Jonathon van Maren

A letter of encouragement to the weary pro-lifer

Jonathon van Maren
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With the question of abortion, the attitude active pro-lifers often face in the church is one of apathy. This apathy, as many pro-lifers have found, is often due to the fact that most Christians believe abortion is here to stay. When approached with requests for volunteer hours, or donations, or various other proposals for action, the general attitude is that yes, abortion is wrong, and yes, it’s horrible, but it has been around for decades, the laws are against us, and the numbers of abortion are just too high to make an actual impact.

This view is not only pervasive among non-active pro-lifers, it is also creeps into the minds of those who do pro-life work quite regularly. The abortion industry is a bloody business, and in North America abortion will be perpetrated 1.2 million times a year in the United States and 100,000 times a year in Canada. In spite of decades of activism, the abortion rate seems rather unaffected, Roe v. Wade and the 1988 Canadian Supreme Court Decision remain untouched, and, as Center for Bio-Ethical Reform founder Gregg Cunningham points out, “The sewers of our cities run red with the blood of our children.”

In light of the enormity of the abortion industry, and the destruction of millions of lives and the consciences of even more, it easy is to get crushed by the weight of the situation. If pro-lifers are taking their task as seriously as they should, if they are trying to save the lives of the pre-born with the same urgency as they would a born child in imminent danger, the gravity of what is taking place should weigh heavily upon them.

But we mustn’t let the extent of the problem cause us to lose sight of what we can do. If each time we manage, with God’s help, to save a child, but cannot take any joy whatsoever in this fact because we are tormented by the fact that there were so many others we could not save, we will eventually give way to despair and lose our effectiveness. If we become persistently angry and even hateful towards those pro-lifers who are either doing nothing or do not possess the boldness to do what is necessary, we will once again compromise our effectiveness, and lack the very thing we need in the culture: Love.

While we must never lose sight of the enormity of the problem—this is, of course, one of the many reasons for the urgency of the task at hand, we must also be sure to be able to take joy in the lives that are saved. If we manage to save pre-born children, but are unable to feel any satisfaction, or gratitude, we do not understand the enormity of what was accomplished. If we profess to believe that each human life has infinite value, then the saving of even one is a miracle worthy of gratitude. While this does not excuse us from continuing onwards, and cannot be a reason to rest on our laurels, we must view these victories as refreshment while running a marathon. These victories, small as they may be, must be the encouragement that propels us forward. One more beautiful, unrepeatable child saved.

When we extol the virtues of those who risked everything to hide Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War, do we look at the six million who died and scorn their sacrifice? We do not. We thank God that there were those who recognized that even if they could only save a few, those few were infinitely valuable. While the attitude of inadequacy expressed by Oskar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List at not having saved all he could is one that should definitely be kept in our minds (so as not to slow our efforts), the fact remains that lives were saved; this should be a source of unspeakable joy.

To argue, then, that we cannot donate our time, or our money, or our resources to the fight against the evil of abortion is to in essence say that we do not believe that pre-born children are as valuable as born children. For pro-lifers to become consumed by despair over the overwhelming loss of life that persists daily is to eventually lose our effectiveness in saving those that we can. If Corrie ten Boom or Oskar Schindler had looked at the devastating loss of life perpetrated by the Nazi machine, and retreated into despair at what the world had come to, there would not be trees planted in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Israel, and we would not remember their names.

There is an often told story that may sound extemely trite, but the underlying message of it is one that is necessary for pro-lifers to realize as we struggle to effectively save as many babies as we can and end the killing:

There was a man who was walking down the beach, where thousands of starfish lay dying due to the receding tide. In the midst of this, a boy stood, picking up starfish one at a time, and tossed them back into the ocean. The man looked at the boy, and told him, “You realize that you can’t possibly make a difference here, right? There are thousands of them!” The boy looked back at him, threw another starfish into the ocean, and replied, “I made a difference to that one.”

When people are speaking to us, expressing a similar sentiment as that sceptical man, or if we find such doubtful thoughts creep into our own minds, we must reply in the same vein: “There is one more baby that did not get dismembered inside her mother’s womb because I tried to do everything I could.”

I firmly believe that our generation will be successful in defeating the abortion culture within our lifetime. There is much that lends itself to hope, many reasons for encouragement. But for those pro-lifers who find themselves occasionally despairing, remember that every abortion that is averted, a human of infinite worth is saved a gruesome death, and the consciences of the would-be perpetrators are spared from further hardening.

