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American Christianity’s participation in the twentieth-century movement commonly termed the “old eugenics” helped enable eugenic policies that contributed to human rights abuses and social divisions. While churches have attempted to restore their reputations from the stain of that period, what some are calling the “new” or “consumer” eugenics has emerged a century later with markedly different characteristics. As opposed to legal rulings, state legislation, or “promotion from the pulpit,” eugenic ideas today are being driven by mar- ket forces advancing genetic technologies that numb the population to their moral effects. This essay contends that American Christianity’s role in defining and defending the human person is being tested by the emergence of new eugenic attitudes through the combined influence of science and economics, and whose cultural consequences are likely to be more indelible than those witnessed in the first half of the twentieth century. Charles McDaniel is associate professor in the interdisciplinary core program of Baylor University’s Honors College and is the book review editor for the Journal of Church and State.


Aside from the impassioned support for slavery among many churches of the antebellum South, perhaps the most indelible stain on American Christianity was its early twentieth-century involvement in the movement now labeled the “old eugenics.” Christian leaders and organizations sided overwhelmingly with politicians, scientists, social elites, and various progressive groups to champion the application of “scientific” methods designed to improve the nation’s gene pool. American Protestant churches often supported eugenics directly from the pulpit—including sponsorship of a sermon contest to reward ministers who promoted eugenic ideals1 —and through active involvement in politics and civil society. Large numbers of Christians believed that genetic improvement of the human species was in keeping with God’s command that humankind exercise dominion over creation.2 The unholy association of American Christianity with eugenics laboratories and associations was undermined by 1940 through recognition of Nazi atrocities and realization of the extent to which eugenicists would go in attempts to accelerate and enhance what they saw as “natural” evolutionary processes.

The specter of eugenics has reemerged a century later in much different form, presenting even more formidable challenges to Christianity and its belief in the transcendent nature of the human person. Eugenic attitudes are resurfacing not through the influence of state policies, court decisions, or civil society activism, but rather because markets advancing genetic technologies in an expanding and variably regulated global economy desensitize the population to their moral consequences. The generally favorable disposition of American Christians to the market’s moral outcomes, even those that seem to test their religious values, creates a climate in which churches increasingly will be challenged to protect the divine source of human dignity—what German theologian Helmut Thielicke called “alien dignity”—from functional and manipulable views of the person that arise alongside markets for genetic services.3

The entrepreneurial nature of the new “consumer” eugenics also highlights a divide that has formed between American churches and their memberships. Church influence today competes (often poorly) with a maze of social media and entertainment forms that dazzle and sometimes addict even as Christian consumers transact beyond the influence of their formative traditions. Religious norms are being confronted by various social forces and development of a subjectivist ethic at the core of American culture such that public morality, to the extent it exists, largely derives from the cumulative decisions in billions of transactions that take place in the market economy. The question is how (or even whether) religious traditions can reestablish a significant presence in helping guide American society to new understandings of the person that necessarily will emerge as new genetic technologies are introduced.

The Consumer Allure of a “New Eugenics”

Genetic researchers commonly deflect criticism of their craft by suggesting that the boldest claims of what can be accomplished (and any negative consequences associated with those accomplishments) are many decades in the future. However, the recent explosion of services in genome sequencing, pharmacogenetics,4 and other fields is greatly accelerating the pace of advance. The genetic testing industry is growing at a remarkable rate, projected to reach a total value of some $64 billion by 2025. Newborn screening and various forms of “reproductive genetics,” oncology practices, treatments for auto-immune diseases, and even the response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been boons to this industry, not to mention growth in general interest among Americans eager to learn more about their genealogical and family histories.5 There is even a mail order industry for amateur geneticists who wish to experiment with gene editing in the privacy of their homes.6 It is consumer demand by individuals whose motivations range from the simple desire to experiment with cutting-edge technologies to those who envision possibilities for human “enhancement” to patients who face debilitating genetic diseases, which fuels fear of a new eugenic age. The acceleration of discoveries to correct or perfect the human genome combined with the efficient delivery of services through market forces makes the new eugenics truly “eugenic.” And, in common with its twentieth-century counterpart, it will be primarily in hindsight that the cultural effects of these new technologies will be realized. As opposed to the old eugenics, however, there will be no hard targets for legal or political action to deal with those consequences once they become apparent.

Many explorations of the state of human genomics begin with the concept of “designer children.” That projected luxury good, which ultimately may come to be seen as a necessity good, grabs the lion’s share of attention concerning the ethical dimensions of this emerging industry. Yet the issue of designer children is more visible and provides greater opportunity for public deliberation and activism than some biotechnologies developing in the background. These lesser-publicized techniques are being employed without the baggage of “perfectionism” that attends the idea of designing children to parental desires.

The case of a child with Leigh Syndrome who was born to a Jordanian couple in 2016 is one example of countless treatments for genetic diseases that, cumulatively and over time, are likely to overcome religious and moral resistance to genetic alteration via clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and other methods that make such practices increasingly easy. CRISPR has been described as a “word processor” for gene-editing to emphasize its relative simplicity, and it has accelerated the potential for delivery of genetic services exponentially. In the Leigh Syndrome case, treatment resulted in the birth of a child in the United States with the genetic traits of three individuals through a technique known as mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT). MRT is a process where defective mitochondria in one or more cells of an individual are replaced by the healthy mitochondria of another person, and it has been pioneered in in vitro fertilization to help reduce the number of children born with mitochondrial diseases. A significant complication is that this technique also results in children who have the genetic traits of more than two “parents.” The ambiguous nature of regulatory responsibility over such procedures in the U.S. is demonstrated by the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) largely has been given authority for regulating medical genetic practices. In 2001, the FDA had attempted to prevent possibilities of children having more than two genetic parents by banning a procedure called cytoplasmic transfer.7 In the case of the Jordanian couple, however, a team of American doctors was able to avoid FDA scrutiny by performing the MRT technique at a clinic in Mexico, which was performed successfully with the aid of a donor “mother.” The result was the birth of a child in New York City with the genetic traits of three different parents.8

The success of MRT is an achievement to be celebrated, but it is also a development that should disquiet religious and other groups concerned with preserving traditional views of personhood. Other genetic diseases await similar remedy through socially and morally controversial practices. These technologies are being spawned in laboratories and driven by consumer demand in a global economy that is marvelously efficient in bringing new goods and services to market. One consequence of such practices, however, is the desensitization of the public to genetic alteration as immediate medical goods are pursued with limited public deliberation and a loosely constituted regulatory structure determining whether they are permitted. Individual consumers are left to navigate a dizzying array of products and services of varying moral impact. In such an environment, how can churches and other religious groups find appropriate voice and channels for activism to guide their memberships respecting involvement with these new technologies? And how will religious institutions, among others, be able to parse the individual and societal consequences such that immediate gains for human health can be measured against longer-term consequences for society?

