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The Reactionary Utopian (classic)
July 29, 2014

Who’s Self-Righteous?
A classic by Joseph Sobran
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[CLASSIC] —The pro-life movement is often accused of being “self-righteous.” This word is rarely defined, and it’s rarely directed at advocates of abortion and homosexuality.

Why is this? No doubt some pro-lifers are self-righteous, but is it fair to suggest that all of them are? Do they hold a monopoly of this vice? Is self-righteousness somehow intrinsic to their position? Aren’t their opponents ever guilty of it too?


The real zealots and fanatics these days are those who insist that abortion and sexual indulgence are “rights.” They make their own lusts and self-interests the only measure of right and wrong; they recognize no standard above themselves.

 

 

Any fair observer would have to admit that such terms as “self-righteous,” “zealot,” and “extremist” are applied rather one-sidedly these days. The way these words are used in the media begs the whole question of which side is right in the heated debates over social issues.

If a human fetus deserves legal protection against abortion, there is nothing inherently “self-righteous” about trying to defend
it. When we try to protect innocent life from wanton killing, we are only doing our duty. Even if we are mistaken about our duty, there is nothing priggish or holier-than-thou about trying to perform it.

The truth is that pro-lifers are, by and large, the very opposite of self-righteous. On the contrary, they know they are sinners, like
everyone else. They expect to be judged by God’s law, against which they fall short. That’s why they pray for mercy.


True tolerance has never been more urgent than in an age when killing has been made so convenient.

 

 

True self-righteousness consists in denying your tendency to sin. The person who rejects a higher law than his own appetite or desire, and who condemns those who uphold a higher law, is selfrighteous in the deepest sense.

The real zealots and fanatics these days are those who insist that abortion and sexual indulgence are “rights.” They make their own lusts and self-interests the only measure of right and wrong; they recognize no standard above themselves. They call even the violent killing of an unwanted child a “right.”

This is perversely called the “liberal” position, and those who reject it are condemned as “intolerant.” Yet what could be more
intolerant than denying the most basic right of your own flesh and blood — the very right to live?

Even as modern science has deepened our understanding of the delicate and complex humanity of the unborn, modern technology
has given us new methods of destroying life in the womb that should shelter and nourish it — just as modern physics has taught us the mysteries of the atom, but has also enabled us to fashion terrible weapons of mass murder. Modern man has perverted his own greatest discoveries. True tolerance has never been more urgent than in an age when killing has been made so convenient.


The apostles of the New Morality expect the rest of us to abandon a moral code thousands
of years old, to ignore our own consciences, and to submit to a new fashion we find not only repugnant but impossible.

 

 

The apostles of abortion and “gay rights” show very little tolerance of their opponents. They are unreasoningly angry that they face
any opposition at all, and they ascribe all resistance to their demands to “bigotry.” In fact they feel such a lugubrious sense of victimhood that they feel victimized by those who refuse to honor their claims of victimization!

But if anything is bigoted, it’s the denial that disagreement with your own position can be legitimate. This is especially true when
your position flies in the face of an ancient tradition. The apostles of the New Morality expect the rest of us to abandon a moral code thousands of years old, to ignore our own consciences, and to submit to
a new fashion we find not only repugnant but impossible. Abortion and sodomy are destructive and degrading. Nothing their advocates have said or shown can persuade us otherwise. But then, such people feel no obligation to persuade. They are so totally self-centered that they despise the conscientious reservations of others, just as they despise our traditions. They are positively eager to offend.

New York City’s annual Gay Pride Parade makes a point of obscene and sacrilegious demonstrations as it passes St. Patrick’s
Cathedral, with vile personal insults to Cardinal O’Connor. This regular outrage has never been condemned by the liberal spokesmen for “tolerance.” It isn’t condemned as “extremism,” “bigotry,” or “hate.” New York’s politicians pretend not to notice it. The New York Times neither reports it as news nor comments on it in its editorials. Prominent “gay” spokesmen around the country never deprecate it.

Self-righteousness can go no further.

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Copyright © 2014 by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This article is among those selected to appear in the forthcoming collection, Subtracting Christianity: Essays on American Culture and Society by Joseph Sobran. It appeared originally in the January-February 1999 issue of Celebrate Life!, and was reprinted in the March 1999 edition of Sobran’s: The Real News of the Month. See more information here.

Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio and archives of some of his columns.

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