The Value of Human Life

I recently read an interesting article that was humorous, but also drove home a very intriguing point. The article was inspired by a comedy routine by the late Sam Kinison.

Whenever you see a photograph of a hungry famine victim in a poor country, Kinison asked: “Why don’t the film crew just give the kid a sandwich? How come you never see that? What are they afraid of – that it would spoil the shot?”

The article was written by George Tobin back in 1992, and he points out how the “Camera or Sandwich” problem is quite common in our country. He says that everyone likes to hold the camera and no one really wants to make the sandwich and get involved with people’s problems.

Tobin speaks of the problem of homelessness as an example. He says:

Homelessness is an area where the Camera has triumphed over the Sandwich. So many people profess to be concerned about the homeless it’s a wonder that there is any problem left. With all the discussions on TV, on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere you would think that more people would have reached around and just given the kid a sandwich. I for one have never offered any public solutions to the problem of homelessness.

Tobin goes on and admits that he fears someone will ask him to go and actually help a homeless person get off the streets.

Another way to look at this according to Tobin is to construct a spectrum with Mother Teresa at one end labeled “Sandwich” and the liberal talk show host Phil Donahue labeled “Camera” at the other end. (Remember this article was written in 1992.) Donahue of course had opinions on everything and has discussed on television far more varieties of social problems, trends and issues than Mother Teresa ever did. Of course, she did not talk much about people’s problems, she was a woman of action. She made “sandwiches” and got them into the hands of people in desperate need.

As I read this article, it caused me to think about the value of human life. To the modern secular thinker, what is a human being? Are we more than just physical matter that evolved over time?

Another way to frame this is to consider this statement: “Feed the hungry.” This seems to be a morally compelling statement whether you are a Christian or an atheist. However, the atheist must ask; “Is it rational? Is there a scientific reason to do it? To feed the hungry and starving seems to work against the law of natural selection. Shouldn’t we let the weak die out?”

Many times Mother Teresa was asked why she cared for people that seemed to be doomed. What is the point? Her answer was always the same “They are created by God, they deserve to die with dignity.” Her worldview caused her to believe that every person is precious, a preciousness that was rooted in the fact that all humans are designed and created in the image of God.

Most people do not realize how the Christian worldview has had such a significant impact on the world we live in today.

In his well-documented book, How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt shows how the moral, biblical worldview of Christianity has had such a powerful and positive influence on the world. Through the historical record, he demonstrates the following,

  • The idea of human rights came straight from the Bible, as God places a high view of human life and its sanctity.
  • Christianity greatly elevated and exalted the value of women. Christ raised the dignity, freedom, and rights of women to a level previously unknown in all other cultures in history. Most people do not know that all the other world religions hold women in such low regard.
  • Where did the idea of philanthropy come from? European historian Carlton Hayes said, “From the wellsprings of Christian compassion our Western civilization has drawn its inspiration and its sense of duty for feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, looking after the homeless, clothing the naked, tending the sick, and visiting the prisoner.
  • Biblical teaching was behind establishing hospitals, creating mental institutions, professionalizing medical nursing, and founding the Red Cross.
  • Slavery was accepted by virtually every culture in history, as far back as anyone can remember.

It never occurred to anyone that it is wrong. But the abolition of slavery and the rejection of racial segregation go back to the earliest teachings of Christianity. The great historian Will Durant made it clear that Christianity was not a segregated religion, “It offered itself without restriction to all individuals, classes, and nations; it was not limited to one people . . .”

Ask yourself a very simple question. Do you believe that you – and all other human beings – are unique in a way that cannot be explained by the idea that you are an accidental product of nature? Do your family members and all the people you love have a value that transcends the secular belief that people are just sophisticated animals? The only way human life can be extolled and held sacred is if God in his divine wisdom created us in His image, as a reflection of Himself.

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