Tag Archives: death

Nothing here, either. Keep moving.

What if you were talked into saying, “I don’t want to live.”

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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.

Abortion is Murder by Another Name

Jessica Valenti classifies abortion as “a safe, legal and necessary medical procedure” in her recent post complaining that North Carolina does not want state funded facilities to perform abortions or teach how to perform abortions. Her argument completely leapfrogs the real point of the law and the discussion surrounding it—the immorality of abortion on demand.

 Ms. Valenti’s careful choice of language ignores the fact that an abortion kills a living human being, and humans know that killing a human being is not a trivial matter to be undertaken on a whim or simply for convenience. If killing a human, because the human is an inconvenience, were the right thing to do, the population of the US would be much smaller. In fact, the population is much smaller than it ought to be, because convenience killing of human beings has become common. The humans being killed are so small and vulnerable that the popular language refers to them as “a blob of cells,” or “the products of conception,” but regardless of that language, the fact is that abortion kills humans. In any other setting, if one human kills another, it is murder unless it is a court-ordered execution. Murder. Millions of tiny human beings are murdered in the US every day, and the process by which they are murdered is described as “a safe, legal and necessary medical procedure.”

 As long as one contemplates the procedure in such sterile language, it sounds harmless enough. It is just another medical procedure like removing a wart or sewing up a bad cut. A procedure. Doctors need to know all about all the possible medical procedures, don’t they?

 They do not.

 Students who are studying to become doctors never learn all the possible procedures, all the possible medications or even all the possible diagnoses. They learn the procedures, medications, and diagnoses that they are most likely to encounter a need for. A student doctor may be at the top of his class and know without error everything that has been presented to him during his medical education, but he will not even have been exposed to many esoteric procedures, medications, or diagnoses. A graduate of medical school who has completed his residency and is ready to open his own office still does not know all that there is to know about procedures, medications, or diagnoses.

North Carolina’s proposed law to ban state funded abortions in their entirety does not prevent doctors from learning the procedure for abortions. It simply prevents them from learning such a procedure at taxpayer expense. The taxpayers of North Carolina have spoken, and they say they do not want to pay for a procedure that kills defenseless, innocent, unborn human beings. They don’t want to pay for the removal of the cells of either an embryo or a fetus, because whether it is an embryo or a fetus, it is still a human being.

 North Carolina is within its rights to make this decision. There are very few situations in which a doctor must tell a pregnant woman that continuing a pregnancy is a threat to her own life. It does happen, but it is rare. It is a tragedy when a pregnant woman discovers that she might not even survive long enough into the pregnancy for the baby to be viable outside the womb after the mother dies. In such a situation, an abortion would be a reasonable choice. Death of someone is inevitable. Death of both mother and baby is possible, even likely. To be able to offer a safe abortion to a mother in that circumstance would be a blessing, even though the mother would mourn the death of her child regardless. When North Carolina makes a law that state-funded institutions will not conduct abortions, that law does not prevent a mother from obtaining the abortion elsewhere.

 Likewise, if state institutions do not teach abortion procedures (and by the way, the term should be plural, since there actually are multiple choices over the full term of a pregnancy), it does not mean that abortion procedures will not be taught. It does not even mean that medical students who attend state-funded schools of medicine in North Carolina cannot ever learn that procedure unless they learn it in a state-funded medical school. Private institutions will still do abortions and teach abortions if they choose. The taxpayers will not pay for it; private individuals who want and need the procedure will pay for it.

 Advocates of abortion on demand at all times in all places always act as if the opportunity for a mother to murder her baby will be completely lost if even one option for obtaining abortion is removed. Sadly, this fear is unfounded. If North Carolina’s state government no longer funds abortions, abortion will still be readily available to any woman in North Carolina who wants it.

I consider myself an advocate for the full humanity of every individual from conception to death, and with that in mind, I advocate for the full humanity of every woman who discovers that she is pregnant when she did not want to be. I am an adult woman myself, I know exactly how women become pregnant, and I know that there are many avenues for preventing pregnancy. I also know that we human beings commonly fail to use good judgment and self-control, usually when we need it most. If a woman is pregnant and does not want to be pregnant or rear a child, a solution does not involve murder. There are many married couples who want children and no pregnancy is happening for them. There are women who want very much to get pregnant, but they don’t. There are families who would welcome another child just because that is how they feel about life. A woman who is pregnant when it seems inconvenient or even disastrous need not commit murder in order to be free of it. She can give her baby to a family that will love and cherish the baby and rear that precious, very real human being to adulthood, God willing.

 It is painful to see a term that means “the murder of a defenseless, innocent, unborn human being, created and loved by God himself,” sterilized and sanitized into the definition that it is “a safe, legal and necessary medical procedure.” You would think it was a tetanus shot. Abortion kills a baby. There are no two ways about it. It is almost never “necessary” because it is extremely rare that the pregnancy itself is a threat to the life of the mother or that it requires a choice between the life of the mother and the life of the baby. Rare. Extremely rare. Only in those rare cases is it reasonable.

 There is no reason for abortion to be a common procedure, easier to obtain than an aspirin from the school nurse. A human being’s life is lost every time an abortion is successful. I applaud North Carolina for responding to the expectation of the citizens of that state that they will not be the ones to make it easy to murder defenseless, innocent, unborn human beings.

