3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8)
This past week I had the amazing opportunity to Zoom into a webinar on CRISPR technology, put on by the Canadian Council of Churches. I only know the bare bones of this new science – basically its tool for editing genomes, meaning it allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. It can be used for correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases, and improving the growth and resilience of crops. It can even be used to enhance athletic performance, and potentially other performing types – and may even prolong life. This webinar wasn’t so much to explain the technology, (which is good because those last few lines are the sum total of all of my knowledge of CRISPR), but to begin discussion the way we can theologically reflect on this technology.
How do we, as people of faith, see a technology that can change the very ‘building’ blocks of who we are – even down to how long we live? Does it change because we believe that there is more to life than just what we are living here and now? But, we also all know that Jesus was all about ‘healing’ when he walked with us as God incarnate and, certainly, we want to eliminate suffering; but where is the line between ‘healing’ and ‘changing’? When does it become ‘playing God’ instead of accepting the wonder and diversity of God’s creation?
In case you are wondering – I haven’t fully wrestled with all of the implications of this technology, and I’m really grateful that there are minds out there doing this kind of work right now.
But I have noticed something this week that kind of goes along with it – and that’s that in the middle of all our Covid dealings and quickly advancing science that we are reducing people to their ‘use’ to society. Let me try and give you a few examples; when the Pandemic first hit, the people who were dying of the virus were those that were elderly, immune compromised, or lived in congregate settings like nursing homes and shelters. The most vulnerable in our community. All the pandemic did was highlight the lack of resourcing to these groups of people; Health care workers in these settings had trouble getting adequate PPE; staffing levels were so poor that there was no way they could keep up with the necessary hygiene protocols, and many staff were quickly burning out because they worked so much for so long without any time off. When CERB was presented, a whole group of people, for the first time in their lives, were getting a living wage – highlighting how little regard we have for those who work in service jobs. Working from home became the norm; marginalizing all of the people who couldn’t work from home due to connectivity issues; either because they live rurally or they can’t afford the necessary technology. (Rural and poor children couldn’t even go to school!)
Old people, sick people, poor people, children, rural and remote living people, service jobs….what do they all have in common? Well – the bottom line is that they contribute less to the materialism of our world. And that means that they aren’t as ‘important’ to our society. In society’s eyes, money = usefulness which = worth.
And so I’m left with the question about what God thinks of this all.
Truthfully, our sacred stories tell us that our worth is not tied to our genes, even altered genes, our health, or our earning potential. Nor is our worth tied to whether or not we are at the beginning of our lives, at the end of our lives, or somewhere in between. As much as we want to prolong life, change or enhance life, or even change what God has created us to be, it won’t change our worth in God’s eyes.
Our God who loves us, loves us as we are now; regardless of our earning potential or physical ability. And that is, when you think about it, the most incredible ‘worthiness’ that any of us could ever want.
Blessings today, my dear friends, and remember that you are Loved (exactly as you are).