Evidence for the shaping of public attitudes toward genetic developments can be inferred by the rising acceptance of human gametes as “commodities” to be bought and sold in markets accessible to those financially able to participate. The sale of eggs and sperm was highly controversial only a few decades ago; however, changes in attitudes resulting from the pervasiveness of these services make this practice increasingly commonplace. Diane Tober, an associate professor in the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California at San Francisco, observes “the perceived ‘quality’ of semen as both commodity and genetic material is strongly connected to the replication of a variety of U.S. cultural ideals, including an emphasis on altruism, intelligence, and other characteristics that are perceived to be transmittable by the sperm itself.”9 Tober notes how euphemisms surrounding the gamete industry, such as semen being the “gift of life,” blur the distinction between “donations” (which for some donors are more appropriately labeled “sales”) and “gifts” given to aid those who cannot have children without medical assistance. Tober even observes how “sperm donation is framed as a job and egg donation as a gift, due to a gendered division of labor and different sets of assumptions surrounding male and female perceptions of the children conceived through their donations.”10 These observations suggest that marketing can be an important tool in shaping customer perceptions of technologically and morally complex products and services.

Some of the moral apprehension that inevitably accompanies genetic advances likely is attenuated by the existence of markets for human gametes that have been established for decades. Sperm and egg providers shape their marketing programs to soften perceptions of customers and other interested parties that human sex cells are just another commodity priced according to what “the market will bear.” As Tober suggests, “the rewards of genetic continuation and the formation of relationships with children without having to assume responsibility can be even more important [to donors] than financial compensation. Thus, the perceived value and trust in ‘altruistically donated’ sperm is misplaced. In selling sperm (and selling eggs), true altruism—where an individual has no financial or genetic interest—cannot exist.”11 Tober’s observation contains wider implications. Other genetic services may well follow the lead of the gamete industry, appealing to forms of altruism to reinforce self-interested action that enables producers to profit. And consumers will use such appeals to justify individual decisions whose collective consequences are beyond any immediate determination.

While there is some evidence of Christian resistance to assisted reproductive technology (ART), primarily due to the emotional toll of processes involved and destruction of embryos, approximately 80 percent of Christian respondents in one survey who had “personal experience with ART” viewed the procedure as “positive” or “moderately positive.”12 While it is unsurprising that personal experience factors into the reception of religious consumers to new biotechnologies, it may be that the persistence of certain services in the market also affects attitudes concerning their morality, just as gametes are now seen as commodities to be bought and sold in ways largely indistinguishable from more mundane “goods.”13

A personal anecdote might help reinforce the observations of Tober and others. In the 1980s, I was given an opportunity by the oil company for which I worked to hear a speech by the famed heart surgeon Christaan Barnard in Dallas, Texas. The South African Barnard, who performed the first human-to-human heart transplant in 1967, was the lead among “rock star” cardiac surgeons in the period that included Drs. Denton Cooley and Michael DeBakey, who were affiliated for some time with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. In his speech, Barnard told the audience that we were fast forgetting the cultural trauma that the first heart transplantations inspired. Indeed, the recipient of that first transplant, Louis Washkansky, is said to have referred to himself as “Frankenstein,” and such characterizations of those who received transplants were not uncommon.14 A wide cross-section of religious Americans questioned the propriety of heart transplants because they believed (as many still do) that the human heart is not one-among-many organs that make up the human body but the very seat of the soul—the organ that enables a distinctive relationship with the Creator. I commonly relate the experience of hearing Barnard to my students in the Christian university in which I teach and ask them, if they discovered that their child had a heart defect requiring transplantation, how many would hesitate to agree to the procedure. In all the years of asking that question, I can count on one hand the number of students who raised theirs.

The intent here is not to challenge the good of organ transplantation or to condemn research in human genetics. It is to call attention to rapid growth in the genetics industry that is outpacing the ability of ethicists and religious thinkers to deal with the consequences of these changes. The highly entrepreneurial economics of the new eugenics described here results at least in part from the multinational, multibillion-dollar investment in mapping the human genome. The greater the investment in any technology, the more intense will be efforts to justify that investment through products and services delivered, and the more pressure that will be generated to realize return on investment. It is a market principle that applies regardless of a product’s technological complexity, or the social and moral implications of its introduction.

Some have minimized the market’s role in fostering eugenic attitudes. They see talk of a new eugenics as yet another issue furthering the expanse between liberals and conservatives. In an article for National Review, Wesley J. Smith, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, states that contemporary eugenicists are “primarily progressive academics” and that even those “religious types who support the new eugenics, as the original version, tend to come from the most liberal Protestant denominations.”15 While Smith concedes that some conservatives are accepting of eugenic policies, including “eugenic abortion, genetic enhancement/engineering, eugenic infanticide, euthanasia, and/or transhumanist ‘post human’ recreationism,” those conservatives are not “sanctity of life conservatives.”16 Yet Smith’s comments, concerned with identifying villainy that is characteristic of the culture war, misses the point entirely. To the extent there are progressive elitists, religious or otherwise, who advocate eugenic infanticide, euthanasia, or transhumanism,17 their reception is likely to be no more favorable than that of early twentieth-century eugenicists. That is not the real danger, however, and it clearly distinguishes the “old” from the “new” eugenics. The threat of what is occurring in the present is that our passive acceptance of human commodification will rise with growth of the genetics industry and, over time, even those who believe they support the sanctity of life will be overwhelmed by biotech changes and lose sensitivity to their moral consequences. Headlines highlighting designer children, genetic engineering, eugenic abortion, and other practices will impassion those like Smith to combat them. Treatments for dis- eases like Leigh Syndrome, however, will be seen overwhelmingly as “good” by many liberals and conservatives even though it may result in children with more than two genetic parents, germline alteration, or other morally questionable outcomes. And, in many cases, the social and moral effects of these treatments will not be widely known or, if known, not fully comprehended.

