By Dr. Jean Garton
Editor’s note. While my family and I are on vacation, we are running some of our favorite NRL News Today stories from the last four months, entries from our “Roe at 40″ series, such as this one, and an occasional new story. This first appeared in the September 28, 1998, edition of National Right to Life News. It is a review of one of the most powerful pro-life testimonies ever—the film series and book of the same name, “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”– written by Dr. Jean Garton, author of the pro-life classic, “Who Broke the Baby?”
Almost 20 years have passed since I sat in the balcony of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and viewed the film series “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” It was the premiere showing of a stunning visual experience that eventually toured 20 major cities.
The text and narration of the five-episode seminar were by Francis Schaeffer, an internationally acclaimed theologian, philosopher, and author, and C. Everett Koop, then surgeon-in-chief at Philadelphia’s Childrens Hospital. They combined their individual expertise and experience to expose the subtle but rapid loss of human rights in America.
They elaborated on those concerns in a textbook of the same name in which they explored in documented detail the growing acceptance of the once-unthinkable practices of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.
The film series attracted nationwide attention during its three-month tour in 1979, and the book quickly became a teaching tool for professionals and lay people alike. As a result, there was a dramatic change in the abortion landscape. The powerful message of both the screen and printed versions of “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” educated and energized an up-till-then largely uninvolved constituency–the Evangelicals.
Within weeks of the unveiling of the filmed series and its companion book, Dr. Schaeffer noted their impact in a personal letter dated March 29, 1980. “The Protestants, and especially the evangelicals,” he wrote, “have been so sluggish on this issue of human life, and ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ is causing real waves, among church people and governmental people too.”
Those “real waves” continued to ripple out across America, and what had been seen largely as “a Catholic issue” soon became an “Evangelical issue” as well.
So stunning were the book and its predictions of disaster that had it not been for the sterling reputations of both Koop and Schaeffer as professionals in their own fields, they would have been dismissed as alarmists and scaremongers.
The intervening 20 years, however, proved their warnings to have been prophetic. Yet even they could hardly have anticipated the rapidity with which America would embrace destructive policies and barbaric procedures.
Although the filmed version of ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ is seldom shown these days, the book continues to be a dependable resource for those seeking the historical basis for human dignity, value, and rights.
The authors viewed the struggle for the sanctity of life as two-fold, and they divided their 265-page book into two distinct but related parts. The first section provided information, facts, and case studies related to abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia.
Koop and Schaeffer repeatedly made clear that their goal was not simply to educate but to challenge and encourage their readers to respond with decisive and sacrificial action. To that end, their arguments were logical as well as moral.
The second part of the book focused on differing philosophical positions which deny or give uniqueness and dignity to human life. The authors rooted their views in historic Christianity and, fundamentally, ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ is a defense of the Judeo-Christian ethic as the foundation of Western civilization. It is a polemic based on the principle that human beings derive their value from having been created in the image of God.
The challenge of the book was directed primarily at Protestants (Evangelicals in particular), but at Christians in general, many of whom the authors believed had neglected to recognize the “unbreakable link between the existence of the infinite personal God and the uniqueness of human life.” The continued silence and lack of involvement of this group were serving to fuel the decline of human significance.
As the authors led readers to explore the basis for the dignity of human life, they contrasted the views of the East and the West. They walked the reader through the Old and New Testaments, the Enlightenment, mysticism, and, with a detour into archeology, through the Dead Sea Scrolls. All this was for the purpose of examining the historical basis for man’s dignity so that Americans would see the present time as a crucial turning point.
Several powerful visuals from the film were reproduced in the book. One is the scene of a thousand dolls scattered at the shoreline of the Dead Sea in Israel. It is the site where Sodom once stood and was designed to serve as a symbol of moral degradation. It was a reminder to American society of the depravity that has led to the legal destruction of millions of our children and the destruction that awaits the culture as a result.
The assembly-line scene in a toy factory features a procession of dolls in which those missing a limb or having an imperfection are snatched by an impersonal hand and tossed into the garbage. The picture graphically portrays the casual and cruel disregard for the lives of those judged to be less than perfect.
However, it is the cage sequence that is perhaps the most gripping photo in the book, for it portrays real people and real events. In one cage are slaves in chains; in another are German Jews wearing the Star of David. Peering out of other cages are elderly men and women, a crippled child, and a newborn baby.
Each cage is a visual reminder that classifying people as nonpersons has its historical precedence. Our generation, through Roe v. Wade, also has declared a segment of the human family outside the protection of the law. Some view legal abortion as a sign of liberation. It is actually an imitation of injustices of the past.
Almost two decades ago ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ provided a glimpse into the abyss of horrors that would result from abandoning the fundamental right to life. Today we have the legalization of the barbaric partial-birth abortion. Today is yesterday’s nightmare come true.
‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ is a classic whose fundamental arguments need to be revisited on a regular basis. Its clarity of thought is complemented by its analysis of the future of Western culture and its chilling prophecy of what awaits us as the destruction of human life is increasingly sanctioned by the medical profession and the courts, by science and legislators, by parents and silent citizens.
The authors had set out to convince people that at some point we, as a nation, will be held accountable for our disregard of human value because history does not forgive or forget. The question, ‘Whatever happened to the human race?’ serves to reveal the human propensity for exaggerated pride and supreme self-confidence that leads us to shake our fists in the face of God and think we can get away with it. The book ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ says we can’t.