Apostasy–Voluntary and Otherwise

Several centuries ago, when Christianity was initially introduced in Japan by the early Jesuit missionaries–and started to spread rapidly–the shoguns were worried about the potential political influence of the increasing number of converted Japanese Christians (and their European leaders). It didn’t take long before the power of the Japanese government turned against the Christians within the country, with foreigners asked to leave, and native Christians ‘persuaded’ to abandon Christianity by a variety of means.

(Read my original post on the subject here)

The method of apostatizing predominantly used in this period involved a fumie–a wood or bronze icon representing Mary and the baby Jesus. Christians were ‘encouraged’ to step on the fumie to mark their abandonment of their beliefs. Those who refused were killed.

Now, here’s my question: who ‘decided’ that stepping on a picture of Mary and/or Christ meant you’ve abandoned your Christian beliefs? It’s obvious from reading the historical accounts of the period that both the rulers and those early Christians interpreted it in this way. (The fumie was also effectively used to find Christians, by asking the general population to step on it and see who refused…) Interestingly, no one on either side seems to have ever pondered the question of whether your eternal fate in God’s eyes can be directly determined by such a simple action.

It’s also obvious from the historical record that those Japanese Christians who were compelled to ‘apostatize’ in this way took it seriously, and did in fact abandon their previous Christian beliefs and lifestyle…afterwards. Yet, it wasn’t because they wanted to not be Christian anymore–they felt they had no choice…that after having stepped on the fumie, they couldn’t be Christian any more, that simply by doing so *poof* their salvation had disappeared and God had condemned them to hell for committing an unpardonable sin. Likewise, the fear of losing their eternal reward was the key toward the fumie being an effective means of finding Christians in the first place–‘true’ Christians would rather die than step on it, whereas non-Christians could care less.

If, for example, I took down the picture of Christ on the wall…and then maliciously burned it–I’d probably get some raised eyebrows from other people. I doubt, though, that anyone would consider me to be an ‘apostate’ Church member because of it–a prime candidate for excommunication and forever unworthy of celestial glory. It’s just a picture, of course… Have I even really broken a commandment by doing so?

There’s another factor in this equation that needs discussion: the Japanese government (and others throughout history who persecuted Christians) did not have any qualms about using threats and torture to obtain their ‘apostasies’. Many of those early Christians were defiant unto their deaths, but others broke down under the stress and committed whatever signs or actions the government wanted them to show their apostasy. Shusaku Endo, the modern-day Japanese author I profiled in my original post, found the stories of those ‘fallen’ Christians to be compelling, and wrote about them frequently in novels such as “Silence” and “The Samurai”. He thought their status before God deserved more discussion than the Christian literature at the time (which focused exclusively on the martyrs who died without apostatizing) gave them. So do I.

Question #1: Does stepping on/mistreating a representation of Christ represent ‘apostasy’? If so, why?

Question #2: Does stepping on/mistreating a representation of Christ under direct threat of death and/or torture represent ‘apostasy’? Does this deserve to be treated differently than #1?

Going back to me burning the picture of Christ–suppose it wasn’t my choice…someone told me at gunpoint that I had to take the picture off the wall and burn it. Now what’s my status in God’s eyes? Should I refuse–standing up for the seeming disrespect of the Savior from others? Or could/should I go along with it–taking the path of least resistence and realizing burning an inanimate object is fairly meaningless in the eternal scheme of things, not worth getting shot over. It’s one thing if my actions are a reflection of some personal apostasy (Think Salieri burning the cross on his wall in “Amadeus”), but when I’m forced to by threats or torture? Wouldn’t you suppose God would take the context into account when passing judgement?

There are good reasons to be strong and faithful, even under threat of death. The scriptures are full of stories, such as Abinadi, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego where faithful saints were threatened with death unless they backed down from their beliefs, and they refused. (Note that in the former case, Abinadi was not ‘rewarded’ for his faithfulness by being saved from death…another lesson entirely) In modern times, there’s the story of Joseph F. Smith who when accosted by an armed band of ruffians who said they’d shoot any Mormon they found, and then asked him if he was Mormon–to which he replied: “Yes, sir–true blue, through and through!”.

