Sunday, February 5, 2012
It’s been a challenging couple of weeks for my brain. The political world has squarely taken aim at some of my fundamental beliefs about human life, and has declared null and void the right of Catholic institutions to adhere to those beliefs as a matter of conscience. It’s gotten personal.
Naturally, the ensuing discussions have displayed the full spectrum of political and spiritual convictions, leaving my head spinning on more than one occasion. In the course of one exchange, a friend was ardently defending Planned Parenthood. I was completely shocked by some opinions she holds, even though we’ve known each other for 20+ years. What really sent me reeling, though, was the assertion that she, a Methodist, should not be expected to “feel the same as [another denomination] just because [she’s] a Christian. …[W]e share the same BASIC beliefs.” I was completely stunned. If you, as a Christian, believe that a child has no right to be born because it is unwanted, and an organization like Planned Parenthood has a right to exist on the dime of taxpayers in this nation, then what basic belief do we share? **Later discussion clarified her position: she is PERSONALLY against abortion, but doesn’t feel that she can tell another what is right for her. She considers Planned Parenthood to be something of a necessary evil because of the non-abortion services they provide.
Christianity is not an acknowlegement of a set of historical facts about a guy named Jesus. Christianity calls us to look at that set of historical facts and see in them an interaction between creator and creation, bridegroom and bride, redeemer and redeemed, and be consumed in love. It calls us to open our eyes and see what God sees, and love as God loves. So what are the basics? And how does faith have any relevance in secular politics? Be still, my aching spirit....
God desired Humanity. (Gen. 1:27) Humanity sinned, and destroyed the innocence that God had given. God, in response, protected humanity by closing the way to the tree of life. In His mercy, He would not allow us to live forever, separated from Him. (Gen. 3:22-24) God set before Adam and Eve the forbidden tree (warning them that if they ate of it, they would die), and the tree of life. Interestingly enough, in Deuteronomy 30:15, He is still offering the same choice. In 1 John 5:12, the choice is the same. He desires us, and wants us to desire Him. How humbling a truth! Behold, what manner of Love...! The Psalmist, in pre-scientific wisdom declared the truth: we are wonderfully made, known as we are knit together in our mothers’ wombs (Ps. 139:13-16, et al.). From the time of Moses, the law protected the unborn, with penalties for even an accidental injury to an unborn child (Exodus 21:22). From the time we are conceived until the time of our last breaths, our Heavenly Father desires us. He calls us by name (John 10:3). We are His people; the flock He shepherds (Ps. 100:3). We are members of His body (1 Cor.12:27), His radiant Bride (Rev.19:7, 21:2). It is such very basic - God desires us and loves us unto death (Phil. 2:7-11) - but infinite, unfathomable truth. No human life, from its scientific beginning (conception) to its last breath in this world, is exempt from this love. Who are we, mere men, to determine that a life is unwanted? inconvenient? too burdensome? Who are we to say that it is mercy to “free” a tiny human from a life of poverty or disability? Who are we to decide that the course of a woman’s life is more important than that of her child? That one has more right to exist than the other? Who among us could stand before the Author of Life and tell Him that a life that He desired into being was not welcome? Oh, be still, my aching spirit!
The founding principles of this nation included a set of basic rights, afforded to us by our creator. Among them were the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights were not to be compromised by any law, and the rights of one were not to be held superior to the rights of another. Somewhere along the course of our history, the Declaration has been deemed inapplicable to those who had no voice of their own. In 1973, it was the unborn. The right of Jane Roe to live her life without a child in tow was deemed superior to the right of that child to ever draw breath. Since that time, others have decided that their right to be childless (and grandchildless) superseded the right of a child to be born. Or that one child in a womb had a “better chance” than another, and therefore should be allowed to continue to develop while a brother or sister was, quite literally, ripped from his or her side. Or that a child in the womb was imperfect, and therefore should be “mercifully spared” this cruel world, a life of disability, or the indignity of burdening a family. Since 1973, it has happened 52 million times.
In 2005, it was Terri Schiavo. She became the public face of countless private battles. Her life was ended by a court order, not a divine one. Her heart was beating on its own, she breathed completely without assistance, and because she could not speak for herself in a way that was deemed “meaningful,” she was left to starve, dying of dehydration over the course of 13 days. The aged, the infirm, the handicapped, are all vulnerable to such de-valuation in our current culture. In other places, in other times, great crimes have been committed against humanity because of this same decision in its basic form: I have the authority to decide that you must cease to exist, not because of harm you have done, but because of who or what you are, or because you are not useful to me in achieving my personal goals. Be still, my aching spirit.
These examples fly in the face of our founding principles, but they also find conflict in the legal halls where they claim asylum. If a pregnant woman is killed, the responsible party is held to account for the loss of two lives. If that same woman walks into a medical facility to terminate that pregnancy, she is “within her rights,” up until the time that the child’s head leaves the womb. If she should die as a result, there will be no charges filed. Two lives lost, just a part of the “accepted risks” of a “surgical procedure.” If the child should be born alive, it will be denied care or comfort. It will be abandoned to die alone and in pain, because we are a civilized nation that “respects the reproductive choices of women.” Be still, my aching spirit.
I believe in freedom. I believe what I believe, and I believe that you are free to believe what you believe. I want all others to have that same freedom, to the fullest extent possible. If those beliefs constitute a complete, vehement rejection of all that I hold dear, then so be it. Until our convictions lead us to undermine the rights of ANY citizen - the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness - we are free. The moment the government protects the rights of any group over those of another, the seed of tyranny is sown. Unchecked, it will be the death of liberty in any nation. Oh, be still, my aching spirit.