Christianity and Middle-Earth

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Blessing Those Who Curse Us

I’ve taken to knitting amoeba-shaped potholders in my old age, by way of occupational therapy, and listening to the TV news or talk radio whilst I do so.

This may be canceling out the knitting benefits.

The first clips the radio host plays are from some woman with a British accent griping about the US working with Japan, Australia and India to coordinate tsunami relief instead of going on hands and knees with our largesse to the UN so they can protect their vested interests and power. Not that that’s how she put it.

My immediate reaction is “Tough cookies, lady.” Then I want to shake her ‘til she swallows her enamel, preferably an entire set of dentures and some Polygrip with it.

You’re doing a great job, your Highness. How many American voters did you turn against your precious UN with that little bit of nastiness? Not the smartest way to go about featherbedding, ya think?

Then I grit my own long-suffering molars and start chasing down the skittering fragments of my Christian veneer, in the hopes that I can paste it back into place without too many noticeable gaps.

~~~

Now in a complete flip-flop, there’s a guy on the radio-station’s phone complaining about hurricane victims in Florida not getting FEMA loans while we’re sending money off to tsunami victims.

Oh, no! Bagshot Row has been leveled – it’s Numenor all over again!

There goes the veneer…
~~~

There are two problems here. One is gross ingratitude to a country that is generous beyond even what the Oil-for-Food pickpockets can imagine. The other is Americans who can’t seem to endure seeing others getting help from the US government without weighing every penny against their own troubles with a self-pitying thumb on the scales.

Yes, I know what the hurricanes did. I’ve got a mother-in-law in Vero Beach and a sister-in-law in Miami, and we’ve had our own disasters in that line here in Eastern North Carolina of late. Quite a number of people died here during Hurricane Floyd four or five years ago, and a lot of people lost everything, including one of my cousins. That happens when you have water to the top of your front door.

My point is not that American hurricane victims shouldn’t have all the help possible; it’s rather that there’s a time to be concerned about yourself and there’s a time to put others first without griping and moaning. This is one of the latter.

When your fellow men are enduring horrors such as this:
In one building, the naked bodies of drowned babies, looking as if they were sleeping, were neatly laid out in rows.
and tens of thousands of people may have to start drinking sewage, it’s no time for us to start complaining because we have to eat peanut butter instead of sirloin - or even hamburger.

~~~

As for the elite lady and her well-to-do vinegar-spouting, I can only say that if any people on this planet have loved their enemies and done good to those who hate them, it’s Americans. We are become a hissing and a byword to half the planet at the least and still we willingly, even eagerly, give and give and give.

Even if some of us gripe about it.

 

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A Great Dark Wave

(A warm welcome to any readers come by way of Steve Bragg’s generous mention of this site over at Double Toothpicks.)

~~~


Fox News: BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Cargo planes touched down with aid Wednesday, bearing everything from lentils to water purifiers to help survivors facing the threat of epidemic after this week's quake-tsunami catastrophe. The first Indonesian military teams reached the devastated west coast of Sumatra island, finding thousands of bodies and increasing the death toll across 12 nations to more than 76,700.

~~~

In his fascinating book Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets, Professor Mike Baillie (no relation) of Queens University, Belfast, presents to us a possible interface between seemingly mythological events in mankind’s ancient literature and the growth-rings of long-deceased trees such as the ‘bog-oaks’ of Britain and Ireland. Preserved in peat (like the more well-known bog-bodies) cross-sections of such trees speak to the trained eye of wet summers and harsh winters long ago – and occasionally of something out of the ordinary.

From the last chapter:

The conclusion therefore is that a very strong case exists for the contention that we do not inhabit a benign planet. This planet is bombarded relatively often – if the story in this book is correct, we have been seriously bombarded at least five times since the birth of civilization, that is, in the last five millennia. As should be apparent from Tunguska, and the rapidly increasing number of recent terrestrial craters being identified and dated, we have probably been less seriously bombarded at least fifty times in the same period. If we include the fact that the bulk of the planet is covered in water, and that too many serious impacts will be virtually undetectable airbursts, then the actual numbers of less serious events may be many more that 50. But even working with this number would imply, as astrophysicists have already pointed out, that we can expect a Tunguska class of impact on average at least once a century. Our problem is that as an intelligent species we have taken our eye firmly off the ball; most scientists and historians have opted for a non-catastrophic world….

…If the story is true, the oak trees, particularly the oak trees in Ireland and Britain, are pointing us to events where the planet has been bombarded in the not too-distant past; a concept which had, until recently, all but disappeared from mainstream human consciousness.
The validity or no of his argument is outside the reach of this blog, my knowledge of dendrochronology and ancient history being strictly layman-level (and my view of events described in Scripture from a different school of thought entirely), but it sounds reasonable and definitely appeals to the iconoclast in my soul - the “oh, yeah?” streak in me that reacts to smug scientific dogma with ears-back contrariness.

That catastrophic events suggested by atypical tree-rings may have been caused not by volcanic activity disturbing the environment (acceptable to 20th century science) but by an over-abundance of comets (loonybiscuit stuff smacking of Immanuel Velikovsky et al) is, of course, the moral of Professor Baillie’s very sober story; my purpose in quoting him is merely to illustrate the point of mine: we don’t know as much about the world as we think we know.