Let’s suppose I was in Joseph F. Smith’s shoes, and was faced with a dangerous situation where admitting to being a Church member might be hazardous to my health. What if I said “No” when asked if I was Mormon? Have I committed a sin? Well, yes…I’ve lied. I said I wasn’t a Church member even though I was. And I failed to stand up for my beliefs when given a chance. An unpardonable sin, though? Are we justified in interpreting the phrase “he that saves his life shall lose it” to the extent that salvation can be casually abandoned through a few words, even under a threat of death?

The most obvious parallel would be Peter, immediately after the arrest of Jesus. When asked if he knew Christ–and, note, not under torture, or imminent threat of bodily harm–Peter denied it three times. This wasn’t good, of course, but obviously Peter didn’t immediately throw away his salvation by doing so. He was still an apostle, and later had the chance to repent and proclaim his faith in Christ more boldly…even when direct threats of bodily harm arose. I don’t know any Christian church that says Peter threw away his salvation forever the day of Christ’s arrest, and nothing he did afterwards changed that.

The problem with this interpretation of scripture is that it has a severely flawed opinion of God’s character. It makes it seem like God is just itching to condemn people to hell, and will take advantage of any excuse–big or small–that allows Him to do so. Instead, He’s the exact opposite: he’s anxious to give us all of His blessings and only does not do so when he can’t because we genuinely haven’t fulfilled the necessary requirements. A merciful God would surely recognize that those who denied the faith under duress–while not as deserving as those who were faithful even unto the sacrificing of their lives–fall under the ‘spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ category, and not deserving of complete condemnation. (Imagine the reaction when those ‘fallen’ Christians learn they’re not shut out of salvation completely. Imagine, also, the reaction of the martyrs when they hear, ‘That’s great you were faithful unto death…but, you know, you could have stepped on that inanimate object without it affecting anything. I actually don’t care about it!’)

Questions For Discussion: In modern times, we don’t seem to attach quite that much importance to physical representations of the Savior, but that doesn’t stop us from using other arbitrary measurements for celestial/telestial/outer darkness worthiness. Through the years, I’ve heard a number of informal statements made in and around Church meetings such as “If you commit suicide, you’re automatically telestial bound”. (Um…no)

We have the scriptural statement that the only unforgivable sin is “denying the Holy Ghost”–but that’s not full of details as to how exactly you do that… Receiving a witness while praying and then not following through? Going to a party/bar/R-rated movie after the Holy Ghost warns you that you shouldn’t? I’ve heard some say that it is impossible for any of us here on Earth right now to “deny the Holy Ghost” and become a son of perdition–because we don’t have the surety of knowledge necessary to do it. And…I’ve heard others say that writing an anti-Mormon book or selling your temple garments on Ebay is all you need. *Poof*–outer darkness for you! Am I right in thinking that there are no absolute statements that can be made about any of the recipients of the four glories? That, God really is anxious to give us blessings, not anxious to take them away, and there are very few things you could do that would prevent you absolutely from obtaining a higher glory?

31 thoughts on “Apostasy–Voluntary and Otherwise

  1. Who is to judge what we do under duress other than God?

    However, in a church which placed as much emphasis on the outward observance of the form as the Catholic Church has done (see their teachings about baptism, etc.), it may well be that those who did step on the fumie believed that they were lost forever. Therefore, the test was really a test which caused the people who stepped on it to reject a “sacrament”. And for a Catholic, sacraments are what saves.

    Doctrinally, we don’t have quite the same feeling about sacraments, although we do believe they are saving ordinances. But I wonder if, faced with the test, we were to deny our testimony, whether we would leave the Church out of a sense of shame, etc. It is really quite impossible to judge someone else in that position.

  2. I wonder what the Lord thought of people in the early days of the church who denied key church practices under duress, like (say) polygamy.

  3. David, we emphasize ordinances at least as much as Catholics, maybe more. The claim that we emphasize outward observances could easily be made about us as well. We don’t have to hypothesize about Catholic mentality here because we have our own sacramental experience to draw on–except that thinking about it in terms of sacraments is not getting me very far.

