You may think that the answer to that question is pretty straightforward, a simple matter of opinions held or asserted, or not, but there's more to it than meets the eye. Many think that it's simply a question of whether you hold a certain political view or not: for or against the right to kill others in certain situations, like saying, "it's ok to kill a person who is in an embryonic, fetal or otherwise unborn state." Or, "it's ok to kill others who are just born, very old, very disabled, genetically-different, chronically-ill or who take up too much time in the hospital, who cost too much for the taxpayer-funded government services." Or not.
Are you for killing or against killing? If you're for the right to kill others, you're certainly not pro-life. We can dispense with the deceptive language that labels killing others as a "reproductive right." Honesty demands that we admit the truth: a life exists within a life till birth. This is the natural process, and just because a life is dependent upon the mother does not mean it is not a human life. The baby (a wanted embryonic or fetal human) is not "part of" the mother, but grows within the mother. It's obvious to the truthful, even to a child.
Science clearly tells us that life begins the moment human developmental processes are initiated whether in a petri dish or when sperm meets oocyte normally in a woman's Fallopian tubes (not when the newly created life is implanted in the uterus). There is no question about this as far as the scientists whose expertise it is to know these things: human embryologists (not politicians, physicians, courts, bioethicists, philosophers or partisan interests). The scientifically-established Carnegie stages of human embryonic development are about just that: human embryonic development, meaning that a human life has begun, from that very beginning when the whole genetic miracle begins to unfold, guiding the growth of a new person, just as you and I once began human life.
Much the same could be said about the deceptive language used to refer to human beings at other stages of life: "He's not really human." "He's not truly a person." "He's not there any more." "He died (yet his heart is still breathing and his organs are still functioning)" Why do we have to go through such tortuous mental contortions in order to declare a person dead (when they're obviously not) so we can either kill them, or grab their organs and then kill them? If we're for killing certain persons, we're not pro-life.
But even if we're against killing those persons, whether unborn or born, elderly, disabled or not, does that in itself make us truly pro-life? While it's clear that being for the killing of some individuals undoubtedly makes us pro-death (for some), being against the killing of some does not automatically make us pro-life.
As "the professor" would say, "define your terms!" "What do you mean by the term pro-life?" "What do you mean by life itself?" she asks. We can be active, dedicated and tireless workers, yet still not be much different from our counterparts on the other side of the debate. They hold one view; we hold the other. Some think it's just a question of one's position on the issue, like Left vs. Right, Democrat vs. Republican, being in favor of socialism or capitalism, or of traditional values or not.
If we protest abortion and euthanasia, lobby the Legislature, Prime Minister or President, hold mass demonstrations or conferences, write or distribute articles or books, spend endless hours volunteering (these are all part of what pro-life activists do), do these actions by themselves prove that we are pro-life? What if we sit at home holding a certain position on the issues, but do nothing "out there" in the world to express it? Are we still pro-life? What if we sit in a cave or live a solitary life praying to God and communing with Him? Are we pro-life then or not? Do we have to do something in the world to be pro-life?
We know that there are all sorts of pro-life groups, some focus on abortion clinics and try to shut them down, some promote the well-being of the pregnant woman, child and families and offer services to help them, along with adoption services if they do not wish to or cannot keep the baby. Some lobby the government officials to change the laws. Some protest the medical killings, these imposed deaths we are increasingly hearing about from every corner of our land.
I say to myself, "Of course I'm pro-life!" You or I may even be offended if someone questioned if we are really pro-life. But this is just self-pride rearing its head, and is something that needs to be acknowledged and confronted in any case. Yes, if by "pro-life" we mean holding a position that affirms the sanctity of human life and working to protect that life, then we are pro-life when we do these things.
But what really is life itself? And in particular, what is a human life? Isn't this the question that those who seek to allow medical killing pose? Isn't this the question they always answer by saying, "No, this is not really a human life?" "It's just tissue." Or, "No, this is not a real person." "He's not really alive." Because at this point, they realize they can't just argue that it's ok to kill other human beings. They don't wish to openly agree so much with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis who asserted it was ok to kill certain other human beings. Much of society still doesn't accept that, so they jump through a lot of "hoops" while seeking to confuse, misinform and mislead others.
We know that living things possess metabolic processes that maintain their integrity as unique organisms - that they grow, develop, reproduce and respond to changes in the environment. Human life is simply obvious when allowed to develop, be born and grow. It is obvious even when unborn, as the human fetus is never an elephant fetus but always a human fetus. At the microscopic level, someone who is not a specialist might be confused, but most people cannot point out where the spleen is in the body or where the gall bladder is, yet that doesn't mean these organs don't exist. The DNA of a human is always human and nothing else, whether we are capable of detecting that DNA or not. We are always human from our developmental beginning till the end.
