A story went viral a while back across news outlets and social media that highlights the divide in American culture about human dignity and pro-life issues. KC Ahlers, the father of a 4 month old son, RJ, posted signs around a Toledo, Ohio, mall to raise awareness about a fundraiser for his son's ongoing medical care. Beside Ahlers' signs, the father found other signs posted that said, "Stop asking for money. Let the baby die. It's called Darwinism. Happy Holidays."
Ahlers' son was born with two rare congenital disabilities. The 4 month old has a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum or AgCC, which means the center of his brain is underdeveloped. The second condition is trisomy 9, an incredibly rare genetic chromosome disease. Only 1,200 people in the world have this condition, mainly because most die either before birth or when they are 2 years old. The family raised money for expensive genetic testing and set up a GoFundMe page to help cover the ongoing medical bills.
This episode offers an opportunity to reflect on a few broad principles that Christians should remember as they face opposition to their pro-life public theology.
First, every human being bears the imago Dei and has inherent dignity and value.
Genesis is clear that each person, regardless of the particularities of their birth, is created in the image of God.
Then God said, "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. " (Gen 1:26-27).
Though the signs the Ahlers encountered did not directly advocate euthanasia, the Darwinistic moral theory underlying the sign leads to it. Political and cultural movements have existed that deemed some lives unfit for living and advocated for euthanasia, most notably in Germany. The notion of a "life unworthy of living" (lebensunwertes Leben) developed in German academic circles from biology, economics, medical, and legal thought between 1890 to 1933. National Socialists then took power in Germany, which lead to totalitarianism and genocide. Those with severe intellectual disabilities, the terminally ill, weak, infirmed, incompetent, criminals, and others were subject to involuntary euthanasia (or in some cases forced sterilization), inevitability leading to the Holocaust.
Euthanizing those specific classes of people was considered the “compassionate” thing to do, which J. Daryl Charles says is the linguistic prostitution of the term "compassion" to justify social and moral evil. The concept of a "life unworthy of living" coupled with the linguistic redefinition of compassion and mercy as meaning “the right and, perhaps, the duty to kill the terminally ill” has led to pushes for the legalization of euthanasia. Euthanasia is possibly the life issue of the 21st century as more Western, secularizing societies push to normalize it. And it’s the responsibility of Christians to speak out against it.
The presence of the sick, those with disabilities, and the terminally ill among us calls for Christians and the Church to work and advocate for the formation of a culture of life—a culture that cares for those image-bearers among us whose lives are worthy of living.
Second, a culture of life cares for the least of these among us.
To be pro-life not only entails caring about the preservation of life in the womb but defending and caring for every life outside of the womb (Matt. 25:40; Mark 10:13-16). Living in a world still groaning for glorious redemption means caring for those among us that require an unquantifiable amount of time, energy, and resources from parents, extended family, churches, and society (Rom. 8:19-23). The presence of the sick, those with disabilities, and the terminally ill among us calls for Christians and the Church to work and advocate for the formation of a culture of life—a culture that cares for those image-bearers among us whose lives are worthy of living.
Third, sacrificial love will progressively appear foolish in a culture of death.
The spirit of the age is one of expressive individualism, an ideology that rejects any limitation of the self by responsibilities that were not chosen by the self. The lives of followers of Jesus have an identity that is given to them "in Christ" and a calling that identity demands. Jesus told his followers that if they would come after him, they were to take up their crosses daily and follow him (Luke 9:29). The way of following Jesus is the way of a cruciform life. This form of life means that Christians regularly embrace things that require the laying down of our lives for the sake of others. We should embrace hard situations in order to love those around us because we are convinced it's the way of our Master.
As Christians, let’s work toward a day when “let the baby die” is an unheard of sentiment and the value of all lives is recognized in our country’s legislation and milieu. And let’s live in such a way that we demonstrate what we believe by caring for the most vulnerable among us.