During last night’s debate between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese, a mother of a young autistic boy asked a question about funding,
“I have a four-year-old autistic son, we are grateful to receive funding under the NDIS. I have heard many stories from people having their funding cut under the current government, including my own.
‘I’ve been told that to give my son the best future, I should vote Labor. Can you tell me what the future of the NDIS looks like under your government?”
Mr Morrison replied, “Jenny and I have been blessed. We’ve got two children who haven’t had to go through that.”
Within a nanosecond, social media filled up with anger, and fair enough. Did Australia’s Prime Minister really say what we heard him say about children with disabilities?
I’m pretty sure Scott Morrison misspoke. I don’t think Scott Morrison believes that children with disabilities are not a blessing. There is in some Pentecostal circles some pretty awful theology when it comes to understanding suffering but I suspect Morrison wasn’t mimicking those terrible and wrongful beliefs. Rather, I suspect he was trying to convey thankfulness for healthy children. Are parents not thankful for when our children are healthy and doing well? I assume this is the kind of thing Scott Morrison was thinking and meant to say. Nonetheless, his actual words were wrong and parents are understandably offended by them.
As one Labor Senator said last night,
“I found it really offending and quite shocking, and it is something that people who have a disability, children with autism, it is a kind of response they get all the time,” she said.
“That people are blessed not to have what they have when, in actual fact, every child is a blessing.
“Certainly my daughter enriches my life and my partner’s life every day”
I am reminded of how Jesus welcomed young children, despite his irritated disciples trying to move them away,
“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.”
There is something profoundly good and human about a society that welcomes, protects, and provides for children. There is something beautiful about recognising the imago dei in others, especially in those who are different to ourselves in some way.
There is also an air of hypocrisy amidst today’s public outcry. Some of the very voices calling out Scott Morrison also support the killing of unborn children. Some who are angrily tweeting have actively legislated to legalise abortion, even up to birth.
Thousands of children are aborted in Australia every year on account of them being diagnosed with a condition of some kind. Indeed, in some countries, certain disabilities are becoming rare because they are being wiped out in the womb. The shocking reality in Australia is that all children are a blessing, apart from those who are deemed unworthy of living.
This is the grotesque outworking of the utilitarian ethics of Peter Singer and others. Professor Singer is renowned for his support of killing the disabled. In 2007, writing for the New York Times, Peter Singer suggests that the life of a dog or cat has more value and ‘dignity’ than a human being with limited cognitive faculties. He even argued that an unborn child only has value insofar as they are wanted by their parents. In other words, the baby does not hold inherent worth but holds importance because of the value attached by others.
“she is precious not so much for what she is, but because her parents and siblings love her and care about her“.
I hope this logic sounds abhorrent to you, but understand, that this is the ethical framework supported by our culture and by the law.
I am still horrified by what a doctor once said to Susan and me. During the pregnancy of one of our children, we were having a checkup and the doctor informed us that our child might potentially carry an illness (and not a particularly serious one), and in light of that possibility did we want to continue with the pregnancy?
If all children are a blessing, and indeed they are, why does our society legalise and even celebrate the destruction of so many of these little ones?
The Psalmist shouts out what is true of all children,
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” (Psalm 139)
It shouldn’t need saying, but all children are a blessing: the youngest and the oldest, those who are healthy and those who are ill, those who are strong and those needing special help. We thank God for them and we ask God for grace, strength, patience, and wisdom as we care for and nurture our children.
It is refreshing to see how a poorly expressed sentence by our Prime Minister has been turned into many words of affirmation toward children with disabilities and difficulties. Love and reality press against the utilitarian and selfish individualism that so often captures sex and relationships and family today. Let us remember that all “children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.” (Psalm 127:3 CEV)