My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Children arrested for giving to the least of these

I guess the headline I chose sounds already controversial and the topic most likely is controversial. As Terri Schiavo is starving in her hospice bedroom, people are outside demonstrating for her right to life and for letting her live. I do not agree with all the posters and slogans people are carrying and I do not agree with everything that is going on there (plans of rescuing Terri with force and guns...). But in my opinion, it is people’s right to voice their opinion this way and to keep drawing attention to what is happening to Terri. In a free country people are and have to be allowed to put their beliefs – be it religious or political, majority or minority views – into words and action. In general this action has to be legal though.
By court order Terri is denied of receiving water, no matter if it is through a feeding tube or the “regular way”. People are not allowed to go and see her either. Several times so far, protestors nevertheless tried to bring cups of water to Terri and have been arrested for it. This can be characterized as civil disobedience. According to wikipedia "Civil disobedience encompasses the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government or of an occupying power without resorting to physical violence. [...] In seeking an active form of resistance, those who practise civil disobedience may choose to deliberately break certain laws, such as by forming a peaceful blockade or occupying a facility illegally. Protesters do so with the expectation that they will be arrested, or even attacked or beaten by the authorities.” The motive behind civil disobedience is that whatever it is directed against is considered as wrong. The characterization as “wrong” can have political, social or religious backgrounds. Many protestors considers what happens to Terri Schiavo as wrong and not in accordance with God’s word and will. The symbolic act of a cup of water for Terri and the sure to follow arrest are their form of civil disobedience. To keep Terri before the eyes of the US society and the world (it’s all over the news here too). To make God’s command of caring for the least of these for His sake visible. I’m quite sure that at least many of them are sincerely trying to follow this command Jesus gave us when they try to bring Terri water.
I’m convinced that it is true for the children who tried to bring Terri cups of water and got arrested. I read about three of them on Ruthanne’s blog jellybeans & chocolate (go read it). I googled and found out that up to ten children have been arrested for similar attempts. (None of them had to stay in juvenile jail.)
This is a difficult thing, IMO. As I read Ruthanne’s post and some MSM articles (for example here) conflicting thoughts ran through my mind. There are a lot of things to be considered: the faith of the children; their own wishes; the fear of (voluntary or unvoluntary) influence by the parents; the fear of manipulation; the danger that the desires of the children are misused by adults; the question if parents should hinder their children in committing something illegal etc. And I am not implying that any manipulation etc. happened with those kids in Florida! But those are questions that need to be adressed.
I think it is a wonderful thing if believing children wish to follow up on Jesus’ teaching in everyday life – even if it has (very) negative consequences. We should encourage the desire in children to reach out to the least of these and to follow Jesus’ commands. Which is what those children wanted according to their parents’ statements. I wish I had the same boldness in living out my faith!
I also think that it is important that such a desire and especially the action stem from the child’s own will. If those two conditions exist, then I think those children should be allowed to follow up on their plan. Even if they are trespassing and might face serious consequences. Following Christ is not easy or without consequences. Christ never promised us it would be, but He called us to follow Him no matter what. The bible is full of examples of people who experienced this first-hand.
But if it was a case of manipulation, be it as subtle as it wants, I would have a problem with the children’s actions. If an adult was misusing a child’s honest faith and compassion, then I would probably not have a problem with the child’s action, but definately have serious doubts (or worse) concerning the adult’s behaviour.
Please excuse that I’m not very clear and elaborate here. I just wanted to share some thoughts and hopefully hear your opinions.