“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Friday, March 30, 2007

Creating a culture of inclusion

This is the third segment taken and adapted from an address I delivered in 2004 to a Life Issues Conference sponsored by the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.

Part 3
The previous entries were the bad news, now for the Good News. God is a God of love. He is love and he wants us to be reflectors of His love. He wants to forgive and purify us. He wants us to include everyone. We are asked to move beyond superficial comfort of the afflicted and disabled to enter their world, which may involve feeling their anguish or grief. I will not try to fool you. This has enormous internal risks because we are all afraid of the poverty within our own hearts. What do I mean by poverty of hearts? (I speak of the metaphorical heart.)

Human shortcomings

We all have cruelty of the heart. We all have inner darkness and inner violence. There are limits to our ability to love and embrace the worth of others or trust our own capacity for inner growth. We may be consumed by pride or self-conceit. It is hard to embrace and love people who are spastic, ugly, those who drool or dirty themselves. Everyone wants to turn away from sickness and death. (That is why euthanasia and assisted suicide can be so attractive.) It's much easier to live in a beautiful world with beautiful people rather than face a less beautiful world, as it really is, and try to give it beauty.

Christ's higher calling

America is called to defend the vulnerable, not only by virtue of your rock-solid American heritage rooted in Anglo-America common law but by the principles behind the great vision of your Founders. But your Christianity takes you further. Christ speaks to the heart of man, even today, calling us beyond defense of the vulnerable, to embrace and befriend the sick, the handicapped, the immigrant and the old. Why? Because that is what He, the Master, would do. Christ said, "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have love you. (Jn.15.12). We do not love one another my killing each other. Jesus said that if we love Him we should keep His commandments (Jn.14.15). And Jesus gave us the heart of His commandment when a lawyer asked Him what was the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus answered:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hand all the Law and the prophets." (Matt. 22:37-40.)
Human Family

Now, if we really do love our Lord and if we really do love our neighbor as ourselves, we will ache with compassion for humanity. We must ask ourselves if we want to enjoy a sense of belonging? Do we want to be included in the living process? Do we want to have friends? If the answer is Yes, then that's how we must behave toward others. And that includes the disabled, the incurably ill … the genetically flawed. You see, your Nation's heritage expects you to welcome strangers, but your Christianity calls you to love others as you yourself want to be loved. You must include others as you want to be included. You must befriend those who are excluded as you would want to be if you were excluded. You must treat others as you yourself would want to be treated.

Followers of Christ are called to open up and befriend the disabled, the sick or marginalized of society. After all, that's what He would do. Jesus calls us from seeking affirmation to affirming the worth of others. Can you move from needing to be understood to seeking to understand other image bearers of God? Even those who are unlovely? We are called to include them as part of the human family. And being part of the human family affords everyone certain unalienable rights and responsibilities. It's threatening to your personal sense of security and safety to befriend the disabled, sick or dying. I know that! I used to be able-bodied and healthy.

Risks of Befriending Handicapped and Disabled

When I was able-bodied and healthy, I was afraid to befriend profoundly disabled people because it touched on fears deep within me of suffering and discomfort. To do so reminded me of my own mortality. I was afraid that a person with a severe disability might engulf me with their anguish. I was afraid that because of their isolation and loneliness they might cling to me with a desperate iron-grip. I had a circle of friends and family. I feared that if I introduced a severely handicapped person into that circle of friends they might push away my new disabled friend, and me too. Disabilities have a strong stigma and I was afraid it might rub off on me. Fear has been terrible motivation in my life.

If you open yourself to befriending the disabled, the sick or dying, the homeless, the immigrant, the woman in crisis pregnancy, you may find it uncomfortable and threatening. If you befriend the disabled or handicapped, you may make other people feel challenged to do the same thing. They may push you away and become aggressive. Why? Because befriending the severely handicapped reminds people of their own mortality and can bring them face to face with their own inner darkness and their own inner handicaps.

