Albert Mohler

Where did I come from? – it’s no longer a simple question

Albert Mohler
By Albert Mohler
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January 3, 2011 (AlbertMohler.com) - At some point, anticipated and even feared by some parents, every child asks the inevitable question: “Where did I come from?” That question is endemic to humanity. The question of our own biological origins is eventually inescapable. Our existence requires an explanation, and the question takes bold form. The answer used to be easy.

That is, the answer was easy in terms of biology. In some form, the answer took the shape of a story about two people, one male and one female, who came together and made a baby. Mommy and Daddy made a baby. That story was both true and universal. For most of human history, there was no alternative account. The answer given by parents in 1960 was the same as that given in 1060 or in any previous year.

All that changed with the biological revolution and the emergence of new reproductive technologies. The development of In Vitro Fertilization technologies [IVF] came only after human beings grew accustomed to reproductive control through The Pill. If medical technologies could be harnessed to avoid pregnancy, surely new technologies could allow couples to have long-wanted children who had not come by natural means.

The public was assured that the use of these technologies would not bring about a moral revolution, since the availability of these new technologies would be limited to married couples. But, of course, this was a false promise, and it should have been seen as such from the start. The Pill was at first prescribed only for married couples, but the plain fact is that a far greater demand for contraceptives existed among the non-married. By the early 1970s, The Pill was available to all.

The same story applied to the use of IVF, as well. If there were thousands of potential users among married couples, these were vastly outnumbered by non-married persons and non-heterosexual couples. The development of IVF and the revolutions made possible by egg and sperm donation and surrogate motherhood made parenthood, though redefined, now available to virtually any adult and any couple.

This revolution is portrayed movingly in the January 2, 2011 cover story of The New York Times Magazine. In “Meet the Twiblings,” Melanie Thernstrom provides an account of how she and her husband became parents to babies Violet and Kieran, who appear adorably on the cover of the magazine. The cover text also contains this teaser: “How four women (and one man) conspired to make two babies.”

As Thernstrom acknowledges, this is a complicated story. The two babies were born five days apart. They shared a common egg donor (obtained commercially) and a common sperm donor (Thernstrom’s husband, Michael). But they were carried by two different surrogate mothers. Genetically they are siblings, but they emerged from two different wombs. They were born five days apart, but they are not really twins. Thernstrom calls them “twiblings.”

She writes movingly of her efforts, with Michael, to have a child. After six IVF rounds and clear medical advice, the Thernstroms moved to develop a new plan, but the plan required a great deal of thinking. The pull of the new reproductive technologies was clear, as was the revolution these technologies represent. She writes, “Reproductive technology fills an important — and growing — need. Gay couples are increasingly choosing to have families. Eight percent of women between 40 and 44 identify themselves as involuntarily childless or hoping to become pregnant, according to a Pew report. Most women in that age bracket will be able to become pregnant only by using donor eggs.”

Melanie and Michael wanted siblings of about the same age to grow up as companions. IVF twins were more dangerous, so Michael came up with the idea of using two surrogates to deliver two babies at about the same time.

Thernstrom’s account of the complexities of the decision-making process is fascinating, but what many readers may miss is the basic fact that virtually all of these decisions were absolutely unknown to previous generations of humanity. Would they choose an egg donor who looked like Melanie? The Thernstrom’s were more interested in personality attributes, even if these are hard to define in genetic terms. They eventually chose a donor with a “delightful” personality.

They also chose the surrogate mothers with care. Melanie noted that moral concerns about surrogacy came from both liberals and conservatives, if on different grounds. She chose two women who, made pregnant with the embryos created by the donor eggs and Michael’s sperm, carried the Thernstrom’s reproductive hopes, as well.

Melanie and Michael referred to these babies as “drafts.” In her words, they did this “to remind ourselves that they were notes toward the children we wanted, but if they died, they were just beginnings like all the embryos had been, and we would start again.”

Kieran was born first, with Violet arriving five days later. Both are adorable and healthy. The roles of the surrogate mothers did not end with the births, however, for the Thernstroms — against the prevailing advice — chose to maintain a relationship with the surrogates and the egg donor.

