Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Parable of the Good Soccer Mom

A the tail end of my Saturday entry I mentioned that I would be on the Peoria Life Chain, missing a big chunk of the final game of my beloved Los Angeles Angels. That enables me to bring to your attention to, if you haven't already read it, last Thursday's First Things: On the Square entry.

For background, it seems that the Democratic candidate for Governor of Texas is joining a growing number of Democrats (including our Junior US Senator from Illinois in (rightly) declaring that a "Christian voice" (or, at least, a "voice of faith") in American politics ought not be the exclusive property of the Republican Party. Congressman Bell invokes Jesus in the national debate over embryonic stem cell research, declaring a clear answer to "What would Jesus do?"

First Things Junior Fellow Ryan Anderson responds by offering this "retelling of a familiar parable."
The Parable of the Good Soccer Mom

“You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Chris Bell, because he wished to be elected governor, asked, “And who is my neighbor?”

Consider the Parable of the Good Soccer Mom: An embryo fell into the hands of ambitious scientists after she was left over in the freezer of an in vitro fertilization lab.

A molecular biologist happened to be journeying through the lab. Seeing that the embryo was very small and didn’t look like other human beings, he decided that it was not a human being. And he passed to the other side of the lab and left the embryo for his colleagues.

Likewise a moral philosopher came to the place and launched into an exposition of human embryology and developmental biology. He concluded that the human embryo was a whole human being at the very beginning of her life. The embryo possessed all of the internal resources necessary to guide herself—by a self-directed process—through further stages of development toward the maturity of organismic life. In doing this, the embryo integrates herself so as to keep her unity, identity, and determinateness all intact. No mere part of some other organism—as the sperm and egg cells whose union brought her into existence were—the embryo is both functionally and genetically distinct from any other organism, a whole and complete (though immature) human being. The term embryo is just a way of classifying the early human being, just as the terms fetus, newborn, infant, child, adolescent, adult, and octogenarian all refer to human beings at other stages. These terms, he concludes, refer to the same self-developing, unitary organism: the human being.

While the molecular biologist got the science wrong, the philosopher got it right. But the embryo could feel no pain or pleasure and exhibited no consciousness of any type, and so the philosopher concluded that the human embryo had no moral status and possessed no rights. And he, too, passed to the other side of the lab and left the embryo to the tender mercies of the scientists.

But a Soccer Mom who came upon the embryo was moved by both scientific fact and right moral reason. Aware of the humanity of the embryo as established by modern embryology, she wondered what was owed to the human being in the embryonic stage of life. She thought that whatever was owed to human beings at other stages of life was owed to them at the embryonic stage. For age and stage of development certainly are not morally significant. Older people do not have greater moral status; neither do the more fully developed. All human beings are of equal moral worth, she reasoned, because they are equally human. So, what is owed to human beings? Why, human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, possessing free will and rational natures that make them entities of intrinsic—and not mere instrumental—worth. They are to be treated as subjects and not as objects. Hence they are owed protection, support, and aid. In a word, they are owed love.

She summed up her findings: A human embryo is a whole member of the human species. Each human being entered life as an embryo. And all human beings are subjects of profound, inherent, intrinsic worth in virtue of what they are, not what they can do. And if they are subjects of worth in virtue of what they are, then they bear this worth from the moment that they first come into existence.

The Soccer Mom then rescued the embryo, transferred her to her womb, and cared for her.

“Mr. Bell, which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the embryo?”
Read the rest here.

I've been a subscriber to First Things since issue #13 and I was an Intern Pastor at Saint John's Lutheran Church, Helena, Montana -- when every penny counted.

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