Thursday, 16 June 2011
I am pro-life because…
Why am I pro-life? The simple answer is: I love life!
As a Christian, I believe that life is a free, unmerited gift from God, not a commodity which we can use and abuse as we think fit. The questions I always ask myself are:” Who are we to decide what another life is worth?” and “Why should we be the masters of life and death, when we haven’t created life in the first place?”
I also believe that life has purpose and direction, i.e. that life is a “journey” during which each person grows in wisdom and holiness and whose ultimate aim (its telos) is unity with God, the Creator of all things. I think life is a wonderful thing (and I mean this in the strict etymological sense of “full of wonder”). The Catholic writer GK Chesterton puts this concept beautifully in the following short poem:
Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
God is Love par excellence and His creation witnesses the super-abundant generosity of His Word and Spirit. God is not some sort of prudent accountant, who keeps tabs of costs and revenues…No. He gives with utter abandon, as only true lovers do. He loves Man so much that He has created him in His image and likeness, giving us men utter freedom, even the freedom to be evil and to reject Him. God is not elitist and loves us all unconditionally, without exception.
Given the utter preciousness of life as a gift from God, why has modern Man come to reject this gift, adopting a utilitarian world-view which promotes a Culture of Death?
Well, the answer in my view is quite simple: since time immemorial, Man cannot resist the Faustian pact proposed by the Devil in the Garden of Eden, namely “eat of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and you shall be like God”. This is an ever-present temptation for Man. Even the Son of God made man, Christ Jesus, was tempted by the Devil with this very same alluring bargain during His 40 days in the desert.
The promotion of contraception, the legalisation of abortion and now the active lobbying for the legalisation of euthanasia may be phenomena of the last 60 years, but their historical roots date back at least 600 years.
Man started emancipating himself from God during the Renaissance in the 15th Century (witness Benozzo Gozzoli’s stunning mural painting in Florence, The Veneration of the Virgin and Child; whilst ostensibly representing a pilgrimage to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus, the foci of this mesmerising tableau are the pilgrims themselves, who gaze at the viewer with the self-satisfied confidence of the wealthy Florentine merchant classes).
Then came the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century: this promoted the private, subjective interpretation of the Bible, further weakening the concept of absolute moral truth. The 18th Century Enlightenment, with its scepticism, empiricism and trust in reason alone consolidated Man’s alienation from God. To a very large degree, Enlightenment principles still form the basis of Modern Western thinking.
Don’t read me wrong: there are many excellent things that have come out of modernity, such as the leaps forward in medicine and the treatment of disease, universal literacy and education, communications and ease of travel to far-away places and general economic prosperity, at least in the West. But modernity has also brought with it an obfuscation of Man’s moral compass.
So what are the philosophical “fruits” of Man eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which in turn underpin the acceptance of abortion, contraception, embryo stem cell research and euthanasia?
In the philosophical Family Tree of this lamentable situation we find:
· The Utilitarianism promoted by English philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill;
· The ethical concept of “autonomous reason” promoted by Immanuel Kant;
· The “invisible hand of free markets” of Adam Smith, with its elevation of individual selfishness to a virtue for the efficient operation of markets;
· The scepticism of David Hume;
· Jean Jacques Rousseau’s idea that laws are simply contractual agreements between free subjects and the State, with no regard to an overarching God-given “natural law”;
· Hegel’s concept of dialectics and his divinisation of the State;
· Karl Marx’s philosophy of class struggle, which owes so much both to the liberal utilitarian school and to Hegel’s dialectics;
· The Darwinian “theory of evolution” and its eugenic offshoot, both being direct descendants of the Utilitarian ethic; and, finally
· The collapse of reason itself in the post-modern “absolute relativity” of truth.
All of the above philosophies either explicitly deny the existence of God or posit an abstract, mechanistic Deity. Indeed I am convinced that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be pro-life in an intellectually consistent way without a firm belief in a loving, personal God, such as that made known to us by Jesus Christ. As the great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky writes in his novel “The Brothers Karamazov”: “If there is no God, then everything is possible”.
