The "Ice Bucket Challenge" for ALS has taken off in an unbelievable way.
When I first saw reports of this fund-raising effort on ESPN, I thought "Oh, it's a take off of what firefighters have been doing for months" and of course, what we did with the "ice plunge" for Toronto church planters here in Jacksonville.
Why has this version of the cold water challenge taken off?
- It's much easier to get a bucket of ice water and pour it over one's head, than to devise a creative way to get dunked in ice water. Also, it's easier than having to use a horse trough for "polar baptism" we did earlier for church planting.
- It's for a good cause - research to discover a cure and newer treatments for those suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral scleroris).
- The disease is more popularly known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease" and with that, the nature of sports and celebrity has pushed the challenge into viral status.
There are some who have "upped the ante" by writing large checks rather than taking a cold bucket shower (i.e. Charlie Sheen, Patrick Stewart and Laura Bush.) There are dozens of videos on YouTube called "Ice Bucket Fails" which are entertaining. . .if you like seeing people have buckets fall on their heads, or other things similar to what made The Three Stooges famous. Personally, I thought George W. Bush's ice bucket clip was one of the best.
As with any effort that seems to be for a good cause, questions arise and some deem the effort futile. Celebrities like Pamela Anderson refuse to do the challenge based on her position on using animals in research, which apparently the ALSA does. Others tweet snarky remarks about dumping water on one's head while those in Africa face famine. There will always be those who deem any effort wasteful or less than well-intentioned.
What About Christians Doing This?
There are followers of Christ who struggle with the reality that the ALSA reportedly uses embryonic stem cells in their research. As a believer who opposes research using such stem cells, due to my conviction regarding life beginning at conception and my staunch opposition to abortion, this is an honest and viable concern.
Should a Christian give money to an organization that would seek to find a cure by violating biblical ethics? http://t.co/rmJBCPOgrG— Answers in Genesis (@AiG) August 20, 2014
Since many are now struggling whether to "take the challenge" when offered based on these convictions, I find the information shared by our Ethics & Religious Libertiy Commission to be spot on and helpful. Below is a portion of the blog post that may be read fully here:
Why do some people have ethical concerns with the challenge?
There have been some concerns registered on social media about the charity sponsoring the challenge, the ALS Association, and whether donors are contributing to an organization that supports embryonic stem cell research. Based on reporting from the American Life League, a spokeswoman from ALSA wrote the following:
The ALS Association primarily funds adult stem cell research. Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); this research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research. In fact, donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project. Under very strict guidelines, The Association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future.
To be fair, according to Munk, it seems ALSA supports the philosophy of embryonic stem cell research, but that known funding is exclusively done through the direction of one donor, and that potential donors have the opportunity to withhold funds that would be used for such purposes. By its own admission, however, it appears that ALSA reserves the right to further embryonic stem cell research at its own discretion.
What is Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
Embryonic stem cell research is speculative medical research (it has never resulted in clinical treatments) that is predicated on the destruction of embryonic human life. The process uses stem cells harvested from embryos conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) that have been donated for research purposes rather than being implanted into a woman’s uterus. The embryos are killed during the process of harvesting their cells and then are discarded afterwards. In 1999, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution expressing opposition to the destruction of innocent human life, including the destruction of human embryos for research purposes.
Should Christians not participate in the challenge?
With the close proximity to a moral dilemma that this situation presents, it is reasonable that Christians would register hesitation and distrust towards collaborating with an organization that harbors no moral opposition to the destruction of unborn life, but instead endorses such activity. Christians should also consider whether their contributions are unwittingly undergirding a philosophical worldview at odds with Christian ethics. The taking of innocent life under any circumstance is sinful. Moreover, fostering a culture of life predicated on the destruction of life is contradictory.
There are pathways to participation that don’t require moral compromise and that can allow those interested to join in the campaign without violating their conscience. The ALS Association encourages people taking part in the challenge to “make a donation to an ALS charity of their choice.” Listed below are a few organizations recommended by Christian bioethicist David Prentice that use adult stem cells in ALS research:
The Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center (MSCTC) at the University of Kansas Medical Center is starting an increasing number of clinical trials and educational efforts.
To donate: Click the “Make a Gift” link in the left column of their web page, it specifies donation for the MSCTC.
At the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Anthony Windebank and his team have one ongoing clinical trial for ALS patients and are ready to initiate a second clinical trial for ALS patients.
To donate: There is a “Give Now” link near the top of web page from Dr. Windebank’s link above; people can specify that their donation go to his ALS research team.
The Adult Stem Cell Technology Center, LLC is a for-profit company developing new methods for growth and application of adult stem cells, and does not support embryonic stem cell research.
To donate: Click “Contact Information” in the right column of the web page and email the Director to learn more about the company’s adult stem cell technology development plans.
Many are impacted by this terrible disease. Family members, friends, and those in our church family. Give as led and pray for those seeking a cure. Pray, too, for those facing this disease now and family members as well.