    One thing we share with all Christians and which Catholicism may have more strongly–or may not, I can’t judge offhand–is a mythology of martyrdom. In the NT, we have Stephen. We know that “take up your cross and follow me” means all the way to Cavalry. We don’t blame Peter for denying Christ because he repented (and, we have heard, he answered correctly and fatally the next time). We don’t hear much about early Christian martyrs in our meetings, but all the more about Joseph and Hyrum and Haun’s Mill.

    The background of Christian martyrdom may in fact preclude the possibility of involuntary apostasy. That is, faced with a choice between following Christ in a very literal way, or continuing in the pleasantries of earthly life, one can either recognize that one’s faith in the world is actually stronger than one’s faith in Christ, or one can choose to follow the example of Christ and the other martyrs that one honors. If one chooses to go on living, it would be only logical to continue following the faith that one believes more strongly. If not for the mythology of Christain martyrdom, one could more easily decide afterwards that the recantation had been compelled and was therefore of no force. But because of the idea and ideal of martyrdom, it becomes much more difficult to view the event as something besides discovering what you really believe after all. (Which is pretty much David’s second point.)

    Read against a background of Christian martyrdom, I don’t know if rejecting God but not really meaning it is possible at all. It has nothing to do with our attitude towards physical representations and everything to do with how we interpret the demands placed on us by the example of Christ and the other martyrs.

  4. I can’t imagine burning an image of Christ represents apostacy unless my actions dictated it as well. It would need to be accompanied by other actions, many of which are worse than burning wood fibers with ink on them. The action of defacing an image of Christ can’t be considered in a vacuum.

    I’ve often pondered the scenerio before, that if some punk broke into my house and held me at gunpoint and told me to deny Christ, what would I do? I don’t know, I’d probably deny Christ, then kick the dude in the head and have him arrested. My testimony to this punk doesn’t exactly matter. But every situation is different.

  5. Kevin, I’m with you on the meaninglessness of most physical object. Even those objects that we believe have real spiritual value, such as the garment, etc., would have to be destroyed in such a way that made it clear a person meant the actions as a signal of apostasy.

    But that’s the main point, isn’t it: the meaning of the gesture to the actor and viewers of the act? If the Japanese officials stated that stomping on the icon would denote a renunciation of Christianity, wouldn’t that make it so? Why did Joseph Smith not simply say that he’d made it all up, in order to save his life? Well, many reasons, but the major one is that regardless of the harm that would actually cause, or any objective spiritual laws that would be broken, that statement would mean to the hearer that Joseph Smith had renounced his prophetic calling and message. That’s enough. So even if we agree that these little tokens that the benighted Japanes Christians stepped on had no objective spiritual worth, I think their acts are important and meaningful. I think we all have a duty not to take any act, no matter how meaningless, if we have formed an understanding with others that that act constitutes a renunciation of our religion.

  6. “If the Japanese officials stated that stomping on the icon would denote a renunciation of Christianity, wouldn’t that make it so?”

    But the shoguns aren’t the ones who actually determine eternal salvation. Just because they consider you to have ‘renounced’ Christianity doesn’t mean God considers you to have apostatized. True, you’ve missed a chance to share a powerful testimony of your faith and beliefs before others, but I don’t believe you’ve really impacted your eternal destiny by doing so. Obviously, one who stands his ground and dies for it has shown celestial character, but my point is you can’t judge those who break down and submit as ‘apostates’–even if the government (and maybe the churches at that time) considered them to be. God is the judge of all–and why wouldn’t He judge less harshly those who just weren’t strong enough to remain firm when faced with torture and death. They missed an opportunity–like Peter did–but still have a chance to grow in faith and testimony in the future…

  7. It would be nice to live in this gnostic world where physical acts have no bearing on your spiritual salvation –

    but the nature of the gospel is it’s mixture of physical and spritual acts (hence the ressurection being a joining of the spirit and body).

    So – yes, physical acts and objects are important and have deep meanings. The Shoguns may not determine salvation, but our physical acts have deep spiritual meanings. Stepping on the icons is the equivalent of saying out loud “I renounce Christ.” In either case, I think God would be offended at our lack of resolve, as we are commanded to stand as witnesses in all times and in all places, regardless of circumstances.

