Bearing witness

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Dave Curell, one of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) pastors who kept vigil outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo was starved to death, committed an act of civil disobedience by trying to enter the hospice without the permission of the administrator and spent the night in the Pinellas County jail. In a lengthy entry, he describes the work they did outside the hospice, the decision for civil disobedience, and what went through his mind as he went forward with that decision. He sets the scene shortly after their arrival:

In this environment our role was quickly defined. As we told people we were pastors we were welcomed and invited to do what pastors are supposed to do: care for the sheep. The lack of pastoral presence was obvious from the first. As one man we met early put it, “Where are the pastors? Where the hell are the pastors?” Even the Roman Catholic faithful welcomed us as they lamented the absence of their priests. They were as sheep without a shepherd.

The days were long and the ministry opportunities were constant. It was as if everyone there--police, protestors, and press--had their chest cavities opened for work on the heart. We were all laid bare by the reality that a woman who had committed no crime was being dehydrated and starved to death in the building next to us and that the “justice” system of our country had ordered it.

On the eighth day after Terri's death sentence began, when hope of government intervention was all but gone, Dave made the decision to get arrested. He spent some time writing a statement and praying in his hotel room then returned to the hospice:

I finished writing and got into the car to drive back to the protest site. My head started spinning. I arrived, greeted David Bayly, and told him of my intentions. For the next hour I was on overload. David introduced me to a reporter and I gave her my statement. I proceeded to the gate and invited anyone who was interested to hear my statement before I entered. My friends were there and a couple of members of the press. I remember one cameraman vividly because he would not point his camera at me and it was obvious that he despised me. I am thankful for this man most of all because he humiliated me to such a point that, as I began the process of my arrest, I was completely undone.

I've been reading Witness by Whittaker Chambers and am nearing the end of the book. That last sentence strikes me as something Chambers could have written. If Curell had gone forward for arrest filled with pride and self-righteousness at his bravery, the witness he bore would somehow have been cheapened. Instead, he went to his arrest as a broken man, representing the broken state of a nation in which a woman could be starved to death by court order.

Curell finishes his account by recounting the cool reception he received from his five-year-old daughter, who had learned of his arrest. I encourage you to read the entire article.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 31, 2005 11:20 PM.

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