Archive | Judeo-Christian RSS feed for this section

Is Suicide Ever Right?

17 Jun

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” The suicide recently, of a friend has spurred the revisiting of an older post. On the heels of California becoming the fifth state to legalize a “right to die” for patients, the events of this trying week beg the question: Is suicide ever the right thing to do?
Before I move into a bit of conversation, I would like us to make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, spouses, families, and friends. We must state our love in words and in actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point. The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddled with chemical imbalances, at times. We are frail and all of us one breath from the end of life here on earth. We also live in a world that would swallow us up, as a vortex vanquishes its volume. The pressures are great on us all.
For me, there is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted by internal and external forces to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose, and that is our fault as Americans. There is also no mistaking the fact that there are other factors that can cause people to “feel” hopeless, and convince themselves there is only one way to deal with this hopelessness. These feelings are real. These feelings are heightened beyond reality, sometimes. They are feelings, nonetheless. I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into depression and destructive thoughts.
With that last query in mind, I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause irrational thoughts and bizarre behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or PTSDs–and even child sexual abuse. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously by loved ones and friends. A person living with “harmed and fractured insides” sometimes believes that such harm is a norm and that what we would call “additional harm” may be viewed as that person’s “additional norm.” When this happens, something is wrong inside the person. Add to this some form of chemical or substance abuse, and the brain is all cross-circuited, and emotions are imbalanced. The brain both affects and is affected by biology and chemistry. Emotions and the brain are inseparable, especially so for girls and women.
As a Christian man, I can assure you that praying for people is the right thing to do. Miracles do occur. I have seen some. But God gives us common sense also, and sometimes prayer has to be coupled with professional assistance and treatment. Asking a person to simply pray their way out of depression, or for healing from a fractured youth is one thing. Walking through these issues has to be accomplished by the person first admitting there is a problem. This is where there is often a hang up.
As quickly as we go to the doctor for a physical disease, the same should be done for something problematic emotionally and mentally. However, getting the right help with the right worldview is critical. I am no physician, and certainly I am not a psychotherapist. But I am a man of common sense and signs of trouble are perceptible if we take the time to see them and act accordingly. They are easily missed, and even more easily dismissed–until it is too late. Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for additional conversational purposes.
First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such? Love to know your thoughts.
Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is certain death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide? Can it ever be heroic for a person to take his or her own life, albeit for a higher cause–even if it means pain in the present? I have heard people say, “They would be better off without me, in the long run.” Some people actually think they are choosing a higher path, in their own minds. That is the issue. They see this negative as a positive. In a disabled mental or emotional state, one’s mind can confuse purposeful actions.
Therefore, third, is it possible for a person to be in such a confused state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? The converse of this is whether suicide is a cheap and selfish way out of problems a person sees not end to, and it is ultimately purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic. I have always said, if those who kill themselves by their own choice, could float above the room in which their family and friends gather, and see the devastation and grief their actions leave behind in the people they claim to love, they might very well wish to un-choose their actions. Yes, this is only speculation. But, we struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction.
If we trace the family history, sometimes is seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. But this is not always the case for the first person in the family to carry out the act. But now there is a precedent and a bridge crossed for others to more easily justify the action for themselves. I have heard people say, “I have suicidal thoughts because my mom and grandfather committed suicide.”
Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on. I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might can fit as factors. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not. We must understand that death is not a part of life, like a nap from which we awaken later. Death is the cessation of physical life. Taking one’s life with the hope that there is an eternal life, lessens the value of this temple we are given–the very house of the Holy Spirit and new creations, at that! This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I have my beliefs and these are strong beliefs–but I simply do not know. This is where my faith comes in.
I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and the eternal state of created souls. Certainly we cannot practice anything we want at any time, and think our lives are in line with the Almighty. What is more, we cannot expect those in their right minds, who rake their lives, to be accountable. Inasmuch as a small child’s brain is not fully developed to be accountable for his or her actions, I also believe there are probably some adults whose brains, hearts, and minds are so injured that they are not accountable for their actions, either. My only dilemma is whether or not all suicides fit this accountability factor. Again, that’s up to the Almighty.
In summation, here are six questions to consider:
(1) How is killing another the same, or different from killing self? Is killing still killing?
(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?
(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot repent and ask for forgiveness, after the fact?
(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?
(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?
(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or does not keep one from heaven?
Thanks for reading and thanks, in advance, for your comments. Please keep them respectful.

