An Easter Message For Life
As many of us are settling down for Easter Dinner, I wanted to share what our pastor read during the service this morning. He had discovered this column by John Podhoretz. It is a moving piece that should be read with thoughtful reflection.
THE looming death by starvation of Terri Schiavo has exposed yet again the key fault line in American culture. Those who have sided with her parents in seeking the reinsertion of her feeding tube have a view of life that is profoundly different from those who have sided with her husband's quest to have her die.
Those who want her to live tend to view life as a gift — a treasure beyond value that has been bestowed upon us and that we therefore have no right to squander. The giver of the gift cannot be seen by the human eye, and the essence of the gift cannot be seen either.
We usually call that essence the "soul." Our souls define us: They make us who we are in the deepest sense. And they transcend us as well: They are our connection to the divine, to all in the universe that is unseen and unknowable but is still there.
Most religious people share this set of beliefs, which is why those who have pushed hardest to save Schiavo are devout Christians.
Many of those who want her to die, by contrast, view life as a natural phenomenon — a collision of egg and sperm that gives rise 280 days later to a baby. That baby is the product of human interaction, deriving genetic information equally from mother and father and recombining it into a new human form. It's a wonder, but it's not a miracle. It's explicable within the laws of nature, and so there isn't anything necessarily transcendent about it.
In some sense, then, the human body has a mechanical quality to it. We are created by a rational process. We all look kind of similar (arms, legs, eyes, nose, mouth, shoulders all in the same place), and we all have an inborn capacity to communicate, to learn and to develop complex relationships with other people. We're created and grow in the same way. Our core desires are the same — food, shelter, sleep, love. In this way of thinking, we are the world's most marvelous, most spectacular machines.
This is the view of life shared by most secular people, who are uncomfortable with the idea of a divine spark within all of us and prefer to think that science is the best explanation for everything.
These are both valid views. Each has its profound strengths and equally profound weaknesses. And despite the opinions of fanatics on both sides, neither view has a monopoly on virtue.
You can believe in the transcendency of the soul and still molest your own child. And nobody was more convinced of the value of scientific rationalism than Dr. Josef Mengele.
What do people on both sides of this divide see when they look at Terri Schiavo?
The scientific rationalists see a vegetable in human form, a life only in the strictest sense of the word. They see a human machine that is broken and cannot be repaired.
And they see, in the application of the law over the course of 15 years, a totally rational series of decisions. Her husband is her guardian. He says she wouldn't have wanted to live in this condition, and because she cannot speak, he has the legal authority to speak for her.
Then there are those who look at Terri Schiavo and see something else. They see a helpless person, a trapped person, a tragic person. But they do not see a vegetable. They see a human being with a soul.
They see a mystery.
The rationalists say she will not suffer through her slow starvation because she no longer feels. The soul-believers say there is no way to know that — that science has limits and that it reaches its limits when it tries to define what it means to be human.
The rationalists, who center their universe on the brain, see brain damage as a horror beyond imagining from which death would be a relief. Their antagonists center their convictions on a belief in the soul, and they say: No soul is of lesser value than any other.
The soul-believers have lost this argument to the rationalists. They are used to losing. They have been losing the argument on abortion for more than 30 years now. This isn't about winning for them. It's about believing in things that cannot be seen.
Music today was by Dave Lubben that was simply incredible. He is a young, enthusiastic christian minister. I highly recommend you check out his CD for some high quality worship music.
Happy Easter to all.