Stem cells, Nazis, Jews and Christians

Posted: Aug 16, 2005 12:00 AM

In discussing the Christian-Jewish divide over the Mel Gibson film "The Passion of the Christ," I explained that Jews and Christians were watching two distinct films. Christians were watching Christ suffer for their sins, and Jews were watching Jews kill Christ. Jews were wrong to assume Christians would leave the theater with hostility toward Jews, and Christians needed to appreciate how many Jews had been murdered because of the charge of "Christ-killer."
We now have another example of unfounded Jewish (and liberal) fear of conservative Christians -- and another example where Christians need to try to understand, not just react defensively toward, these fears.

 Dr. James Dobson, head of the conservative religious group Focus on the Family, has been widely quoted -- and condemned -- for comparing embryonic stem cell research to Nazi death-camp experiments.

 But he did not do so.

 On the Aug. 3 broadcast of his Focus on the Family radio show, Dobson said:

  " . . . people talk about the potential for good that can come from destroying these little embryos and how we might be able to solve the problem of juvenile diabetes. . . . But I have to ask this question: In World War II, the Nazis experimented on human beings in horrible ways in the concentration camps, and I imagine, if you wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefited mankind. You know, if you take a utilitarian approach, that if something results in good, then it is good. But that's obviously not true. We condemn what the Nazis did because there are some things that we always could do but we haven't done, because science always has to be guided by ethics and by morality. And you remove ethics and morality, and you get what happened in Nazi Germany."

 It should be clear to any honest reader that Dobson was not morally equating embryonic stem cell research to the hideous Nazi medical experiments on human beings (mostly, but not only, Jews). If he did, I would join the chorus of protesters. Only a moral fool would compare what Nazi doctors did -- such as exposing men and women to prolonged radiation of their genitals, slowly freezing naked men and women to death, or putting a person into a decompression chamber to watch his eardrums burst -- to medically experimenting on embryonic cells that have no self-awareness, no feeling, no capacity to suffer, and no loved ones who suffer. As Dobson himself put it to me on my radio show: "In the case of killing embryos there is no suffering, no grieving victims, and so they're not the same, obviously."

 Dobson was not comparing actions; he was comparing ideas: namely the idea that because good may result from an immoral action, the action becomes moral.

 He is, of course, right. The only question is whether this rule applies to embryonic stem cell research. On this, good people can and do differ. What good people must not do is attribute to James Dobson repugnant views he did not express.

 Yet that is what the Anti-Defamation League and others have done.

 In an angry letter to Dr. Dobson, the ADL national director, Abraham Foxman, wrote that it is an "offensive misuse of the Holocaust to compare stem cell research to the hideous barbarities of Nazi pseudo-science." Foxman's statement is entirely right, but Dobson never made that comparison. It appears that it is Abraham Foxman who owes James Dobson an apology.

 Having said that, it is important to note why Jews are so sensitive (as any moral individual should be) to the cheapening of the evil of the Holocaust. It is done too often, and mostly on the Left with its frequent equation of conservatives to Nazis and PETA's equating of barbecuing chickens with cremating Jews ("Holocaust on your plate"). It is also done on the Right when abortions are labeled "America's Holocaust." As immoral as most abortions are, one cannot compare the Holocaust with America's terrible number of abortions. There is not a Jew alive now or who lived during the Holocaust who would not have prayed to God that six million Jewish unborn had been aborted rather than six million Jewish men, women and children been tortured, gassed and burned.

 But Jews must not allow their desire to protect the integrity of the Holocaust, let alone their historical fear of Christianity and the Right, to blind them to the reality that their best friends today are indeed Christians and conservatives. One of whom is James Dobson, who said nothing wrong.