How Important Are Those with Moral Status to Us?

I have a friend who is from Africa.  She sees a lot of things in this country from a different perspective that makes me think, and sometimes makes me uncomfortable.  We were recently in a discussion in a group at church about how we define who has moral status and how that impacts our moral decisions about human embryos and fetuses.  After the discussion she said she had noted that many Christians in America were quite passionate about the value of the life of those who were unborn, but didn’t seem to care as much about those who were born.  She said we stand up for the value of the lives of the unborn whom we will never know and who do not put any demands on us, but seem to neglect the value of the lives of those around us who are in need because valuing their lives would put demands on us.

I think my friend is right.  If we really believe that all human beings have full moral status we need to help people see the moral problems with abortion, destructive research on embryos, and the making and discarding of excess embryos in IVF, but we need to do much more.  We need to affirm the moral worth of those who have been born.  We need to care for widows, orphans, the poor, and those who are oppressed.  We can see God’s heart for them in the prophets and in Jesus.  There are many Christians who reach out to those in need and love them in tangible ways that express their understanding of their value as human beings.  More of us need to do that.  I need to do that more.

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Erik ClarySharon BillonAndrew Recent comment authors
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So true! It is amazing how people get so worked up (and rightly so) for human rights for the unborn, but will not think twice about human rights for those already born. Keep it up!

Sharon Billon
Sharon Billon

How much I agree with you, Steve. But, how much has our willingness to “care” been affected by publicly funded “safety nets”… specifically, how easy is it to rationalize that those who require care receive it by way of funds we have supplied (through taxes). And, how have these publicly funded “safety nets” affected the care that the truly needy receive? By that I mean, have they affected human dignity, especially through unanticipated effects on self-esteem, self-determination, individual responsibility, and so on. While we care for individuals in our daily life, should we also be working to affect the system… Read more »

Erik Clary

Thanks, Steve, for your post. There is certainly no shortage of injustice or human need in this fallen world with which to be concerned. No doubt, the unborn get much attention from pro-life Christians. One reason why that may be so is because they are, as Gilbert Meilaender states, “the weakest and least advantaged of our fellow human beings.” That said, many pro-life Christians have advocated very strongly for the born, particularly those impoverished, disabled or dying. The Terri Schiavo affair stands out in recent memory as one of the more public demonstrations of pro-lifers’ concern for post-natal life. At… Read more »