A few years ago, I attended the funeral of a friend who died in a single-car accident. The accident took place in the middle of the night -- about 3 a.m. -- on a quiet highway in the country. His vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, he missed the tight turn, he hit the trees. He survived for an hour or two.
He was familiar with the road; he had driven it his entire life, and he was long since retired. His beloved wife of over forty years had died a couple of years earlier. He was known to be grieving her loss. He was, himself, seriously ill. Suicide, perhaps?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Because of his own illness, he was on several strong medications -- doctor's prescriptions, doctor's orders -- that were, among other things, "mood altering." Who could blame the doctor for what he thought was in the patient's best interests? Perhaps those prescriptions were the very best that "modern research" can provide. At least, they were government-approved.
The man had complained to his children, a few days before, that the medicines, or their interactions, were affecting his mind, his judgment. He had been having strange thoughts, and he didn't like that. He wasn't sure that he ought to be taking them. But he was the kind of old fellow who "follows doctors' orders," after all.
And then, suddenly, he was gone. Thankfully, no one else was injured in the accident. He received a Christian burial, as of course he should.
This is not meant to be a blame game: I am entirely unwilling to assign any blame to anyone, in this case. Doctors certainly know more about serious illnesses than I do, and face hard questions in difficult cases.
But I would like to raise a question about other cases, where "blaming" is already quite intense, not only in the mainstream media, but in the conversations I hear among Christian people. I have observed that both groups, the media people and the Christian people, are famously sure that they have all the answers, not only for themselves, but also for the rest of "society." They have answers regarding drug use, and death, that include lawsuits, prison terms, public condemnations, and anticipations of the Final Judgment. (I said, "they," as if I were speaking of others than myself -- I readily grant that I am a member of both groups. I have been a practicing Christian, and a practicing writer and speaker, for the greater part of my life; so I might as well have said, "we.")
What do we think, then, when we find out that young men who break into schools, theaters, and army bases -- and kill dozens of people -- are on strong (prescription) medications -- medications that have, and are sometimes intended to have, known, severe mood-altering effects?
What, when on the other hand, we impose felony-class prison sentences on people for mild drug use, in which no real crime has been committed?
What, when we treat drug use and drug addictions as crimes in and of themselves, rather than as obligating us, as caring people -- let alone Christians who are under a strict command to heal the sick, forgive sins, and practice charity in all cases -- to act in ways that ameliorate tragedies and avoid the perpetuation of injustices, rather than making matters worse, and casting burdens, punishments, and sanctions upon relatively ordinary, relatively harmless people and their families?
But I think that I am speaking into the wind. A strong wind that is blowing in the opposite direction.