by The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox
From the formation of a child’s first tiny cell to life’s final breath, all life has dignity and value because each and every one of us is made in the image of God. And that is why when we talk about being “pro-life,” it’s not just about a political issue. It’s a world view…it’s a life-view. It’s a way of looking at each human life that transcends culture, class, race, age and opinion.
— The Dignity of Life by Focus on The Family
My organization, the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), has long believed “creation-care is a matter of life.” For us this means protecting human life from conception until natural death. As the recent video, The Dignity of Life, by Focus on the Family puts it: “From the formation of a child’s first tiny cell to life’s final breath, all life has dignity and value because each and every one of us is made in the image of God.”
For us, being pro-life includes not only defending our unborn children, but also the biblical mandate to care for all life. Toxins and other pollutants foul our water, air, and soil, impacting the purity of life God intends for His creation. Every concern mentioned in the video by Focus on the Family is impacted by our poor stewardship of God’s creation; creation-care is foundational to our quest to overcome poverty, human trafficking, racism, women’s rights, and Jesus’ call for abundant life. That’s why creation-care remains integral to being pro-life. As the Focus video states, being pro-life is “not just about a political issue. It’s a world view “it’s a life view.”
Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its latest study on the human impacts of climate change already occurring, and the more serious threats yet to come. On a recent EEN trip to Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, we saw the consequences ourselves and listened to those whose lives have been made worse. Listen to this firsthand account from Lifnette James, mother of six. Recently the Assembly of God’s relief agency in Malawi sent a letter asking the American Church to awaken to their plight. Will pro-life Christians answer this call? Will we answer the call of the one who is leading the way in overcoming climate change, our Risen Lord?
As we approach Easter, our current inability to seek the opportunities for overcoming climate change reminds me of my favorite Bible passage describing Jesus’ resurrection. In John’s gospel, there is a unique and often overlooked story:
14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” (Jn. 20:14-18, NIV).
This text has caused lots of thoughts and opinions throughout the Church’s life. To me the text is quite simple. Mary, so overcome with joy in finding Jesus alive, wanted to hold on to him. Mary clings to what she knew. She desires holding on to the past and is completely blind to a new future.
Most of us can identify with Mary. We don’t like change and are apt to live in the past. Mary couldn’t understand that Easter was a transforming moment. The past, wiped clean at the cross, became a new hope and new opportunity in the resurrection. Beginning with Mary on that Easter morning, the Risen Lord offers us the choice to follow Him into a new future, a new reality.
Today part of following our Risen Lord means letting go of our outdated dependence on fossil fuels and seeking new opportunities. Coal, oil, and natural gas provided some great benefits, but with a cost long unknown and a price unrealized. Now we know that part of the price we have paid and will pay is the health of our children. Dirty air, fouled water, and contaminated soil have left a legacy of brain damage, malfunctioning lungs, and a host of other health concerns.
It’s hard to let go. Our history remains filled with examples of people and industries failing to grasp new ideas. In the 1800’s Western Union turned down the opportunity to buy the telephone; in the early 20th century the equine industry believed automobiles to be a fad, and the list of foolish decisions could go on and on. Let’s not make the same mistakes again.
Climate change already impacts food production, water resources, increases disease, and forces more and more of God’s children to flee their homes. Addressing these pro-life concerns will require us to let go of the past, dream big, and together follow our Risen Lord toward a new day.
Here’s what I see: I see cleaner skies and purer water; healthy children free to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, their bodies not hindered by pollution, their brains not diminished by toxics. I see an economy that is the envy of the world, producing the technologies that help us achieve life, liberty and happiness, ones that lead to a cleaner environment, plentiful, affordable energy to power our homes and vehicles and businesses, freeing up time to spend with family and loved ones, to rebuild community life, and to be creative with the gifts God has given each of us. I see such a life being made possible in the Majority World, where American technology creates clean energy that empowers sustainable economic progress, lifting billions out of poverty and into prosperity.
It’s time to see visions of a new day, a new beginning. Let’s move beyond our fear in holding on to the past and see what Risen Lord is doing. Being pro-life is caring for life and following our Risen Lord. This Easter let’s move beyond our past and rise to a better future; Jesus did.