Friday, October 17, 2008

Human Perfection and Imperfection

Click the title for the full article by Amy Becker about her reflections on her Down syndrome child Penny, pictured at the right with her husband Peter. The title link will take you to FIRST THINGS' website. (More links to her stuff below.)

The article begins below, but I encourage you to read it to the end and try to fully understand Amy's take on what it means to be perfect and imperfect, especially as we automatically apply the concepts to babies, but also to ourselves.
"What shall it gain a man if he should gain the whole world but loose his soul?" (Jesus' words from somewhere in the Gospels.)
At first glance this article looks like it might be an argument against abortion when the child has Down syndrome, and indeed it is that. (cf. Sarah Palin and the fear people have of her because she sees perfection in babies at a different level than most. Her insight into this is supernatural and transcendent...a valuable asset for a world leader.)

But the article is more significant than just an argument against abortion. As Becker explains there is an extra chromosome that gave Penny the disease (something extra that apparently "distorts" physical perfection). Becker inmplies, but never says it, that there is a more serious affect of adding extra "chromosones" -- to our lives and culture. Such "extras" have a more serious impact on our spiritual perfection before God. Penny's chromosome "problem" is small compared to what we do otherwise to our "spiritual" chromosomes.

But her point is actually better than that.

She writes, "humanity includes limitations and dependence on one another." But what she is really saying is that humanity is not defined by culture's view of physical "perfection" but by God's view which NECESARILY includes limitations and dependence. That is "humanity is DEFINED as something that includes 'limitations' and 'dependence.'" To be truly human is to be dependent on others and God. If we believe we are independent we buy into Satan's lie that we can be like God. Humanity IN ITS PERFECTION requires, demands, begs, screams for limitations and dependence. IN THOSE THINGS we are made PERFECT (James 1).

She writes, "when we conceive of healing simply as miraculous cures for abnormal states of being—blindness, deafness, cognitive delays—we miss the point." Indeed! Some years back I began to look at all the aged and mentally dependent senior citiziens I was meeting in several churches that ministed to such folk. It occured to me that one of their purposes in life was to teach us abled body, and mentally "capable" people to CARE for them. By their "disabilities" they were teaching us to love, to be charitable, to give of our time and resoruces, to be like Christ. Just as we can never pay back Christ for all he's done for us, so these aged and mentally dependent people I was meeting could never pay back their caregivers. But that was the point. When society sees them as "disabled" or "not living fully" or as "unnecessary" we should be seehing them as just the opposite, if we have any interest in seeing heaven and God. Humanity was designed as a DEPENDENT DISABLED specese for a reason... so we could accept God's love, and share it with others.

Indeed, Penny, in the ways that matter most (eternal values) is more perfect with her Downs than many others. Pray for us Penny. (More pictures of Penny at link below.)
by Amy Julia Becker

Copyright (c) 2008 First Things (November 2008).

Our daughter was born at 5:22 p.m. on December 30, 2005. Two hours later, a nurse called my husband out of the room. When he returned, he took my hand and said, “They think Penny has Down syndrome.” As this news began to make its way into my consciousness, we heard shouts from the room next door. Another child had been born. “She’s perfect!” someone exclaimed about that other baby. “She’s perfect!”
Amy's website, and links to her other writing is HERE. She's working on a Masters in Divinity at Princeton, and has a book coming out. Her blog is THIN PLACES. Thanks to my bogging-pal Bill Murphy for sending this. I'll post it on his blog as well, VIEW FROM THE TOWER where Bill writes about the intersection of Western Culture and Catholicism from his outpost in the U.K. as well as from his world travels.

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