Nothing encapsulates the Western fall from Christian ideals more than our new preference for death instead of life. When Christianity was new, it entered a world of deep despair and cynicism. This world was one that was prepared to sacrifice children to the gods for favor, or where the Romans held sway and detested such practices, children’s lives were at the mercy of the father who could choose to abandon newborn children to die. It was a world where a noble suicide (as in the case of Petronius) was preferable to clinging to life. Christianity brought a radical respect for life that quickly transformed laws and public morality. It is fitting, then, that as the light of faith dims, despair and death return.
Infanticide of unborn infants, in Canada, is legal without restriction. You can do anything to an unborn baby; boil her in saline solution, pluck her tiny limbs from the womb one by one, suck her out with a vacuum… I use “her” here because it is often baby girls that are at risk. Perhaps one day we will be looking at the extinction of children with physical or mental disabilities because we’ve decided it’s simpler to exterminate such individuals before they draw breath, as the North American eugenics movement or the Nazi movement sought imperfectly to do.
Now, euthanasia is being ushered in by the same source. Ironically, a “right to life” has become a “right to die.” (For an explanation of the Supreme Court’s thinking on this, see this article.) The person must be suffering from an incurable condition; but it remains to be seen how broadly those vague words will be interpreted. Perhaps we will also see a return of the death penalty – the lack of abortion legislation is opposed by 60%+ of Canadians but the return of the death penalty is supported by a similar number.
Which brings us back to the title – this is all selfishness and despair.
Selfishness because especially in the case of abortion, the arbitrary line doesn’t correspond to anyone’s ideas about when life begins. We may not all agree that life begins at conception, but no one posits that it begins the moment a baby’s feet clears the mother’s body. Yet it’s legal to pluck that child limb by limb from the womb and stick it in a garbage bag. We are not sure when life begins but we go ahead anyway and allow such things, preferring a possible murder to ethical wrangling.
We may fall back on the “it’s not a person, it’s a fetus” argument, but that carries little moral weight. Supreme Courts of eras past have said “it’s not a person, it’s a woman” or “it’s not a person, it’s a negro” with equal certainty. Such distinctions of nomenclature only serve to obscure the real issues. We want to sacrifice the unborn to the gods of prosperity and personal freedom, and we’ll damn ourselves before we let a non-person stand in the way.
Despair because we pretend to know the future with certainty; we know that regardless of how happy other down syndrome children may be, this down syndrome child would not. Or, regardless of “rags to riches” success stories, this child’s poverty would not be overcome. So we despair and condemn them to death.
Despair because in the case of euthanasia, we’ve so despaired of offering genuine help to people that we prefer to wash our hands of the “problem person.” We decide that we are not brave enough to see what the future holds when today is so miserable.
Selfish also because life is viewed as an accidental self and not a gift for others. We love Tiny Tim of Christmas Carol fame who proclaims that he likes to go to church so that others will see how good they have it when they behold his misery; but we would never dream of doing such a thing ourselves.
To a certain extent, it doesn’t really matter that these things themselves are legal. Law has never been able to force individuals to be selfless or to hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Rather, the legalization of these things is a symptom of a massive moral shift in our society – changing sex to gender constructs, life to death, certainty to skepticism, hope to despair, selflessness to selfishness. It is these underlying changes that matter. Vive la revolution! But be careful, secular friend. You cannot predict what else will be destroyed as the fundamentally Christian assumptions on which our society is built are killed by cultural elites. Once our zeitgeist has gone the way of similar historical movements, Christians of future eras will be there to pick up the pieces.