Is There a Pro-Life Call to Death?

My title question is odd. I know it. However, it occurred to me as I considered two offerings from ostensibly pro-life sources. One is an interview with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick; the other a truly stunning article in First Things by editor R.R. Reno.

Let me start with Reno’s ode to death. Reno quarrels with N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo for his zeal to — of all things — save a life. Reno complains:

At the press conference on Friday announcing the New York shutdown, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “I want to be able to say to the people of New York—I did everything we could do. And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”

This statement reflects a disastrous sentimentalism. Everything for the sake of physical life? What about justice, beauty, and honor? There are many things more precious than life. And yet we have been whipped into such a frenzy in New York that most family members will forgo visiting sick parents. Clergy won’t visit the sick or console those who mourn. The Eucharist itself is now subordinated to the false god of “saving lives.”

“The false god of ‘saving lives”? Where am I? I thought I was reading First Things.

As it turns out, I was reading First Things which then turned into Worst Things. Reno follows up with gems like:

There is a demonic side to the sentimentalism of saving lives at any cost.

In our simple-minded picture of things, we imagine a powerful fear of death arises because of the brutal deeds of cruel dictators and bloodthirsty executioners. But in truth, Satan prefers sentimental humanists.

Just so, the mass shutdown of society to fight the spread of COVID-19 creates a perverse, even demonic atmosphere.

Reno is not happy that the Governor is taking extreme measures to limit the spread of the virus. Apparently, saving lives at the cost of temporary restrictions on social gatherings and corporate worship is too high a price for Reno. In Reno’s view, putting others ahead of self is no longer noble altruism but rather demonic sentimentality.

There is a lot wrong with this article, including some faulty history. In it, Reno says Americans during the Spanish Flu epidemic took no social distancing measures as we are doing now.

Their reaction was vastly different from ours. They continued to worship, go to musical performances, clash on football fields, and gather with friends.

To the contrary, it is well documented that the leaders in St. Louis shut down schools, theaters, and other establishments to keep the flu from spreading. Leaders in other cities, such as Philadelphia, did not, and the population of that city suffered more deaths and disease as a result. People lived in St. Louis because of those decisions. We should learn from their experience.

Reno ends with his version of “Don’t Fear the Reaper:”

Fear of death and causing death is pervasive—stoked by a materialistic view of survival at any price and unchecked by Christian leaders who in all likelihood secretly accept the materialist assumptions of our age.

While I understand that we are not to fear death, I am stunned that Reno says the fear of “causing death” is “stoked” by materialism. I absolutely should avoid causing the death of another. If I should not fear causing another’s death, then there is no basis for a pro-life movement at all. I can’t believe Reno actually thought this through.

On this very point, now consider the Lt. Gov. of Texas Dan Patrick

It sure seems like he’s saying that granny and granddad are expendable if the economy would be better off by putting their lives at risk. The tweet below says it well.

If demonic materialism is making an appearance in 2020, it is in the suggestion that the old and physically vulnerable are expendable. If the economy suffers too much, the weak have to die. According to Reno, we can’t worry about “causing death;” in fact, it is demonic to worry about it.

Remember when conservatives falsely claimed that Obama wanted to kill grandma via death panels? There were no death panels in the Affordable Care Act, but conservatives used the threat of the government deciding to ration care to the young and away from grandparents to bash ACA. Now, conservative are embracing the idea.

These assertions are moments of clarity and require us to reassert the fundamental dignity of all people, even those who are old, weak, and without stock portfolio.

After I wrote this, I came across this tweet from the indefatigable Hunter Crowder.

Perhaps, my readers can help him. I have been around these parts awhile and I can’t think of any articles like that.

36 thoughts on “Is There a Pro-Life Call to Death?”

  1. In another example of “Christians” putting the almighty dollar ahead of the lives of their neighbors, Hobby Lobby stores in many places have been violating state orders for nonessential businesses to close. Apparently they finally shut down today here in Colorado only after getting a formal letter from the Attorney General.

  2. Dan Patrick thinks that old folks should be willing to die to save the economy in a pandemic? Is he willing to do that? If he is, then, with apologies to Charles Dickens, ” [He] had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” I am not willing to die for Wall Street.

    Edited to add: Donald Trump is a grandfather (literally) ten times over. Has he volunteered yet?

