David Mills on the Failure of Ideology

David Mills on the Failure of Ideology February 3, 2020

Over on the Book of Face, my friend David Mills offers some wise words:


Facebook brought up a post from last year, which included an attack on Rebecca Bratten Weiss for her views on abortion, including posting the “New Pro-Life Movement” description of the effect of unwanted pregnancy on some women. It made the difficult point that for some women, having the baby would be harder for them than aborting him.

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Some FB friends leapt to declare the post “pro-choice talking points” and declare Rebecca a leftist who wanted to use the pro-life movement for leftist political ends or an actual pro-choicer who wanted to undermine the pro-life movement. My attempts to try to return the discussion to what she and others had actually said failed. Her critics repeatedly informed me of what she was *really* doing.

She was the victim of an ideological reading. Two marks of an ideological reading are: 1) the reduction of the text to a political statement, an attempt to gain power, and not an attempt to say something true about the world; and 2) the ascription to the writer of merely political motives, as if he only said what he said to advance a political cause. Both insist “You’re only saying that because.”

Both marks, of course, are sometimes true. Read official statements from the Communist Party, for example. Or listen to some hard libertarians, who repeat rote lines about the market no matter what the issue.

Usually, however, discerning when that’s true is not easy. The complicating factor is that the more you disagree with someone, the more ideological his statements may look to you. You can’t believe he really believes that, because he’s so obviously wrong, and so he must be saying it for other reasons. And the more you yourself are invested in the truth as a political work, as we will often quite properly be, and the more emotionally engaged you are, the easier it is to feel that the other person is only political.

The advantage of the ideological reading is that it saves you having to engage difficult arguments, and having to recognize anything that complicates your narrative. It saves you the trouble of thinking, since you can just keep repeating lines that excuse you for not engaging your target. As an expression of ideology, it helpfully simplifies the world for you.

As I noted a little while ago, the tendency of fallen human beings is always to kick violence down the ladder to those weaker than ourselves rather than take responsibility for our part in it or challenge those up the ladder from us.  So when Consistent Life People like RBW say, “We really have to take a look at the pressures we put on people to have abortions” the “prolife” MAGA cult always torques that to mean, “Oh!  So you are saying there are good reasons for abortion and we should just accept that!”

No.  We are saying you do accept putting pressure on people to abort and you do nothing about it because you would rather kick violence down the ladder to women than accept responsibility for your part in it.

What Consistent Life Ethic people say is that it is not enough to cut off supply if your whole approach is to ignore the role you play in demand.  If all you do toward pre-abortive women is say, “Tough!  You’re on your own.  Look!  We gave you diapers for a month.  What else do you want?  Food? Shelter?  Health care?  The help to raise a family of five till they are 18? A living wage?  What is this?  The USSR?

“Hey! We told you artificial contraception is a mortal sin and you’d go to Hell for ignoring the Church, you big family of poor Catholics.  But don’t expect us to help you when you get pregnant for the fifth time because you listened to us and have no idea how to afford the $10,000 hospital bill due to complications.  You should have thought of that before you got pregnant, welfare queen.  Hey!  Are you even really American?  Maybe somebody should check your papers before you pop out that precious unborn Anchor Baby? Because if you think for one second that Precious Little One is gonna get one dime of my tax help, so help me I will be there to cheer when ICE sends your kid to a foster home and deports you. Whaddaya mean I’m not prolife?  I have the March for Life bumper sticker right next to my MAGA flag, my Mary decal and my NRA sticker.  That’s why I care about Life, because we need to repopulate our country with Real Christians and take America back from the Invaders, if you catch my meaning if you get my drift!”

If your response to women afraid of birth is “Mortal sin is worse than suffering and death.  So suck it up, be warm and well fed, and stop bugging me” then you are kidding yourself about being prolife.  If your first instinct is to attack RBW instead of pondering the truth of what she says, you aren’t thinking.

You’re reacting.

Pray and think more.  Sloganeer and react less.

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