In The Wake of Terri Schiavo’s Legacy

Tonight my daughter is leading worship at a memorial service for Terri Schiavo, so it is somehow à propos that I take this time to look at the perspectives of what her case stirred up within our hearts.

One thing it brought up was deeply held fears: “don’t let me live like that”/”don’t let me die like that”. Another thing it dredged up was deeply held bias. The same sort that has been brewing during each of the past two elections, particularly. The life-death controversies of the past decades has been brought into stronger definition, as well.

In these types of cases I like to look on the horizon and try to piece together what I am seeing… in this one, at this time, I am taking more of a look at the flotsam and jetsam coming into shore: wondering whether it is the normal storm damage or something portending more than what first has appeared.

Some have pointed out that Terri Schiavo’s case is not unique- there are many who are quietly dealing with much the same circumstances. That is probably true. I personally think that the Schiavo case is not one which would have been ideally chosen to make a political point. That is probably a blessing. The essence of the situation consists of a moral point of withholding food and water, and of the parameters of medical decision making.

But I am going to detour along the flotsam and jetsam….. and look at the questions raised by some of the side issues in the slurry of rhetoric.

America’s Moral Crossroad

“the case has “divided America”” and “I’m inclined to believe there’s a real divide, which is present in all societies and which it is currently unfashionable to mention, and an artificial divide, which this case is an example of” -Vash.

America has moved into a divide in its basic philosophy. I think this has been brought into high contrast in this instance, but there are other issues which highlight it at other times (abortion, etc) .

I would agree with the idea of the “artificial divide” if that were applied to the present moral definitions we work with -especially in this life/death type of situation. I think it is the outcome of not making the ethical discussion keep up with the technological advances in medicine. When one says that a fetus is worthy of life at some arbitrary point and not at another, that is artificial; the idea of intelligence levels is an artificial divide; the whole ‘vegetable’ description, as used in euthanasia arguments is an artificial divide; when we plug a machine in to save a life or pull that plug to end it is “artificial”. Medical intervention,itself, is also artificial. We use these words to help us categorize, but they aren’t natural divides. We need these to keep order, but we set the boundaries.

There are real divides that are necessary to note, however.

We don’t all need to have the same religious view, but we do need to have consensus on defining “human” and the rights of humanity. The seemingly abstract concepts of the abortion and euthanasia arguments are coming home to roost now…. and we are faced with our god-decisions and elitest hierarchy of policy makers… and are uncomfortable with the loss of freedom and dignity.

I think this explains some of the emotion on both sides.

Some of us don’t like our ‘god-doctors’ or our ‘god-judges’….. but some don’t like the ‘god-dictates’ of their fellow man in other capacities either… and this brings me to this next issue:

Religion, Politics, and Race

Has anyone else noticed how much of an admixture we see of these in the past decade’s issues? It isn’t only the Jews who must deal with race mixed with religion and politics anymore… it is becoming the usual way to address an issue and make it appear more … I don’t know…. morally urgent. So the gay issue becomes compared with the racial civil rights movement… and the favorite is always to conjure up Nazis and the Holocaust out of context. Interestingly enough, at the same time there is a minimizing -to the point of denial- of the real persecution that Jews and others endured. I think that is a point to ponder.

There is confusion and obfuscation of history and of the issues. A dumbing down of the ethical questions and the social impact of the answers we are considering.

In some ways that is similar to something else Vash submitted for consideration: “what [is it that] separates religion from a deeply held political belief, so that the first must be seen as a value-neutral thing, neither good nor bad (IOW just part of a person, like their race) and therefore immune from criticism, whereas the second is up for whatever you can chuck at it. It makes more sense to see both religion and politics as open to question and the holder of any strong belief as capable of defending it. ”

I don’t believe that religion is held as “neutral value”. I do believe we have come to recognize that religion must be valued in a more careful way than political belief. It is judged within different contexts.

Race must be seen as neutral in value in the context of humanity. There is no race that is ‘better’ than another.

I think this is on the basis of our power of change. Race is intrinsic. We must accept a persons race and give it “human value”. Religion is a choice, but is tied with our view of the eternal: an idea of God is transcendent to our other values. Religion is valued according to internal criteria within the religion ( whether it is congruent with its own tenets), and in relation to the whole of mankind. It is in the latter context that we must have caution. At this time in our country we give wide berth to most religion, but curtail aberrations like suicide cults ( Jim Jones-type).

Politics is the most fluid of our choices and views. It also has the potential to overshadow all the rest, power to make racial or creedal discriminations official, so it is the most sharply criticized and debated. It is the most accepted area to have differences, in a democracy.

It is the erosion of our respect for religious rights that most disturbs me at this time. Historically, that is where mankind is most likely to oppress, persecute, and kill, next to the outright power grabs of tyrants.

I have brought this post to its natural transition: discussing vilification of ones religion. It needs its own post- as it promises to be extensive.

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