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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Watching Our Words

JoniandFriends.org have issued a statement in light of the recent publicity about the lives of people with disabilities in our country.

While I generally bristle at all of the language changes that we must use to be politically correct (the Montanan in me wishes that language didn't have so much potential to offend), the challenge from Joni really caused me to stop and think:
To uphold the God-given dignity of life – especially those whose lives are impacted by significant disabilities – we are asking society to stop using the term “persistent vegetative state.” Too many people with severe disabilities have been called “vegetables” – this is not only demeaning, but dehumanizing. When severely disabled people are stripped of life-dignity, the discussion too easily turns to death or the warehousing of that individual in a hospice.
And...
We have observed that media discussions have centered around whether or not a severely disabled person is “going to get better some day” as though that fact is a criterion for life. However, for millions of Americans, disability is a fact of life; many will “never get better” by society’s standards. We assert that the quality of one’s life should never be a criteria to put them to death. Life is the most irreplaceable and fundamental condition of what it means to be human and it is an express gift of God, the Author of life.
hat tip: dawntreader

5 Comments:

At 4:10 AM, April 14, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

It is interesting that in today's society, by and large we seem to have adopted the viewpoint that:

a) someone's worth is directly proportional to their functionality (what they can do / contribute) rather than their being (who they are) - grandma is no longer "grandma" when she gets Alzheimers (and if you think I exagerate, go visit a nursing home and ask how often family members come to visit...)

b) someone's quality of life is defined primarily in terms of the inconvenience / cost for others

 
At 7:45 PM, April 15, 2005, Blogger Anne said...

Yes, the "vegetable" term is awful.

I heard Joni speak just this morning at the Hawaii Prayer Breakfast in Waikiki! She is so amazing and inspiring.

 
At 8:17 PM, April 15, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

You've nailed it Anne - many people would look at something like what happened to her (paraplegic in high school?) and say "There's no quality of life left there...I wouldn't want to live like that." And yet as you've just pointed out, her life has been one of amazing inspiration to an awful lot of people. We can be awfully shortsighted sometimes...

 
At 2:50 AM, April 17, 2005, Blogger Steve F. said...

I was glad to see you post Joni's statement. She certainly has solid ground upon which to stake her claims, and I appreciate her position. But it also made me think about a later post of yours.

In your April 16th post, your answer to whatever-is-going-on with the high-school girls was "Because God loves you!" I'll admit that I struggle with that as an answer for the questions of theodicy in daily life, though I won't challenge it in this setting. But I'm curious how you might see that answer affecting this particular topic.

What happens when an injury or illness destroys a person's ability to feed themselves, to care for themselves in any way, or to communicate, to share God's love with anyone else? If it's "because God loves them," then who are we to separate them from God's love by artificially extending their life?

Note, now, that I'm not talking about Terri Schiavo. That particular case was so full of falsehoods and half-truths and media distortions (on every side of the battle) that I don't believe anyone but God will ever even begin to know what should have been done (though many claim to be able to see clearly through the falsehoods). I am not going to argue those facts, because I can't. I cannot claim to know who was telling the truth and who was lying - among the family, the medical and legal professionals involved in that case.

I am also not talking about Joni-&-friends; I'm not talking about Stephen Hawking or Christopher Reeves. Each of those people managed to contribute to life, to faith, to the increase of knowledge and wisdom in the world by communicating their faith and their wisdom well after their life-changing injuries, and I would never detract from their experience. For my part, I too have been inspired by Joni, awed by the intellect of Stephen, and humbled by the determination of Christopher.

I am, however, talking about the person with end-stage ALS, or the motorcycle-accident head-trauma case, or the patient with terminal brain cancer. I'm talking about the people who cannot speak, cannot communicate in any way, but whose heart continues to beat because of artificial lungs that provide oxygen and feeding tubes that provide nutrients.

Using your own standard about God's ultimate love, can you see a time when the actions of the medical community, and the tools of medical technology, become the tools which subvert that very love? When does the extension of life actually go against the "natural order of creation" that so many vocal Christians claim - at the heart of which are three facts: that we are born, we live, and we die? How do the things we do to preserve the beating of a heart or the blip of an EEG come at cross purposes to John 10:10b: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

If death is the logical termination of the domination of this world, and entry into unity with Christ in the world to come, then why do we fight it so?

Please understand...I'm not looking for an argument - nor am I looking to be flinging epithets and proof-texts across cyberspace. There are way too many folks in the blogosphere that do that far better than I do. I have become very sensitive to folks "pegging" me as pro-gay or pro-death or anti-life or anti-Christ because of my views on one subject or another.

I'm just suggesting that this topic is much, much closer to gray-scale-gradient than it is to black-and-white. And I am also suggesting that the decision to let a loved one "go home to God" is frequently not murder, but surrender to God's will at the end of a life (whether at 85, or at 25).

I have my own answer for this issue, to which you're welcome to peruse or respond, over here.

 
At 12:21 PM, April 17, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Good comments Steve! I'm going to let Molly respond in detail, but I did want to say this: you've done a great job of pointing out how difficult it is in some cases for us to discern what "the good" even is.

I think that we need to constantly be reminding ourselves of that our "getting it right" is not what commends us to God - only faith in Christ can do that. Consequently, we need to make sure that we are not doling out our love to others on the basis of their "getting it right" either; at the end of the day, I want to affirm that there is always a right and wrong, but I want to be very, very compassionate with people in their sinful weakness (because that's how Christ deals with us).

 

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