Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Building a Culture of Life, part two

My hopes for this post are ambitious, to say the least. I'd like to adress the notion that being pro-life means much more than being anti-abortion. Simply outlawing abortion without tackling the underlying attitudes toward life and human sexuality will only result in what pro-choicers always predict: illegal abortions in back alleys with dirty coat hangers. They may rightly point out that we need to address quality-of-life issues, such as education, poverty, etc., but without a change of attitude toward human life, such improvements will only change the scenery of discord. The resentments toward responsibility and sacrifice will persist.

So what do I mean by changing attitudes toward a culture of life? I mean that we must re-orient ourselves, the decisions that we make and the manner in which we conduct our lives so that we may in all things show respect and care for the dignity of all people.

Christopher West and William May have done profound work on explaining John Paul the Great's "Theology of the Body." I will briefly attempt to explain it here. We can see in the very design of the human body, in maleness and femaleness, a revelation of the Divine nature and of God's plan for His Church. Giving and receiving, in a life-giving expression of love, man and woman become one flesh in a lifelong bond. This expression is so strong and sacred that it cannot contain the fullness of love, but overflows into the existence of an entirely new person. The immensity of this plan of God demands our greatest responsibility and commitment. The sacrament of marriage, whereby man and woman become one flesh so as to bring forth a new life to love, is a sign of God's plan for all of humanity. God the Father eternally begets the Son, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from Them both. The Son, Jesus Christ, embodies, literally, the marriage of God and Man. Christ is the Bridegroom who marries His Church in an eternal covenant, from which springs our eternal life.

Yet tainted by Original Sin, man often times, as today, has distorted, manipulated and perverted this vision of God's plan. We see that marriage bond is treated lightly, if at all. The sexual ethics of our time, enabled by the contraceptive technologies of modernity, divorce the procreative and unitive aspects of the sexual act. Sex becomes entertainment; unity becomes a reason for resentment; procreation becomes a burden. The unity of the spouses separated from the procreation of children leads to an environment in which the sexual act is used and manipulated in countless ways. Exploitation and objectification of partners is a result of this, for the responsibility of love is no longer seen as necessary. Families, actually the very definition of the word "family" is redefined, as is the word "marriage."

To come back to practical terms now, what does this mean for the here and now? It means that we find ourselves in an age in which women become pregnant without the external support of a loving, committed, responsible husband on whom she can rely for help in raising, nurturing, and teaching her child. It is also an age in which men are given the opportunity to treat women as sexual entertainment without ever having to face the responsibility of fatherhood.

So in this context, merely saying that abortion should be outlawed will only serve to place women in a situation where they still feel as if they have no options. Does this mean, then, that the pro-life community should not seek to outlaw abortion? Definitely not. What it means is that alongside these efforts, we also must strive to communicate better what we see as a culture of life, as described above. The pro-choice community does not see, or does not wish to see, that the contraceptive, promiscuous culture needs to change. And pro-lifers need to present this strongly, not as taking away freedoms, but as proposing a much higher good.

Some things we need to propose are as follows. First, every individual is sacred, unique and destined for eternity. We are all loved by God and do not deserve to be used, abused, or manipulated. People are not objects. Secondly, sex is sacred and relates to the most intimate aspects of the human person. It needs to be respected as such and therefore, should be kept to the bounds of a lifelong commitment, namely marriage. Sexual acts in which the unitive and procreative aspects are deliberately separated are immoral. Third, children deserve to be loved and nurtured. They ought to be raised, whenever possible, by their mother and father in a stable home environment. All children should be given the right to live.

Will any of this happen just by me willing it to be so? I wish. This will not happen even if all pro-lifers work together. We need all to work together to promote lifestyles in which the awesome miracle of life is welcomed. We need to promote chastity, not sex education. We need to promote fidelity, not conquest. We need to promote virtue, not stark utilitarian outlook. We need to clearly state right from wrong, not acquiesce to the "dictatorship of relativism."

Up next: genetic testing and other procedures, eugenics, end-of-life issues and justice for all individuals.

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