Tag archives: life

Commitment to the Sacredness of Life Should Unite All Christians

by Rob Schwarzwalder

October 11, 2011

David Gushee, a self-professed “progressive” Evangelical who supported Barack Obama in 2008, yesterday published an elegant piece on the sacredness of human life, in which he previews his forthcoming book on this topic. Conservative Evangelicals can applaud Gushee’s argument, as summarized in the following:

The moral witness of the early church gives us stark evidence of what our forebears understood lifes sacredness to mean. Theirs was a comprehensive sacredness of life ethic that recoiled at the shedding of blood and opposed Christian participation in practices ranging from abortion to infanticide to murder to gladiator games to torture to war.

As to war, the record of the early church is much more mixed; over time, there were many Christian soldiers in the Roman legions, and the text of the New Testament indicates that military service is consistent with God’s plan for both government and His redeemed people. But Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Georgia’s Mercer University, should be given his due: He is a political liberal whose commitment to Scripture is such that he cannot deny the witness of God’s Word - that personhood begins at conception.

In a 2009 op-ed in USA Today, Gushee described his disillusionment with the then-nascent Obama Administration:

Mexico City, conscience clause, Sebelius, embryonic stem cells. In each case, I have been asked by friends at Democratic or progressive-leaning think tanks not just to refrain from opposing these moves, but instead to support them in the name of a broader understanding of what it means to be pro-life. I mainly refused … a society that legally permits abortion on demand is deeply corrupt. It pays for adult sexual liberties with the lives of defenseless developing children. That practice, in turn, desensitizes society to the implications of paying for prospective medical cures with defenseless frozen embryos, which themselves are available because our society pays for medically assisted reproductive technology by producing hundreds of thousands of these embryos as spares.

As he puts it in yesterday’s Associated Baptist Press op-ed, “My biblical explorations find building blocks for this belief (that human life is sacred) in the Old Testament and New Testament. These include the creation narratives (including the imago dei concept), Old Testament laws and prophetic writings. It also includes New Testament narratives about Jesus and the early church as well as the theological significance of God becoming human in Jesus Christ and dying for sinners such as us.”

Amen, brother. Amen.

The Fetus and Federal Regulations

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 21, 2011

The Code of Federal Regulations is an almost sure-fire antidote to insomnia. If boredom were a commodity, the Code would be its biggest resource.

The arcane and involved language of the Code is one reason why so few people read it. Yet within its myriad pages are the rules that govern government itself - how laws are applied, how legislation is to be understood, and even how words used in federal regulations are to be interpreted.

Some of those words are more important than others, and those that deal with the very nature of human personhood are, perhaps, the most important of all.

In the October 1, 2009 edition of the Code, we read that Fetus means the product of conception from implantation until delivery.

There we have it: an unborn child is merely the product of conception, conception itself evidently needing no interpretation (that it takes place through the sexual union of two image-bearers of God is, apparently, irrelevant).

What are we to make of this product? This collection of cells and blood and tissue stored within the veil of human flesh? Heres what David said of this product, this fetus, this creature:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

What is man that You take thought of him,

And the son of man that You care for him?

Yet You have made him a little lower than God,

And You crown him with glory and majesty! (Psalm 8:3-5)

From conception onward, this fetus has all the same DNA as every reader of this piece. What are the criteria for its humanness?

Is it less human because of its size? If so, then anyone shorter than someone else is less human, as well.

Is it less human because of its development? If so, then anyone with a physical or mental disability is less human than those more physically or mentally advanced.

Is it less human because it is dependent? If so, then any child is less human than the parents on whose support she depends for food, clothing, shelter, etc.

And so it goes through whatever other comparisons can be summoned: Intelligence, appearance, etc. What changes at time of delivery, per the Federal Registry, is not the personhood of the child but his place of residence. He lives nine months within his mothers womb, and the remainder of his life outside it.

Even the term fetus, used as a medical euphemism by those unwilling to confront the unborn childs humanness, is telling if rendered honestly. Fetus is Latin for offspring or young while still in the womb. Those who persist in its usage for the purpose of dehumanizing that to which they refer cannot avoid the potency of language itself.