If we are pro-life, we are not at war with those who support the killing of certain human beings (although there are many who think this to be the case). Being pro-life is not a position that is at war with anything or anyone. Those who support the killing of some human beings seek to silence those who are pro-life and are at war with those who are pro-life, but those who are pro-life simply affirm God, life and the sanctity of life. We are not busy trying to silence anyone nor are we at war with any one.
The light does not war with darkness. Light simply is. The darkness of the culture of death is the absence of Light, the resistance to the Light and His way (John 9:5), even if we believe we are pro-life.
We may arrive at the pro-life position through logic and secular debate and have very good reasons for believing what we believe, but if we do not have vibrant faith stirring within us, it is possible we might reconsider our pro-life position sometime in the future.
Logic and debate may help us begin our journey, but faith helps us walk where we would never consider going before. Faith helps us to serve those who are abandoned by all others. Faith makes us believe that we can do that which we were so sure could not be done at all. Faith is the cement that binds us to God, to Life and His Way. Faith is the cement that makes us pro-life in the core of our being and helps us obey His will even when it is the most difficult thing we ever do.
The dear Lord Jesus said: "... I am the way, the truth, and the life ...." (John 14:6) God is the Author and Creator of all life. The lives before us, to serve or to kill, are created by Him and in a way, the life before us arises out of Him. As the apostle Paul said, "For in Him we live, and move, and have our being...." (Acts 17:28) What does it mean that we live "in Him" or that in Him we "have our being?"
For those who experience His grace, His presence in their lives, it is clear that we literally live in Him and have our being in Him. They know that without His Being, we would not be at all. Without His having created us, we would never have become. As fish cannot live without the great Sea that nourishes them from all sides, man cannot exist without God, and the life that is our life is from Him and of Him!
Those who understand this realize that if we harm another human being, we are doing these things to Him, mysteriously perhaps, but truly so. Jesus reminds us, "... whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40) As we behave toward any others, we do these things to Him. So everything we think, will, say or do to others (even ourselves) we do to Him. Therefore, everything we think, will, say or do matters tremendously, and the ethics that guide us in how we choose to live matters deeply. To be pro-life (even though we are always still imperfect man or woman living in this world) our ethics must be the ethics of life and in line with the divine and the natural moral law.
Acknowledging this, we approach others, whether our friends or enemies, our associates or strangers, our patients or not, with great reverence and respect. We converse with others and interact with others with great reverence and respect. We listen to what our family members and partners in society have to say. We make the effort to question those who can offer advice. We take the time to listen to what our patients and others have to say, and we seek to understand what they wish to communicate to us, even if we do not understand or do not agree with them.
We hear them, and if we do not understand, we ask questions and strive to understand. When we don't do these things, we fail them, ourselves and our Lord, because we close ourselves off from the possibilities of what can be and what He is willing that be. We block the flow of His work in our lives and in the work we are called to do. Yet, even if we failed to open to what might have been, we can begin anew today and strive to do better and open to what may yet be.
It will not always be easy and it will not always make sense, but once we do listen and open our hearts and minds, we will walk another path that surprises and even shocks us, but is filled with wonderful possibilities we never could imagine. We may be disappointed that His will is not as we envisioned, but it is infinitely more wonderful than anything we could think up on our own, and it is right to do.
When we meet and interact with others, we must see the other and relate to him or her as a living, breathing miracle of life, an amazing being ... not just an "object" in our own personal world "movie" to be dealt with or manipulated somehow. The very moment that we see, hear and truly relate to another human being, love flows from within us and reaches out to the other, whether our patient or any other, and then we are pro-life.
Some may say, "We have worked so hard for so long and done so many things for the cause." "We are doubtlessly pro-life." Well, if we do not experience love now as we relate to and work with others, if our relationship with others and with God is superficial or even callous, if we do not listen, if we have forgotten the love that once was, then we have lost our way and fallen back into a culture of death way of being even if our mental views are still pro-life, even if we work in pro-life advocacy!
The dear Lord told us the story of the ten virgins who were waiting with their lamps for the bridegroom to arrive. Five had plenty of oil and five were foolish and did not have enough. When the bridegroom finally came late in the night, those who were wise and had enough oil, went with him and the door was shut.