    The Gnostics were heretics because they believed whatever we did or said with our physical bodies had no impact on our inner spiritual lives. I don’t think it’s a slippery slope to say that this argument is tending towards Gnostic ideas.

  8. One of the principal reasons why people apostatize from the Church is serious sinful behavior (of course, it is not the only reason). I believe that (in that case) apostasy happens because the serious sinner now faces a fundamental choice of what to do about his sin.

    Does he confess with a broken heart and contrite spirit, make restitution, do everything in his power to atone, and forsake his sins?

    Or, does he reject the law that he broke; that way, he can continue in his sins, and not have to go through his own Calvary.

    Faced with that choice, there is the temptation to rationalize away his beliefs, and thus convince himself he is not committing such a great sin. It is, of course, very human to try to rationalize what we have done.

    In the particular case of the Japanese mentioned above, this may have been part of what caused them to think that they were no longer Christian.

  9. “Stepping on the icons is the equivalent of saying out loud ‘I renounce Christ.'”

    I don’t agree…

    Only if the person doing the stepping accepts that as its meaning–and by stepping on it personally and willfully renounces Christ and the Church in his heart. Suppose he doesn’t? Suppose he says in his heart that he still believes in Christ even though other people are forcing him to perform a gesture that, after consideration, doesn’t have any significant eternal meaning anyway. Who are the shoguns to decide the criteria for who’s saved and who isn’t?

    Suppose someone comes up to me with a bottle of wine and says:
    (1) Drinking wine is against the LDS faith
    (2) Therefore, a Mormon who drinks this wine is renouncing their faith and their salvation
    (3) You will now drink this wine or I will kill you.

    If I do drink it, I’ve broken a commandment (involuntarily). But who’s he to decide what amounts to a ‘renouncation of my faith and my salvation’. What if I drunk the wine without internally renouncing my religion? Who says my remaining a potential celestial heir in God’s eyes is dependant on my not being willing to drink the wine…simply because he said so? Why wouldn’t you think God would view the circumstances of my ‘Word of Wisdom breaking’ with an eye of mercy? That’s like kidnapping someone Sunday morning, locking them in a room for a day, and then proclaiming that they’re now sinners in God’s eyes because they “didn’t attend church”…

    Suppose we now substitute orange juice for wine. The guy says now:
    (1) According to my (unknowingly flawed) understanding of LDS doctrine, drinking orange juice is against the LDS faith.
    (2) Therefore, I decree that any Mormon who drinks orange juice to be a renouncation of their faith and salvation.
    (3) You will now drink this orange juice or I will kill you.

    Now should I refuse to drink the orange juice and risk death…simply because he says that drinking orange juice is a sign of apostasy? Sure, if I believe him…and act like an apostate from that time forth. But what if I don’t? Who is he to arbitrarily define what apostasy is and isn’t? Why should I pay any heed at all to what he thinks apostasy means? Why should God care what he thinks apostasy is? Why shouldn’t I just act hesitant, drink the OJ, have him walk away thinking ‘what a weak-willed ex-Mormon’, and then walk away myself thinking, “Glad I got away from that crazy guy…”

  10. Kevin –

    I’m sorry, but you’re sounding too Gnostic to me. Even under threat of death, the actual physical act of doing something affects our spirit.

    Your wine/orange juice analogy is a false dichotomy as it focuses solely on the guy with the gun’s point of view. Drinking wine, contrary to a commandment you hold as true, is in essence (even under threat of death) not just breaking one commandment, but breaking several.

    Heck, look at the epistle of James. If you break even one commandment, you are guilty of breaking the whole law. But even if you don’t buy this jacobian dichotomy, you have still broken several commandments by drinking the wine:

    1. No drinking wine.
    2. You have not stodd as a witness for God in all times and in all places. You have instead said you will stand as a witness for God only when your life is not in danger.
    3. You have shown you are not willing to sacrafice everything for the gospel’s sake.

    There are a few others, but right there, you have broken at least three (rather big) commandments.

