Saturday, March 05, 2005


we were talking about assisted suicide. icarus goodman, who has a blogspot called 'the flights of icarus' (very cool hook, man) has a really interesting post dealing, yet again, with the terry schiavo story. it's worth reading. (

i sent him the 'rollerball' link and the dialogue continues:

icarus says (edited highlights)
I wonder, from a Christian perspective, when is ending one's life ok? I do remember reading about Abimilech in Judges, and he orders a servant to kill him because he has been mortally wounded by a woman, and he doesn't want to die by her hands. Nothing is said condemning that action. So is killing yourself early, to avoid pain or shame acceptable in Christian views? Does it have to do with being artificially kept alive? Just wondering

good one- what to make of abe?
well, he seized the 'throne' (if it can be called that- he became king of shechem, which was a city that might have been about the size of fargo, north dakota) by murdering his seventy brothers, and didn't prove to be a leader of any real integrity after that, just in case anyone was thinking that he might. the fact that a woman from thebez (just down the road) dropped a rock on his head and he found that too embarrassing to accept so he had himself killed by the guy who was hired to carry around his armour for him just seems like some sort of ironic, spaghetti western frontier justice.

that action is just one of many of his actions that get tagged as 'wicked' and accursed. i don't think that he is a very good example of a man after God's own heart. in fact, it seems that there were very few people in any position of power at the time that actually represented the way God had envisioned people to behave. it's like israel in that period was populated and ruled by tolkien's uruk-hai. the book of judges ends with this summary of the whole mess:

"in those days israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." (judges 21.25)

what kinda spooks me is that, in the absense of any moral absolutes, we find ourselves in our more-or-less comfy western world doing as we see fit.

there's a similar story a little later in israel's history. king saul, israel's first king, is once again at war with his official nemeses the philistines. after some pretty fiersome fighting, saul's sons are dead and he is overtaken by archers- overtaken says to me that he's running away- in a scene mildly comparable to that one in 'dances with wolves' where the coach driver is overtaken and executed at close range by warriors with bows and arrows.

when the archers leave, probably to get some of the buddies to come back have some barbaric fun humiliating a king, saul bids his servant, in the tradition of abimilech, to kill him. the servant refuses and so saul 'falls on his sword', after which the servant does the same. no more philistine fun today.

anyway, what is surprising is what happens one chapter later. a suspicious survivor of the battle (kurt vonnegut once said 'never trust a survivor until you know what he did to survive') arrives at the encampment of david. david is the newly annointed king who has been on the run for years, awaiting the conclusion of the reign of saul with respect and honour. this guy arrives and tells the story of saul's final moment with one key revision: he says HE is the servant who honoured the last wish of saul by assisting him. producing saul's crown and royal armband, this refugee is probably hoping to get in with the new regime. david's reaction is surprising, but indicative of the type of king he would be: he and his men tear their clothes and fast for the rest of the day in mourning over the death of the king and his sons. then they have the refugee promptly killed for assassinating God's annointed.

really, though, when i am looking for answers from Jesus, these stories are context. Christian spirituality is about Jesus, not his distant ancestors, yet we are correct in looking to the old testament as well as the new for teachings on God's perspective. what i see when i read the gospels is Jesus doing everything he can to heal the sick and raise the dead. life is precious to God- he is its author. never do we see Jesus placing his hands over someone's eyes because they are just too far gone, releasing them from time and space. rather, we see him speaking rather curtly about faithlessness to those who suggest that this or that scenario is hopeless.

i think that, if Jesus' life, ministry and death are any indication of how he would have spoken to the question of avoiding shame and pain through assisted suicide, then the Christian view is pretty clear. Jesus' death was a painfully prolonged public shamefest.

however, as to the whole question of being kept alive artificially, i am still trying to process that one myself without being found faithless.

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Blogger Icarus Goodman said...

I agree, it seems pretty clear, from a Christian perspective, that ending life before "God calls you home" is not acceptable. I'm not sure, but I think Judaism is a bit more permissive, maybe you know more about this, if so please inform me.

As for life support systems and christian belief, it seems like prolonging life through manmade technological interventions is equivilant to prematurely ending life. It is, in a way, playing God. Perhaps Christians should take the view that when God calls you home, when it's your time to die, that you just let it happen, you dont leave early and you don't arrive late. Leave it to God.

Frankly I don't understand why, knowing that once you die you will go to heaven, a christian would use technology to prolong life past what God, or nature, has ordained. I suppose, even knowing you will go to heaven, there still exists some anxiety about death and seperation from loved ones.

Thanks for the compliments by the way. Keep up the good blog.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

i just saw 'million dollar baby'. the internal dialogue continues...


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