St Johns Lutheran Church Willow Creek

Connecting People to Jesus in Rural Minnesota


To Ice, or Not to Ice? That is the Question.

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Pastor John Bennett

It’s been a long and busy summer, and subsequently writing anything for the blog just didn’t happen. But now that summer is over and things are slowing down just a tad, it was about time I sat down to put some of my thoughts into coherent statements.

If you’re on any social media sites and haven’t come across the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” you might be living under a proverbial rock. This challenge involves an individual being doused with a bucket of ice water as a way of raising awareness about ALS, with the challenge being recorded and uploaded for others to view. But in addition to raising awareness about ALS, this challenge has also raised some criticism concerning the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. Because the ALSA (ALS Association) finances research involving the use of embryonic stem cells in their effort to discover a cure, numerous individuals and religious groups have publicly condemned the now famed “Ice Bucket Challenge.” The negative comments range from equating embryonic stem cell research with abortion to the accusation that supporting embryonic stem cell research is condoning murder.

So here’s the question: can a Christian who believes in the sanctity of life and opposes the practice of abortion in good conscience participate in the “Ice Bucket Challenge” or in any way donate to the ALSA? Here’s something to consider. God is the author of life and the gift of a child is a precious gift from Him. For this reason a Christian should not support the practice of abortion. But the argument that either direct or indirect support of embryonic stem cell research is also supporting abortion is inaccurate. It is true that embryonic stem cell research exists because of the sadly prolific practice of abortion, but it is false to say that abortions are performed because of embryonic stem cell research. Women aren’t becoming pregnant for the purpose of having an abortion in order to further embryonic stem cell research. A woman has an abortion because of a conscious decision based on their personal convictions. The murder of those lives that are precious in the sight of our God is something to be mourned. However, does it not somehow give those lives meaning if those embryos meeting the criteria required for the research are then used in an effort to discover a way of bringing a cure to those who are suffering? Those lives that were ended because of an abortion would have ended with or without the existence of embryonic stem cell research.

Now to clarify, I’m not suggesting that Christians should unequivocally support embryonic stem cell research. However, a Christian moved by compassion for those who suffer may, if it does not present a conflict of conscience, support an organization that provides financial support for embryonic stem cell research. And yes, that includes dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. That being said, if the situation were ever to change so that those entities conducting embryonic stem cell research began to soliciting women to have an abortion for the sake of their research, then undoubtedly this research should be wholly condemned by the Christian community.

As a note, the ALSA has stated that they will honor the wishes of those donors who expressly request that their donations not be used to fund embryonic stem cell research. Additionally, the percentage of their resources that fund embryonic stem cell research is not significant. If you would prefer to donate to an organization researching a cure for ALS that does not in any way support embryonic stem cell research, here are some options:
ALS Therapy Development Institute
John Paul II Medical Research Institute
Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center

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