Friends, earlier today I found myself in a HUGE dilemma.
After seeing and being inspired by my dad's fight with cancer through faith, family, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Team in Training, I decided to join him and the Team to train for America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride...a century (100 mile) ride around Lake Tahoe in June.
Click here for the more on the context and reasons for participating.
I recently set up my fundraising page and earlier today sent out the link on Facebook. Within 2 minutes I had donations coming in! I was getting really excited.
Then a friend sent me a private message saying that LLS doesn't have the best track record with human life issues. So I did a little research.
It didn't take long to find LLS's connection with (thankfully failed) legislation to promote more funding to embryonic stem cell research (story here). Then a Facebook friend lead me to this quote:
"LLS recognizes that medical research must balance risks and benefits. Based on the leading scientific and bioethical advice available, and our mission, The LLS Board of Directors adopted a Policy on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in June of 2005. LLS updated the statement of our position in November of 2010. LLS supports the use of human ES cells for research and the development of therapies whenever the proposed research is judged meritorious by appropriately constituted scientific review committees and the Board of Directors of LLS."
This unattributed piece of information was then confirmed by a quote from the CEO of the LLS in an email to the American Life League, using the exact same language as above:
"LLS supports the use of human ES cells for research and the development of therapies whenever the proposed research is judged meritorious by appropriately constituted scientific review committees and the board of directors of LLS."
So, that was that. (If you want information on why Christians should be against embryonic stem cell research, check out the USCCB website where there is a plethora of resources and information).
I was put on the spot, I had the information and I had to make a decision. Part of me knew that I couldn't support LLS and ask others to do the same. But, in total honesty, another part of me wanted to just ignore the information I had found and say, "well it's not like all the money raised goes to killing embryonic humans...maybe the money I raise won't go to that stuff."
Rationalization. That's all it was and I knew it. I was trying to justify my participation and to avoid the difficulty of having to back out of the Team and of having to tell my dad who has benefited so much from the camaraderie and possibly even the results of some of the good things that LLS funds. I'll do a post sometime soon about the ADULT stem cell success my dad has had in his cancer treatments.
Then came the fact that I had to contact the two people who had already donated! My Facebook friends have such great hearts! So eager to help, so ready to give and support. I sent them messages and they completely understood why I was backing out and taking the donation page offline.
Then I had to call my dad. I sent him an email first, perhaps, as I thought, to soften the blow of telling him that I wouldn't be training with him and the Team. He responded and told me to call. Oh boy. Here we go. How was he going to take it? He has been through no fewer than 10 century rides with this team...that's 1,000 miles of ride events and many thousands of miles in training with them. The best I expected to hear was, "Michael, I understand, and you are free to do what you need to do."
That's not what happened.
As I bumbled over my words and tried to present my backing out of the Team as gently as possible, not wanting to offend but at the same time wanting to present my position firmly, at one point my dad interjected, "And I'm with you."
I choked back tears.
And I pitched my idea...
What if we formed a team for life? A team that exists to train for the ride and to raise funds, not for research per se, but for actual cancer patients here in the Atlanta area. Money going STRAIGHT to people suffering, without passing through a massive organization with intimate ties to the destruction of embryonic life? What if we could form a team to support Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home here in Atlanta?
Read through their website and you my friend will be the one choking back tears. The Hawthorne Dominicans who run the place are dedicated to giving hospice care to cancer patients of any creed, race, or nationality who can no longer afford treatment.
I've celebrated Masses there and visited their residence. The sisters there are simple, holy, joyful women of Christ. Caring for the terminally ill poor is no easy task, yet they do it with such a love as if each patient were Our Lord himself.
So what if we still did the ride, still trained our butts off, all the while asking for support for this beautiful mission of the Church? What if we formed a team of cancer survivors and supporters of cancer patients to ride and raise funds for the sisters' mission??
I feel the Lord moving here. Deeply. He's up to something HUGE in this heart.
But before I go any further, I should probably contact Mother Superior and the priest chaplain there...