Monday, January 18, 2010

We started a movement

"Love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe."

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyone.

Yesterday the theme of my church's worship service was "love your enemies," and the sermon text was Matthew 5:38-48. I couldn't think of a more appropriate theme for this weekend, myself.

King himself preached a fantastic sermon on loving your enemies, which you can read here. The view expressed in this sermon is significant, because it not only promotes love as an act of personal religious piety, but as a political virtue, an ethic for all of human civilization.

I think far too much of the political discourse in this country focuses on the ethics of independence; that is to say, rights and personal autonomy are the key ideas. The reason for this, I think, is that we love freedom, and we think that preserving our personal autonomy will guarantee freedom.

Freedom is crucial to a thriving society, but the question is what actually guarantees freedom. I say that it is a positive love for human beings, rather than a fear of infringing on someone's personal autonomy, that best guarantees our freedom.

It is true that this latter, more negative idea will keep you from doing a lot of bad things. By not infringing on someone's personal autonomy, you will easily avoid killing, injuring, stealing from, or committing one of a number of offenses against that person.

But this is not the virtue that has made our nation great. Leaving each other alone shows a certain amount of respect for other people, but only in a negative sense--you fear invading their privacy. Love requires a positive view of human dignity, one in which every human being has inherent value; and it is love for human beings that has made us this nation great.

Love has not only carried movements, like the civil rights movements, but love carries us every day. Every day, I am absolutely sure, there are thousands or even millions of cases of someone doing more than he needs to in order to help someone else. There are many people who make entire careers out of serving others. Without these people, many human beings would simply be left to rot.

With the recent destruction in Haiti, love has never been more important. But you can see love everywhere. I was just reading one of my favorite Webcomics, and the note from the author at the bottom said we should all do our part to help. Of all the places...

Love is so instilled in our society, even those who may not really know where it comes from still have it. And we can't live without it. King knew this.

So does the pro-life movement.

Oh, why would I bring up the pro-life movement when I've just been talking about love? Surely I can avoid for one day bringing up an issue that provokes such animosity.

Okay, two reasons I mention this. One, this Friday is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and once again I'll be headed to the March for Life. The other reason is that I view the pro-life movement as being in line with the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Although many people view the pro-life movement as a backwards, conservative movement bent on undoing the progress made toward women having equal rights with men, the pro-life movement sees itself as quite the opposite. Indeed, we pro-lifers tend to see ourselves as a new (or continuing) civil rights movement.

Just listen for a while to this speech by David Bereit, National Director of the 40 Days for Life campaign, given just before the Walk for Life yesterday in Memphis. (You'll hear where the title of this post comes from.)

The pro-life ethic is an ethic of love. Whereas the pro-choice ethic is an ethic of personal autonomy, based on the fear of infringing on someone's privacy, the pro-life ethic is one of positive love toward human life. All human beings, no matter how small or insignificant, are inherently valuable.

And while the traditional conservative pro-life position may have been one of personal responsibility, which blames women for their mistakes, the pro-life movement has been developing an ethic of community responsibility. Churches have been supporting local crisis pregnancy centers, to offer free alternatives to abortion. Christians have been gathering together to pray in front of abortion facilities. People of every faith and background have been gathering in Washington, D. C. to protest Roe v. Wade.

It has also become a movement that recognizes that the women who have abortions are as much victims as their unborn children. It is a movement that seeks reconciliation and is eager to see hearts and minds change. It is a movement that selflessly devotes time and energy to saving unborn children from abortion, simply because human beings are precious.

Those who promote abortions are quite often those who stand to gain financially from abortions. Indeed, it is easy to see that abortionists will be willing to do their work as long as there is money in it. The pro-life movement, on the contrary, exists solely because of love.

But of course, I need to remember, just like everyone else in the pro-life movement, to love my enemies. I admit the pro-life movement has often been, well, very bad at this. That is not to say that the stereotypes and outright misrepresentations of us in the mass media are true. Yet hate must be avoided at all costs.

My dream, along with Martin Luther King's, is that one day, truly, "this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold this truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,'" and, to finish that quote, "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I'll see you in Washington.

1 comment:

  1. Love your post on the redemptive, transforming power of -- love. See you in Washington, Jameson!

    David Bereit
    National Director
    40 Days for Life


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