A bad joke reveals the moral abyss in our midst

In the summer of 2015, National Right to Life held its three-day annual convention in New Orleans.

The news coming out of that conference was rich in hope – the millennial generation, the young church and scientists using 4D technology that showed more clearly the humanity of the unborn child were leading the charge against more than 40 years of cultural headwinds that enshrined individual “freedom” as the gold standard when assessing which rights are inalienable or not.

One of the things I wasn’t expecting to hear was the extent to which the pro-abortion lobby had shifted its public relation tactics. Instead of grudgingly acknowledging that abortion, on its own “merits,” was not a public “good” – in other words, something that needed to be “safe, legal and rare” – abortion proponents had shifted their PR push to view abortion as safe, legal and “normal,” the settled law of the land.

Case closed. Pass the Brie and the Chablis.

That surprising revelation hit home late last month when comedian Michelle Wolf, whose behavior ought to chill the conscience of any right-thinking person, castigated Vice President Mike Pence at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner for his beliefs that babies in the womb should be given at least as much protection as baby seals or the fragile eggs of bald eagles.

So Wolf tossed out her stream of consciousness: “He thinks abortion is murder, which, first of all, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. And when you do try it, really knock it, you know. You gotta get that baby out of there.”

It is difficult to imagine the  Mengele mentality manifested by such a statement, which, if you listen closely to the videotape, elicited a few nervous laughs but more than a few murmurs from a home-team crowd that basically has accepted the abortion license as a done deal.

Essentially, the uncomfortable atmosphere in the room was precisely because Wolf dared to give voice to the next logical step: if there is no objective truth, if there is no natural law governing the good or evil of an act, then absolutely anything is possible, and we might as well have a laugh and a drink.

What Wolf was calling for was the social “good” of knocking an unborn child out of the womb through poison and dismemberment. After all, the Supreme Court granted that right in 1973. After all, it is such settled law that abortion can become a cheap joke playing well at the high altar of ideology over scientific, medical and moral truth.

So who is out of touch here? The average American who believes the unborn child deserves more protection or the cultural elite who jokes about the killing of children?

Los Angeles Bishop Robert Barron, the Archbishop Sheen of the 21st century, says the joke exposes the degree to which the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche has taken hold in the West.

“Nietzsche held that traditional moral values have been exposed as ungrounded and that humanity is summoned to move, accordingly, into a previously unexplored space ‘beyond good and evil,’” Bishop Barron wrote.

When there are no rules for good and evil in such a “morally unmoored universe,” a “superman” emerges “to assert his power and impose his rule on those around him,” Bishop Barron says.

“When we live in the space beyond good and evil, when morality is construed as entirely the invention of personal freedom, when nothing counts as intrinsically wicked, when any claim to moral authority is automatically shouted down – in other words, when we live in the world that Nietzsche made possible – then the will of the most powerful necessarily holds sway.”

Unbridled power can kill.

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

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