One of my heroes is Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
He could be stubborn, disagreeable, and moody. He made mistakes.
He was very human. He was also extraordinary.
He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophy. He had been struggling with the dilemma of how human beings could be moral. He had come to an impasse. He seemed to be blocked–but just on the verge of understanding. He was on a boat, going down a river to visit a patient, when he was struck by the beauty of a sunset on the water as a herd of hippos went swimming by. It was at that moment that the thought came to him, “Reverence for Life.”
…Schweitzer’s mind suddenly struck on a simple three-word phrase: Reverence for Life. In Schweitzer’s concept of the universe, all living things – mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, insects, plants, fungi, bacteria – were united by their will to maintain that common status: to keep on living. “I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live,” he wrote. In translating this to an ethical viewpoint, he believed in the simplest terms that “it is good to maintain life and to promote life; it is evil to destroy life and to restrict life.” Those who are a part of the chain of existence have a duty and a responsibility to maintain and promote other life, and above all respect and cherish all other organisms’ right to exist. Reverence for Life. Such a simple philosophy; such a revolutionary idea.”
And that is my philosophy. All living things want to live. I believe it is good to maintain and promote life. I believe that in a perfect world (not a fallen one), we would be able to live this fully. However, in our world, there are times when we are justified in killing animals and often, bacteria and fungi–if they are dangerous and aggressive toward humans or bent on destroying other life, and for food (but eaten sparingly). I believe that at times, it is humane to euthanize an animal.
I believe it is alright to defend our homes, families and religious freedom to the death if necessary, if others are attempting to destroy life.
Also, if I could kill the flu, I would.
I also believe in human exceptionalism. I believe that human beings are exceptional. I believe that human beings, as the only living creatures created in the image of God, are stewards and caretakers over all living things on this earth.
Why am I writing about this?
Well, you see, I am not a political person. Oh, I used to be. I managed a blog and wrote for a popular conservative talk radio host for a few years.
But, I don’t like getting my blood pressure up all the time. And I have come to the conclusion that “talking politics” does very little for anyone except making people (including previously good friends), want to smack each other upside their respective heads.
I don’t really like that.
But, I realized that I don’t have to be political. I just have to be moral.
And, there is only one issue that I care about that happens to have (unfortunately) become politicized. Because, it’s not really political in reality. It’s moral.
(I don’t know that young people these days understand the difference, though.)
It’s reverence for life.
And, to be honest, I have patiently endured many, many of my friends political rants (on both sides of the aisle), and held my tongue, when I really want to say is we are just, as Elder Holland so eloquently put it, “a whole bunch of idiots acting like moral pygmies.”
Oh, everyone knows his or her candidate is the right one and everyone else is wrong. Everyone gets worked up about this or that freedom being eroded or taken away, when in reality, the reason why we are in such a mess is not political, it is moral. We, as a society, have become self-absorbed and self-serving.
And, I have washed my hands of all of that nonsense. The bickering about foreign policy, the value of the dollar, who lied to whom and when, rich and handsome versus rich and…not handsome? I don’t know. Blech.
I’d rather make pancakes.
And that would be okay, except for there is that reverence for life.
And, we can’t wash our hands of that.
Because if we support someone who does not have reverence for life, we are, in effect, a part of the problem. Especially if that someone would require people to go against God’s current counsel to His children to “encourage and pay for” ways to destroy life.
And that’s where I have to write something.
Because it’s not about politics.
It’s not about who is more charismatic or fabulous or worried about the homeless or concerned about health insurance or whatever. It’s not even about getting a free phone or a sovereign America or saving the Constitution as it dangles by whatever it’s dangling from, and it’s not about what’s in it for me.
It’s just about reverence for life.
And, as members of the church, we don’t have to arbitrarily decide what “life” actually means. We have the words of modern prophets and apostles to help clarify that for us in the midst of a debate that should never have been politicized in the first place. Elder Nelson has stated:
Nearly all legislation pertaining to abortion considers the duration of gestation. The human mind has presumed to determine when “meaningful life” begins. In the course of my studies as a medical doctor, I learned that a new life begins when two special cells unite to become one cell, bringing together 23 chromosomes from the father and 23 from the mother. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. In a marvelous process involving a combination of genetic coding by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are established, a new DNA complex is formed. A continuum of growth results in a new human being. Approximately 22 days after the two cells have united, a little heart begins to beat. At 26 days the circulation of blood begins. To legislate when a developing life is considered “meaningful” is presumptive and quite arbitrary, in my opinion.
