The Catholic Church in the United States has designated today, January 23, as a special day to pray for the legal protection of the unborn.
There is certainly nothing wrong with this intention. But it is not nearly enough.
Unfortunately, our primary problem is not a legal one. To suggest that it is implies that merely changing the law would set everything right when it comes to our relationship with God and ourselves regarding life issues.
The disease in our culture runs far deeper than this. Our problem is not simply a poorly considered legal decision by the Supreme Court in 1973. Rather, Roe v. Wade is but a symptom of an insidious illness that pervades our society, with roots reaching far back into our history and with tentacles stretching into the future of those not yet conceived.
And it is a cultural disease, a community disease, not simply the sin of the individual.
Whether we are killing our wartime enemies, our unborn, our criminals or our elders, we are of a race that kills its own kind. While some of the lower creatures may do this on occasion, none do it to the extent that we humans do – nor do they do it for such varied reasons.
We are so “advanced” in this area that we are quite adept at denying that that is what we do. We convince ourselves that we are killing what is evil (in our wars and executions) so that we do not have to look at the evil in ourselves. We convince ourselves that we are being merciful when ending the lives of those we cannot afford or whose suffering we cannot endure (the unborn, ill and elderly).
Or even worse, we convince ourselves that our actions do not involve killing at all. What we have eliminated is not really a life. Euphemisms take over…a clump of cells; a potential life; an embryo; a pregnancy.
We convince ourselves that ending human life is not really ending a human life.
I do not find it difficult to feel compassion for women who consider or have abortions.
If I found myself in hell and, after looking around, saw a door marked “Exit”, would I not go running to open it? Even if I were in hell as a result of my own misdeeds?
Quite naturally I would. Hopefully, once out, I would beg for mercy. But I cannot say that I would resist opening that door.
In one sense, it might be argued that Roe v. Wade constructed this door marked “Exit”, the escape for the woman or family that does not want, cannot afford or fears having a child. Yet, our culture was slowly building this and other “escapes” long before 1973.
Rather than review all of the wars, lynchings and executions permitted in our history, allow me instead to address the root cause of our disease.
Though we may never articulate it, we have a fundamental belief that we should not have to suffer.
Now this might seem like an odd way to tie together all of the symptoms of our disease. But I believe it is so.
If we examine the course of “progress” in our nation, it is not difficult to see how we have built an economy that revolves around products and services that are designed to make life more comfortable, more convenient and more fun than ever before.
This is not the economy of a culture that accepts suffering. Rather, its subliminal message is clear and constant: I must prevent, avoid and stop anything that might lead to my suffering, that might lead to my death.
And what is origin of our hidden belief?
It is, of course, fear.
And fear is one of the strongest weapons (and greatest lies) that the enemy uses to lead us down the path to believing that it not only acceptable but even necessary to destroy the gift of life given to us by our Creator.
Hence, if I fear that I might suffer, I might die, it becomes necessary – to lynch the black man in the south, to execute the criminal on death row, to kill the enemy before he kills me or my family.
Similarly, if I fear witnessing the suffering of someone I love – for it makes me fear my own suffering – ending it becomes an act of “mercy”.
As a society, we have built “exits” all over to escape our fear of suffering, our fear of death – and we have been doing it for a very long time.
Hence, it should be no surprise that we eventually built one to escape the untimely pregnancy – with all of its accompanying fears of ruined futures, destroyed family relationships or overwhelming responsibility with no support.
Has it become apparent yet how abortion is a cultural sin that we all share in? That it is but one facet of a much broader disease that pervades our lives at every turn?
This does not make it right, of course, or even excusable.
What I intend with this perspective is to broaden our vision, to help us see our need to repent together and resist the enemy, instead of making enemies of those who have fallen.
No change of law can do this for us.
Rather, we must pray for and reach down to lift up the fallen. But even before we do this, we must face our own fallen state – our fear of suffering, our fear of death.
How can we hope to pray for or lift up another if we ourselves are running from our own fear, if we believe the enemy’s lies more than we believe the truth of Christ?
While this might seem like a harsh charge, it is only because we are so accustomed to the ways of sin that have been passed down to us from generation to generation. Can any of us deny that to follow Christ means to follow Him into suffering until we arrive at the Cross?
As long as fear rules, we are not following Him.
This does not mean, of course, that we are never to feel fear. Fear is hard-wired into us, as is the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain.
We shall never be held accountable for having felt the wrong thing. No, we will likely be afraid many times during our human journey.
But we can decide. We can choose the life of Christ, living for the sake of love rather than comfort, for truth rather than lies.
In so choosing, our lives thus become lives of repentance rather than judgment. We are ready to join the suffering and so lift them up with the same grace that we have received.
And if we do, hearts will begin to change. More will “look to Him and be radiant” (Psalm 34:5) and the laws of darkness will cease to have meaning.
This is what we must pray for. This is how we must live.
May it be so.