Community Impact News

January 2001

In This Issue:

  • Christian Ethics in Stem Cell Research
  • Euthanasia Legalized in the Netherlands
  • Are Harry Potter Books Acceptable?

Introduction

Do religion and politics mix? Should religious values influence political decision making? Do we not believe in separation of church and state? How would you respond to these questions?

Everyone believes in certain values. Every person religiously stands by certain beliefs. Think of the person who believes that a person should choose his/her own values. That every person has a right to determine that which is right or wrong for himself. Will this person’s values not influence her political choices? Certainly. This person will promote freedom of choice for such things as abortion, euthanasia and sexual preference. Why? Because these political moral issues touch his personal value system. He will religiously stand and fight for these issues.

Think of the Christian who believes in biblical values. He/she believes that the One Creator God has declared moral rights and wrongs for all mankind. Will this person’s values not influence his political choices? Certainly. This person will oppose such things as abortion, euthanasia and sexual preference. Why? Because these political moral issues touch her personal value system. This person will religiously stand and fight for these issues.

While one side in this war over values claims to be tolerant and likes to picture the opposing camp as intolerant, in reality both sides are intolerant of the other. The pro-choice camp will not tolerate a nation-wide vote on abortion. Why not? Is not this pro-choice? No, voters’ choices will not be tolerated on this issue because they oppose my values which I will religiously uphold. I will not tolerate another opinion, even if most Canadians would vote for it. The pro-choice camp will not tolerate a college where its students sign a commitment to avoid pre-marital, extra-marital and homosexual sex. Why not? Isn’t this the students’ choice? No, these type of students’ choices will not be tolerated because they oppose my values which I will religiously uphold.

The pro-choice camp claims that they are upholding "Canadian values." Says who? Since when? In our nation’s history when did Canadians support no restrictions on killing pre-born children or on homosexual activity? Which side is upholding historic "Canadian values?" How many Canadians today support no laws or punishment for possession of child pornography? Which side is upholding "Canadian values" here? If the pro-choice side is really standing for "Canadian values" why would they strongly oppose the putting of such moral issues to a vote by the Canadian people?

After unveiling the deceptive talk and posturing, what is really taking place here? What do we witness in our society? The fulfilling of texts like John 15:20, "Remember the word that I said unto you , The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." Almost anything will be tolerated that promotes the religious belief that man is his own god to determine good and evil for himself. But nothing will be tolerated that speaks of one God and one right and one wrong over all people.

Let us not be ignorant of Satan’s devices in this regard. God calls us to discern the times, to pray and to work that His Name may be honoured, His Word promoted and His kingdom prospered.

Community Impact Evening Summary

On November 20th, 2000, the Community Impact Committee hosted an evening entitled: "Our Values: By Whose Standards Do We Set Our Moral Compass." Three Presenters addressed us from the educational, medical, and media perspectives.

Dr. James Cunningham, an instructor at Trinity Western University, spoke of how Canadian Society is currently involved in a spiritual warfare regarding moral standards. Historically our values were based on Christian beliefs and our compasses were to be set by God’s standards. The secular view however holds that each person should determine his own moral values and compass. We entered this warfare by sin and we are heading away from God’s principles. Dr. Cunningham stated that the public education system is heading down the slope of "political correctness" into a pit of moral relativism disguised as pluralism and tolerance and that we, as a nation, continue to make moral choices that are undermining the foundation of national righteousness. We must make correct moral choices and experience a return to biblical behavior.

Dr. Robert Pankratz, is currently the president of the Canadian Physicians for Life. He presented some of the issues and ethical concerns in the field of medicine. Not only in the current controversies of euthanasia and abortion, but also in the areas of patient care, the medical profession is faced daily with moral and ethical decisions that require prayer and adherence to God’s standards.

The third speaker was Joanne Byfield who spoke about the media bias in the presentation of news and how the moral values of the media is reflected in their news reports. We are encouraged to gain accurate knowledge of the facts and strive for truthful reporting, learn to discern media bias, and, become more actively involved in holding the media accountable for their reporting of the news.

By whose standards are we setting our moral compass? What should we do? These questions are left with us. In closing this summary, let us consider three suggestions by Dr. Cunningham -- that we must become a positive presence and encourage decision-makers; we must become biblically principled activists; and we must pray earnestly as never before.

