Spiritual Life

Society must grapple with the value of human life

Recently, we have read about events that shocked our society. The first was a shooting in a mall in Oregon. It was followed by the shooting of teachers and first-graders in Connecticut. Finally, a man decided to use a fire outside of Rochester, N.Y., to shoot firefighters coming to extinguish the blaze, killing at least two.

As a result, we have asked ourselves: How can we be such a violent society? How can we devalue life so extremely? And consequently, our society is once again grappling with the issues of gun control and violent video games. But there is another issue that may be a root cause.

This month we will be marking the anniversary of that fateful decision Roe v. Wade. It is a decision that many people of different faiths find disturbing. Others feel it is just and right.

A fetus, according to one argument supporting abortion, should not be given the full rights of other humans because, in part, the life is not viable. It is dependent on another human being – its mother. This is the attitude that I wish to address. However, one cannot do true justice to the issue of abortion unless two other supporting arguments are given their due.

The first argument is that illegalizing abortion will once again bring back the backstreet abortionists, with the resulting loss of lives for both fetus and mother.

The second involves cases of rape and incest. How can we compel someone to carry a child resulting from such horrific acts?

These last two arguments should be compelling for any Christian, because they deal with both mercy and justice. And they are ones that we must prayerfully consider and eventually answer.

But the argument that the fetus is not a human life, quite frankly, is flat and illogical.

The dependence of a human life on another does not reduce its value or worth. The fact that an unborn child is a fetus does not deny the reality of what that fetus will become – a human baby. And it is precisely the callousness of this contention that reduces the value of all human life.

We must face the fact that the casual way our society wipes out “inconvenient” human life translates into a disregard for all human life. And it helps foster a society that can morph into one that promotes eugenics, racial purification and the elimination of “undesirables.” But remember, changes like these are not sudden, but subtle. They occur over several generations, with each generation becoming more callous than the previous one.

I do not want to engage in hyperbole, but human life, either viable or dependent, must be credited with worth. If not, if the weakest in our society can be terminated by the strong, then how can we honestly call ourselves civilized?

It is time to take a firm look at ourselves and our society to decide what we must do.

The Rev. Michael Penfield is pastor at St. Luke’s Chapel in the Hills, a traditional Anglican church in Los Altos Hills. For more information, visit www.stlukeschapel.org.

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