A Liberal Case Against Assisted Suicide

Over at First Things, Wesley J. Smith summarizes the liberal case against assisted suicide contained in Liberalism’s Troubled Search for Equality by Robert P. Jones:

Jones contends that assisted suicide, whatever its liberty claim, profoundly violates the superseding liberal principle that all lives are to be equally protected, since some suicidal persons will receive facilitation,and others prevention, some better care than others, some could be coerced through economic circumstances into not being a “burden,” etc. This being so, and since equality trumps liberty whenever they conflict, Jones argues that assisted suicide should not be legalized—much less made a constitutional right—particularly given the profound social inequalities faced by the seriously ill, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Moreover, their exclusion of religious voices in the public square, rather than helping society determine the right, actually renders egalitarian liberals unable to “hear the real voices of the disadvantaged it promises to champion.”

Can You Hear Me Now?

I’m sure you’ve seen the Verizon commercials with the bespectacled geek who asks that now immortal five-word question: “Can you hear me now?” The point of Verizon’s commercials is that it has a superior wireless communication system, which may or may not be true. (As a Verizon subscriber, I’m generally impressed.) But for me, the question is what’s really important.
Last year, my dad called me on his cell phone. That in and of itself is not an unusual occurrence. What was unusual was his location and the clarity of his call. He was on Turkey’s Mediterranean shore, boarding a boat that would take him to the Isle of Patmos, where John wrote Revelation. Although thousands of miles away, I could hear him clear as a bell.
In John’s day, Verizon didn’t have a superior wireless communication system. Not here, and definitely not in Turkey. In fact, no one did. Instead of land lines, satellites, cell phones, emails, or instant messages and text messages, people relied on messengers to communicate across distances. The clarity of the message depended on the quality of the messenger.
One thousand years before John, the Book of Proverbs offered advice about the quality of the messenger. For one thing, it advised you not to send a lazy man to deliver a message:
As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is a sluggard to those who send him (10:26).
Here’s another warning:
Like cutting off one’s feet or drinking violence
is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool (26:6).
In any communication act, there is the message itself and the medium by which it is communicated. According to these two proverbs, a bad medium (the messenger) can destroy an otherwise good and important message.
Several proverbs point out the blessing that a good messenger brings:
A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a trustworthy envoy brings healing (13:17).
Like the coolness of snow at harvest time
is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the spirit of his masters (25:13).
Like cold water to a weary soul
is good news from a distant land (25:25).
Where a bad messenger irritates, a good messenger refreshes. A bad messenger breaks; a good messenger heals.
Modern people such as us rarely use go-betweens as ancient people did. We can communicate directly with another person via a wide variety of technologies (phone, internet, etc.). But the lesson is still the same: The medium is as important as the message. Or, to put it another way: How you say it is as important as what you say.
That Verizon geek travels the country asking, “Can you hear me now?” Unfortunately, many of us choose to communicate personal information via impersonal technology, and we end up taking all the emotion out of communication. Effective interpersonal communication keeps the “you” and “me” in focus at all times. It’s impossible to be a modern person and not use technology. But a wise communicator keeps it personal.

Let’s Hope So

The Earth Times reports that "German soldiers are overweight, smoke too much and do not engage in enough sports, according to a report published Tuesday by the parliamentary commissioner for the defence force." Given what happened the last time German soldiers were fit, perhaps their current flabbiness is a good thing.


