Experiencing God in a Culture of Death

The fear of death looms large over all the people of the world.  Death, the last great enemy, is no respecter of persons.  Death is feared because so much is unknown (Heb 2:14-15, Heb 9:27).  Even for those with a belief in the life to come after death, releasing one’s grasp on this world is frightening as it requires one to forsake that which is most familiar for a world where relatively little is known.  Death is the one thing over which no person can exert ultimate control despite one’s nature which longs to loosen the grip of death.  In the best of circumstances, death will be a peaceful experience in which the dying will be surrounded by family as they “fall asleep” and pass into eternity.  The experience of death is not so simply experienced by all people.  A modern culture of death has developed where new claims to “rights” deny life and personhood and where new discoveries in technology raise a host of ethical concerns.[1]  As the unethical treatment of the dying abounds, society needs a new look at the old book.

Death has been furnished with its own culture in society.  Ling indicated that, “We all live in this culture of death.”[2]  In the culture of death, survival is the idol of health care.  Rather than facing the reality of death with true compassion and intimacy, medical pragmatists seek to achieve a mastery of suffering and death through technology.  Suffering has become the central question of medicine because it remains the central question of human lives.  Ling posited that, “The great social experiment of euthanasia must never be allowed to be conducted.”[3]  As humanity seeks to avoid suffering, one loses the understanding that death has a place in life that is inevitable.  The moral fabric of society is composed of ethical traditions in medicine and theological covenants upholding the value of human life and compassion toward those in need of care.  However, all of that has been threatened as the nation’s moral conscience has been silenced in an attempt to control death.  The advocacy of pragmatists to designate severely challenged or limited people as non-persons has led to the devaluing of human life and promotes death as the appropriate mechanism to rid society of the burden of such individuals.  Death is the enemy, so it is not to be chosen or facilitated through action or avoidance of action.  The result of choosing such baseless immorality is a tragedy that leads to medical murder, euthanasia, abortion, overtreatment, and many such other bioethical dilemmas that amount to the rape of humanity’s dignity and integrity.  The answer is to honestly confront the experience of suffering and death through the allocation of pain management while providing the emotional and spiritual support necessary to the holistic comfort of the patient.  One cannot solve the problem of suffering, but one can face the reality of death with compassion and intimacy while striving for a community of burden-bearing based on shalom.  Individuals who are dying must still be offered an opportunity to experience God and find a meaningful place in society without ridicule for their declining health.  The sanctity of life and the preservation of dignity can and should be promoted through the development of an interdependent community of compassionate caretakers.

[1] Kyle D. Fedler.  Exploring Christian Ethics: Biblical Foundations for Ethics (Westminster: UK, 2006), 13.

[2] J. R. Ling, Bioethical Issues: Understanding and Responding to the Culture of Death (Surrey: UK, 2014), 27.

[3] J. R. Ling, The Edge of Life: Dying, Death and Euthanasia (Surrey: UK, 2002), 22.

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