Exposing Euthanasia through the Arts

“I killed my brother. But it wasn’t murder. I did what I had to, to stop his pain.”
– Dr. Remy “Thirteen” Hadley, House

“Can you not read the signs of the times?” Perhaps Christ’s most ominous warning, it echoes down the centuries as an admonishment to every generation of believers. Why are we always playing catch-up with the forces of evil? Why are we always reacting years after a cultural battle has been decided, and generally in a short-sighted or ineffective way? Why do the Children of Darkness always eat the Children of Light for lunch when it comes to waging war for the hearts and minds of men?

Sadly, we don’t have time to brood over these questions, because yet another battle is unfolding on the cultural horizon. And, once again, it seems that not only are we ignoring the signs of our times, but are turning away from them as though what happens in the world beyond our churches is no business of ours. I cannot count the number of Christians who have come to me almost bragging that they never watch movies or television, that YouTube and Facebook are to be spurned, and that they haven’t gone to a play or concert in years.

“Great,” I always think. “Let’s leave the masses to the whims of people who scorn our God and His gospel. Let’s pretend that our kids won’t eventually be drowned in the waves of their age. Let’s see how that works out.”

The 2011 Golden Globe celebration was only the latest sign of a frightening cultural trend. Winning the award for best actor in a TV miniseries, the HBO docudrama about Dr. Jack Kevorkian, You Don’t Know Jack, was also nominated for an astounding 11 Emmys. It ended up winning the top awards for star Al Pacino and, most significantly, for best writing. This blatant piece of pro-euthanasia propaganda was a huge force on the entertainment-award circuit in 2010, grabbing nominations and wins at the TV Critics Association Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the International Press Association’s Satellite Awards.

Critics fawned over Dr. Death and praised the show as a courageous new benchmark in the newest war for civil rights. The right? To die, and to kill. In the last five years, top-rated TV shows like House, ER, and Law and Order have ‘bravely’ presented ‘mercy killing’ in a positive or neutral light. Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and Weeds both weighed in on the side of killing the sick, and even The Simpsons did a comic take on the issue.

On the big screen, euthanasia continues to receive sympathetic framings in many films. How many parents realized, when you sent your teenagers to James Cameron’s latest 3D extravaganza Sanctum (2011), that there was a matter-of-fact mercy killing of four characters at the end? How many Christians are even aware of the pro-euthanasia messages in critically acclaimed films like Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar-nominated Talk to Me, and the Oscar-winning best picture films Million Dollar Baby and The English Patient? Most strident was the highly lauded Spanish film The Sea Inside, in which, shortly before he is euthanized by a group of loving friends, the paraplegic hero played by handsome star Javier Bardem, proclaims, “I’m just a head stuck to a body.”

The evidence is undeniable: Somewhere in the middle of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Hollywood and the cultural left climbed aboard the latest human-killing bandwagon and have since thrown the weight of their talent and creativity behind it. As with abortion, the forces of darkness are outmaneuvering the forces of good on what will certainly be the moral issue of the 21st century.

If we lose the fight on euthanasia, we lose our souls. By removing suffering and the meaning of suffering from our culture, we make the final step in denying and defying our creature-hood. Once again, the seductive lie of Eden will trip us up: “If you will do this thing, you shall be like God.”

 

Our response to the mercy-killing machine must be more than an occasional op-ed piece; we need a shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy if we are going to make a good fight in the euthanasia war.

Shrewd means that we fight smart. It means appealing to the emotions of the masses through stories, not non-fiction tomes. Songs, not philosophical tirades. Heroes, not pundits.

Our approach must be all-encompassing, in that we use every means available to reach people.  We make TV shows for children featuring a kindly and wise grandmother. We commission popular songs from top artists about the precious gift that is a grandfather’s love. We make short films for the highly influential festival circuit about the infinite blessings that come through suffering. We make hero tales for teenagers about people who save and care for those who are helpless. We make thriller movies that unmask the lies behind those who would kill for cheap profits.

