Over the weekend, best-selling author and white evangelical culture-warrior James Dobson said the following:
America has killed over 55 million babies, 55 million. You know, the Holocaust involved 6 million Jews, we’re talking 55 million babies. There’s a Planned Parenthood about two blocks from my house and I drive past it every day and I see these cars out there and I fear for the women who are making, I think, the biggest mistake of their lives and certainly the implications for their babies. We need, as a nation, to repent of the immorality, what we see on television and in the movies and how young people are being led into immoral behavior, there’s just so much.
So if I follow Dobson, he is saying that:
A. American women are worse than the Nazis during the Holocaust; and also
B. The loose morality portrayed in movies and television is just as worrisome and, therefore, also worse than the Holocaust.
It seems that Point B there undermines the seriousness of Dobson’s claim in Point A. That would be a problem if it were at all possible to believe that Dobson’s claim in Point A was itself at all serious. But I don’t think it really is possible to believe that.
Dobson isn’t alone in making this claim. The legal-abortion-is-worse-than-the-Holocaust line is so frequently repeated by anti-abortion white evangelicals that Dobson’s quote above is really just a bit of “pro-life” boilerplate. But repetition hasn’t made this claim any less outrageous or any more credible as something anyone could possibly say in good faith.
If you try — really try — to imagine the implications of someone saying such a thing whole-heartedly and in good faith, you’ll be forced to conclude that can’t be what Dobson is doing.
The logical starting point for Dobson’s Holocaust claim is his purported belief that full human personhood begins at the moment of conception. Thus at every stage in development, from zygote to labor pains, we are dealing with a human person utterly indistinct from any other human person. Therefore abortion is, Dobson says, no different from “killing babies.” And also, Dobson says, no different from killing Jews.
From there, for Dobson et. al., it’s just a simple matter of arithmetic. The Nazis, as bad as they were, only killed 6 million Jews. American women, since 1973, have slaughtered 55 million “babies.” Therefore, America is worse than Nazi Germany. Nine times worse.
That’s the logic of Dobson’s claim, start to finish. Isn’t it possible he really believes this? Isn’t it possible that his audience of thousands of white evangelicals nodding along approvingly also really believe this?
No. No, I don’t think it is.
Just look again at that Point B, above: “We need, as a nation, to repent of the immorality, what we see on television and in the movies and how young people are being led into immoral behavior, there’s just so much.”
If you really believe you’re living under a genocidal regime that’s nine times worse than Hitler’s, would fretting about Cameron and Mitchell’s high jinks on Modern Family really be much of a priority? Could it possibly be so?
Or consider Dobson’s third sentence in the quote above: “There’s a Planned Parenthood about two blocks from my house and I drive past it every day …” We should note, of course, that Dobson is horribly ill-informed about what goes on in that office near his house — that 97 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is not abortion-related. But he thinks the place is just an abortion factory — and thus a place that “kills babies.”
So just try to imagine what this would mean if Dobson really believed that this alleged “baby-killing” was morally indistinct from murder and from the Holocaust. Imagine that you’d just heard James Dobson say, “There’s a Nazi death camp about two blocks from my house and I drive past it every day …” Or, “There’s an office about two blocks from my house where they’re killing Jews, and I drive past it every day. …”
Would his supposed concern and apparent disapproval register as, in any way, adequate or proportionate? Would you admire him more to learn that he had written several sternly worded letters to his local paper expressing his firm disapproval of his local neighborhood death camp?
There’s simply no way to accept Dobson’s abortion-is-worse-than-the-Holocaust shtick as an honest, good-faith claim without also concluding that Dobson is a monstrous collaborator — a man who has lived a long, very prosperous and untroubled life without ever running afoul of a murderous reich nine times worse than the Nazis.
It’s far more charitable, I think, to assume that Dobson’s Holocaust talk is disingenuous nonsense — a bit of over-the-top hyperbole parroted in a bad-faith effort to score political points. That might imply that he is cynical, dishonest, and unprincipled in his ambition for power, but even so, it’s far less nasty than what we would be forced to conclude if we assumed he were being sincere.