Tag Archives: assisted suicide

The Culture of Death

I have lived in the midst of the Christian message of life and hope all my life. I can’t remember not knowing that Jesus suffered and died in order to give us life. God, who created the universe, created life, and when he created human beings, he gave us his own breath to be our life. Among my family and friends, life has always been something to treasure and protect. Clearly, God considers life to be his most precious gift, because he paid a very high price in order to give eternal life to us.

Lately it is becoming clear to me that a lot of people prefer death to life. If death is not precious,

  • Why do so many black women abort so many black babies?
  • Why do so many white women abort so many white babies?
  • Why do so many people of every color kill so many of every color?
  • Why is our culture tying itself in knots in order to find ways to approve of euthanasia and suicide?
  • Why does our culture ignore the fact that when an addict/alcoholic dies it is always suicide, whether the individual chose it or simply took one too many doses of the drug of choice?
  • Why is suicide the subject of a very popular movie?
  • Why does any level of our government—national, state, county or city—give financial support to abortion providers?
  • Why does any level of government think it is ever “acceptable” to engage in assisted suicide?”

 

The culture of death works very hard not to use the word death even when it is the main subject. Abortion is called a “reproductive right” that falls in the category of “preventive services” that ostensibly remove obstacles to “women’s health.” The word death appears in discussions of gunshot victims, however. Images of gunshot victims produce visceral reactions in media readers, and the word death has a powerful presence in discussions of those incideents. Yet, in the USA, people using guns kill less than 1/2 of 1%  of the number of deaths due to abortion. In 2015, just last year, 7,166 people died by gunshot. Abortion kills 1.2 million people every year. That is a lot of human death. The outrage over guns is used as a clever diversion from a recognition that abortion is the leading cause of death in humans in the USA. Heart disease heads the list of officially recognized causes of death, and several thousand people died of heart disease every year. Yet heart disease is not even 25% of the number of human deaths due to abortion. Euthanasia and suicide are lumped into the discussion of “end of life options,” as if the mask of responsible fiscal control of scarce healthcare resources could actually cover up the face of death. There are no real statistics for the number of euthanasia deaths or assisted suicide in the medical world yet, and there may never be any. The culture of death is good at finding words to cover up the fact that someone died because he was either talked into it by a counselor or eliminated by simple therapeutic manipulations. The face of death looks much more like abortion than heart disease, and death looks much more like heart disease than like a gun. The culture of death carefully choreographs our attention away from the leading causes of death to a cause that barely makes a blip in the numbers. Why?

The culture of death wants people dead, but death has a bad name. That is why the culture focuses on anything that diverts attention from its malevolent intentions. Unplanned babies may interfere with the economic plans of the government; it achieves the goal of keeping women in the workforce by making them think that a baby is a barrier to their self-gratifying dreams. Unplanned longevity of the elderly overcrowds hospitals and stresses medical staff; carefully orchestrated “end of life” discussions can lead the very sick of any age and anyone who, in the eyes of the government (think Soylent Green) has lived long enough. Those facts should make anyone’s blood run cold. Yet the culture of death manages to keep us focused on the tiny fraction of all deaths attributable to criminal use of a legal firearm. I don’t say this out of some notion that crime with a gun should be legalized. I say it, because we have statutes that criminalize and punish murder. We really can’t expect that a person who is determined to commit the crime of murder will be deterred by the absence of an easily accessible gun. The culture of death is making sausage out of human beings while we worry about dust bunnies under the bed.

Murder, a death that meets a legal definition of a crime, is bad enough. Add to that problem the fact that the CDC reports that suicide rates increased between the turn of the century (2000) and 2014. People are not simply feeling more entitled to kill other people; people feel more entitled to kill themselves.

There is something terribly wrong in America. Guns are in the picture, but guns play a very small part in the big picture. The true picture is death itself, writ large in the culture. The real problem is disdain for the elevated status of humanity in the mix of all things. People who value life as God values it do not descend to a level where they ask if old people should be treated for disease when they could just die and get out of the way. People who value life as God sees it do not play games with words in order to avoid acknowledging that “the product of conception” is a baby.

Social analysts do not seem to grasp the immensity of the problem. They assiduously avoid talking about abortion, guns, and assisted suicide in the same breath. However, it is easy to see the common denominator of death wherever it appears. Discussions about killing babies are semantically distanced from discussions of social constructs that kill adults.

Scripture often uses metaphor to help us understand complicated issues. Scripture teaches that life and death are such serious opposites that the metaphor for life is light and the metaphor for death is darkness. Jesus often referred to himself as both light and life, and the apostle John said of Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Light is a good metaphor for life. When Scripture talks about life, it is life as God knows it—eternal life.

Light is like eternal life in one very important trait. When any light shines into a dark place, the darkness recedes. Darkness cannot hold back the light. Likewise, eternal life pushes death back. Jesus refers to that quality when he says, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19). [emphasis mine] His point is that people cannot stand still in his presence; they must seek a hiding place where his eternal life is not manifested in order to avoid him. They seek to hide behind some barrier that cannot be penetrated by Christ’s presence. That search is, of course, futile, but the need to get out of the light that is life is so deep-seated that people take extreme measures in order not to experience the presence of Christ.

