By Miguel De La Torre
Most of those who self-identify as “pro-life” or say they are believers in the “sanctity of life” are, in reality, neither. To truly be pro-life is to believe that all life, created by God, has worth, dignity and purpose; therefore, no human, under any circumstance, has the right to play God and terminate any life.
Because all human life has an opportunity to reconcile with the Creator, all life must be preserved at any cost. For those who believe in Christian dogma, to terminate life early robs the person of the chance to come into a saving knowledge of God and the hope of relying on God’s grace for everlasting life.
As it stands now, most conservatives and liberals are pro-life on certain political issues and not others. Conservatives are usually pro-life when it comes to abortion and euthanasia, while liberals usually advocate a pro-life stance when it comes to war and capital punishment. Conservatives’ pro-life views are trumped by national-security concerns, while the liberals’ pro-life stance is trumped by personal freedoms.
To truly be pro-life — to truly advocate for the sanctity of all life — an individual must stand against abortion, euthanasia, war and capital punishment. Hence most conservatives and liberals are not pro-life, regardless of what they profess. Each group allows something other than God — either the government or personal freedom — to take precedence over and against the sanctity of life.
For my part, I am trying to be pro-life — that is, I am trying to stand against abortion, euthanasia, war and capital punishment.
I say that I am simply “trying” because I am relying on God’s strength to stay true to this position, yet recognizing that if I fall short, there is grace. I stopped my prideful boast of truly being pro-life when I was faced with a painful decision and discovered how easy it was for me to fail to live up to my religious ideals.
Four years ago my mother entered her last week of earthly life. I flew to Miami to be by her bedside. She, a non-smoker, was dying of lung cancer. By this time the cancer had spread to other vital organs, and the doctor informed us she would not live for long. While she was still conscious, we had a wonderful opportunity to discuss eternity. She knew she would soon die and made her peace with God.
Soon after, the pain became so intense that she was drugged to make her as comfortable as possible. At this point she lost her dignity and her consciousness. For about a week she lay there in pain. For a week I did not leave her side, waiting for a death that took its sweet time to arrive. The woman I knew and loved left, but machines kept her body alive.
Even though I claim to be pro-life, given the opportunity, I would have pulled the plug myself. My action would have been motivated by my deep love for the woman who gave me life.
The law, of course, prevented me from taking such actions. But if Jesus said that if I think it in my heart, I’ve as good as done it; therefore, I am guilty of euthanasia. I am guilty of not truly being pro-life, regardless of my confession to the contrary.
Since her death, my greatest regret is that I stood by as she suffered that last week of life. The drugs were not enough, as she occasionally emerged from the fog of death. Nothing good came from that last week. I ask myself why she had to suffer. I remain with very conflicted emotions and dogmatic beliefs that, I confess, I have not yet been able to resolve.
If my belief that euthanasia is wrong is true, why then was I willing — and, if I am honest, am still willing — to pull the plug when the issue actually became real and personal? Was my love for my mother so strong that I was willing to go against my own pro-life stance and be left with nothing except God’s grace and forgiveness? But how can I be forgiven if I can’t repent from how I felt — from what I experienced?
Maybe I will not find resolution to my struggle until that final heavenly reunion when I find forgiveness from my mother for not loving enough to act.
Unless you have stood by the deathbed of a loved one passing away in excruciating pain, you really can’t understand this spiritual conflict I’m trying to share. Remaining true to Christian social positions is always easy when never tested with the messiness of life. It’s easy to be in favor of war if you or your kids don’t have to go fight; to be against abortion if you are not carrying an unwanted pregnancy caused by rape or incest; to favor capital punishment if you are a victim; or to be against euthanasia if it’s not your loved one suffering.
For such folks, grace is neither needed nor extended. But for those of us still working out our salvation in fear and trembling, maybe we need to learn how to rely much more on God’s grace to live through the contradictions that mark our existence.