Stem-cell hypocrites?

A recent online discussion of President Obama’s rescinding of his predecessor’s ban on government funding of embryonic stem cell research prompted an arresting question. If pro-lifers are so het up about embryo-destructive research, will we reject treatments that grow as fruit on that poisonous tree?

My head says a quick “yes,” my heart cautions some humility in the answer. If I live long enough (if any of us do) to actually see beneficial treatments derived from the destruction of human life, I’ll be old enough so that the need for treatment will be dire and emotionally compelling. That will be a difficult choice for those loved ones who will help make decisions regarding treatment?maybe not a difficult choice but certainly one fraught with controversy and self doubt.

Still, I say that I will refuse such treatment, and will refuse the results of such tainted research on behalf of any whose power of attorney I possess. If I do not do so, I say now, when less burdened by the emotion and grief of a specific choice, that I should refuse treatment of this kind. What’s the choice?

I came across a verse in Isaiah last week that got under my skin regarding this subject. In chapter 33:15, God describes a righteous person as one who “despises the gains of oppressions.” That could be a pretty broad variety of things. It could speak to spoils of an unjust war, or profit made dishonestly or at the expense of the weak.

There are many who profit from the terrible oppression of children, born and unborn. Some are elected to office by promising to support the continuation of such oppression through abortion. They, like clinic investors, are exalting the gains of oppressions.

Embryonic stem cell research will provide gains to many people and institutions decades before any effective treatment is even possible. Research hospitals, universities, private researchers, bio tech companies, communities, and community leaders all stand to gain from the distribution of billions of state and federal dollars allocated for research based on the destruction of human life. God calls this unrighteous.

Some of this allocation is the responsibility of citizens?we empower it and support it by the people we elect. A heavier guilt rests on the shoulders of presidents and governors and research directors and deans who lobby for and order and enable the gains of oppression. On the individual level, we absolutely have a responsibility to manage our health according to what we know to be right and wrong.

In Texas, our Senate Finance Committee has placed language in the proposed budget forbidding state funding of any research that destroys human embryos. Senate Democrats have vowed to fight the language, even if they must defeat the budget to do so. Interesting that the headline I saw about the debate referred to the pro-life language potentially “derailing” the budget process. It sounds to me like the Democrats are threatening to do so.

Without a doubt, we will have multiplied opportunities to consider questions of moral stewardship in the future. The difference between a bribe and the proceeds of oppression is not significant morally?both silence our convictions because of our participation in evil. We must be attentive to the sources of our income, profit, winnings, entertainment, and so on. The more we have, the more attention stewardship requires.

As with most things, this can be taken to an absurd level. The intertwining of corporations makes difficult an effort to have no indirect contact with immoral causes. I eat at restaurants and shop at stores that also sell alcohol and lottery tickets, for example. One could make a case that I benefit from the presence of a business that depends on the sale of destructive products. This would be a strained case but some will doubtless make it. I guess if a young brother says, “Let’s eat at Chili’s, they serve beer,” I might suggest something else for his sake. I Corinthians 10:23-31 speaks a word of sanity for all ages.

I think this is quibbling, an effort to weaken the point by making an absurd application. We live in the world and know the difference between consumer approval of evil and consumer innocence. I’m asking that we set an example of righteousness in a culture that worships anything that works, especially when we have an opportunity to gain from injustice. I agree with our critics that pro-lifers that benefit, or are willing to benefit, from anti-life research undermine important points of a crucial argument in our nation.

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