Monday, October 31, 2016

Right to Live

It is fair to say that in many ways, this year's election is unlike any other we have experienced in our lifetime.  While I don't normally speak publicly on political issues, I've had several people ask my perspective about Colorado's Proposition 106, titled the "medical aid in dying" initiative.  It raises important questions and considerations.

While at first glance the "right to die" proposition may sound compassionate, I encourage us to look deeper.  From a Christian point of view, I believe 106 in most cases is not only not compassionate, it is dangerous.  The implications are practical, theological and medical.

On a practical level, opening the door to assisted suicide creates a slippery slope that puts all people at risk, especially seniors and developmentally challenged.  While proponents tout "safeguards" meant to protect, they will be easily circumvented through the profit-driven development of a new "growth industry" for the ending of lives that will be immediately created if the proposition goes through.  What is said before an election and what actually happens after are rarely the same.  What is at stake in this proposition is human lives.

On a theological level, rather than trusting God (who has numbered our days), Proposition 106 is another attempt to take our lives, and that of others into our own hands.  The inclination of people to play God and grab control stretches back to the beginning of time.  (For those who recognize Biblical witness, think Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, ...).  It never goes well.  Instead we recognize the dignity of every human being, made in the image of God, and distinguished by His counter-cultural commands, including to not kill.  As modeled by Jesus and empowered by His Spirit's constant presence, we place our trust in God, whether in times of ease or suffering (Romans 8).

From a medical perspective it puts doctors and others serving in the medical field in an impossible position.  They have dedicated their lives to saving and preserving lives, not taking or killing them.  The incredible advancements in medical technologies create important ethical dilemmas that address the very character of us as people and a society.  Our character is not defined primarily by our pragmatism (doing things right), but ethics (doing right things).   I have had the privilege of being with people countless times at the end of their lives over 30 years of ministry.  It is holy ground.  It is remarkable how far hospice and other comfort-giving resources and alternatives have come to make people comfortable.  Dignity is found not by arbitrarily ending one's life, but through honoring of a person's life through our care and compassion.

Any one of these points could easily be expanded.  However, even in the brevity of presenting them here, Proposition 106 is not real compassion.  It is instead an attempt to open the door wider to the devaluing of human life and disposability of it in a culture that increasingly worships illusive idols of control and convenience.  I respect that other people, including Christians may have different views on this.  However, for me, this is further evidence of the deterioration of the moral fabric of our society, and the preference of control and convenience over core values and principles, including the valuing of human life.

13 For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, 
I know that full well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place, 
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
before one of them came to be. 
                                                      Psalm 139:13-16

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Prayer of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness 
Of the Creator of creation. 
I arise today 
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism, 
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, 
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom. 
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs, 
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven; 
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea, 
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock. 
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me, 
God's wisdom to guide me, 
God's eye to look before me, 
God's ear to hear me, 
God's word to speak for me, 
God's hand to guard me, 
God's way to lie before me, 
God's shield to protect me, 
God's hosts to save me 
From snares of the devil, 
From temptations of vices, 
From every one who desires me ill, 
Afar and anear, 
Alone or in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul, 
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry, 
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul. 
Christ shield me today 
Against poison, against burning, 
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance. 
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in the eye that sees me, 
Christ in the ear that hears me. 
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

Recovering reliable historical information about many of the saints is difficult if not impossible, and Saint Patrick (c. 390–461) is no exception. Born in Scotland, Patrick was imprisoned and taken to Ireland when he was about sixteen years old. He retuned to Scotland, only to have a dream in which the people of Ireland called out to him, “we beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once again.” He did return, and although the details are obscure and the legends are large, he wandered and ministered in Ireland for over thirty years, converting the nation.