Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby won the major awards at this year’s Academy Awards and in my view certainly deserved them if Hollywood didn’t have enough regard for Hotel Rwanda. I have not seen a movie in the last 10 years where I was more drawn to the characters and cared more deeply about them and the story that unfolded between them. I couldn’t have been more surprised. I don’t usually go to movies about boxing, because I think boxing is an immoral activity (notice I did not say sport) that should be banned worldwide. But I kept hearing this movie wasn’t really about boxing. That was only the context for a compelling human story.
(Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to know the plot twist in this movie, please stop reading here!) Many fellow-Christians have denounced this movie saying that it promotes euthanasia. I am always saddened at how one-dimensional advocates for Christian politics can be in the face of human struggle. No one could watch this movie open-mindedly and conclude that it celebrated euthanasia. In fact it pictured it exactly for what it is, a despicable tragedy grasped at by desperate people who have no hope or purpose in their lives. It is cheap answer to human pain and dehumanizes anyone who gets near it. I was deeply saddened by the tragedy and lack of hope that destroyed so many lives in this depiction.
Time magazine did an interview last week with director and lead actor, Clint Eastwood entitled, How Lucky Does He Feel. In that interview, he makes a profound observation when asked about the conflict surrounding his movie:
It seems these days we’ve put the affairs of our culture in the hand of the idiots who will use anything in our culture to advance their cause, raise funds and destroy lives. When I read the reports about Terri Schiavo’s tragedy in Florida, they ring with that same one-dimensional tone. Ms. Schiavo has been in a vegetative state for thirteen years because of a period of oxygen deprivation to her brain. Her former husband and her parents, along with the medical community disagree about her state and what actions should be taken. Advocacy groups have moved in from the left and right to use this situation to promote their own agendas. The language they use is so one-dimensional. The former husband wants to kill her to get her life insurance money and has already taken up with another woman. One report says she is unresponsive, another that she is able to communicate with her family.
Don’t believe everything you read. I’m sure this situation is far more complicated than any of the advocates want us to know. Human stories rarely fall into such one-dimensional morality plays with the villains and the good guys so clearly visible. I do know this, we shouldn’t trust what others say if we don’t have our own firsthand knowledge. And until we can see God’s compassion for all the people in the story, we won’t be redemptive in it. We’ll just use it to bash people who disagree with us.
Euthanasia dehumanizes every one who comes near it and those who think it is a viable answer for human suffering have no hope or purpose in their lives beyond the moment. But Sara and I have also wrestled with dying parents and sorting out when they would or wouldn’t want extraordinary medical procedures to prolong a life that was already slipping into eternity. These are difficult and painful realities in a world with modern medical technologies. The times call not for idiotic extremism, but the ability for God’s people to articulate his truth with his compassion.
As far as I can tell, that doesn’t happen very often. Or at least our media doesn’t cover it when it does