Education Recommendations for Federal and State Agencies

7 May

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FEDERAL AND STATE AGENCIES*
The following list of fifteen recommendations is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point for federal and state level governments.  This list is provided to these bureaucracies as they consider future development and implementation of education programs that come packaged with national implications.
Recommendation #1: Transparency. Transparency would have provided the necessary debate and open sharing of costs, benefits, and public concerns.  Changing programs from one thing to something else should never been undertaken without open discussions. Understand that government does not know best, but that an honest and open government that lifts up people to the changes they view as best is a government of the people. Such a government works best.
Recommendation #2: Remain Politically Neutral. Remove the political aspects of agenda from partisanship and political maneuvering. Validate Americans, and not political parties.
Recommendation #3: Focus on Students First. Focus efforts to change education upon students and families, and not the types of jobs required for future corporate employers.
Recommendation #4: Consider the Arts, Music, and Trades. Consider how all the areas not included in Common Core standards can be incorporated.  After all, students in America are not students in Europe or Asia.
Recommendation #5: Place Less Emphasis on International Assessments.  Be wary of utilizing international assessments for the basis of changing entire systems of education in the United States.
Recommendation #6: Avoid a National Curriculum. Steer completely clear of any discussion of a nationalized curriculum, or a one-size-fits-all area of content. The United States is not Europe, and many foreign nations that have national curricula have lower academic performance than America.
Recommendation #7: Develop More Accurate Domestic Assessments.  Understand that assessments are not the picture of whole persons; they are snapshots and moments in time. Reliance on imperfect assessments does not tell the whole story about American education. Continue development of more and better domestic assessments.
Recommendation #8: Empower States to Step Up. Enable states to compete for federal grants to establish exciting and different programs that include trades, technology, and innovative careers geared toward the future.  Empower entrepreneurialism, beginning in elementary school.
Recommendation #9: Do Not Force All Students into a College Mold.  Understand not all students are college bound and that forcing students into a federal blueprint for education is perceived as control and not as freedom to choose.
Recommendation #10: Allow States to Structure Teacher Accountability.  Allow states to hold their own teachers accountable for education. Allow universities and colleges of education to ramp up their requirements to enter programs of teacher training. There should be no federal punishment for teachers struggling to finds ways to educate the masses in inner cities.
Recommendation #11: Provide Block Grants for Trade and Tech School Startups.  Support states with block grants, so high schools can partner with businesses and create jobs for those who wish to work in high school, as they train for a trade, or experiment with business start-ups online.
Recommendation #12: Attract the Best and Brightest to Teaching.  Mount a campaign to attract the best and brightest to colleges and universities to train to become teachers.  Focus on demand, not just supply. Find those called to teach and invest in their lives.
Recommendation #13: Cease Partisan Argumentation. Cease the side-taking and partisan bickering over the direction of education. Allow more local control of decisions on education. Enable states to work together to create regional hubs of excellence, so that regional certification can be added to state certification. In the process, focus attention on impoverished areas and bring communities and families together to brainstorm ways to move forward.
Recommendation #14: Be Proud of Our American Heritage.  No nation is perfect.  Do not be ashamed of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, as it provides a mooring to our purpose as a nation.  Students need a sense of purpose for their existence.  Not everything in American education should be about individuality. Common good should also be in the equation.
Recommendation #15: Recognize School Choice. Recognize that there are models of schools that meet the needs of families throughout the nation.  Support these families for their choices. Whether public schools, private schools, private religious schools, or homeschools, support all of them and encourage all models that parents deem best for their children.

