Life at Any Cost?

As a devout secularist, religious rationales for political positions don’t much appeal to me. It should be clear, though, that one can be both conservative and Christian and come to different conclusions on issues that leaders of the so-called Religious Right paint as no brainers. Compare, for example, the posts by Steven Taylor and LaShawn Barber on how their religious faith applies to the Terri Schiavo tragedy.


I made a passing reference the other day to the metaphysical, and I want to return to it now. It is generally the position of Catholics and Evangelicals that she should be preserved at all costs. However, as a Christian, I keep thinking of the verse in 2 Corinthians 5:8, wherein Paul notes the “to be absent from he body†is “to be home with the Lord†and in Philippians 1:21-24 where he makes similar statements, (not to mention when Christ notes to the thief on the cross that in “today you will be with Me in Paradiseâ€-Luke 23:43). Hence, from a Christian perspective, it seems to me cruel to sustain Terri in this life under these conditions. For while the Bible hardly teaches suicide as a means of attaining Heaven more quickly, it is clear that there is a life after this, and that this life is fleeting. Keeping Terri alive in the state in which she is in (i.e., with a liquefied cerebral cortex) strikes me as clinging too strongly to the flesh.


I̢۪ve been trying to suppress this feeling, but I can̢۪t stand the thought of Terri Schiavo lying in that bed slowly dying, while people who love her can only watch. THIS IS NOT RIGHT!!! Her mother is watching her child die. I just saw a video clip of Terri̢۪s mother standing over her touching the face of her starving daughter. But I take comfort in knowing there will be an accounting for this.

Commenting is closed because I don̢۪t want or need opinions right now. Trackbacking is enabled, though. I encourage Christian bloggers to trackback to this post. (Non-Christian bloggers may trackback, too.) Give us some words of comfort, something I̢۪m unable to provide at the moment.

As readers of this thread will gather, my views on this are more closely aligned with Steven’s. Clearly, this case is not one that divides us neatly along Left-Right, Republican-Conservative, religious-nonreligious, or similar lines. And, however passionate this case makes us, it’s possible for honorable, decent people to differ.

FILED UNDER: Religion, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Chrysostomos says:

    A living will in place by Terri would have made all these discussions and fighting never take place. Instead, not knowing her wishes, family and both state and federal government have to get involved. Folks, do yourself and your family a favor and get your estate planning done NOW! That was my post for the day. Not doing so, might cause a similar situation for yourself and your family someday – and really…who wants that?

  2. FireWolf says:

    When it comes to this case, and the facts surrounding it, even tho I am a Christian, and a conservative, I choose the side of life.

    Where I can honestly say that my religious and political beliefs conflict is say the war on terror where I feel that freedom trumps the lives of terrorists. You want to talk about hypocracy, that’s it right there LOL

  3. I posted a rebuttal at

    It’s too long for just a comment. Don’t worry James, I was polite.

  4. karin says:

    Having made a few comments on this earlier, I felt the need to add how saddened this whole case has made so many people. Hopefully this will cause many of us to take the proper precautions in our own lives. What is disturbing to me is this has become the cornerstone of every conversation in our government. All of the politians seem to have alot to say, and are very fervent in their pursuit of this particular case. I wish they would consider the needs of the 44 million people in this country with no voice, no ability to obtain health care, nowhere to turn, I wish they would focus their ‘concerns’ for all of us as they have for this one tragic incident. Thats all, thank you.

  5. Just Me says:

    I am from a Christian faith that teaches the concept of priesthood of the believer.

    In a matter like this, I think it is more than possible for two Christians to reach different conclusions. I for one find this one a moral no brainer, and am more in line with perserving life rather than seeking to end it, but I don’t think in matters like this where there is a lot of Gray, you can say there is only one conclusion to reach. I think it is possible for thoughtful and dedicated Christian to reach a different conclusion than mine, I don’t think it makes them more or less Christian, they just reached a different conclusion.

