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?