The Value of Life.
In the last few years there has been a great preoccupation with beginning of life and the end of life issues. We have expressed our concern with issues dealing with conception, abortion and cloning, and at the other end of the life span with matters dealing with death, suicide, and euthanasia. And the church needs to be concerned with such matters, in that we hold deeply to the conviction that all human life has inherent worth.
But when the church in previous centuries thought about the value of human life, it often took on a wider perspective than the beginning and the ending of life. In the birthing of the Methodist Movement in the 1700’s and in the birthing of the Free Methodist Church in the 1800’s there were other concerns about the inherent value of human life. Then the concern was over racism that expressed itself in the enslavement of fellow human beings. There was an equal concern over the destitute poor who subsisted on next to nothing. One of the centering passions of our Methodist ancestors was to help people live all the days of their life in holiness and wholeness.
Perhaps the time has come for us to widen the focus of our concerns as the Wesley brothers and B. T. Roberts did in their day. It has been noted that the value of life has been rapidly diminishing in American culture. Violence against persons is part of our regular fare in our movies, TV programs and our video games. Life is cheapened by such “entertainments.” Violence is still widespread in the sexual, physical and verbal abuse of children, spouses, and the geriatric. In our continued propensity for war, we perpetuate violence against the lives of others with little conscience. In our retention of capital punishment we declare our willingness to take life, and with the increasing incarceration of a growing prison population, we declare that life is expendable. In this richest of all countries poverty continues to take a terrible toll, so that basic health care is unreachable to forty-five million of our citizens, and our care-less-ness about the health crises in Africa from HIV/Aids, tells the world that we do not really believe in the sacredness of all human life.
So what can we do? If we cannot do all that we want, let us at least do what we can. As Protestants let us protest anything and all things that diminish the value of persons.
Bonaro Overstreet has given us counsel when we get despondent with our seeming ineffectiveness in changing our culture quickly.
“You say the little efforts that I make
will do no good: they never will prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where justice hangs in balance.
I don’t think
I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.” *
* Bonaro Overstreet, “Hands Laid Upon the Wind,” p.15, (N.Y. W. W. Norton, 1955)
Published in Light and Life, May-June, 2006