"HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?" Francis Schaeffer

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

While thinking about the horror/evil that is a part of the Terri Schiavo case I remembered reading the following a couple of years ago.

In the Thanatos Syndrome Walker Percy introduced this character - Father Simon Rinaldo Smith - who has all the appearance of being crazy and yet absolutely nails the truth about our society's determination to do away with the Terri Schiavos of the world.

Found in Religion on line - This was a review by Ralph C. Wood of Walker Percy's last (and greatest) novel - the Thanatos Syndrome.

""The Thanatos Syndrome purports to be a sequel to Love in the Ruins. Like its predecessor, the new novel has a futuristic setting -- no longer the Orwellian year of 1984 but a much later and worse time near the end of our century. The narrator is again the sardonic, disheveled, bourbon-drinking psychiatrist who cannot escape his Catholic past as a lineal descendant of the Christian humanist saint Sir Thomas More. But whereas the More of the first novel had begun to recover his mental and moral health after conquering suicidal tendencies, the More we encounter in the new novel has spent two years in prison for selling amphetamines to truck drivers. Ellen Oglethorpe, the ethically sensible wife who had helped restore More's sanity, has become a champion bridge player and tongue-speaking charismatic.

Though neither of these drastic personality changes is made credible, the furious state of More's mind is vividly and convincingly drawn. Like the bilious narrator of Lancelot (1977) , More is persuaded that an awful spiritual malaise has befallen the modern West. Ours is the age of mass death, he argues, and our chief malady is thus the thanatos syndrome. Yet if Percy has a spokesman it is surely Father Simon Rinaldo Smith, the priest who dwells alone atop a fire tower and thinks himself a latter-day St. Simeon Stylites.

Tenderness is the first disguise of the murderer. . . . Never in the history of the world have there been so many civilized tenderhearted souls as have lived in this century. . . . More people have been killed in this century by tenderhearted souls than by cruel barbarians in all other centuries put together. . . . Do you know where tenderness always leads. . . . To the gas chambers

As these statements make clear, The Thanatos Syndrome is an angry and admonitory novel. For the first time in his fiction, Percy likens late 20th-century American life to the Weimar Republic. He finds harrowing parallels between our own behaviorists and the German scientists who practiced eugenics while quoting Rilke and Goethe and Schiller. Our culture shares with theirs, Percy suggests. a mere utilitarian regard for human life.

The logical conclusion of that view is that those who are "useless" to themselves or the world -- unwanted infants, nursing home residents and victims of severe mongolism, epilepsy, encephalitis, arteriosclerosis, progressive neurological disease and hopeless schizophrenia -- ought to be "compassionately" eliminated. In the absence of a "life with dignity," reasons one of Percy's humanist technicians, those who make no contribution" to society should all be accorded their right to a "death with dignity."

The sickness-unto-death that first manifested itself at Verdun and the Somme did not end with Dachau and Hiroshima; it has penetrated to the very core of American culture.""

JB here: I understand that people reared without a moral compass, people who do not believe there is a moral creator God would not see the problem in killing off the Terri Schiavos of the world. What makes me quake is that so many people who believe in God also think it is o.k. that Terri Schiavos or others like her be hastened to their death - in the name of tenderness and compassion.

There is a great evil abroad in our national soul. JB

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