Monday, June 26, 2006

The Sacrament of Assisted-Suicide?

I have always had problems with authoress Anne Lamont, one of the biggest being her insistence that she is an evangelical Christian. I thought she had reached the bottom of the proverbial barrel with her lunacy about redemptive abortion. But I was wrong. In an Op-Ed piece in today's LA Times she takes great pleasure in telling her readers how she helped a friend with cancer commit suicide.

She writes:
All of his old friends who were part of his final months said sternly that we must not play God, that nature must be allowed to take its course — and they were all atheists. So we did the best we could, and it sucked, and it was beautiful. But all the time I knew he had not wanted to end up in the shape he did.

I know if the tables had been turned, he would have helped me out.

So I offered to help Mel if he ever needed me. We talked about it briefly. What did I think death was like, he asked? I didn't have a clue, but I'd heard an Eastern mystic say that it was like slipping out of a pair of shoes that had never fit very well. Then we moved on to what we were reading, and how our kids were. I knew for a fact, though, that Mel believed in assisted suicide. We had discussed a story in the paper once, about a local man who gave his wife an overdose, and then sealed her upper body in a plastic trash bag with duct tape. Then he had done this to himself, and they died holding hands. What love!

Mel was sort of surprised that as a Christian I so staunchly agreed with him about assisted suicide: I believed that life was a kind of Earth school, so even though assisted suicide meant you were getting out early, before the term ended, you were going to be leaving anyway, so who said it wasn't OK to take an incomplete in the course?
She then goes on to tell how she "obtained" enough Seconal pills to "kill a big person" and loving crushed them up in applesausce to give to her dying friend. All this take place while friends gather for a going-away party for Mel.

She concludes with this:
He told us about the presents he had left for each of us. Mine turned out to be a framed 8-by-10 photograph of Abraham Lincoln that he'd had on the wall in his study. It was the last picture of Lincoln taken before he was assassinated. There was a crack running across his forehead, from some flaw in the ancient camera. Mel wanted me to be guided in my work by the depth of sorrow and compassion in his eyes.

After a while, Mel looked around, half smiled and fell asleep. People got up to stretch, for wine or water, or to change albums. He breathed so quietly, for so long, that when he finally stopped, we all strained to hear the sound.
I scarcely know where to begin. The matter of fact style by which she relates what amount to murdering a fellow human-being is staggering. She holds on to is like a special badge of honor and almosts demands the reader praise her for her actions.

As a pastor I had stood by many people in the last stages of death, but at no time did I ever think that the compassionate thing to do was to kill them. I offered prayers, companionship and sympathy, but never did I think that Seconal was sacramental. As a Christian I believe that God alone is sovereign. He alone numbers our days. Even Lamott's atheist friends warn her not to play God. But still she dispenses her fatal medicine with a side dish of eastern mysticism.

What bothers me even more is she does so knowing that her friend, Mel, is not a believer, but she shows no concern or understanding that by her hand she has dispatched him not to eternal light, but to eternal darkness.

Lamott is welcome to her confused convictions, I suppose, but what she is not welcome to hold is a mistaken notion that this is what God would want. She can call herself compassionate, but she can no longer call herself Christian.

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