Christianity and Middle-Earth

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Rustle of Morgul-rags

The Dutch should know better. The Dutch do know better.

Via Ecumenical Insanity comes another nasty waft of Night and Abyss as the Witch-king of Angmar gets ready to ride again.

“Doctors can help patients who ask for help to die even though they may not be ill but "suffering through living," concludes a three year inquiry commissioned by the Royal Dutch Medical Association. The report argues that no reason can be given to exclude situations of such suffering from a doctor’s area of competence.

The conclusion has reopened a fierce debate over what constitutes grounds for requesting euthanasia, as it contradicts a landmark Supreme Court decision that a patient must have a "classifiable physical or mental condition." The 2002 ruling upheld a guilty verdict on a GP for helping his 86 year old patient die, even though he was not technically ill but obsessed with his physical decline and hopeless existence (BMJ 2003;326:71).

The Dutch euthanasia law does not specifically state that a patient must have a physical or mental condition, only that a patient must be "suffering hopelessly and unbearably."

Emphasis mine.


[Y]et another weapon, swifter than hunger, the Lord of the Dark Tower had: dread and despair. The Nazgul came again, and as their Dark Lord now grew and put forth his strength, so their voices, which uttered only his will and his malice, were filled with evil and horror. Ever they circled above the city, like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men’s flesh. Out of sight and shot they flew, and yet were ever present, and their deadly voices rent the air. More unbearable they became, not less, with each new cry. At length, even the stout-hearted would fling themselves to the ground as the hidden menace passed over them, or they would stand, letting their weapons fall from nerveless hands, while into their minds a blackness came, and they thought no more of war, but only of hiding and crawling, and of death.

In the Brave New World of the Royal Dutch Utilitarian Society, social engineering is to be admired over charity, convenience over courage, and expediency over unfailing love. To concede transcendence of the vainglorious dictates of the Efficiency-mongers would be to admit to the existence of a Mind and Power beyond the understanding of men who are their own I Am. It would be to admit that we are not meant to be a hive, a precision clockwork ever clicking out the perfect seconds of a tidy machine-world; that even what may appear as needless suffering has an office of unfathomable value in the shaping a human soul.


‘Why? Why do the fools fly?’ said Denethor. ‘Better to burn sooner than late, for burn we must. Go back to your bonfire. And I? I will go now to my pyre. To my pyre! No tomb for Denethor and Faramir. No tomb! No long slow sleep in death embalmed. We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed thither from the West. The West has failed. Go back and burn!’

…Denethor started as one waking from a trance, and the flame died in his eyes, and he wept; and he said, ‘Do not take my son from me! He calls for me.’

‘He calls,’ said Gandalf, ‘but you cannot come to him yet. For he must seek healing on the threshold of death, and maybe find it not. Whereas your part is to go out to the battle of your City, where maybe death awaits you. This you know in your heart.’

‘He will not wake again,’ said Denethor. ‘Battle is vain. Why should we wish to live longer? Why should we not go to death side by side?’

‘Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death,’ answered Gandalf. ‘And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair….’

…Then suddenly Denethor laughed. He stood up tall and proud again…His eyes glittered. ‘Pride and despair!’ he cried. ‘Didst thou think that the eyes of the White Tower were blind? Nay, I have seen more than thou knowest, Grey Fool. For thy hope is but ignorance. Go then and labour in healing! Go forth and fight! Vanity. For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day. But against the Power that now arises there is no victory. To this City only the first finger of its hand has yet been stretched. All the East is moving. And even now the wind of thy hope cheats thee and wafts up the Anduin a fleet with black sails. The West has failed.’

Thy hope is but ignorance. Better to die at our own hands than endure one more hour and then one more hour after that and another after that, because, you see, hope is taken from us, ravished, robbed and left cold as the dead under endless night.

This is the natural state of the chronically, severely depressed; they can see only the uttermost sprawl of the Void. What they cannot see is that for all the vastness of its width and length and height and depth, even the dominion of nothing, of hopelessness and unbearableness, must know its bounds.

