Despite What Rick Warren and Others May Think, Abortion Isn’t Satanism

rickwarrenNo, this isn’t satire – although it’s triggered by a sarcastic response to anti-abortion protesters. It’s one of those things that make you go, is there any way to effectively satirize some groups of people? It seems like we can’t go any deeper into absurdity than they already are at. So there was this tweet by prominent mega-church Evangelical pastor Rick Warren:

Yes, that Rick Warren, New York Times best-seller, man-of-the-world-and-Hawaiian-Tshirts is upset because nobody is reporting on the Satanist pro-abortionists! I know what you’re thinking: So what?? You may also be thinking after watching the video, “Why are anti-abortion people singing “Amazing Grace” at the state capital anyway? I thought separation of church and state and stuff?” And you’d be right for asking that.

But the entire anti-abortion movement is fundamentally and solely based on very restrictive religious views theocratically foisted upon the population. Additionally, and this is also key, those views are not the same throughout history. I’m often told that current Evangelical views are based on historically universally accepted Christian doctrine and “biblical teaching” – as if a clear reading of the bible has led all True Christians throughout history to hold the idea that personhood begins at conception. (Note: Though the majority of anti-abortion forces are Christian, there are also Jewish and Muslim factions that collude with Christian ones.) But then again, a majority of American Christians do not align themselves as “pro-life.” Even among Evangelicals, the most mobilized and energetic base of the anti-abortion movement, the view that life begins at conception wasn’t an issue until after the introduction of the Big Mac. Through the early 80’s, however, those who disagreed with that assertion – thanks to the coercive theocratic culture-warring politics of the Religious Right – were ostracized until eventually all of Evangelicalism was centered around culture warrior positions on abortion and homosexuality.

The singing of a hymn associated with, among other things, the Abolition* movement in a state capital as a means of supporting legislators signing a bill that would severely limit reproductive rights of religious and non-religious people alike should be cause for concern itself. It is a move of staking claim. A flag waiving. And, what’s more ironic, a song about grace used as a weapon. (*As a side note: another troubling aspect of the contemporary White Evangelicalism anti-abortion movement is tying of abortion to slavery, basically suggesting a troubling linkage between the pre-born and enslaved black adults and ignoring the plights of the women in the middle of this conversation. It is a talking point that even conservative black Evangelicals find troubling.)

Rightly recognizing the hymn singing as a type of sacredizing-as-attack, a theocratic move, a segment of pro-choice protesters started chanting “Hail Satan.” Because it’s a show and should be respected as one. But also maybe because they’re tired of the not-so-holy charade. Maybe because religion should never be forced on others, certainly not in the pluralist United States, built on the idea of freedom of religion. Maybe because it’s also kinda sorta funny.

Unless, that is, you believe 1) that Satan is God’s equal but opposite nemesis and 2) that all people who fight for abortion rights are Satanic baby-killers. In that case, this is the God-given PROOF that Satan is controlling the pro-choice movement. It’s a level of absurdity at such a level that a well-respected pastor (“America’s pastor”) not only not only questions why this non-story isn’t in all the mainstream news but also considers the Washington Times – the Glenn Beck of newspapers – a credible newspaper worthy of anything reportable. Joe Carter, in Warren’s linked piece, asks, “[W]hy is [it] not newsworthy when abortion rights supporters invoke the Prince of Darkness?” Maybe because most of the world knows that they weren’t really invoking anything of note.

But let’s talk for a moment about Satan and the demonic powers. Because in the Evangelical/Fundamentalist inerrancy version of the Bible, Satan is a great and powerful force. Though they would never admit it, the way he is talked about, Satan is lifted up as a god – as equal in power and relevance as the Trinity. Satan here is basically a combination of the Dark Side of the Force and an honorary fourth member of the Trinity. So “invoking” Satan’s name is seen as a very real threat to some Right Religionists – a cursing. Which is odd, since the demonic powers the bible warns about are those of empire – of control and colonialism. Control because it’s an effort to control the female body. Colonialism because it is a gaze that how the controlling population (in this case, the Religious Right in the Bible Belt) feels about the world is how everyone else should feel. Allowing for choice is the opposite of these demonic powers. Patriarchal controlling through legislation would be a hallmark of empire and therefore, be demonic. 