 

*Excerpted from Ernest J. Zarra, III, The Wrong Direction for Today’s Schools:  The Impact of Common Core on American Education.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, pp. 260-262.

A Christmas Reminder . . .

13 Dec

Babies have a way of finding ways into the alcoves of our souls, the very places where things are known only to God.  They crawl right up into those hidden areas and something quite miraculous happens. Those little ones open us wide to the world, while teaching us a little more each day about God.   Think about it. Who can touch us more deeply than a newborn baby?

One baby in a room of adults reduces most of us to mere functional illiterates–and by choice!  We become entranced by the bald-headed, toothless, drooling squirmers, and quite mesmerized by their attempts to make sense of the insensible.

I remember talking to my own children: “You wan Dada to bwing your baba or bankie?”

I won’t go into all the baby talk, or nicknames my wife and I had for our children.  Some of them are hilarious, to be sure.  If you are as we are, you might still find the urge to pop open one of these phrases from time-to-time, just for the sake of reaction.  There aren’t too many of us that are able to hold back baby-talk when face-to-face with a little life in our presence.  It is almost expected.

I often wonder if grown adults talk to the aged the same way.  After all, both ends of life’s continuum quite resemble each other.  However, that discussion is for another time.  In the presence of babies, we sing and tell stories.  For some, these practices begin while the baby is in utero.  We talk to them, and we pray for them.  After they are born, we teach them nursery rhymes and, as they grow into toddlers, tell them stories of our childhood (and maybe just a bit embellished), and instruct them in right and wrong, as well as share in affection and closing prayers at bedtime.

Remember those fun days?  I am referring to the fun days before they sat on the sides of their beds and cried for no reasons at all, or got quiet when they realize as teenagers that they are held accountable.  Recall the moments when we asked them, “What’s wrong,” only to hear in return, “Nothin”?  I surely remember them!  In fact, there are times I’d like to sit on the side of my own bed and cry a little for myself, these days.  It is sometimes a good thing to feel sorry for ourselves, as adults, at least for fifteen minutes, before someone asks for money, or the cell phone rings.

However, I am left to wonder: Why is it that babies bring out the best in us?  I remember their giggles, tiny dimples, gummy smiles, flailing hands and stubby toes, their splashing arms and legs during baths–capped off by their pudgy, solid, yet wrinkly feet.  All of this serves to remind us of life’s simplicities and basic human needs.  Babies also remind us of the necessity of the protection they need, their fragile states, and complete dependency.  The trust they place in adults is astounding.  However, they learn quickly.  Once they figure out that we are not perfect, all things begin to change.  If you are like I am, you are torn by those early years, sometimes longing for them again–but happy also not to have to repeat those long nights, illnesses, doctors’ visits, and the like.

Have you ever wished for your children to stay little forever.  Have you ever spoken that desire?  Nah!  There are grandchildren for those reasons.  Right?  Babies are signals of life.  Life must moves onward.  Babies are reminders that the future is already in the “present”–and the word-play is intended.  I think you know to which “present” I refer.  Babies comprise the past through one’s DNA and heritage.  They consume the present and they embody the future.  Babies are the miracles that are united from one sperm and one egg–gestating over time–to become the “other” us. With each birth of our children, we are reminded that “WE” are with us. We are connected and that’s that.

Here in this supposedly sophisticated twenty-first century, we tend to place things, such as child birth—which have the sense of the miraculous—onto the realm of the ordinary.  But that is pedestrian.  Each conception brings into existence a unique entity, a person of the most distinct, individual “being.”  The truth is we are all unique and the mold is broken with each one of us. However, we have this little nature thing, with which to contend. Moreover, therein lays the problem!

Imagine for a moment that your teenage daughter comes home one day and tells you that she is impressed in her spirit about something incredibly unique.  What if she tells you that an angel of God had told her that she was specially favored among all other young teenagers of the day? Assume, then, that sometime later she informs you that she is pregnant, yet maintains that she was still a virgin–untouched by any man sexually.