Those who did not have enough oil for their lamps had to go buy some at that late hour and were locked out when they finally returned (Matthew 25:1-13). If we allow our minds and hearts to dwell on other things and do not hold God in our minds each moment, remembering Him and opening continuously to His grace, then we betray Him and have lost our way. As He spoke through Moses to us all, "I am the Lord your God, ... You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:2-3)
As the apostle Paul told us, we may have great talents and might have accomplished great things, but if we do not have love, these great talents and achievements matter little at all (1 Corinthians 13). We may wonder about all of this, but it is clear that it is not the quantity of what we might busily do, but who we are, who we have chosen to be, and how much we have opened our hearts to God and those around us in this moment (Luke 10:38-42). What matters is that we do His will in this moment, not what we might stubbornly think to be right to do.
We must acknowledge that what we may have done in the past is gone, even though others may regard us as authorities and leaders because of these things. If there was any good in what we have done, it is not to our credit but to the credit of the One who created us and who gave us the gifts and opportunities to do these things. We must no longer act full of ourselves, puffing ourselves up with whatever achievements or authority we have acquired. We must know that we are as nothing before the dear Lord and must know that we are just man or woman among all others.
Even the dear Lord's disciples could not rest on their laurels. They had been sent out two by two and had healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed those with leprosy and driven out demons (Matthew 10), but later even Peter, for example, was reprimanded by Jesus when Peter tried to stop Him from going to Jerusalem where He would be crucified (Matthew 16). Jesus chastised Peter and said, "Get behind me Satan!" Even Peter, who had done great things, was subject to being terribly mistaken and was severely corrected!
No, it is not enough to say that we are His, or that we believe, that we attend this or that church, that we pray, that we read this or that book, that we seek to protect life or serve Him. (Matthew 7:21-27) To be pro-life is to truly be for Him in this very moment (not for the glorification of ourselves or our own authority). Being pro-life is to be filled with His grace, baptized and born again into His Holy Spirit (John 3:1-21), living and walking humbly before others - dwelling within His shimmering Light. He said:
"I am the light of the world: he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)
To be pro-life means we enter each and every encounter as a sacred space. It means we speak to others, relate to others and act in the world in a way that reflects our awareness of a living relationship between ourselves and God and all others. If we forget this and treat others coldly with indifference, as we all as men and women do at times, our political views on life matter little. We are "living" but in the moment are dead within spiritually, and then what does it matter?
This miracle of life can be discovered at any moment. Artists, musicians, poets and prophets remind us that we could live another way. Am I a partisan aligned with one group against another, or do I in this moment truly experience the soul's appreciation of the pulsating life before me, a demonstration of the Creator's work in this world, the sanctity of life He made?
Do I participate this moment in that sacred space or is that just a fading memory from a distant awakening of long ago? If not, He will not receive me. He will say, "I do not know you!" "and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:12,30) as the door is shut to me, or to you. Have we been true to Him? Is this asking too much? Only for a proud man or woman in the world. Only to a worldly man (however religious or pro-life he may actively be) who will not bend to His will.
He calls us to a much, much higher witness and way of being, a much more blessed way that is truly pro-life. Moses knew sacred ground at Mt Sinai, but the dear Lord's message is that we are to live within sacred ground at all times, wherever we are, whoever we're with and recognize the intrinsic rightness of His law and the way of life that truly honors Him.
You and I may think it is not possible for us to live this way, but He would not ask us to do something that could not be done. He is not unjust or unreasonable! Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 34-35)
If we do this, we may walk along and encounter someone's gaze: a stranger's, a patient's, anyone's. A mutual recognition may pass between us. We may communicate wordlessly to each other: "I am alive and acknowledge the miracle that is you!" We belong in this world and to each other. We live within a stream of living water, connecting us all to Him and to each other (John 4:1-13).
If we do not reach into the sacred space that exists between God and ourselves, each and every moment with deep remembrance of His holy presence, we remain partisans in a conflict that only breeds aloofness, alienation, hostility and even war. If we are to be pro-life, we only have this moment now in which to affirm life, to affirm Him, to open ourselves to His grace and to swim within His love.
When we join the throngs of people who continually move from there to here and back again, we see ourselves in them and know the goodness of what He intends for us all. If we are to be pro-life, how we live and relate to each other must be in harmony with His will. Only then may we join the blessed community He intended for all of us in this human society.
Only when we continually cling to His holy feet will we truly be pro-life - with the spirit of reverence for life burning like a flame within our hearts. Then, we will truly hear and see each other and do His will. Then, we will know what it means to be alive and what the value of life truly is. Then, we will know He is alive. Then, we will know His palpable presence in our lives.