Note: A pamphlet with Dr. James Cunningham’s notes for the evening is available from the Community Impact Committee.

Evolution Instruction Minimized in Ontario

Most Ontario students will go through elementary and high school without being taught the theory of evolution. The Ontario government made the decision to leave evolution out of its curriculum to avoid controversy. The new provincial curriculum only includes evolution in one course -- Advanced Biology 12. Ontario is following the lead of several states in the United States. Nineteen states have now removed or greatly reduced the teaching of the theory of evolution from their required curricula.

While the reduction of the teaching of evolution is positive and we are thankful for it, what a blessing it would be if this decision would be made from a desire to honour and glorify the one true God, Creator and Upholder of heaven and earth!

Christian Ethics in Stem Cell Research

What are Stem Cells?

Under God’s guidance, every human being develops and grows from a single cell inside the mother. This single cell is formed by a union between a sperm cell from a father and an egg cell from a mother. This new cell divides many thousands of times over to produce a complete child at birth. The complete child, however, has more than 200 different types of cells, each of which came from the original cell. This marvel in creation is called cell differentiation where, under special conditions, as the embryo develops, cells become more and more specialized into specific tissues. Cell differentiation does not occur until the embryo has undergone several cell divisions. At this point, each of the embryonic cells has the ability to become any type of tissue in the human body. These cells are called stem cells.

There are three basic types of stem cells. The first is called a totipotent stem cell and is the first cell of a new human being. This stem cell has the ability to develop into a total organism. Once this cell begins dividing inside the mother, some of the cells form the placenta to protect and nourish the growing embryo. Other cells begin forming the embryo itself. These are the second type of stem cell and are called pluripotent stem cells. They have the ability to form a complete human being but cannot develop into the supporting structure needed to allow the embryo to develop. The third type of stem cells is found in adults. All humans are constantly replacing damaged and non-functional tissue. For example, the red blood cells that carry oxygen from our lungs through the whole body are replaced continually by stem cells in the bone marrow. These types of stem cells are called multipotent because they appear to be limited in the number of cell types they can become.

Why is research being done with stem cells?

Many medical problems such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, kidney and liver failure and spinal cord injuries involve the damage and loss of tissue. Research has shown that stem cells injected into these damaged areas results in the formation of new tissue. Stem cells could also be used to study the complex process of human development in the uterus. Understanding this process will allow doctors to prevent and treat developmental problems. A third use of stem cells is for drug testing. Because these stem cells are fully human cells, scientists can test how they react to certain drugs before trying them on humans.

What sources are being used for obtaining stem cells?

Currently scientists around the world have five sources for their stem cells.

  • Tissue taken from aborted foetuses.
  • Excess embryos resulting from fertility treatments through in vitro fertilization.
  • Embryos created through in vitro fertilization specifically for research.
  • Embryos generated through cloning.
    Adult tissue (e.g. bone marrow).

What are the moral/ethical issues in stem cell research?

Stem cell research has brought new meaning to the ethics surrounding abortion and in vitro fertilization. Because tissue is being harvested from aborted babies, people contemplating abortion may feel justified or vindicated in doing so by donating the tissue of their baby to research. U.S. government guidelines stipulate that the decision to have an abortion be completely separate from the decision to donate fetal tissue. This is impossible however, since the ability to donate fetal tissue is public knowledge and those making a decision to abort will likely know that the option to donate fetal tissue is available. Even though the choice to abort for this reason may seem less selfish, abortion remains murder and any encouragement for more abortions is wrong.

In vitro fertilization is also cast in a different light by stem cell research. In vitro fertilization is mainly used to help infertile couples (including same sex couples) or couples with low fertility to have children. Eggs and sperm are taken from a father and mother and are artificially united in a test tube. The resulting embryo is allowed to grow and divide for a short time before being implanted into the mother. Because the success rate of this procedure is so low, many embryos must be created so that the probability of a successful implantation is reasonably high. In this way many embryos are created and never used. These are stored frozen in special places and can be revived and implanted at any time and in any person. Many countries have rules that these embryos can only be stored for five years and it is estimated that there are around 100,000 unwanted frozen embryos worldwide. These embryos represent the cheapest and easiest source of stem cells for research. The argument by a part of the scientific community is that since they will go to waste anyway, they may as well be used for the purpose of research. But again, we must realize that these are all human beings. Although the goal of treating diseases using stem cells is a lofty one, it is not justifiable to kill off the most vulnerable segment of the population. It is not in our hands to determine life and death but in God’s hand.

