A couple months ago I came across an interesting quote from one of my former professors at Duke Divinity School about the pro-life discussion. His name is Stanley Hauerwas and he’s a noted Christian ethicist. I appreciate his work because he always offers a different perspective on things I take for granted. He’s got an uncanny knack for stepping outside the typical discussions that Christians have and looking at them from a fresh angle.
This quote is no exception:
“When you frame the abortion issue in sacredness-of-life language, you get into intractable debates about when life begins. Notice that is an issue for legalists. By that I mean the fundamental question becomes, How do you avoid doing the wrong thing? In contrast, the Christian approach is not one of deciding when has life begun, but hoping that it has. We hope that human life has begun! We are not the kind of people that ask, Does human life start at the blastocyst stage, or at implantation? Instead, we are the kind of people that hope life has started, because we are ready to believe that this new life will enrich our community.” (from “Abortion Theological Understood”)
What I like about this perspective is the idea that hope, not pragmatism or science, is the primary lens with which he approaches the issue. We know that every human being is a miracle and that every human being has been made in the image of God, so there is no point at which such a miracle is a blight on our community. There is no point at which we should aim to short-circuit such a miracle.
Instead, we should hope to see this miracle all around us. And it is no less a miracle when and where it occurs. The child born to a poor family of 10 in Bangladesh is no less precious in the eyes of God and no less a reflection of Him, than the child born to a wealthy American family that is having trouble conceiving.
Such a perspective also has implications for discussions about population control. Can we ever have too many “images of God” running around? We are, after all, talking about humans, not deer.
What do you think about this perspective? I’m still processing it but it certainly turns the discussion on its head. I especially wanna hear from some of you med students and doctors out there. What would this perspective mean for dealing with contraceptives if Christians are always called to hope that the miracle of God’s image has come into being? It’s certainly something to think about.
I will close with this verse from Jeremiah 1:5, which also takes this whole discussion out of our hands and puts it into God’s:
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”
Perhaps life begins long before we give it credit for.