If we’ve learned anything from the abortion wars, it’s that the words “choice” and “right to choose” set our cause back decades. We need an emotionally winning language for this fight. The other side should not get away with christening themselves “mercy killers”; they are “death dealers,” “elder abortionists,” “needlers.” Please, not “death with dignity”; let’s get there first with “medical murder” and “unnatural death.” Not “end-of-life clinics” but “human garbage pits.” We need slogans like, “Make your insurance adjuster’s day; let him kill you.” Or, “Everything we know about euthanasia we learned from the Nazis.”

We must be aggressive in exposing the deceptions driving the euthanasia movement — lies like the implication that personhood can somehow disappear from a wounded human body. Or that a human life could ever lose its value. Or that suicide can be a courageous act. We must contradict the notion that suffering is the worst thing that can happen to a person.

If we’re going to win this fight, we need to convey to this generation the beautiful sentiments expressed by Blessed Pope John Paul II:

[It is in the context of daily life], so humanly rich and filled with love, that heroic actions are born. They are the radiant manifestation of the highest degree of love, which is to give one’s life for the person loved (cf. Jn 15:13). They are a sharing in the mystery of the Cross, in which Jesus reveals the value of every person, and how life attains its fullness in the sincere gift of self. Over and above such outstanding moments, there is an everyday heroism, made up of gestures of sharing, big or small, which build up an authentic culture of life. (The Gospel of Life, Section 86)

If we would save our culture from this latest onslaught, we believers need to adopt the spirit of a new crusade. Christians who have been blessed with means must shift attention and support to intelligent efforts to combat support for euthanasia in our culture. Musicians, storytellers, and filmmakers of faith must find new ways to communicate the truth of human dignity and the value of suffering. In this fight, it may be that our best weapon is the power of beauty.

By

Barbara Nicolosi is a Catholic screenwriter and the executive director of the Galileo Forum at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. She has a Masters in Cinema from Northwestern University and a B.A. from Magdalen College in Warner, NH. She is the recipient of two Catholic Press Awards and the editor of the 2006 Baker Books release, "Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith and Culture."

  • A Mitchell

    Excellent article. I agree that we can’t relinquish our role to spread the Gospel of Good news. The early Christians stood in the marketplace and addressed the crowd. We are fortunate enough to live in places where it is still legal to be Christians, and yet many of us just hope that saving our own souls can be accomplished without striving to save our brothers.
    May God help us to accept your challenge, Barbara!

  • Steve N.

    Good, old Magdalen, wonderful.

    • Alison Patton

      What does that mean Steve?

  • digdigby

    The Patients’ Rights Council has this book full of rock solid information on dealing with severe and end of life pain. There have been startling advances even in the last few years to control pain.

    http://www.poweroverpain.com/

  • Paul S.

    You can go back even further in movie history. James Stewart’s character in “The Greatest Show on Earth”, where a doctor husband killed his wife in “mercy” was presented sympathetically.

    It is all about the notion that no one should suffer; that sufferring does no good.

  • http://tlm-md.blogspot.com Deo volente

    Fantastic article! Many are not aware of the link between the eugenics movement in this country and its eventual role in euthanasia. This link gives some detail of the euthanasia movement in this country. Note the link between eugenics and euthanasia shown here.

    http://www.theinterim.com/issues/euthanasia-suicide/scholar-outlines-euthanasia-movements-sordid-history/

  • http://please,pleasepreachonthis Lisa

    Excellent post!

    I would like to encourage the clergy to get ahead of this issue TODAY before it becomes a “hot” topic like abortion which can not be discussed from the pulpit.

  • Tetrarch

    Barbara, I think that you are right to say that euthanasia should be fought, but I don’t think that your conclusion is correct. Accusing people of medical murder doen’t stop assisted suicide even if the accusation is true. The media presents it as “death with dignity” because that is what they think it is. They do not understand that death is not the end and that suffering has redemptive value. We must show the world what true dignity for life is. We must show people the culture of life to prevent murder, not simply expose the culture of death and brand euthanasia’s misguided servants as murderers even if that is what they are. This is not a problem of language as much as it is a problem of ignorance,and it is the ignorance that we have to fight!

