Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pro-Neighbor rather than Pro-life

I have as long as I can remember been what has been termed in America "pro-life". I am opposed to Abortion. But I'll be honest, much of the Pro-life rhetoric hasn't sat well with me.

Some of this is because I think there's been bad politics. Yes, I know you want to have government mandates about view ultrasounds to lessen the number of abortions, but you realize that establishes a precedent for the government to mandate procedures in reproductive issues, right -- that's BAD.

But even then -- pro-life is a catchy term. Life is good. It's a great and noble cause, a wonderful value.

But then - maybe that's my problem with it.

Once again, as is my custom, I entered into a contraception debate... and it was in the context that if we are pro-life ought we also be opposed to contraception. After much palaver (on a facebook page, so I cannot link), here is what I wrote:

I find that I become concerned with the impact of Greek Philosophy and wisdom upon how the Church has historically approached some topics. Greek Philosophy was concerned with Truth in the abstract -- what is "good". The Scriptures are much more concrete. As an example, consider our Lord's discussion on Divorce:

1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]

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Yes, there is the movement to the ideal - how things were from the beginning. Yet, even as our Lord addresses this idea, He does not stop there. Divorce is not how it is to be -- but what does He say? "whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." First, there is the exception given, an acknowledgement that after the fall the ideal is not going to be met. Second, there is concern for not the abstract reality, but for the specific woman. The first wife would be wronged - it is a sin not only against God, not even a sin against creation/nature, but a sin against her.

There is always, even with the 10 commandments or the law, a specific tie to a specific person. This makes sense as the Law is summed up in love, and love always requires a specific object. You can't talk about love in the abstract until there is an object to love. Yes, love is patient, but to be patient is to be patient with another.

When we move in theology, as has often happened, off of specific care and love for specific people into theologies of God's Hidden Will or what is natural, we become abstract and distant from the very people God has placed into our lives for us to care for.

This is why I would quibble with Luther when he says, "If [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth--that is why they are there." In that case he follows and abstract idea of nature at the expense of the specific person -- that is a philosophic move, not a theological one.

I think this ends up driving to the heart of what sits poorly with me with the term "pro-life". It's too abstract.

I am not called to love "life"... I am called to love my neighbor.

If my neighbor is the woman who is pregnant and scared, I am called to love her and support her, for she is my neighbor.

If my neighbor is an unborn child, I am called to love and support him or her, for he or she is my neighbor.

If my neighbor is a couple that is fearful about the future, I'm called to love and care for them, for they are my neighbors.

This is Catechism stuff -- we are to help and befriend him in every bodily need, help him to improve and protect his possessions and income, to see that husband and wife love each other.

God's Law is never abstract. It's never just an attempt to do "the good" or that which is "righteous". There is always an person who is cared for....

Or perhaps to think of it this way:

"Faith clings to Jesus' cross alone/ and rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruit true faith is known/ with love and hope increasing.
For faith alone can justify/ works serve the neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living."

If you can talk to me on and on about the Law, but it is couched in terms of what I must do to be good, and it's not couched in terms of serving the neighbor... are we really talking about a good work, or rather a man made work that attempts to be pleasing to God? Or even something that ought to be good and of service can be twisted and torn into a burdensome law - which is sad.

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