Monday, 14 September 2009

Biblical Truth and the affirmation of Life

"No one can keep himself from dying ort put off the day of his death. That is the battle we cannot escape; we cannot cheat our way out".

Legalisation of euthanasia will not produce a solution to the needs of the individual sufferer; or address the health-care challenges of contemporary society. It is the expression of an attitude to life which belittles the sovereignty of God, diminishes the importance of sustaining relationships, and inhibits the pursuit of life-affirming answers for people in need and distress. Christians must be active in promoting positive alternatives derived from Biblical truth, so that the momentum toward intentional killing may be curbed. The Church of Scotland has an obligation before God to assert God’s interest in life, rather than in death; to exercise Christian compassion towards the sufferer, the disabled and the dying; and to encourage the relief of symptoms and improvement in the quality of life for such people. The Church cannot support euthanasia as a means to anything of these ends, and rejects the introduction of death as a treatment option in any clinical situation. Jesus said: ‘I am come that they may have Life, and that they may have it more abundantly’ (John 10:10). This declaration applies at the end of life or in the midst of distress, just as much as it does in any other circumstances, or any other time.


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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

How do we go about caring?

In the previous post we spoke about Christian actions in caring for at-risk people. In this post we will be providing examples of practical actions.

We can

1) Provide spiritual, emotional intellectual and physical support for the sufferer and for carers, who may be themselves 'fellow sufferers'.

2) Help to patients and carers in defining their own needs.

3) Emphasise that a relationship is being developed by the patient, the carer, medical professionals and God. This relationship is developed in the positive context of Christian HOPE. The Church can and should be taking this as a challenge since it is a matter of 'coming alongside to help'. 'Paraclete' (one called alongside to help) is the word for, and the work of, the 'Spirit of God'. 'Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ'. (Galatians 6:2).

4) Provide consistent and practical support for care establishments.

5) Facilitate the extension of the care principles applied in specialised contexts to general hospital and home care and practice. Hospices and specialist care establishments are only part of the answer.

6) Provide regular visiting and supporting the terminally ill or disabled in their homes or in hospital and meeting their specific needs as they become apparent. This si clearly as relevant for the spiritual needs of people in serious or terminal illness is as essential as the physical ministrations of medical or nursing professionals.

7) Make use of Christian 'homes'. The Lord commended this to His followers with the words 'I was a stranger and you took me in'. as well as 'I was sick and you visited me'. The CARE Home programme addresses rthis concept and relief has been given sometimes to terminally ill people themselves, but, more often, to their carers who are in need of respite. The Good Samaritan is a firther example of someone who while he did not use hos own home to receive the injured man, did apply first aid and paid the hotel charges and the treatment costs.

8) Campaign and motivate those in local and national government to improve resources; to stimulate professional bodies and organisations to take an interest in symptom relief as much as in cure; and to demand a positive alternative to the so-called 'easy option' of euthanasia, 'masterly inactivity', or therapeutic nihilism.

The photograph of the Good samaritan's stained glass window was taken by Lawrence OP.


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Friday, 4 September 2009

Christian Action in Caring for At-Risk People

It is not enough to oppose the progression of pro-euthanasia arguments, nor simply to oppose voluntary euthanasia societies and similar bodies. If the Church is not say 'no' to euthanasia, it must be ready to say 'yes' to life-affirming alternatives. The Christian Gospel is a Gospel of HOPE and in particular of hope in the context of death and hopelesness. In the situation of terminal care the challenge is to bring effective relief within the context of Christian hope. It has been characteristic of the Church though the ages that it has been in the forefront of work for the suffering, the dying, and the hopeless. The hospice movement owes its existence largely to Christian initiatives which, while they have been followed by secular involvement, remain a positive motivation.

The roots lie in the need for Christians to do, rather than merely protest. A belief in the eternal worth and dignity of human beings is the mark of the Christian since the Lord Himself gave the worth of His own life and death to each one and afforded us the dignity of His eternal love.

Where the elderly, the disabled, the dying and the dementing are held in respect as fellow human beigns, they cease to be seen in negative terms. They also cease to be seen as an alien 'other' kind of person for whom the best thing is to give up on life, but are valued as individuals and to the Christian as individuals for whom Christ died. To quote from Dr. John Wyatt, a prominent paediatric specialist:

In summary, Biblical Christianity does not devalue individuals becuase of their disability. In fact, from a Christian perspective, all of us are disabled in some sense.... and the differences between us are therefore only iun degree. The essence of humanity is not in our functional ability, which may be impaired rto a greater or lesser extent, but in our creation as beings made in God's image. Functional impairment in itself does not impair our dignity or worth as human beings. The central purpose of human life is seen not in the selfish pursuit of pleasure through use of our bodily functions, but in mutual loving relationships with others and with God Himself. In Christian terms it is these personal relationships of love and self-giving which give life its 'quality'. (Survival of the wakest: CMF Publication).


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