FIRST-PERSON: The lamentable ‘bomb shelter’

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)--Our history teacher told us to put our textbooks away. He said we were going to engage in an exercise called the “bomb shelter.” While our teacher did not realize it at the time, he was leading us in an assignment designed to devalue human life.

The “bomb shelter” presented the following scenario: The world’s population was going to be destroyed by a nuclear blast. Only one bomb shelter existed that would withstand the explosion. The shelter would hold 10 people, however there 18 people who wanted to be saved from the nuclear holocaust. The class assignment was to decide who would be allowed to enter the shelter.

In order to help determine who would enter the shelter, the class was given information about each of the 18 people. I do not remember all of the profiles. I do recall that one was a pregnant woman in her 20s, another was healthy man in his 30s and one was a 71-year-old priest. I also remember the clergyman was the first character offered by the class.

The exercise was obviously designed to challenge religious values in general and the value of life in particular. Many of my peers left class that day accepting the relative value of human life and that situations should determine the worth of an individual.

Since I was first introduced to the values-clarifying “bomb shelter” in 1978, I have watched American society increasingly accept the position that human life is relative. As a result, some lives are considered more worthy of life than others.

Abortion no longer is viewed by many as a regrettable reality. When recent statistics revealed a decline in the total number of abortions, some pro-abort groups did not welcome the information as positive. Rather, they opined that easier access to abortion and sex education were needed in order to insure more abortions in the future.

The gruesome procedure known as partial-birth abortion once again has been declared legal by the federal court system. A person must suspend all logic, as well as empathy, to accept the brutal killing of a child just seconds away from taking his or her first breath.

Those who argue that all forms of abortion must be allowed in order to preserve the life of the mother ignore the facts. The overwhelming majority (90-plus percent) of abortions are performed for reasons related to economics or convenience.

Planned Parenthood was distributing a T-shirt that sported “I had an abortion” across the front. The PP website indicates that demand for the shirt has resulted in the group’s decision to cease being a distributor. PP does, however, provide a link to the manufacturer of the shirt.

It seems rather macabre that a society would celebrate the taking of innocent life.

Space will not allow for a detailed discussion of Terri Schiavo, the disabled Florida woman at the center of a nationwide debate on the value of life.

Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when, according to the Internet news site WorldNetDaily, “she collapsed under questionable circumstances.” Her husband, who has fathered two children with a live-in girlfriend, first sought to remove Terri’s feeding tube in 1998. Her parents resisted, beginning a legal battle that still rages.

The Florida legislature weighed in on the Schiavo case last year, passing a law that allowed Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene and spare Terri’s life. On Sept. 23, the Florida Supreme Court ruled “Terri’s law” unconstitutional.

Schiavo’s destiny now rests in the hands of a man whose motives have been questioned by many. It is likely her feeding tube will be removed and she will starve to death.

Those who support the removal of Terri’s feeding tube will argue that she has no “quality of life.” How can you define the quality of life for another individual? Such a subjective criterion should not be imposed on another, especially when life and death hinge on the definition.

The “bomb shelter” exercise has been repeated in American public schools in many shapes, forms and fashions for too many years. As a result, it has contributed to the devaluing of individual life in our nation.

It is time to declare that situations do not determine the value of an individual; the Author of life does. Perhaps that is something to consider as you cast your vote in the coming election.


Kelly Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. He is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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