A Pro-Life Ethic and Avoiding Bumper Sticker Theology

Over the past few months I have worked at what I am calling a true “pro-life” ethic. This is an ethic I believe can be sustained as a Christian. It is also an ethic that I believe cannot be labeled “liberal” or “conservative,” “Democrat” or “Republican.”

In the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut, I have been working through this ethic again.

In a conversation last night with good friends we also talked about the “DNA” of our American culture. Truly, the argument cannot be about “gun control” alone. It can’t be about “mental health” alone.

The deeper question we are all afraid to ask is, “What has made us this way? What has made us this culture that thinks a violent response is a legitimate way to solve an issue?”

We are afraid to ask because the blame game has to stop at that point. We can’t blame politics or political views. We have to look inside ourselves and we quite frankly don’t like that thought.

A true pro-life ethic, I believe, needs to cut through the divisive arguments to the core of what makes us tick. I think we need a conversation on “DNA” of cultures.

Two things I thought about from our conversation last night:

1. From our founding, this nation has always resorted to violent solutions much quicker to solve big issues. For instance, Britain ends the slave trade decades before the United States, and without firing a shot in civil war. We go to war.

2. From our founding we seem to have the motto of “rugged individualism.”

There are times when that seems appropriate. There are times that just doesn’t work.

So, let me demonstrate how I think a true pro-life ethic can help understand the core of our issues, even if we don’t want to talk about them. I will do so by offering up something I truly despise: A bumper sticker thought. But I do so to try to elicit response. (I’ve also buried it way into this post so I can make sure you’ve at least read my thoughts to this point.)

Here we go: rugged individualism is in the DNA of our culture and is evident in two extremes: On the “left” it is the radical commitment to abortion. On the “right” is the radical commitment to gun rights.

Both, I submit, are prime examples of rugged individualism.

Of course, I have lost 90 percent of everyone who has bothered to read this far. Conservatives are mad because I want to take away their guns. Liberals are mad because I want to tell a woman what to do with her body.

Both sides would be wrong.

I am not saying either thing.

I AM saying they are examples of us being more selfish and thinking we have “our own rights” and they come from the “right” and the “left.” To me, that is what shows the DNA of our culture truly is “rugged individualism.” If “rugged individualism” were just about things like gun rights, then you could argue it’s just a conservative mantra. But it’s not. It’s in our cultural DNA.

So, the question should be at this point: What do we do?

But this is the point we have “epic” fail. Because we don’t want to talk about our individual conditions.

I don’t want to talk about my selfishness… I want to talk about your selfishness.

So, we’re stuck.

Without the Kingdom of God and looking to the true King… we will remain stuck.

But we desperately need conversations like this. We need to go beyond bumper sticker theology and talk. We need to wrestle together. We need to reason together.

I want to come out of my theological trench for more than just a time of singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve and then going back to my theological trench. I want to stand out here in “no man’s land” and DARE anyone to have a conversation!

9 thoughts on “A Pro-Life Ethic and Avoiding Bumper Sticker Theology

  1. rugged individualism is in the DNA of the USAmerican church too… hence the increasing numbers of “independent” churches or the fact that there are some 30,000 + denominations and so on. you’re right, rugged individualism is the dna of the culture.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head with violence being the solution in American culture! Why did we need a Civil War to work out slavery? Why did the idea of Manifest Destiny comprise of so much violence and attempted genocide? Why was there so much violent opposition to the Civil Rights movement? How could all of this looked differently if we would have sought out peaceful solutions? How much of “rugged individualism” is integrated into Evangelical Ecclesiology and Worship and is that why it is popular in American culture? Good post!

  3. It’s hard to understand a more community-minded philosophy when we’ve been raised in this individualistic culture. Like you said, rugged-individualism is not all bad, but if we really look, I think we’ll find the early church had much more of a community mentality. Maybe we can look to the Bible and to other cultures to learn how to think in terms of the good of the community. Selflessness is really what we need. For that we need only to look to Jesus.

  4. Now I’m thinking about it more. Those early Americans, who had a hand in formulating our constitution, were really community minded. The Pilgrims, the Puritans…they only survived and thrived because their lives were lived for the community. Choices were made for the good of the community. It’s the only way our government can function effectively.

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