You know it is election season when bumper stickers adorn cars everywhere. One that appears every election season is, “I’m pro-life and I vote.” It is always encouraging to observe a person committed to voting, but the first part of the bumper sticker raises the question: What does it mean to be pro-life? For many, being pro-life means opposing abortion. Is that where it ends?
The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin created the concept of a “seamless garment.” He articulated a long list of pro-life issues, widening the perspective to focus on the need to protect all life. This does not diminish the importance of the abortion issue but emphasizes the urgency of all life issues that threaten human life and all creation. While I am concerned about protecting the unborn, I also have concerns about the other 90% of life issues. I am not a one-issue voter.
Can one be pro-life and:
- Support the execution of prisoners on death row?
- Support the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons that can kill millions of people?
- Support policies that cut food stamps, subsidized housing, daycare that support the women who have chosen to have their babies? How do they care for their babies without that support?
- Support putting children in cages?
- Support the manufacture and use of landmines that kill thousands of children and farmers long after a war is over? (This is once again legal.)
The list of pro-life issues is endless. An election year is an important time for dialogue, not debate, on life issues with persons with whom we disagree. Unfortunately, dialogue does not happen often, following the advice to avoid talking about politics. I believe political issues are moral issues and need shared wisdom from informed and committed citizens. Together can we look at the entire landscape of life issues? Neither silence nor heated rhetoric can bridge the deep divisions we face as a country. The gift we can bring is a commitment to pursue truth, working to deepen understanding of issues of concern, always building mutual respect. Now is an important time to “be peace, build peace and preach peace.”