“Is the baby normal?” is one of the first questions parents ask the doctor and that’s the last time the parents are happy that their child is only normal! We don’t want our children to be abnormal or have any abnormalities but we do want them to be above average. We don’t want them to be the high achievers who crash and burn in the blaze of celebrity magazine publicity, but nobody wishes their child to be below average. Everybody's child is above average in their parents’ imagination, and even higher in their grandparents’ estimation.
However, it is very important that our pursuit of excellence and perfection should never be applied to our humanity. We are not human because of our abilities: because we are human we have great abilities. Our actions can be inhumane – but they are inhumane precisely because we are human. The action of animals is never inhumane. They are allowed to be beastly but humans are not. Animals are not required to take responsibility for other species or their environment – while humans are. Animals do not even have to take care of their own species; the carnivorous ones can even cannibalize the weak or handicapped – with impunity. Beastly behaviour is to be expected of beasts as humane behaviour is expected of humans. But it is not our behaviour that makes us human, it is our humanity that requires our behaviour to be humane.
What makes humans human, and requires us to be humane, is our common creation in the image of God. He gives us meaning, purpose and morality. Our humanity does not rest in our ability to speak, think, or have a thumb opposed to our fingers but that we are all created in the image of God.
It was the eugenics movement of the late 19th century, which laid the foundation for racial breeding and the appalling racism of the 20th century. Racism is always in the heart of sinful humanity, but giving it an intellectual and moral basis created the worst outpouring of racism in history. Similarly, the discoveries of pre-natal gender identification, have allowed for the most appalling expressions of sexism. In some nations and communities, the majority of abortions have been of baby girls. Feminism’s freedom resulted in girls’ genocide!
Because all humans are imperfect, we all have some disabilities. Most do not affect us much and can be easily remedied or compensated for (e.g. we wear glasses or have corrective surgery). As we age the number of disabilities increases. Having disabilities does not in any way exclude us from being human. Naturally, we do not want these disabilities and will take any opportunity to overcome them, but a single symbol of a civilized and humane society is caring for those with disabilities. God’s law condemned hurting people with disabilities: “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:14).
However, caring with people who have severe disabilities is a very expensive activity: expensive in time, effort and energy even more than money. Carers need encouragement, support and applause for their efforts – they are the heroic champions of civilization. They also deserve our financial support as there are few worthier causes for our taxes than supporting people with disabilities.
The distribution of disabilities seems random in the world we inhabit, under the judgement of God, outside the Garden of Eden. There are some sins, which bring direct consequences (e.g. a hangover) while the consequences of other sins come indirectly when the Government considers they are punishable crimes. However, most of the problems of life come from the general sinfulness of humanity bringing the judgement of God upon our world. The man born blind in John 9 was not blind either for his or his parents’ sinfulness, “but that the works of God might be displayed in him”. God works his purposes out in ways that we are only sometimes able to glimpse.
Because this is the nature of our world, we can never be free from the possibility of some disability coming our way. It may come to me or my spouse, or my children – but as life goes on we endure a growing number of difficulties. It is only when the Lord Jesus Christ returns that our lowly bodies will be transformed into the likeness of his glorious body (Philippians 3:21).
In the meantime, wherever possible we should seek to relieve the pain, suffering and inconvenience that disabilities cause our fellow human beings. This should be done without fear or favour for any who are in need. The Sabbath day, which Jesus brought, was in particular the time of healing and restoration (Mark 3:1f, John 5:9; 9:14). It was the time to save life not to kill. Life’s problems are not to be solved by killing – either by suicide or, by what are euphemistically called, ‘euthanasia’ or ‘termination’. We do not solve human problems by killing the sufferer, for human beings are not defined by our ability or by our disabilities but by our humanity.
This is where the famously atheistic Professor, Peter Singer, is so right and so wrong. He demonstrates the factual and logical inadequacies of the normal arguments for abortion advanced by liberals, feminists, and fellow atheists. He understands the Christian argument is based upon humanity’s creation in God’s image and why Christians oppose abortion on demand, as it is not a victimless crime – the unborn is the victim.
However, as an atheist, he sees no inherent status in being human. If there is no god there is no ‘image of God’. So he chooses to find our status in personhood described by our abilities, in particular our self-aware mental capacities. On this basis he has no qualms about abortion – before birth or even for some time after birth. He has no argument with killing newborn babies or elderly demented adults.
Atheists’ view of humanity undermines their morality.