Having dispensed with the preliminaries for volunteers, Sender’s Crisis Pregnancy Center (CPC) Manual now dives straight into their stated reasons for opposing abortion rights. And I doubt anyone will be shocked to learn that it is a six-page-long Bible study regurgitating all the most popular Christian talking points against abortion. Yes, this section is easily as long as their mission statement, statement of faith, and volunteer requirements and demands–and definitely puts the lie to their common claim that their culture-war crusade is anything but a purely religiously-motivated one. Today we’ll look at the CPC’s very own Bible study and see just what those clobber verses are–and next time we’ll briefly detour to examine some anti-clobber verses that do their own clobbering of this Bible study.
As always, I’ll be including all of the pages here (and uploading them to the forum wiki later) for y’all to consult or save or do whatever you want with it. This whole CPC manual thing reminds me of a quote from Chloe Gordon, who briefly worked on the gobsmackingly-epic failure that was the Fyre Festival and then wrote about the experience in one of the funniest essays I’ve seen in years:
The writing was on the wall. I saw it firsthand six weeks ago. They overlooked so many very basic things. And baby, they forgot to make me sign an NDA.
A Pretense at Secularism, Destroyed.
Most people are familiar with Christians’ secular-sounding arguments against abortion. I won’t reinvent the wheel that Libby Anne’s already carved out so beautifully. If you want to hear more about that end of things, I heartily suggest starting there.
But we’re not going to find any of those arguments in this section of the manual. In fact, secular arguments don’t really appear at all anytime soon in the manual (though in short order there’ll be a lot of threatening-sounding pseudoscience and baldfaced lies aimed at terrorizing women out of choosing abortion care).
Instead, we’re going to see the purely-religious arguments that the Crisis Pregnancy Center pushes onto its volunteers to learn and then parrot at the women who walk through their doors expecting (in vain) to find help and resources and compassion. These are the arguments that they really and truly believe are their biggest guns: the most compelling out of all the arguments they could possibly make.
I’m not going to spend as much time on these verses as you might think. I’d guess that very few of us consider the Bible literally true or authoritative, much less buy into the sheer idolatry that is the entire literalist/inerrantist position, and it’s not like we’re going to change a fundagelical culture-warrior’s mind about clobber verses. Instead, I want to show you what clobber verses are, why they’re used, and how they fail–with a few examples to make my points.
And as we go through these six pages, too, I want you to be thinking about the atheists out there who still, despite every single bit of evidence easily found at their fingertips, think that the anti-abortion culture war isn’t primarily religious.
Clobber Verses, Defined.
One of the goofiest ironies in Christendom is this: The less the Bible explicitly says about a topic, the more verses Christian culture-warriors will adapt through quote-mining to justify holding their position on that topic.
A clobber verse is a Christian term for the product of that quote-mining. It indicates a Bible verse that a very particular kind of Christian thinks demolishes, or clobbers, an opposing position. A clobber verse is thought to particularly apply to that topic–and to say something extremely definitive about what the Christian god totally thinks about that topic.
That very particular kind of Christian is probably going to be a fundagelical, to be specific.
- These are people who think that Bible verses are magic spells (or even like flat-out Magic cards) that hold power even when used against people who aren’t fundagelical as well–or even Christian. Moreover, they think that every single verse is the direct-from-the-divine words of their very own real live god, so anybody who says they’re not swayed by these magic spells is simply lying about it.
- They think that the Bible is the end-all, be-all authority for all matters that modern human beings could ever encounter in their lives.
- They’re used to seeing Bible verses taken out of context and then mangled beyond recognition to hammer home some doctrinal point.
- When their holy book is contradicted by something in reality, they’re indoctrinated to side with their holy book.
- They have next to no training in actual theology and have only very rarely read much of their holy book themselves, so clobber verses sound very authoritative to them.
- Lastly, I don’t need to mention fundagelicals’ lamentable tendency toward fallacious arguments and magical thinking generally. Valid arguments don’t matter; what matters is how Jesus-y an idea seems and how well someone can mangle Bible verses to support it.
We’ve tackled clobber verses before around here–here’s a guest post deconstructing one of them regarding equal marriage–but despite their routine failure to persuade others, fundagelicals keep snapping them up, memorizing them, adopting them into their existing indoctrination, and then rushing off to trot them out on anyone who’ll listen long enough.