Potentially “Tragic” Consequences Beyond the Biological

Markets are subject to what often is called the “tragedy of the commons,” where participants acting in their own perceived best interests, in fact, produce negative outcomes for the community. Genetic markets appear uniquely conditioned by this principle because some consequences of genetic modifications can be unforeseeable and may not be known for years. One reason for the heightened potential of genetic therapies to experience this tragedy is the presence of what are called “off-target effects” where the intended results of a genetic intervention have unplanned outcomes such that one intervention may require subsequent alterations to mitigate the unintended consequences of the first. Recognition of the off-target problem was one reason scientists were encouraged to develop CRISPR-Cas13 that targets RNA for editing in addition to CRISPR-Cas9, which has been used to pioneer efficient DNA editing. Because RNA lacks the chemical stability of DNA and degrades more rapidly in the body, any unintended effects of genetic therapies using CRISPR-Cas13 can be more easily eliminated. While scientists are encouraged by the additional safety net provided by RNA-based techniques, off-target effects are still present with CRISPR-Cas13.18

Regardless of how cautiously genetic science proceeds and the degree to which researchers can control off-target effects of genetic therapies, there is likely to be another unintended consequence to modification of the human genome: a rising perception of the physical body as manipulable and commodifiable with the attendant belief that science controls our destiny. Even as we seem to gain increasing control of the genetic biosphere, we may well lose a sense of reliance on God’s sovereignty and see erosion of faith in the distinct freedom of choice given to humanity in God’s charge to care for creation, developing more jaundiced views toward life in the process.

It is not only religious groups that are concerned with the prospect of a more calloused view of life forming as reproductive and other genetic technologies proliferate. In 2021, the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies adopted a near-religious tone in describing an overarching question that frames debates in modern genetics: “How the human ability to edit the genome should be regulated is closely linked to questions about the status of humanity in ‘nature’. Are we its masters with a right to transform it, or are we one of many parts of it that all thrive in relation to each other?”19 In a related way, Tober notes ambiguous attitudes surrounding gamete donation as both “gift” and “job,” where “both male and female gamete providers sometimes talk about ‘donating’ for a ‘paycheck’ that helps them make ends meet while simultaneously helping others create families.”20 How can one argue against the moral good of such transactions? Two families benefit from an act of altruism that also benefits the economy. But, as a World Council of Churches (WCC) report from 1989 states: “The most exploitative aspects of reproductive technology occur when a woman is provided monetary payment for her reproductive ‘services’, be it the sale of her ovum; foetus, or childbearing in partial or full surrogacy. In these instances, women become merely expendable commodities in the marketplace that has appropriated human reproduction.”21 The commodification of life that attends such developments further ensconces the market as a critical institution for the determination of personhood. It also elevates a thoroughly material conception of humanity, crowding out views by traditional definers of humanness.

Statements by churches and other religious organizations concerning developments in human genetics can be important to preserving their traditional role in defining what it means to be human. However, to the extent their memberships engage in markets where the materials that make up the human body are treated as commodities, such pronouncements may carry little weight because the rise of ethical subjectivism that accompanies such practices contributes to the demise of traditional religious morality. Consumption has become the absolute and unabridged right of every American and achieved something approaching the status of a religious value. But a consumerist morality is an unstable platform upon which to protect traditional views of the person. It also fosters a materialist ethic to the exclusion of other values. Brad S. Gregory observes how the splintering of American Christianity and elimination of any common view of “good” has enabled materialism to enter and dominate the void: “Unable to agree about the Christian good, contentious Catholics and Protestants would demonstrate their supra-confessional eagerness to pursue material goods.”22 That eagerness has been channeled in countless directions, including inward, such that recent technological developments accentuate a transient, even profane, view of the self.

Sociologist Stephen Hart has studied the impact of privatization on American churches in limiting how churches speak out on public issues. Hart notes both structural and attitudinal changes associated with privatization of all aspects of American culture that extend even to sacred elements of human existence, and he observes trends in religious culture that correspond to those in American society generally.23 First is the phenomenon of “religion without churches,” where some Americans enjoy a “vital spiritual life” even while not being part of a traditional church, or where in some cases they gather virtually. Second, churches have come to be seen as one among many voluntary associations that individuals join to advance their own ends. Third, Hart observes the development of “individual theological responsibility” such that, even where Americans are part of a church or other formal religious institution, they are seen as individually responsible for defining their own belief systems, which often vary markedly from those of others in their religious group. Fourth, there is a climate of “religious subjectivism” in which it is believed “that all beliefs are equally valid if sincerely held” and religious issues are merely matters of individual preference. Fifth, American religion has witnessed a “separation of religion from public concerns” as the inner life of Christians becomes dominant such that faith and social issues become disconnected entirely. Sixth, Hart notes the influence of the “religious marketplace,” where market values infuse church life (i.e. “church shopping”) and churches exist much like businesses in competition with others “in their attempts to meet the needs of clients, and potential clients, occasionally designing programs, sermons, and so forth with more of an eye to what will keep and attract members than to transcendent values.”24 The cultural conditions Hart describes in combination with rapid developments in genetics suggest that American religion may soon lose what is left of its influence not only in determining what is the human person but also in protecting the biological components of creation more generally.

In 1972, American historian Christopher Lasch noted how the triumph of individualism and an American attitude of “cultural laissez-fare” resulted in obscuring “the social character of religion and weakened its power to offer a critical commentary on the conditions of social life. The church retired from its long struggle to change the world and concerned itself with purely spiritual affairs.”25 Lasch makes a second observation of particular importance here:

[Individualism] was identified with a revolt against the constraints imposed by nature—that is, with man’s increasing domination of nature through science and technology. Modern rationalism revealed itself not only in the rational state and in the vision of a social order based on universal reason but in the unprecedented advance of science; and in a culture that set an increasingly high value on privacy, self-dependence, and personal fulfillment, it was perhaps inevitable that the achievements of modern science should be seen, not as a stage in man’s collective self-awareness, but principally as another means to individual fulfillment and the satisfaction of personal wants.26

Certain technological advances make attempts by churches to retire from the social struggle and deal only with spiritual life impossible and, institutionally, perhaps even suicidal. The reality of xenotransplantation, in which cells, organs, or tissues from one species are transplanted to another, as well as the movement called transhumanism challenges religious views of the person in a way that demands theological response. In some sense, the transhumanist desire to surpass the limitations of being human through biological, electromechanical, or other means can be seen as the end goal of much biogenetic research described here, even as “transcendence” can serve as a principal motivation for many consumers wishing to benefit from that research.

