Tag Archives: ethics

What does it mean to be pro-life?

I’m pro-life. Really, I am. But I tend to avoid that label for at least three reasons:

  1. The label “pro-life” doesn’t actually describe my position very accurately. Perhaps not surprisingly, I oppose abortion on theological grounds. But Christian theology does not hold that human life intrinsically should be valued above all else. The Church was built, after all, on the blood of the martyrs, who thought their own lives less valuable than telling the truth. Many early Christian martyrs would even take their children to the stake with them, rather than having them raised by their pagan executioners. So it seems to me that Christian opposition to abortion should instead be rooted in a biblical commitment to hospitality to the stranger. Pro-life Christians could make far more headway on the abortion issue if, instead of advocating for the recognition of certain rights (a decidedly untheological category), we would commit to raising unwanted babies and taking young, un-wed mothers into our homes.
  2. The label itself is polemical. It suggests that the other side is what? Anti-life? Pro-death? There’s already way too much screaming and (intentional?) misunderstanding on both sides of this debate. The last thing we need to do is give ourselves a label that alienates potential conversation partners.
  3. Frankly, I don’t want to be put in league with many who call themselves “pro-life.” While I agree with pro-lifers on the abortion issue, many of them have a rather inconsistent ethic. They call themselves “pro-life,” but they unquestioningly support America’s wars and capital punishment, decry even very reasonable attempts to restrict access to lethal weapons, and oppose attempts to extend access to affordable life-saving health care options. (I know I’m painting with a broad brush here. If you are a pro-life person with a consistent ethic of life—good for you!—please understand I am not talking about you). In fact, this discrepancy is so blatant that I’m forced to believe it’s not really an inconsistency at all, but that these folks consistently act on their highest value, namely towing the Republican party line, over against the value of human life. If I’m wrong about that, prove me wrong.

That’s why I was delighted to hear this story about pro-life Nebraska State Senator Mike Flood, who supported a bill to extend prenatal care to illegal immigrants. His reasoning?

If I’m going to stand up in the Legislature and protect babies at 20 weeks from abortion, and hordes of senators and citizens are going to stand behind me, and that’s pro-life, then I’m going to be pro-life when it’s tough, too.

That, it seems to me, is commitment to a value over a party line. And that’s all too rare these days. I don’t know anything about Sen. Flood’s other policy decisions, but this at least is a step toward a consistent ethic of life. To their credit, the Nebraska Right to Life Committee has also publically supported the bill. It was vetoed by Nebraska Governor, Dave Heineman.

Read or listen to the story here.

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New Essay: Nature and Spirit in Aquinas

I just finished the first essay for my master’s degree, “Nature and Spirit in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas.” Here’s the abstract:

In this essay I am concerned with defending two theses. In the first part I will argue that, for Thomas Aquinas, humans necessarily lack the natural capacity to reach our final telos in beatific vision. This deep human problem is intrinsic to Aquinas’ anthropology and is, therefore, logically prior prelapsarian. Then in the second part I will argue that both law and grace, (especially the theological virtues), which together for Aquinas constitute the solution to the problem, can rightly be labeled Spirit. The outcome is that law and virtue, which traditionally have been considered keystones of ethical theory, are found properly under the rubric of soteriology and pneumatology.

You can read the entire essay here.

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Extreme Aging

Nobody wants to get old.  Even old people don’t want to be old.  I think it’s because old people are so extreme.  That is to say, they are extremely proficient at what they do.  After years of observance, they have becomes gurus of their way of life—each of them, masters of the virtues they practice.  Every Wednesday, I play cards with a group of old ladies at my church, and today one of those ladies told me four times—four!—about how she gave an old Christmas tree to the church, and about how thankful the decorating committee was.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I let people know about all my good deeds too, but I do it discretely.  I join Facebook groups that celebrate service.  Or, I make sure to give a reason when I have to turn down an invitation from a friend, because I’m doing a good deed.  But you see they prompt me, I just use the opportunity slide my good image under the door of a broken plan.    Maybe one day, with enough practice, I’ll flaunt my goodness from the rooftops like my bridge partner, but for now I’m too young and inexperienced to be so bold.

I started thinking of this because we watched a video in our Bible study today—the card ladies and me—and the leader told a story about an old woman named Mabel who had lived the last twenty-five years of her life in a nursing home, bedridden, blind, and alone.   A pastor friend of the Bible study leader visited Mabel once or twice a week for years.  One day he asked her, “Mabel, what do you think about all day.”  And she said “I think about my Jesus…mostly I think about how good he’s been to me.”  Mabel had so practiced the art of gratitude that in these last years of her life, under circumstances that would turn most hearts bitter or insane, she was filled with the sense that God had been good to her.  In her old age Mabel had become an extremist of gratitude.

 Of course you’ve figured out by now that this is not a post about aging at all, but about the practice of virtue, and its power to shape one’s character over the long haul.

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