The Christmas spirit and moral values
Christmas is the perfect time for all who consider themselves Christians to examine their strongly held “moral values” to see whether they are in keeping with the Christian teachings of love, compassion and tolerance for others.For starters, let’s think about the attitude of intolerance and discrimination against homosexuals. If we believe that we are all created in God’s image and are dear to him, how can we not accept them as also His children and treat them as our brothers and sisters?The hot-button issue is same-sex marriage, and “preserving the sanctity of marriage.” But here we have to recognize that there are two forms of marriage. One is a legal contract between two partners that creates a binding commitment under the law. The other, which is optional, is a church ceremony that sanctifies that commitment. So why should government deny same-sex couples the opportunity to make the same kind of legal commitment that is available to heterosexual couples? If such unions are against the teachings of organized churches, they have a perfect right not to sanction them, but they do not have, nor should they have the right to impose their doctrine on those who do not share that belief. And denying same-sex couples the right to make civil commitments because they are not in accordance with church tenets has no place as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With only one exception (the Prohibition Amendment, which was later repealed) the Amendments to our Constitution have been about guaranteeing all people equal rights – not discriminating against certain groups by denying them rights.We don’t deny heterosexuals the right to a civil marriage just because they do not have it performed in a church. The big hang up seems to be in how we use the term “marriage.” Maybe all we need is another name, like “civil union.”The other hot-button “moral values” have to do with the question of when human life commences, and this impacts the issues of abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research. Here again we encounter a conflict between the beliefs taught by a large number of churches and the opinions of those who do not agree with those beliefs.Stem-cell research has the potential of discovering ways of restoring function to living people who have suffered injuries resulting in neurological damage, and preventing or retarding the progress of diseases which attack the neurologic system. These individuals are left with life-altering paralysis, or progressive debilitation and an agonizing premature death. The effect on their lives and the trauma their families endure is unconscionable if there is a way of preventing it.Abortion is an even more sensitive issue, and to many people its acceptability or nonacceptability depends on at what stage it is performed. What may be at stake here is the future quality of life of both the unborn and the family. In many countries suffering from severe overpopulation and the resulting poverty, more mouths to feed create the scourges of malnutrition, disease, and starvation. Birth control would be the best way of combating this suffering, but there are those who oppose even that on religious grounds.Also consider the impact on a family from the birth of a severely deformed or mentally handicapped child. That child can never enjoy a normal happy life, and the burden on the family often destroys their quality of life as well, eating up the financial resources which would have paid for the education of the other children.I put the case that we should seriously question “moral values” that consider an embryo or insentient fetus more important than the lives of living people.To be continued next year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent..Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent..
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