Here’s Your Sign
History moves slowly enough to miss the shifts and changes until well after they happen. The perspective of looking back into history from years after events occur helps to answer the “hows” and “whys” that have changed lives. Technological advancements have changed how our lives are lived, and have complicated ethics.
There is a culture of death in the ethos. Hedonistic pursuits of society are evidence of a futile war to stave off the inevitable end. Among the casualties are the over 56 millions abortions since the government legally opened the floodgates in 1973 at the beginning of life. There are casualties like Terri Schiavo who cannot defend themselves while their lives are relegated to an annoyance and forced to die. Casualties such as these:
The number of mentally-ill patients killed by euthanasia in Holland has trebled in the space of a year, new figures have revealed. In 2013, a total of 42 people with ‘severe psychiatric problems’ were killed by lethal injection compared to 14 in 2012 and 13 in 2011. The latest official figures also revealed a 15 per cent surge in the number of euthanasia deaths from 4,188 cases in 2012 to 4,829 cases last year… Overall, deaths by euthanasia, which officially account for three per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands, have increased by 151 per cent in just seven years. Most cases – some 3,600 people – involved cancer sufferers but there were also 97 people who died at the hands of their doctors because they were suffering from dementia, the figures show.
There are the difficult cases which lawyers claim makes bad law. But then lawyers don’t base their practice on living. They practice the game of law. That is part of the problem. These situations often pull at the heart strings, but in so doing they also pluck the ethics and bend the laws.
If everything goes as planned in her life, 29-year-old Brittany Maynard’s death will occur on Saturday Nov. 1 — in her bed, on an upper floor of her Portland, Oregon home, with cherished music filling the room. Lately, though, nothing in Maynard’s life has flowed like she once dreamed — no children with her newlywed husband, no more time. She has brain cancer, grade 4 glioblastoma. In April, a doctor told her she had six months to live. Now, Maynard has embarked on a rare farewell bathed in politics and poignancy — all painstakingly organized and openly shared, she said, in a bid to help to change laws for dying Americans who feel they are forced to endure the full, gruesome descent of a terminal illness.
Arguments in support of “self-termination” try to span the gulf of reason and touch morality.
I’ve had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms. I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?
But then there are the voices of desperate sensibilities, encouraging, pleading to pause and wonder of a better way…
Kara Tippetts, 36, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is suffering from terminal breast cancer and says that she — like Maynard — doesn’t have much time to live. Speaking with “a heart full of love,” Tippets thanked Maynard for sharing her story and said that she understands what it’s like to know that one’s life is coming to a close — but added that she believes Maynard is making a terrible mistake. “Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known,” Tippetts wrote, claiming that people aren’t meant to choose when they take their last breath. “In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.”
Curiously, there are those who it would seem should know of that “true beauty”, as she put it, and as a believer in Christ have leaned toward the voice of desperate sensibilities. And yet they choose to end it too. Recently this pastor did just that…
An Atlanta-area pastor who led a network of charismatic churches was found dead at his home Monday of what sources tell Charisma News was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Bishop David Huskins had acknowledged suffering from heart-related health problems and recently talked of taking time off.
Interesting is the following post which attempts to explain David Huskins reasoning for his suicide…
It is relatively common for individuals to react to news of a suicide with feelings of resentment, stating that it is a selfish act. Aaron is aware of this, but is firm in his belief that his father’s last act was entirely selfless, a means of protecting his boys and allowing them to continue to follow their dreams and callings, unhindered by his health situation. This narrative is entirely consistent with Bishop Huskins’ focus in recent years of leaving a legacy. Indeed, as I spoke with Aaron, audio of one of his father’s sermons played in the background, in which David spoke of how he knew he would not live forever and how that fact motivated him to invest in the next generation.
Aaron is aware of the negative reactions that this story could bring, and was quite clear that neither he nor the family condone suicide. That said, he emphasized that without the extensive health care treatment and medication that his father has received in recent years, he would not have lived nearly as long as he did. Indeed, without going through open-heart surgery in his late twenties, Bishop Huskins may have never been known as Bishop at all, as he may not have have lived past 30. As was clear from the email above, his body was simply breaking down. If he was indeed facing a stroke that Monday morning, given the fragility of his health, he likely would not have lived through the day regardless.
Another church pastor desperately chose to end it…
Pastor Teddy Parker of Bibb Mount Zion Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, committed suicide while his congregation waited for him to arrive on Sunday. The 42-year-old Georgia pastor tragically killed himself with a “self-inflicted gunshot wound” on Nov. 10 . “When he didn’t show up they went looking for him. I’m very surprised because he didn’t preach that. He preached totally against it. It’s something that the congregation don’t really understand.” His death comes as a shock to the church and family, as no one saw it coming. The pastor had also reportedly once confessed that sometimes “I don’t feel like God is hearing me”.
