Single-causation does not exist in the pages of history nor does correlation equal causation. Where we dwell space and time assure a multiplicity of factors converging in every event.
Though we cannot understand the very first cause, it does not follow that we should stick only to the “how” or to the surface. Far too often emotion governs our responses; rather than untangle the knots we seize upon those immediate signifiers which bolster our personal policy preferences. Like pulling up a weed without the roots, we thus guarantee it will re-sprout in a different place.
Why is there such antagonism towards going into the roots of school shootings, especially from those who seek to address the root causes of abortion? To go after guns alone is the equivalent of only going after the provider, the defund-Planned Parenthood approach. I’ve been attracted to the beauty of the Seamless Garment, though sometimes troubled by the equation of matters of prudential judgment with intrinsic evils. I’m more troubled by what seems a colossal display of bad faith by some advocates: the tactic of attacking fellow pro-life supporters with the idea that “if you’re not for this, this, and this, you’re not pro-life.”
Would we do the same to a pro-gun control advocate? “If you’re not against drone bombs, the police state, or nuclear weapons you’re not really for gun control. If you rely upon goods brought to you at artificially low prices because of foreign wars, you’re not really for gun control. If you use any gadget with tantalum (as in your iphone or laptop), you’re depending upon the blood of miners and factory workers and furthering the culture of violence.” Why not take it further, as so many often do when it suits their position? “If you’re not vegetarian, you’re furthering the culture of violence. If you’re not vegan, you’re furthering the culture of death.”
To some extent there is truth in these arguments: a saint connects the dots and allows God to transform their hearts through sacrifice and prayer. They see how the things of this world are opposed to the Gospel teachings. They manifest the wholeness of truth.
Unfortunately these emotional arguments aren’t usually deployed to bring someone to a fuller understanding of truth, but to attack someone who disagrees. The pursuit of logical causation becomes a process of emotional hostage-taking arguments, employed with little interest in one’s own hypocrisy.
If we are to bring people to the truth of the Seamless Garment then we must not reject seeking out the discrepancies and failures to connect the dots within our own worldview. We must scrutinize our motivations and actions, constantly turning away from every opportunity to blackmail an opponent. We must be aware when we ourselves are refusing to look deeper into an issue we support because the truth may upset us.
The problem is we don’t want to do it. We want our own policies, which we feel virtuous and righteous about already, to be accepted completely, and we don’t want to dig into the uncomfortable compromises in our own lives. And we especially don’t want to take seriously someone who challenges us to go deeper on an issue where we’ve already made up our mind. Gun control is an easy issue for a lot of people (I highly recommend Joe Bageant’s excellent book Deer Hunting With Jesus at this point. Bageant was a self-described atheist pink-o communist who passed away several years ago after returning to his hometown in rural Virginia). But the roots of violent outbreaks in our communities make us uncomfortable. What if they testify that some of our previous “solutions” don’t work? What if they require us to change some of our previously held beliefs? What if we may have to change the fabric of our lives?
So those people willing to ask hard questions are dismissed. They take away the easy narrative through their suggestion that we are all implicated by the culture we have created, or at least maintain for a variety of reasons. This is how we have people doubling-down on simplistic solutions with no regards for consequences or complexities: “I’ve decided this is right, I’m not interested in learning more, and if you disagree with me you’re evil.” We’ve acknowledged that to end abortion we must look at it in terms of the Seamless Garment. Why are we unwilling to do so elsewhere? And why do we refuse to enter into dialogue with people who agree with us on so many things, but challenge us on others, or require our patience and goodwill?
No one is served well when we refuse to go into the layers of “why” or attack those who seek out deeper causes as being guilty of complicity. When a house is crumbling it does no good to blame the contractor for checking the foundations because he’s guilty of not fixing the cracks. How can a person understand the truth of the pro-life cause if they’re condemned for examining why abortion happens? How can we end mass shootings if we attack those who look at the environment which they take place in? It is a terrible thing if we allow our own sanctimony to prevent the examination of the roots of violence. If we are to create a culture of life, let us encourage those who have sought out how we enabled a culture of death.