One recent bestselling book, Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, devotes 832 pages to making the case statistically that a decreasing percentage of humans are dying in warfare or through crime than in previous millennia. Maybe, but look at all the defenseless tiny people against whom we wage war.
Pinker ingeniously makes use of forensic archaeology: CSI Paleolithic shows that lots of prehistoric skeletons have bashed-in skulls, femurs with bronze arrowheads embedded in them, and so on. But we now have ultrasound evidence of little humans trying to avoid a needle and a vacuum.
The century that began with World War I in 1914 has certainly had its fill of horror, but Pinker argues that deaths as a percentage of population are down. He notes that some ancient traditions-human sacrifice, homicide to get a new leader, genocide to acquire real estate-are now suspect. But he doesn't mention the abortion onslaught.
Pinker's perspective seems suspect because we hear of so much murder and mayhem, but political scientist James Payne points out that "the Associated Press is a more comprehensive source of information about battles around the world than were 16th-century monks." True, yet year after year AP is a poor source of information about the gruesome details of abortion.
Should we be surprised that, if Pinker is right, born humans have less likelihood of violent death than in previous eras? Or is he unconsciously providing evidence that Jesus' life and sacrifice have measurably reduced violence? Why not? Last month many of us sang, "No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground, He comes to make His blessings flow."
Is that only at the end of this world, or could it be kicking in now? And if so, why do we kill so many unborn children? Another current book, Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, suggests part of the answer. Kahneman describes the power of WYSIATI-what you see is all there is. The invisible unborn don't count.
The deeper answer comes through an unfashionable Christian doctrine: the concept of depravity. Many of us sing in "Amazing Grace" about God saving "a wretch like me," but liberals substitute "someone like me." Wrong: Apart from God's grace we are child-killing wretches.
The first step up from wretchedness is to admit it and pray for mercy. A second step is to help people see what we miss when we act wretchedly. WORLD's annual Roe v. Wade issue often includes pictures of babies. In 2013, we'd like those photos to be of babies born to clients of pregnancy resource centers during 2012. This will be a contest with many winners: Our goal is to encourage mothers along with center directors, volunteers, and supporters.
Here are details: Any client's baby born in 2012 is eligible. We'll need a signed release from the baby's parent or guardian (download a PDF) . Moms of babies whose photos are selected for inclusion in WORLD, and the centers that have helped, will receive copies of the magazine that includes the babies' photos. Please email entries to Rob Patete (email@example.com) by Dec. 31.
And here's one more event, our seventh annual Effective Compassion contest. For months we've heard Occupy Wall Street folks talk about helping the poor. Now we want to show once again the value of ministries that walk a much better talk by offering challenging, personal, and spiritual help to those in need.
A generous donor once again values those efforts enough to put up $25,000 as a prize to the local poverty-fighting ministry that our reporters and subscribers find the most impressive in the country. Regional winners will receive $5,000 each. We're looking for nominees: Ministries need to be explicitly Christian, local rather than national, and dependent on donations rather than government grants.
By March 1 please email June McGraw (firstname.lastname@example.org) a note including the organization's name, address, and web address, with a sentence or two explaining why you think it's terrific. Given continuing unemployment, groups that help people find jobs are particularly important. Pregnancy resource centers in poor areas are also eligible, since they not only save babies from abortion but often give single moms a fresh start.