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.