Donald Andrew Henson II

Why Pro-Lifers Should Be Anti-War

In American Society, Current events, Religion and Society on September 19, 2012 at 1:38 am

I’m having a difficult time forgetting this CNN video of 4 year-old Rena. She was playing on the balcony of her family’s apartment in Aleppo, Syria, when a bullet – not a stray, but one fired at random by a sniper – smashed through the window and into her face, dislodging one of her teeth as it pierced her cheek. The last hours of her short life were spent crying out in pain and fear, the blood gurgling in her throat as she called for her mother.

This is the real story of any modern war – the horrific suffering and death of thousands of innocents. Best estimates so far of civilian casualties in Syria are somewhere around 20,000 men, women, and children in the last year or so. The US is not involved in this war – yet – but we’re responsible for tens of thousands of civilian deaths in other wars since the start of this century – at least 100,000 in Iraq alone. Rena’s tragedy was captured on film, but thousands of others have gone un-reported, un-mourned, forgotten.

I don’t understand why the so-called Moral Majority in this country have been in favor of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; it hasn’t always been this way. The denomination I grew up in, the Assemblies of God, officially opposed participation of its members in any war until 1967. Now it seems that most Pentecostal / Charismatic churches somehow connect God, guns, patriotism, and warmongering as part of our grand American Christian tradition.

I remember a Christian music video I saw when the war in Afghanistan had just got underway.  I can’t remember the particular singer – she was a young, busty girl, with big hair and tiny cut-off shorts, dancing in front of tanks and American flags. Her rendition of Our God is an Awesome God was interspersed with sound bytes of George W. Bush saying things like “our cause is just”. The British phrase ‘gob-smacked’ is the only phrase that comes close to how I felt watching that video.

When did getting behind the war effort become a Christian virtue? And why is it that pacifism is viewed as un-American, un-patriotic, and somewhat socialist?

What does it mean to be pro-life? In Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, he promised to “protect the sanctity of life” yet he clearly thinks that it’s a mistake to scale back our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and would certainly side with his good friend Benjamin Netanyahu should Israel decide to start a war with Iran – or perhaps even involve American troops in such folly. When Christians talk of the sanctity of human life, is that simply code for an anti-abortion stance?

Let’s face it – many Christians get all riled up about the rights of an unborn child – but don’t seem to care much about what happens to that child after it is already born. The hypocrisy is breath-taking. According to what I hear from pulpits across the nation, the current Christian ‘pro-life’ stance goes something like this:

If you get pregnant, you must carry the baby to term, because the life of that unborn child is sacred to God. The Bible makes it clear that God forms a child in the womb, and God’s plan for that child’s life is already drawn at conception – both Samuel and John the Baptist were destined to do God’s work when they were still unborn. The fact that you can’t afford a baby is inconsequential – it’s a sin to end the pregnancy. Once that baby is born, however, you should expect no help whatsoever from society or government in feeding, clothing, housing, or educating God’s little gift; that would make you some kind of pariah, one of Romney’s 47 percent of Americans who see themselves as victims, and are dependent on government. In fact, most Christians seem to be in favor or Paul Ryan’s plan to eviscerate government programs for the weak and poor – not while they might need them, of course, but for those others who refuse to take responsibility for themselves.

It seems that being pro-life is limited to being pro-fetus only, not to believing in the sanctity of any life that manages to emerge from its mother’s womb.

A century ago, most church buildings were simple structures, and much of the tithes brought in were distributed to the needy. Now, Christians busily build cathedrals, gymnasiums, and television studios, contributing very little to the community as a whole. So, while the church has become more miserly in their contributions to society’s most vulnerable, they have also grown dogmatic in their belief that government shouldn’t assist them either.

And in reality, pro-lifers seem to be mostly concerned about Caucasian fetuses, not so much about other varieties. The Far Right wants to make abortion illegal – but worries about Black women having more babies so they can get bigger welfare checks, or Mexican women having babies on Americans soil so they can avail themselves of government handouts. They fear that Muslims and Hindus are trying to out-breed White Americans and Europeans.

If you claim to be pro-life, then you have to be for the sanctity of all human life, not just the unborn. You must do something about the 30,000 children who die every day due to malnutrition and preventable disease. You must do whatever you can to end wars that cause the suffering of untold thousands of innocents. You must be concerned about the sky-rocketing suicide rates among enlisted American soldiers. You must insist that every child in America get at least one decent meal every day, and an education that will allow him one day to improve his lot. If you can’t do these things, you need to call yourself ‘pro-fetus’ or ‘pro-zygote’ or something else; you can’t call yourself pro-life.

So many of us cannot envision a world without war. We think that wars are inevitable, part of human nature – even necessary, perhaps valiant. Doesn’t the Bible say we will always have wars until Jesus comes back? Didn’t Jesus himself say that there would always be poor people?