I can say this with considerable authority because, you see, I dwelt long in that Void myself; and here on the other side, I know now that there is an end to its reach.

Circumscribing that chill, grey dying-place of despair; beyond the formless labyrinth where there is ‘no taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower’; beyond the legions that besiege the City, beyond the martial rain of horror and fire and delight in death, beyond the Orc-trenches filled with the corpses of the dispensable, beyond the dread sorties of the Winged Nazgul – in short, beyond the reach of every weapon that the Enemy can wield, there are other creatures and other places and other purposes.


Now at last [Frodo and Sam] turned their faces to the Mountain and set out, thinking no more of concealment, bending their weariness and failing wills only to the one task of going on…But as the day wore on and all too soon the dim light began to fail, Frodo stooped again, and began to stagger…At their last halt he sank down and said: ‘I’m thirsty, Sam,’ and did not speak again. Sam gave him a mouthful of water; only one more mouthful remained...

[Sam] could not sleep and he held a debate with himself. ‘Well, come now, we’ve done better than you hoped,’ he said sturdily. ‘Began well, anyway. I reckon we crossed half the distance before we stopped. One more day will do it.’ And then he paused.

‘Don’t be a fool, Sam Gamgee,’ came an answer in his own voice. ‘He won’t go another day like that, if he moves at all. And you can’t go on much longer giving him all the water and most of the food.’

‘I can go on a good way though, and I will.’

‘Where to?’

‘To the Mountain, of course.’

‘But what then, Sam Gamgee, what then? When you get there, what are you going to do? He won’t be able to do anything for himself.’

To his dismay, Sam realized that he had not got an answer to this. He had no clear idea at all. Frodo had not spoken to him much of his errand, and Sam only knew vaguely that the Ring had somehow to be put in the fire. ‘The Cracks of Doom,’ he muttered, the old name rising to his mind. “Well, if Master knows how to find them, I don’t.’

‘There you are!’ came the answer. ‘It’s all quite useless. He said so himself. You are the fool, going on hoping and toiling. You could have lain down and gone to sleep together days ago, if you hadn’t been so dogged. But you’ll die just the same, or worse. You might just as well lie down and give it up. You’ll never get to the top anyway.’

Even as the Steward of Gondor is rejecting death with honor, preferring instead his own will and his own sight and his own knowing of good and of evil, from the Golden Hall the two-who-are-not-men come in concealment astride their shared steed. On the Anduin, hidden as yet behind the ominous black sails swelling northward to the City, a great furled standard approaches, bannered destiny writ with the White Tree and the Seven Stars and the high crown of kings, and borne by the one to whom alone sovereignty belongs: he who was named Elessar. And - not least, not least, not least at all - sick with suffering, the halfling great-hearts who Denethor would scorn as the witless fools of a witless Fool creep faithful unto death to drink of the poisoned Mordor-cup that is their lot.


Frodo groaned but with a great effort of will he staggered up; and then he fell on his knees again. He raised his eyes with difficulty to the dark slopes of Mount Doom towering above him, and pitifully he began to crawl forward on his hands.

Sam looked at him and wept in his heart, but no tears came to his dry and stinging eyes. ‘I said I’d carry him if it broke my back,’ he muttered, ‘and I will!’

‘Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you…’

Encouraging or facilitating the death of someone who above all things needs to be carried into light and warmth and reassurance is a despicably callous act. To call it mercy is to deal in arrogance and the utter mockery of grace, the spurning of individual worth and redemption.

It is also an impertinent attempt to deafen people to the Word-who-was-made-flesh, the Man of Sorrows who would sing the patient sufferings of ephemerals into the Eternal music, thus binding forever, in the mending of the world, the lays of mortal men to the imperishable evensong of Love.

New Update: The Court-Ordered Death of Terri Schiavo

And please read my brother's story here. He is alive today because of Terry Schiavo.

Update: More from Christianity Today.


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