Stairway of Life
What happens when you are denied procedures, treatments or medications that you really need? Your health which normally is supposed to be supported, is destabilized, your health declines, you acquire acute symptoms of the disease you suffer from, and because those things you need are denied, you will be referred to? ... hospice. And in most cases, it will be a culture of death hospice. How do we know that it will be a culture of death hospice? Because the hospices around the country, their management, top administrators and staff are being guided by the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization which is the legal and corporate successor to? Yes, the former Euthanasia Society of America!
Now it makes sense when health care professionals do things that seem incomprehensible and cause death at any point, any step on their stairway downward to death.
Many people today, certainly the younger generation, have not even experienced a society where the accepted "norm" was life-affirming care. They see the professional-looking physicians, nurses and other allied health professionals working in the hospitals, nursing homes and elsewhere. The staff have the same degrees, but the training is different. The mission is different. The motivation is different. The staff have the same intelligence and reasoning power as before, but it is wielded to a different end. "Professional," means something different today than it did years ago.
There was a time when the scientific spirit did not imply materialism, scientism or humanism. There was a time when the wonders of science were seen as revealing the wonders of the universe, revealing an ever-more detailed view of the genius of the Creator, who created an infinitely-complex universe that in every detail obeys the laws of nature He created.
There are still many scientists who acknowledge and believe in God, just as there are many physicians and nurses who believe in and acknowledge God. But the dominant force in modern health care and society is decidedly anti-God, anti-faith, anti-traditional values.
What about the culture of life? What about those who still practice reverence for life in the health care setting? How do they operate? What motivates them? And what difference does it make?
When we recognize God as the Creator of all life, we understand where our human rights come from. If human rights come from any government or any person or society, then they can be taken away should that government, person or society change its position. But when our human rights come from God, they can never change, because God is "... the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." [Hebrews 13:8]
The only reliable, unchanging source of human rights is God Himself. As we have seen, the founders of the United States of America recognized these rights as being "self-evident" and coming from the Creator when they wrote that Declaration of Independence. "Self-evident" to those of faith in a Creator. Not "self-evident" to those who are materialists or humanists of the many varieties out there.
There are groups who are pro-life who assert the right-to-life based on various logical and quite sound arguments. The problem with these arguments in changing lives, or convincing others, is that those who use reason to "justify" preconceived notions leading to a culture of death position do not start with logic or objective facts. They start with the conclusion they already have accepted, because it "feels" right, because it is "what they want to do now and nobody is going to stop them," and then they find arguments that appear to justify their position (as we have seen above in the stairway to death). They are not receptive to logical argument and are not convinced by logical argument.
It is wonderful to use logic and reason to arrive at an affirmation of the human right to life, but it is not effective in the long run to use these as the foundation for right-to-life efforts. Reason alone can be used to argue for the ethics of death, and it can be used to argue for the ethics of life. Just as a house built on sand can not stand, a pro-life effort founded solely on "human rights" that are not derived from faith in the Creator God, cannot last. Establishing the pro-life effort on the recognition and love for the Creator God is establishing this work on a rock, the unchanging foundation of the dear Lord. [Matthew 7:24]
Once we reverently acknowledge God as the source of all that is, even all of our lives, we know that we have a "right to life," because He created our lives and has expressed His concern that we live, that life be protected and served:
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him,
He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.
All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
"Then the King will say to those on His right, `Come, you who are blessed by My Father;
take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me,
I was in prison and you came to visit Me.'
"Then the righteous will answer Him, `Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You,
or thirsty and give You something to drink?
When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You?
When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?'
"The King will reply, `I tell you the truth,
whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'" [Matthew 25:31-40]
The dear Lord has shown us that when we do these things, we will be blessed by His Father God. In revealing how we serve Him, He also showed us our duty to serve others. With every right comes a duty or responsibility, and our responsibility is to life, to revere the life He gives and to serve Him through those who are here with us, the "least of these" with us, who are those in need. He shows us that looking after those who are ill is a service done for His sake, that health care is above all a spiritual mission!
So, the human rights He mentions: to food, fluid, housing for those without shelter, clothing, care for the sick, visits for those imprisoned ... these are known through His divine revelation and confirmed by our right use of our reasoning ability. We use science, technology and all skills and knowledge for the betterment of mankind acknowledging the source of our abilities.