    You asked: Who says my remaining a potential celestial heir in God’s eyes is dependant on my not being willing to drink the wine…simply because he said so?

    I think it’s beacuse God said so (see 2 and 3 above).

    The orange juice example just means the man with the gun is insane and/or and idiot.

    But like I said, your reasoning is very gnostic.

  11. I didn’t say drinking the wine in case #1 wasn’t a sin. Only that…

    (1) A Church member who drinks alcohol regularly of his own free will and choice is breaking a commandment. Yet, he is not doomed to outer darkness for doing so. He still has the opportunity in the future to repent, change, and stop drinking…and will still be ‘eligible’ for the full blessings of God. The fact that he sinned in the past does not prevent him (nor any of us) from obtaining celestial glory (provided we actually stop…)

    (2) A Church member who doesn’t normally drink, yet goes out with a group of friends one night and is ‘peer pressured’ into having one (1) drink, has also broken a commandment. Yet, in this case you would have to conclude that this situation is obviously less serious than #1–and if #1 has the opportunity to repent and change, so does #2. He can resolve to be stronger and more faithful next time he’s in that situation and/or avoid it entirely. He is not automatically blocked from any eternal progression by his mistake in the past.

    (3) A Church member who never drinks is forced at gunpoint to take a drink through some unique (and crazy) situation. This is still breaking a commandment…yet how can you not conclude that this situation is even less serious in terms of sin than #1 or #2? You can still argue that he ‘should’ have resisted, even when death was on the line. I don’t disagree–yet if he didn’t how serious a sin do you think this really is in God’s eyes? Doesn’t he still have the option of repentance and change that #1 and #2 did? Why wouldn’t God make a (small) distinction when it comes time to judge persons #1, #2, and #3–all in different circumstances?

    You make it sound as if being forced to do something by threat of death and not refusing is in itself a sin. It’s not. Drinking is the sin in this case, and not showing courage in the face of death does not make #3 more of a sinner than #1, simply because #1 wasn’t in a situation where he might have had to ‘sacrifice everything’… (I would argue the opposite)

    And if you add in the orange juice instead…then there’s really no argument. Who cares if the guy thinks drinking OJ is a sin? Who cares if millions upon millions of people think Mormons drinking OJ is a sin. Only God’s opinion matters… Being forced to drink OJ–or step on a picture of Christ–when you know that’s not a sin in no way obligates you to treat it like a sin, even though everyone around you thinks it is. And in no way does ‘giving in’ when threatened with death and/or torture suddenly make the ‘sin’ worse…

  12. Well, for me, it would depend on how they were going to kill me. If it was slow and painful, I would drink that wine right up and figure God understood completely (since He does). If they were going to shoot me quick, I might refuse. BUT, if they were going to shoot somebody I loved, I would drink a whole gallon.

    But how many of you would defend somebody for burning a picture of Christ and condemn them for burning the flag?

    I tend to drive myself crazy with these very types of hypothetical situations. A waste of time.

  13. You make it sound as if being forced to do something by threat of death and not refusing is in itself a sin. It’s not. Drinking is the sin in this case,

    Nope. Drinking is not the only sin in this case. Your initial comment reads me just right. If threatened by death to commit a sin, and you commit the sin, you have just committed several sins (see my list above). It would be a sin to drink the wine, AND as sin to show that you are unwilling to keep the commandments just because you are under threat of death. So your “it’s not” in this case is incorrect. There are multiple sins involved in your hypothetical example.

    Let’s try another hypothetical example:
    A man threatens to kill you unless you make love to his wife.

    Does the severity of the sin make a differnce to your situation?

    But in either case, i would maintian that there are a whole host of sins involved in your examples, beyond “just” drinking wine.

  14. So if without being threatened, I have an affair with this guy’s wife, I’m somehow less of a sinner than if I did it under threat of death…because the list of sins is shorter? How can that be?

    Your list has ‘standing as a witness for God at all times’–why wouldn’t this apply to all situations, not just those that involve death threats?