To make matters more concerning, imagine your single, teenage daughter had been engaged to a man more than twice her age–and that the engagement was going to be broken by the man, once he discovers your daughter is pregnant. I know, I know . . . I can imagine your faces now. Yet, I do think you know where I am going with this.

Philosopher Paul C. Vitz asks us to “Consider that Mary was pregnant with Jesus today.” I also ask us to do the same.  What are the chances that some of the parents of this pregnant teenage girl would shuffle her off to the local Planned Parenthood clinic?  What would her friends and contemporaries say?  Speaking as one who was conceived prior to marriage, I rather identify with that last statement, in terms of its implications.  Know what I mean?

No, I am not claiming divinity, personally–but divinity as a delicacy, now that stuff is freakin’ awesome! (It is approaching Christmas, after all)  The prophet Isaiah (ca 800 BC) stated: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) A miracle baby son, a virgin, and the name translated to mean “God with us” (Immanuel) Hmmmm. Most interesting.

The disciple Matthew Levi (1st century AD), the tax gatherer wrote: “And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’ Now all this took place that which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet shall be fulfilled . . .” (Matthew 1:19-24)

The Christmas holiday (derived from “holy-day”) is about the advent of Jesus, the baby, and the beginning of His earthly pilgrimage.  The birth occurred more than likely during the summer months and there was no snow.  That reminds me, what happens in Australia and Africa, during December in the Southern Hemisphere?  I hope Santa’s varicosities aren’t too apparent with those pasty legs of his, filling out those speedo-like shorts.

John 1 speaks also to this illustrious Christmas event: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 1, 14).

This baby Jesus is the gift that keeps on reminding us of our flesh and mortality. The baby reminds us of our beginning and the blessings we are to others.  However, why do we keep Him in a manger?  Why is Christmas about Jesus as a baby only?  Is it because there is no room in the “inn of our hearts?”  Maybe it reflects the reality that babies are no threat.  Babies do not challenge the way we live.  Babies are the miracle gifts in-and-of-themselves. Nevertheless, babies do grow up into young adults and then enter mature adulthood.  Baby Jesus becomes a challenge to people’s supposed sovereignty.

Apparently King Herod also had serious concerns about the baby Jesus, for he had all male children slaughtered, age-two and under.  This infanticide occurred in Bethlehem and its surrounding environs (Matthew 2:16).  Herod feared all of this talk about the birth of a king, a Messiah, would diminish his sovereignty over the land.  As a result, the child Jesus and His parents went to Egypt until King Herod had died.  Afterwards, they returned to their homeland. One interesting piece of trivia from the Hebrew language is quite telling. The name “Beth-lehem,” can actually be interpreted “House of Bread.”  Now I am singing, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” . . .

Later Jesus was given the title “Bread of life,” and communion would be taken at “the Last Supper,” to symbolize His crucified and broken body.

Part of the communion remembrance today using crackers or bread illustrates the “broken bread” of life.  Who would have ever thought that the bread of life would have been born in a house of bread?  All of this is derived from the Christmas story?  Yes indeed!  Another point of interest was that when the wise men came to visit Jesus, He was already a toddler.  The Magi were the ones who tipped off Herod, and this was the reason for the age-2 on down slaughter of the innocents.

Therefore, yes we celebrate the baby Jesus.  Nevertheless, we really should be celebrating the toddler, at least in my mind.  But no toddler I know would stay in a crib, let alone a feeding trough for animals.  I know my own kids did not. As far as my kids were concerned, they kept jumping out, falling on their heads, or something along those lines. That might explain a few things.  Now my father’s statements to me in my youth ring more clearly.  He would ask rhetorically, “What is the matter with you? Did you play too many football games without a helmet?” I never figured out “how many” was too many.  But back to Jesus.