In the end, despite their wielders’ pious pretensions to the contrary, a clobber verse is simply a warhammer that fundagelicals use to hurt those who oppose and push back against them. It seems to me that as long as fundagelicals insist upon their completely childish way of seeing the Bible, we’re going to see them regurgitating clobber verses.
(Though the CPC also aims its scammery at hardline Catholics, this section is likely almost entirely intended for their over-simplistic Prottie foot-soldiers. I doubt many Catholics view the Bible in a way that lends itself to the use of clobber verses. So I’ll be referring to their audience as fundagelical–just bear in mind that hardline Catholics are culturally identical to fundagelicals, though their doctrines differ radically.)
A Lie In the First Sentence.
Page 1 does not begin with any actual Bible verses saying “don’t ever abort fetuses under any circumstances or ever help anybody obtain an abortion.”
It can’t, because there is no such Bible verse.
The manual even concedes that point (in what sounds like a very worried tone). For a god who fundagelicals are sure cares so very much about ending abortion rights forever for all women, it’s a very odd and strange–even a remarkable and astonishing–oversight, to be sure. So instead, the CPC must infer this position from quote-mined verses and myths from the Bible.
So here, we see both a battle-cry and the main red herring that drives the entire anti-abortion culture war. Both are dishonestly presented.
The opening to this Bible study states:
I’m guessing they were really hoping that nobody would actually go look that stuff up.
Leviticus 20:2-5 is an injunction to the Israelites to stone to death anybody who sacrifices any of their children to the foreign god Molech/Molek/Moloch, who may have been a Canaanite god. It has nothing whatsoever to do with elective abortions and everything to do with eliminating competing religions in the Jewish tribes.
Proverbs 24 is a general list of traits of good and evil men. One verse (11) mentions “deliver those who are being taken away to death,” which might be their justification for waging their culture war. There isn’t anything in the chapter about children or women, much less about society or abortion.
Ecclesiastes 4:1 opens a chapter about “the evils of oppression.” In essence, the writer is lamenting that oppressed people are weeping but nobody is comforting them. Clearly the foes of legalized abortion see fetuses as weeping and oppressed, and they see themselves as stepping into the breach to comfort those fetuses by rescuing them from their own mothers. I’m guessing that the people who think this verse means that Jesus hates abortion haven’t ever seen verses 2 and 3 of that same chapter:
So I congratulated the dead who are already dead more than the living who are still living. But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.
Lastly, Acts 18:9 concerns the adventures of Paul. This chapter has nothing whatsoever to do with any aspect of abortion or fundagelicals’ war on abortion, and one would be hard-pressed to find any reason why anti-abortion culture warriors would connect it to any crusade of theirs. It appears to simply be there for rah-rah purposes, as if to imply that just as Jesus/”God” protected Paul as he challenged the Jews of his day, so too will Jesus/”God” protect Christians as they go about stripping rights from the groups they think don’t deserve to have them.So not one of the Bible verses listed in this manual’s so-called concern for “the baby, the mother, and our society” actually has anything to do with any of those things.
The dishonesty is only going to get worse, though.
A Breathtaking Leap in the Second Sentence.
Undeterred by any twinges of conscience regarding the above bizarrely-inapplicable Bible verses, our brave culture warriors head next into a dizzying flight of illogic. They must explain why the Bible doesn’t contain any references to abortion, you see.
We already have a very simple and easy-to-understand explanation for this problem, of course: The Bible doesn’t have any rules forbidding abortion because the Bible’s writers didn’t think it was a problem, and so therefore neither did their god. But that’s unacceptable to the culture warriors. If they think abortion should be criminalized and eliminated, then so must their god. They must reconcile their entirely-extra-biblical position with a document written by an ancient group whose members didn’t even understand the concept of consent, much less inalienable rights, much less bodily sovereignty, and then square it with a modern culture that does understand that stuff (at least a little, and spottily).
Here’s how they do it:
Yes, yes, the Bible doesn’t mention “abortion.” Well, it doesn’t mention “heroin” either, but obviously it’s totally wrong to use heroin! Just because our god didn’t specifically mention abortion by name doesn’t mean anything! He totally hates abortion just as much as we do; he just has a weird way of expressing that hatred, which is to say he doesn’t express it at all.
