In film exposures of Planned Parenthood, do ends justify means?

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Pastor Doug Wilson recently did a helpful post exploring the ethics of tactical deception on the part of the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). He got me thinking about what constitutes a moral obligation of full disclosure and whether parameters for godly deception can be marked out.

I have had discussions with Christians who are very pleased by CMP’s work, but are conflicted regarding tactical deception. They wonder if they’re giving into saying “the ends justify the means.” In addition to this, there are R2K proponents criticizing CMP for their “unethical” methods for infiltrating PP. The former are understandably conflicted, the latter are selectively squeamish—dare I say pietistic—about operating within the “common” kingdom.

Adding to the mess is the media’s selectivity in reporting on CMP's videos while also reporting names linked to a website dedicated to facilitating adulterous liaisons...

On the one hand, most media outlets’ reporting on the PP debacle centers on who they believe CMP to be (dangerous nut cases) and how PP does so many good things. Poor PP. CMP deceived them and are now releasing edited videos to make PP look bad! That’s the gist of it. They largely ignore the content of the videos, opting to merely allude to it being altered/edited. To report on it would give credence to CMP’s tactics.

On the other hand, media outlets are far less conflicted when it comes to reporting names linked to the adultery website. They are happy to report the names of celebrities, near-celebrities, and Christian celebrities having accounts there. No one disputes how that information was acquired, but unlike CMP’s videos, the contents are open season for reporting.

An unsurprising contradiction, that’s for sure.

It is looking at the telos of relationships (to individuals and also structures) which will help us determine what legitimately obligates full and open disclosure versus a relationship telos which may actually obligate us to not disclose, remain silent, actively provide incomplete information that leads to misunderstanding on the part of the hearer, or provide actual misinformation.

The Telos of PP

PP is an organizational structure whose principle of existence rest on the violent destruction of human life. Murder. Our tax dollars fund PP. Public health is being “advanced” by trafficking the blood and body parts of butchered infants. The very issues at hand are ones which society is disputing and they are of direct public interest.

The nature of PP’s business informs and gives shape to our society’s moral character and is directly funded by our tax dollars. If we’re concerned about buying fair trade coffee because of the impact it has on individuals we have no connection to beyond the coffee beans they supply; how much more should we be interested in neighbors whose principal place of residence is their mothers’ wombs where they reside for nine months? They are infants whose lives are being taken by the millions, and it is funded by our money. Would we be more motivated if we measured the number of labor hours we pay in taxes going directly to PP? If you care about fair trade, why don’t you care about the great evil of infanticide?

The information CMP has released is actionable by citizens and their legislatures in ways completely unlike the adultery website hack. CMP is not providing details that serve primarily to titillate. These videos throw before us the existence of others who are being mutilated under the radar, within our own states, and within our own communities. The discomfort of the videos is what it feels like to be confronted by the existence of an other in need, like in the parable of the Good Samaritan. What made the Good Samaritan good was what he did in distinction to everyone else: he took an inconvenient detour and incurred great expense and further responsibility to ensure this neighbor-stranger was taken care of. CMP is giving us the opportunity to help many on the precipice of being butchered. Here is our opportunity to destroy the predatory structure. To turn our heads or cross to the other side of the road would be fiendish.

Legitimate Relations & Obligations of Disclosure

Truth telling, as an ethical obligation, is better looked at as a debt owed according to the demands of the nature of a legitimate relationship. These demands are what give particular shape to relations: marriage, church, friendship, family structures, neighborhoods, and civil structures. A man does not owe property taxes in the same way he owes his body to his wife. That is an obvious confusion of relational boundaries.

The telos for different relationships is different, both in degree and nature. It is the differences that constitutes them what they are. If there is no distinction between legitimate relational structures and levels of obligation, all distinctions are gone.

So differing relations have differing levels of obligation and disclosure based on the telos of the relationship between the one demanding it from another.

That all sounds well and good, you say, but CMP positively deceived PP and Stem Express. They did not merely remain silent, they actively fabricated their identities and their portrayal of their intended relationship to those organizations. This flies in the face of how we normally relate ourselves to others.

Precisely. Normally. Normal relationships are destroyed by deception since deception is inimical to normal relations. While there’s a whole lot of sin, and every relationship is beset with sin, not every relationship, as constituted, is in principle, wicked. So if you are wronged during the course of a normal relationship; that does not necessarily mean you’re released from the principles governing a normal relationship. PP does not participate in the telos of a normal relationship requiring full and accurate disclosure.

What PP and Stem Express exist to do is not only abnormal, it is immoral. The nature of their existence renders them inimical to normal relations which make up a rightly functioning society. They are not organizations merely in need of better business practices. They are organizations whose sole reason for existence rests on the destruction of babies, families, and souls. They deceive society. They deceive, very often, the women going in for abortions (or those women try to console themselves by those lies for a time). Structurally-speaking, PP and Stem Express are parasitic. Their existence depends upon the destruction of other relations.

To make the point obvious, it would be ludicrous for a man to decline to use various forms of insect repellent because the principal agency of that repellant is the obstruction of the perception of mosquitoes, ticks, and other such pests. I have yet to meet the man who fears their use puts him in danger of violating the 9th Commandment. These are parasites we want no relationship with and all of man would be better served by their non-existence. Likewise, CMP’s cloaking of their identities and motives served as necessary perception-hampering DEET to PP and Stem Express. There’s no such thing as a legitimate relational obligation of full disclosure to ghoulish organizations whose existence depends on deception and the destruction of human life. Our obligation is to the infants today, and tomorrow, whose blood does not yet cover our hands.

To provide full disclosure to parasitic organizations serves to solidify the abnormal, immoral relationship of that structure to our society. It is to positively persecute the innocent and helpless by sacrificing them to the abnormal.

CMP is not doing evil that good may abound. They are doing good so that righteousness may abound. They are like David, pretending to be insane, having cloaked their character to those with no character. They are like the midwives refusing to murder male babies by saying the Hebrews give birth much faster than Egyptians. They are like Rahab, who feared God, and deceived those searching for the spies.

In each of these cases, full disclosure was not a legitimate debt to pay. In each case, an aberration was brought to light, and that aberration obliterated any obligation to full disclosure and even required deceptive tactics. Do I need to mention Hitler and the Nazi regime? The righteous hid the Jews from the Germans and fabricated stories to deceive the Nazis.

When an intruder demands the life of a family, the godly man will do all he can to preserve the life of his family. He does not owe full disclosure to the intruder and may need to deceive him in order to ensure his family’s escape.

To provide full and accurate disclosure that preserves inherently wicked structures is to advance the monstrous lie that it participates in a righteous, God-ordained relational telos to which we must pay tribute. God grant us more Ehuds. May God bless David Daleiden.

Craig French is a former deacon and member at Christ the Word (PCA) in Toledo, OH. He and his wife Tai have four daughters.