Lasch is insightful in another way. Observing the technological utopianism of journalist and fiction writer Edward Grossman in an article for The Atlantic in May 1971, Lasch notes an irony: “it is the layman . . . who heralds the inevitable coming of the artificial womb and its beneficial effects, while the biologist James D. Watson—faced with the possibility of human cloning to which his own Nobel Prize-winning work has indirectly contributed—dares to raise the question: Is this what we want?” Lasch states the obvious: such developments are “far too important to be left solely in the hands of the scientific and medical community,”27 yet exactly who is to be involved in guiding our future is undefined. Lasch sees the need for social policy to counter these developments; however, in a liberal democratic society that champions individualism and the market as the primary institution guiding our progress, what could be the basis for such policy? It is not simply the layman, but the layman’s consumption preferences as expressed through the market that are contributing to the potentially deterministic social order of which Lasch warns.

In reality, “laypersons” seem rather mixed regarding possible applications of genetic technology. A Pew Research Center survey found that while 72 percent of Americans believe genetic modification to an unborn child “to treat a serious disease or condition” is acceptable, an even greater percentage (80 percent) believe improving fetal intelligence via gene-editing goes too far.28 The survey also showed how the religiosity of Americans factors significantly in their reception to gene-editing, with religious Americans being more resistant to application of such technologies virtually across the board (white evangelical Protestants were most resistant among the religious groups surveyed).29 That resistance must be tempered by recognition of a 2014 Public Religion Research Institute survey, which found that white evangelical Protestants, especially those who are older and in higher income categories, held more conservative economic views than religious respondents in other groups. Specifically, white evangelical Protestants strongly disfavor government intervention in the marketplace.30 That the new eugenics presently emerging is largely a market-driven phenomenon and as much a product of entrepreneurialism as scientific discovery presents a conflict for the American evangelical community. They find government intervention in the economy objectionable, but without government action or some upwelling of resistance by American citizen-consumers, the gene-editing practices that many evangelicals oppose will soon become mainstream.

Evangelicals are not the only ones facing a dilemma concerning the acceleration of morally controversial technologies. Secular liberals voice concerns over equity in the availability of genetic services and how insurance coverage might discriminate against minority populations. Policies that would limit Americans’ freedom of choice would receive little support from any constituency in the present culture war. Perhaps even more concerning is the state of American public discourse and our inability to engage each other constructively on seemingly pedestrian issues, much less those involving the kind of technical and ethical complexity of human genetics.

But the present impasse in public deliberation is not representative of American history. The tradition of American public intellectualism, including participation by public theologians, has been a major pillar to support cultural change and decision-making during periods of war, economic depression, and internal struggle. There have been dark periods in American history when the nation’s social consciousness was jarred from apathy, jingoism, and self-worship by the discernment of prominent religious thinkers. During the time of the old eugenics, America possessed a vibrant tradition of public theology, where theologians like Walter Rauschenbusch, the Niebuhr brothers, John Courtney Murray, and others were influential contributors to cultural dialogue on an amazing array of political, economic, religious, technological, and other questions. Sadly, Rauschenbusch must be acknowledged as one of the religious proponents of the early twentieth-century eugenics movement; however, that stain should not negate an entire tradition of public theology. In fact, reviving it is critical to facilitating broad deliberation over the social and moral implications of genetic advances, just as it can help make theology once again relevant to the layman. Accomplishing that task might enable us to do what Lasch deems necessary: “to reconsider our exaltation of the individual over the life of the community, and to submit technological innovations to a question we have so far been careful not to ask: is this what we want?”31

The Legacy of Christian Activism in Human Genetics

The old eugenics movement was a thoroughly rational manifestation of scientific and cultural forces that sought the elimination of persistent social problems through control of heritable traits. Regarding religious participation, Protestant ministers and theologians dominated the movement and its institutional expression through groups like the Committee on Cooperation with Clergymen, a subunit of the American Eugenics Society. Sharon Leon notes how “Protestant luminaries” spearheaded this collaborative group that brought together secular members of the American Eugenics Society with American religious leaders. The Committee on Cooperation with Clergymen also included two Reform rabbis and two Catholic priests who were notably less committed to the cause, John A. Ryan and John Montgomery Cooper of the Catholic University of America. The leader of the group was a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Henry S. Huntington, whose brother Ellsworth was a prominent eugenicist.32

In an era in which American public schools expanded their curricula to include eugenics-related subjects and “fitter family contests” and other forms of genetic competition were held at state and county fairs, American churches took to preaching eugenics directly from the pulpit. A “sermon competition” in 1926 rewarded pastors who were best able to integrate Christian theology with eugenics ideology.33 The winner, an Episcopal minister from Minneapolis, the Reverend Phillips E. Osgood, declared that “the Refiner of humanity claims our cooperation. The dross must be purged out; the pure gold of well-born generations is the goal of the process.”34

Although Catholic priests notably abstained from the competition, a few Catholic leaders advocated eugenic policies. Two Catholic academics, Father Stephen M. Donovan of the Franciscan House at Catholic University of America and Father Théodore Labouré, OMI, a scholar in San Antonio’s Diocesan Seminary, believed that “heredity was the crucial factor in transmitting insane and criminal traits”; thus, they argued that “punitive sterilization” was a reasonable penalty for certain crimes.35 The majority of American Catholics, however, both lay and clerical, saw the eugenics movement, especially in its negative manifestations through programs of forced sterilization and restrictions on reproductive rights, as philosophically opposed to Church beliefs.

Among the nascent social sciences, psychologists and sociologists often attempted to explain scientifically how particular religious traditions and belief systems appealed to racial groups and social classes that were naturally inferior, just as they also sought to prove the superior genetic endowment of urban dwellers vis-à-vis rural Americans.36 Warren Wilson, Edmund Brunner, and others “suggested that the best racial ‘stock’ had left the country for the city, leaving ‘morons’ and other ‘inadequate’ and ‘less favored’ individuals who were attracted to emotional, ecstatic religious practices.”37 Such elitist theories might suggest that rural Christians would have opposed eugenic policies; however, religion professor Brian C. Wilson finds little resistance in the period other than a few fundamentalists like William Jennings Bryan and representatives from certain Pentecostal denominations.38 The lack of vocal opposition to eugenics policies among rural and working-class American Christians accompanied those policies’ active support among Christian elites such that poorer and less-educated segments of American Christianity were targeted by the movement.39

Eventually, American Christians as well as members of other religious, civic,

and philanthropic organizations came to recognize the repugnant vision they helped promote through a racially and ethnically motivated agenda that was cloaked in pseudo-scientific theories. The complicity of American religion in the old eugenics movement has been acknowledged and condemned by most every major religious group such that the form eugenics took in the early twentieth century is likely not to be repeated. Over the past century, we have changed from a society that found the forced sterilization of undesirables and promotion of “fitter family contests” acceptable to one that finds such practices detestable. Yet, the danger of a genetically determined future is greater today than in earlier periods not simply, or even primarily, because of technological advances. “Genetically determined” is used here not in the past sense that government or social elites will attempt to dictate which genetic characteristics are most desirable and seek to eliminate those considered undesirable. Rather, the future form of genetic determination is likely to involve yet unseen genetic services in which the line between treatment and enhancement becomes ever more blurred. These services will be delivered with increasing efficiency by market forces that, in some cases, may stimulate a herd mentality on the part of consumers who feel compelled to separate themselves from genetic stigmas or to enhance the “genetic marketability” of themselves and their descendants. Theologians and religious ethicists will be hard-pressed to come to terms with developments in the genetic marketplace and their cultural effects, including those that challenge the values and beliefs of their religious traditions.

