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!

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

The horror of Newtown, CT needs to stay with us. It was a day when even the President couldn’t get through his remarks because of the pain.

This horror needs to stay with us because we need to have this conversation no one is willing to have. We are ready to blame others. For those on the NRA side, there will be the screaming for the Second Amendment rights. For those on the gun control side, there will be the screaming for better laws. We will blame others. 

Yet, what we have in this moment is another opportunity to look at all of us. This is the opportunity we have to say to ourselves, “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Sure, we need to have “national conversations.” (Which probably won’t happen.) We’ll talk for the next 48 hours about gun control, mental health, violent movies, better doors on schools, classroom architecture, etc.

But there is a deeper conversation that could be taken up.

We are a nation of violence. Whether it’s guns, knives, baseball bats… we just solve things wrong. Sure, Second Amendment advocates can scream, “Take away the gun and they would just use a knife!”

But look deeper.

It’s not the weapon in the hand. It’s the pain in the heart.

Of all the “national conversations” that could be taken up (and won’t), there is yet another conversation that will be avoided nationally, but I would say we MUST take up as the Church of Jesus Christ: We don’t need to be this way.

The national conversation we will REALLY avoid is GOD. We won’t take that up because that would mean there is something wrong with us internally. We may have to mention “sin,” and we know that doesn’t exist!

But for the Church… we need this conversation.

As the Church we need to start looking within ourselves and realize WE don’t need to be this way. Yet, I hear as many Christians yelling about gun rights and gun control as the next person.

Here is the question: Do we really believe the message of the king and his kingdom or not?

This king came proclaiming a message that said we could learn to BLESS instead of curse. His kingdom could empower us to LOVE rather than hate. His kingdom could teach us to be content rather than strive for more, more, MORE!

But the fact of the matter is we are not living any differently than this world. It’s like we don’t believe our King!

We can call for more gun control… or not.

But Jesus said you can clean the outside of the cup and still be filthy on the inside.

We, as the Church, need to have this conversation. We, on the whole, are NOT living as people of peace. We fight within the Church like Democrats and Republicans fight on Capitol Hill. We bicker about theology and lifestyle and how to live in the culture and when we do so, we do it in a way that communicates we don’t like the people on the other side of this argument.

The world does that.

What makes US different?

Do we believe the king, or do we not?

His kingdom would proclaim you don’t need to pick up that weapon (of any kind) to solve your problem. The pain in your heart will not be solved by taking it out in violence on someone else. It won’t be solved by taking it out in violence against yourself.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The king of all kings offers hope, life, abundance. It’s time we lived that way.

The “national conversation” won’t include God in this mix. But we, as the Church, need to start living as if God really did matter.  This nation needs it.