Conversation on Euthanasia Pauses Hustle of Hillcrest Halls
The atmosphere was electric as students were filing in and out of the office in the front hall. The volume of teenage voices grew exponentially as one after another the students fought for attention. One shared excitement overflowing from a package from home. Another was sarcastic about his second period class. He always finds corrective banter in the front hall offices. Then a small voice cut through it all with a simple question. “Could you help me talk to a friend about euthanasia?”
Another staff member directed the student to the office. The topic was covered in one of her other classes, but she needed talking points now, and some encouragement. A friend from home was doing research on the topic. She picked the Hillcrest student because the Hillcrest student was a known follower of Jesus, and the friend needed an opposing perspective.
“My friend isn't a believer,” the student started. It directed the response. A Bible lay on a desk nearby. The staff member was ready to open it, but decided to rest in general revelation for the time being. “There's a difference between license and freedom,” the staff member started. “You want an answer, right? Cause my response might be a little geeky.” The student nodded. The cap from a dry erase marker fell to the floor as the staff member started writing on the board.
“License means we have the ability to do anything we want. Freedom has guiding principles. My experience is most people, when they look at the issue of abortion, right to life, and euthanasia want license, not freedom.”
“Most think that life has purpose and meaning in comfort and ease. So, if someone has Downs Syndrome, or anything that is challenging, that life should be spared, or terminated.” The word “abortion” was painfully written on the board. “The natural flow, then, is to say that since we have the ability to terminate a life we deem as challenging, that we should also have mercy on those who struggle in other ways.”
The student started listing a series of stories that are flooding newswires related to euthanizing people with mental difficulties or terminal illnesses. The staff member continued. “The danger here is that we have unwittingly created a benchmark for what a good life looks like. In this, those who advocate for life are seen as forcing people who struggle to live with their struggle. Logically, though, our world is creating a standard for protected life.” The comment hung in the air. That also means that there is a category of humans whose life is unprotected. Coercion and misunderstanding are possible. There are significant consequences in answering this question incorrectly.
It seemed that the word “productivity” was painfully spelled on the whiteboard as the conversation carried. The staff member outlined how, without God, the world is striving to create a purpose for life. When that world-defined purpose is missed, there is a near obligation to terminate life, because the problem is terminal. There is no redemption.
The staff member then drew a triangle. At the points of the triangle the words “freedom”, “virtue”, and “faith” bookended the lines that outlined the symmetrical shape. “You can't have freedom without virtue. Virtues are muscles that guide beliefs. They're muscles that we exercise.” The lines darkened as the marker moved down the triangle to where the word “faith” was written. “You need a guiding principle or ideal to form your virtues. Is it right to kill? Is it right to steal? Why not? Inside of faith we have a foundation that guides the formation of our virtues.”
The triangle came full circle. “You can't practice faith without freedom. Without freedom, there is coercion.” The train of thought seemed to trail for a moment. Many Hillcrest students say that it is difficult to follow Christianity in their former schools. Students are seen as bigots, homophobic, and haters. They often share how there are topics at their former schools that are off limits. Topics like abortion aren't discussed because they might make someone uncomfortable. They feel there is little freedom to follow their beliefs in their former schools. Without freedom, there is coercion. That's why many have come to Hillcrest. They find structures for thought at Hillcrest that rise above feelings, emotions, and cultural experiences.
“Freedom is controlled habits that benefit the collective”, the staff member continued. He went on to outline of how the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are places most look to in defining freedom. “I think the world misunderstands freedom as license. The founders outlined freedom as the right to 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'. We have to ask ourselves what kind of culture we want to create as we look at euthanasia. The logic of it is going to lead to negative consequences and a diminishing value on life.”
Two words appeared on the board as the conversation turned a corner. “Ethics” was first. “Ethics refer to the ethos or root of things. The Supreme Court looks at cases and gets to the root issue to ask if there is a foundation inside our guiding documents and principles that have shaped our country for laws.”
The word “moral” sat opposed to the line of logic in ethics on the white board. “Morals are popular opinions or morays of the culture. Just because the culture is working to create a standard of viability for life does not mean that it is ethical. It might be 'moral', but it doesn't make it right. What is the foundation of our guiding principles that would say we have the right or obligation to end a life, when inside our documents there is a statement of protection for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? It doesn't make sense to grant license to end a life. It's a dangerous place to determine when and where a life is valued. We have historical precedence to guide caution in this. Think of Nazi Germany, Eugenics, and forced sterilization.”
The conversation tarried for a while. The scratchings on the whiteboard were a messy presentation to the line of thinking that carried us through the 45 minute class period. The student asked for a picture of the white board. After sending it to her, and saying a parting goodbye, the staff member said he was distracted by the drawings. He wished for another ten minutes with the student.
He said if he had ten more minutes he would've outlined the Gospel. He thinks that when the world removes God from the equation lives are diminished and threatened. Without an image to aspire towards humanity is left creating humankind in a desired image, and those outside that ideal are mistreated or terminated, according to history.
The topic lingered in the office for a few minutes, but slowly dissipated in other mentor conversations that swept into the office. Some students were editing photos, others were writing articles on their classes for journalism. The mentorship conversation continued, the white board was erased to outline other thoughts, and students continued to wrestle out their ideas on life, freedom, and faith with deep concern and guiding mentors. It was another typical day in the front hall of Hillcrest.