Sanctity of Human Life, 2009

Here is the transcript of a speech I gave to a local pro-life rally this past Sunday. I hope you find it useful.

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Let me say that I am more comfortable writing than speaking, but that the puppet show we just saw gives me an idea.. I can hide behind something and speak… solving the stagefright issue; I think they have it right!

Before I get into my little ‘talk’ here, I’d like to introduce my wife, Justina. There are two ways you can get to know Justina; just ‘be there’ after any event she’s in to chat with her, or read Proverbs 31. Either one will give the same picture and result.

So, how did a big, anti-social, biker-looking guy get involved with bioethics and the Sanctity of Human Life? My parents did not have children the old-fashioned way, and decided instead to adopt. I don’t know much about my birth mother, except that she gave me the gift of life, and that she also prepared me for eternal life by requesting that I be given to a Christian family. She gave me up at birth, and – after I had a two-week bout with jaundice – my parents picked me up from Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, CA in <mumble mumble>. They had the next baby boy put into the adoption system; two others were added the day I was born. We were one redhead, one blond, and one brunette. My parents, being blessed with the gift of discernment and having deep wisdom, picked the cutest; the redhead, yours truly. The joke was on them, when I was 8 months old, all my red hair fell out and I was bald. It grew back in blond, and as you can see, history does – indeed – repeat itself. I don’t expect it will come back this time; red, blond, brown or otherwise. Being adopted was the first step on my way to being an advocate for the unborn. Fast-forward a few decades and I attended a banquet for Hope here in town, and God’s time was ripe.. I signed on with Hope as a Board Member. I know that you’ve just heard an overview of Hope and its services, but suffice it to say that I believe that the staff and volunteers at Hope are devoted and faithful servants on a difficult battlefield. My hat is off to each of them.

[prayer], Father, help my words to be true and if in my human weakness I stumble and they are not, help them to fall on wise ears. Send each of the people in this room who submit to your will out into the world to hold up a banner that says, “every life matters, because each life is yours Lord”. In the name of Your Son, amen.[/prayer]

I’d like to talk about a hundred different things today, but because I respect you all more than that, I’d like to – instead – give an overview of the term “pro-life”, a construct for us to use as we think about this ideal we support and how to interact with others about our belief.

What does it mean to be “pro-life”? Do you have to be a Christian to be pro-life? There are some secular humanists that claim to be pro-life, so our ranks are broader than “Christians”. Sadly, there are also Christians that are not pro-life, so being a Christian is not a litmus test for a pro-life ideal. If we look at the pro-life movement through human eyes, we see a landscape that is confusing and complex. The issues don’t seem to have clear edges and much confusion exists around the fuzzy lines between ‘good’ and ‘bad’. We hear questions like:

·      Isn’t it better not to come into the world at all than come into it as an unwanted child? There are children that are born into drug addiction in the womb, and they go through terrible pain through withdrawal. Other children are born into terrible circumstances with parents that are unprepared. It is clear however that humans desire to live on, even if their circumstances are poor or lowly. We fight to survive. It is clear that living is preferable to almost all people than dying.

·      When does “life” begin? Can you prove that? Many theories abound about when ‘life’ begins. Some assert that it begins even before conception. Others say conception, more every day assert that implantation is the time ‘life’ begins. Some say that the date of viability or the time of birth is ‘obviously’ the time ‘life’ begins. Most with an answer agree that this is the place a slippery slope exists, but they still have an opinion.

·      On the topic of viability: What does ‘viable’ mean? Able to take in nourishment and process oxygen into carbon dioxide? Able to survive on their own? If this is the measure, there are 29 year-old men in Momma’s basement, playing an Xbox, that are not yet ‘alive’.

·      We admit that human life is more valuable than other forms of life, but human life cannot be there until the neocortex is fully formed (at 13 weeks). It is true that the neocortex is not fully formed until this date, that this structure only exists in mammals, and that the human neocortex is the most complex of all animals… this is a difficult argument to counter.. even if the timing seems a bit arbitrary. We’ll come back to that.

·      Even if we say that ‘life’ begins early on, it only matters when ‘personhood’ happens. Even if a thing is ‘alive’, it isn’t ‘important’ until it is a person. This cannot be early in the process. Again, this is an incredibly difficult timing to figure out, isn’t it? When does a fetus become a ‘person’? Is that timing the same with babies that all develop at slightly different rates?

·      We agree that both the baby and the mother are humans, but the mother’s right over her body is the overruling right. Her right ‘wins’. This idea is – frighteningly – widely held, even though a Founding Document of our country states that we are “created equal”, implying that our rights are equal.

