Saturday, 29 May 2010

"Going towards the role of a god"

Well now that we're firmly into life in "Coalition Britain" I thought it was time to pick up the digital quill again, so to speak.

I suppose the nature of a blog like this one necessarily picks up on things controversial. I trust that I don't treat such topics for the sake of it. My intention is more to draw attention to trends and developments that have the potential to shape our society and think about how we the church might respond.

From a Christian perspective, one of the most serious and controversial developments in recent days was the Marie-Stopes advert on Channel Four on Monday evening. Although the advert didn't directly encourage abortion, the implications were all there. Airing such an advert at any time, but especially at that time of the evening has the effect of "normalising" abortion - if such ever really can be normalised. Unfortunately "Are you late? Marie-Stopes can help" becomes as normal as "You should have gone to SpecSavers". By "normalising" something so serious in this way - and what young women like those in the advert are feeling when they unexpectedly fall pregnant should never be reduced to a soundbite and an offer to contact an abortion agency all in the space of a 32 second advert - you can end up trivialising it.

To claim that the advert didn't actually promote abortion is rather empty. After all, the only reason anyone advertises anything is to persuade them to take a particular course of action - to promote a service or product. "Promotion" is a very fitting term for what was happening here and it reveals a sea change that has taken place in the way various ethical issues are now presented. There was a time when, it was claimed, people merely sought permission to live a certain lifestyle or to practise certain things - hence the term permissive society. However, we're a long way from the permissive society now. Permission has given way to promotion. And "normalising" seems to me to be the launch pad for promotion. You can see similar developments with the way in which euthanasia is presented. One can only hope that promotion does not eventually become prescription.

One of the heartening things about the abortion ad issue was that one could hear similarly critical voices coming from both the right and left.

Bonnie Leander Johnson's piece in The Guardian was thoughtful and to my mind very perceptive. She raised some of the real issues surrounding the subject; some Christians who lean more to the right could learn a lot from the way she articulates her views and concerns. Some good links here to articles from a secular perspective questioning what has now become a seemingly out of control industry.

Ed West in The Telegraph had a good discussion about what it tells us about the land we live in, pointing out the hideousness of the advert being shown during a game show: "Make a fortune and have an abortion". It's the stuff not worthy even of a bad taste black comedy.

How ironic that at a time when we're promoting the destruction of unborn life, we are also celebrating the creation of synthetic life.

According to Julian Savulescu, a professor of ethics at Oxford University, the brains behind the creation, Craig Venter, " is creaking open the most profound door in humanity's history, potentially peeking into its destiny. He is not merely copying life artificially ... or modifying it radically by genetic engineering. He is going towards the role of a god: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally."

What a strange world. So creative yet at the same time so destructive. I've just finished watching a family movie Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. It's a little morality tale about a boy who is told he'll never amount to anything yet longs to be a scientist. He succeeds with an invention which brings about a kind of food paradise. But the paradise quickly turns into a kind of hell. In the end he has to destroy the monster he created and save the world.

That really is the story of the world. And it's one worth reminding ourselves of at such a strange time in history. One man thought he could become like God and create an even greater paradise. In the event, he unleashed the forces of hell. And One Man came from heaven into that hell to redeem the race from destruction. Whatever way things go in our society, we can be sure that One Man from heaven will prevail in the end.

You can view the Marie-Stopes advert here and Venter's talk at TED here .

CareConfidential is a helpful resource for anyone who is struggling to face up to an unplanned pregnancy or is trying to deal with post abortion issues.

5 comments:

lynn said...

Great post James, thanks!
I love how you always pick up current affairs and cultural trends and make biblical and theological observations on them in a non-Christianese/jargony way
i.e. you talk normal!!!!

Lynn

James said...

Thanks for the encouragement Lynn. Will try to keep blogging in normal language! Been enjoying your blog. Intending to leave a comment - which I will do! You're keeping the fire burning for the church's future as well as its present.

Helen said...

This was a really good post James. Hadn't seen the ad so appreciated the link. Ed West's and Bonnie Johnstone's articles were excellent. The web site on after care for abortions was interesting. Very little is said about the emotional and psychological effects abortion has on women. The ones I've spoken with carry a terrible burden of guilt, shame, grief, regret and the most awful sadness. Christians on the far right need to be careful of condemning these women -far better to present a Saviour who offers forgiveness and sets them free.

Helen

Helen said...

This was a really good post James. Hadn't seen the ad so appreciated the link. Ed West's and Bonnie Johnstone's articles were excellent. The web site on after care for abortions was interesting. Very little is said about the emotional and psychological effects abortion has on women. The ones I've spoken with carry a terrible burden of guilt, shame, grief, regret and the most awful sadness. Christians on the far right need to be careful of condemning these women -far better to present a Saviour who offers forgiveness and sets them free.

Helen

James said...

Thanks for your comments Helen. I think you make an excellent point. In this whole debate very little attention is paid to those women who have had abortions and are now trying to cope with the consequences - spirtual, psychological and emotional. Unfortunately some on the Christian right sometimes only offers condemnation. When I was researching this piece I came across a supposedly Christian blogsite which maintained that we shouldn't seek to help women who have had abortions because they were murderers. Appalling stuff. Taking up your point about the consequences, some statistics say that one in three women has had an abortion. I find that hard to believe, but if it is even close to the truth we are living in a very hurting, shame-filled society. Thankfully, our gospel cleanses us from a guilty concscience and washes our bodies with pure water (Hebrews 10.22).Thanks again Helen.