthood video and I now fear it is, once again, going to backfire on the prolife movement.

The real horror of the video (and monstrous horror it is) is the PP rep’s casual discussion, over fava beans and a nice chianti, of her crushing and shredding human beings in such a way as to preserve heart, lungs, liver, brains, etc. for harvesting. It is sick-making chat that makes the mind reel. That is what the gut reacts to. And if the video had been released with that as the focus, it would have been devastating enough.

Unfortunately, however, we live in a culture with a conscience seared to the horror of that. For every cry of anguish and outrage from the prolife movement trying to awake the dulled American heart to such evils, a great portion of our culture makes a determined effort to change the channel and not think of such things. Result: our cry “LOOK! SEE!” is met with more resolute refusals to do so.

At which point, the temptation to cut moral corners starts to kick in, which is a delight to the devil. We start looking for other tools to fight our battle. One of the big ones appeared to be the Almighty Dollar. Americans may not care about crushing and dismembering babies, but they still care about the bottom line. And so yesterday’s video was born: a video edited and marketed, not so much to highlight the mind-numbing horrors of abortion, but to try to nail Planned Parenthood on an allegation of felony.

Problem is: it is starting to appear that this charge is much more dubious and the means by which it is made much more shady. And Planned Parenthood, so far from acting like it got caught with its pants down is responding with relish and calling the makers of the video liars–which, by their own confession, they are since they falsely represented themselves to obtain the video. What remains to be seen is if they are also falsely representing the claim that PP is committing (legal) crimes (there is no question they are committing moral ones, but we Americans don’t care about that).

Investigations are under way and my dwindling hope is that PP can be charged with something here. But my near-certain suspicion after reading the America piece is that it will shown that no felony has occurred and that they will be exonerated while yet another video based on the premise of the Noble Lie will be added to Planned Parenthood’s fundraising arsenal of examples to show that prolifers are liars.

There is, I get it, immense frustration in the prolife movement over the fact that people can listen to pleasant casual chat over a light lunch about how to subject a baby to the horrors of Dr. Mengele’s lab. There is near despair that a country we love could countenance such inhuman barbarism for one second, let alone 40 years. But that fact should force us to ask not, “What can we get away with to beat these bastards?” but “How can we be sure to fight using the weapons of the Spirit, not the weapons of this world, since this is a battle that mortal weapons cannot win against the powers and principalities of this world?”

The devil’s two main tools with angry people itching to cut moral corners are temptation and accusation. He whispers “Go ahead. Do evil that good will come of it! Look how much *more* evil those guys are! There’s no comparison! Are you going to be some moral idiot who does nothing while stuff like this is going on?”

So we go ahead and attempt the Noble Lie. And when we give in to the temptation to use lies and we get caught, we then face accusation, watch everything we fought for collapse like a house of cards, and hear Screwtape cackle: “To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return–that is what really gladdens our Father’s heart.” Remedy: stop using lies. As Augustine says, “God does not need my lie.”

The angry prolife combox responses to the America piece have centered a great deal, not around the factual analysis of the video, but around the question “Whose side are you on?” and are full of accusation that the author of the piece is somehow defending Planned Parenthood. I don’t buy that at all. It seems very clear to me that he is saying, “Fight with the weapons of the Spirit or it will backfire.” As Fr. Sawyer says:

Unfortunately, the way C.M.P. positioned this video, describing as “sales” something that is considerably more complicated, has simply reinforced, for many, the pro-choice narrative about pro-life activists: unscrupulous, dishonest players willing to do anything necessary in order to control and limit women’s access to abortion. The video’s revelations about the very matter-of-fact way in which fetal tissue from abortions is treated as a resource rather than human remains—-and the way in which the women seeking abortions come to be seen as potential sources of these rare and valuable tissues—-were more than troubling enough without being carefully sensationalized.

When the issue shifts from “Is this analysis factual?” and “Are these tactics in fact winning hearts and minds to the prolife cause?” to “Whose side are you on?” that is a sure sign that the prolife movement has taken a wrong turn. If the goal is simply to reinforce Unit Cohesion in the prolife community despite the fact that Planned Parenthood is winning converts to the proposition “Prolifers are liars” then I submit that is serious mission creep. What the video shows is monstrous enough. Spinning it to try to establish a felony where none exists will only backfire and stuff millions more dollars into PP’s coffers.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his practices and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge after the image of his creator. (Col 3:9–10).

For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Co 10:3–5).

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the Evil One. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Eph 6:10–18).

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