It’s this kind of thinking that keeps us from changing the world for the better. It’s this kind of thinking that killed Rena.

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  1. don’t forget they love the ‘death penalty’ as well. it’s just the egg that’s sacred…once you’ve hatched, you’re on your own.

  2. Yes, that’s true. I guess I can follow the logic a little better for that – I mean someone who receives the death penalty usually doesn’t get there innocently. But I can’t understand why a dead embryo / fetus is more of a concern than a dead 4-year-old. If one is innocent, the other must be as well – but the child is self-aware and able to feel pain, dread, suffering, in a way that an embryo cannot.

    I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like children being described as part of religious groups – Jewish children, Muslim teenagers, etc. Children often don’t get to make choices about religion, and are usually brainwashed to believe what their parents believe – unless the parents are such hypocrites that the kids see right through them. But when we say something like ‘Palestinian children’, we have automatically put them in a group that we don’t have to care about so much. If Christian children are suffering somewhere, we’ll send in the Marines. But the suffering of Hindu children doesn’t strike the same chord, and we are less concerned about their suffering.

    Sam Harris talks about how there’s a disconnect in our brains about what we are concerned about and what we should be concerned about. When you see that Save the Children commercial late at night, asking you to sponsor ‘one’ child, it’s phrased that way because psychological studies have shown that we feel the greatest empathy for one child. When we are told of one child in trouble, we feel we have to help. However, when two children are in trouble, studies show that we are not twice as worried, nor will we give twice the money. In fact, we’ll give only 25% more. Three children don’t get a single extra dime, and if you show a photo of a room full of children, people are less likely to give anything.

    If this shows anything, it’s that our subconscious play a much greater role in our decision making than we’d like to admit. And if we are conditioned to cry about aborted 6-week old fetuses, but feel nothing when little Syrian girl dies – well, that’s the sort of thing that only religious thinking could accomplish – rational thinking won’t get you there.

  3. very true. interesting study too. i think Hitch said “there’s no great act that could be achieved with faith/religion that couln’t easily be achieved without, and many horrific acts that no sane mind could conceive unless religion were involved”…or something like that. i strongly agree with not putting religious labels on children. people wouldn’t refer to a four year old as a “shriner child” just because his father was a member of the lodge.

  4. I’m a pro-life & anti-war Christian. I get the stone throne at me, and get called a socialist/communist, etc., for being anti-war, but I agree with your argument. Children are precious and should be treated as such in the womb and once born. It’s a shame that war has become the norm in our world. I don’t think the death penalty is right either. As for the above remark, “. . . and many horrific acts that no sane mind could conceive unless religion were involved. . .”, Karl Marx was an avid atheist and also anti-family. He believed that for true communism to function, those who had children needed to get rid of them and those who didn’t have children needed to stay childless (yet he himself had a wife & children). Anton LaVey, the father of the church of satan (which actually worships self, not satan, because they don’t believe in satan), believed that children should be engaged in inappropriate acts during ceremonies. Once they put on their ceremonial costumes, they were no longer considered children, but rather actors in a play with very adult roles to fulfill. These are only 2 examples of anti-religious people who conceived horrific acts. There are many others. I would say the number of anti-religious vs. religious people who have committed heinous acts/crimes are almost 50/50 because no one is perfect. Of course, I have no way of proving this, nor am I trying to; it’s an opinion only. No one is without the ability to commit evil. We all have good and bad in us. It’s the balance of life. One cannot exist without the other. Who commits more good/evil is irrelevant. The question is what are we going to do about it.

  5. Thanks for your comments, questionsonfaith. I think its sad that American churches tend towards ‘groupthink’ these days, and that anyone – like yourself – who steps back and says ‘wait a minute’ is ostracized. I’m sure some of my commenters will disagree, but I think a person ought to be able to commit his life to Christ without abandoning rational thinking at the church door.

  6. I agree. I’m glad to be part of a church family where our leaders stress the importance of deciding what/who to follow based on individual thought. They want us to exercise our free will rather than shut-up, listen, & follow.

  7. […] wrote months ago about how the tragedy in Syria is wreaking havoc on that nation’s children, and I fear not […]

  8. […] I’ve been decrying the violence against children in Syria for five years now, since my heart was torn apart by a video of Rena, a four-year-old Syrian girl shot by a sniper back in 2012. I’ve posted other photos and videos of dead and dying Syrian children since then  – admittedly with few suggestions on how to make the violence against helpless children in Syria stop. I’m still struggling for answers. […]

  9. […] reform because conservatives thought it didn’t punish the poor quite enough). Given that any pro-lifer logically should be anti-war and pro social safety net – how the hell do you sleep at night? (But logic is not a […]

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