Our present culture is dominated by an all-pervasive utilitarianism, where the concept of consumer choice and convenience rules supreme. This world-view is not limited to our shopping baskets and to strictly economic decisions, but now extends to life itself, which is perceived more and more as a commodity.
We regularly speak about the “cost” of having children; we frown upon material poverty as the greatest of evils; we blindly believe in the fallacy of over-population, with neo-Malthusian fears of imminent disaster if the world’s population is not curbed significantly; we worship Nature and the animal kingdom, whilst damning our fellow human beings for being a “pest”; we hear “the great and the good” proclaim with hubristic authority: “if only there were not so many (poor, ignorant and ugly) humans, Mother Earth would be a much nicer place!”. What I find deliciously ironic about the likes of Messrs David Attenborough & Co. is that they never include themselves in the “economic calculus” of overpopulation! Fundamentally the Culture of Death reinforces the rule of the rich & powerful and of the intellectual elites of the Western world at the expense of the poor, the weak and the marginalised. Isn’t the unborn baby the weakest of the weak, with no voice to defend itself?
We have the very influential Australian philosopher and ethicist Peter Singer, the last in a long pedigree of utilitarians, promoting a “quality of life” ethical model. Only the lives of “healthy, handsome, young and fit” humans are worth protecting at law. The elderly, the defective, the insane, the handicapped should be killed outright, their lives being a burden to society and definitely not worth living. Actually Professor Singer goes as far as saying that the lives of healthy animals are worth more than those of unhealthy or defective humans. We shouldn’t be surprised by Singer’s disturbing eugenicist ideas, as they follow logically from his utilitarianism and Darwinism. Many Western law-makers are strongly influenced by these ethical ideas in legislating on human life. For the UK we can mention, in addition to abortion, IVF, embryo stem cell research and human-animal embryos (the so called “chimeras”).
As modern man is obsessed with “evidence”, let me describe two real life scenes which I witnessed during my travels and which explode the fallacy that “defective” and “materially poor” children should not be allowed to be brought into the world, by means of “merciful” contraception, abortion or sterilisation of their “poor or defective” parents.
The first scene happened in the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador. On the top of the City Tour bus with me was a group of “Down’s syndrome” teenagers accompanied by their teachers. They were dancing happily to some pop tune blaring from their Walkman, exhilarated like any other teenager at being on holiday and in good company. Their sheer “joie de vivre” was contagious and cheered me and the other passengers up for the whole day. And yet the UK’s abortion law makes it perfectly legal for such children to be aborted if their parents so wish….
The second instance was on the island of Lombok in Indonesia: during one of the typical tropical downpours that happen there, we saw a child of about 4 running completely naked down the main road, playing in the rain with utter joy and abandon…. No doubt he was poor (he had no clothes on) but his happiness was greater than I have seen in most Western children of his age, who - metaphorically suffocated with material goods - often display an ennui that one wonders if they shall feel suicidal by the age of 12!
The holistic nature of the human person, always upheld by the Judeo-Christian tradition, has been replaced by reductionist views, which “slice up” the human being like a salami: Homo economicus (utilitarianism; Marxism); Homo biologicus (Evolution; Darwinian eugenics); Homo sexualis (Freudian psychoanalysis); and finally, Homo absurdus (Post-modern existentialism). Not surprisingly the end result is a Culture of Death (wish)!
The Christian anthropology is completely different from society’s prevailing utilitarianism. It proclaims the utter dignity of human life from conception to natural death; it considers human life as the Summum Bonum on this earth, not be destroyed for economic, political and sociological reasons nor to be traded away for, or subjugated to, other goods such as economic interest or political expediency. In summary for the Christian, human life –as a free gift of God - has absolute value and is cherished per se, regardless of its economic usefulness or physical perfection. This is the Culture of Life, this is the culture that I proudly proclaim.