Apologetics

Why Is It So Hard to Call Out Margaret Sanger on Eugenics?

Author and social critic Mary Eberstadt had a wonderful conversation with Hank Hanegraaff on the secularist religion birthed by the sexual revolution, and the real duplicity in the way it turned yesterday’s sinners into modern-day secular saints — Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger being a prime example. The following dialogue is adapted from their conversation.

Hank Hanegraaff: If you look at this whole idea of a secularist religion, there are high priestesses that come to mind, such as Gloria Steinem, Margaret Mead, and certainly Margaret Sanger. I want to single out Sanger for a moment because she was a person who was very much on the vanguard of the eugenics movement. Today, we have a new hypereugenics movement afoot. I was reading a couple months ago about what is going on in Iceland, where they are now declaring themselves to be almost 100 percent Down-syndrome-baby free. They’ve almost eradicated Down syndrome babies through abortion. They suppose this to be some great thing and laude it as a step forward. In fact, Richard Dawkins, probably the most influential materialist on the planet today, says that it is immoral to bring a Down syndrome child into the world. So, we have this new move toward a hypereugenics movement that eradicates those who are thought to be unfit in society; and in their place, we are looking toward designer babies.

Mary Eberstadt: Yes. There is an implicit cruelty, to say nothing of a lack of diversity in one’s outlook, that would wipe children like that from the face of the earth. I’m so glad you brought up Margaret Sanger. We live in a moment where there are upset, agitated groups who want to pull down statues of Confederates, and they are making their argument in the public square. I am glad that they are. They are not just making emotive appeals; they are making arguments about how things have changed, and how we have developed morally as a people. So, whatever you think of their case, it is astonishing to me that Margaret Sanger hasn’t been torn down from her podiums all over America.

As a matter of fact, consider this: Planned Parenthood, for years and years, gave annual awards (the last ones I think were in 2015) called the Maggies, and they were named for Margaret Sanger. They were given to journalists who had written pro-choice pieces, and to other figures who had somehow come into the pro-choice fold.

Alright, let us look at this for a minute. Margaret Sanger was unflinching in her insistence on the inferiority of certain other people. She wanted to keep down the numbers of certain other people. She believed very much that there were fit people and unfit people. But, guess what? Fit people looked like her, and unfit people looked like, well, fill in the blank. So, it is very hard to understand why she gets a pass in a moment of extra attention to racism and extra moral sensitivity to racism in America’s past, when she was the embodiment of this kind of eugenics thinking.

What we are seeing is that in any other context, besides defending the sexual revolution, nobody would be getting away with this; but Margaret Sanger is getting away with it because she is a paragon of the sexual revolution, and she is the equivalent of a secular saint. I think people who stand against what she stood for should be proud of themselves, and I think that those of us who do are on the right side.

Hank: You know what is really interesting about this? I have looked into this over the years. Eugenics has been a huge, huge issue in the United States of America. Talk about a really virulent evil in America, and there have been many, but this is at the top of the list. But, the odd thing about it is this: eugenics was considered progressive prior to World War II in universities such as Stanford, Princeton, and Harvard. This was considered very, very progressive. Pro-eugenics legislation was passed in blue states ranging from California to New York. You had prestigious people on this bandwagon — not just Margaret Sanger. They had bought into an ideology that said that the unfit were affecting the genepool such that the fit did not survive as well, and so the only thing that we can do is to make sure that we got rid of those that were unfit. Moreover, as you correctly said, the unfit were oftentimes people that did not look like the stereotypical American. They were Blacks. They were Jews. They were people who had some kind of a physical malady. But this was something that was orthodoxy within America, and it really did not see its demise, at least for a while, until it reached full bloom in the genocidal German death camps. Then it vanished into the night, and nobody wants to say that they had any association with this eugenics movement. We are quietly paying reparations for the harm that we did, particularly to the Black community, and we, for example, are doing that in North Carolina. But, most people do not want to own up to the fact that this was an ideology that was uncritically bought into that devastated lives, and we are now seeing history repeat itself in other places.