Elder Oaks gave a thought provoking sermon, currently cited at the church’s official website as additional information in the gospel topic, “Abortion”. In it he says:
Some Latter-day Saints say they deplore abortion, but they give these exceptional circumstances as a basis for their pro-choice position that the law should allow abortion on demand in all circumstances. Such persons should face the reality that the circumstances described in these three exceptions are extremely rare. For example, conception by incest or rape—the circumstance most commonly cited by those who use exceptions to argue for abortion on demand—is involved in only a tiny minority of abortions. More than 95 percent of the millions of abortions performed each year extinguish the life of a fetus conceived by consensual relations. Thus the effect in over 95 percent of abortions is not to vindicate choice but to avoid its consequences. Using arguments of “choice” to try to justify altering the consequences of choice is a classic case of omitting what the Savior called “the weightier matters of the law.”..
If we say we are anti-abortion in our personal life but pro-choice in public policy, we are saying that we will not use our influence to establish public policies that encourage righteous choices on matters God’s servants have defined as serious sins. I urge Latter-day Saints who have taken that position to ask themselves which other grievous sins should be decriminalized or smiled on by the law due to this theory that persons should not be hampered in their choices. Should we decriminalize or lighten the legal consequences of child abuse? of cruelty to animals? of pollution? of fraud? of fathers who choose to abandon their families for greater freedom or convenience?
I watch in dumbfounded disbelief as many of my dear friends cry out in defense of protecting turtle egg colonies (and rightly so), but have no such urge to defend unborn human beings from elective abortions. It is painful.
Something amazing has happened in the past five or six years with the advent of new technology that gives me a view of my little one’s heart beating away when I am only seven weeks pregnant. It is one of the reasons I love bearing children.
It is life.
And I have a profound reverence for that life.
And, I believe, as Dr. Schweitzer did, that once that little heart starts beating, it beats and sings those words he penned in Lambaréné:
“I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live.”
And I have heard that song as I look at the ultrasound machine and marvel at that beating heart.
I don’t have to spend a lot of time researching most political candidates and sifting through all of the double talk and campaign promises and claims to having sterling character and morals.
Usually, I only have to investigate where they stand on one issue–that of reverence for life–or as they have politicized it–their stand on abortion.
And if they would in any way encourage, pay for, or arrange for an elective abortion for personal or social convenience, then I have my answer.
I cannot vote for that person.
Even if he is going to Make A Difference.
Even if he is nice.
Even if he feeds homeless people and helps the poor.
Even if he has great foreign policy.
Even if he looks dashing in a tuxedo.
Even if he is a member of the Church.
Even if I agree with every single other item in his political platform or agenda.
Maybe that seems naïve or idealistic. But you have to draw the line. You can’t check your religion at the voting booth.
Someone, somewhere has to stand up for choice–the right choice. Like Elder Nelson said:
“As Latter-day Saints, we should stand up for choice—the right choice—not simply for choice as a method.”
In doing research this year on the two major political parties and their candidates, I am a little frustrated.
Mitt Romney was a pro-abortion governor of Massachusetts. I am guessing it had something to do with the fact that Massachusetts is not a state that is known to adhere to the principles of reverence for life, and he had great political aspirations. Mitt’s wife, Ann, also gave Planned Parenthood $150 in 1994. Currently, Mitt Romney is running as a pro-life candidate.
President Obama is an extremely pro-abortion candidate.
President Obama and his advisors see no moral dilemma with “after birth abortions.” President Obama’s advisors and people in leadership positions, believe that if it is ethical to abort a fetus, it stands to reason that it is ethical to abort a newborn baby. One member of Obama’s transition team believes that it is ethically acceptable and sometimes even favorable to kill any infant up to the age of two years. Especially if the infant is disabled or handicapped.
President Obama voted against a bill that would protect babies who survived abortions from being put in a box to die on a shelf, or thrown in a trash can to struggle for life and then die. He didn’t vote against it once. He voted against it four times. President Clinton, Senator Kerry, and Senator Kennedy all voted for the bill. NARAL was neutral on the issue. In Illinois, the state version of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act repeatedly failed in large part because then Senator Obama was against it.
Not only did he vote against it, this is what he said about it:
As Illinois state senator Barack Obama…put it, there was “movement or some indication that, in fact, they’re not just coming out limp and dead.”
