CRAMER: Wrestling with a consistent ethic of life

The other day, as I was on my way to a lunch meeting riding with a parishioner, he relayed to me an experience he had in state-level politics.
Feb 27, 2013


He was approached by a representative from one of our elected officials and asked if he would support a bill that would exclude health insurance carriers from covering pre-existing conditions of adopted children.

Knowing that this politician was “pro-life,” my parishioner pushed a bit, asking how that made sense. “So, you’re telling me that you support forcing someone in poverty to have a child, but then if that parent chooses to give the child up for adoption, you also support allowing a health insurance company not to cover any pre-existing conditions that child has.”

The representative paused for a moment and then said, “I suppose we hadn’t really thought about that.”

One of the profound difficulties in our society right now is that positions with regard to important political questions have fallen into a level of binary “either/or” thinking, alongside of a disconnect from how those positions interact with other political beliefs. I believe this is seen particularly clearly in questions regarding an ethic of life.          

As Christians, we value life deeply. We acknowledge that all life flows from God as a gift, and is thus to be treasured and affirmed. In the words of the Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church, we promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” This is one part of the core of our church’s understanding of the ministry of the baptized and it is something I think most Christians would affirm.          

However, if we truly affirm a consistent ethic of life, then we need to affirm it in all areas of our world and in all aspects of our political decisions.

On the question of abortion, for example, the Episcopal Church’s General Convention has consistently walked a fine line, affirming it as a tragedy while also resisting a legislative answer to this difficult question. Instead, I believe we as Christians should strive to create communities of such strength and love where no woman would ever feel like that would be her only option. We should pour our resources into opportunities for education and advancement among the poor, including helping those persons who do carry their children to term and providing caring opportunities for adoption when that is determined as the best option.

To wit, we must be concerned not only for the unborn, but also for the women and families who find themselves in challenging situations. To argue for legislative restrictions of abortion alongside of restricted funding for women and children in poverty is the height of ethical incoherence.         

This ethic of life cannot be limited to questions of abortion. It must flow into other areas as well.

As Christians who believe all life is a gift, we should be outraged at the continued practice of capital punishment. We should call for an end to targeted drone strikes in situations that more closely resemble police and criminal action than an actual war. And we should resist any who suggest that the answer to death is more death.          

The application of a consistent ethic of life is not easy. One cannot simply draw a line across a sheet of paper and say one is right and another is wrong. With capital punishment, we must show ways of valuing the lives of the victims of murder through just punishment that still offers the opportunity for redemption.

And the case of the continued destruction of civilian populations in Syria should be a question of immense concern. If we do decide to choose a military intervention in that country, it must be for the purpose of protecting the oppressed and limiting loss of life, not escalating it.          

Most importantly, we must wrestle with these questions in our respective faith communities and our local area. We must resist easy answers and quick rejection. We must find ways of affirming our shared value in human life and ways we as a society can make that value evident in the choices we make.

— The Rev. Jared C. Cramer serves as rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven and as dean of the Lakeshore Deanery of the Diocese of Western Michigan. He has been filling in as a religious columnist for the Rev. Henry Idema, who is on vacation.



The Guy

I find Rev. Cramer's article so sad as a reference to Christianity. He states that abortion should be up to the individual and not really a gov't issue, but then in the very next paragraph says Christians should be outraged by capital punishment. This is in most society's called hypocrisy. How can one form of murder be any less murder than another. Abortion is murder in ALL Christianity no different than abortion. Please stop hiding under your cloak to double talk as a Christian. It is very clear in the Bible, Tho Shalt Not Kill. It doesn't say tho shalt not kill unless I really don't want this baby or "But he was a really bad person". Murder is murder Jared. Stop trying to act on ethic's. Act on our Christianity's laws of murder is murder. I am so tired of clergy like you getting all holier than tho about capital punishment is so horrible, but abortion is ok because it should be a women's choice. I wish you would preach the word or be excommunicated from using Christianity to describe yourself. You sir are no Christian. You are a popularity contest pageant member. Get off the paparazzi kick and become a true disciple of Christ. Ask yourself this Jared, would I recommend abortion if Christ were standing next to me? I know you wouldn't so stop playing to an audience so you can collect tithe. Speak God's word and they will tithe. Don't try to win a popularity contest.


i do not believe the story about the elected official is true. i believe you seek to divide and make political points for your team and it's liberal non-biblical agenda. Abortion is wrong start there and then put everything in place after that. You make it seem that because there are problems working it out that it is somehow a less valid a point. Stop muddying the water and just say you are Democrat's in church form. You are welcome to your opinions, but if you say you represent God as you claim to you should reflect his word and not your opinions or politics at that point.


This is why I don't go to church anymore after reading these comments.Churches have become nothing but a den of hypocrites.God bless you Rev.Jared for speaking out.You cafeteria christians are pathetic.


Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.