June 6, 2011

Responding to Kevorkian's Death

Jack Kevorkian, aka 'Dr. Death', died last week, and I feel like there should be a Christion response. While I wait to hear from our leaders, I am wondering what that response should be.

Jack Kevorkian was not a good man. He assisted in the suicides of 130 people, lethally injecting two of him himself. Most believe that he was simply helping the terminally ill have a say over how they would die. Many even consider him a hero for this. However, at least 70 percent of the people he helped commit suicide did not have a terminal illness, and, according to their autopsies, at least five were not sick at all. He was very much into macabre experimentation. He leaves a legacy of pro suicide and pro death ideology; he taught us that death could be the answer for suffering. No, Dr. Kevorkian was not a good man.

Truth be told, there's no such thing as a good man or woman. Romans says none are righteous, not one. We've all sinned. Consequently, we will all taste death, save for those who will be living at Christ's return. But even those who will be alive on that Day have experienced the sting of death, in there own physical and spiritual suffering. In losing loved ones to death. Death and sin and pain and suffering are as braided together as my hair used to be in the mornings before school. Kevorkian would have us believe that one (death) is the answer for the others (pain and suffering). However, the Good News of the Gospel is that Christ makes an end to suffering by conquering death. In HIS death and resurrection, he not only conquered death and Satan, He reconciled us to the Father Who forgives our sin through Christ's work and will bring us to His side, free of suffering, when our tired, sinful, old bodies wear out.

As Christians, we must not agree with the hopelessness of suicide. We see suffering all around us. We long to relieve it. Instead of agreeing with the hopeless- because in the hopeless mind, weary from pain, thinking is not clear- we must bring the suffering and the hurting to the Savior, Who gives eternal LIFE.

Kevorkian was no worse of a sinner than I. Without the grace of God, I very much could be spouting the same twisted logic. This is why we do not turn internally into our wicked human hearts for answers to human suffering. Now, answer we must- but it must be from our ultimate Authority- the Word of God, Who is Christ Himself.

March 18, 2011

Oklahoma House Bill Bans Embryonic Stem Cell Research

From the Daily Oklahoman article:
With just a handful of Democrats opposing, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a measure Thursday that would prohibit embryonic stem cell research in Oklahoma.

We value life here in Oklahoma," said the bill's author, Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee. "While we in no way dispute the fact that the ability to treat or heal suffering persons is a great good, we also recognize that not all methods of achieving a desired good are morally or legally justifiable."

House Bill 1442 would make it a misdemeanor to conduct embryonic stem cell research. It also would prohibit buying, selling or transferring an embryo for research. It would exclude certain procedures such as in vitro fertilization.

The measure passed 86-8. It now goes to the Senate.
Thank you, Oklahoma Representatives!

Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, who worries about the measure's effect of medical research facilities in Oklahoma City, asks, "Why would we say Oklahoma is closed to this type of research? Why put roadblocks up?"

Because, Representative, there are far too many Oklahomans who believe either life begins at conception or think that there's a possibility that it at least MIGHT do so. Whatever one's belief, no doubt embryonic research is very controversial. As Faught mentions in the article, the research field of embryonic stem cell has generated zero results (though to be honest, this may be due to lack of funding). And, Representative, there is so much promise in ADULT or CORD BLOOD stem cell research. No human life- or potential human life, as they may say in your 'camp'- is destroyed in that process.

Listen to your constituents, Representative, and put our tax dollars into ADULT stem cell research.

Also from the article:
Dr. Stephen Prescott, a medical researcher and president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, said earlier that passage of the measure would send a negative message to patients about Oklahoma.

"It sends a message that we're not forward-looking about how we view issues," he said.
Heaven forbid, Dr. Prescott, that people wouldn't think we're 'forward-looking'. Besides, Dr. Prescott, have you looked forward, to the consequences that will ensue from a culture treating human life- or even potential human life- like something to be used and destroyed in the name of science? Of something that would destroy one life in the name of bettering another's? Perhaps we should look back at the 'forward-thinking' of eugenics...

As Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City stated in the article , "It's always a very dangerous and slippery thing when you take any group of people and say that you can do to them what ever you want."

