Uncompromising and Consistent
Immediatism is a no-compromising strategy that does not accept any legal means or rhetoric that betray the very values we are seeking to establish. Though sometimes controversial, the tenet of immediatism is nothing more than the orthodox teaching of repentance applied to national or covenantal sin.
Within the context of abortion abolitionism, immediatism is a strategy that calls for civil repentance as well as the establishment of justice according to God’s Holy and perfect Word. There can be no compromise in this standard.
For example, if we lived in a culture where sexual assault was legal and generally accepted as normal by half the population, all rhetoric, piece of legislation, or other action that assumed the criminality and sin of sexual assault would be immediatist. An immediatist strategy could not include any language or action that implicitly or explicitly assumes the ethical and/or legal legitimacy of any sexual assault. A law outlawing the rape of only white women, for example, would not be immediatist.
Likewise, an immediatist approach to abortion could not include any language or action that implicitly or explicitly assumes the ethical and/or legal legitimacy of any abortion. This would include laws banning different methods of abortion as well as laws banning abortions at certain levels of development.
Immediatism teaches that compromises on the core values of the end goal are harmful to the end goal.
The inverse of immediatism is incrementalism.
Incrementalism is the strategy that is open to, believes in, and sometimes participates in legal and rhetorical actions that compromise the underlying values of those fighting for total abolition.
Within the context of abortion abolitionism, incrementalism is a strategy that calls for civil abolition as well as the establishment of justice according to any pragmatic and utilitarian methods that can be seen as potentially helpful. By definition, compromises are seen as acceptable so long as there is a perceived trajectory towards the end goal.
For example, if we lived in a culture where sexual assault was legal and generally accepted as normal by half the population, any bit of rhetoric, piece of legislation, or other action that assumed the legal and ethical legitimacy of sexual assault would be incrementalist as long as the action could be seen as a “step” in the right direction. An incrementalist strategy could certainly include any language or action that implicitly or explicitly assumes the ethical and/or legal legitimacy of sexual assault. A law outlawing the sexual assault of only white women, for example, would be an “incrementalist” law.
Likewise, an incrementalist approach to abortion could undoubtedly include any language or action that implicitly or explicitly assumes the ethical and legal legitimacy of abortion. This would consist of laws banning different methods of abortion as well as laws banning abortions at certain levels of development. Heartbeat bills, twenty-week bans, partial-birth bans, pain-capable bills, rape and incest exceptions, and other similar types of rhetorical positions, proposals, and legal positions would be ethically justifiable within the context of an incrementalist strategy.
Incrementalism teaches that compromises on the core values of the end goal can be useful in reaching the end goal.
Common Obfuscations of Immediatism
Increments aren’t automatically incrementalist. The devil is in the “ism.” Consider pietism. It is not piety that we should be wary of, but pietism. Modern feminism should be avoided, but women should be feminine. Being a social person is a good thing, but socialism is theft. Likewise, some increments are ethically and judicially legitimate. Incrementalism, as a term, is more than the sum of its dictionary definition parts. Any increment that does not implicitly or explicitly assumes the legitimacy of abortion could be seen as justifiable and immediatist in essence.
One example of this is geographical abolition. A bill that entirely abolishes abortion in the whole of a jurisdiction is not incrementalist. The USA abolishing all abortion in the USA but not abolishing abortion in, say, China is not incrementalist. Oklahoma abolishing abortion in Oklahoma but not Virginia is also not incrementalist. However, if the USA abolishes abortion in Utah but allows it elsewhere, that would be incrementalist. It is a question of jurisdiction.
Immediatism is not overnightism. Immediatism understands the reality that abortion will most likely not be abolished overnight. This, however, does not justify preaching or demanding any goal less than total and absolute repentance and change. Immediatists understand that while we keep demanding and working to accomplish this goal, society may advance only in increments in the meantime. We do not denounce such advance, but we also continue to demand the full repentance and only the full repentance.
The last significant confusion is thinking that immediatism somehow denies that there is change over time.
Immediatism does not deny that God works progressively through history. Similar to how orthodox Chrtistians call for total personal obedience while understanding that sanctification takes time, immediatism teaches total abolition while recognizing that it will take time. Immediatism is a form of civil repentance, not merely change over time.
This is why immediatism is simply repentance. We would never suggest to a brother that he only cut down on his sin a little bit. “Hey, please commit a little less adultery this month.” No! Of course not. We’d tell our brother to put that sin to death. Not to keep that sin around and try to minimize it. Though we know that sometimes repenting of profoundly ingrained sin can take time, what God demands from us is not partial obedience and partial repentance. We are to repent of sin, thoroughly, and we are to call for the repentance of sin. Fully. Even if that repentance takes time, our prophetic call and our pastoral care should never be for just the reducing of sin. As John Owen said, be killing sin or sin will be killing you.