Resisting the throwaway culture

  Photo: Ed Wilkinson/The Tablet

From Bishop Ed Scharfenberger’s weekly column in The Evangelist newspaper:

Our defense of the value of each and every human life – from conception to natural death -is really about much more than drawing a line in the sand in the so-termed “culture wars.” It is not about taking sides. It is much more fundamental because it is about all of us, no matter where we stand on other issues and political strategies.

Whatever threatens or diminishes the humanity of the unborn, the poorest among us, the infirm, the homeless, the disabled – in short, qualifying the worth of any human being’s life according to any designated, quantitative (how much or how little) status – equates efficiency with morality, expediency with what is right.

It is not about religion or belief at all. It is about what we discover by being true to our senses and sensibilities. If we would be true to our science – to what we learn about paying attention to reality, objectively and without ideological prejudice – what defines a life as human is the vital, unique, continuous growth process begun at conception. Whatever developmental or environmental changes may occur as that life moves on do not alter, diminish or enhance its undeniably human genetic reality begun at that moment.

To be true to our humanity, to be humane, we do not throw away human beings because of anyone’s mere assumptions of their viability, profitability, functionality – or any other utilitarian class into which they might be categorized at any stage of their humanity.

The increasingly uncivil state in so many arenas of public discourse is a sign of how the cancer of a throwaway culture, which displaces and discards the most vulnerable of human beings, spreads. Shouting silences dialogue. Repetition of slogans replaces reasoned discussion. Stereotypes prejudice perception. If you do not like someone or some group, off with their heads!

…We do have a choice, however. We can live with those stereotypes; or we could live the Gospel – freely and fearlessly, beyond the stereotypes, using the intelligence and grace God gave us to live by our values, the most precious of which is the respect for human life itself.

Witnessing by prayer and action to the value of all life; lobbying for patients’ rights or immigration reform; volunteering to assist the homeless, the aging infirm and the seriously disabled are all excellent, practical ways of affirming human life – not only the lives of those who need our defense and support because of their vulnerability (physical, legal or economic), but, ultimately, the life of each and every human being!

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