December 15, 2010

The Ashley Treatment- Four Years Later

Four years ago, the story broke about a nine year old girl who, three years earlier, had undergone growth attenuation surgery and had had her uterus removed. This was not done for any medical purpose, but rather it was done to intentionally keep the girl from reaching puberty and to keep her from growing to be more than 75 pounds. Ashley has a profound developmental and cognitive disability. Deemed the "Ashley Treatment", this surgery was performed so that her parents could care for her easier. It was later found that Ashely's rights were violated by sterilizing her without a court order.

So, Ashley, you're what, about 13 years old now? And you've been denied puberty. I know it's not this surgery that has denied you the social aspects of adolesence. I know it's your disability that keeps you fom school dances and middle-school-hallway-"who's that cute boy?"-gossip. And I know it's your parents and others referring to you as 'pillow angel' and seeing you as some sort of mental infant that keeps people from understanding that, chronologically, you are not an infant and, theologically, you are not an 'angel'. And I know that because 'ethically confused', to put it politely, doctors decided to remove your uterus, your body will never mature, a deception in that you ARE 13 years old.

I know how difficult it is to provide physical care to a fully grown adult who has no ability to assist in any part in his own care. However caring for such individuals can be and is done all the time. And, with technology progressing, it's getting easier. I fear this surgery was performed on you, not because it makes caring for you easier, though, that was probably your parents sincere intention. Rather, I fear society allowed this surgery because of our ignorance about and prejudice towards people with disabililities as profound as yours.

You are not an infant, you are not any kind of angel (nor demon), and your needs are not any more 'special' than anyone else's. You are not a 13-year-old with the mind of a baby- you are a 13-year-old with a profound disability. You are not to be laid on a pillow to be cooed at or gazed at like we do with a newborn. You have the life experience of a 13-year-old girl, which should be respected, with a wisdom about life that is uniquely yours, whether you can ever express that wisdom or not.

You're called a 'pillow angel', but you are neither an angel nor a demon; you are a human being. You have been created in God's image just like every other human. You are no more of a sinner nor any less of one, no more nor any less in need of a Savior.

Your needs- to eat, to breathe, to love and to be loved- your need for Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and for hope- are just like anyone else's. You may need more assistance than others in having those needs met, but your needs are the same as my needs. They're just not that special- and we don't have to keep you small and attempt to deny your sexuaility to better meet your needs any more than we do mine.

Ashley, because of your disability I know that you may never understand the indignity that was done to you. But, I know- and it really hurts my heart. I just wanted you to know that I see you- you- as a young woman. You are female. You are one of us, one of the gang. Women with profound cognitive disabilities are created to reflect God's image in their femininity as much as women without them.

And femininity is not all in the body- it's in the soul, in the spirit God gave you. You can still reflect beauty, mercy, and grace. THAT no doctor or hospital ethics committee can take away from you.

November 6, 2010

Bioethicist Teaches Doctor to "Think Bioethcially"

A creative way to demonstrate this potential conversation at Secondhand Smoke, blog of Wesley J. Smith.

If you're wondering who the Peter Singer is spoken of in this video, I'd encourage you to 'google' him.

For more on terms like 'personhood' and 'speciesism' see this link.

August 4, 2010

A Pastor Who Struggles

MINNEAPOLIS – A Lutheran pastor in Minneapolis who opposes homosexuals being allowed to lead congregations said Monday he is attracted to men, but that he's not a hypocrite because he never acted on his urges.

The Rev. Tom Brock told The Associated Press he has known for years he is sexually attracted to men, but doesn't consider himself gay because he never acted on it.

In June, the Minnesota gay magazine Lavender reported that Brock was a member of a support group for Christians who struggle with same-sex attraction. Brock's church, the Hope Lutheran Church, placed him on leave while a task force looked into the matter. The Rev. Tom Parrish, the church's executive pastor, said the investigation determined Brock's story checked out.

This reporter from Lavender magazine tried to create a scandal. Likely angry that this pastor opposes gay marriage, gays pastoring churches, and homosexual activity, he has attempted to expose the 'hypocrisy' of a pastor whom he considers to be gay himself.

But this pastor is not gay. He admits to struggling with same sex attractions, but a homosexual struggle does not a gay identity make. Feelings and attractions make up what we as Christians once were. But as Christians our identity is now with Christ.

