Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Pro-Life Essential

“Unity on the Essential of the Sanctity of Human Life is our objective. We are not seeking uniformity of opinion on all matters... Therefore, some ideas advocated by the authors of articles on the CIRTL Web Site, in Central Illinois Life News, on the CIRTL Directors Blog, and on the CIRTL FaceBook Group, may not necessarily reflect the personal views of all the members and officers of Central Illinois Right To Life, Inc.”

This notice appears on the home page of the Central Illinois Right to Life Web Site, and in an abbreviated form in every issue of Central Illinois Life News. It is an attempt at a pro-life version of “E PLURIBUS UNUM” if you will, which I think has been reasonably successful.

People in the Pro-Life camp do not agree on everything. That is not news to anybody. Having said that, there must be a clearly defined Essential that holds - rock-solid. For me at least, this Essential is best addressed in two parts.

First part - Human Life begins at conception. This, I think is the only scientific view of the matter in the light of the knowledge of genetics now possessed. And, at least for Jews and Christians a reading of the Old Testament Scriptures seconds the point. In the Psalms, for example David refers to himself at conception as “me” and Jeremiah quotes God as knowing “him” while he was being formed in the womb.

Now, the bare empirical facts of genetics, while pointing to the obvious beginning of a new and unique member of the human species, can give no logical legal or moral instruction to the matter of how we should treat human life at various stages of development. Indeed, a purely naturalistic view of the universe defined as a closed, materialistic system, created by time plus space multiplied by that most meaningless of all terms, "chance," can really make no defensible, ethical distinction between squashing a cockroach and killing a child.

And so the Pro-Life view must rely on a metaphysic of some sort to underpin the second part of the Essential. That second part I think may be fairly stated something like this - Human Life deserves the utmost respect and protection at all points of development, from conception to natural death.

And I think that at least in parts of the world with a Judeo-Christian heritage, the Pro-Life position takes its cue from that world-view. Overall however, I see the Pro-Life ideal, not primarily as a Christian cause, but more inclusively, as a human cause. I say this because I believe that a logical basis for the position can be found in other world-views as well – But it cannot be found in the various manifestations of naturalism - which are all really just facets of that irrational view of the universe which claims the most absurd position possible - the ridiculous idea that something can come from nothing!

And so to establish the full Pro-Life Essential, it must be clearly demonstrated that each human being is the full person in their essence that they will always be, from the moment his or her conception occurs. Since science cannot provide an adequate basis for ethics, it is clear that at least in Western culture, this task falls on Christianity, or on established theories of Natural Law, or else fails completely, leaving the door wide open for the only ethic that pure naturalism can ever logically espouse – “The survival of the fittest” – which translates in reality to the domination of the weak by the strong. (For a comprehensive discussion about Abortion and Natural Law, see: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_08natlaw.html .)

Some might say the substantiation of the Pro-Life position from the Christian paradigm is a difficult task - I say Baloney!

What is the foundational story of the Christian world-view? Is it is not the Incarnation – beginning at that moment in space and time when the Christ Child was conceived in the womb of Mary - when the Eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity, took on a human nature and became the God-Man? Christian theology asserts that he was fully that God-Man, one person, two natures - from that moment on, and for all eternity to come.

Now I ask - what was the greatest crime in all of history, and answer - was it not the murder of Christ Jesus the only begotten Son of God the Father on a Roman cross. But consider - would the intentional killing of Jesus at ANY POINT in His life on earth, even at one second past His conception have been any less of an offense? What Christian worthy of the name would attempt to justify such a dastardly act? And of course - that act would not have been the killing of the Divine Nature of Christ - for God cannot die - it would have only been the killing of the physical humanity of Christ – but it would have been an UNTHINKABLE crime, because He was from His conception what He will always be - Jesus the Christ.

And so to be logically consistent, we can and will and MUST assert that the full humanity of each of us is present as well, from that earliest of stages - conception!

That said, there are many closely related issues like non-abortifacient birth control, natural family planning, capital punishment, nuclear weapons, just war, self-defense, etc. that come up for discussion from time to time in the Pro-Life camp. And one can easily see that if we demand complete agreement on all these matters from each other, any semblance of unity is doomed. Members of CIRTL for example, hold some differing views on some of these things and the statement on unity above has served as a guiding principle, allowing us avoid some pitfalls and to focus on the main thing. (This is not to say that these issues are not extremely important, or that there is not a right and a wrong position on each of them.)

And, while thinking about these things, I hope we all try to understand a little of the pressure that some pro-life medical professionals are under to bend the Essential. I note however that the laws of man have generally not allowed for reduced responsibility in ethical matters based on professional status, either chosen or forced - whether it was soldier, doctor, lawyer, politician, pastor, or whatever - following orders and acquiescence to peer pressure did not hold much water at Nuremburg and I suspect it will not stand at the final judgment either. I think we will all have big problems there in many regards, short of the Grace of God. In any case this is exactly why attempts to remove the conscience protections must be resisted with all strength - and obviously, if one is relieved of the moral duties incumbent upon lesser women and men by one’s professional status, then protections for conscience are not that big a deal.

Most of us are realists as well, understanding that the culture is at another point than we might like and that a lot of people are engaging in non-marital sexual activity who would refrain in an ideal world. However, I would not sell people too short because I think the trend in both attitudes toward abortion and toward appropriate sexual behavior is on the improvement, especially among the younger generation in a lot of quarters.

Anyway, I believe there is room in the Pro-Life camp for some diversity of opinion on the tangential issues. The times ahead are foreboding. There will be plenty of opportunity after the battle is past to debate the peripherals with extreme vigor if we wish. Right now, it is the Essential that is in immediate, mortal danger and, as Mr. Franklin said so many years ago, " We must all hang together ... else, we shall most assuredly hang separately."