CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The right to take a life has become an enshrined American right, it seems, although it is never called that. On the far left, are those who believe abortion is a means of birth control, ignoring the original centrist message of the New Democrats as enshrined in Bill Clinton's 1996 speech to the DNC, where he spoke about abortion remaining safe and legal, but wanted the new focus to reside on making it rare.
On the right are those who believe that teachers, college students, and little old ladies must be heavily armed. Some have crossed the line of rationality and declared that it is our right and necessity to arm ourselves with the same weaponry used by our military.
This has brought to light the current trend in American views toward rights, that of the right to take a life, either unborn, criminally wayward, or in misnamed "Stand your Ground" laws, at the discretion not of the Giver but solely at the Taker's.
And each decision is met not with the appropriate measure of introspection, but with condescension, fear, and retaliation. At abortion clinics, protesters, while avoiding the bomb-making tactics of the '90s and the murderous outbreaks such as the one that took the life of Dr. Tiller, show up with signs proclaiming the hatred of God. Women who are forced into these places are met not with open arms of healing, but with angry fists of unjust retribution. The reaction of too many is simply to turn their gaze from both the protesters and the protested, because it is their right, after all.
When gun massacres happen, such as the one at Newtown, when children are murdered -- and every person is a child of Someone -- the reaction of the American populace is not to turn to houses of worship, not to buying holy writings en masse, but to buying the very same weapons that were used in the slaughter of the innocent. Why? Because the spirit of fear that plagues our populace no longer leads to contemplation, but to the desire to idolize that which takes life -- a right we think we have.
We avert our gaze to those who worship at the idol of death and proclaim through fear paranoia. The right to take a life is not a right at all; neither, is our aversion to correcting the notion any more American than that right. Many of our holy writings, be it the Torah, the New Testament, or the Quran, holds if nothing else in common, that the ability to take a life is the most wasted ability of the human, that this ability is an aversion to our God, but it is not a right. While we pretend even self-defense falls here, it is a right that has a perimeter and as such, is a strictly limited right.
If we ignore the original push by the New Democrats in the '90s, abortion rights become the ability not to ensure equal access to health care for women and the ability to make life-giving decisions, but ability to have abortion on demand, without aforethought. If we ignore the original intent of the Constitution, we will find ourselves idolizing the means of our own destruction. We wrongly appeal to this fabled document, as if it is the genesis of rights. The Constitution gives us nothing; it only provides elements in our fantasy that we as minuscule plots in a cosmic tale have the right to take that which we cannot give.
We must cease to believe that as Americans we have a unique right to take a life.
Watts is a Sunday School teacher at Christ Church United Methodist and a recent graduate from United Theological Seminary.