In our recent trip to South Africa we had a chance to meet with a Catholic Bishop named Kevin Dowling. He serves in a part of South Africa where some of the worlds largest platinum mines can be found. In this community roughly one out of every 3 women aged 25-29 is infected with HIV or Aids. It is a terrible epidemic exasperated by the poverty and culture around the mines. In these mining communities alcohol and sex are the norm, not the exception. The estimated percentage of people infected with HIV/Aids lies somewhere between 22-29%.
Bishop Dowling is at odds with the rest of his Catholic community due to his endorsement of the use of condoms among the people in his community. He promotes their use, not as a form of birth control, but as a way to protect human life. If you are going to be pro-life, the Bishop claims, it has to be for every aspect from conception to death. Using condoms in South Africa is about preserving life.
This has lead me to once again consider what it means to be pro-life in America, especially in light of some of the current topics up for discussion. I have always considered myself a pro-life kind of person, but probably not according to the definition of the anti-abortion right wing definition of pro-life. I find it difficult to reconcile the general consensus that works so hard to protect the lives of the unborn then do nothing to help this unborn live or grow in a healthy environment. Its almost like after birth these so called pro-life advocates assume that their job is complete and they can kick back and relax while the child grows up. Little to no energy is expended to protect these children, other than the occasional complaint about welfare or other government program costs to raise these children. A suggestion has been made to stop referring to such people as pro-life and instead call them pro-birth.
Now, I understand the complaints that the welfare system is in need of reform and that there are people who take advantage of the current system. Of course there are flaws in the process and even as repairs are attempted politics, funding, and other matters interfere. The issue at hand here is whether we can be pro-life unless we are pro-life in every aspect and age of life.
It also leads me to question some of the current controversy over gun control. Many of these same right to life people are also vocal against new gun laws or legislations that tighten the governments control over handguns, semi- and automatic weapons. Here is the problem as I see it: what is a gun supposed to do? Fire a projectile at a high speed. A gun is a weapon. It was created to be one and is used by police and our military in that manner. The clever turn of calling a weapon such as this "for defense" just does not make sense. You don't defend yourself by firing a weapon. Such a weapon is used to attack. Arming people as a deterrent seems to be counter-intuitive.
Now I understand that there is a culture of hunters out there who use these weapons for a different purpose all together. But most of these advocates hunt with a rifle or shotgun- not a pistol.
It would make more sense if these advocates would be more vocal for such items as kevlar, or bulletproof vests and equipment. Now there is a device solely with a defensive purpose. If we are going to be defenders of human life, why urge more people to arm themselves with a weapon- a device that threatens human life? In the state where I live, all it takes for someone to legally own a handgun is for them to pay a license fee and pass a criminal background check. There is no requirement to understand how to use such a handgun, how to load, check, and safely fire such a handgun, or any kind of decision making training on when it is and is not legal to draw or use such a weapon. How can this be protective of human life? It encourages irresponsible gun ownership. And irresponsible gun ownership leads to the loss of life, something both sides of this controversy seek to prevent.
Why are these so-called gun advocates who seem to universally opposed to any laws tightening the use of guns as weapons? Why are they not the ones leading the charge against irresponsible gun ownership? Why have they not at least tried to develop some plan for safe and responsible gun ownership that involves training, understanding, and good decision making skills for those who wish to carry and conceal a weapon?
There is much that I simply don't understand.