Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The final question

Terri Schiavo The court battle continues over Terri Schiavo and whether her feeding tube should be reconnected. As of this writing, a federal appeals court has turned down her parents' petition to have the tube replaced. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have vowed to take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has three times refused to hear the case.

Juxtaposed against Terri's case is that of Jeff Weise, a 16-year-old gunman who killed nine people and then himself in Red Lake, Minnesota. Jeff Weise by KARE TV/APThe first person he shot was his grandfather, a tribal policeman. He then took two handguns and a shotgun and wearing his grandfathers' bullet-proof vest, drove to the high school and killed a unarmed security guard, a teacher, and five students. Apparently his father had killed himseld in 1997 after a daylong standoff with police. Authorities have searched his computer and found links to Nazi websites and apparently the kid had a fancy for Hitler and called himself the "Angel of Death".

I cannot begin to imagine the agony in either of these cases. In one a daughter - and a wife - could be lost because her brain is not able to function. In the other a young man cut short not only his own life but also the lives of nine other people for reasons we might never learn.

I am a Christian; I believe life is a gift from God and should not be cheaply taken. As a Christian, I have questioned the Iraq war, and also have grieved the loss of life on 9-11. But the Terri Schiavo case evokes more of a visceral than a spiritual response. Upon reflection, the best conclusion I can come to is that I don't know anything. There is no way that anyone can know what the people in this case are going through, except maybe for those who have faced this horrible decision. The larger political issues are something we have a stake in, but the personal, the intimate issue of living and dying is one we cannot know unless we are in the same boat.

I also didn't know Jeff Weise. I heard the Health Director for the Red Lake tribe speaking about how conditions are on the reservation - 40% unemployment and casino gambling being the major employer. here is also limited health care, and though there are some counselors, pyschologists and social workers, a pyschiatrist is only there on an ad hoc basis. It did not sound too promising. But this is a 16 year old boy, who made a man-sized decision not only for himself but also for nine other people. And he was influenced by opinions that he had no real way of filtering or understanding because he probably could not have realized the enormous consequences of what he planned.

But there is one thing I know: Jesus Christ is the One who is the answer to these questions. With Him, death's sting is taken away. Easter reminds us that death is not the end and that forgiveness is available to all who seek it -- in Red Lake, in Pinellas Park, wherever. And the best thing I can do is pray for the families left behind in both these cases - I don't think the Supreme Court will act in the Schiavo case - that they would find solace and comfort in Him.

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