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Saturday, February 6, 2016

“Live Free, Live True”

Recently, in a broadcast entitled “Why I’m Not an Atheist,” renowned Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias expounded on what he described as the three levels of philosophy. In the midst of discussing the second level (“drama, music, novel, and the existential struggle in your imagination”), Dr. Zacharias notes that, “It is most intriguing to me that the moral philosophers of the late 18th century were really the romantic poets and the writers.” Zacharias then quotes Andrew Fletcher—Scottish writer and political activist of the late-17th and early-18th century—who said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, I don’t care who writes its laws.”

A modern translation of this proverb might read: “If you want to change the culture, don’t raise your son to be a senator, raise him to be a television executive.”

Similarly, in God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis writes, “I believe that any Christian who is qualified to write a good popular book on any science may do much more by that than by any directly apologetic work. The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy’s line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent.”

Sadly, there’s been little Christian interruption, either latent or overt, of the “enemy’s line of communication.” Whether attacking the meekest or most entrenched forms of Christianity, the forces of the enemy have long demonstrated themselves very capable of painting the path to destruction as a mellifluous, magnificent, and noble journey. Recently, my wife and I encountered just such an example of deviant artistry.

Season three of the highly regarded British television show Ripper Street dealt with, among other things, the issue of abortion. Set in Whitechapel in the East End of London during the late 19th century (just after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders), Ripper Street is largely a crime drama. Episode seven of season three (see a printed transcript here) is deceitfully entitled “Live Free, Live True.”

At the beginning of the episode, a chemist who provides women seeking abortions a poisonous lead-laced concoction (that does much more damage than kill the child in the womb), is found murdered. Detective Reid, the main protagonist of the series, visits Obsidian Clinic—a clinic providing charitable health care to the women of Whitechapel—and questions the female doctor (Dr. Frayne) there about whether or not they may have treated any women mutilated by the dead chemist.

Dr. Frayne hesitantly admits, “These women, these unhappy creatures, they come to me for help, this is their word for it. And like any doctor in this city, I could end their troubles safely, easily. (Notice, a child in the womb is “trouble.”) But it is illegal, so I must turn them away to be mangled and shredded by these quacks, criminals of the backstreets and side alleys. And then they come to me after, and I must make good the wretched work.”

Thus, the writers of Ripper Street would have us believe, that even in nineteenth century England, the cry for “safe and legal” abortions was a common (and noble) refrain, which, if ignored, leads to the back-alley butchering of women. Later in the show Dr. Frayne introduces her friend and “mentor,” Dr. Rolle, to Miss Hart, the director of the Obsidian Clinic. Dr. Rolle is revealed to be a member of the Malthusian League—a (real) nineteenth century British organization devoted to fighting the “scourge” of overpopulation.

Appealing to Miss Hart to bring the practices of Dr. Rolle to Obsidian, Dr. Frayne pleads, “Everyday it seems, I mow down the noxious weeds, but the roots remain, and the plant only grows again…I would give my women the information they need, but I would give them more. I would give them the help they beg for: safe procedure.” Miss Hart clarifies for the audience: “You mean to offer abortion at the clinic.”

Miss Hart—no paradigm of virtue, as her main role in the series, up until the third season, was as the Madam of a whore house—rejects Dr. Frayne’s proposal outright, declaring “Absolutely not. It is illegal.” Sounding as if she got her talking points from Gloria Steinem, Dr. Frayne boldly retorts, “The law is an ass.”

Not content with being a cheerleader for abortion, this episode also paints an ugly picture of marriage and motherhood. A few scenes after rejecting Dr. Frayne’s ideas on abortion at her clinic, Miss Hart speaks with Rose Erskine, a now famous local singer and reformed prostitute who was once employed at Miss Hart’s previous business venture. Rose is being romantically pursued by Bennet Drake, a regular detective in the series.

Miss Hart asks, “My Rose, your Bennet, you sought him out? Do you wonder still at his intentions?” Rose replies, “I have no doubt, he means to make me his wife.” Miss Hart condescendingly replies, “This is a sad smile, indeed…[Because] of course, as song bird of Blewett's, she shall sing no more. She shall be in her nest, feeding her chicks.”

Attempting to defend the future she now longs for, Rose asks, “And can a woman not be a mother and a singer?” Miss Hart solemnly concludes, “I think that must depend on the husband.”

