Monday, October 11, 2004

Ragemonkey Red Alert: A Necessary Revival

I had been kicking around this article for a couple of weeks, but I had no "crisis" in the media or in the world to inspire it. Until today, that is. Today, in the news, we heard the report that Christopher Reeve is dead. It was a sudden death brought on by an opportunistic infection that probably led to a heart attack. For people my age, he is the quintessential Superman and will be for a long time. What finally got me off my keister was the attached commentary that accompanied his death. Every news report that I saw included a blurb concerning his advocacy of stem cell research, both varieties. While watching the Daily Buzz, a nationally syndicated morning news program, they had viewers writing in and no one was able to say embryonic stem cell research was wrong. Because the research could, in theory, provide, every comment that was read endorsed it. One person, and I am paraphrasing, said that only the radical Christian nut could have a problem with this sort of research.

The problem at the heart of the Christian engagement of the world is that we have largely abandoned the language of the natural law. As St. Augustine points out in De Catechesi Rudibus, you must tailor your catechesis to the intellect and the person to whom you are addressing it. Too often we get the cart before the horse and mistakenly, in my humble opinion, try to engage people with the Christian faith, when they may need engagement in basic logic and philosophy.

I oppose embryonic stem cell research because it destroys a human life. The stem cells are the fundamental building blocks of the embryo. If you take them out, the embryonic person will die because it will never achieve its potential; it won’t have its necessary biological foundation. Since existence is preferable to non-existence, it follows that to destroy a human life to enhance another existing life is not ethical. For those who would dispute that the embryo is a human person, I would ask, "well, what makes you a human person?" Hopefully, they would recognize that they are a person not because someone extends that "privilege" to them but because it is the nature of who they are. In addition, hopefully, folks will realize how dangerous it is to expect a government or medical board to give them their personhood. As a former embryo, I would hope this would convince them not to support embryonic stem cell research.

Notice, please, faithful reader, that I posed this argument without reference to Christian theology. The Christian Faith, as grace builds on nature, makes this argument even more beautiful by recognizing that the human person is created in the image and likeness of God. At the same time, I can also make a case that this research is wrong just from the natural law. You can see how this applies to other matters like euthanasia or abortion.

As Christians, we have to learn how to talk to everyone, regardless of religious or philosophical foundations. Immersing ourselves in philosophy and a firm foundation in the natural law we gain the tools by which we can marshal all people of good will.

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