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Hyperion March 22, 2005

The Hyperion Chronicles

“my sister rules”

#343 Dying for the Right

I would like to preface this column by stating that it is not an attack on anyone or their beliefs, but simply and honest intellectual query. (Not that it will do me any good, but at least I tried.) It might be a futile effort to mention this as well, but as you frame your reply please remember I am not trying to bring all areas of thought into the debate, but simply one small part.

I have had something on my mind for awhile, and the recent media attention in the case of Terri Schiavo made me decide to write about it. I don’t want to talk about that particular instance, as the “facts” are nebulous and it is not a good example for discussion. Reasonable people could sympathize with a loving husband trying to carry out his wife’s wishes not to be kept alive as a vegetable, while at the same time understanding the family’s point of view; not wanting to let go of that hope. The only thing that is for sure is that Congress had no call getting involved, and you can bet dollars to donuts it is crass political gain they are after rather than any “principled” stand.

I would like to talk about the right to die, but only in a narrow context. I understand the fear that hurting and vulnerable people might be coerced into making a decision not in their best interest. And I do not really want to get into physician assisted suicide, a potential quagmire if there ever was one.

What we are talking about hear is a patient—usually with a terminal illness or in unmitigated pain—choosing to end their suffering. Just to be clear: no one is advocating that suicide is a “good” idea. At least no one writing this column. But I confess I do not understand the logic most Christians use to be so adamantly against the right to do it.

Forget the emotional appeals or the sermon—I have heard them before—and let us look at the logic. In one branch of dichotomy Christian thought falls into two basic camps: Determinism (Calvinism) and Free Will (Armenianism).

Determinism posits that it has been “pre-destined” those who will come to God, and indeed everything that happens. I would ask people who hold this belief or understand it how they could then logically oppose someone choosing to end his life. Would this not be what was pre-destined to happen? In the case of someone being taken off a respirator, does this not place the decision of whether the patient lives or not in God’s hands, who has written it into the fabric of time to begin with? I understand the argument that life is sacred and belongs to God, and for the sake of this column I am not trying to argue that suicide is not a mortal sin. But with a Deterministic world view, I cannot see how a philosophical opposition can be mounted here.

Even more confusing is the Right to Die position of the Free Will doctrine; the belief that we all have the option to choose salvation. The dogma goes: Jesus died for our sins, and if we choose to ask for forgiveness for those sins, we can have eternal life. However—and this is key—it is up to us.

So: we are able to choose whether or not to accept Christ. We can choose where to spend eternity. But on this temporal plane, we cannot choose what to do with this life here and now. Logically, if one gets the choice of how he will spend his time Forever, he has the choice of how he spends his time right now. Forget the impassioned pleas: explain to me the logic of how this works.

Furthermore, as we approach Easter, it seems especially ironic to me all the Christians who so adamantly oppose someone’s right to die. Watching THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, and listening to the commentary afterwards in a room full of preachers, I was struck again and again how people were moved at how ultimately Jesus chose to get on that cross. Indeed: the sacrifice loses all meaning if Christ did not willingly chose to take on the burden of Sin. Christian orthodoxy holds that while the Romans may have crucified Jesus, it was not against his will. In other words, in some ways the Crucifixion could be viewed as assisted suicide.

I do not write those words to shock and offend. And I do grasp that for the vast majority of these cases, we are not talking about someone making a heroic sacrifice to save the world, but simply people who can no longer live with crippling pain.

But the questions remains: how can Christians logically support choosing where to spend eternity, and not support the right of how our time is spent getting there? Nobody actually supports suicide; that is not what we are talking about. But if one does not have the right to choose how this life will end, does that not make a mockery of the supposed “choice” for what comes after?


March 22, 2005


Thanks to Bear, Ella and Kimbo for vetting these thoughts

Motto Explanation

It is extremely hard to get my sister to read the column in a timely manner, but she called and promised she would if I mentioned her more often

Upcoming Column

Tomorrow I rerun my most popular column ever, and Friday we take a look at the life of Judas Iscariot. Next week we are back to Fagin Dupree

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The Hyperion Chronicles, MovieHype, and Hyperion X are made possible by the Hyperion Institute for Advanced Callimastian/Callipygian/Kickassian Studies. This column is not sent out unsolicited. If you do not want to receive it any more, or if you just have questions or comments, please contact us at If you are a current reader, please feel free to forward this to anyone, and tell them they can contact us by clicking on the address. And since I know no one is actually reading this far down, I would like to take this opportunity to say that I relish the expected response to this. I am not trying to paint with a broad brush, but my most vitriolic responses always seem to come from (a few) self-righteous Christians who think I am going to Hell. I wish you could read some of the mail; it’s hysterical

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