“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I don't need you

Think about what has been happening in the Schaivo case as it relates to other persons with disability whose lives might be determined unworthy of continuance due to a quality of life determination. Paul wrote,

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now, you are the body of Chirst and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:21-27).

How often in the church, the household of faith, the body of Christ, do we turn to our neighbor and say, "I don't need you!" Our neighbors are defined as people who "seem to be weaker." Interesting caviat. They "seem" to be weaker for whatever reason, however, the Bible indicates that somehow these persons are "indispensable." It would appear to me that they are weaker, justifying my statement, "I don't need you!" but in actuality, they are "indispensable." It also says that the parts that "we think" are "less honorable we treat with special honor." Another caviat in the statement "we think," the implication being that although we think them less honorable, they are to be treated with special honor. God has "given greater honor to the parts that lacked it so there can be" get this, "no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other." No division, equal concern. Equal concern about or for what? It would seem equal concern at the most basic level for life.

In the Schaivo case, they have music playing, flowers around her and a stuffed animal in her arm, but they are starving and dehydrating her to death. Is this having "equal concern for each other?" Who are we comforting with these amenities? Supposedly the woman's life is being taken because she is in a persistant vegetative state and would not appreciate such things. Please, if there is any notion that these things are comforting to her, reinsert the tube as she has the ability to appreciate music and beauty!

It occurs to me, that the church has for so long excluded people with disabilities that it has less problem than it perhaps should when a disabled person is starved to death. Or even if it has concern, it seems hollow in light of its lack of effort to include persons with disability prior to the point of life sustaining measures for a brain damaged person. If the church truly has concern for such individuals, why aren't there more brain damaged persons going to church? A pastor friend of mine has said that for a church to have a ministry that includes persons with down syndrome for example (as that is the form of disability most often tested for via amniocentesis in efforts at "prevention" of mental retardation leading to abortion), we give teeth to our arguments against abortion. We say, "Don't abort those children and bring them here, to our church to become a part of our church family, after they are born."

But I don't see as many persons with down syndrome attending church as are represented in the community. Instead, I hear horror stories of churches discriminating against persons with down syndrome and other disabilities and their families.

The church is a part of the problem in this whole issue. Disability has been constructed by the church in such a way that we feel comfortable saying to a disabled person "we don't need you." I look at this incident and am concerned, but I look at what might be the result of 2000 years of the church's lack of concern and am really concerned for what the future may hold.

Would we as Christians even miss, would we even know they were gone, if persons with mental retardation, for example, were systematically starved to death? We see Ms. Schiavo being starved to death and we become greatly concerned about the life of a person with a severe disability. But our track record says that really, as a whole Christian church, we don't seem to give a damn about persons with disability.

Like participants in a liturgy, we stand before the Lord, and tell those with severe disabilities who are not in our midst, "WE DON'T NEED YOU!" That is, until we are confronted with the natural results of our indifference.

(from cbu)


Anonymous said...

It is so disheartening to see how arrogant we have become. We are all one body, and we need eachother as I Corinthians 12:21-27 states. It is true that God distributes his gifts in different ways. Some receive more than others. However, reframe from being arrogant because everything that has been given to us is from God. It is not the work of your own merit. If God has given you more than another, be greatful. Do not boast about how useful you are. Do not dismiss those who have been given less. Take your gratitude and bless someone else. To treat those who may have been given less (maybe physically or emotionally in some manner)as though they are expendable or unworthy of love and care is an absolute disgrace. Everything we have is given by God, don't act like you are better or more worthy. I am so upset at the cruelty and torture of Terri Schiavo. If a child is not fed and neglected, the parents are charged with a felony, but we can starve a disabled woman because she is expendable????This makes absolutely no sense to me.

Anonymous said...

You have made a very good point. As a disabled woman,I have found that Christians are no less ignorant or discriminative than anyone else and especially for a disabled person who wants to take an active role in ministry. In theory they preach about not letting your circumstances hinder you from serving the Lord, but when someone actually steps out in faith and accepts a call to ministry that seems impossible because of a physical problem, they turn them away! I think they need to get some of the faith that they profess! On another note, it does disturb me that someone on a christian website posting an article would use profanity. Was it necessary to use the "d" word?

Marvin Miller said...

Excellent Comments, Jeff. I do not think you went to far.

Think what the outcome of the Terry Schiavo case had been if the church had undertaken its responsibility 20 years ago. If everytime you worshiped at church, you sang next to a person with a feeding tube... There would not have been a question.

To the anonymous writer regarding the "d" word. There are very few appropriate times for such language. This, however, is one of them. As the church forsakes its mission to the disabled, we effectively condemn or "damn" them by our lack of action. We may in fact be damning ourselves, by disobeying God. Let this word serve as a reminder of the high calling God has given to us, along with a reminder of the consequences.

Marvin J. Miller, M.Div
Rayne Project Ministries, Inc

Anne Pessetto said...

