Recently I listened to a CBC interview with Marni Kotak, a performance artist who “performed” the live birth of her son in a Brooklyn, N.Y., art gallery. Kotak said that creating life was the highest art form there is. There was no topping the birth of a human being. I think God agrees with her—perhaps not about performance art—but about the glory of human life. Deep within our Judeo-Christian faith is rooted the idea that all of life is precious. In the very beginning of the creation story, God imprinted his value on every human being. In Latin this is called Imago Dei. The Early Church fathers used the phrase to explain the value of life to many societies who didn’t seem to cherish the beauty of it at all.
Every social evil can be traced back to a devaluing of human life. This is a simple but profound truth. If we valued people over profits, we wouldn’t have exploitation. If we valued people over power, we wouldn’t have corporate greed. If we valued people over production, we wouldn’t have slavery. A conversation I had with a John (a person who pays women for sex) underscores this reality. I asked him if he could see his own daughter as a prostitute. He was enraged and stated emphatically that his daughter (same age and race as the woman he was caught with) was different than “those girls.” It’s this dualistic thinking that catches us in a bind.
The Army’s Dignity Project has helped to uncover some of our Canadian prejudices toward the “poor,” in which only some people have value in our society. Essentially, we value the people we know or love. For example, homeless men aren’t the same as our brothers or fathers, prostituted women aren’t the same as our sisters or our daughters, hungry children aren’t the same as our precious little ones. And we allow the abortion of unborn children whose smiles we’ve yet to witness. This is where the unfolding of our current societal prejudice against life comes to the fore.
I recently watched a documentary called 180 (180movie.com—please note that there is an advisory for graphic content). It follows the story of Adolf Hitler’s theories around life. In order to match his economic and political aspirations with reality, Hitler began to use science (particularly eugenics) as a tool in redefining life. His idea was that Germans had superior genes, and he sought to purify the gene pool. He set up mandatory sterilization for anyone not of the superior Aryan race and passed a law that declared Jews and other races not fully human. He rounded up the mentally ill, homosexuals, the developmentally disabled and those from multiracial backgrounds and had them “terminated,” which was viewed as different from murder because they weren’t fully human. Now, all of this sounds unrealistic and crazy. It’s difficult to believe that one of the most advanced societies, ethically, theologically and academically, went along with this thinking, but it’s important to realize that nothing Hitler did was illegal. He made it legal—even popular—to devalue human life.
As he approached his own death, Pope John Paul II was asked what the greatest issues were for the next generation. He answered prophetically, “The greatest threat to the next generation is excessive capitalism and the death of children not yet born.” He understood that if life is devalued, then production, power and profits become dominant values in any society. And when that happens, darkness sets in. The Apostle Paul suggests that there is no deeper darkness than when the light we think we have is actually dark. While visiting North America, Mother Teresa remarked that she knew of no deeper darkness than parents killing their unborn children for the sake of convenience. For her, abortion was a deeper poverty than the starving and discarded people she witnessed in India.
In a deeply Christian way, Salvationists must cry out for our most valuable asset: life. Every unborn child, every discarded human being, every poor, lost soul is stamped with God’s great value—Imago Dei. Is it any wonder that the Psalmist tells us that the voice of an infant puts the enemy to flight (see Psalm 8:2)? Let’s live for life—our greatest asset.
Together with her husband, Major Stephen Court, Major Danielle Strickland is the corps officer of Edmonton’s Crossroads Community Church. She has a personal blog at djstricklandremix.blogspot.com.