Ask yourself these questions:

Can people escape the pressure of Christ’s presence by leaving the room when someone opens a Bible?

Can they escape by refusing to set foot in a church?

Can they escape by joining a group that denies God’s existence?

They cannot. The light of life penetrates into all the dark corners. The culture of death shrieks and howls and demands that Christians cover their crosses, stop praying aloud in public places, and keep their Bibles to themselves when not inside a church building. The presence of Christ in the culture, however, manifests itself when Christians take seriously their responsibility to be salt and light. That is why the culture considers Christians to be extreme if they read their Bibles at the gate while waiting for a flight to board, if they pray over the sandwich they eat on the airplane, if they refuse to have sex outside of marriage, if they tell their children that homosexuality is not normal, and if they invite someone to church when they don’t know that person’s religion. There are numerous other behaviors that the culture classifies as extreme, but all of these behaviors are simply the manifestation of Christ’s indwelling presence in Christians, and those who prefer death do not want the light of life, Christ himself, to shine on them.

While traveling last winter, I needed a haircut and went to an unfamiliar beauty shop. The stylist, as is normal, engaged in conversation while cutting my hair. She asked what I do, and I told her about my then-current writing project. I was writing about an NGO that provides solar powered audio players pre-loaded with the Bible in the local language of a remote tribe in Africa. I shared their news that new Christians in that tribe were eager for these audio Bibles. The happy recipients of those devices visited their friends and played the recorded readings from the Bible for friends who did not know Jesus. As a result, there were numerous new converts.

True to contemporary secular thinking, my stylist asked, “But don’t those people already have a religion? Why do they need to hear the Bible? They have gods, don’t they?” My stylist was of an opinion that all religions are equal, and all paths lead to the same god. This view is officially espoused by the US government in President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships. The stylist seemed shocked when I said, “When these people hear the truth about Jesus, they prefer it to the fake gods of their history.” I believe that she considered my statement to be an example of extremism. She immediately changed the subject and did not ask me any more questions. She hid from Christ’s light by making it clear that she did not want to hear any more about it.

The Bible speaks of this attitude. Jesus explained to Nicodemus why he had come, and then he said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18). These verses are not as popular as John 3:16, but they should be. In this statement, Jesus said that if he had not come, the world would have been doomed. Without him, there would be no salvation for anyone. That reality utterly refutes the notion that Christians ought not to introduce Christ to people who already worship some other god. Jesus says here that those people are not condemned by Jesus, because they are already condemned.

People who make fun of education make the same kind of mistake. They can choose to be educated, or they can choose to remain ignorant. Their ignorance is in play, whether or not they even consider getting an education. If they don’t choose education, then they remain ignorant.

Ignorant people don’t choose to be ignorant in the beginning; they are born that way. A choice is required if they want to learn something. Likewise, condemned sinners do not need to choose to be condemned. They are born condemned. They must make a choice in order for things to change. It is the light of Christ that could change things. If they see the light of Christ and receive him, thereby receiving eternal life, then the condemnation is removed.

My stylist saw the glimmer of the light of Christ when I referred to the Bible as truth, but she was uncomfortable with that idea. She closed the door to the light. Jesus is probably still knocking at her door, or maybe someone else has been able to persuade her to leave the door open. I pray it is so. Jesus wants to shine his light on everyone. Jesus wants to give life to everyone.

Do you know anyone who hides from Christ’s light? When was the last time you tried to share Christ with someone who is hiding from Him? Do you pray for people who shut you down or make hateful remarks about Christ and his church? This is where the difference between the culture of death and the culture of life become very evident. If you listen to conversations in which the culture of death is celebrated, their remarks about people who disagree with them are often vile. They may march peacefully, but the rhetoric of the marching songs is vicious. They love to slander people with labels that have become the bonding language of the culture—racist, homophobe, bigot, and so forth.

There certainly is culture of death, but we do not need to copy its attitudes or its practices. We need to go forward in love, to speak always in love, to be at peace with other people as long as they will allow it. (See Romans 12:1) I let my stylist end the conversation at her choice, but because I trust God to love her. I trust that I will not be her last chance to open that door. That is what we must always do in our interaction with the culture of death. There is no reason to engage in heated rhetoric over differences with that culture. We make our testimony, we lovingly seek to persuade, and we let the door close if somebody is pushing it. Then we trust God to use us in a different setting, at a different time, or to use someone else altogether. When we trust God, we are not desperate. We know that he is truly all-powerful. We are servants, trying to be faithful, but the outcome is not up to us.

Live as a servant of the Light. Hold the Light high. If the door closes, do not be the one to pull it shut.

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Is He Dead Yet?

