Columnists > Voices

The deaf will hear

Misunderstanding God's ultimate scheme leads to bewildering postures

Issue: "House hunting," May 11, 2002

It's hard to tell at which turn this story moved from the merely unusual to the truly bizarre. A couple of folks who live near the nation's capital wanted a child. But because both of them happened to be deaf, they also had developed a deep desire that their child also grow up as a deaf person. (WORLD first reported briefly on this story in its April 13 issue, p. 13: "Evil Engineering".)

These folks had their reasons. The couple, both deaf since birth, had reportedly enjoyed sensitive therapy in the treatment of their own deafness, so that they had actually come to consider it a benign and even positive aspect of their lives.

But in their hope for a child, this couple faced unusual obstacles. For Sharon Duchesneau and Candace McCullough are lesbians, having lived together for the last eight years. In their strange scheme of things, the only way either of them could become a natural mother was to be inseminated by the sperm of a male donor. But even in a society now all but void of Christian and biblical ethics, such an approach still raises eyebrows.

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The raised eyebrows, however, tended to stick wide open when it was reported that Ms. Duchesneau and Ms. McCullough were looking not just for any donor, but a donor who himself was deaf. "A hearing baby would be a blessing," Ms. Duchesneau said; "a deaf baby would be a special blessing."

News of this unusual couple's efforts produced a firestorm of public comment and debate. Kenneth L. Connor, president of the Family Research Council, wrote in the Tampa Tribune: "Had [the couple] taken postbirth measures to guarantee their son's and daughter's deafness, they'd be charged with child abuse, and rightly so.... They see deafness not as a disability, but as an 'identity.' The inescapable reality, however, is that by manipulating conception, they have deliberately limited the full range of their children's abilities. This is selfishness, plain and simple."

Defending herself, Ms. Duchesneau argued that "deaf children make a society more diverse, and diversity makes society more humane. Plenty of individuals and groups receive public support, and if you start saying which costs are legitimate and which aren't, well, it's a slippery slope."

Even one thoughtful WORLD reader gently took us to task for our original report. "As Christians," he said, "we are opposed to genetic engineering.... But the Christian media have revealed their lack of knowledge in addressing the issue of deaf parents wanting deaf children."

This friend continued: "I understand why this is so difficult to grasp. However, if you grow up in a specific culture, it is normal for you to want your children to have that same culture. Many deaf people have had terrible relationships with their parents who did not learn sign language. Their experience with hearing people has been one mostly of oppression and misunderstanding. Of course, they desire a deaf child who will be like them. Wouldn't you choose a child who would grow up speaking your language?"

In so bizarre a maelstrom of competing value systems, there's no better place to turn for wisdom than to the helpful three-point shorthand outline of the Bible itself: God's creation, the human fall, and God's redemption.

People get bewildered and confused when they forget the marvel and perfection of God's original creation. But Genesis reminds us repeatedly that after He made each thing, God looked at it and said: "It's good!" Against the backdrop of this present story, we need to remember that God's original creation included ears that worked well; it also included a perfect marriage between one man and one woman.

The fall changed all that. It spoiled and sullied all sorts of physical and social systems. It spoiled our recollection of the original state of things. It spoiled our sense of how to get back to that state. It so twisted our perception of things that we no longer even knew how to sort out the good from the bad. But a realistic view of the fall helps people face up to things the way they really are. We acknowledge some of the tougher parts of our existence as the painful fruit of our sinful natures. We're pained over that reality-but we don't engage in denial.

For God has set about the incredible task of redeeming what has gone wrong. He is making all things new. But He's doing it in stages: When God helps a deaf person live in contentment rather than with bitterness, that's indeed part of His redemption. But no one should confuse mere contentment-wonderful a gift as it is-with what God's going to do in the end, when He will resurrect not just deaf ears but dead bodies as well in totally spectacular fashion.

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