Principle, politics and the pro-life cause
Crowing too early about the failures of anti-Christian social policies can play into humanist hands.
As I write, our newspapers here in Queensland, Australia, are abuzz with the story of an elderly woman who made a media stunt out of her suicide. Nancy Crick, who had had an operation to remove bowel cancer some time ago, claimed she was terminally ill with recurrence of the cancer and was determined to end the suffering. Her orchestrated, drawn-out campaign, complete with its own Web site, was aided by humanist lobby groups seeking to liberalize Australia’s laws in favour of ‘assisted death.’
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Human Life — Abortion and Euthanasia
At one point, Nancy changed her mind, saying she had been persuaded to try palliative care. As a pro-life sympathizer myself, I used this to highlight in discussions how unacceptable it would be for society to allow a doctor to end the life of someone who requested it. How could one be sure that it wasn’t a reversible depression that was driving the request? How could one be certain that the person wouldn’t change their mind?1
In the end, Nancy did change her mind—again. She took a fatal cocktail of drugs in the company of family, friends and ‘mercy-killing’ advocates. (I try not to use the euphemism ‘euthanasia,’ meaning ‘good death.’ Who would not want to extend pain relief and comfort—as opposed to execution—to those dying in difficulty?)
This much-publicized death was seen as something of a public relations defeat for the pro-life campaign. But then there was a sensational revelation. An autopsy showed that Nancy Crick’s body was free of cancer! Pro-deathers were seemingly caught flatfooted. Australia’s own ‘Dr Death,’ the secular humanist Dr Phillip Nitschke, was shown to have known for some time that she was free of malignancy. He mumbled unconvincingly on TV that Nancy had nevertheless had bowel complications from the cancer surgery, while a leading medico said it was nothing that could not be fixed. Even the non-conservative State Premier of Queensland lambasted Nitschke for his cover-up and general tactics.
It may be appropriate to highlight such failings and inconsistencies among the enemies of God’s standards. But watching fellow pro-lifers rise to take advantage of the situation, I could not help thinking that we are all too prone to follow the ‘utilitarian’ argument in such matters. Our stand as Christians who believe God’s Word should be that human life is sacred because people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). This principle is reinforced throughout the Bible.
If we then act as if urging and assisting someone to kill themselves is more wrong because they didn’t have cancer, does that not subtly reinforce the argument that it would have been less wrong if they did have cancer?
It is perhaps tactically important in the antiabortion struggle, for instance, to point to the research that mothers who have abortions are prone to end up with psychiatric difficulties, or breast cancer. But there is always a danger in such ‘evidentialist’ politicking. Because what if new research showed that mothers who had abortions were on average happier and healthier? Would that somehow make it less wrong to take an innocent human life? Of course not.
I see the same danger in the area of human reproductive cloning. As our Focus section has reported on several occasions, there are grave indications that such ‘clones’ would inevitably be genetically defective people. Where acting against the manufacturer’s instructions, not surprisingly, causes problems for mankind, it is not inappropriate to point this out. But in the final analysis, our opposition to such manipulation of humankind should be because of biblical principle,2 not whether or not it ‘works’ (utilitarianism). Pushing utilitarian arguments too eagerly in an attempt to win secular support risks setting ourselves up. What if technology were to overcome all of cloning’s problems? Should we then slink away in defeated silence?
In the end, there are only two possibilities: either we are just evolved animals, in which case the only standard for right and wrong is whatever we might choose as a culture from time to time—or there is an absolute standard that transcends human opinion, because it is a revealed standard from the God who made us. Christians need to engage in battles to uphold those absolute standards, but not primarily because the evidence shows that violating them harms mankind. Such things are the sideshow, in a sense.
The main game, the real issue, is the principle. God is, and He has spoken, and spoken truly. Which is what the authority of the Bible is all about. And that’s the principle behind every page of this [Creation] magazine.
- See also Euthanasia—hospital humanism, Creation 19(3):21–22, 1997. Return to text.
- Gitt, W., Cloning: right or wrong? Creation 21(1):48–50, 1998. Return to text.