What can we do to fight against this sin?

First of all, we can write our government officials to cut support for research using stem cells obtained from foetuses and embryos. We have a God-given obligation to fight sin and to hold our elected officials true to God’s Word and Law.

Secondly, we must encourage our governments to fully support research using adult stem cells. In the recent months, more and more scientific evidence shows that adult stem cells could be pluripotent and are as useful in treating disease such as heart failure, nerve damage and diabetes as are embryonic stem cells. In addition, adult stem cells do not pose as risk of immune rejection if a person is treated with their own cells. This risk is a problem when using embryo cells, the same problem that occurs in organ transplants.

In the third place, we must become more knowledgeable in these areas of science so that we fully understand the arguments made by scientists in these areas. We must realize that the scientific community of our day is often driven as much by finances as it is by compassion for neighbours. The arguments used may often seem to be compassionate but government funding and the use of our tax dollars may be hard to get. A good public image on an issue will go a long way in garnering public support.

Lastly, we must pray that God will intervene in the lives of those who are involved in the many sides of this issue. We think of those contemplating abortion. We think of those struggling with infertility and bowing to the use of in vitro fertilization. We think of out elected official who must make the decisions guiding our countries. They all need to be brought before God’s throne. May the LORD remember each one of us in this struggle.

Prayer/Action Reminder

Let us continue to pray that the LORD may turn the heart of the justices on our Supreme Court of Canada to uphold God’s law and Christian freedoms in the Trinity Western University vs. British Columbia College of Teachers case. It may be some months yet before the justices render their decision.

Trinity Western University’s Legal Defence Fund needs support. Those desiring to contribute may send donations to:

Trinity Western University
Legal Challenge Fund
7600 Glover Road
Langley, BC V2Y 1Y1

Harry Potter Books Popular - But Are They Acceptable?

The Harry Potter series of books by J.K Rowling, aimed at the 10 to 12 year old audience, have become extremely popular. The books and related products are available seemingly everywhere.

The main character, Harry, attends the "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" where he is honing his wizardry skills. The author says she has no intention of encouraging children into witchcraft and sees her work simply as fantasy and states that children understand that as well. Even though there are many, including those who profess to be Christians, who laud these books, we should be aware of what these books contain.

God’s word tells us in Isaiah 5:20, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." Therefore we must evaluate the books, as well as all books that enter our homes, to determine if they are good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable.

Even though the author has tried to portray Harry as a "good" character rather than an evil character, the book is about witches and wizards and their practices of divination, necromancy, and sorcery. Harry Potter’s wisdom is the wisdom spoken of in James 3:15. "This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish."

The books are full of references to charms and casting of spells, fortune telling, mixing of magical potions, and earth spirits - spirits, gnomes, pixies, banshees, elves and trolls. There are numerous examples of magical disappearances and other mysterious events.

All of these images are derived from the occult and suggest that the author has a sophisticated knowledge of the occult.

Anything that is not of God is from the devil. Those who argue that Harry is a good wizard, try to convince themselves that the series shows good vs. evil. But these are portrayed as equal antagonistic forces unaccountable to a higher authority. How different from God’s Word which reveals an omnipotent God. Satan may be powerful, but he cannot do anything outside of God, and he will be conquered.

Four of these books have been released - the last with a lot of media buildup - and three others are planned with each one becoming darker and more evil. We can expect to see much more of Harry Potter in the media and everywhere we look in the next few years. But we may not let our guard down, no matter how popular this series has become or how likable Harry may seem. "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:11-12)

Euthanasia Legalised in Holland

A bill to legalise euthanasia was carried in the Dutch parliament by a vote of 104 to 40 on November 28. The law still needs the approval of the Senate, but this is considered a formality, and it is expected to enter into force next year. Euthanasia has been tolerated for many years in the Netherlands, but it remained illegal and doctors administering a lethal drug to a patient were, in theory, liable to be prosecuted.

