“The Christian right is neither.”
That’s what the bumper sticker said, and I thought it contained a germ of wisdom, clearly illustrating the paradox of right wing politics. Too often, while pretending to adhere to Christian principles, right wingers and the Christian right practice anything but Christian values.
For example, right wing pundits and politicians, along with ordinary citizens on the right, often take strong anti-abortion stances, something they call being “pro-life,” declaring the rights of the fetus as a human being whose life is precious and should be protected at all costs.
They excoriate women who struggle with the painful realities of an unwanted pregnancy brought about by incest, rape, or just plain old poor judgment. Nor do they have sympathy for the mother-to-be who learns that her fetus suffers from anencephaly, a condition in which the child will be born without a brain. Even though that child will live, at most, only a few days after birth, many “pro-lifers” insist that abortion is not an option even in this extreme case.
Similarly, women who discover somewhat lesser defects, knowing that they do not have the resources to raise children with severe disabilities, are faced with equally painful decisions. Right-wingers claim that such situations are “God’s will,” and that He will provide the path to healing (but without financial support, of course); consequently, women in such situations must carry their doomed fetuses to term. The political and Christian right seem to believe that all pregnancies should culminate in birth in spite of the prognosis for the fetus or for the mother’s survival or in circumstances that are emotionally and physically devastating for the woman and the prospective child.
Even though I’ve never had to make the painful decision to terminate a pregnancy, I can’t believe that any woman would reach such a decision lightly. I do believe it is a decision best left to the woman and her doctor—the choice remains her own. No one else can, or should, speak for her or force her to carry a pregnancy to term if it is not in her or the child’s best interest.
It is this paradoxical position that many “pro-lifers” take that I’d like to address. On the one hand, they declare the life of the fetus is precious and must be protected at all costs and in all situations. On the other hand, they rarely support —and actively work against—universal health care, welfare programs, or any government-run programs designed to help the less fortunate among us. As if life before birth is more valuable than life after birth.
The preamble to the constitution says:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
There it is: “promote the general Welfare.” Could it be more clear? The intent of the framers of the U.S. Constitution was that government has a role in taking care of its people.
I’ve also heard it said (and I’ve said it myself many times) that Jesus was a liberal. He was; from my own experience in church and Sunday School, it could not be otherwise. I defy anyone on the Christian or political right to find Biblical support that refutes it.
Webster’s dictionary defines a Liberal as one who is open minded, not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional or established forms or ways. Jesus was a pluralist Liberal who taught that one need not conform to strict and orthodox views of God, religion, and life. He rejected greed, violence, the glorification of power, the amassing of wealth without social balance, and the personal judging of others, their lifestyles and beliefs.
Over and over again, He taught us to believe in and live a spiritual and ethical life based in our essential, inherent goodness. What Jesus promoted was succinct set of spiritual principles and a way of life based upon the of love, compassion, tolerance, and a strong belief in the importance in giving and of generosity to those in need.
Didn’t Jesus heal the sick, feed the hungry, forgive sinners their sins? Didn’t he throw the money-changers out of the temple? Didn’t he admonish us to love our neighbors, to treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves? Why should we lesser beings reject these same practices?
It astonishes me that so many on the right will argue against these Christian ideals with anti-Christian rhetoric and vicious hatred (see examples of hate speech), openly defending—even celebrating—fanatics like Scott Roeder for his assassination of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor, and supporting—even encouraging—similar acts of violence, while praying for the death of those who offer abortion services to desperate women. To paraphrase George Orwell, some life is more precious than other life; if I believe that, I am not “pro-life,” nor should I call myself a Christian.
Coming back to the topic of health care, I simply can’t understand why so many “pro-lifers” reject universal health care. Do they not care what happens to those children whose mothers are forced to give birth? They apparently don’t give a damn about those children once they are born, and they resent and oppose any social programs designed to help them and their families survive from day to day. Indeed, this is inconsistent with Jesus’s teaching. If life is precious before birth, should it not be equally precious after birth? Sadly, many of those on the right, along with conservatives of all stripe, oppose universal health care or government intervention to help the needy “secure the Blessings of Liberty to [them]selves and [their] Posterity.” Why should economic status deny citizens their rights to the same blessings that others have?
You cannot claim to be “pro-life” while opposing universal health care, welfare, or other government programs to support and sustain people who are without resources. Identify yourself truthfully as “pro-birth,” not “pro-life.” If life begins at conception, there should be no question that it continues after birth. If you only support life from conception to birth, rather than conception to death (following a long life on earth), then you have no right to call yourself “pro-life.” Make it clear; your bumper sticker should say “I am pro-birth and the hell with what follows.”
That said, let’s don’t get into the paradox of right-wing support of the death penalty and of war and of their indifference to more than 40,000 people dying each year from lack of health care. Life is life. It is all precious.
(See also Debbie Jordan’s article of December 25)