The Economist opines that the"current debate about health-care reform is in part a debate about death, which is why it evokes such fear" (September 5th, 2009). Americans, like everybody else, are afraid of dying. Dying is, well, messy business, and, even though you can't really do it "right," Americans don't want government getting in the way and making a messy business even messier. Like determining who should die when, for instance.
There is a good deal of talk in the health care debate about "death panels", when to withhold treatment and when to grant it, "quality of life" issues, and so forth. You get the sense that the specter of death is always stalking around hospitals, doctors' offices, insurance companies, and, especially, the elderly. Many seem to feel like government is presuming to be the gate-keeper to death, opening the door to its arrival before, you know, folks are really ready to go.
But who's ever ready for death? And why do people fear death, anyway? Isn't death a little like taxes? We don't fear taxes. Instead we curse and joke about them, but we usually end up paying them all the same. We may not like taxes, but they don't cause us to lie awake at nights in the fear of April 15. Why isn't this our attitude toward death as well? Why can't we just curse and joke and shrug our shoulders and say with The Economist, "We are all going to die"?
Two things, each explained by Scripture: First, we have a sense that life is sacred and is supposed to fulfill a purpose. Most folks spend a great deal of their lives looking for that purpose, but never finding it. If they ever did, and if they were able to fulfill it, they might be able to die in peace. Second, because everyone knows God at some level - no matter that some loudly deny Him - everyone knows that, sooner or later, we're all going to have to contend with Him. And if that comes after death, well, there's a lot of uncertainty about what that might mean. Dying for many means the end of something sacred, but unrealized, and the onset of something horrible, but unknown (Heb. 2.15).
The fear of death is very real, and I suspect The Economist is right about this as a factor in the current health-care debate. But it also represents an excellent opportunity for Christians to speak the Word of life to those who all their lives fear what they cannot avoid.
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