It is very hard for me to preach on this day without considering the modern circumstances of our day as it pertains to the killing of holy innocents. It seems the death of children has reached epidemic proportions. So perhaps today’s feast of the holy innocents is not so much about events that occurred some 2000 years ago, but rather pertain to our own day and age, those ways in which we killed innocent children in our own time.
The challenge of discussing and preaching on this feast of the holy innocents is that the sins of our day are also quite controversial. But it would not do justice to this feast of the holy innocents, if it did not at least provide us an opportunity to think about the events in the circumstances of our own time.
So first, let’s consider abortion. To be sure, much energy is expended on both sides of this issue. Considerable amounts of money are given to influence votes and positions. Perhaps we would arrive at a place where dialogue is possible, if we sought agreement on what seems to me to be the most agreeable of principles. Is it possible in this discussion of abortion, that we could have is our starting point, that abortion is not a good thing, and it is good to work to reduce the number of abortions whenever possible. To be sure neither side will be completely satisfied with this starting point.
But because this issue is so controversial, we have a series of inconsistent laws, but have failed to define in civil law, the beginning of personhood. On the one hand, abortion remains the only surgery child can receive without parental consent. Moreover, during the entire pregnancy, up until live birth, an abortion can occur. And yet, in the event of an accident, or crime, where the unborn child of a pregnant woman is killed, many states allow for a wrongful death suit not only for the mother if she dies, but also for the unborn child. How can we allow the killing of the child in one circumstance, and penalize others for the killing in another? And so, can we at least agree that it is good to reduce the number of abortions?
The events of Newtown Connecticut have once again focused our attention on gun violence. Perhaps Newtown has made it even more emotionally sensitive, because so many of the victims were small children. But our country is filled with cities dealing with the reality of children killing children. Unfortunately, and I fear this time will be no exception, we remain fixated on simplistic solutions. But perhaps even more tragic, is our inability to sit around the table and even acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Careful consideration of gun violence statistics indicates that every two days there are 26 children in the United States who were shot and killed. That’s a Newtown Connecticut every two days.
The sad reality is that so many of these deaths go unreported in the media and unnoticed. They occur in neighborhoods and communities where opportunity is scarce. They occur in neighborhoods were all too often parents are simply hoping their children will live to adulthood. Can we all agree that something, anything, needs to be done to prevent the ongoing carnage of our children?
And then we consider the issue characterized by the euphemism death with dignity. Typically the most sensitive time for healthcare comes in the final days someone’s life. The law is motivated by people who have often witnessed the tremendous suffering of someone they love. They feel helpless. Moreover, since pain management has not yet become perfect, sometimes the person himself or herself can become depressed and seek the end of their life.
Even if the motives for such a law seen good, it appears that the most vulnerable they also experienced the most potential for abuse. It was for this reason that a group that advocates for disabled citizens in Massachusetts argued against the recent initiative that residents voted down concerning the ability to kill oneself.
And can we agree there is a need to look at a sin against life that is the death penalty? Can we be certain our legal system is perfect? Or pointedly, since we’ve all fallen short and send against the glory of God, can we honestly say that the giving and taking of life belongs to anyone other than God?
Perhaps the harshest reality on a day like today, is that for most of us violence perpetrated against holy innocents does not begin with the consideration of such contentious issues as abortion or euthanasia. It begins quite simply with the way in which we treat one another. Often the physical violence that has demonstrated in these issues begins with verbal violence, lack of consideration for others’ needs, or the anger and vengeance which serves as a cover for our own shortcomings.
Obviously I want an end to abortion, captial punishment, gun violence and euthanasia. Perhaps today reminds us specifically of the line in Deuteronomy. “I set before you today a blessing and a curse; life and death. Choose life then that you and your descendents may live.”