Jul 31, 2013

Being Pro-Life while being Pro-Death Penalty?


To begin with, I am generally inclined to think that arguments trying to unite Church and State into some clean moral platform are destined for inconclusive complexity—in short, to be muddled and divisive. And likely emotional. For various reasons, whether spiritual conviction, family upbringing, patriotism, governmental party affiliation—or all of these mixed together into one misleading bundle. (I use the word “misleading” because legislations or traditions may not really be rooted in the Kingdom of God—as much as campaigns or spokesmen may promote them as such. That is, assuming it is even possible to unanimously discern Jesus' moral application regarding subjects not defined universally in the Bible—or even addressed at all.)

Thus the struggle against human frailty wages on.

Meanwhile, Emily McFarlan Miller's recent article, "Can You Be Pro-LIfe and Pro-Death Penalty?" offers an interesting element to the conversation, one that I believe has broader implications about whether violence against a human being is ever truly justified in the eyes of Jesus. There is at least one caveat to this, but I will address that in a moment below. For this paragraph, I just want to briefly acknowledge that this conversation can expand from abortion and the death penalty to include war and even gun control issues—essentially anywhere where violence and death can be the consequence of action. Granted, the definitions of “violence” and “war” can be debated. However, allow me to focus on the issues of abortion and the death penalty for the time being.

And to note a man named Otto. 

I am inconclusive on much of this debate partially because I recognize that a nation's main prerogative to preserve itself and the best for its people by enforcing order in its society is generally reasonable. I am not sure if I agree more with Thomas Hobbes or John Locke in some respect, about whether man is inherently good or evil, but this subject does lead to a mention of Otto von Bismark and the "Bismarkian System." Realpolitik, if you will, does have the trappings of brilliance—albeit callous brilliance—when it comes to politics. Yet the teachings of Jesus, particularly in consideration of the Kingdom of God, do not necessarily merge well with Realpolitik. Nor do most political theories for that matter.

Now back to the idea of violence that is just.

Jesus, a human begin, did suffer lethal violence on behalf of all mankind; this sacrifice said to in fact be just because it fulfilled the laws of atonement that God set in place with the ancient kingdom of Israel. The meaning of that atonement is far more complex and beautiful than I have just written, and really relates to the ancient kingdom of Isreal specifically, but the point is whether Jesus’ words, “It is finished” carry not only spiritual significance, but also pragmatic guidance for us today? People do need to accept the consequences of their actions, including myself—as hard as that is to accept. Yet do I really believe that God’s grace is sufficient to pardon sin? If so, does that belief actually influence my attitude and actions toward myself and toward others? 

It seems that the morality of the abortion issue is generally agreed upon. Most people will agree that killing someone is wrong. This negates the argument about when life begins, of course. That debate aside, for now at least, for those who care deeply about the lives of the unborn, should that attitude not also be applied to the lives of those on death row? Are the souls of the unborn and the condemned equally worth fighting for?

Lives are at stake.

God help us in this discussion, and in our decisions. 

Amen.

Jul 9, 2013

The Window


How easy it is to think that when social media is perused, when posts or comments are read, or photos gazed at with amusement, that I am actually looking into the life of that person—that I am ultimately sharing in it. How easy it is to approach the computer screen as an open window to the vibrancy of community and the world around.

It may be a window, but it does not open without being broken. Air does not flow through it to refresh my suffocating lungs, to thus calm my aching heart. Sunlight does not pass through to warm my skin, to thus brighten hope with ambition.

Is it really even a window?

Or is it a fa├žade, a mesmerizing illusion that leads to entrapment and eventual dehydration? Slowly, illusive, it wraps its callousness around the soul like a cocoon. For it is a kind of organism. Not all bad, but, if relied upon, transforming love to a faint reflection that no longer belongs to a body readily embraced in human tenderness.

Whole love cannot be experienced through a glass. But nor is it merely the air or sun beyond. It is that tangible, and therefore risky and often painful, thing we call being. Moving. Changing. Journeying through it, I cannot help but be touched—transformed into someone better or worse, more sacrificial or more selfish. Emptying to be filled with meaning, or absorbing to inevitably be drained.

Life is desperate risk. It takes courage beyond what most acknowledge. Life is not a reflection or a mirage. It is present. It is presence.  

May each of us no longer be satisfied with mere window views. Though it will demand the sweat of effort, may we each or together break through the walls and enter the forgotten beauty of human frailty, layering our bodies with the dust of countless adventures.