Save the lion. Sell the baby parts. If an alien landed on earth this week and surveyed the mainstream television news programs they would hear about Cecil the lion. But they would have to look to internet sources mainly to learn about Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood. The visitor might conclude, quite easily it seems, that we are greatly concerned with the protection of lions. The rights of the unborn, not so much so.
James Anderson, professor of theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary said it well in a statement he made on Twitter, “Behold the power of words: we can humanize a lion by calling it ‘Cecil’ and dehumanize a baby by calling it ‘fetal tissue’.”
I’m increasingly convinced that the Imago Dei is the most important dogma for preserving and advancing human culture. If we lose sight of the fact that we are created in the image of God we will lose the very essence of what it means to be human. The contrast between Cecil and Cecile may suggest that we already have.
But it is only our recognition of it that is lost. The fact still remains. If the fog would clear way, and our vision be restored, we would see that human value, grounded in the creative work of God, still remains.
Defending the inherent worth and dignity of human life lifts all of creation. In fact, this even illustrates, in part, the outrage over the hunting of Cecil the lion. Cecil was a neighborhood favorite in Zimbabwe. That is, until he was lured out of an animal sanctuary and shot for sport. The closer animals are to humans the more worth we confer upon them.
In this way, animals have proximate value. Their worth is often determined by their proximity to humans. If a wild dog gets hit by a car that’s one thing. If a poodle with a collar and name-tag gets run over, that’s another. But what is it about humans that we have such value that it almost rubs off even on the animals we keep close to us?
It’s because we are created with intrinsic worth. We are endowed with a value that cannot be alienated from us. We are made in the image of God. From the first heartbeat until the last, our worth transcends our physical development, our abilities, or lack thereof. Our worth is in who we are, created in the image of God, and not in what we can do. We are more than the sum of our parts.
Deep down everyone knows this: from those lamenting Cecil to those defending Cecile.