And that, I think, is something worth fighting for.


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American Eagle: An interview with Phyllis Schlafly

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren
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“Have you ever debated some of the more prominent feminists on the abortion issue?” I ask.

“All of them with the exception of Gloria Steinem, who never dared to debate me,” Phyllis Schlafly replies with a gravelly chuckle.

And indeed she has. The 89-year-old Phyllis Schlafly has been involved in the pro-life and pro-family movement so long that many people credit her with actually inventing it.

Born in 1924, Schlafly is an American constitutional lawyer, conservative activist, author, and founder of The Eagle Forum. She received her BA from Washington University in St. Louis in 1944, working her way through college on the night shift at the St. Louis Ordinance Plant, testing thirty and fifty caliber ammunition by firing rifles and machine guns. She received her Master’s degree in government from Harvard in 1945, and her J.D from Washington University Law School in 1978. Schlafly is most renowned for putting that education to work for the conservative cause, fighting the Equal Rights Amendment against all political odds, making the Republican Party a pro-life party by fighting to insert an anti-abortion plank in every Republican Party platform, which was successfully adopted by every Republican national convention beginning in 1976. She played a major role in building the anti-Communist movement in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, has written twenty books, and was cited in Ronald Reagan’s recently published diaries as an impressive and competent political activist. Considering her record, I would go so far as to say she is one of the most successful political activists in recent American history. Indeed, she ranks number 18 on The Atlantic’s list of 100 Top Living Influential Americans.

And now, she has plenty to say about how university culture has changed since she attended Washington U and Harvard so many years ago. I reach her by phone, camped out with my laptop in an empty classroom on the second floor of Florida State University, overlooking a huge anti-abortion display being manned by my friends and colleagues. It’s surprisingly quiet—last time we were at Florida State we were faced by hundreds of chanting protestors.

“They’ve abolished all rules of propriety and decorum and it’s been a tremendous change,” Schlafly says, “[Campuses] are tremendously different. Of course, when I went to college it was in the 1940’s and I worked my way through. I don’t believe in these college loans. I don’t think anybody owes anybody a college education. And these college loans have left students with so much debt that it’s incredible. I worked a 48-hour-a-week shift. I worked on the night shift, the evening shift, and went to college in the morning. So I didn’t do anything but go to class. And I didn’t allow any time for getting into trouble or partying.”

I was curious, though. Has it changed all that much? Haven’t university campuses always been somewhat edgy?

File 2675"I went to a very co-ed university, Washington University, and we didn’t have any of that,” Schlafly responds, “We did have fraternities and sororities, and I didn’t join one. But all this making college a party time, which a lot of them do now, is I think, you know, they talk about having an alcohol problem and a party problem and a sex problem and a hook-up problem and all that. That is because students have too much time on their hands. The courses really take a minority of your daytime hours and they just get into trouble the rest of the time."

Phyllis Schlafly knows something about not wasting time, too. It was Schlafly and her organization, The Eagle Forum, which worked tirelessly to ensure that the Republican Party became a solidly pro-life party. “How tough was it?” I ask her, “How toxic was the abortion issue for conservatives at the time you were fighting for it?”

“It was a knock-down, drag-out fight at many of the conventions, particularly the one in Houston, the one in San Diego, the one in Philadelphia, the one in New York,” Schlafly remembers, “And at the one in the beginning, the first one after Roe v. Wade was in Kansas City in 1976 and that wasn’t such a fight because we were really working to try nominate Reagan, which we were not successful at in that convention. But those other ones that I mentioned were tremendous battles that took all my political skill and know-how and contacts and mobilization and media interviews, but we put in a good plank and we have kept it in ever since 1976.”

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Thirty-eight years later, the fight against abortion continues—but the battlefields have changed. “What is the biggest obstacle, do you think, in today’s 21st century culture, to the pro-life and pro-family movement succeeding?” I ask.

