In a culture of Facebook self-worship, in which increasingly isolated individuals who crave community share everything about themselves, we have passed a new “milestone,” that of the “selfie” abortion video. Meet Emily Letts (Caution: While not overly graphic, the YouTube video is troubling), an abortion counselor who decided to film her abortion “experience” to demonstrate in her words, “that there is such a thing as a positive abortion story,” so that, “I can share my story and inspire other women to stop the guilt.” Throughout the video and the interview in the notoriously sordid check-out aisle magazine Cosmopolitan, Letts seems most obsessed in particular with this guilt aspect, since as one who works in a clinic, she sees guilt on a daily basis. She makes statements such as “I know there are women who feel great remorse. I have seen the tears. Grieving is an important part of a woman’s process,” and “Even women who come to the clinic completely solid in their decision to have an abortion say they feel guilty for not feeling guilty.” This is okay for her because she “(doesn’t) feel like a bad person. I don’t feel sad. I feel in awe of the fact that I can make a baby. I can make a life. I knew that what I was going to do was right, ’cause it was right for me and no one else. I just want to share my story.”
In the words of Reformed Baptist Al Mohler, “Emily giveth, and Emily taketh away.” While reactions to the video and interview have been overwhelmingly negative, should we honestly be shocked that this has happened? In a culture in which we are told that we are all autonomous individuals who make our own decisions, including deciding morality and truth for ourselves, why this hasn’t happened sooner is the real question. (For good commentary on this incident, see this piece by Al Mohler, and this post by Ben Domenech. For a great compassionate call to Ms. Letts, see “My Abortion Story: An Open Letter to Emily Letts” by Garrett Kell.)
What sort of culture gives birth to this sort of thinking and “experiences” while denying the births of other human beings? The answer is the lie of the autonomous self. The ability to choose one’s own reality, one’s own truth, and one’s own morality is sacred. This allows us to have an increasingly large laundry list of “rights” in which, “as long as I don’t hurt anyone,” or “as long as there is consent,” I can do whatever I want. I can personally oppose something as long as I keep it private, but any sort of attempt to assert a universal truth or moral is automatically “imposing your beliefs on others,” i.e., a violation of my rights to do and feel whatever I want. It damgages my “self-esteem” and my “self-worth.” And if you dare oppose this, you are of course “judgmental,” or “oppressive,” or (gasp) an orthodox Christian! In fact, many would actually define freedom as something like “The ability to decide whatever I want for myself in order to feel self-fulfilled.” A better working definition of freedom would perhaps be, “the ability to know and pursue the good,” but this would assume we know what good is, and that it is worth pursuing. Augustine was absolutely correct when he said that the natural tendency of man without God is to “curve inward on oneself.”
Yet human beings are NOT by nature autonomous individuals. We crave a sense of community and belonging. Before the rise of the utopian democratic egalitarian state, most found this sense of community in the family, the local community, the local church, and perhaps other common cultural phenomenon (such as music, language, literature, feast days, etc…). However, the combination of the autonomous self and the utopian secular democratic state of have made community virtually impossible to find, unless you can agree with the mob and join the latest sacred cause, and even then, the “community” found here is little better than an organized mob. I believe that Emily Letts, deep down, not only craves community and a sense of belonging, hence the video “selife,” but also knows that there is something spiritually amiss. There are real things such as guilt, and shame, and conversely, honor and truth. Denial for the sake of self-congratulations will not change this, and posting videos and lobbying the government for “rights,” will not change this. Only a knowledge of God’s perfect law and God’s sweet gospel can accomplish such a miracle. So pray for people like Emily, and pray for our culture that sacrifices people for the sake of the freedom of the self.