Earlier today we posted the first part of our latest moral dilemma dialogue, focusing on the film Million Dollar Baby. If you have not read that, please visit Nate’s position FOR assisted suicide from a Christian perspective. Now Gene presents the position AGAINST assisted suicide from a Christian perspective. Do we have a contradiction here? Is someone misusing scripture? You be the judge.
For this dilemma both Nate and Gene have presented scripture to support their conclusions as they try to maintain a Christian perspective on the issue. Please keep in mind the positions either Nate or Gene take herein are not necessarily the views they personally hold. They are given here to encourage discussion and hopefully come to a clear understanding of where God’s word leads us in the issue of assisted suicide. We hope you examine each side with an open mind, and of course give us your take on it afterward.
Gene – AGAINST assisted suicide from a Christian perspective
In most cases involving the taking of a life, I wouldn’t consider it a ‘dilemma’ at all. I think we unnecessarily confuse many such issues when they’re actually quite simple. When it comes to life, we need to recognize that it is a blessing from God. God made mankind in his image. This means that we have a spirit, a soul within us that yearns for connection not just with other souls but with God. This does not mean that because we have hair and toes and arms, that God must then have those things. God is spirit (John 4:24), and it is after this manner He created us.
So when those physical things begin to fail us, or leave us abruptly handicapped as is the case with Maggie, we are no less precious to God or to other people. We are no less valuable to God or capable of being used by Him for good. That is what, in my opinion, gets to the heart of this issue: our usefulness. We see this attitude in Maggie, and I think if we’re honest we would see it in ourselves as well. We think if we can’t walk, or move our arms, or if we need a machine to operate our lungs, that we are a wretched and useless creature. We’re a burden to everyone. We might as well end it all because we’re no good anymore.
When Maggie asks Frankie to kill her she says , “I can’t be like this Frankie. Not after what I done. Traveled the world… I was in magazines… I got what I needed. I got it all. Don’t let them keep taking it away from me.” This line is powerful. The audience is immediately sympathetic to Maggie’s desperation. We’ve seen her triumph throughout the movie, and now she is brought low. But in our sympathy we miss an important characterization going on. Maggie has defined the value of her life by what she has done for herself and what she accomplished in a boxing ring. We’re rooting for her to achieve her goals throughout the movie. But when measured against her entire existence, don’t those accomplishments seems somewhat empty? Isn’t she more than how hard she punches?
When seeing this from Frankie’s side of things, it’s clear that whatever burden it was to care for Maggie daily, this request to end her life was an infinitely greater burden. He begs her not to ask this of him. Says he can’t do it. A conversation with his priest follows…
Frankie: “… now she wants to die, and I just wanna keep her with me. I swear to God, it’s committing a sin by doing it, but by keeping her alive I’m killing her. How do I get around that?”
Priest: “You don’t. You step away and leave it with God.”
Frankie: “She’s not asking for God’s help, she’s asking for mine!”
Priest: “If you do this thing, you’ll be lost. Somewhere so deep you’ll never find yourself again.”
Notice the terms Frankie is using here. If he kills her, he’s committing a sin. But if he doesn’t kill her, he’s killing her. Wouldn’t it seem he has things a bit confused? Now of course when he says “I’m killing her” he’s referring to her killing her desire, succumbing to her view on the hopelessness and uselessness of her condition. But there is a better way!
The apostle Paul once described a deep desire within him… for death. Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He goes on to describe how great it would be to die and be with Christ, BUT if he lives it will be profitable for them (fellow saints). He found the benefit in life, and it was serving others! We’re never told of Maggie’s faith, although a cross on a necklace is conveniently visible in the shot of Frankie pulling her respirator out. So it’s not really fair to expect her to spread the gospel message now. But imagine how she could serve others by inspiring them. To learn of her story, from her own lips, of how she went from nothing at 32 years old to fighting for the championship a year later. Instead she demands her life be ended, and in so doing drains the spirit of Frankie as well.
Maybe you think it’s up to her whether she is an inspiration to others or if she works on parts of herself aside from her punching skills. I suppose it is to some extent. She can take her own life, or require others to do it for her. But doing so conveys a grave distortion of the value or her life, as well as removing God’s right as her creator to determine the circumstances of her death and potentially use her as a positive force in the lives of others.
This concludes our moral dilemma dialogue on assisted suicide as presented in Million Dollar Baby. Now, we’re curious to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with Nate, that assisted suicide or “voluntary euthanasia” is morally acceptable in cases where people wouldn’t be able to thrive naturally in life? Or do you side with Gene, that assisted suicide is not morally acceptable because it distorts the value of life? Please vote in the poll below, and feel free to comment with your take on this important moral issue.