Schiavo’s Passion

I just wanted to point out that some of the ideas I was getting at in my post Compassion of the Christ were echoed by Frank Rich’s April 10 New York Times column, “A Culture of Death, Not Life.” In it he writes of an American affliction with death, which has been pandered to by the media circuses over Terry Schiavo and Pope John Paul II, and even television programs like CSI, giving Americans another grisly body to drool over.

Many Christians it seems have embraced this culture wholeheartedly. Rich writes:

These fables are of a piece with the violent take on Christianity popularized by “The Passion of the Christ.” Though Mel Gibson brought a less gory version, with the unfortunate title “The Passion Recut,” to some 1,000 theaters for Easter in response to supposed popular demand, there was no demand. (Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that at many screens the film sold fewer than 50 tickets the entire opening weekend.) “Passion” fans want the full scourging, and at the height of the protests outside the Schiavo hospice, a TV was hooked up so the assembled could get revved up by watching the grisly original on DVD.

Did they really do this? These men and women are assembled to protest a woman dying by watching another man die? Wouldn’t the “culture of life” rather focus on their savior’s life and teachings than on his torture and execution? From Rich again:

Once the culture of death at its most virulent intersects with politicians in power, it starts to inflict damage on the living. When those leaders, led by the Bush brothers, wallow in this culture, they do a bait-and-switch and claim to be upholding John Paul’s vision of a “culture of life.” This has to be one of the biggest shams of all time.

There has been some progress made recently as many Christians and even conservatives have broken with the party line on a religious basis. In another recent New York Times editorial, outgoing U.N. Ambassador John C. Danforth breaks with the Republican Party because he feels that initiatives to ban gay marriage, stem-cell research, and the politically charged efforts on behalf of Terry Schiavo are more steeped in religious doctrine than in conservative policy. He writes:

…the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.

He also writes of the conflict inherent in a political party supporting a religious doctrine: individuals from throughout the political spectrum have used religion has a source of inspiration. Danforth again:

I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God’s call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

So the Party of God doesn’t have such a monopoly on religious doctrine after all. So I reiterate: people on the left have to stop associating Christians exclusively with Republicans. And Christians have to stop mistaking their religion as justification for a fascination with intolerance, death and war. A stance against abortion does not make a “culture of life” when you support a bloodthirsty war against an unprepared people.

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