I Know, Science and Religion…

Cloning has been a much debated subject for most of my conscious life. I am proud to live in a time where these discoveries are being made, and I have the chance to be on the forefront of research within this field given the opportunity. But our country is much divided on the ‘rightness’ of the issue: Is cloning a miraculous discovery of science, or an attempt at playing God? The article “Cloning Trevor” by Kyla Dunn in Taking Sides gives some thoughts on the subject that I found interesting and disheartening at the same time. Therapeutic cloning has the potential to save so many lives, yet the Congress of the first Bush Admin and Bush Admin itself had the gall to pass laws saying that these lives weren’t worth the using the cells of embryos needed for research. An entire branch of research has been practically halted based on religious assumptions, and my reaction to this was anger, the honorable kind.

I have many complaints about the government for the past eight years. I can honestly say there were very few times I was proud to call myself an American until this past November. I have traveled abroad and have been ashamed to admit rumors were true like the laxness of financial regulation, the actions that take place at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, and the government inaction during Hurricane Katrina. These are only a few of the things that have disappointed me, but the amount of meddling in scientific research has put me on edge for a while now.

I am a biology major, and plan on working in the medical field either in patient care or research. This has been a passion of mine since I was very young, and it continues to grow the more I understand about the human body and about the condition of our nation’s health care system. I have read and been taught on the importance of keeping medical research in America on the forefront, that it is one of our advantages as a major world player. But for the past few years I feel like this sector has been severely neglected, as have others. Reading this article fanned the flames a bit on something I had been feeling for sometime, and in a way I felt it put my own reactions into words I couldn’t find before.

I grew up non-denominational Christian. I’ve had a passion for God and his creation for as long as I can remember. I believe, as a Christian, I am here to help bring healing and well-being to the world and I feel I can do that through medicine on one level, and through my treatment of people on another. Knowing this about my faith, I find it ridiculous for religious groups to say that cloning of any kind is ‘playing God.’ If by helping save lives we are ‘playing God’ then I will gladly play God for the rest of my career. Therapeutic cloning has potential to heal that we haven’t even imagined yet, and with lack of support and funding, we may never imagine in this country. I think the people that believe this wonderful technology is something against the Christian religion haven’t researched it to know otherwise. They don’t know the facts, or know too little of the process to see what good it could do. I have a major problem with the type of people that attend church and call themselves social conservatives for the purpose of being Pro-Life, or anti-stem cell research, without out reading up on what they are actually against first.

Therapeutic cloning could reduce or even undo damage caused by heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, Alzheimer’s, spinal injuries, and multiple other diseases and conditions that cause irreversible tissue damage. The possibilities are endless, though the risks are great. Anyone knowing the potential reactions the implanted stem cells have on the host body knows that this procedure and theory is far from perfect, but only with more research can it be improved. Stem cells are not taken from a fetus that has specialized cells already. They are taken from an embryo in its early stages, before its true fetal development has been determined (more fully explained in article). These are also things done in a Petri dish, not a human. Since when do we conceive children in Petri dishes? I don’t think anyone would agree that the future of the human race should depend on this process. It’s too sci-fi. Too frightening to thing of having a brother than was born in a lab. The best place to have a child develop is in a womb, in a mother, in a loving, caring situation. No one is trying to create human life here. The scientists that have devoted their lives to this research have been trying to enhance the human life that is already present and hopeless in hospitals and homes across the nation. And to cheapen that intention and call it ‘playing God’ angers me to a great extent.

I think a quote from a distressed mother sums up my thoughts for this subject very well: “How dare they tell me that I cannot save my son’s life?…’Let your child die, because my religious belief is more important than your child’s life.’…[they] have no right to stop me from saving my son’s life (Taking Sides 67).” We are concerned about human rights in America, supposedly. I think to say an embryo in a Petri dish has more rights to be protected than the people who are alive now and suffering from incurable conditions is completely outrageous. We need a reality check in this country. Social conservatives are afraid of something like cloning coming to be a commonplace reality here and they have it in their minds that this is something evil that has to be stopped. They have lost sight of the ultimate human right, which is the right to live and choose what they please. I agree with this mother. Choose what you want for your own embryos and children, but let everyone else choose to do what is right for their families and themselves. Let them choose a less risky option if they want, but at least let them make the choice on their own. For all the hope that’s been lost in the past eight years, we owe them that.

