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Omdahl: One Christian perspective on personhood measure

“The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

Measure 1 promises to be the most difficult of the eight measures on the November ballot because its brief, 19-word mandate is fraught with secular and theological unknowns, lending it to a range of conflicting interpretations and speculation about intended, as well as unintended, consequences.

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Since this measure is driven primarily by theology, it is appropriate to examine it in the light of Christian values.

The principle involved is sanctity of life.

For most Christians, the Bible establishes values. Unfortunately, the Bible does not directly address the issue before us. Proponents of Measure 1 buttress their case with a number of scriptural references, some of which are irrelevant while others are generic. So we must draw conclusions based on general Bible teaching.

Considering the general tenor of scripture, there are several reasons we can claim that sanctity of life is an underlying principle of God’s relationship with mankind.

- Because God created life, humans should not treat His magnificent work carelessly.

- The importance of human life to God is evidenced by His constant reaching for a meaningful relationship with humanity through centuries of time, starting with Abraham and the Israel nation.

- Next, mankind was so important to Him that He offered the life of His son, Jesus Christ, to bring man back to Him.

With the coming of Christ, a major shift occurred between the New and the Old Testaments. The Old Testament God-nation paradigm was changed to a God-person relationship in which personal accountability became a critical aspect.

Most Christians believe that there will be a time of personal accountability, at which time every human will give a personal accounting to God for transgressions committed in this life.

For Christians, Measure 1 would replace personal decisions and personal accountability with a universal secular mandate that would leave them with no options in difficult circumstances.

It has been suggested that Measure 1 is too broad and will result in serious consequences. Some of those consequences are identifiable and intentional.

The measure would make illegal certain birth control measures; challenge the making of living wills and outlaw in-vitro fertilization. Many faithful Christians believe in birth control, living wills and in-vitro births.

With the language of Measure 1 in the Constitution, a court injunction could be obtained against any of these activities.

Measure 1 creates another problem. It provides no exception for anyone at any age that would become pregnant by seduction, sex trafficking, rape or incest. It is also silent about the impending death of a mother.

This means that the Christian parents of a 14-year-old girl becoming pregnant by sex trafficking, seduction, rape or incest would have no voice in the matter, even though they would seek God’s counsel for the right decision and would be cognizant of the sanctity of life.

After such a traumatic experience as rape or incest, the child could become a lifelong victim mandated by Measure 1. Teen suicides have occurred under less challenging circumstances.

With around 80 percent of North Dakotans professing the Christian faith, it seems that churches should do more to teach Christians the Biblical values involved. That would deal with 80 percent of the problem.

For those of us who will never become pregnant by rape, seduction, incest or sex trafficking, the vote on this measure may be relatively simple, but it shouldn’t be.

Omdahl is former North Dakota lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email him at