Interestingly, Melanie Thernstrom seems to see the complexity of these births as somewhat advantageous. “I wanted to avoid what I think of as the claustrophobia of the nuclear family,” she explains. She refers to the web of relationships required by this process as “a kind of extended family.”

She also acknowledges the ambiguities created by these new technologies. “Third-party reproduction creates all kinds of relationships for which there are not yet terms,” she explained. “For example, there is no word to describe the relationship between our children and the carriers’ children, but it feels to me that they are, somehow, related. They are gestational siblings; they don’t share a mother, father or genes, but they were carried in the same body and they learned its fathomless chemical language.”

Furthermore:

There is also no word to describe our children’s relationship with each other. Our children were born five days apart — a fact that cannot be easily explained. When people press me about their status (“But are they really twins?”), the answer gets long. The word “twins” usually refers to siblings who shared a womb. But to call them just “siblings” instead of “twins” also raises questions because full genetic siblings are ordinarily at least nine months apart. And our children could be considered the same age because they were conceived at the same time (in the lab) and the embryos were transferred at the same time. If the person continues to quibble about whether they really qualify as twins (as, surprisingly, people often do), instead of asking why it matters, I announce airily that they are “twiblings.”

Barely a week before, pop icon Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, “had” a baby boy. The Guardian [London] explained that the baby came “with the help of an anonymous Californian surrogate and a separate egg donor.” The birth of the baby boy, named Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, created something of a stir in the British press, but the main issue of concern seemed to be the fact that Elton John is 62 and David Furnish is 48. The issue of homosexuality was so politically incorrect that age appeared to be the only factor of interest. Zoe Williams of The Guardian went so far as to proclaim that the whole event added up to the fact that “homophobia is dying.”

It is as if we are now living on a new planet — one in which all the natural boundaries of sex and reproduction have been left behind. The technologies of reproduction are redefining sex, marriage, relationships, family, and the human story. Humanity is rushing headlong into a world in which the answer to the question, “Where did I come from?,” can be endlessly complicated. We have no adequate categories for explaining the relationship of little Kieran and Violet and all those who “conspired” to bring them to be. We read the birth announcement of Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, and we know that the most important moral questions are already off-limits.

An entire industry now operates with a global reach, offering these reproductive technologies to virtually anyone with the cash to pay. You can count on reproductive technologies expanding as a growth industry.

The theological and moral implications of all this are endless and urgent, but the technologies rush ahead. For Christians, the most urgent issue is the total separation of natural marriage from the process of human reproduction that is made possible by these technologies. The moral complexities surrounding Kieran and Violet Thernstrom and their “extended family” are vexing. We naturally sympathize with a married couple who so desperately desires a child, but the discussion of the life choices that lead so many couples of advanced age to desire to have children now, rather than earlier, are culturally off-limits.

And the birth of Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John to an aging pop singer and his same-sex partner is just a sign of things to come. The question, “Where did I come from?,” may well emerge as one of the most haunting questions of our times.

This article reprinted with permission from AlbertMohler.com

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Lisa Bourne

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Archbishop Chaput: Obama’s White House ‘may be the least friendly to religious concerns in our history’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

PHILADELPHIA, PA, April 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Philadelphia’s archbishop told a group of young men preparing for the Catholic priesthood that under the Obama administration hostility toward religion has reached an unprecedented level.

“The current White House may be the least friendly to religious concerns in our history,” Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap, stated in an address at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

With religious liberty at the top of news headlines, the archbishop spoke to the seminarians March 17 in observance of the 50th anniversary of the close of Vatican II and its Declaration on Religious Liberty – Dignitatis Humanae. He talked about the decline of religious practice in the U.S. and the various ways religious liberties are being eroded in the country, forewarning of what’s to come with the nation on its current path.

“We’ll see more of the same in the future,” Archbishop Chaput said. “Pressure in favor of things like gay rights, contraception and abortion services, and against public religious witness.”

“We’ll see it in the courts and in so-called ‘anti-discrimination’ laws,” he continued. “We’ll see it in ‘anti-bullying’ policies that turn public schools into indoctrination centers on matters of human sexuality; centers that teach that there’s no permanent truth involved in words like ‘male’ and ‘female.’”

