What We Refuse to Know
So they answered Jesus, “We do not know” (Mark 11:33).
Sometimes we don’t know things because we don’t know them. Sometimes we don’t know things because we don’t want to know them. Sometimes we trifle with the things that we should take most seriously.
The Pharisees ask Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things?”—things like riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (implicitly declaring he is a king), or driving moneychangers out the temple. Jesus agrees to tell them, if they will answer a simple question: Is John the Baptist a prophet from God? Good question. The Pharisees have two options. They can say No, in which case they will have a problem with the people who believe John; or they can say Yes, setting themselves up for having to explain why they don’t believe what John said about Jesus. So they say they don’t know. In so doing, they reveal that they are fundamentally unserious. They don’t really want to know the answer to their own question. They don’t really want to know by what authority Jesus does these things. They just want to be rid of him. In other words, they have already decided.
Let’s pose a different question. Is a fetus a child?
One would suppose that, given the pervasive legal practice of abortion on demand in our country for over 40 years, we would require an answer to that question, lest we sanction the killing of children. Not so. In fact, we have decided that the question doesn’t matter. Two examples. Confronted with the question, the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade declared,
We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.
Embedded in this scholarly and modest-sounding language is a plain answer: “We don’t know!” Following suit, when asked a question concerning when an unborn child is granted human rights, our president replied that such knowledge was “above my pay grade”—a rather flip way of saying, “I don’t know!”
Of course, the question of whether a fetus is a child gives us two options as well. A “no” answer runs against science and common sense, and would certainly provoke the public and make plain the intent of those who promote abortion. A “yes” answer, well . . . that would shut down the whole operation. Better to avoid both. “We don’t know” works better. It sounds modest, and gets abortion advocates what they want.
Interesting times we live in. We expect a man backing out of his driveway to look behind him to make sure there are no children playing behind the car, and may charge him with homicide if he does not. We expect him to know. We demand certainty from policemen and soldiers that a potential criminal or enemy exhibits “hostile intent” before they are allowed to engage with force. Yet we demand no certainty that the 1.2 million children we allow to be killed annually are not actually children. Our whole legally sanctioned apparatus that has allowed the killing of over 50 million children over the last 43 years is, in the end, based upon “We don’t know!”
Apparently the question does not matter. And because it doesn’t, we see that there is something fundamentally deceptive about the abortion rights movement. When questions like this are simply avoided, “we don’t know” becomes a cover for “we don’t care.” As Aldous Huxley wisely observed, “Most ignorance is vincible ignorance—we don’t know because we don’t want to know.” Because we have already decided.
This post originally appeared in May of 2016