  • Jayne MacDonald

    Back in the 90s the TV show “Picket Fences” did a wonderful pro-life episode involving an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who petitioned the court for the rigth to donate his heart to his ailing son. The son was a husband and father of small children, and was dying while on the transplant wait list. Season 2 of Picket Fences hasn’t been released on DVD (yet), but I believe it’s available on Hulu. If I recall correctly, it’s episode #13.

  • MJ Anderson

    Barbara,
    great piece.

    You ask:
    ” Why are we always playing catch-up with the forces of evil? Why are we always reacting years after a cultural battle has been decided…”

    Because the Christians of this nation are deaf in one ear. And in the other ear Pastor “just call me Rick” never opens his mount about abortion or euthanasia. Pro-life journalists and publications have been screeching about the coming tidal wave of “death dealers” since 1990. It falls on rocky ground.

    Worse, the framework for understanding dignity of LIFE in all its stages is missing. The secularized world has no reference point for the suffering –other than agonizing hours in a gym for a cartoon body.

    Another hurdle is the disintegrated family. How many Sanctum fans live near, or know of, a kindly grandparent?
    The family structure is where we learn true “quality of life” and the meaning of suffering.

    Best point you made is that the message MUST be made in the popular culture: novels, movies, song lyrics, TV., YouTube. That’s where the open ears are.

  • workingclass artist

    In the old days Art sought to bring pleasure by exalting God and his Creation…

    When Humanism came to the fore the artists & the philosophers sought to exalt Man and diminish God and his role in Creation.

    Not sure I’m right….Look at the deplorable state of Sacred Art in Modern Churches.

  • http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/ TBogg

    It is very possible that one day you may end up in a nursing home and it is also possible that one of your nurses might just smother you with a pillow. I want you to know that it won’t be to end your suffering, but probably because you’re annoying.

    Either way, bon voyage and say “hi “to Jesus for us although he’ll probably pretend he isn’t home when you arrive.

    • Jeff

      “I want you to know that it won’t be to end your suffering, but probably because you’re annoying.”

      How can one collection of atoms judge another collection of atoms annoying?

  • Atticus Dogsbody

    we need a shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy if we are going to make a good fight in the euthanasia war.

    What you need to do is let the world know that people dying lingering deaths in untold agony makes you feel better about yourselves. That should get your message across.

    • Alison Patton

      How in God’s green earth does your statement make any sense Attricus?

      • Atticus Dogsbody

        Because its true. According to Ms Nicolosi, a person dying a slow death of, say, stomach cancer should be kept alive as long as possible because, apparently, your non-existant sky fairy is the one who get to decide the time of that person’s death. Now, given that your sky fairy does not exist, there can be only one reason that you god-botherers want these people to die in pain: To comfort yourselves in your own delusion.

        • Jeff

          Atticus with the Cute Avatar said:

          “According to Ms Nicolosi, a person dying a slow death of, say, stomach cancer should be kept alive as long as possible because, apparently, your non-existant sky fairy is the one who get to decide the time of that person’s death.”

          Not as long as possible, but not killed actively.
          There’s nothing in atheism that says euthanasia should happen. In fact we’re all just atoms and energy so there should be no reason why we shouldn’t keep someone alive, especially -just in case guys like you- decide to make choices for others and decide when others should die (as with abortion). A mass of atoms with more nociceptive stimuli is no different to another bag of atoms without them. But there may be these analgesics you know. Then there’s this major depression and adjustment disorder thing which people get over with some serotonin stimulation. But hey, since we can re-animate the dead atoms, we can just assume that they all really want to die, and so we’re also pro-death penalty too. Riiiight? After all this treatment isn’t really final, is it?

        • Barbara

          How about we get better at relieving pain? I doubt that people want death, but rather a relief of pain. I don’t see that killing people – even if they want to be killed – is an answer. Every person who is subjected to medical murder, makes it that much easier for someone to do it to me. Everything and everyone is connected.

        • Patrick

          Has it been proven that God doesn’t exist? Do you have any peer-reviewed articles?

