Surprised by Outrage

A mother tried to flush her just-born baby down the toilet in a McDonald's bathroom last week. The story itself wasn't unusually striking; a woman trying to kill her child is by no means unheard of. The news report wasn't surprising either; extreme non-local stories are featured on the local news all the time. What did strike me was the responses.

Hundreds, one after another. It was all outrage and disgust. There were a couple voices of mercy, but even they were explicit that their mercy -- pointing to possible mental illness or extenuating circumstances -- was not an excuse. The judgement was unanimous: this was evil.

They were right, of course, but I wouldn't have expected that. I did not expect all of the outrage. Why? Well, mothers kill and attempt to kill their babies all the time. It happens every day. Hundreds of times, every day. There is some outrage at this, certainly, but there is also a large, and quite vocal, degree of sympathy and defense.

Hundreds, one after another. It was all outrage and disgust. The judgement was unanimous: this was evil.

Why not drop the child off at a safe place -- a fire department, church, or hospital? Why not release him to an adoptive family? Why not ask someone for help?

Why aren't these questions, asked about a minutes-old child, just as valid a couple of weeks or months before? It is, after all, the same small human. Most arguments for legal, guilt-free abortion apply just as well to this just-delivered baby as they do to this same person at 6 weeks pre-birth.

This should be obvious.

The things is, people usually determine morality by feeling. To some extent that's natural and good; it's inadequate though. One's emotions are too easily adapted and manipulated, so that you love what you ought hate and fight tooth-and-nail against.

The things is, people often determine morality by feeling. It's inadequate though.

For me, the clear inconsistency has served as a blessing. Truth has not been wholly obscured in us. We still show beautiful remnants of our Father in our innate ideas of justice. He has not left us completely in chaos.

That is to say, there is much hope.