 

A Hymn for Meditation

hymnalAbide with Me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

By Henry F. Lyte

  • This hymn was written by a man who suffered a terminal illness. When he looked forward, he saw death, and this was his response. Name some of the positive things he sees in his future.
  • How does the change of perspective from time to eternity change the way things look in verse 2?
  • What elements in these verses apply equally to all followers of Christ at all times?
  • What symbol is the key to the power of the faith expressed in this hymn?
  • This hymn debuted at a memorial service for its author. Think of three other occasions on which this hymn would be appropriate.

Morality — absolute, or relative

As promised, this post will address the question: In the parable of the wheat and the tares, why is anyone who is not a Christian depicted as evil?

The equivalence between atheism and evil does not exist in the world of relative morality. In the world of relative morality, it would be unthinkable to equate secularism with evil. People who espouse relative morality think that everybody is good sometimes, and nobody should be called evil.  Secularism and atheism are automatically equivalent to evil only in the world of absolute morality.

Relative morality operates on the basis of the situation which presents itself. Good is defined in personal terms. Evil is the opposite of good, in personal terms. Every situation is different, and good versus evil is redefined for every conflict. Each individual has the power and the right to define morality for himself in each situation.

The rule of self-defense is a good example of a setting where almost everyone agrees that the target of attempted murder has the right to murder his attacker in an attempt to prevent his own murder. The honor our culture gives to people like policemen and soldiers is due to our cultural sense that anyone who risks death himself or even commits murder himself in order to save the lives of others is on the right side of the conflict.  In situations like these, almost everyone believes in relative morality.

Absolute morality, the morality revealed by God through the Bible, says that in every situation, you can distinguish between good and evil by comparing the antagonists with God. God is the measure of what is good. Jesus even said, “There is only One who is good.” By that comparison, every human being is evil. This is the reason every person needs Christ, and whoever receives Christ is made righteous by his righteousness. This truth means that when God sorts out good and evil at the end of time, he will see Christians as good, not because they have done more good deeds than atheists, but rather, because they are covered by the righteousness of Christ. Christians look like good rather than evil, because when God looks at a Christian he sees Christ.

Christ acted on absolute morality when he died on the cross. According to the relative morality of the rule of self-defense, Christ had the right, and even the obligation, to defend himself. By that standard, since Jesus the Christ had the both the right and the power to destroy all his enemies, he should have wiped them out. By the standard of relative morality and the rule of self-defense, it was immoral for Christ to “wimp out” and just die.

Likewise, by the standard of relative morality, if Jesus wanted to defend the world from Satan, it was his obligation to stand in the gap and prevent Satan from hurting anyone. Jesus the Christ, God in the flesh, should have stood his ground against Satan and all his minions, using his God-power to fry them to a crisp and save the world. By the standard of relative morality, Jesus failed, because he did not put a stop to Satan’s ability to lead people to evil deeds.

By the standard of relative morality, Christ should be flying around the world yet today, slashing and burning the encampments of Boko Haram who bomb churches and murder Christians in Nigeria. Christ should still be striking down venal politicians to prevent the arrest and torture of Christians who worship in unregistered churches in countries like Kazakhstan. According to the standard of relative morality, if an activist claims that every Christian ought to be imprisoned or executed for interfering with that activist’s favorite behavior, Christ ought to use his holy and righteous power to remove the activist from the picture permanently. Relative morality says that personal threat modifies the rule that life is sacred, and every individual may choose to interpret the threat according to personal considerations. The absolute morality with regard to life is to do no murder. Christ submitted to death in accordance with that absolute morality.

Absolute morality sets the standard for good by measuring against God himself. God alone is good. By the standard of absolute morality, secularism is evil, because it is ungodly. Hinduism is evil, because it is separated from God. Islam is evil, because it rejects Christ. The behavior of secularists and Hindus and Muslims can be, may be and often is very “good” by the standard of relative morality. They may or may not wreak murder and mayhem. That is not the point. The teaching of absolute morality is that there is no comparison between anything human beings do and the deeds of God. Human beings cannot work their way up the ladder of goodness and be like God. Everything that is not God is evil.

Secularists worship human beings, Hinduism worships many gods, and Islam worships a perverted copy of God himself. One is not more evil or less evil than the others. To call them all evil is simply to recognize that they are not worshiping God. They have all made gods for themselves, which is to say that whether or not they say they have gods, they ultimately worship only self. The very fact that they claim to be able to make their own rules and find their own gods means that they have turned against the only God. By that definition they constitute evil in the world. This is the standard by which God sentenced Adam and Eve to exile from the Garden. They had demonstrated that they preferred self-gratification to a relationship with him. They chose evil over good, and the evidence was their willingness to listen to Satan rather than God and then try to hide.

What are Christians to do about evil in the world? Christians are called to eschew the evil, the mindset that is its own god, yet above that call is the call to love all the people anyway, just like Jesus. Christians are called to be like Christ, to live by the same standard that governed Christ’s behavior. Christians are called to share Christ and the blessing of his mysterious behavior with all people. That is because the mystery of the wheat and the tares is really not about the victory at the end. The mystery and miracle of the wheat and the tares is that tares may become wheat. While the tares and the wheat grow side by side, the wheat can share truth with the tares and the tares may be miraculously transformed into wheat.  

Where do you see evidence of people choosing relative morality over the absolute truth of God and his love? What do you do about it? Are you engaged in Christ’s work of transforming tares into wheat?