One Third of Evangelicals Believe Suicide is Moral for the Incurably Ill?

Doctor-Patient-Hands-620x320In the January/February edition of Christianity Today (they called themselves CT now) a small article caught my eye. It was entitled  “More evangelicals see suicide as moral.” Really?

According to the Pew Research Center, 1 in 3 evangelicals who worship weekly think that “a person has a “moral right” to suicide if, they are “in great pain with no hope of improvement. Fewer approve in other circumstances (incurable illness: 27%; ready to die: 19%; burden on the family: 19%.”

Deeply, deeply disturbing.

I presume the reference to “evangelicals” means people who claim to be biblical Christians. The NELSON’S NEW CHRISTIAN DICTIONARY: An Authoritative Resource on the Christian World. (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001) defines evangelical this way: “Member of a Bible-based Protestant church emphasizing personal salvation solely through being born again and through uncompromising  commitment to the person of Jesus Christ.”

How can one third of evangelical Christians give a biblical justification to support suicide? What Scriptures would they use? How can nearly 30% of evangelicals support suicide for incurable illness?

If a born-again evangelical Christian has an uncompromising commitment to the person of Jesus Christ, and believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God, I defy him to find any place in the Holy Bible or in the life of Christ that would support his position. Actually quite the opposite is true.

The great 20th century Christian apologist Malcolm Muggeridge once said, “Jesus healed the sick, raised Lazarus from the dead, gave back sanity to the deranged, but never did He practice, or include, killing as part of the mercy that occupied His heart. His true followers cannot but adopt the same attitude.”

I have been incurably ill with multiple sclerosis for 30 years. At about the 2-3 year point of my degeneration, my sorrow was so deep, my heartache was so sharp that I might have chosen suicide had I not been surrounded by people who loved me and a Christian community of concern that lifted up my inherent value –even when I doubted my own value. They would have intervened with psychiatric care had I been in danger of hurting myself or found someone to help my suicide. Today I am so happy I did not kill myself when I was at my lowest point.

Granted, I now use an electric wheelchair (at one time it was so repugnant to consider) and I have been unable to work for many years, but I am still surrounded family who chose to still love me. I am head-over-heels in love with them, including five wonderful grandchildren who bring me such joy. Look what I would have missed had I opted for suicide 20 or 25 years ago!

Followers of Christ must stand for the sanctity of every life. There are effective pain medications and medical techniques that can eliminate all physical pain.[1] Emotional and spiritual pain are more difficult to reach and treat, but good Christ-centered palliative counselling can manage this pain. The love of Jesus Christ can reach and heal emotional and spiritual anguish. (I know, I have personally experienced it.)

I hope the Pew Research Center was wrong in their claim that so many evangelical Christians support suicide for the sick.

Fellow Christian, do not let the culture of death that is all around us change you. Challenge and change the culture to embrace every life, regardless of how hopeless circumstances may seem for the incurably ill.  With Christ there is always hope. I know it.

Mark Davis Pickup is chronically ill and disabled with degenerative multiple sclerosis. He is an advocate for life issues and disability inclusion across North America. He and his wife, LaRee, have been married for 38 years. They live in Alberta Canada with their two adult children and five grandchildren. Mark is available to address issues of euthanasia, assisted suicide, and issues revolving around suffering that often fuel calls for euthanasia. He writes regularly at http://markpickup.org and http://humanlifematters.org. For bookings, contact him by e-mail at MPickup@shaw.ca or telephone (780) 929-9230. Mark Pickup's bi-weekly column can be read in the Western Catholic Reporter (Canada) at http://www.wcr.ab.ca/.