Some 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, his infancy still influences the world. While some wanted to make Him an Earthly Excellency, believers see Him as their All-Sufficiency, beginning with infancy. The commemoration of Jesus’ birth is the real reason we celebrate the giving of “gifts” to each other.  Jesus is the ultimate gift to the world.  The reason for the season is ultimately for His pleasin’.

A second gift was given to us by the resurrected Jesus, just prior to His ascension. Luke, the physician, records in Acts 1:3: “. . . He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things to come . . . He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised . . . ” Jesus told His followers: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:15-16). The Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving.

During this festive season of holidays, may we Christians celebrate like never before.  May we live and love like never before. The baby has grown, lived, and He has changed the world through his death, resurrection and ascension. Don’t you think it is time to be Christ-like in ways that show we also have left our own “Christian cribs?” My apologies to the hip-hop community.

Dear friend, let us celebrate the holiday as He is NOW in our lives. May we look back to the past, while living in the present–knowing that we have a future with Him.  May our baby-talk, and baby-walk grow into a mature, contagious conversation, coupled with a powerful Christian walk.  May this walk evidence movement in the right direction, prompted by the Spirit and evidence by the fruit of the Spirit.

No, I did not imply fruitcake. Unlike “divinity,” THAT stuff is so nasty, and is the evil twin doorstop with the yule log.

Thank you for reading!  I thought I would share a little reminder about why this time of year is extra-special for me and many others.

OK, where’s my egg-nog?

Happy 2018 all!

The Bible is Dead; Long Live the Bible

20 Apr

Colleges and universities are supposed to be places of enlightenment and growth–growth of the whole person.  However, the moral-free campus environment, coupled with the abject spiritual poverty and outright ridicule of things Christian, is enough to see the real threat our own children face in schools of higher learning.  There is a war over “faith” that many of our own children face.

Students are subject to ridicule, and fear standing up, or else their grades may be affected. Standing for truth and absolutes is difficult today, but not impossible.  Every generation has some challenges. One of these challenges is found in the following.  A recent Chronicle of Higher Education issue contained a piece titled:  “The Bible is Dead; Long live the Bible.”

The Chronicle Review published the piece from a book written by a professor at Case Western Reserve University, Timothy Beal.  In his recent book titled, The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book, Timothy Beal questions the integrity and veracity of the Bible. Take note: “Did no one notice all the glaring discrepancies? Could all those many, many people involved in the development of biblical literature and the canon of Scriptures have been so blind, so stupid?” Just what exactly where they blinded to, so stupid, regarding?

Beal writes: “The Bible can atheist any book under the table on some pages.  It presumes faith in God, yet it also often gives voice to the most profound and menacing doubts about the security of that faith.  The Bible is not a book of answers, but a library of questions. How rare such places have become in a society addicted to quick fixes, executive summaries, and idiot’s guides. The canon of the Bible is that kind of place.”

Apparently, placing trust in the Bible as God’s Word and a guide for life equates to being blind, or stupid. Yet, with that assumption on my part, Beal leaves unaddressed that the major questions of life are indeed answered in the Scriptures. These include the purpose and meaning of life, love, marriage, children, as well as life after death–and a host of others.  Yes, there are questions, but unlike other religions, there are very direct assurances in the Scriptures, based on Jesus Christ.

The author attempts to argue that “There is no faith without doubt.  Doubt is faith’s other side, its dark night. People of faith know the reasons to doubt their faith more deeply and more personally than any outside critic ever can.” Notice the appeal to Eastern religion here? What Beal does not address is the relationship aspects that are clearly developed in the Scripture. He dichotomizes faith and doubt, as if opposite sides of the same coin.

Faith, like doubt, has to be placed in or on someone or something. Doubting one’s faith, as a thing owned, is very different from doubting the One into Whom faith is placed.  If one doubts his or her own faith, then no wonder there are issues. Such a faith is merely human and emerges from a psychological base, not a spiritual, or relational one.  If a person can doubt his faith, can he have faith in his doubt?  Now that raises some very interesting questions.  I think the reader sees the point.

