Saturday, February 06, 2010

Noel Paul Stookey: Pathetic Libertarian, Ethical Relativist Justification of Legal Abortion

Paul Stookey (left): Standing Up For the "Little Guy" in the Proud Liberal Activist Tradition?

Noel Paul Stookey is the "Paul" of the folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary. I was saddened to learn tonight that Mary Travers passed away last September 16th from side effects of leukemia (the same thing that was the cause of death for my brother Gerry in 1998, after I had been a bone marrow donor a few years earlier). I usually hear about these things, being an avid music collector, but somehow I missed that.

I knew that Paul Stookey was some sort of evangelical Christian. I used to have an album of his (c. 1976) where he sang Christian songs. But I have also read that Peter, Paul, and Mary had done concerts for the pro-abortion (so-called "pro-choice") cause. I wondered, then, how Paul squared this sort of thing with his Christian faith, and looked around to see if there was anything on the Internet about that. I found a piece he wrote that is posted on his website, and dated 1992.

It's amazing and very disturbing to read (because he seems to "get it" and not get it at the same time), but this is what the bankrupt philosophy of libertarianism leads to: a worldview whereby each person supposedly lives in a bubble and doesn't affect anyone else or the society they live in by the choices they make: even if they include the slaughter of the most innocent and helpless of human beings. The murdered child is still alive. His or her horrendous suffering is over with now. It is our society and each one of us in it that also die a little bit each time a life is snuffed out with the full sanction of law and our own implicit consent, because we continue to allow this outrage to continue.

Libertarianism (which is rampant in both political parties, and probably also in the tea party movement) and ethical relativism are so widespread in our day and age that they can even affect the views of a person like Stookey: seemingly a thoughtful, conscientious, and likable fellow, who claims to be a disciple of Jesus. Here are excerpts of what he wrote:

Given the complexity of the multi-leveled concerns that make up the abortion 'issue', it is understandable then that one of the common assumptions within the Christian community is that to allow the Roe vs Wade decision to stand is tantamount to giving 'permission for murder'. But we need to be reminded that the Roe vs Wade decision is not a ruling about the 'rightness' or 'wrongness' of abortion. It is more particularly a high court's considered opinion as to whether, and to what degree, a person's moral accountability is to God or to the state. . . .

I do believe that even the most oppositional of perspectives are healed within God. Many would call this 'faith', though after over twenty years as a Christian I find it many times to be just as much a 'trust based on past experience'. Still, call it what you will, by virtue of this trust/faith, I have come to accept some significant concepts as Truth.

For instance, I hold as true that the uniqueness of personhood is present at conception though it is a fact that a child in the womb is NOT physically separate from the mother. However, while I may feel spiritually certain that a mother and child ARE each known uniquely in the Mind of God, it is after all MY certainty and possibly not that of the woman actually bearing the child.

Therefore it seems that what is understood as True for one of us may not be necessarily understood as True for another until such time as another's faith allows. And, while pregnancy may represent a joy and a promise to one, it very well may be an overwhelming responsibility and danger to another. . . .

It is lamentable that the 'unborns' die daily; victims of a battle that began before their conception. But coercion, violence, selfishness, manipulation and ignorance will not cease simply because we pass a law forbidding them. One cannot engender within another heart, by the passage of a law, the understanding of the preciousness of life or a vision of pregnancy in its miraculous nature anymore than the granting of a marriage license can produce a 'desire' to make a marriage work.

Some things we must learn for ourselves...


Jordanes said...

I'm simply amazed you missed the news of Mary Travers' death last fall, Dave. You must have been distracted with other matters at the time.

Of course most of Peter, Paul & Mary's politics is/was atrocious, so I'm not surprised that Paul Stookey is a little confused and incoherent about the rights of the unborn and how to secure them. That said, considering their (in)famous leftism, I'm actually kind of encouraged to learn that Paul Stookey is at least sort of pro-life. He and much of his generation were brought up on, and helped to pass along, the pernicious "it's okay as long as you don't hurt anybody else" and "you can't legislate morality" pseudoethics that make it impossible effectively to improve our society and combat public evil.

