As everyone on the planet with an internet connection or cable service now knows, Brittany Maynard took her own life last weekend, on the feast of All Saints.
Everybody has read the story by now, and the web is teeming with predictable banter from all sides.
How very brave How very sad She did a noble thing What a waste Brittany is no longer here to defend herself, and so her real motives lie with her in her grave, unknown to everyone save for her Creator and His creature. We who hope in a resurrection must commend her to the arms of her Father, seeking His mercy for her life and the choices she made.
But those of us left behind have some explaining to do.
Namely, how can a culture so uniformly horrified and saddened by another very public suicide only a dozen weeks earlier have pivoted so efficiently and entirely 180 degrees?
Simply put, this is the tyranny of relativism, the reality of living in an age where intentions and feelings rule the day, and where my version of reality can be entirely different from – and largely irrelevant to – yours.
Except that’s not how it really works. Defy gravity without a parachute and you’re still going to fall. Even if you call it liberated plummeting, or something like that.
Swallow some prescribed lethal medication, you’re still going to end your own life, even if you’re calling it by another name.
When we create our own reality, we write our own rules to live by. And to die by. But rules without the authority of reality behind them are just empty words. I can shout “I am the president of the United States” while standing in my kitchen all day long, but my children are not going to morph into members of Congress.
Since the day Brittany’s story broke, the media fell all over themselves christening her as brave and noble, lauding her vulnerability and her heroism. Why? Because she followed her heart. And in her heart, she believed that a life lived in suffering and diminished by disease was not a life worth living.
Thus, the media had their new darling of the moment, their temporary “it girl” repping the culture of death. It’s always a temp position, because the turnover is so frightfully high. In fact, even now, less than a week after her death, it already feels passé to reference her.
Next drama, please.
That’s the problem with a culture so caught up in ensuring everyone has their own interpretation of right and wrong…it doesn’t leave any room for reality.
Ironically, the case du jour is another young, pretty girl with brain cancer. But this girl is fighting and living with her disease, spreading a message of joy and raising awareness for particularly underfunded pediatric cancers. Her name, of course, is Lauren Hill. And once again, the media is calling her brave and showering her with praise and interviews.
But wait…Brittany was also brave. But for ending her life. Now Lauren is brave, but for choosing to live hers to the full…so what gives?
That this stunning contradiction disturbs virtually no one covering the news is a telling sign of how far gone we are as a civilization, that we can wholeheartedly (and in all earnestness) give a standing ovation to a woman who kills herself because she has brain cancer and then turn around, not even a week later, and give a standing ovation to a woman who doesn’t kill herself because she has brain cancer…it’s mind boggling.
But, but…it was her personal choice, they say. And it was her freedom to end her life, to end her suffering. And Lauren has that same freedom, and is choosing to exercise it differently, to live her life to the end, enduring her suffering. This is true, of course. But the critically important distinction is that they can’t both be right. It can’t be brave to kill yourself and to choose to live in the face of unimaginable suffering. That’s not how the universe operates. Those are what’s known as opposing realities. And if we had the collective capacity to think logically and reasonably, the difficulty would be obvious. But because we are, all of us to some degree, enslaved to that spirit of the age, relativism, we are somehow capable of entertaining wildly opposing realities in our addled brains.
It is not unloving to speak of good and evil, of wrong and right.
What is unloving is to pretend that all options are equally weighted, that all choices are equally valid. Do you know what the consequences of that are? School shootings. Child pornography. Domestic abuse. Sex trafficking. Cutting.
But we can’t speak of that. We can’t speak of the reality that some things are right and some things are wrong, for fear of offending or alienating someone. But then tragedy strikes, and we sputter and struggle to make sense of it, to demand consequences for the perpetrator and compensation for the victims, all the while realizing that we don’t really have a leg to stand on, because we’re the ones spouting nonsensical buzzwords like tolerance and non-judgement.
We ought to be intolerant of evil. We out to make swift, sure judgments on actions and behaviors which are fundamentally anti-human and therefore, utterly wrong.
To do any less is to reject the fundamental call of Christianity, to love thy neighbor as thyself.
Let’s practice authentic, life-giving love. Love that is willing to suffer, to be mocked and scorned, and to be rejected by a society utterly captivated by death.
The ruins of Auschwitz. (photo credit Katy Senour)