Just prior to the November election, a quick chat after church turned tense.
“It’s not pro-life to put migrant children in cages,” said an older woman, her hands on her hips.
“Of course not!” I exclaimed, trying to remember at what point in our brief (and, for my part, distracted) conversation the topic had been introduced. With the entire world on edge, I’d been making a conscious effort to pray more and speak less, hoping to avoid fanning the flames of division without dousing the truth.
A few days later, another acquaintance reminded me the death penalty, revived by the federal government in recent years, was also a pro-life matter.
“Of course it is,” I said, shuddering at the brutal prospect of capital punishment.
Not long afterwards, an exasperated friend, whose life had been upended by COVID’s financial fallout, snapped that Christians needed to broaden their focus on combating abortion and “start taking care of the people already here.”
Reflecting on these exchanges, I found myself resenting the “either/or” options each person had essentially proposed. For them, standing against the U.S.’s more than 61 million abortions over the last five decades (and 72.6 million worldwide between 2015-2019 alone) was to also deny the rights of immigrants, death row prisoners, the impoverished and other marginalized groups.
In logic, such an all-or-nothing argument, which admits of no additional possibilities, is known as a “false dilemma” — and plenty of them are showing up in our news feeds, legislatures and everyday conversations, trying to pass themselves off as reality.
In our calmer and clearer moments, most of us know that life is far too complex, and human life far too precious, to entertain such fallacies. It’s when we enter that strange arena of “-isms,” broad generalizations, and adrenaline-fueled debates that we lose sight of our dignity as creatures made in the image and likeness of God.
At every age and at every stage — whether we are veiled in the womb, exhaling our last breath into eternity or somewhere in between — we are cherished by our Maker, and called to love and care for one another.
Amid this season, when we focus more deeply on our commitment to respect life, let us heed the words of a wise cloistered nun, who recently gave me a simple yet powerful way of seeking God’s grace to counter the culture of death.
“At the elevation of the host during Mass, I lift up my heart and ask the Lord to bless all aspects of the pro-life movement,” she said. “There are too many to name.”
Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com, host of the Inside CatholicPhilly.com podcast and author of the forthcoming book “Stations of the Cross for Sexual Abuse Survivors.” Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.
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