Pro-lifers attacking animal lovers: The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good
July 1, 2019
Christian anti-abortionists have begun to wage ignorant and sinful war against Christian and unbelieving animal lovers.
Secular political discourse is now stained by name-calling, and misrepresentations of the character or beliefs of their opponents. Christian discourse should not be take that path. James the apostle warned of the wicked power of the tongue. Fingers typing a blog, or drawing a cartoon, may be no less guilty than those who orally lash out in anger.
The first time I saw this kind of attack was in a 1988 book, Surviving College Successfully, by Gary DeMar. The author attacked the Endangered Species Act as hypocritical because eagle eggs had more legal protection than unborn human children. (34, 77)
I am completely in agreement with the pro-life position, but these are not comparable cases. The Endangered Species Act has nothing to do with abortion. For Christians to become angry that Whooping Cranes are protected by law while human babies are not, is ridiculing the good to demand the perfect. Do these Christians want to remove protections from rare species to protest abortion? Will that help? It is simply a way to generate heat without any light: make people angry about one injustice by wrongly questioning the justice of another kind. What is unjust about protecting rare animals? God made species, and apparently wants them to survive. So if the U.S. government protects endangered animals, while not protecting unborn babies, they are doing partial good, and not the whole good. Why demand more darkness while crying for greater light?
This same idea, once used to malign the Endangered Species Act, is now slapped on any kind of animal welfare protection.
The basic idea is this: if you do not protect unborn human children, then no protection should be granted for any other creature. Since abortion is permitted, Christians will ridicule and oppose any animal protection.
There is no logical or Scriptural basis for this idea.
Yes: many unbelievers promote animal welfare while supporting abortion. They are ignorant of the complete truth, but they do hold to a lesser truth. Protecting animals is a good. Failing to protect babies is an evil. But a lesser good is still good. Why do some Christians demand an end to a lesser good? The classic summary statement of that idea is: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Take the Ten Commandments, for example. “Thou shalt not murder” is one of the “biggies.” Abortion is murder. Every day we murder unborn children in the United States. I do not deny this. But there are other commandments also. “Thou shalt not steal.” Do you propose that we stop enforcing laws against thievery because we allow murder? Stealing is less nasty than murder, but it is still a sin. Shall we ridicule the police for arresting armed robbers because murders are allowed? Should we attack laws against stealing because abortion is tolerated?
The catalyst for this article came from a recent Facebook meme going around on Christian internet pages. It shows a young man weeping as he stands above a dead baby dolphin, while he ignores the dead aborted fetus behind him. The caption usually says something like “animal rights hypocrisy.” It is not hypocrisy. It is ignorance, error, and folly to not see the incongruity between loving baby animals and not loving baby humans. Still, grieving over the death of an animal is not wrong! Perhaps you can puff up your ego by comparing your righteous anger over abortion because you feel superior to the people who sympathize with animals? Isn’t that pride? “God, I thank you that I am not like that sinner!” (Luke 18:11)
This cartoon is half-truth and half-lie. Showing that you hate abortion (rightly) by attacking animal welfarists is an evil. Attacking a lesser good by comparing it to a greater good is an evil. A lesser good is not an evil just because it is not a greater good! Protecting animals when appropriate is a godly thing to do, and those pro-lifers who half lie to promote their own perfect opinions against those with less true opinions (neglecting human babies) are showing arrogance and ignorance.
Conservative politicians use this deceptive theme to justify their own cruelty or greed by blocking any animal welfare legislation. As Matthew Scully writes in his article Pro-Life, Pro-Animal: “Representative Steve King of Iowa, for example, is a solid pro-life vote every time and, just as dependably, an apologist for animal cruelty. He typifies a certain way of looking at animals that manages to be both lofty in tone and morally obtuse in practice. An influential member of the House Agriculture Committee, the man has opposed any kind of leniency for farm animals, dogs in puppy mills or dog-fight rings, birds used by cockfighters, horses bound for slaughter plants, exotic wildlife slain by big-game trophy hunters, any creature at all. All the while, he uses his pro-life principles as a pretext for doing nothing on behalf of animals, in a version of the abortion–cruelty connection that other conservatives have also traded on. The idea is that since the law does not now grant full protection to the unborn, any attempt to protect animal life is an expression of profoundly misplaced priorities, subversive to the sanctity of human life, an affront to Man in all his glory. The result of this high-minded stance? Glorious man, made in the image of God, can go back to his dog-fighting, cock-fighting, chick-grinding, hog torture, wolf slaughter, and general abuse of the animal world without being held to account.”
Christians, beware. Do not be tempted to say stupid things to prove your loyalty to the pro-life cause. Calling unbelievers foolish or misguided for loving animals (while they wrongly support abortion) is attacking them for doing good!