Brittany Maynard and the issue of assisted suicide have been front burner news and now that she has ended her life the debates are getting more intense. There are arguments going on in our country about the sinfulness of suicide, the validity of Death with Dignity, the eternal consequences of such acts and the cultural impact of supporting such laws. These are very delicate, but important matters because the dignity of life and the character of God are often at stake in these debates.
Terminal brain cancer is a brutal hell. I don’t believe in a God who takes pleasure in such manifestation of horrid suffering. Jesus healed people everywhere he went, he showed us that he hates sickness and disease by working to end suffering, not perpetuate it.
I don’t believe someone is saved by perfect choices, especially when facing terminal issues. A soldier is choosing to face certain death in many moments of war. I don’t see that as suicide. I don’t see DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) an act of suicide either. I believe that if mercy, love and grace are needed in the eternal, they will triumph over judgments made in the most fragile and desperate moments of one’s life. Laying a burden of guilt and condemnation on a grieving family by adding theological pronouncements of people’s eternal destinies is a terrible expression of care and concern. God doesn’t get glory by adding to hell to hell.
I think we are hurting more than helping when we try to speak about the mysteries of death and eternity in the most raw and fragile moments of suffering. Pontificating doctrine and crusading into people’s broken souls with heavy-handed moralizing is a sure way to drive people away from the God. I think it’s vicious to tell someone who is contemplating the end of life through a horrific consuming beast like brain cancer, that their hell is nothing compared to what God has waiting for them once they close their eyes and enter eternity!
I believe Hell is real, but choose to speak of it as humbly as the Apostle’s Creed does:
“From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”
The brevity given to such a matter is an expression of belief in the goodness and triumph of God more than the success of evil, suffering and the devil. It’s an act of humility to peer into the future and say less, than more. It’s not a betrayal of the seriousness of one’s eternal life to admit that we see through a glass darkly when trying to grasp the nature of everything involved in that final judgment. We are told to prepare people for eternity with God, through Christ, but the means to repentance is the kindness of God, not the terror.
Yes, it is loving to tell someone that their house is on fire and that if they don’t take the ladder hoisted up to the second story window, they will burn to death. But to then tell them that their father is the one who set the house on fire is confusing to say the least!
Pronouncing that Brittany Maynard is in hell after committing herself to the death that was happening, is an act of omnipotence that we cannot do. We should engage in apologetics against the view of a God of pre-determinism, fate and destiny. It’s especially needed in a culture that sees such presentations of God by Christians as more like a vengeful Zeus than the redemptive Jesus.
When people suffer they develop ways of processing and explaining pain. Some surrender everything to its “Gods will, fate, eternal purpose” etc. Some are crushed by the weight of unexplainable horror. Some find the Holy Spirt present in counsel and comfort and even healing sometimes. Everyone has to find a path of understanding about evil, suffering and tragedy be it sacred or secular.
I choose Christ and the unexplained mystery of his life that showed what this world can be better now and what it will fully look like when he returns. Until then I’m stuck between the cross and resurrection struggling to cultivate the long dawning light that never seems to come as quickly or fully as I long for it to arrive. Until then I stand with all who are broken, confused, stumbling and failing to get it “all right” in a very confusing world. This world is full of beauty and horror, a fact that Jesus never denied, but he gave his life seeking to show another world is dawning. I believe in that light, it’s here, even though so many things threaten to extinguish it.
I trust in a God that knows what suffering and death tastes like. It’s a cup he himself wanted to turn away. If Jesus didn’t want to die, I’m sure he’s going to be most merciful to a young woman who was consumed by brain cancer.
Finally, I think it might be good to listen to Maynard and let her speak for herself too: If you haven’t watched, here is the link to her last video:
I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.
“Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song” chronicles the legendary musician’s life — from his early days as a poet to his final tour and everything in between — through the lens of his most famous song. Beyond the song’s independent legend and impact on music history, the film offers a perfect example of the way Cohen’s life and work straddled the line between spiritual and sensual.