Image of God
Are you worth more than an animal? Actually the question is not as far-fetched as it sounds in today's culture. Human life was highly valued at an early time in our nation's history because of the influence of Christianity and its view that humans are made in the image of God. All human life was highly valued as a result. To attack the image of God in an individual was to attack God himself. To our founding fathers this was one of the essentials to be guaranteed by our constitutional form of government. Life, liberty and property were considered absolute rights for all Americans which the government was established to protect. In fact, the right to life was considered an inalienable right which the government could never take away from any citizen because it was a right given by God. The only exception was the death penalty for a murder who took the life of another human being made in God's image. We can thus see that our nation's early leaders considered life sacred because God's image was a part of all human beings and must be protected.
However, as time progressed the influence of Christianity waned. Our nation and its people became more secular and the value of human life was not held to be as sacred and worthy of protection as it was in our nation's earlier history. In our era human life is now even being equated with the same worth as animals. One can observe regular commercials on television that support the rescue of abandoned and abused animals. At the same time the life of human babies is not even considered as valuable as these animals. There are no commercials to save these babies and if anyone tried to air a commercial, they would immediately get legal resistance from many groups within our culture.
The value of a human life took a dramatic downward trend when the Supreme Court ruled that babies are not humans that deserve the right to be protected by the state. Abortion accelerated the loss of value of human life within our culture. At an earlier time in our nation's history the Supreme Court made a similar ruling regarding the lives of black slaves in our nation. The court ruled that black slaves were to be considered as chattel property and not human beings worthy of the protection of the state. Black slaves had no rights as humans and suffered greatly during this era of our nation's history. It took a civil war to correct that moral error by our Supreme Court.
The image of God within human beings has been a very emotionally and legally charged issue. This is because how a nation defines the nature of a human being will define how that individual is going to be treated by the government and its laws. Christianity has a very high value for all human life, even the life within a woman's womb. Secularism does not value human life as highly, and in some cases, even equates the value of animals on the same plane as that of humans. This poses a real challenge for the Christian since the Bible teaches that God holds both people and nations accountable for the shedding of innocent blood. Christians are also charged by God to look after those who cannot defend themselves from the actions of those who abuse and murder them.
Many Christian leaders have punted on this issue and just ignore it, much as many did during the slavery era. This throws the issue back on the individual Christian and how one feels he/she needs to address this problem. How this issue is resolved may tear the nation apart much as it did during the civil war with the slavery. Either way, how our culture defines life and human nature will have public policy ramifications in the near future on everyone. Christian leaders ignore this issue at their peril.