Jason Christopher Glas
Normally my Sunday mornings begin around four o’clock with a large pot of fresh coffee reviewing lessons to be taught that day and making final preparations for our worship services. Later, I take on my role as the enforcer making sure the children get ready per mom’s orders so we all leave the house on time. January 22, however, was no normal Sunday. The irony is that on the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday storms ravaged our region and human lives were lost, orphans were made, and destruction surrounded us. On Sanctity of Human Life Sunday we cancelled worship because of life-threatening and life-ending conditions. Cancelling our worship meeting was certainly the right thing for everyone’s safety, but it was troubling to watch devastation and death unfold on the very Sunday reserved to celebrate human life.
Despite the confusion of secular culture, the outpouring of donations, workers, and resources to South Georgia in the aftermath of the storms demonstrate our conviction that human life is exceptional. This is a fresh reminder since we live in times of deep confusion over the value and sanctity of human life. There are towns granting citizenship rights to animals, judges issuing domestic violence protective orders for animals, and employing the same “well-being” judgements for animals in divorce cases as for children.[i] For most of us, however, when storms hit and human lives end the blurring lines of human and animal dignity quickly retreat to their appropriate sides of the field. Born or unborn, humans are not animals. Human life is exceptional. Humans are valuable. Humans are the only creation made in the image of God. So, despite the devastation, the storms of Sunday and work that follows provide us a fresh reminder that human life is valuable. It also causes us to reflect on why we celebrate the dignity of human life and what our responsibilities are as Christians today.
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is remembered every January on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion in every state for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy. Estimates vary but as many as 57 million unborn children have been murdered “legally” since these decisions. Despite what the Women’s March advocates proclaim, Pro-Choice is not just about reproductive rights for women. The Pro-Choice movement has helped redefine concepts commonly understood throughout western civilization such as personhood, human dignity, and quality of life. In fact, this redefinition should be called “anti-life” rather than “Pro-Choice” because victims typically have no choice. The choosing is usually reserved for those who take their life. Pro Choice redefinitions compel Christians to think about protecting human life from all anti-life proponents that emerge and surround us. The Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, therefore, is not just about past and potential victims of abortion, but it also includes the moral obligation to defend and protect the vulnerable from exploitation. We think about unborn children, orphans, foster children, those with special needs, victims of sex-trafficking, slavery, and the elderly. We declare against the anti-life philosophies, science, and movements the dignity of these lives from conception to grave.
Being pro-life is more than being anti-abortion. Being pro-life is not just supporting a political candidate who shares your views. Being Pro-Life is not just a philosophical position you adopt in passivity. Pro-Life means understanding that we are advocates for life. It means bearing responsibility for life not just in the voting booth but also in our personal contribution of caring for the weak and vulnerable around us here in Valdosta, GA. “Pro-Life” has abundant meaning compelling us to act because it is holistic. To be Pro-Life is not just being anti-abortion. We call ourselves “Pro-Life” because we believe the following:
First, human beings are not the result of a cosmological accident nor the evolutionary product of random biological acts over time. Human beings are not descendants of previous primates, but are “created as the image or reflection of God himself.”[ii] By creating humans, “God creates a visible reflection of himself” so we can relate to Him as our Creator. Human life, therefore, is distinct from animal life.[iii] Humans share attributes and moral categories with the Creator that no animal can. Human lives are valuable because they are made in the image of God, therefore human life is exceptional in contrast with all other forms of life. This view, obviously stands against the strata of our society. The entire concept of human life has been radically downgraded and even called discriminatory against other species.[iv] The value of human life now is the so-called “quality of life.” The measure of human worth is if you or another deem it to be a “life worth living.” Human exceptionalism, dignity, personhood, and life quality are all a part of the anti-life redefinition of meanings. Through the mediums of education and media, many in our society believe the lie that human life is no more valuable than a common bird or lab rat because we all stem from the same “evolutionary tree.”
Being Pro-Life, therefore, means we believe human life is exceptional. We do not believe “rights” should be granted to animals because animals do not possess moral agency nor can they even conceptualize respecting the rights of others.[v] We do not believe in animal rights; we believe in animal welfare (Proverbs 12:10). We treat animals in a humane manner, but never supporting the idea that animals and people have equal moral worth. Only humans have the dignity and worth of being created in the image of the divine.
