INTRODUCTION Spring 2021
Carl R. Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution was published last fall to wide conservative acclaim. First Things editor Rusty Reno called it a “profound and lucid book.” Rod Dreher, who wrote the Foreword, said its “significance . . . is hard to overstate.” Our senior editor William Murchison, whose review essay leads this issue, is also full of praise. Trueman’s “justly celebrated study” of “our culture’s contradictions and perplexities,” he writes in “Calling Nonsense by Its Right Name,” is “a searching account of the civilizational crisis before us,” and one that “necessarily provokes the question: What’s going on here, Lord? And what can we do?” On the subject of “what we can do,” however, he detects a certain “pessimism” in the book, which is “much in tune with a current strain of commentary suggesting a great drawing inward among Christians as they perform good works and spread love until the arrival of more fruitful times.” Murchison’s faith in evangelization—as practiced by second-century Christians—should encourage a fruitful debate.
Startled observers are asking “What’s going on here, Lord?” as a rosary-waving president casually consigns Church teaching to the ash heap of his-story. In “Is Joe Biden Only Quasi-Catholic—At Best?” veteran journalist Julia Duin looks at the early months of the new administration “through a Catholic lens,” and most of what she sees isn’t copacetic. Biden “had to have known,” Duin writes, that his “surrender on the Hyde Act” and his proposal to “codify Roe v. Wade . . . in a form of a law that can’t be fiddled with by the Supreme Court” would create discord. And then there’s the Equality Act: “Biden backs it to the hilt.” Which means he backs foisting a transgender curriculum (not just bathrooms) on Catholic schools. Does he think “plunking down a photo of Pope Francis in the Oval Office,” will cancel outspoken clerics like Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who has “told EWTN the president’s soul is ‘in jeopardy’”? Duin, who is not Catholic, does have bracing advice for would-be wobbly prelates: “Speak truth to power,” she tells them. “Being prophetic to the Biden administration may cost the Church . . . that’s when the world will begin to listen.”
Catholic bishops could take a lesson in speaking truth to power from David Daleiden, who, writes Alexandra DeSanctis in our next article, has “weathered a half-decade of legal battles” for exposing Planned Parenthood’s illegal profiteering in fetal body parts, while “not a single Planned Parenthood official or affiliate has been held legally responsible for any wrongdoing uncovered.” In “Big Abortion v. David Daleiden,” DeSanctis—a staff writer at National Review and among the most assiduous reporters of her millennial generation—lays out the whole story: from the gruesomeness of Daleiden’s secretly filmed videos, to the initial public outrage and calls for congressional investigations, to the deceitful (yet successful) campaign by Planned Parenthood and its media allies to discredit and censor the damning footage, to the raid on Daleiden’s apartment ordered by then California District Attorney Kamala Harris and the subsequent legal proceedings brought against him. “At stake for the pro-life journalist,” DeSanctis reports, “is more than $14 million in damages and fees, as well as the possibility of prison time in the state of California.”
The abortion industry is nothing if not audacious. Those horrific tapes you saw with your own eyes? “Deceptively edited,” its defenders cry, long and loud enough for their false messaging to convince an uninformed public susceptible to media bullying. Recently, as the Supreme Court added another conservative justice and several states passed “personhood” or “heartbeat” bills, abortionists have revived their decades-old lie that “reversing the 1973 Roe and Doe Supreme Court decisions would make women subject to prosecution for murder and/or homicide not only for undergoing an illegal abortion or self-aborting, but also for using the contraceptive pill or IUD or suffering a spontaneous miscarriage.” And “while nothing in the public record before the Roe decision supports such outlandish claims,” continues Robert G. Marshall in “Lies That Keep Abortion Legal,” it is necessary that “these contrived objections . . . be addressed.” Which the former longtime Virginia state legislator does here with the precision of one well-schooled in the reach of abortion law—and the limits of prosecutorial power.
