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What happens when secularism wins?


The secularization of our culture comes with a very high price tag. Secularism, the evacuation of Judeo-Christian values from law, policy, and public discourse, is a cruel taskmaster.
Like a Trojan Horse, secularism smuggles in values that are wholly contrary to the values that have guided the western world for centuries. At the heart of a secular view of things is an ancient proposition that “man is the measure of all things.” The belly of secularism is lined with an individualism that is neither responsible to God nor others. Individual autonomy or radical self-determination becomes the trump card in every ethical decision. “It’s my choice!” is the motto of this rampant secularism.
Several recent events demonstrate that secularism is dangerous and will, ultimately, implode the culture. Take for instance the recent decision of the Dutch government to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. For over a decade the Dutch have been practicing euthanasia somewhat under cover, but now they may kill dying patients with the blessing of the state. And in order for the individual to be king, even twelve year olds will be able to choose assisted death. Medicine has become madness in Holland. When doctors jettison their covenant to “do no harm” in favor of becoming killers, secularism wins and individuals die.
In England, a nine-year-old little girl was refused a life-saving organ transplant because she had Down’s syndrome. Katie only has a short time to live without the transplant, but the local organ transplantation authority declared that her “quality of life” was not sufficient to warrant her being put on the organ transplantation list. You see, because Katie is a Down’s child, she doesn’t count as an individual under the secularist worldview. She doesn’t have a right to life and an organ that could save her life must be given to someone the transplantation authority deems to be an individual worthy of saving. Secularism wins and individuals die.
Finally, so we aren’t tricked into thinking that secularism hasn’t come home to roost in America, an economist and a law professor at the University of Chicago say that the legalization of abortion has led to a drop in the crime rate, therefore, they argue, abortion on demand is a good thing. The logic is as follows: abortion kills potential criminals; fewer criminals means fewer crimes; therefore, abortion reduces crime. The logic of secularism twists individual rights into a grotesque form. Abortion law in the United States is framed around the individual’s right to privacy combined with the notion that the unborn are not individuals whose rights count, particularly their right not to be unnecessarily harmed. This is secularism in spades! And individuals die.
So, what’s the answer? A Christian ethic respects the rights of individuals, but not at the expense of a responsibility to protect their lives. Our heavenly Father is concerned about the fatherless, the widows, the orphans, the poor, the lame, the halt, and the weak. Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). Christian morality demands that we value others above ourselves. That means we have a responsibility to protect the unborn, give disabled individuals an opportunity for transplants, and provide comfort care for dying patients. When Christian morality wins, individuals — that is, real people — live!

C. Ben Mitchell is consultant on biomedical and life issues for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and teaches bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

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  • C. Ben Mitchell