Life Questions

I am pro-life. Don’t get mad, don’t feel justified, please keep reading.

When moral issues arise, I try to side with life. Ideologically, I believe abortion, the death penalty, war and assisted suicide are all murder: the premeditated killing of another human. IN AN IDEAL WORLD, I would not support any of them.

The problem is, of course, that our world is a messy place, and choices are rarely as simple as good/bad. Usually, we’re taking a multiple-choice test, where the ‘right’ answer is as difficult to decipher as an SAT analogies exam. Sometimes we have several good choices. Sometimes, we must decide between two terrible choices.

This was driven home to me several years ago. A visiting theologian described his job with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – to locate and safely return Lutheran missionaries, pastors and other workers who had been taken as political prisoners in hostile countries. He told us of his anguish when a political faction offered to return prisoners in exchange for arms. He said, “I knew those guns would be used to kill other humans. I also knew, if we did not supply them, they would obtain the arms elsewhere. I prayed all night. In the end, I decided that my mission was to obtain the safe release of our people. God help me, I gave the guerrillas their guns. I won’t know until I stand before the throne of God whether I made the right decision.”

What follows are my current thoughts about these hot topics. They have evolved over time, as all thought must. I believe it’s godly to remain open to new insight that may guide our opinions, and sin to shut our hearts from God’s nudges. My thoughts are sometimes contradictory, maybe even hypocritical. As the theologian said, I cannot truly know God’s opinion until I stand before Her.

In the case of assisted suicide: There are pain management strategies these days that can sustain quality of life for most people until natural demise, and I hate to think of the world being prematurely deprived of a beautiful soul. However, I think the decision should be between each person and their physician and loved ones. It is not mine (read: society) to decide nor judge. In fact, after seeing the slow demise of my mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s, I’ve made clear to my children and my husband that if such a terrible fate befalls me, that I do not want my life to be sustained. I’ve asked, in advance, for suicide assistance. This seems at odds with my beliefs – but I don’t believe that what she suffered for most of a decade qualified as life. A zombie is not a person, and I’m not convinced her soul still resided in that empty shell.

In the case of war: I’m against war. Period. What terrible delusion is the human race suffering, to think that lining up young people and asking them to kill each other is ANY solution for disagreement? Worse yet is the kill-from-afar technology that gets more sophisticated every year. No one wins, especially not the victor. War is failure. Having said that, if an army arose over the hill and threatened my loved ones, I would pick up a rifle and start shooting, no questions asked. I would die to defend my children, my family, my friends. What a contradiction!

In the case of the death penalty: State killing is the premeditated taking of another life. It is murder. It is not justice, it is revenge – but it does no good for the person thus avenged. They are still dead. A just society does not use murder as palliative care for survivors.

In a less sophisticated society, an argument might be made for permanently removing a member to protect society as a whole. If we were suddenly dumped on a desert island with our families and friends, and one of us became a serial murderer, we might need to consider rowing the murderer out and dumping them into the middle of the ocean to prevent further innocent death. We’d still be murderers, too, but it’s a ‘two bad choices’ scenario – there is no good solution.

But we don’t live in such a society. We have humane ways to remove those who would wreak havoc. Furthermore, we are called as Christians to care not only for victims, but also for the victimizer: to care just as much for their soul.  Jesus says:

“You have heard that it was said: You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and your sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your Heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so you must also be complete.” – Matthew 5:43-48

And finally, to the question of abortion. I looked back historically on abortion perspectives within the Jewish and Christian communities. There has never been a consensus. The Bible itself is almost moot on abortion, except for Numbers 5:11 – 28, where, if a man suspects his wife is pregnant through adultery, he can present her to the priest, who will have her drink an abortificant. There’s a lot of mumbo-jumbo about the results if she’s innocent or guilty, but the practical result is, she will abort. Note the woman has no choice in this – it’s all up to the man.

The church doesn’t agree about when the soul enters the fetus. If at conception, what about identical twins/triplets, etc? Does one body contain multiple souls? (Because the mitosis doesn’t occur immediately.) I see no scriptural basis, other than demon possession, for believing that one body can house multiple souls. If not until birth, then what about the unique personalities shown by each baby, from about the fifth month on? What about their responses to sound, to light? I think we have to admit that we don’t really know when a soul and a body unite.

For me, that doesn’t change the fact that abortion is murder – the premeditated taking of a human life. But I will not stand in judgment of others. We live in an imperfect world. For myself, I have drawn the line of vehement objection at viability. I’ve spent too many hours photographing 20 and 25 week preemies who did not survive birth, listening to the family sob hysterically in the background, to consider these tiny ones without souls. We read daily of the heroic efforts (and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent) to save the lives of little ones from about 22 weeks on. I cannot reconcile deliberately flushing what others try so hard to save, and mourn so deeply to lose.

In summary, I’ve pondered long over these questions, and will continue to do so. The answers aren’t easy, if there are answers at all. What I do know is that God loves us as the saint-sinners that we are. He loves the unborn child. He loves the mass murderer. He loves the arms dealers, the guerillas, and the poor peacemakers who make heart-wrenching decisions. He loves us all.

2 thoughts on “Life Questions”

  1. I have always resented the way the anti-abortion group has co-opted the term “pro-life” as their exclusive identity. I consider myself to be very pro-life. Abortion is a horrendous decision, and one I believe is usually arrived at only after significant soul-searching (and rarely as a casual solution undertaken for convenience–that may happen in some cases, but it irritates me how some people feel women should be governed by the least common denominator among them). I wish no woman ever had to face a pregnancy with anything but joyful anticipation.

    That said, I will never — NEVER — be in favor of turning women or the medical professionals who serve them into criminals for exercising this choice. Instead, if there are those among us who seriously want to eliminate abortion from our society, we would be far better served making sure those children will have access to education, medical care, and adequate opportunities in life. We should make sure that fathers are both valued and held equally as responsible for their children as the mothers are. Etc. etc. etc. There are so many alternatives to simply resorting to legislation to impose our own morality on those around us.

    Also, I love what you said about the death penalty: A just society does not murder as palliative care for survivors. Very well said–I feel that way exactly.

  2. I agree, Kristy. Years ago, I remember driving past the Salem Hospital. Both sides of the street were lined with picketers, carrying signs both for and against abortion. I remember thinking, “If, instead of marching about self-righteously, these people would reach out to a scared, pregnant woman who felt she had no support, no options, no future, then they wouldn’t have anything to picket about.” But it’s easier to carry a sign than to support another person. Grrrr.

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