The Declaration of Independence makes a bold and complicated value statement – “… with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Life then becomes a matter of quality of living and not only the presence of a beating heart. Take a moment and Google the phrase “Pro-Life.” As you scroll through the images you will discover the images are almost entirely a “womb” issue and never a “world” issue. In other words, an entire segment of our society has been convinced that life only matters if I am a fetus in a womb and not a person in the world. Both define us as “Pro-Life.”
I am a 10-point Pro-Life Progressive. I wish there were more of us. Most Pro-Life people are actually only 1-point Pro-Life Conservatives. I don’t think that warrants you enough points to pass the Pro-Life test. I have yet to come across a classroom in America where students with a 1 in 10 score (10%) ever received a passing grade.
Unfortunately the vocabulary of morality and ethics can be taken hostage by a denomination, race, political party, or ideology and only released when the terms of a single issue are satisfied. In our day, “Pro-Life” is that single issue. The problem is that single issue comprises far more than the hostage takers have been honest about. At a minimum, life should be inclusive and not exclusive. I find it hard to believe any of us would think that God is more or less concerned about one life over another. Yet, there seems to be a sentiment in our nation that some lives matter while others do not. Pro-Life is at a minimum a ten-point issue. Before you put the label on, let’s assess whether the label is indeed true. Here is the list:
- Pro-Life people support a livable wage. Wages received should enable the employee to meet their needs and the employer to make respectful profit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 10 million people classified as the working poor. These are men and women unable to meet basic human needs while working a minimum of 27 hours per week. This has resulted in a shrinking middle class as 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth. No wonder over 15 million children live in poverty in our nation. In recent years in North Carolina, all income growth accrued to the top 1% of wage earners.
- Pro-Life people support policies that are not oppressive to any people group. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, it costs on average $31,000 per year to house an inmate within our Justice System. Many programs have been proven to lower recidivism, yet our State Legislatures consistently fail to fund programs aimed at expungement and fresh start opportunities for those who have criminal records. These programs cost on average $12-$13,000 annually. In North Carolina, there are 37,000 people in prison and 87,000 on probation. By funding programs to prevent prison re-entry, taxpayers would save nearly $2 million annually for every 100 participants. It hardly seems “fiscally conservative” to spend an extra $18,000 per year to incarcerate someone when funding programs aimed at re-entry prevention would prevent them from returning to prison.
- Pro-Life people support gender equality. Women still earned considerably less than men for performance of the same job with the same education, background, and training. Most estimates suggest that it will take at minimum until 2059 for this to change. Really? Another forty years? Considering that 40% of all homes with children under 18 years of age are headed by women as the primary breadwinner, it is not hard to see why this is a “Life issue.” If you take issue with this, then consider how well you would be able to provide for your family with only 56-70% of your current income.
- Pro-Life people support immigration reform. Almost every major economic study suggests that the U.S. economy grows faster as a result of immigration and whether we want to admit it or not, even undocumented immigrants improve our economy. But beyond the numbers, is it not against good sense to prohibit a pathway to citizenship? Allow me to remind my fellow Christians that we worship a Jesus that was an undocumented immigrant whose family fled to Egypt seeking asylum from the mass genocide of male children. When people of the world are fleeing poverty, violence, and oppression or just seeking a better life, it is anti-American and anti-Bible to deny them opportunity. Fortunately for us, we serve a God who was pro immigration and allowed Jesus to escape King Herod so that one day he might die on a cross and be raised with all power to justify us.
- Pro-Life people support universal access to healthcare. This is a complicated issue. But it is simply un-American to have life expectancy dictated by zip code and not genetic code. At the very least, there must be access and affordability for all people.
- Pro-Life people can say, “Black Lives Matter.” Why? Well, because they do. I find myself perplexed that anyone has made this statement into meaning that other lives don’t matter. Not even the lack of organization of the movement and the delayed timing of its inception warrants ignoring the message. When Evangelical churches sponsor “Sanctity of Life Sunday”, it doesn’t mean they are anti-Senior Citizens. It simply means there are those that are hurting, victimized, and voiceless that deserve protecting. If any other group of people had the skewed statistics regarding police brutality and violence, I would be advocating for that group of people also. May we never forget the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller – “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
- Pro-Life people support increased funding to public and higher education. Studies have consistently shown a direct link between poverty and education. There is no more effective method of social and economic mobility and advancement than education. In my opinion, there may be no greater long term investment in the lives of our children than a comprehensive Pre-School system to ensure every child be given a fair start.
- Pro-Life people are Anti-Abortion. I don’t know that I have ever met anyone who claimed to be “Pro-Abortion.” I am unapologetically, Anti-Abortion. Every year in America, nearly 1 million babies are reported aborted. The issue becomes how we do a better job at prevention. I do not think the answer lies in overturning Roe vs. Wade. The precedent standard in Constitutional Law makes this unlikely. The “Pro-Choice” side of the argument is equally disingenuous. Life begins at conception. A fetus is a life. You make your position weaker when you aren’t honest about this. If the law saved, there would be no murder. Theologically and doctrinally, we know the law cannot save us. God has always been and will always be a God of choice. He doesn’t make us do anything. He has a preferred will and a permitted will. Yes, the preference is for life but he permits us to make our own choices. Deuteronomy 30:19 places “life” and “choice” in the same verse – “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life”. The answer lies in the promotion of marriage, adoption services, the reduction in teenage pregnancy and greater education regarding abstinence, and the link between poverty and single parenting. While we may disagree on the legality of abortion, it is likely we agree that abortion is not something any of us would like to see. Perhaps we should all work together to reduce it.
- Pro-Life people aren’t scared of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The presence of military grade weapons and assault rifles in our communities is criminal. This was never the intent of the 2nd Amendment. Our unwillingness as a nation to challenge the lobbyists and activists on this issue shows a fundamental cowardice, lack of integrity, and no regard for life. It is a fear tactic to suggest there is a movement to take gun ownership from the hands of law-abiding people. There is not. However, owning them with no oversight and accountability is equally irresponsible. Any weapon, in any home, should be licensed, registered, and titled. This simple step would help track the movement of weapons in our country.
- Pro-Life people have problems with capital punishment. Admittedly, I struggle with knowing that violent, heinous, and ruthless predators get to live while family and friends mourn their victims for a lifetime. But any district attorney, defense attorney, or prosecuting attorney would be forced to confess that our capital punishment system lacks any consistency regarding how this highest penalty is metered out. Statistics prove the death penalty is clearly biased against poor people and people of color. The last time I checked, being poor or of color was not a crime in our nation. May we never forget that not everyone who dies by execution was guilty – Jesus is proof.
Are you Pro-Life or do you just wear the label?