Mary: Yes, once again, Christianity should get some credit for being on the right side of that issue. It is Christianity, infused with Judaism, that taught humanity that all human beings are equal in the sight of God. That is a revolutionary idea. Christianity, correctly applied, should get some credit for that insight. Eugenics was not some kind of Christian thing. It was a progressive thing, as you correctly pointed out. When progressives today wonder why there are people who are “standing on the wrong side of history,” it is because we do not want to be standing wherever they are standing, certainly not in the case of eugenics.

Similarly, Hank, I think Christianity gets such a bad rap for being bad on women somehow, but it was Christianity that introduced the very idea that men and women were morally equal — so morally equal that consent was required for marriage. This is a very early Christian idea and it is revolutionary. Were there equal outcomes? No, of course not. Were there equal economic statuses throughout history? No. But the idea that a woman’s soul was just as important as a man’s and that it would be jeopardized if she could not freely consent to marriage, and the marriage would be invalid without both parties freely willing it, this is a fantastic liberating idea. It is among the most liberating ideas ever to appear in humanity, and that’s a Christian idea.

Part of what I am trying to say is this. I think, for reasons we all understand, a lot of traditional believers have been in a defensive crouch because they were not expecting how ferocious the winds against them would become; they were not expecting all these religious liberty cases suddenly proliferating across the land; and they were not expecting they would not be able to practice their faith without public ostracism. But the defensive crouch is not the answer when what you are in possession of are truths that other people are losing sight of that have been a boon to humanity. So be proud of standing on the right side of the eugenics discussion. Be proud of standing against what Margaret Sanger and all other people like her stood for. I think we can be emboldened — without patting ourselves on the back — to know some of the good that Christianity has done out there in the world.

This blog was adapted from “The Sexual Revolution with Mary Eberstadt,” which originally aired on episode 18 of Hank Unplugged. To listen to the full interview, click here.

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resources:

Margaret Sanger: “No Gods, No Masters” (Bob Perry)

How the West Really Lost God (Mary Eberstadt)

Sex, Lies, and Secularism (Nancy Pearcy)

Sex, Lies, and Christianity: Reclaiming Biblical Sexuality (Melanie Cogdill)

Mary Eberstadt is author of It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies. Her writing has appeared in TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, National Review, First Things, and The Weekly Standard, and in March 2017, she was named Senior Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute.

Apologetics, In the News

Porn and Despair: Hugh Hefner’s Legacy

I mentioned on the September 28, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast the passing of Hugh Hefner. Hefner, of course, was the founder of Playboy. He died at the age of ninety-one. I wanted to say a little more about Hefner in that as I was reading the newspapers this morning, I saw the media still continues to extol his legacy. I think about Pamela Anderson who said, “Outside of my family, you are the most important person in my life,” or Larry King who remembered Hefner as “a GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech and civil rights.” Dennis Rodman said he was “an Icon of all Icons” and “#GameChanger.” Norman Lear said, “A true explorer, a man who had a keen sense of the future.” Kim Kardashian weighed in, saying she was “honored to have been a part of the Playboy team.” Bruce Kluger in USA Today said, “So long Hugh Hefner, thanks for the glorious gig…My girlfriend hated it, but what could be better than writing about the Playmate of the Month.”

Not all reviews, however, were positive. David French wrote an incredible article that underscores the bitter fruit of Hefner’s life’s work. The bitter fruit that helped poisoned American families. In National Review, the article entitled “Hugh Hefner’s Legacy of Despair.” While I will not read the entirety of the article, I do want to refer to some of what David French correctly wrote. French says,

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent pornography…Hefner, however, played his part, and the part he played was immensely destructive to our nation’s cultural, moral, and spiritual fabric. Hefner mainstreamed porn, he put it in millions of homes, and he even glamorized it — recasting one of America’s most pathetic industries as the playground of the sophisticated rich. He then grew to a ripe old age, consorting with women young enough to be his granddaughters. He was America’s most famous dirty old man.

And now he’s dead…

It’s hard to calculate the damage he did, but the cultural rubble is all around us. My generation is perhaps the first to grow up with easily accessible porn…

The effects have lasted a lifetime. Boys grew up believing they were entitled to sex on demand, and the sex would always be amazing… They learned that monogamy was confining, that promiscuity was liberating, and that women should always be hot….

