You're dying of an aneurysm. Minutes count. One reason that you are in such trouble is that for the last 8 years you have been going to a quack and getting horrible care. Now, at last, you have a great new doctor! But there is something odd going on here: your life is magically linked to everyone you know. You die, and they die too. The stakes couldn't be higher.
Luckily the ballooning blood vessel about to burst in your brain, has shown up on a scan -- just in time. (Your old and lousy doctor didn't believe in scans. He said he "knew Jesus" and that that was good enough.) Your new doctor is a first-class young, black, kind, trustworthy and talented neurosurgeon. He is methodically prepping the operating room to save your life. Things are looking up!
Then you do something strange, strange that is for anyone who wants to survive: you make it impossible for your surgeon to work! Thus you put yourself -- and all those linked to you -- at terminal risk.
While your doctor is quietly and reassuringly telling you what his plan is you yell: "You're going to fail!" "Your plan for saving my life sucks!" "Do it my way, or no way!" "I'm smarter than you!" and even; "I want you to fail so I'll be proved right about what an idiot you are!"
The surgeon has hired the best surgical team ever assembled, but none of them are good enough for you. You insist that he fires them all and finds a team more to your liking, made up of people just like you: loud, ideologically driven, impatient and with the attention span of a flea.
Meanwhile you invite a lot of friends and acquaintances into the OR to make sure that while you're anesthetized (and your doctor is trying to save you) that they will scream abuse throughout the operation and, "keep this guy in line!" as you put it.
And the funny thing is: everyone in the operating room knows that minutes count, and that your condition is terminal. In fact -- like you -- they are accusing your doctor of not working fast enough! They all claim to be your best friends and to have your best interests at heart. What is even stranger is that (as I said) they know that their fate and yours is one and the same: you die, they all go down. But somehow they have the idea that surgery is a form of entertainment. They are so disconnected from reality (and spoiled too) that they think that everyone gets unlimited second chances in this "game," as they think of it.
Two more groups crash the operating room doors. Just as the surgery is beginning a gang of the surgeon's most bitter enemies -- you've inexplicably invited them along too -- and another gang who, in the near past, claimed to be both you and your doctor's friends, burst in.
The surgeon's enemies scream that your doctor has no medical degree, that he's actually trying to kill his patient, that the surgeon is the Antichrist, a socialist, a Muslim, a fraud, a "mere affirmative action hire under-qualified for the job," and that he has only gotten his medical degree for the purpose of destroying good hard working people.
Meanwhile the surgeon's (and your) "friends" are bellowing that they have better ideas, that the surgeon -- who they once said was so smart, kind, cool, collected -- is actually dumb and slow and not producing perfect results in the few moments he's had to work on your case so far, and that his surgical team is incompetent, and that he's performing the "wrong operation."
When the shouted comments of the surgeon's bitter enemies combine with the "helpful" suggestions from his so-called friends the the ensuing chaos fatally derails the surgeon's best laid plans. In fact, the two opposing sides -- the doctor's supposed friends and his bitter enemies -- begin to fight each other across the operating table. The warring camps trample you the patient. Life-support systems rip out and you're dragged off the operating table.
The mob shouts, "Why isn't the operation over yet?" "Why isn't the patient better already?"
Your surgeon answers: "If you stick to it, if you are persistent, then -- then these problems can be dealt with. That whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I'm going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come, as long as I am in this office. I'm a big believer in persistence."
The mob screams:
"What do you mean 'months' or 'years'? We want results now! We want them our way! To hell with 'persistence!' "
You fall to the floor. Your surgeon kneels and tries to perform CPR on you his, now dying, patient. And since your life is mysteriously linked to everyone in the room -- they begin to die too!
Rather than stop and think about how -- by hindering the surgeon -- they are killing you, and thereby killing themselves, your friends redouble their abuse of the doctor...
Later... when this bizarre case is investigated, it's determined that the dead people littering the OR committed collective suicide. "Never before," pronounces the coroner, "have so many people killed themselves through such childish stupidity. They hired the best surgeon anyone has ever been lucky enough to find, and then these people blew their last chance by not giving him time, space and support to do his work. What a bunch of idiots."
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.Now in paperback.