by Brendan Malone
Whenever people ask me what I think is the biggest challenge we face today in regard to abortion, it can be tempting to think in terms that are far too narrow.
For example, I could respond by saying that the seemingly continual attempts by our politicians to introduce more extreme abortion laws are a major issue.
I could talk about the fact that the pro-life movement has extremely limited funding, resources, and personnel with which to try to carry out one of the most monumentally important works of justice in human history.
Or perhaps I could highlight the unrelenting push to reduce medical professionals to subservient technicians incapable of exercising true clinical judgement by denying them their vitally important right to freedom of conscience.
All of these things are very real and very serious, but at the same time they need to be properly understood as the symptoms of a much bigger crisis; the fact that we are now living in a culture where authentic community has all but been usurped by rampant individualism.
There are many causes of this crisis. One could even say that it is a perfect storm of factors that are coalescing with catastrophic results.
• The unparalleled development and widespread embrace of technologies that increase our connectivity at the cost of human community.
• The rise of nihilistic relativism and its resulting loss of a unifying vision of
reality in the West.
• A culture of self-gratification, with no desire for self-regulation through virtue, which wrongly believes that individual choice is the same thing as freedom.
• Rampant consumerism which reduces profoundly important goods and even human persons to mere objects.
• An almost obsessive fixation on global “community” even though forming community on such a scale is beyond any possibility.
• Ideologies which reduce and separate us based on individualistic identifying characteristics rather than our shared common humanity.
• In a nutshell, we have made the technologically enhanced individualistic self-gratifying consumer the most important good in our society.
Sadly, not even our churches have been immune to this. How often do we come to Mass now as individual consumers seeking out products (“I’ll take one satisfying homily and four rousing hymns thanks”) for our own personal happiness?
How many people in our parishes do we know as more than a face at Mass? Are we genuinely invested in each other’s lives and well-being beyond a mere handshake at the Sign of Peace?
Or is “community” just a buzzword that looks great when it appears in front of our parish name in the Sunday bulletin notices?
Aristotle once declared that the greatest and most important relationship we can ever form with another person is one where we seek their good and not our own personal happiness or material gain.
Through such a relationship of self-giving love, not only do the recipients flourish and become more fully human, but so do we, the givers.
Tragically, in a misguided quest for human fulfilment, much of modern culture has inverted this important truth, and, as a result, a destructive and deadly anti-culture has arisen.
Which brings me back to my original question.
It is my contention that the biggest challenge we face is about recognising that abortion isn’t simply a political or a social issue.
It is a symptom of this culture of death that has made the gratification of individuals more important than community, and the wants of the strong more important than the needs of the vulnerable.
In doing so, this culture is not only dehumanising us, but it is also making abortion increasingly more appealing.
The more people find themselves living isolated from community, the more they find themselves without the most essential and empowering element to be able to choose life for their unborn children — the concern and care of others.
Worst of all, this culture of death is now actively trying to sell us the lie that abortion, and its inseparable culture of lonely consumerism, is the path to human fulfilment and flourishing that we should be demanding as a human right.
Yes, we must continue to be unflinching and courageous in telling the hard truth about abortion, but it is now more vitally important than ever before that we declare that truth as people living a culture of life — the culture of intentional community and self-giving love
for the other.
Brendan Malone is the founder and Director of LifeNET. He has been working in pro-life, marriage and family ministry in New Zealand and Australia for the last 14 years. He lives in Rangiora with his wife Katie and their five rambunctious kids. He can be found online at www.lifenet.org.nz. This article was originally published in The Catholic Weekly, a publication of the Archdiocese of Sydney. It is republished here with permission.