Dave Armstrong said...

That was around the time of our 25th anniversary trip; then my dad got really sick. Probably the reason why. Also, I don't watch a lot of news (besides the political talk shows), and "hear of" a lot of current events things on the Internet.

I usually hear about famous deaths, though, so it's weird that I missed it, even so.

Hermine said...

I missed Mary Travers death also... so you were not the only one.... I am a Christian who voted for Obama and with that crossed over from the usual evangelical stance on the right... I see the point made by you and the commentator. I think now information about the child in utero is there for all to see almost literally through ultrasound pics.. so it is no longer just something you feel but an objective fact... the left wing needs to catch up with the scientific evidence.

Dave Armstrong said...

Why did you vote for Obama then (by far the most pro-abortion President ever)? Just curious . . . I promise I won't give you a hard time. :-)

JJR said...

I am also a Christian who voted for Obama. In general, I view the Republican exploitation of the pro-life vote as downright cynical. I understand and accept that others many not agree with me.

Dave Armstrong said...

So you think abortion is just hunky-dory, and you can justify voting for a person who will promote and expand it? How that squares with Christianity and compassion for the "little guy" (supposedly a liberal ethos) is something,I confess, that I don't think I'll ever comprehend.

JJR said...

I don't think abortion is "hunky-dory." I think abortion is a form of infanticide. Maybe this makes me one of the "handwringers" that Archbishop Chaput wrote about. But you asked the previous poster (Jordanes) for a reason, so I thought I'd try to give you one.

I found my way to this blog because of the post about Noel Paul Stookey, whom I met on a couple of occasions many years ago in Maine. He seemed sincere in his faith. You may judge him misguided, but I don't think it's our judgment that matters.

Leftwing politics are not automatically Godless, any more than the Republican Party has a direct line to God. Lest you think I'm a Jim Wallis type, I'm not. But I did think that McCain/Palin was a bad choice for the country, so I did what I did. I know priests and nuns and even some pro-life Republicans who also voted for Obama. I know you don't want to hear that, but you asked.

I'm sure there's nothing I could write that would satisfy you. As I wrote before, I accept that people will not agree with my 2008 vote, and I need to also accept that some will vilify it.

Dave Armstrong said...

I know priests and nuns and even some pro-life Republicans who also voted for Obama.

There are always people who will forsake principle or vote in a radically inconsistent way: say they aren't pro-abortion, yet vote in folks who keep the genocide against the preborn flourishing.

This is why we're in the mess we're in: evil triumphs when good men do nothing.

Chuck Maglaughlin said...

Noel has emailed me back concerning his many views different from Peter's and Mary's. He pointed to one of his songs to listen to, and I can't recall now which one! But what set me off to google him again today was last night's PBS Peter Yarrow Special, including Noel. There Noel was, "fellowshipping" with darkness, and screaming,"no more atom bombs"! Non-Christians will not understand our non-compromising stand on life. Your comments about your consternation towards those who voted Obama and still considered themselves Christians were right on. It is as if I have an unborn child in me, and every time someone tries to justify Roe v Wade, my insides leap for horror! Any decision that had no science introduced as evidence, was a 5-4 vote, and illegal, because of the first amendment(CONGRESS shall make NO LAW, not a court, and the fact that "privacy" is nowhere to be found in the Constitution) is an abomination! Thanks for the quote from Noel that I've been looking for, for decades! I now am no longer the biggest PP&M fan there ever was!(I have ALL their music and attended my first of many concerts in 1967 in D.C., the summer Peter got in trouble for "dating" a 13 year old girl. The group stayed at my hotel, The Shoreham. After the concert, Mary talked to anyone puffing away on her cigarettes, which would eventually kill her.) I became a Christian in '72 and pitched all my rock records, but kept PP&M. Now...they, too, will go in the dumpster! I hope Noel sees this and the error of his thinking! Agree with in prayer that he will!