Beal tries to cozy up to the Bible, but his best efforts fall short. Having rejected the authoritativeness of the Scriptures, he then writes:  “Scriptures have a tendency to exceed the boundaries of orthodoxy and resist closure.  The Bible keeps reopening theological cans of worms.  It resists its own impoverishment by univocality.  In so doing, it fails to give answers, leaving readers biblically ungrounded.”

By stating there is no univocality, Beal strikes at the heart of the Bible as God’s Word.  After all, if the Bible is God’s Word, then there is a vocality to which we ought to listen. The Bible claims that “all Scripture is inspired by God . . . ” That sounds quite univocal to me!

The author stresses a supposed inadequacy of the written text. One can only question whether he is open to books written by one man, such as the Book of Mormon, or the Qur’an, or other religious books, in terms of their univocality?

He seems open to quoting Buddha and others to make his points, hence an appeal to truth through the avenue of human faith in self. Here is another area where Beal sorely misses the point.  The Bible is inspired by one voice, written through the voices and styles of many, and points to One and only One Person, overall.  Faith is unidirectionally. Faith is placed in Jesus Christ, who is the “way, the truth, and the life.” No one comes to the Father, except through Him, according the Scriptures. (John 14:6) But if the Scriptures are not God’s Word, then even these attributed words of Jesus are suspect.

As people, moreover as believers, we can place our faith in doubt, or we can doubt our faith.  Whatever the case, both miss the mark.  Faith in the Person of Jesus Christ and his exclusive claims as God comprise the object of faith placement.  Show me more univocality than Christ’s exclusivity, and that’s where I would doubt that faith as merely human.  God in the flesh is quite exclusive.  Dead men’s bones in tombs make their religious claims neither true, nor exclusive.

In closing, one does not need Kant, Buddha, or even Dostoyevsky to make a point about faith. If a person does not believe the Bible to be God’s Word, then what it says about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, life, death, and many things in-between are also suspect. Either faith in self exists, or faith in God exists. Having faith in faith is mere gimmickry. It is from God’s Word where we derive our moral compasses and absolute truth. Faith and doubt are not truth. Faith in truth does not make it so.

Truth changes not, in the face of the worst doubt, or extreme faith.  What else is unchanging in this world, regardless of views that attack the Scripture?  It is Jesus Christ. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and yes, forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  Did not the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus answer the ultimate questions of life?

Timothy Beal. “The Bible is Dead; Long Live the Bible.” The Chronicle Review. April 22, 2011, B6-8.

Death Technology

7 Feb

Anyone who knows me well understands my interest in some of the deeper and more controversial cultural issues emerging from daily living.  This piece is no exception. 

I can be sort of an iconoclast, at times.  I wish to open a discussion on something just a bit different here.  I hope to cause us, the Baby-Boomers, to reflect on what is known today as “Death technology.” 

In the article, I will be introducing broader concerns with respect to (1) Physician-assisted suicide (or aid in dying vs. active suicide), (2) Death technology in culture, and (3) mercy-killing, or euthanasia.  It might present challenging reading for some, but hopefully not.

In Ludwig Wittgenstein’s last journal entry into his Notebooks 1914-1916, the author questioned the nature of the relationship assumed between suicide and morality.  He wrote:

“If suicide is allowed, then everything is allowed.  If anything is not allowed, then suicide is not allowed.  This throws a light on the nature of ethics for suicide, so to speak, the elementary sin.  And when one investigates it, it is like investigating mercury vapour in order to comprehend the nature of vapours.  Or is even suicide in itself neither good nor evil?”

Here are some working definitions for the article:

~Physician-assisted suicide (or more popularly called ‘physician-assisted aid in dying.’) is defined by me as “the making available of the medical means by which a person may choose to end his or her own life.”  [This is what the Germans called “Bilanz-Selbstmord”]

~Death Technology, a technological medium specifically created for, or used primarily as a means to end the life of a human, or animal.

~Active suicide can be defined as “death by one’s own hand.”

~Euthanasia is defined as “mercy killing,” or death by the “hand of another.”

