Syndicated reruns got me hooked on the old CBS show Early Edition years after it was cancelled.
It’s a lot of fun. If you haven’t seen it, it starred a pre-Friday Night Lights Kyle Chandler as Chicagoan Gary Hobson. Every morning, mysteriously, he receives the next day’s newspaper — a newspaper with tomorrow’s news.
Given this advance warning of the traumas and tragedies about to unfold, Chandler races around the city, trying to avert disasters, rescue the innocent and save as many lives as he can.
This plays havoc with his life. It disrupts his career and upends his relationships. He ultimately has to surrender any thought of a normal life or even of ever getting to take a day off.
He resents this — resents the ceaseless, relentless responsibility that comes with the “early edition.” But what choice does he have? Lives are at stake. If he took a day off or ignored the paper when it arrived, then people would die.
And you can’t have a show in which the hero is willing to sit around on his butt, just letting innocent people die without even trying to save them. That wouldn’t make him the hero of the show. It would make him a callous, apathetic monster.
All of which is to say, yet again, that I cannot believe that my “pro-life” friends really believe the extraordinary things they claim to believe. Because if they really believed the things they claim to believe, that would make them callous, apathetic monsters. And I don’t think that’s what they are.
Consider, for example, our new friend Frank the Prolific Poster. Earlier today, Frank wrote this as a description of legal abortion in the U.S. over the past 40 years: “Almost 55 million unborn children killed.”
Children. Killed. Someone is killing children! Tens of millions of children!
I mean that. If one truly believes that this is an accurate description of abortion, then one truly should be horrified by it.
But most people who claim to believe such a thing don’t.
Our new friend Frank, for example, says he believes that an embryo or fetus is a fully human person, indistinct from any other human person. Thus, in his view, abortion is the murder of innocent children. I do not believe that an embryo or fetus is a fully human person. Thus, in my view, abortion does not involve the killing of innocent children. That seems to be the core of our disagreement.
But, again, I do not believe we really disagree. I do not believe that Frank really believes what he says he believes.
I don’t just mean that at the basic level at which, as former anti-abortion pioneer Frank Schaeffer says, “it is gut-check self-evident that a fertilized egg is not a person, because personhood is a lot more than a collection of chromosomes in a Petri dish or in the womb.”
What I mean is that if our new friend Frank really believed that tens of millions of children were being murdered, then his behavior would be inexcusable. To believe what he claims to believe while behaving as he behaves would be monstrous — inhumanly callous and cowardly.
And I refuse to believe that our new friend is such a contemptibly cowardly monster.
Here is the headline of our early edition: This year, some 1.2 million abortions will be performed in the United States.
To believe what Frank says he believes would mean that you had to accept that every day, some 3,288 children are going to be murdered. That’s more than a 9/11 every single day for a year. Every. Single. Day.
What would such a belief, if it were genuinely held, require of the one who believed it?
Far more than joining a political party or voting in elections every few years. Far more than sending the occasional check to some group abstractly lobbying against the murder of children.
And far, far more than trolling the comment sections of C-level blogs to repeatedly express a strongly worded opinion.
This is a belief that — at a minimum — demands the believer quit his job and take to the streets. It won’t do to volunteer occasionally. It is nowhere near sufficient to demonstrate the sincerity of this belief by protesting outside of a clinic once a week, or twice a week, or even five days a week. To really believe that abortion means “children killed” requires a 24/7/365 reshaping of one’s entire life.
Forget about any thought of a normal life or even of ever getting to take a day off. Lives are at stake — children’s lives.
Anyone who really believed that could not spend hour after hour in the comments sections of blogs.
If someone really believed that children’s lives are at stake, they would be too busy chaining themselves across the front doors of hospitals to waste precious hours just talking, talking, talking — mostly about themselves and their alleged morals. Blog disputes, self-congratulation and the marking-off of tribal territory would be luxuries such a true believer could not afford when 3,300 children are about to be murdered and the clock is always ticking ticking ticking.
I have seen very, very few people whose behavior allowed me to believe that they really believed any such thing.