Sunday, December 25, 2005

Life Trumps All

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing the topic of abortion with a friend of mine. I always enjoy talking about one of the "bigger issues", and the fact that it meant a diversion from the studying we were supposed to be doing only kindled my desire. I made the point that regardless of the kind of life the child would live, I would rather he or she be born than be aborted. My friend told me to hold on, as he was not sure. I am sure, and I am sure of another thing. This basic divide in value systems is one very big reason that the debate on abortion never goes anywhere. While I do not claim to be able to cause the rift to disappear overnight--if at all--I may be able to shed some light on some of the values of the pro-life idealogy I hold dear.

A common critique of the pro-life position is that we are not actually pro-life at all. We are anti-abortion zealots who hide behind a friendlier moniker. I, for one, have no qualms with being construed as an anti-abortion zealot. The problem with the term "pro-life" is that we all consider ourselves to be in favor of life. We differ in the value placed on life at different stages. We also differ in the ways we go about favoring lives. Traditional pro-lifers put an emphasis on ensuring that all forms of life are protected. There is a bit of a strange exception when it comes to capital punishment, but for the most part, the right tries to ensure that life, at a minimum, is allowed to exist. The left places a higher emphasis on the quality of life.

There is a tremendous fallacy in considerations of the idea of "pro-life". Ann Coulter, who, though witty, tends to win few awards for class and tact, likes to claim that the left likes to kill babies. While they do kill babies, if this was all they were concerned with they would also purge the land of all infants under, say, the age of two in Herod-like fashion. The vast majority of pro-choicers are ignorant of the evil they commit. Perhaps it is a simple matter of allowing me to sleep better at night, but I cannot believe that every woman who has an abortion wishes to kill her child. Humans may tend towards evil, but the prospect of half of American society incurring the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah seems too frightening. Judge not.

There is a similar fallacy that often trips up the left. Pro-lifers may not always favor massive wealth redistribution at a federal level, but that does not mean that we are immune to the cries of the poor. In fact, it may be more "pro-life" to oppose welfare programs as they dehabilitate the human spirit by rendering the recipient addicted to financial aid. If my view of human nature is to remain constant, I cannot believe that everyone who receives a welfare check wishes to cheat the system. Yet the left owes the right the same consideration. Most conservatives do not wish to tread upon the already down-trodden. We disagree about the best way to create a more just society. We do not, as a whole, disagree about the value of justice. Again, judge not.

Now I am afraid I must introduce an element of Christianity into all this. I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is more that I try to make most of my arguments from a purely rational point of view, or, as near to purely rational as possible. When I introduce an element of Christian faith, I do not alter the truth, but it does not ring true to those who do not believe. Yet I see no way around it, thus, Jesus enters here.

In a bit of round about fashion, I start with my own family. My father and mother are orthodox Catholics who have not used--to my knowledge--birth control. The Church position on birth control is quite clear, and my parents following of said teaching is one reason I have seven younger brothers and sisters.

I have long struggled with the prospect of bringing life into the world as well. Since my attempts at romance have been notable failures, this won't be an issue for some time. Yet I have come to terms with it. It is a simple matter of faith. Just as God thought it worthwhile to create us, so we should have the same faith to create new life--in the context of marriage of course. God knew that we could turn our back on him. He did not have to give us free will, and doing so brought us closer to the brink of disaster. Indeed, it brought some of us--of our own volition of course--to eternal damnation. It is the same dread, I am sure, which fills parents at each time they contemplate the future of their children. But to focus on the dread leaves out the wonderful joy of life, especially the joy that comes with being a parent.

Chesterton claims that Christianity is a giant paradox. In other words, he says it is much like a cross. We are to be pessimistic about this life but optimistic as well. It is not a matter of the summation of optimism and pessimism--or the stoic life--it is the wonderful encapsulation of both. In the end, although we often suffer in this world, our belief in the existence of the next world makes this life a good thing. This applies regardless of the status of the life. Be it physical or mental impairment or insufficient means to meet the basic needs of human existence, a human life is still worth living. It is still, in the words of the Creator, "very good".

Thus, we have the lack of concern for the material things of one's fellow man on behalf of the pro-lifer. I would have the right send more money to Africa and less money to stop the liberal war on Christmas, but that is me. Christ warned against the spiritual dangers of wealth, not poverty, and it is the third world that has been most receptive to the message of Jesus. It is through our sufferings that we are united to him and his cross. Further, too much wealth allows us to pretend that we are in charge, or that security and peace can be found apart from him.

It doesn't matter what kind of circumstances the baby will be raised in. It is morally repugnant to kill the "fetus" to prevent it from reaching legal personhood. Groups associated with social justice, though well intentioned, sometimes miss the greater point. As long as we continue to wipe away the lives of millions of the unborn, all gains made to better society will pale in comparison. Life comes first of all. Without a basic right to exist, justice is a non-issue.

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