Charting a New Course of Christian Involvement

In August of 1989, the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Central Committee met in Moscow to address rapid advances in biotechnology. The Central Committee’s Subunit on Church & Society produced a list of recommendations and proposals, “recognizing the potential dangers as well as the potential benefits of many forms of biotechnology” and encouraging “its member churches to take appropriate action in their own countries to draw these matters to public attention, and to help governments, scientists, universities, hospitals and corporations to develop suitable safeguards and controls.” The recommendations called on governments and international regulatory agencies to prohibit certain practices, including: genetic testing for sex selection; experiments involving germline alteration in discriminating against human “defectives”; the patenting of life forms; genetic engineering to support biological or chemical warfare; commercialized child bearing through sale of human ova, sperm, etc.; and, embryo research, except that conducted “under well-defined conditions.” More positively, the document calls for large-scale education of “member churches and other groups” in emerging biotechnologies and the “swift adoption of strict international controls on the release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment.”40

The 1989 document reflects the WCC’s concern and prescience with respect to genetic issues, and its recognition of potentially grave consequences associated with these developing technologies absent some form of international regulatory regime. In fact, the organization dealt with these issues back in 1969, and it has conducted ongoing discussions in a series of conferences since that time. A WCC statement on the potential patenting of genetically engineered organisms emphasizes genetic patenting’s potential to instill a “reductionist” and “mechanistic” view of life that “directly contradicts the sacramental, interrelated view of life intrinsic to a theology of the integrity of creation.”41 However, the WCC’s longtime involvement in this issue and its recommendations are not widely known, illustrating a key difference between the earlier eugenic era and that which we are entering today. The old eugenics resulted from a combination of government policies, court decisions, and civil society activism that created hard targets for political and social action once its abuses were revealed. Presently, the rather direct pipeline that exists between laboratory and market, with only a slender and rather transitory set of regulatory institutions in between and limited opportunity for public discussion denies activist groups, including religious ones, clear foci on which to channel their energies. Even where somewhat concrete regulatory mechanisms do exist, the global economy often circumvents such structures as seen in the Leigh Syndrome case described previously.

The more recent case of a 57-year-old Maryland man who received the heart of a genetically modified pig demonstrates both the theological complexity and potential moral hazard involved in the hybridization of species. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman defines moral hazard as “any situation in which one person makes the decision about how much risk to take, while someone else bears the cost if things go badly.”42 In the case of trans-species genetic engineering, called xenotransplantation, relatively few individuals (scientists, medical professionals, and consumers seeking this service) are involved in decisions that have potentially significant social and moral implications. Discounting concerns about the potential emergence of viruses or other pathogens resulting from xenotransplantation, there necessarily will be value changes and attitudinal consequences as this practice becomes more widespread. And such procedures will become increasingly commonplace as donor organs remain scarce relative to demand in a market where satisfaction of that demand often is a life-and-death issue.

C. Ben Mitchell, past editor of the journal Ethics & Medicine who once held the Graves Chair in Moral Philosophy at Union University, has outlined pertinent questions that xenotransplantation raises for the Christian conception of personhood: “Would an animal-human chimera be a human person? Would the answer to that question depend on how many, or which, nonhuman organs were transplanted, or on what percentage of human DNA was retained? Should we define our humanity by the number and identity of our genes?”43 And, most important here, at what point does the transplant of genetically engineered organs from other species into humans undermine the Christian ideal of human dignity?

Such questions compel the involvement of Christian theologians and ethicists. According to Mitchell, the scriptural basis for humankind being made in the image of God comes into question as certain advances serve to reconstitute the human genome, regardless of whatever medical or other benefits are achieved. He notes that “in our biotechnological age, the consequences of forfeiting the creational ground of respect for every human life—and for the human community as a whole—seem too grotesque to contemplate, but too likely to ignore.”44 How Christian ethicists and theologians—indeed, churches themselves—address coming genetic challenges is the critical question. Even achieving broad-sweeping agreement among American Christians that something must be done to address these technologies, encyclicals like Dignitatis Personae and other decrees may have limited effect when confronting the intensely subjective ethics of Christian consumers transacting in the market economy. What is most characteristic of the new eugenics is that it is a bottom-up, market-driven phenomenon in which individual choice is paramount and final outcomes are governed by a mix of consumer demand and potentially life-changing technologies, the cumulative effects of which are indeterminate. Whatever liberal academics, conservative pundits, or even religious leaders may desire is likely to be drowned out by the biological, social, and moral consequences of countless transactions as consumers participate in emerging genetic industries.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) perhaps has been most outspoken concerning the potential impact of genetic developments on future generations. Sustainability was central to its social statement on “Genetics, Faith and Responsibility” produced by the Churchwide Assembly that met in Orlando in August of 2011. The ELCA Assembly noted how regulation by government bodies and policymakers “historically relied on three standard criteria:

(1) human risk and safety, (2) immediate animal and environmental risk and safety, and (3) technological efficacy.”45 While wholeheartedly supporting the continuation of these criteria, the ELCA recommended adding the criterion of “long-term ecological, social and economic impact.” Acknowledging the difficulty of appending present models with this criterion due to conflicting interests and despite the real risk that doing so might “slow development,” the ELCA is at least willing to say what some groups have been reluctant to: that the great promise of genetic technology must remain subordinate to the long-term sustainability of the planet and preservation of what makes the human creature distinct among others: transcendent freedom.46

The ELCA also recognizes a kind of “resignation” that genetic science threatens to inflict on global society, “when individuals and systems are focused on self-interest and where commitment to care of the earth is tepid.”47 Such attitudes can foster the specter of genetic determinism and the belief that genetics explains all, at the expense of traditional religious explanations such as original sin.48

