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You’re never progressive enough

The ACLU’s editing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg reveals an ever-shifting ideology

A visitor looks at an exhibit for Ruth Bader Ginsburg at The New-York Historical Society in Central Park. Associated Press/Photo by Christina Horsten/picture-alliance/dpa

You’re never progressive enough

An ever-shifting morality is no way to build a humane civilization. Inherent to the idea of “progress” is the constant revising of its principles to better fit the needs of an ever-evolving society. The problem, however, is that this constant revision results in progressivism never offering its adherents a fixed place to stand.

This principle was put on display recently by the American Civil Liberties Union, who put out a graphic on Twitter with a quote from one of its most famous former employees, the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The quote dealt with the centrality of abortion as being essential to freedom and autonomy. The original quote reads: “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman's life, to her well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.”

The shortened and edited quote put out on the ACLU’s Twitter read, “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a [person’s] life, to [their] well-being and dignity. … When the government controls that decision for [people], [they are] being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for [their] own choices.”

Astonishingly, the text had edited Justice Ginsburg’s language to make it transgender compliant, that is, severing biological or even gendered language to the notion of pregnancy. Thus, not only is this episode a tremendous revelation of the ACLU’s participation in verbal deception and ideological conformity, but the episode is also a conspicuous demonstration of the absurdity of our times. One must wonder what Justice Ginsburg, credited as one of the most important voices in modern feminism, would say as she looked on as America’s most historic civil liberties outfits engages in female erasure—against her, no less.

The ACLU later “apologized” for changing Justice Ginsburg’s words, but the organization insisted that its moral impulse had been right. Clearly, the ACLU would not now approve of Justice Ginsburg referring to “women” seeking abortion. But she is dead, so the ACLU merely concedes that it was wrong (though well intended) to change her words.

To take a progressive with the iconic cultural status of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and make her more progressive than she already was demonstrates the ever-evolving mandates of progressivism. Celebrated as the enlightened worldview of ruling class sentiment, the ACLU’s decision to edit Ruth Bader Ginsburg shows why progressivism should be abandoned. If progressivism cannot proffer a definition of womanhood that encompasses biological sex, it should not be taken seriously as a viable worldview to base and judge society’s standards.

As progressivism marches on, one of the most necessary and provocative consequences of Christian theology is the promise of stability and order. One of the insidious consequences of progressivism is its constant fluidity, its fashionable fictions, and destabilizing fallacies. Jesus Christ is the opposite. In Christ, there is a place to stand. There is fixity and finality. We read in Hebrews 13:8 that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We know Jesus as a Savior over sin, yes, but we must also proclaim Jesus as a Savior who avails those who turn to him the offer of stability—a place to stand.

A part of the Christian mission in this age will be to offer the world a place to stand amid the turbulence of fluidity. Where can the world look for simple definitions of human existence? Where can people look for norms that are not constantly in flux? They can look to the revelation of Scripture, which posits both a sovereign Savior and a picture of creation teeming with order, design, and direction.

In the rush to prove one’s progressive bona fides, we are reminded of what C. S. Lewis once famously remarked as the true definition of progressive. Said Lewis, “We all want progress, but if you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

The responsibility of the Christian today is to proclaim those deeper truths, those permanent affirmations necessary for cultural survival, especially when our own culture is on the wrong road.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.

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