ignoring the outrageous nonsense
I imagine, with a heading like "The Right to Sex," I have your attention. That heading is the title of a book, one that I haven’t read, admittedly. However, having read the review, I will save my money.
First, a detour. A friend involved in pro-life ministry was talking about what young women are looking at and saying on social media. In the six seconds of a TikTok video, they are saying outrageous things about abortion; for example, a girl says that she would get one as soon as she could. It is outrageous – so outrageous that it seems unreal. And it is. It struck me that, while we must take every person seriously, we cannot always take what they say seriously.
Now, back to The Right to Sex. The reviewer wrote, “And I came to think that this is, in fact, the hidden structure in this . . . book: the repeated, maddening contrast between confident pronouncements of theoretical [“woke” feminist] orthodoxy and miserable, inconclusive rummaging in the less than positive real-world outworkings of this orthodoxy. Read in this way, The Right to Sex is an accurate critical summary of woke feminism: clarity in theory, amoral mess in practice” (https://unherd.com/2021/08/what-moden-feminism-is-hiding/).
When I was young (1960s), I heard a lot of mouthy hotheads – anyone remember Jerry Rubin? -- who said all kinds of things, and I marveled. I still remember one writer’s summary of some fellow’s jabbering: he called it “not-sure-I-really-mean-it radicalism.” I thought at the time: bingo! And I think the same thing applies to today. So-called “serious” academics like the author of The Right to Sex can talk a great, abstract game, but they aren’t around to face the mess, and pick up the pieces of the sexual revolution. Their thinking lacks the integrity that can take in the whole of life. So, as the reviewer goes on to say, they can’t (and don’t) talk about love, and children.
So back to the young women on TikTok. There’s lots of bravado (“pretentious boldness or bravery; arrogant or boastful menace; swaggering defiance”), but who knows if they really mean it? An in-depth look at how pregnancy medical center clients think is revealing. According to what they say, they are relativists (what is true depends on you), self-centered, and superficial, apparently preoccupied with trivialities. They are also anxious, generally. One observer, Jean Twenge, wrote that “teen loneliness increased between 2012 and 2018 in 36 out of 37 countries around the world,” caused, she thought, by smartphone use (cited in https://salvomag.com/post/generation-lonely). Suicide and depression rates are up. Similar to what we hear about the author of the book, perhaps there is simply a “maddening contrast” between outrageous boasting and posturing on TikTok, etc., and actual uncertainty, confusion, and unhappiness in life.
How is this relevant to advertising? Vision for Life runs short video ads for the pregnancy medical centers. We ignore the outrageous nonsense, the posturing and self-absorption, and remember that these young women and their partners are made in the image of God like us. We invite the viewer to consider the whole of life, including what happens when things don’t go as we had hoped. Deciding whether to have an abortion is a momentous thing. We tell stories that assume the seriousness of the decision: a pregnant woman tells her friend her reasons to pursue an abortion; the friend gently challenges the idea, and suggests she go to a pregnancy medical center. The ad concludes with an actual testimonial to the center, delivered by the actress playing the pregnant woman. Stories are a great vehicle: if they’re good, they can challenge one’s thinking, and they’re not moralistic, they don’t lecture or preach; it’s hard to argue with them. In any case, thousands of these young women in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties now know that there are pregnancy medical centers with caring professionals out there, because we have told the stories.
What to Say to a Pro-Choice Christian
Do you have a friend, perhaps a young person, who professes Christian faith or belongs to a church, but who thinks that women should be free to abort their children? In my blog article “Laying the Groundwork for a Discussion of Abortion,” in Salvo: A Magazine of Society, Sex, and Science, I address someone who holds these views. It’s in three parts, and the first is here. In the article I put forward three things that I think pro-life and pro-choice Christians should agree on, and that, if followed through, would incline the pro-choice Christian to change his mind. Check it out.
Chris Humphrey has been involved in pro-life activity of one kind or another since the late 1970s, when he first looked at the subject of abortion in seminary in Canada. He has an undergraduate degree in English (University of Toronto), and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in religious studies (McGill). He has had a varied career as a pastor, chaplain in a psychiatric hospital, editor of academic and instructional publications, semi-professional photographer, and home renovator. He is a husband of over 45 years to Edith (a Professor of New Testament), father to three girls, and grandfather to seventeen grandchildren. He lives and works in the Stanton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh.