What if Hitler had been happy?
What if he had told a few jokes and smiled a few smiles? The world would have let him kill far more than he killed, and to this day we would be using some less judgmental word than ‘genocide’ to describe the horror.
We are accustomed to viewing evil, the pure, desperate, hellish evil that kills countless innocents and corrupts whatever it touches, as something angry and vile and violent. An angry man is easy to spot.
But most evil is more subtle, more seductive, and comes along as gentle as a sheep.
I had occasion to hear speak in public a writer whom I admire if not adore. The man is witty and wise, genial and gentle, and has the knack to raise a laugh. And what a charming accent! With merely a word or a lift of his eyebrow, he can raise a smile from an audience, or a robust laugh, or bring a tear to the eye. I have never met anyone more likable.
And he is a man without God, who takes a very practical view of euthanasia.
The admirable writer has lent his considerable publicity and charm and all the goodwill all his years of hard work to advance the cause of murder and suicide. Through documentary and public speaking, he leads his considerable mass of loving and loyal fans to regard as normal the horror of asking doctors to slay their patients, and to regard as abnormal the respect for human life Western civilization once nourished.
In a pagan world, suicide is regarded as admirable: Cato of Utica in the Roman world, of the Forty-Seven Ronin in Japan, are celebrated as heroes for their noble acts of self-destruction, for they did not flinch from the pain and despair of murdering one’s self.
In the postchristian world the act is the same but the motive is opposite. It is for the sake of comfort, to avoid the pain and humiliation of an incurable disease, or the expense, that the sick are cajoled to destroy the divine gift of life within them, and physicians to contravene their oaths.
The postchristians are not at the level of the pagans, but below them. Hippocrates would not dare have offended the gods by betraying what he had sworn. He would not work harm who had vowed by gods of sea and underworld and sky firstly to do no harm, and poured red wine into the winedark sea to solemnize the oath. Cato died to defy Caesar, and the Samurai who commits seppuku dies for the honor of his lord or his clan.
Postchristians die to satisfy themselves, to seek their comfort, or, at least, to escape from pain. The postchristian would have offered hemlock to the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, to allow the son of man to avoid the distress, insult, trauma and torture of trial and execution, passion and crucifixion.
Pity is the approach and the appeal used by the culture of death to spread their venomous doctrine of having doctors dispense venom. You feel sorry for a horse with a broken leg? Or a man with a debilitating and incurable condition like Stephen Hawkings? A blind man like Ray Charles? If they wanted to kill themselves, surely it is cruelty for you, in the soft comfort of your easy life, to dare to call it wrong?
The other approach is very pragmatic and commercial, as befit a pragmatic and commercial people. The argument there is that a man owns his own life in fee simple, and as master of his own property, he may use it as he sees fit: and suicide no more wrong than sending on old car to the junkyard to be destroyed for scrap, once it no longer pleases its owner, or burning an old suit of clothes.
We are told what medical costs it will save the family who loves the victim or will save the coffers of the nation-state and its panels of bureaucrats who perhaps love him not so much. And what is the life of a sickly or senile stranger worth to you, especially if the owner wants to throw it away like rubbish? Has not science proved that man is merely a hairless ape with an accidental brain-mistake or neotenous genetic glitch that stumbled him into self-awareness? If man is not the image of God, it is no sacrilege to demolish it. And the money saved can be spent elsewhere, such as, for example, on you!
And so in the name of pity or of pragmatism, we are soon convinced to slaughter all the weak and infirm—with their consent, of course, consent won with all the tricks of modern advertising and peer pressure and subtle public propaganda.
These arguments have no appeal and win no purchase on the Christian mind, which regards life as the gift from God the Creator, and which rests in hope that all hopeless lives are rewarded with abundance beyond hope, life beyond life, if only we have the courage to endure to the end. No one has the courage of fortitude without the virtue of hope, hope larger than worlds, hope that cannot be expressed nor explained.
To destroy oneself, even to escape from hopeless pain, or senility, or the imprisoning flesh of some loathsome disease, Christian regard with passionate horror, the way soldiers regard a deserter and patriots a traitor. It is not for nothing that in days of old the suicide was buried at the crossroad with a stake in his heart, and was not permitted to rest his remains in hallowed ground.
Euthanasia is the sickly elder sister of Aborticide: once it seems unabominable and unremarkable to murder the young on the grounds that they are killed at an age too young to be properly called alive, it must logically seem unabominable and unremarkable to murder the old on the grounds that they are too old and too weak to properly be called alive, or too sick to live.
This genial and lovely writer, a man gifted with the grace of laughter, told how he had filmed a documentary showing the medical murder of a wealthy, charming, but sickly man. He mentioned how they had been exchanging jests to the end, and how the body rattled and wheezed after the death, and how the police were called, but made no issue of the matter. The wife of the victim had been disturbed that the Swiss physicians committing the homicide had German accents. She was old enough to remember the Second World War, the Death Camps, and the last time the Culture of Death made a bold attempt to suborn the world into its great shadow. And so she asked the genial and lovely writer to accompany her into the tastefully appointed death chamber for moral support. And he offered her his elbow and offered her his moral support.