Anne L. Pessetto
April 13, 2005


During the course of the two weeks that Teri’s husband allowed her to starve I became more sickened. What Teri should not still be happening today, especially in America. I am not able to comprehend why he would kill her. How he could be allowed to perform euthanasia on her. It is unfortunate that people that people don’t value the lives of the disabled. I think if you are a Christian then you wouldn’t need someone to tell you to reach out to those that need your help. You would just do it. What I mean is that I don’t think it is only a church issue to give people with disabilities the same rights as non-disabled. It is a human thing. A political thing. Was Teri given the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? This is also a legal issue. She wasn’t even allowed to live.
This story reminded me of something that my mom did when she worked in a hospital in the labor and delivery ward. It brings to light the things that used to happen in hospitals and how things changed for the better. She had been working the ward for about 5 years when the incident happened. Shortly after a mother delivered her baby boy she was told that her baby had died shortly after delivery. She was very distraught and asked to see her dead baby. They refused to let her see him.
About four hours after he was born my mother went into a linen closet for something and found the baby naked on a shelf of towels. She peered down and saw that he was breathing and out of instinct she wrapped him up and ran him to the nurses station. She told them that she had found the baby in the closet breathing, that he wasn’t dead. They all kind of looked at her and told her she shouldn’t have interfered and was told to put the baby back. My mom refused and began to clean and warm him up. After he was warmed my mom walked the baby into his mother. You can imagine the mother’s reaction.
Two weeks later my mom was brought in front of a panel of administrators to be fired due to not doing what her boss told her. (She didn’t put the baby back in the closet) My mom explained what she had done. She was not fired. Her boss was. When it happened I was only about 7 and I asked my mom why they wanted the baby dead. Why would they neglect it until it died? She said that he was born with an obstructed bowel and had Down syndrome. The doctors felt that even if they did fix his bowel and saved him it wasn’t worth it because he would have a poor quality of life.
Unfortunately it takes people like this little boy and Teri to wake the people up to the terrible things that are happening everywhere. It had been an unwritten rule that if a baby had Down’s syndrome that they could be left to die. This is not allowed anymore because people like my mom stepped forward to protest it.

Rhiannon New said...

During the whole Schiavo incedent I have to say that I have been deeply appauled by our legal system. I would think that someone who has left their wife and started a new family with another woman would not be given control over the life and life/death situations regarding the wife he left. Especially when we cannot be sure his motives are pure. He left and gave up on her; her family did not and in the end he got to take her life and take her away from the people who really loved her. How do we know that she really wanted to die? How do we know that it wasn't painful and agonizing? How do we know that she didn't change her mind from what she told her supposed husband? Who are we to say who deserves to die and who has a poor quality of life? I believe that a great travesty has taken place and we allowed it to happen. Another problem I have is the way she died. Starvation is not a humane way to die. Some people may say that it was cruel and unusal punishment. I am so upset over this I can't think straight so that is all I have to say.

Emeka Abba said...

From Emeka Abba on 4/17/05@11.55 pm
Th Schiavo has clearly exposed the hypocrisy in us as so called christians. More often than not, we spend a lot of money to bury loved ones who were in want when they were alive. I think it is time to rethink our faith and priorities. Being a christian connotes truthfulness . We have to do the right things at the right time . If Michael Schiavo acted wrongly then, on the last day, he will answer for his actions. The church should expend more time in taking care of it's flock in need than in posturing.

Kathy Ramirez said...

Your comment is very true. Why is it that the church is the first to say that abortion is wrong but when it comes to disable people they are the first to turn their backs or pretend that the disable people do not exist. Its sad because the church is suppose to bring the community together and how can that be so if they are denying that certain community members do not exist. One thing that I have notice in this class after doing the Church Project 2 is that churches are stating over and over that they do not have the funds for the special needs ministry. How is when it came to the Terry Schiavo case, it seemed like most Catholic and Christian churches stop what they were doing and run to her side? The church needs to be doing that with everyone that is in her state, it seems like that they only reason that they paid much attention was because of the news and the politics surrounding it. But what about the people in our neighborhoods who have not reach the state of the Schiavo case; these people with disabilities really need a place where they feel they are wanted.

Anonymous said...

I feel bad for what happened to Terry Schiavo. Her husband should have stuck by her no matter what. He should have never starved her to death because he said that is what she wanted. We saw on video how she responded to her father when he was talking to her about something that had happened a while back, she laughed. How can a person who doesn't know what is going on respond like that? Her husband probably didn't want to deal with her anymore so what he should have done is turn his guardianship over to her parents and let them take care of her. That is all her parents ever wanted anyway. They wanted to keep her alive, they wanted to take care of her no matter how long she would have survived. I didn't hear much about the church getting involved with this case. I believe they also didn't want to be bothered. It's hard to believe that the church will always be there for you when one sees such things happen like this. What if I went to church and I became disabled from a car accident or such? What would my church do then? Would they support me and still welcome me to my church? I highly doubt it and that is a sad thought. We should always feel secure enough that our church is going to stand behind us no matter what. I just hope this kind of thing (like the Shiavo case) doesn't happen again. It was really heartbreaking knowing that a woman was being starved to death on purpose and her husband was okay with it.