A Gift from God

A 1916 movie called The Black Stork featured a doctor who refused treatment to infants deemed "defective." The man who starred in the film was Dr. Harry Haiselden. In his real-life practice, Haiselden left infants to die—or even hastened their deaths. He was an outspoken advocate of eugenics—weeding out "defectives" and upgrading our genetic stock. We forget how fashionable eugenics was among progressives in the first half of this century. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, called unabashedly for the elimination of "human weeds"—morons, misfits, and the maladjusted—and urged the sterilization of "genetically inferior races." Well, Hitler’s death camps revealed where eugenics inevitably leads. Yet today, thanks to advanced technology and legal abortion, eugenics is quietly entering the mainstream. For example, when testing reveals a Down’s syndrome baby, doctors and insurance companies often pressure parents to abort, warning that the first year of life will cost $100,000. Not surprisingly, 9 out of 10 parents give in. Ironically, eugenics is returning just as medicine is making it possible for most Down’s syndrome children to lead fairly normal lives. There’s even a waiting list of couples wanting to adopt these children. What do these couples know that doctors don’t? They know children like my grandson Max. Max is an energetic six-year-old with blue eyes and blond hair that tosses about as he bounces in my office chair, shouting, "Grandpa’s chair!" I love to take him to McDonald’s and watch him clamber on the slides. From his flushed cheeks and quick smile, I can easily see he’s having the best time of all the kids there. There’s another way that Max stands out: He is autistic and exhibits characteristic symptoms—attention difficulties, distant stares, delayed learning to walk and talk. But he has taught our family that these children, too, are a gift from God. Max has an extraordinary capacity for love. When he was two, Patty and I took him to deliver Angel Tree® gifts. On the way we discussed our desire to demonstrate God’s love to the two little girls whose daddy was in prison. Max sat sucking his thumb, with his detached stare. But when we arrived, Max ran and embraced the two startled girls. We were stunned. Max usually shied away from strangers. But he had understood our discussion and was determined to show those girls God’s love. On Max’s sixth birthday, my daughter Emily wrote me a letter. "I imagine," she wrote, "that when God created Max, He took him straight from His heart, cupped him in His hands, and set him down on this earth." But, Emily added, "God knew that Max would need extra help. So God keeps His hands cupped around him. How," Emily asked, "could a child who is held by God be anything but a gift?" Max reminds us that God does not define us by our shortcomings. If He did, where would any of us be? Some of us are handicapped genetically, others by injury, or crippling emotional pain. Kids like Max remind us that we all experience the Fall in some way, and we all need God’s redeeming grace. I’ve always found the moral arguments for the sanctity of life compelling. But more compelling by far is the smile on a little boy’s face, as he jumps up and down squealing "Grandpa’s chair!" To those who want to play the Black Stork, I say: Get to know a child like Max.


Chuck Colson


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