Next stop for life, the Supreme Court

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Deacon Geoff Bennett is Vice President of Parish and Community Relations at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the Respect Life Office.

It is inspiring to see states across the country significantly restrict abortion this year, primarily by banning the destruction of life within the womb once a fetal heartbeat is detected. These laws are also a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that nationalized the question of abortion and legalized the subsequent killing of tens of millions of babies.

Advocates of abortion and defenders of life are on a collision course at the Supreme Court. The only morally acceptable outcome to this issue is to outlaw abortion and to embrace the gift of life. The battle is rapidly intensifying. Any advocates for life standing on the sidelines need to join the fight with their voices and their votes. There is no room for complacency.

And while some would like to paint this as a purely partisan issue, consider that Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, recently signed a fetal heartbeat abortion ban in that state.

Meanwhile, consider how emboldened abortion activists have become in recent years. Have you ever seen someone on a power trip? I know I have, and they are people who think they are the smartest ones in the room. If they were half as smart as they thought, they would be dangerous. Unfortunately for children about to come into this world, they are dangerous. I’m talking about those people who  have taken it upon themselves to decide if a child should live or die.

Ever since Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen people debate where to draw the line on killing a child in the womb. Should the life of the child be terminated prior to detecting a heartbeat, before the child can survive outside the womb, or maybe just prior to being born? The bottom line is that we are talking about killing a human being out of convenience. But even being born may not protect a child from a mother’s choice of life or death.

Science has proven what those in the pro-life movement have always known: The child in the womb is a unique human being, never to be duplicated. Some abortion supporters have now crossed the line into advocating for infanticide. They argue that it is a woman’s choice — even after birth. So, what we have now is the mother being given the role of judge and jury, with a doctor enrolled as executioner.

Explaining his support of a proposal to loosen abortion restrictions, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was asked in January about a woman going into labor who desires a third-trimester abortion. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, said, “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother,” according to a video.

That discussion would be about whether mom wants the baby to live or die.

As of this writing, the U.S. House of Representatives has refused at least 50 times to vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

And just when you think that our elected officials (those who think they are the smartest ones in the room) can’t say anything more foolish, we have Alabama state Rep. John Rogers. During debate over the abortion ban in that state, he said, “Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or you kill them later. You bring them into the world, unwanted, unloved. Then you send them to the electric chair. So, you kill them now or kill them later,” according to a video.

Who is qualified to make the decision that anyone is “unwanted” and should be killed? I challenge even those who support abortion to stand up and condemn these misguided and callous politicians. When is this kind of rhetoric going to have consequences? Are these the type of people we want representing us?

COMING UP: The shock of forgiveness

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Every so often, the media will pick up a story that serves as a potent reminder of what it means to be a Christian. That’s because living as a Christian in today’s post-Christian society is an unusual way of living, contrary to what the rest of society might say about it. It is not “outdated.” It is not “irrelevant.” It is radical, countercultural and, to some, even incomprehensible.

On Oct. 2, the trial of Amber Guyger came to a close. Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was charged with the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man who lived in the same apartment complex as Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she walked into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, saw Jean sitting there on the couch, and after giving verbal commands, shot him twice, killing him. It was an absolute tragedy and played into the ongoing national conversation about police behavior toward people of color (Guyger is white; Jean is black).

What I want to focus on is a particular moment that came at the end of Guyger’s trial, after she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jean’s younger brother Brandt took to the witness stand to address his brother’s killer directly. He wasn’t planning on saying anything during the trial but changed his mind at the last minute. A prompting of the Holy Spirit? I think yes, based on what happened next.

“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” Brandt told Guyger. “If you are truly sorry … I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” He continued, “I’m not going to say I hope you die … I personally want the best for you … I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want … and the best would be: give your life to Christ. Giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But it didn’t stop there. Brandt was bold enough to ask the judge if he had permission to give Guyger a hug. He was granted it, and they embraced for over a minute, Guyger weeping into Brandt’s shoulder, just as some of us might do were we to be embraced by Christ.

Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Brandt has every reason to hate Guyger. This woman gunned down his innocent brother who had his whole life ahead of him and was given a lighter sentence than what she originally faced. Those in the courtroom and watching on TV wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Brandt tell Guyger that he hopes she rots in hell. No, the shock from those in the courtroom – and subsequently, the rest of the nation – came when Brandt did the exact opposite.

With those words and the simple act of embracing his brother’s killer, Brandt gave the world an incredible witness to the forgiveness Christ calls us to live as Christians. Of course, you can count on the bickering voices of social media and pundits to take this powerful moment and exploit it for their own agenda, but that’s because many of them don’t understand. It is not normal in our culture to forgive. It is also not easy. And that’s what makes witnessing something like this so shocking. It was not supposed to happen, but it did. It defied every expectation. Make no mistake about it: Brandt was living his call to be more like Christ in that moment. And it is exactly this moment – this shocking moment – that we are able to get a glimpse of what it is to be a Christian.

Following Jesus does make for quite a shock. And it is that shock that we are called to bring to the rest of the world, just as Brandt Jean did.