Thursday, January 22, 2009

what is life?

today marked the 36th anniversary of the supreme court decision roe v. wade, which gave women the right end a pregnancy if deemed necessary. my phrasing here is intentional. i wanted to avoid the words which have become so weighted in this discussion over the years. actually to refer to the exchanges on the issue as discussion or debate is generous. the interactions have seldom been on such a civilized level.

the abortion issue has both polarized and poisoned our political discourse. at this point, i doubt it is possible to change anyone's mind on the subject, but there are a few things that i think deserve more serious attention in this regard.

life is measured as the period from birth to death. this is evidenced on millions and millions of grave markers around the world. the reason is simple, birth and death mark the obvious markers. the question at the head of this post is essentially a religious/philosophical question.

ironically, the position held by many evangelical christians creates some very profound difficulties. the question i raise here is this: "if life begins at conception, how can human life be any more sacred than grass?" if the only requisite for life is a complete genome, what makes human life unique?

for me, the bible points to both the beginning of life and answers the "what makes human life unique" question in genesis 2:7 where it says "god breathed into his nostrils and man became a living soul." in all of the biblical account of creation, there is not another creature which carries that distinction. the only creature god breathed into was man. to me the message is clear, we draw our life from god. life begins with breath, and that breath is the holy breath of god, sealing the miracle of birth.

conception does not automatically guarantee a successful pregnancy or a live birth. miscarriages happen with relative frequency, and stillbirths also happen, though with less frequency in our modern societies than in times past. simply put, though we would like to claim otherwise, god does not guarantee a right to life, and it is misguided for governments to try to enforce a "right" to life that is clearly absent in the natural order.

please do not misunderstand. i do not advocate abortion as the answer to difficult life situations. the decision of whether or not to continue a pregnancy is not a decision that governments should make. the decision belongs, like it or not, to the woman involved, with the counsel of her choosing, be that physician, counselor, member of clergy or the religious representative of her choice.

as stated, these are my beliefs. i do not delude myself that i will win any new converts to my position.

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