Why Joni Eareckson Tada Thinks You Should Go See the New Pro-Suicide Movie, “Me Before You”

Reviewing this movie at Revive Our Hearts, Joni Eareckson Tada (who has lived with quadriplegia for over three decades) writes:

I have nothing but disdain for the “you’re better off dead than disabled” message in Me Before You. It can’t help but have a negative impact on young, impressionable moviegoers who already have fundamental fears about disability. It can pull at their emotions, further weakening their convictions about who has the right to doctor-assisted death. Audiences may leave the theater saying, “Why shouldn’t a despairing quadriplegic have the right to kill himself?!”

Right now there are five states in the United States (California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Montana) that have legalized assisted suicide for terminally ill people. Additionally, bills modeled on the California law have been submitted in eighteen states and the District of Columbia. New York could be next to legalize assisted suicide. All of these state bills and laws limit—or they at least propose to limit—assisted-suicide only for people with terminal illnesses.

But Me Before You pushes even that envelope, laying the case that assisted-death should be extended to anyone who finds his medical condition intolerable. According to the movie, you don’t have to be terminally ill, just have a disability you don’t want to live with. After all, if terminally ill people have the right to end their lives, why not anyone who finds their life circumstances unbearable? That’s the law in Switzerland and Belgium.

She offers several thoughtful critics from the standpoint of a Christian worldview, made especially poignant by her own disability and chronic suffering. Joni is a woman of whom the world is not worthy, and the whole thing is worth reading.

But her conclusion might surprise you.

Having said this, please do go see the movie! It provides a timely opportunity for you to share your convictions about life worth living. Too many Christians are buying into the premise that life isn’t worth living if it involves awful suffering. So this movie is a prime opportunity to not only share how films glamorize death and gloss over the facts, but it’s a chance to raise culturally-sensitive issues with your friends and neighbors, helping them understand a biblical worldview on living and dying with suffering.

Many young people have called Me Before You the best romantic film of the summer. Well, this is your chance to engage them in conversation, sharing your beliefs over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, in a college cafeteria, or over your backyard fence. Culture can only be influenced and shaped by our convictions when we voice our opinions . . . when we argue a case persuasively . . . when we speak, write, and vote our principles.

Tell your friends that life with quadriplegia is supremely preferable over three grams of Phenobarbital in the veins. Yes, there is virtue to be found in suffering. Most of all, suffering is what can drive a hurting person into the arms of their Savior. And that is the best argument against cutting your life short—there is no greater suffering than facing a Christ-less eternity on the other side of your tombstone.

You can read the whole thing here.

For some primers on some of the bioethical and philosophical issues involved in this debate, see this introduction by Melinda Penner or this twopart series by J.P. Moreland.

And if you haven’t read it before, consider this quote from Joni’s encouraging booklet Hope . . . The Best of Things:

I sure hope I can bring this wheelchair to heaven.

Now, I know that’s not theologically correct.

But I hope to bring it and put it in a little corner of heaven, and then in my new, perfect, glorified body, standing on grateful glorified legs, I’ll stand next to my Savior, holding his nail-pierced hands.

I’ll say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and he will know that I mean it, because he knows me.

He’ll recognize me from the fellowship we’re now sharing in his sufferings.

And I will say, ”Jesus, do you see that wheelchair? You were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that thing was a lot of trouble. But the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. It never would have happened had you not given me the bruising of the blessing of that wheelchair.”

Then the real ticker-tape parade of praise will begin. And all of earth will join in the party.

And at that point Christ will open up our eyes to the great fountain of joy in his heart for us beyond all that we ever experienced on earth.

And when we’re able to stop laughing and crying, the Lord Jesus really will wipe away our tears.

I find it so poignant that finally at the point when I do have the use of my arms to wipe away my own tears, I won’t have to, because God will.