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Post by admin » Sun Apr 03, 2005 10:53 am


I heard on Fox News that while Pope John Paul II and President George W. Bush had their differences on a number of occasions, one thing certain [with a special emphasis on the word "certain"] was that the two of them shared “the culture of life".

Do you believe in the culture of life, Mr. President? And what does it mean to you? Fox News set me to reflect even more about your culture of life.

The culture of life “in coma”, as in the Schiavo case. The reverence for life with feeding tubes attached, while bombs are dropping on Fallujah, children starving in Darfur, and prisoners being tortured in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Haiti's Pénitencier National, etc.

The culture of life when more prisoners on death row were executed in the State of Texas under a certain governor than all other States of the Union combined.

The culture of life when a policy of first strike and pre-emptive war is signed on the dotted line by an incoming president long before the first plane strikes WTC.

The culture of life when Iraqi lives are selected for termination, because "Iraq offers better targets than Afghanistan".

The culture of life when citizen lives are dismissed as mere “collateral damage”.

The culture of life when 55 are portrayed on a special deck of cards, to be terminated at will.

The culture of life that becomes transparent in "Dead or Alive" and "Bring them on!"

The culture of life when war is rushed at breakneck speed, and before some basic protections could even be secured for the troops.

The culture of life when the coffins of U.S. service men are not to be seen on TV, and not one of their funerals attended by the Chief of State.

The culture of life when tactical nuclear bomb programs are getting funded, while hundreds of billions are being spent in the service of war -- and support for the poor is getting axed, blow by agonizing blow.

The culture of life when vulnerabilities are expertly studied and exploited at the School of the Americas, by whatever names it chooses.

The culture of life when millions of Africans are dying of AIDS, while effective measures for prevention are deemed morally objectionable and the cost of treatment is not lowered as not to hurt Big Pharma's bottom line.

The culture of life when the right to being kept indefinitely “in coma” is deemed worth of constitutional protection, while millions of blacks are languishing in jail.

The culture of life when stem cell research is compromised, while unused eggs from fertility clinics are discarded to oblivion.

The culture of life of life when massive imprisonment, torture and even death, are embraced for our so-called protection, while our most vulnerable are neglected.

Would you promote a true culture of life, for those of us caught somewhere between egg and comatose state!

Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti

"Il faut que les choses changent." Thank you for your wisdom, John Paul II, even though your teachings were often too dogmatic. Indeed things must change, and not just in Haiti.

"Mission accomplished," you [President Bush] said, with a smirk and with "God on our side".

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Another take

Post by Guysanto » Sun May 18, 2008 2:49 pm

[quote]Justice Denied by the "Culture of Life"
Tom Davis

For some time now, Americans have been hearing about something called the “culture of life.” The term originated with Pope John Paul II who used it on a visit to the United States in 1993. He posed it in opposition to what he considered to be the marks of a culture of death—abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, and war.

Then in the presidential campaign of 2000, Candidate George bush picked up the term in one of his debates with Vice-President Gore. In 2004 the phrase was incorporated in the platform of the Republican Party. It is now routinely used against stem cell research.

But, it is crucial to note, it's not a scriptural term. While life is affirmed in scripture, it is not the central value. That central value is love for God, for the neighbor and the self. Love in social relationships is expressed as justice, a far cry from love, but yet the best approximation to it to which we can aspire. The Bible focuses over and over on a culture of justice. And justice is enjoined most strongly for those to whom the world does not want to accord justice—the poor, women, children, and immigrants.

There is a Biblical story which describes how hard it was—and still is—for women to find justice. It is the story of Tamar in Genesis 38. Tamar is a Canaanite woman who marries Er, the oldest son of Judah. He dies before she is able to have a child. According to the Levirate law of the Hebrews, she may now demand that Er's brother give her a child (who will be considered a descendant of Er.) Onan refuses to do this by practicing withdrawal (from which comes the euphemism for masturbation or withdrawal, onanism). Scripture says that for this behavior, God put him to death.” (38:10)

While the Roman Catholic Church and even some Protestant traditions long interpreted this death as God's disapproval of birth control, this is not a story about a particular sexual practice, but about economic justice. When Onan refused to give Tamar a child, it meant that she would then be left without economic security. In that culture a woman could not inherit anything, only her son could. Without a son, she would be poor and an outcast, since barren women were considered to be punished by God.

Also if there is no son of Tamar to be considered, Onan's share of his father's estate would be larger. That, not birth control, is the real injustice. And that injustice is compounded when Judah refuses to give his third son to Tamar. Pleading that he is still too young, Judah promised to send him when he is of age. But he later refuses to do that.

To get justice, Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute, sleeps with Judah who does not know who she is, and gets his seal, staff, and cord in payment. Three months later, when she is discovered to be pregnant, Judah is told about it and sentences her to be burned. As she is led out for execution, she sends the seal, staff, and cord to Judah with the message: ”It was the owner of these who made me pregnant…Take note please whose they are.” (v. 25)

Judah acknowledges his responsibilities with the stunning words, “she is more righteous (more just) than I…” (26) She gives birth to twin sons and restores her economic security and self-respect.

Quite simply the story says that justice is more important than sexism. In a world which is often an ocean of injustice for women, look how this story resonates with the lives of equally desperate women today.

The woman whose partner abandons her when she is pregnant is Tamar. The woman with no health insurance (and thus no contraceptive coverage) is Tamar. Tamar is the woman who loses her economic security when her husband abandons her for a younger woman.

Those who advance the value of life as a reason for denying justice to desperate women are a long way from the compassion of scripture. It is sentimental to minimize the difficulties of women dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.

Of course life is an important human value, but the Bible's witness is that life must have justice or it is not the destiny that God intends for human beings.

©2007 Religion Dispatches. All rights reserved.

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