Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On the Dignity of the Human Person

Life is beautiful.  It is amazing.  I love nature.  I am fascinated by its beauty whether that beauty is simple or complex.  As people of faith, we believe two essential things about life: that it is intended and that it is good.  This simple premise is the entirety of the the basis of all teachings that the Church has about life.  This reaches a summit in human life.  The totality of our morality is bound in the essential goodness and dignity owed to each person.  Not all have held this to be true over the ages.  In most ancient mythologies, the created order and especially man were seen as essentially disordered and a pox upon creation.  Most saw it as a divine mistake.  In the time that early Christianity arose, there was a group called the Gnostics.  They saw humanity as an evil and the body as a prison of the soul.  Adapting themselves within Christian circles, the saw the God of the Old Testament (Yahweh) as evil; a vengeful entity that showed his full sadism by creating.  They saw the God of the New Testament (Abba) as a loving God who conquers Yahweh and gives some humans a secret knowledge by which we could be set free from the flesh and the evil created order.  The Church quickly condemned this.  The Church never lost sight of the true beauty of the human person and saw that is was so good (even if it didn't look or act that way) that Yahweh sends His Son to redeem humanity; not from entrapment to a body, but from entrapment to what destroyed that beauty.  The Church seeks to see the full dignity and integrity of the person restored completely.

The Gnostics, though condemned, have never gone away.  In fact, they are alive, well, and forcefully dominant in our culture.  We, as Christians, must regain the ground we surrendered by adopting and integrating their ways of thinking in the ways we look at the person.  We are used to speaking of people in utilitarian ways.  Too often we talk about the person in terms of their usefulness.  We reduce persons to terms of viability and economic qualities.  We talk about 'affording' children as if they were a new car, a house, or some other economic reality.  Even good people do this.  This way of talking also allows us to base the usefulness of a person based on their skin color, gender, socio-economic class, educational level, health, and other criteria which allows us to subtly or blatantly judged others as not as equal as us.  This reduces the dignity of the person and allows in the monster that has judged some as not deserving of life.  This is incompatible with our Christian faith.  In fact, a 'science' developed in the 19th century called eugenics, by which we used certain methods and such to lessen or exterminate undesirables.  It is troubling but is so engrained into our society that we don't recognize where it rears its ugly head.

It has reached its most obvious peak' in the multiple genocides that have marked that last century of our existence.  We saw it in all its true horrors in Nazi Germany where 'undesirables' were literally loaded  by the train loads to be exterminated. Not only Jews, but the mentally and physically handicapped, the sickly, homosexuals, and other deemed as dangerous to the creation of the master race were systematically slaughtered.  In Stalin's Russia, millions were murdered as they were seen as undesirable.  In Mao's China, tens of millions were exterminated like a insect infestation.  In Pol Pot's Cambodia, a third of the population was exterminated. 

Now tens of millions are exterminated through abortion.  That may seem harsh, but reality is what it is. In this country, 90% of children diagnosed with Down's Syndrome are aborted.  Abortion is used for sex selection now.  In the black community, for every live birth there is an abortion.  25% of this new generation has been aborted.  Since Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton, 53 million babies have been aborted in this country.  This pales in comparison to what is happening in Russia and China, where the prevalence of abortion is now creating deep societal problems that endanger future stability in both nations.  In every single case of everything written in this paragraph, every human destroyed had to have its essential humanity ripped from it; if it isn't human then what is being done is no different than eradicating a vermin infestation.  These are harsh realities that we can no longer sugar coat with euphemisms like 'choice'.

Those is favor of abortion in this country like using terms like 'embryo', 'zygot', 'fetus', and 'blob of tissue' to deaden our senses as to what is happening.  None of these are specific to the human species. All animals go through these stages in life. I have two dogs and a cat that were also embryos at one time.  They were fetuses too.  I was a embryo and fetus as well, so were you the reader.  I can assure you, whatever you want to call what resides in the human womb, you have to add the adjective 'human' to it.  What is in the womb, scientifically, is a human person in its earliest stages of development.  What is growing in the womb is of the species and genus, homo sapiens.  No amount  of fast talk changes that reality.  As Christians we believe that this human person is owed the very same rights to its integrity and dignity as any other.  Abortion is incompatible with Christian ethics and morality.  Am I saying that those who gotten abortions are evil?  No, but most have been duped by this culture that sees human life as a disposable commodity.  As Catholics, we must fight to regain the lost ground. This will not come through vilifying people, but vilifying an action and a mentality that has enabled it.  When it comes to the eugenics mentality, the only thing that needs to be exterminated is the mentality itself.   

Human life, in all its stages must be afforded its dignity and respect.  This does not magically come into existence upon birth nor can the birth be the end of when such dignity is given.  That dignity is to be afforded throughout each human life.  Race and gender are irrelevant as to who gets respect and dignity and who does not.  Socio-economic class does not either.  Physical and mental disabilities do not lessen the respect owed.  In fact, there is no group, no tribe, no subsection of our human family that is not to be afforded this respect and dignity.  Each human life is special and a gift.  Each human person is a child of God.  If we understand this, it is a positive game changer.  We live in a society that focuses on what makes us different and divides us in to subsets; it is much easier to manipulate a subset.  We belong to a faith that tells us we are one family and we owe each other respect and dignity, not because it is earned or 'you're one of my kind', but for the base fact that each human life is special in the eyes of its creator.  If we want peace, justice, mercy, and compassion to be the hallmarks of the society we live in, then we must reclaim the ground and demand respect for all human person and extend that respect to all...born or unborn.

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