Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Our Greatest Evil

Occasionally I write posts that are highly critical of the ethics of conservative evangelicalism. It could come across as picking on them a bit. Even using the word "them" implies some sort of distancing of myself. Yes I definitely am not a conservative evangelical, and it is questionable whether or not I am an evangelical of any stripe, even though I do go to an evangelical church that's not overly conservative or overly "liberal." I use quotes around liberal because liberal evangelicals are not very liberal when set in the wider church. There are certain elements of evangelicalism that I really appreciate and there are certain stances that conservatives within the movement in particular have taken that I find to be both bold and on the right track. Today I want to highlight the biggest ethical issue I think conservative evangelicals are on the right side on while at the same time arguing the case in my own way and maybe ruffling the feathers of some of my comrades.

I believe that the greatest moral evil that is sanctioned today is abortion. However, I feel that much of the opposition to it is missing something. It's a symptom of a far greater problem with our society, especially in the allegedly free west. While I honestly believe that it is blatantly obvious that abortion is wrong, it can't be tackled in isolation from other issues. Abortion is condoned because it is the logical outcome of an individualistic, consumerist, capitalist system. It is the reductio ad absurdum argument against western style capitalism, and somehow a majority of our population doesn't see that. I realize that abortion is neither a purely modern nor a purely western issue. However, in a society that values women more highly than any of its competitors, it is strangely more natural and at home. The weaknesses of capitalism are also present in other economic models as well, they're just not as endemic. To the degree that they are will, I believe, be the degree to which the horror of abortion is permitted in society.

As Foucault has reminded us, there are power dynamics in every relationship. I believe that ethics, at its core is about proper use of power, about using your power to serve others. Individualistic, consumerist capitalism has the opposite goal, pursuing your own self-interest ahead of all other goals. Yes, cooperation is necessary for the individual to succeed, but we know what each individual's goal is. Our consumption patterns are where this is most obvious.

Technological advancement has been accelerating like a car on a drag strip for decades. Yet even as productivity soars, there's no sign of reduction of labor hours and increase of health and leisure. Why? Consumerism. Corporations are out to convince us that we need to consume more products. Their goal, through marketing, is to convince us that we need to buy their product or service. While there's nothing wrong with many of the products on the market, and many of them are beneficial in many ways, don't think that these corporations have anything but their own best interests at heart in their attempts to sell you stuff. Their goal is to maximize profit. This is done by trying to achieve low costs so they can sell at an enticing price. What has the result been? Oppression, oppression, and more oppression. We've grown a love to consume at the lowest price possible and don't really care how the prices are kept low. The corporations under such pressure employ unethical business practices from factory farming, to employing workers in sweatshops, to building polluting factories that disproportionately affect the poor. Since consumers only see the end product they don't really care what happened along the way to get the rolled back price. As long as the behavior isn't beyond a certain level of unseemliness, the government doesn't step in. Those being oppressed don't have much of a voice. The cows certainly can't protest. How much can those working for pennies in Vietnam really do? Even your average American worker isn't treated great, but what can you do? You don't want to be labelled a malcontent.

What I hope you've seen is that without strong oversight, this kind of oppression of the defenseless is the obvious outcome of our economic system. Is not, then, abortion the reductio ad absurdum of western capitalism? It's the ultimate of do whatever is "best" for you regardless of who you hurt. Kids don't fit into your patterns of consumption? Abortion. You can't "afford" a handicapped child? Abortion. You truly are in poverty because of the oppression and selfishness and consumption patterns of others? Abortion. After all, they can't defend themselves.

Our economic and moral system needs to change. Rather than championing individual freedom and pursuing the American dream we need to promote regard for the other. Rather than hording our resources and stepping over others so that we can succeed we need to eliminate poverty. We need to empower the oppressed to speak and look to see who our actions might hurt. Yes, the laws concerning abortion need to be changed, but so do the patterns of society that cause it. We need a holistic approach that eliminates poverty and injustice everywhere. Only then will abortion cease. Only when people realize that what's right is not what's "best" for yourself but self-sacrifice for another who is weaker will the vacuousness of the arguments in favor of abortion be seen.


  1. Most conservative evangelicals I know would agree with everything you say here. I'm not sure why you expect it to ruffle feathers.

  2. I know some, including some close friends/'family who I think would be upset a bit. They could view aspects of my argument as "communist."