Justice For Whom?

You may know from past entries on this blog that I am deeply concerned about the plight of Lauren Richardson, a young woman whose life currently hangs in the balance because she cannot defend herself. She is unable to articulate her desire to be respected as a human person. Lauren was in a tragic accident in 2006 and she is currently dependent on others for her care because she is in a state similar to Terri Schiavo’s.

I need not remind you what ultimately happened to Terri. What is most troubling is that the very same fate may well be meted out to Lauren, even though her father desperately wants to care for her.

Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, is all too familiar with the agony currently being experienced by Lauren’s father.  In a recent commentary in the Washington Times Bobby reminded me how cruel it is to serve imposed death on a plate presented as compassion and how commonplace such actions are in our day and age. For as Bobby writes:

Tragically, killing the cognitively disabled by taking away their food and water is about as common in our nation as it is for our politicians to abandon this issue. And for reasons I still struggle to understand, deliberately dehydrating persons with brain injuries really doesn’t seem to catch the ire of most Americans, certainly not those in the media. If you did the same thing to a dog, you would rightly join Michael Vick in jail for animal abuse.

Stop and think about that for a moment and it becomes clear how upside down our American thought process truly is. Bobby knows the toll death by dehydration takes not only because he witnessed his sister’s death but because he realizes how his parents and his sister cried out for justice for Terri . . . while nobody in an authoritative position wanted anything for her other than death. In fact those few public figures who did attempt to take a stand in her defense were ridiculed.

Thus it is no accident that we wonder who, among the elite, will defend Lauren.

But I have to say, there is another problem that is even more troublesome. At a very basic level I wonder why anyone has to write about a case like this at all. What sort of diabolical country do we live in these days? What kind of grotesque evil is it that creates a situation where vulnerable people are intentionally killed? Obviously the rhetoric of the culture of death is succeeding. It is cultivating moral depravity at a level nobody could have imagined. People are needlessly dying and, if Bobby is right, few care about it.

This morning when I listened to our pastor discuss today’s gospel reading with us—Matthew 20:17-28—I couldn’t help but think of Lauren and her father. Remember how the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked Christ for special treatment for her sons, and how He responded:

Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for the ransom of many.

All Mr. Richardson wants is to serve the needs of his daughter. He is not asking for anything out of the ordinary other than a judicial ruling that will let his daughter live. But nobody is listening to his plea because Lauren’s mother has been appointed her guardian and she does not believe her daughter would want to live.

I feel great sorrow for Lauren’s mother, and I am saddened by the fact that our culture is all too willing to understand her desire to see her daughter die while ignoring the pleas of this young woman’s father. It is symptomatic of the obvious problem many Americans have with servanthood.

It is the avoidance of Christ’s call that is at the very root of the culture of death. The desire to give of one’s self for the sake of another is sorely missing in our culture today. There seems to be little time for the needy, the vulnerable and the unseen—the powerful are literally pitted against the weak and challenged to eliminate those who cannot measure up.

The obvious paradox in all this, particularly in a case like Lauren’s or Terri’s, is mind-boggling. Family members who are willing to care and nurture are left at the mercy of a judicial system gone awry. I can only conclude that somewhere along the way our nation and her lawmakers, not to mention her judges, have forgotten what once made America great.

That phrase from the pledge of allegiance, “with liberty and justice for all,” has become meaningless.  For, after all, justice should dictate caring for the weakest in our midst, not facilitating their direct killing.