The lead pastor imagined what a death in the Waukee church’s family would feel like when it finally came. But Sunday, at the first of two services in which Barker had to choke back tears, he admitted, “I had no idea how horrific that day would be.” Last week, the church’s family pastor, DB Antrim, committed suicide... Congregants wept openly as [church lead pastor, Brandon] Barker read aloud the suicide note Antrim had left for him, about how he’d been keeping from Barker the despair that ultimately ended his life. It was an example, Barker said, of how not to shoulder one’s own burdens. “You cannot hold on to these things,” he said. “We have to live in the open. We have to let people know what’s going on.” Though suicide is considered a sin in this church, Barker said he believes Antrim has been forgiven.
Apparently suicide is prevalent enough among church pastors that Charisma News believed it needed to post an article on it entitled “Why are so many pastors committing suicide?”
Why the sudden rash of pastors committing suicide? Suicide is not a new problem among clergy, but three known suicides in less than two months begs a deeper look at the issue.
There is no lack of statistics about pastors and depression, burnout, health, low pay, spirituality, relationships and longevity—and none of them are good. According to the Schaeffer Institute, 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Meanwhile, 72 percent of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families; and 70 percent say they don’t have a close friend.
The Schaeffer Institute also reports that 80 percent of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within five years. It’s not clear how many commit suicide, but it is clear that pastors are not immune to it. Psychologists point to several reasons why people commit suicide, from depression to psychosis to stressful life situations. But one thing is certain: Whatever drives someone to take their own life ultimately begins in the mind. Suicidal thoughts precede suicide.
The life of an individual without the knowledge of God must be a hopeless one indeed. After all the din of living life is silenced, there is nothing but oneself, and no one else. The reasons for suicide should therefore make sense, to them at least. Leave this life and … nothing. How the atheist can ethically take up space, consume eatables, leave behind their waste and offer their vain thoughts with the earnest expectation that they should be believed, even heeded, is something of a marvel to a Christian believer like me. If the atheist is really of the altruistic humanity they claim to be then let them terminate themselves so that there is more air, food and water for the rest of us. But we know atheists don’t have a consistent system of beliefs. Their ethics are more complicated than they can and will admit.
A disconcerting question becomes why the even spiritually attuned Christian believer chooses it. Suicide is a desperate thought indeed, or there would be far more doing it. Suicide is often bound up in hopelessness, but sometimes it can be the path to something more noble. The arguments regarding suicide as sin are weak, in my opinion, and it seems unlikely that such a judgment would be so universally applied. No one really knows the depth of despair of another. It is between them and the Lord. It may be true that suicidal thoughts precede suicide, but sin isn’t just a thought. The commission of sin is more than the action alone. Sin is a condition out of which comes all sorts of thoughts, feelings and actions. That which makes suicide or euthanasia wrong or sinful comes from the miasmatic condition from which it is produced. I don’t pretend to have the answers and all the facts on suicide or euthanasia, but the 19th century Scottish evangelist Henry Drummond expressed these thoughts which may give some understanding about the Christian who chooses suicide.
Jealousy, anger, pride, uncharity, cruelty, self-righteousness, touchiness, doggedness, sullenness–in varying proportions these are the ingredients of all ill temper. Judge if such sins of the disposition are not worse to live in, and for others to live with, than sins of the body. Did Christ indeed not answer the question Himself when He said, “I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of Heaven before you.” There is really no place in Heaven for a disposition like this. A man with such a mood could only make Heaven miserable for all the people in it. Except, therefore, such a man be born again, he cannot, he simply cannot, enter the Kingdom of Heaven. For it is perfectly certain-and you will not misunderstand me-that to enter Heaven a man must take it with him. – Henry Drummond, FRSE, FGS (bold my emphasis)
If a person is to take heaven with them, they must first have it here. That means it can be gotten here, on earth. To have it here means that they have rid themselves of the sins of disposition Drummond mentions. That they have rid themselves of that spiritual condition and taken on another is a critical point in the argument over euthanasia. Living life is a mercy of itself and for others. Hospice isn’t just for the benefit of the sick, it’s the exchange of mercy for the caring. In the final analysis we are all sick. There is the obvious sickness of the body, but there is also the sickness of the mind and a sickness of the emotions. The Christian knows a healing in thinking predisposed to the good of each other. Ethics cannot encapsulate it. No longer are they predisposed to such sins, but predisposed to hope and all the other fruits of the Spirit of God. One of those fruits is self-control which the Aramaic bible translates as endurance. Endurance implies resistance to an external. There is a complexity of humanity’s fallen condition beyond our complete understanding. To faithfully endure to the physical end of this life, whatever and whenever that end may be, is one of the Christian’s loftiest goals. Only the Spirit of God can work such a thing in mankind.