Several weeks ago, I mentioned I that I would discuss sanctify of life issues within the context of several related questions. One of these questions was, “are some lives more sacred than others?” It is not unusual for people to take different stands on matters related to sanctify of life. For example, there are those who identify as pro-life, calling for the overturn of Roe vs. Wade, but who see no problem with supporting the death penalty. Other people hold the opposite view — they are pro-choice but against the death penalty. It concerns me when there are those who emphasize or stress one aspect of the sanctity of life while denying the importance of others.
In recent years, there has been much conversation over students being slain in schools, the global refugee crisis resulting from the war in Syria, and racism — in addition to other issues. The hot button item literally today is the current administration’s policy that is enforcing the separation of children from their parents who cross the US border illegally. All of these are sanctity of life issues.
There is a post on Public Orthodoxy by a Jesuit priest named James Martin in which he advocates for a wholistic approach to Sanctity of Life concerns. If you wish to read it you can access the link at https://publicorthodoxy.org/2017/02/02/pro-life-social-justice/.
There is much in this short reflection with which I agree, but after reading it, it struck me that something was missing. For example, in addition to being pro-life, Father Martin says, “I support anything that helps a person live a full, healthy and satisfying life, in every part of the world.” This sounds good to me, but is this how we are to understand our lives? He speaks to supporting equal pay for all, universal health care, affordable housing, humane work environments and many other things — all good things to work towards. But can these things be obtained by solely engaging in a political process? The gospel and epistle reading of Sunday, June 17, 2018 shook me up in a good way.
Saint Paul in Romans 5:1-4 says: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
And in Matthew 6:25,32-33 Jesus tells us: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”
Both readings say important things about our lives in this world as Orthodox Christians. First, there is something about suffering that works towards our salvation — making us whole, complete, and human. Saint Paul says we are to rejoice in our sufferings because of how God allows them to be used to help us to become patient (a determination to joyfully see things through even when things seem bad). This, in turn, builds character in us, resulting in a hopeful disposition. Walking the pathway of acquiring the virtues of the Kingdom can only happen when we anchor our lives in this peace, given to us in Christ through faith in Him.
This is clearly expressed in the gospel reading. Jesus commands us to not be anxious about our lives and not think of them in terms of pursuing and obtaining certain things as ends in themselves, as if they will make us content. To seek these things apart from seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness will only make us more anxious and more preoccupied with wanting what other persons have. Since our heavenly Father knows we need these things, Jesus assures us that if we make seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness our number one priority, the things we need to live in this world will be given to us as well. (Notice I said “need,” not “want.”)
I apologize if this does not come across in a clear and cohesive manner. This is difficult “stuff” to articulate. My point is that we needn’t give up on engaging in a political process to effect certain changes in the world in which we live. However, if we put our hope solely in that process we will not find peace or find true contentment. We need people of “good will” in this world. We need to be transformed! This only comes about within the context of seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness, and to see and believe in the Church as the “Re-creation of Creation,” made so by our Lord’s live-giving death on the Cross and His Resurrection from the dead. So whatever change we advocate in this world needs to be seen from this perspective.
I am sure there are holes in my “point” that some may wish to shoot down. We do live in a fallen world in which people do not seek His Kingdom. What does that mean us? I hope to follow up on this next week.
I can appreciate what your saying, your Grace, on the issue of sanctity of life. We should strive to be consistent in how we view the value of another’s life, even if we don’t agree with their choices. I also see your point with children being separated from their parents that cross the border illegally. However, in fairness, we are also taught to obey the laws of our country (so long as it’s in accord with the law of Christ). We should consider that illegal immigrants are breaking the law and there are consequences to that decision. I wonder if the parent(s) are aware that it’s quite possible they will be separated? I’m not sure I would risk it unless it was my only solution. My family immigrated legally from Mexico back in the 1930’s, and my husband’s family also immigrated legally from Mexico long before then. A lot of legal immigrants feel strongly about registering and the process of border control.
I recognize prayer as means to advocate social justice and comfort to those that suffering. Is there any other action you believe families should take in order to encourage immigrant families to register legally, so they can remain together and avoid unnecessary suffering? Thank you
Thanks for your comment. I referenced the separation of children from families as a sanctity of life issue. If you can send me your email address by writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would like to send you something I read that was the best thing I have seen on this issue. I posted it on my Facebook page. Plus Metropolitan Tikhon released a letter on behalf of the Holy Synod that is now posted on the OCA web page. The issue of immigration law and calls for its reform is a very complicated issue. The one thing that bothers me about this is that in April a decision was made by the Justice Department to enforce the law and to engage in the process of separating children from their families who enter illegally. More so these are now being prosecuted as criminal acts not as misdemeanors. Even what I just said is a simplification of something that is more complex than how I am presenting it. Why can’t we find a way to keep these families together during this legal process and why are we addressing this as a criminal matter?
As to your question about actions that can be taken to encourage families to register legally, I can’t say that I have an answer to offer. I will give some thought to it and see if I can come with anything. Thanks again for what you shared. +Paul of Chicago
According to today’s Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/articles/whats-behind-family-separation-at-the-border-question-and-answer-1529345730), “a longstanding federal court settlement—known as the Flores agreement—bars the government from jailing migrant children. […] The Trump administration says it wants Congress to overturn the Flores agreement so the administration can keep families together in detention. […] In 2014, when the Obama administration faced a surge of child and family migrants from Central America, the White House decided to jail families together. The administration sought to accelerate deportations but its approach was mostly scuttled when a federal judge in California ruled that jailing children for more than about 20 days, even with their parents, violated the Flores agreement. Obama administration officials considered separating families, but opted not to. At the time Obama officials said some migrants were seeking to take advantage of U.S. immigration law and delays in deportations to stay in the U.S. ”
As I believe you said, it’s not simple, and the politics and polarization are exacerbating the situation.
I hope and pray that reasonable leaders can put aside their political agendas, come together and do what is right, Christian and charitable. That includes what is right for the war victims in Syria, Syrian refugees, as well as those living near the Texas and Arizona borders who encounter families brought across the border by “coyotes”, with young girls almost sure to be raped along the way to the US. There have even been gang members who have brought along a 1-year old with them before zero tolerance, so they would be released until a court date, for which they were certain not to show up.
Lord have mercy!
Bob thank you for raising another aspect to this issue (Flores agreement) which shows the complexity of it. It would be interesting to see if there are statistics on this “coyote” problem and how often kids are being brought over with adults who aren’t their parents.