How many families have broken to pieces when a wife discovers her husband’s secret addiction and realizes that she’s not enough — that she’s never been enough…? How many men have grown to hate themselves for their psychological dependence on the saddest of habits? The testimonies from porn nation are devastating….

To see men become addicted to porn is to watch character formation in reverse….They lie habitually to cover the extent of their habit…even when their wives are allegedly “open” and sexually liberated…The screen alone is never enough, the wife is never enough, and the addict so often seeks mistresses, prostitutes, or both.

Another family breaks. More lives fall into despair….

And yet, the secular, progressive guardians of our public morality — you know, the people who think you’re a horrible person if you don’t recycle or if you use the wrong pronouns — all so often don’t just tolerate but celebrate the sexual “liberation” that is part and parcel of porn nation.

So many A-list celebrities spent time at the Playboy Mansion…Our president has. The evidence is on his office wall.

French concludes his article by saying, “When I think of Hugh Hefner, yes I mourn, but I mourn because the bitter fruit of his life’s work has helped poison the families of people I know and love. He is gone, but his legacy lives on. And his is a legacy of despair.”

One of the consequences of autonomy on the part of humanity where we rationalize God out of existence is that we sacrifice truth on the altar of subjectivism. Ethics and morals are no longer determined on the basis of objective standards but rather by the size and strength of the latest lobby group. As a result, we have no enduring reference points; thus, societal norms are now in the present reduced to matters of preferences.

Obviously, one of the most devastating consequences of the repackaging of Satan’s age-old deception is the sexual revolution. I was talking to Mary Eberstadt on a Hank Unplugged about the sexual revolution. It lies at the root of many of the ills that we are facing in society today. Its bitter fruit is toxic and poisonous. Unfortunately, even in the pulpit, America has capitulated, but certainly in the secular community.

I once heard that noted evolutionist Sir Julian Huxley when asked why people so embraced the theory of evolution had a quip, which is quite memorable, he said it is because the concept of a creator God interferes with our sexual mores. As a result, we have rationalized God out of existence. To us, He became nothing more than the faint and disappearing smile of the cosmic Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. Now, I think of that response. It is pithy. It is memorable. But it eloquently captures the spirit of the evolutionary paradigm. Once you take God and relegate God to the status of a Disney character, what you have in return is freedom from all constraints. The ability to make up your own rules.

Hugh Hefner glorified sex in the media. It has been glorified as well in movies and through music. It is glorified by Madison Avenue. Not in the way it was intended to be glorified. One of the greatest gifts that God has ever given to humanity has been perverted. Today, we only have one rule, and that is Life has no rules. It is all a part of attempting to rationalize God out of existence in order to do away with His laws of morality, which is as absurd as voting to repeal the law of gravity because people have fallen off buildings and bridges and boats. Obviously, even a unanimous vote cannot change the deadly consequences for someone who later attempts to jump off of a ten-story building. My point here is simply to say that we cannot violate God’s physical or moral laws without suffering, disillusionment, destruction, and even death as consequences.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related reading, please access the following:

What’s the Problem with Pornography? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Effects of Porn on the Male Brain (William M. Struthers, PhD)

Darkening our Minds: The Problem of Pornography among Christians (Joe Dallas)

Sexual Sanity for Women in a World Gone Mad (Ellen Dykas)

The Normalization of Premarital Sex: Satan’s Master Stroke? (Elliot Miller)

“You Shoulda Put a Ring on It:” Witnessing to Cohabiting Couples (Joe Dallas)

Sex, Lies, and Secularism (Nancy Pearcy)

Sex, Lies, and Christianity: Reclaiming Biblical Sexuality (Melanie Cogdill)

Defiling the Undefiled (Joe Dallas)

Single in Christ and a Sexual Being (Ellen Mary Dykas)

Modesty, Objectivism, and Human Value (Richard Poupard)

The following books are recommended titles for an apologetic’s library on the devastating effects of porn on culture:

The Game Plan: The Men’s 30-Day Strategy for Attaining Sexual Integrity (B827) by Joe Dallas

Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (B1087) by William M. Struthers

This blog is adapted from the September 29, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.