Archbishop Chaput detailed religious persecution across the globe currently and in the past, before delving into the present climate in America.

“We’ll see it in restrictions on public funding, revocation of tax exemptions and expanding government regulations,” the archbishop stated. “We too easily forget that every good service the government provides comes with a growth in its regulatory power. And that power can be used in ways nobody imagined in the past.”

Archbishop Chaput expressed how certain terms so prevalent in American culture today - justice, rights, freedom, and dignity - are used with conflicting meanings, rendering public discourse futile in addressing truth.

“Our most important debates come down to who can use the best words in the best way to get power,” he said. “Words like ‘justice’ have emotional throw-weight, so people use them as weapons.”

Reports of Archbishop Chaput’s remarks come as the state of Indiana and its governor face tremendous hostility for its recently adopted religious freedom law.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence has spent the last few days retreating after a national barrage of attacks on the law, which mirrors that of 19 other states and was shaped from 1993 federal legislation passed by a Democrat Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.

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Opponents claim the law amounts to state-sponsored discrimination, despite the fact its purpose is to protect religious liberty against government overreach.

In speaking to the seminarians from his archdiocese, Archbishop Chaput said we are lying to ourselves if we think we can keep our freedoms without revering the biblical vision--the uniquely Jewish and Christian vision--of who and what man is.

“Human dignity has only one source. And only one guarantee,” he said. “We’re made in the image and likeness of God. And if there is no God, then human dignity is just elegant words.”

The archbishop stressed for the young men that the faithful must live out religious liberty by practicing faith in their lives and by defending it.

“We need to remember two simple facts,” Archbishop Chaput said. “In practice, no law and no constitution can protect religious freedom unless people actually believe and live their faith – not just at home or in church, but in their public lives.” 

“But it’s also true that no one can finally take our freedom unless we give it away,” he said.

The archbishop closed by cautioning against becoming a cynic, saying there’s too much beauty in the world to lose hope.

“In the end,” he said, “there’s too much evidence that God loves us, with a passion that is totally unreasonable and completely redemptive, to ever stop trusting in God’s purpose for the world, and for our lives.”

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Rachel Lu

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Dissent trumps Faith in new ‘Catholic’ LGBT film

Rachel Lu
By Rachel Lu

April 1, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- “Human beings procreate male-female, but human sexuality isn’t just about that. It’s about so much more, which is self-evident.”

So says Fr. Patrick Conroy, chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives, at the outset of a recently released short film promoting the normalization of LGBT lifestyles within the Catholic Church.

The film is entitled “Owning Our Faith,” which is richly ironic in ways that the director, Michael Tomae, surely did not intend. Except for Catholic writer Eve Tushnet (a complicated case, whose work has been discussed on Crisis in the past), all the featured participants clearly and openly dissent from Catholic teachings on sexuality. They are indeed interested in “owning” their faith. But the ownership they seek is of a distinctly proprietary nature.

There’s little point in trying to refute the film’s arguments as such, because there really are none. If the word “Catholic” were omitted from the audio track, almost nothing would suggest to a listener that the content of the film had anything to do with the Catholic tradition. There is no serious discussion of theology or doctrine. The quote from Fr. Conroy above is the closest it ever comes to “engaging” the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics. It’s clear throughout that the individuals featured are not interested in learning what their faith might have to teach them. As they see it, they are the teachers, appointed to remake the Church in their own image.

Thus we see Fr. Conroy lamenting that gay and lesbian Catholics cannot be “fully participating in the sacramental life of our Church.” In case anyone is unclear as to what he means (because of course, experiences of same-sex attraction do not exclude anyone from full participation in the Church’s sacramental life), this is juxtaposed against “married couple” Matt and Rick Vidal discussing why they choose to remain “faithful Catholics,” despite criticism from their LGBT friends. “We are the Church,” declares Rick, “and if we leave it, if we abandon the Church, then it’s never going to change, so we have to continue living here, being an example, and encouraging other people to be that example, because that’s what’s going to change the Church.”