~~~


For a more apt take on the past, Charles Pellegrino’s chatty archaeological ramblings about Minoan Crete and the doomed island of Thera (modern Santorini) tell of the effects of seismic activity thousands of years ago, both wrought by and engendering the volcanic explosion that laid waste to a good part of the ancient Mediterranean

“On the west coast of Turkey, just north of the island of Rhodes, is a small body of water whose shoreline is like an ever-narrowing funnel. Its open mouth faces west, toward Thera, and anyone living behind that mouth might just as well have been a flea located in the throat of a cannon. As the shock wave surge east between increasingly confided shorelines, the waters piled higher and higher until at last they became a foaming white mountain eight hundred feet tall. The wave penetrated thirty miles inland, in the general direction of Mount Ararat; and when it receded, it dislodged house-sized boulders, scoured the soil and carved out channeled scablands. Elsewhere, on a strip of Turkish coast only ninety miles north of the funnel, the wave seems to have risen barely twenty feet high...”
Twenty feet is quite high enough if you and those you love are in the way.
”Tsunamis are like that—capricious. In ancient Greek literature there survives a tradition of devastating upsurges from the sea…the ruins of Attica, much like the Turkish scablands, lie behind the Thera-facing mouth of a funnel. An epic poem of the period provides what looks for all the world like a scientifically accurate account of an approaching tsunami.“
And he goes on to quote Euripides:
There came a sound, as if from within the Earth
Zeus’ hollow thunder boomed, awful to hear…
…To the sea-beaten shore
We looked, and saw a monstrous wave that soared
Into the sky, so lofty that my eyes
Were robbed of seeing the Scironian cliffs.
It hid the isthmus and Asclepius’ rock.
Then seething up and bubbling all about
With foaming flood and breath from the deep sea
Shoreward it came to where the chariot stood.

~~~


Before hobbits and before the Shire, there was Numenor, "the land of Westernesse that foundered."

“In an hour unlooked for by Men, this doom befell…there came a mighty wind and a tumult of the earth, and the sky reeled and the hills slid, and Numenor went down into the sea…its laughter, its mirth, its music, its wisdom and its lore; they vanished forever. And last of all the mounting wave, green and cold and plumed with foam, climbing over the land…

…Nine ships there were: four for Elendil, and for Isildur three, and for Anarion two; and they fled before the black gale out of the twilight of doom into the darkness of the world…”


A poignant moment comes in Peter Jackson’s version of The Return of the King when Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin ride back into their little land and, as it were, back in time as well. The ordeal they have endured cannot be seen in their fine clothing and well-fed ponies; their reward for saving the Shire is a snort of grumpy disdain from a complacent elder intent upon his housekeeping.

Even Frodo had felt the same before his journey, for all his book-learning and the warnings of Gandalf. The Shire was the Shire and the disasters of the greater world didn’t come into it, because…well, because it was the Shire, cocooned and inviolate, brigadooning its respectable hills and hobbit-holes blissfully through Forever.

Oh, there might be the occasional difficulty due to some Outsider’s impertinence and some need of Bounders, but utter catastrophe lay out of living memory, sound asleep in another time, forgotten by the Shirefolk much as we in our current prosperity have forgotten the year without a summer.

But no tsunami brought upon the world by Sauron’s mischief had come to wash the Shire from the face of Middle-Earth.

A terror such as burst onto the wide-scattered shores of the Indian Ocean brief days ago is deeply unsettling in a way that a carefully monitored hurricane, however catastrophic, can never be. Even apart from the nearly incomprehensible loss of life and the despair and suffering of survivors, it lays a brutal blow to our trust of the planet that we living yet inhabit.

By means of the Weather Channel and Headline News we prosperous moderns set a sort of emotionally protective Shire-boundary about our daily lives. Trouble comes to others, sometimes to us, yes; thus we send checks to the Red Cross, attend a funeral, buy plywood, stand in line for ice - and life goes on. Even the arguing about global warming and war gives us a sense of being in control, able to affect the course of future events to a lesser or greater degree. At least we have some say in it all.

But this – the great dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness unescapable – rips the protective blanket of illusion from our frailty with hands of unfathomable horror, exposing the terrible things that our ancestors knew and which we in our forgetfulness have attributed to primitive superstition and stories told in the night.

Because we comprehend all at once to the very marrow of our bones that this earth we tread does not really lie domesticated beneath our feet, obedient to our science and our textbooks about the long-ago.

Because the legends of sea-monsters from the night-black deeps are come suddenly true.

And because now we understand, now we truly know, that darkness unescapable can sweep, all unforeseen, from a dominion that is not our own.

 

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Merry Christmas!

 

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Amon Hen

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not...And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