Also note that these Evangelicals are angry at the press for not considering the Satan chants as newsworthy because they believe that they – being God’s agents in the political and social world – are the center of the universe. And any offense taken towards them is persecution. But more so, Carter, in another article in self-proclaimed Evangelical Gatekeeper (the real gatekeeper is Christianity Today. But that’s an argument for another day) The Gospel Coalition, gets to the heart of the matter:

They think the abortion issue is about them, and their choices. But they’re wrong: abortion is about God. As John Piper has explained, the ultimate evil of abortion is not that it kills children or that it damages women—which it does. “The ultimate evil,” he said, “is that it assaults and demeans God.”

See, silly pro-choice people: reproductive rights have nothing to do with you or autonomy of the female body away from patriarchal religious-fueled control. It’s really about God. So it has nothing whatsoever to do with patriarchal religious-fueled control. John Piper, who is the head of the genderist and anti-LGBTQi Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and has advised domestic violence victims to stay with their husbands, says it’s not about the rights of you or your body. It’s about his angry God, who kills children at will through natural disasters.

Given the choice between that God and Satan, I think I’d take my chances with Satan.

jasdye

When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!

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  • John

    But the chant is actually ‘Not the Church, not the state, women must decide their fate.’ and can clearly be heard.

    And ‘Hail Satan’ is not a clever, deep and ironic examination of the contemporary power/control dynamics, it is the childish and spiteful remarks of an individual designed to provoke and antagonize.

    • Provoking and antagonizing are not necessarily exclusive of good critiques. I do think it should be examined under the lens of power/control dynamics.

  • terry

    I have the whole abortion thing figured out… I think. Have all men upon reaching puberty, have portions of his sperm frozen for future use, if he decides to have children. Soon after these samples are obtained and filed away, Sterilize the manchild, so in the future, there won’t be ANY unwanted pregnancies. You see, everyone looks to the woman for the solution, when the other half of the “problem” skates by without ANY solution on THEIR behalf. These “health alternatives” should be offered to all in the male population to cleanse their copulation! No more abortions, because we no longer have men who can impregnate these “loose” women… You know, mothers, daughters etc.! That should work great for those radical “right” so-called Christians. When do we start opening the sterilization clinics for men, step right this way and let us get on with your day. Just think… No more birth control either! Wow… This solution must be HEAVEN sent! (or is that scent?)

    • handmadehand

      Needed to be said!

  • Suzanne Lehman

    While it is true that no evangelical Christian would ever state that Satan is God’s equal – it is not Biblical – the belief that Satan exists and demons and powers of evil exist is a fundamental part of the evangelical belief system. That really isn’t the same as lifting Satan up as a god (just as much rhetoric here as in Rev. Warren’s comments it seems). To praise the power of evil while stating that one is pro-choice would seem to me (NOT an evangelical Christian) that the pro-choice demonstrators were stating that a pro-choice viewpoint is evil. Sounds ill-considered as a position at best (going with “John” on this one).

    Anyone can sing anything at the State Capitol. That’s the nature of Free Speech. Sing Amazing Grace. Chant “Hail, Satan” – it’s all allowed. We don’t have “freedom of religion”, we have freedom from the ESTABLISHMENT of religion and the free exercise of religion. I’m sure you know that this means that you can’t coerce me to believe what you believe and I can’t coerce you to believe what I believe. Discussion and dialog is not coercion. Laws clearly favoring one belief system over another are coercion.

    The parallel between slavery and abortion is based on the premise that dark-skinned human beings were not considered to be “persons” and therefore were not accorded any Constitutional rights. The same status is currently assigned to the living human beings inside a woman’s womb. They are not considered “persons” and therefore have no Constitutional rights of their own. This perspective is based on the stated opinions of the Supreme Court justices in the Roe v. Wade decision wherein the justices clearly stated that the entire Constitutional right to abortion enjoyed by women falls apart if the unborn child is ever assigned personhood. They stated that, if the unborn child is deemed to be a person, then it, too, would enjoy the Constitutional rights to LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Barring the extremely rare instances where the mother’s life is in danger, killing the baby is justified because it’s birth would be inconvenient to or cause distress to the mother. The holding of slaves was justified on the basis that abolishing slavery would cause financial inconvenience and distress to slaveholders. Today we are “ignoring the plights of women in the middle of this…” and 150 years ago the abolitionists were ignoring the plights of the slaveholders. Ultimately, the personhood of dark-skinned human beings was affirmed and their rights trumped any inconvenience the exercise of those rights may have caused to slaveholders. Pro-life individuals believe that the personhood of the living human beings inside the woman’s womb may one day be affirmed and their rights will trump any inconvenience the excercise of those rights may cause to women carrying them. You may persist in criticizing the parallel if you wish, but now you at least understand the basis for the argument.