The United Methodist Church opposes use of CRISPR or other means for editing the DNA of human embryos.49 It has continued to update its statement regarding genetic technology in its Book of Resolutions since 1988 when the General Conference affirmed the potential of such technologies while warning of the dangers and authorizing formation of a Genetic Science task force. The UMC, in its “2016 Book of Resolutions” noted the pervasive impacts of genetic science in “the food we eat, the health care we receive, how crimes are prosecuted, our biological traits, and the environment in which we live.”50 It also posed the prospect of scientific determinism with its recognition that the biological revolution being led by genetic science now promises “to alter the very nature of society, the natural environment, and even human nature.” Consistent with that statement, the UMC opposes germline DNA editing while supporting somatic gene therapies for the relief of human suffering. Germline alterations performed on human sperm, eggs, or embryos encode genetic changes that impact all cells not only of the individual being treated but also their future offspring whereas somatic cell editing alters only certain cells of the individual patient and does not affect her descendants. The Church reaffirmed its stance against the “patenting of life forms” that extends to genetic materials (cells, genes, etc.) and was articulated in its General Conference of 1984; however, the statement supports certain “process patents” that avoid “exclusive ownership” of organisms and can provide a means for economic return on investment for biotech firms.51

In terms of “what the Church can do,” the UMC document calls on clergy and lay members to educate the population, maintain dialogue between the Church and those involved in the science, and support persons who suffer from genetic disorders and those “facing difficult choices as a result of genetic testing.”52 The UMC resolution is similar to those of other churches and denominational groups in its advocacy of counseling, dialogue, and education; yet, the steps recommended seem inadequate given what in the Church’s own words is the biological revolution being driven by genetic science.

The Seventh-Day Adventist Church produced a statement, “Christian Principles for Genetic Interventions,” which is framed within the wider context of humanity’s call to stewardship over creation.53 The document stresses that genetic diseases afflicting humanity do not result from “normal variation,” and to the extent genetic science “in harmony with Christian principles” can enable recovery of humanity’s original genetic endowment, it is a good to be welcomed. The statement also outlines certain Christian principles to serve as a guide for “genetic interventions.” Yet one of these, freedom of choice, creates a possible conflict with stewardship over creation.54 Given the complexity of markets involving genetic technologies and the possible unknowns, the ability for individuals to weigh the potential advantages for themselves and their families against possible negative consequences for creation is difficult at best.

Religious groups outside the U.S. have taken steps to address genetic developments. In 2012, the Canadian Council of Churches published a 152-page document, “When Christian Faith and Genetics Meet: A Practical Group Resource,” which contains detailed information on genetic technologies, a glossary of genetic terms, a shared statement of member churches, surveys of Canadian attitudes on biotechnology, and suggestions for various instructional and discussion-based exercises that might be conducted with church groups.55 The overview of genetic technology is impressive; however, one wonders whether this information will influence Christians in Canada and elsewhere facing future decisions about whether to genetically alter themselves or their children, either to avoid genetic disease or improve their life chances. The document includes possible scenarios and associated questions that Canadian Christians are likely to face and that can form the basis of discussion among church members. But can simulation through a scenario-based discussion group realistically portray the moral dilemma that Christians will face as they make decisions that shape their genetic futures?

Cultural conditions have shifted such that Americans are less reliant on religious and other traditions in their decision-making even as the moral complexity of those decisions expands. As new biotech services emerge, in certain cases the very survival of some will compel use of morally controversial technologies. In other cases, genetic treatments will come available to help cure longstanding and often tragic genetic diseases that have caused much suffering and limited opportunities for those afflicted. Finally, given the rapid pace of technological advance and competitive nature of American society, novel techniques will compel citizens to improve their life chances through genetic enhancement, even as they may also reshape our understanding of what it means to be human. And the value changes associated with this emerging industry, once they become established through the natural workings of a market order, will be more indelible than those elites attempted to impose, and government agencies sought to enforce, in the earlier eugenic period. There will be no possibility to repeal leg islation or overturn court decisions to undo previous “errors” (as, for example, was only partly the case regarding the forced sterilization of institutionalized persons)56 because analogous errors in the new eugenic age will be far more subtle and incremental, resulting from the cumulative decisions of free individuals in the marketplace.

Resurrecting forms of public deliberation where American religious voices are heard alongside secular ones is necessary if Christians are to contribute an alternate view of the person and good society to the ones emerging surreptitiously through the biotech industry. Lisa Sowle Cahill suggests that the very ground of theological inquiry must change to confront present realities and address social injustices that are likely to expand as the field of genomics progresses. She notes that in the late-twentieth century, theologian bioethicists held a prominent place at the table for deliberating the potential social and moral consequences of advances in human genetics. James Gustafson, Richard McCormick and Karen Lebacqz were members of presidential commissions and other bodies charged with bringing theological insight to biological issues, and “they were not hesitant to use religious imagery, arguments, and principles” in making the case for the relevance of theology.57 Yet, Cahill cites Hastings Center co-founder Daniel Callahan that participation of religious bioethicists in such groups and the desire to maintain relevance exacted a concession that undermined their contribution. In “Why America Accepted Bioethics,” Callahan states that broad acceptance of bioethics as a discipline required that religion be “pushed aside” and those with decidedly religious views adopt “a different kind of moral language in the mainstream of public policy, toward a language of rights, worries about questions of pluralism, efforts to find moral consensus and moral strategies in the face of a diverse cultural situation.”58 But that concession to gain broad and immediate acceptance damaged the distinctive and potentially enduring contributions of bioethicists with religious convictions.

Although religious voices have been assimilated and perhaps attenuated to some extent in the wider debate over human genetics, the history of religious participation and its importance is undeniable. Denominational statements can be influential, but more active involvement of Christian theologians and ethicists in bioethics think tanks, government commissions, and university centers also is critical to galvanizing a bioethical tradition that includes early notable contributions such as Paul Ramsey’s The Patient as Person and Oliver O’Donovan’s Begotten or Made? Human Procreation and Medical Technique.59 O’Donovan raised the stakes in his book by directly engaging the essence of genetic experimentation: “If we should wish to charge our own generation with crimes against humanity because of the practice of this experimental research, I would suggest that the crime should not be the old-fashioned crime of killing babies, but the new and subtle crime of making babies to be ambiguously human, of presenting to us members of our own species who are doubtfully proper objects of compassion and love.”60 Profound as that statement was at the time, it has become dated by suggesting the laboratory is the sole ground of activity that challenges religious views of the person as “proper objects of compassion and love.” Science continues to generate discoveries that tempt us to view ourselves as infinitely manipulable, but the practical conduit for channeling those discoveries into services that invite participation by all is the market, which is where real value transformation takes place. And while science has achieved near-sacrosanct status in contemporary culture, the market arguably has fully attained it. It is their combination that today threatens Christian and other religious conceptions of the human person.