          • Chester

            Science doesn’t prove negatives. You can’t prove something doesn’t exist, only if something does exist. That’s the great thing about science. Good scientists won’t tell you that god doesn’t exist. They’ll only point to the fact that there is no concrete, provable evidence that he/she/it does.

          • Carl

            Chester can you prove that you exist? Maybe the pixels on my flat screen just randomly developed from the noise created from a big bang on AT&T’s fiber optic network! Even if you show up at my front door how do I know you aren’t a fraud?

            Also
            “Good scientists” will not rule out any possibility that may explain any concept either. The complexities of life do point to a creative design.

            Actually, random noise on the internet creating ascii characters that represent an intelligible language on my computer screen is significantly more likely to happen than live itself—and this is nearly to impossible

          • Chester

            Yeah yeah, monkeys and typewriters and all that. Here’s the deal: I really don’t feel like discussing philosophy 101 with anybody. Although I would suspect if someone were to show up at your front door and punch you in the nose, you wouldn’t claim that said person doesn’t exist.

            And I’m not sure what you mean by creative design, but if you’re trying to tell me that you don’t buy into the theory of evolution, a theory that has just crazy amounts of data behind it, and instead believe in something that is completely unprovable, then I would point you toward pastafarianism and the flying spaghetti monster. Look ‘em up.

          • Carl

            New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy

            Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom, and the Life Issues.

            It’s been a while since I read Healing the Culture but the simple answer as to why we suffer is:
            – We hurt ourselves
            – Other people hurt us
            – Our environment hurts us (the fall of man)
            (This punch list is scientifically proven)

            God in his infinite mercy makes something good out of our suffering—most evidently in our ability to love one another.

            Mystery, both our faith and science is based on mystery. Logically without mystery what drives a man to seek the truth? It’s the vain glory of man to think he can solve or be all knowledgeable; having the knowledge and power of God—original sin.

          • Carl

            The atheists as they communicate on this thread admit they have no answer to suffering.

            Suffering has no value and most be aborted. Our brave new world?

            Father Spitzer, the author of the two books I forgot to mention above also talks about just and unjust suffering.

            People who suffer because of something they wish they had or didn’t have in life is unjust—not enough money, not smart enough, short, ugly, etc.

            Isn’t this the next logically step. If life isn’t worth living—abort. History has proven that one man’s right always becomes the obligation of the state. We are in dangerous territory.

          • Carl

            “creative design”

            Science theory proves that a creative intelligence exists.

  • http://Comingsoon! V

    Better words than mine can summarize and answer some questions in this article (and among the comments):

    “…but the cruelty which accompanies the modern abandonment of our ancestral religion is a cruelty native to the Modern Attack; a cruelty which is part of its philosophy.

    The proof lies in this: that men are not shocked at cruelty but indifferent to it. The abominations of the revolution in Russia, extended to those in Spain, are an example in point. Not only did people on the spot receive the horror with indifference, but distant observers do so. There is no universal cry of indignation, there is no sufficient protest, because there is no longer in force the conception that man as man is something sacred. That same force which ignores human dignity also ignores human suffering.

    I say again, the Modern Attack on the Faith will have in the moral field a thousand evil fruits, and of these many are apparent today, but the characteristic one, the one presumably the most permanent, is the institution everywhere of cruelty accompanied by a contempt for justice.”

    ~G. K. Chesterton (with special thanks to the Chesterton Society…)
    http://www.chesterton.org/wordpress/?p=1512

  • aimai

    I’m curious–have none of you ever attended the death bed of a loved one who is not Christian, and for whom the “redemptive” power of suffering is not only not obvious, it is meaningless? Because I have. And I anticipate, not being of the same Christianist persuasion as the author of this article, that my beloved children will (with luck) attend me at my deathbed when I will still reject the notion that suffering is somehow an important part of my life and death.

