Standing for Life

October 24, 2016 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


I grew up in the first state in our union to legalize physician-assisted suicide.  When Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act in 1997, which allowed a terminally ill patient to administer lethal drugs to him or her self under the direction of a doctor, it stirred a lot of controversy.  Though other states and regions have since followed suit, even nearly twenty years later, laws like the Death with Dignity Act still stir a lot of controversy and concern.

Our nation’s capital is now joining the fray of this debate with the D.C. Council readying themselves to vote tomorrow on legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill people. Fenit Nirappil of The Washington Post explains:

A majority of D.C. Council members say they plan to vote for the bill when it comes before them Tuesday.

But chances for enactment are unclear. The council will have to vote on the bill twice more by the end of the year.  Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has not indicated whether she will sign the legislation, although her health director has testified against it, saying it violates the Hippocratic oath. It is not certain that proponents have enough votes for an override. And Congress could also strike down the legislation.[1]

Many in the African-American community of Washington D.C. strongly oppose the legislation.  The charge against the legislation is being led by Rev. Eugene Rivers III, who is leading a group called No DC Suicide.  Rev. Rivers calls the legislation “back end eugenics,” and believes it is aimed at eliminating poor blacks.  Leona Redmond, a community activist, echoes Rev. Rivers’ sentiment, saying, “It’s really aimed at old black people. It really is.”  Proponents of the law have made countless assurances that there is no racial component to the legislation.  Donna Smith, herself an African-American and the organizer for Compassion and Choices, argues, “This just isn’t a ‘white’ issue.  This issue is for everyone who’s facing unbearable suffering at the end of life.”

Certainly, any move by any group to end people’s lives based on their race is repulsive.  Indeed, if this legislation is enacted and, even if unintentionally, disproportionately affects a particular race, serious questions will need to be asked and stern objections will need to be raised.  The problem for the Christian, however, extends beyond the boundaries of race to the dignity of humanity itself.

In the third article of the Nicene Creed, Christians confess, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.”  Fundamental to what we confess as Christians is that God is the giver of life.  When the apostle Peter is preaching a sermon on Pentecost day, he says to those assembled, “You killed the author of life, but God raised Him from the dead” (Acts 3:15).  Because God is the author of life, Christians believe that life is a sacred gift from God to us and ought to be stewarded carefully and lovingly by us.  This is why orthodox Christianity has consistently stood against the taking of life whether that be through abortion at life’s beginning or through physician-assisted suicide as life may be nearing its end.  Both of these practices treat life not as a gift to be stewarded, but as burden to be manipulated and, ultimately, destroyed.

It is true that life can sometimes become burdensome.  But when a young lady becomes terrified at the specter of an unexpected pregnancy, or when a person is suffering through the throes of a terminal illness, we must remind ourselves that life itself is not the culprit in these types of tragic situations.  A world broken by sin is the culprit.  So attacking life itself doesn’t relieve the burden.  Instead, attacking life actually succumbs to the burden because it capitulates to what sin wants, which is always ultimately death.  To fight against sin, therefore, is to fight for life.

As Christians fight for life, it is very important that they fight for all of life and not just certain moments in life.  All too often, Christians have been concerned with fighting for those at the beginning of life as they stand against abortion, or fighting for those who may be nearing the end of life as they stand against physician-assisted suicide.  But there is so much more to life than just its beginning and its end.  Christians should be fighting against human trafficking, which treats lives as commodities to be traded rather than as souls to be cherished.  Christians should be fighting against racism, which trades the beauty of a shared humanity for the dreadfulness of discriminatory distinctions.  Christians should be concerned with genocide in places like Aleppo, as Syria’s army continues to launch indiscriminate military strikes against its own citizens with horrifying results.  To celebrate life means to celebrate all of life – from the moment of conception to the moment of death and everything in between.   

So let’s stand for and celebrate life.  After all, after this life comes everlasting life through faith in Christ.  Life will win out in the end.  So we might as well surrender to and celebrate life now.


[1] Fenit Nirappil, “Right-to-die law faces skepticism in nation’s capital: ‘It’s really aimed at old black people,’” The Washington Post (10.17.2016).

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