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Archive for September, 2012

Get a group of parents of children with disabilities together and it won’t be long before the stories start to come out, frequently about being treated badly. It is rare to run into a parent who doesn’t have a story about a doctor or school teacher or therapist or social worker who talked down to the parent about what the child did or didn’t need, or refused to consider options from the parents’ perspectives.

Bob Horning kindly sent me another story about Krista when she was very young and they were in such a situation – and God demonstrated his might in using a little one for his glory!

Krista was in the Early Childhood Something-or-other program in our local public school when she was little. It wasn’t going well.

They were focusing on things that were not important, and our input was pretty much ignored.

“We are the experts here” is what they said. I’m not making that quote up.

We decided to pull her out of the program, but they wanted to have a meeting before we took that step. So we went over to the school and met with a therapist or two, plus the principal.

Three or four of them against a couple “confused” parents and a four-year-old girl with multiple disabilities.

Krista was in the corner playing with some toys while we were sitting at a table talking – and it also wasn’t going very well.

Finally little Krista walked over and said (I can still hear it today), “Guys, we need to pray about this.

Fortunately I think most schools have improved over the years. But it’s always good to pray about it.

God was, and still is, good.

He hasn’t needed to improve.

Krista still clings to God. She grew up and her family created one of the best resources available on God’s goodness in disability, Just the Way I Am: God’s Good Design in Disability. Krista will also be speaking at our conference, The Works of God: God’s Good Design in Disability immediately following Pastor John.

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Bob Horning is not just the father of Krista Horning and a member at Bethlehem Baptist Church, he also holds a Ph.D. in physics and works as a scientist for Honeywell in Minnesota.  I asked him to take a look at an article in Slate.com, which argued that new technologies are a problem for those of us who hold to the view of unborn life being precious.  Here is his response.

William Saletan writes the column “Human Nature” at Slate.com.  In an article last June called “Fetal Flaw,” Saletan tried to argue several points about prenatal testing, abortion, and the pro-life position, especially in relation to the “problem” of a “defective fetus.”  Briefly, he claimed that:

  1. The developing field of Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) will allow earlier, safer, easier and more thorough prenatal screening than current techniques;
  2. Because “earlier tests will almost certainly increase the abortion rate,” pro-lifers must be opposed to the development of such tests.  Therefore, the logical pro-life position is to oppose their implementation;
  3. This opposition means pro-lifers are against both science and public opinion.  He states, “It puts pro-lifers in the politically untenable position of opposing information and health care, not just abortion.”

I believe that is an honest and fair summary of the article.  You can feel free to correct me if you see it otherwise.  I say that he “tried to argue” because he did a very poor job of it, although he obviously did not see it that way.

It’s not hard to see where the logic disappears.

Point 1 is the only accurate part of the article.  It’s actually very true, and people of any political persuasion can see that.  And praise God for good science!  Twenty-five years ago when our daughter was born, things like this didn’t exist.  If they had, it wouldn’t have changed whether or not she was born.  She was and is a human being, our precious baby, and now our dear 25-year-old daughter.  Testing wouldn’t have changed that but it would have helped us prepare for the upcoming days, months and years.  Disability (I will not use the word defective) is not easy, but it is not a reason to kill a human being.

That brings me to point 2.  Saletan says, “The separability of testing from abortion, coupled with the bundling of testable diseases and the ambiguity of how the findings will be applied, makes moral regulation of prenatal testing a logistical nightmare. It puts pro-lifers in the politically untenable position of opposing information and health care, not just abortion.”  In other words, the only position pro-lifers can have is to oppose prenatal testing.  He drags out a few examples (former presidential candidate Rick Santorum and a bill from the Virginia Legislature) to prove his point.  There are three serious flaws in Saletan’s thinking.

