Black lives matter, Latino lives matter, Asian lives matter, LBGTQ lives matter, Blue Lives Matter, all lives matter. In this “cancel culture” we are living in we are bombarded with phrases, protests, and politicians taking a stand on one side or the other. It seems there is an increasing pressure on the Church to take one side or the other. News personalities burn up a microphone promoting their chosen side. There is, however, one question no one wants to ask. It’s the one question which could, in fact, address all sides and all lives. The question? When do lives begin to matter?
When the question of when lives begin to matter is answered it will help lead to addressing who matters. Let’s take a look at that question from a variety of lenses. First, no matter if you are religions or atheists, if you believe in God or are agnostic, most everyone can agree that science is important. Science can sometimes be a neutral path to begin addressing a complex issue between religious and non-religious individuals.
What does science say? "The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote,” according to Jan Langman in Medical Embryology.
To begin with, scientifically something very radical occurs between the processes of gametogenesis and fertilization the change from a simple ‘part’ of one human being (i.e., a sperm) and a simple ‘part” of another human being (i.e., an oocyte usually referred to as an “ovum” or “egg”), which simply possess “human life”, to a new, genetically unique, newly existing, individual, whole living human ‘being’ (a single-cell embryonic human zygote). That is, upon fertilization, parts of human beings have actually been transferred into something very different from what they were before; they have been changed into a single, whole human being. During the process of fertilization, the sperm and the oocyte cease to exist as such, and a human being is produced,” writes Dr. Dianne Irving, Ph.D, in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy.
Scientists typically agree that it is the moment where an egg is fertilized by a sperm that causes the life of the child to begin. That moment, the instant of conception, is the starting point of that life. At that moment, the unborn child is an individual. Dr. Irving put it so well in specifying that it is that moment the embryo begins to be something different than their mother and their father. It is not their mother’s egg or their father’s sperm any long. It is, in fact, the beginning of a separate life.
What about the Church? The Church also believes life begins at the moment of conception. “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.” (CCC 2270-2271)
The Church stands in agreement with the Bible and the teachings of the Apostles. The Bible speaks of God knowing us as an individual person before God even created us in the womb. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, in Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. The Psalmist speaks of God creating every part of us in the womb. “You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. When my bones were being formed carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there- you saw me before I was born.” (Psalm 139: 13,15-16)
The social debate ravaging our society right now is not one that is over protecting lives and advocating for justice. It is an advocacy movement contaminated and fueled with political tunnel vision. If we are to get serious about “reform” and “lives matter” and “justice” then we must begin to ask the crucial questions. We must begin to have serious discussions on one of the few aspects of life that science and religion can agree. Scientists and theologians both agree that life begins at the moment of conception. Since we can agree on the beginning of life, we should be able to have productive conversations on when life begins to matter. Sadly, those holding banners and bullhorns are not interested in real conversations.
Racism, police brutality, stereotypes, bullying, and hatred would all diminish in the light of productive talks about when life begins to matter. If science and faith agree that life begins at the moment of conception then the two should also be able to agree that life begins to matter when life starts – at the moment of conceptions. If life begins to matter at the moment of conception, then it is abortion that is the root of hatred and racism. Abortion is the only legally endorsed, politically promoted attack on life and the value of life before birth. When life is valued at the moment of conception nation-wide, then, and only then, will black lives, blue lives, Asian lives, Latino lives, immigrant lives, and all lives truly matter.