by The Rev. Mitch Hescox
On Wednesday, January 22, 2014, many in the Roman Catholic and evangelical communities will rally to celebrate the right to life. Some see this day as a time to be anti-abortion, but I see this as a day to celebrate life and life in abundance with God. Catholic social teaching has long lifted high a pro-life theology as dignity for all life and in the past decade, more and more evangelicals see the same consistent theology. My friend, Shane Claiborne likes to shout out, "We're pro-life from the womb to the tomb."
We in the Church need a consistent theology of love and grace around life itself. As a former local church pastor, I know the struggle most women have in the decision to terminate pregnancy. I have walked beside too many women who have had their abundant life spoiled as they have dealt with aftermath of their decision. At such time, love and grace provide the healing, not guilt or shame. So to have I witnessed firsthand brain injuries that resulted from the spraying of toxic chemicals, hunger that raged from destroyed crops ravaged by drought exasperated by our changing climate, and our supposedly pure water so filled with synthetic hormones that puberty starts much earlier leading to increases in breast and other cancers.
Medical research states that one in four of our children in the United States suffer from asthma, ASHD, autism, or allergies caused at least in part by our poor care of God's creation. Human life, especially defending our children's health must be a national priority. However, too often we put other interests above our children. A couple of years ago during a Congressional Hearing, a conservative Representative tried to override my concern for children my saying, "Pro-life is only about abortion and nothing to do with the quality of life." A few weeks later, a more liberal Senate staffer denied me the opportunity to testify on the same children's health issues because I am pro-life.
Both positions are simply wrong, and they stem from fear. On one hand, we have a conservative elected leader wanting to continue claiming to be pro-life and receiving support from our community while pushing the interests of a special interest, namely the fossil fuel industry. On the other hand, we have "liberals" so afraid to respect evangelical Christian values our voice is ignored.
These positions typify American dialogue today in both the public agenda and in private discussion. Everyone is so afraid in his or her own ideology, we refuse to have reasonable dialogue and work toward common ground. "My way or the highway" might as well be our national slogan. However, from my understanding of faith and being a Christian, the answer comes from following Jesus' way and that way has always been love.
Scriptures teach that "perfect love drives out fear" and Jesus' final command to his disciples was, "love each other." It's time to work together in love, respecting our differences, and find the common ground to defend our children and rekindle the grace given our nation.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the national shouting match regarding our changing climate. Climate is changing. One doesn't have to be a scientist to recognize the signs, only eyes. Look around at the increasing wacky weather, sea level rise, plants blooming earlier, and insect born diseases spreading into areas they never were. Climate change threatens human well being, period. Hundreds of thousands die each year from climate change threats and the future for our children and all God's children looks bleak. Poverty, forced migration, increased disease are already bad problems that will get worse. From 2012's Super Storm Sandy, 2013's Colorado floods and wildfires, and even January's Arctic Vortex weather derive in part from climate change. They are just the beginnings of what our future world will be unless we act.
Unfortunately, climate change instead of being a human life or pro-life threat became labeled as a liberal cause and many Americans started to react in fear and anger. These fears are fueled by a denial campaign by those who desire unfair protection of their products instead of bearing the true costs. Unfair protectionism for one industry doesn't support a market economy; it only burdens the rest of us.
It's time to break away from fear, act in as love as Jesus' teaches and move beyond the shouting matches to sensible solutions from all perspectives. No one side has the answers, but if we start to care for each other, love our children, listen, and love God, we will find the WAY. We believe in a God of hope who desires abundant life for all.