Monday, January 30, 2017

Apparently, Everything is a Pro-Life Issue.

I get the question every so often: Just what is included in the term "pro-life"?

I've seen the social media arguments. I've fielded accusations. I've looked through internet memes and liberal media outlets. I even saw some signs at the March for Life.

Face it, folks. Everything is a pro-life issue.

In reality, there really is no set definition of "pro-life". That’s a reality of legitimate movements: we’re too busy with far more important things to worry about creating an official label. Those who make this a priority are probably doing nothing practical.

To be fair to the pro-life movement, few people involved in it are throwing around accusations. “You’re not really pro-life because (fill in the blank)!” I’ve only heard this from two groups of people. The first are people who are watering down the movement by trying to include too many issues, and therefore aren’t focusing on anything. The other is people who do nothing in the movement, but are quick to judge the actions and beliefs of people who are. They are either Progressive Christians that see other issues as more important than the butchering of innocent children in our own backyards, or Progressives who have the utterly disgusting but utterly unsurprising view that abortion is a fundamental right but God forbid we stop taking in refugees for three months to keep the country safe. Either camp is audacious in its accusations.

Although the question of what to include as “pro-life” issues shows lack of thought at times, it is a fair question to ask. One definition I've heard is that being pro-life means "caring for all human life." This is extremely vague, not at all a clear definition. It's a relative statement about a movement that fights relative statements. This simply cannot do. We need a real definition, one that is the source of what we choose to fight—not the excuse. This is a convenient definition if we are trying to justify taking in refugees, but it is backward in its thinking. Rather than coming up with an excuse for our presuppositions, we need to start at principles and let that determine policy.

Since it has recently been a focus, I will attempt to set a general framework and examine some issues that are included by some people. But, keep in mind, there is no official definition, and specific labels—such as “anti-abortion”—are much more accurate.

Defining “Pro-Life”

I find a pro-life stance to be this: standing against the intentional killing of innocent people. Each one of these words is purposeful and important.
Oh, got us!

Intentional. There are unfortunate times when innocent lives are taken accidentally through an action aimed at killing no one or only guilty people. For example, the initial drone policies of President Obama took civilian lives accidentally. This was irresponsible, but not intentional.

Killing. This is pretty obvious. The issue must be loss of life. Poverty, while a noble thing to fight, has no place in the pro-life movement, unless its goal is to help mitigate loss of life, such as pregnancy resource centers.

Innocent. People guilty of serious crimes, such as murder, attempted murder, rape, terrorism, or treason, have forfeited their right to life and deserve neither protection nor advocacy.

People. Human lives must be at stake. Animal rights issues are ones I sometimes sympathize with, but these are not pro-life issues.

Let’s examine some specific stances.


Ending abortion is the principle goal of the pro-life movement. All involved with it desire to see this. It is the rallying cry that binds together people who differ on other issues. This must be the chief aim of the pro-life movement, to see abortion ended in the United States, and abroad.

Euthanasia/Physician-Assisted Suicide

These, too, are points of agreement in the movement. These “mercy killings” artificially and intentionally take innocent human lives, and set an awful precedent. A goal of the movement is to, when impossible to save an innocent human life, ease his or her suffering. Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide do not ease suffering—they end the person that is suffering. This is unacceptable and disrespectful of beings created in God’s image. If we are serious about sparing innocent human lives, these barbaric practices have no place in society.
Apparently everyone is an expert.

Embryonic Stem-Cell Research
Utilitarians must love the idea of this, but this, too, takes innocent human lives. Creating human beings with the goal to destroy them is, to put it mildly, bullying, and to put it honestly, cold-blooded murder. Even if embryonic stem-cell research were effective, which it has not been, it is still morally wrong to sacrifice innocent lives in an attempt to save other lives. The ends do not and cannot justify the means.

Beyond these issues, there is much disagreement.

Being anti-war sounds noble on its exterior. But is anyone today, save maybe Muslim jihadists coming in the refugee waves, actually for war? I don’t think any American leaders are, nor is anyone in the pro-life movement. It has been a long time since America instigated a war. The War on Terror and the World Wars were in self-defense. Vietnam and Korea were in defense of allies. We aren’t just going around starting wars. It would be irresponsible to refuse to enter wars when the innocent lives of our people and other people are at stake. The alternative is letting violence happen to us without doing anything to stop it. So war, while never desirable, is sometimes necessary.

