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Core Values: On Radical Inclusivity

At Rehumanize International, we often say that we embrace a philosophy of “radical inclusivity.” 

In short, radical inclusivity means being inclusive of both whose rights we are working to protect and who we are working with to achieve our goals. The first part of this equation is simple: with the Consistent Life Ethic as our guiding principle, we aim to leave no human being out of our realm of consideration when it comes to human rights. This philosophy guides us, at minimum, to oppose aggressive violence against all human beings in all stages of life and in all circumstances.

People from all different backgrounds can arrive at this philosophy through a number of means. For many, ideas about inherent human dignity are integral to their faith tradition. Others have pointed to a variety of secular and humanist philosophies that lead them to a consistent commitment to nonviolence toward all. Regardless of underlying belief systems, at minimum, we should all be able to recognize that, as humans, we are members of a rational species, and we have an existence that is unique and unrepeatable. Further, what makes us unique is not just our physical appearance or make-up; there is something greater — an untouchable aspect of our self, something inherent to who we are as human beings that makes it impossible to replace any one of us. When a human being is killed, the life of someone who is totally unique in all of time and space has ended. This is part of why opposition to aggressive violence is so foundational to the Consistent Life Ethic. After all, if we indeed claim to value the concept of “human rights” at all, it does not make sense to pick and choose the human beings whose rights we defend.

In practice, proponents of the Consistent Life Ethic — such as ourselves — are actively working to end violence in the form of war, abortion, capital punishment, torture, police brutality, embryo destruction, euthanasia, and other manifestations of discrimination and abuse.

The idea that every human being should be able to live a life free from violence is not tied to any one religious belief, political persuasion, or social identity. Indeed, the foundational ideas on which the ethic is based have been present in many different religious, spiritual, political, and philosophical traditions across the globe. Today, people from all different backgrounds, races, faiths, and politics can and do embrace this philosophy because it is one with human dignity at its core.

However, the unfortunate reality is that, at this point in history, the Consistent Life Ethic is not a belief system widely held by a large percentage of the population. Most people — even those who hold a commitment to human rights or nonviolence — end up making exceptions somewhere along the line. There is a great amount of cultural pressure to conform to the dominant ideology, and unfortunately, the acceptability of certain kinds of aggressive violence is the norm in many of our institutions, including law, politics, and medicine. Further, in our hyper-polarized and partisan climate, the pressure to conform to those in your same political, religious, or social “in-group” is immense.

Here in the United States, both major political parties embrace positions in their official platforms that put them at odds with human dignity. And so, for most of us, embracing the Consistent Life Ethic as a whole typically means breaking with some commonly held beliefs of those in our same cultural in-groups.

As a result, the Consistent Life Ethic movement is not inherently liberal, conservative, or moderate. Rather, we are a movement made up of individuals who may or may not fit into categories such as liberal, leftist, conservative, distributist, libertarian, anarchist, moderate, undefined, and beyond.

In practice, this means that even within the Consistent Life Ethic movement, we will often find ourselves working with others who have radically different belief systems and positions on issues (outside of direct violence) than our own. Radical inclusivity, after all, does not mean uniformity. Rather, we believe it is only through embracing our ideological diversity and welcoming and working with those with whom we may have strong disagreements that we will succeed.

This can be challenging if you are used to organizing or spending time primarily with people with whom you share agreement on most important issues.

It can be especially challenging when these political disagreements feel personal, as they often do for people with marginalized identities, or when disagreements are based heavily on personal faith-based convictions that are simply not up for debate for one or both sides.

This can cause serious friction when it comes to movement building, but I believe that recognizing this challenge and facing it head-on provides us with opportunities for success in ways that more ideologically homogeneous movements lack.

Simply put, as Consistent Life Ethic advocates, we do not have the luxury of being exclusionary in our organizing. Larger and better-funded movements than ours have been brought down by the idol of ideological purity. More importantly, I believe we do a major disservice to the victims of violence we claim to oppose if we do not create a movement that is welcoming to as many people as possible.

Our primary goal is not to have a collection of the best opinions or win debates about these issues; it is to make substantial changes in law and policy that will lead to a decrease in violence against human beings and prevent individual human lives from being taken. If we want to have a chance of achieving that goal, it is necessary that we get as many people on board as possible. We will not achieve this with factionalism and infighting.

If we only worked with people who shared our worldview or agreed on every other political issue, we would simply never get anything done. If we truly care about the victims of abortion, war, capital punishment, police violence, and other forms of state-sanctioned violence, we should put their needs above our comfort and commit to the challenge of radical inclusivity. Rather than attempting to enforce uniformity in beliefs, we should be grateful for our ideological diversity and use it to our advantage whenever possible.

Practically speaking, having people in our movement with various perspectives also allows us the opportunity to better reach people from all walks of life. In our hyper-polarized society, having friends across the political aisle is becoming rare for many segments of our population.

We need an ideologically diverse base of Consistent Life Ethic advocates to ensure that this position is represented in every social, religious, and political sphere of influence. Rather than arguing about ancillary issues, we should be grateful when we find someone radically different from us who also opposes aggressive violence against human beings.

Our focus, instead, should be on reaching those who do not agree with us on these core issues. Because the Consistent Life Ethic can be, and is, shared by people with radically different faiths, political leanings, and other categories that divide us, it often does not require a complete shift in worldview for potential new adherents to embrace it. Though the philosophy itself is not yet mainstream, most people do share an opposition to at least some forms of violence that we seek to abolish. This means we often only really need them to change their perspective on a few relevant issues. Often, the issues they do agree with us on are based on some foundational beliefs they hold; for example, people who believe in a “right to life” and therefore oppose abortion and euthanasia, or people who value nondiscrimination and nonviolence and therefore oppose police brutality and war. Of course, these foundational beliefs are in no way at odds with the Consistent Life Ethic; and so, rather than approaching someone and attempting to change their entire belief system, being able to first demonstrate some amount of sameness, and then encourage them to be more consistent in their own approach to human rights, will always be an easier path to conversion.

