Gattaca, Sex, and Chocolate Chip Cookies


Warning: somewhat complicated and/or tedious post may follow. I’m no theologian or movie reviewer. Just a crazy blogger.

A few nights ago, since Jared was sick, we watched the movie Gattaca. Made in the 1990s, it’s a sci-fi thriller that starts with the premise that in a few years, DNA will be the promise of the future. Parents will be able to choose what they want their children to look like, whether they will have any heritable diseases, their IQ—pretty much everything about a person can be decided before they’ve even implanted in their mother’s womb (or perhaps they don’t even implant? The movie wasn’t clear).   These people, the ones who are “GMO” people, are “Valid.” Everyone else is “In-Valid.”

The stage is set for some pretty massive and unstoppable discrimination. Everyone has to undergo DNA testing practically every five minutes. People are identified by their DNA instead of their faces, so companies won’t hire you unless you’re a “valid” person. Dating (or courting, if you insist), is reduced to looking at people’s DNA to make sure they were who they said they were. Nothing about personality, character, or even looks—any of the things we value about ourselves and that make us human—is important anymore. Although these “valid” people had longer, healthier lives, they had become less human. They became valued for a collection of traits, not for who they were. Being a person was no longer enough.

Parents had children not because children were a natural outpouring of the union of marriage, a concrete physical expression of their love for each other, but because they wanted a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who would never get heart disease and would live the life they wished they could have had. People became commodities that you could choose to have, or not, as you wished. And if you chose to have your child the natural way, you could count on him or her being one of the lowest members of society.

What the movie really showed well, though, was the effect this had on the individuals who made up society. They felt undervalued and worthless—even when they were the most highly prized members. All anyone else cared about was what was in their blood. Their hearts and souls—even their intelligence—were suddenly second-rate.

Gattaca may be an extreme example of what happens when sex and children are no longer connected, but the devaluing of human life does happen, even today. We may not see it as that, argue that it isn’t, but it’s still possible to take something good—like marriage or children, and make it suit our own ends.

What happens when we make people into things? This haunting article makes the point clear: when we deny the humanity of others, whether newly-conceived child or fully-grown adult, we deny our own humanity. If they’re not created in the image of God, neither are we.  And suddenly, if a child who isn’t wanted can be killed, can’t we exercise that same right to “choose” the life of a grown person who annoys us or gets in the way of our life?

Just as we can’t choose to remove people when they stand in our way, we can’t add people when we want them there. Human life—all human life—is sacred.  People have dignity. And this sacredness, this dignity, invades all aspects of our lives, even the seemingly pointless ones. It makes sex not simply about pleasure. It makes marriage not simply about two people. It makes childbearing not simply about the mother, and child-rearing not simply about the child. We can’t deny it, and we can’t get rid of it (though some certainly have tried!).

We can’t reduce people to what they can do for us. It would be folly to choose a husband or wife based on the deliciousness of their chocolate chip cookies, and it’s still folly to choose on the basis of how you feel around them. It’s folly to stay away from marriage because you fear it, but it’s folly to get married because you fear being single. We shouldn’t have children because they can do what we failed to do, or because they can fill a hole in our aching hearts. Children—or any blessings, really—are not ours to command. Just as I don’t believe it’s a “woman’s right” to be able to kill a child whom she has conceived, I don’t believe it’s her right to demand a child when she wants one. Yahweh gives, and Yahweh takes away; blessed be the name of Yahweh.

Obviously I’m not qualified to tell you how to live your life and what specific things you should or shouldn’t do.  So I’ll leave you with a bit of advice from the immortal Shakespeare (did I tell you I’ve watched Much Ado About Nothing five times in the last week? I could practically quote it by heart now). Keep in mind that the middle bit is particularly important: “Serve God, love me, and mend [your ways].”

Have you watched the movie Gattaca? What are your thoughts on GMO people? Are humans inherently dignified, or is that merely a cultural construct that needs to go away?

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