Great Stuff — Commentary: Should Lutherans take ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’?

Here’s a great article found on blogs.lcms.org originally written by BJS author Pr. Daniel Hinton.

 

Jim Sanft, president and CEO of Concordia Plan Services (CPS), takes the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" during a CPS employee picnic Aug. 20 at Kirkwood Park. Pouring the water are CPS employees Jason Williams, left, and Curtis Wooten. CPS plans to donate employee pledges of $3,155.52 to an ALS organization aligned with LCMS Life Ministries. (Concordia Plan Services/Diane Mottert)

Jim Sanft, president and CEO of Concordia Plan Services (CPS), takes the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” during a CPS employee picnic Aug. 20 at Kirkwood Park. Pouring the water are CPS employees Jason Williams, left, and Curtis Wooten. CPS plans to donate employee pledges of $3,155.52 to an ALS organization aligned with LCMS Life Ministries. (Concordia Plan Services/Diane Mottert)

A new wave of videos has made its way across the Internet this summer in which people are dumping ice water on their heads and challenging others to do the same. This is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a “viral” campaign to raise awareness of and money to fight ALS, a debilitating neurological disease responsible for two of every 100,000 deaths in the U.S. Also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” it has afflicted professor Stephen Hawking for more than 50 years and, in 2006, caused the death of Lutheran theologian and professor Kurt E. Marquart. Currently, there is no known cure —available treatments mostly treat the symptoms of the disease.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge began July 29, 2014, as a way to help those who have the disease by raising money for research. Participants make a video in which ice water is dumped on them, and sometimes they dump the water themselves. Celebrities such as LeBron James and “Weird Al” Yankovic have participated, as have former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. At the end of each video, the soggy participant usually “calls out” a few people to participate, giving them the option of either making their own video or sending $100 to the ALS Association for research.

The video appears to be an enormous fundraising success. According to the ALS Association, they have received more than $41.8 million this year, compared with $2.1 million as of the same time last year. So between the fun videos — and many of them are riotously hilarious — and the fundraising to combat a debilitating and incurable disease, this is a win for everyone, right?

There is one concern with this challenge, and it is by no means a small one. The ALS Association, which is promoting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, sends its money to research groups to find new treatments and to look for cures. Unfortunately, a substantial amount of that money — $500,000 in 2013 — goes to a group that conducts its research using a stem cell line that started from the spinal cord of a baby who was electively aborted at eight weeks’ gestation. In other words, the research conducted by this group depends upon the death of an innocent, pre-born baby.

Among the thousands of people who have taken up the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge are many Christians who are acting out of love for their neighbor that was first shown them in Christ’s life and death for all. Knowing that such a frightening and destructive disease is afflicting so many of those around us, Christians are naturally moved to compassion, and that compassion manifests itself in action like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Unfortunately, because the research methods are not widely publicized, most Christians simply do not know how much of this research is carried out and would be appalled to learn the details of embryonic stem cell research.

In the Fifth Commandment, God forbids murder. The taking of innocent human life, as is the case with the embryonic stem cell line used by one of these research groups, is by definition murder. It is still murder even if the purpose of killing the baby is to harvest his spinal cord to develop medical therapies. The research being conducted with this embryonic stem cell line, then, is unethical, and Christians should not support research that begins with the murder of a baby.

Thus, I advise Christians not to send their money to any group that funds embryonic stem cell research. It should be noted though that stem cell research that uses stem cell lines harvested from adult skin cells or from the umbilical cords of babies who have been born should not be considered unethical, and Christians may support this type of research with a clear conscience.

Thankfully, ethical alternatives exist for those Christians who are moved to support research to treat ALS. A quick Internet search revealed at least four organizations that are conducting research using the ethically-harvested stem cell lines, and some of the research conducted from those lines has already shown great promise toward effective therapies.

The Rev. Daniel Hinton is associate pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Cheyenne, Wyo.

Editor’s note: These organizations are among those that avoid the use of embryonic stem cells in their medical research efforts:

The following resources from the LCMS Life Library are designed to provide insight into the use of embryonic stem cells and related ethical concerns:

An Approach to Bioethics
In our culture, ethical or moral determinations are often based on the sentiments of who makes the decision. In the minds of many, motive justifies the act. But Lutheran theology has a way of viewing the objective act itself as either compatible or incompatible with what God does for us.

What Is a Stem Cell?
Are we to consider the human body divorced from what it means to be a human being? Is the human body merely the sum total of its parts, or is body and soul a unity that will participate someday in the resurrection?

