For those of us who hold human life as something infinitely precious and made in the image of God, Christmas will always be unique in a way even other Christians can’t understand. For at Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God himself, in his son, became one of us – as a Palestinian Jew of the first century of our era.
By doing so, God reveals quite how special human life is: for he can himself, in whatever mysterious manner, actually take human form. Moreover, he reveals when his human life started. There’s a famous altar-piece in Germany dating from the middle ages in which Mary and her cousin Elizabeth meet – and the artist gives us a view of their unborn children, who are also meeting. Whatever “common-sense” uncertainty or ambiguity about when life really begins that unbelievers may legitimately have is resolved for those who follow Jesus Christ. God became man at the start of Mary’s pregnancy. And while it began in a miracle of virginal conception, the life that started – Jesus’ human life – is the standard of ours. As one famous bioethics expert said to me after I had made this case, “well, I can see that if you are a Christian the argument is over.”
At this Christmas 2003, let’s survey the scene. The Partial-Birth Abortion Act has begun to roll back the frontiers of liberal abortion. The cloning issue remains stalled in the Senate, although in a significant victory for the US and its anti-cloning allies the United Nations will be returning to this issue in September of 04 – when we hope to re-start to process for a global cloning ban. Congress has also been considering an amendment that would give legal authority to the Patent and Trademark Office to refuse to issue patents on human organisms. It’s a measure of the distorted values of those who claim to lead the biotech industry that they vigorously opposed this modest measure, although they seem to have become reconciled to it in the past week or two. Meanwhile there is legislation brewing on genetic discrimination and broader patent reform, though we do not know what success it will have. It is very good news that the discrimination issue has been taken up in a bi-partisan way, with clear support from the President, as the biggest issue of the 21st century will be the revival of eugenics – the idea that “good” genes make you more valuable, and “bad” genes less. This will arise and confront us in many ways, and we need dig all the firebreaks we can as soon as we can.
On the ground, we still have a church – evangelical, Catholic, and the rest – that has no great interest in bio issues, once they go beyond abortion. The single greatest need of the global church today is to engage these issues. That will not be easy, as people tend to be inward-looking and especially to ignore things that require them to think! The bio agenda undoubtedly requires that. But – if I can put it in these terms – if you passed high school biology, God is going to call you to account if you don’t focus the mind that he gave you on the unfolding bio agenda. It goes way beyond cloning, but that’s the place to start.
People are always asking for something practical! What can I do? My church isn’t interested in these things. My pastor is raising money for a new building or a missions project or to help the homeless – all good things. Well, CBC has many resources you can use. Let me draw attention to one of them. This year Chuck Colson and I have collaborated on a Sunday school/home group ready-made teaching package called PLAYING GOD. You get video segments, audio segments from the BreakPoint radio commentary, and guides for teachers and students. If you want to persuade your church to get with the bio program in 2004, what better way?
And another thing you can do is make your online, end of the year tax-deductible contribution now toward the CBC’s generous matching gift Build Our Future Campaign! http://www.thecbc.org/build_our_future.html
God bless you in your work for him, and grant that CBC will be able in 2004 to educate and mobilize Christians by the million to uphold the sanctity of life – and enable biotechnology to do wonderful work which God himself will bless!
Chairman, The CBC
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