    I admit that there is this icky feeling in the pit of my stomach that just tells me this action is wrong and not the right thing to do. I

  6. wavemaker says:


    Thank you for reinforcing the need for those on the right to respect our differences and eschew hyperbole and invective. This is not a time for division, but respectful disagreement. No matter the outcome of this specific tragedy, we can all work to improve current legislation and jurisprudence to avoid a recurrence.

  7. schar says:

    Terri was without oxygen for 5 minutes 15 years ago. She has been kept alive against her wishes as testified to by her friends and husband in many court hearings after she had been examined by 19 doctors over 7 years.
    She hasn’t been able to re-grow her damaged brain..nor could you or I. Her x-rays prove it.
    Would you want your family to sit at your bedside for 15 years encouraging you to grow another brain so you can magically return to them whole? Death happens to us all and her parents will have to live with her death as all parents and families do every day when loved children die.
    President Bush and his brother speaking their dramatic scripted lines; ‘err on the side of life’ cannot pull off a Resurrection of Terri during this Easter week. Their empty speeches and posturing about saving one life would be energy better used trying to sincerely save lives in Iraq.

  8. Keith says:

    Steven takes note various bits of scripture and surprisingly uses them out of context.

    Steven should instead study in the scripture as to why God created human, what human life is, and how God considers life.

    If I took the scriptual consideration of Steven to it’s logical end, then all who make claim to Christ should drink some Jim Jones Kool-Aid right now.

  9. Keith,

    That would be quite a conclusion to reach. My point is pretty simple: if the option for Terri at this moment is for her eternal soul to be trapped in a severly brain damaged body, one that is being kept alive only because of modern medical technology versus releasing that soul into eternity, I find that particular choice to be a stark and dramatic one. It doesn’t make the choie easy, but it does put it into perspective.

    Note, if you will, that I specifically noted that suicide to further entrance into eternity is not Biblically sanctioned.

    And, I would note that I am in no way taking the verses in question out of context. The issue is simply one of the presence of the soul pre and post death. Is there some other way you wish to interpret them?

  10. Just Me says:

    “My point is pretty simple: if the option for Terri at this moment is for her eternal soul to be trapped in a severly brain damaged body, one that is being kept alive only because of modern medical technology versus releasing that soul into eternity, I find that particular choice to be a stark and dramatic one”

    Although you really need to be careful with this argument, mainly because medical science keeps a lot of people alive,who probably would not have survived before those advances. And to start determining who is worthy to stay alive and who isn’t based on our own perception of what we think, is a step in the direction of eugenics.

    What has bothered me a lot about many of these discussions over this, is the insistence that Terri is a Vegitable, or her brain is mush etc. All of these things diminish her humanity and in the case of the former deny it entirely. Terri is still a human, and we need to remember that.

  11. Theo says:

    I have been hearing radio here in Germany. We have have had a
    case similar to Terry Sciavos in a small town called Kreuztal. The boy said he would have judged
    the same before this happened to him, but now after his
    miraculous wakeup of the “Wachkoma”-state, he said he would judge totaly different. Life is precious, and life is so wonderful,
    he would never want it to end, and then he was talking about all the
    good things he still enjoys although he is in a difficult recovery condition.

    He clearly expressed that he would want to live.

    Now, if we come to the Sciavo case. Without going into the intertwining of different political and religious opinions, which really is not worth it in such a case (or would you leave it up to politicians or religious leaders to decide about your destiny, if you would have been in the same situation), we can say that in EITHER case, whether brain dead or not, she does not suffer until she wakes up.

    like she is sleeping until the possible day of waking up.

    If we asked herself, she would have not given too much credibility
    to a doctors opinion, because he in the best case could have been
    just an expert in the field without knowing what possibly can happen.

    So actually if she does not suffer, either consciously or unconsciously, where does this “burning need” for “justice” come from?

    Did she express her will for exactly such a case?