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  • Director’s Dicta: “Lies that Live” – Part 1
  • Director’s Dicta: “Lies that Live” – Part 1

    Posted in ,
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    February 12, 2024

    Abortion Distortion

    By Dr. Jeffery J Ventrella

    “Live not by lies” – so cautioned Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn. This admonition, however is often easier said than done. Why? Because the lies we believe and act upon are rarely packaged in stark overt terms such as: “Shakespeare wrote the Declaration of Independence.” Rather, they are often simply assumed and thus remain unexamined in our daily lives, and therein lies the danger.

    Isaiah describes those ensnared by idolatrous lies:

    “He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

    Paul the Apostle, after declaring that the Truth is exchanged for the Lie, invokes the psalms to explain the impact of this exchange: People not only act in terms of lies, leading to moral degradation and irrationality, but spew them as well leading to more bad conduct in a sort of negative feedback loop:

    “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
    All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
    “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
    “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
    “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
    “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
    “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    This is quite the predicament! Plainly, this necessitates the rescue and redemption only Christ can accomplish and apply. Yet, even after redemption, the echoes of sin remain, and it is those echoes that often dupe us into living by lies. What does this look like? Let’s get to the gist.

    Let’s consider abortion, a so-called right constitutionalized by judicial fiat in Roe v. Wade. Roe, however, rests almost exclusively on lies; lies advanced to promote an agenda. First, Roe begins with a compelling narrative designed to evoke compassion: a poor young single woman with two children is sexually assaulted and becomes pregnant with nowhere to turn. Except that “Jane Doe,” whose real name is Norma McCorvey, was not raped. She became pregnant out of wedlock after engaging in consensual sex. And, she never had an abortion; she placed her third child for adoption. This lie, however, framed the narrative that “something needed to be done” with the “oppressive” anti-abortion laws.

    Second, the Court claimed to be unable to determine “when life began.” This is disingenuous because every embryology textbook – then extant and today – indicated that life begins at fertilization – an irrefutable biological fact – a fact ignored and then shaded into agnosticism by the Court’s majority. This lie dehumanized the unborn child thereby allowing “it” to become disposable at the will of someone else.

    Third, the Court failed to account for that biological reality by treating the fetus as nothing more than “potential life,” as even dissenting Justice White labeled it. But of course, that too is false. A fetus is an unborn human person at the fetal stage of development – (fetus (Latin) = young offspring). Therefore, fetuses cannot be rightly deemed “potential life,” but rather life with potential.

    The size of a person does not dictate the inherent dignity of that person, and in fact, the more dependent and vulnerable a person is, the greater the need for legal protection – this too the Court eschewed, preferring instead to believe – or at least advance – a lie. The irrationality of the Court’s reasoning here is reminiscent of how then candidate Abraham Lincoln took down the lie of slavery. As political philosopher Hadley Arkes explains:

    “In my teaching I found no example which when offered is more instantly understood as an example of natural law reasoning than that fragment [Abraham] Lincoln wrote for himself in which he imagined himself to be engaged in a conversation with an owner of slaves. He puts the question, ‘Why are you justified in making a slave of the black man? Is it because he’s less intelligent than you? I’d beware the next white man who comes along more intelligent than you. He may rightly enslave you. Is it because he’s darker than you? Beware again the next white man who comes along with a complexion even lighter that yours. He may enslave you.’”

    Similarly, the moral status of the unborn does not shift simply due to the size of the fetus – nor does the moral wrongness of taking innocent life become justified if the victim is diminutive. The Court ignored this inconvenient truth, embraced moral relativism, and thereby rested its justification on a lie.

    Fourth, and perhaps more troubling: The Court relied upon a supposed history of law regarding abortion. This history was crafted by a scholar named Cyril Means and the Planned Parenthood lawyer, Sarah Weddington, hammered home this historical legal analysis, arguing that legalized abortion reflected the Anglo-American legal tradition. Except that this was demonstrably false and she and Planned Parenthood knew it, and yet she nevertheless urged the Court to predicate a ruling based on this lie.

    As scholar Justin Buckley Dyer explains in exposing this deceptive lie:

    As [historian] Cyril Means was laying the scholarly groundwork for the new abortion history, it was evident to anyone who had looked into the historical record that Means’s research was deeply flawed. David Tundermann, a Yale Law student working with Norma McCorvey’s legal team during his summer break in 1971, wrote an internal memorandum to this effect, noting that Means’s “own conclusions sometimes strain credibility.” Still, echoing a sentiment that has animated the way far too many scholars and jurists have approached abortion history, Tundermann nonetheless concluded that:

    Where the important thing to do is to win the case no matter how, however, I suppose I agree with Means’s technique: begin with a scholarly attempt at historical research; if it doesn’t work out, fudge it as necessary; write a piece so long that others will read only your introduction and conclusion; then keep citing it until the courts begin picking it up. This preserves the guise of impartial scholarship while advancing the proper ideological goals.

    The fact that Tundermann identified the serious flaws in Means’ research before Sarah Weddington decided to emphasize its importance at the bar of the Supreme Court is noteworthy, but not surprising, given the obvious utility of this simplistic historical narrative.

    As one of my pro-life friends once quipped: “When you’re in the killing business, lying is easy.”
    Understanding this implication of the TxC hermeneutic provides a vector for evaluating claims that compete or contrast with the Christian faith: What is the claim, what’re its assumptions, and are they true? In coming weeks, Lord willing, we will consider lies embedded in the culture and our thinking in a variety of areas: The nature of the human person (anthropology), human action (economics), so-called “hate crimes” and racialism (class conflict), how and what we can know (epistemology), health care (medicine and medical ethics), how to order society and the role of the State (law and ordered liberty), et al.

    Paul, who informed us about the exchange also calls Christians to “be transformed by the renewal of your minds,” Why? So “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Accordingly, “In your thinking be mature.”

    The TxC Fellowship trains the next generation to be mature thinkers, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ – please consider supporting this effort, or better yet, identify highly motivated college students or graduates so we can help them not only make a living, but a durable difference. So they will “live not by lies.”

    For further study:

    • Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life (2nd Edition, 2023)

    • Justin Buckley Dyer, Slavery, Abortion, and the Politics of Constitutional Meaning (2013)

    • Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies – A Manual for Christian Dissidents (2022)