Years ago, back in my college days, I was very involved with my campus pro-life group. We were a very small group on a very liberal campus and most of our members were also Campus Crusade for Christ members. We would have strategies meetings where we spoke about how to approach our fellow students or how to respond when they approached us. One girl had diligently prepared a list of Bible verses that she felt would be useful. I found myself in the odd man out position of having to explain that to most of the people on the campus the “Bible says” argument didn’t make and difference. In fact it hurt more than helped. It was throwing pearls before swine and all that.
Yesterday I was reading about the British televised “Right to Die” documentary depicting a the death of a man, Craig Ewert, suffering from motor neurone disease who traveled to Switzerland to end his life there. Switzerland of all places, the place where even plants might have rights, gives the green light to assisting the destruction of human life. There seems to be some irony there. Every dandelion is worthy of protection, but our fellow human being can be killed and that is ok. I watched the short video clip over at HotAir and read the comment associated with the article. Many of the comments that support assisted suicide ran to the typical “keep your archaic religious beliefs out of my life.” This was put out pretty much before anyone even started quoting those useful Bible verses. The anticipation was that there is no argument outside of the Bible that would deny the individual the right to have their doctors or loved ones help them kill themselves. Much in the same way that the pro-elective-abortion bumper sticker demands: “keep your rosaries off my ovaries”. Kind of nonsensical when you think about it, but the intention is clear.
When talking about moral issues there is a large group that will immediately turn off when someone starts in with the “God says” lines. I am certainly not saying that religion or religious thought and expression shouldn’t be included in the public debate, but the reality is that arguments presented from a religious point of view are arguments what will not persuade people who are not already convinced in God’s sovereignty. In a humanistic and media driven world we have to have arguments that are honest and powerful to counter propaganda like this video. But we need arguements that don’t lean on the Bible for their sense and substance.
Watching the “Right to Die” video I was touch by two things. The first is that Mr Ewert’s choices were limited by fear: “If I go through with it, I have death,” Mr. Ewert said. “If I don’t go through with it, my choice is essentially to suffer and to inflict suffering on my family, and then die. Possibly in a way that is considerably more stressful and painful than this way.” The other thing that got to me was that Mr Ewert’s statement seemed to hold a great deal of personal guilt in it. He was concerned not just about his own death, but on the suffering he would cause his family. While these are completely understandable fears and concerns as a society we should all look at them as more horrific than the disease Mr. Ewert suffered from.
Mr Ewert and his wife look like nice loving people. The kind that you would be happy to see move in next door. Mrs Ewert is certainly not a monster trying to rid herself of a burdensome invalid. Mr Ewert expresses the same concerns most of us have when looking at ageing or disease only with a more immediate prospect of the most unpleasant case. You have to feel for them as they say goodbye in the little, comfortable flat with the sunny windows and beautiful music as the scene slowly fades to black and you hear the Dignitas operative whispered “He’s gone” and his wife’s “He’s gone” in response.
In contrast the terminal care doctor is shown reviewing the very moving video in a dark suit and a dark room complete with red back lighting. A very ominous view with the Dr being almost dismissive in his assertion that Mr Ewert needent have gone through with taking his own life. This brief nod to the anti-euthanasia sentiment is quickly followed by scenes (presumably) from Mr Ewert’s memorial while the voice over speaks about the legal tangles that could follow British citizens home if they accompany loved ones to that peaceful little death apartment in Switzerland.
There is something very broken about our society. I really worry that “nice” videos of people peacefully drifting off to sleep while listening to their favorite music masks a very real horror. Social acceptance of assisted suicide opens up a Pandora’s box of “what ifs”. The way countries like Switzerland have been addressing these issues is less than comforting but when the public is exposed to these “soft core snuff films” the acceptance will rise. But when faced with the real horrors of disease and relatively pleasant pictures the propagandists of the media present about euthanasia it is going to be an up hill battle with the wells of faith and moral ethics already having been poisoned.
There are good arguments that what changed in our society is the way we view life. We need to throw off the utilitarian view and love life more fully. We need to build a culture of life. That oft stated Catholic phrase has real meaning especially in the “hard cases”. When life is loved fully death need no be feared, and being a “burden” or incapacitated shouldn’t even come into play. The fear that drove Mr Ewert to death should be viewed as nothing less than a tragedy. We need to embrace a new ethic, one which truly honors the inalienable right to life.