If the world understood that the Church is where people who have acted out in sexual immorality and/or struggle with the temptation to do so exist, then the fact that there is a man who struggles with same-sex attractions pastoring a congregation would not be a story to them. If the Church understood its true make-up- that it is filled with forgiven sinners- then this would not be a big deal to us, either.

And, Church, this man is you, this man is I. This man represents all of us- for such were we!

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor the idolators, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. AND SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU. BUT YOU WERE WASHED, YOU WERE SANCTIFIED, YOU WERE JUSTIFIED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND BY THE SPIRIT OF OUR GOD. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (emphasis mine)

If this pastor were indeed acting out on his same sex attractions that would be a problem. But, apparently, he's not. Apparently, he's living the life of any Christian- forgiven and justified, though still of the flesh. still tempted and weak, he, like all of us, remains completely dependent on Christ for salvation, repentance, and holiness.

That this Lutheran pastor struggles with the temptation to sin is not the scandal the Church should be fascinated with. What Christian hasn't 'made the list' mentioned in the above passage? What Christian hasn't sinned and, like Paul talks about in Romans 7:7-25, still gets tempted to sin? Instead, our fixation should be on the the scandal of the Cross.

God looked forward to the filth and destruction that Adam's sin would cause and placed His one and only Holy Son right into the middle of it. Condemned man was and condemned we should have remained. But Christ came to save us, and in doing so, placed the wrath of His Father that was upon us and put it on Himself. He was beaten, scorned, tortured, and killed for our transgression. God demanded atonement for man's sin- and then atoned for man's sin Himself. THAT is a scandal! (John 3:17, Ephesians 2:1-10, Hebrews 2:17, Romans 3:21-26, Isaiah 53)

In atoning for this pastor's sins, Christ restored this man's relationship with the Father, and made this pastor a chosen son of God (John 1:12, Ephesians 1:3-8), made him his friend (John 15:15), made him a member of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27), and in Christ this pastor is complete (Colossians 2:9-10). Because of Christ's work, this pastor is a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17). Because of Christ's work this pastor "[does] not have a high priest who is not unable to sympathize with [his] weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as [he is], yet without sin". Therefore, this pastor can "with confidence can draw near to the throne of grace, that [he] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)

This pastor is not gay. This pastor is a Christian. There is a difference- for as a new creation, he does not identify with his sin or with his sinful temptations. He identifies with Christ.

July 5, 2010

Declaring an Entire Class of Patients "Worthless"?

From the article, Withholding Care from Vegetative Patients: Financial Savings and Social Costs by L. Syd M. Johnson

In a recent column in the Huffington Post, Jacob M. Appel argues for “rational rationing” of health care resources by withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment from patients in a permanent vegetative state.

...when patients can no longer decide for themselves, or when they have not left instructions for their future care, the best way to protect their interests is to allow those who know them best to make decisions for them. Such decisions cannot come from a court in a one-size-fits-all statement about the value of a class of patients...

...It is unknown how many patients there are with chronic disorders of consciousness, in part because most of them are not in acute care facilities like Trinitas, but rather in long-term custodial care facilities. Many of these patients get very little care beyond artificial nutrition and hydration, although they can live for decades. Indeed, one of the tragedies for these patients is that they are neglected both clinically and socially...

...There are substantial social costs to declaring an entire class of patients “worthless.” Allowing health care providers, including institutions like acute care hospitals, to unilaterally decide, against the wishes of patients or their legal guardians, to withhold life-sustaining medical treatment invites abuse and diminishes transparency and due process...

...There are substantial social costs to declaring an entire class of patients “worthless.” Allowing health care providers, including institutions like acute care hospitals, to unilaterally decide, against the wishes of patients or their legal guardians, to withhold life-sustaining medical treatment invites abuse and diminishes transparency and due process...

What makes a person a person- is it that he can feel, think, do? Or is it that he is created in the image of God, able to feel, think, and do only because of God's mercy is upon him?

What of one who can no longer do- and likely think, and perhaps even feel- such as one in a persistent state of unconsciousness? Does he no longer bear God's image? What does he have to bring to the table, that is the table spoken of in Luke 14?

