August 22, 2008
When Pastor Rick Warren asked Barack Obama about what he considered America’s greatest moral failure at the recent Saddleback “Civil Forum on the Presidency,” Senator Obama answered by saying, “its insufficient help to the disadvantaged.” Senator Obama then referenced the Bible and quoted Jesus’ admonition that, “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me,” commenting that this should apply to victims of poverty, sexism and racism.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I immediately thought of my sister Terri Schiavo who was the perfect example of a “disadvantaged” person in desperate need of our help. If Senator Obama truly took the words of Christ to heart, he would have been proud of his support for a law intended to prevent Terri’s intentional dehydration death that passed the United States Senate with unanimous consent in 2005.
However, with poll numbers subsequently showing public disquiet about the law he supported, Senator Obama redefined “disadvantaged” to exclude people like my sister. Indeed, during a debate with Senator Hillary Clinton during the Democratic contest to become his party’s presidential nominee, Obama stated that his greatest failure to date as a politician was not objecting to efforts by Congress to try and help Terri.
What hypocrisy. To so condescendingly make the claim that he stands for the disadvantaged by invoking the words of Christ, while at the same time completely abandoning an innocent and helpless disabled woman is not leadership. It is a dishonest and politically expedient attempt to say whatever he has to say in order to mislead people of faith into voting for him.
The question is: will anyone take what he said seriously? Senator Obama’s position should offend every one of us—particularly Christians who take the words of Christ seriously.
Due in large part to the misreporting of Terri’s situation and the confusion that still exists about her case, most people do not understand the consequences of what we, as a nation, permitted to happen to her. Even more disturbing is that so few seem to recognize what her death means for the tens of thousands of Americans who find themselves in similarly “disadvantaged” situations. They would prefer to just pretend it was the “right” thing to do or that it was what “she wanted,” or that “her husband” should have decided.
Sadly, politicians are not often known for their profiles in courage. Obama isn’t the only one who supported efforts to help Terri but have since qualified their positions on the matter of her life and death. Such a weak-kneed retreat from doing right compromises not only the legitimacy of their stand, but also the integrity of their offices.
This also includes Senator John McCain who contradicted himself Saturday night when he stated that he is 100 percent pro-life. While this is true in regard to abortion, he seemed to have forgotten that he once commented that balancing the budget was more of a pressing need for Republicans than working to save Terri’s life. Politicians who call themselves pro-life absolutely must recognize that people—like Terri—with profound disabilities are every bit as precious and valuable in the eyes of God as are unborn children.
Failure to recognize this is the reason people with cognitive disabilities are being killed every day in our country by having their tube-supplied food and water withdrawn. Even though groups representing people with disabilities have been screaming for years against this bigoted practice, few seem to be paying much attention. Even worse are the leaders who might help but instead are burying their heads in the sand and acting like this lethal discrimination against the profoundly disabled just isn’t happening.
Fortunately, the truth and power of Jesus’ words could not be twisted even by Senator Obama. For Christians, all are supposed to be embraced as children of God, made in His likeness and image. Moreover, Jesus told us that whatever we do to “the least” of our brothers and sisters, we are actually doing to Him.
It is clear to me that Senator Obama, Senator McCain and all too many of our politicians think that polls are more important than protecting human life, including people like Terri, who are our most disadvantaged and truly the “least among us”.
Forgive them, Lord. They know not what they do.