The latest manifestation of the culture of death has showed up in Belgium. No, it isn’t the news of violence by Islamic extremists, which is bad enough. Islamic extremists are people who kill other people, people they hope are infidels, and they often wreak this havoc by killing themselves. Belgium, however, has added what they hope people will perceive as a charitable wrinkle to the discussion of life and death Continue reading Is He Dead Yet?

Life of the Elderly — an Absolute Value? or Relative?

A recent article pointed out that the media has apparently taken the initiative to promote what I call “senior suicide.” They call it dignified death. They might just as well take the big leap and call it “a senior’s right to choose.” The media is glorifying the story of senior citizens who decide to kill themselves.

What is going on here? How did our culture come to this place? Why do Christians care?

An internet search on “right to die” or “assisted suicide” or other similar topics turns up a great deal of information. Many people will remember the late Dr. Kevorkian who campaigned vigorously for people’s right to kill themselves in certain situations, situations where he appointed himself to be the judge and jury. There are Supreme Court cases, organizations pro and con, and numerous individual stories of people who chose suicide. There are statistics, too, that show that many elderly people choose suicide rather than life, and only a few of those could even distantly be “justified” by a terminal diagnosis.

  • What is happening in the culture of the USA that increasingly presses for a societal right to end the lives of individuals?
  • Since we who follow Christ believe that life is God’s most precious gift, how does Christ want Christians to respond to this cultural trend?

Suicide might not look like a right for the society to end someone’s life. It seems at first glance to be something a person decides for himself. Suicide has been an issue in human society for as long as records tell the story. It isn’t a new thing.

What is new is the attitude of reporting about suicide. When an elderly person or a person who is terminally ill decides to commit suicide, the press seems to applaud the decision. It isn’t suicide when a terminally ill person chooses to allow nature to take its course; it is suicide when a terminally ill person packs up and goes to Switzerland where she can legally drink poison and die. The press describes this decision with almost the same awe as it shows for the vacation plans of the President and his family.

The culture of the USA is increasingly a culture of death. It looks on the surface like life, but in the heart of the culture, death is growing stronger.

  • The culture values the prevention of birth so strongly that the government is willing to run roughshod over the religious convictions of millions in order to provide sterilization, abortion and drugs labeled contraceptives (despite the fact that their actual function is to prevent implantation) at no cost to patients.
  •  The culture says that the killing of the unborn is justified because an unborn baby is an alien intruder in the body of a woman who does not need the inconvenience, an inconvenience so powerful that post-birth abortion has even been proposed as a legitimate option. 
  • The culture says that an elderly person’s suicide can be viewed as a “dignified death” if the elderly person is tired of living, for any reason whatsoever.
  • The culture has spawned a healthcare law that says it is appropriate to “manage” the provision of medical treatment according to a formula that assesses the cost benefit against life expectancy with the consequence that an expensive treatment w/ill rarely be authorized for an elderly patient, regardless of its potential benefit for the patient.
  • The same cost/benefit analysis can conceivably be used to deny or limit treatment of individuals whose irremediable disabilities make it likely that the benefit of some medical treatments would never be fully realized.
  • All these trends make it horrifyingly possible, maybe even probable, that a culture of eugenics could emerge under some other label, the term eugenics having been thoroughly discredited already.

The underlying theme of these cultural changes is a disregard for life. The theme that human beings have a right, even an obligation, to plan and manage the deaths of other people is a theme frequently promoted by media comments. The notion of planning families sounds like a liberating option until governments respond to population pressures by setting legal limits on family size. The notion of using money for healthcare wisely sounds like responsible fiscal management, until the whole process becomes entangled with a Pharisaical regulation embedded in a political budget process that has no relationship to the value of human life. It is becoming very clear that letting go of a cultural commitment to do whatever it takes to support life simply because life is precious comes at the cost of another precious commodity – freedom. Life is God’s first and most precious gift to humankind. After that, he gives liberty, the precious right to choose between good and evil, the precious responsibility to choose what God would choose. Christians are called to be salt and light in this secular culture. Christians have an obligation to shine the light of truth on the rising cultural trends. Christians have an obligation to behave like salt on food to change the flavor of the culture.

An individual Christian cannot make new laws or implement new policies nationwide. Yet each individual Christian must certainly want to do whatever will reshape the culture. Christians can speak and write and act with love for life. By our living testimonies, people will see our respect for life, our practice of treasuring and nurturing and preserving life, our commitment to the God from whom we all receive life. When we show Christ’s love for all people, even unborn people, even old feeble people, even poor, dirty, diseased people, even political opponents and social activists for causes we know are destructive – our willingness to love as Christ loved shines light on the truth and flavors the culture in a way that makes it better. We must not think that changing the culture or the government is all up to us. That is God’s work. No matter how faithful any one Christian might be, one Christian is unlikely to turn the culture upside down. On the other hand, God only needs one person completely committed to him to turn an empire upside down, as witness the impact of the apostle Paul.

As Christians, we respect everyone’s right to choose between good and evil. This is a God-given right. Our testimony is that in Christ, we choose life, the first and most valuable of all God’s gifts. Life is an absolute value, at every age.

For background and related articles, read Living on Tilt the newspaper