~~~

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God. For it is written:

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness..."

~~~

A hundred summers lie as sweet as pipe-weed on the land,
But I go fear-footed o’er them up the hill.
The trees once quickened with their green now shorn and leafless stand
Bleak with winter, but my heart is bleaker still.

Unsteadily it echoes to the doom it long forebode,
As his fading voice cries havoc once again,
E’en as I stumble breathless on a time-disheveled road,
A mournful trace of other mortal men.

A hundred summers? Nay, a thousand cannot tell the tale
Of the labors writ here in this rocky stair;
Yet ever do the splendors of the ancient kingdoms fail,
Leaving naught but ruined shadows, waste and bare.

Long rains of sorrow, dreary-grey, fell from the passing years,
And searching, crept like secrets through the stone,
Til freezing nights came sudden to abet the questing tears,
Thus the toil of kings was broken and undone.

And ever on the hearts of those who dwell upon this earth,
Despair and grief spill out their vanguard brew
To trickle into cracks in joy and cheerfulness and mirth
And linger ‘til the shatt’ring cold comes through.

Behind, deep in the lonely wood, I watched a good man fall,
Thence I fled the raging splinters of his soul;
And stole the fatal frost away from him and from them all,
Lest none, not one, be left among them whole.

~~~

"None of us should wander alone, you least of all. So much depends on you. Frodo? I know why you seek solitude. You suffer. I see it day by day. Are you sure you do not suffer needlessly? There are other ways, Frodo, other paths that we might take."

"I know what you would say and it would seem like wisdom, but for the warning in my heart."

"Warning! Against what? We are all afraid, Frodo. But to let that fear drive us to destroy what hope we have... Don't you see? That is madness!"

"There is no other way."


 

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Eucatastrophe

This little essay I came across by way of A Physicist’s Perspective just reamed me out but good.

And set me to a train of rather unpleasant thought.

Suppose you woke up one day, made yourself a nice little breakfast and settled down with your marmalade and coffee to be cozy with the morning paper. Almost immediately, you wish you hadn’t because the above-the-fold story is all about an as-yet unnamed local citizen being charged with – among other things – forcing a five-year old child to perform oral sex, raping a pregnant woman with a pipe-wrench, and embezzling the church Christmas-toy fund to spend a wild weekend in Amsterdam.

Not a pleasing thing to read whilst munching toast-fingers. But it’s about to get worse.

As your eyes focus on the accompanying photograph, it slowly dawns on you that that grainy long-shot of the accused is horribly, terribly familiar. You look at that face in the mirror every morning.