Second, being Pro-Life means we protect the weak and the vulnerable. Our conviction about the dignity of human life means we protect it from those who will exploit it. Exploitation can come in many forms. It can come from an abortion clinic, a hospital, a government office, a scientist, a neglectful parent, or a neglectful child to their elderly parents. Being Pro-Life means we do not ignore human trafficking and sex trafficking. Selling, trading, or enslaving human beings for sex, labor, or any other purpose attacks human dignity.
We protect those being medically treated to ensure they are not victims of the “Quality of Life” ethic that believes their care is futile. We do not believe in a utilitarian ethic of the “greatest good for the greatest number” but “rather the protection of the weak from the strong who would exploit them.”[vi] Assisted-suicide for the aged, the ill, or the disabled is never a compassionate response. We do not believe that personhood or quality of life is only for those who have cognitive awareness of their life. Pro-life proclaims to physicians, biologists, and the scientific community that personhood and human dignity is not a point in someone’s life but extends to their entire life; conception to grave.
Pro-Life means we care for orphans and those in need of a family with unconditional love. We help the abused, we help the marginalized, we help the helpless, and love those whom others will not. We do this because we believe in the dignity of human life.
Third, being Pro-Life means we believe science and technology should be legally bound to moral restraint. Cloning, genetic engineering, germline intervention, nanotechnology, and cybernetics (mixing humans with machines) are not the means and hope of perfecting human life or society. We do not believe that eliminating all human frailty from existence is humanity’s best hope. We do not believe “that suffering must be eliminated by any means that is available to us, for a good end does not justify any and every means.”[vii] Pro-Life rejects transhumanist and post-humanist philosophies that promote voluntary evolution of humans and/or radical genetic alteration of humans. Pro-Life does not support technological utopianism by means of manipulating nature through converging technologies, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and bioscience.[viii] Being Pro-Life means we do not believe robots or artificial intelligence should be granted the right of personhood despite whatever European Parliamentarians suggest.
Lastly, being Pro-Life means we believe the gospel must be proclaimed to everyone. All humans are valuable and Jesus died in order that sinners who believe may be rescued from the plight brought about by sin. Storms, death, disease, exploitation, and disasters all have their origin in the rebellion told us in Genesis 3. The cure is John 10:10. The gospel has no bias against race, economics, geography, health, genius, or genealogy. The gospel is for all humans and the church is a new race of humanity from every tribe, language, and nation given life by the Son of God. All humans are valuable, but the gospel restores humans to their purpose and grants them life eternal; forever escaping the clutches of sin’s curse. If we think humans are valuable, then we will take to them the gift that is most precious (Luke 15:4-10) and rejoice when we see them found.
As Christians, and particularly as Covenant Baptist Church, we bear the obligation of caring for the weak, the exploited, the vulnerable of our society, and victims of disaster. The Bible declares that God is a father to the fatherless and a judge for widows to their defense (Psalm 68:5). Widows and orphans were the most vulnerable in ancient culture and just as it was the responsibility of the covenant community in the Old Testament to care for those who are weak and vulnerable, so the command is no different for the covenant community today. James 1:27 declares: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”[ix] Being Pro-Life is not a mere political position, it is a lifestyle.
[i] Karin Brulliard, “In a first, Alaska divorce courts will now treat pets more like children” Washington Post (accessed on January 25, 2017).
[ii] Richard Lints, Identity and Idolatry: The Image of God and its Inversion, NSBT 36 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 61.
[iii] Thanks to Dr. Toby Jennings for reminding me of a quote from Don Carson: “We are not mere mammals. We are persons. If we really believed that we are nothing more than accidental collections of atoms, moral outrage over anything would be irrational.” Don Carson, How Long, O Lord?: Reflections of Suffering and Evil (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 99.
[iv] Evolutionary and atheistic ethicist Peter Singer calls this “speciesism.”
[v] For more on this point see Wesley J. Smith, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement (New York: Encounter Books, 2010), 244ff.
[vi] Charles Colson, “Introduction” in Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy, edited by Charles W. Colson and Nigel M. de S. Cameron (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 15.
[vii] Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics, 3rd edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013), 7.
[viii] For a thorough treatment on trans-human and post-human efforts see: Charles T. Rubin, Eclipse of Man: Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress (New York: Encounter Books, 2014).
[ix] New American Standard Bible (The Lockman Foundation © 1995).
Jason C. Glas © 2017