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Assurance in Christ in a Pandemic With Eyes Ahead to Birth-rate Challenges - BreakPoint This Week
John and Maria breakdown some trends in the news during BreakPoint This Week. They discuss how our response to the pandemic can cause us to despair. They discuss the importance of keeping our eyes on Christ and building our hope around a Christian worldview. Maria turns from a segment of looking to Christ to a segment looking at the challenges in our thinking about childrearing. John highlights two recent podcasts where the hosts share concern in birthrates and how that is impacting our culture.
All of these topics follow a quick tour through BreakPoint commentaries from this week where Maria asks John for greater insight on what he's seeing going on in the culture.
// Resources //
Is Christian Cohabitation the New Norm?
- BreakPoint -
President Biden Called a Good Catholic
- The Point -
Biden Scraps the ‘Protect Life’ Rule: We Need Cultural Change, Not Political Games
- BreakPoint -
The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown>>
Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking?
- The Atlantic -
A Shrinking Society in Japan
A Population Slowdown in the U.S.
- The Daily Podcast -
Should We Edit Our Genes?
More and more, we're hearing about the promises of gene editing. It's a scientific technology that literally allows us to rewrite our DNA. Still in the experimental stage, with technologies like CRISPR, we've seen how the technology can be used wrongly. It can put humanity at risk. Many Christians are not aware of the biological challenges until it's too late.
In this week's What Would You Say? video, my colleague Brooke McIntire walks through how Christians can think about gene editing. Here's Brooke McIntire.
You’re in a conversation and someone says, “Gene editing can help us wipe out disease and will improve life for everyone.”
What would you say?
In recent years, talk of gene editing has become extremely popular. Gene editing technologies like CRISPR promise not only to eradicate disease and disability, but also to provide human enhancement and designer babies. But this powerful technology comes with a host of major ethical issues that need to be carefully considered and addressed.
You may wonder what ethics has to do with gene editing – after all, doesn’t eradicating disease and disability sound like a no brainer? It’s true that we can and have used technology to alleviate suffering in the world, and that is a good thing. But sometimes our well-intentioned actions can have devastating unforeseen consequences.
The next time someone says, “gene editing can help us wipe out disease and will improve life for everyone,” here are 3 things to remember:
Number 1: Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.
When we hear about the exciting advances in technology and genetics, it’s easy to believe the promise that it will make our lives better or healthier. But, as countless stories in science fiction have taught us, simply pursuing innovation for innovation’s sake can have dangerous consequences. That’s why it’s important to ask not only “can we” do something, but “should we” do something. As technology continues to advance, the question of “should we” will get more and more weighty.
For example, a group of researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London used CRISPR technology to edit 18 human embryos. But when they finished, they found that around half the embryos ended up with what they called “major unintended edits.” These “major unintended edits” are more harmful than they sound. They can actually lead to birth defects or life-threatening medical problems like cancer. And, those issues could permanently enter the gene pool and affect future generations.
Sometimes, our finite minds don’t always foresee the potential dangers or ramifications of these innovations on human life. This is why it’s dangerous to separate science from philosophy and ethics. These decisions shouldn’t just be left up to scientists or experts who may be preoccupied with scientific advancement without a larger, ethical perspective and boundaries.
Number 2: Treating human life as disposable doesn’t make our society more humane.
Humans aren’t simply problems to be fixed or objects to be experimented on. Those 18 “edited” embryos are actual human lives that have been permanently altered in the pursuit of innovation and science. Many embryos will simply be discarded or destroyed because their usefulness has expired. But defining the value of a human life by their utility is not advancing society in a desirable or worthy direction.
The sincere desire to eradicate genetic diseases is understandable, and the longing to heal reflects God’s image in us. Ethically sound and medically safe treatments that don’t dehumanize other human beings should be pursued.
But we must proceed with an ethical framework, and an awareness of the human temptation to “become like God” with our own ideas about what is good and evil. Which leads to our third point.
Number 3: Gene editin
The Supreme Court Doesn’t Get the Last Word
The idea of a politically neutral Supreme Court is one of our nation’s persistent and appealing myths. The Court’s job, at least according to our founding documents, is to interpret existing legislation and arbitrate disputes about that legislation. In practice, especially over the past several decades, the Court hasn’t always stayed in that lane.
In a crucial chapter in his important book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman shatters the notion of political neutrality within the Court, as well as the notion that the Court is impervious to cultural pressure. For example, in the landmark 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey, which struck down abortion restrictions, the court famously offered this incredibly consequential line: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The justices went on to say that for the Court to define those concepts (i.e. to define reality) would be for the Court to deny freedom itself.
Though this sort of thinking is largely taken for granted today, it would have been utterly unrecognizable to America’s founders, not to mention much of the world throughout all of human history. As Trueman points out in the book, this script was first espoused by Romantic-era philosophers like Jean Jacques-Rousseau. Rousseau suggested that true reality is found not in something bigger-than or outside-of ourselves, but merely in what we feel. This radical notion is, of course, entirely incompatible with the idea of a Creator who had a purposeful design for what He made.
Yet, when the Court issued their opinion in Planned Parenthood V. Casey, the idea of self-determining meaning, identity and reality itself had so deeply seeped into our collective imaginations that the supposedly neutral U.S. Supreme Court took it for granted. Even more, the Court appealed to the centrality of precedent in its reasoning. Roe V. Wade, after all, had already been decided, said the justices, as if to ignore other landmark cases in which precedent was rightly overturned.