Christian centers for bioethics, such as The National Catholic Bioethics Center, and those at academic institutions like The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International University as well as bioethics centers at Loma Linda University and Wake Forest University are important institutions to meet the challenge. There is need to develop theological and anthropological positions that present a cohesive front in support of humankind as unerringly spiritual and uniquely charged with the care of creation, even as they acknowledge how human nature often desires relief from the limitations of being human. O. Carter Snead’s critique of what he terms “expressive individualism” that fails to acknowledge “how we stand in relation to one another as vulnerable, mutually dependent, finite, and embodied beings”61 can help serve as a model for contemporary ethicists and theologians. Snead brings together legal, ethical, theological, and anthropological reflections to address holistically the moral conundrums presented by biotechnological advances.


Divisions in American Christianity that have been intensified by the wider culture war and reinforced by our reliance on the market as a guide to the good can be a major hindrance to addressing the principal problem cited in this paper: the alarming potential of a new eugenic age. But perhaps the magnitude of the problem has opened the possibility for reconciling some of these divisions and bringing together religious voices in common cause. Nigel M. Cameron has noted how, particularly in the U.S. and Germany, bioethical issues tend to make allies of traditional opponents, just as they sometimes forge wedges between groups that normally work together.62 Bioethics is an outlier vis-à-vis political and economic issues in that the traditional lines dividing liberals and conservatives, whether religious or not, often do not hold. Relatedly, in an article for The Atlantic in 1999, Harvard theologian Harvey Cox noted how developments in genetic science have had the effect of impeding deification of what he calls “The Market as God,” bringing together Christian groups that commonly are at odds with one another. Observing how The Market as God has sacraments, liturgy, a sense of dialectics, a belief in omniscience and omnipresence, as well as its own conception of the sacred, Cox also notes a possible hole in the “theology” of The Market that offers a thread of hope to those who fear a genetically deterministic future:

The liturgy of The Market is not proceeding without some opposition from the pews. A considerable battle is shaping up in the United States, for example, over the attempt to merchandise human genes. A few years ago, banding together for the first time in memory, virtually all the religious institutions in the country, from the liberal National Council of Churches to the Catholic bishops to the Christian Coalition, opposed the gene mart, the newest theophany of The Market. But these critics are followers of what are now ‘old religions,’ which, like the goddess cults that were thriving when the worship of the vigorous young Apollo began sweeping ancient Greece, may not have the strength to slow the spread of the new devotion.63

The singular exception noted by Cox to the market’s divinization is not likely to hold without steadfast reinforcement by Christian theologians, ethicists, ministers, and laypersons. The coming together of new genetic technologies in the entrepreneurial frenzy of a global economy suggests that the new eugenics may call for a new kind of “theological economics” if we are to counter its potentially dehumanizing effects. It also requires that the relationship between American Christian institutions and their memberships must change from one catering to the demands of customers sitting in pews to one that takes seriously its role of guiding church members as they face ever-tougher questions in their daily lives A theology of the market is a necessary complement to that focusing on genetic technologies if religious thinkers are to fully address the potential of a new eugenic age. The threat posed to traditional views of the human person is of a kind not faced before because, in many cases, it is being engaged by laypersons with limited knowledge at the point of decision about the survival of themselves and their progeny in a venue that values only that which is commodifiable. And what is commodifiable with respect to human biology expands daily. Such an unfair fight largely will determine the long-term biological and moral health of society; the result inevitably favors biotechnological determinism as the major factor defining our species. Callahan is right that countering such determinism requires “serious bioethics” that is willing to ask “hard, even nasty questions” from the standpoint of tradition. Those questions involve not only issues of technological possibility but also economic necessity, individual liberty, and spiritual identity. Most important, asking those questions requires the opportunity and  courage to ask another: “is this what we want?”

Cite this article
Charles McDaniel, “American Christianity and the New Eugenics: Consumerism, Human Genetics, and the Challenge to Christian Personhood”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 52:2 , 21 – 42