Technically, of course, what he was and is, is an accomplice, since anyone who supports a crime, even by such imponderables as words or acts that encourage its commission, falls under the same penalty as the perpetrator. Or such is the rule in Anglo-American law. Divine law may be harsher, and many things exposed in the brilliant and unblinking light of the Last Judgment which this current world of darkness and sin keeps hidden. Accomplices may indeed be punished harsher than perpetrators if He That Searcheth Hearts discovers the darker evil or more unrepentant there.
The genial writer did not bother to defend his deed. He did not think it necessary. He acted as if his evil were unremarkable or perhaps mildly admirable, and the audience merely nodded, lulled by his voice, led by their love for him and his works to give him the benefit of the doubt. Or, being prone to pity or open to pragmatic considerations, perhaps they did not think the question worthy of dispute. It would have been rude to disagree, a sour note in the choir of self-congratulation.
The genial writer did not bother to defend his deed. He merely told a joke or two instead, and the crowd laughed and applauded, and their hearts were moved toward him, and they nodded.
He did not call it suicide, of course. That would have been politically inconvenient and incorrect, which is another way of saying, it would have been honest.
He said we should use a different word. I forget what foolish Orwellian euphemism he used. The point is to make the nature of the deed less obvious, and to aid the already titanic human capacity for self-deception to reach super-titanic magnitude.
Not all evils are obvious. Not all sins seem sinister. Some rest on appeals to pity, or practicality, or are defended not with a syllogism but with a witticism.
And the genial writer talked a man into suicide, and opened the gate of hell which opens when a man abandons all hope, and talked an audience into approving of the deed. Nor did he ever raise his voice, or rant, or rave, or express any dark or negative emotion, other than a mild contempt for health and safety regulations which would not let an executioner, one of those who helped the act of suicide be painless and convenient, smoke a pipe inside the killing chamber. Such a silver tongue he had; such smooth words he spoke.
He talked a soul into Hell. And the room gave him a standing ovation.
Not all civilizations are created equal. Civilization is not made of wheels and gears and tricks of technology, or the cunning of roads and coined money and elegance in art. Civilization is spirit. The spirit of the West respects and reveres human life, and our laws are designed to respect the rights of those lives because we respect those lives. The Culture of Death has no respect for life, none for man, none for the individual. The weak baby in the womb or the suffering crone in the wheelchair they seek efficiently to expunge from life, even while seeking to remove from the public view that cross of the God who protects the weak and infirm, and gives the hopeless hope to live, both now and in eternity to come.
Civilization is Christianity. Christianity is civilization.
Examine carefully, O zealous agnostic, what you are throwing on the smoldering ashheap when you tell yourself all you are casting away is the hypocrisy and judgmentalism and intolerance of the Christian superstition. Some things are nailed to the crucifix which you must and will trample when you trample the crucifix underfoot to prove to the great Sultan of the underworld your loyalty to his creed of correctness, non-judgment, and toleration of abomination.
In addition to abstractions like democracy and scientific progress, very concrete things like legal protection of your rights and your right to life are nailed to the Cross of God, and came into the history of the West, and the history of the World, because of that Cross and they grew like seeds from the life-giving blood shed there.
Or are you relying on merely pity or merely pragmatism to protect a wretch like you? Do you think your rights are sacrosanct? How shall this be, in a world where nothing is sacred? If you are not make in the image and likeness of God, why will the high and great in this world, the rich and the mighty, pause to respect your littleness?
Do you think a remorseless commercial society will protect your interests against the wealthy, the very men the market place rewards for their industriousness and commerce? They are more loved of the world than you, for the world loves gold.
Do you think a sentimental and bleeding-heart society will protect your interests against the demagogue, the very men the multitudes worship and adore, and the ballot box rewards for his ability to stir up sentiment? He has the iron rod of worldly power on his side, lawyers and bureaucrats and publicists and pollsters and speechwriters, and everyone who business it is to see that this iron rod does not pass from his hands. He is more loved of the world than you, for the world loves power.
Plato tells of a great island called Atlantis, where in the midmost of their mightiest and fairest city two pillars of brass were inscribed with the laws written by the gods. And when those pillars were cast down, and the laws trampled underfoot, at the nod of Jove, the pillars fixing the island to its foundations were also broken. The sea rose and the earth collapsed, and in a single day the great island was swallowed by the salt wave. I wonder if, near the dawn of that morning, some lone watchman in a tower of white overlooking the sea felt the land beneath him tremble like a nervous filly and slip downward only an inch.
So I felt, listening to the sweet applause my fellow men gave to a vile crime, adoring it: and they saluted suicide and called it a civil right, and called brave the procurer pimping for the cause of suicide.
On the day I heard the genial writer speak, and urge the earth toward euthanasia, and heard the room applaud, on that day I felt the world slide downward an inch toward the eager fires below. One more inch.