Saturday, January 09, 2016

Life, Pro Life and Pro Lifers

I've been forced to think more closely about what it means to be pro life recently.  As an American, I hold dear the ideals on which my country was formed, taken from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these thruths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

As an Orthodox Christian, I must also hold fast to the Word, the Logos, to Christ: what He taught, what He said.  I'm thinking particularly of  Luke 10:25-28:

...a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you live."

But the lawyer, being, well, a lawyer, just had to ask, "Who is my neighbor" to which Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, in which the person who showed mercy to the "other", the one who is "not us",  embodied love for neighbor.

I'm also reminded of  1 Corinthians 13 which says, "faith hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love."

Being an Orthodox Christian, I know quite a few people who strongly identify themselves as being pro-life, and they are good people with good intentions. I've been criticized, a lot, for steadfastly resisting identifying myself as pro-life.  I think the pro-life movement was hijacked years ago and should more properly be called pro-birth, or anti-abortion.

I will say it clearly: I think abortion is a terrible thing. I think abortion as a method of birth control is wrong on every level. Women have had abortions throughout history, and whether there are laws making abortion easy to get or hard to get or impossible to get, will make no difference in the fact that abortions will be performed.  I think that there are times when some persons could make a reasonable case to have an abortion, although I personally would not.  I don't think that late term abortions should be allowed, ever. If the baby could live outside the womb, then an abortion should not be performed on demand, ever.  Nowadays that dividing line seems to be somewhere around the 25th week, so there really should be no abortions after that point. Science has shown, though, that in the womb, babies react to stimuli, including pain, as early as 8 weeks after conception. So, when would it be ok to have an abortion? It's a tough call, especially since America is a pluralistic society with no state religion telling us what to think or when life begins. Certainly, the dividing line between abortion on demand and abortion only in limited cases and no abortion should be clearly defined by someone smarter and holier than me, but I guess those three lines should be moved much, much closer to conception than they are presently.

The idea that a woman should be able to do with her body what she wants, without interference, is something I believe in wholeheartedly.   However, when there is another person inside that woman, you are no longer alone in your body, and the choices you make about your body affect another person's body.  When someone is considering whether to have an abortion or to give birth, all persons affected by that choice should have an equal say in that decision, at least in my mind.  That would involve the woman, an advocate for the baby in utero, and the father of the child.  I had some fun with a telemarketer one time who asked me if I believe a woman has the right to do what she wants with her body.  You have to take your fun where you find it.

This all puts me on the conservative side of the pro life issue, but not according to pro-lifers. The reason for that is that I think there is a lot more to being pro-life than just abortion.  If you are pro-life, but you believe in the death penalty, then you are not pro life, you are a hypocrite. If you are pro-life, but have no interest in ensuring that the children you want born have adequate food, housing, clothing, education, and a stable, loving family life, you are not pro-life, you are a hypocrite.  If you think that cutting funding, and therefore services, to the hungry, the poor, the widows, the orphans, the veterans, and all people who comprise that vast group of people known as "them", then you are not pro-life, you are a hypocrite.

I have worked in workforce development for a very long time. I'm not totally current on the latest statistics, but I can confidently state that the biggest group of people receiving SNAP benefits are the working poor, not lazy bums trying to milk the system.  These are people who are working, but cannot earn enough money to feed their family. If you support cutting SNAP benefits, then you are not pro-life, you are a hypocrite.

Yes, there are abuses in every program, but these programs help people who are desperate.

There is so much more than just the abortion issue that should represent what it means to be pro-life.

As an American, who really believes in the Declaration of Independence, what does it really mean, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?  You can't be free, or happy, if one episode of illness puts you into bankruptcy, or if you are making 30% less than someone else for the same work simply because of your gender, or if your boss can fire you at will, or if your wages have been stagnant for the last ten years such that you can no longer pay for food or rent or medications, or if your life saving medications cost thousands of dollars every month...  I could go on and on.

These should be pro-life issues.  Why isn't the pro-life movement talking about these issues? Instead, we have one trick ponies, stridently declaring that abortion is murder and dead babies are a Very Bad Thing, which it is - don't get me wrong - but is that it?  Is that all you've got?

So, when I point out this giant chasm between what it means to be anti-abortion and what it means to be pro-life, I am vilified.  Sigh.

It really doesn't matter to me.  My feelings are not hurt when otherwise intelligent and loving people just don't get it and lash out at me. I'm not outraged about it.

I am outraged, however, that babies that have been born die from malnutrition, or diseases that are preventable and curable, that children are homeless and hungry, that veterans are homeless and unable to receive the medical care that they deserve and that they were promised, that old people have to choose between eating and taking their medication, and are parked in subpar nursing homes until they die from what can only be called failure to thrive.

I am outraged that Pro Life Christians, especially Orthodox Christians, will march on DC in a couple of weeks carrying an icon of the Theotokos and of Rachel weeping for her children, and then go home and vote for politicians who have already gutted food for hungry people, veterans benefits and other programs that provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for poor people.  They vote for these people because they label themselves "conservative" but I posit that they are not conservative at all, but are extremely radical in their social views.

But when I call any of this to the attention of every single pro-lifer I have ever met, I get told that I'm the one who is not pro-life.