    I’m not sure about your definition for colonialism but we’ll go with
    your stated belief that controlling legislation would be the hallmark of
    an empire and therefore be demonic. A Christian couple who runs a bed
    and breakfast in New England is being forced out of business because
    they believe that homosexual activity is sinful. A Christian,
    family-owned business is currently in litigation with the federal
    government because they do not want to be forced to pay for
    abortion-inducing medications which they consider sinful. So, the
    ultimate democratic question is – how does our nation balance the rights
    of homosexuals and women desiring abortions against the right to the
    free exercise of religion without creating “controlling legislation”
    that uses legislative coercion to enforce the belief that “how the
    controlling population feels is how everyone else should feel”? How do
    both sides avoid that to which you assign the term “demonic”?

    I love this nation and I believe we will find a way to live together by respecting everyone’s rights. The patronizing tone of your article condemning the religion of others really makes you no better than them with regards to tolerance and civility. Let us continue our national dialog with respect so that we may grow and prosper as a nation and as individuals.

    • Tessagain

      I wanted to say that Rachel gets way too involved in trying to prove her intelligence and “open-mindedness” as she endeavors to shove us all forward in her progressive agenda.

      I don’t want her representing me, a woman, with her agenda in any fashion.

      Rachel Maddow and Rush Limbaugh share a level playing field with Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and yes, Michelle Bachman. All are condescending and a tad too highbrow.

      As much as we are not here to please the government’s agenda, we are not here to please the media’s either. Is there anyone out there able to report a story without adding their own spin to it?

      Nevertheless, I want to thank you Suzanne Lehman for your eloquent comment and meaningful points for discussion.

      • handmadehand

        Michelle Bachman is highbrow? You gotta be kidding.

      • Highbrow intellectuals like Limbaugh. All the LOLZ

    • I understand the basis for the pre-born-as-enslaved argument, Suzzane (I’m assuming you’re talking to me?). As I alluded to several times here and in the links provided I have been an anti-abortion advocate for decades.

      However, the argument is both deeply flawed and deeply racist – infantizing Black enslaved people yet once again – as the link by the black evangelical pastor points out.

      • Suzanne Lehman

        Thank you for referring me back to the link. I had missed it. I don’t think the pastor implies that the argument infantizes Black enslaved people. His statement seems to boil down to: “African Americans are not against arguments that affirm personhood.
        Gosh! We’ve spent centuries fighting for personhood! We’d simply like
        our own thoroughly affirmed and appreciated before (being) appropriated.”

        And here this may be a generational thing but I’ve grown up in a place and time where the personhood of the African Americans around me was never questioned and thus I fail to see a need to affirm what has, for me, always been true.

        My perspective comes from the view that the battle for personhood and bringing to awareness the suffering and deaths of untold numbers of dark-skinned human beings are listed under “accomplished”. Having read the pastor’s article, that would likely seem naive to him. My apologies.

        I will continue to fight for the personhood of all human beings – women in oppressive nations, illegal immigrants, unborn children, children victimized by the sex trade – and to deeply appreciate the breadth and depth of their suffering at the hands of fellow human beings.

    • handmadehand

      When the state takes the side of people who believe something that can’t be proven (ie: that there is a god who wants abortion to be illegal) against the rights of people who want to make their own choices about the events taking place in their bodies in the REAL world (and not some fantasy you happen to need to believe in for some personal reason) then the real world person has standing to make that decision and neither you nor the fetus has any choice to make. You don’t because your belief system can’t be proven and the fetus can’t because it probably doesn’t have the equipment to voice any opinion at all nor the cerebral function to coordinate any aspect of this issue. You can love this country all you want to but you don’t get to make these kinds of decisions for anyone but yourself. Other issues are other issues and no one is going to make a doctor do an abortion if they don’t want to do it. That argument on your part is wholesale bullshit, I can’t have respect for someone as full of it as you are and I really don’t give 2 anythings for your opinion of me. Mind your own damn business. There’s nothing to negotiate here. Women get to make up their own minds about their own situations.

