Excerpts #3

The primary function of religious belief is not to describe the world or to determine the rightness or wrongness of particular actions, but to form a community that understands itself as having a particular mission in the world. To be sure, that mission involves beliefs about the nature of the world and what one should and should not do, but those judgments are mediated by the practices that have been established as essential to being a people of a particular sort. Put starkly, for the Christian the question of the use or non-use of in vitro fertilization will be determined primarily by whether such a procedure is appropriate to our understanding of what kind of community we should be and in particular what kind of attitudes about parenting we should foster. In other words, it is not a questions of whether in vitro fertilization is right or wrong, but a practical judgment of whether this kind of technique furthers or is compatible with our community’s understanding of itself. Issues such as in vitro fertilization are fundamentally symbolic in that they are primarily determined by the wisdom of a community.

Stanley Hauerwas, Suffering Presence: Theological Reflections on Medicine, the Mentally Handicapped, and the Church pg 143-44.

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