(I am in over my head with this subject, I am sure. But allow me to at least punch open a pathway for fresh thinking as I wrestle with a couple of headlines I heard on the TV this morning.)
As I sipped my coffee catching the morning news, one talking head made mention of “DNA editing” as part of a larger conversation. Not being a scientist, my insight into that statement is limited. But it was not jargon between geneticists, it was headline news I was listening to. It was a message meant for me.
As much as anything, I am bothered by the Frankenstein-ish way doctors in laboratories toy with human life at shocking levels – and now add to that the shorthand label for it: “DNA editing.” Likewise, I am bothered by the way marketing analysts with their high powered education and strategies coupled with news organizations and famous journalists stay awake all night preparing to download prepackaged ideas and philosophies into my coffee-sipping, consumer-ready mind. Meanwhile, human embryos are crafted like poetry or a newspaper column. It’s not like the process is necessarily unthoughtful, but with the consumerist mentality of the information age, it seems blasphemously convenient.
Now, of course language like “blasphemy” lends itself to the notion that I am having a knee jerk reaction of a fundamentalist. (Perhaps I should edit that out???)
How about I give the nod to the wonderful idea that by manipulating DNA a variety of diseases can be eliminated – at least in theory – which will alleviate human suffering. That is a good thing! Who can argue against that?
(Hold on… I just might.)
But first, let me make the usual rebuttal (if there is a usual one). Along with eliminating disease, we also introduce the consumerist capacity to choose blue-eyed babies and give them a host of other features we desire for/from our children. As if somehow this is going to make humanity better in the big picture?
We are now indulging our values and whims and creating a … what?… “human?” out of them??? Is that human?
I can see it now: “I was created by my rich mother and father to be a beautiful, smart, healthy, sex bomb!”
Yeah… that’s human. What does teenage rebellion do with that? What is a society of people made up of that? Your deeply flawed and selfish parents DNA-edited you into bearing the image they desired, and now we have a society made up of these creatures?
We are fanning the flames of consumerist convenience at least as much as eliminating Alzheimer’s. And I really fear that as we get one demon out the front door, seven others, more evil than the first, are coming in the back door.
And here’s the clincher: Later the same newscast offered, as a completely unrelated story, a story about a surrogate mother in California carrying triplets for another couple who are seeking the abortion of only one of the babies because they desire two children and not three! And I get it. In our consumerist society, we want to design our home as well as our children. As part of that package, we need to live within our means, and we can afford two children, but not three. And since we are “family planning” which we might now call “family editing,” it is only too convenient to kill one of the babies right now while it is still legal so that we can still afford the swimming pool out back and the three car garage.
Now… I know I am stretching this stuff a lot. Most people don’t even think of these things in these terms. After all I am writing on a blog for/about homeless people. Somehow I must relate it all to home/homelessness, right?
What does any of this have to do with homelessness?
(Glad you asked.)
“DNA editing,” “family editing,” “family finances,” and home décor all play their parts on the stage we call “home.” But we have been designing our homes at various levels for generations already, and in recent times they have become commodities that require no more commitment than regular monthly payments to the bank. We get “starter homes” and then abandon them for “dream homes” as soon as finances allow it. And when we encounter someone living on the streets, it seems they are lacking all this wonderful phenomena we call “home” and then look down our noses at them for not achieving it.
The whole point of being human is to bear the image of God. And if he creates a baby with a club foot, a droopy eye, a cleft palate and so forth this brings out the image of God in those who love that child. Of course the same can be said for those who might genetically engineer (or edit the DNA) of the child before she is born to eliminate such suffering. We call it “playing God.” But when we do that, we forget that the other route of loving the child and bringing healing to the child is also a matter of taking up the role of God, but this time with a measure of commitment that is self sacrificial.
“Family planning,” “DNA editing,” and buying a house all play serious parts in the process of making and maintaining a home. But the homes achieved by these levels of commitment are all easy come and easy go. The people in them are commoditized as we create a world dictated by our own whims – whims that will not last, but will die with us. And once I look at human life through this lens, I find it to be ugly and faithless. Undesirable really.
I know this post is a stream of consciousness blast of thoughts that seem random, but I ask you to consider the connections and thus the implications. Surely we can do better. But we really must rise above our consumerist mentality to do it.