Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Not Funny

News that should bring a chuckle, doesn't.

(This first appeared in my Pastor's Update last Friday)

When I was a kid, it was not uncommon for some of my friends to begin to laugh when something bad happened to one of our companions. "That's not funny!" the sufferer would yell, but often that didn't stop the inappropriate reaction, and it only made everything worse.

This week I heard an examination of a news story that was so ridiculous that it made you want to laugh. But as I was hearing it, it only made me grieve. Let me tell you what it was and why I had that reaction.

The report concerned a court case where lawyers representing two chimpanzees kept in the labs of the Stony Brook University were suing to have the chimps let out of the lab and moved to shelters because, in the words of the suit, their "imprisonment" was a violation of their rights. A New York state judge has opened the question for consideration of the two chimps as "legal persons," issuing a writ of habeas corpus. A hearing will argue this point before the judge and the result will decide whether "human rights" will be extended to non-humans. Meanwhile, the chimps are awaiting a final determination of their status, of course being oblivious to anything about the case. 

The attorneys work for the "Nonhuman Rights Project" (NhRP), and is seeking to establish that human rights should extend to all "cognitively complex" animals--such as apes, monkeys, orangutans, and also dolphins, whales, and others. The NhRP said that the chimps' "voice will be heard." That is obviously not true, because the chimps didn't ask anyone to sue anyone!

From a practical standpoint, how cognitively complex would a creature need to be to meet the standards of the NhRP? My dog is pretty complex in her thinking, and some people think cats are. Pigs are said to be smarter than both of those. As you might imagine, the NhRP people believe they have their foot in the door, and there is no going back.

As a Christian, I accept the Bible's teaching that the mandate of creation given to humanity in Genesis is to tend, rule, and cause the fruitfulness of creation, for the glory of God and the good of people and then the rest of creation. Humanity, by virtue of its direct creation by God and stated possession of the image of God is placed uniquely above all the rest of creation. We are not to be cruel to other creatures, but we are not to view them as peers.

Thus, this suit is nonsense, and would be worth nothing more than a chuckle and a "smh" comment ("shaking my head" for the non-text abbreviators out there), except for one thing. Earlier this week, I also heard Joel Rosenberg in a simulcast event we hosted here, talking about why he believes judgment is going to fall on America. 

Rosenberg pointed out that our nation has allowed the murder of 57,000,000 people in the womb. We cannot argue that they are not human, only that they are not fully developed yet. Some were killed because they were the wrong sex. Some were killed because they might not be physically perfect. Most were killed because they were an inconvenience to their parents. We rightly condemn Nazi Germany for its murder of 6,000,000 Jews and millions of other "undesirables" in the Nazi equation. We would see the destruction of Germany in World War 2 as God's judgment on that nation. Rosenberg argued (persuasively, in my view) that a nation that has killed nearly 10 times as many defenseless people as the Holocaust is certainly deserving of severe judgment. 

So, on the one hand, we continue to sanction the killing of unborn babies. On the other hand, we are going to have a court case to debate whether chimps and other cognitively complex non-humans should have similar rights as humans. I cannot laugh at this. And given the inability of American courts specifically and society generally to hold onto well established and universal cultural norms, I have no confidence that we will not find ourselves giving more non-humans "human rights" even as we decide certain humans (the unborn, the imperfect, and the aged) should not have them.

God's Word assures us that He will bring history to its perfect conclusion, and that He will judge with perfect righteousness. My confidence in Him and His plans is not diminished, even as my confidence in our nation's future continues to diminish.