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Friday, March 21, 2008

Protecting Life Isn't Just a Religious Value

One of the most common areas of public policy where you'll hear liberals and secularists protest the interjection of religious values is in protecting life.

Whether it's protecting unborn human life, or the lives of those some consider "not worth living," citing a transcendent religious value as a reason not to end innocent human life is sure to get the Left frothing at the mouth.

In fact, respect for human life was a key reason behind the formation of a Leftwing secularist organization going under the deceptive title of "South Dakota Mainstream Coalition."

According to a report by David Kranz in the Argus Leader, executive director Senator Ed Olson of Mitchell said that the battle over the life and death of Terri Schiavo was the catalyst for the formation of the group. The same article also quoted Olson as saying, "Many of us don't like the idea of putting specific religious beliefs into state law."

"Specific religious beliefs" shouldn't be in the law? That's an interesting statement that, while you'd probably get quite a few people agreeing with it, I don't think many people have really thought through.

Imagine for a few moments what American civilization would be like if we removed some of these "specific religious beliefs" from our laws.

How about murder in general? That's a pretty specific religious belief. The Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah both state in Exodus 20:13 (in what is commonly known as the Ten Commandments--the same Ten Commandments found in many court houses across the country and in the U.S. Supreme Court) "You shall not murder." The Christian Bible also condemns it in Matthew 15:19, right beside some other "specific religious beliefs" such as adultery, sexual immorality, theft, perjury, and slander. Hmmm. Should we throw out our murder laws because they are founded on "specific religious beliefs?"

How about another of those "specific religious beliefs" mentioned there in Matthew 15:19: theft. That one is mentioned in several places in the Bible and the Torah, too, including Exodus 20:15 "You shall not steal." Wow! That's another one of those nasty Ten Commandments. Shall we throw out our laws against theft because they're based on "specific religious beliefs?" If you think so, please send me your address and an inventory of your household contents; I could use some new furniture.

Slander? That's another one of those pesky "specific religious beliefs" mentioned in Matthew 15:19 and, lo and behold, the Ten Commandments again: "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor."

How about some perjury? We didn't think it was a big deal when Bill Clinton did it, right? After all, it's just another of those silly "specific religious beliefs" which is brother to "perjury." What? You say Scooter Libby perjured himself, and we need to prosecute that perjury? Okay, so maybe perjury can stay, despite being based on "specific religious beliefs."

I could go on, but I think I've adequately made the point. With the exception of a handful of legal areas (maybe term limits, some tax law, etc.), almost all of our laws are based on a bunch of "specific religious beliefs." Does that somehow invalidate them?

For those who find religious values cumbersome and unpleasant, remember that moral choices usually have "real world" consequences, and they usually affect other people. God wasn't trying to be a fuddy-duddy when he told us what was right and what was wrong; he was trying to warn us away from harm and heartache.

So why should a Christian or religious origin automatically invalidate efforts to restrict abortion or save disabled people from being killed for convenience? Value for innocent human life is a universal value shared not only Christians, but Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu and pretty much every religious belief--including secular humanism--that you can think of.

I think what secularists are referring to when they say they don't want to see religious beliefs in law or influencing laws is that they don't want to see religious beliefs that interfere with their pursuit of convenience or sexual license.

And that's okay if pursuing convenience or sexual license is what they want...well, not okay with God and maybe not okay with any other people affected by it, but within the context of public debate, that's okay to consider.

But if you're going to argue for it, you should be up front about why you want it and why you think it should be a good idea.

And Christians (and other people of faith) shouldn't allow themselves to be cowed or intimidated out of the public debate by lies based on an incorrect assumption that our government is supposed to be kept sanitized of religious values.

If that assumption were correct, why would the Founders have severely restricted the power of government (remember, the Constitution limits government, not people) to "prohibit the free exercise" of religion?

Why else would our first president, George Washington, have told the people of America in his Farewell Address:
Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.

Morality is necessary to a healthy society; otherwise there is widespread and wanton lawlessness; disregard for law, institutions and the persons and property of others. Without it life becomes very dangerous, and an ordered civilization is not possible.

Why else would have Washington continued in his Farewell Address to tie religion and morality in close relationship:
And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.

Religion has every right, indeed every obligation, to speak to public policy matters of such great importance as human life. There is no greater priority than the preservation of innocent human life.

Why else would the Founders have listed "life" first among those famous "certain unalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." It might be said that each these unalienable rights in this list can be safely enjoyed only once the earlier items has been secured. (In other words, liberty is more important than the pursuit of happiness, and life is even more precious than liberty).

Life is, after all, created in the image of God, and is therefore sacred. Even if you don't honor this religious value, everyone can recognize that each human life is completely and totally unique; once it is extinguished, there will never ever be another like it. To view innocent human life with a cavalier attitude is the height of hubris and recklessness.

If a civilization comes to the point where it has no respect or regard for innocent human life, that is a civilization on the brink of chaos and collapse. And in a world as dangerous as ours--where many already have contempt for these values of life--I don't think we want American civilization to collapse and leave us defenseless before the bloodthirsty.


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