    Why wouldn’t the guy who drinks alcohol regularly be called accountable for ‘not standing as a witness for God’? He openly broke a commandment and let everyone around him see him drink… Why wouldn’t someone who commits adultery of his own free will be called accountable for ‘not standing as a witness for God’–he still broke a sacred covenant. He showed that–as in your sin #2–he’s willing to stand as a witness for God…but only when he wants to. This is better than someone who only broke a commandment because he was threatened? That entire list of sins can be applied in every case we’ve talked about…and in greater seriousness, too.

    I still fail to see how simply adding the threat of death to the equation somehow makes the sin worse than someone who was perfectly willing to commit it without the threat…

  15. Ivan,

    Unfortunately, your hypothetical is more than just a theoretical possibility — in a famous armed robbery of a diner on Long Island in the late 70’s, the gunmen (in addition to shooting various patrons, raping varous patrons, and stealing lots of jewelry etc) forced some patrons, at gunpoint, to have sex with each other.


    I like your reasoning. And I think that there are scriptural instances where the Lord _does_ approve of such behavior. For example, the behavior of the Nephite prisoners who stopped praying out loud.

    You have to suspect that it happened in other contexts, too. The spy among the Gadianton robbers, who alerted the Nephite leaders of the plan, probably took an oath denying the church — an other he had no intention of honoring — in order to penetrate the conspiracy.

  16. Ivan: You’re forced sex hypothetical is a little too close to reality for many saints. I know that your not saying this but the comment could be misconstrued to saying that it is better to die than be raped and I imagine that we are unanimous in decrying such thought.

  17. I’ms saying that the real sin in most of these hypotheticals is not what Kevin is focusing on. In all cases (drinking wine/making love/telling a lie) the real moral question at issue is this:

    We are commanded to stand as a witness for God in all times and in all places. We are commanded to hold true to the commandement regardless of circumstance (personal revelation providing exceptions, obviously). If we drink the wine when threatened with out lives, the drinking of wine is a negligible sin. What we have really done is signalled to God that we are fair weather saints who will only keep the commandments as long as out lives aren’t threatened.

    Imagine if many of the Pioneers had used Kevin’s ideals.

  18. J. Stapely –

    My hypothetical had no rape in it. Please do not attribute beliefs to me I do not have.

  19. Kaimi –

    No, it isn’t. Foricbally restraining someone so they have no recourse is rape.

    “have sex or be shot” is like “drink wine or be shot” – you have a choice. Not a very good set of choices, but you still have a choice. (I would differentiate cases where someone could escape rape by killing themselves. In those cases, I would still consider it rape, as suicide isn’t really a viable opportunity).

    Are you arguing that we should commit sins rather than die? So that those in the days of Alma should have renounced the faith rather than be pushed into the fire? That the early members of the Church denounce JS as a fraud so that they wouldn’t be shot?

    What happened to the “stand as a witness in ALL times and all places.” No one has given a satisfactory answer to that question.

    Rather than try to write me off as some unelightened loser who thinks rape victims should kill themselves, it might be better to have a discussion (which Kevin has done fairly well. His comments, while I disagree, have forced me to ponder my own views more closely).

  20. Oh – yeah,

    and rape vicitms shouldn’t be held accountable for being raped. But I feel someone who has a gun pointed at their head, told to sin, and who refuses, is more blessed than those who give in and commit the sin. I think the early history of the Chruch teaches us that much.

    Tell me I’m wrong on that point, I don’t mind that.

    But some of the comments smack of calumny.

  21. And you know what –

    I’m getting waaaaaaaay to worked up about this (and other things) I need to take a few days off of the Bloggernacle, calm down, ponder some things, and see if I’m not just oversensitive and/or misreading everyone (and/or possibly wrong in my views).

    See y’all in a few.

  22. Ivan,

    We may be talking past each other here. I’m an attorney by training, and when I hear a term like “rape” I tend to apply the standard legal definition. Rape laws vary from state to state, but all (I believe) contain provisions making clear that sex under threat of severe injury or death is rape.

    For example, New York Penal code:

    § 130.35 Rape in the first degree

    A person is guilty of rape in the first degree when he or she engages in sexual intercourse with another person:

    1. By forcible compulsion; or
    2. Who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless; or
    3. Who is less than eleven years old; or
    4. Who is less than thirteen years old and the actor is eighteen years old or more.