  1. An increase in abortions does not have to be an “almost certain” result of NIPT.  It’s true that more abortions are one possible result, but that’s not because of the testing.  That result comes from the unspoken assumption that the fetus has no intrinsic value.  When a physician finds a blocked artery or a malignant tumor or the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s disease in an adult patient, she doesn’t therefore say, “It’s time to kill this patient.  He’s going to either die soon or be a burden to his family.”  Instead she begins to prescribe treatments, therapy and lifestyle changes.  Why?  Because most people in our society (although not all, unfortunately) still believe the patient has intrinsic value and we should try to save his life.  The problem is, the worldview of our society has degraded to the point where “defective fetuses” are no longer accorded that same value.  They are defective, they are a problem – these two words are found in the first sentence of Saletan’s column – and they are powerless.  So don’t bother treating them, abort them.  It is not testing or test results that kills babies.  It is a worldview, mercilessly advocated by Saletan and many others, that leads to this result.
  2. Many pro-lifers are very supportive of good science and good tests. I do, for one, and I can point to many others.  It is true, as Saletan demonstrates, that some pro-lifers do oppose prenatal testing. I suspect many pro-lifers oppose prenatal testing because they haven’t taken the time to think about alternatives other than abortion.  If they do, most of them would agree that the battle isn’t against good science, it’s against a wicked worldview.
  3. Saletan’s final flaw here is that he doesn’t seem to believe there is a viable alternative.  In fact he points to it, albeit rather crudely, in his last paragraph.  “But the best way to separate testing from abortion is to push the technology forward so that we’re fixing defective embryos and fetuses, not just discarding them. Who could be against that?”  Although that last question is meant to be hypothetical, he spent the entire column pointing out that the answer is “pro-lifers, of course.”  He can see the alternative but obviously doesn’t really believe it.  Stated differently, Saletan does believe that defective fetuses can be fixed, and most likely believes that some will.  But the article clearly shows he believes most will just be discarded. And there is not a word in the article suggesting that he thinks there is anything wrong with that.  There are plenty of good alternatives to abortion.  Yes, some babies can be treated before birth, but we all know that most disabling conditions cannot be “fixed.”  Instead, those results can give parents the time to prepare their hearts and their homes, gather support, pray.  The results give us, the Church, time to surround those families with love and compassion.  Yes, the church needs to do better at this.  I need to do better at this.  It certainly wouldn’t hurt if Mr. Saletan would spend more time promoting this kind of “fix” rather than finding reasons to kill another baby.

In answering Point 2, I’ve also answered most of Point 3.  We don’t oppose science, or information, or health care.  Exactly the opposite is true.  In fact, for decades pro-lifers have fought for the right of pregnant women to have accurate and complete information about the child in their womb, the physical and psychological risks of abortion, and the alternatives available.  Pro-abortion forces have vociferously opposed any and all attempts to inform the mother despite (as Saletan details in the article) the fact that most Americans oppose an unlimited right to abortion.  Polls do show that Americans are less opposed to abortion when the fetus is “defective.”  Let’s start using language that isn’t so biased. People of God, put more action to your beliefs (i.e., show your faith with your works).  Let’s start calling those babies children, created in the image of the God of this universe, rather than defective fetuses.  Above all – though I don’t know if  Mr. Salentan would agree with this – let’s teach mothers and fathers and families that there is good news that far outweighs this affliction, and it is found in God’s one and only Son.  And then let’s see how public opinion changes.  And even if it doesn’t change, killing babies is still wrong and always will be, just as killing blacks or Jews or Tutsis is and always will be wrong.

No Mr. Saletan, the best way to separate testing from abortion has nothing to do with pushing prenatal testing technology forward.  The best way to separate testing from abortion is by providing love and care and hope to them and their parents, not just discarding them. Who could be against that?

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I was given the opportunity to speak at the Bethlehem College and Seminary Chapel last week.  Below is the video of my attempt to serve the faculty, staff and students.  It is about 20 minutes.  My manuscript can be found here.

It was based on Luke’s account of the healing of a paralyzed man in Luke 5:17-26.

Note: I had a little trouble with the video actually playing.  If you have similar trouble, turning off high definition by clicking on the HD symbol below (to the left of the word ‘vimeo’ at the bottom of the video) seemed to help.

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Desiring God’s National Conference, Act the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification, begins on Friday.  All of the plenary sessions will be available live via the web at Desiring God.

In describing the conference earlier this year, David Mathis went to one of Pastor John’s books to describe the importance of this theme:

God’s work in us does not eliminate our work; it enables it. We work because he is the one at work in us. Therefore, the fight for joy is possible because God is fighting for us and through us. All our efforts are owing to his deeper work in and through our willing and working. (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 41).

This is what animates a desire to serve and be served by those living with disabilities!  Because God is at work in us, we see and feel and desire things that are not normal, like including people in our lives, homes and churches that the culture wants to eliminate (at worst) or feels only pity towards (at best).