Assisted suicide (generally euthanasia) has a lengthy history.  People of ages past were given hemlock to drink, or weapons to end their own lives.  Today, we can see this “type” of practice within the ranks of terrorists’ actions.  However, a major difference is that terrorists also seek to take the lives of others, which is suicide-homicide (murder) by definition, along with their own.  Some people are no longer intent on taking their own lives, especially for political purposes.

The subject of suicide has appeared in literature throughout the ages.  Sophocles, Shakespeare, and a number of other prolific people of history “have depicted suicide not as a major philosophical problem, but simply as one of the realities of human existence.” (Weir, Death in Literature, p. 27)

It was Homer (ca. 8th century) who referred to “Thanatos, the Greek god of death, as the brother of Sleep.” (Bardis, History of Thanatology, p. 25)

The stoics had a fascination with suicide.  They admired the willingness of one who would take his own life.  They deemed it “an aspect of Stoic courage.” (Tillich, in Dyck, To Live and Die, p. 101)

Plato addressed the topic of ending one’s life, in the “Phaedo,” when he wrote:  “There is a doctrine whispered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door and run away; and this is a great mystery which I do not quite understand.” (Plato, “Phaedo,” The Oxford Book of Death, p. 88)

Aristotle was in favor of a variation of euthanasia.  He argued for “compulsory euthanasia for all deformed children.” (Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, p. 90)  In addition, ancient Greek and Roman societies allowed for euthanasia suicide for the aged (p. 90).

In the Jewish Talmud, the Jews maintain their belief in a “tehiat hametim” (a resurrection of the dead).  To the Jews, death is a gate to the word to come (olam haba).  However, euthanasia was rejected by Talmudic teaching, even for the terminally ill.  Even the ill were considered “complete living persons” (Shabat 151a).  Furthermore, the practice of suicide came under strict condemnation.  The Old Testament was clear, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

Robert Weir discusses the view of the western monotheistic religious traditions:  “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam . . . have considered suicide wrong because of the general beliefs, as argued by Augustine and Aquinas among others, that human life is a gift from God and that self-destruction in an inappropriate way of exercising stewardship of that gift.” (Weir, Death in Literature, p. 226)

It gives me pause that Weir is unaware of the radical jihadist faction in Islam.  Suicide-homicide bombers are told that what await them for their actions is 70 mansions, with 70 beds per mansion, and each bed adorned with 70 virgins.  First, where are all the virgins coming from?  Second, if a bomber is a female, what does she get?  Last, this ridiculous belief is nowhere found in the Koran, or general teachings of Islam.  This would be equivalent to a Christian faction telling people that to take his life in the bombing of an abortion clinic would mean instant “this or that” in heaven.  Taking lives to gain eternal life . . . duh!  I say, line up all the skankiest, disease-infested prostitutes of history and let them adorn their beds and mansions.  Sorry. 

History records that immediately upon the formation of Christian societies, “suicide was formally forbidden in them.  In AD 452, the Council of Arles declared suicide a crime” (Durkheim, Suicide:  A Study in Sociology, p. 327).  Most interesting is the fact that a person committing such a crime might be prosecuted and punished.  Anyway . . .

This all leads me back to the issue of technology used in ending human life.  It is one thing for a culture to allow, encourage, or even promote the taking of one’s life.   But we live in a wider society that celebrates youth, seeks to promote longevity, while at the same time elevates the ending of our lives as a valid choice. 

I am at a loss over this.  If this is such a good thing to incorporate into our culture, why is it I have never heard parents counsel their children from the early years, on how to end their lives should they choose to do so, alter in life.  Wouldn’t THAT be good parenting? 

The very fact that medical advancements seek to prolong life, heal people, and keep them alive, should teach us something about the ethic we have in this nation.  It is most contrary to those advocating death by choice, or by help.

What does it say about a society that speaks of the value of life and death in the same breath?  What does it say about people who argue that the ultimate choice is the ending of the very life of the chooser? 

