Warning: this blog post contains some possibly inflammatory opinions. Feel free to tell me off in the comments, but I reserve the right to delete ones that don’t add to the discussion. (Also, I wrote this and ummed and ahed about posting it, then read Annie Porthouse’s post and thought, ‘Yeah, post it’. Thanks for giving me the courage, Annie.)
The Westminster Declaration is up and running, campaigning on those ever so vital issues that Christians get het up about: stem cell research, not letting gay people marry, and being able to wear a crucifix to work in defiance of the dress code. 'Cos that's what Christianity is about.
[A tangent: Ever wondered why Christians claim they are being marginalised? Well, maybe if we stopped concentrating on the issues that even the Bible seems to regard as marginal (based on the coverage they’re given in Scripture), we wouldn’t be so marginalised, would we? Personally I don’t feel marginalised, or particularly persecuted or oppressed. But then I don’t have a ‘pity me’ victim mentality.]
At the risk of seriously offending people who read this blog and have probably signed up to the Westminster Declaration, I’m going to go on record and say: I’m not signing it.
I have good reasons.
I could shred the moralising inanity of reducing Christian campaigning to a few marginal issues that most people really don’t care about. But why exert myself, when there are statements in the Declaration like this:
“We believe that being made in the image of God, all human life has intrinsic and equal dignity and worth and that it is the duty of the state to protect the vulnerable. … We pledge to work to protect the life of every human being from conception to its natural end and we refuse to comply with any directive that compels us to participate in or facilitate abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that involves intentionally taking innocent human life.”
Oh, okay then. So what this boils down to is that we don’t like abortion or stem cell research and we will prolong the suffering of people who are only being kept alive by costly medical techniques regardless of their wishes.
But did you spot what they missed out?
The clue is “embryo-destructive research”. Sounds nasty, doesn’t it. But, then what about embryo-destructive medicine like, er, IVF treatments to help couples have children?
You mean you didn’t know unused embryos were a by-product of the IVF process?
This is taken from a Catholic website, which admittedly will have an agenda in trashing IVF, but it makes the point.
“People need to understand that a major byproduct of IVF is the destruction of millions of lives. In London alone, over one million souls were created and then wasted. … This is a genocide of unbelievable proportions, just for one country. 1.7 million lives created and trashed, over 1 million of those were never even given the chance for life.” (Original post)
Note how if you believe that an embryo is a full and authentic human being, then killing an embryo is the equivalent of murder. This is the position taken by the Westminster Declaration. And this is where things get complicated. Because life is complicated.
Personally I’m not opposed to IVF treatment (please understand that). But my point is that if you are opposed to stem cell research because it is “embryo-destructive research” then you ought to also be opposed to IVF because otherwise you are condoning a process that results in the destruction of many more embryos than stem cell experiments ever have or ever will.
So, why isn’t IVF mentioned in the Westminster Declaration? This is where some people seem to be being a little bit ever so disingenuous.
It may be pure politics. It’s one thing to argue against stem cell research and talk about the wilful destruction of embryos, but it’s another thing to stand up in a pulpit and condemn IVF.
The main difference seem to be that it’s bloody unlikely that there is anyone sitting in that church who is planning to go home, go out to the shed and engage in a bit of stem cell research.
But there will be people sitting in that church, whose kids are out at the children’s group right now, who only have those precious children because of IVF treatment.
And these organisations that campaign against “destructive embryo research” don’t mention IVF. Why? Well, maybe it’s because they know that the majority of their supporters, activists and donors will at the very least have a family member or close friend, in all likelihood in their church, who have personally benefited from IVF.
Or, maybe they haven’t put 2 and 2 together yet. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they’re exhibiting a spectacular lack of logic rather than being deliberately duplicitous. Perhaps omitting IVF from the list was an oversight.
But it still looks like hypocrisy.