Terri Schaivo and Postmodern Law

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As Andrew Lytle noted, we like to think of ourselves as modern men, but actually we have the affliction of being momentary men. Because we are momentary men, sound-byte men, the problem with political and civic conflicts is that everything reduces to pushing and shoving in the present, and no one really cares about consistency with first principles over time, or consistency in argumentation. And this is why we tend to forget what was asserted in our last controversy, and we spend all our time trying to push as hard as we can in the contemporary scrum.

The Terri Shiavo travesty shows us that “safeguards,” when it comes to life and death issues like this one, are a joke. Michael Schiavo did what he did in the absence of a living will. The next step will be to have a comparable case that is contrary to a living will. “Yes, the living will says that she wants to be fed and hydrated, but she told me later that she changed her mind, and we didn’t have the money right then to change the will. And I think we should go with Susanne’s later wishes. My concubine feels the same way about it. So do the kids.”

I think it was Richard Rorty — a postmodern shaman who has bird skulls hanging all over his clothes that click when he walks — who said that truth was whatever his colleagues let him get away with. Postmodern jurisprudence works the same way, running on the same principles. “Constitutional law” is whatever an activist judge can brazen out. And this is why relativistic politicos and solons are so shameless. They are like a two-year-old pitching a fit at WalMart. They don’t care how stupid and inconsistent they look to their informed opponents, so long as they get what they want.

In this case, they want Terri dead. It now looks as though they will be getting their wish. But when their wish is fulfilled, their tantrum will subside and they will act as though nothing happened, until the next incident. Those who would oppose them need two things. The first would be a longer memory. The things they assured us would “never happen” just ten years ago are now basic UNish human rights that they found in the penumbra of the Constitution, and you are an un-American Nazi if you don’t think so. So a longer memory would come in handy.

The second thing we need is the realization that we will not accomplish any kind of legal protection for those who are in the position of Terri Schiavo, unless we Christians figure out the centrality of worship.

All culture must have a cultus at the center. Our current culture of death must therefore have a cultus that worships dead idols instead of the living God. Wisdom says in Proverbs that all who hate her love death (Prov. 8:36). And too many Christians do not worship the living and triune God in a manner that is capable of giving incarnational shape to a life-affirming culture. And that is why the desperate need of the hour is a liturgical and doctrinal reformation.

Christians cannot ape and mime the worship of the world, and then expect the polytheistic culture around us to pay any attention to what we say. A recovery of true Christian worship of the triune God will bring us into a profitable conflict with the current principalities and powers. But right now, they don’t need to listen. Salt that has lost its savor is not fit for anything but to be thrown out and trampled upon by men.

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