Stem Cell Research: Theology
Christians are neighbors to the unborn embryo. Because we are forgiven by His grace through faith, the relationship that God has with us and that we have with our neighbor is based on this covenant love. Therefore, our love to children who are conceived is unconditional and long suffering.

The Stem-Cell Slide: Be Alert to the Beginnings of Evil
President Bush argued: Why not bring good out of evil by using otherwise wasted stem cells to find cures for awful diseases? The problem is that when this source of stem cells runs out those on the other side will demand more stem cells from more embryos.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff — Commentary: Should Lutherans take ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’? — 13 Comments

  1. Embryonic stem cell research can be carried out by using umbilical cord blood; which puts no life in danger.

    Most of this is now discarded as only a few can afford the storage fees to keep it against their own need. [There are “cord banks” for those who can.]

    Thank you for the addresses of ethical research agencies for ALS. In addition to Prof. Marquart, among my acquaintances, my former elder died of ALS last year.

  2. on the basis of your reasoning, should christians oppose all organ transplants as well? I haven’t heard that women abort precisely provide stem cells. The abortions are a tragedy like any other murder. And murdered folks do have their organs harvested.

    What is it I am missing here? Stem-cell-fetal-harvest doesn’t equal abortion-is-ok does it? how so? what if a mom and dad have a miscarriage? they would be sinning to donate stem cells? how so?

  3. Beyond the question of abortion, as this nonsense makes the rounds I am reminded of the parable of the pharisee and the publican.

  4. “The research being conducted with this embryonic stem cell line, then, is unethical, and Christians should not support research that begins with the murder of a baby.”

    And it is here we learn that Pastor Hinton, barely 3 years out of Fort Wayne, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  5. @fws #2
    And murdered folks do have their organs harvested.

    There is a strict time limit after death during which organs are viable for transplant.
    When & where are the organs of “murdered folks” eligible, given this fact?

    [The duly convicted and executed are not “murdered”.]

  6. When fetal stem cells are procured for research, they are typically sold by the abortion clinic without the consent of patients. Making these purchases financially supports abortion providers. It is in violation of all established medical ethics to use anything for research without consent. Furthermore, when fetal tissue can be sold at a profit by abortion providers, they are given an additional financial incentive to perform more abortions and later abortions because the later the gestations, the more the parts are worth. Also, in our current culture, such research is pointed to as a “benefit” of abortion. This alone would give us cause to stand against it.

    Organs cannot be harvested from executed convicts or anyone who was murdered without their prior consent or the consent of the family, in some cases. Usually if someone is murdered, their organs will not be in any condition to be harvested given that if the organs are without oxygen for any appreciable amount of time, they will not be viable for a transplant. Furthermore, the murderer does not gain anything from any organ transplant that might occur. A closer analogy would be if the murderer stole the victims organs and sold them.

  7. Robert :
    And it is here we learn that Pastor Hinton, barely 3 years out of Fort Wayne, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Where, exactly?

    And what would Pastor Hinton’s alleged ignorance have to do with him relatively recently having attended an excellent institution of learning?

  8. @Robert #5
    Care to put some proof to your claim?

    Also, the 3 year note is interesting and rather experiential, don’t you think? It is my “experience” that such claims to discredit based upon age are usually the last defense of someone who is older and disagrees with you.

    To discredit based upon age (which is what you imply) is sadly an error which shows a lack of wisdom no matter how many years you may have.

  9. I know I am not the brightest bulb in the pack, but could the persons who posted #2 and #4 (fws and Nate Bargmann) please explain their positions more plainly? I do not understand if you agree or disagree with this article, but I think you may disagree and would like your reasoning explained for this dense reader. I personally found little to disagree with in the article and appreciated his list of ethical research institutes. Thanks, Pr. Hinton!

  10. @Robert #5
    Robert, why do you say that?

    And, fws, I don’t begin to understand what you are talking about. What does stem cell research has to do with organ transplants?

  11. @Robert #5

    “And it is here we learn that Pastor Hinton, barely 3 years out of Fort Wayne, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

    How is this possibly a good basis for your assertion? How much time out of seminary (or any other post-graduate program) is considered enough time to know what one is talking about?

  12. Worth noting in the comments to Pr Hinton’s piece on the LCMS blog site:

    “Mark August 26, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    I recommend that you remove ALS Therapy Development Institute from your list of ethical alternatives. While it is true that ALS TDI does not CURRENTLY use embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in their research, that is purely a practical decision rather than an ethical one. I have corresponded directly with the organization via both Twitter and email this week, and it was clear from their responses (and indeed, from their own “Research Strategy” on their website) that they would gladly use ESCs IF the research proved fruitful. The only reason they have abandoned ESCs at this time is because adult stem cell research is yielding superior results.”

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