      • Suzanne Lehman

        So people who live in the “REAL world” think it’s OK to kill anyone who “doesn’t have the equipment to voice any opinion nor the cerebral function to coordinate” (an opinion) if we find their existence to be inconvenient? Many who have family members living in nursing homes may find that opinion troubling.

        ??? What is your comment about people making doctors do abortions if they don’t want to? I didn’t say anything about that.

        BTW, persons engaging in civil discourse find no need to use words such as bullshit and damn. Here’s my opinion of you anyway: you seem to be a very angry atheist. And I ask you – can you PROVE that there ISN’T a god? Atheism is just as irrational as theism…

      • handmadehand

        It isn’t rational discourse to prohibit abortion. So fuck you.

        It isn’t rational discourse to say that a fetus in the womb is already a person. So fuck you.

        It isn’t rational discourse to pretend that you weren’t making the case about doctors having to perform abortions against their will while using examples of Xians (So, the ultimate democratic question is – how does our nation balance the rights of homosexuals and women desiring abortions against the right to the free exercise of religion without creating “controlling legislation” that uses legislative coercion to enforce the belief that “how the controlling population feels is how everyone else should feel”?), so fuck you.
        It isn’t rational discourse to expect someone to prove the non-existence of god or santa claus, so fuck you.
        And just because William the Conqueror spoke French doesn’t give anyone the right to restrict my use of Anglo-Saxon, so fuck you…. or if you prefer… fornicate you.
        You really are an idiot, and should consider aborting yourself before you spread the disease.
        And yes, I am angry that people as stupid as you think you have the right to make rules for the rest of us. You’re on the losing end of history and don’t get it yet.
        The good news is that it doesn’t matter whether you get it or not, science is right either way.

  • DM

    Before you are allowed to write a column, you really need to get your facts straight. By your description of satan, you prove you don’t have a clue about the Bible and who Christians think satan is. He is in NO WAY equal to God or connected to the TRinity. Before you start accusing me of being a republican, I am a pro-choice born – again Christian democrat who is tired of dems misrepresenting us and accusing us of ridiculous things. We are NOT ignorant sheep who believe every fool thing that comes out of Pat Robertson’s mouth. ( I wouldn’t give you two cents for ANYTHING that comes out of his mouth. So, if you want to be taken seriously and not as another ignorant pseudo journalist, get your facts straight and stop trashing ALL christians for the ignorance of a few. Isn’t that called bigotry???

    • How about before you comment, you learn to read. Is that fair?

  • pthalomarie

    While I think you make good points, i don’t think you’re being fair to pro-lifers here. Mind you, I am passionately pro-choice. But i think it’s important to have a clear picture of the other side that doesn’t get wallowed in ad hominems.

    Let’s start with Rick Warren. You make fun of his religious reasons for being pro-life, but you can’t dance around his point: a group of pro-choicers DID chant Hail Satan. Maybe it was done sarcastically, but it was a stupid thing to do, and no amount of religious hypocrisy on Warren’s part erases the fact that he has a good reason to want to draw attention to this.

    Second, while it’s true that most pro-lifers have religious reasons for their position, let’s be fair: their core argument can be made in secular terms. The question is not whether religion is enough of a reason to justify a pro-life position, it’s whether life begins at conception, and if so, is that life worth saving at all costs. The pro-choice movement only hurts itself by dancing around this point. The fact the pro-life movement on the protestant side is a relatively recent position is historically interesting but ultimately irrelevant. The question is whether their current postion is worth considering.

    Third, while it’s true that Evangelicals and Fundamentalists believe that Satan is powerful, so do most Christians – even most liberal Christians, and certainly most Catholics.

    And finally, while it’s true that John Piper is a loathsome person, there is no inconsistency on his part. Piper’s more infamous quotes indicate that he has a very mechanistic view off God, and that’s the assumption behind his quote: hat God wants is good just because God wants it, and the needs of mere mortals don’t matter.

  • Barvazo

    Wow, this article contains so may errors, distortions and generalizations that it is unfathomable that anyone will lend it any credibility

  • JenniferAnn

    The believers out there may want to take into consideration that the greatest trick that Satan ever pulled was creating religion then convincing the world it is the same as faith.