Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ethics- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor, was executed by the Nazi regime in 1945. Compiled and published in 1949, his papers on ethics contain the following excerpt:

"Marriage involves acknowledgment of the right of life that is to come into being, a right which is not subject to the disposal of the married couple. Unless this right is acknowledged as a matter of principle, marriage ceases to be marriage and becomes a mere liaison. Acknowledgment of this right means making way for the free creative power of God which can cause new life to proceed from this marriage according to His will. Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder. A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual. Precisely in this connection money may conceal many a wanton deed, while the poor man’s more reluctant lapse may far more easily be disclosed. All these considerations must no doubt have a quite decisive influence on our personal and pastoral attitude towards the person concerned, but they cannot in any way alter the fact of murder."


Bonhoeffer's writing was in opposition to the Nazi doctrine of Lebensunwertes Leben, life that is not worthy of life, and its usage to dictate life and death over the unborn as well as the 'unfit'.

In the 1930's and 1940's Germany, it was the regime controlling 'the guillotine'. In present America, it is between a woman and her doctor with the judicial regime in the background nodding in approval. Will it be long before forced euthanasia of various categories of the 'unfit' and those whose 'quality of life' do not meet arbitrary standards are similarly feted, fated, and fetid?

1 comment:

Alan Richard said...

Well, it's been 28 years since I first heard this "slippery slope" argument from Francis Schaeffer, and we're no closer to government-initiated elimination of "life not worth living" than we were then. Perhaps it's time to oppose abortion simply because "thou shalt not kill" and fetuses are by any reasonable characterization human beings, and drop the nonexistent equivalence between the expansion of private choice of a woman to have the fetus she is carrying killed and the publicly mandated, government-coordinated extermination of "undesirables" by a right wing (despite recent revisionist history, none of the people who lived through National Socialism remembered it as left wing or even left leaning) regime.