Below is the comment written by Bishop Taylor together with my letter to the good Bishop whose position on abortion is quite correct. My argument is about his use of King and Lee as examples of both sides of this issue.
Out of the horror of abortion, redemption can come
Published: January 23, 2010
By Bishop Anthony B. Taylor
Can you imagine my astonishment upon learning that here in Arkansas we celebrate Robert E. Lee’s birthday this weekend, in addition to that of Dr. Martin Luther King’s? Why in the world would we ever want to do that? Can you imagine how many lives were lost because he took up arms against the United States in a Civil War on the side of those who sought to keep millions of people in bondage?
Part of Dr. King’s true greatness lies in the fact that he used non-violent means to confront the very evils that General Lee had fought so hard to preserve! His only weapons were faith, hope and love — in the form of marches, boycotts, civil disobedience and eloquent speeches. General Lee may have had many good qualities and can only be judged in the context of the world he lived in, but the bottom line is that his efforts served to promote the culture of death while Dr. King promoted the culture of life — which is what we are gathered here to do today, especially regarding the evil of abortion which was still illegal when I was in high school and so that’s what I’d like to talk about today.
When I was in high school I remember there was a girl who disappeared — except we all knew where she was. She had gone to live with relatives in Kansas because she was pregnant out of wedlock. My impression is that she went there willingly and gave her baby up for adoption willingly — but I don’t know for sure. In those days, girls pregnant out of wedlock were often treated very badly, shamed even by their own families and
this often left them scarred for life. In any event, once the baby was born and adopted, she returned as if nothing had happened — but of course it had! She was changed. She had given that baby life and had entrusted him to adoptive parents who could give him a future. She did the right thing, the courageous thing, in a very hard situation and we all knew it, so why didn’t we stop people from talking about her?
There were other girls in my high school who got pregnant and went to Kansas for another reason — there was a "doctor" there who would do abortions. I graduated in 1972, a year before Roe v. Wade. They did so in part because they too wanted to spare themselves and their families embarrassment, but of course there was no keeping a secret in a town like ours. We knew who those girls were — some, in fact, were from prominent families. In some cases, the misogyny these girls faced felt overwhelming and never having been in their shoes, I can only imagine the terror they felt, but I am quite aware that abortion is an evil begotten in the evil of misogyny — but sadly, the "choice" offered (often by a girl’s own family) when she feels she has no other choice than to kill her baby is no true choice at all, and simply reinforces the very same misogyny that brought it into being. In any event, once their baby was aborted, they returned as if nothing had happened — but of course it had. They too were changed — deformed. They had done the wrong thing and they knew it. And now they had a wound in their soul that just would not heal. We knew this too, but didn’t know what to say. After all, it was supposed to be a big secret. Moreover, what they had done was still illegal.
For me as a high school student, both of these events were epiphanies, events that put everything else in a different light. I don’t think less of the girl who went to Kansas to have her baby because of the all-too-human predicament she found herself in. Quite the contrary, I admire her and her parents all the more for choosing life in the face of difficult circumstances, including gossip. But the story of the girls who went to Kansas for abortions was for me an epiphany too, a sad epiphany, because of the sad truth that it reveals especially about their parents, who were in fact the ones who pushed these girls to kill the babies that were, by the way, their grandchildren.
There are three major epiphanies of Jesus which we celebrate on the first three Sundays of the calendar year: the visit of the Magi, his baptism by John the Baptist and in today’s Gospel, changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Through these epiphanies, God reveals secrets that put Jesus in a whole new light: He is our king and Savior, the Son of God send by the Father to establish his kingdom and bring us abundant life.
This week is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The prevalence of abortion is a horrific epiphany that gives us a glimpse into the mortally ill state of our nation’s soul — more than 4,600 people killed intentionally each day. Frightened women deserve our compassion and help, not encouragement to kill wrapped in fancy words about choice and personal autonomy.
