A video by Curtis Chang, Professor at Duke Divinity School, has been making the rounds on social media this past week and has gained much attention in the Christian community; especially among pro-life advocates.
Chang argues in the video that pro-life advocates concerned about the ethics surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine have a moral obligation to reexamine their hesitation. Citing Scripture, Chang argues in the following manner: God’s redemptive work to save humanity through Christ’s sacrifice has real world examples to help us clearly see this example of redemption.
There is nothing wrong in itself with this line of reasoning, many examples could be given of acts of redemption through self-sacrifice on behalf of someone who has wronged us in order to save them. Jesus used these examples repeatedly in his parables to help people grasp the message he was giving them.
Analogies are helpful tools, but they need to accurately portray the nature of the issues at hand in order to properly explain the truth of the matter. And this is where the problems start.
Chang goes on to argue that because the Covid-19 vaccine may have been developed using human tissue derived through immoral means(abortion), the vaccine can serve as a sort of portrayal of redemption. Just as Christ’s death on the cross served to save sinful humanity, so the deaths of unborn children may have served to save humans at risk of dying in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Setting aside the ethical issues surrounding development and distribution of the vaccine, the comparison starts falling apart if one looks closer.
For starters, there’s no comparison between what Christ did on the cross, and what happens to unborn children in abortion, largely because while Christ went willingly to his death on behalf of wicked human beings, whereas in abortion, death is forced on unborn children unwillingly(in fact, children who have no idea what is happening to them). This alone makes Chang’s comparison fall apart.
Think about it this way: If a soldier willingly jumps onto a live grenade to save his fellow servicemen from dying, this is obviously an act of heroic bravery. However, if a sadistic military commander decided to send his soldiers unknowingly into a live-mine field, hoping they will trigger the detonations of the explosives in order to clear a path for his forces to safely get through, we would obviously recognize this as an act of moral evil, even if it led to the safe passage of other troops.
In a similar way, the moral concerns pro-life advocates have raised in regards to the vaccine need to be dealt with. Because unborn children have been killed unjustly and without a say in the matter, calling their deaths an act of redemption on par with Christ’s work of salvation is obscene, and fits more with the example of the sadistic military leader rather than the intentional sacrifice of a soldier to save his comrades through sacrificing himself.
To put it another way, suppose in the near future organs harvested from aborted children(as was discovered in 2015 through investigative journalism) are being used to supplement organ donation registries. Imagine if Chang argued that because these children had died, now that their body parts were being used to save the lives of others, this serves as an example of redemptive grace, and because it is an act of redemption, pro-lifers should allay their moral concerns with the policy.
The very idea would be absurd. Even if good does come out of evil, it should in no way overshadow the fact that evil is still taking place which needs to be addressed and dealt with.
To cite one more example, in some countries such as China, human rights watchdog organizations have uncovered evidence of forcible organ harvesting and killing among religious minority groups such as practitioners of the Falon Gong religious sect, with estimates that 25,000 to 50,000 individuals have died due to the policy.
Would Chang argue that even though an act of evil is obviously taking place, we should see the lives saved as a result of these organs being available as an act of redemption that helps portray what Christ did?
Not if his moral compass is intact. So why make the same distinction when a similar act of evil is occurring against human beings who have yet to be born? Chang assumes the title of “pro-life”, but his comments show little understanding of what the pro-life position is.
The pro-life position is not complicated. Quite the opposite in fact. Pro-lifers oppose the intentional killing of innocent human beings, whether they be in the womb(through abortion) or outside the womb such as through infanticide. The moral logic of the pro-life position is easy to grasp, regardless of one’s agreement with it.
What we have here in the video is an attempt to co-opt the pro-life position in order to sanitize a policy many Christians take issue with. As Chang ends his video, he makes the following statement: “Pro-life is pro-redemption, and being pro-redemption means being pro-vaccine”.
This is nonsense. The pro-life position is chiefly concerned with ethics, and how we treat fellow human beings before they are born. Saying that it is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings in no way implies one must undergo a given medical treatment in order to remain consistent. The two issues aren’t even related.
Perhaps an argument can be made that accepting the Covid-19 is morally required. Fair enough. Chang should make that argument instead of resorting to bizarre spiritual analogies to try and sanitize a policy that many people have raised moral concerns over.
In closing, it bears mentioning that Chang’s video serves as a promotion for a new curriculum being developed for churches who want to better understand the current political climate in the United States.
While this is a noble goal, the promotional video belies a misunderstanding of the basic worldview issues at play in contemporary hot-button issues. In fact, the material itself seems to fail to discern the worldview issues lurking behind the scenes of political controversies, and instead engages in a blanket labeling of policies with titles like “mercy” and “justice”, and as we have seen, “pro-life”.
Understanding politics is important, but if one fails to discern the worldview issues driving the hot-button issues of the day, they will end up failing to clearly understand precisely what they are lending their support to, and can end up supporting evil instead of good as a result.