Is there anything these men like about Catholicism as it is? Any reason not to seek out one of the (numerous) other communities and churches that would be happy to affirm them in whatever sexual lifestyle they might choose? They don’t say, and neither do any of the other featured speakers. Here and elsewhere, we are left with the distinct impression that most of them remain in Catholic communities primarily as a favor to the rest of us, so that we can benefit from their gifts and unique insight. A review of the film at National Catholic Reporter stated that, “Not every viewer will agree with every opinion expressed in ‘Owning Our Faith,’ but only the most rigid of believers would question the love these Catholics have for their church.” At the risk of joining the ranks of the rigid, I do indeed feel moved to ask: what do these Catholics love about their church? They don’t tell us. We only hear about what needs to change.

It’s difficult to argue with a film that isn’t working on the level of rational argument. Nevertheless, it’s worth responding to the general thrust and ethos of the film with three important points.

The first relates to the claim, made on the film’s website and in other promotional materials, that productions of this sort are created as part of an effort to “promote open dialogue” about same-sex attraction and related issues. This is exactly the opposite of their intent, and it’s important to be clear on this point. Propagandistic videos of this sort are intended to bypass, or even to shut down, any real or serious discussion of the moral dimensions of same-sex attraction.

In a dialogue, morally relevant issues are stated clearly so that they can be analyzed and considered. What we have here is a long string of emotional appeals. “My gender transition was immensely spiritual to me,” says Mateo Williamson, who self-identifies as a transgendered man. “Sexuality is how we express our inner soul, our inner energy,” enthuses Mike Roper who self-identifies as gay. In a particularly shameful piece of emotional blackmail, grandmother Nana Fotsch urges parents of same-sex attracted Catholics to accept their children’s declared sexual identity and related lifestyle choices or “you’re going to lose them.” (Don’t all of Christianity’s hard teachings have the potential to alienate us from loved ones? Shall we just jettison the whole Catechism right now? Our Lord has some rather stern words about those who prioritize family relationships above the truths of the Gospel.)

Though there’s nothing Catholic about its message, Owning Our Faith pursues a strategy that is entirely consonant with a larger (and thus far, remarkably successful) progressive project. Don’t try to win the argument about sexuality and marriage. Play for sympathy. Appeal to emotion. People today are so thoroughly confused about sex and marriage that they have few defenses against an onslaught of politically loaded sentimentalism. And you can’t lose an argument that you never have.

This leads us to the second important point. Uncomfortable as it may sometimes be, loving people just doesn’t entail approving everything they do. Neither should we accept anyone “exactly as he is,” because of course all of us are sinful, fallen and in need of transformation by grace.

This is not a message that these “owners of faith” want to hear. Katie Chiarantona, one of the film’s representative “straight” contributors, sums up the film’s prevailing view even more neatly by declaring that she cares enormously about the place of homosexuals in the Church because she has many LGBT friends and, “it is unconscionable and unthinkable for me to support an institution that doesn’t celebrate them and encourage them to live fully as who they are.”

Who among us can really say with any confidence that we know who our friends (or we ourselves) really are? This is a dangerous conceit. None of us here below have yet realized our perfected state. Most of us, I expect, still have a significant way to go. But progression towards supernatural fulfillment is not possible if we begin by issuing ultimatums to God about the conditions under which we will accept divine grace.

Such an effort brings to mind the parable of the wedding banquet, in which a king invites all and sundry (including the poor and commoners) to his son’s wedding, but ends up evicting one guest owing to a lack of appropriate wedding attire. Quite obviously, the king in the story is not a philistine when it comes to standing on ceremony; he’s just ushered the local riff-raff into the most formal of state affairs. Nevertheless, the guest who refuses to dress properly is forcibly removed. Clearly there is a lesson about the importance of accepting grace on God’s terms, and not our own. All of us are welcome at the Lord’s table, but we may not simply come as we are. Being Christian means looking for faith to change us, not the other way around.

