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Embryonic Theology

Across the nation embryonic stem cell research garners media attention and political discussion. Numerous religious leaders have jumped into the debate.

In <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Missouri the issue remains especially contentious leading up to the Nov. 7 election over a proposed state constitutional amendment and a U.S. Senate race with the candidates divided over embryonic stem cell research.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
In the midst of this fierce political battle, religious ideas and arguments have played a fairly substantial role. The problem, however, is that many of these religious comments seem built on shallow and immature theology. Politics seems to trump good doctrine. As a result, we are left merely with underdeveloped embryonic theology.
 
One area where this weak theology has developed in the way some Christians have attacked those they disagree with on the issue. Alan Keyes demonstrated this embryonic theology at a rally in Springfield, Mo., sponsored by Rick Scarborough’s Vision America. Keyes told stem cell researchers: “God hates you.” Apparently his faith has not matured to the point of realizing that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) or that nothing can “separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:39).
 
Or consider the harsh attacks on Michael J. Fox after he appeared in a TV ad supporting Senate candidate Claire McCaskill because she supports embryonic stem cell research. Rush Limbaugh accused Fox of acting or exaggerating the impact of his Parkinson’s disease and then mockingly flailed his arms around. Sadly, some Christians downplayed Limbaugh’s comments and made excuses for his mean-spirited attack.
 
Another area where embryonic theology has crept in during the stem cell debate is in overstatements of God’s opinion in the debate, such as in an ad that aired after Fox’s. The ad, which features Kurt Warner, Mike Sweeney and Patricia Heaton, begins with “The Passion of the Christ” star Jim Caviezel speaking in Aramaic with no subtitles. Since Missouri does not have a significant Aramaic-speaking population, the move instead appears to be an attempt to make sure viewers see Caviezel as Jesus.
 
In fact, the phrase Caviezel states, “You betray me with a kiss,” is clearly intended to create the Christ comparison as it is his first line from “The Passion of the Christ.” Apparently in the movie’s sequel the part of Judas will be played by a stem cell researcher. Perhaps this is why God hates them. Who needs the real and loving Jesus when you have a Hollywood actor to play the part?
 
A final area where this embryonic theology can be seen is in deliberate attempts by some Christians to mislead and trick voters. Instead of being people of the Truth, some Christians have resorted to dirty politics and deception. Such actions can only be justified by a faith that is shallow and underdeveloped.
 
Many mistruths and myths have been spread about amendment, especially over issues related to egg donations and the potential of embryonic stem cell research. However, misleading comments do not appear to be entirely accidental. Kerry Messer, lobbyist for the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission, talked about some ads running in conjunction with a Web site, 2tricky.org.
 
“The 2tricky ads are great because they’re capitalizing on confusion,” Messer explained in the MBC’s newsletter the Pathway. “A confused voter generally is a ‘No’ voter.”
 
Such a Christ-like response! Confuse them so you can trick them to vote how you want. When Christians begin to play worldly politics with such dirty worldly strategies, then they have damaged the great calling they had. Instead of preaching the love of Jesus (except to stem cell researchers), some Christians seem to prefer tricks and deception.
 
In Ephesians 4, Paul urged Christians to “become mature.” He added, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”
 
Such advice is desperately needed today. Regardless how one feels about embryonic stem cell research, all Christians should be able to unite against embryonic theology.
 
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.