Beliefnet News

Rhinocéros_blanc_JHEIt sounds like something straight out of science fiction, but science may allow mankind to reverse the extinction of the northern white rhino. At the moment, there are only two northern white rhinos left in the world, and both of them are female. The last male, named Sudan, died in Kenya in March of 2018, but scientists hope that new INF techniques could save the species. The plan is to use southern white rhinos as surrogate mothers to carry northern white rhino embryos. Far-fetched as it may sound, the technology is very real, and scientists have already managed to create a northern white rhino embryo in a laboratory.

There are numerous practical questions that need to be considered. One of the largest is that, even if the INF techniques create healthy northern white rhino calves, the revived species may suffer from a crippling lack of genetic diversity. There is also the fact that collecting the necessary eggs from the surviving female northern white rhinos is risky and will require the rhinos to be sedated for two long hours.

Unsurprisingly, ethical concerns have already been raised. Captive breeding has been largely accepted, but the use of new and largely experimental medical technology has created a sense of wariness. This is especially true given that INF has promised incredible results for endangered or extinct species in the past, but it has rarely delivered. Only the giant panda, Asian elephant and black-footed ferret have ever profited from human intervention in the reproductive cycle. Even if the technique worked, there is no guarantee that the revived species would survive for long. The lack of genetic diversity would lead to inbreeding depression and an extreme susceptibility to disease. There is every possibility that INF would only preserve the northern white rhino for another generation or two.

Even so, there are many people who feel that the INF technique should be given a chance. The northern white rhino, people argue, is not essentially extinct because it failed to adapt to its natural environment. It has been driven to the brink by habitat destruction, poaching and human civil wars. Humans have killed the species, the argument goes. Humans have a responsibility to try and bring it back.

The debate is far from settled, but it is likely that the project will move forward regardless of moral concerns. There simply is not time for the ethics to be considered, debated, reconsidered and then agreed upon. By the time all the would-be philosophers have decided if the INF project is ethical, the last two northern white rhinos would likely already be dead and the species doomed regardless.

One thing to consider, however, is what happens if the project succeeds.  Should the project fail, the northern white rhino will die off entirely. If the project succeeds, however, any number of endangered species could potentially make a comeback. The question, however, is whether mankind will be content to stop at saving endangered species or if scientists will try to resurrect the long extinct. Precedent is a powerful thing, and while saving the northern white rhino is noble, no one really wants to deal with a real-life Jurassic Park because someone decided to bring back the dinosaurs.

Embed from Getty Images

President Donald Trump has nominated appeal court judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who after three decades of service, will retire at the end of this month.

Trump made his announcement on Monday night at the White House. Trump said what mattered most to him about his nominee was “not a judge’s political views, but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require.

“I am pleased to say that I have found, without a doubt, such a person,” he said in announcing Kavanaugh’s nomination. “There is no one in America more qualified for this position and no one more deserving,” the president also said.

The D.C. Circuit Appeals Court judge “has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law,” the president continued. He’s “a judge’s judge, a true thought leader among his peers. He’s a brilliant jurist with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time.”

Kavanaugh thanked the President, and said “A judge must be independent, must interpret the law, not make the law…A judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history, tradition, and precedent.”

Kavanaugh comes with a resume much stronger than any of the other prospective nominees including Raymond Kethledge, Amy Coney Barrett, and Thomas Hardiman. Kavanaugh issued nearly 300 opinions during his time on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

After graduating law school, Judge Kavanaugh clerked for two appeals court judges and for Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. He also served as an attorney in the Office of the Solicitor General of the United States and an Associate Counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr. During the Presidency of George W. Bush, Kavanaugh served as an Associate Counsel and then Senior Associate Counsel to the President, and as an Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary to the President.

Many conservative Christians were satisfied with the nomination, and shared their praise.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore said that he was confident that Kavanaugh would be a “strong defender of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, especially our First Freedom of religious liberty.”

“I pray that Judge Kavanaugh will serve for decades to come with a firm and unwavering commitment to our Constitution’s principles,” said Moore. “I join with Baptists and other evangelicals in calling upon the Senate to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without delay.”