Prior to 1973 we lived in a country that protected children with laws prohibiting abortion — giving people legal incentives to do the right thing, despite whatever predicament they were in. But now our laws give people incentives to do the wrong thing. Most of those who get abortions do not intend murder, they’re just scared and it’s easy to be seduced into thinking that since it’s legal it can’t be all that bad. But it is. Every abortion leaves one dead and one wounded: both are victims. The child is dead and the mother has been violated, scarred for life.
But one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen is the way God can make remorse redemptive. I am touched to the heart whenever I see women who have been there and chosen death now reach out with comfort and acceptance to girls who today are now in the same predicament they once faced, often sharing their deepest and most painful secrets in an effort to help them choose life. This self-sacrificing help is an epiphany too, a beautiful glimpse into a heart that has begun to heal and grow. One more miracle of redemption, the victory of life over sin and death. Longinus, the soldier whose lance pierced the side of Jesus on the cross, went on to repent and become a saint. Many of those who today have participated in the killing of the innocent have also repented and are now on the road to becoming saints as well. And for them we rejoice!
What about us? That girl in my class was fortunate to have parents who supported her and an aunt in Kansas who took her in and helped her give life when all she could see was darkness. How we respond to those in need is very revealing, both on the individual level and in the decisions of our government — for instance now, how important it is to do all in our power to make sure that our much needed health care reform exclude government or employer mandated funding for abortion and that it include conscience protection for health care providers, plans and employers. Genuine health care reform must be affordable and must protect the life, dignity, conscience and health of all, especially the poor and vulnerable — including immigrants. And I very much encourage you to contact our legislators and let them know that your support depends on the bill not advancing a pro-abortion agenda in any way.
Our nation’s effort at health care reform is itself an epiphany of sorts because it reveals the state of our nation’s soul, whether we are aligned with the culture of life like Dr. King or aligned with the culture of death, like General Lee.
M. Rev. Anthony Taylor
Bishop of Little Rock
February 2nd, 2010
M. Rev. Anthony Taylor
Diocese of Little Rock
P. O. Box 7565
Little Rock, Arkansas 72217
Dear Bishop Taylor:
I have read your comment of January 23rd and take serious issue with at least some of your conclusions. Regarding the assault on life and the present culture of death I am in total agreement. I and my husband, a Deacon in the Orthodox Church in America, have a pro-life ministry, Orthodox Christians for Life. So you can see that we agree totally on the immorality and tragedy of abortion and other assaults on innocent human life in today’s “culture of death”.
However, you go on to contrast the Rev. Martin Luther King and General Robert E. Lee – to General Lee’s disadvantage. In that, sir, you are totally wrong. I will not address Dr. King other than to say that, like Abraham Lincoln, the man’s legend bears little resemblance to the facts of his life, facts which are available to those who prefer verity to fantasy. Also, like Lincoln, King was a fine orator with a gift for words but often those words did not translate into reality. Indeed, often they were diametric to his private utterances; again, this is easily verifiable. However, if, in fact, Dr. King believed his call for a society based upon character rather than color, it is hard to understand how his intimate disciple, the “Reverend” Jesse Jackson has built a career – and a fortune – from selling the “black community” a mindset which is the exact opposite of that principle, to wit: a society based entirely upon race and the cult of victimization and entitlement.
But let us assume the best about Dr. King since it is hard to do otherwise and not lose all credibility whatever the facts of the matter. Let us look instead at your conclusions about Robert E. Lee. To begin with, Lee was a soldier and that alone would make him a “purveyor”, if you will, of a very different culture. Soldiers kill; it is what they do. On the other hand, soldiers also save and lay down their own lives in defense of their nation and their people. Without soldiers, civilians and their culture will not long endure in the face of their enemies. So from the beginning, your contrast of King and Lee is unjust. How can one demand the same “Christian lifestyle” from a “minister of the Gospel” and a “soldier” at least with regard to their duty to society?
