Monday, September 8, 2008

Creating a Culture of Life

Today, and maybe all this week, it's political.
The issues we face are important ones, and it's silly to pretend we're not thinking and talking about them. These posts aren't brief, because the issues are complex, and I don't want to think about them carelessly.
What I'm offering here is only my opinion, a kind of thinking-out-loud conversation, and you're welcome to join in, whether you agree or not -- maybe especially if you don't agree. Feel free to comment!
The only thing we have to agree on is that we'll have this conversation courteously, and stay friends, even if we disagree.


I was talking with an extended-family member the other day about presidential politics. He was gloating about Senator McCain's vice-presidential choice. “Want to just concede right now?” he asked, chuckling.
We discussed some of the pros and cons of various issues, and as I shared my point of view about Senator Obama and abortion, the conversation became more serious. He agreed that abortion is a bad thing, but “so is bringing a child into the world who isn't wanted, or whom the parents -- or parent -- can't care for properly.”
He brings up a fair point, but I think he stops too soon.
In my opinion, the answer to that argument isn't to abort the child, but to help that family cope with an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy. That help doesn't have to come from the government, either, although adapting government policies to enable safe adoption more easily wouldn't be a bad start.
Was it President Reagan who talked about a culture of life? I really don't remember if he used that phrase, but I think it speaks to the real answer to the question of abortion.
When we value each life -- see it as something to cherish and celebrate -- we are more likely to find solutions to the difficult emotional and economic problems that come with unexpected or unwanted pregnancies. We make room in our lives for what we value, even if it requires sacrifice of some kind.
How do we create a culture of life?


In his book Culture Making, Andy Crouch talks about the importance of cultivation and creativity in building a culture, and his definition of culture covers a variety of the ways in which we organize our lives -- including ethnic culture, political culture, religious culture, and so on.
When he talks about cultivation, he is talking about a kind of nurturing, a way of building into something so it grows and flourishes. When he talks about creativity he is talking about finding ways to invent and re-invent anything and everything that has to do with our lives.
Crouch says, “What is most needed in our time are Christians who are deeply serious about cultivating and creating but who wear that seriousness lightly -- who are not desperately trying to change the world but who also wake up every morning eager to create.”
Abortion is a matter of life or death, and we've had decades of angry accusations back and forth between those who define the rights and responsibilities involved, differently. How much better it would be if, instead of trading acccusations we worked together, creating and cultivating a culture that affirms the importance of life, a culture that seeks to create and cultivate abundant life for all babies, even before birth, as well as the mothers and fathers who are their parents!
It would require our best effort, but isn't the effort worthwhile?


Senator Obama, in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, asserted that common ground on abortion is to work together to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
To me, common ground on abortion would begin something like this: recognizing that parents (not to mention the father-to-be) have a legitimate interest in being informed if their minor-aged daughter is seeking an abortion. Parental notification that recognizes the danger some girls might face from a parent under those circumstances, but that also recognizes legitimate parental interest, might move toward convincing me that abortion-advocates are serious about “common ground.”
“Preventing unwanted pregnancies” sounds too much like a rationale for comprehensive sex education programs and condom hand-outs to me.
Sex education isn't something I'm categorically opposed to. A comprehensive sex education program that begins in kindergarten with lessons on same-sex marriage and technical descriptions of various sexual acts -- now that I'm opposed to, and not just on moral grounds. I don't think kindergartners need that kind of sex education, period.
Perhaps we should help parents understand more about how they might educate their kindergarteners about sex instead. Isn't home a natural place for those talks?
And if it's not, what can we do about that issue, without unquestioningly giving the responsibility for that education to teachers/school administrators/the government?


This has implications for end-of-life issues, as well.
When each life is cherished and celebrated, that means no elderly person, no special needs person, no person with a life-threatening illness that falls on the wrong side of an insurance adjustor's cost/benefit ratios will have to fear abandonment or worse, encouragement to “just let go.”
There comes a time when it is appropriate for each of us to die, and sooner or later we'll all get there.
Do we really want to rush someone toward death just because it's too difficult or expensive or inconvenient for them to keep on living?
Yet, despite scoffing at the “slippery slope” arguments against abortion, what has happened since Roe-v-Wade is a growing acceptance of euthanasia in our country. It's still whispered about, but a recent case in Oregon proves the point, where a middle-aged man with cancer has been denied treatment by his insurance company because it would only prolong his life, not cure him.


Creating a culture of life -- just how do we go about doing that? What would it look like?


kristen said...

Hi Holly -- I've been thinking a lot lately about this issue and I wish that there was a candidate that truly did embrace a "culture of life" as modeled by the Dominicans. This embraces not only life at all stages and in all countries, but the natural world as well. It is amazing to see them delight in Sam. As one of them said the last time I was there, "Ahh, there's nothing like a child." I also wish their example of female leadership was more widely on display -- standing up for what they believe in but speaking the truth in love. We'll know women have really advanced when we don't have to behave like bad male caricatures...the posturing is like the bad menswear shoulder pad suits of the 80s...okay, must stop rambling and get to work!:) thanks for your writing! K

Holly said...

Kristen, I so agree with you! I especially like the Dominican insight about "embracing life at all stages and in all countries." Andy Crouch talks about the postures we adopt, either because we think that's what/how we should be, or that's what we observe in others, and how those postures become a part of who we are, even though sometimes they really don't "fit" us or the situations we face, very well.