Inconvenient People and the Quality of Life
Rev. Thomas Trapp
An interview with Kenneth Schleef, a Christian with cerebral palsy.
Q: Your appearance at the Life Chain-Madison this fall told me you’re concerned about life issues. I also know you have cerebral palsy. Tell me about your cerebral palsy first and then we’ll talk about your life issue concern.
Ken: If I had received a blood transfusion at birth I’d never have gotten cerebral palsy. The doctor at that time did not believe it would help. Today I’m legally considered disabled. I’m unable to write (although I can type somewhat) and I speak with great difficulty. I have trouble walking and holding items. I have cerebral palsy in all four limbs with more control over my right side than my left side.
In 1973 I graduated from Lakeside Lutheran High School in Lake Mills, Wl and I attended Madison Area Technical College for a period.
Q: Do you think that unborn children born with your disability or any other disability should be aborted because their “quality of life,” as some call it, is restricted?
Ken: Life is life whether we determine the quality to be good or bad. God gives human life and it’s wrong to take that life away. The minute one arbitrarily qualifies one’s life to see if that person is to live or die, it’s dangerous because it’s completely subjective. Who defines the quality of life? My idea of the quality of life may differ from yours. Every unborn child’s a part of God’s creation. For that reason it has a right to live. The quality of life should not be the question.
Q: We know God’s will is that all come to faith in Jesus as God and Savior. But how do you understand God’s will regarding your physical handicap?
Ken: This is a very difficult question. I don’t think too much about it, I just accept my handicap as God’s will for my life. However, I don’t believe God is the author of my disability anymore than He is the author of sin. God did not create us to suffer. All of our troubles are directly or indirectly the result of sin. Some day we will all die. It’s the wages of sin. But God did not create us to die. When He breathed life into us and created our body and soul, He wanted us to live forever. God the Father sent Jesus into this world to make sure we can live with him forever in perfection.
Q: Do you see blessings in your struggle with cerebral palsy?
Ken: For one thing, I’ve grown closer to my family because of my cerebral palsy. My family has been very supportive of me and I’m deeply grateful to them. Other blessings are not as obvious. The Old Testament man of troubles, Job, once told his wife, “Should we accept good from God and not troubles?” (Job 2:10). God can send or allow troubles to come to us for our good, but we struggle with it. We tend to see God as bad or weak. But after awhile we begin to see that these troubles can be turned into good. The story of Joseph (Genesis 50:20) and the struggles of the apostle Paul demonstrate that (2 Corinthians 1:8,9). I’m now getting to that point. It took a long time but I see my whole life has been one of not leaning on myself but always trusting in God. I believe my physical handicap has a lot to do with my strong dependence on God.
Q: You told me your favorite passage is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” Why is this your favorite verse?
Ken: John 3:16 includes everyone, including children born deformed. It’s so all inclusive. It’s what the whole Bible is about — God gave his Son on Calvary to save everyone from their sins and to give all eternal life.
Q: One final question. Do you see your life issue concerns going beyond abortion?
Ken: Yes. Most abortions are performed today for convenient reasons, that is, they want to get rid of “inconvenient people.” This type of thinking easily carries over to other “inconvenient people” like old people, sick people and people like me. I have a real stake in these life issues. I don’t want to be “gotten rid of” just like I don’t want others to be “eliminated.” I want people to live and above all come to know Jesus, who is not only the way to God and absolute truth, but also the life, on whom your and my life depends.