Handwringing Over Terri Schiavo

or it’s all in the fingering style

In the aftermath of the efforts to turn the tide in the Terri Schiavo case, many are reviewing the many issues that surfaced. Neil of Digitus, Finger & Co. was one. I read his blog this morning as part of the Christian Carnival lineup. He brought up numerous points, a few that I wanted to discuss…so here it is on this post.

He started with the demands many made that Jeb Bush “do something”. I didn’t agree with that call for action either, but Neil then said this:

“This (and other things) makes me think that Christians’ involv[e]ment with Terri Schiavo isn’t so much about Terri’s individual right to life as it is an expression of Chri[s]tian political power.”

There is a strong divide in opinion within the Christian community, still, about the tension between the social gospel action of the nineteenth century and the earlier pietism. Christians sometimes feel uncomfortable with political activism. In the present flourishing of Christian ideal-based politics, there is no doubt that some will be more interested in the lures of political power. The World, as in worldliness, is one of the enemies of the soul.

But it was St. Paul who gave example of putting ones civil rights to use. Still, it’s all part of the uneasy pull between letting the country go to hell in a handbasket and keeping oneself mindful that this world is not our home. I think we can note Neil’s caution, though. Sometimes people do get to be more about consolidating their power than about accomplishing the good purposes that inspired their efforts initially.

Unfortunately, next comes a little digression.”We blast Michael Schiavo for being an “adulterer”, but we Christians get divorced at the same rate as “those” people who don’t have Jesus in their lives”.

Well, wait. do you predicate what is right (being faithful in marriage or not committing adultery) upon whether people act accordingly? Do we believe that if you get enough people doing the wrong thing that what we deem right is then changed? Are we into evolutionary morality now? No. I don’t think that is the case, so whether Christians commit adultery isn’t pertinent to the matter. The whole point about Michael Schiavo was rather whether that meant he could make decisions concerning his wife’s life in good faith.

I felt, personally that the matter concerning M. Schiavo’s life circumstances was a side issue- it was too muddy to make a clear call- it just threw his ability to make a decision into question.

We always get people who are offended with a persons immorality. Not just Christians. Immorality tends to offend others. They get up in arms about it. Moral insight tends to put perspectives and a restoring outcome on the matter. Thus, the happy ending for the adulterous women who was brought to Jesus. I don’t think Michael Schiavo is in quite the same situation.

Then Neil goes on with the sins of the Christian community. We have std’s; we have divorce. Yes, we do…but just what does that have to do with whether we want our government to condone the killing of an innocent woman, whose ability to speak for herself is gone? What’s that got to do with the price of beef, Neil? do you see what I’m saying?

I think the next point that Neil makes is the one I most take issue with.

“Christianity in this country seems to have become a political party, and that, in my opinion, is evidence that it has transcended it’s organic cultural roots, and thus, its inherent power. The fact that Christians are winning in the political sphere at the expense of alienating our fellow citizens is really troublesome to me. That’s not good citizenry, not according to the New Testament, at least.”

He says “good citizenry”, when I think he means “good witness” and he cites the authority of the New Testament without any citation. I don’t think it is the goal of Christianity or Christians to make friendship with “our fellow citizens”- by that I mean that this is something variable in living out the Christian life. The world hated Christ- it killed him. we were part of that world and we ought to understand that despite their best intentions they will sometimes hate us for doing the right thing. It is at cross purposes with what they want. People sometimes kill for that. And that is something that this case brings to light: what stops do we put on the states right to kill? the spouse/doctors/courts right to make the call on ending life?

What we are supposed to do is make sure we are doing the right thing and doing it the right way. We can’t depend on good responses to that.

Our call for what is right is sometimes at cross purposes with what they want. And that is something that this case brings to light: what stops do we put on the states right to kill? the spouse/doctors/courts right to make the call on ending life?

Christians can participate in the political process and be true to Christ. There are times we must publically speak for what is right. That is a duty. I think Neil is bothered most by the mix of voices. And that I can commiserate with.

But this: “irrational “right-to-life” politicking”. I don’t know exactly what Neil means by this. That some of it is irrational, or that ‘right to life’ politicking is all irrational?

Then he says:”It certainly isn’t a great moral issue of our time or even a small religious one, because a) this exact scenario happens to people every day”.

and I have to say, “whoa…wait”.

Just because you think it is happening every day doesn’t diminish the moral weight of an issue, if anything that would increase it. What happened with Terri Schiavo is not happening every day. It is a frequent circumstance to deal with- but the court does not order food and water withheld as an every day occurance, and the idea that it could assume that power in a persons life ought to give you pause. It ought to stop you cold in your tracks.

That is one huge moral issue.

” not a single Christian has said anything about Terri Schiavo’s life when it hanged in the balance before this time.”

sigh. People usually say things when they are brought to their attention. Sometimes it takes something to shed light on our thinking, especially in the communal sense.

And then we come to this:
“If I were Terri, I would want to be let go.”

And that is somehow the point. You aren’t Terri. And you don’t know what she would want. And the whole idea is to err on the side of allowing someone to live. What does it matter to you if people wanted to donate expenses and her parents wanted to take care of her and her husband could have divorced her and gone on with the life he wanted?
But what might matter to you sometime is if decisions get made that some lives aren’t worth living and thus not worth helping…. and it affects you somehow. The reasonable rational thing is to have clear parameters in place that vouchsafe the individuals life and choice.
And away with pseudo-science that pretends to know all there is about brains and artificial questions of ‘sentience’ and false morality that says:”the quality of her last days, not the quantity of them”. That is false morality, Neil. What happened to your appealing to the New Testament in the case of that statement?
Where are we given to judge what is sufficient quality of life? Where?

but we usurp it anyway….
We have a long way to go with the Christian part of the discussion; a very long way.

Parableman and possibly his friend Wink have indicated they will be looking at this same post @ Digitus, Finger & Co.

2 thoughts on “Handwringing Over Terri Schiavo”

  1. ilona,

    Thanks for the trackback! Please, take a look at the very lengthy comments that follow. There I think you will find some expansion on what was admittedly, a broad swath late night vituperation.


  2. I was glad for the opportunity to discuss some of these things. Actually I did read the comments.

    I still felt that the idea that Christians hadn’t addressed the Schiavo case earlier and that the situation is one that is not completely unusual still merited the responses I gave in my post.

    You brought up questions and points that alot of people are wondering about. -You’re allowed your “vituperations:) We all have them some time or another.

Comments are closed.