Ethics & Morality

Second Sunday of Advent: the gift of a child


It is this Second Sunday of Advent, and the trees are going up. It’s beginning to feel a bit more like Christmas. Children all over the world are eagerly awaiting the day of presents, as Christians anticipate the presence of the Christ-Child; the Word made flesh to dwell among us.

The baby is in the womb. God dwells in the tranquility of amniotic paradise, waiting to be born. Expectations are high: divinity has quite a lot to do. We’ve got quite a lot to do as well: houses to decorate; lists to make; gifts to buy and wrap; drink to stock.

Funny how some babies in the womb are worth more than others. There are now two categories of life: not the sheep and goats of the afterlife, but the ‘rightful’ and ‘wrongful’ lives of our earthly existence.

Imagine – insofar as you are able – the realm of disability, handicap, some imperfection in the flesh which sets one apart from normality. And then conceive – if you can – of a world in which a baby born disabled is determined to be a ‘wrongful life’, because doctors were negligent in diagnosing any abnormality in the foetus, and so erroneously permitted it to be born.

And so the parents of this ‘wrongful life’ are awarded compensation, not because of the innate disability of their baby, but because their child was never a ‘rightful’ human being in the first place: he lives only through the negligence of physicians; they made a mistake; he should have been aborted.

Damages in these cases consist of the cost of living for the child, which appear to be purely economic considerations, ie the cost of rearing the child for the persons taking that task upon themselves, including the extra costs related to the disability, and possibly also non-pecuniary loss for the child. And so we divide our babies: on the left are the rightful citizens, and on the right are the wrongful never-should-have-been citizens. Being human is insufficient entitlement to this rightfulness, for the physically imperfect are destined to be despised, rejected, aborted – even after they are born.

A ‘wrongful life’ claim is a claim by a child, and this will always be a disabled child, issued by its representatives, the parents, against a doctor or obstetrician, for having to live a life full of suffering because of a handicap while the child was not supposed to have been born at all but is born anyway because of a negligent act by the doctor or assistant.

We live in a world in which a disabled child can sue the mother for failing to terminate its life in the womb to avoid all future suffering. But why not, if that world says we can terminate a life in the womb simply because it lacks a Y chromosome?

Is it preferable – from the perspective of the disabled child – not to have been born at all? How can courts of law evaluate the existence of a child against his or her non-existence, and find that the latter is preferable? How can life be unworthy of life?

Imagine if divinity were considered a disability. Jesus in the womb becomes an object for termination, simply by virtue of discrepancies in his gene pool. It isn’t the Son of God who sleeps in amniotic suspension: it is the depersonalised ‘product of conception’, and a perverted conception it was, too. This isn’t a human being: it is a chimera. Mary isn’t carrying the Messiah, but just a clump of cells; a foetus. We ought to terminate: it is our moral obligation. Just think of the suffering we’ll be saving this poor baby from. Divinity is a dreadful handicap: the sufferings are profoundly emotional and spiritual, and ultimately, physical. The parents won’t be able to bear the sorrow and grief. If Mary had been warned, she might not have consented to the birth at all.

It isn’t the Son of God in the womb: it is only a potential son of God. It is not fully human: it is only potentially partially human. Who would want to rear a life disposed to paralysis and pain? There is no room in the world for those who are not perfect. God’s image must be sustained, and so we must reject the vulnerability of the crucified Christ in the form of the baby the world did not welcome.

We are the gods of competence, and we decide who lives and dies; who may partake of Holy Communion, and who must suffer nil by mouth. It is convenient mercy.

Christ’s love of life is reflected in the way Christians love life. The goodness of God has not yet reached everyone: it is for us to proclaim that Jesus is a life worthy of life, and that Advent offers a better hope than the X Factor.

The Second Sunday of Advent.
The Collect.

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Epistle. Rom. 15. 4.

WHATSOEVER things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Gospel. St. Luke 21.25.

AND there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.