“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Monday, February 12, 2007

Autonomy versus community

Advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide talk about incurably ill people having the autonomy and freedom to choose the time and place of their own death. As an incurably ill person, let me comment.

Self-destruction is not a rational act. It may be chosen out of despair, or depression, or desperation or abandonment … but suicide it is never “freely” chosen. Implanted deep within humanity’s make-up is a strong instinct for self-preservation. A man may willfully over-ride this instinct and die to save others. Jesus said there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13). Such a great love is ultruististic not self-serving. A person may choose death rather than betray an ideal. Countless Christians have chosen death rather than deny Christ. Again they are over-riding the strong instinct for self-preservation for the sake of a higher ideal: Christ. There is also a divine dimension that comes into play.

The person who chooses self-destruction because of incurable illness desires relief or escape from pain. In the 21st Century, there is no need to die in physical pain. If a person is dying in pain, they need a new doctor. All physical pain can be aleviated or eliminated. Emotional or spiritual pain is more difficult to address. The answer to this kind of pain can be found in reconciliation (with people or with God). It can be found in connecting or re-connecting with a sense of community. It can be found in feeling loved and significant and giving love and significance to others. Love validates human connection -- assisted suicide denies it. Euthanasia says there is such a thing a life unworthy of life.

The acceptance of assisted suicide is the result of personal autonomy gone amuck! It is the result of a generation of individuals who believe they have no responsibilities, only freedoms. The feel no responsibility to a larger common good. Each individual is an island entire unto themselves.
Autonomy or community?

Those who place personal autonomy as the highest ideal have abandoned community and the common good. The freedom to choose death for themselves (or others) is their legacy. When life ceases to be fun or self-serving then autonomy advocates champion bailing out of the world and into the abyss; to them, the abyss is better than the world they helped to ruin. But that is a wicked blind faith. How do they know the dark unknown is better?

Jesus’ reference to that place is not so reassuring (See Matthew 8:12b, 13:41-42, Mark 9:43-48, Luke 16:23-24, John 3:36)
Choose community

I choose to reject autonomy in favor of community. I believe I have a greater responsibility to the common good than my own interests. I believe interdependence is better than independence. The Bible says much about defending the rights of others but very little about defending one's own rights. (See Philippians 2:3-4)

A world filled with defenders of inalienable rights of others will find their own rights being defended. A world filled with people who demand their own rights will find that in the end only those who bellow loudest will prevail. The weakest voices will be drowned out. That is not a community, it is a jungle.

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