Well it's not like it would have taken much for them.
While war is necessary, it must be performed in the right way. The target must be to kill or stop those trying to perform violence against us with the smallest amount of civilian lives lost as possible. Sometimes this is unable to be prevented, but often it is. The drone warfare of the Obama administration was initially sloppy, but was cleaned up.

The only exception I see to never intentionally taking innocent human lives is when even the best course of action will do so. These situations are rare, I believe. The best example is the atomic bombs used in World War II. While innocent Japanese lives were taken, more innocent Japanese lives would have been lost had the Allies invaded Japan. Thus, this was the best course of action that took the fewest innocent lives as possible.


There is no single answer to this question. The circumstances must be taken into consideration.

There is no possible way that the United States can take in all refugees of a crisis. Other means of help must be looked into to be the most helpful. This does not mean, though, that we should be inherently against taking in refugees. Again, the situation must be taken into account.

For example, in the years leading up to World War II, a number of countries, including America, refused Jewish refugees despite evidence that genocide was around the corner. This cost lives, and was the wrong decision.

The comparison of this event to modern events in laughable and dangerous. There was no chance of European Jews being terrorists with plans to take American lives. There is, however, a very real chance of Middle Eastern refugees being terrorists. The Christmastime attackers in Berlin were immigrants from the countries recently temporarily banned by President Trump’s executive order. Two of the Paris attackers in 2015 posed as Syrian refugees. Knife and ax attacks in Germany have been committed by posed refugees. Some of the Brussels attackers fought in Syria and regained entry into Belgium. ISIS has admitted it is using the flow of refugees to infiltrate the West, and with Progressives—who care nothing about abortion—raising a fuss over halting refugees, I can see how it’s a good plan.

The boxers vs. briefs debate is also a pro-life issue.
Some people claim this executive order is intentionally taking innocent human lives. This is mindless. The order does not allow refugees from eight countries to infiltrate our borders for 120 days. It does not order executions. Keeping someone’s status the same is not the same as murdering them. Scott Klusendorf used the example of a homeless man. I can refuse to give him $5, or I can murder him. The former is the Trump administration’s refugee policy. The latter is abortion.

This policy is not heartless. It’s common sense. It is irresponsible to allow refugees in without being able to vet them all while having the knowledge that some could be terrorists. To say that this asinine policy of free-flowing possible terrorists into the West should be a plank of pro-life beliefs is shameful.


Poverty is an issue, and there are ways to combat it. But it simply is not on the same level as something like abortion. Reference the analogy of the homeless man. There is no intentional taking of human life. Before we water down the movement, we have to examine whether issues are grave enough to be counted as a direct threat to life. Not quality of life. Life. Poverty does not meet the standard.

Animal Rights

It pains me that this even needs to be addressed. Animal lives are not even on the same plane as human lives. God makes this very clear when he ordered capital punishment for taking innocent human lives and monetary reparation for taking animal lives. This does not mean that I nor anyone else in the pro-life movement are unsympathetic to these issues. I support some forms of animal rights. But this does not belong under the definition of “pro-life.”


Guns are morally-neutral things. They can be used for bad. Most are used for good. Soldiers with guns save lives at home. Police officers with guns save lives. Homeowners with guns save lives. And hunt. And sport. And do all sorts of other things that don’t threaten human lives, much less take them.

Police “Brutality”

There are a few rogue police officers that kill innocent people. There are a lot more anti-police organizations and movements that are killing innocent people. Most of the police killings kill guilty people in self-defense. If police brutality were an issue, it could qualify as a pro-life issue. But, it is not an issue.

Capital Punishment

People who see no difference between capital punishment and abortion or either stupid or intellectually dishonest, to be blunt. Both take human lives. But capital punishment kills a guilty person because of a serious crime. Abortion kills an innocent person for being inconvenient.

“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” –Genesis 9:5-6

Maybe Progressives would fight abortion if they pretended the
preborn were serial killers.
To show how seriously God takes human life, and to be just, God commands murderers be killed. Rape has long been placed in the same category. Those against capital punishment can take it up with God. Those that support abortion but oppose the death penalty sicken me with their backward thinking.

The proper pro-life position on capital punishment, if any at all, should be to support the death penalty to reinforce the value of human life. Capital punishment does not break our fundamental beliefs because we aren’t dealing with innocent lives.


