Monday, March 14, 2011

Pro - "Whole Life"

This bi-month's issue of Relevant Magazine featured 50 Ideas That Changed Everything. The collection is a celebration of Relevant's 50th issue. The 50 ideas include things like the rise of Indie music, pop culture trends in filmmaking, Tivo, the Emergent Movement, and theological trends in the church. It's a pretty big smorgasbord. One of the "ideas that changed everything" that caught my eye was number 24: "Pro Life Should Mean More Than Just Abortion Opposition." The magazine says, "Over the last 8 years, young Christians have embraced a more holistic definition of 'pro-life.' Though they are still opposed to abortion, that's not where pro-life stops now. Instead, this generation has adopted a whole-life ethic, which means they are opposed to unjust war, torture, the death penalty, oppression, and the crippling poverty that can be a death sentence for people around the world." In an earlier issue, Relevant editor Cameron Strang voiced the "whole-life ethic" by saying, "... the example Jesus set for us to stand up for the defense of the innocent does not end at birth. Just as they do for abortion, Christians should be on the forefront of standing against things that take millions of innocent lives around the world every day - systemic poverty, preventable disease, unnecessary wars, slavery, genocide. The list goes on."

I've got some problems with this way of thinking, and I've talked about it before, here and here. But my biggest problem with this way of thinking is that it implies that the church has traditionally ignored issues of poverty, torture, unjust war, and oppression in the past, and that fighting for life in these areas is somehow a new thing with this upcoming generation. This implication, however, is completely ignorant of the historical and present reality of the ministry of the church to the world in all areas of life. If this is what this generation thinks, it's ignorant and needs to take a church history class and look into current local and global missions work and Christian humanitarian aid efforts. Christians all over the world are fighting for life. In America, we focus on abortion because it is an incredibly serious problem in this country. But, to be sure, Christians are concerned for all threats to life everywhere. You can take that to the bank.

Here's the proof: columnist David French ran the numbers, and it turns out Christians today (and yesterday, and 100 years ago, before abortion was even an issue) overwhelmingly support "whole-life" ministries and charities. And I mean overwhelmingly. The amount of time and money Christians give to anti-abortion and homosexuality charities or campaigns (although homosexuality isn't really at issue as much in this debate) are literal blips on the radar screen compared to how much we give (in time, money, and resources) to fighting poverty, illness, and oppression.

So then why this push for being so called "Pro Whole-Life?" If it turns out that Christians already are pro whole-life, then why does a generation of Christians think we aren't, and why do they feel it is there responsibility to call the church out on this issue? I can only think of two possible reasons: 1) the current generation is painfully and dangerously ignorant of the historical and present ministry of the church in the world, or 2) it's a strategy for promoting a liberal social agenda in this country and abroad. I tend to think it is the latter rather than the former, although I almost hope it's because we're just that stupid. This is the problem I've had with Cameron Strang and the folks at Relevant for some time now. They espouse a lot of social justice gibberish that sounds really good and noble, but in the end it seems to be good for nothing put promoting their liberal social agenda. The quote from Strang above is prefaced by an assertion that "This is where those on the right don't get it..."

Either way, the numbers don't lie: Christians are pro whole-life. I don't say that as a point of pride, because there is certainly more to be done to fight for life in the world, and the battle is never over. But to accuse the church of sleeping on the job just isn't accurate, helpful, or edifying.

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