Republished with permission from John Pavlovitz
We have done a great service to the Religious Right.
For decades, we’ve allowed them to write our story for us.
We have let them define themselves and to define us with two simple words: pro and life.
They have cleverly commandeered this phrase, claiming sole ownership and composing a convincing false narrative that they are the lone defenders of the living and the rest of us their hostile adversaries.
Ever since the 2016 election, many Conservative Christians have steadfastly claimed that Life was and is their candidate deal breaker.
- Life is the reason they voted for and still support Donald Trump.
- Life is why they excuse his malevolence and ignore his indiscretions.
- Life is the reason they tolerate his lengthy resume of filth.
- Life is why their Christian faith can embrace him as Godly.
For them it is the single issue that fully covers his multitude of sins.
But if we take the phrase beyond the shorthand culture war slogan, to be “pro-life” should simply mean to be “for humanity,” shouldn’t it?
And if we look at the preponderance of the evidence and examine whether or not the Christian and Political Right are actually for humanity, it becomes fairly obvious that they have no interest in it and are actually predatory toward it.
Is it for humanity to attempt to ban Muslims and immigrants and refugees from entering the country in the name of preventing some invented danger?
Is it for humanity to try and take healthcare from millions of our poorest and most vulnerable and penalize them for previous illness?
Is it for humanity to refuse sensible gun legislation, mental healthcare, and military-grade weapon bans while we experience nearly daily mass shootings?
Is it for humanity to leverage fear of people based on the color of their skin, their religious tradition, their sexuality, their nation of origin?
Is it for humanity to legislatively assault the LGBTQ community; to restrain their ability to marry and adopt and receive partner benefits?
Is it for humanity to roll back protections for the planet we’re standing on, the air we breath, the water sustaining us, the atmosphere surrounding us?
Is it for humanity to gut funding for the Arts and exponentially raise it for the Military?
Is it for humanity to gerrymander and bureaucratically exclude people of color from the electoral process?
And is it for humanity to interfere with or legislatively control a woman’s autonomy over her own body?
Is it for her humanity to decide what she must do in the wake of an assault or a dire medical diagnosis?
Is it for her humanity to withhold birth control or medical treatment from her or to determine what gynecological care she can receive and where she can receive it?
Is it for her humanity to demand that she lives under the religious convictions or personal preferences of another human being or political party?
Where is their passionate regard for the sanctity of the life of the human beings whose uterus they seek to claim stewardship of and authority over? It seems women don’t count as lives to these people. The right to life apparently doesn’t include them.
It’s time non-forced birth Americans to speak the truth: that though the Religious Right forever claims to be “pro-life” they are not for humanity outside of the most infinitesimal segment of it. They have no real interest in protecting anyone beyond the birth canal.
Their burden is a theocracy of control and subjugation, one where women’s desires and wills are an afterthought. To them, terminating a pregnancy is clearly murder—yet executing criminals, shooting unarmed black men, running for-profit prisons, withholding healthcare, exacerbating pollution, and perpetuating war are all somehow acceptable collateral damage to the living.
In the end it comes down to compassion; to the ability to be moved by the suffering of others and compelled to alleviate it—to defend and protect and care for the living in every form and at every stage and of every kind and of every complexion. This is what it truly means to be pro-all life.
Republicans have shown themselves to be largely bereft of empathy for the poor, for the sick, the marginalized; for foreigners, for outsiders, for the wounded—for diverse life here. They don’t deserve to claim stewardship of the living.
I am a person of Life. That is what my faith calls me to be. Compassion compels me to be pro-life—to be for humanity.
Like so many people who share my political and religious convictions, I want (through education and birth control) to see less unplanned pregnancies and (through affordable medical care) to see more pregnancies carried to term without life threatening complications. Everyone does.
In fact, this is the greatest lie of all those the Right reiterates in this conversation: that the Left loves abortion or rejoices in “murdering babies.” This is an irresponsible, inaccurate, and willfully dangerous intentional falsehood that simply contains no truth. Ultimately, we believe that women should have autonomy over their own bodies and that no one can impose their morality on another human being. It’s really that elemental.
Our advocacy for life simply also goes well beyond the womb.
We treasure the already born as much as the unborn.
We are pro-all life because it is all sacred, not only when its heart begins beating but as it beats and when it struggles to beat and up until it ceases to beat.
Unless you’re for all humanity equally, unless you’re a fierce advocate for every living being, you’re aren’t really pro-life—you’re simply committed to using women’s bodies as the battle ground in a hollow holy war.
The Religious Right needs to face their refusal to honor the sanctity of life beyond the womb and outside of white Evangelical nationalism, and we need to rightly take back the phrase and redefine what it means to truly be pro-life.
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.