Sanctity of Whose Lives?

Tomorrow (January 17, 2016) is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

I had never heard of this Sunday observance prior to living in Michigan (2004-2007), and my first experience with it was very interesting. From the pulpit, speaker after speaker, and video after video on the screen talked about the evils of abortion, and as we left the church to go home, I saw protesters holding signs about abortion and the importance of protecting the unborn.

As someone who had never experienced a service like that before, I felt on edge through the whole service wondering what would be said or done next. I also thought about how many women in that large congregation had had abortions at some point in their past. I wondered if they would go home feeling as though they could never be forgiven or loved by God.

This year, as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday grew closer, I decided to look into the origins of the observance, and found out it dated back to President Ronald Reagan. On January 13, 1984, President Reagan issued a proclamation establishing National Sanctity of Human Life Day on the eleventh anniversary of Roe v. Wade. And since that time, churches have also set aside a Sunday in January to speak out against abortion.

In full-disclosure, I am pro-life. I think it’s important that I am transparent about my own convictions so that I’m not misunderstood. And, believe it or not, I’m not really wanting to talk about abortion. Instead, I want to challenge all of us to think about what it means to claim that human life is sacred and important to God. If we believe that, it will lead us to move and act in the world in certain ways – ways beyond picketing and pushing for legislation, though sometimes those things are necessary, too.

Today I suddenly realized that the day after Sanctity of Human Life Sunday this year is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And I wondered if preachers who were going to be talking about the importance of protecting unborn life would also be stepping out and calling for continued work towards a “multi-racial future freed from racism,” as the Reformed Church in America puts it.

A belief in the sanctity of human life cannot be one-sided or single-faceted. It must include working for justice, equality, and an end to systemic racism because we believe that all people are created in the image of God.

A belief in the sanctity of human life transcends religious differences, cultural upbringing, nationality, and politics. If we truly believe that human life is sacred, it means we must love our neighbors – even if sometimes we disagree with them, or are even afraid of them.

If I believe that all human beings are made in God’s image, that belief will manifest itself in the way I live my life. It’s not enough to say life is sacred, we must behave as though we believe it by showing hospitality, compassion, and love.

Do we truly believe this? Or do we simply want a day where politicking from the pulpit is acceptable?


3 thoughts on “Sanctity of Whose Lives?

  1. “If I believe that all human beings are made in God’s image, that belief will manifest itself in the way I live my life. It’s not enough to say life is sacred, we must behave as though we believe it by showing hospitality, compassion, and love.” Yes. Amen, April. You handled this absolutely beautifully. I love that you have more questions than answers– as well we all should, if we’re being honest with each other.

  2. Oh my friend. You have asked your fellow Christians whether we can truly mark “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” if we will not also celebrate the next day, honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, and participating in in the work of making sure that in America, Black lives matter (too). Thank you for making that so clear to us.

    In our heart of hearts, we know the answer. And if it costs me something to admit it, then I should pay it, recognizing that anything it costs me is something I only have at all because of all the extra free passes I get as a member of a privileged race. I can indulge in wishful thinking and in ignorance only because I’ve got an invisible pillow around me that softens my experience of reality. But God works in the *real* world. Our social structures are part of the perversion of order that God is in the process of redeeming, and I want in on that.

    How can I open a window in my pillow fort? Who can I share this shelter with? How can I take this undeserved, unasked-for buffer and share it with my brothers and sisters who didn’t get issued the same kind of invisible buffer?

    Here’s how I’m answering those questions: I can help other people like me notice their own invisible, fluffy buffers. I can point out the difference between the way I get treated the way I can move through the world, and the way that people with more pigment in their skin are treated, the bumps in the road that they are not cushioned from feeling. I can assume that I have a lot to learn, and get busy seeking out voices more varied than the usual suspects, who–let’s face it–have so much to learn in this area, and so much to lose by following Jesus and giving away their privilege. I can assume that if I want to hear Jesus speaking and leading, prophesying and calling to repentance, I should spend more time listening to people who don’t wield a lot of political power, who aren’t born into the “right” circles. In America that means expecting to hear from God out of the mouths, from the wisdom, and through the experience of the poor, of women, and of my black and brown brothers and sisters.

  3. I know a minister of Word and Sacrament, now retired, who talks about how he always preached on stewardship, since stewardship is part of everything we do. By that same token, how do we limit the sanctity of human life . . . or the struggle for justice and human equality . . . to one Sunday? Now I realize that there is a need to emphasize these things from time to time, but isn’t there a sense, especially for us Reformed folks, that emphasis on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is enough? after all, as we develop 52 or more special emphases, celebrating everything, don’t we really celebrate nothing? And when an emphasis we choose serves to say some believers–pro-lifers–are orthodox while others are less so, is it from God, or just a political sound byte?

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