My own failings

Shamefully, I must confess my own inner darkness: I am a coward. I am two-faced: On one hand I am a disability activist across North America, championing the cause of inclusion and embracing all the human family, . . . yet my own heart-poverty reveals itself in my terror of quadriplegia and nursing homes. I avoid auxiliary hospitals like a plague. I see my future and myself in those people. That is my heart-poverty because when it is my turn to live in a nursing home, I hope others will not behave toward me as I do by turning my back of those in nursing homes. It is my terror and yet I do not comfort or embrace those living my nightmare. I want to escape from my own weakness and the weaknesses of others.
Mark Pickup

This message was made into a television program that has aired on EWTN across North America under the title To be, or not to be ... the Human Family. To order a copy of this program for $14.95 plus shipping (VHS only) send me an email at MPickup@shaw.ca

Thursday, March 29, 2007

roller coaster of grief and fear

Below is an adaptation of an address I delivered to a 2004 Life Issues Conference sponsored by the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.
Part 2.

Century 21 offers to devour unwanted embryonic life --consuming them for our own benefit. What do I mean by consuming the bodies of our unwanted children? Fetal stem cell research and therapies derived from embryonic life is being touted as a possible deliverance from Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, mending spinal cord injuries, alleviating the effects of osteoporosis and even multiple sclerosis. To date more than 50 MS sufferers worldwide have received experimental fetal stem cell therapy. None were successful.

Really? What if fetal stem cell research develops a cure for progressive multiple sclerosis? My MS is slowing destroying me. Should I look the other way in order to be delivered or helped, knowing my deliverance is on the back of another? For more than twenty years, I have publicly supported human rights and protections beginning at conception to natural death. What an interesting quandary! What a diabolical temptation.

No! Sadly I would have to turn from a hideous therapy that capitalizes on unwanted life. I must not accept that another must die so that I may live. It is better to remain in my half-lead body than to resurrect lost function and lose my humanity. I don't want deliverance from degenerative multiple sclerosis at that price. It is too high!
Church teaching

Catholic teaching is unequivocal about the value of human life beginning at conception:

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which are the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2270)


“The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation.” (CCC, 2273.)

My Christianity and Catholic faith expect more from me than compromising fundamental moral principles for the sake of self-interest.

Roller-coaster of MS!

I remember what being able-bodied and healthy was like, when people were not uneasy when I entered a room. I remember when I was included and welcomed into the inner ring of winners. There was a time when the world was my oyster, so to speak. There was a time when walking across the room was as easy as pie and I had energy to burn. But that is all yesteryear.

In 1984, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I had the relapsing-remitting kind. Like was like a wild, savage roller-coaster. I would go to bed at night not knowing what function I would wake up with, or without.

I remember thinking my life had become like Chopin's "Revolution" Etude. Violent! Turbulent! Raucous! I have had a myriad of symptoms:

- My vision was affected and threatened;
- I have lost my ability to speak on a number of occasions. I looked like an imbecile, mumbling incoherently. (Some of you probably think that is happening right now.)
- I have gone incontinent and dirtied myself;
- I have lost the use of my right arm and hand, so I could barely hold a pencil. That was important to me because I was an artist.[1]
- I'd lose sensation;
- I'd go spastic;
- I'd have crippling fatigue (I still do).

Happily many of those symptoms abated. With the passage of time, however, I have become progressively less mobile; so much so that osteoporosis has set into my spine and I have lost nearly half the bone mass in my left hip. I have gone from walking normally, to needing canes then crutches and now my days are spent in an electric wheelchair. I know there is a chance I will eventually be bed-ridden.

Need to Grieve

After living 30 years as a normal, healthy man, the sudden onset of disability was a terrible shock. At about the 2-3 year point with MS my grief was so profound and unimaginable, my sorrow so deep, my heartache so sharp, that my judgment was clouded. I say to you today that I am glad there was nobody in the business of granting death wishes back in the mid-1980s. In 1991, I was forced into retirement from the Canadian civil service at the age of 38 years and sank into a clinical depression. My perspective became so skewed: I had to be able to safely grieve. Let me say that again ― people need to grieve a loss. They must be able to safely cry out and say the most outrageous things. It’s unfair to hold them to a death wish sought when they are at their lowest point. Civilized societies do not do that. Now, apparently, places like Holland, Belgium and Oregon offer euthanasia and assisted suicide to people like me.

Reason to fear

The severely disabled of North America have reason for fear. In 1998, the State of New York's department of Health drafted a report titled Recommendations on the Oversight of Human Subjects Report. It endorsed risky experiments on disabled adults and the mentally ill -- regardless of whether they were capable of giving consent. In December of that year, researchers at Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts proposed to Federal Drug Administration (FDA) the prospect of live HIV testing on terminally ill cancer patients, like lab rats.

