Culture of Life or Death?

One of the big issues facing us in 2015 is whether it will be the year when our society becomes more a culture of death rather than a culture of life. The proposals to change our local law on abortion, as well as Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill at Westminster, will force us to think again about the “edges” of human life, and how such life can be protected. If you haven’t yet signed up for The Church in the Public Square conference on 22 January, you should do so now. Telephone 028 9020 5080 or email to register.

While some notable writers and clerics have claimed recently that an “overwhelming majority” of the public now supports a change in the law on assisted dying, many Christians have serious reservations about a bill that would license doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to people who choose to end their lives. The traditional Christian view is that we contribute to a just and compassionate society when we devote ourselves to care, not killing, and to building a community where the weakest and most vulnerable people are protected, whether they are innocent babies or vulnerable people who are frail, sick or elderly.

Up until now, the absolute principle has been the safeguarding of human life both at the beginning and end of life. A change in the law with regard to assisted suicide will significantly affect the moral landscape of our society. A new law will be open to abuse or, as those who have experience of nursing elderly relatives will recognize, to the fear of abuse.

These legal challenges come as we look back on years of conflict and violence when so many precious lives were lost. Yet the tragic loss of human life continues to dominate our local headlines. Just as the infant Christ was born into a world where innocent babies were slaughtered by an evil tyrant, we recognize that our world remains a place where there is too much darkness and death. Whether it is violent men massacring defenceless schoolchildren in Pakistan, or the beheading of innocent aid workers in Iraq or the attempt to kill a committed Christian medical missionary in Congo, the culture of death continues to threaten us. And the events in Paris last week were the most potent reminder that the kingdom of darkness and the culture of death is a huge threat to all of us.

Against that background, the Christian gospel announces that in Christ there is life and that life is the light of men. The continuing witness of Christians here and across the world means that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). The best efforts of the Prince of Darkness did not, and will not, extinguish the true Light.

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10).  The gospel is life-affirming and life-enhancing, and looks forward, through faith in the Crucified and Risen Christ, to life that will last forever. As followers of Jesus, we need to re-double our efforts to resist the culture of death and to affirm and support a culture of life.