Before you can even get your pole-axed lungs functioning again, the phone calls start. You are aware of this only as a dim jangling edging in around the wild fringes of a black vision-field suddenly spangled with Hell’s fireworks, but you latch on to it as something that was in your world yesterday and the day before that and the day before the day before that; and eagerly, frantically make a practiced grab for a receiver you can’t even see.

“You’re dead, you &#%@ bastard!”

“Get out of our #$!@% neighborhood, you @&$# sonofabitch!”

“You’re &#%@ fired, you mother#@$! I don’t ever want to see your #%*@ face around here ever %@#% again!”

And that of course is just the beginning.

How the photographic mix-up happened, you have no idea. Your reeling brain lurches desperately at retractions and apologies in two-inch letters. The last caller’s imprecations lapse into dial tone as you frantically fumble for a phone book only to discover that you’re shaking too hard to turn the pages, your panicked thoughts crashing off one another like kitchen pots in the hands of a two-year old.

Can they fire you just like like that? Can you go out to the grocery store? The library? The post-office? Why aren’t you in jail?

What will people do when when they see you? Herd their children away? Curse you to your face? Spit on you?

Will you end up like those poor child-care workers who finally ‘confessed’ to crimes they never committed because plea-bargaining would give them some shadow of their lives back again?

~~~

As Mark Loughridge puts it in his post:

[Jesus] is going to take the sins of his people on himself. In this moment it is as if all the sins he will have to bear crowd into his vision in the most glaring light. Is it any wonder that he looks on this and shudders in utter abhorrence? The awfulness of it swamps him. It sweeps over him like a relentless tide of raw sewage that keeps on coming and coming and coming. And he hasn’t got to Calvary yet where it actually happens, but this is just (if I can say just) this is just the realisation of the awfulness of it.

And that was not all. Not only is there our sin to bear, but there is something much worse: the wrath of his father. The gracious smile of the father was to be lost. And replaced with a face of holy judgement. Here is the garden we see Christ is deep and terrible distress. The awfulness of what awaits him crushes him and the thought of facing his beloved father and seeing the face he loved filled with holy anger against him squeezes rivers of silent tears from him.


The scenario I painted above illustrates the point, I hope.

Christ came to the cross and was, without any resistance on his part, blamed for a whole world of wickedness he never committed. Before the entire host of heaven he traded his goodness and innocence to, as it were, confess to the title of murderer, thief, abortionist, child molester, liar, sex-trafficker. He became a man guilty of any and every offense you can imagine and probably some you can’t, and he did it knowing what the consequences would be.

“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

~~~

Frodo is very much a Christ-figure, but he is also each of us, individual Christians plodding through the Mordor of this world, patiently (more or less) treading the broken earth, seeking a final end to the weight and weariness of the burdens we carry.

Beneath the enticing golden shimmer of the Ring was a power that Frodo could not truly comprehend. Little of his life in the kindly Shire could have prepared him to confront the re-entry-grade impact and fury of Sauron’s life-force and stand against it: only his inherent innocence and goodness were of any use in that direction.

Boiling out from the Ring like a high tide in a narrow place, the floodwaters of the Enemy’s will pounded against that fragility until at long last, on the edge of the Fire, Frodo’s small strength failed him utterly. In that instant, when he took the bright and burning gold to be his Precious, Sauron’s heart and will engulfed his own.

We are most of us less innocent than Frodo, and yet many of us maintain a certain degree of removal from the darkest reaches of the human condition. I could have done new research on the sins to which we humans are prey and provided links and painted my picture in far more repellent colors had I wished; merely by use of even such mild explicitness as I have above, I keep that remove in place. (I’d rather not soil my keyboard, thank you, and I prefer not to know any more details than I know already. My own revulsion illustrates Mark's point and my own nicely.)

When Christ bore our sins, there was no remove. There was no polite hedging around things because of being ‘in mixed company.’ All of our sins, from the small and petty selfishnesses to the most depraved of violent crimes, came upon him and him alone and left him lying before heaven in his blood and our unedited guilt.

