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In 1999 a movie came out called “Being John Malkovich.” I didn’t watch the movie but it was released to critical acclaim for its originality and performances, though it didn’t do that well in the theaters. And I think I know why. In the movie some people discover a portal that allows them to get inside the mind of this supposedly highly intelligent and celebrated actor for 15 minutes. Big deal, who cares about being inside the mind of John Malkovich? Inside the mind of Madonna or Che Guevara, or even Pope Francisco – that would be another story…

We can all list individual minds into which we would like to get an up-close and personal look, but in today’s world of academia, I bet you many people would pick the mind of Professor Peter Singer, the most widely read and influential philosopher of our times. Peter Singer is the distinguished Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He is also famous for his book on animal rights.

But the reason I imagine many people would want to get inside Professor Singer’s mind is because of his views on infanticide and euthanasia. He has no qualms about saying that the parents of severely disable children should have the right to kill them and replace them with a healthy baby. His reasoning is that the discarded child in question is not considered a person by Professor Singer’s definition – someone capable of being aware of his own existence in time, someone who can make decisions, including the decision about living or not.

From there Professor Singer expands to the life of adults whose minds are so severely impaired that they can no longer think for themselves. Again, in Professor Singer’s view, these are no longer “persons” and their continued permanence among us creates a burden to society and does not promote the utilitarian view of “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Professor Singer’s mind is trapped by its own logic. His view does not admit the possibility that there is anything special in man. But his view is also nuanced, severely so. He speaks of “all things being equal” often and also expresses dissatisfaction with some critical parts of his own argument. In other words, he admits some difficulties with his utilitarian approach but is firm on the core belief that man is no better than apes.

Now I am not one who likes to demonize people. Evangelicals are too often guilty of emotionalism. It is much easier to point fingers than to engage the mind with the arguments. Too many times we don’t read original sources and simply rely on brief quotes that are given without a context, which is ironic because we preachers would castigate anyone who did that to the Bible. So I will say about Professor Singer that he is simply a man who is trying hard to follow the hard consequences of his logic. But even though I don’t believe that he is “evil” or a “monster,” I am convinced that if his ideas ever rise to the level of policy, it would amount to another tragic day for the innocent lives of those who have no voice.

In other words, I am not afraid of Professor Singer. I am afraid of the zealots who might take his ideas to their most natural conclusion. Ideas have consequences as we well know.

And that is one of the reasons we are taking the next two Sundays to examine God’s mandate for His people to speak for life – life of the elderly, disabled and the unborn. We will stand firm on our conviction that being made in the image of God confers upon humans a special status. A sense of dignity and protection we get nowhere else.

If you desire to read more about the agonizing and perilous journey for those who find themselves with severe disabilities, you should read the account of the late Harriet McBride Johnson, a lawyer and activist for people with disability, who was “befriended” by Professor Singer and had the opportunity to speak to one of his classes about “selected infanticide.” Her account of her encounters with Singer is fascinating and yet chilling. You can’t miss it, if for no other reason, only for the fact that she, like Professor Singer, is also an atheist and yet couldn’t be more opposed to his views.

Also, you should consider reading the story from New Yorker journalist Michael Specter, who spent a week with Professor Singer and came to his own conclusion, which he summarized in an article entitled “The Dangerous Philosopher.” You will be especially intrigued when you hear about Professor Singer’s decisions when his mother was afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Yes, Professor Singer may be a generous and compassionate individual (he says he gives 25% of his earnings, including book royalties, to charity), but his ideas are still dangerous. As for me, I still think that being inside the mind of Governor Christie these days would be so much more fun…

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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