He has nothing to bring, as do you nor do I. He and we share equal footing at the Cross. We are all simply receivers of grace, mercy, faith, and repentance. However, the man, woman, or child in a persistent state of unconsciousness, in addition to being at the mercy of God is also at the mercy of us.

Will we not love him, as Christ loved us, helpless and vulnerable as we were before He rescued us? Will we not defend his life- or will we join the world and call his 'kind' worthless, allowing monetary resources to go to the more 'worthy'? Who are the 'worthy'? Those who can 'contribute'?

Human worth is not contingent on what humans 'contribute', but, rather, on what God gives to us, what He has contributed through His Son. Once enemies and haters of God, now we are the Bride of Christ, a royal priesthood, sons and daughters of the Living God, bought and paid for by our Savior Christ Himself.

Don't look at a human being and expect him to 'earn' his worth. We, none of us, can. But, rather is was earned for us- and for the, perhaps for the rest of his life, unconscious.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6 NASB

June 30, 2010

Christians, Respect People with Developmental Disabilities

New York's Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities will now become the State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, leaving Rhode Island with the only state agency that still uses the word 'retardation' in its title. Using 'People with Developmental Disabilities' in the title is an example of People First Language, and it is hoped that the services offered will reflect the idea of putting the person (with the disability receiving services) first.

Though they are political in that they are used by state agencies to describe who receives certain state services, the terms 'developmental disability' and 'intellectual disability' are not simply the new politically correct terms for 'mental retardation'. For one, the term 'developmental disability' describes an array of disabilities. But, even more so, I think I could pretty much say as fact they exist because of the slanderous and hurtful way people began using the words 'retardation' and 'retarded'.

However, the term 'retardation' may have a similar history. Remember, the terms 'idiot', 'moron', and 'feebleminded' were once valid medical terms to describe what the still medical term of 'mental retardation' is today. But what we've done to those words, we've done to the word 'retarded'. They've become terms to describe something we despise and see as the lowest form of human characteristic- low intelligence. Gasp! Heaven forbid, we be seen as 'stupid', 'moronic', or 'retarded'!

So, I suspect, rather strongly, that once the terms 'developmental disability' and 'intellectual disability' become commonplace, it will be a common theme to hear 'developmentally disabled' or 'intellectually disabled' thrown at one another on the playground, imported into the stand up comic routines, or cursed at our remote controls when we can't get them to work. I'll use these new terms, but I don't think another term is what we need. What we need is respect for people with this particular disability- then we won't need to keep changing the words used to describe it every 30 years.

Respect people with developmental disabilities. Am I just moralizing? Expecting the world to follow my opinion of what is 'right' and 'wrong'?

I don't expect the world to follow anything 'right'- though sometimes they do, as is evident in the State of New York's attempt to be respectful of people with developmental disabilities. The Law of God (the 'right') is written on man's heart (Romans 2:13-15), and sometimes the unregenerate human follows it. But, by nature, man is also a sinner who can be expected to do what sinners do- sin or the 'wrong'.

But, Christians, those who've, by God's grace, repented of sin and trusted in Christ for forgiveness, have a new nature, and can now be expected to do what Christians do- 'right'. It is right to respect those with developmental disabilities. Love thy neighbor. Take care of the weak. Defend the cause of the poor and the needy. You know the verses. Christians are expected to do these things- not for our salvation, but as evidence that we've been made new creatures.

Who are these people to be respected, these people with developmental disabilities? Out of what theme are they to be respected? People with developmental and intellectual disabilities are men, women, and children who've been created in the image of God, who've been separated from their Creator by sin, who've been purchased back by Christ at the Cross, who, when called to repentance and the forgiveness of sin are justified and have the hope of eternal life free of sin, sickness, disability, and death through Christ's resurrection, and have the same new nature as and belong to the exact same Body as every other Christian. Sound familiar? Sound like you?

Who are these people to be respected? Your brothers and sisters. Out of what theme? The Gospel.

By nature, the Law of God is written on our hearts. Through the work of Christ at the cross and the regeneration and sanctification of the Holy Spirit, Christians can now do this Law naturally.

Christians, respect people with developmental disabilities.