  1. Sharon Leon, “‘Hopelessly Entangled in Nordic Pre-Suppositions’: Catholic Participation in the American Eugenics Society in the 1920s,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 59, no. 1 (January 2004): 15–16.
  2. Christine Rosen, Preaching Eugenics: Religious Leaders and the American Eugenics Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 3–23.
  3. Helmut Thielicke, Theological Ethics Volume I: Foundations, ed. William H. Lazareth (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1966), 147–194.
  4. Pharmacogenetics is a subfield that studies how an individual patient’s genetic makeup impacts that person’s responses to particular drugs. It aids development of precision medicines for customized medical care.
  5. “Genetic Testing Services Market is Anticipated to Reach a Value of US$ 64.1 Billion By the End of 2025,” November 30, 2021, BioSpace, genetic-testing-services-market-is-anticipated-to-reach-a-value-of-us-64-1billion-by-the-end-of-2025/.
  6. Emily Baumgaertner, “As D.I.Y. Gene Editing Gains Popularity, ‘Someone Is Going to Get Hurt,’” New York Times, May 14, 2018, science/biohackers-gene-editing-virus.html. See also
  7. Cytoplasmic transfer is a process where ooplasm from the eggs of one female are transferred into the eggs of another, most often to overcome fertility problems of the latter. Like MRT, it can result in the conception of a child with the genetic characteristics of the father, the biological mother, and an ooplasmic donor. See “Ooplasmic/Cytoplasmic Transfer,” Center for Genetics and Society, May 30, 2003,
  8. Jessica Hamzelou, “Exclusive: World’s first baby born with new ‘3 parent’ technique,” New Scientist, September 27, 2016,
  9. Diane Tober, Romancing the Sperm: Shifting Biopolitics and the Making of Modern Families (Newark, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2019), 88.
  10. Tober, Romancing the Sperm, 89.
  11. Tober, Romancing the Sperm, 104.
  12. The survey was taken of Christians in Australia and the S.A. beginning in 2013. Of those who had experienced ART but would not do so again, the most common reasons given were the “emotional cost” and the “ethical problem of destroying embryos.” See M. Best, et al., “Protestant Christian Attitudes to ART,” Human Reproduction Open 2019, no. 3 (2019): 3.
  13. The moral limits of markets debate within business ethics has been ongoing for some time, with many “market moralists” asserting that not everything should be for sale and that allocation methods for certain goods should be “domain-specific,” rather than simply assuming the market as the allocator for all in order to exercise responsibility for public morality. See Ben Wempe and Jeff Frooman, “Reframing the Moral Limits of Markets Debate: Social Domains, Values, Allocations Methods,” Journal of Business Ethics 153, no. 1 (November 2018): 1–15.
  14. Helen MacDonald, “Haunting Transplants: The Frankenstein Factor,” Somatechnics 2, no. 2 (September 2012): 216–219.
  15. Wesley J. Smith, “Eugenics Mostly Progressive, Not Conservative,” National Review, April 5, 2014, eugenics-mostly-progressive-not-conservative-wesley-j-smith/.
  16. Smith, “Eugenics Mostly Progressive, Not Conservative”; italics in the original.
  17. Transhumanism is commonly defined as a movement developed around possibilities of transcending the limitations of being human—physically, intellectually, emotionally—through biological, mechanical, or other means.
  18. Wenyi Liu, et al., “Applications and challenges of CRISPR-Cas gene-editing to disease treatment in clinics,” Precision Clinical Medicine 4, no. 3 (September 2021): 183–186.
  19. European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies opinion on the Ethics of Genome Editing (Brussels: Publications Office, 2021), 4.
  20. Tober, Romancing the Sperm, 89. Specifically regarding sperm bank donation, Tober notes how “many donors take on a semiprofessional status. That is, they make regular donations (multiple times a month) for usually at least a year. These donors generally enter into a ‘long-term relationship’ with the sperm bank—keeping its staff abreast of things that might affect the quality of their semen.” See Tober, Romancing the Sperm, 95.
  21. “Biotechnology,” World Council of Churches, August 15, 1989, https://www.oikou
  22. Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Boston: Harvard University Press, 2015), 234.
  23. Stephen Hart, “Privatization in American Religion and Society,” Sociological Analysis 47, no. 4 (Winter 1987): 319–334.
  24. Hart, “Privatization in American Religion and Society,” 320–321.
  25. Christopher Lasch, “Birth, Death and Technology: The Limits of Cultural Laissez- Faire,” Hastings Center Report 2, no. 3 (June 1972): 1.
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  27. Lasch, “Birth, Death and Technology,” 3–4. See also Edward Grossman, “The Obsolescent Mother,” The Atlantic, May 1971, archive/1971/05/the-obsolescent-mother/304201/.
  28. Cary Funk and Meg Hefferon, “Public Views of Gene Editing for Babies Depend on How It Would Be Used,” Pew Research Center, July 26, 2018,
  29. Funk, “Public Views of Gene Editing.”
  30. Funk, “Public Views of Gene Editing.”
  31. Lasch, “Birth, Death and Technology,” 4; italics in the original.
  32. Leon, “‘Nordic Pre-Suppositions,’” 8.
  33. Leon, “‘Nordic Pre-Suppositions,’” 15–16.
  34. Phillips E. Osgood, “The Refiner’s Fire,” Eugenics 1, no. 3 (December 1928): 10–15; quoted in Leon, “‘Hopelessly Entangled in Nordic Pre-Suppositions,’” 16.
  35. Rosen, Preaching Eugenics, 48; italics in the original. Rosen also notes the attempt to establish what she calls “Catholic eugenics” in the work of British priest, Father Thomas Gerard, who believed the genetic legacies of Christian saints provided the purest source of human heredity. See Rosen, Preaching Eugenics, 50–51.
  36. Sean McCloud, Divine Hierarchies: Class in American Religion and Religious Studies (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 34–35.
  37. McCloud, Divine Hierarchies, 35.
  38. Brian Wilson, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Religion of Biologic Living (Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 2014), 165–168.
  39. Charles McDaniel, “John A. Ryan and the American Eugenics Society: A Model for Christian Engagement in the Age of ‘Consumer Eugenics,’” Journal of Religion & Society 22 (2020): 5–8.
  40. “Biotechnology,” World Council of Churches.
  41. “Biotechnology,” World Council of Churches.
  42. Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 (New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 2009), 63.
  43. C. Ben Mitchell, “The Audacity of the Imago Dei: The Legacy and Uncertain Future of Human Dignity,” in Imago Dei, ed. Thomas Albert Howard (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2013), 80.
  44. Mitchell, “The Audacity of the Imago Dei,” 112.
  45. “A Social Statement on Genetics, Faith, and Responsibility,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, August 18, 2011, 22–23, source%20Repository/GeneticsSS.pdf.
  46. “Genetics, Faith, and Responsibility,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 23.
  47. “Genetics, Faith, and Responsibility,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 12.
  48. “Genetics, Faith, and Responsibility,” Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 12.
  49. “Resolution: New Developments in Genetic Science,” The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, 2016, #3181, new-developments-in-genetic-science.
  50. “Resolution,” The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, #3181.
  51. “Resolution,” The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, #3181.
  52. “Resolution,” The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, #3181.
  53. “Christian Principles for Genetic Interventions,” Seventh-Day Adventist Church, June 13, 1995,
  54. “Christian Principles,” Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
  55. “When Christian Faith and Genetics Meet: A Practical Group Resource,” The Canadian Council of Churches, 2012, uploads/2013/12/BRG_Curriculum_Complete_EN.pdf.
  56. West Virginia only repealed its forced sterilization law in 2013 and several states still have such laws on their books though they are rarely enforced. The U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Buck v. Bell (1927) decision has never been officially overturned. The 1942 Skinner v. Oklahoma decision disallowed forced sterilization as part of punishment for crime.
  57. Lisa Sowle Cahill, “Bioethics, Theology, and Social Change,” The Journal of Religious Ethics 31, no. 3 (Winter 2003): 366–367.
  58. Daniel Callahan, “Why America Accepted Bioethics,” Hastings Center Report 23, 6 (November-December 1993), S8.
  59. Paul Ramsey, The Patient as Person: Explorations in Medical Ethics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970); Oliver O’Donovan, Begotten or Made?: Human Procreation and Medical Technique (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).
  60. O’Donovan, Begotten or Made?, 65.
  61. Carter Snead, What It Means to be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020), 4.
  62. Nigel M. Cameron, “Biotechnology and the Future of Humanity,” Journal of Con- temporary Health Law & Policy 22, no. 2 (2006): 414–418.
  63. Harvey Cox, “The Market as God: Living in the new dispensation,” The Atlantic (March 1999), the-market-as-god/306397/.

Charles McDaniel

Charles McDaniel is associate professor in the interdisciplinary core program of Baylor University’s Honors College and is the book review editor for the Journal of Church and State.