So, I’m praying that through this conference there might be dozens of churches who ‘see’ disability for the first time, and who understand that God has done something incredible by bringing to them some who live with disability.  Yes, I know it isn’t a conference on disability. But I also know some pretty incredible things happen in people’s lives and hearts on this issue of disability when people see God through the lens of the Bible rather than the lens of the culture.  Would you join me in praying for that to happen?

This also marks my 10th Desiring God conference as an employee with Desiring God.  As I’ve noted before, God brings people together in unusual ways at conferences, and I expect God will do so again.  I know of one pastor who emailed me that he has a story to tell me about how his little church has been blessed through a member with disabilities – and I can’t wait to hear it!

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I am prone to anxiety, so Ed Welch’s statement caught my attention!  Struggle – yes. Wonderful?

He immediately follows that with this: the most beautiful things that God says are reserved for people who wrestle with fear.

Ed Welch packs much helpful truth into less than two minutes!

Ed Welch is speaking this weekend at the Desiring God National Conference.  You can watch him live online at 10:30 a.m. (Central) at www.desiringGod.org/live.

I have never heard him speak and am looking forward to his presentation: Sinners Learning to Act the Miracle: Restoring Broken People and the Limits of Life in the Body

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Almost every day Paul’s teachers send home a report that quickly lets them summarize his daily activities.  At the bottom they note something he may have learned or accomplished that day as a ‘point of pride.’

Last Wednesday he came home with a simple note:

His bus aid also serves in his class and told me the same thing, adding, “I felt like I was at a revival!”

Who knows, maybe he was!

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 ESV)

My Paul needs help with almost everything.  And though we’ve met some really fine Christians at his school, I’m sure there was no prompting from any of them for a hymn.

But when God says, “tell them about me, Paul” – he sings!

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In her contribution to The New York Times Motherlode blog, Pregnant at 49, Erin Kelly lays out the challenges she sees in being pregnant, unexpectedly, at the age of 49.  Rightly, the issue of the baby’s genetic makeup is central to her concerns.  Women at that age (and men, as it turns out), are of greater risk in having children who will be born with genetic anomalies.

Every statement she makes about disability is negative, except one:

Yes, we know disabled people can lead productive happy lives.

Which was immediately followed with this:

But he and I agreed we’d terminate a fetus with genetic defects. Why? Not because we’re crazed perfectionists, or evil. We’re just too old.

Actually, the statements that follow this suggest they are perfectionists:

We’re already almost too old to properly raise a special-needs child. We’ll certainly be too old later. If we live until about 80, that’s 30 more years. This special-needs child would be a special-needs adult with a long life ahead when we died. After my grandmother died, I watched my aunt with Down syndrome move between her sisters for more years than she’d had a mother. Our daughters would automatically be made into their sibling’s keepers. I always wanted three children, but we’d be giving them a lifetime of responsibility for a decision we made to indulge ourselves in having another baby to fill our emptying nest.

There is no statement about how her aunts felt about taking care of their disabled sibling.  There is no statement about what kind of life her aunt with Down syndrome lived; many adults with Down syndrome would say they lead a very good life.  There is no statement about families taking care of each other.  Yet, I’m sure if one of her teenaged children suddenly experienced a traumatic brain injury this mother would be the first in line to take care of that child for as many years as she was given – even into that child’s adulthood.

But there is a lot said about the value of independence and productivity over dependence.  Notice even in the ‘positive’ statement: we know disabled people can lead productive happy lives.

And, curiously, there is no mention of adoption.  If they are too old to parent, maybe somebody would take on the challenge.  I know quite a few of those ‘somebodies’ who have adopted children with special needs – sometimes many children!

Sadly, this baby died through miscarriage, so we will never know what kind of person he or she would have been.  Maybe that’s a kindness from God; Erin Kelly was not put in the position of explaining to her children why she aborted their sibling because he or she was too defective to live.

And she concludes with a statement about who gets to decide things, like what makes up a good family or not:

My experience is just one more reason I believe women must have an absolute right to choose whether to remain pregnant with no exceptions. Some pregnancies aren’t only about the survival of the mother or the fetus, they’re about how the whole family thrives.

Whole families – except, of course, for the one you didn’t want.

Paul taught us there is something worth sacrificing for, including caring for and loving children who will suffer and who will bring suffering to an entire family, because it leads to something of greater worth than anything – Jesus Christ!

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11 ESV)

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