Posted on January 26th, 2013
“All life is not equal.” These are the words of Mary Elizabeth Williams, in her Jan. 23 Salon article, “So what if abortion ends life?” Williams acknowledges the humanity of the aborted child, yet justifies the taking of life with that chilling statement, “All life is not equal.”
She observes that we make other judgments regarding the taking of life, such as by drone strikes, capital punishment, or allowing a patient with a terminal illness to die. But of course, the unborn babies in question are not criminals or terrorists, nor in the throes of death.
“All life is not equal” is the lie that upheld slavery for so long in this great land. “All life is not equal” is the lie that upholds racism still today. “All life is not equal” was the lie that drove the obliteration of six million Jews. “All life is not equal” is the lie tyrants still today employ for ethnic cleansing. “All life is not equal” is the lie told by the greatest monsters ever to arise from the race of men. “All life is not equal” is the lie that the powerful have more rights than the powerless. “All life is not equal” is the lie that one person’s convenience trumps another’s most basic human right: the right to life.
Williams grounds her lie in the fiction of autonomy:
A fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.
Thus the innocent human child is given the status of an enemy combatant, treated worse than a terrorist held at Guantanamo Bay.
Autonomy is the devil’s lie: “You shall be as gods” is nothing other than “You shall be autonomous, you shall be a law unto yourself.” But none of us is autonomous, and none of us is viable.
God has put us into community, into church and family and state precisely so that we will learn to love our neighbor, so that we will set aside the delusion of autonomy and our selfish desires to serve our neighbor. “None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14.7f). To be the Lord’s, to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, is to love the weak, the wretched, the burdensome, the annoying, the stinking, the foolish.
That is easy in the abstract. I find it easy to come to a conference and speak generically about the value of life. Where it becomes hard, where it collides into the concrete barrier of all my selfish desires, is when I’m confronted by a man asking for money and I think, “Get a job”; when I’m confronted by a troubled person and I think, “Get a life”; when I’m confronted by a scrupulous person and think, “Get over it”; when I’m confronted by an irritating person and think, “Get away from me.”
For I would like to be autonomous. I want my wife to obey, I want my church to do what I say, I want my neighbors and government to get out of my way. That’s the sinful flesh, raging in me and you and our entire race.
Whenever we sin against God, we declare ourselves autonomous, rebelling all over again against our Creator. And whenever we sin against our neighbor, we declare right along with the abortion lobby and every murderous tyrant, “All life is not equal,” my life is more important than yours.
The world says, “All life is not equal,” but God says, “All life I made.” The devil says, “All life is not equal,” but God says, “All life I love.” The flesh says, “All life is not equal,” but God says, “All life I desire be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.”
So through the words of St. Paul in today’s first reading, the Holy Spirit calls us to repentance by saying, “We must help the weak.”
We must help the weak first by repenting of our selfishness.
We must help the weak by speaking for the defenseless – the unborn child, the infirm widow.
We must help the weak by giving mosquito nets to fight malaria in Africa.
We must help the weak by supporting the local crisis pregnancy center.
We must help the weak by forgiving their sins as we wish to be forgiven.
We must help the weak by welcoming the difficult, the different, the strange, the abused, the lonely into our churches.
It begins anew this morning by acknowledging that we are weak. Our bodies are weak, soon to die. Our souls are weak, quick to despair. Our wills are weak, quick to compromise. Our ears are weak, too eager to take in gossip. Our eyes are weak, too quick to take in impure images. Our tongues are weak, too swift to slander. Our prayers are weak, spoken without confidence.
But today, the Lord comes again to us weak men and says, “I will be your strength.” He comes to the weak of body and says, “I have trampled down death by My death; I will be your life.” He comes to the sinner and says, “I will be your righteousness.” He comes to the anxious and says, “I will be your comfort.” He comes to the fatherless and says, “My Father will be your Father.”
This is what compelled Him to become incarnate. In the divine counsel of the Holy Trinity, God said, “We must help the weak.” And thus the Logos, the Word, made Himself weak as an infant, taking on the weakness of our mortal nature.
The Father sent His Son to the blind and said, “We must help the weak,” and blind Bartimaeus recovered his sight.
The Father sent His Son to the deaf and said, “We must help the weak,” and the deaf heard the Good News.
The Father sent His Son to the sexually impure and said, “We must help the weak,” and the prostitute anointing Jesus’ feet with her tears became virginal again.
The Father sent His Son to the corrupt and said, “We must help the weak,” and Zacchaeus restored what he had defrauded and gave away his treasure.
The Father sent His Son to the rebels and said, “We must help the weak,” and to the penitent thief Paradise was opened.
On this festival of St Titus, the Lord again says to us, “We must help the weak,” and we weak men say, “This we desire, help us by Your grace.”
For God has regarded all life as equal. To Him every life is precious, in Him every life has value—even us weak sinners, and the vulnerable we wish to protect.
Listen to the Apostle: “We must help the weak.” Trust God who declares: ‘I will help the weak.’ Confess to the world, “All life is equal, even—no, especially the life of the weak.”