Christianity and Middle-Earth

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Schiavo Effect

Steve Bragg over at Double Toothpicks links to a Washington Post article about Dick Cheney’s distaste for political “revenge” aimed at the judiciary over Terri Schiavo’s starvation death.
Cheney was asked about the issue on Friday by the editorial board of the New York Post. He said twice that he had not seen DeLay's remarks, but the vice president said he would "have problems" with the idea of retribution against the courts. "I don't think that's appropriate," he said. "I may disagree with decisions made by judges in any one particular case. But I don't think there would be much support for the proposition that because a judge hands down a decision we don't like, that somehow we ought to go out -- there's a reason why judges get lifetime appointments."
Now, I like Mr. Cheney—for one thing, he’s very cuddly-looking—but I have to disagree with him on this point. For one thing, it’s not about revenge; at least, not from my perspective. It’s about defeating a terrible evil that’s already gotten its carrion claws deep into the American soul. Life and death hang in the balance of this issue—and I don’t just mean the lives of murdered innocents.

He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat.


I take the title of this post from remarks about the upcoming Papal election by Hugh Hewitt, in which (after a nice little quote from The Lord of the Rings) he addresses the convergence of John Paul’s life and death with that of Terri Schiavo.
These Cardinals will have to be wondering about, and praying about, what the Holy Spirit intends them to do in conclave and why the pope has died at precisely this moment. The anti-Christians will scoff at the idea of God's timing, but not the Cardinals, for whom God's timing is a given. They will be fully informed of the circumstances of Terri Schiavo's death, of the advance of the Groningen Protocol, the pressure under which many of the doctrines of Christianity find themselves, and of a variety of developments that are directly opposed to the Church's doctrines on the sanctity of life.”
And then he speaks of what J.R.R. Tolkien would call ‘eucatastrophe.’
…It is an old story in Christianity --in fact the oldest-- that apparent disasters and outrageous injustices lead in fact to the brightest displays of grace.
Let us hope that that is what is going on here.


In yesterday’s post, Mr, Hewitt linked to a column by Albert Mohler concerning Papal authority and its opposing claims to those of Protestantism. (The link’s expired, so I went to Crosswalk and fetched a new one.)
Evangelical Christians should honor the courage of this man and his historic role in bringing Communist tyranny to an end--at least within the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe. Added to this, we should honor his defense of human dignity and his eloquent and influential witness against abortion and the Culture of Death.

Even so, we must also recognize that John Paul II also represented the most troubling aspects of Roman Catholicism. He defended and continued the theological directions set loose at the Second Vatican Council. Even as he consolidated authority in the Vatican and disciplined wayward priests and theologians, he never confronted the most pressing issues of evangelical concern.
There is no church on the face of this earth that has got it all right. To be human is to be flawed. Almighty God looks on our hearts and he judges us by how well we do with what we are given. It will avail us nothing to stand before our Judge in the Last Day with every theological button polished to brilliant perfection and our hearts corroded with self-righteousness.

That last is not aimed at Mr. Mohler, by the way. I don’t have his responsibilities (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) nor the Pope’s, and certainly have no authority to determine doctrine and dogma for Christ’s flock. And, yet, while not blithely casting aside these genuine theological differences, I have come to understand over weary years that what divides Rome from her children pales into insignificance beside the gulf that separates Christianity from the darkness of this world.

As an individual, someone not charged with the care of a flock or a long tradition, I just keep my head down and my feet moving. Wiser heads than I can argue the technicalities and decide the great decisions: all I have to do is keep plodding towards Mount Doom, grateful for assistance unlooked for from both Men and Elves.

But the character and moral timbre of the next Pope matters to all Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant. The West—and more specifically, America—is, to echo Mr. Hewitt’s reference, on the knife-edge of moral disaster, a perilous standing achieved in all its horrifying finality last week when Terri Schiavo drew her last tortured breath.

The wolves of Mordor and Isengard have long been outside the church door, both Wittenberg and St. Peter’s; they’re chewing great splintery holes in it now.

Traditional Christianity has need of shepherds who will not flinch from the howls and snarls and bared fangs of moral relativism, faithful stewards who strive to bring Christ’s lambs safely through to morning light.

Gandalf’s declaration in his confrontation with Denethor seems pertinent:
“The rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”
May God in his mercy grant us stewards of such fibre to stand uncringing and fearless against the Night.


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