Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

January’s witness to the gift of life

By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published January 21, 2016  | En Español

The civil rights movement and the right-to-life movement are now sharing center stage across our nation, as they do each January. Dr. King’s birthday commemoration and the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision anniversary both capture a lot of media attention within the short time span of just a few weeks.

The gigantic moral figure of Martin Luther King Jr. provides an important reflection point for Americans everywhere as his very life served as a pivotal moment in U. S. history. He was and remains a central figure in achieving civil rights for African-Americans, and his Atlanta roots should make us all proud to call him a son and a neighbor.

It would be shortsighted, nonetheless, to consider his legacy simply in terms of the achievement of significant legal entitlements. He challenged our nation to pursue a much loftier ambition—mutual love and respect—human realities that are far more important and enduring than any legal privileges. They continue to endure as goals to be achieved, and they should urge us all to stay the struggle that he and many others advanced so courageously.

During this past year in numerous places throughout our nation and world, we have witnessed events that confirm that this crusade for genuine love and mutual reverence is still ongoing. Savagery against unarmed people, indiscriminate violence against law enforcement personnel, the scourge of terrorism and the disgraceful public discourse that so fills the media caution us to admit that we are still not “the beloved community” of which Dr. King spoke so eloquently and so often.

The right-to-life efforts of so many people also manage to garner ample attention during January; however, that attention is not always positive or very encouraging in nature. There are those who would like to terminate the entire chapter and simply have this issue put aside, but that can never be the case since the dignity of human life is an intensifying concern that has only grown more complex and that spans each moment of human existence.

While the first moments of life within the womb continue to energize many in the right-to-life movement, those who advocate against the death penalty walk under the very same banner, as well as those who seek to uphold the life of the critically ill and dying and those who champion the human dignity of migrants, documented and undocumented alike.

All human life is precious.

Any attempt to separate one human life as disposable or unworthy of respect or dignity only weakens the entire pro-life philosophy and strategy.

In January, we are asked to consider not just an individual man who fought effectively for a change in the American legal system as a conclusion to the civil rights movement nor upholding the fragility and dignity of a human life within the womb waiting to be born, but the entire spectrum of human relationships that calls us to be brothers and sisters to one another and to preserve the gift of life that comes from the hand of God. This gift can never be considered expendable or without value.

January offers us the opportunity to see “the big picture” in reference to rights and obligations. In January we focus not simply on a uniquely important man or the precious life of a child within the womb, but upon the very ways that we must treat one another and try to live together in peace and harmony.