Commentary on social and moral issues of the day

Peter and Helen Evans - Orthodox Speakers on Bioethics

Glen Chancy

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Chancy: Give us a little background on you. What is your faith background, and how did you get interested in Orthodoxy?

Peter and Helen: We were born into the Christian tradition - Helen Orthodox, Peter Protestant - but, in our late teens, lured by the glamor of secular life, we wandered away from it. This was not a deeply-considered decision. We simply didn't take religion very seriously; it seemed old-fashioned and largely irrelevant to the life we saw around us.

As we matured and felt the need for moral foundations in our life, we began paying a little more attention to various forms of spirituality, as long as they weren't Christianity. After dabbling in everything from Theosophy to New-Age nonsense, we realized that, whatever partial truths these schemes may have contained, they just weren't true enough. Interestingly, it started becoming obvious to us that whatever was true in the various ‘faiths’ we looked at was a Christian truth.

And, where the other faiths ultimately led to ‘nothingness’ or nihilism or stopped short at some more-or-less disreputable guru, Christianity ultimately led through a comprehensive account of human nature in creation to the God of love. However, this realization didn't happen suddenly, we were lured into the idea that most of these "religions" were indeed Christian, and without a firm foundation on what is Christian, we believed it for a time. Couple that with the current culture and it was quite a surprise to us to finally find true Christianity.

Once we realized that Christianity was the truth, we wanted to get as close to the root of the faith as we could, and that’s why we became Orthodox Christians.

Chancy: As I understand it, you are completing some educational courses in Orthodoxy. Tell us a little about that.

Peter and Helen: We're taking the St. Stephen's course of studies in Orthodox Theology from the Antiochian House of Studies. It's a three-year correspondence course designed for the lay person, although some deacons have taken the course also. It's quite intensive and we must be self-disciplined to schedule and complete the work at home. Along with the course itself, we must complete a "directed project" which we work on with our Directing Pastor. Our bioethics talk is this year's directed project. At the end of our course, we have the option of completing one more project and can then qualify for a Masters in Theology. If we choose that path.

Chancy: Why did you get interested in the topic of bioethics?

Peter and Helen: It's something that people face every day of their lives. Either they are facing a life-and-death decision in their own lives or family or friends are struggling with one of these issues and wondering how a Christian should respond. If they aren't confronted by these concerns directly, they are exposed through the media to situations like that of Terri Schiavo or Dr. Kevorkian and wondering how they should witness to the public about these issues.

Chancy: The Bible was written a long time before modern medicine. The most influential saints also lived long before test tube babies or respirators. How do you go about applying the ancient Orthodox teaching to these modern day issues?

Peter and Helen: We look to Orthodox teaching for moral instruction - not technological updates. Technology has changed dramatically but human nature has not. The Ten Commandments, for example, address human moral behavior and what is good and evil has not changed. Our circumstances have changed. When we contemplate having an abortion while flying at 30,000 feet over the earth in the luxury of a jet airliner, our moral and ethical considerations are the same as if we were riding a donkey toward Bethlehem 2000 years ago. What is right or wrong hasn't changed, nor has the temptation.

Having said that, every new development in the life sciences raises novel moral questions. And, in many of these cases, it is not yet obvious what is right or wrong. Should we accept every treatment available for a disease? Should we extend our life if we are offered only "more time" and not a cure? These are some of the questions we'll tackle.

Chancy: Tell us about the talk you have prepared.

Peter and Helen: This talk is sort of a distillation of our own journey toward the truth of these matters. We had a bunch of questions about the three bioethical issues we'll be discussing: 1) abortion 2) euthanasia and 3) cloning and stem cell research. Besides reading about them, we found knowledgeable Christians and interviewed them to try and develop a better understanding of the Church's real position.

It was sometimes surprising. While we discuss the Church's position on these issues, we'll also take on some of the falsehoods that masquerade as Christianity in the media, such as showing compassion to an unhappy crippled person by killing them. A movie about that even got an academy award a few years ago. Also, we try to illuminate the worldview that underlies these falsely Christian ideas and helps them to invade our culture. One of those ideas is that "all God wants is our happiness" and that shows up when you hear people say "as long as it makes you happy, it's okay by me." That attitude is celebrated as being non-judgmental but it just encourages people to turn a blind eye to all sorts of sins while thinking they are just being "nice."

Chancy: For parishes interested in booking your talk, how should they contact you?

Peter and Helen: The best way would be to e-mail us at we2rone@cox.net.

Chancy: What future talks do you have planned?

Peter and Helen: Several more based on issues that are facing us everyday: war and conflict; animal 'rights' in that if we're all just animals why not allow human experimentation and euthanasia; social justice and welfare. As time goes on we hope to add more to the list. Of course, we have a general talk where we take on the underlying ideas that promote false Christianity. Some of those ideas which have been distorted are "judge not," and then there are some that are just false - such as "human nature has progressed beyond the need for war or conflict" and "we can eliminate all suffering on earth."

Peter and Helen Evans are students in the St. Stephen's course of studies in Orthodox Theology from the Antiochan House of Studies. Their project is a talk on "Bioethics: the Christian Perspective on the Difficult Questions New Technology Poses for our Lives." They are available to speak at Orthodox parishes. For more information, visit their website, or send them an email at we2rone@cox.net.

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Posted: 05-Oct-2008

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