Sometimes euphemisms have their place. Saying that someone is all foam, no root beer is a pleasing way of conveying that the individual referenced is full of talk but has no substance or seriousness. Yet language, however we might use it to obscure, can never fully hide that which it described.

To this point, the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his landmark work Ethics, wrote,

Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life.

The language of the Code of Federal Regulations is tedious. Its impact on American public life is profound. But its artful obfuscation of that which is most compelling of all what it means to be human is unsuccessful.

A fetus is a baby is a person is a human being. No euphemism can hide that truth and you can take that to the bank.

Remembering Terri Schiavo

by Robert Morrison

March 31, 2010

Its been five years since Terri Schiavo was starved and dehydrated to death by court order in America. Some of us will never forget that terrible two-week period. This weeks panel at Family Research Council movingly re-told the storyso familiar to pro-lifers, so distorted and suppressed for millions of our fellow citizens.

Terri was a medically-dependent young woman who had suffered severe brain damage in the early 90s. She might have recovered the facility of speech. She might have been able to use computers to indicate her thoughts and wisheshad she received the proper rehabilitation in time. But she didnt. Civil Rights advocate Bob Destro, a law professor at Catholic University, said the real story of Terri Schiavo was Americas inability to come to gripseven todaywith disability. Our fears, prejudices, and lack of knowledge strongly influence the medical, legal, and, yes, political judgments we make.

Terris fearless attorney, David Gibbs, has written the story of that lonely fight to save an unoffending womans life. Fighting for Dear Life is his testament to that struggle. We still need to understand more about disability, Gibbs said, because these cases are not going away. Today, in Afghanistan and Iraq, many more young Americans are suffering traumatic brain injury due to IEDs. In previous wars, such wounded warriors might not have made it off the battlefield.

Gibbs laid out six principles we should have learned to uphold:

  1. Food and water, even if administered by intra-venous tube feedingare never extraordinary care.
  2. No court should allow someone to die without something in writing on that persons wishes.
  3. We need greater skill and safeguards in testing before a diagnosis of persistent vegetative state (PVS) is made.
  4. A spouse who enters into other relationships should be disqualified from making life-ending decisions for his/her legal spouse.
  5. Federal courts get to review all death sentences for convicted killers; no less should be granted to medically fragile persons.
  6. Immediate family members should have standing in court to challenge hospitals or their ethics committees when a futile care judgment has been rendered.

FRCs Cathy Ruse, our senior legal analyst, pointed out that Terris long and drawn out death was, in the words of Nat Hentoff, the longest public execution in U.S. history. Terri was not dying. She had no disease. Her life was simply inconvenient to her husband, who had, as they say, moved on. (He had also moved in. See point No. 4 above.) And, most appropriately in this Holy Week, Cathy pointed to those words of Jesus on the Cross: I thirst.

Terris brother, Bobby Schindler, spoke of the terrible toll on the Schindler family of their daughters cruel death. Bobby is Terris brother. He said their fathers death was surely hastened by the trauma of not being able to protect his daughter in her agonizing death. Agonizing it was, too. The family was not allowed even to give her cracked ice.

Nor Holy Communion.

David Gibbs brought hopeful messages of heroes of that dark period. He praised President George W. Bush for rushing back to Washington to sign legislation that permitted the Terri Schiavo case to be heard in federal court. Gov. J.E.B. Bush also labored on the side of the angels in this case. David Gibbs gave kudos to the Congress of 2005 that passed emergency legislation to try to save Terris civil rights.

There was one U.S. Senator at the time who agreed that Terris case might at least be heard in federal court. That senator, a former constitutional law professor, acted in accord with ninety and nine others in that body. But he later said he wished he had not concurred in the Unanimous Consent decree. He said it was the one thing he regretted in his Senate career. That senator is now the President of the United States.

Terris case is not forgotten. Each year on March 31st, there is a memorial Mass at Ave Maria University, in Florida. Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, was present as Terri was dying. He will celebrate the Mass.

Terri will also be remembered in my family. At that time, our daughter was dating a young man at Calvin College. She related to me his reaction to Terris plight:

I thought a husband was supposed to lay down his life for his wife. When that same young man, six months later, asked for our daughters hand in marriage, I had no hesitation in saying yes. Would you?

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