Peripheral Matters: The "Kissing Cousins"



The consistent life ethic is spreading in the mind of the community. There is more and more discussion of it, even by pro-choice advocates, and more and more individuals and groups are expressing support of it. [1]

The major organization that exists purely to advocate for the consistent life ethic is Consistent Life (http://www.consistent-life.org/), a coalition of 200 diverse organizations that support that ethic. There are also over 200 individual endorsers of the ethic, many of them noted for their work for peace, justice, and life.

To quote the website of Consistent Life, “What are we trying to achieve? A revolution in thinking and feeling, an affirmation of peace and nonviolence, an infinite gentleness, a value for the life, happiness and welfare of every person, and all the political and structural changes that will bring this about.”

CL drew up a Mission Statement, a short and simple statement of principles, which includes the major threats to human life today:

We are committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today's world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia. We believe that these issues are linked under a 'consistent ethic of life'. We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected.

This is the statement that CL member groups and individual signers endorse. Of course, this statement cannot include every threat to human life today. Other threats to life that are not mentioned would seem to be “kissing cousins” of those named in the Mission Statement.

Torture, for example, kills sometimes but not always. It sometimes occurs as part of a war, but sometimes in other contexts, such as cruelty in the prison system, including long terms of solitary confinement. While torture is not mentioned in the Mission Statement, the individuals and organizations that embrace the CL Mission Statement are likely to strongly oppose torture. Their deep commitment to peace and nonviolence is part of a mindset that opposes a wide array of wrongs.

The same could be said of other things: prison conditions, excessive sentences as part of “the war on drugs,” experimentation on human subjects without informed consent, violence in the media, human trafficking, disablity rights, and many other issues.

Imbued with the consistent life ethic vision, member groups and individual endorsers are guided by that vision to oppose a wide variety of other threats against life.

A reader looking at the print and internet publications of CL member groups will see much information and advocacy on issues named in the Mission Statement. For example, the latest issue of the magazine of member group Sojourners has eloquent articles opposing killing people by drones and opposing homelessness and dangerous working conditions for poor workers.[2] These connect with the opposition to war and poverty in the CL Mission Statement. It also has articles on equal rights and advancement for women, about immigration reform, and about flaws in the U.S. criminal justice system. These are not named in the Mission Statement, but are “kissing cousins” issues.

The recent national conference of member group Pax Christi USA included workshops on drone warfare, the death penalty, immigration, and global restoration/care for the environment. [3] The first two of these are issues named in the Mission Statement. The second two are not.

We note that an increasing numbers of CL member groups include care for the earth and the environment as part of their consistent ethic. There have always been some CL member groups who took that position. For example, member group the Agape Community, in addition to its work against war and capital punishment, has long been committed to “giving back to the earth more than we take from it.” Their website says, “When human beings live in harmony with the earth, we uphold the sanctity of all life.” They use solar power, saying that burning fossil fuels creates a greenhouse effect and adds to global warming. They run their car on cooking grease (available free from restaurants) to reduce the use of fossil fuels and find many ways to reduce their impact on the planet. The community is vegetarian.

Another example is member group the Center for Action and Contemplation, which publishes a Daily Meditation by founder Richard Rohr, OFM. The June 15, 2013, Meditation, on A Seamless Garment of Life, said: “All policies that needlessly destroy life – abortion, war, capital punishment, euthanasia, poverty itself, and the selfish destruction of the earth and its creatures–are anti-life and against the fifth commandment.”

Similarly, member group Evangelicals for Social Action, states on its website (www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org), “We are pro-life and pro-poor, pro-family and pro-creation care.” The latest issue of their magazine, Prism, has articles on the core issues of abortion and racism and the “kissing cousin” issue of immigration.[4]

Indeed, Consistent Life itself has often advocated for some of these “kissing cousins” issues. One example is the popular consistent life t-shirt that CL sells on in its CaféPress.com online store (go to www.consistent-life.org and click on “products”). The t-shirt has the theme of “no violence.” On the back is

No violence to our earth.

No violence to our unborn.

No violence to our partners.

No violence to our enemies.

No violence to our children.

No violence to our prisoners.

No violence to our dying.

No Violence. Period.

It is a happy and promising thing that the consistent life ethic is spreading in the mind of the community and that this has not only affected views on the basic major life issues, but has also overflowed into “kissing cousin” issues to move our community toward peace, justice, and life in many other areas.

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WORKS CITED

[1]For example, see Sarah Erdreich, Media Guide to Covering Reproductive Issues (Women’s Media Center, 2013), 21-22, available at http://www.womensmediacenter.com/pages/read-the-womens-media-centers-media-guide-to-covering-reproductive-issues.

[2] Sojourners, July 2013, available at http://sojo.net/magazine/2013/07

[3] Pax Christi USA, “National Conference 2013,” http://paxchristiusa.org/programs/national-conference-2013/.

[4] Prism, Summer 2013, available at http://prismmagazine.org/.

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