  3. I’ve added a corollary in my evolving mental scheme of cults and hypocrisy. When someone proposes a bold and radically self-sacrificing spin of Christianity, *yet proposes OTHER people adopt this position, not THEMSELVES*, it is maniacal manipulation of those with some sense of agape love. It is anti-Christ and should be called out immediately and often. In this case, RR Reno needs to provide the Christian example of going first: He/she needs to provide a public declaration and a facsimile of his own DNR, denying him/herself medical care should the need arise, and a detailed explanation of how he/she will distance from younger loved ones until this crisis ends (possibly 2 years) so as not to burden a health system because rightfully he/she cannot in effect weaken access to others, in furtherance of his/her goals. If unwilling to do this, he/she deserves a flood of backlash. These same standards apply especially to those with power and a voice, the Governors and Glenn Becks of this world who enjoy wealth, privilege and Cadillac health care. We deserve to see their DNRs and fax them to every hospital in our areas.

  4. I do have a logical question about how preaching is done concerning the Bible. I think every preacher I have heard, and I have heard a lot over 49 years, takes scriptures that apply to a certain people at a certain time in history and then tries to make them relevant to our days and times. So King David’s struggles, become our struggles, Peter’s denial becomes our denial and etc. This is commonly done throughout both Testaments but the logic behind which scriptures get chosen does not make sense to me. There is a whole lot of cherry picking going on where certain verses are constantly repeated, while others that are even God speaking in the first person are totally and completely ignored. I would think the direct statements coming from God would receive more emphasis because most of those are very clear and direct. The other passages, and some of them used very commonly, require a lot of jumping through hoops as a relevant message for today for us appears to get forced into them.

    For instance, from my daily scripture reading and meditation:

    Zeph. 2:1, “Gather together, gather yourselves together, you shameful nation,
    before the decree takes effect and that day passes like windblown chaff,
    before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you,
    before the day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you.
    Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands.
    Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”

    This section precedes a section where God judges the nations that surround Israel, so that is the original context. And yet if you do what preachers do with other texts then it becomes quite clear that every shameful nation today needs to fear the Lord, which means 1) humbling yourself and 2) doing what the Lord commands us to. The preceding chapter includes a promise from God to totally eradicate every human being off of our planet. So why are certain texts cherry picked that do not have God speaking in the first person, and ones like these where He is are ignored? Does ignoring many chunks of the Bible lead to truth, wisdom and understanding? Or our we just so into self-deception and denial that we pretend the scriptures never say things that we really, really do not like?

  5. Listen, by this, uh “reasoning”, does that mean we should start having mass abortions too? I mean, babies during a pandemic will surely harm the economy too, right? Even just being pregnant would harm people’s ability to go out to bars, drink, and spend money. Heck, as any parent knows, just having young kids often prevents parents going out to spend money at a nice restaurant or concerts. And let’s face it, babies and children are the least productive members of our society. Grandma *could* work if she wasn’t so lazy, but my 8 year old, he can’t even work a register. And what if I lose *my* job because someone is being overly materialistic taking care of their kids rather than doing their part stimulating the economy?

    Good thing we have Christians like Reno to tell us what is “moral”. I never realized how saving lives is so selfish. Or, let’s just add another one to the list of Religious Right euphemisms. Pro-family means prevent gay people from forming families. Religious freedom means forced religious recitation in school and public venues. And now, pro-life means taking no steps to prevent the death of the elderly.

  6. Yes. Humanistic materialism is why Jesus healed the sick. That was demonic of Our Lord?

  7. For many of us it is very sad that corporate worship is being stopped (it is now effectively illegal pro tem here in the UK, as in many parts of the USA), and there are obviously serious concerns about the impact on things like pastoral visiting. However, the idea that we should not take decisive steps to ‘buy time’ while medical advances and carefully regulated social programmes help us to deal with this pandemic is dangerous. And, as many of us are finding out, there are ways to mitigate some of the worst aspects of the social isolation undoubtedly being experienced by many.

    As for ‘saving the economy’: surely one of the factors that has led to this current situation is the unsustainable manner in which most, if not all, advanced economies and societies function? Surely we should not be looking to preserve unaltered, especially at the cost of possibly tens of millions of lives, a socio-economic setup that is wrecking the planet (and we should note here that environmental disasters often hit hardest those who are poorest) and promoting dangerously destabilizing degrees of socio-economic inequality?

