If You Sell Your Soul to the Devil, Don’t Be Upset When He Comes to Collect What Belongs to Him
Catholics and some other Christians are worried about the loss of a right by medical personnel to refuse participating in procedures which they consider wrong on moral grounds. That seems appropriate, but so does the statement:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ [Mat 5:38]
But Jesus tells us that isn’t just inadequate, but fully wrong. He demanded of His followers:
But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you and do not refues him who would borrow from you. [Mat 5:39-42]
The followers of Christ are commanded to act in a way different from the morality of the world. We’re called to live as followers of Christ, obeying His commandments and trying to imitate His ways of speaking and behaving. Does that mean that when confronted with threats of evil from those who might be either willfully evil or merely misguided and deluded, we are to arrange for campaigns to swamp Pilate’s telephones with protests and to bury the Sanhedrin’s poor secretaries under mountains of post-cards asking that they respect the conscience of that poor Jesus of Nazareth?
I say this tongue-in-cheek but such campaigns of moral pressure might be appropriate, they might work, if our Pilates and our High Priests are in substantial agreement with us but prone to stray because of the temptations and pressures of power. That’s not the case in 2009. Our leaders, even when they make great shows of attending Christian worship services, clearly don’t feel bound by the Sermon on the Mount. Many clearly don’t feel bound by the Ten Commandments. Many radiate a sense of self-righteousness as they propose and carry out programs which violate the traditional moral teachings of the West but can be presented as a compassionate response to the sufferings of those with horrible diseases or those who feel sexual urges not allowed by traditional Christian morality. Some probably are truly motivated by subjective moral urgings to try and solve those problems. Certainly, that seems true of many of the medical researchers involved in stem-cell research which might involve embryonic lines of cells and might be moving towards human cloning to produce creatures with diabetes or Lou Gehrig’s Disease for experimentation, creatures which will never move beyond an embryonic stage and will never live outside of some antiseptic and glistening laboratory container. Years ago, doctors associated with Harvard Medical School made available lines of embryonic stem-cells for such experimentation and every so often announcements are made that someone has managed to engineer a line of stem-cells, maybe embryonic and maybe not, to have a certain defective gene or metabolic condition. We also have to remember that the techniques developed even in moral lines of research on adult stem-cells could be deployed rapidly to clone human beings or human-animal hybrids. In an age of moral disorder, all technologies can be deployed for questionable or downright evil purposes.
I’m willing to claim that nearly every research hospital in the United States, including probably most that were founded by Christian organizations — even Catholic religious orders, engage in activities which are in violation of at least the more demanding moral systems developed from the Sermon on the Mount and may well be in violation of the most lax interpretation of the Ten Commandments. At the very least, Catholic hospitals will ship poor and uninsured patients to ‘welfare’ hospitals in the same way as for-profit corporate hospitals. Finances force them to do so, you say? Why did they reorganize their finances so that they would be in such a position? Was their no one in those hospital systems, no one in the bureaucracies of the dioceses, no one in the ranks of Catholic businessmen serving on boards of trustees, no one at all who could see that they were transforming Catholic institutions into servants of the Principalities of this world? I would conjecture similar statements could be made about all those hospitals founded by other Christian groups, some of which still bear terms like ‘Presbyterian’ or ‘Methodist’ in their names.
If the medical systems in the United States operate in ways that are morally objectionable to Catholics or other Christians, if the American government — duly elected by the American citizenry — increasingly subsidizes acts which Catholics and other Christians consider to be evil, why do Christians wish to participate in those systems and why do they accept money and other gifts from that government?
I’ve seen arguments that any who disengage from these increasingly evil institutions need time to do so gradually but now we see that such doctors, nurses, and others might have no place to go. If it were ever possible to aim at some sort of separation, the time has likely passed. We, and our parents, have forced us into a position where we have but two choices, suffering as did our Lord Jesus Christ or surrendering to the Principalities of the world.
In allegorical terms, Christ is being freshly crucified in these United States of America, and few Christians have picked up their crosses to march alongside their Lord. Those who take their beliefs seriously are more likely to be canvassing the crowds of those watching in confusion or horror or glee as Christ moves by under the burden of His cross. Why are those Christians canvassing the crowds? Apparently, they think to convince Pilate and the Sanhedrin to change their ways of thought and behavior. They think to convince the Principalities of the world to give up what supports their worldly power and take up with beliefs that will deny the authority of earthly rulers to dictate what is right and what is wrong.
They think the world is to be redeemed not by acts of suffering and martyrdom but rather by political processes by which we’ll somehow achieve that fantastic result of non-believers and weak believers choosing to live by Christian moral laws. Didn’t Christ give us those laws in the Sermon on the Mount? Well, yes, Christ gave us those laws in a very emotional way that provided for some of the most moving scenes in the history of Hollywood productions. I’m sometimes proud and sometimes ashamed when my emotions lead me to tears as I read those words of our Lord.
Such emotions played no part in our Lord’s own ways of showing compassion, nor in the ways of the greatest of saints, detached as they have to be when relieving spiritual or corporeal sufferings. The Sermon on the Mount isn’t validated by those subjective feelings, warm or shivery, which they draw forth, nor were they validated by internal coherence nor by natural law reasoning but rather by His later submission to the unjust acts of His own creatures. When Christ hung on His cross, His authority to make extraordinary demands upon us was validated, not because He was suffering for us but rather because He was offering Himself to the Father in an act of obedience beyond our understanding. If we take Christ’s own actions seriously, His refusal to so much as preach to Pilate or the Sanhedrin, we are forced to believe the only way to change the behavior of non-believers and weak believers is through suffering and death, that of Christ first but that of His followers when necessary. Not all ages are filled with martyrs and not all forms of martyrdom have been the same but we Christians in 2009 seem to be in the position of having to pay the bill for a lot of sins over a number of generations.
Let’s think seriously again about our situation in 2009. Having corrupted even knowledge of God’s own Creation to our own purposes, having accepted gifts from men who value money and power above all conflicting moral demands, we wish to claim to be loyal followers of the God whose commandments we’ve disobeyed. We tell ourselves that it might be true that even Catholic hospitals accept money from a government which helps to kill American children in the womb and actively kills Iraqi and Pashtun children on the ground, even Catholic researchers accept money from government agencies or private foundations which are also paying for research into such horrors as human cloning, even human-animal hybrid cloning, but we tell ourselves we can remain above that. We’re part of the system but the evil work is being done in the lab down the hallway and we never go past that doorway into that evil place.
Our bluff has been called. Satan has come to claim our souls and Daniel Webster doesn’t seem to be near to rescue us by verbal trickery. The government is saying, more or less, “You’re on our payroll and you’re accepting our money for chemotherapy. You have to be good, loyal citizens and participate in abortions as well.” We object.
The devil might own our souls but, “Damn it, we have our pride and our integrity. We have a claim to a spot in Heaven even if we’ve sold our souls to the devil.”
Evil may be brought under some control for a short while. The Church may recover and begin to grown again. But this recovery can come only when Christians are willing to suffer, even to accept painful and degrading deaths, rather than accept the gifts of an increasingly evil medical system, rather than to accept the gifts of an increasingly evil government.
Christ suffered to save us and gave us no other way to defeat evil than to suffer along with Him. Yet, even before we suffer to save others, we have to remember the simple common-sense rule:
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If you don’t wish the Principalities of this world to make a claim on your soul, don’t accept their gifts and don’t let yourself become dependent upon them.