Spread The Word To End The Word?
Lucy and Kali, students at the University of Florida, were friendly enough when I approached their table display that included a petition and t-shirts & stickers, which read, “Ban The ‘R’ Word” and “Spread The Word To End The Word.” The word in their crosshairs was the word, “retarded.” I was on their campus with Created Equal’s week long Justice Ride to Florida universities for the purpose of engaging students like Lucy and Kali on the subject of abortion.
They seemed pleased when I showed interest by asking, “Can you tell me about your campaign?” Elaborating on the pain inflicted by the use of the hurtful “R word”, they spoke of their goal to convince the world to stop using it, recommending the more sensitive label, “intellectually disabled.” After listening carefully to their concern and asking clarifying questions, I offered that I was the father of a daughter who is, as they say, “intellectually disabled.” This seemed to buy me a good deal of credibility so I took the opportunity to explain that I had come to their campus to express a similar burden; namely, that we as a society actually kill “intellectually disabled” persons (and others) by abortion.
As we spoke I discovered that they considered themselves “pro-choice” and that they supported the practice of aborting the very people they want to protect from name-calling. This wasn’t a big surprise since this kind of moral confusion is widespread on college campuses. As noted English journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge, once quipped, “We have educated ourselves into imbecility.” I don’t quote him here to be unkind. Lucy and Kali were gentle-spirited and otherwise bright young ladies. Yet here they were, justifying the legalized killing of the very people they were hoping to shield from offensive words.
We spoke for nearly 30 minutes during which time I attempted to help expand the borders of their compassion by focusing on the nature of the preborn and the question, “What makes humans valuable?” At one point I referenced the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” To the delight of these young crusaders, I pointed out that this rhyme ignores the fact that some words do hurt, and badly. But I also pointed out what should be obvious to all; “sticks and stones” can impose an even greater injustice, especially when the “sticks and stones” represent the abortionist’s suction machine, causing a child’s death.
As I continued to make my case and to respond to their objections Kali eventually ran out of arguments and conveniently found another passerby to speak with, leaving me with Lucy, who was more open. The longer we spoke the more uncomfortable she became. I got the distinct impression that she was hearing the case for life for the first time and was realizing the inconsistency of her position – a position that condemned calling people names just because they have an intellectual disability but at the same time defended brutally killing them for the same reason.
Lucy finally conceded that her position was inconsistent, but stated defiantly, “And I’m OK with that.” But it was clear that Lucy was not OK with it. She was visibly troubled by her contradictory view and it appeared her heart was being changed. As Christian apologist, Greg Koukl, wisely points out, “Arguments are not generally won on the spot.” Indeed, human pride is a thick wall that often takes time to come down. Lucy just needed some time. As we ended the conversation I thanked her for the cordial conversation and encouraged her to give more thought to my challenge. She promised she would.