What will future generations conclude when they read that so and so valued economics, and inheritances over life?  Just curious.  I have heard this latter argument a lot, lately. 

Suffice to say, since 1973 we have witnessed a rise in death technologies.  Abortifacients, various abortion procedures, such as saline, D & C, partial birth abortion (PBA), embryo destruction for harvesting of stem cells, and other life-ending procedures–and these are even before birth.  It gets worse after we are born and we age.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian stated that he wanted “physician-assisted aid in dying” added to states’ laws.  Reminds me of the late crooner, Frank Sinatra:  “I stood tall, and took the blows, and did it my way.”  Imagine EVERYONE doing it their way?

Dying has been glamorized as the most autonomous, dignified act a person can commit.  Culture deifies and glorifies those icons who are forever “young” in our memories.  Think about it.  Elvis and Marilyn Monroe in their late seventies, or eighties?  How sexy is that?  And isn’t this the issue?  The sexualization of death?  There are people even tempting death by “sexual practice” of asphyxiation at the point of orgasm. 

If a culture based on Judeo-Christian principles seeks to protect life at all levels, why then is this same culture allowed to remove these protections?  Who has been asleep at the wheel? 

The way I see it is that death is going to greet us all sooner or later.  We have some options, yes.  But are they all valid options for people of faith?  Here they are:

1.  Allow death to catch us as it will (I kind of like surprises anyway).

2.  Hasten death because we somehow think we have lost control of our own choices.

3.  Ask a physician to act contrary to his calling and give us something so that our conscience is not bothered by considering the taking of our own lives.

There is a fourth option, and for this option I turn to one of my favorite comedy teams, Abbott and Costello.  When asked how he wanted to die, Lou Costello replied, “Old Age!”  Not such a bad idea, in my mind.

Hey Abbott!

Weapons of Mass Conservatism

17 Jan

Just a message to the far-left media advocates who continue the mantra of conservatism as the culprit for the shootings in Arizona.  Where were you when Fort Hood went down?  Did Obama’s rants against Conservatives cause that heinous event?  I think the shooter might have been offended that you did not recognize that jihadists exist and want to kill Americans.

Jihadists proclaim clear messages of hatred for the United States, our openness, and our Judeo-Christian heritage and practices.  They kill us regardless of the media.  They kill us over ideology.  But with the Arizona killings and senseless shootings, we have no ideology.  We have an ill person.  We certainly have no conservatives speaking small voices in Loughner’s ears.  Not only liberals were victims, despite what you think.

Try as you might to  find a connection to words and phrases as “stimulus,” you won’t find any connection.  You like this word “stimulus,” don’t you?  Very few, if any, politicians are heralding their original negative rhetoric, any longer, because of two reasons:  (1) They realized they were doing the very same thing they criticized, and (2) There is absolutely no connection between Loughner and conservative ideology.

So why do you persist still?  You have an agenda, that’s why.  You have every right to do so, and I support your right.  But you are not being fair.

Weren’t you the ones who criticized the Bush Administration for going to war when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq–even after Saddam Hussein used them on his own people at an earlier time?  Don’t you remember that everyone but one politician believed they existed and voted that way?  You called out the administration and the military, along with the Democrats for acting on all the United nations resolutions?

Now, guess what?  You are looking for weapons when there aren’t any to find.  There is no evidence of Loughner relying on conservatives, or even liberals to justify what he did.  It is interesting the ends we go when we really want to find something that does not exist.  You blamed Bush.  Hopefully, you take the blame for inventing evidence, all while acting within the rights of the first Amendment, as do all the conservative voices.

I have news for you all with a newly added little voice . . . There are Weapons of Mass Conservatism and they are hidden in places that are easy to find.  Just in case you do not see them, we bring them out a few times a year and blast away–the ballot box, that is!  You don’t have to look hard, though.  They are right there for you to find.  It’s called our vote.

Find another topic. You are boring the American public again.  Thanks.  🙂

%d bloggers like this: