Editorial (Summer 2023)

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Welcome to this themed issue of Dignitas, which explores the intersection of bioethics and socioeconomics from multiple vantage points. Suffering has always been a reality. It is ironic that despite its ubiquity, spanning both space and time on this side of the fall, many people tend to be reticent about it. The Indian philosopher Sankara held the view that suffering and evil are the outcomes of maya, which is translated as “illusion.” According to his philosophy, any observation of evil is merely an appearance of it caused by our misperception.[1] Sankara posits that God is totally detached from evil and has no connection with the misperception that gave rise to it.

In contrast, C.S. Lewis, a prominent Christian thinker of the twentieth century, adopts a more realistic perspective on evil and suffering: in a Christian worldview, God is not distant from suffering in this world. In his book The Problem of Pain, Lewis argues that suffering serves as God’s megaphone to awaken a deaf world. He posits that God permits it and even uses it to further his intended benevolent purposes for this world. Moreover, God bore unfathomable suffering himself to liberate humanity and the world from the bondage of affliction. Elsewhere Lewis expressed that God “gave us small creatures the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events.”[2] Therefore, as Christians we are exhorted not to dismiss or ignore but—following our God’s example—to awaken a world that is spiritually deaf. We are called to make a difference by unleashing the potential within every field in redemptive service to those who bear God’s image and are suffering. For years, Dignitas has been fulfilling this mission by identifying and bringing attention to significant areas that deviate from God’s intended purposes in creation as well as proposing solutions that foster human flourishing.

Bioethics and Socioeconomic is an area in which this edition of Dignitas aims to make a meaningful impact. This edition also features Bryan Just’s articulate encapsulation of the 2023 CBHD annual conference. Heather Zieger adeptly furnishes bioethics updates and global health news.

Dennis Hollinger explores the impact of race on healthcare in the United States. He contends that the racial history in the United States has so influenced medicine and healthcare that its enduring consequences are still not overcome today. He expresses concern that it is only recently that racial disparities have come onto the radar of bioethical research.

Hollinger’s article is structured in four sections. In the first, he discusses three historical events that have sown seeds of mistrust towards medicine and healthcare within Black communities. These events raise numerous ethical issues including issues of negligence of informed consent, breaches of confidentiality, commercialization, unfounded racial assumptions in healthcare administration, and the dehumanizing treatment of Blacks as economic possessions. Hollinger argues that the Black community still perceives medicine and healthcare through the lens of these historical patterns.

In the second section, he examines the contemporary perspectives of Black Americans regarding healthcare disparities. He also provides data based on extensive research on contemporary realities in the United States. Based on the comprehensive array of healthcare metrics from 2021, he points out that Blacks and Hispanics experienced inferior outcomes in comparison to Whites and Asians, although there were some occasional exceptions within the data.

In the third section, Hollinger explores different views aimed at elucidating the reasons behind the healthcare disparities experienced by Blacks and Hispanics. While recognizing that not all of these disparities can be entirely attributed to racism, he underscores that race does exert an influence on medical and healthcare outcomes.

In the concluding section, Hollinger provides guidance on addressing the issue of racial disparity by emphasizing two fundamental ethical principles: human dignity and justice. Hollinger underscores that human dignity originates from the creation of human beings in the image of God. Every human being, regardless of race, color, nationality, ethnicity, or social status, possesses an intrinsic value that should be safeguarded in all aspects of life. He urges healthcare professionals to scrutinize their own inherent biases and to confront societal and cultural patterns that hinder healthcare to the disadvantaged due to their race or ethnicity. He maintains that upholding human dignity involves avoiding paternalism, because he believes it perhaps leads to the treatment of certain groups as weak and ill-informed, thereby neglecting their ability to make judgments. Hollinger delves into three distinct definitions of justice: merit-based, equal access, and need-based. He evaluates their merits and demerits in addressing healthcare disparities. He opines that incorporating all three definitions into the areas of medicine and healthcare emphasizes personal responsibility and aims to rectify the past injustices that have fostered mistrust.