“What About Pro-choice?” is Lyle Strathman’s second essay for us, and once again the retired engineer explores the foreign land of . . . logic. Roe v. Wade, he begins, transformed the “heretofore intelligibly ordained and unalienable social standards by which Americans lived” into a landscape where “the line between right and wrong, true and false, real and imaginary, fact and fiction became blurred and indistinguishable.” It also “gave impetus to the pro-choice movement,” which “denies its adherents are pro-abortion but supports an individual’s right to choose abortion.” Three questions follow: “Is pro-choice a reaction to the blurring of social standards? Is pro-choice indifference, or maybe ignorance? Or, is pro-choice a false pretense to assure the retention of legalized abortions?” Seeking answers, Strathman revisits three other eras (the enslavement of blacks, the expulsion of Native Americans, the Nazi genocide) when free citizens had the option of recognizing the personhood of all human beings—and chose not to do so. How different were their reasons from ours?
Nearly fifty years after Roe, lines between fact and fiction are indeed indistinguishable, even in science. Abortion über alles could be our national anthem; as Strathman observes, “it seems we unconsciously become psychologically permeated with and receptive to the ‘social noise’ of the environment in which we live.” How else to explain a physician’s response when asked why “prior abortion history [was] not being considered as a relevant variable in the quest to reduce future infant mortality incidents”? His answer: “Abortion is a safe medical procedure that has no bearing on infant mortality.” But of course, it does, as Denise Leipold and Raymond Adamek painstakingly demonstrate in “Ignoring Surgical Abortion’s Effect on Infant Morality in Ohio.” Leipold is executive director of Right to Life of Northeast Ohio, Adamek, emeritus professor of sociology at Kent State University. That abortion is implicated in higher rates of infant mortality—especially in the black community—is a fact borne out by their research. Alas, the sorry implication of their article is that members of the science community today are “following the fiction.”
Laura Kaplan’s The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service, first published in 1995 and reissued in 2019 by the University of Chicago Press, “is not hagiography,” writes historian Jason Morgan in our final essay. “It is history, a semi-firsthand account of how a group of women arrived at an enhanced awareness of their political position in the 1960s and early 1970s and decided to put that awareness into action by vivisecting more than ten thousand children.” Kaplan, he observes in “The Story of Jane Redux,” provides “a sobering glimpse into the cold reality of the abortion business” as its model was being developed in the years before Roe v. Wade: “The logical fallacies, the underworld criminality, the lust for transgression, the contempt for in utero life, the destruction of the social fabric that ensues when women begin to prey on their own offspring—all of it is right here.” And this, Morgan concludes, makes The Story of Jane “perhaps the most pro-life book ever written in the United States,” because it proves, in spite of itself, “the truth of all the horror stories that prolifers have been trying to tell the world” for nearly half a century.
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When Plough Publishing House sent me a copy of Freiheit: The White Rose Graphic Novel, about brave German students who attempted to turn their country away from Nazism, I was skeptical about reviewing it here. But then I thought, even those who might not resonate with the genre would appreciate Freiheit’s potential for educating and inspiring those who do, especially the young. As Ellen Wilson Fielding writes in her insightful review, the Italian artist and author Andrea Grosso Ciponte “dramatizes the personalities, actions, and ideals of the central figures of this doomed resistance movement in a way likely to draw young people and stoke in them a similar fire to wage the moral battles of our own day.” This edition of Booknotes also includes John Grondelski’s take on two books that address today’s “moral battles” from a Protestant perspective: In Help Her to Be Brave, Amy Ford shares the “church-centered program” she created to help all prolifers “encourage women with unplanned pregnancies to make the same life-saving decision she did.” Wayne Grudem’s What the Bible Says about Abortion, Euthanasia and End-of-Life Decisions provides “the person in the pew who might not be pro-life or perhaps is pro-life but unable to articulate why” with “easy to comprehend” Christian pro-life arguments. From the HLR Website features two columns by two familiar contributors: Diane Moriarty’s “Pepé Le Cuomo” and Joe Bissonnette’s “Elon Musk, Progress, and Common-Sense Realism.” Another Review contributor, Anne Hendershott, has just published a new book, The Politics of Envy, from which we reprint an extended excerpt on the dangers of envy-driven social media in Appendix A. And we close this issue with Maria McFadden Maffucci’s National Review Online column blasting Andrew Cuomo for his pandemic policy on group homes—the same disastrous one that led to thousands of nursing home deaths. At this writing, it’s being reported that Cuomo is now leading weekly Covid-19 calls with the White House and the nation’s governors, a role Mike Pence played in the last administration. Where’s Kamala Harris? Again, “What’s going on here, Lord”?