“Well, I think the greatest obstacle is the media,” Schlafly responds after a pause. “The media has bought into the whole social revolution, the Kinsey ideas, and has been completely taken over by the feminists. And the feminists, I think, are the most destructive elements in our society. They are absolutely anti-marriage, [which we can see from the fact that] they pick the word ‘liberation.’ When these women use the word liberation, they’re talking about liberation from a home, husband, family, and children. And they’re talking about destroying the patriarchy because they think the patriarchy oppresses women. And the fact is American women are the most fortunate women who ever lived on the face of the earth because they can do anything they want. What’s their problem? My college degree is from a great university in 1944. I got my master’s at Harvard graduate school, completely co-ed, in 1945. My mother got her college degree in 1920. What’s the problem? Those opportunities were always there for women. They didn’t take advantage of them, but that’s their problem.”

I’m starting to see why a lot of feminists really, really don’t like Phyllis Schlafly. “I understand that you’ve had a lot of public tiffs with the feminists over the years, and even Gloria Steinem has written about you,” I comment.

“Well, they don’t like what I said,” Schlafly chuckles, “but they’re lost and of course they’re mad at the world when they wake up in the morning.”

Perhaps true, but a lot of pro-life activists wake up in the morning needing a boost, too, especially as we see what we’re up against. A new generation of activists needs some encouragement. What sort of advice and encouragement does a veteran like Phyllis Schlafly have for us?

“Nothing’s hopeless,” Schlafly says firmly, “That’s why I do like to mention the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment. When you realize we had against us three presidents, three First Ladies, about 95% of Congress, (there was only one senator and one House member who were willing to say a kind word for us), 99% of the media, every governor—some of them picketed against us, Hollywood, which showed up every chance they could, and they had the momentum and the psychology of inevitable victory, which is a tremendous factor in any campaign. And we beat them all. So it is simply a tremendous example of what a small group can do when you stick to the facts, have good leadership, and use the system that the Founding Fathers gave us.”

The evidence? It’s working already.

"It’s amazing, I think, that the country is turning pro-life,” Schlafly notes. “I think all the polls now show that the majority of Americans think that abortion is wrong, except in extraordinary circumstances. And this is in spite of the establishment forces and the court decisions all trying to teach us some other way. And I think that’s a tremendous victory for the social conservatives.”

Encouragement indeed. I thank Mrs. Schlafly for the interview, turn off my recorder, and head downstairs to the campus lawn to debate university students on abortion.

Reprinted with permission from Unmasking Choice


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The Family Guy generation

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren
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Outside the high school as we engaged students in conversation about abortion, one teenage boy stood out. Smoking and pointing, he called the girls the most inventively vile names he could think of, and proceeded to think of the worst, most personal (under the circmstances) things he could possibly say, and then said them. A few of the other boys laughed harshly. It sounded hollow. He announced that abortion had to be legal because if he “knobbed” a girl, he’d need her to “kill the kid.”

When the crowd of high school students surrounding us grew, I decided to see what other teenagers actually thought of this fellow’s insults and views. “What do the girls in your school think of you calling other girls these names?” I asked, citing a few of them. He began to shift awkwardly. Girls started looking at him with discomfort, even disgust. Some of them were not a fan of our anti-abortion message. They were even less impressed by the crude and misogynist name-calling. I asked him if he thought we should respect all women and girls, regardless of their views. He mumbled a vague response.

“Or even you saying you need abortion to be legal in case you get one of them pregnant,” I continued. “You’re not standing up for women’s rights, you’re standing up for your right to physically use girls you don’t love enough to have children with.” He attempted a bit of bravado, mocking one of my friends. At that point, even one of his more vociferious buddies looked at him and said, “Dude, that was mean.”

He continued to invent vile names and degrade the female volunteers. And after fifteen short minutes, he was standing alone as the other students distanced themselves from him.

Kids have always been cruel to one another. It’s why we have anti-bullying campaigns and people say things like “kids can be cruel.” It is only this generation, however, that has been encouraged to be cruel by the marketing gurus: As corporations realized that kids these days have more disposable cash than any other generation of young people (watch the PBS Frontline documentary “Hunting for Cool” for a full breakdown of this trend), they began to utilize the baser tendencies in human nature like unihibited sexual desire and cruelty to make a buck, rather than discouraging these tendencies as unwanted and unwelcome in a compassionate society. Thus we have “Family Guy,” a TV show that has utilized the previously innocuous art form of animated cartoons to produce so-called “humor” that takes the form of mercilessly mocking every disability, physical feature, and human characteristic possible of scorn. As I’ve written before, we seem to have confused “humor” with “shock value.” You might not get laughter, but you will get a gasp and an awkward chuckle as people stare in disbelief: Did he just say that?!

