BBC Disability Ministry
We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.
We joyfully live with a hard and glorious truth: God purposes disability in his creation for his glory and for our good.
In my blog on Sunday I asked several questions of the President following his speech to the graduates of Notre Dame. I doubt that I will ever know the answer to any of them, but I pray for the President and maybe someday God will be pleased to change his heart or at least guide him to present what he really believes more openly.
In the meantime, I am concerned at how he talks about issues, as if our greatest aspiration should be to talk about issues rather than honestly engage the differences between them. Important issues like abortion and embryonic (not adult) stem cell research.
I am even more concerned that he creates a false dilemma in his speeches rather than addressing the core problem. His policy decisions are anything but nuanced or seeking a middle ground, but he seems to want us to believe he has found common ground.
For example, from his speech on Sunday:
"And yet, one of the vexing things for those of us interested in promoting greater understanding and cooperation among people is the discovery that even bringing together persons of good will, bringing together men and women of principle and purpose -- even accomplishing that can be difficult. . .
. . . Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in an admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved."
We should not be drawn into such a spurious argument as not wanting to relieve the suffering of a child with a disease like diabetes. Of course we want that - the difference is that it should not come at the expense of another person's life. (And, by the way, we are against embryonic stem cell research - nobody is against stem cell research that does not involve the destruction of a human being. Another example of not dealing with the issue fairly on the President's part). This does not make it "an admirable conviction." It makes it a core principle of protecting the weakest among us from those who are more powerful and would do them harm.
Or, more graphically, my son's autism, blindness and mental retardation will not allow him to be an economically productive member of society. Does that mean we should harvest his kidneys, liver, heart and lungs for other, more worthy children?
If that thought turns your stomach, you must answer the core question of why - is it simply because his mother allowed him to be born, thus securing his rights to his own organs? Or is it something more fundamental.
The greatest guide and comfort comes from knowing that God is sovereign over all his creation:
God intimately knows how us and how he will create us: For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. . . Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13, 16
God creates some to live with a disability (or a disease like juvenile diabetes): Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Exodus 4:11
God creates freely, for his good purposes: As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." John 9:1-3
Jesus Christ knows what suffering looks like, and paid every debt of the elect on the cross. That was not nuanced; if sin was not addressed, we are all lost. Do I feel badly about my sin? Yes. Should I feel badly about my sin? Absolutely. Is there a middle ground to talk about it? No. God gets to decide. There is only life with Jesus or eternal death.
The President did speak candidly about disagreement in his speech:
"Because no matter how much we may want to fudge it -- indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory -- the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable. Each side will continue to make its case to the public with passion and conviction. But surely we can do so without reducing those with differing views to caricature."
I am commanded by God to respect those in authority, and with God's help I will respect President Obama, knowing that he serves as president because God wants him there. But we should not be silenced about calling abortion what it is; that is not caricature.
He wrote, "I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words." Fair-minded words.
After I read the doctor's letter, I wrote back to him and I thanked him. And I didn't change my underlying position (emphasis mine), but I did tell my staff to change the words on my website. And I said a prayer that night that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me. Because when we do that -- when we open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe -- that's when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.
That's when we begin to say, "Maybe we won't agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.
So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let's reduce unintended pregnancies. (Applause.) Let's make adoption more available. (Applause.) Let's provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. (Applause.) Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women." Those are things we can do. (Applause.)
So, is that the point, Mr. President - we get to talk, but the underlying positions get to remain the same? The only thing that actually changes is we think a little more charitably about each other?
Please, sir, tell me how that is supposed to make a difference?
I have a few more questions, Mr. President:
When do we get to talk about how the behavior of men on virtually every measurable level has gotten worse since abortion was made legal across the United States? Men are more likely to leave women today, more likely to be abusive, less likely to care for the children they father, and less likely to consider the consequences of their sexual behavior. Up to 75% of marriages that have a disabled child end in divorce, and most of the time it is the man who walks away from his family. When do we get to talk about men being encouraged to act like men rather than petulant, irresponsible, selfish little boys?
When do we get to talk about the cultural expectation that a mother is expected to abort her baby with an identified disability in the womb? Doctors, nurses, social workers assume a diagnosis of downs syndrome or spina bifida means a woman should terminate the pregnancy. What do you call a 90% abortion rate, Mr. President? If it were babies of any ethnicity, you would rightly call it genocide. What do you believe about families in this situation, Mr. President?
Finally, Mr. President, you said yourself that "the strong too often dominate the weak." Please explain to me, Mr. President, who is more weak and thus more worthy of your protection as the leader of the free world than a baby in his or her mother's womb?
But, of course, I'm just part of that opposition not really worthy of your attention or of 'Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words.' How did you put it?
"You'll hear talking heads scream on cable, and you'll read blogs that claim definitive knowledge, and you will watch politicians pretend they know what they're talking about."