February 05, 2014

Perry Noble on abortion: Swing and a miss

Pastor Perry Noble of the South Carolina megachurch NewSpring is no stranger to intemperate and ill-advised remarks. This Monday, he did it again, with a blog post criticizing a planned boycott of Girl Scout cookies by some pro-life Christians, because of a supposed connection between the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) and Planned Parenthood (PP), the largest provider of abortions in the U.S.

First,Noble prefaces his remarks by affirming that he is indeed "unapologetically pro-life" and that denying that human life begins with conception is "nothing more than intellectual dishonesty." I commend him for doing so, because if that affirmation were not there, I would have no idea he was pro-life from his unfortunately muddy thinking

Second, I am going to assume, for the sake of simplifying the argument, that there is indeed a financial connection between the GSUSA and the PP. Noble links to a FAQ on the GSUSA's Web site that disclaims any such partnership at the national level, and affirms the organization's neutrality on issues of human sexuality, such as abortion. Again, I will give the GSUSA the benefit of the doubt; however, this does not mean that no such relationships might exist (or ever existed) between PP and the Girl Scouts at a regional or international level. This means at least some boycotters might have a valid point. The point here is not who gives money to whom; it is the validity of Noble's arguments if they, in fact, do.

Noble writes:

Some are actually arguing (as mentioned in the title) that if I buy a box of Girl Scout cookies then I am basically murdering unborn babies…because the Girl Scouts supposedly give money to Planned Parenthood, a pro-choice group.

The insanity of that argument is unreal!

Why? It's not "insane" at all. Planned Parenthood performs abortions. Therefore, a pro-lifer would not want to donate to PP if it enables them to continue performing abortions. If GSUSA is known for donating money to PP (as we are assuming), then a donation to GSUSA is partly a donation to PP. "I do not agree with what you do with your money, and therefore I will not give any to you" isn't insane; it's a perfectly sane rationale for any economic boycott.

Because . . . if that argument is carried out to its logical conclusion then everyone who calls themselves a Christian needs to go to their pantry and make sure all of the food they have was produced and packaged by Christian companies who fully support a conservative agenda. (Because, if not then it would be hypocritical to be involved in this movement!)

We also need to consider the cars that we drive; after all, the automakers are probably highly involved politically in some causes with which we do not agree.

This is a classic ad hominem appeal to hypocrisy. Not only is it a poor argument against this boycott, it's a poor pro-choice argument. It's a variation on the claim that you can't be truly "pro-life" unless you also take responsibility for the rest of society's ills: war, the death penalty, AIDS, Big Business pouring toxic gunk into the oceans, and so forth. In reality, your time, money, and resources would be spread so thin that you wouldn't have an effective opposition to any of them. (Which may be the point, if you're the one being protested.)

I think Paul had something to say on this subject:

Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience—I do not mean your conscience, but his. (1 Cor. 10:25-29)

Paul is writing specifically about eating meat sacrificed to idols. It was almost impossible to know if meat bought in the market had sacrificed in one of Corinth's temples. But since the Greek gods were really nothing, and everything belongs to God anyway, then it could be eaten with thankfulness, no questions asked. However, if it was discovered that the meat had been a sacrifice, then Paul instructs the Corinthian Christians to refuse it. Accepting something dedicated to an idol might imply complicity with paganism.

So if I learned that Kraft supported NARAL, or Ford gave money to the KKK, then I wouldn't buy a Mustang or Kraft Dinner anymore. (Note: these are made-up examples.) On the other hand, it's next to impossible to know every cause that every manufacturer supports, so, until I did learn who got Kraft or Ford donations, I would continue to enjoy their products with a clean conscience.

Even if I concede inconsistency in whom I boycott, however, does that change the (assumed) fact that GSUSA gives some of its cookie-sale proceeds to an abortion provider? If I don't know that the Acme Corporation supports evil when I buy their stuff, does that excuse me for buying XYZ Company's stuff even if I do know?

Moreover, even if all these companies gave money to causes that I might disagree with, not every such cause is necessarily worthy of a boycott. I could buy from a company that supports a certain anti-war effort, even if I disagree with their politics. Being anti-war is not the moral equivalent of being pro-abortion. One opposes killing and the other supports it. Noble's clumsy argument doesn't acknowledge the difference.

He continues:

One of the biggest problems with some people who vehemently oppose abortion is they have never sat down and locked eyes with a woman who has had an abortion. . . .

Abortion carries a scar that runs so deep that most people never fully recover from the damaging impact it has had on them.

And so when “Christians” enter the arena with these wounded people, shouting words of condemnation and with attitudes of hate and disdain, the people who so desperately need the healing of Jesus are actually pushed away from Him because the people who are supposed to be His hands and feet are slapping them, not accepting them.

Yes, it's true that sometimes pro-lifers have no compassion for post-abortive women, and that's a shame. Some time ago I read the story of a woman who had had an abortion, and her experience at the clinic was cold, frightening, and impersonal. Later, she became pro-life herself, but by her description of some of her fellow pro-lifers, they also seemed cold, frightening, and impersonal. Women who have had abortions need to know that they have committed a grave sin, and that the guilt they feel for it is real. But they also need to know that no sin is beyond the help of the cross. Their evil is great; Christ's forgiveness is greater. Truth without love is cold and harsh.

But, conversely, love without truth is soft and flabby. Perry Noble is caught in a false dichotomy here: either you can visibly protest PP through a boycott of GSUSA, though by doing so you have no compassion for post-abortive women; or, you can love post-abortive women and keep silent about the Girl Scouts' support for the U.S.'s largest abortion provider.

Why can't I do both? Does Noble mean to say that I can't have both compassion for a victim, and anger for her victimizer? Frankly, what kind of compassion am I showing, if I have no desire to put an end to that very thing that made her a victim, and do what is in my power to further that end?

Does it not occur to Noble that many of those deeply scarred women inside the church are the same women standing outside abortion clinics?

Finally, this just takes the cake:

It really is sad when Planned Parenthood and The Girl Scouts are actually acting more Christ like [sic] than many of the people who are taking aim at them through this boycott!

Come again?

Noble doesn't tell us which Christ-like attributes Planned Parenthood exhibits, but since the context is about prolifers' "attitudes of hate and disdain," I guess he means PP is "Christ-like" as they lovingly and affectionately destroy over 300,000 unborn human lives every year.

This is Christ-like? There aren't enough millstones in the world.

Shame on you, Perry Noble. Shame on you.