John Stonestreet and Heather Peterson

Alabama Supreme Court, Embryos, and the Confusing Ethics of IVF

In the Alabama case, the court established that the moral nature of an embryo gives it the same legal protections as a born human under the state’s “wrongful death” statute. Why, then, should the same embryos not be afforded protection from imprisonment, trafficking, experimentation, and eventual destruction? Strictly speaking, IVF can be done in a way that does not lead to the creation of “excess” embryos.

A decision by the Supreme Court of Alabama, that the state’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to “all unborn children, regardless of their location” including “extrauterine” embryos stored in a “cryogenic nursery,” has resulted in at least three fertility clinics suspending in vitro fertilization (IVF) services. In an interview on The Daily podcast, New York Times reporter Azeen Ghorayshi claimed that the decision “puts all fertility care in Alabama in limbo.”   
It sets a huge and quite scary precedent for anyone who is undergoing IVF, anyone who works in the fertility industry in Alabama who is working with these embryos that are suddenly considered children.  
That panic, which has been typical of the media coverage about the decision, makes sense given that the court finally addressed the central question of IVF, a question that the IVF industry has largely depended upon not being answered in order to grow and expand. Specifically, the court’s decision has only put a certain kind of fertility care “in limbo”: fertility care that involves the creating, storing, preserving, and destroying of human embryos. Asking the question “what are they?” was long overdue, given that approximately 1.5 million embryos left over from IVF services are currently stored in freezers in the United States, the vast majority of which are destined for either destruction or donation for medical testing,  
Even if late in coming, pro-lifers have been right to celebrate this small bit of ethical clarity for an industry with little of it. During IVF, eggs are fertilized with sperm in a lab. Often, multiple embryos are created and tested for viability before being transferred into the uterus of the mother or a surrogate. This is done in rounds of one to five embryos at a time. If a pregnancy occurs, the remaining embryos are frozen. 
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The Young People Who Believe They Can Change Their Race

The more fundamental problem–the one at the root of this and every one of the many identity crises infecting our cultural moment–is that so many young people have absorbed a way of thinking about themselves and reality best identified as “expressive individualism.” For years, they’ve heard that the world is whatever they decide and make of it, that their bodies are plastic and do not govern who or what they are, and that what is most true about themselves and the world is how they feel on the inside. Why wouldn’t they assume that one day they could wake up with the eyelids they really, really want? 

Last month, an article published on NBC described “[p]ractitioners of ‘race change to another,’ or RCTA,” which refers to people who “purport to be able to manifest physical changes in their appearance and even their genetics to truly become a different race.” Interviewed for the article were teenagers who are enamored with Japanese and Korean cultures and who have become convinced that, by listening to subliminal messages while they sleep, they will eventually wake up with Asian characteristics, such as eyes with an epicanthic fold.  
Even more unbelievable than the idea that subliminal messaging can alter a person’s genetics was the attempt at ethical analysis by journalist Emi Tuyetnhi Tran. According to Tran, RCTA is wrong, but not because those with the delusion entertain desires that will never become reality. Instead, RCTA is wrong because of inequality:  
Experts agree  race is not genetic. But they contend that even though race is a cultural construct, it is impossible to change your race because of the systemic inequalities inherent to being born into a certain race. 
In other words, young people with this particular identity crisis should not be told what they desire is impossible due to the constraints of physical reality, but that they are violating certain social theories. What Tran fails to explain is that if race is merely a social construct as gender is now understood to be, why is appropriating a different gender identity acceptable but not a different racial identity? On what grounds should we, for example, oppose the actions of someone like Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who became leader of a local NAACP chapter?  
In fact, though there are physical distinctions between races, the physical differences between the sexes are far more profound. Nineteenth-century ideas of divinely ordained, distinct races that ought not be “mixed” was rooted in dangerous, racist nonsense that can neither be supported biblically or biologically.
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The Disparity Antiracists Don’t Talk About

Since blacks who are married are much less likely to be in poverty, then why, he asks, aren’t activists promoting black marriage? It’s a good question. According to the Family Research Council, “Married-couple families generate the most income, on average” compared to single-parent families, cohabiting families, or divorced families. Other studies have shown that marriage provides health benefits and the ability to deal with stress.  

