but it loves and knows the One who is leading.”
~ Oswald Chambers ~
The concept of faith is a fascinating one whether you are talking about it in general terms or within the context of belief in a higher power.
You can’t reach out and grab it, roll it in the palm of your hand, examine it under a microscope. You can’t admit it into evidence in a court of law, design an attractive container for it and sell it on the Internet or wear it like the latest fashion design.
So how do we know that faith even exists?
The most effective way to prove the existence and power of faith is by example and illustration. For instance, examples of times when spiritual people did not permit themselves to be guided by their faith stand in contrast to success attained because of reliance upon faith.
More powerful still can be the story of a life lived devoid of faith, as in Mitch Albom’s interview, published in the Lodi News-Sentinel, with Dr. Death himself, Jack Kevorkian:
It’s hard to warm up to Dr. Death By his own estimate, Kevorkian, who was just released, helped at least 130 people die by hooking them to machines that would deliver lethal drugs or gasses, then allowing them to, essentially, throw their own switch.
By Mitch Albom
He wore a pale blue suit over his small, thin body, and the skin on his face seemed pulled so tight his eyes bulged. Those eyes lock on you when you disagree with him. He may be 79. But after eight years in jail, Jack Kevorkian still was ready for a fight.
And he is not sorry.
“If I were sorry, I’d be a hypocrite,” he said.
He became the focal point of a person’s right to die. He flouted the law because he felt it unjust. He went to jail on a second-degree murder charge, after injecting poison into a patient. “I wanted the imprisonment,” he told me. He wanted to change the rules.
So far, the rules are still mostly there (except in Oregon). Americans are split on the idea of physician-assisted suicide. A recent Associated Press poll showed 48 percent approved the idea, while 44 percent did not.
But having known or met many people with terminal illnesses, I understand why human beings want the right to say, for themselves, enough suffering is enough.
So when Kevorkian sat down across from me, I was ready to empathize with his compassion for the sick.
I was not ready for the man himself.
Are you at all religious? I asked him.
“Religion is all bunk. . . . If you’re really religious, you can’t think for yourself.”
Would you call yourself an atheist? “Agnostic.”
What do you think happens when we die?
“You stink. You rot and stink.”
No soul? He laughed. “What’s a soul?”
How did you feel the first time you watched someone die by your machine, a 54-year-old woman who had Alzheimer’s?
“Relieved. For her sake and mine.”
Did you feel you crossed a line?
“I had the honor of having reached a status in the practice of medicine that would have pleased Hippocrates.”
But doesn’t the Hippocratic oath call for doing anything required to help the sick?
“Of course. But that’s not my job. It’s her clinician’s job. They gave up.”
But isn’t there a big difference between saying something is untreatable and helping someone die?
His voice rose in pitch. “I’m not gonna help you die – I’m gonna end your suffering!”
At that moment, with his face contorted in the disgust of someone challenging him, I couldn’t imagine a suffering so bad that I would want Kevorkian to be the last person I’d see on Earth.
Kevorkian debated familiar charges: that he didn’t always have thorough medical information on the patients he helped die (“If the doctors would have talked to me, it would have made it easier. Blame them”); that he didn’t do enough to dissuade suicidal thoughts. (“I turned away four or five for every one I helped.”)
As we spoke, I heard intelligence, self-assurance, even arrogance. What I didn’t hear was humanity. He didn’t seem to think much of the human race. He likened life to “a tragedy.” He quoted famous people saying they wouldn’t bring babies into this world.
When I said that would wipe out mankind, he said, “What’s wrong with that?”
Jack Kevorkian is a man who never had a family, a man for whom the world is bleak, happiness is rare, belief is a waste of time and life is a finite, meaningless entity. The act he champions may indeed be one of compassion, but how can it be delivered by such a cold, cold heart?
I know all too well what it is like to wish for your loved one’s suffering to end and be relieved when it finally does. But there are loving, kind, morally appropriate ways to ease your loved one — and yourself — through the process of dying and Kevorkian chose to ignore them. It comes as no surprise then that he is a man devoid of faith, utterly lacking the joy that hope brings each morning.
So this article is in itself an exercise in faith. I am frequently surprised by where my faith leads me when I sit down at my desk to work on an article. Frequently what I think I am going to write is not what you ultimately read . . . This is one of those moments. Because as I was reading that interview, I kept hearing this verse in my head: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, To show that you are the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
We are advised to pray for people like Kevorkian who are obviously lost and have no faith or hope. We are admonished to hold up our fellow travelers on this journey in prayer since we all get lost from time to time until our faith and hope return to them and/or show us the right path. In this particular instance, we should also pray for the families of Kevorkian’s victims, asking that they be given understanding, peace and serenity in the face of the evil he perpetrated upon their loved ones.
I was led in faith to share these things with you.
Where is your faith leading you?