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This leads to the final point. While there is some space for discussing the appropriate pastoral response to deep-seated same-sex attraction, the Church’s broader position on same-sex attraction is perfectly clear. It is intrinsically disordered, and homoerotic relationships are immoral. There is no reason to think that this teaching can, should, or ever will change. Quite the contrary, once one understands the Catholic position on sexuality, it becomes clear that it cannot possibly be tweaked in such a way as to allow disgruntled LGBT activists the affirmation they seek.

Fr. Conroy’s position, as stated in the opening quote, is a straw man. Of course no reasonable person supposes that sexuality is “only about” procreation, if by that we mean that sex should be viewed in a coldly clinical light as a utilitarian means to achieving pregnancy. Clearly, erotic love involves far more than that, and how could it not, given the magnitude of what procreation really is? To even begin to do justice to that tremendous good (the begetting of immortal souls and perpetuation of the human race) erotic love must be a noteworthy thing indeed.

However, the Church has consistently maintained that erotic love, at least among mere humans, must be ordered towards procreation. Every effort to slice and dice the relevant pieces of the conjugal package into more-palatable portions (by sanctioning sex without marriage or marriage without permanence or erotic relationships of multiple sorts that are intrinsically closed to life) has been rejected by the Church, and for good reason. Embracing the life-giving nature of sex is the key that enables Catholics to articulate a noble, elevated and meaningful portrait of erotic love, which makes sex into something more than a tangled mash-up of bodies and emotions.

The conversation that dissenting LGBT Catholics (and their “straight allies”) want to have is already over. On some level they know this, which is why they seek sympathy instead of engagement. But there is some good news. For those who really do love their Church, full participation in its sacramental life is always available. They need do only what all Catholics are expected to do: stop trying to fix our faith, and pray instead for it to fix us.

Reprinted with permission from CrisisMagazine.

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During his political days, Andy and his wife Angela with George and Laura Bush
Andy Parrish

On the fast track to political stardom, recent LSN hire gets more than he bargained for…

Andy Parrish
By Andy Parrish
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Andy Parrish

I’ve been a Chief of Staff to Rep. Michele Bachmann, I’ve managed multiple Congressional, Senatorial and Ballot Initiatives, some would say I’ve even ‘made’ members of Congress.

I’ve been a Senior Political Advisor to a Presidential candidate and I’ve sat across from President George W. Bush and advised him on political matters.  

I did most of that by the time I was thirty-three. I was on the fast track and no one was going to stop me.

Well, Jesus had other plans for me.

Even though I was on the fast track to the top it came at a significant price. I was putting me first and my family second.  

That’s not what Angela had signed up for when we got married and it’s certainly not right for my children. Nor is it the way God designed marriage.

After suffering a few defeats, I made the decision I didn’t want to be in politics anymore. But it was all I knew how to do so I started my own business and Angela kept encouraging me to seek out contracts in areas that I was most passionate about.

I was looking for contracts and stumbled upon an opportunity at LifeSiteNews.com that I never would have expected. I’ve been passionate about the life issue since I was three years old. My first memory in life was outside of a Planned Parenthood abortuary.

Providentially, a few weeks later I was on board. I thought it would be a simple job, you know one of those that you didn’t have to invest much into.  

I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  

It only took a few days for me to realize that this isn’t a job at all: this is a mission.

What amazed me most is these people just don’t talk the talk. Every one of them walks the walk, and they all put their faith and families above anything else.

Since starting work at LifeSite, I have followed the example of my co-workers and I’ve learned to show my family how much I love them by putting them first again.  

At LSN we start everyday and most every meeting with either a devotion or prayer (of course it’s voluntary).  We pray for you the readers of LSN, we pray for our supporters, we pray for each other and we pray for the success of LSN.

I’ve also found that LSN isn’t about any one person, it’s about a mission and it is larger then anyone who works here. We all trust that Jesus will continue to make LSN successful and will continue to be a blessing to our families and to you.  

LSN has given me so much.  They’ve given me my priorities back, they’ve given me more than I can ever give them and I am just one story.

I ask that you continue to pray and support the mission of LSN. We are changing hearts and minds with the truth and we are changing lives. As we end our Spring campaign, I hope you will consider clicking one of the donate buttons on our site to help us reach our goal.

Andy Parrish, Public Relations and Media Specialist for LifeSiteNews

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