I am pro-life, but not only for the unborn. And I wish many Christians who fiercely oppose the legalization of abortion, would dare go beyond a single issue too. It is for that reason, and a few more, that I cannot support the Texas abortion law, or Senate Bill 8, signed last week by the Texas governor Greg Abbott.
Imagine what a transforming impact an army of Christian pro-lifers would have in the U.S. and elsewhere, if we would all as vigorously defend the rights and dignity of the poor, jobless and homeless among us; a health care reform that would take care of everyone regardless of their socio-economic status or age, even if this meant giving less for the military; legal and illegal immigrants, who are often treated as the scum of the world; overworked and poorly paid workers whose slavery to the greedy international corporate interests makes the extravagant lifestyle of the extremely rich possible; or young men and women sent to distant lands to sacrifice their lives in often dubious war conflicts, such as the embarrassing war in Afghanistan. Those and other are the issues that echo my understanding of what it means to support life in its totality; from the mother’s womb to the time of death.
I know Christians, churches and faith movements that see the organic connection between the Gospel of Jesus and its appeal to love our neighbors radically — near and far, believers and non-believers alike. They are all actively involved in helping, healing and upholding the neglected and the outcast. Their social activism is firmly rooted in a broader affirmation of the Gospel of Christ. They all understand that the embrace of Jesus that leads unto salvation, demonstrated by the cross, is inviting also the entire human family into a big, warm hug. And once one is caught in Jesus’ embrace, one cannot help but embrace others too.
Sadly there are too many Christians who fail to see the bigger picture: one that embraces a holistic understanding of the sacredness of human life. If one is to judge the quality and intensity of social engagement among Christians in the U.S. on the basis of the issues that the most vocal pro-life advocates advocate through public discourse, one can easily come to a conclusion that there are only a couple of issues they are passionate about: protecting the unborn and opposing gay marriages.
A typical, vocal pro-life advocate lives in a state of cognitive dissonance. While he or she passionately supports the rights of the unborn, at the same time they might have no issue with the policies and actions that destroy the lives of the vulnerable, born and raised in poverty, racially and ethnically discriminated, homelessness, immigrants, refugees and otherwise subjected to the greed of the wealthy.
But a larger view of life, as seen through the eyes of Jesus, informs us that the life of a homeless person begging on the street corner is just as sacred as the life of a president of the state; the life of an elderly person in his or her final hour is just as precious as the life of a new born baby; the life of a prisoner on a death row is just as holy as the life of the most reputable person; the life of a medically uninsured person is just as valuable as the life of a patient fully covered; the life of a wanderer who apparently does not contribute much to the community is just as important as the life of the executive director of a big corporation; or the lives of a Muslim, Hindu, Mormon or an atheist, immigrant or refugee are just as loved by God as the life of a mainstream Christian. And if we claim to be the followers of Jesus, their lives should be precious to us too.
Likewise, we may say that any abuse, degradation, enslavement, character assassination, oppression, humiliation, dehumanization or any other condition by which one human being strips another of dignity and value; or when one person or a group of people are taken advantage of by other group of individuals, government, political, military or ideological system, all of those represent a form of killing. So is the hate speech often buttressed by plausible religious concerns, increasingly in use to demonize those who do not belong to my religious, ethnic, racial or social tribe. None of us is completely innocent of many subtle ways by which we have become accomplices in gradually murdering our close and distant neighbors, often by omission, sometimes by deliberate action, as we condone the circumstances and policies that perpetuate the unjust social conditions.
Maybe the most enlightening New Testament reference that leads us towards a better understanding of how God is inviting us to value human life in its totality and from a holistic and more inclusive perspective is found in the appeal of Jesus: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, You did for me … For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:40.35.36. NIV
In the eyes of God human life is not only precious at the time before one is born, but always and under all circumstances. The sooner followers of Jesus understand that, the sooner our local communities, churches, neighborhoods, countries and the world might reflect more closely Jesus’ vision for our world, expressed in the prayer He taught us to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!