Dave Armstrong said...

Very interesting comment. The biggest shame is that he shows by his comment that he does know better, yet still takes the position he does. It's a spiritual battle in the end, but for anyone to deny the self-evident truth of the personhood and right to life of the child, is self-delusion and voluntarily-induced blindness.

Maroun said...

JJR said .I am also a Christian who voted for Obama. In general, I view the Republican exploitation of the pro-life vote as downright cynical. I understand and accept that others many not agree with me.

First of all,you are right about one thing,many including myself do not agree with you.
Second,i dont know if i should congratulate you or maybe you should be afraid of your choice,because thanks to people like you,many million innocent humanbeings are killed (abortion).Does this still make you feel proud?You knew in advance what Obama thought and planned to do about abortion,so you knew in advance that he is going to be the cause of death of miilions of the most innocent humanbeings and still decided to vote for him.Well whosoever you are,you are part of this infanticide and one day you will stand in front of God and then you could tell Him,hey God even though i knew what Obama was planning to do,i helped him doing it by voting for him...
have some very nice dreams JJR.

Carrie said...


Being a Christian for all my life and then being(what I call) theologically converted into having a personal relationship with Jesus for over 40 years,and walking through a decade obtaining 2 (theological studies) graduate degrees, I find some of these comments insensitive.

I met Noel Paul at one of his concerts at my graduate school(Christian school). He was as genuine(professing his faith)in his concert as well as speaking to him briefly after his concert.

I read the quote you had posted from him and I believe you and others have taken it out of context. It appears that these comments have bashed his faith experience and growth as a Christian.Really....throwing out your PP&M albums.... sounds immature!

I do believe in the sanctity of life at conception on a personal level and theological level, but I realize that Christians mature in their theologies at different rates,which I heard clearly in his statement.

Perhaps, instead of the intensity of negative comments, the notes of prayer for the awakening of hearts toward the unborn should be played and heard.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Carrie,

Thanks for your comments. I don't deny that he is a Christian. He is inconsistent, insofar as he knows the truth against abortion and won't oppose it.

In 1992 (the year of the quotes I produced), he had been a fervent evangelical Christian for some 23 years. Now he has been for over 40 years. So we would expect the amount of spiritual "maturity" that would be sufficient for him to now be pro-life, no?

If you can find proof of that change of mind, please do produce it. No one would be happier than myself to see it.

I happened to see Stookey last night on a public TV special about folk music in the early 60s. He was the host, and was interviewed in the studio. Peter Yarrow was there, too.

He's a very charming, articulate guy. There are millions like him who have an incorrect view on abortion. It's why we have the abortion holocaust, because good Christians, who know better (like Stookey) are content with letting the children continue to be slaughtered, without speaking up about it and voting pro-abort politicians out of office.

It's a shame. I'm very saddened by it. I wish that everyone could wake up to the horrendous reality of legal childkilling and the torture that usually accompanies it. It's incredible that any so-called "civilized" society could sanction such a horrific, wildly evil thing.

Ben said...

... another "very charming, articulate guy," but one who, sadly, like Stookey, is apparently also "unfazed" by the wrongness of abortion!

Yes, charming people for sure -outwardly at least- and undoubtedly very likable on personal level - but wrong, so very wrong on this issue of abortion.

Chuck Maglaughlin said...

You obviously don't have the "burden" of feeling and being TOTALLY pro-life. Your degrees will not do that for you. Your "immaturity" is more evident than mine for pitching PP&M. There's always SOME poster out there in Christendom that always wants to throw water on the discussion and end with, "pray" and dispense with the "negative." Seems you fit "the negative." I'll pray for YOU!

peter maurin said...

it is difficult finding the rationale here when much of what Peter Paul and Mary sing about is what Pope Francis is also speaking about... This sounds rather like a right wing political ideological diatribe and Catholic theology except for that everybody agrees abortion is a mortal sin