“You bring great evil here, Ringbearer.”

~~~

Like Frodo, we stand on the balance-point of life and death; like Frodo we find that our small strengths cannot save us from the fatal step. But Love in the person of Christ is there at our end as our own goodnesses fail before the onslaught of Mordor and Night, forcing even the ruinous work of the Enemy to our redemption.

For as did Love at Frodo’s bitter falling, so does Love for mankind as the Ring is taken from us even against our weakness and cast into the Fire and we are set free.

 

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Ring-Seekers



Religious Same-Sex Discrimination Worries Bishop

A Defeat For an Empire


The above are a couple of seemingly disparate articles that are enough to curdle your liver permanently, the one via MCJ and the other LGF

(Athanasius at Ecumenical Insanity has a third, but I wouldn't want you to miss his commentary, so you'll have to go there to get the link.)

The two, however, are rooted in the same Mordor-soil: a hatred of the lingering traces of Christendom.

Bruce Thornton comments on this mindset:

Only by such exploitation of the neuroses and ignorance fostered by religious belief and expressed by opposition to social issues such as "gay marriage" can the Republicans trick so many middle-class and working-class people into voting against their true interests, all of which center on economic issues.

After all, enlightened people know that religion is just a quaint superstition that flourishes among the unenlightened and undereducated, a projection of neuroses and fears more efficiently treated by modern therapeutic intervention or maybe a few courses at the local community college. The enlightened can tolerate Christians, as long as their beliefs remain a private lifestyle choice, one spiritual option among many, no better than Hinduism, Scientology, or Wicca.

But whenever Christians actually dare to make political choices on the basis of those beliefs, then the enlightened gatekeepers of American secularism in the academy and in the media rise up in righteous wrath and rush to the barricades to defend us against the barbarian hordes of true believers who if unchecked will transform our republic into a "theocracy" and impose their intolerant bigotry on everybody else. And when the President himself is one of these religious fanatics, then the prospects for the republic and the Constitution are dark indeed—even the usually rational New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman whined after the election that he was depressed "because Bush's base is pushing so hard to legislate social issues and extend the boundaries of religion that it felt as if we were rewriting the Constitution, not electing a president."

Apart from its sheer bigotry, which is itself based on ignorant stereotypes and underlying beliefs warranted not by reason but by faith (for example, the assumption that spiritual reality does not exist), this view of religion in public life demonstrates as well a misunderstanding and distortion of America's founding and the important role Christianity played in the creation of the U.S. republic.

A grab for power is not always channeled through direct force - shooting the Romanovs isn’t really a practical option these days. There are other effective weapons available, however: the press, the universities, the airwaves, and the courts.

Like Melkor, our intellectuals – both religious and secular - wish to order the world to suit themselves. From what I can tell, only the flaws and failings and errors of honorable men are visible to such eyes and magnified accordingly: they cannot comprehend chivalry and self-sacrifice or submission to Christ; thus are they blind to it in others.

But what they can see in all its glory is the Ring.

Evil does not always present itself as something dark and brutal and killing. It comes in another guise - one to which the literati are particularly susceptible - a golden, coaxing whisper of hidden musics and secret pleasures, of freedom from all restraint.

The Fire throws out its beguiling light and the song spins into splendorous dreams of yearnings fulfilled, cravings sated; all things in heaven and earth can be possessed. The golden lies command their will and their loyalty, and hungrily they surrender as desire manifests itself as truth.

They stand on the precipice deep in the belly of Mount Doom, the cinder-vomit of their new master spread on the plains round about and they see only the Ring as it glimmers over perdition. Burning cold without and burning death below, stone, iron, flame and poisoned ash in all directions - and their eyes are fixed on a sweet golden lie. It becomes heaven and earth and it becomes their reality.

They have hated all that is the West’s Judeo-Christian heritage for so long that they are utterly adrift and hopelessly lost upon the sour sea of their rebellion. They have no guide but their resentment and narcissism and preening disdain for all that is lovely and of good report: the stars mean nothing.


Behold! the sea-chart of that vast, unshriven, grey and formless world
Is dipped in golden fire-proofing, then to finger-circlet curled.


