As time passes, it’s easy to forget what you once were like, what was most important in your life, what ideas you held most dear. That’s my story anyway. Maybe I’ve undergone a radical conversion, or maybe the world has changed so much, or maybe this is what growing up looks like. Take high shool for instance. I spent more time reading about current events than the average teenager, by a lot. I’m old enough to have done most my reading from actual newspapers, and let’s just say I looked like a Newsies half the time, going to class with a streak of black ink soot on my face or pants or who knows where. I read at least the Dallas Morning News, New York Times and Washington Post daily. I typically would throw in either the Chicago Tribune or LA Times, not to mention the weekly, monthly, and bimonthly reads like The Economist, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy. I was a devout member of my high school debate squad and thus spent every waking moment learning everything I could about the world. I actually carried around a CIA Worldfact Book. Embarrassing. I promise I had friends! You can see how naturally the draw for me was careers such as public relations/communications for a government agency, political speechwriter, campaign staff etc. However, aside from my indulgence in West Wing and Madam Secretary, that’s not at all where I landed.
The summer after I graduated high school I stumbled into a refugee community. I don’t have a better explanation for it than that. A few months later, 9/11 happened. I’m not sure if either event individually would have had the same impact, but combined, no other experience has been so formative. I thought I had a broad view of the world. And to some extent I did. Yet I had no lived-experience to put my framework to the test. In other words, I had found a less than gracious approach to policy, because I had put policy above people. Put people back in the policy and suddenly my understanding of how things and work and how they should be got messy. While 9/11 may have been a catalyst, it was my faith propelled me to further self reflection. I came to the abrupt realization that following Jesus meant dying to self, which in this case looked a lot like re-examining my political views in light of what they meant to the people around me and beyond me.
Confessional aside, here’s the thing. You read through the lens you have. You filter and process information within your worldview. Very few people are formed by pure information; it cannot be analyzed in a void. It’s much more likely that something hits close to home and causes such dissonance that some form of deconstruction begins.
For me, one such dissonance came in examining what it means to be pro-life. Even in a congregation that chooses to be apolitical, the pro-life issue is still one most evangelical churches rally around. I too take seriously the concept of life, abundant life, as a fundamental component of the faith. Instead of towing the party line of one political affiliation or the other, I am called to the way of Jesus not a platform.
My searching for this way has lead me to understanding pro-life to mean, as Shane Claiborne describes it, “from womb to tomb.” This means opposition to war and the death penalty. It also means advocating for maternal care for all woman, access to healthcare and affordable housing for families etc. When a system benefits me by causing harm to an another I have to lay aside my life for another. What if pro-life also means pro-family and pro-community? I cannot support legislation that separates families via a ban or deportation. I’ve come to believe all these things not because of any party allegiance but because of Kingdom allegiance.
So much of this first week of a new presidency comes down to a discussion of life. Who’s life matters?
Do women matter? Do refugees matter? Do terminally ill matter?
When I lay aside politics and policy and look at people, as a Christian all I can say is emphatically,
Your life is worth as much as mine. Whatever that might mean for my own. Yes. Yes. Yes.