Not long ago I spotted a NYT op-ed headline reading “Pregnancy Kills. Abortion Saves Lives.” I didn’t bother reading the piece but I did think, Orwell’s 1984 has now truly come to pass. I thought, That’s right up there with “Guns Save Lives. Being Unarmed Kills.”
That afternoon while walking I came up with what I believe to be a brilliant idea, a kind of Gift of the Magi that, should it come to pass, might go a long way toward bringing the true security, love, and connection for which we all purportedly long.
It comes in the form of a question, or rather two questions:
To proponents of the right to gun ownership—Would you give up your “right to own guns” if it meant an end to abortion?
To proponents of the right to abortion—would you give up your “right to abortion” if it meant an end to private gun ownership?
The questions are a way of getting at the seemingly immovably entrenched views of gun ownership proponents and right-to-abortion proponents. Both positions are based on a very particular world view. Both views profess to be based in hard-eyed reality and both are based on fear—mostly of something that hasn’t happened, but may happen in the future.
The gun proponent’s motive, he or she will tell you, is to protect his family. The abortion rights proponent will tell you her motive is to protect the right to make decisions about her own body. Departing from either position would require an existential about-face, a re-examination of one’s entire purpose and place in the universal scheme.
Parsing out the ways in which the situations are distinguishable would be easy. But just as a theological-philosophical puzzle, the question is intriguing.
The left adheres to a gauzy, self-help notion that we are all connected. The right, the Christian and especially the Catholic, also purport to believe that we are all connected, in the Mystical Body of Christ. When one member is injured, all are injured. When one member is killed, the whole Body dies a little.
What if it were true—all of it? What if all acts really were “political” in the sense that everything we do, say or think affects every other person in the world, past, present and future? What hideous injury is caused by the destruction of a human life in the womb? What hideous collective injury is imposed by drone strikes, torture in subterranean chambers, millions of guns–designed to kill people and owned for the express purpose of killing people–hidden in the home, the car, on the body? All these supposedly invisible, unseen acts—and we haven’t even gotten to the harm caused by actually shooting and killing another human being—affect the Mystical Body in unimaginably destructive ways.
Christ was very clear on all of this. What is hidden will become visible; what was in darkness will come to light. You say adultery is wrong, I say even lusting (and coveting, and fear) in the heart will lead to evil. No-one knew better than Christ that the secret motives, sometimes inaccessible even to those of us who hold them, are where all hatred of our neighbor begins.
So if you own guns and your motive is truly to protect all human life (as opposed to say, fear of women, a sense of inadequacy, or addiction to (a false sense of) power)—would you give up your right to own guns if it meant an end to abortion?
Because if not, doesn’t that mean you value your right to own guns
over the saving of millions of human lives? And if you’re adamant about a woman’s right to abortion, would you give that up if it meant the guys (and women, but 62% of gun owners are men) would lay down their guns?
Because if not, doesn’t that mean you value your right to end your pregnancy over the lives (among many hundred thousands of others) of all the kids who have been killed and stand to be killed in school massacres?