Reflections on the miracle of Christmas abound during this final week of preparation for the arrival of the Baby Jesus—our King of King and Lord of Lords. But clearly not everyone is sincerely celebrating the miracle of life and the gift of the human being.
We live in a time of heightened threats against those who are unable to defend themselves—whether they are the single cell embryonic organism or those older human beings whose very lives depend on others who make life and death decisions about their care. Human beings, at any stage of development, are not “just a bunch of cells.”
Think, for example, about the human embryonic stem cell clinical trial begun by biopharmaceutical giant Geron and then suddenly ended. Geron researchers were to have had 10 patients involved in the trial, but shortly after the fourth entered the program the company abruptly ended it. And then it injected a fifth patient even though the project had ended. Why? There are no clear answers, only speculation—the specter of something gone wrong at the hands of a company that consistently argued that human embryos are not themselves human beings, so therefore killing them is not unethical. But is what the organization did ethical?
At least one Canadian bioethicist does not think so, writing, “If . . . the findings from five research participants will be underpowered, then they may have been exposed to the potential harms of trial participation without the potential for benefit in the form of scientific knowledge.”
Fundamentally it could be argued that the five participants are guinea pigs and the dead embryos inconsequential.
Actually, human embryos have been treated inhumanely for years. Human embryonic children are tested prior to being chosen for possible implantation in their mother. Once these children are created in an in vitro fertilization lab or in artificial reproduction labs and clinics, many are subjected to preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and only those who pass the quality control standard are accepted. The others are killed. This is a test used for the purposes of sex selection, for having the “perfect baby,” and for the elimination of those with possible genetic problems that might develop later in life.
Referring to the opinions of Marcy Darnovsky, the associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, one author opines, “Darnovsky warns that prenatal genetic testing ‘could radically alter the experience of pregnancy and parenting . . . and we’d better start thinking about it now—before hype, fear, and the polarized politics of abortion distort the discussion.’”
Apparently hype and politics are more frightening to the manipulators of the human being than addressing the morbid nature of the methods being used. Most public statements about such practices are based on the false assumption that each human embryonic individual is not a person but merely a group of cells. Were the scientific community to recognize the humanity of each embryonic child we would not be hearing horror stories about errors, eugenic testing, and other macabre practices.
It is for these reasons that during this special time of year Americans should be contemplating why Christmas concerns human dignity. That baby born without a home and into dire poverty came to cure the world of the ills I have just noted and so many more. But such healing can only occur if hearts are open, if minds are willing to reexamine past attitudes, and if families are willing to proclaim with undeniable certainty that there is no such thing as an expendable person.
This Christmas may each of us stand before the manger scene, gaze at the wonder of it, and vow to see that precious gift of life in every human being—no matter how young, no matter how old, no matter how dependent, no matter how recognizable, no matter the method of reproduction used—including the single cell embryonic child.
The world is turning away from the awesome miracle of Christmas, preferring to kill human beings by denying that they are indeed members of the human family. But we know such practices are evil; they are assaults on God Himself and they violate the natural law.
While nobody knows what it is going to take to right this wrong, we do know that every single one of us—committed to the miracle of Christmas—can reach out with the light of His truth. Celebrating human dignity begins with individual human beings promising Christ that we will keep the light burning as long as we are able—even unto death.