Hype v. Reality

Recently, I was on Capitol Hill with my colleague, bioethics expert Dr. Nigel Cameron, launching our new book Human Dignity in the Biotech Century in which we bring together key experts to help the Church understand the incredible implications of the biotech revolution. While there, I met a remarkable young woman named Rebecca Griffin. Rebecca is a living example of biotechnology, since she was conceived through in vitro fertilization. As she says, "I was one of those 'test tube babies' [an embryo] that could just as easily have been sacrificed because I wasn't quite human enough to matter." But she has even more to say about the biotech agenda. Rebecca was well-acquainted with Alzheimer's disease long before President Reagan's illness raised public awareness, and celebrities started exploiting it to support the kind of unethical, destructive embryonic research that President Reagan opposed. Rebecca lived through it. When she was only 9 years old, her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and she spent the next seven years helping her mother care for him. They cared for him at home, because they couldn't afford a nursing home until the beginning of her senior year of high school. So the events around President Reagan's death struck a very personal note. "As a caregiver who has lived through the situation myself," writes Rebecca, "I say this to other sufferers: Don't listen to them. Don't buy into this hoax." She continues: "Those who push for a lifting of the ban on government funding to kill more embryos for research dangle hope in front of desperate, hurting people in their hunt for public support. It is exploitation at its most debased and repugnant form. "Sometimes things do happen to us, things that we can't control," she adds, "but don't let anyone use your grief to push their agenda through." Rebecca makes the case eloquently. The advocates of this unethical research are preying on those whose love for their sick relatives or fear of disease themselves makes them vulnerable. At the same time, they conveniently ignore the medical testimony that embryonic stem-cell research offers no hope for Alzheimer's. And they ignore the fact that adult stem cells are working. Last year, together with Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kans.), Dr. James Dobson, Joni Eareckson Tada, and other distinguished leaders, Dr. Cameron and I launched the "Manifesto on The Sanctity of Life in the Brave New World." The Manifesto calls for a comprehensive ban on cloning, on genetically engineering inheritable changes, and on genetic discrimination. It also calls for a wide-ranging review of the patent law to prevent the commercial exploitation of human tissue. In our book Human Dignity in the Biotech Century, we restate the Manifesto and set out the agenda in much more detail. Now, I'll admit that this is a very complicated issue. But Christians need to pay attention and to understand it, so that we can answer those who would exploit our sick relatives and friends. Maybe we are not all as eloquent as Rebecca Griffin, but we all have a responsibility to know the facts and speak out. What is at stake is what it means to be human. For further reading and information: Charles Colson and Nigel Cameron, Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy (InterVarsity, 2004). BreakPoint Commentary No. 040616, "The Wrong Legacy: A Cause Reagan Wouldn't Have Supported." Nigel M. de S. Cameron, "Hijacking the Reagan Name," Bioethics and Culture Network Newsletter, 13 August 2004. Paige Comstock Cunningham, J.D., "Common Sense on ESCR: Don't Wait Around for the Miracle Cure," Council for Biotechnology Policy, 17 October 2003. Steven Ertelt, "President Bush to United Nations: Ban All Forms of Human Cloning,", 21 September 2004. Visit the Council for Biotechnology Policy website. Visit the Center for Bioethics and Culture website. Pastors and church leaders: Call us at 1-877-322-5527 to request the booklet "The Struggle for the Human Race: Cloning and the Biotech Challenge -- A Pastoral Response." See also this sample sermon on biotechnology. The Wilberforce Forum's "Playing God?" curriculum, from Group Publishing, is designed for churches and small-group studies to address a myriad of bioethics issues, such as stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, cloning, and abortion.


Chuck Colson


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