It’s hard to underestimate the task that we face. From a standing start in 1997, when the Dolly cloning announcement took a shocked world by storm, our civilization has begun to awaken from a dreadful slumber. The unbelievable power of the new biotechnology to re-shape human life itself is slowly dawning on our perception. Our inability to grasp, let alone resist, what it means is stark. And yet, six years on, there is progress to report. CBC itself is part of the evidence.
At the heart of our task lies the need for strategy. When resources are as limited as we have discovered, strategy is even more important. We have so little to spend, so few people, it is almost funny. I was on the telephone to a key colleague in Washington, DC, the other day, and she commented that so far as she was aware not one of the conservative advocacy groups pushing for a cloning ban had anyone available full-time to work on the project. Pro-life and pro-family organizations have all been active, but they have many concerns; and there is still no dedicated institute for biotechnology and public policy (though with resources it would not be hard to start one). This is not simply an appeal to readers with deep pockets (it would only take one to make a profound difference to our future prospects), it is a reflection on the opportunity we have to mobilize the resources that are available – in and through the churches.
And that is the chief reason we are building the Center for Bioethics and Culture: to mobilize the vast resources that are already invested in our churches and their commitment to the sanctity and dignity of life. It is the reason that CBC has achieved an amazing amount in its very short life and on a budgetary shoe-string. It is also the reason why it is such an important project as we move into 2003 and face the potent combination of biotech $$, celebrity hype, public indifference, and depressingly uninterested Christians.
When I speak about these things, someone usually asks “what can I do?” – or, with a hopeless shrug, “but what can I do?” The answer is, of course, “everything!” Jesus said that we were the salt of the earth. One by one we need to learn what that means for our engagement in this gigantic struggle between human dignity and the commodification that is inherent in the idea of unfettered biotech. The key, as we know, is education. One of my answers to the “what can I do?” question is always that every church in the land every week should be running at least one Sunday School class on biotech/bioethics-related issues – all the way from euthanasia to cloning and beyond. Every single person in the church did some high school biology – and needs to take it out of the freezer just long enough to grasp the level of science that the news magazines seem confident they can explain to their readers. This vast resource of Christians needs to be unlocked and let loose to argue the case for human dignity and against unethical science, in the home, the workplace, the letters column of your local newspaper, and the district offices of your political representatives.
CBC is here to help, with a growing list of resources, our website that grows by leaps and bounds, and connections with Christians and organizations all over the world who are engaged in the same task.
So in 2003: take your salt-shaker and start shaking. Let loose the God-given salt of the Christian life in this decaying culture. Help CBC to help you and ten thousand others engage in the common task. ide for small groups looking to learn more about ethics from a Christian perspective.
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