Thursday, June 04, 2009

"What Is The Law And How Do You Read It?" Luke 10:26

Another Precis


This has to be one of the hardest essays I've ever written. Why? Partially because it's such a hot-button issue and I know that there are people in my life who will be very upset by what I'm going to say and partially because it's such a hard subject that I am afraid I'll be hurting more than helping by adding to the discourse. So now I'm putting on my virtual vestments, getting behind my digital pulpit and delivering another sermon. I really hope the next time I do this, it will be over something joyous. I'd much rather bring the funny.

Peace be with you.

Many, many years ago, probably before some of you were born, Dennis Miller was a young guy with big hair and the anchor's chair on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update. Yep. Seriously. And those Ramones t-shirts? There really were Ramones at one point and they were great. But that's for another day. I bring up Dennis Miller because he made a statement back then that drove home to me why I needed to rethink my views on reproductive rights. I believe his words were something to the effect of, "When I get a working uterus, I'll get a say in the matter."

It's a pretty simple answer to a very hard question. Who gets to decide? It would be nice if we could all, to a person, make a rational, dispassionate stand for the right thing. It would be nice if we could take stances that are free of our own experiences and influences. I just don't think it's possible and that's why I ask you to look into your own heart and open yourself up to hearing the people on both sides of the debate.

Are we even sure of what the right thing is? We weren't created from a single mold, all the same and cookie-cutter perfect. We are all unique and beautiful and molded from the same elements as the stars. That's right, you, me, everyone, we're the stuff of stars. Like stars, we're shiny, irregular and possessed of so much that is ours and only ours....and all made from the same stuff that makes up stars. Wow.

Who are we to question the wisdom of a diverse humanity? The writers of the Bible must have felt the same way when the inspiration hit for Chapter 38 in the Book of Job. To give you some context, Job has finally had enough and he questions God as to why he is being tested. Th response is 41 verses of goosebump inducing poetry that reminds us how magnificent the gifts of the world and life and humanity really are. Included in that poetry is a deft, unmistakably mighty swipe to the side of our collective heads to remind us that we don't know it all. We can't know it all and when we endeavor to decide who lives and who dies we need to ask ourselves what right we have to make that decision.

The men who decided that Pvt William Long and Dr. George Tiller needed to die claim they were doing it to protest actions that compromised the sanctity of life. They did so by killing two men, probably without ever knowing what these individuals thought or felt about what they were doing or why they were doing it. How damaged, how removed from the best part of what makes us human do we have to be to kill someone as a symbolic act?

The worst part of all of this is that Tiller, Long, and their murderers are getting lost in the verbage because we can so conveniently scoot them behind their names and their professions and their deeds as abstract symbols. Tiller becomes an almost faceless entity who represents the abortion debate and William Long, who was really just a kid, is barely acknowledged because the press and we as a people are so weary of debating about war. We can overlook the human cost because we can see these people as symbols in an argument over ideas. It becomes black and white and you're for or against with the luxury of never seeing how it looks from the ground.

This isn't a new idea. In Luke 10:25-37, Christ tells the story of the Good Samaritan. I think it's interesting that Jesus chose to identify the players in that story by their places of origin. In older translations, it is understood that tribal and regional prejudices figure into the reluctance of some to offer help to the traveler who was robbed and beaten. The Samaritan was willing to see a person in trouble and instead of looking the other way, he chose to be kind. At the end of the story, Jesus even spells it out for us:

Luke 10:36-37

36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

So I think it's pretty clear. We have to be merciful. If it's not a part of your nature, maybe you need to fake it until it's real. That starts with empathy. It starts with these questions being more than platforms for talking points. Lives are changed, sometimes ended over these arguments.

I have said that we are molded by our experiences and their effect on us is unavoidable. In all fairness, maybe I should tell you where I stand and why. When I was young, I was pretty sure of what I thought about the question of abortion and the legal devices involved in reproductive rights and regulations. In 1990, I found out I was pregnant. I had no intention of backing away from anything I wanted to do, but to my surprise, I also knew in my gut that I was going to do my damnedest to be the best mom I could be. I even picked a school with a good education and early childcare development program so I would have resources available for my baby while I was in grad school. A month after I found out, I miscarried. My boyfriend at the time was relieved and everyone else seemed happy for me but me. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about what that child might have been like. I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

One thing I am grateful for is that I didn't face the kind of legal inquiries that women in my position have been subjected to in the past. When I hear about women who are dealing with the grief of losing a child to miscarriage or congenital illness, I feel some relief that the small mercy of legal protection is in place for them, at least for the time being.

I don't expect anyone to change their mind based on what I've written. All I ask is that you think about it. Whatever side you're on, whether it's the morality of our going to war or legal interventions regarding women's health issues, think about the Samaritan who didn't see The Other, he saw a person suffering and answered with kindness.

I've talked enough. Let's finish this up and get out of here so we can get seated before the first pitch.


copyright 2009 jas faulkner

1 comment:

Jane said...

I'm not even a Christian, but I like your sermons. Don't stop.