Looking for Perspective
By JIM NICHOLS
One of my most trusted mentors taught me that one should never begin a presentation with an apology or explanation. He had good reasons for that suggestion, and it was good counsel, but I am going to break that rule right now.
As you read what follows, please remember that my primary identification is as a child of God, saved by grace. My life contains sin, and I must continually ask for forgiveness from God and others. I do not wish to become stuck in the concerns of this world, but to keep looking for ways to draw others toward God. The punchline for what follows is that I have deep frustration that some of my fellow Christ followers have focused too much on small, but prominent issues. They have missed more significant big picture views and are displaying themselves as inconsistent. I certainly have my own inconsistencies.
Many readers will disagree with me on these comments.
At my elementary school near Kansas City in the early 1950s, we had fire drills. We practiced how to line up quickly in organized fashion and exit certain doors to the playground. We stayed there until our teacher led us back into the building.
We also had air raid drills. They were particularly focused on the potential for a nuclear attack from Russia, identified as America’s chief enemy in those days. For these drills, we again lined up, but instead marched into the hall. There we were taught to get on our knees and crouch, facing the wall. We were told to “make like a ball” and put our heads between our legs. The words were something like, “You are going to see a bright flash of light and in about five seconds you will hear and feel an explosion.”
They did not continue the explanation that, after those five seconds, we would probably all be dead.
Much later in 1983, ABC television presented a full-length movie titled “The Day After.” This incredibly realistic portrayal of the effects of a nuclear war followed citizens in Kansas City and nearby Lawrence, Kansas. The news footage of bombers taking off and missiles launching from silos under the farmland was so believable that the network ran disclaimers occasionally. Not only was immediate death displayed, but also the aftermath of hopelessness, mobs, and radiation sickness.
Now we watch the war in Ukraine on television and are reminded of that evil.
Somehow friends, we have decided that wars and the accompanying death are acceptable, or at least not particularly objectionable. As followers of God, I believe we should be asking fundamental questions about all forms of death imposed by one human on another.
Without justifying the actions of individuals on death row, let us remember that those are people created in the image of God, no matter what their past. Although they have been found guilty by courts of law, in God’s eyes are they any more guilty of sin than any of the rest of us? Are there categories of sin? Every time I read about some family member “finally having closure” with the execution of a perpetrator, I see an understandable, but misguided, view of God and vengeance.
We are surrounded by discussion of abortion now and my questions are the same. If one would contend that an abortion causes the death of an individual, how does that differ from capital punishment or causing death in war? If an abortion is sought because of a lack of early healthcare, education, or skill training, exactly who is “innocent” here? Is society innocent of creating circumstances that result in incredibly complex decisions? “Innocent” is not a helpful word when considering how God views us humans.
We need to be asking more forcibly why abortions are necessary; why war is necessary, why a death row is necessary.
Returning to my first paragraph, I am primarily interested in aiding people to know God and his love for them. I do not wish to get bogged down in quasi-political ethical arguments. I do believe, however, that life is precious and should be protected. Put me in the camp of decrying the need for women to have abortions. Put me in the camp of decrying killing people on death row, regardless of their past behavior. Put me in the camp of decrying spending an almost uncountable amount of money on weapons of mass destruction.
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current hospice chaplain