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.