As I start, I’d like to reiterate why I’m pursuing this multi-part analysis of the “Immediatist vs Incrementalist” debate between Abolish Human Abortion’s T. Russell Hunter and Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s Gregg Cunningham.
In a comment to my Part II post, an antagonized Hunter called my efforts a “freaked out obsession,” to which I responded:
My “freaked out obsession” is what I knew you knew but what you admitted 3x in the debate: that incrementalist pro-life advances save children’s lives. Yet you blow those children off. This is utterly unfathomable, loathsome, and ghastly to me. My “freaked out obsession” is for those children. They’re abstract collateral nothings to you. They’re not abstract to me.
The debate exposed Hunter’s admitted betrayal of preborn children being slaughtered by abortion today. This while Hunter has the chutzpah to claim moral superiority over those trying to save them and then inexplicably press to block their efforts.
Sound crazy? There’s more. Also exposed during the debate were the half-baked theories and accusations by which Russell makes his contradictory claims. It is these I’m dissecting in these posts for those with ears to hear.
Hunter’s most glaring error, and the collapsing foundation of his immediatist house of cards, was his revisionist history of social justice movements, absurdly claiming such leaders as William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr., were immediatists.
Hunter’s flaw was in quoting their writings, which indeed expressed an absolutist moral view against slavery and segregation, but ignoring their work, which demonstrated an incremental approach.
I’ve pulled excerpts on the topic of social justice history from the debate into a video, below. In it Cunningham corrects Hunter on his fraudulent portrayal of social justice history.
Most telling is from 10:02 on, during Q&A, when Hunter first agrees with Cunningham that Wilberforce was not behaving immorally when supporting incrementalist legislation to redesign slave ships, an obvious attempt to slow down the slave trade.
So, Cunningham queries, why is it immoral for incrementalists to apply the same logic, such as with abortion clinic regulations? Watch Hunter squirm and go on to contradict himself by saying Wilberforce was wrong to engage in incrementalism…
(If you want to skip the video and just read the cliff notes, see Klusendorf’s post.)
There are innumerable examples throughout history of good people saving the lives of victims of oppression how they could, when they could – from Christians who rescued babies from infanticide during the days of the Roman Empire; to the Underground Railroad; to officers on the Titanic choosing women and children first to board the short supply of lifeboats; to daring efforts by such heroes as Schindler, Sendler and ten Boom to save Jews from the Nazis.
Noted Scott Klusendorf of Life Training Institute in his debate analysis:
Puzzling to me was Hunter’s claim that Lincoln never acknowledged incrementalism as a solution to slavery. Really? No less than Frederick Douglass had a different take, as Princeton Professor Robert George points out:
“Of course, politics is the art of the possible. And, as Frederick Douglass reminded us in his tribute to Lincoln, public opinion and other constraints sometimes limit what can be done at the moment to advance any just cause.”
Applied to abortion, George continues:
“The pro-life movement has in recent years settled on an incrementalist strategy for protecting nascent human life. So long as incrementalism is not a euphemism for surrender or neglect, it can be entirely honorable. Planting premises in the law whose logic demands, in the end, full respect for all members of the human family can be a valuable thing to do, even where those premises seem modest. Fully just law would protect all innocent human life. Yet sometimes this is not, or not yet, possible in the concrete political circumstances of the moment.”
Hunter’s reply was that pro-life incrementalists don’t trust the power of the risen Lord and thus don’t embrace immediatism. But wait. If Hunter truly believes the power of the risen Lord enables us to end abortion immediately, why wait for us?
Good question, which I’ll focus on in my next obsessed installment, “‘Immediatist vs Incrementalist’ debate analysis, Part IV: Straw men and the Bible.”
I think Jonathon Van Maren of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform captured it in his comment on the debate:
In my analysis, Hunter is simply someone who started reading some abolitionist literature, and then began announcing that he’d rediscovered something about them and that he’d identified uniform trends across the board and throughout history before doing nearly enough reading or research.
As his historical case has steadily come apart under the weight of historical details he either ignored or just didn’t read, he increasingly cloaks his position in religious language in order to stave of criticism. It’s why his response to historical critique general takes the form of religious accusation or a pivot back to the immediatist argument.
Hunter must know by now – or perhaps he really is that simplistic – that his ideology is his own, not some revival of universal abolitionist views. But he’s gone too far down the road to start being nuanced or well researched now – and he’s convinced a lot of people that he’s some sort of prophet.
Keep the channel on. The train wreck is inevitable.