Some commentators have detected moral relativism in the untroubled, even edified conservative response to the obstetric developments in the McCain campaign; but I see something even more sinister. I see the teleological suspension of the ethical. You remember the teleological suspension of the ethical. It is the recognition that, whereas there is morality in religion, religion is not the same as morality, and may justify an exemption from morality. I know of no religion in which this handy power of extenuation is not used. The telos, in the case of Bristol Palin, is life; and a fine telos it is. The casuistry goes something like this: since there are no unwanted babies, there are no unwanted pregnancies. "It can sometimes result in the arrival of new life and a new family," Gerson cheered. For "evangelical Christianity (in most modern forms) is not about the achievement of perfection." If evangelicals are so exquisitely conscious of our creatureliness, why have they devoted so many decades to reviling the imperfections of others? If they are, as Gerson says, "about the acceptance of forgiveness," why do they diabolize difference? The fecundity of Bristol Palin is a windfall for Jesus, but the fecundity of black girls is the doom of the republic.
This makes it sound like social conservatives are sitting around reading Lothrop Stoddard in their spare time, and perhaps Wieseltier thinks they are. In reality, when it comes to African-American "fecundity," pro-lifers are more likely to talk about abortion's disproportionately negative impact on the black birth rate than they are to fret about the rise of the colored empires. Yes, I'm sure you can find the odd racist crank who fits Wieseltier's stereotype, but for the most part isn't the fecundity that worries social conservatives; it's the fatherlessness. Which is why our side, to Jacob Weisberg's dismay, doesn't usually talk about reducing the birth rate when the subject turns to teen and out-of-wedlock births; that's Planned Parenthood's bailiwick, and always has been. We talk about maintaining (or increasing!) the fecundity, and raising the marriage rate to keep up with it.
And again, for the moment fatherlessness doesn't seem like an issue in the Bristol Palin pregnancy. If Levi Johnston doesn't live up to his obligations, though, I'll happily write a blog post denouncing him, if that will improve Leon Wieseltier's opinion of pro-life consistency on this front.
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