Yad Vashem is a Holocaust memorial museum situated in Jerusalem. Many visitors are deeply moved when they encounter a heartrending scene: a pile of children’s footwear belonging to those killed in the Nazi gas chambers. One cannot but wonder how humanity could allow such atrocities to befall their own kind. The museum’s documentaries depict the lead-up to the evil as well as the world’s disturbing nonchalance. In a study titled The International Status of Education about the Holocaust: A Global Mapping of Textbooks and Curricula,[3] it is discovered that world history textbooks in numerous countries either omitted or downplayed the facts surrounding the Holocaust. People tend to not react until a calamity directly affects them and arrives at their own doorstep. Heather Zieger’s article provides extensive information about what she describes as “one of the most egregious and systematic affronts to human dignity to an entire people group by a government since the Nazi era” committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the Uyghur community in China’s Xinjiang province.

Zeiger points out that the Nazis and the CCP have similar goals regarding their respective targeted groups, the Jews and Uyghurs. However, they adopted different means to achieve their goals. The Nazis pursued the extermination of Jews, justifying their actions based on pseudo-scientific eugenic practices. In contrast, the CCP has pursued annihilation through forced assimilation. The CCP has been employing systematic measures aimed at erasing the Uyghurs’ cultural, linguistic, and historical identities. Much like the Nazis employed dehumanizing language justifying their brutal treatment of the Jews, the CCP dehumanizes Uyghurs by labeling them “cancer” and “disease.”

Zeiger’s extensive research reveals that the CCP employs technology in “mass digital surveillance, biometric collection, forced sterilization, and removal of 18-to-50-year-old men from households and the workforce.” She contends that this violation of technological ethics to inflict crimes on humanity is a matter of bioethical discourse. She argues that the biblical mandate to love our neighbor does not allow us to pick and choose our neighbors or respond to their suffering according to our convenience. She asserts that a biblical vision reckons Uyghurs as bearers of God’s image and as such they deserve fundamental human rights. Christians, as people of God, are called to love this vulnerable people group, demonstrating our love by working towards their freedom and championing their basic rights.

Taejung Kim, winner of the 2023 CBHD Student Paper Competition, provides a thoughtful reflection on the contemporary perceptions of disability and corresponding responses. Kim highlights that most treatments of disability primarily understand human beings from a purely somatic perspective. Based on this perception of human nature, disability is often defined as a somatic concern, involving bodily impairments that obstruct people from performing functions deemed typical or normal by society. He also exposes two extreme views on disability: Ableism and the cult of normalcy. The former devalues people with disability, considering them as sub-human, while the latter attempts to normalize disability. Kim contends that both of these views hinge on the presence or absence of disability to define humanity. He bemoans that contemporary theological reflections are influenced by this particular view of human nature, which, in his opinion, obstructs the church’s holistic ministry to people with disabilities.

Kim calls upon the church to anchor its ministry to people with disability in the foundational biblical vision of humanity. The Bible portrays humans in both somatic and spiritual terms. Kim argues that neglecting either aspect can lead to a potential misdiagnosis of the human condition and result in deficient solutions. He posits that a comprehensive definition of disability should align with the biblical narrative of God’s creation; human rebellion; the fall and its resultant death; prophetic hope for the restoration of shalom; the inauguration of such restoration in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and the hopeful anticipation of the glorious future. In light of this meta-narrative, disability is seen as an expression of death resulting from humanity’s fall that affected both the spiritual and the physical. We grieve its presence, but not as those who have no hope. The church engages in worshipping the Lord and witnessing his ongoing new creation work even amid disability. Kim contends that such a vision allows the church to avoid the pitfalls of Ableism and the cult of normalcy while affirming the dignity inherent in God’s image bearers. Kim also offers valuable practical recommendations for the church to implement this vision in its ministry to people with disabilities.

We are very grateful to you for your faithful readership and your contributions to Dignitas.


[1] Timothy C. Tennent, Christianity at the Religious Roundtable: Evangelicalism in Conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002).

[2] C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 106.

[3] Peter Carrier, Eckhardt Fuchs, and Torben Messinger, The International Status of Education about the Holocaust: A Global Mapping of Textbooks and Curricula; Summary (UNESCO, 2015), https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000233964.