    Already, in the face of this crisis, people are finding new ways of doing things that are less damaging to the environment. Of course some will suffer as a result of forthcoming economic changes, but I believe that we are far more likely to be able to mitigate such suffering than to deal effectively with the suffering caused by deliberately allowing this pandemic to rage out of control.

  8. This is the Religious Right firmly latched onto the Trump Teat of Power.

    Being completely incapable of dealing with this epidemic, Trump is looking for something, anything, to prop up the stock market going into the November election. (“Eh, Gramma’s had a good run…”) Falwell, Jr., and this hyper-Catholic Mr. Reno, are just providing the Religious Right Biblical evidence for tRump’s ridiculous call to “reopen the economy” by Easter.

    Paraphrasing the greed and hypocrisy of Prince Lord Farquaad in Shrek I:
    “All of you will get sick, and 16 million of you may die. That’s a risk I’m willing to take in order to maintain my political and economic power. ”

    Childish, but it fits perfectly.

  9. I do not see an upside from any political view to this. Way too easy to demonize any particular point of view. The reality is that we really are in a pickle here and none of our politicians are going to get us out of it. I continue to be more concerned about what God thinks and what He is doing during this time. I know that we Christians have a lot to repent of. Going off on politicians just is a distraction from us looking in the mirror at ourselves. I know that we need to fear God and that none of us here have enough of that. God can do things that no man can do. He can protect us and our families in ways no politician ever could. Not that they would because of their own narcissism. Many are dying and another great depression is starting, neither of which are things we like.

    Now this is not what any of you want to hear, but yesterday I was reading Zephaniah 1:2 “‘I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth,’
    declares the Lord.
    ‘I will sweep away both man and beast; I will sweep away the birds in the sky
    and the fish in the sea—and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.’
    ‘When I destroy all mankind on the face of the earth,” declares the Lord…'”

    So where there is no fear of God that is no wisdom for it cannot even start until the 101 class of “Fear of God” has been completed and passed.

    1. First, that passage is probably talking about the conquest of Israel in apocalyptic metaphor. Secondly, my basis for what God wants and is doing is Christ. And He was not overly interested in judging the world – but he WAS interested in smacking down religious folks who thought they had a lock on knowing God’s will.

    2. First, that passage is probably talking about the conquest of Israel in apocalyptic metaphor. Secondly, my basis for knowing what God wants and is doing is Christ. And He was not overly interested in judging the world – but he WAS interested in smacking down religious folks who thought they had a lock on knowing God’s will.

      1. It is and more obviously as the destruction of all of mankind has not happened yet. Christ is the Lion of Judah who breaks open the seven seals and whom we are told in Rev. 19: “Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”

        Israel was conquered because of their sin, but if you look closely, we Western Christians are doing about everything that they were judged for. God just released something on our planet that is shutting down virtually every church, every Christian concert and conference everywhere all at once! In western countries some of this is being replaced with virtual church, but in poorer countries everything “Christian” is having its doors closed at the same time all around the world. Only a fool would ignore all of this and keep thinking in their pride that we are doing everything right. I see clear evidence that God is furious with what calls itself His Church right now. This is certainly “An act of God.” The hypocrites have the most to lose right now, and they will lose a whole lot in the next year. And yet all of us had better learn what God is trying to teach us right now. If we do not, then what would we listen too? How much worse do things have to get before we say “God, I repent” for whatever we are actually doing that displeases Him?

        1. I’m not so convinced that God would do something that punishes non-Christians just to shake up Christians. Sorry, I can’t imagine Jesus doing anything like that.

        2. #1 – If this pandemic is about judgement upon Western Christians, God’s initial aim was way off target, going after non-Christian Asians, as you suspect He did. It’s quite the mixed message if God is needing to make a specific point. (But, I suppose you’ll have the perfectly accurate scriptural rebuttal.)

          #2 – After science discovers a cure, will God get even more angry for having been foiled? Will He have an immediate ‘back-up Plan B’?

          #3 – Your suspicions are proven positive because of such things as the cancellation of “every Christian concert and conference”? Really!

          #4 – In your initial comment submission above, I really do appreciate your reference to “their own narcissism”. I await your lengthy “God is my sock puppet” reply.

