Preparing for That Iceberg

I have often remarked that with the way health care is being managed in the US, I half expect to be put on an iceberg and allowed to float away and perish. This thought is based upon a tradition among some Eskimo peoples to do exactly that when people got to old to contribute to the general welfare of the society. Note the past tense. I believe this practice may be out of vogue today. But, maybe it will be revived in America.

Consider the story of Barbara Wagner, an elderly woman in Oregon.

She was a lung cancer patient who was presented with the “choice” to end her life.

Wagner said: “I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won’t give you the medication to live.” See the whole story here.

th-2There are numerous stories like this all over the nation. It’s variously called senicide or senilicide. One supposedly civil or dignified manner of doing this is called “doctor-assisted suicide.” Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and California have all passed legislation which call for “compassionate aid in dying.” More states are expected to follow suit. After all, it will see money and reduce the old person’s drag in the community.

Daniel Callahan, an influential bioethicist and co-founder of the prestigious Hastings Center, a nonpartisan bioethics research institute in New York  argues for a cease-fire in America’s “war against death,” calling on us to surrender gracefully; Americans thus “may die earlier than [is now common], but they will die better deaths.”  Read more here.

th-2Now I am very aware that there are some complex ethical questions involved regarding stewardship of our God-given resources. Sometimes “heroic measures,” or extraordinary life-sustaining treatment may be vain attempts to ward off the inevitability of death. These are decisions which must be made on a case-by-case basis, with the understanding that we do not lean toward the taking of a life because it’s easier than living.

I offer two good reads, one from a very practical perspective written by a woman who went through the death of her husband and position paper from a conservative denomination.

I am rapidly approaching the age at which the metaphorical iceerg may become a reality for me. What will that look like? It may be refusal of medical care.It may be the offer of pills to end it all.

God’s Word is not silent in this matter. It teaches that we are made in God’s image. It also teaches that he is in control of our lives and our deaths. We are not to try to usurp the authority which is His alone. It also teaches that we are to live and learn through suffering, not to give in and quit, though we may desperately desire to do so. Peter wrote tht suffering is part f the Christian life.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9, ESV).

Listen to the Apostle Paul who struggled with the decision of whether to live or die.

Yes, and I will rejoice, or I know that brought your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ  will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me  to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is  to depart and  be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.    Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,  so that in me  you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

Do not, my friends, buy into the spirit of the age which devalues human life. We already, as a society, kill millions on the birth end of the life journey. Let us work against that scourge which is abortion and be vigilant in protecting the elderly as well.


Nothing New Under the Sun

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Eccl. 1:9).

thAs I read in the book of Nahum, the Old Testament prophet, this morning, I came across an interesting term to describe the nation of Assyria. Nahum 2:1 describes Assyria as “the scatterer.”

This reminded me of the official policy of deportation carried out by the Soviet Union during its reign of terror and oppression  beginning at the end of World War II. Large numbers of men, women, and children in the occupied nations of the Soviet sphere were torn from their families and homelands and sent to far-flung outposts of the Soviet empire. Many of the men were separated from their families and sent to prison camps.

In Nahum 3:1 we read, “Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder—no end to the prey!” This verse refers to the city of Ninevah, representative of Assyria. The lies involved are likely the dishonest diplomacy practiced by Assyria in its international affairs. This deceitful dealing is detailed in Isaiah 36:16-17. Such also was the diplomacy of the Soviet Union.

The Assyrian Empire ceased to exist in 612 BC, having been destroyed by joint forces of several of its neighboring nations. The Soviet Union was dissolved in January 1992, after its client nations decided that they had had enough.

There are two points to this little exercise in historical comparison. The first is that it is true that there is nothing new under the sun. Nations still act in manners which were practiced long ago, carrying out mass deportations to weaken defeated populations and carrying out diplomacy by deceit and at the point of a spear, gun, tank, or other weapon.

The second point is that no nation is so big, so important, so powerful that it cannot fall. The Soviet Union was thought of as “the other super power,” along with the United States. Today it is gone. But what of the United States? Is its time near an end?

2 Chronicles 7:12 teaches, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The United States is awash in wicked ways. There is only one way to save it. A return to the worship of the one, holy God is required. God is gracious.

Wickedness is not new. It began in the garden of Eden. It grew exponentially. God always gave mankind the option to return to Him. After the first murder, chronicled in Genesis 4, sin grew and spread in the earth. But there were people who turned from the mayhem and turned to God. The last verse in that chapter tells us that “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

It’s not too late for America. Turn to the LORD and call upon His Name.