Life is Precious... or It's Not
I love Barbara Kingsolver. She is wise and thoughtful, and although not specifically religious, deeply soul searching in the way that she writes about family, peace and the environment. Her works of fiction and non-fiction are ones that I often turn to when I need to hear a voice of wisdom during difficult times.
Following the shooting in Connecticut last week, I could not get out of my head words from her 2002 essay following the Columbine School shooting: “Life is precious, or Its Not.”
In her essay Kingsolver uses the phrase to elevate the level conversation surrounding violence and guns in our culture, and get us in touch with one of life’s (and faith’s) most basic affirmations: the sanctity of every human life; the sanctity of the world that God created and called good. She challenges us to think about whether we are willing to draw a line in the sand about this or not? Are we willing to let this basic affirmation supersede the decisions we make about the movies and television that we watch, the language we use, the music we listen to, and even the rights of adults to own and carry weapons? “Sounds extreme?” she writes. “Death is extreme, and our children are paying attention.”
Life is either precious, or Its not. I wonder if that isn’t an essential affirmation for us to ponder? We can dance around questions of second amendment rights, crime rates, assault weapons, and self-protection. But isn’t it really about the courage to decide that life is either precious or it isn’t and to live that way? Isn’t it about choosing to create a world where the rights of children to safely attend school, to live and play freely without the fear of a shooting or a massacre, supersedes the rights of adults to bear arms?
Since the very first words of scripture, people of faith have rested on the sanctity and goodness of God’s creation. Christians have also long understood the principle of subjugating the freedoms of some for the good of all. In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul, writes, “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves of one another.”
In this case, the freedom of some to own semi-automatic weapons, superseded the right of twenty children to grow up, to celebrate birthdays, and graduations, and to enjoy the precious, sacred gift we call life.
For all of us who are clamoring for meaning, aching for the loss of these precious young lives, my strongest instinct is to place this benchmark on our hearts: “Life is either precious, or It’s Not.”