The Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-Slavery Movement,
Yesterday in my blog I reminded people that this weekend is Martin Luther King weekend. A friend reminded me in return that this weekend is also Sanctity of Life weekend.
The Civil Rights Movement: A Voice for the Voiceless
I was struck by that confluence of events.
And I was reminded again that being a voice for the voiceless is a common thread in this joint remembrance. Martin Luther King was a voice for Civil Rights—a voice crying in the wilderness pleading that we all fight for the rights of African Americans in American society.
Sanctity of Life Sunday is a voice for the voiceless—a voice for the unborn human being who can cry, but who cannot yet speak. Sanctity of Life Sunday is a civil rights voice—a voice pleading that the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness be extended to all living beings.
The Anti-Slavery, Abolitionist Movement: The Pursuit of Happiness
In yesterday’s blog, I linked Martin Luther King, Jr. and his predecessors—people like the Reverends Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. Allen and Jones emphasized the biblical, universal truth that all people are created in the image of God and therefore have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The pro-life movement is the modern anti-slavery movement. The identical arguments are and should be used to support both convictions. Every human being, including the unborn, has rights that the powerful must protect. The most powerless in society—unborn children—must be protected from the ultimate abuse and the ultimate denial of rights.
Somehow in some twisted, distorted thinking the argument has pitted women’s rights and unborn children’s rights against each other. How sad, tragic, immoral, and a-historical.
Historically, some of the greatest anti-slavery advocates, some of the greatest abolitionist voices, were the women’s rights activists. As an example, white women in the North during the days of slavery fought back to back with blacks for the dual rights of women and of blacks.
Today, women, of all people, resonate with the fight for the rights of the unborn. For women still know what it is to be voiceless and powerless—to have their rights trampled upon by men with louder voices and stronger bodies.
How did this travesty of pitting women’s rights against the right to life occur?
It occurred partly because of our modern reinterpretation of the right to “happiness.” We hear the phrase, “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and we think of the modern definition of “happiness” which means to us some silly, misinterpreted right to be giddy, to feel good, to be “up” all the time.
Our founding fathers, steeped as they were in ancient Greek philosophy and ancient Roman political thought, had a very different view of “happiness.” For them, happiness was the right to pursue a purposeful life for the good of society.
Ponder that definition: the right to pursue a purposeful life for the good of society.
That is not simply an individualistic right but a plural responsibility.
That is not the right to feel good, but the right to do good.
How Will History Judge Us?
Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement, Richard Allen’s Anti-Slavery Movement, the Abolitionist Movement, and the modern day Pro-Life Movement all share the common denominator of speaking as a voice for the voiceless and insisting that the powerless be empowered and freed to live. All these movements share the insistence that all people be granted the same universal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—the right to pursue a purposeful life for the good of society.
We look back now and wonder how anyone could have ever supported the rights to slave ownership. The supposed right of the white slave owner to own blacks was pitted against the contested right of blacks to the same status as human, the same human dignity and equality, and, therefore, the same right to life, liberty (freedom), and the pursuit of happiness.
Even as I pen that previous paragraph I am sickened. Where in our constitution, where in biblical thinking, where in universal common law can anyone find a right for one person to own another person? Where can anyone find the right for one human being to enslave another human being? Where can anyone find the mentality that a human being’s skin color makes that human being a non-human being?
What outrage we should have as we reflect back on that hideous past way of thinking!
One hundred years from now will history look back and wonder in horrified bewilderment at how we could have been so cruel to so many unborn children? Will people of the 22nd Century be confounded when they try to figure out by what twisted logic millions of people were murdered every year—and unprotected by the powerful? Will they ask, “Where were the Civil Rights voices?” “Where were the Anti-slavery voices?” “Where were the Abolitionists voices?” “Where were the Pro-life voices?” “Where were the right to life voices?”
Will people of the distant future look back and be sickened by 21st century Americans? Will they wonder with righteous indignation and outrage where in our constitution, where in biblical thinking, where in universal common law anyone could find a right for one person to end the life of another person? Where anyone could find the mentality that a human being’s residence in a mother’s womb makes that human being a non-human being?
God’s Affectionate Sovereignty
Yes, it is no coincidence that we celebrate Martin Luther King weekend and Sanctity of Life weekend together.
In God’s affectionate sovereignty, He wants us to link civil rights and the right to life. He wants us to link the rights of African Americans, of women, and of unborn children. He wants us to be a voice for the voiceless, wherever and whenever the powerful attempt to silence their still, small voices.