‘A Short, Philosophical Hop, Skip, and Jump’

Not long ago, I listened to perhaps the most powerful and eloquent speech I have ever heard. It was delivered by Joni Eareckson Tada at a Prison Fellowship banquet. Many of you, of course, know Joni's story: As a teenager, she dove into shallow water and broke her neck. For thirty-five years, she has lived in a wheelchair, a quadriplegic. It was this fact that gave her speech such power. You see, the subject of her speech was embryonic stem cell research, which has been dangled out as a "miracle cure" for dozens of different medical conditions -- including spinal cord injuries. Indeed, one the most aggressive proponents of this research is another quadriplegic: actor Christopher Reeve. Both Reeve and Joni know what happens during embryonic stem cell research: The embryo -- a tiny human being -- is killed as stem cells are plundered for use by the already born. Reeve is willing to overlook this inconvenient fact; Joni is not. Unlike Reeve, she understands where such research will lead. Consider what Joni said: "The weak, the frail, quadriplegics, the infirm, the handicapped, the elderly have never fared well in cultures which view life as a commodity." Look what happened just more than fifty years ago in Germany, she said, when doctors first cast a cold eye on people whose lives they considered not worth living. "The first to be carted off down the long, dark, midnight hallways of institutions were the defective, or the handicapped, or the mentally disabled." Specifically, they were "disabled people," Joni said, "who had no visitors, no friends, no one to speak up for them." "And now we have the philosophers of this age," she said, "people like Peter Singer insisting that folks like those with mental handicaps have no rights." And she added: Our dream of solving all medical problems is turning into a nightmare. "Our society doesn't seem to have a place for those who suffer. We want to avoid [suffering,] ignore it, eradicate it, medicate it. We have such contempt for suffering, and it's only a short philosophical hop, skip, and jump to where you begin to have contempt for suffering people. People who strain Medicare, people who drain the grandkids' college funds, people who contribute nothing more than bills to society." But, as Joni pointed out, it is not just the disabled who are at risk. "The lives of all of us are jeopardized when life can be bought and sold, copied and replicated, altered and aborted and euthanized," she warned. We are all vulnerable "in a society that thinks nothing of creating a class of human beings for the purpose of lethal experimentation and exploitation." Those are powerful words, given with such conviction. Of course, we all want cures for disease and disability, as Joni said, but not at the price of human dignity. She knows, as Reeve does not, what a bad bargain it is. The promise of a cure is seductive, but it becomes a death warrant. I'd like nothing better than for you to listen to this incredible speech. Then give it to your neighbors. Call us at BreakPoint (1-800-995-8777), and we'll tell you how to get a copy. Unlike Christopher Reeve, Joni knows that there are worse things in life than being handicapped. There is the destruction of human dignity through cloning. And there is the creation of a cultural climate where first the weak, the small, the sick, and the suffering, and then all of us are carted down the "long, dark, midnight hallways." Take action: Urge your congressman to support H.R. 534, THE HUMAN CLONING PROHIBITION ACT OF 2003. And urge your two senators to cosponsor the Brownback-Landrieu human cloning ban (S. 245). The Capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. Or for mailing and e-mail addresses, visit For further information: "Bioethics and the Christian" -- In this "BreakPoint This Week" special with Wilberforce Forum Dean Nigel Cameron, Joni Eareckson Tada shares her thoughts on the "biotech century" and how Christians should respond. A CD of this conversation is also available. The "BreakPoint Christian Response to Cloning Kit" includes useful resources for Christians (laity and church leaders): to understand why they should stand up for human dignity and the sanctity of human life (an audio cassette of Joni Eareckson Tada's speech delivered at the Prison Fellowship banquet); to speak to their fellow believers about the issue; to speak to unbelievers about the dangers of human cloning; and to take the first step toward opposing all human cloning. Learn about Joni Eareckson Tada's ministry, Joni and Friends. Senator Sam Brownback, "A True, Complete Ban," National Review Online, 26 February 2003. Roberto Rivera, "Attack of the (Real Life) Clones," Boundless, 29 August 2002. BreakPoint Commentary No. 030226, "'An Obvious Moral Absurdity': A Secular Case against Cloning." BreakPoint Commentary No. 030103, "Creating and Killing: Bioethics and the Future of Humanity." David Stevens, M.D., "Stem Cells -- Potential and Problems: Adult vs. Embryonic Stem Cells," Council for Biotechnology Policy, 27 September 2002.


Chuck Colson


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