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Professor of culture underscores need for moral vision on cloning, euthanas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Human cloning and euthanasia were among issues discussed by Nigel Cameron, distinguished professor of theology and culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, during the Scudder Lecture Series March 30-31 at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo.
“Nothing is so significant for our culture and its future as the assumptions of what it means to be ‘one of us,'” Cameron said. Behind the issues of abortion, human cloning and euthanasia lies the fundamental question of what it means to be human, he said, and in the field of bioethics, more than anywhere else, our common humanity is being redefined. “Secular and postmodern bioethics people have become the gatekeepers of life and death.”
“If it can be done with sheep, can it be done with people?” asked Cameron. The effect of the growing technological development in the cloning of mammals, he said, has been the emergence of serious questions that humanity has never before thought about.
Relaying testimony he presented before the House Judiciary Committee on cloning, Cameron said, “If we are unable to assert the primacy of the public will and of human moral vision over technological development, it is hard to see any context in which we can avoid the technological redefinition of our culture and our notion of human dignity.”
The negative results of cloning are obvious, declared Cameron. “If this technology comes on stream, you’ll see 5,000 Madonnas or 5,000 Michael Jordans, whoever your favorite tabloid hero happens to be. Immediately it becomes possible to reproduce the person. So you’ll have whole classes of people who are essentially identical twins, by the hundreds and by the thousands.”
To pick up a distinctively Christian understanding of human dignity, said Cameron, one must go back to Genesis. “We are driven back to the model we have in Genesis, to our Christian vision of marriage, of sex, of morality and of procreation.”
Cameron suggested the incarnation did not begin in Bethlehem with the birth of Jesus, but rather, when God became incarnate in an embryo, as an embryonic member of the human species.
Cloning, Cameron said, presents us with the possibility for the generation of real human beings, who partake like us in the dignity of the image of God, to have their identity and dignity compromised by the manner in which they are reproduced — as deliberate photocopies of another person.
“We will see cloning take place,” Cameron said. “The human community will recoil and will ask how we could ever let this happen in the first place.
“The euthanasia question promises to be one of much greater significance than abortion,” Cameron noted. Asserting there is a connection between the issue of human cloning and euthanasia, he said, “On the one hand, we claim we have the power and the right to manufacture human life, and on the other hand, at the end of life we claim we have the power and the right to end life on our own terms.”
In Psalm 8, Cameron said one finds the defining affirmation of the dignity of human life. “To be human is to be set in a high place, to a place just below God himself.”
Because it is blasphemous to claim the highest place for ourselves, Cameron said, we must focus the euthanasia debate not on compassion, but on autonomy. This is the position which says, “I am the master.” The most central element in this debate then, Cameron said, is the position of “breaking free from God in order to assert yourself.”
Most proponents of euthanasia argue only for voluntary euthanasia, said Cameron. “It’s an argument based on autonomy.”
Cameron spoke on the distinction between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. “If you kill someone because they ask you to, you have no defense to the charge of homicide, because your life is no more at your disposal than anybody else’s is at your disposal.”
The central laboratory for euthanasia lies in Europe, Cameron said. In Holland, he explained, voluntary euthanasia runs rampant. “A large number of physicians there are guilty of homicide. A large number of death certificates are being falsified. The euthanasia system there went out of control.”
Speaking of the necessity of dealing with the issue as Christians, Cameron stated, “We have a prime need for Christian education within the church. The battle for the Christian mind within the church is one in which we must engage and which we must win. It is altogether distressing that the private attitudes of many Christians in this matter are not distinct from those who think in a purely secular way.”
Cameron pointed out that while Christians will be known for not killing their unborn children, the jury is still out on whether their view of euthanasia finally will be a distinctive view.
“The community of the Christian church must respect the dignity of human life from the beginning even to the end,” Cameron said.

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  • Kyle Roberts