"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Killing the Inconvenient and Inefficient

In the mid- and late-1990s, I was a volunteer in the pastoral care department of a large nursing home and was saddened by the neglect of many people there who were simply warehoused away pending their expiration date, which their families certainly found inconveniently far off into the future. And several of the residents themselves, bored, lonely, and often in declining health, felt the pressure to do the decent thing by hurrying along to their graves. The experience of visiting the residents, and sometimes bringing them the Eucharist, bestowed on my far more gifts than anything my poor efforts might have given them in return.

It was during this time that debates in Canada over euthanasia began to emerge, and it was smack in the middle of all that that Pope John Paul II rightly raised his finger in his powerful and still entirely relevant encyclical Evangelium Vitae. Some wrote that off as the "abortion letter" but its critique of the idol and ideology of "efficiency," developed at some length in several parts of the letter, admits of very wide application today, including how we handle the questions of human disease, decline, and death.

As I was reading the late pope's letter, I was also smack in the middle of my Hauerwas period, where I read every one of his books then extant, and even had whole sections memorized. He was hugely influential for my development, and became, unexpectedly, a friend when I wrote to him about my difficulties defending my MA thesis, which was heavily indebted to him and Alasdair MacIntyre. Hauerwas has written a powerful foreword to the new book Euthanasia and the Patristic Tradition by Ioannis Bekos (James Clarke & Co., 2019), 284pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
Euthanasia and Patristic Tradition presents secular and Christian bioethics as opposing forces in dialogue, highlights the importance of the Christian Patristic tradition in revealing disguised characteristics of bioethics in our era, and challenges the idea of individualism in modern societies through the development of a Christian individualism. While the book is focused on euthanasia, it also offers important perspectives on other ethical dilemmas. Ioannis Bekos applies Panagiotis Kondyliss theory for the emergence of worldviews as a function of power where all ethical theories have been proved to be subjective. Bringing together bioethical theories and just war theory, he exposes the disguised power claims of modern bioethics over human existence. Then, through an account of the history of thought, society, and politics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Bekos delivers a profound critique of the idea of common morality, popular theories such as principlism and contractualism, ethicists like Peter Singer, and philosophers like Habermas. Using the works of St John Damascene and St Symeon the New Theologian, Bekos shows the fundamental elements of a Christian anthropology regarding the constitution of man, the character of pain and death, and the importance of the free will in man, offering a critique of modern bioethics.

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