    How can your little crusade against the “right to die with dignity” movement be other than quixotic given that you begin with something we don’t all agree with: that there is something called a good Christian death which comes at a given place and time. I’m not a Christian. I don’t believe there is a god given time, place, and situation for my death. I know I will die. With luck I’ll die old and surrounded by grandchildren. With luck, planning, and political will I will be able to spare my children and grandchildren a long drawn out and undignified death and the time we have together will be spent while I’m conscious, out of pain, and able to express my love for them and they for me.

    Yes, anything else would be inhumane, in my eyes. Its my death, not yours. If you want to do it differently you are at liberty to do so but I fail to see how anyone other than a moral midget and a religious bigot would make a political crusade against permitting me the kind of death I prefer.

    aimai

    • Clayton

      “Its my death, not yours.”

      That’s sounds like a pretty apt description of Hell as a state of being. No one goes to hell who doesn’t want to be there. Hell is self-exclusion from joy. No one has to go there. But some may choose it.

    • Patrick

      The “right to die” movement is really about giving the medical profession the power to kill. Wake up.

  • Matt

    “With luck, planning, and political will I will be able to spare my children and grandchildren a long drawn out and undignified death and the time we have together will be spent while I’m conscious, out of pain, and able to express my love for them and they for me.”

    More likely, though, if the “death with dignity movement” gains traction, is that it’ll be spent with them arguing among themselves about just precisely when it’s time to do away with you and start dividing up your stuff.

    The fight is not about the “right to die”. It is absurd to speak of a “right” to something which is inevitable. We will all assuredly die, whether we want to or not. The fight is about the supposed “right” to murder one another free of legal consequence.

    If, when the time comes that you face a decline in your faculties, you still have the sincere desire to bring about the immediate and premature end of your own life, you won’t lack for the means to do it. Lots of people who aren’t even terminally ill manage to commit suicide every year. I’d regard it as a tragedy, but I don’t have the means to stop you, and don’t crave them either. Enough power to prevent a stranger — determined to die — from committing suicide is too much power for any mortal man to possess.

    But if and when the time comes that you face an illness you’d frankly rather survive, but an ad hoc coalition between your insurance carrier and some fraction of your family would prefer to deal with by killing you (so much cheaper, you know…plus, they get to keep the money they make from selling off your estate for themselves!) you may wish that you hadn’t personally campaigned to give them that option.

  • aimai

    Matt,
    Can you explain to me how my family suddenly become my enemy? I’m the grandchild and child of people who trust me to lovingly care for them into old age, despite financial temptations. And I expect the same from my children. As I have executed my duty towards my elders, I am preparing my children to care for me according to my wishes.

    I don’t understand where you get the idea of an “ad hoc coalition between my insurance carrier and my children…” Most of the elderly who are asking for the right to assisted suicide aren’t being pressured by their insurance companies to die faster–they are on medicare precisely because private insurance won’t care for them at that point in their lives. Second of all insurance companies already deny people a wide variety of treatments that would stave off death, and routinely deny people treatments that would merely be palliative or pain killing because of fears of accusations of “addicting” or killing patients. Anyone who has dealt with an elderly parent who is near death knows that quite well.

    I don’t get the hysterical romanticization of the idea of family–the author of the piece insists that without hollywood telling people to love and respect their grandparents they’ll be killing them all the time. When I tell you that in my own experience all four of my grandparents were treated lovingly and cared for honorably by their children as I and my brother will do for our parents you tell me that this simply can’t be true. Honestly, were you people raised by wolves? Do you really believe that absent religious rules and popular culture people don’t love and care for their elders according to their best lights? Don’t bother to answer that, I know that many of America’s religious people do believe that absent their particular brand of religion they would be raping and pillaging all the time. Luckily for me I come from a family of atheists and we don’t seem to have any trouble with poor impulse control.

    But look, campaigning to allow all people, in consultation with their doctors and their loved ones, to make informed choices about end of life issues isn’t the same as campaigning to turn Mark’s life over to his estranged daughter or whatever your pet fear is. Naturally you will choose who you will turn to for end of life issues. I have my husband and brother–I asked for both of them to be involved if someone needed to pull the plug on me not because I don’t trust my husband but because I thought it would be too hard on him to have the burden of making the decision on his own.

