The season of Advent is upon us; it lasts for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. It is a time when Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It involves giving up luxuries or rich foods to remember that Jesus Himself gave up the glory of heaven to become a human being to save us from our sins and eternal spiritual death.
In the rush of modern life, it is good to take time out to reflect on what is of ultimate and eternal importance. For many people, Christmas has become a secularised materialistic binge with little time for reflection. However, the season of Advent reminds us that whist it is right to celebrate the coming of the Christ child, we must not forget what Christ did for those who believe in Him. Christians are called to forsake our own desires and bring a message of hope to the world. This is often perceived as being counter-cultural to the norms and values of the current society in which we work and live. It is to live according to the wisdom of God.
Wisdom is an attribute which we desire to see characterise the public life of our nation. It features on the Mace of the Scottish Parliament as one of the key characteristics which MSPs should demonstrate. We aspire to have politicians who, like King Solomon, value wisdom more than wealth and power. Many people enter politics motivated by a genuine desire to improve society and to help people who are in need. However, personal ambition and the desire to wield power too often operate as seductive bedfellows of this altruistic motive.
What does such wisdom look like in relation to Scottish politics? It requires us to take care of the most vulnerable people in society. Perhaps the place to start is in relation to unborn children. In the 50th year since the Abortion Act was passed, it is time to end an approach which has resulted over 500,000 Scots and nearly nine million unborn children being aborted throughout the UK. In contrast, over 100,000 people are alive today in Northern Ireland because the Abortion Act does not apply there.
Both Holyrood and Westminster are extending free abortion provision to include women from Northern Ireland and there are strident voices calling for abortion on demand up to birth under the guise of full decriminalisation. At the international level over 40 million children are aborted each year. The UK government uses overseas aid to fund abortions in developing countries. This is more about imposing a Western secular ideology on other countries than achieving real development and genuine human rights. Child survival has been replaced as a foundational development goal with economic accumulation and personal autonomy for those who are lucky enough to survive the first nine months of life.
It is time we properly funded real alternatives to those facing crisis pregnancies for whom abortion seems like the only practical option available. Investing in independent counselling and support services and providing greater access to them would be a good place to start. Mothers need effective, practical and helpful support during and after their pregnancy. Unborn children need protections enshrined in law as they are incapable of defending themselves.
The creation of new life is the most profound act that human beings can accomplish. Its protection is the most fundamental human right which governments should uphold. As we prepare to celebrate of the birth of the Christ child, we should take time to meditate upon the sanctity of human life and upon the life and teaching of Jesus, who always stood up for the most vulnerable in society.
Dr Gordon Macdonald is parliamentary officer of CARE for Scotland