Focus on the Family president Jim Daly called Kavanaugh a “top-drawer candidate.”

“Notably for these times marked by political and cultural divisions, Judge Kavanaugh has the reputation of being fair-minded and able to work with his fellow judges who might have a different point of view,” Daly said in a statement. “His temperament is well-suited for the demands of our nation’s highest court.”

An Episcopal church in Indianapolis is sending a loud message against President Trump’s immigration policies by putting statues of baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph inside a chain-linked fence on its lawn. This is in protest of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy of arresting people at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“On our lawn tonight we placed The Holy Family…in #ICE detention,” the church wrote on Twitter.

The chain-linked fence with barbed wire is intended to symbolize a detention center and bring awareness to this issue.

“I know what the Bible said,” Rev. Stephen Carlsen told the Indianapolis Star. “We’re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

The church-lawn display was the idea of Rev. Lee Curtis.

While people are familiar with nativity scenes, people often forget what they represent, Rev. Carlsen said.

“That was a homeless couple who weren’t welcome anywhere, who took refuge in the barm, and it was to that couple that the Christ child was born,” Rev. Carlson told the Washington Post. “The heart of God is always with those who are on the margins, who are vulnerable and have no voice.”

“The symbol is something that speaks to every one of us at our most basic level, because of who we are as a church and as Christians,” Rev. Cannon Lee told CNN.

This is not the first time the church has been critical of Trump’s immigration policies and they currently have no set date to take down the display.

“How long is it needed?,” Rev. Carlsen said. “I would love for it to be outdated and be taken down. That would be my greatest wish.”

Reactions to the nativity scene have been mixed. While some believe it sends a very powerful and necessary message, others believe the church went too far, and shouldn’t use the scene or the church as a political tool.

What are your thoughts on the display? Did this church go too far?


Ianphilpot/Wikimedia Commons

Ianphilpot/Wikimedia Commons

In a public statement, Willow Creek elders apologized for casting doubt on women’s allegations against founder Bill Hybels.

“We apologize and ask for forgiveness that the tone of our initial response was not one of humility and deep concern for all the women involved. It takes courage for a woman to step forward and share her story,” the elders of the evangelical megachurch wrote in a statement.

“We are grieved that we let Bill’s statement stand for as long as we did that the women were lying and colluding. We now believe Bill entered into areas of sin related to the allegations that have been brought forth.”

Hybels founded Willow Creek in 1975 was the highest-ranking elder of the church. He stepped down last month following a Chicago Tribune investigation that revealed allegations of misconduct with women – including church employees that spanned decades.

The Chicago Tribune investigation found that Hybels behavior included suggestive comments, extended hugs, and unwanted kiss and invitations to hotel rooms. It also included an allegation of a prolonged consensual affair with a married woman who later said her claim about the affair was not true, the newspaper found.

Will Creek Community Church’s elder board carried out their own internal and external investigation into the allegations, both of which cleared Hybels of misconduct. In addition, they held “family” meetings with the congregation where Hybels denied each woman’s accusation.

Hybels retired in April, while still stating his innocence, saying the controversy had become a distraction to the ministry. At the same time, newer allegations of misconduct were made.

Pam Orr, then chair of the elder board, admitted that they failed to hold Hybels “accountable to specific boundaries” and not all of the women’s stories were lies.

Willow Creek Lead Pastor Heather Larson also spoke in a statement noting that she and Lead Teach Pastor Steve Carter are looking to acknowledge mistakes that have been made in the past few excruciating months.

“I need to publicly apologize to the women who raised concerns about Bill,” Larson wrote. “To the women directly, I can’t imagine how painful the past months have been for you, and I am so sorry for my part in that.”

Larson said that she did not agree with Willow Creek’s initial decision to character the women’s stories as lies. She also said she should have made that known right away.

Lead Teaching Pastor Steve Carter acknowledges that Willow Creek has lost decades of trust with the church handled the allegations. Carter said he’s reached out to and connected with several of the victims and listened to their experiences.

“I have made private apologies to several of the women and their families for the way they have been treated,” Carter said. “I thank God for the opportunity to seek grace and forgiveness from these individuals.”