    Maybe you should try to live life in such a way that you can trust your loved ones and your doctor to deal with your inevitable decline and end in a way that respects your wishes. I and other people who have gone through this with our own elders, and taken some forethought to our own eventual needs, are simply trying to help others avoid being Terri Schiavoed–that’s when absolute strangers to your life step in and use your private agony for their own political purposes.

    aimai

    • Patrick

      Secular humanism is cheap knockoff of Christianity as everyone knows (Judeo-Christian ethics with the individual self elevated to the status of God), but in any case you haven’t even addressed his point.

      Please answer this question: How, once we’ve given doctors the power to kill, will we ensure that it is used responsibly? Is that possible?

  • Oliver

    By “the Terri Schiavo tragedy”, do you mean the repeated, unConstitutional attempts by extreme Rightwingers to prolong the existence of a shell of a woman whose consciousness, personality and life had all ended in any meaningful sense when massive portions of her brain atrophied into nothingness?

    • aimai

      Yes, Oliver. Exactly.

      I’d like to add that I think Miss Nicolosi’s essay, though passionate, is rather deceptive and misleading. She speaks largely in terms of popular culture and the role of TV and movies in shaping people’s experiences of life and death. Her goal is to advocate for a particular Christian view (and not one shared by all Christians) for life and death. I think the situation would be very complicated if she were to acknowledge that “a good death” is a very subjective thing, like a good life, for most people. Medical advances in keeping people alive have not kept pace with people’s reality–their finances, their emotional and social situation. Contra Matt’s assertion the current economics of health care insurance in this country means that people’s bodies are often kept alive long after their minds and hearts and (some might argue) souls have fled. Massive amounts of money are spent on the last six months of life for elderly people, while very little is spent on wellness care for children and adolescents.

      Real stories of people’s actual experiences caring for their elderly relatives, or interviews with elderly people looking at how they want to live their last years, don’t support Nicolosi’s hard line against self determination for all of us. If Nicolosi were actually to descend from her script writer’s ivory tower she’d have to acknowledge that. Trusting people to control their own lives means trusting them to maturely determine how they want to live, and die, when ordinary life has come to an end. Who should be in charge of ordering a bedridden, incontinent, demented woman to continue living against her express wish to be allowed to go?

      I realize these are uncomfortable questions for people, especially those who imagine (on the one hand) that they and their family members will be eternally young and healthy and, on the other, that their religion mandates a certain amount of suffering and purgatory in this life as preparation for the next. But the rest of us, don’t have a religious reason to welcome suffering and degradation in this life or to welcome the intrusion of Doctors, insurance companies, and the government in telling us how we must handle end of life issues.

      People certainly need to be protected from family pressure with respect to such decisions but that’s not to deny individuals and families the right to make such decisions legally and morally. To give a fairly commonplace analogy: Just because I *could* be pressured by my children to sell my house doesn’t mean that I lose the right to sell my house. Far better, as a society, to look hard at ways to enable people to make informed decisions and have informed guardianship papers signed early on in their lives than to wait for an emergency without expressing their wishes.

      aimai

      • Jeff

        aimai,

        “Who should be in charge of ordering a bedridden, incontinent, demented woman to continue living against her express wish to be allowed to go? ”

        If the woman is demented, she cannot make a rational choice to end her life. And while she is not demented she cannot really know what it’s like to be demented to make a living will. Then of course mental states change with time. Peoples’ moods go up and down.

        What many people don’t like, and what I’ve found common of many atheists, is that they’re happy to champion ‘freedom’ when it suits them but not when it coincides with their worldview. Now I know that rationality cannot exist in a naturalistic viewpoint (we don’t have free will because random electrochemical forces run our volition and cognition and our mind is an illusion, and our deepest beliefs are entirely meaningless because they’re selected by random Darwinian selection and so have embedded themselves in our culture) but bear with me here and try to realise that we cannot be sure what people really want when their only source of rationality is obscured by mood disorder, chemicals, psychology, financial worries, peer pressure, cultural pressure and even perhaps the law. What I’m most worried about is guys like you forcing through laws to make it easier to actively kill people who most likely don’t want to die on the basis of assumption. But no two people are alike.

