On Theocrats’ Peculiar Definition of the “Sanctity of Life”

On January 19, 2018, the day of the presumptuously titled “March for Life” in Washington, DC, theocratic leader Tony Perkins, president of the highly influential Family Research Council, declared: “America is on the way to once again being a pro-life nation.”

Perkins and his religious confederates believe that not only is abortion at any stage of pregnancy a grave sin—so are contraception and sex outside of marriage violations of God’s law. Not only do they believe it, they are dedicated to imposing these beliefs, cloaked in pseudo-science, on all Americans by force of law. According to their literal interpretation of the Bible, unless this occurs, the United States will continue to face divine punishment, which they frequently infer from any natural disaster, terrorist attack, or other major tragedy that can be explained by simple causality.

Curiously, these same leaders disregard the overwhelming scientific evidence in support of the reality of climate change, human activity as the primary driver of it, and its eventually irreversible destructive consequences on human civilization. Considering the absurdity of this massive moral contradiction, Americans should rightly regard their professed moral values as both presumptuous and suspect.

A compelling argument could be made that what really drives leaders such as Perkins is some irrational need to repress human sexuality, rooted in their outmoded religious beliefs.

Our climate’s instability results from the industrialization of a global population that will continue to grow at an unsustainable pace unless behavioral, economic, and technological changes within our reach are implemented now. One of those behavioral changes, it should be fairly obvious, is to simply not encourage, much less impose, further population growth.

By no means is this intended to discourage people from having children—the best of them will devote their lives to helping solve our world’s problems and advancing human civilization, in no small part because of the contributions of their parents to their lives.

No one should be coerced into this decision, however; it is indeed a great responsibility and even with the best intentions and preparations, many challenges and pitfalls await us in this life—among them, Republican economic policies that are adversarial to the already disadvantaged and a religious nationalist foreign policy exacerbating tensions in the Middle East (both of which Perkins supports).

Perkins and his colleagues’ concern for human life is fixated on the point before it is birthed into the world; after that, one can only conclude from his views on other policy matters that we are on our own.

These leaders don’t have a monopoly on morality and Americans who don’t share their fundamentalist religious beliefs shouldn’t cede it to them—to do so is to cede the political battlefield.

We have the right to enjoy our sexuality and to decide if and when we will embrace the sacred responsibility of bringing children into the world. The role of government is to ensure that the basic principle of consent is adhered to concerning the former and that a secure polity and hospitable economy are provided to the latter. It is otherwise not to police us within the privacy of our bedrooms.

It’s ironic that Perkins and his colleagues feel such a loathing for certain governments of the Middle East—they sound quite similar sometimes, despite their competing historical narratives.