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A lot of the entertainment marketed to Generation Y plays to the nihilistic and to cruel iconoclasm. The Internet, providing a youth culture completely free from adult oversight, has also allowed cruelty to flourish, as it’s easier to say vicious things when you don’t have to watch pain and hurt spread across the victim’s face. This does spill over into situations where, placed in a context where their worldview is threatened, some teens will respond with crudeness and viciousness.

Many others do not. So many teenagers walk up to the abortion signs, chat with us, take our literature, change their minds. They recognize the ugliness of abortion. And when a few respond with repulsive name-calling, they realize how distasteful a reaction that is.

And that is why reaching out to “The Family Guy Generation” can save so many families.

Reprinted with permission from Unmasking Choice


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Justin and Niki’s abortion beachhead

Jonathon van Maren
Jonathon van Maren

In the last week or so, two federal political parties have come out attempting to one-up each other on who, exactly, is more in favor of relieving Canadian women of their pesky fetuses.

Pierre Trudeau’s kid Justin announced that no one who favors any measure of nuance or thinks that life in the womb deserved any protection whatsoever was welcome in his new Liberal Party. The NDP, perhaps slightly offended that the Liberals seemed more “progressive” than they did (“progress” in this case referring to the taxpayer-funded killing of developing taxpayers), sent out the winsome and lovely Niki Ashton, whose heart for pre-born children is about as warm as her home riding of Churchill, Manitoba. Ms. Ashton presented Motion 510, which blithely asserts that “A woman’s right to choose abortion is a fundamental question of equality and human rights, both in Canada and around the world.” (Ms. Ashton, you see, is one of those humanitarians who sees starving women in Third World countries and concludes that emptying their uteruses is the way to go.)

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Interestingly enough, though, the media backlash against Justin and Niki seems to indicate that even the typically 1968-esque pro-“choice” media realizes that the abortion debate is open and never really closed.

“Mr. Trudeau is pro-choice on the abortion issue but offers his candidates no choice or personal belief or the option to vote their conscience. Isn’t this hypocritical?” The Charlottetown Guardian asked.

Calling Justin’s position a “dictatorial stand on a highly controversial issue of conscience,” Lorna Dueck in The Globe and Mail revealed that, “I’ve listened to my birth mother’s harrowing despair of how she pursued four illegal attempts to end my life in the womb. I’ll never be neutral on this topic, and I’ve lived through the change of this era.”

Margaret Wente also went after Trudeau and Tommy Mulcair in The Globe and Mail in a column entitled, “Spare me the abortion absolutism.” “But that’s the way liberal progressivism is going these days,” she noted scathingly, “It’s become as intolerant and doctrinaire as any fundamentalist cult.”

In The National PostMargaret Somerville noted that only a small minority of Canadians support Canada’s current lawless status quo, but apparently no one else is welcome in the Liberal caucus: “Three in five believe that unborn children deserve some legal protection of their lives, at the latest at viability. Is that also hors de discussion? Do these people pass the “green light” test?” The National Post editorial board also condemned Justin’s move, along with Andrew CoyneBarbara Kay, and Jonathan Kay in assorted columns.

Even The Winnipeg Free Press turned on Justin, stating with remarkable nuance that, “Canada is not done with complex debates over public policy riddled with morality. Euthanasia is a pressing legal and political debate that will demand consideration of all its implications. If Mr. Trudeau would have his MPs relinquish autonomy on a question so intimate as abortion, on what issue will he see fit to allow them the freedom to dissent?”

Justin Trudeau’s position on abortion isn’t surprising at all, even for a man who often seems surprised at what comes out of his own mouth. And Niki is always pumped to have something to say, and even more excited when that something involves abortion, where the full extent of her delusional beliefs regarding “human rights” can be on display. But as commentators from across the country, both pro-choice and pro-life, have noted, the majority of Canadians think that some restrictions on abortion are warranted. R. v. Morgentaler gave the House of Commons a mandate to create just such restrictions. As this debate progresses, Justin and Niki may find their abortion beachhead increasingly lonely. Dead babies tell no tales, true. But a new generation of pro-lifers is doing it for them.


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