Canadian Response

Following the news that the Netherlands had passed a law legalising euthanasia, Canadian MP Svend Robinson promised to push the issue again in Canada. In an interview with the Globe and Mail he said he will introduce a private member's bill early in the next Parliament calling on the House of Commons to "look at the recent developments in the Netherlands and also to look in depth at the whole issue of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide and make recommendations to Canadian law."

Many Canadians believe euthanasia should be available in special cases only--with strict safeguards in place. But it is clear from the Dutch experience that safeguards do not work. The Netherlands has gone from euthanasia for terminal illness to chronic illness to psychological distress to no illness at all.

According to Dr. Will Johnston of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition BC (EPC),"We are very much aware that the advantage falls to the attacker - the pro-euthanasia zealots whose appealing message of personal power has been used to distract us from the question - Can killing be legalised without causing more harm than good? In other words, will the inevitable "collateral damage" - injustice and death to some of the vulnerable - be acceptable to Canadians?"

Control not Possible

Dr. Henk Jochemsen of the Lindeboom Institute for Medical Ethics in Ede, The Netherlands says

"legalisation will led to a broader acceptance and increased practice of euthanasia, which will dramatically change the nature of the patient-physician relationship and terminal/palliative care. Once euthanasia becomes a legal option, a patient afflicted with terminal illness or unbearable suffering may have to justify not asking to be euthanized. The recent case of Mr. Brongersma demonstrates the elasticity of the requirement of unbearable suffering, implying that a substantial group of people could become vulnerable to such pressure."

Edward Brongersma, a former Dutch Senator, received a lethal injection from his doctor. He was not mentally or physically ill, but at age 86, he felt his life has become meaningless and too heavy a burden. His doctor was charged with failing to follow euthanasia guidelines but was acquitted by the courts early this year.

Officially the new law will only allow euthanasia after ascertaining that the patient who wants to put an end to his lif e is enduring "unbearable sufferings" caused by a terminal, medically diagnosed illness. The Bill permits minors above the age of 16 to chose euthanasia without gaining parental consent and requires children aged 12-16 to have the consent of at least one parent. According to Dr. Jochemsen, data on reported cases of euthanasia are provided by the physicians who performed the euthanasia so determinations of whether the legal requirements have been met may very often be biased. He maintains that adequate control is not possible.

Dutch palliative care physician Dr. Ben Zylicz is quoted in the British Medical Association Journal 12/98 "that there are only 70 specialist palliative care beds in the country and that this is a reason why doctors and patients often resort to euthanasia." A study published in the February 1999 Journal of Medical Ethics reported that in 20% of Dutch euthanasia cases the patients did not explicitly request it and over 60% of euthanasia cases were not reported.

Rotterdam physician Dr. Karel Gunning is a leader in Dutch resistance to euthanasia. He does not believe the world will follow the Dutch example any time soon. "I think the Dutch example will show too clearly that it is impossible to allow killing patients who want to be killed without taking away the protection of patients who don't want to be killed.. That is too high a price for the 'luxury' of being able to choose euthanasia."

A Compassionate Society?

An EPC news report states, "All these reasons and developments argue against legalising euthanasia, but they do not address the main issue. Even if safeguards could be put in place to protect the vulnerable from the unscrupulous, there is a more profound objection to mercy killing. A compassionate society cares for and loves each disabled, sick and dying member of its community. Compassion means literally "to suffer alongside". We have to ask ourselves, "Are we a compassionate society?" If we are, we do not kill weak, disabled, sick people. We do not allow anyone to extinguish the life of another even in the name of compassion."

Closing

Satan loves to deceive. He is the liar from the beginning. He deceived Eve and Adam in Paradise. He deceptively pictured the results from eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as increased freedom. They thought they would be as God, a god to know (determine) good and evil for themselves. And we know the disastrous results.

So today, Satan loves to deceive. He deceptively pictures the results from serving oneself and determining one’s own good and evil as increased freedom. But do we not daily witness the disastrous results of "free" sex, pornography, violent entertainment, abortion, suicide and a host of other "free" choices?

God and His infallible Word remain true. Satan and his enticing words remain false. The one leads to life; the other to death.