Friday, March 16, 2007

Al Mohler on Re-Engineering Babies

Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has crossed a threshold of nuclear proportions: the unwavering belief, among fundamentalists, that homosexuality is solely a choice. By indicating his belief, in his blog entry of May 2, that science may be right about biology playing a role in gayness, he has been blasted out of his presidential bunker by his fellow fundamentalists, a fact he laments, with a good deal of indignation and no small amount of defensive posturing, in his blog entry of today.

Accused of saying that babies could be born gay, Mohler denied he made the statement. Accused of advocating genetic engineering, Mohler declared, "I am adamantly opposed to genetic therapies of such a sort." Blaming the "secular" media for making such false accusations, Mohler scolds fellow Christians for believing the media without reading what he actually said.

Seemingly bitter, Mohler retorted: "I am even more frustrated with many conservative Christians who read the secular headlines without even bothering to read my article. They jumped to conclusions that I do not hold and castigated me for advocating things I have opposed all my life. I have received a great deal of hate mail from those identifying themselves as homosexuals outraged that I believe homosexual acts to be unconditionally sinful. But I also received mail that can only be described as hateful from those who identified themselves as Christians -- people who clearly had never read my article and simply jumped to conclusions or accepted misrepresentations."

But let's go back to the March 2 Al Mohler, who said:

"We must fight against the idea of aborting fetuses or human embryos identified as homosexual in orientation. If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin."

The March 2 Al Mohler listed only "aborting fetuses and human embryos" as off limits (or not "appropriate") when it comes to combating homosexuality in the womb, but was clearly open to other treatments that would "reverse the [biological] sexual orientation [of the fetus] to heterosexual." In short, the March 2 Al Mohler did endorse the future use of biological treatments for re-engineering babies. Can a biological "treatment" of a human fetus to reverse homosexual orientation be anything other than manipulating the genetic makeup, that is, genetic engineering?

As Mohler notes, "Soon, genetic treatments may allow for changing the [genetic] profile [of a fetus]. Welcome to the world of designer babies. If that happens, how many parents -- even among those who consider themselves most liberal -- would choose a gay child? How many parents, armed with this diagnosis, would use the patch and change the orientation?"

The only clear criticism that the March 2 Al Mohler offered of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis [PDG] was that some liberals might use the information to choose abortion.

"The human genetic structure, along with every other aspect of creation, shows the pernicious effects of the Fall and of God's judgment," the Al Mohler of March 2 stated. Back then, he openly expressed support of changing the biological makeup of a fetus, at least if the fetus were pre-disposed to be homosexual. But today, Al Mohler declares: "I was said to advocate genetic therapies. I never said that, and I resolutely oppose such proposals. I would not advocate the use of genetic therapies to create heterosexual babies -- or any other therapy of this type."

Just call him "Backtracking Al." Two weeks ago he clearly embraced the possibility of manipulating human biology to change the sexual orientation of a fetus. But today he is horrified at the very idea!

Yet it may be too late, for by merely acknowledging the possibility that homosexuality may be based at least partially on biological composition, Mohler may be devoured and cast aside by his former allies, for in the world of fundamentalism, only the ideological purists survive.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Responding to Christian Nationalism

Tomorrow (Friday, March 9) at the spring meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, I am leading a seminar entitled "Responding to Christian Nationalism." The emphasis is on effectively communicating with persons who are Christian nationalists (whether consciously or not). There are some serious barriers between those who hold to the "America as a Christian nation" myth and those of us who yet believe, as did our Baptist forefathers, in the Separation of Church and State. If you have any insight into how to begin breaking down these barriers, I'd like to hear from you (whether today, Friday or later).

Below is part of my outline for the seminar. This section specifically addresses the question of what happened between the 1950s and today to give rise to the myth of America as a Christian Nation?

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What Happened Between the 1960s and Today?

A. Events From 1950s to early 1970s

1. Race

a. Desegregation: Brown vs. Board of Education (1954)

b. Civil Rights Act (1964)

2. Religion (Pluralism) – Immigration Act (1965) – more immigrants, less whites

3. Sex – youth rebellion, rock and roll

4. National Defeat – Vietnam

B. Establishment Feelings (race relations, religion, morality, military)

1. Loss of control

2. Disillusionment

3. National Embarrassment

4. Threat to traditional family structures

C. Interpretation by the Establishment

1. Society and culture as immoral (sex)

2. Growth of false religions (pluralism)

3. America the Weak

4. Family life and structure under attack

5. Overall culprit: “liberalism”

D. Responses

1. Politics - Founding of Religious Right / Moral Majority (Bob Jones Univ, 1975)

2. Education – Lack of school prayer (1962, Engel vs. Vitale) blamed; private white religious schools founded; public education attacked

3. Theology – Fundamentalism

4. Culture – Anti-sex morality (anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, abstinence)

5. Family – return to the 1950s as a role model for family (segregation; male bread winner; wife as home maker), which in turn is framed as a reflection of Puritan Colonial New England

6. Overall ideology - conservative politics/religion embraced as godly, liberalism in all forms branded as evil

7. Collective Response - recasting of history via the myth of America as a Christian nation