The only measure they know is the will to dominate all life and it is through that measure that they perceive free men.

 

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Turning the Heart of the Children

The responsibility to preach the Gospel is, of course, the prime responsibility of the Christian community. A narrow focus on “winning souls” can become self-defeating, however: there are many people, especially the young, who simply will not respond to a “come to Jesus” approach and are little impressed with threats of hell-fire and brimstone. (The saccharin excesses and self-indulgence of the pray-and-pay preachers have not improved matters.)

I ran up against just such an inflexible perspective on a Christian messageboard some time ago, in the usual debate about the Christian credentials or lack thereof concerning The Lord of the Rings. To one poster, the talk of preaching Christ by preaching Frodo, so to speak, was blasphemy: we shouldn’t use worldly things to preach Christ – we should save our money and buy Bibles to give out instead.

He was no doubt well-meaning, but limited in his vantage point on Christ’s sovereign territory: a vast and comprehensive terrain to be sure, but one in which he focused on only the starker elements in the landscape, brooking no spending on ornamentals.

The answer to the difficulty of attracting our bouncy young heathens to Christianity, to getting them to take a curious first look at Truth and at the idea that there is something Beyond the Mall, may well lie in enticement.

The Lord of the Rings is, of course, certainly not Holy Scripture. But if viewed and read from the perspective of Christianity, which is as it was written, it is a powerful means of teaching our children about good and about evil. A teenager who "hero-worships" Frodo or Aragorn is a teenager whose heart is being prepared for the true Captain of his soul.


A voice come out of ancient days, brought out of vanished Time,
Grave footsteps heard on olden ways recalled in tale and rhyme
Now echoing upon my ear, but quickening and strong,
Rekindling my hope and fear to bright, uncertain song.

This weary age the empty chair, the high seat of the king,
Has brooded silent, cold and bare, that our remembering
Should faithful keep our deepest heart in thrall to him–to-be,
That we might know to play our part, to live in constancy.

Cloth-of-gold soft gleaming spreads across the many years,
And woven in the dreaming are the shadows and the tears,
The finding and the losing, the end and life anew,
The sifting and the choosing, the steadfast and the true.

Soon now the firm and gentle tread will pause beside my door,
And here I sleep twixt hope and dread, unsettled and unsure.
Does Time bring forth the living flesh from kings of crumbled stone?
The noble blood of old refresh, restore an ancient throne?

The hammer-blow of fate is told upon the new-forged blade;
The watching and the wait from old are not to be betrayed.
The steady steps are coming near, my heart leaps up to sing,
And speaks to me with portent clear of the coming of the king.


If by means of rearing our children on such as The Lord of the Rings we lure them to the high beauties and the questing ideals of chivalry, to the heroes and heroines of legend and history and to the romance of ancient things, some may well in due season find their way from those tributary paths onto the Road behind the truly once and future King.

 

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Ring of Power

Well, well! What have we here? Such delightful tidings from the apparently appropriately named Netherlands:

"A hospital in the Netherlands - the first nation to permit euthanasia - recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives.”

No, Frodo! No! You cannot offer me this Ring!

Don’t fuss yourself, Gandalf. I’m sure they mean well.

”In August, the main Dutch doctors' association KNMG urged the Health Ministry to create an independent board to review euthanasia cases for terminally ill people "with no free will," including children, the severely mentally retarded and people left in an irreversible coma after an accident.”

Don't tempt me, Frodo! I dare not take it!

Don’t be silly, Gandalf. You can’t just let the poor little babies suffer.

”The Groningen Protocol, as the hospital's guidelines have come to be known, would create a legal framework for permitting doctors to actively end the life of newborns deemed to be in similar pain from incurable disease or extreme deformities.”

Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good.

Of course it is! Nobody’s putting babies “to sleep” for the fun of it! They’re in pain, the poor things - so cut the moralizing and start doing something. It’s for the good of society, after all!

My brother went into acute respiratory failure a year ago September at forty-five years old. By the time I got the phone call, he was on a respirator in the ICU of a small hospital several hours from my home. Think SARS without the contagious aspect and you’ll get some idea of what condition he was in: as the Merck site puts it, 'the survival rate for patients with severe ARDS who receive appropriate treatment is about 60%; if the severe hypoxemia of ARDS is not recognized and treated, cardiopulmonary arrest occurs in 90% of patients.'

