Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Abortion Matrix

The Forerunner, a conservative Christian media group, released an anti-abortion film this fall entitled The Abortion Matrix: Defeating Child Sacrifice and the Culture of Death. Featuring commentary from Biblical patriarchy supporter R.C. Sproul Jr., Operation Save America leader Flip Benham, anti-abortion advocate Rusty Thomas, and New Apostolic Reformation speaker Lou Engle, The Abortion Matrix demonizes abortion with inflammatory rhetoric. After watching several excerpts on YouTube, I found that the film not only relies on fear of paganism, but unwittingly reveals the politics behind the radical anti-abortion movement.

Rather than offer reasoned arguments about why they believe abortion to be unethical, the creators of The Abortion Matrix resort to fear and horror. The film dubiously correlates abortion with pagan child sacrifice and witchcraft, as evidenced in commentary at the Forerunner about Wiccan cooperation with women's health clinics. In one video excerpt from The Abortion Matrix, the narrator refers to the 15th century treatise Malleus Maleficarum as evidence of the concern over supposedly widespread witchcraft and child sacrifice in medieval times. (Interestingly, I didn't hear much commentary on the Malleus Maleficarum's misogyny, advocacy of torture for alleged "witches", and strong role in the brutal European witch craze.) It is telling that the film glances back at the European witch craze, which was rooted in hatred of women and sexual anxieties. Perhaps the same pathologies drive the present-day radical anti-abortion movement?

This message alone worries me, in that it promotes superstitious fear of witchcraft that could easily encourage bigotry (and worse) against modern day neo-pagans. I've read about neo-paganism. I know several neo-pagans. They don't sacrifice babies or worship Lucifer, but they do encounter a lot of intolerance from fundamentalists.*

In one excerpt, the film claims that both medical science and scripture provide evidence that life begins at conception. Biblical passages such as Jeremiah 1:5 are offered as scriptural evidence for the value of unborn life. Passages that suggest otherwise, such as Exodus 21:22-23 and Hosea 13:16 are not discussed. The anti-abortion position is held up as the Biblical position, ignoring the wide range of opinions about abortion among Christians themselves. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

I was intrigued by the film's interview with Lou Engle, who has a long history of opposing abortion. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

At 0:37, Engle claims that "principalities and powers" (evil spirits) are at work behind "false ideologies" such as abortion.

"There's no one targeting false ideologies with massive fasting and prayer. I was rocked by the message and I realize that behind every false ideology are spiritual powers, and they have to be addressed through the Ephesians mandate [see Ephesians 6:12], and therefore fasting and prayer really is significant in terms of standing and resisting the principalities and powers that are coming through the shedding of innocent blood."
At the 1:12 mark, Engle makes a very revealing statement. He laments that conservative Christians have been having low numbers of children, arguing that if they had reproduced heavily decades ago, a substantial conservative Christian voting block would exist today.

"If you think about the reason abortion has been so fueled in America is because the church didn't want babies any more than the world did. We just kept ours from coming, and they aborted theirs. It's the same kind of spirit. I'm not standing completely against birth control. I have seven children. But the bottom line is we never wanted to fulfill the first command: be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth. And because the church wouldn't do it, the world just followed after the same spirit. We are as much humanists as the church. We think that children are inconvenience, when if we would have been having children forty years ago, seven, eight children, there would be no ... political issue with same-sex marriage. We would have had a voting block of righteousness that would have swept the whole thing away. It's our fault. It's time to turn back to the Bible."

Engle ignores that fact that humans have multiplied and filled the earth to the tune of nearly 7 billion people, with devastating social and ecological consequences. His concern seems to be that American, right-wing Christians have not reproduced in sufficient numbers to make a political impact, and he urges listeners to breed such a voting block now (a goal not unlike that of the Christian Quiverfull movement). Engle's words reveal that opposition to reproductive rights can often be about controlling women's reproduction and utilizing their fertility for political ends.

The Abortion Matrix  is yet another example of bombastic rhetoric coming from radical corners of the anti-abortion movement. Rather than offer reasoned arguments for their position, they rely on fear, a well-worn Religious Right tool. If we pay attention to such rhetoric, however, we might learn a great deal about the psychology behind right-wing fundamentalism.

* = One example of anti-pagan bigotry I've seen is the flock of fundamentalist protesters who gather each year outside the Spoutwood Farm Fairie Festival in Glen Rock, PA. Even though the Fairie Festival is not a pagan event, protesters hold signs condemning Wicca and nature worship. To see festival-goers responding with humor and warmth, watch a scene from outside the 2006 Fairie Festival here.

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