Every January, the Orthodox Church in America dedicates the Sunday before the Roe v. Wade anniversary to “the Sanctity of Life.”
To our ancient liturgy are added petitions for making our nation respectful of life, banishing all wickedness from our laws and kindling in our hearts the will to care for the needy, the poor, the homeless and the helpless. A special, closing prayer asks God to open the eyes of those blinded to the truth that life begins at conception.
Each year, I offer these prayers unreservedly, since they express the ancient faith of the first Christians, who equated abortion with infanticide and rescued babies left exposed to die. But this year, I was keen to exhort my flock not only about the blindness that cannot see life’s beginning, but the blindness that can overtake those who claim to see, yet grow deluded into hating evil more than loving good. And I even incriminated myself.
The issue of whether anyone profited from selling these parts was too abstract for me, regardless of whether the still unproven allegations of illegality were directed there.
I never made it that far.
I couldn’t get past the mere details of how such procedures are performed — and will not now recount them. They reminded me of something from a horror film, and not merely on account of the gore. It was the calm, clinical way technicians described performing things unthinkable that gave me a psychological chill.
A closer look showed more than I could bear to see. I became existentially outraged. And as that anger simmered, it happened: A man truly blind struck out at an abortion clinic with murderous violence, killing supposedly in the name of life.
Clearly, this walking contradiction was in no way representative of those who call for respecting life.
But couldn’t he also have been a manifestation of the darkest impulses of collective rage, the self-defeating hatred of evil, that becomes consumed by what it hates?
Dostoevsky argued that even a single passionate impulse within the depths of one’s soul pollutes the whole universe. Was not my anger toxic?
St. Paul warns the Ephesians to “be angry, but sin not.” As one of my seminary instructors would say: “That may be technically possible, but practically speaking, I wouldn’t try it.” Which realization made me appreciate greatly the words of the woman who organizes the March for Life I attend each January: that it cannot be our way to destroy or dehumanize, with angry rhetoric, those who do not yet see the truth of life’s beginning.
Such blindness will never help the unborn, nor enable those blinded to life’s sanctity to see. The blind cannot be expected to follow the blind.
The Rev. Barnabas Powell also is a freelance writer who began his career at The Chieftain while pastor of Pueblo’s St. Michael’s Orthodox Church. He now lives in Washington state, and may be reached at email@example.com.