Horan discusses three reasons for his stance against the march:
… (a) the event’s moniker is incomplete at best and disingenuous at worst, (b) the mode of protest has proven ineffective, and, following the second point, (c) the ‘march’ and its related events is a self-serving exercise in self-righteousness, self-congratulatory grandstanding and disinterest in the most pressing matters of human rights and dignity in our world today.
These three points are inter-related, but let me repeat that last one, since on that point Horan’s message for his Catholic community is precisely the same as the message I want to convey to my evangelical community. I believe this is true not just for the January protest march, but for the entire anti-abortion movement and for nearly every expression of anti-abortion politics in America today.
The anti-abortion political movement in America overall is “a self-serving exercise in self-righteousness, self-congratulatory grandstanding and disinterest in the most pressing matters of human rights and dignity in our world today.”
It is not only that, but it is pervasively that. Self-righteousness, self-congratulatory grandstanding and disinterest in the most pressing matters are what this movement is for. They are a feature, not a bug. They are not an unfortunate side-effect threatening the original purpose of the movement, but rather they are and have always been central as cause and motive, as driving force, as raison d’etre.
Brother Horan laments the long record of futility and ineffectiveness associated with the “March for Life.” “For nearly 40 years people have been doing the exact same thing with no progress of which to speak,” he writes.
But that’s not really true. For nearly 40 years, these marchers have been extraordinarily successful. Year after year they have accomplished their goals, achieving just what they set out to do. Year after year they have savored their self-righteousness, congratulated themselves, grandstanded and distracted themselves from the most pressing matters of human rights and dignity. Year after year after year the march has been a great success.I am certain that Brother Horan would disagree with me about such a sweeping application of his criticisms of this one event, but he dwells among the Franciscans and I dwell among the evangelicals and I can only bear witness to what I have seen.
And what I have seen is that the anti-abortion political movement in the evangelical church arises from and feeds into a self-righteous pride that corrodes everything and everyone it touches. It is the indignant self-deception of the anti-kitten burning coalition writ large. It is the never-ending quest for Satanic baby-killers to provide a foil for our relative righteousness.
The anti-abortion political movement, in other words, is a sin from which American evangelicalism needs to repent. It is a toxin that is poisoning the church.
Here is more from Brother Horan. Again, his comments are narrowly directed at the annual ritual of the “March for Life,” but I think they apply much more broadly to religious anti-abortion politics as a whole:
While the presenting focus of the (so-called) “March for Life” is the abortion legislation of the United States, what actually takes place seems far less issue-focused and far more an exercise in self-congratulatory fanfare.
… What strikes me as most egregious in this whole extravaganza is the simplistic distillation of an incredibly complex moral and political issue into the binary “good vs. evil” construction. It is not that simple.
… It is sad that a boutique, albeit legitimate, issue in the Catholic moral tradition has been made to be the singular and defining catholicity litmus test for so many. Who is in and who is out is rarely determined by one’s profession of faith and baptism (that is, by the way, what makes someone a Christian), but where they fall in the pseudo-reality of binary moral categories: “pro-life or not?” which always really means: “anti-abortion.”