#STRask: June 22, 2017

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Published on 06/22/2017

Alan is on a timer, and answers questions about LGBT pride month and a pro-abortion argument.


  • Decor is up at my office to celebrate LGBT pride month. It bothers me so should I say something to HR?
  • I am looking for a good, concise rebuttal to the bodily autonomy argument often deployed by pro-abortion activists.


Melinda: Hello there. I’m Melinda, the Enforcer, and this is the #STRask podcast, STR’s short podcast. I’ve got Alan Shlemon here with me this week.

Alan: Hello.

Melinda: Greg is on vacation. Alan is filling in. He did the regular podcast last week, so you can check last week’s episodes or the program that he hosted. The STRask Podcast, you send us your questions on Twitter. They obviously have to be short, because they have to be less than 140 characters and you have to fit in #STRask too, so we can find it. Then I pose the questions to Greg or Alan or Brett or Jim Wallace and they’ve got four minutes or less to answer them. Jim Wallace we give actually less time because he talks fast.

Alan: That’s right. He could answer a four minute question in four seconds.

Melinda: Yeah, that’s pretty much true. Ready to go?

Alan: I’m ready.

Melinda: First question comes from thedameys. Decor is up at my office to celebrate LGBT Pride month. It bothers me, so should I say something to HR?

Alan: Hm. I understand...

Melinda: Isn’t HR supposed to make sure everybody is comfortable and not feeling uncomfortable at work?

Alan: That’s right, create safe spaces at work. Yeah, I think they’re supposed to, but chances are it’s not going to be for a person who has any kind of Christian convictions. I understand how this person feels. Before I worked at Stand To Reason, I worked as a physical therapist and we had up in the places that we worked in our offices things that I was, let’s just say, in moral disagreement with.

Melinda: You don’t like our decorations this month in here? Just kidding, we don’t have any.

Alan: I don’t like that picture of Greg over there. No, I’m kidding. I’m sympathetic to how they feel. I don’t know whether it would be a good idea to make a stink about it. Of course this is going to have to vary from person to person and then office to office.

Melinda: And knowing their HR person in the environment at their office.

Alan: Yeah, because chances are the office who puts up that kind of décor is going to be very pro, whatever it is, LGBT Pride month, in favor of that, so any kind of resistance towards it is going to illicit probably negative feedback to you. Now, I’m not saying that should be a reason against doing it, but you just have to weigh the cost. Also, you’ve got to consider it’s LGBT Pride month, which means it’s only up there for a month. It’s perhaps that you can just say, “You know what, I don’t agree with it, but it’s only for a month. It’s going to go away and that’s fine.” I wouldn’t necessarily say you have to say anything about it - again depending on who you are, depending on your office, depending on who your HR person is and all these things. You might see an opportunity to say something, but you should not expect that they’re going to comply with your request or that you won’t also perhaps put your position or your job in jeopardy for doing that.

Now I would make a distinction between what this person is experiencing and with perhaps a request by the employer for you to promote it yourself. If there’s décor up in the office where I work I’m not going to assume, not at Stand To Reason but just in general, I’m not going to assume that that means I’m supporting that. If they ask me to do something to support it, well then I would have a problem and then I would probably say something about it.

Melinda: I remember a year or so, somebody called from Canada and basically the anti-bullying campaign has basically turned into a way of supporting LGBTQ students and youth.

Alan: Right.

Melinda: This person at his work, it was not a school, his boss decided they should all wear the tee shirts that represented this.

Alan: Right.

Melinda: Then he was uncomfortable with that.

Alan: Yeah. That’s a great example.

Melinda: That he was participating in.

Alan: Yeah. If I was asked, or if this person is asked, to advance the cause or do something to support it actively then I would say, “Well, no. I don’t feel like I have to do that.” Of course, it depends on what you’re doing for work. If you work for an LGBT Advocacy group, then you probably...

Melinda: You should’ve seen that coming.

Alan: ...That’s right. If it’s just you’re working at a bank or something, then I would say unless they’re asking you to do something to actively support it, I would perhaps advise you to just let it go, again depending on who you are and who your HR person is and the kind of office you work at.

Melinda: If somebody did want to go talk to the HR person, of course they need to do it graciously, politely, kindly, patiently.

Alan: Yeah.

Melinda: What kind of appeal would you make to them? I would assume it should not be a religious appeal if this is not a religious place.

Alan: Yeah. Again, it’s kind of hard to answer this without having the specifics of what they’re asking you to do, where you work at. I mean, I’m just thinking if I’m working at Wells Fargo Bank and I’m a teller, I don’t know, or some sort of accountant of some sort, I don’t know why my job would entail the requirement to advocate for LGBT rights or whatever it is. I just ask the question, maybe do some Colombo questions, “Hey, what does this have to do with my job description? I don’t feel like this was ever something that was described when I got hired.” Again, like you said, perhaps not appealing to a religious thing, although again it depends on the organization. They might make exemptions for people with religious objections, so it could...

