Amy Laura Hall is assistant professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School and a dedicated mother of two girls who often accompany Mom on business trips. It is not unusual for Hall to check her blouse for toddler goop as she begins a lecture.
Her audiences are often left both disturbed and grateful for this ordained Methodist's insights into the way our society tends to see children as an inconvenience. Hall is a Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology (2004-2005), and she is using this grant to write a book titled Conceiving Parenthood. Associate editor Agnieszka Tennant spoke with Hall recently.
Throughout history, conservative Christians have believed that personhood begins at conception. As technology began to present us with new choices, have you noticed a shift in the way we think about personhood?
This question is tricky, given our history. Even Christians committed to biblical truth and salvation through Christ have been tempted to bend, stretch, and evade God's unequivocal call to "choose life." When land, money, health, or status has been at stake, Christians have reshaped their imaginations to see some humans as subhuman, as not quite children of the heavenly Father. There are obvious, blatant examples—from slavery to selectively aborting fetuses with disabilities. But there are also more subtle examples—from exploiting cheap human labor to using "excess" embryos for medical research.
A consistent life ethic, whereby we think of all human life as gathered safely in the bosom of God, requires a radically nonutilitarian way of life. Evangelical Christians still struggle with this call. Biotechnology offers a new set of temptations. But it also grants a new opportunity to witness to life.1