    § 130.00 Sex offenses; definitions of terms

    . . .

    8. “Forcible compulsion” means to compel by either:

    a. use of physical force; or
    b. a threat, express or implied, which places a person in fear of immediate death or physical injury to himself, herself or another person, or in fear that he, she or another person will immediately be kidnapped.

    So when I say that sex at gunpoint is rape, that’s because when I see the word “rape” I tend to think “rape as punishable under law.” It’s entirely possible that you are using a different, more informal definition of rape, wherein having sex at gunpoint would not meet the definition.

  23. I’ll add that I think that the rape laws should definitely operate as written, to include sex under threat to the victim or another person, and that this is a good thing. A common rape tactic is to break in on a young mother and say “I’ll harm your kids if you don’t consent to sex.” If the statute _didn’t_ consider sex under threat of harm (to self or others) to be rape, that act would not legally be considered as rape.

  24. To copy a link to some information that I just noticed, and posted in a comment at T & S, on legal background of the case —

    I just noticed a law blog discussing the case. It has an extensive timeline and discussion of the legal history. It’s at http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html#timeline .

    According to that blog – and I don’t know myself whether this legal analysis is good or not, but it sounds plausible and if true, interesting – Michael Schiavo does not have the authority to decide one way or the other. Rather, the trial court is making the decisions, based on testimony from different parties including Michael Schiavo. To quote:

    Michael Schiavo did not make the decision to discontinue life-prolonging measures for Terri.

    As Terri’s husband, Michael has been her guardian and her surrogate decision-maker. By 1998, though – eight years after the trauma that produced Terri’s situation – Michael and Terri’s parents disagreed over the proper course for her.

    Rather than make the decision himself, Michael followed a procedure permitted by Florida courts by which a surrogate such as Michael can petition a court, asking the court to act as the ward’s surrogate and determine what the ward would decide to do. Michael did this, and based on statements Terri made to him and others, he took the position that Terri would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures. The Schindlers took the position that Terri would continue life-prolonging measures. Under this procedure, the trial court becomes the surrogate decision-maker, and that is what happened in this case.

    The trial court in this case held a trial on the dispute. Both sides were given opportunities to present their views and the evidence supporting those views. Afterwards, the trial court determined that, even applying the “clear and convincing evidence” standard – the highest burden of proof used in civil cases – the evidence showed that Terri would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures.

  25. Dang it, wrong window. Serves me right for having 2 M* windows open. Hmm, admin, can you delete this and the prior one, I’m going to post it where it belongs, on the Schiavo thread.

  26. Well, I wasn’t going to post for a few days, But I’ll post this at least;

    I think you’re right, as far as legal definitions go and I should have realized that, now that I think about it.

    I also think, outside of hypotheticals, I would never personally condemn or judge anyone who committed a “sin” under a valid threat of death.

    Okay – now, I really need some time off, to gather my wits and calm down.

  27. Getting back to the original topic: Maybe my perspective is a little different having served my mission in Japan, but I totally get how Japanese people forced to step on the fumie would consider themselves to have renounced Christ, even if the stepping was against their will. Where I’m struggling is how to explain it.

    Maybe Bryce or one of the others can help me put it into words; It’s kind of a cross between losing face in public and the mingling of ancestor worship and the shame of dishonor. I can see how, having stepped on the fumie, an early Japanese Christian could have seen themselves as committing a sin akin to denying of the Holy Ghost. Christ was present in a very real-seeming way in the fumie. Bringing dishonor to one’s master was considered one of the worst crimes there was and often led to seppuku.

    I’m not saying stepping was unforgivable, mind you, but especially in the Shogun era I could see how a Japanese Christian could get there.

  28. One last comment, just for perspective.

    At dinner, I was discussing this post and the comments with “The Baroness” and I said, “Imagine a situation where someone threatens to kill me unless I drank some wine…”

    Immediately, without hesitation, The Baroness said: “Then, you’d better be drinking it. You have a wife and kids…”

    So, there it is…

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