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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






24 October 2006

A Dog in the Fight

Reflections of a Lutheran Pastor Suffering from Parkinson’s

Contrary “opinions” from people like me might be rejected by supporters of Missouri Amendment 2. After all, I suffer from none of the afflictions they claim might be cured by experimentation upon the cells of human embryos. In matters of personal health, I have, as the saying goes, no “dog in the fight.” Yes, my mother suffers from some form of senile dementia — I know not if it’s Alzheimer’s Disease or something else — but she cannot fully speak for herself and I might be accused of putting words into her mouth.

With this in mind, I contacted a recently retired pastor from my area to see if he’d share his personal thoughts on embryonic stem cell research and the upcoming vote here in Missouri. Not only do I respect him as a man and as a wise “old” pastor, I know him as one who has battled Parkinson’s Disease for a number of years.

Actually, my first look at Michael J. Fox’s video supporting the McCaskill campaign and ESCR made me immediately think of this brother, so I wrote him, “I’m curious as a brother pastor, a friend who enjoys your personality and insight, a Christian, and a voter what your personal thoughts are on Amendment 2 and the arguments surrounding it from both sides.”

He replied as follows and graciously gave me permission to use his private thoughts in this most public forum of blogging:

I was going to give you the quick answer: Of course! I’m voting no on Amendment 2. Isn’t everyone? We even have the sign in our yard. Aren’t I the noble one? But then, what does it cost me? Slim chance of embryo stem cells doing me any good! They just want to do the research, and maybe some day ... besides they already have adult stem cells, placental cells.

But then, John Danforth, whose brother has ALS, writes in his book that the embryos they plan to use for research are no larger than the period at the end of this sentence, and that he cares more about his brother than about the clump of cells.

Is that microscopic group of cells a human being? Is Psalm 51:5 entirely clear on that? Psalm 139? Jer. 1? Etc., etc.? One could argue that they area kind of poetry and are outweighed by the serious life-and-death issues involved in finding cures for so many people.

On the other hand, if that tiny clump of cells is not a human being, at what point does it become one? Then it becomes a matter for anyone’s self-serving arbitrary determination.

How would I choose if it were a matter of sacrificing this tiny embryo for my quality of life? I a poor miserable sinner? I can know what is right but ... well, I sure hope I could do it. And today I affirm that I would! But wretched man that I am!

So these are my remarks for your brotherly consideration and whatever other use you may have for them.

God bless!

I hope you take to heart these words of a man who knows that he is simil iustus et peccator. I ask that you would appreciate this Christian’s ongoing struggle to submit himself to the will of God in difficult circumstances without expressing false humility, shameful bravado, or a sense of self-imposed martyrdom. And I invite you to pray for him and all others who patiently await deliverance from “this body of death (Romans 7:24)” that God would “sustain [them] to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:8)”

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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3 Comments:

Blogger TKls2myhrt said...

Wow. What a beautiful and loving letter written by someone who suffers from the same disease as Michael J. Fox. I'm sure both men hope and pray for a cure, but your friend refuses to take the life of another in search for that life. And, he knows that his refusal only comes from living at the foot of the cross. I am deeply affected by his words. I'm glad you are sharing them with us.

25 October, 2006 06:51  
Blogger Xrysostom said...

Thank you, TK. Will you write about our fight here in MO on your own blogs and link to existing posts and news articles that point out the theological, legal, and political truths that supports of Amendment 2 seem to be ignoring or twisting?

25 October, 2006 10:28  
Blogger Lisa S. said...

While it isn't Parkinson's Disease that I have (and I don't live in Missouri) I do INDEED have a dog in this fight!

I have Intermediate Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Also known as SMA Type 2), which started showing up when I was nine months old. I never walked, although I did sidle around the coffee table or the inside of those wooden playpens from SEVERAL years ago. This is a progressive disease sort of like Lou Gehrig's disease, and I definitely can see that. When I was 12, I could easily brush my hair -- now, at 48, I can't begin to tell you how much I would love to be able to hold and read books and magazines. Not everything I want to read is digitized or put on audiotape. (For example Dr. Scaer's "Discourses in Matthew - Jesus Teaches the Church" .)

Both the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Families of SMA do research on my disease, one of the approaches that they are absolutely convinced will work is using EMBRYONIC stem cell therapies.

I was having a discussion with my personal care of assistant about this very thing a couple of months ago. She would eagerly donate eggs to turn into embryos to be used for research and is absolutely and completely hurt that I would not use the treatment -- even if it was 100% guaranteed to work for me, guaranteeing my ability to climb Mount Everest next spring.

The thing is... once we start declaring ANY human beings to be marketable commodities for use for our benefits. We are in trouble. Using pre-born children in this way makes us no different than vampires -- feeding on our victims!

And there is a bigger issue at stake.

Did God promise that HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness, or not?

27 October, 2006 14:55  

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