I think these religious interests groups and churches have forgotten what Jesus did when he came here: he healed the sick. If the only representation of God in the flesh we have is Jesus shouldn’t we be following that example? There is so much negative thinking in the realm of science by religious activists. People that think they can’t possibly coincide. If God truly created the world, science is the tool to discover how he did it, and what laws and patterns he set in place at the beginning so that millions of years later human life would surface and have the consciousness and ability to think about things before we start pointing fingers and making laws and accusing people of trying to play God. Stem-cell research is the beginning of something very big. Are we going to let our closed-mindedness stopper the success it could mean for the field of medicine? Or are we going to accept progress, and see where it takes us, what it lets us learn about God’s world? As believers, we forget that even our own faith was called wrong and people were killed for it… Sure, we don’t kill people for it anymore, but killing hopes and dreams may be even worse. Instead of persecution, they call it politics.

Lucky for us there is a new administration and Congress. I have high hopes, but there is a lot going on with the economy and foreign affairs that it may be a while before medical research gets a chance to shine again. Hopefully it begins to get the attention and praise it deserves soon, or I should start looking into a new career path.

-JS

Isaiah Says “Light the Highway”?

So I was listening to NPR the other day and I heard a news story on this organization called Light the Highway. Have you seen this insanity anywhere on the news? This is the first I’d heard of it. Apparently it has become quite a popular movement in conservative Christian circles in towns all up and down the I-35. Various churches form prayer groups and they pray generally and anonymously for the communities up and down the highway. They also go to certain black communities and homosexual districts and sing praise songs on street corners.

Ok, I don’t want to sound like I’m judging these people (but I really am) because I consider myself Christian as well, and to be honest if I hadn’t been awakened to the reality of life and society and the purpose of Christianity in the world I would probably be part of these prayer or praise groups warding off the “impurities” that pose threats to the godliness of the highway… or other such Christian jargon. Anyway, I was driving and listening to this story on the radio completely flabbergasted because it sounded so ridiculous. Who has time to do this kind of stuff? My first impression of this organization was “Are you kidding me??”. It’s actually quite sad that people think that things like that are acceptable. Who really thinks that they are going to somehow touch someone’s life by praying for unknown communities in states hundreds of miles away? I’m sorry Light the Highway but you do not make an impact that way. I don’t care how much news coverage or attention you are receiving now, people are not being personally brought into this. At least not the people you are hoping to impact. The way you make a difference is by developing relationships with people. You go out into society and engage yourself in service or simply just spending time and talking with the very people you are trying to “save”. You don’t see them on the street and start yelling worship songs at them. That scares people way. That makes people think you are freaks and makes them not want to have anything to do with Christianity. It also gives Christianity a bad name. It says that Christians want to make change in the world but aren’t willing to get personal and get their hands dirty. They don’t want to reek of shit and sweat and hard work because that would mean they had to go outside their secure bubble of Bible verses and I heart Jesus t-shirts and substitute curse words like “fiddlesticks” and “firetrucks”.

A word to these… zealous ones-

Look at the life of Jesus when you are determining what a Christian should be doing. He hung out with the social scum all day, ever day. He ate with them, bathed with them, laughed with them, cried with them, taught them, learned from them. He wasn’t standing on street corners singing like a freak or proclaiming damnation to the sinful. God was incarnated into human flesh and that is what he decided to do with His short time here. So, isn’t there a message in that? I think His actions are stronger than anything written by Paul or Moses or any of the prophets. If any part of the New Testament should be taken seriously it’s the gospels and their portrayal of the life of Jesus.

But who am I to have this strong of an opinion? Just a student of Christian theology for more than 15 years. I’ve been a part of conservative Christianity for most of my life and I’m just now intelligent enough to see that life should be more than sitting in church every Sunday and engaging in shallow once a week relationships and pretending I’m super spiritual by crying during worship songs and talking about my “walk with God” as topic number one. Living life should be about growth, whether that growth is for the purpose of serving God or serving yourself. And the only way you grow is if you go outside of what you are comfortable with and you learn to adapt to hard situations. So here is my advice to Light the Highway: instead of staying inside your nice warm, safe churches and praying why don’t you go out and live on the street for a week to see how hard life really is when you are one of those “unfortunates”. And then go sing your songs on the same corners. Let’s see you do that.

The truth is that there are always going to be groups like this that make Christians look like weirdos. It makes me sad. I know I’m not a weirdo. I know I’m a perfectly normal individual with deep views on life and with intimate relationships with my friends and family. I know my friends and family are pretty normal too. So if it is possible to function well in society even if you had a hard childhood or had your id or superego messed up why can’t more people do it? I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with any answer to the question.

More later on this one I’m sure.