Can you overcome your DNA?

by Apr 24, 2008

When I saw the futuristic movie Gattaca 10 years ago, I thought there was no way it could actually happen. A society where your career, marriage, and identity (“valid” vs. “invalid”) are all predetermined by a DNA test? No way. Martin Luther King fought to make our nation a place where people are judged by the content of their character instead of the physical characteristics of their bodies. Genetic determinism would be a complete reversal of whatever gains our culture has made in that area. How could we allow that to happen?

It’s happened. This article in Slate on the increasing role of DNA evidence in courtrooms shows that we’re already way beyond CSI:

If DNA explains the past, why not use it to predict the future? HIV tests have already been court-ordered to project victims’ longevity and thereby calculate lifelong damages. Genetic longevity tests will be next. In a custody case, one parent successfully demanded that the other be tested for the deadly Huntington’s gene. Apparently, the point was to challenge the second parent’s fitness.

Genetic information is also being used to decide the fate of convicted criminals:

Courts already use unscientific evidence of “future dangerousness” to decide which killers should be executed. Genes could hardly do worse at predicting such risks. Weiss cites an Idaho case in which the defendant’s genetic “propensity to commit murder” became a justification for executing him. A judge in the Arizona murder case drew the same conclusion about the appellant’s “alleged genetic predisposition for violence.”

So is that it? Are we simply the sum of our genes? Is there no way to escape the predetermined fate our bodies were programmed for at birth?

Paul seemed to wonder the same thing in Romans 7: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

Paul was speaking in the present tense as a mature Christian who felt like his body was pre-programmed to do what he knew was wrong. In desperation, he growled like he was auditioning for a Scandinavian death metal group: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

The answer? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Jesus has the power to progressively redeem us spiritually, emotionally, and yes, even physically. As Paul explained in Galatians 5, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

You can crucify your genetic dispositions, whatever they might be, if you belong to Jesus.