In 2005, brain-injured Terri Schiavo was killed at the request of her estranged husband, under a Florida court order. If Terri Schiavo did not have the Right to Life, who is next? What is the level of disability to fall below some arbitrary level of acceptability to be protected?

The common thread is that those most at risk of being mercy killed or being victimized as research subjects are the poor, the mentally and physically disabled, the elderly. In other words — the politically powerless.

Mark Pickup

[1] By 2006, use of my right arm was seriously compromised.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Post-Hippocratic barbarism

There was a time when I might have believed humanity had passed beyond barbarism of past centuries and into sunlit enlightenment. I might have believed it if I was kept unaware of 20th Century barbarism. This western barbarism culminated in cultural embrace (even celebration) of abortion on demand, and, more recently, the advent of euthanasia consciousness. Yes, if I had lived in a bubble apart from the happenings of man, I might have believed a myth that humanity is capable, on its own, of attaining glorious heights of refined enlightenment. But I have not lived in a bubble! I know it is not possible! Not even I, in my obvious stupidity and dullness of mind, could buy that myth. My eyes see and my soul has often stirred to learn of cruelties that mar human history to this very day! Besides, in my own crude way, I contributed to the brutality of the age to which I refer.

G.W.F. Hegel (1797-1856) said in the Introduction his essays of the Philosophy of History, “What experience and history teach is this – that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”

Hegel was right. Barbarisms of the past have surged unabated, becoming more brutal and brutish, executed with more cunning, deadly precision against more lives as one century passes into the next.
New beastly age

I have become seriously disabled with degenerative, incurable disease. The culture’s patience is growing thin with people like me. They grit their teeth and become short and cross. People like me are burdens on the state. Useless consumers.

The more profound my disability becomes, the sniping becomes louder. In some circles, a guttural snarling comes from secularists in bioethics, secular philosophy, post-Hippocratic medicine and public policy formation. They are like a pack of wolves circling lame prey preparing to pounce at just te right moment and dispense us to the abyss with stunning efficiency. “You are too expensive and burdensome to keep around” they hiss. “It is better to be dead than disabled” they whisper in chant-like snarls.

A decade ago, fears were allayed for the weak, the old, the incurably ill and seriously disabled, by promoting living wills or advanced directives. We were told these flimsy pieces of paper would force health care providers to honor our treatment wishes. Living wills or advanced directives would represent us in the event we were unable. And many vulnerable people completed them, then rested easy. Poor dolts.

That was before the idea of futile care came along. What is futile care? It is where a physician can override a living will or the wishes of a family and deny treatment to a patient, if the treating physician deems treatment to be futile. The post-Hippocratic doctor becomes god-like—an agent of darkness, a monstrous polyp of evil.
Changing face of medicine

Why has the time-honored profession of medicine so willingly given up their noble vow only to heal and never intentionally kill? Why have they so readily adopted the ignoble role of executing incurable patients? Post-Hippocratic physicians have become agents for the new-age wolves advocating a culling the herd of its sick and disabled. I do not understand!

Advocates of assisted suicide lure the incurably ill and disabled to our graves when we are lost in a fog of depression, or are overwhelmed by abandonment, and lost all hope. These charmers of the sepulcher use seductive but phony terms such as “self-deliverance” and “gentle exit” to sell death; these pied pipers call to the despairing and the desperate with counterfeit promises of death with dignity, only to give the last indignity of abandonment. Advocates of assisted suicide call death a right and imperfect life wrong.

The pied pipers of abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide call physicians to do their bidding and they snap to attention adhering to the tyranny of political fashion rather than any ancient and solemn oath.
Post-Hippocratic doctors

The post-Hippocratic physician took no ancient vow. The oath of Hippocrates has been abandoned in the 21st Century, along with old fashioned vows not to give abortion or deadly medicine to patients. The patient has been abandoned too.

If my aggressive multiple sclerosis is not stopped or slowed, my future may be as profoundly disabled as Terri Schiavo. Will I be treated in a similar fashion? I suppose so. Oaths mean nothing to a secularized and faithless generation that has sunk below shame. To them, purity and holiness are meaningless.

Mark Pickup

“I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art.” Taken from the Hippocrattic Oath