We don't deny scientific inquiry or achievement. We applaud their achievements when rightly used in service to mankind. We simply require that scientific inquiry be honestly and ethically performed, and be objectively carried out, as science is intended to be and is defined. There is nothing that science can discover, or has discovered, that "proves" God does not exist or that He is likely not to exist. Everything science discovers only reveals the nature of the universe and that which is being studied. Whatever we learn, that we can understand some of what is happening in the universe does not mean there was no Creator.
In fact, the more we learn about this wondrous and exquisitely intricate and organized world of ours, the more infinitely unlikely it is that it all came together, perfectly organized, due to random chance occurrences over time. Order can never come consistently from disorder or chance. Never. What that source of order is that allowed for the ordered "laws of nature" is, can be thought of in many ways, but "the Creator" is how those of us with faith call Him.
The odds that the conditions for our life here on Earth occurring in precisely the exact way required for our existence have been calculated. The odds are infinitely against the chance that these conditions were created out of random occurrences. Just as the chances of your car having assembled itself are zero, the chances of perfectly organized, living, intelligent and self-replicating animals and human beings arising out of a "primordial soup" is zero, no matter how many people believe such nonsense. Order does not come from disorder.
Albert Schweitzer, MD, the medical missionary and humanitarian, was given a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for actually giving his life in service to humanity. The Time Magazine cover from that time has a picture of Dr. Schweitzer and below that caption is written: "He who loses his life shall find it." It comes from the book of Matthew 10:39, but it is intentionally misquoted. The dear Lord told us that:
"... whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." [emphasis added]
Time magazine's version, "He who loses his life shall find it," may or may not be true. But, whoever loses his life for God's sake will find it, ... that is a completely different statement and is true! Leaving out the reference to God makes the statement of wisdom found in Matthew 10:39 unwise. Leaving it as it is shows us that self-sacrifice and a spirit of service to God will be rewarded by God, that we will find our real life, that such self-sacrifice will lead to blessings in our lives and afterward in heaven.
In a spirit of sacrifice, filled with love for the dear Lord and his fellow human beings, Dr. Schweitzer dedicated his life to the cause of service to others. Dr. Schweitzer spent decades of his life helping those desperately in need of medical care in Africa and gave up a life of comfort in Europe in order to serve, but he found what life and health care is really about: love.
He demonstrated for all the world to see, the stairway of life. In his work as a medical missionary, in creating a hospital for his patients, he practiced and taught reverence for life. At every step in caring, treating, feeding, housing or simply "being with" his patients, he affirmed life and promoted the well-being of the people he served, his patients.
Just as every step on the stairway to death is a point where death can and is imposed, every step along the stairway of life is a point where life continues to be supported and protected, revered, and loved. We do not choose to determine when death occurs, so, the stairway of life is about the patient's living and continued living, from life now, to life now, to life now, in the ever-renewing moment that is life itself. This is our mission as those who work to promote life and care for our patients. This is the pro-life mission.
There is no place for the imposition of death or manipulation of death in a culture of life health care system. There is no place for deception and no place for re-defining the obvious meaning of terms like "life," "death," "killing," "person," "baby" "basic care," or "care" in the culture of life health care system. There is no place for casually riding roughshod over the patient's wishes. Schweitzer recognized that all living things have a will to live and stated that the appropriate ethical response is to practice reverence for life.
"... life is extraordinary. Every scientific advance tells us this. We now know the billion to one chances ever since the Big Bang that have enabled life to develop and then to survive on this planet, and the extreme rarity of it in the universe. More than ever, we have good reason to feel reverence for it."
["The Discovery & the Meaning of Reverence for Life" - Albert Schweitzer; Emphasis added]
Dame Cicely Saunders, the Christian physician who founded the modern hospice movement demonstrated the same reverence for life in her work, telling us,
"Anything which says to the ill that they are a burden to their family and that they are better off dead is unacceptable. What sort of society could let its old folk die because they are in the way?"
"You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die."
Is there any doubt about the life-affirming message of this pro-life leader who sought to incorporate the very best of modern medical science into the care for those who are approaching closer to the end-of-life? Her mission, and the mission of caring for those approaching the end-of-life, or caring for those at any stage of life, is based upon a fervent faith in God and a desire to express that faith through loving-kindness toward all our fellow human beings.
The right to life is based upon the Creator. He has forbidden imposed death in the Ten Commandments as just about everyone knows, "Thou shalt not kill!" He would not forbid killing if there were no right to life. Killing is forbidden precisely because the life He gives is to be revered, protected and served.