I have personally known people who are pro-choice who have told me that, before me, they had never met another pro-life person. This means that these people had never really had the opportunity to hear the pro-life position explained to them, and they struggled to even understand why someone would oppose abortion in the first place. Their pro-choice stance relied almost entirely on thought-terminating cliches such as “Her body her choice,” or “Pro-lifers are all old, straight, Christian, white, Republican men who are anti-woman.” When presented with someone who interrupted that narrative and even agreed with them on other issues — such as healthcare policy, LGBT rights, or opposition to the death penalty — they were much more likely to be willing to listen. Further, the pro-life liberal is uniquely able to effectively demonstrate why they feel that the anti-abortion position actually aligns better with concepts widely valued on the left such as equity, nonviolence, and non-discrimination. Because the pro-life position has both sound science and philosophy on our side, this foot-in-the-door is often all a pro-life activist needs to successfully bring another individual into the fight for preborn lives.

If, instead, the pro-life movement were only made up of conservatives, it is likely that the opportunity for conversation would have never occurred because we are simply more likely to spend more time with people who think similarly to us. Even worse, it’s possible that the conversation would actually be counter-productive if the pro-choice liberal felt that their preconceived notions about pro-life people were affirmed. Plenty of conservative anti-abortion activists have been dragged into debates about unrelated issues by their conversation partner accusing them of “not really being pro-life” if they support policies such as cuts to welfare or are not affirming of LGBT identities. In those cases, the pro-life conservative now must spend their time defending those positions rather than making a cogent case for preborn rights — when the reality is we do not need to change a person’s entire worldview or political outlook in order to get them to recognize the humanity in the preborn.

Similarly, if the Consistent Life Ethic movement were only comprised of political liberals, we simply would not have the necessary opportunity to reach conservatives on critical issues such as the death penalty and war. If Consistent Life Ethic advocates exclusively used the “You’re not really pro-life” line as a weapon against conservatives, we would lose opportunities to have productive conversations that could lead to changes of heart on these crucial issues. I have witnessed right-leaning Consistent Life Ethic advocates being taken more seriously by conservatives on issues like the death penalty or police brutality because they are able to authentically share how the life-affirming position on these issues is not at odds with their wider worldview. They are able to use language that is more persuasive to that demographic, such as talking about the “inalienable right to life” or even citing shared religious texts they find compelling because they can relate to their underlying viewpoint.

This ability to demonstrate sameness is crucial to breaking down the barriers that our political paradigm has caused many of us to create. We must seek to not alienate people from our movement by unnecessary exclusionary language and posturing.

Now, that said — inclusivity should not be absolute. However, I don’t believe that attempting to set boundaries for the entire movement should be any one individual or organization’s job. This work is fundamentally that of “changing hearts and minds” toward a life-affirming posture. I want every single person in the world to embrace a Consistent Life Ethic; however, I recognize that I may not be the best messenger for every person.

After all, believing that every human on the planet deserves the right to live free from violence does not necessarily require you to like or want to spend time with every human on the planet.

I wouldn’t tell a person of color that they must work with a Klan member in order to build a broad anti-war coalition, or tell a member of the LGBT community that they must partner with the Westboro Baptist Church if they really care about unborn babies. Whatever boundaries people may personally have, they should be respected. I just don’t think it is productive to attempt to draw those boundaries for others, or to enforce a cancel culture mindset where we’re intentionally shrinking our impact.

Further, the core of our ideology is based on the worth of every human being. It can be somewhat easy to apply this in the wider political context, manifesting as the Consistent Life Ethic; however, this understanding of humanity should also extend into our interpersonal relations — including those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree.

In addition, despite being a Consistent Life Ethic organization, more often than not, we find ourselves partnering with single-issue groups. This means that we frequently work with people who disagree with us on our core issues —some of whom may even directly work to advance violence in various forms.

This means that one day, I’ll be standing alongside individuals at anti-war events who volunteer for Planned Parenthood and support taxpayer-funded late-term abortion, and then the next day, I’m attending the March for Life with people who worked to get Trump elected, and who were unapologetic and supportive of the harm he caused to migrants and asylum seekers crossing the border. This can be frustrating, but I really do believe that this is important for two reasons.

Firstly, I believe that every group of vulnerable human beings deserves a movement dedicated solely to advancing their right to live free from violence. And I want those movements to be inclusive so that they too can make the biggest impact. While I do want everyone to embrace the Consistent Life Ethic in its entirety, that is a much bigger and longterm goal; as we work toward it, we can still work alongside those who have not yet embraced the Consistent Life Ethic to achieve discrete policy goals that will save lives.

The second reason is that it’s important to remember that people who you might find distasteful — or who believe or do things that you might even consider to be harmful — are, in fact, people. And crucially, I believe they are reachable. I refuse to allow us, as a movement, to abandon opportunities for dialogue with people who have different views on these important issues. In fact, one of the reasons that I organize under the umbrella of the Consistent Life Ethic is that is provides us with a multitude of opportunities to reach people who otherwise would be pretty unreachable for those same reasons I just discussed. 

Don’t get me wrong — I understand the desire for the comfort of ideological purity. I would love if I could work only with people who I thought were totally unproblematic. However, when it comes down to it — we must be willing to put the needs of the victims, whose lives are at stake, above our own desire for comfort.


Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.

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