There was the usual story: long drives, long nights, phone ringing at any old hour - “You’d better come and do you want us to resuscitate if his heart stops before you get here?” - that sort of thing, but he kept reviving despite every expectation to the contrary. There began to be a little hope, if only the ICU staff could get him off the sedatives long enough to wean him off the respirator. But you can’t wean someone on a respirator off sedatives if he’s in the full grip of an ICU psychosis. Every time they tried, he’d wake up just enough that it took most of the staff to keep him in the bed. Whatever world he was in wasn’t a nice one, and the exertion of having a knock-down-drag-out with the nurses would then send his oxygen levels plummeting and I’d get another phone call.

But he kept living and by the time a month had passed, they’d figured out the right combination of anti-psychotics and he had begun to respond a little – the right way, I mean. So we began to think he might make it. That’s when I made a major mistake and had him transferred to the ICU of a hospital only 45 minutes away instead of three hours. A TEACHING hospital, mind you.

To trim an extremely long tale, something somewhere got dropped, anti-psychotic-wise, and by the end of that first week in the new hospital a doctor ambushed me and informed me my brother was going to die anyway, so I should let him 'die with dignity'. There were other things factoring into her opinions, but the main thing was that they couldn't get him off the paralytic they had him on because as soon as he'd start to wake up, he'd go into a psychotic episode and that would start him crashing again. So they needed my permission to bring him off the paralytic long enough for him to be able to breath on his own, then they’d pull the life-support. Otherwise, it would be legally murder.

What 'dignity' had to do with somebody suffocating to death, I failed to see, but the ambush took me utterly by surprise. I tried to tell them what the other hospital had done and how he had been improving when this hospital got him, but it was to no avail - he had blood clots now and probably had brain-damage from all the crashing and he was probably having seizures, and blah, blah, blah. I, being of a somewhat timid nature, meekly left the ICU intending to come back the next day to see him taken off life-support and we came home and started calling relatives.

It took a while, but finally by late that night, my brain had kicked in along with a lot of pent-up rage over recent events in the news*, until I was practically glowing in the dark, I was so furious, and I expressed that fury in a blunt letter to the lot of them, which my husband dutifully delivered by hand early the next morning. ("If you can make him comfortable enough to die, why can't you make him comfortable enough to live?" "We can always kill him later; we can't resurrect him.") This was not enough to sate the newly savage Baillie, however, and so the nurses got an earful when I got to the hospital, which resulted in a long discussion in the meeting room.

So they put him on the anti-psychotics he should have been on all along, in a week or so he was transferred out of the ICU to Intermediate. This, of course, meant a whole new string of doctors, and the “What will his QUALITY of life be?” business to endure, but it was just tough cookies. One or the other of us showed up there every day, right on through Christmas, and he got off oxygen and then he had his trach-tube removed and started eating again and went to physical therapy and one January day, lo and behold, he went home. Wobbly, frail, confused, forgetful, but home.

Two months later he was buying books and shopping at Walmart. He’ll be on a lot of medicine for the rest of his life, but that’s a minor detail. And the reference to the news*? If I hadn't been seething for weeks over the attempted murder of Terry Schiavo, my brother would now be ashes.

Understand, Frodo, I would use this Ring from the desire to do good.

And there’s certainly no reason to keep a grown man on a lot of expensive life support when he’s going to die anyway.

"The guideline says euthanasia is acceptable when the child's medical team and independent doctors agree the pain cannot be eased and there is no prospect for improvement, and when parents think it's best."

But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.

“The hospital revealed last month it carried out four such mercy killings in 2003, and reported all cases to government prosecutors. There have been no legal proceedings against the hospital or the doctors.”

Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself...

Somewhere Peter Singer is beside himself with glee.


Update: Two excellent articles on the subject this morning, one by Marvin Olasky at Townhall.com; the other by Hugh Hewitt at the Weekly Standard.

Update 2:

More Tolkien-flavored bloggy-rants about euthanasia in general and Terri in particular below on the main page here, and also here and here.

Terri’s Fight

Blogs for Terri

Up-to-the-minute action info here:

 

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