However, with regard to their individual characters, I will state unequivocally that, based upon the known facts, Lee was by virtue of his personal morality the far better “Christian” notwithstanding his profession. The simple fact is that soaring rhetoric is not necessarily indicative of good character neither does a splendid “public persona” characterize nobility. Surely our own Church teaches that in the history of Arianism wherein Arian – the heretic – is handsome and glib while Athanasius – Athanasius contra mundi – is ugly and utterly lacking in charm. But we all know which one was right and which wrong though the outward manifestations of both men did cause the ignorant and weak-minded to embrace the candidate who looked and sounded like a “celebrity” rather than the one who was in fact inspired by the Holy Spirit.
You use the issue of slavery to condemn Lee and praise King, but Lee did not fight for slavery. In fact, the War of Secession was not fought over slavery – and that is very easily proven. I would ask you to research the original 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the Corwin Amendment. This amendment offered (and some say authored) by Abraham Lincoln to the States of the South prior to the outbreak of war would have guaranteed slavery in perpetuity within the Constitution. Indeed, it was only the second amendment to that document that contained within it a guarantee that it could not be revoked at a later date. So if in fact, the war was about slavery, it need never have been fought and the South need never have seceded. It could have kept slavery for all time had it wished to do so. But obviously, Lincoln’s offer was rejected and to prevent thirteen states from exercising their constitutional right to secession, the newly elected President waged immoral and unconstitutional war against people that he himself had declared were “Americans”.
As to the place of Lee in all of this, I will say that he was offered command of the Union forces but refused to wage war upon his State and his People though he did not support secession. Forced to choose, he reluctantly offered his sword to Virginia where he served under Gen. Joseph Johnston until Johnston was wounded and command passed to him. From that time until the end, Lee waged a “gentleman’s war” far, far different from the “total war” waged upon the people of the South – men, women and children – by their Northern enemy – but that is an issue for another time if in fact you are interested in “justice” being rendered in history. Lee did not fight for slavery, but to defend his home. However, even in its defense, he never engaged in the type of atrocities inflicted by the North upon the South. Lee stated that the war was not about slavery and he was right as the Corwin Amendment clearly demonstrates. Lee’s treatment of blacks was enlightened and kindly despite revisionist attempts to tarnish his name. Indeed, Booker T. Washington, America’s great Black-American Educator wrote in 1910, “The first white people in America, certainly the first in the South to exhibit their interest in the reaching of the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of the Sunday-school were Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.” Frankly, under the circumstances, I cannot imagine an intelligent person who would not believe Booker T. Washington, a black man who spoke from personal experience.
Sir, you do ill to try to illustrate the evils of abortion and other assaults on innocent life taking place in the present culture by using Martin Luther King and Robert Edward Lee as examples of a dichotomy of reactions – that is, King for Life and Lee for Death. Truthfully and in fact, it just won’t wash. I cannot with certain knowledge deny King’s sincerity in desiring a “color-blind” society though his “off the record” comments certainly call that contention into question. Of course, if he was sincere, he must be very disappointed by the direction in which the present “civil rights movement” is proceeding led by those who use his name as a talisman to prop up continuing racial unrest. On the other hand, there is more than sufficient proven facts and testimonies on the life of Robert E. Lee to know that he was a great man. More importantly, he was a good man who lived a true Christian life. Did he make mistakes? Certainly, but fighting for his home against violent aggression and tyranny was not one of them.
I wish you well in your efforts to re-establish respect for human life and an end to the war upon the weak and the helpless in this culture. But even the best of motives is ill served by using examples based upon ignorance and falsehood. By all means, illustrate the best in people whether it be Dr. King or Gen. Lee. Good causes need fine symbols. But beware of allowing the current fallacious “politically correct” interpretation of “history” to be your guide. It can only lead to utterances that are not only demonstrably wrong, but self-defeating.
Wishing you God’s choicest blessings, I remain
Very truly yours,