It’s a breathtaking leap of thinking. As I outlined a while ago, the Bible does not, indeed, mention any number of things, which is weird considering that it’s supposed to have been written or at least inspired by an omnimax god who should have seen all of that stuff coming humanity’s way. Hell, it doesn’t even mention Germ Theory! But to hear Christians talking about abortion, you’d easily think that it is literally the most important thing in the entire world to them and their imaginary friend, and yet the Bible is 100% silent regarding the idea of forbidding women from choosing abortion care for themselves.
It’s also weird that they went with but but but it doesn’t talk about heroin either, considering that substance abuse probably wouldn’t rank very highly in their constellation of “sins” compared to what they believe about women who seek abortions–or the medical professionals who provide it. It’s weird that they couldn’t come up with some similar huge “sin” that their Bible doesn’t talk about and instead had to go with something like substance abuse. Instead, such comparisons only remind us that the Bible doesn’t talk about a lot of very important “sins” that Christians today take for granted are things they’re allowed to get in other people’s faces about.
At least, it’d be weird if we didn’t already know perfectly well why the anti-abortion culture war got rolling in the first place.
And The Setup They’ll Be Working With.
Having (they think) disposed neatly of the huge problem of the Bible’s total silence regarding their culture war, the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ of the Crisis Pregnancy Center now move on to what they view as the real center of their culture war: personhood. The term indicates some inner spark of humanity in a fetus that instantly grants it the exact same status as an actual real person the moment sperm meets egg, before that fertilized egg has even implanted in a woman’s uterus. Culture warriors will say that a fetus’ rights equal that of a real actual person, but in reality the actual setup they want to bring about gives fetuses not only more rights than the women bearing them, making those women in effect walking incubators, but also graciously grants those women fewer bodily rights than we typically grant to corpses.
You’ll notice quickly, when dealing with anti-abortion zealots, that their main focus is on making fetuses/zygotes/embryos/blastocysts sound as “human” as possible. They do that to arouse their listeners’ disgust and horror, which makes their targets easier to manipulate through loaded language. Instead of using technical terms for fetuses, for example, they’ll call them “unborn people” and “the child in the womb.” And when they talk about abortion itself, they almost always zero in on the super-late-term abortions because that lets them wave around pictures and models of baby-like fetuses and unleash their inner love of torture-porn with descriptions of blood and gore.
They talk like that to pave the way for their demand that women be forced to gestate and deliver those fetuses against their will. They do it to negate those women’s bodily rights and self-ownership. The whole message of the Christian culture war against abortion is this: Babies are very cute and small, and so therefore their rights supersede the rights of the human being gestating them.
Disgusted and horrified people don’t react very logically or rationally, and in a culture long accustomed to negating women’s rights for a variety of reasons on both temporary and permanent bases, personhood probably sounds like an easy sell–especially in a culture that’s really iffy on the whole topic of consent and bodily ownership in the first place.
In reality, personhood is nothing but a red herring, but it’s one that these culture warriors will ride. into. the. GROUND. And they will ride it into the ground because they literally don’t have anything else to support their position.
Indeed, the whole rest of the Bible study is going to involve them quote-mining and cherry-picking Bible stories and verses about pretty much every pregnant female character in the Bible, and then pointing to those stories with a breathless SEE? SEE? SEE? The Bible DOES totally talk about personhood!
These are the two tactics that these blue pages all represent: misused, poorly-applied verses shoehorned into their culture war to kinda-sorta-if-you-squint support it, and blatant emotional manipulation to make fetuses sound more baby-like, so the fetuses outrank their mothers argument can feel like it’s on more solid ground.
We’re going to be looking soon at one assertion in particular in these pages–specifically on page 3, where women seeking abortion are explicitly compared to ancient Jewish families sacrificing babies to foreign gods. It’s an ignorant and grotesque comparison, but I’ve heard it made many times over the years. And like all ignorant and grotesque Christian talking points, you can bet that a Liar-for-Jesus has shown up to capitalize on this shockingly extremist viewpoint.
Join us next time as we look at one cringeworthy, unexpectedly hilarious (to me at least) outcropping of the anti-abortion culture war. Also coming up, we’ll be brushing against all the Bible verses and stories that somehow didn’t quite make it into these blue pages (probably just an oversight on their part), and a look at why bodily rights, not personhood, is the real winner in this culture war.
We’ve got a lot going on–see you then!
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