One of today’s readings in Mass was from Jeremiah 1, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. It is a passage often used by Christians on the “pro-life” side of the abortion debate. When answering the secular cries of life begins here or life begins there, we need to remember that the Lord knew us even before we were a hope in the eyes of our Earthly fathers and mothers. This passage reminded me again of one of my biggest problems with most Christian beliefs, including some of the practical teachings of the Catholic Church. That is the question of life.
How are we to value one life over another? Is the life of an innocent unborn more valuable and more worth protecting than the life of a criminal? Jesus ministered to the pure and the wicked alike. But our Christian culture places the question of abortion as paramount, while often engaging in a near state of blood-lust at the thought of capital punishment. American Christians are often the loudest opponents of any restrictions on guns (tools designed to take away life) while contorting themselves to find Scripture that justifies their positions. We often promote unbound free market ideals; many American Christians nearly deify the works of Ayn Rand, an avowed atheist who promoted the philosophy of objectivism (selfishness over all else) and from one side of their mouths Darwinian biological evolution is rejected while Rand’s call to Social Darwinism is heartily embraced.
The Catholic Church is as guilty as any of what can only be explained away by cognitive dissonance. The Church finds itself at odds with Pope John Paul II’s conclusion that there is no practical need for the death penalty in a modern world with a desire to explain away Old Testament calls for retribution. Politically sensitive Bishops place abortion as an absolute, excoriating politicians who waver, while failing to call out politicians who publicly support executions, unrestricted access to guns, and a perpetual state of war.
Jesus gave us no foundation on which to value one life over another. With Him, we ceased to be bound by Old Testament norms. A consistent stance on life, indeed being “pro-life”, precludes being pro-death penalty, pro-gun, or pro-war.