Thursday, March 31, 2005

Did Terri Schiavo Really Die a Painless Death?

A year ago, April, I began reading through the book of Genesis, six verses at a time, five days a week. I read the passage, read all the associated cross-reference passages, look up mentioned places on the map, and jot a short journal entry regarding the passage.

This evening, my passage fell on Genesis 47:13-18. How odd that I should be reading about the famine in Egypt on the day of Terri Schiavo's passing.

With that as my backdrop, the passage took on a new light. In verse 14-15 we see the Egyptians hand over every dime of their money to Joseph in exchange for grain. By verse 16-17 they are out of food and next give up all of their horses, flocks, donkey, and livestock in exchange for more grain. The food runs out again, and in verse 18, the people give Joseph all of their land and by verse 19, they have all sold their very bodies into slavery.

I think this commentary denies the euphamistic lightheartedness that recent news articles have claimed Terri Schiavo's death was calm, painless, and peaceful. Look at these Egyptians, selling their very bodies for a bucket of grain. That, my friends, is called hunger.

The story of the famine in Egypt is reminscent of another biblical story: Esau. He was so hungry that he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. Again, it seems like extreme hunger leads people to do irrational things

It would seem that these are uneven exchanges. A birthright for a bowl of stew; life-long slavery for a bucket of grain. But is it? Food is sustanance, sustanance is life, and according to Paul in the book of Philippians, "To live is Christ." To rob a person of food is to rob them of life and their God-given opportunity to experience, fellowship with, and know Christ.

I read a book last summer entitled, Flyboys by James Bradley. It tells tales of Japanese soldiers, abandoned by Japan, weak with hunger, going mad and killing people for food. There is one particular paragraph in the book that I considered writing here to prove my point (and believe me, it would prove my point) but I just reread it now and have determined that it is far too horrific to repeat. So, just take my word for it -- you don't want to cross the path of a man starving to death.

Hunger doesn't merely lead to a growling stomache, irritability, fatigue, and one nasty headache. When deprived of food, men literally go insane. We see it in war stories, we see it in stories about planes crashing on deserted mountaintops, we see it in Somolia when food copters are highjacked, we see it in Genesis 47.

It is interesting to me that of all the names we have for bodily functions: hungry, tired, thirsty -- hunger is the only one that is the mere adjective for the real cause at work - pain. When our stomach growls, we call it hunger pains. Hunger is recognized, even in our most casual of terms, as painful.

We even catch of glimpse of this in the New Testament. Matthew 6:17-18a says, "But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting..." This verse acknowledges that going without food affects a person's attitude and appearance. Lack of food so manifests itself bodily that other people can look at you and know without being told that you have gone without food.

We see more evidence of the grueling pain of hunger in Revelation 6:8, "I looked and there before me was a pale horse. It's rider was named Death and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth." Does it alarm you that hunger is listed among the short list of ways that Death will go about destroying a fourth of the earth?

In a country like America, where well more than half of us are obese, and we have so much food that we eat simply because we are bored, we may never be able to truly grasp this concept. But, it would seem to me, that going without food is about one of the cruelest forms of punishment man could possibly inflict upon another human being. It would have been more humane to have wheeled Terri Schiavo in front of a brick wall and killed her via a firing squad.

It scares me to be living in a country where I start to blog about our legal system and end up talking about one of the four horsemen of the Apocolypse.

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Blogger sojourning crow said...

i had soem thoughts on what you wrote, though they may be uncomfortable, i would like to tell you them. I respect your opinion and I wish to tel you mine.

people respect other people, for the pain that they endure/d. but they do not wish pain to befall them. Terri is dead. Does it matter if she suffered?? The nation spend so much time clinging to Terri that they have forgotten everyone else suffering on this planet. Mother Jones once s/d, "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." We send $65 Million to a country where people are starving and children Alabama are going without. My point being, why was Terri's life more important that the lives of others who are still here and suffering.

My second point is decision and brutality. There are very few things that you can stop from happening to you and your family in this world. I watched three of my family members die in a period of 6 months. Couldn't stop it. But it made me see that these things happen and you have to help those who are left.
The government will do what they will and there is nothing you can do.
As far as the passage you wanted people to read, perhaps you could find it online or post in a logged bbs and ref the link so as to give people the choice to read it.

take it easy.

1:14 PM  
Blogger VeeJay said...

S.C., I agree with you, we do need to fight for the living. One way we do this is by owning up to our mistakes and determing to not repeat them.

Admitting that starving a person to death is a slow, merciless, painful way to go assures those of us who still remain among the living that it won't one day happen to us.

True, evaluating the Holocaust will not bring anyone back from the dead, but it will hopefully prevent another Holocaust from occuring.

The crux of my post was simply that the newspapers are not being truthful when they say starving to death is a peaceful way to die.

On a personal note, S.C., I am genuinely sorry to hear that you have suffered so much loss in your life. I can only imagine how what you have experienced would cause you to evaluate the world in a much different light then those of us who have suffered so little. And for that reason, your words deserve an audience. Thank you for taking the time to post.

3:02 PM  
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