Were there to be no support in the whole history of ethical and moral thought, were there no acknowledged confirmation from medical science, were the history of legal opinion to the contrary, we would still have to conclude on the basis of God's Holy Word that the unborn child is a person in the sight of God. He is protected by the sanctity of life graciously given to each individual by the Creator, Who alone places His image upon man and grants them any right to life which they have.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Spirit & Life - The Importance of Language in Changing the Culture
This week's Spirit & Life is by Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International.
Spirit & Life is the weekly e-column of
Human Life International.
The Importance of Language in Changing the Culture
forty-one years Human Life International has been engaged in building a
Culture of Life through education and activism. Though we have been
blessed with success in many of our efforts, we have also faced numerous
difficulties. One of these difficulties is one we share with all who
defend life, faith and family: As cultural values in the U.S. and
elsewhere have decayed, the language used to express and defend those
values has become foreign to many whom we are trying to reach.
is evident when attempting a conversation about the dignity of the
human person, traditional marriage, homosexuality, contraception and
life issues with anyone who disagrees with the pro-life position. The
foundational principles of Natural Law and basic Judeo-Christian
teaching that have guided centuries of civilizations are no longer
points of demarcation for understanding the human person and his
relationship towards his neighbor, or his Creator. Instead, these
once-common and uniting principles are now widely rejected. Today,
people are more prone to start from emotion, popular sentiment or
politically correctness, rejecting the idea of objective truth.
are no longer starting on the same page or speaking the same language.
We are living in a modern Babel, and we should not be surprised that we
are more divided.
Consider how our society's storytellers -- our
entertainers, politicians and media -- have changed our language about
divorce, contraception, cohabitation and abortion. What was once
clearly understood to be harmful and detrimental to family life,
children and to society is now marketed as good.
If I want you to
change your mind about a certain subject, then I will consistently feed
you what I want you to hear, read, see and experience. The obvious
reason for ads on television and radio, for example, is to convince the
listener to buy their product. The more one hears about the product the
better chance the marketer has in convincing the listener to buy the
product. The marketers of the Culture of Death didn't accomplish their
goals overnight. They had a strategic plan to gradually move minds and
hearts to their perspective -- they sold a story to the world, convinced
hundreds of millions to ignore certain basic truths, and now have
people "freely" choosing to do terribly destructive things for
themselves and for society.
Blessed John Paul II talked about the need for a new grammar
that would serve as a starting point for dialogue and engagement about
human life and human existence. His terms "Culture of Life" and "Culture
of Death" were just two of his own notable contributions to how people
understand what they see.
If our desire is to shift hearts and
minds away from the language of the Culture of Death then we must
articulate a story, a narrative, in language that upholds the value the
dignity of the human person in a new and intelligible way. We must make
this language our starting point in every way we approach life and
But we will have to be consistent. It's so easy
to be drawn into the current language and narrative, one in which my
pleasure is the highest good, even a "right," where others have the
obligation to make sure my right to pleasure is secured. And where other
claims to rights fall beneath mine.
How do we reason with one
who, knowingly or not, accepts this corrupt notion of rights and
happiness? We will rarely be able to truly reason with such a person,
but when asked a question we must answer from the point of love and
truth, from the position of true respect for human dignity and rights --
positions which value our identity as made in the image of our Creator.
We must respond to the issues of the day and intelligibly answer the
questions; however, we need to ultimately shift from a posture of
constant defensiveness and take a more "offensive," or positive, stance.
As Pope Francis has put so beautifully, and in perfect harmony
with his predecessors, Christianity is in no way primarily a list of
prohibitions, it is a love story. To see life as a gift -- a wonderful
gift from the One who loves us more than we could possibly love another
-- is a story in need of constant telling and retelling. There are as
many ways of telling this story as there are Christians, but we must get
better at telling this story, first in how we live our lives, and
second, in a compelling narrative.
The narrative of the Culture
of Death is certainly dominant now, but it is utterly dark, empty and
dissatisfying. When its adherents realize this, let them turn to see a
Christian who is in love, who lives accordingly, and who is ready to
share this love with them.