Say ‘Imago Dei’ and Pray
By Brandon Shaw
My dear Catholic friends prayed familiar prayers, and I, now evangelical, extemporaneously preached as the Pittsburgh abortion facility’s security personnel stared at our fervor for life as if ushering hell into an ice age. I scorned at them.
In reality, my contempt was antithetical to the very purpose we proclaimed through our life-affirming pleas for pregnant, abortion-susceptible women to change their minds concerning that deadly procedure. To be pro-life means to recognize the imago Dei (or Latin for image of God) in everyone. Everyone?
It’s taken a lot of sanctification for this epiphany to epiphanize in me. I am no Pope John Paul II or Mother Teresa. Many thoughts have been thought by me and many prayers have been prayed by me to get to this point. Still, I possess the proclivity to relapse into old sins like a contestant on The Biggest Loser has the propensity to binge on Keebler cookies when the cameras stop. While you may have arrived long ago at an epiphany-like moment such as mine, I am a two-toed sloth sometimes when it comes to personal holiness.
It’s essential for me to now see abortion-endorsers as made in the image of God. Before I further my point, I should define imago Dei. Being made in God’s image is being made like God in that humans have the capacity to think great thoughts, love great loves, and communicate great words. This is vastly different from the animal world. As God’s Rolls Royces, we truly exist as a cut above the rest because we share some of these God qualities.
Perhaps a pro-lifer seeing abortionists as people who are made special in the image of God is akin to attempting to climb Mt. Everest blindfolded and backward. If you are anything like me, you want to label these people as “other” or subhuman for their antagonistic stance toward precious womb-dwellers. Seeing this “dark side” as made in the very likeness of the God of life is no easy task. Still, as image bearers, all persons—regardless of their sin choices—should not be disdained, but rather should be seen with immeasurable dignity and profound worth.
When I seek to dehumanize someone through my musing, I try to stop, drop, and roll, and then declare that Latin phrase imago Dei, and actually mean it. Saying imago Dei serves as a reminder for me that all people possess intrinsic value because of whose likeness we share. To be pro-life is to not endorse abortion workers but to affirm that they are crafted in Christ’s image. We are “cooking with steam,” as my Italian great uncle likes to say, when we love and even declare the opposition to our life cause as inherently significant to the God of life for their image-bearing properties. To see all of humanity this way is being fully pro-life.
If you are not quite ready to shout imago Dei from the top of that iconic Parisian tower, I fault you not. It’s not easy for me either. A sinner, I have my moments of going back to the Chick-fil-A dumpster I overcame instead of seeking the better and fresher tenders inside. Still, to simply start whispering imago Dei when prone to loathe instead of love is a great start. Then you can practice meaning it, since that is a great step, too.
Here’s a good prescription: When tempted to see another as less than a human created in God’s image, say imago Dei, and pray for a change of heart. It’s really a supernatural posture necessary to be more like Christ, and thankfully we have a God in the business of supernaturally toning us to be more like His Son—the embodiment of pro-life.
A repeater of kindergarten with Andrew, his triplet brother, Brandon is now pursuing a Th.M., an advanced theological degree, at Pittsburgh Seminary. As Wheaton College’s 2007 male recipient of the William (Billy) F. Graham and Ruth Bell Graham Award for ministry and a proud member of Bellefield Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Pittsburgh, Brandon loves Jesus Christ, enjoys volunteering with Pittsburgh Region International Student Ministries, and seeks to contextualize the evangelical gospel to various audiences. His soon-to-be published theological piece entitled “The Augustinian Concept of the God-Shaped Hole in Dumb and Dumber,” a work to reach the church-less, will appear in the upcoming Pittsburgh Theological Journal, a publication Brandon helped edit.