As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
Human life is sacred. All human life. The biblical text makes this abundantly clear. Most people, if not all, who identify as conservative evangelical Christians are strongly opposed to abortion. And to be clear, I, too, am fundamentally opposed to abortion. The issue for me lies in other openly endorsed actions commonly seen in conservative evangelical circles, which undoubtedly and needlessly also lead to loss of life. In my view, the term “pro-life” should encompass the protection of all human life from all causes—not just abortion.
What are some actions that needlessly result in loss of life? Lack of health care access, lack of gun control, global climate change, and COVID-19 exposure all take lives needlessly.
Lack of access to primary care is a key driver for the lower life expectancy of African Americans relative to Caucasians and Latinos. Given that racial differences are primarily cultural and not biological, African Americans should not lose five years of life expectancy relative to Caucasian, American Latinos, and Asian people due to issues of systemic racism.
Gun violence is rampant in our society. Most people see little issue with guns purchased for hunting or protection. I, too, own a couple of guns for hunting. Too often, however, well-intentioned gun owners are found having used their guns for suicide or in a deadly household accident. Greater issue revolves around the assault weapons, guns engineered to kill people at war. While there might be acceptable reasons for owning such a weapon, they seem far too easily available to much of the public.
Global climate change currently kills an estimated 300,000 people annually, and far more will die each year as climate change insidiously progresses. Most, but not all, of this loss of life occurs outside U.S. and Canadian borders. The scientific community is nearly unanimous (98% of scientists) that anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gasses is driving global climate change. A handful of developed countries emit most of the greenhouse gasses. Carbon dioxide is produced by fossil-fueled vehicles, methane is a voluminous side product of the ruminant animals produced for the meat we eat, and nitrous oxide escapes from fertilizer used to produce the feed for our livestock and pets. These gasses do not remain within the borders of emitting countries, rather spread across the global atmosphere where they trap long-wave radiation being emitted to space, retaining this heat in our atmosphere.
The science has long been settled, but huge questions remain about what we can and will do about it. A warmer Earth has had and will continue to have predictable consequences. My church provides support for several villages in Honduras that have been recently devastated by two hurricanes this past fall. Emissions from developed countries (especially the U.S.) will continue to harm these villages over time. We send food aid, we facilitate development, but to what end when we continue to emit greenhouse gasses that drive a significant part of the problems our Honduran brothers and sisters face?
Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic currently illustrates the intense dissonance between anti-abortion or pro-life perspectives when Christians make wearing a mask an issue of personal liberty or press to keep congregant organizations open for economic reasons. Mask wearing confers an obvious and documented benefit of protecting innocent bystanders from a massive loss of life. Public health professionals who are in a position to really know are in broad agreement that people should wear masks and not congregate indoors, creating significant risk of infection. This is certainly a pro-life issue. If mask-wearing or avoiding indoor gatherings will save hundreds of thousands of lives, what could be easier to accomplish? No Supreme Court ruling is required.
Christians who value “liberty” or economic health over saving lives fail to apply the second-greatest commandment of “love your neighbor as yourself.” Wearing a mask and avoiding congregating is being pro-life in an actionable way. While economic hardship is real, for some more than others, the financial sacrifice could be temporary whereas lives lost due to COVID-19 exposure are forever.
What would Jesus do? I would hope the church would model all their actions after Christ Jesus. While Jesus rendered to Caesar what was Caesar’s, He primarily sought to build relationships with the poor, the downtrodden, the sick, the disenfranchised. Jesus did not dwell on his liberty or his right to a robust income stream. The biblical text suggests that in our current time, Jesus might strike up a relationship with a woman seeking an abortion, draw her close, hear her story, and would appeal to her heart by asking her not to choose to abort. This, it seems, should be primary work of the church. We should build relationships with those who seek abortions, draw them close to us as we exhibit Christ-like love, provide them with an alternative to abortion, and secondarily vote for a legal solution.
The “anti-abortion at all costs” position unfortunately tags along with political sympathies that downplay or deny the need to tackle systemic racism, oppose sensible gun control, engage solutions to global climate change, and to live inconveniently for a time by wearing masks and avoiding crowded indoor gatherings. Political leaders who take an anti-abortion position while promoting policies that result in loss of life to other causes requires us, as voters, to make an either/or choice that is inherently hypocritical. We should expect more from our political leaders; they will hew to our positions as voters if we speak out.
So be open-minded and think critically. Learn about systemic racism. Learn about gun violence. Learn about global climate change. Learn how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The preponderance of evidence on all of these issues and their current and future consequences has been shared in all clarity by experts in the respective fields.
Solutions to these issues are complicated and require nationwide (in the U.S. and Canada), if not global, conversation. Conservative evangelicals are an influential voting block that has frequently played down issues like health care access, gun control, and global climate change for a variety of reasons, some good and maybe some not so good. A truly pro-life agenda should seek to protect all lives from all causes. My hope is that we, as the church of Christ, would actively choose and publicly advocate to save the lives of already born people throughout our globe by caring for our neighbors wherever they might live by stewarding our resources and creation well. We must engage people on all sides of these issues in conversation to identify those actions that will save lives.
These are all pro-life issues. The responsibility lies with us to learn and discuss how we can protect lives in a way that goes beyond being simply anti-abortion.