·      When should life end? This is another – currently popular – topic in bioethics. There is a group – called Extropians – that believe that death should be conquered and that we should live a very long time, perhaps forever. They seek to do this through advances in science and medical technology.

In these short few questions, can you see how difficult the waters are through which we chart our course? If only there were a map, a beacon that would cut through the night and show us our way. A book perhaps, that holds the answer to how we are to view our world and how we should act. Folks, I suggest that this is that book [raise the Bible].

Folks, our society today is in trouble. Economic decay is beginning to hit home for us, even here in Wausau, WI with layoffs and company shutdowns. More important to solve than our economic blight, however, is our moral decay. More and more stories hit our front page every day that indicate we have lost our moral compass. Ex-husbands knifing ex-wives to death, a man gunning down an ex-girlfriend in a parking lot at work. How did we slide from the overt and purposeful protection of women through apathy into an active attack on women in so short a time?

The answer of course is sin and turning our face from God. God created us ‘tselem ‘elohiym, in the image of God. Satan hates God and wants to kill him. Since he cannot, he kills those made in His image, His children, and when he can, he targets the innocent, the helpless, the unborn.

If we replace our complex and rationalized worldviews with the word of the Lord, the points above become incredibly clear.

·      The first issue we covered… Isn’t it better not to come into the world at all than come into it as an unwanted child? Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matt 10:29) Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you (Jer 1:5)  God wants each of His children and nothing happens here on this earth that He does not see. 

·      When does “life” begin? Ephraim’s glory • shall fly away like a bird— no birth, • no pregnancy, • no conception! (Hos 9:11) Behold, • you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. (Judges 13:3) By faith Sarah • herself received power to conceive, (Hebrews 11:11). In these verses we see conception, pregnancy, and conception all tied together, equal in the eyes of the Lord, as the creation of ‘life’.

 ·      On the topic of viability: Back to Jeremiah 1:5. It seems that God knew us – and therefore valued us – well before conception. In His eyes, we already exist (did exist). We are ‘viable’ from the perspective of the One that does not change.

·      We admit that human life is more valuable than other forms of life, but .. In Scripture we see – clearly called out – that human life is set apart from other life. Adam was created differently and he was given dominion over the rest of life.  As far as the neocortical argument goes, the neocortex of any given baby already exists in God’s mind, and therefore that life is sacred to us.

·      Even if we say that ‘life’ begins early on, it only matters when ‘personhood’ happens. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you (Jer 1:5). For someone else to ‘know’ you, you must be knowable, you must be a person.

·      We agree that both the baby and the mother are humans, but the mother’s right over her body is the overruling right. Her right ‘wins’. 

In Romans 9:21 Paul explains that we are the clay and that God is the potter. Does not the potter have rights over the clay? The Creator over the created? With a Christian worldview our ‘rights’ mean nothing. We act to bring glory to God and to Him forever. God’s will overrides whatever ‘right’ we think we have.

·      When should life end? Well, I stand with the Extropians on this one, and you may be shocked to know that God does too. We all believe that life should be eternal; we just believe that this comes through a confession of faith in the God become Man who died for us.

So, to truly understand the depth of value that life has, we must understand life from God’s perspective. He knew us before we were conceived, He has a plan for each of us, and He desires that we be with Him forever.

 So, do we then ignore our short and difficult time on this earth and focus only on the eternal? Retreat into the mountains as an ascetic? In John 10:10 we hear Christ’s words as He says, “I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.  Christ intends for us to have an abundant life as a believer. This doesn’t mean worldly riches; in fact, John goes on to describe the life of a shepherd, giving up his life for his sheep and explaining that His sacrifice would mean eternal life for His disciples. An abundant life is an eternal life.

I consider it a victory to be involved in the process of helping a mother decide to keep a baby’s heart beating for nine months of pregnancy until it is born, but I consider it an honor of the highest regard to share the gospel with the mother and father of that baby in the hopes that they will share with me in the ‘abundant life’, the life that is eternal.

Finally, as I close, I want to talk about what it means to be a Christian; a winsome Christian with a heart of service. People with other perspectives on this issue accuse us of having hatred for the mother, of wishing to ‘punish’ her. They say that we are very interested in a baby until it is born, and then could care less about its circumstances. Are they right? How then do we prove them wrong? Public prayer is one way, the chain for life is a wonderful visible reminder to people, apologetics and debate are another way, but Christ told us that others would know who we were – and by corollary what we stood for – “by our love”. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Wherever you go, preach Christ; and if necessary, use words”. By our gentle, deep, and accepting love for those involved in a situation where the sanctity of human life is concerned, we will affect people for eternal life.

Thank you for giving me your attention this afternoon, and may God go with each of you as you carry His message of life to others.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 16:47 and is filed under Abortion, Crisis Pregnancy, Family, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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