Voices

Death defiance

Christians should face the reality of evil with resistance, compassion, hope, and restoration

Issue: "Terri Schiavo: In memoriam," April 9, 2005

As columnist Robert Novak noted, the battle to save Terri Schiavo's life was "an issue truly transcending normal political boundaries." Congressional Democrats joined Republicans to give her a hearing in federal court. Noted liberal congressmen like Chet Edwards of Texas, James Oberstar of Minnesota, Dale Kildee of Michigan, and Jose Serrano of New York wanted to save Terri's life. So did Ralph Nader.

But it is also true that a number of conservatives opposed their efforts. Republicans like John Warner of Virginia and Christopher Shays of Connecticut opposed giving her access to the federal courts. As the public debated the issue, some conservatives complained about "the government interfering" in a person's right to die. National Review Online columnist John Derbyshire argued (against his colleagues on NRO) that Terri's husband should have the right to kill her on the grounds of "family values" and the "sanctity of marriage."

Even many Christians-including a good many who oppose abortion-supported the pulling of Terri's feeding tube. In personal conversations, many were saying that she would be better off in heaven, that death is natural and the will of God, that Christians should not oppose dying but rather embrace the end of life.

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When all was said and done, not too many Americans wanted to save Terri's life. Almost two-thirds thought her husband should have the right to deny her water and nutrition so that she would die. Ignorance no doubt played a role. Despite the tenor of many conversations, this case has nothing to do with any alleged right to die, since Terri was not dying. It was all about the right to kill.

At the L'Abri Jubilee celebration in St. Louis, workshops explored the foundational beliefs of Francis Schaeffer and his ministry. Per Staffen Johansson, who leads L'Abri in Sweden, spoke about the significance of the Fall. A key element in the biblical worldview, he pointed out, is the reality of evil.

The question is, how should Christians respond to the evil in this fallen world? According to Schaeffer, with "resistance, compassion, hope, and restoration."

Christians must resist evil. Even though sin permeates the world and even if resistance, on some level, is futile, Christians must fight it.

Cruelty, injustice, sexual exploitation, corruption, and other evils must be resisted. Social and political evils, such as legalized abortion, must be met with resistance. So must the personal temptations of everyday life.

Evil must also be met with compassion. In fact, such is our fallen nature that it often takes great suffering on the part of evil's victims to pull compassion out of us. God has so thwarted the devil's design that great evil often provokes great good, as Christians live out their calling to love their neighbors.

For Christians, hope is another response to evil. Christians know who has the victory. Evil reminds us of God's judgment and the new heaven and the new earth that lie ahead. Evil may win, for a while-in society and in our own lives-but the Christian's hope means that in opposing this world's sin, we will never give up.

Evil is also met with restoration. Christians must do what they can to set it right. This means healing the sick, rebuilding what the tsunamis washed away, working to pass laws to address social evils, and asking forgiveness and making restitution to those whom we have wronged with our own evil.

Death too, though inevitable, is an evil. It is not part of God's good creation, but is the penalty for sin. Death, whether our own or that of others, is something to resist. It should provoke compassion for the dying and for those left behind. Permeating the fight against death should be a spirit of hope.

As for restoration, the dying can restore their relationship with God and with their loved ones. When death is caused by some manifest evil, the living can work all the harder to find a cure for diseases, measures of prevention against accidents and disasters, and legal remedies against murderers. And somehow Christians must build a culture of life as an alternative to today's accelerating culture of death.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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