In all the talk about racial injustices, the racial disparities for abortion are ignored. And that’s because we would need to talk about marriage. I’m John Stonestreet, and this is Breakpoint. 
Recently in The Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley asked a provocative question, “Why Won’t the Left Talk About Racial Disparities in Abortion?” In it, he describes how the “black abortion rate is nearly four times higher than the white rate,” how more black babies in New York City are aborted than born, and how “[n]ationally, the number of babies aborted by black women each year far exceeds the combined number of blacks who drop out of school, are sent to prison and are murdered.” 
Even books on racism by Christian publishers, for example, Jemar Tisby’s How to Fight Racism, never mention the significant racial disparities that exist when it comes to abortion, even while spending significant time on other disparities, such as student achievement, incarceration, wealth, and healthcare in general. The new book Faithful Anti-Racism by Christian Barland Edmondson and Chad Brennan shares similar disparity stats to Tisby’s, but the only mentions of abortion are embedded in quotations regarding conservative interests. 
According to Riley, one issue is that talking about the racial disparity when it comes to abortion would necessitate discussing how to “increase black marriage rates,” since so many women having abortions are single. Riley states:  
One problem is that such a conversation requires frank talk about counterproductive attitudes toward marriage and solo parenting in low-income black communities. It requires discussing antisocial behavior and personal responsibility. 
Now, to be clear, disparities do not always point to injustice or racism. As Thaddeus Williams writes In Confronting Justice Without Compromising Truth, those who call themselves antiracists assume that disparities reveal widespread discrimination or institutional injustice. 
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Being Christian When Civilization Collapses

Whether we’re in a time of decline or a time of amazing success like Solomon, the same response is required from God’s people. We must be faithful to what He asks us to do, to what He asks us to believe, and to how He instructs us to live. In all of these things, we take up life in this moment as part of our calling. 

If it seems as if the world is falling apart that’s because, in some very real ways, it is.
The news has been relentless, for a while now, but especially these past two weeks. After multiple mass shootings, the nation is grieving. People are angry that nothing seems to change. 
According to the FBI, there’s been a 50% uptick in “active shooting incidents” since last year, and that’s not counting the shooting that left 21 dead in Uvalde, Texas. “The two attacks (in Buffalo and Uvalde) are not outliers,” announced National Public Radio. “Mass shootings happen in the U.S. with depressing regularity.” According to their count, 213 so far this year. 
A variety of things and people are being blamed: access to guns, social isolation, politicians, talk show hosts, authorities, harmful ideas, and more. Behind events this tragic are a number of contributing factors.  At the same time, we can no longer think of mass shootings as isolated incidents. They must be understood as indications of social breakdown, along with spiking rates of addiction, overdoses, violent crime, suicide, sexual confusion, and even airplane incidents.  
Last week, a friend reminded me of some insightful words from Chuck Colson. One can easily imagine Chuck Colson extending a similar analysis to today’s issues, “The problem is not gun control, poverty, talk-show hosts, or race. The problem is the breakdown of moral values in American life, and our culture simply cannot respond.” 
In fact, Chuck Colson is not the only thinker to have pointed to the inevitabilities of cultural breakdown. “Great civilizations are not murdered,” wrote historian Arnold Toynbee. “They commit suicide.” In other words, civilizations do not last forever, and there are rules that determine whether or not they have a future. 
At the recent Wilberforce Weekend, author and social critic Os Guinness stated that we are living in “a civilizational moment”:  
“All the great civilizations reach a moment when they’re out of touch with the inspiration that made them. And there’s a critical transition moment when they either go towards renewal or down to decline.“
 We are at such a moment, if not already past it. For example, a civilization cannot survive if it is not preparing for the future. 
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Is Identity in Christ Unbiblical?

Earlier this week, Christians were reminded, by a smudged cross on foreheads and with words first spoken to Adam and Eve, of our mortality: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These words, delivered by clergy on Ash Wednesday, are God’s words about us, recorded in Genesis 3:19. 
Though it’s not pleasant to be reminded that we are dust, it is good. Ash Wednesday tells the truth about who we are. The Season that follows, Lent, helps us order our lives around that truth. And yet, dust is not merely our status after the fall, or because of sin. We were created from the dust of the earth. That meager beginning is what God intended for those who would bear His image before the rest of creation.   
Recently, an article was published critiquing how Christians often talk about identity. Under the provocative title, “Stop Finding Your Identity in Christ,” Caleb Morell rightly notes that throughout most of Church history, the theological emphasis was on union with Christ, not identity in Christ. He also rightly notes that how we talk about finding identity in Christ is, too often, a re-hashed postmodernism, more about self-discovery or, even worse, self-determination, than anything theological. 
While I agree with much of it, I don’t think that “finding your identity in Christ” is unbiblical. It is, however, incomplete if disconnected from our identity in creation. Any talk of who we are disconnected from who God originally created us to be misses essential truths of what it ultimately means to be in Christ. And, it leaves our thinking about a fundamental question of human existence, who are we as human beings, vulnerable to modern and postmodern ways of thinking. Is the self a “construct” of culture and bias? Do our feelings determine what is true about who we are? Are our bodies pliable and changeable according to our internal whims? Or are we created? What is given about who we are that we need to know, accept, and embrace? 
In the creation story, the answers to these questions are not up for grabs. When God reminded Adam he had been formed from dust scooped from the Earth, He’s taking Adam back to the creation narrative. Adam and Eve were the only members of God’s creation not merely spoken into existence. The difference in language is dramatic. Rather, than “let there be… and it was so,” God said:   

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