As I sit by my computer, I am amazed at all the major events that have occurred in our nation within a week’s time. Last Friday, famed shock-jock Don Imus was fired for his racist and sexist remarks towards the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, leaving the country outraged and furious over the double-standard for those in the African-American community, such as Rev. Al Sharpton and rap/hip-hop artists who hurl racist and/or sexist remarks with no punishment at all. No sooner than that made the headlines, the nation mourned after hearing that Cho Seung-Hui killed 33 people, students and faculty, at Virginia Tech University, the largest shooting in U.S. history. As soon as that went around the world, the Supreme Court decided to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion. This marks the first time that the Supreme Court has banned any type of abortion. All of these events were part of a week where our nation cried for human dignity.
Our country should be outraged at Don Imus. His ill-fated attempt at humor was both inappropriate and distasteful. Our country should also be outraged at the hip-hop community for their long-standing tradition in demeaning women. Our country should mourn the tragic murders at Virginia Tech University, and our country should applaud the Supreme Court’s upholding of the ban on partial-birth abortion. The issue is not one of should but why. In other words, should implies a morality or an ethic—this is the right thing to do. Why asks for a purpose or a foundation for the ethic. Why should we consider Imus’ fate and Diddy’s success an inconsistency? Why should those who mourn the deaths at Virginia Tech yet protest the Supreme Court’s decision be called hypocrites? What is the basis for human dignity?
The existentialist sees human dignity as something created by the person himself. He has no ontological purpose; thus, he must make something of himself to become meaningful. They understand that if there were a god, that god would bestow meaning on the creature. By denying the existence of a god, they deny the existence of any inherent meaning in humans. It is all in the hands of the person to create meaning.
If this were true, any meaning in life would really be arbitrary. It is not really there; it is make-believe. Who, then, would really care about the Rutgers women? It is not like they really mean anything. They do not really have any dignity to cause us to wince at Imus’ words. Why seek to protect fetuses? Terminating their lives is really salvation; it is keeping them from the misery of meaninglessness, or at least the delusion of self-created meaning.
God is the basis for meaning and dignity in the person. He created people in His image. He carefully crafts humans, displaying His care for each person (cf. Gen. 2:5-7; Ps. 139:13-16). He created humans to bear His image (Gen. 1:26-27). He placed humans in a position of authority over the creation (Gen. 1:26, 28). He mercifully blesses humans with the resources needed for survival (Gen. 1:29, 9:3; Matt. 5:44-45). He established punishments for those who murder, because of the special position He has given humans as His image-bearers (Gen. 9:5). God, the Creator of the universe, is the One who determines the meaning of every human being, which is to delight in the display of His glory in all of life.
This is why all three events are significant. The glory of God was central in all three events. Imus attacked God’s glory with his words against the Rutgers women. Seung-Hui’s rage was ultimately an attack on the God who created him and the people he shot and killed. The Supreme Court ruling was a message that human life means something, and that the barbaric acts of partial-birth abortion devalue that life. They were protecting babies who bear the image of their Creator.
Our country is in a dilemma, for she wants to say that humans have dignity, but she denies the Creator of dignity. She inevitably falls either into the trap of atheistic existentialism, striving for a dignity that simply is not there, or into the trap of inconsistency, calling one thing bad but a parallel thing good. The church must exalt God as the Creator of all things, whose image we bear, and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that our nation would hear and, by the mercy of God, believe, so that she would see the glory of God in all its beauty and splendor, and develop a biblical worldview that says that all humans—whether basketball players, college students or fetuses—possess a dignity that must be protected, to the glory of God. We must pray that our country would embrace the God who was, is, and is to come, who through His Son’s redemptive work frees us from the corruption of sin and hatred to holiness and love. This is the only way that being human will mean anything to anyone beyond this week and into eternity.