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It seems trivial to say that we are living in strange times. Yet, the triviality does not change the reality. Structures, institutions, and patterns of life once thought permanent and stable have been radically altered by the pandemic; moreover, we have been made aware that the “normal” life so many of us desire to return to is one of pervasive discrimination and tragic injustice for many, especially our Black brothers and sisters. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others cry out for justice and call us to action.
When I first started brainstorming how to teach the topic of human dignity to my eleventh-grade Morality class, I was eager but intimidated. Covering the topic of abortion was a must, but when I sat down to think about how I could cover the topic in a nuanced and compassionate, yet firmly pro-life manner, I was stumped. Many questions flooded my mind: ‘How do I take a firmly pro-life stance, while also expressing compassion for women who have suffered abortions?’ ‘How do I present the pro-life standpoint in a way that is transformative but not preachy?’ ‘How do I help my students see that all people have a right to life, even when that life involves suffering?’
“‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’” They paid him thirty pieces of silver…” —Matthew 26:15
It is particularly haunting to see an exact price exchanged for a human life; the juxtaposition of a finite monetary amount and the life of an infinite being is incomprehensible. In Mathew’s Gospel above, the thirty-pieces figure has been traced back to earlier scriptural references, and is thought to signify the compensation due a master when a slave is killed.
No matter how the amount is derived, calculating the worth of a human life is at once both so absurd and crass that it renders the act of killing for a specific financial gain singularly troubling.