Speaking Up for the Value of Human Life

IMG_1351“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Proverbs 31:8

55 million babies have been aborted in the U.S. since Roe vs Wade in 1973.

I didn’t want to write about my recent trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was deeply personal and moving, so I kept it private until the recent video came out of the Planned Parenthood executive who, while dining on salad and wine, nonchalantly described how best to kill an unborn baby so that vital organs could be harvested for life-saving research. I have studied the Holocaust and the history of WW2 and lived where the Third Reich massacred millions of Jews and others, so I am careful not to make comparisons to the Holocaust. However, I will draw one comparison:

When a human life, created in God’s image, is deemed sub-human or less than another human, any horror can follow. The worldview that redefines personhood denies the God who created us.

Many among the steady stream of visitors to Auschwitz-Birkenau on the day I visited shook their heads in disbelief. Tears welled up when I saw a tour group from Israel, some draped in Israeli flags, walking the same path from the trains to the gas chambers that Europe’s Jews walked not too many years ago. Auschwitz–Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, is the most recognizable symbol of the Holocaust because the SS murdered the greatest number of Jews from nearly all of Nazi-occupied Europe there including a number of Roma (gypsies), Soviet POWs, and prisoners of more than twenty nationalities.

The slippery slope to murdering Europe’s Jews en masse began when Hitler built his vision on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. Later, the Third Reich classified Jews as a sub-human race and subsequently tightened laws restricting them, which were violently enforced. Much of the population became desensitized to harming a Jew since Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews as sub-human and blamed them for many of the world’s problems. Forced to live in ghettos, Jews still did not guess the Final Solution that was coming. According to Hitler, the superior Aryan race would advance when the Jewish problem was efficiently solved. And they were efficient.

A few days after visiting the site of the death camp in Poland, I watched a film I highly recommend, Conspiracy, about the Wannsee Conference where the Third Reich decided how to carry out the Final Solution (their plan to murder all the Jews of Europe). The beautiful cinematography and opulent surroundings were in stark contrast to their agenda. A few of the men around the table were visibly troubled. Were they troubled by the magnitude of killing they were planning to carry out or the guilt they would bear?

After the Wannsee Conference, The Third Reich no longer had to deal with the traumatic aftershocks of soldiers who shot row after row of Jews and wailing Jewish children who had been ripped away from their parents. They could march them into gas chambers up to 60,000 every day under the guise of showering after a long train ride. And who could fault them for efficiently making use of their belongings, hair, skin, gold fillings, and any other item deemed beneficial to the Third Reich? I was overcome with emotion when I saw the piles of belongings and hair taken from people, some children, who were exterminated. Who could fault Mengele for conducting experiments on sub-human Jews, Gypsies, and sets of twins for the advancement of science and the Third Reich?

As news began to trickle out, many in the international community did not believe it, did not want to believe it, or were apathetic. Some in Europe were complicit in the killings, while some risked their lives to save Jews.

“If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God), you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin.”– T.S. Eliot

A profound and inescapable relationship exists between worldview and ethics. It is possible for humanity, for you and I, to be reduced to a very low, dark level. Holocaust survivors have told of doing things and seeing things done to others that they would never have thought or imagined human beings capable of.

Today we are capable of killing our unborn children funded, in part, by our tax dollars. Yes, we need to show compassion towards and help desperate women in need or women who have been raped, but too often our culture efficiently gets rid of unwanted pregnancies because we idolize sexual freedom. We idolize self. After all, the argument goes, a fetus is not a baby and the woman can donate fetal tissue for life-saving research. Meanwhile, clinics can “more than break even” on the transaction.

The current arguments buzzing about are more often surrounding the legality of the transaction than the ethical concerns. The U.S. has some of the loosest laws on abortion in the world. Our culture is desensitized to using fetal body parts for research because it is desensitized to abortion. Culture is desensitized to abortion because an unborn baby is considered sub-human while freedom of choice is elevated to the greatest good above God or in denial of God’s relevance or existence. We would be gods without Him, but we can only play at it and we mess things up royally. We are not all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, and perfect in love and goodness. We need the perfect One who placed the highest value on human life by dying for our sin and rising again to give us never-ending life in Him.

I listened to Senator Lankford’s speech on the Senate floor on July 16 as he lamented the apathy to the recent video of the Planned Parenthood executive while conversations on the Hill that day were about the rights of orca whales and humane horse slaughter. He said, “The difference between that child in the womb and any of us here is time. That’s a human being we’re talking about.”

If we believe this, that a unique human DNA code comes into being in the mother’s womb – a precious life created in the image of God, then we must be the voices of truth and ethics in a culture that insists on a thousand shades of gray.

We must be the voices standing up to this injustice until it ends.

I will conclude with the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism:

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And this is nothing but murder.

A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual. Precisely in this connection money may conceal many a wanton deed, while the poor man’s more reluctant lapse may far more easily be disclosed.

All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, 472)

Additional note: I am not political or well-versed in political agendas, partly because I have lived outside of the U.S. Some can affect change in the political realm, some in other areas. My primary focus is helping people reconcile to God and others through the Gospel which shapes culture over time.

Recommended reading:

After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World by Dennis Hollanger

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry by Leni Yahil

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer

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