I got snookered by a fake news story from the Pope. “Vatican says Pope will ordain women as priests.” I was deceived by an infomercial on late night TV. “Thin thighs in thirty days.”
One of these was amusing, the other embarrassing.
But I did not get snookered by the sting video about Planned Parenthood’s “selling of fetal matter.” I became apoplectic—a word which I reserve for the work of the devil.
Religious organizations have a lot of stake in the truth. It is our core product, our brand, and our calling card. When any religious organization, right or left or middle, distorts the truth, that distortion becomes a problem to the core, not the tentacles, of our project.
I am not saying I know the truth, but I do reach for it with all my might.
The latest distortion of the truth about Planned Parenthood is mean. Its target is an iconic organization founded in 1916 to disseminate birth control. (Thank God for Maggie Sanger.) It is an organization that one out of five American women have visited and which focuses on reproductive health as well as breast exams and excellent sexual education for girls. It also provides safe, legal, and moral abortions.
The folks behind the sting have much less of a resumé. They used secretly recorded video of a Planned Parenthood doctor discussing (what turned out to be, after an ambiguous lead-in) legal donation of fetal tissue.
Why it got any airtime at all I’ll never know.
Religious organizations have a stake in not presenting themselves as mean. St. Paul was pretty adamant about that. We have a stake in forgiveness so that even if you think aborting a fetus is wrong, you can be forgiven it. You don’t need your face rubbed in absurd stories about medical matters. Save your moral dungeons for how much pharmaceutical companies make you pay for pills—not how much research they do on fetal tissue.
You don’t want them to pay for fetal tissue? Is that the issue? No. The issue is that you don’t want Planned Parenthood to make money off fetal tissue—which of course they don’t, and aren’t.
As usual, here, the religious right is—wrong.
The right is so committed to universal values like “life” and “death” that it is willing to become quite liberal in its relativism when it comes to its methods. If Congress is small enough to hold hearings on the “Planned Parenthood” interview, the first question should be whether the doctor was right in what he said.
Fetal tissue can be important to medical research. True or false? The second question should be about the stealth recording. By what right? The third question should go broader. Don’t we give away bodies at the end of life for medical research? Is that not a virtue, one broadly understood as such? Organ donors carry cards in their wallets.
Isn’t it inconsistent the way the right argues for guns, which kill lots of children and grown people too—if Sandy Hook and Charleston are any indication of the national mood—while going all out on abortion? The word relativism comes to mind. The word distortion again rears its ugly head. If murder is wrong, then murder is wrong.
When I make moral arguments as a free agent—and I know many on the right don’t believe women have these prerogatives—I make them as a proud relativist. A Niebuhrian, even, one adult enough to know the truth that some tragedy often accompanies some virtue.
The Planned Parenthood lie-by-video is so absurd that it deserves little comment. But the powers and principalities are strong. Saying nothing won’t make them go away. But saying something will loosen the power these distortions have over us.