I can hear the words of Dr. Schweitzer, whispering from the heart of Africa: “I am life that wills to live...”
He said that would be a burden to both the doctor and the mother to try and protect the baby born alive, and then he later lied about it. When the records were clear and he couldn’t keep from being found out, he admitted to the truth. (Included here is a link to the voting record and audio of Obama’s testimony–while it is a prolife blog, the links go to the original sources. Here is another link to the audio of then Senator Obama.)
President Obama and his wife also want to continue partial birth abortions, calling them a “legitimate medical procedure” and Mrs. Obama actually sent out a letter asking for people to give money to support keeping partial birth abortions legal. I am not going to detail what barbarism is involved in a partial birth abortion, but perhaps you should find out what one is, if you just assume it is a regular abortion or a “legitimate medical procedure”.
It is definitely not showing any reverence for life. The ban, by the way, was deemed by the Supreme Court to be constitutional.
Our laws for animals say that we must kill them humanely. Why is President Obama so adamantly opposed to giving babies or fetuses that same compassion?
I don’t know.
And, it doesn’t really matter, I guess. And it’s not not true. I know it seems impossible that a person in a leadership position would not oppose infanticide, but there it is.
His own words condemn him.
And all the free phones, free healthcare, free food, or fabulous parties…all the great foreign policy or environmental policy or all the sea turtles or polar bears or icebergs we save isn’t going to save us if we don’t have reverence for all life.
Especially human lives.
Dr. Schweitzer once said:
Our culture divides people into two classes: civilized men, a title bestowed on the persons who do the classifying; and others, who have only the human form, who may perish or go to the dogs for all the ‘civilized men’ care.
Oh, this ‘noble’ culture of ours! It speaks so piously of human dignity and human rights and then disregards this dignity and these rights of countless millions and treads them underfoot, only because they live overseas or because their skins are of different color or because they cannot help themselves. This culture does not know how hollow and miserable and full of glib talk it is,…and this culture has no right to speak of personal dignity and human rights…
We may not want to protest at abortion clinics. We may not feel comfortable with the tactics of many pro-life groups. We may not feel the need to politically advocate for life. But, we must do something.
Even if it is as small as simply voting for candidates who have reverence for life, regardless of our own self interests or wisdom of who we think would make a “better” President. Regardless of how we feel about health care or fiscal responsibility, or even how we feel about “choice”.
In this election, I feel like it’s a Pontius Pilate (Mitt Romney who felt political pressure to be “pro-abortion” in order to further his career, and later washed his hands of it and is now pro-life), or a King Herod, who supports infanticide and abortion for any reason. The third party candidates, Gary Johnson (whose political stand on abortion is that it’s okay until the fetus would be viable outside the womb), and Jill Stein are also pro-abortion.
I am grateful that there is at least one candidate who is currently pro-life.
For those of you who are interested, I also found in my research that the Democratic Party has also changed their platform on abortion.
In 2000, the Democratic platform said the party’s goal was “to make abortion less necessary and more rare.” The 2004 platform declared, “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.”
In 2008, the Democratic Party removed the word “rare” from their platform.
I am not one of those people who identify as part of any political party.
In fact, I think most people these days are kind of fed up with all of this nonsense. The political system does not resemble what the Founding Fathers had in mind, and is gluttonous and corrupt. Most people who are busy trying to do good and be good don’t want to identify with the childish and contentious antics of party politics. Or, really any politics.
I don’t think most Mormons think you have to belong to a conservative party to be “righteous”. I don’t really like the conservative party any more than I like the liberal party, and I am unimpressed with the extremism of most third party candidates.
But, I do think we have a moral obligation to stand up for the right choice–to have reverence for life.
I think most very good people would rather look to God and worship Him as the leader of this land. That’s how I feel. I wish more people would remember Him. I wish He were acknowledged as someone in whom we trust on something more than old coins.
Can’t we trust Him to make a way for those who become pregnant and are not prepared for it? If we would just trust Him more and money (and education and social status, etcetera) less, I think miracles could happen. They often do.
So, when you are at the polls, remember Elder Holland’s battle cry: that we never leave our religion at the door. And remember what an apostle of God recently said at General Conference:
Many laws permit or even promote abortion, but to us this is a great evil.
He didn’t say it was a great evil unless the maker of this law was helping the homeless, or giving away free insurance, or a great humanitarian. It is a great evil. Period.
This above all, Reverence For Life.