Today we commemorate what has come to be called Sanctity of Life Sunday. In your bulletin I have included a letter from Archbishop Nicolae on this topic. I would recommend that you take this home and read it.
As we sit here, pilgrims from all over the United States are making their way to Washington, DC, the seat of power, to make their voices heard on opposition to abortion. A few years back some of us joined our voices to that of the pilgrims and made the trip to DC for the March for Life. It is good to make your voice heard on issues and we in the Church need to do a much better job making our voice heard.
During the March all sorts of people were joining together in one theme respect for life, although I saw many people carrying signs that were anti abortion I did not see many, if any signs, that addressed the other sanctity of life issues. Our Orthodox Church is squarely in the Pro Life column. And that has to mean more than just being anti abortion. If we truly believe that we need to protect life from conception to its natural end then we have to be concerned with life all along the developmental stages. Anti abortion gets more ink if you will because the life that is being protected is innocent and cannot fight for itself so we need to be the voice for the voiceless. This is an important aspect of being pro life. But there is a difference between being anti abortion and being truly pro life. I like to think of myself as being pro life.
In the late spring and early summer of 1776 Thomas Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence. Largely his own work, although John Adams and Benjamin Franklin helped to edit the document, it became the standard for the next 200 plus years for freedom loving people all over the world. We all learned the worlds of the Declaration when we were in school and I believe that the second sentence of this wonderful document is the most important, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We as Americans, and dare I say as Christians believe in a fundamental human right to life! This right to life was not given to us by some piece of paper more than 200 years ago but it was given to us by our creator at the moment of our creation. We have been endowed with the fundamental right to life.
As Orthodox Christians we believe that all life is sacred. We do not discriminate weather or not the life is worth while, we believe that all life is sacred. We have, all of us, been created in the image and likeness of God. In the Book Genesis, God says let us create them in OUR image. We have the divine spark, the very breath of God that was blown into our lungs at the moment of our creation. The psalmist tells us that God knew us before we were created, when he knitted us together in our mother’s womb. God was present in us and with us from that very moment and each of us carries that image, the Divine Spark out into the world.
Man is a fallen creature. Through us, sin has come into the world and we have been separated from God. We were created to live in paradise and as Genesis tells us “to walk with God” as our first parents did. Adam and Eve actually walked in the presence of God, that is paradise to be with God at all times. Our disobedience caused that relationship to become separated. We were put out of the garden and told to fend for ourselves. Since that time man has struggled to get back into the garden to walk and talk with God in person. However, God did not take the image and likeness away from us when we were expelled from the garden.
For us to hold life as scared we have to be concerned for that Divine Spark, for all life all along the spectrum of that life. We need to be able to look at another human being and see in thier eyes, God and His Son Jesus Christ! If we cannot see that then we are not looking hard enough.
No one is born evil. We are born innocent and evil takes root in us for many reasons but no one is born evil. The man who shot all those people a few weeks back in Arizona was not born evil, and even though he committed an evil act does not mean that the Divine Spark is not still in him. It is there, and will be there, he has a soul, but his soul is dark. We do not know the reason why we just know that it is.
If our Church is truly pro life then we have to be concerned not only with life before it is born but for life as life. We need to concern ourselves with health care, poverty, and education. We need to be concerned about our senior citizens as well as those on the other end of the life spectrum. We need to be concerned about childhood hunger and on the other end of things we need to be concerned about childhood and adult obesity. We need to be concerned about what children watch on television and the games they play. Gone are the days of hopscotch and being able to stay out until the street lights come on. Our world has changed and we need to be concerned about this.
We live in the wealthiest nation on earth yet we have the highest percentage of childhood poverty and hunger. Each day the division between the classes is getting larger and larger. Childhood health care in the US is equal to that of some third world countries. Our education system is broken and we are graduating more and more people each year that cannot read and write.
We incarcerate more people in the US then most developed nations yet we have the worst rates of correction. Jesus told us that we need to visit those that are in prison. How many of us have actually stepped foot inside a prison? I am not saying that it should be a palace but human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, deserve to be treated as human beings regardless of what they have done. These are not my words these are the Churches words, the Churches theology and the Churches Social Theory!
Sanctity of Life hits along many of the hot political topics of the day and our Church has pretty strong feelings on many of them. We as Orthodox Christians need to educate ourselves on what the Church teaches on the issues and be advocates for them. We can no longer sit by and watch the world go by, we need to be the change we want to see.
Recently, I was engaged in a conversation with someone about the media and society that we live in. It is easy to blame the media for the state of the world today but I say that the blame is not on the media, the media and television are only doing what they do because we the people have allowed them to get this way. In the news business (and it is business) there is the common line, if it bleeds it leads, this is because we love to see blood. We love to see the bad side of people because for some of us it makes us feel better about ourselves. The media does what it does because we consume it. If we stopped buying the newspapers or changed the channel or stopped supporting the advertisers of the newspapers of TV programs that go against our values then things will change. We did not get here overnight and we will not get out of it over night. We all need to work together for change or change will not happen.
Our Church is unabashedly pro life but this means far more than being anti abortion. We need to be concerned about homelessness, hunger, unemployment, health care, education, the economy all these things affect the sanctity of human life. On this Sanctity of life Sunday, pray that we the people have a better vision of the fundamental human right to life, not just here but around the world.