Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My Politics: Faith's Place Therein (Part VII): Life

Okay, here's where the proverbial rubber meets the proverbial road. I'll start talking issues with the one that I prioritize highest: life (for the reasons mentioned yesterday - without life, other rights mean diddly. Dead people can't exercise their right to free speech.) It's also one of the few issues for which I find the most compelling evidence is on the pro-life side, both biblically and secularly. This being a Christian-themed series, though, I'll focus on the Biblical for now. (Though I'm always, also, more than happy to discuss the scientific and legal arguments surrounding life-rights questions.)

First of all, life rights issues in politics encompass two main areas of debate (as I see it): abortion and euthanasia. Some people would add the death penalty and war, but I consider those separate from these two, and I'll discuss that a bit later in the series. For some history, I've addressed these issueshere, here and here.

So, tackling these two issues as much as one as possible, the process I worked through to come to my political views worked something like this. As noted earlier in the series, my primary driver is to align with God on the issue, and then decide how best to engage in the politics surrounding it. So obviously prayer for wisdom plays a part. But then I also look to scripture, from whence comes God's wisdom, to see what God says. And honestly, He says nothing directly about abortion under that name. Ditto euthanasia as we know it. The terms "abortion" and "euthanasia" aren't to be found in any translation I've seen (though I'll concede that I've not read every translation all the way through.) Some might argue that this silence means we can come to our own conclusions about the morality of abortion, and our attitudes towards it, without worrying about scripture at all. The problem is, God doesn't allow for this. If we expand our reading away from a narrow view of looking for specific words, and instead look to scripture with an eye towards principles that show us how God feels about life and treatment of other people, we can come away with some pretty compelling evidence that abortion and euthanasia are not Biblically approved (ergo are not in line with God's will.)

What are these principles? And how do they demonstrate abortion and euthanasia are not acceptable to God?

  • First of all, God made us in His image (Gen.1:27.) Any human being has God's fingerprints all over Him/Her, regardless of stature, station or status. Human life is precious because we are created in the image of God Himself. It doesn't matter the stage of life we are passing through, be it fetal or senior citizen; we are all special enough in His eyes that He sent His Son to die for us.

  • Second, God doesn't just grant us personhood at birth. Multiple times scripture talks about how "God knows us" in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16, Luke 1:15 for starters - there are more.) Some argue that this only applied to certain "special" people, like prophets and apostles. But this argument falls flat; God is no respecter of persons in that way, and He wouldn't devalue the average Joe by saying, "sure, I knew Jeremiah in the womb, but for you I waited until you were born to start loving you."

  • Third, we are to protect the weak and vulnerable (Acts 20:35, I Thes. 5:14.) And none are more vulnerable than the unborn, the sick or the elderly (the group most talked about, aside from terminally ill children, in the euthanasia debate.) This, by the way, counters the idea that men can't speak to abortion issues. " Following that logic, the rich shouldn't advocate for the poor, the healthy shouldn't speak up to help the sick, and gays shouldn't argue that divorce harms the institution of marriage.

  • Fourth, suffering is no reason to harm others (2 Sam. 1:1-16) or to seek death (I Cor.3:16-17.) There is a purpose for suffering, and we miss out on that when we take a life to end that suffering, be it a woman's emotional suffering in pregnancy or an invalid's suffering from illness. God doesn't provide, in scripture, for suicide or killing to end personal suffering. God sanctioned killing for purposes of justice, self-defense and war only. While many places in the Bible talk about how "it would have been better if so-and-so hadn't been born" the next step isn't taken to end that person's life (Job 3, Matt. 26-24.) Suffering is not pleasant; nobody likes it. But there's no biblical backing for ending suffering through mercy killings or taking the life of another.

  • Finally, God is sovereign over life and death (Eccl. 8:8.) We have no right to usurp His authority, and doing so is sin. I will make the distinction that I am talking, in reference to abortion and euthanasia, about individual actions. Societal actions (justice, war) are separate issues, and separate biblical principles apply.

There are additional texts and arguments, as well as more details on these ones that I've brought up. A couple of places that provide such info are here and here.

So if I accept these principles as true, it should seem obvious I believe that abortion is wrong, euthanasia is wrong, and that the victims of both are almost always vulnerable in some way (some euthanasia victims actually aren't vulnerable, and make their own choice - but I see now scriptural backing for that choice.) So, being compelled to speak on behalf of the vulnerable, I feel compelled to speak out, and act against, abortion. And as I said yesterday, life issues are of primary concern because if someone else can take your life, be it at a very early developmental stage (i.e. fetal) or a very late developmental stage (i.e. octegenarian), the other rights mean little.

This brings up two questions: what right do I have to base political arguments on scripture (i.e. the church/state separation question), and what are the political activities that are valid for use? As this post is getting long, I'll talk about those tomorrow. I'll also concede that the principles I've laid out here aren't convincing to someone who doesn't have a high view of scripture, or who doesn't accept it as authoritative/inerrant. Fortunately, God gave us other tools and "secular" arguments to use. But for Christians, building a worldview needs to rely first on scripture. If you can't trust scripture enough to use its authority in all aspects of your life, then I don't think you can say you trust it at all; pick and choose faith is a foundation of sand, and political views built on such are liable to fall when tested. Best to trust the wisdom of God, and not the folly of our own preferences.

God bless!

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