Friday, February 14, 2014


"The church has the opinion that life is a gift from God and that we don't have the right to throw it away," said religious commentator Rik Torfs, a former parliamentarian and current rector of Catholic University in Leuven.
Belgian Proposal: Terminally Ill Kids Could Choose Euthanasia
When I was a child, I was raised Roman Catholic. Now, religious instruction for children is really more about indoctrination than education, and so asking questions wasn't always looked upon favorably. And so, whenever I had random theological questions (sometimes VERY random), I would put them to my mother. (This put my mother on the spot, of course, given that she wasn't a theologian.) One day, I asked her why, in effect, being good at something required you to do that thing. This was my introduction to the idea of Gifts from God.

The answers that my mother gave me to my question (and most of the other ones I asked) cemented in me an understanding (that I wouldn't be able to articulate for some time) that God operated on a different set of definitions than the rest of did. For me, as gift was something that you have someone - and then it was theirs, and they could do with it whatever they wished. But a Gift from God was something that God gave you - but that was still his, and your job was to make use it of it in the best way that glorified God. When I was younger, that struck me as a tool, more than anything else, like something that an employer gave you, and allowed you to also use for yourself. It was something that you could do your own thing with, but there were limits and you were ultimately answerable for what you'd done with it. As I grew older, and came to enjoy giving gifts myself, I came to see such things as responsibilities.

And I've wondered for some time now why we don't commonly think of it in that way. Why we don't say "that life is a responsibility from God" and therefore we have an obligation to discharge it. After all, given the way we commonly use the term "gift," in the everyday sense, the religious concept has some pretty significant strings attached - enough so that we wouldn't normally think of something given under such circumstances as a "gift" at all. I suspect that history plays a fairly large role in it, but I wonder if that's all. And I wonder if we wouldn't look at things differently if the semantics of it were changed, and perhaps have a better outlook on things because of it.

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