The Tragedy of Teri Schiavo





     Our condolences to the family of Teri Schiavo, we pray both Teri and the family find peace and solace.


     We here at the eclectic Church did not feel it appropriate to comment on The Schiavo dilemma during a most difficult time for the family.  Taking sides in such a tragic situation would be a nightmare for anyone with no good choice.  Do you allow someone to live in a state with no quality to life whatsoever or do you let them die?  Her husband, expressing it was Teri’s wish not to live in such a state, did what he believed was what she would want.  Her parents operating on hope of a miracle, and understandably not wanting to lose their daughter, were doing what they thought were in her best interest.  In the end, we can only hope her true wishes were carried out and pray that these families can come to some kind of understanding in memory of a woman who created such a thought provoking debate.  Her legacy to all of us should be to make our wishes known so that no one need make such a decision based upon speculation or guesses in such a difficult time. 


    Watching this tragedy unfold, should make us take a hard look at just how pathetic human nature has become.  Religious groups, the media, and politicians turned what should have been a private matter between the families, and the courts when they could not reach agreement, into a circus of self centered agendas. The spectacle that took place outside a Hospice center where people go to die in dignity and peace was an absolute outrage, an insult to any decent human being, and a disgrace to religious leaders and churchgoers who participated in this protest.  If anything it showed that there is no respect for privacy or life when one can promote their personal agenda.  To disrupt the lives of this grieving family and the other grieving families who may have had relatives in this facility was downright ignorant as well as immoral!


    We have all this talk of the right to life coming from a vocal group, but they seldom address the issues of the quality of life, a dignity to life, or the responsibility of government and society to insure the equality of all its citizens.  Where are these organizations when it comes to calling upon our society to provide medical assistance to the millions of people who have no health care?  Or, where are their voices speaking out against those who reap huge profits at the expense of human suffering.  Where are their voices in calling for a health care system that does treats all equally and does not cost an arm and a leg?  Where are their voices for the elderly that often must choose between food and medicine?  Where is their outrage about children starving and disease ridden around the globe?  For that matter, where are their voices of outrage at the unnecessary war where young men are forced to give their lives for a manufactured cause?  Often this right to life movement seeks to have legislation passed that infringes on personal choice and interferes in what should be private matters while remaining silent and not holding accountable political leaders who have a social and international policy that is out of touch with the very teachings they cite to support their cause.  

     And, our political leaders ought to be ashamed of themselves!  Passing a law for one family  that strives to circumvent the legal system we have in place is both unchristian and un-American!  Claiming to be motivated by the sacredness to life and compassion for the family was  hypocrisy of the worse kind.  This, from a congress and a president who are trying to cut programs designed to provide food and necessary medical attention to the needy while at the same time giving tax credits to those who need relief the least --- This; from an administration and a congress that sent men to war and is a responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s.  And, when it comes to the rule of law, that seems to only apply when it serves their own personal agenda!


   Another irony of this whole situation was in the manner in which people who claim to believe in heaven and eternal life fought to keep a person alive in such a tragic state of existence.  Truly, whatever one believes about the beyond, Teri’s soul is free of the prison of a body which held it for so long.  It would appear that this poor woman was in hell on earth laying in a bed unable to do anything for 15 years --- this is even more true of she had any cognitive ability.  Imagine what that would be like to lie there and not be able to move, communicate, or taste food.  Is life so sacred that people should have to suffer torture in the name of the sacred?    


    In the spirit of the Gospels there is another observation here that deserves mentioning.  We would be the first to admit that a religion has every right to make their moral and theological voices heard, especially on matter of life and death.  But it is absolutely sinful and outrageous that religious people would call others murderers simply because their ideals differ in what is right and wrong.  This is a self-righteous judgment coming from people who profess to believe in Jesus, a man who preached not to sit in judgment of others. 


    The debate about life and death will go on, as it should.  When life begins, and when it should end, are questions that need to be taken up by theologians in conjunction with scientific knowledge and investigation. We truly need to know and understand more if we are to ethically make decisions on such matters.   And while religion by its very nature must recognize the sanctity of life, it is hypocrisy for them to ignore the issues of quality of life.  You cannot claim to ‘respect life’ and ignore the social issues surrounding the quality of life.  Life is far from sacred when people are forced to live in human misery when it is within our power to alleviate so much of that human misery that faces us here at home and around the globe.  And, any politician citing the Bible and Judaic-Christian concepts as being the basis for our American democracy; must not ignore the social responsibilities that are pronounced in those sacred writings, especially the Gospels.  If one is truly concerned about life, the first priority on their agenda should be to question the amount of resources we are putting into weapons designed to kill one another.  Our legislators sought to preserve the life of one woman through congressional power but remain silent about the so called collateral damage in the lives of thousands where we drop our bombs.  If one is truly concerned about life social policy should put human dignity and quality of life ahead of corporate profits and greater comfort for the few. 


    In her suffering Teri Schiavo managed to leave us a tremendous legacy as she has brought to the forefront questions that need to be addressed, not only about the right to die with dignity, but about the question of the consideration of the quality of life.  Sacredness and quality go hand and hand.   For far to long religion has fostered the concept that God is somehow pleased when we suffer; but, that seems like such a contradiction if we preach a God of Love.  It is true that suffering is a necessary part of life, a balance if you will; and, often we learn and become stronger because of it, but to imply God derives some sort of solace from our suffering, or that it is His/Her will, turns the Divine sadistic.  Such theology generates a tolerance towards so much of the unnecessary and human generated suffering that we choose to ignore every day.   Life is about experience both good and bad and it should be the fundamental responsibility of every religious person to foster the goodness and joy of that sacred gift, each according to their ability to do so. 

    One can only hope and pray that the outrageous breach of privacy of Teri Schiavo, and that of her family, can become balanced with new concerns about personal freedom, privacy and the quality and dignity of life --- that we begin to hold accountable our political and religious leaders for their pronouncements about life’s sacredness to include, not just existence, but quality and dignity for all. 


   Teri is now in God’s eternal embrace, at peace, and enjoying the fruits of whatever transcends human mortality.  We here at the Eclectic Church thank her, and her family, for the sacrifices they made in the intrusion of their private lives to bring about dialog on these important issues.  We also apologize for the unthinkable behavior of those who parked themselves outside a Hospice Center and disrupted the private suffering of so many.  Our prayers also go out to all those who may find themselves in similar situations and hope God gives them the wisdom and strength to make the right decision on behalf of their loved ones.       



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