[This is a two-part post. Scroll down for “I Stand with Brittany Maynard,” which you’ll find highlighted in red, and please take the time to view the embedded video.]
Christians Flog the Dying
Unless you’ve been on a media fast for the past several weeks, you’ve heard of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year old woman who has opted to end her life through Medically Assisted Suicide rather than let terminal brain cancer dictate the way she enters death. To be honest, it’s the response of some Christians to Brittany’s decision that has offended me the most in the ongoing debate—believers who have used spiritual platitudes in defense of their condemnation and risked soiling God’s name in the process.
Father Medeiros, undoubtedly with good intentions, published an open letter to Brittany several days ago, telling her that she is starring in a play God wrote for her and that her lines are “already written in the script you have received from God, the great Director.” Her cancer comes from him, he said. So does her unbearable suffering. The priest told Brittany that choosing to abbreviate her suffering “is certainly not on the script that you have received from God” and that the best thing she can do is “give glory to God” until her natural death.
Because that’s the way God rolls, right? He afflicts us with excruciating pain so we can give him glory. All suffering is from God. (You’ve heard those statements thrown around too casually.) He gives Brittany glioblastoma multiforme, he rips the limbs off solders in combat and sends children to be sold into the sex trade…and all so they can give him glory. Isn’t this the horrible, logical conclusion people might reach because of poorly articulated exhortations about life in a broken world and a God who redeems pain?
Redeems. Not inflicts. We’re not careful enough with that distinction.
Semantics matter. Word choice is crucial. This priest’s poorly expressed compassion sends the message that God gave Brittany cancer and now expects her to blithely recite a pre-written script despite her anguish, trauma and pain because that’s the kind of God He is. As long as He’s glorified, Brittany’s cancer and agonizing death are okay.
I cringe and seethe at the borderline blasphemy.
Until we rein in our spiritual platitudes, we will continue to inadvertently state to the suffering and dying that God chose the horrors they’re enduring just for them. Custom-made torture from the Almighty that they mustn’t question or resent. Tell that to the limbless soldier, the child prostitute and the dying cancer patient. Oh wait—we’ve already done that to Brittany Maynard.
That’s not my God. My God didn’t give Brittany the disease that is snuffing the life out of her and ripping her away from her husband and parents. Sin did that to her. Sin broke our world and our bodies. I’ve seen too many of God’s people blasting the dying with demands and accusations while exhorting them to be thankful for the pain and stop complaining.
Whether the person suffering is a believer or not, such “encouragement” will do more to tarnish God’s image and distance the dying from him than to draw anyone nearer to his love, mercy, grace and salvation.
Semantics matter. All the time. And in the context of God’s role in suffering and death, they can have eternal repercussions.
I stand with Brittany Maynard
I respect the decision she’s made.
And I believe in the sanctity of life.
I understand the slippery-slope concerns too. I really do. But having stared down the barrel of cancer a couple times, I also understand how it feels to visualize a long and agonizing end.
“Medically assisted suicide.” I wish the law allowing Brittany to end her life were titled differently. Suicide is too broad a term. “Medically Assisted Abbreviation of Suffering” would be more accurate terminology. Because, you see, the law allowing Brittany to choose a gentle, medicated death is not designed for just anyone looking for an easy out. Only those who are terminally ill are eligible for the controversial aid. Its purpose is to shorten an unbearable and inevitable dying process.
This isn’t about someone who doesn’t like being alive anymore and opts to end it. This isn’t about mental illness. This isn’t about lack of courage or a zest-for-life deficit.
This is about a fast-approaching, excruciating and protracted death-by-inoperable-tumor.
It’s about Brittany Maynard’s full understanding that her end will be traumatic, prolonged and unfathomably painful for those who walk through it with her.
Please take the time to watch the video below—a more recent and much more intimate and “human” statement than the over-produced first video you might have seen online.
Brittany’s use of Medically Assisted Abbreviation of Suffering has escalated into a vitriolic national debate. I’ve been dismayed by the commentators who have added insults and accusations to the horror Brittany and her family are already living.
Do I agree with what she’s chosen? That’s not the point of this post.
But do I consider it suicide? No. What Brittany is facing isn’t suicide. It’s homicide. Glioblastoma Multiforme is killing her.
Her death sentence has already been pronounced. GBM is a fierce and ruthless disease that kills in a horrific way. All medical options have been exhausted for Brittany. Her symptoms have already worsened to the point of debilitating seizures, temporary loss of speech and memory, and crippling pain.
In my opinion, Brittany isn’t choosing death. Death has already chosen, found and broken her. What she is choosing is the amount of control she will give cancer over the remaining days of her beautiful, meaningful and love-filled life. Agree or disagree, she is choosing a law that does not allow just anyone who wants out to get out. It is a narrowly-worded Plan B that will allow her to determine the context of an inevitable and already-begun demise.
Brittany Maynard is choosing a less maiming end than the one her cancer is inflicting on her. It’s the same impulse that made POWs die at their own hands rather than endure the extended torture their captors planned for their execution. We hear those war stories and stand in awe of their courage. Not so with Brittany.
It’s a choice we make for our pets when the vet tells us their increasing suffering is terminal. We call it an act of compassion and mercy. Brittany has made the same decision for herself, but we call it selfish and weak.
This case isn’t about a person not liking being ill. It isn’t about a 29-year old being too weak to power through. It isn’t about a family having too little faith to believe in healing. Brittany Maynard is dying. She dies a little more with every hour and every seizure and every trip to see beauty in the midst of unimaginable pain.
Agree or disagree, can we take a break from our righteous indignation and consider this awful situation from Brittany’s point of view?
Compassion and perspective. You’ll find they might change our semantics, if not our views.
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