“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 ESV). Perhaps no other verse in the Bible holds greater implications for humanity. God created each one of us to reflect his image. Our intrinsic worth and human dignity results from the value he gives us as his precious image bearers. Today we must continue to fight for the personhood of each of God’s children, especially for the dignity of the unborn.
Ever since sin entered the world we have imposed arbitrary categories and crafted hierarchies out of who we believe best represents God’s image and full personhood. We have taken the power of deciding who adequately fits the standards of personhood into our own hands and wreaked unthinkable havoc on one another and our world. Unimaginable pain and destruction results when humans usurp the role of deciding who is worthy of bearing God’s image. We have instilled horrendous systems of racial oppression and mercilessly slaughtered whole people groups because of this sinful presumption that we should have the power to bestow or withhold the dignity of full personhood. Historically, a denial of personhood has often resulted in genocide.
Throughout the history of African slavery, Europeans repeatedly justified their actions by refusing to acknowledge the personhood of the enslaved and sacrificed millions of lives on the altar of economic gain. Our society still reckons with the effects of racially based laws and structures created to solidify this system. Racism in all forms operates on the idea that there is a hierarchy of personhood.
Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda writing about Jews in 1939, claimed that: “They are not humans; they are animals.” German laws during the 1930s began to deny the full personhood Jews and other groups such as the disabled. This refusal to recognize the humanity of whole subsections of society resulted in a holocaust of catastrophic proportions. Millions of innocent men women and children were murdered in the pursuit of an ideal society composed of individuals who reflected the image of the ideal Aryan.
Today we face another battle in this ongoing fight to recognize human dignity and treat one another as image bearers of Christ. Our denial of the humanity of the unborn continues to perpetrate a genocide of unfathomable proportions. This year, there has already been over six million abortions worldwide, over 6,000 of which were performed in the United States. While I would be remiss in completely equivocating the preceding examples with the issue of abortion, I believe that each of these ulimately stem from the idea that there is a hierarchy of personhood.
Since its legalization in 1973, abortion has exinguished over 61 million precious lives within the US. The language used to justify abortion often contends that children developing in the womb are not full persons. This denial of personhood once again reflects a sinful desire to deny that all humans reflect the image of God, and is based on arbitrary, human-made distinctions. When we deny that a certain group of people are God’s image bearers and lack personhood, we begin to wade into very murky, subjective waters. Laws that restrict abortion based on the number of weeks or prohibit partial birth abortion reveal the haphazard nature of these distinctions. What allows us to deny a six-month-old baby complete personhood and then claim that the same child, once born, becomes fully human?
It is integral that we continue to advocate for the human dignity and personhood of each member of society, including the unborn, in a humble and gracious way. On March 19, Westmont’s Republican Club will be hosting a speaker and Westmont Alum, Seth Gruber, who will present on the subject of abortion. This will be an opportunity to continue the discussion of what it looks like to uphold human dignity and fight for the personhood of the vulnerable.
God created each of us in his image and until we truly recognize this reality our world will continue to face unimaginable pain and genocides of staggering proportions. Let’s fight for each one of his precious children.