To further paint marriage and motherhood as a prison, the episode soon takes a strange twist with a character (George Tait) who was the caretaker for a still living victim (Mary Tait) of the chemist abortionist found murdered at the beginning of the show. George Tait, in jail for assaulting the man he accused of seducing (and impregnating) Mary, is questioned about the dead chemist.

The investigators reveal to Mr. Tait that there are no records of him or his Mary. Inspector Reid asks George, “You are a brick setter, Hm? An ordinary man.” George replies, “Yes, sir.” Reid responds, “No, Mr. Tait, not ordinary. For you do not officially exist. You are a convict, perhaps. But I see no mark. Or an absconder, fled from the army. Navy?” George answers, “No, sir. A convict I never was. Though a prisoner, surely...but escaped.”

We later find out that George Tait is really Sarah Elizabeth James. Confronting “George” Inspector Reid reveals her past to the audience: “You fled the bounds of a woman’s life. You put on a man’s clothes. You were free to do as you please, go to places you would not else be welcome. And Mary…you meant to save her, too, from the perils of a woman's existence. But they caught her nonetheless. The injustice of it, that she should fall into the hands of a man like Currie (the abortionist). And just as you’d built your own life, so you served your own justice on him.”

Thus, not only does the audience get a sympathetic picture of abortion, but of transgenderism as well. Caught, (and sounding much more grim than Cosmo Kramer) “George” confesses, “You have unmanned me. Oh, my mother. Twelve children she had. Year on year, they ripped their path through her and into the world. My father unheeding, insisting on his rights. I ask you, who would be a woman? Who would be a wife?”

Dismayed that her “father” is adorned in a gown (I suppose “George” didn’t have the foresight and the lawyers as did Bradley Manning.), as “George” is led away to the gallows, Mary—still ignorant of her caretaker’s deception—mournfully exclaims, “Oh, George. Oh, my George, my father.” Her “father” yells, “You make me this promise. You live a brave, bright life for yourself, whatsoever it may be. You choose it…You live your life full. Live free, and live true (the title of the episode). Mm. Promise me that…Live true, my baby!”

One of the more alluring lies often chanted by the enemy (which completely contradicts the message of Jesus) is to “Be True to Yourself!” In other words, according to those devoted to the “theology of self,” to find real happiness in this life, one must rule his own world. Of course, the “theology of self” is at the heart of the abortion debate. As author and philosopher Michael Novak puts it, “To such women (those seeking an abortion), having an unplanned child represents a threat so great to modern women that it is perceived as the equivalent to a ‘death of self.’”

Later in “Live Free, Live True,” Miss Hart reveals herself to be rather self-devoted. She tells Dr. Frayne, “My thinking has changed. Has met your own. I will match your courage, Dr. Frayn. (Get that? It takes “courage” to kill the most helpless and defenseless among us.) I will fund this endeavor. You have taken the wind from my sails…I am pregnant, Dr. Frayn, and unmarried.” (We also learn that Dr. Frayne has relieved Miss Hart of such an affliction before.)

Excited, Dr. Frayne announces the good news to her mentor, Dr. Rolle. Dr. Rolle then reveals his “perfected” planned procedure for the women who will seek to end their pregnancies at Obsidian. “The patient suffers few complications. The treatment is absolute,” declares Dr. Rolle. Reading over Dr. Rolle’s plan, Dr. Frayne is aghast. “W-what you describe here... it is sterilization. We spoke of safe treatment, contraception, but you intend sterilization.”

Explaining himself, Dr. Rolle asks, “The prevention of unwanted pregnancy is our common aim, is it not? I-I thought we understood one another. If we are to staunch this rascal multitude, this overrunning, we must then eradicate the breeding population. And is it not logical, that the most careless should be the first?” Blind to her hypocrisy (I wonder if the show’s writers realized such.), Dr. Frayne indignantly declares, “I would remind you, sir, that you speak of human beings.”

The dehumanization of the unborn has been a familiar and very successful tactic of those wishing to justify the killing of humans in the womb. No doubt that successful use of the media in spreading such propaganda has played a great role in tens-of-millions of Americans either enthusiastically embracing this lie, or at least turning a blind eye to it. The tables must be turned. Christians appropriately gifted must use their creative talents to tell the world of the eternal truths—on life, marriage, manhood, womanhood, fatherhood, motherhood, charity, sex, creation, salvation, and so on—that will actually provide their audience with the hope and peace that they so desperately seek.

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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