Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The talk I gave on the subject of euthanasia yesterday went OK. I was asked to give it again in the evening at a theological class that has been started by our church. It was good to be able to go through the material again in greater depth. Before speaking on the subject I reread Hauerwas on the subject and listened to his talk on Why We’re Afraid to Die in America (a talk that I’ve linked to before) again. His thoughts are very insightful. Hauerwas observes that our attitude towards death differs quite markedly from those of medieval Christians. We wish to die suddenly, painlessly and without being a burden. Medieval Christians did not want their deaths to be sudden. Indeed, they prayed that they would be spared such a death. It was more important that they were able to sort things out with their relatives and with God before they died. They feared God more than they feared death. Hauerwas argues that many of the reasons why we wish to die without being a burden lie in the fact that we do not trust our families. We do not want to be a burden because we are unsure that any would be willing to bear that burden. As Christians it is part of our duty to learn how to depend upon each other. A Christian must not merely be willing to bear the burdens of others; a Christian must be willing to allow his burdens to be borne. All too often we are too proud for this. We wish to appear strong and independent. Christians must learn to be more vulnerable and open with each other. We must learn to confess our sins to each other and share our burdens. If we obey Christ in this we will see a community formed in which people can be healed. The alienation caused by pain can only be truly counteracted within such a community. The pain we experience is no longer something that separates us from everyone else. In fact suffering and pain leads to an interdependence that calls forth community. Pain no longer belongs to the individual; it is to be shared by the whole church. When one suffers, all suffer. Living as a burden-sharing and burden-bearing people we can overcome the alienation of pain. I have an awful lot to learn in these areas.

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