Bioethics and Donald Trump

Sometimes people say things in public that just need a response. Donald Trump did that recently when he said that the US should deny entry into the country for all Muslims due to the risks to the US from radical Islamic jihadists. Just about everyone has responded with statements of why this is utterly wrong including Republicans, Democrats, Jews, Muslims and Christians. Permit me to respond from the viewpoint of Christian bioethics.

Christian bioethics is grounded in an understanding of who we are as human beings. We believe that every human being has an inherent dignity because we are one of the family of beings that God has created in his image. We believe that every human being should be treated with respect because of that inherent dignity. That dignity does not depend on what an individual has or can accomplish or even what that individual believes. A human being has dignity and deserves our respect even if he or she denies the grounds we have for granting that respect.

We also believe in religious freedom and that does not mean that only those who agree with what we believe to be true about God and what he has revealed to us about how we should live should have freedom. Religious freedom means that we support people being able to live in accordance with their best understanding of ultimate truth even if what they believe turns out to be false. Religious freedom is a part of how we treat human beings because of their inherent dignity.

Religious freedom does not mean that a person should be allowed to do anything in the name of religion. Killing innocent people is wrong because of that same understanding of the value and dignity of human life. Radical Islamic jihadists who kill innocent people should be stopped, but that does not mean we should deny religious freedom to anyone who follows Islam. As a nation we have a responsibility to the protect safety of all people within our borders and should properly screen both visitors to our country and those desiring to come as immigrants to weed out those who threaten that safety. Denying entrance to all Muslims would not accomplish that goal and violates our understanding of religious freedom.

With regard to immigrants we should remember that many of the victims of the violence of radical Islamic jihadists such as ISIS are Muslims. We should be open to caring for them just as we would care for any other victims of injustice. One of the strengths of Christian bioethics is our concern for those who are the weakest and at the fringes of society, including the unborn, the disabled and the dying. We must not forget to include all victims of violence and injustice no matter what religion they profess.

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Mark McQuain
Mark McQuain
5 years ago

One of the problems with this debate is the terms don’t necessarily mean what we assume they mean. The term “immigrant” as understood by my grandparents was a person, like themselves, who came to America for a better life, and who also desired to integrate into our culture, taking active steps to avoid remaining a moral stranger. An “immigrant” now includes a growing subset who do not desire to integrate into our culture and who prefer to remain moral strangers. A much, much, much smaller (but reportedly non-zero) number of such “immigrants” come to America with evil intent for the sole purpose of destroying it (i.e. Radical Islamic Jihadist). To conflate these “immigrants” is unfortunately potentially dangerous. The same goes for the definition of Muslim, hence Mr. Trump.

I am certain that most Americans want to help the first type of immigrant that our grandparents knew. But what of the second type? Most importantly, how do we tell the difference?