I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:14, NKJ)
One of the joyful side stories to the surprising victory of Gary Woodlands at the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach was that of Woodlands’ most famous fan. As Woodlands worked to hold off the hard-charging Brooks Koepka during the final round, he got a tweet from Amy Bockerstette telling Woodlands, “You’ve got this.” Bockerstette (shown above courtesy of Golf Digest) is a high-school golfer from Arizona, who famously parred a hole while playing with Woodlands at the Phoenix Open back in January. The video of Woodlands cheering Amy on as she hits her drive into the bunker, chips to within eight feet, and then putts in for par on the 16thhole, has been watched more times than any other video in PGA history. The video is well worth watching and can be seen here. Several times Amy tells herself, “You’ve got this,” as she hits out of the bunker and sinks her putt. The video was played during television coverage of the US Open and made Amy a national celebrity. She’s been on the Today Show, she’s been the subject of numerous national media stories, and she’s even thrown out the first pitch at an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game. Why has Amy become so famous? She is a Special Olympian with Down Syndrome.
It is estimated that somewhere between 65-85% of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb are aborted in the US today. That number is even higher in Denmark and Iceland, countries that have claimed they are on the way to “curing” Down Syndrome by aborting nearly 100% of Downs babies identified during pregnancy. Given the tendency to treat Down Syndrome individuals as somehow less than human and not worthy of life, Amy’s acclaim and popularity have been refreshing. It is impossible to watch this delightful, talented, and joyful young woman and think it would have been appropriate to terminate her life in the womb.
While I think Amy’s story is inspirational and a great reminder that all lives are valuable, there is a danger that comes from over-focus on a person like her. The danger is that we accept the argument for life that is subtly being advanced. Perhaps unintentionally, the message we are getting is that we should celebrate and value Downs children because they can do things that “normal” people can do. The unspoken premise is that our value as people comes from our ability to do certain things. In Amy’s case, we are to value her because, despite her condition, she can play golf, perform well under pressure, and inspire us.
The biblical basis for the sacredness of life is not tied to our function or form but on our being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Every human has dignity because the Creator has stamped His image on him or her. This truth protects babies with chromosomal abnormalities in the womb, children with paralyzing spinal cord injuries, and senior citizens with dementia. I am so thankful that my value is not tied to my ability to shoot par on a golf course! If we ever get to the point where our value as human beings is tied to our functionality, we are all in big trouble.
So, while we celebrate the achievements of Amy Bockerstette, let us reject the premise that she is a champion of the humanity of all people because she can play golf. She is a shining example of the value of all human life because she is made in the image of the glorious triune God, who exists eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost and who never makes mistakes.