There is this sleepy news from the local newspaper of my hometown. In the ballroom of a ritzy resort where I thrice worked a summer job in college (and met my future wife), Focus on Life featured activist, blogger and speaker Jill Stanek says of her organization’s endeavor,
This is our holocaust. This is our civil war.
But then the piece goes on to suggest on Stanek’s good faith behalf that “those who decry abortion cannot be effective witnesses if they fear talking or being labeled as extremists.”
What seems to be the clear sub-text here is that the charge of extremism is unfair. But I guess I don’t understand. If one thinks it uncharitable “being labeled as extremist,” then why would one also freely employ the incendiary and extreme rhetoric of “holocaust” and “civil war”? In other words, if one doesn’t want to be construed an extremist, perhaps one ought not speak like one? It seems like one should either acknowledge how what one is saying could be interpreted as extreme and accept it, or, if one doesn’t like how one’s message puts one at diametric opposition then one should tamp down the rhetoric. Given how lifers conceive of their task as analogous to beating back a holocaust, I would think the first option the best. And if Stanek is trying to encourage the troops against the fear of being rendered extreme, it isn’t clear to me how her language is helping things.
I understand lifers feel strongly about their worldview and subsequent politics. And I understand it can be rather tempting to link up one’s political project to compelling historical events in order to nurture a sense of being on the right side of righteousness. What I don’t usually grasp very well is how some think charity demands they be free of certain characterizations when their own cavalier speech so precisely nurtures it.
It is true that to utter something like the Apostle’s Creed is extreme. To confess exclusive devotion to a man who himself claimed things wild enough to get him killed is by extension rather, well, radical. But a cultic devotion which confesses things unto a crowd-jeering death seems altogether different from a cultural speech that references Bible verses and declares to crowd-pleased applause, as Stanek did, “I’m on the winning side.” It would seem that an intolerant Christianity has a different notion of winning than an extreme tradition of men.