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You Say You Are Pro-Life, What Does That Mean?

You Say You Are Pro Life?

A few years ago, I read the following statement from Sister Joan Chittister, Order of the Sisters of Benedict: 

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

It seems to me that the sentiment she expressed about what it means to be pro-life can be usefully expanded on.

I would add the following questions:  

  • How can one be pro-life and support war?  
  • How can a person be pro-life and support capital punishment?  
  • Could someone be pro-life and support killing those who perform abortions?  
  • Is a pro-life position combative with support for companies whose corporate greed and behaviors contribute to widespread starvation and hunger?  
  • Can you be pro-life and support corporations who don’t pay people a living wage?  
  • Should we call someone pro-life who supports corporations that not only produce, but cover up the effects of toxic chemicals that kill or maim people, or cause deadly cancers and other diseases that kill?  
  • How can you consider yourself pro-life if you support bombing innocent women and children? 
  • Can a person be pro-life and support bigotry?  

In many ways Jesus answered what it means to be truly pro-life in the gospels. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who use you badly,” he said. 

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

“If your enemy asks for your cloak, give him or her your coat as well.”

“Just as much as you have done these deeds to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done it to me.”

“Holy and consecrated (blessed) are those who make peace.”

“The Spirit of God is on me, because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind. He has asked me to set free the oppressed, and to announce that the time has come when God will save his people.” 

“Does no one condemn you,…then neither do I condemn you, go and do not sin again.” (Paraphrasing is mine.)  

How do we, who claim to follow Jesus as our Savior and our Lord, live with Christian integrity in this broken world of ours?  How do we actively show we are pro-life in the context of Jesus’ words to us?  “It would be better for a person to have a millstone (we are talking a real heavy stone here) hung about his head and be thrown into the deepest part of the ocean, than for a person who harms one of these little ones, to face the judgement.”

God is pro-life! I think we can all agree about that. But what does it mean to be pro-life in the way God is?  Isn’t the issue much bigger than condemning abortions?  

As I suggested above, one cannot be truly pro-life in a God-like way and support war or killing of any kind. Christ, among other things, gave his life to make that point. His disciples got it loud and clear. There is no historical evidence that any Christians went to war to defend their faith until at least 200 years after Christ. 

I would further argue that one cannot be pro-life and be unwilling to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take in strangers, help the widows and orphans in distress, or visit the sick and those in prison. I would add, comfort and aid the pregnant woman/child—not only through pregnancy, but until the child is full grown, or the mother is able to support the child on her own.  We need to have a much more holistic view of what it means to be for life.  

We also need to be more understanding of our fellow human’s failings, weaknesses, and foibles. Jesus said, “Do not judge others and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others and God will forgive you…” 

When was the last time you had to choose between ostracism from home and family with no place to live, nowhere to get food or clothes and having an abortion? Jesus was right when he said that for some people it would be better if they had never been born. If you had seen, as I have seen, the terrible things done to unwanted children; if you had seen those children grow into adults who abuse their unwanted children, you might understand that sometimes there are worse things than abortion. Am I defending abortion? I am not. If I am living realistically in a sin broken world, recognizing that God chose to allow all this in the name of providing humans true freedom, then I need to think hard and long before I sit in condemnation of another person’s exceedingly difficult choice. 

I don’t think we pay enough attention to the amount of time Jesus spent saying he did not, and will not judge us, but that our own words and actions will be our judges.

I would greatly enjoy seeing a conversation around this wider way of talking about what it means to be pro-life.

About the author

Dave Reynolds is a retired emergency nurse who belongs to a Sabbath school class that has been going through the Bible one chapter at a time for 40+ years. More from Dave Reynolds.
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