Melinda: If they were participating in some way, not just generally didn’t like the company recognizing it.

Alan: Yeah. Again, it’s hard to say without having specifics, but I think in those cases you might be able to say something about your concern with it.

Melinda: Okay. Next question comes from NesterPNovack. I’m looking for a good, concise rebuttal to the bodily autonomy argument often deployed by pro-abortion activists. Just explain quickly bodily autonomy, and isn’t the violinist example of that argument.

Alan: Yeah. I like to say there’s really three kinds of defenses for abortion, and if you learn these three defenses for abortion you’ll learn 100% of every possible defense for abortion. The first offense for abortion typically assumes the unborn is not a human being, so in that case your response needs to be to show that the unborn is a human being. That’s a scientific argument. A second type of defense for abortion says the unborn is a human being, but it’s not a valuable human being; it’s not a person. There they’re engaging in a form of discrimination, unjust discrimination, where they’re disqualifying some human beings from being valuable. In that case I would use the sled test, which is something that we talk about in Stand To Reason.

Melinda: You can find it in our website: S-L-E-D, just put that in our search box.

Alan: That’s right, or get any of our Precious Unborn Human Persons, Greg’s book on that, or any of our abortion material. I think we have a few videos actually on YouTube on the sled test.

Melinda: Sure.

Alan: Yeah. Those are the two most common on the street types of arguments you’re going to hear in favor of abortion. The third kind is the one that this person is asking, which is a bodily rights argument. Here what they say is this, “The unborn is a human being, and it’s a person just like you and me, but we can still kill that unborn human being, this unborn person, because a woman’s bodily autonomy trumps the rights of the unborn.” Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous essay, I think it was called A Defense for Abortion, employs what’s called the violinist argument that says...Well, I don’t know if we can get into it.

Melinda: You don’t have to get into it. Again, you can just go to the search box, type in the violinist, and a few articles or videos will come up.

Alan: Sure. Basically they’re saying even if the unborn is a human being and a person just like you and me, a woman has a right to kill that unborn human being who is a person, because her bodily autonomy trumps the rights of the child. I think the quick, what they’re asking for, a quick response to this, is to employ what we say at Stand To Reason, “taking the roof off,” which is a reductio ad absurdum. In other words, you accept the logic of their view and follow it to its logical conclusion. I’d say, “Okay, let’s just say that you’re right that the unborn is a human being”, which of course we believe, “and it’s a person just like you and me, but you still think that a woman’s bodily autonomy trumps the rights of the unborn to survive?” Well, you could think of some counter examples, which would serve as a way to show how to take the roof off.

For example I would say this maybe. “In some third world countries there is no availability of formula for women to offer their children as nutrition, so the only form of nutrition that these women have is through breastfeeding. Well, could a woman in that situation say, “I’m not going to allow my child to breastfeed from me because I have a right to my own bodily autonomy and that trumps the rights of this child.”

Melinda: Born child.

Alan: Born child, yeah. People say, “Well, that’s different. That’s a born child.” Well, no. According to the argument, the bodily autonomy argument, they are acknowledging the unborn is a human being who is just like that born child. Of course, that’s absurd that a woman should have the right to deny her child breastfeeding just because her own bodily autonomy, she would say, trumps the rights of the child.

Another example that Scott Klusendorf uses in his book, The Case for Life, is the example of Thalidomide, which is a drug that was used, I think...

Melinda: Late 50’s, early 60’s.

Alan: ...Yeah, that was used as a form of treating morning sickness, nausea, vomiting, but has since stopped being used because it had harmful side effects. It could affect the unborn child in very serious ways.

Melinda: It didn’t develop limbs and things like that or often they died shortly after birth.

Alan: Yes. Scott presents this illustration, which is another form of taking the roof off, where he says, “Imagine a woman goes to a doctor and says, ’I would like to get Thalidomide because I’m pregnant and I’m sick. I want that, Thalidomide, to help me with my nausea and vomiting.’ He says, ’Oh, I can’t give it to you.’ She says, ’I want it anyways.’ He says, ’I can’t give it to you. It will harm your unborn child.’ She says, ’I don’t care’. She goes behind the doctor’s back, somehow procures the Thalidomide, takes it and as you said, her child is born without arms and legs or something like that.” By the way, you could just google image this Thalidomide and see humans who have been born this way.

Melinda: Mm-hmm. Some have lived to adulthood.

Alan: Yeah, some of them have lived much longer. The question is, “Well, if the bodily autonomy rights argument holds, then that woman should be justified in her actions because her bodily autonomy trumps the rights of her unborn child.”