        Your house argument is flawed, one can always sue and win one’s house back, or buy a second house, but when you’re dead, well, it’s pretty final.

        Life is an important thing. We should cherish it. Keep the patient comfortable and pain free but err on the side of life even for incontinent people – and let’s face it it’s irrational to feel down because you’re incontinent.

        Demented, bed-ridden and incontinent people are still people, you know. There’s no reason to look down on them and assume their families and care-givers hate them, not that such hate should be a reason to kill someone (or any hate for that matter).

      • Brian English

        Who would do the killing in your brave new world? Doctors? Do you really want the healers also becoming the death-dealers? We have already started down that road, so maybe that makes the most sense.

        Or maybe a new government agency — Department for the Eradication of Undesirables? What could go wrong with that?

        Or would you prefer to stick grandma with the needle yourself? In your world, I bet that would be considered heroic.

      • Clayton

        aimai,

        What led you to think you were the audience for this article? I think it’s pretty clear that the author is addressing Christians.

        Maybe you’re just here to defend your right as a non-believer to die however you choose. I guess I understand that.

        But if your vision for human co-existence is to let everyone decide for themselves about whether life (theirs or that of their neighbor) has value or not, how do you picture that working out in practice? Such a notion pretty much obliterates the concept of anything resembling the common good… when people cannot even agree on the most fundamental of principles (and principles that do not even require belief in God, it should be noted). Do you propose anarchy as a political solution?

        I’m reminded by an insight of the late John Paul II, who talked precisely about a distortion of the notion of freedom:

        “When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his selfish interest and whim.

        This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus society becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail. Still, in the face of other people’s analogous interests, some kind of compromise must be found, if one wants a society in which the maximum possible freedom is guaranteed to each individual. In this way, any reference to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life.

        This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people—even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the “right” ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the “common home” where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenceless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part. The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its very foundations: “How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practised: some individuals are held to be deserving of defence and others are denied that dignity?”16 When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human co-existence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.

        To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom.” (Evangelium Vitae, 19-20)

        http://www.ewtn.com/library/encyc/jp2evang.htm#Chapter%201

        Notice: no appeal to religion in his argument.

    • Brian English

      By “extreme Rightwingers” do you mean her parents?

  • Andy

    Judging from the trolls, I’d say this article looks like it got posted on some pro-euthanasia or atheist site.

  • Sam Schmitt

    “I cannot count the number of Christians who have come to me almost bragging that they never watch movies or television”

    Well, I’m not bragging . . but I find most of what Hollywood dishes out to be overwrought, overdone, overloud and most often just plain boring (even the supposedly good “clean” movies like PIxar et al.) Just because I don’t force myself to watch this stuff doesn’t mean I think that “what happens in the world beyond our churches is no business of ours.”

    And I know other weird people who don’t own a TV and don’t find movies very interesting, and their kids are neither hopeless homeschooled geeks nor falling over themselves to gulp in the latest pop fad or steamy movie once they fly the coop. The trick is that they have other good things to fill their hearts and minds.

    • Beth

      Thanks for this comment, Sam. That quote from the article has been bugging me for a couple of days now. Does the author have children?
      There is barely enough time in the day to attend to all the duties of hearth and home, the books to read, the hobbies, the commitments to church and community. It is not a matter of putting our heads in the sand but a matter of choice to spend our time. Sitting in front of the television is absolutely the last item on the list. Our lives are incredibly full and yet the author makes us out to be ignorant fools because we don’t play the Hollywood/Facebook game.

      • Clayton

        I don’t think Barbara is saying everyone has to be deeply immersed in the trends of media culture. But I think it’s fair to say that some people need to. A lot more than currently do.

        There’s a false piety among some — many single young adults, even — who seem to live as though the best response for a Christian is to insulate oneself from the wider culture. Maybe that’s a good strategy for starting along the path of Christian life, if one is white-knuckling it through a life of chastity, etc, but that’s hardly the image of a life transformed by the Holy Spirit. Imagine if the apostles never left the upper room after Pentecost…

  • Cord Hamrick

    Honestly, most movies are worth about, oh, $2.00.

