In all honesty, up until this weekend I had only kept the Terri Schiavo case in the periphery of my news awareness. The legal wranglings seemed interminable so I did not even try to stay up on the latest information. But then Friday came with the removal of the feeding tube and there was talk on Saturday of Congress getting involved in passing some emergency legislation. And I started thinking (whilst in the shower, a favored intellectual retreat) - "how many churches have talked about this or will talk about Terry Schiavo tomorrow?" I realized that it was possible that many churches would not, in fact, say nothing more than a prayer for Terri - nothing about the failings of the Florida courts, the reality of her condition or the larger issues at hand. I sincerely doubted that my church would, out of fear of offending someone and out of fear of violating the schedule. Since I doubted the parents would hear about it, I thought the kids needed too.
So that's what we talked about on Sunday morning, with some painfully unsurprising results. Initially, most of the kids thought she should be allowed to die but were not comfortable with this method (feeding tube removal) because it would be a slow, painful death. A few suggested that were she really "a vegetable", then she wouldn't feel it anyways. When I asked about the possibility of a painless euthanasia, all but a couple of kids thought she should be killed. All of them thought that if she had really said she didn't want to live like that, then it was really up to her. Her decision is what really mattered. Then I dropped the bomb: "Do you think God wants Terri Schiavo to die?" To avoid the careful word-wrangling capability present in every adolescent ("you didn't say I had to do it right now", "but I really did go to my friend's house - we were there for 5 minutes before we left" etc), I added a number of caveats to bring into the here and now. No one raised their hand. No one would admit to thinking that God would want her to die, especially not like that. As we discussed it, it became clear that about half of the kids thought that her (alleged) will trumped God's in this matter and the other half were completely bewildered by the idea that God may actually have a position on this kind of thing. I won't bore you with the further details of the discussion, but I can only say that for those of you who are parents - purposefully, intentionally, obviously talk about God's will in the specific realities of our world. Not just about refraining from sin and the practice of virtue in their schools and neighborhoods, but the big picture things, too. Talk about war, poverty, education, violence, media, abortion and the myriad other issues that present themselves. And then act on it. Show them faith in action in little AND big things, or they will be completely at a loss when confronted with the harsh nature of reality.