In 1954, the Court overturned the awful “separate-but-equal” Plessy vs. Ferguson decision from 1896 that legalized racial segregation. Precedent should be respected, of course, but an appeal to precedent is not an argument. Wrong decisions that do not align with reality should be overturned.
On the other hand, Trueman points to the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Texas. This decision overturned precedent set in 1986. In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia specifically pointed to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, noting how the Court claimed precedent should be respected above reason.
Scalia’s concern is instructive for all of us today. The Court has a history of showing itself susceptible to cultural tastes. Justice transcends culture. It is not best served when based on the latest social fads.
This history, especially in light of the major and more contemporary shifts in cultural tastes about selfhood and sexuality, reveal how vulnerable the Court is to cultural fashions. The 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which effectively struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which imposed same-sex “marriage” on the nation, were clearly driven more by cultural winds than some “long arch of the universe that bends toward justice.”
The only real way forward is by finding an anchor for meaning, justice, purpose and dignity. In just a few weeks, at the Wilberforce Weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, we will spend a weekend looking at the only notion that’s ever been big enough to ground any of these eternal concepts: the Image of God. This audacious idea is both crucial within a Christian worldview
If Marriage is Designed for Pro-creation Should Christians Unable to Have Children Marry?
John and Shane field a question on adoption. A listener wrote in to ask if adoption to a homosexual couple is better than a child being parentless.
They then work through a question on if a Christian should marry if the marriage looks to be childless.
John and Shane close the question and answer time looking at immigration. A listener asks for a worldview perspective on a topic that has become strongly politicized.
Evangelicals & Casual Sex
Biden Scraps the ‘Protect Life’ Rule: We Need Cultural Change, Not Political Games
The term “political football” is a perfect descriptive for how the executive branch of the federal government handles abortion. There are two “teams,” pro-life and pro-choice, who toss the issue back and forth from administration to administration. Neither decisively win, at least in the long run. While state level legislation and federal court decisions have moved the ball in real ways, executive orders and legislative rules are barely temporary, depending entirely on who is in the White House.
After President Biden’s first 100 days in office, it is clear that the football is in the hands of the pro-abortion team. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule that would restore a major source of federal funding for abortion clinics. This rule would undo the Trump administration’s “Protect Life” rule, which withheld money designated for low-income family planning from any clinics that “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion…” The “Protect Life” rule also required clinics to keep their abortion and non-abortion services physically and financially separate.
The rule made a difference. Planned Parenthood, which drew an estimated $60 million in annual federal funding just from Title X, dropped out of the program rather than attempt to meet the new requirements. Now, under the Biden Administration, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are back on the federal dole.
Bizarrely, the Biden Administration claims that its new rule will not lead to federally funded abortions. When Owen Jensen, a Catholic reporter from Catholic network EWTN asked why the President would “insist that pro-life Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied, “that’s not an accurate depiction of what happened.” She then quoted from the Public Health Service Act, which stipulates that no Title X funds “shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”
That isn’t a real answer, of course, as Jensen pointed out. Money is easily moved around. In a fiscal shell game, Planned Parenthood can simply divert funding they don’t have to spend on non-abortion services back to abortion,.
Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Joseph Naumann agreed: “In spite of explicit prohibitions in federal law and clear congressional intent that abortion may not be a part of this program, it has repeatedly been coopted by abortion supporters as a funding stream for organizations, programs, and facilities that directly promote and provide abortions.”
What might we learn from all of this?
First, though elections do have consequences, at least when it comes to who is President, they’re short-lived. This means that putting the right person in the White House matters, but is not the highest or best goal of pro-lifers. For example, President Trump’s most significant contribution to the pro-life “team” are not his executive orders, but a thoroughly remade judiciary. At the same time, many more millions of tax dollars are given to Planned Parenthood by Congress. The most effective legislation to limit abortion and fund alternative care has been at the state level. Those elections matter too.
Second, the battle for unborn lives will be won or lost in the larger culture. It is encouraging that though Americans are very much divided on abortion itself, they strongly oppose government footing the bill. A Marist Poll earlier this year found that almost three-fifths of Americans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion.
In other words, a lot of folks who want abortion to remain legal don’t want to coerce their neighbors into paying for them. That’s at least a start. The finish line, however, is when abortion is as unthinkable as other grave e
Highlight of my week
Thank you, John and Maria, for your weekly podcast episode together! So appreciate your wisdom, insight, and Biblical truths through which you view the current issues and events in our country. I look forward to your show every week!
A needed respite
I can listen to this podcast all day. Biblically grounded, topical , educational, and makes me consider my current beliefs vs and how they line up with what is true.
Could you put your recommendations in the show notes?
Call a spade, a spade already
I respect John Stonestreet and at the same time, find him incredibly frustrating at times. For instance, he recently said that the terrorists attacking us on 9/11 is “probably” worse than the attack on the capital January 6. Really?!!!
I often feel like John doesn’t come right out and just say the cold hard truth at times… He feels like maybe he hast to sugarcoat things a bit?
And what’s with this girl Maria?! I’m still unclear as to what her role is based on how they interact together. It seems very odd to me and I find myself cringing whenever they disagree on things on the air. I don’t know how old Maria is but I ask myself… Why do they have a girl in there that sounds like she is 20 years his junior combating his views? I’m confused. Could they not find another peer for him, someone more his age?