    Maybe two-fifty.

    That’s the low level of quality. It’s why I don’t go to the theaters often.

    (And don’t get me started on the price of the popcorn!)

  • Melicia Antonio

    Sam, Beth, and Cord: I think the gist of what Barbara is saying is, “Where the people are, is where the evangelizers must go,” not, “Whatever the people do, we do, too.” Whether or not the three of you use Facebook and YouTube or turn on your TV or go to the movies, you have to admit that 99% of the people under 40 are doing so. And if you want to reach that 99%, you have to go where they are. Does that mean you have to watch all the junk that they watch? No, but you can appreciate the media and the arts for the powerful means that they are, and support the artists and communicators who are using them to spread good philosophical and/or Gospel messages through high-quality works.

    Peter and Paul may have not liked preaching in the forumof pagan Rome and the acropolis of pagan Athens, but that’s where they found good raw material for Christianity. Don’t get too comfy in your Christian living rooms. There’s a big world out there that needs you.

  • melanie statom

    Redemptive suffering is one thing, but prolonging death, through “disproportionate means” not allowing death to take place naturally….keeping biological life going at all costs is not the ultimate highest Christian good and is not the CATHOLIC church’s position on this subject. Check out David F. Kelly’s : Medical Care at the End of Life, A Catholic Perspective, for this critical, necessary and essential distinction.

  • Gail Finke

    Some of the comments here show that the article is correct — our culture has already convinced many people that their lives are worth nothing if they aren’t young and healthy. People fretting about how and when they will be “made” to suffer and “kept” from dying are already a long, long way not just from Christianity but from life as most human beings live it. People in the poorest countries, who live in the most wretched conditions, are not the people attempting to kill themselves (or imagining they would do so) when they became uncomfortable. Those people want to LIVE. They know that sometimes life entails suffering, and they would rather suffer than die. We are so bored with ourselves and so afraid of suffering that we would rather just die.

    Well, people to whom suffering makes no sense, don’ t worry. Chances are you will get your wish. Not because your families are your adversaries, but because they will likely rather not have you around than experience you (or anyone else) suffer. You don’t have to imagine what will happen — just look at the Netherlands, where doctors already routinely kill patients, many of whom don’t want to be killed. They’ve decided it is a doctor’s role to determine who should live. We (as a society) don’t want to have children and we don’t want to get old. That means that we (as a society) will kill ourselves, and the world will be left to whoever is still around and wants to live.

  • Graham Combs

    Over the past decade I used to see “Dr. Death” often on Royal Oak’s Main Street. People would stop him and even ask for his autograph. When he died, a Main Street art gallery put a memorial display for him in its window, including one Dr. Kervorkian’s grim death-obsessed paintings. The local “conservative” paper the Detroit News used his death to “raise the issue” of euthanasia. Needless to say, it was not from a Catholic perspective. The same editorialist lashed conservative “values voters” only weeks before. If you want to see just how into-the-void the creative classes have become, I recommend the Darkness Falls episode from season three of the Inspector Lewis series (a favorite character but no longer a watchable show). We are not just facing a head wind in the arts, but a perfect storm of opposition and contempt. Meanwhile, the bishops’ conference actually uses “the culture” to excuse the behavior of predators in Holy Orders. Good grief…

  • Cherie

    I completely agree with the article, it feels awesome when a cool, well-crafted piece of culture echoes the truths in our own hearts. Those with talent, please go make more!

    My personal experience of this — Doctor Who. It’s a ridiculous show, but I just get sucked in by the fast talking and pretty galaxies and mysteries and such. Having been sucked in, I’m pleased to report that The Doctor is absolutely a pro-life hero, in a variety of situations, across time and space. It comes out in ridiculous ways, in keeping with the show’s nature, but it’s one of the defining aspects of his character. He’s an ass-kicking pacifist genius who always holds out hope for humanity and welcomes even the most bizarre instances of sentient life. Oh, and time travel. Gotta love it!

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