The dear Lord told us,
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. [John 15:12-13]
Each step of the stairway of life is composed of love. When we "love each other," we protect, serve and care for each other. If we "lay down ... [our] life for ... [our] friends," we would do it that they live, never that they die or to kill them. He told us:
"... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." [John 10:11]
It is certain that He cares about our lives, that it is His will that we live, that we have a right to life. In fact, He said, "... I am the way, the truth, and the life ...." [John 14:6] It is inconceivable for anyone filled with faith to intend to kill or impose death within a health care or any other setting.
Those of us who are of faith, must be "missionaries for life," advocates for life, filled with the reverence for life that the Lord demonstrated on so many occasions when He healed the sick, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind or helped those who were disabled to walk.
While the culture of death employs principles such as "autonomy, beneficence, and justice" in a constantly shifting "shell game" to assure death when the patient is no longer valued as a "worthwhile" life, the culture of life employs principles such as reverence for life, charity, humility, kindness, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, justice, mercy and faithfulness. There is a world of difference between the stairway to death and the stairway of life!
There is a world of difference in motivation between those who serve life and those who casually impose death. There is a world of difference between the "human rights" logically arrived at starting from the recognition that a wondrous, loving, infinite God exists, and the "human rights" logically arrived at starting from a belief that no God and no spiritual purpose exists, that we simply by chance "happened" for no ultimate purpose.
There can only be a very perverse type of "love" within a culture of death health care setting, no matter how "professional" those who work there appear, and no matter how well-educated or technically-gifted they may be. If one is willing to kill the object of your "service," your "love" is the equivalent of what would arise from one who hated, or what would arise from one who was tragically misguided and blind to the terrible harm and evil being done. Can we call killing the patient "love?" Is this where the culture of death would lead us?
Communicating the reverence for God and life in the pro-life work we do, we affirm the culture of life and the right to life of each patient we serve, who are given to us that we serve them, who are our brothers and sisters on this Earth. Those who tell us not to use words like "God," even if we are pro-life, would force us to discard the most powerful tool we have in this battle that is waged by the culture of death against the culture of life, by darkness against the light. That "tool?" God, Himself!
When people stand outside an abortion clinic and simply pray that the women entering there will have their eyes opened, that their hearts will be melted and that the Spirit of God will wake them out of their blind slumber, something powerful happens. Lives are saved. Right reason and conscience are awakened and used correctly to see the life of the unborn as precious. Mothers who had decided to kill their children in an abortion clinic suddenly walk out and their lives are changed. People are brought into this world who would have died. That is the method of the 40 Days for Life prayer ministry that has been so very effective in saving unborn lives.
The dear Lord walked this Earth about 2000 years ago, in a culture that was dominated by the Roman Empire. It was a different culture, but it was a culture of death, much death. He was concerned about "human rights" of all sorts. He gave us an example of how men and women could respect each other, how precious children were and are, how much life matters. He cried when He heard that His friend Lazarus had died. He wept for the disaster He knew would come to Jerusalem and the people there in days to come. He healed the sick and showed a way that man could live a blessed life. Do you know anyone who would say that Jesus was not "pro-life," or that He did not care about "human rights?." If anyone was "pro-life," it was Jesus.
"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating.
Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked Him,
'Of all the commandments, which is the most important?'
'The most important one,' answered Jesus, 'is this:
'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
There is no commandment greater than these." - Mark 12:28-31
If the dear Lord with His infinite wisdom, being the perfect pro-life advocate, and living within one of the most lethal culture of death environments imaginable, never hesitated in mentioning God, in fact, mentioned Him wherever He went, ... why shouldn't we?
If the dear Lord told us that the greatest commandment, the most important thing of all things to do, was to acknowledge that "the Lord our God, the Lord is one" and that we should "Love the Lord" our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength," we must acknowledge that the Lord our God is one, that He exists.
Many people think the first greatest commandment is just about loving God with all we are. They leave out the first part, which the dear Lord mentioned first of all, and is supremely important: the acknowledgement, the witness, the testimony that God is, and that He is one, that He is our God. He is my God!
I have no doubt that basing the pro-life mission on God, the Creator, and loving Him with all we are, is the first step toward a successful mission to promote a culture of life and true "human rights." I know that the second step in the pro-life mission is accomplished when we "love our neighbor as ourselves," whether at the end-of-life, the beginning of life, or any stage of life. He told us what we need to say and do!