The news recently of a 29yo woman seeking the right to have her suicide assisted by others has brought out a few odd opinions, to say the least, especially from those who purport to be Christians.
The simplistic argument (and it is simplistic), is that it is compassionate to allow the voluntary death of someone if there is no longer pleasure in their life, but only pain and suffering. Is it not our purpose as Christians to alleviate suffering?
Well… sort of. Christianity is about life. We, as ministers of Christ, are here to offer life, and life in abundance. If it is a battle between suffering and life, then we are on the side of life. However, this is not what Brittany Maynard, and others like her, face. The battle is between suffering and death. The argument is being made that death is better than suffering. But Christians who advocate this betray a deeply flawed theological view of their faith.
At the very least, the Christian must reject gnosticism – that ancient heresy that despises the body and sees the body as a prison of the soul. Unfortunately, this is a prominent view among Protestants and Evangelicals. They see the body as responsible for sin and pain and death, and to die is to finally escape the body and be a “free spirit”, so to speak. To escape is to be be at peace. But this is not Christianity. It is a damnable lie. Souls and bodies are supposed to be together – that is how God created us. To separate them, through death, is not God’s will, and a soul separated from the body that does not commune with Christ is by definition unfulfilled and in torment, a captive to its own passions, pride and selfishness, all of which can only be satiated by the body. So on this basis alone, to take one’s own life and destroy the image of God in oneself is, without the intercession of the Church, an act that eternally condemns the soul to despair. It’s better to stay alive and suffer in the body than go through that!
But this is not just about fear of what lies beyond. Nor is it even about the “redemptive power of suffering”, an offensive concept to many people, although I believe it to be true. (If you want to read a good explanation of redemptive suffering, Andrew Damick does it very well here). It is about life and hope and faith and the conquest of death and Hades that God achieved in Christ through His own suffering. It is about the image of God in us that He created in us. It is because we have this hope that we seek to persevere, as so many people in the Bible persevered through trials and suffering, and we seek to affirm and cultivate that image of the loving, suffering God in us, instead of destroying it to remove some temporal physical pain we experience.
This hope is not some scholastic, intellectual, theoretical hope. It is an ontological hope that naturally exists within us, that struggles for life even as we seek to suppress and destroy that hope. In suffering, rather than giving in, we affirm that our life has meaning, that it has purpose, that it is valuable. We struggle for it because it is worth something. And that is where the contradiction in euthanasia lies. Suicide is the obliteration of the meaning of one’s life – the floccinaucinihilipilification of it. And yet euthanasia is sold as “death with dignity”! Well what a nonsense. Dignity implies some meaning to one’s life and death. Either your life has meaning, and you seek life, through whatever miserable crawling struggle that entails, or it has none, and you kill yourself. There is no Mr Inbetween. To seek dignity of any sort is to be on the side of life, not death. It implicitly recognises the Source of dignity – God’s image in us.
To struggle for no end is truly pitiable. But we do have an end – a great hope! our union with Christ, which we strive towards when we undergo suffering, and we run from when we subject ourselves to indignities of any kind, whether licentiousness in food, drugs, sex, money, power, or in its purest form, actively killing ourselves. This is Christianity: To struggle with Christ, to suffer with Him, to restore His image in us, to seek His dignity, and to die with dignity, despite the indignities forced on us, and especially the indignities forced on Christ. That’s where we find meaning and dignity in life. Not in destroying our body to eliminate physical pain.
I hope and pray that Ms Maynard, and all like her who suffer in pain, find their value and dignity not in death but in life, and in the Giver of Life.
18 thoughts on “Why No Christian Should Support Euthanasia”
I believe Christ is as fantastical as The Hobbit, so do you believe you, or society, has the right to deny a legal euthanasia to me?
While there is universal welfare, there must be not only a universal right to euthanasia, but in practice a universal obligation. All the evidence in NZ demonstrates that there is in fact an obligation to euthenaise welfare beneficiaries in “rest homes” on the oldies’ dole, aka National™ Super.
There’s no law against killing yourself, Mark.
Mark, I don’t see why your strange belief that Jesus of Nazareth was not a real person in history should give you a right to have someone else kill you without legal consequences for their actions.
There may be other arguments you could make, but that doesn’t strike me as a particularly good one 😉
It’s the right to die on my terms, WITH my loved ones pleasant. And with no legalised euthanasia there is no access to humane ways of death. Look at past cases in NZ: recommended way seems a plastic bag over your head while your wife has to stand on the pavement so she won’t get a criminal prosecution: think that satisfactory?
Frankly, my life is none of your business Blair. There are many compassionate, humanist, reasoned doctors who don’t lead unquestioning lives based on a barbaric mysticism, happy to provide this service (and who unofficially do out of mercy, albeit the Chief Coroner will soon be stopping even that).
But worse, you’re not arguing that here. Your primary message is that God deems humans, including children, should ‘suffer unto him’. That humans are (ludicrously) blessed to suffer and share in Christ’s passion.
Step outside the fairy tale, can you see why a reasoned human would see that as barbaric?
Indeed, let’s go for the Godwin: why are you not a Flagellant?
The bigger Godwin: how is your Christ/God different from ISIS?
And really, a God whom supposedly made the universe, wants little old pinprick humans in the middle of nowhere to suffer. You really think s/he/it would set up a cruel system such as that?
