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Friday, April 02, 2004

Between the Old Paganism and the New, I'll Take the Old.

[Language Alert--one bad word deployed below. You've been warned.]

Old Paganism was free of cant.

Permit me to borrow Peter Kreeft's definitions, and note that I'm not referring to Wicca, etc.--actual religious paganism. The latter more closely resembles Old Paganism, which, as Kreeft notes, had a lot worth acknowledging. I know some doggedly pro-life Wiccans, for starters.

No, the New Paganism acknowledges nothing but man, and nothing beyond him. However, it shares one vital tenet with the Old: If society says you do not count, you do not count.

Consider this letter from a Roman pagan named Hilarion to his pregnant wife, Alis, in the year 1 B.C.:

Know that I am still in Alexandria. And do not worry if they all come back and I remain in Alexandria. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I receive payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered of a child [before I come home], if it is a boy keep it, if a girl discard it. You have sent me word, "Don't forget me." How can I forget you? I beg you not to worry.

Quoted in Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity (Princeton University Press 1996), pp. 97-98. Ponder the chilling third sentence, blunt as it is, nestled in the midst of obvious loving concern for wife and son. Hilarion was a Roman paterfamilias, the father as head--more accurately, god--of the family, legally able to do with the other members as he wished. Alis' feelings on the matter meaning precisely bupkis. If you ever wonder at the common phenomenon of convinced pagan men marrying Christian women in Roman times, wonder no longer: pagan girls were in short supply.

As horrific as Hilarion's words are, at least he does not try to hide behind a cloud of euphemism or evasion to deny the obvious. If the little woman has a girl--sorry, don't want one. She has to die. Hilarion doesn't try to justify himself with a clump of buzzwords or feigned bafflement.

Compare Hilarion to Dr. Leroy Carhart:

This [partial birth abortion ban] act covers every D[ilation] & E[xtraction] that I did," Carhart said. "Everything that I do to cause an abortion is an overt act."

Carhart said at least once a month, an entire fetus is expelled from the mother during a D&E he is performing. "The fetuses are alive at the time of delivery," he said. There is a heartbeat "very frequently."

I urge you to peruse the D&E link first. Don't be afraid, it's just Anthony Kennedy's dissenting Supreme Court opinion in Carhart's challenge to the Nebraska partial birth abortion ban, and explains the good doctor's credentials (he has no hospital privileges anywhere in the U.S.) and trade (abortions done any time during the pregnancy). I'll wait here while you do. Take your time.

All done? Good. Now, normally, you might think that if you dismember a living baby after it becomes entirely free from the woman's body, you'd get the gas pipe. So would Dr. Carhart, if he grabbed a baby out of a stroller on the streets of Omaha and did so, even with Mom's consent.

But inside his clinic, anything goes, because he throws up chaff like "choice," "health," "procedure," "D&E," and--most importantly, "fetus." We can almost admire Hilarion--he was ordering his wife to kill a "girl," not a "fetus." No euphemistic bullshit there. Hell, Hil probably would have vomited at what Carhart does--all he was asking Alis to do was expose his daughter to the elements, not shred her.

[FYI Fun Fact! As between Dr. Carhart and the "fetus'" father, Dr. Carhart is the only one with legal standing to say anything about the process.]

Next, consider Dr. Maureen Paul, another licensed caregiver:

In San Francisco, a chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood testified that she chooses methods of abortion that violate the new law because they are among the safest options.

Asked by a government lawyer whether the fetus exhibits pain during the procedures, Maureen Paul replied, "I have no idea what you mean."

Sure. And I have no idea why Mr. Hand is turning into Mr. Fist. Again, Hilarion didn't try the mushroom treatment with Alis. "She won't feel a thing, honey--she's a newborn. It's like going to sleep." Nope, none of that twaddle.

"Discard it."

Then again, the above examples demonstrate how the New Paganism is smarter than the Old. The Old approach really wouldn't work with our squeamish society. At least not yet. Euphemistic dodges help people rationalize the unthinkable, and even perform it. Under the Old, Alis had to acquiese in her husband's decision to destroy her child. However, the New has convinced Alis that she has an unfettered "right" to do so, and what's more, she can pay Drs. Carhart and Moss a few grand for the privilege of playing the discard.

All she has to do is march every January in the anniversary celebration of that "right" and vote to protect the medical paterfamilias who want to flush her daughter as they see fit.


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