To keep a movement simple and consistent, it is important to not give place to nonsense. Diving into too many issues can harm the overall goal. I've provided a framework for determining our focus in the movement, and applied it to various issues—the correct way of going about it. By setting the goal of the pro-life movement as preventing the intentional killing of innocent people, we avoid watering down the movement with outside issues, and focus on the most serious ones.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Death Can Come Suddenly

I’ve been reading a lot about death, lately.

It started with a long-awaited visit to the site of the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire. This site is less than 10 minutes from Northern Kentucky University, sandwiched between US 27, I-471, and a golf course. I wasn’t even familiar with it until my dad pointed it out on one of my first visits to NKU.

I’ve explored a number of abandoned places and other interesting sites during my time in college, but for some reason, I had never made it up there. Until a couple months ago.
The Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire

There isn’t a whole lot to see. The building was demolished soon after the May 28, 1977 fire that killed 167 people (widely reported as 165, but two of those victims were pregnant). After climbing the hill, my fellow explorer and I walked up the rest of the drive, now much narrower due to the overgrown bushes on one side. In fact, overgrown is a good description of most of the site. The road curved around to what was the portico, one of the few things that didn’t collapse in the fire. We were able to pull up a floor plan, which allowed us to find where the Zebra Room was, which was where the fire started, and the Cabaret, where the vast majority of fatalities occurred. In the center, filling in the basement, were various bricks, pipes, a windowpane, and other such things. On our way back down, we climbed down the hill where bodies were laid as they were pulled from the building.

This sparked my interest in other, similar disasters, especially those caused or exacerbated by human stupidity. I found a Wikipedia page that lists the worst disasters in U.S. history in terms of number of fatalities. The Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire may have been caused by faulty wiring, or may have been arson, but what made it bad was lack of employee training, overcrowding, furniture that was toxic when burned, locked exits, no sprinklers, and new additions not being up to fire code.
Part of the Beverly Hills Supper Club site today

This is a theme in many other disasters. The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse, which killed 114, was due to an engineering flaw to save money. The Sultana shipwreck in the Mississippi River, which took about 1700 lives (mostly Union prisoners of war just after their release) occurred because the captain didn’t make proper repairs, which would have cost him the contract to ferry the Union POWs. The Johnstown Flood killed over 2200 people because a poorly-built dam catastrophically failed, causing a massive flash flood.

Other disasters have been the fault of no one—an “Act of God”. The Rockport train wreck occurred because of gravel that had washed down onto a crossing. The Peshtigo Fire was caused by winds that blew controlled fires into firestorms. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 (like many floods) was caused by unusual amounts of rain.

Still others are caused by terrorism. The 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya. The Bath School bombing. The September 11 attacks.
The Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse

Unfortunately, the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire is pretty low on the list of disasters in terms of death toll. The deadliest ever is the Galveston Hurricane, which killed between 6,000 and 12,000. This is followed by the San Francisco Earthquake, the September 11 attacks, the Okeechobee Hurricane, and the Pearl Harbor attack. And this is only in the United States—there have been far worse disasters across the world. The 1931 China floods killed at least a million people.

It probably seems a little warped to extensively read on this subject. Disasters are another one of those things of which I can’t fully explain my interest. Part of it stems from my interest in transportation, which surrounds many disasters (planes, ships, trains, buses, trolleys, bridges, roads, etc.). But there are several reasons—apart from my unknown interest—why I continue to read the details of these events.

First, I want to gain a good understanding of what it is like for the people that are somehow involved in these disasters. For the victims, is there anything they could have done to put themselves at less risk, or were they completely helpless? For the first responders, what did they experience? I still remember videos we watched in high school health class of emergency personnel removing bodies from fatal car wrecks. These are real things with which people have to deal. When 50 people die in a train wreck, there are people tasked with removing and identifying the dead. Charred, crushed, dismembered, it doesn’t matter. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it is a reality. I don’t want to remain blissfully ignorant of what others have to do in disaster situations.
The September 11 terrorist attack

Second, I want to know what I would do in a situation. If I am in a building with a quickly-spreading fire, would I push forward and get caught up in a crush, like what happened in the Iroquois Theatre Fire in Chicago, where over 600 people died? Or would I maintain order in exiting, as the people on Air Canada Flight 797 when it caught fire while emergency landing at CVG Airport, where half the 46 passengers and crew survived? Would I risk my life to help others get to safety? Would I be able to survive a certain type of disaster, or would I be powerless to live or die? Would I stop what I’m doing to try to help in rescue efforts, or in recovery of victims? Reading these accounts makes me answer these questions, and better prepares me for when I am in or near a disaster. What conditions can cause a flashover? What indicates a building might collapse? Where is the safest place to be during a tsunami? Knowing these things could potentially save my life or others’ lives in the future.

