Thursday, March 12, 2009

Science, stem cells, and suicide: what would Jesus do?

Today, I'm in Austin, with Planned Parenthood, asking my legislators to put science back in sex ed classrooms. Or, rather, to put the "ed" back in "sex ed."* So we can put an end to this.

Earlier this week, we got the good news that President Obama** lifted the ban on stem-cell research, his first step toward putting science back in science. To read the details, go here: Blog for Choice - Community, Connection, Change

Of course, this made the anti-choice side angry, because stem cells come from embryos. Now, I've already told you when life does and does not begin, so you know that, to me, an embryo does not mean "a life," unless the mother deems it so (and these are not the embryos whose stem cells are being used, are they?)

Stem-cell research can save lives. Extra-uterine, unequivocal lives -- those both sides of the reproductive rights debate all agree are people. These lives are connected to many other lives, who are also affected by what happens to that life with cancer, or heart disease, or Alzheimer's. Can the in-vitro embryos say the same? Yes, they are meaningful potential lives to the parents seeking the fertility treatments, but if that couple has already had one, or two, or three (or more) successful IVF pregnancies and they are not looking to have any more children, whose lives are going to be affected if those extra embryos never become babies, and instead are used for scientific research, to help save lives?

An interesting thought hit me the other day, when mulling all this over.

God is not against death (He's against murder, but not death). After all, He sent His son to Earth -- to die so others could live.

When you think about it, you could even say Jesus commited suicide (but He did it for a really good reason).

Jesus knew He was going to be crucified. He knew how and when it was going to happen, and therefore He knew how He could get out of it, if He had wanted to. The disciples told Him to get out of it. But He didn't -- He walked into His own death.

But He did it to save all of us. He sacrificed Himself, for us. For all of our lives.

So why are His followers so angry about a potential life doing the same thing Jesus did? God sacrificed His son for the good of the many; why can't we do the same?

What would Jesus do? Probably allow His stem cells to be used for life-saving research.

*As a friend of mine pointed out, the students are already "sexed." We need to get them educated about sex (and contraceptives).

**I'm sorry, but I just really like saying that. It makes me happy.


  1. The sex ed bit reminded me, I read a blurb in a gossip mag about that couple from the UK, you know the 13yr old dad that looks 8? Well, turns out a bunch of other dudes are now stepping up claiming that they also slept with the mom at about the same time and so THEY might actually be the fathers. It just keeps getting better.

    As for the stem cells and science bit, I am SO SO GLAD to see Obama stepping in and reversing the damage Bush caused and getting SCIENCE back as the reason and justification for doing things rather than one specific group's ideology. I can't believe Bush at one point said that stem cell research was bad b/c it gave "false hope" to the people it might help. I don't get the reasoning to let embryos sit frozen indefinitely rather than being used to help save others' lives.

  2. Anonymous8:32 AM

    You know, I've always thought the same thing about the Jesus and suicide thing. Christians, Catholics especially, regard it as the only sin you can really never be forgiven for (you know, assuming you "succeed") when the guy giving them penance for those very same sins pretty much offed himself to being with.

    Another very thought-provoking article. Wonderful.

  3. Paperclippe: unfortunately, there is a lot of hypocrisy and lack of logic in the Church, especially the Catholic Church (I have a lot of issues with them). Now, I do agree with them than suicide is "bad"; life is a gift and most suicides are people being whiny and giving up.

    Euthanasia, though, I strongly support. If you are suffering from a terminal illness, and are suffering -- and so is your family --, why would God want you to suffer for the next X months? We don't think twice about putting our pets "to sleep" when the vet says there is nothing that can be done for the animal. Why do we offer more compassion to animals than to humans?

    Jesus "offed himself" to save others. Stem cells save others. If you believe that embryo is a "life" (even though nobody has plans to put that embryo into a uterus to potentially make it a life), then this is a "sacrifice" for the good of the many, just like Jesus's.

    But, again, the Catholic Church (or the religious right) and logic have never really gotten along.

  4. Anonymous1:56 AM

    "Criss: Why would God want you to suffer for the next X months?"

    It seems cruel and unusual but I for one do not know God's plan. Things here on Earth may seem terrible, like the suffering of a loved one, but ultimately we have no idea what the purpose is in the eyes of God. Yes, there is evil in this world but suffering is not evil. God has a plan for each and every one of us and while we are given free will, God, being omniscient, knows where we are going to end up.

    I am able to see the argument with stem cell research, although I am leaning towards the anti-choice side, but euthanasia and abortion show no respect for God's creation. It is not our right to kill another human being... whether it be abortion, euthanasia, murder, capital punishment.

    Also, it is a faulty argument to compare Jesus to stem cells as they both "save others." Jesus did not save us from suffering or evil on Earth, he died for the sins of mankind enabling eternal salvation: atonement.

    Finally, look into Catholic theology it is very logical. Some of the greatest philosophers have been of the Catholic faith. While you may not agree with it, nearly every aspect of Catholic doctrine is solidified by logic, including Transubstantiation. The Jesuits, some of our country's greatest educators, have managed to perfect the concept of logic and religion.

    I enjoy your blog, while I disagree with you it is important that these issues are raised regardless. -Nicholas

  5. Nicholas,
    There is a line in John Updike's THE CIDER HOUSE RULES that stuck with me. In the book, the guy (later played by Tobey McGuire) is raised in an orphanage run by a doctor who performs abortions (illegally). When the guy grows up, he disagrees with the doctor on the issue of abortion. During one of their arguments, the guy says, "Who are you to play God and decide who lives and who dies?"

    To which the doctor replies, "And who are you to play God and decide everybody lives?"

    Death is a part of life. None of us knows what God's plan is -- so why are some so keen on saying what His plan does not include? That seems very arrogant to me.

    We all agree that we don't know. So let's leave it up to each woman to decide what is right in her heart when it comes to abortion. Same with euthanasia: in a way, this is a problem we humans have created by having all this medicine that prolongs our lives, some could argue past the point God wanted us to live. If a person has come to the end of his life, he knows there is no way out of his suffering, and that he will die soon anyway, why would God be mad that the person chooses to make that end come a few weeks or months sooner?

    How is that different from a cancer patient who knows there is no way to remove the cancer, that he will lose the fight, but refuses to take the chemo that could prolong his life a few more months, but make his life miserable, due to the side effects of the treatment, during those extra months? Is he "committing suicide" by refusing the treatment?

    Who says the medical advances that have given us stem-cell research and abortion aren't part of God's plan?

    Thanks for reading. There are complex issues, and the more we talk about them and discuss them, the better we will understand them.