Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Horrible Disease & Why I'm Not Doing the Ice Bucket Challenge

As I saw the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge getting closer and closer to my circle of friends, I knew it was only a matter of time.  After my good friend Michael Jordan failed to nominate me, I got the call from a few other famous guys via Facebook.  But I’m not taking them up on the challenge.  Here’s why.

Before the why, it’s important to make something clear: ALS is a terrible disease.  Working toward a cure for ALS is worthy of financial and social media support.  I appreciated this post from blogger Bo Stern about the challenge and what it’s like to live with ALS.  It’s worth a read.

I say that so you know I’m not against the social media wave and support for a worthy cause, or that I am insensitive and unaffected by the plight of others. 

But I cannot support the ALS Association because they are open to and are currently funding (according to the America Life League) at least one research project that uses embryonic stem cells.  Neither can I participate in a social media experiment that may cause others to support such an endeavor. 

The ALSA describes embryonic stem cells on their website: “Human embryonic stem cells are derived from fertilized embryos less than a week old.”  For those of us that hold to life at conception, this is an ethical and moral problem.  The ALSA seems to acknowledge as much: “The discovery that human embryonic stem cells can be isolated and propagated in culture with the potential of developing into all tissues of the body is a major medical breakthrough. However it has raised a great deal of ethical questions.”

Yet, even though they acknowledge the ethical dilemma involved, they still support research using embryonic stem cells: “Adult stem cell research is important and should be done alongside embryonic stem cell research as both will provide valuable insights. Only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases.”

It is difficult to see how an organization can promote the advancement of life based upon the destruction of life.  As Fr. Michael Duffy has pointed out, Pope John Paul II said it best: “Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.”

This is why I cannot support the Ice Bucket Challenge.  But where to go from here? 

First, I would love to see the ALSA become a worthy place for pro-lifers and Christians to support through their commitment to stop funding embryonic stem cell research.  This is a horrible disease and families need help.  I am happy for the millions of dollars that will go toward helping NON-embryonic stem cell research.  I am grieved for any of the money that will be used to research on embryos. 

Second, commit to pray for those suffering with ALS, and seek to encourage and come alongside anyone under its pain. 

Third, if you participated in this challenge (or nominated me!) and are pro-life, don’t wallow in guilt.  In God’s providence I found out about the stem cell research about an hour before I was nominated.  Otherwise, I would have been in.  What you can do is make sure others know what their support (financial and social) is potentially funding. 

Fourth, perhaps someone knows of a worthy organization that can be supported by pro-lifers.  If so, share in the comments. 

UPDATED 8/26/14
One cause that does not fund embryonic stem cell research is Team Irvine.  This is a specific family dealing with the financial burdens of ALS.

A national initiative worthy of support is Team Gleason.  I e-mailed them specifically about stem cell research and they confirmed that they do not fund projects of this nature.  Here is a second reply I received from them:
"Team Gleason, does not as its mission fund research. When you were told, we "only support" the retrieval of skin or blood samples, we just want to be clear that that initiative, Answer ALS,  is the only one we fund, because it came from our own Team Gleason Summit. There are no embryonic stem cells used in the plan, nor was it ever suggested. Aside from that one research project, all of our funding goes to directly help those currently living with ALS."


  1. ? Maybe?

  2. Thank you for your well-written post. Now I have a great article to share with my pro-life friends, many of whom have been unwittingly participating in the challenge.

    1. Before this, I had not seen any evangelicals posting on the matter. I have read about a Catholic charity that also supports ALS research, but I don't remember the name of the charity.

  3. Gleason is a former NFL player and man of God they support technology for ALS sufferers and raising awareness of the disease NOT embryonic stem cell research.

  4. I must admit, this entire post saddens me greatly. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is mainly to raise awareness to this horrible disease. Most people who have taken the Ice Bucket Challenge say “Donate to ALSA or any worthy charity.” You could have easily participated and said “I am going to contribute to (pick a charity), as I have some moral concerns about the ALCA regarding their research” and still have achieved the overall goal of awareness, and expressed your own moral concerns in the process.
    However, we now live in a country, where apparently every single thing has to be politicized to some degree. While I agree that abortion is immoral and equitable to murder, I can also acknowledge that embryonic stem cell research is at best a grey area.
    Just 18 days after conception, the baby’s heart begins to beat. At six weeks, brain waves can be measured. At eight weeks, the vital organs are functioning and fingerprints have formed. At nine weeks, the unborn baby is able to feel pain. By the beginning of the second month, the unborn child, small as it is, has begun to look distinctly human. Babies born prematurely can survive outside the womb as young as 20-25 weeks old. Since most women cannot even suspect they are pregnant after merely 18 days, I would say that’s a strong reason to not end a known pregnancy, I think we can find some common ground there.
    There are Bible passages about the Israelites having laws about injuring a pregnant woman and God recognizing someone “in the womb” or “before they were born” but the science wasn’t exactly there 5,000 years ago to say “Sperm + Egg = undeniable human life with soul.” Unless, I’m missing that passage, and if so, please let me know. So this issue is not directly addressed in the Bible, and it’s only loosely referenced if you consider those references as symbolism, of which the Bible has a ton. Such as when Joshua says that the sun stopped in the sky……we all know that the sun is actually the center of the solar system, not us.

    1. That raises questions. What about “spontaneous abortions, “better known as “miscarriages? “ Miscarriages generally occur naturally when there is something wrong with an embryo (example: a bad chromosome) and the pregnancy is naturally ended due to the embryo not attaching to the wall of the uterus. This is likely due to the fetus not being able to survive long term. It is estimated that is happens often and possibly multiple times in the life of many women. Will there be several unborn children that the woman was unaware of waiting for her in heaven? Not denying the possibility of yes or no on that one. Again, it’s kind of a gray area. Another example: In Vitro fertilization. I have known many Christians who have undergone this in an attempt to start a family. That process involves creating numerous fertilized embryos, implanting 4 or 5 to the uterus and hoping one of them attaches. Many times, none of them do, sometimes the woman ends up with a set of non identical triplets. If no pregnancy is produced, did we just witness the destruction of 4-5 human lives? If a woman takes a “morning after pill” after being raped, trying to remove the possibility of a fertilized egg attaching to the wall of her uterus and having to carry her attackers child a murder? I’m not going to claim to be smart enough to say a definitive answer on that one, it still seems pretty gray.

      Then again, I do not think God ever wanted our world to be black and white. Why are there four gospels of the same story if we were not made to have different perspectives? It’s when people look at the narrow picture that this country and world get torn apart. There was a time where people could agree to disagree. There was time where people could find common ground. There was a time when people weren’t so entrenched in their own ideology and one view of a topic that they can only focus on that instead of the much larger picture.
      It is sad that I see a fellow Christian blogging about how (in his view) this is not a “worthy” organization for pro-lifers or Christians, based on his narrow view of stem cell research. It’s also disheartening how many people I know have shared it. As if, since we give ourselves the title of “pro-life” or “Christian”
      that we have absolved ourselves from thinking for ourselves and all belief one exact set of beliefs. The heart of the message was awareness and for people to care. So forgive those of us, who do not see the world so black and white. Forgive those of us who can see the gray. Forgive those of us that see an embryo that is going to be discarded, (whether it’s an actual life yet or not) and think, if this can help someone who is going from a healthy human being enjoying life to someone who slowly dies because their motor function breaks down until they can no longer swallow, and think “If this can help someone like that, at least the life can have some meaning.”