There are many kinds of lies. Wikipedia lists eleven: bold-faced lie, lying by omission, lie-to-children, white lie, emergency lie, perjury, bluffing, misleading, dissembling, exaggeration, and jocose lies. These vary in moral blameworthiness. For example, lying to your husband about his upcoming birthday party is surely less blameworthy than perjury in open court!
In general, as we saw yesterday, God hates lying. There are occasions when biblical characters lie in order to save lives (e.g., Rahab hiding the Israelites spies in Joshua 2:1-7). But these occasions are few and far between, and the lie, while morally questionable, prevents a greater harm.
One kind of lying that God particularly hates is perjury, lying in a court of law. Proverbs 6:19 states: “[God hates] a false witness who pours out lies.” Three proverbs contrast the testimony of a truthful witness with that of a perjurer:
A truthful witness gives honest testimony,
but a false witness tells lies (12:17).
A truthful witness does not deceive,
but a false witness pours out lies (14:5).
A truthful witness saves lives,
but a false witness is deceitful (14:25).
Perjury is the intentional representation of false information as true information. It should be distinguished from testimony that the witness mistakenly believes is true but is in fact false.
Why would anyone perjure himself? To gain a personal advantage over someone else. This proverb identifies revenge as one possible motive:
Do not testify against your neighbor without cause,
or use your lips to deceive.
Do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me;
I’ll pay that man back for what he did” (24:28-29).
Another possible motive is hatred:
He who conceals his hatred has lying lips,
and whoever spreads slander is a fool (10:18).
In this proverb, a man conceals the true reason for what he says about his neighbor. If that motivation were known, it would cast into doubt what he is saying. That’s why his speech is characterized as “lying lips.”
There are two possible outcomes to perjured testimony. The first is injustice, in which the falsely accused are wrongly punished.
A corrupt witness mocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil (19:28).
Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow
is the man who gives false testimony against his neighbor (25:18).
The second is exposure (and perhaps judicial punishment) of the perjurer:
Do not bring hastily to court,
for what will you do in the end
if your neighbor puts you to shame? (25:8).
As we read these proverbs, we should take to heart the lesson to speak truthfully in all situations but especially in open court. If called to jury duty, we should discern – where possible – the credibility of the witnesses. What is their motivation for testifying?
But we should also be keenly aware that sometimes, we evaluate testimony on the basis of our own prejudices, which should be ruthlessly eliminated from our heart, less we be party to injustice ourselves. For as this proverb reminds us:
A wicked man listens to evil lips;
a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue (17:4).
In sum: Don’t lie, and don’t listen to lies!

God and Lies

We Americans live in a culture that has grown comfortable with lies.
Turn on the television, and you’ll see slickly produced lies every few minutes, otherwise known as commercials. Listen to politicians, and they’ll make all manner of campaign promises in order to get your vote. What’s worst, pay attention to certain televangelists, and they’ll tell you God will reward you financially if only you give generously to their ministries. (If they’re seeking financial reward themselves, why don’t they give their millions to ministries serving the poor?)
God is not comfortable with lies. He never has been and never will be. In fact, according to Proverbs 6:16-17, God “hates” a “lying tongue.” It is an “abomination” to him. Verse 19 adds perjury – “a false witness who pours out lies” – to the list of things God hates
Proverbs 12:22 goes on to contrast God’s responses to lying and truthtelling:
The Lord detests lying lips,
but he delights in men who are truthful.
Notice the strongly emotional language in these passages: “hates” and “detests” versus “delights.” God is not impassive between truth and falsehood. He loves one and hates the others. Created in God’s image, we should have the same visceral response to lies that he does. And we should please him by telling the truth.
God’s emotional response to truthtelling and lying results in a twofold judgment: reward for those who tell the truth, punishment for those who lie. Consider these proverbs:
Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue lasts only a moment (12:19).
A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who pours out lies will not go free (19:5).
A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who pours out lies will perish (19:9).
A fortune made by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare (21:6).
A false witness will perish,
and whoever listens to him will be destroyed forever (21:28).
When does this judgment occur? For some, the judgment occurs in this life. When a liar is found out, his credibility is destroyed, and the fortune he amassed through dishonesty is taken away from him. For others, however, judgment occurs in the life to come. Such liars will “perish” and “be destroyed forever.” These are harsh terms, I admit; but they also reveal how deadly serious God is about telling the truth and avoiding dishonesty.
Given God’s emotional response to and judgment of lying, how should we live – especially in a culture that is so comfortable with lies? Proverbs 30:7-9 gives an answer:
Two things I ask of you, O Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
Our comfortableness about lies is the direct result of our desire for a comfortable life. Commercials, politicians, and televangelists speak to that desire. We should desire God more than comfort, and truth rather than self-gratifying lies.

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