What “I Value The Sanctity of All Human Life” Usually Doesn’t Mean (but should)

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Last night I finally sat down to watch some of the speeches from a conservative political event that recently took place. I’m not sure why I did that to myself, but I did. I’ve been actively working to purge myself of wasting time on the politics of the Empire, but old habits die hard, especially when a presidential election is creeping up on the horizon.

As I watched a few of the speeches, I realized that things haven’t changed all that much– they’re the same ideas, same speeches, same everything… just rolled over into a new year. Of course, one of the key phrases of the right seemed to keep cropping up– the phrase “I value the sanctity of all human life.”

Personally, I love the truth of this phrase as much as right-wing political talking heads like to say it. However, this common phrase becomes one of those Princess Bride moments where I just want to yell at the television: “you keep using that phrase, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

To help you translate what this phrase means in a political speech or when one of your well-meaning friends uses it, let me tell you what “I value the sanctity of all human life” does NOT mean:

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “I am heartbroken with all these children who have crossed our borders to flee death, poverty and violence– we should really stand together to give them a fresh start here in America.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “Breaking up families by deporting parents who are undocumented and making their children functionally orphans is immoral and needs to end immediately.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “The incarceration rate in the United States is the highest in the world. We should probably look at that and work to find ways to restore lives instead of simply locking them up.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “The number of death row inmates who have been recently exonerated from DNA testing is too significant to ignore. We must abolish capital punishment immediately to ensure that no innocent people are put to death.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “The preschool to prison pipeline for men of color is unjust, we must expose and fix the racial inequality that is built into our justice system.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “My heart is grieved at the number of people who have died from US bombs in the past decade. It is time to put an end to US militarism around the globe.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “People in the middle east should have the right to peacefully attend a wedding without one of our drones dropping a bomb on them. It’s time to reconsider drone warfare.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “I value the lives of Palestinians as much as I value the lives of Israelis. We must work to find a solution that honors, respects, and protects both of them.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “We practically have more guns in our country than we do people. It is time for us to all work together to enact common sense measures, such as universal background checks, to do our part to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “Military grade weapons are designed to kill people in mass quantities. There is absolutely no logical reason why any private citizen would need to own one.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “Our nation’s police have become people who are unnecessarily violent, often shooting first and asking questions later. It is time to look at how other countries use a police force to serve and protect their citizens without so much deadly violence.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “Our consumption of resources in the US often impoverishes nations while forcing us to collude with evil regimes. It is time for us all to start learning how to live simply.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “The earth produces enough food for everyone on it to eat. We must begin an era of working for distributive justice to ensure no one on this planet dies because of a lack of food.”

“I value the sanctity of all life” doesn’t mean: “Every child in America should have access to affordable healthcare. In fact, in one of the richest countries in the world, no one should get sick and die because they can’t afford a doctor.”

You see, the statement “I value the sanctity of all human life” doesn’t mean a lot of things, and in fact, typically means only one thing: “I am against abortion.”

Which, fine– me too.

But what about everything else that saying, “I value the sanctity of all human life” should mean in order to be a true statement? That’s the real question.

Those things are just ignored as liberal nonsense, instead of actually sitting down to have a real conversation about what valuing the image of God in all people might look like. And as a Jesus follower, that grieves me.

Those of us who dare to say “I value the sanctity of all human life” would do well to pause for a moment and consider what those words actually mean… because they are beautiful words that can– and should– mean so much more.

About Dr. Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey is an author, speaker, and blogger. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell and received his Doctor of Intercultural Studies from Fuller. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, is available wherever books are sold. Benjamin is also the co-host of That God Show with Matthew Paul Turner and a syndicated author with MennoNerds, a collective of Anabaptist/Mennonite voices.

He is currently signed to HarperOne and is represented by the Daniel Literary Agency in Nashville, Tennessee.

You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.