There is a lie that our culture continually perpetuates. It is the lie that life is only as valuable as its circumstances. We see it in films or books that romanticize assisted suicide and euthanasia, that reduce abortion to a decision over whether one can afford a child, or that imply that people with disabilities are burdens, or that some people are more violent than others because of their race or ethnicity. These lies are deeply offensive on a variety of levels, but they are also all around us.
So, what can we as Christians do, not only but especially as we celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday this weekend?
Talk about it.
Every life is valuable regardless of poverty or disability, gender or race. We need to affirm and reaffirm that in our daily conversations. When faced by those who view some people as less than fully human, the Christian calling is to continue the conversation. Whether we face the degradation of life through racist words spoken by a colleague or in a conversation where people with disabilities are mocked, we can’t afford to walk away. We are called to speak the truth to each other in love. Those last two words are critical: in love. Not love for ourselves, or the love of what is right, but out of our love for God. It is that love for God that pours out into our relationships with every other person made in God’s image.
Commit to learning.
Abortion has taken a greater toll on communities of color in both the U.S. and Canada because of structural racism that has made them more vulnerable to abortion. Historically, majority cultures have promoted abortion as a way to prevent minority cultures from growing. As a result, women who are ethnic minorities have abortions at a rate significantly higher than the majority populations. We need to know these stories. The same values that drive us to honor Sanctity of Human Life Sunday drive us to honor Martin Luther King Jr. day. The values these days promote are the same. They are articulated beautifully in the fourth point of the Belhar Confession:
“The church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.”
How we treat people matters. We are called by God to care for the oppressed and to look out for the vulnerable. The oppressed and the vulnerable include children who are unborn, women who are exploited and abused, refugees in search of safety, and many others. If we truly love people as God calls us to, we will not only work to help people through ministries of mercy, but also through changing the systems that are barriers to their ability to change their own circumstances. These kinds of activities may include speaking up when you hear or read someone say something disparaging God’s image-bearers because of their race or religion, advocating for transportation services in the your city for people with disabilities, or committing to pray for the women in your community who feel that abortion is their only option.
I want to conclude with a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life is celebrated this month in the United States. Rev. King knew the value of every life created in God’s image and the power of God’s love.
“Humanity is waiting for something other than blind imitation of the past. If we want truly to advance a step further, if we want to turn over a new leaf and really set a new man afoot, we must begin to turn mankind away from the long and desolate night of violence... It will be power infused with love and justice, that will change dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows, and lift us from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope.”
(Martin Luther King, Jr., Chapter Two, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? New York: Harper and Row, 1967)