          1. Read the O.T. prophets and gain wisdom and understanding. Or do not. I am not here to argue with anyone. God is who He is. Our argument does not change anything about that…

    3. First, that passage is probably talking about the conquest of Israel in apocalyptic metaphor. Secondly, my basis for what God wants and is doing is Christ. And He was not overly interested in judging the world – but he WAS interested in smacking down religious folks who thought they had a lock on knowing God’s will.

  10. My wife and certainly hope we will have an impact on the lives of our children and grandson beyond the status of the economy.

  11. I must admit, that when my son lost his job last week, I began to think that maybe some of us old farts should be willing to go so that our young don’t suffer. But, it isn’t just old and weak dying, it is a 39 y.o. woman from New Orleans and a 27 y.o. man from New York……..many more old are going to die but we can not just let this virus go because in the long run the country will be shut down, one way or the other. Bless our doctors and nurses for the work they do, they are facing a monumental task.

  12. The insanity of self-identified conservative Christians in this country is incredible. They have departed so far from anything resembling Jesus, that anything actually resembling Jesus sends them into conniption fits.

  13. It’s all slipping away from them, and they’re terrified. All the power they thought they had, felled by something too small to see.

    There’s nothing “Christian” about it – it’s pure venality.

  14. Warren this is such BS. I don’t know who Reno is but I do know you are willing to put ordinary Americans through hell to get rid of Trump, even crash our economy. Your ideologies cost you nothing the people it cost the most got tired of it and voted for Trump and that’s why he will win again. And this is a article is pro choice disguised as pro life. Awful. Not even Patheos could put up with the hypocrisy any longer.

    1. …did you even read the post? Of course not, if you had you would have known who Reno is.

      1. No defence of Big K’s indefensible rant … but I don’t see any explanation of who Reno is in this post …

    2. I know it is a lot to ask to read 700+ words and follow the links but I ask that you do that before you rant.

    3. Greetings Big K
      I hope you and your family and friends are well.

      I’m not certain what you are trying to express in you post. Why are you upset that people don’t like Trump? Trump didn’t like some of the past presidents and made no bones about it. Why should you be upset when the name changed to Trump and it is his turn? It comes with the job. This will change again at some point.

      I don’t understand the ‘new’ conservatism – mainly because it is not. I truly believe that a person is accountable for what they say (including tweets) and do. (Or what they fail to say/do.).

      Do you realize that Trump fits into the category of ‘expendables’? He is over 70 and a grandfather. Shouldn’t he and the other older Republican leaders lead by example?

      Who in your family are you willing to take the hit? Remember the odds are just that – odds. It doesn’t prevent anyone from getting sick, even fatally ill.

      What do you mean by cost? Almost everyone in this country has taken a financial hit of some sort. The financial lost of someone who was mugged can be quite trivial, but the emotional cost can be quite high.

      Finally, while it is a Trump trade mark to attack all the time, I personally believe that it is a sign of weakness. You can bully & beat people into what you want, but the won’t respect you, like you or willingly cooperate with you. It certainly isn’t conservatism – rational constructive dialogue – or Christian.

      Best regard,

      1. Hello CJ,

        For a better understanding please watch this video with Victor Davis Hanson. I hope you can view the whole video… if not it would be good to start at the 7 minute mark.

        Big K

  15. Jerry Falwell, Jr. is telling students Liberty U is reopening this week and ordering faculty back to work. I asked Liberty U on Twitter if they’d gotten that extra-large order of body bags in. Yeah, it’s cruel, but they’re going to get people sick or worse.

  16. What about the parable of the lost sheep? Jesus talks about a shepherd who left behind he 99 sheep to find one lost sheep. I think of the people who are working in the hospitals right now, trying to save lives, and then I think about the writer from First Things, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and I get infuriated. In fact, I’ve said it a lot, but yesterday was the first time I really had the urge to go through my papers and find my Texas high school diploma, BA and JD and send them back to Dan Patrick in disgust.

    That said, I think we’re seeing who their true god is, and he’s not Jesus. He’s Mammon. Yeah, that sounds cruel, but I’ve been in isolation since March 12 because I have diabetes and these people are just telling me that I should just die, and my brother should die and my elderly (80) mother should die for the sake of the stock market and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

    I don’t ever want to hear these hypocrites talk about “pro-life” ever again. It’s abundantly clear that they don’t care about people, and their “pro-life” rhetoric is garbage.

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