Note from Communicating Across Boundaries: Posts on CAB are rarely political. While they are often passionate and want to bring on different perspectives, I know politics can get ugly – and at CAB We hate ugly dialogue! But this Friday, Robynn brings a challenging post on Life with a capital L. We are pretty sure that wherever you stand you will be challenged; we are also aware that wherever you stand you may have strong feelings about the post. We invite dialogue! We know it’s best done in relationship, and better over tea or coffee, but we urge you to respectfully articulate what Life is to you. Thank you for reading! ~
My husband, Lowell, recently was asked by the Evangelical Environmental Network to write a piece defending their declaration that mercury poisoning of the unborn through the burning of coal is a pro-life issue. It seems an obvious connection to me but one that has come under attack by those who prefer a more tightly defined category of pro-life.
It’s got me thinking.
I worked for a year at our local Life Choice office. This was a distinctly pro-woman place where women in crisis could come. We provided information and counseling so these women could make an informed decision about pregnancy, abortion and adoption. It was a place of healing and hope. I loved seeing the women loved on and prayed with through deeply troubling circumstances.
I am pro-life.
But I’m wondering when the definition of pro- life became so narrow? When did pro-life come to only mean pro-life of the unborn child? It seems to me that if we are really truly pro-life we should be pro-LIFE! We should advocate for all issues surrounding life. Our voice should defend the lives of the immigrant, the migrant worker, the poor, the homeless, the elderly, the unemployed, the marginalized. We should valiantly love the woman in crisis. We should cry out against injustice and exploitation. We should actively picket against toxins and pesticides, against mountain top removal and deforestation, against ruthless relentless drilling for oil. We should labour for clean drinking water, and safe agricultural practices.
But are we really pro-life? Am I?
A couple of weeks ago I had coffee with a friend. This friend and her husband have themselves adopted a child through that same Life Choice ministry. We have lots in common, including our pro-life convictions. She’s a safe friend to engage life with. I found myself wondering out loud about these things.
I wondered why the conservatives chose this issue to pivot on. What prompted them to decide to cast their vote behind this one concern seemingly sacrificing all other convictions? Why wasn’t it care for the elderly or for the poor? Why not concern for the foreigner or for the stranger? If the Bible was their source of ethics or morality they easily would have had justifiable scriptural evidence to suggest choosing one of those.
But I also wondered why those on the other side of the political aisle, who seemingly defend the poor, the ostracized, the foreigner–why they seem to have turned a blind eye to the unborn. They hear the cries of the young woman in crisis but choose to ignore the cries of the infant not yet born. How did they decide to define life in terms of choice when it’s clear that the others they advocate for rarely have a choice? Like the illegal immigrant, the Unborn have no defense, no voice, nothing to stand on—they are silenced by choice. They are silenced by ease. They are silenced by personal pain and even worse, by politics. They have no advocate.
There seems to be so much inconsistency.
As we dialogued and debated and discussed I think we happened upon a possible reason.
For the conservative –It is far easier to love a faceless, nameless innocent child than it is to love the homeless man you see every morning pushing his cart full of water bottles and pop cans. It’s easier to stand up for someone you don’t know, someone you’ll never meet, someone who really affects very few of us than it is to stand up for the grumpy, nosy elderly neighbor who’s name you know and who you try to avoid and who you’re pretty sure doesn’t have health insurance.
For the liberal—It’s far easier to ignore the voice of someone who is silent. It’s easy to forget they even exist. They have no voice. It’s easier to ignore someone who can’t talk, who’s never been given that right.
I know that the unborn child is personally entwined in many of our stories. These babies, miscarried or aborted, bring grief and sorrow. They are little people we’ve never met, children we never carried. They do have names and they mean so much to us, their mothers, their sisters, their aunts, their grandmothers.
But for many it’s not part of our experience.
We’ve limited our definition of pro-life as a convenient way to keep it at arm’s length.
Not only does this slap the grief of our fellow women in the face who’ve personally dealt with this deeply poignant loss, it also requires a different level of personal response or responsibility from those who haven’t. We don’t have to deal with it. I don’t have to decide whether to give money for gas to the man who knocked on my back door, or to give money to help cover the rent to the two women who rang my front door bell. I don’t have to figure it out.
I guess I’m imploring us all to look again at the broader landscape of scripture and society. I want to see the faces of those that others ignore. I want life for them. I want to stretch my definition of what life and living is. I really do want to be pro-life. I want life for that woman who yet grieves her loss. I want life for the uninsured, for the poor, for the unemployable, for the elderly. I want to care for those that mercury is silently poisoning, for those whose water is now contaminated, for those who live in environmentally devastated regions.
I want life for the born and the not yet born.
Perhaps the pro-life issue really is about choice. I choose to care. I choose to take responsibility. I choose life. I choose to be pro-Life! I’m pro-that –choice!