Oh, and does someone want to interpret Angry Tory for me? (I’m always afraid I may think I know what he’s talking about, but then think ‘that can’t be surely’. 🙂
Are you arguing that only Christians should refrain from euthanasia, or are you saying it should not be legally allowed based on your religious beliefs? I didn’t find your article clear.
If you’re stating Christians should refrain from taking part in it, that’s your opinion and there’s no problem sharing it.
If you’re stating that euthanasia should not be legally permitted based on the religious beliefs you hold, that becomes a problem.
What punishment would you say is justified when someone kills a terminally ill person who asked to be killed?
Mark – I don’t think you really read what I wrote. I explained that to seek suicide or euthanasia is the antithesis of dignity. You’re trying to appeal to some sort of morality or higher principle in my behaviour that simply doesn’t exist in a world where death leads to a godless nirvana. You can’t say “I want to die”, then turn around and worry about how your death will look, and what I think about it. Either you truly believe that there is no metaphysical aspect to our being, in which case nothing I say or believe matters (nor does anything that you do matter – you’re packing it in!), or you suspect there is – you want a legacy, you want human rights, you want all those things that necessitate you living on somehow beyond the separation of your soul from your body. This argument is not merely predicated on my belief in a “sky fairy”, or whatever Dawkinism you can come up with, it’s about cold hard logic, and the idea of making suicide dignified is illogical. Dignity and the will to live cannot be separated. They don’t exist without each other.
Then you said “Your primary message is that God deems humans, including children, should ‘suffer unto him’. That humans are (ludicrously) blessed to suffer and share in Christ’s passion.” I said nothing of the sort. I don’t believe in a God that demands suffering from us. I believe in a natural cosmos that has been corrupted. If you have cancer, you don’t blame the doctor for the pain of the chemotherapy, you blame the cancer for being there in the first place. Again, read the Damick post. You are attacking a straw God that does not resemble the God I have faith in and preach.
The bigger Godwin: how is your Christ/God different from ISIS?
My God wants all people to live. ISIS wants some of them dead. Pretty different really. It’s probably more pertinent to compare between ISIS and euthanasia supporters.
Alexander- you said: “Are you arguing that only Christians should refrain from euthanasia, or are you saying it should not be legally allowed based on your religious beliefs? I didn’t find your article clear.”
I’m arguing that euthanasia and suicide are bad, and that they do not bring anyone peace or relief. I’m arguing that everyone should refrain from participating in euthanasia. I didn’t get into the legal aspect of it, because that’s a whole other topic for a whole other day.
“If you’re stating Christians should refrain from taking part in it, that’s your opinion and there’s no problem sharing it.
If you’re stating that euthanasia should not be legally permitted based on the religious beliefs you hold, that becomes a problem.”
Well there shouldn’t be a problem with either view. In a democracy we share our views openly, and if you don’t like them, tough shit. As I’ve said, there is no human right to help someone die. It’s a non-sequitur.
In that case, you seem to be using your religious views to suggest people should be prohibited from making choices about their own life.
No need to get aggressive (“if you don’t like them, tough shit”), I’m just saying that to everyone that disagrees with you (which will be everyone that thinks they have a right to make decisions about their own life and you have nothing to do with it), your virtually non-existent argument seems absurd.
You need to be able to use non-religious points to back up an argument against euthanasia, otherwise people will write your opinion off. The problem is not everyone believes in God, or the same God as you, or even the same version of Christianity that you align yourself with. By spouting evidence from a book that most people (realistically) do not believe in, you’re creating an argument where people can immediately turn around and question your sources.
My issue isn’t with your opinion – which you have a right to share. Nor is it with the evidence you believe personally to prove your cause. The problem is that you aren’t putting your argument across in a convincing way for the non-religious. If I were you, I’d present both religious and non-religious arguments in the future to make your ideas more compelling.
“In that case, you seem to be using your religious views to suggest people should be prohibited from making choices about their own life.”
Not in the slightest, and I can’t see how you would deduce that from what I wrote. Besides which, euthanasia is about involving third parties in a choice about your own life, and any prohibition of euthanasia is a restriction on their purported rights, not yours. There is no question surrounding the right to make a decision regarding one’s own existence, then act on it.
I had two purposes in writing this post. The first was to address Christians who support euthanasia and make the case for them to oppose it based on their faith. So obviously I am going to stress faith-based arguments there. The second was purely evangelical – I’m addressing seekers by expounding on the hope of the Gospel for us all. It’s a straightforward invitation to faith, rather than a specifically philosophical attempt to convince by rational logic. So if you say that “you aren’t putting your argument across in a convincing way for the non-religious”, you are correct – it’s not what I was trying to do.
Regarding third parties (doctors), in a legal euthanasia, all participants are operating on a voluntary basis, including doctors, many of whom are happy to provide such a compassionate service. There is no compulsion involved. Whereas presently the state is compulsorily, as you are, denying the voluntary actions and interactions of consenting adults.
We know governments exist on this, by what of you? What gives you that right?
I’m not denying anybody anything, I’m just sharing my opinions on a blog as to why euthanasia is not a good idea.
Reed – I have to say that I find the question beyond my pay grade. My desire to see what is essentially still a criminal act deterred is tempered by my libertarian cynicism at the effectiveness of doing so. As with abortion, I’d rather just stick to convincing people not to do it.
Awesome debut. 🙂