Pure Religion and Life
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22).
Let anyone who is not convinced that defending the life of the vulnerable is a Gospel mandate read James. Much like Isaiah, who called out the hypocrisy of those who prayed and fasted and kept Sabbath while neglecting the poor in their midst (Isaiah 58), James defines pure religion as this: “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27).
The parallels with abortion and assisted suicide in particular are strangely fitting. If ever there was a population of orphans, it is unborn children whose fathers have abandoned them (either by walking away or pressuring the mothers toward abortion) and mothers who are frightened and unsure that they can go through with bringing a baby into the world. If ever there was a widow, a woman left alone to make life and family work by herself, it is the pregnant mother whose man will not support her or their children. Admittedly, the circle of orphans and widows is wider than the unborn child and his mother in crisis pregnancy, but it is certainly not narrower.
On the other side of life, the elderly, handicapped, and otherwise infirm are in increasing danger as the “right” to assisted suicide gains traction, for the right to die quickly becomes a duty to die. When Medicaid is always willing to pay for assisted suicide, but perhaps not for treatment, as is the case in Oregon, we are no longer talking about a right to die. And with increased government control over healthcare, do not be surprised to see these kinds of “options” become more widely available. And while this will affect us all, it will be particularly dangerous for those who are alone.
For many, unexpected pregnancy is an affliction. So are age, infirmity, and dying alone. These problems have political dimensions, to be sure. But, firstly, they have personal dimensions. Which is why James calls the church to personal involvement. Pure and undefiled religion visits.