Melinda: Not wanting to be sick trumps the wellbeing of the unborn child in her.

Alan: Sure, and for her right to take whatever she wants to take to satisfy her own needs, her bodily needs, whatever it might be. I think most people would say, “No, that was wrong for her to do that in the same way that it’d be wrong for a woman who has only breastfeeding as the only form of nutrition for her child to deny that child that nutrition.” That would be my quick way to do it, is just to appeal to a few “taking the roof off” types of arguments.

Melinda: Okay. In this case the abortion issue and many other situation, we often appeal to people’s intuitions with counter arguments. Sometimes, this is just sort of a general question, because when you say that there are basically just three arguments you know because you’ve debated abortion...

Alan: Three categories of arguments.

Melinda: ...Three kinds of arguments, because you have debated entire audiences. You’ve gone to college campuses and talked to people. You’ve been out there talking to people. We also know that people very often will deny what seems to be obviously true to win an argument, and maybe they’ve even got themselves to believe this kind of thing because they are so committed to, say, abortion rights. How do you respond to people? You gave two really good examples. Say somebody responded and said, “I just don’t agree. I think the woman should do whatever she wants. It doesn’t matter if the baby is harmed.” How do you respond to people who are unwilling to admit the intuition that you’re trying to raise?

Alan: Yeah, well sometimes, depending on the situation, especially if there’s other people listening, so many times if I’m on a college campus and I’ve developed a crowd around me, what I’ll do is I’ll just expose this person’s view to the crowd around. Sometimes I’m not trying to necessarily change their mind, but if other people are listening if I’m at a university in an auditorium or I’m on campus outside and people are listening I’ll say, “Okay, so can we just make this really and abundantly clear that you think it’s okay for a woman to kill a child who is born, that’s morally what you’re saying is permissible.” I’ll just let that sink in to him or to her, and to the people who are listening as a means of just allowing the rest of the crowd to see how ridiculous of a view you have to take in order to be consistent. That’s one thing that I’ll typically do.

Another thing that I’ll do is I’ll...

Melinda: You’re not doing it to shame the person.

Alan: No.

Melinda: You’re trying to get the other people to see.

Alan: That’s right. In order for you to maintain this view, you have to say, “Yes, I’m willing to kill a born child.” I think most people don’t go that route, but you’re right, some people do say that. They’ll say, “OH, well yeah. I think it is okay to kill a two year old.” The other thing I’ll often do is I’ll just be skeptical of their view and I’ll say, “Really?” A lot of times they say this only to try to stump you and to kind of be like, “See, I’m not going to even grant your premise.” I’ll be like, “Really? Seriously? You really think it’s okay? If there was a kid right here next to me, my own child, you think it’s okay, morally permissible to kill them?” I try to call their bluff in a sense, because many times they are bluffing. I’ve heard them do that. I’ve called them on it and sometimes people say, “Well, no you’re right. I don’t really believe that, but I just want to see what you’ll think about it.” That’s another thing that I’ll often do.

Then the third thing I often think is this. Look, if I’ve done my best to communicate my view in the most clear, persuasive and gracious manner possible, and they still won’t accept it, I’m okay with it. I feel like I’m not responsible for the end result. I’m not responsible for convincing every person I talk to. I’m not responsible for converting them to Christianity. I’m responsible for my job, which is to proclaim the truth, which is to proclaim the truth in a persuasive, winsome, and gracious way, and I’ll let God deal with results. This is more of just a helpful, pastoral thing that I would often tell a person, which is don’t feel bad that everybody you talk to doesn’t buy into what you say. If they’re so whacked out that they’re going to think that, maybe they don’t need an argument. Maybe they need a psychiatrist or something else.

Melinda: Or the Holy Spirit.

Alan: The Holy Spirit. That’s right.

Melinda: Greg will talk about even evangelizing and sharing the gospel. Sometimes it’s just scattering the seed or sometimes we’re scatterers, not harvesters.

Alan: Right.

Melinda: Even in other kinds of views that we try to persuade people of, it could be that this person just needs more time for God to work on them and you’re not the one who is going to see the change of mind.

Alan: Yeah. Actually, that’s not an uncommon thing that I feel about myself. I think anyone who is involved in evangelism or apologetics needs to have that expectation that a lot of people won’t buy what you say, and that’s okay so long as you’ve done your job to be a faithful ambassador to represent Christ in an honorable way, present the truth in a persuasive and clear way, hey it’s okay. You’ve done your job. It’s okay. Let the person not accept what you’re saying. That’s okay. I don’t think it’s the end of the world.

Melinda: Well, thank you, Alan. I appreciate your input on all those things. Great wisdom and perspective on things. I’m Melinda, the Enforcer, with Alan Shlemon for Stand To Reason.