Finally, and this is the key to this post, I want to have an understanding of death. I know a lot of people die gradually and get to say their goodbyes. But there are a lot of people that don’t get that luxury. All the people that died in these disasters didn’t.

It is true that, thankfully, disasters of this magnitude are less frequent nowadays due to having learned the hard way what can be done to prevent or mitigate them. But they have not been eliminated. The September 11 attacks were just over 15 years ago. Hurricane Katrina killed over 1800 people in 2005, and Hurricane Rita took 180 lives. Three years later, Hurricane Ike killed 120 and a tornado outbreak killed 59. A tornado outbreak in 2011 killed 348. The Joplin tornado killed 158 that same year. The following year, Hurricane Sandy killed 72. The American Airlines Flight 587 crash killed 265 in 2001. The Station Nightclub fire killed 100 in 2003. Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crashed in 2000 and took 88 lives. Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed in 2009, killing 50. Fifty people also died in last year’s Orlando nightclub terrorist attack. In 2006, Comair Flight 5191 crashed, and 49 people died. A mudflow killed 43 in Washington in 2014. Only last month, 36 people died in a warehouse fire in Oakland.

And that is only in the United States. Sure, an earthquake of the magnitude that Haiti experienced would have had only a fraction of the deaths had it been in the U.S., but something like the Indian Ocean Tsunami would have equally caught people off guard, and plenty of individuals from the First World died there, part of the 280,000 total fatalities.
But people don’t just die suddenly from major disasters. Car accidents kill people every day. Drownings. Falls. Heart attacks. Brain aneurisms. Murders. The list could go on.

The important thing to realize, in light of this, is that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Do you think any of these people woke up that morning and thought they were going to die? Maybe some of the people in hurricanes. But tornadoes give little warning. Tsunamis often have no warning. No one reasonably expects that they will die in a fire, or in a plane crash. The odds are too low. But the odds are not zero. Most of the victims of car accidents or shootings had no idea that they were living their last day. There was no gradual death surrounded by loved ones for them.

The best we can do is hope for such an opportunity. But not everyone gets it. One year, while my collegiate pro-life group was in Washington, D.C. for the March for Life, our bus driver died suddenly, in his bus, all alone.

The aftermath of the Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire
These thoughts can be depressing, but the uncertainty of life demands that we look at things realistically. Some of us will live long lives and die peacefully. Some of us will die suddenly, and possibly violently.

Too many people take longevity for granted, when it is not guaranteed.

This leads to the problem of the “deathbed confession”. There are people, and there are probably some reading this, that know that the Bible speaks the truth about our need for salvation, or at least know that it is something that needs to be investigated further. But salvation involves sacrificing the sin that is in our lives and following Christ. That’s not an easy thing, and that’s not always a fun thing.

So, people think that they can live their life of sin and have fun, then at the end of their lives, they can make peace with God and go to Heaven. It’s a tempting plan.

The dead are laid out behind the Beverly Hills Supper Club
But there are two major flaws with the deathbed confession plan. First, salvation has to be genuine. It is a decision made to submit to God and live to bring Him glory. It is hard to believe that the deathbed confession plan is genuine, as the whole point is to live for yourself and then use God to give you what you have been denying for your entire life. It is a calculated plan to keep God away so you can have fun, then expect Him to let you into Heaven based on a prayer. It is not a real desire to follow Christ.

Second, as explained before, there is no guarantee of knowing one is about to die. The victims of the September 11 attack had no deathbed. Shooting victims may die instantly. It is foolish to assume that you will be aware of your death. It’s simply not a guarantee.

Why risk it? Why put off salvation? Are your years of fun really worth risking eternity in Hell?

“(For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” –II Corinthians 6:2

Don’t put it off. You are not guaranteed a deathbed. You can’t even guarantee tomorrow. That’s the reality of a fallen world. Don't make the fatal assumption of time that may not be there.