By Todd E. Brady
Vice President for University Ministries, Union University
On Jan. 18, thousands will gather in Washington D.C. as they have done each year for over 40 years for the March for Life Rally. Billed as the world’s largest pro-life event, people there will march “to end abortion and to share the vision of a culture of life” and to promote the idea of a “world where the beauty, dignity, and uniqueness of every human are valued.”
Many there will have ending abortion on their mind. As we approach the dark anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision, let us remember that while being pro-life is not less than a matter of abortion, it is certainly more than simply a matter of abortion.
Those I know attending the March in Washington are certainly opposed to the practice of legal abortion on demand. They are also concerned about matters of life beyond abortion. To state it succinctly, they realize that all of life is valuable — from the womb to the tomb. They understand that life begins at fertilization when an egg meets sperm and a human embryo is subsequently created. They also understand that the life of that human embryo is valuable whether it has 23 pairs of chromosomes or 22 pairs of chromosomes.
If a person makes it out of the womb alive these days, there are many issues of life to consider. When one is pro-life, she focuses not just on abortion, but on all of life—infant life, toddler life, child life, adolescent life, young adult life, median adult life, senior adult life. She realizes that life is not more valuable at a particular stage, but that life is supremely valuable regardless of the stage.
Over the last couple months, two friends have died. One died at age 38. The other died at 66. As a Christian, I believe that because of their faith in Jesus Christ, they are now alive in Heaven. In fact, I believe that both of them are more alive than I am now, and I look forward to seeing them again. All this is to say that my mind lately has been on end-of-life issues.
Regardless of the particular stripe of belief, each of us believes that life was indeed created. A created life implies a Creator. For this reason, when it comes to matters of life, it is incumbent on us to think not primarily about the preferences of the creation, but about the intention of the Creator.
In the hallways of our nation, our hospitals, our academic institutions and in other places, there are many conversations and debates about life. Questions abound. When does life begin? How should we think about life? When does life end? When should life end? In the midst of all this, there is talk about “quality of life.”
Better than “quality of life” guiding our thinking, perhaps “sanctity of life” is more helpful. When I think along the lines of “quality of life,” my thinking is preferential, subjective, and focused on what I might want at a particular time. When the phrase “sanctity of life” guides me, my thoughts are more God-centered, objective, and focused on the realities of the One who creates, sustains and eventually ends life.
Quality is “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind.” Sanctity means “the state of being holy, sacred, or saintly” or of having “ultimate importance and inviolability.” Quality is a matter of temporary comparison. Sanctity is a matter of absolute value.
For my two friends who died, life for them at the end, comparatively speaking, might not have been deemed as having a certain quality. Even so, their life was sacred. And it was sacred, not because they felt a certain sense of quality, but because their life had been given to them by their Creator.