In Defense of Suicide

No. That was just the working headline I had. I was trying to be ironic, but I guess it ended up just being me doing a little click-bait of my own. Defending suicide?   It’s a bit like that Rolling Stones’ song that I never liked – Sympathy for the Devil. It just doesn’t work. Or like that John Lennon song I never liked – Imagine. Imagine there is no heaven? no religion? The very thought is antithetical to itself, (it’s meta-antithetical). Defending suicide?   It can’t be done. Well, maybe...

1. Instinct

Every living thing has an instinct to survive. When shooting a deer, if it doesn’t turn off right away, it runs, trying to get out of danger. When pulling a salmon from the river, it intensely flops around with the intent of returning to where it can breathe. When swatting a mosquito, it flies off to keep on living another day. Lemmings, contrary to popular opinion, do not go off in herds leaping over a cliff. The biological urge to live never rests in the most basic of life-forms. All living things have a survival instinct. To go against that urge is, by definition, the epitome of insanity.

Insanity is believing something that is not true, when clearly it is. The more clear the disconnect between a person’s perception and what is real, the more insane the person is. And you cannot get more disconnected from the reality of your own life than believing you should die.

Many people who begin to act on their plan to die end up stopping themselves, as they become aware of what they’re actually doing. I’ve heard many people say, ‘I was too chicken’ or ‘I wimped out’. They can say that because in comparison to the survival instinct that is hardwired into all of us, everything else goes soft. To go against that instinct requires disconnecting our brain from reality. Again: utter insanity.

2. Sentience

People, in the words of Star Trek (and I’m sure elsewhere in the final frontier), use the word ‘sentient’ to describe how people are self-aware – even while denying God, humanists still recognize that people are more than just instinctive animals. So, we as people, have that additional issue of sentience to work against. We not only have to overcome the instinct to kills ourselves, but we also have to overcome the awareness of what we are doing. Strike One – Instinct. Strike Two – Sentience.

3. Morality

We know that killing people is wrong. Murder has never been seen as a moral good.

But then there is war. War kills people, civilians and militants, both. While we’re okay with enemy combatants dying (well, somehow that part of the topic doesn’t make it into the public debates, so it would seem as though we are giving our approval to it through our passive neglect of the subject), but we’re never okay with the ‘innocents’, or the uninvolved, being killed in war.

Then there is the Death Penalty, which goes through a vigorous debate every few years. Typically the fact that people act in an evil fashion and deserve justice, gets pitted against the fact that even evil people are valuable.

We know that abortion stops a beating heart on the inside of the womb.

And so morality is the Third Strike against suicide that we, as people, have to overcome.

4. Reality

The facts on the ground report that most people who attempt to die by suicide do so when they are in an altered state of mind – the overwhelming majority are either intoxicated, going through withdrawals, in severe grief, in post-trauma, or in current trauma. When their mental status is stabilized, the people who don’t die from suicide, to the person, declare how grateful they are that they didn’t die.

5. God

So, there are four strikes against suicide at this point, even without mentioning Scripture – which we will not leave out. The God of the Bible gifts us with His image, and in so doing, gifts us with life. I think it is fair to say that where life exists, God is present. And where death exists, the spirit of the anti-christ is present. From the serpent in Genesis to the dragon in Revelation, the father-of-lies’ purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. Everywhere the Deceiver is mentioned in Scripture, he is opposing God and His plans: Truth with lies, life with death, and a constant twisting of what is good. Strike Five.

6. Redefining Morality

Have you heard how Gavin Newson is advertising California’s abortions on billboards in Texas, as though it’s a good thing? Have you seen how there is a growing push for euthanasia, or ‘physician-assisted’ suicide, in Canada and various states in the US, as though it’s the humane thing? Calling for the premature death of the most vulnerable of our society at the hands of the very people charged with their care – how can this upside down be justified as right-side up? In both cases, the twisted line is that both the elderly or developing, and their families who would otherwise be taking care of them, will have a ‘quality of life’ that is undesirable.

Aside #1:  I’m not a fan of the term, ‘quality of life’. It seems like it is used only to justify things we know are wrong. Has the term been used to show how we can honor Christ and the life He gave us? I don’t see it being used in a way other than a twisting.

Aside #2: The only physicians I could see as willing to assist in ending the life of a helpless older person would be same ones who are willing to end the life of helpless babies in the womb.  Who else could?

7. Bypassing the Protective Barriers

Like all good lies, there is a layer of truth embedded. People who seek to give themselves the death sentence by having somebody else kill them are, to be as gracious as I can be, trying to bypass those first three strikes mentioned above. And they may even be honest about it – I will both call them out, as well as give them some degree of credit.

First the credit, mild though it is: They may not want others to clean up their mess, or to give others the trauma of having to clean brain matter off the ceiling – thoughtfulness of others is generally lacking when people kill themselves. So, that’s an improvement, yet it is not enough.

They are still acting out of extreme selfishness. Those three strikes are safety mechanisms to prevent the very thing they are insisting upon. The desire of such people to bypass life proves an unwillingness to do the work of seeing past the end of their own nose.  Because if they weren’t hellbent on dying, they would find their way through; not out.

Aside #3: People who kill themselves always leave a horrible, shameful legacy. There is no better example of the legacy of suicide then to look at our first parents. Adam and Eve’s choice to eat the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil haunt us in a way that we cannot escape. (I recognize that I dropped that statement right there, yet I will not see it through, even though it deserves a great deal of attention.)

What about Death-By-Cop? Most people who get into a situation where they know that it might end up in a shoot-out, but end up not dying, later state that dying was absolutely their intent. They wanted to kill themselves, but rather than swallowing pills, they want somebody else put them to death. (Can you think of a film or two that ends this way?) There isn’t any way to determine if the numbers are accurate, but there are guesses that whenever a person dies with police involvement, well over half of those were purposefully  trying to die.

And so death-by-cop is just a method of suicide. Specifically, it is akin to physician-assisted suicide. And so I propose that death-by-cop and physician-assisted suicide both be phrased: third-party-suicide. The difference between those who choose Option A and those who choose Option B may be resources or familiarity or personality, or a combination of all three.

And although it’s still suicide, death-by-cop is causing harm to more than just the people who find your dead body, and those who love you – it is now altering the life of the police officer and his/ her family. Death-By-Cop increases the impact of the shock wave on purpose. On purpose.  And so…

Aside #4:  The vast majority of people who kill themselves do so out of hopelessness. They can’t see past themselves, and can’t see into how they are connected to others and into God’s design. But there is another category of people who kill themselves, much smaller in number – these are the people who do so with a middle-finger to the world. These are the Antisocial Personality Disorders who are just mad at life and want the world to burn. These are the people who commit suicide-by-cop, or who hang themselves from the cell tower in view of the whole village, or who post their suicide on YouTube.

Am I Getting to the Defense yet?

Well, there is this: As I was talking with a person about to be convicted of murder the other day, she explained how if she were to be given a sentence of Life Without Parole, or even something like 30-years without Parole, she would appeal that sentence and request the Death Penalty. She immediately went on to describe how she wasn’t suicidal, but rather that Life in Prison was worse than the Death Sentence; that it was cruel for such a sentence as her usefulness would be over. She at least wanted to die knowing that her organs would be put to good use. Also, in the midst of saying how she was hoping to be end well, she casually mentioned how she did not want to not be a burden to the taxpayers. Throughout the conversation she acknowledged God’s Law, and that she should die because she took the life of another – in short, she was repentant; not suicidal.

That’s about as close as I can get to a defense of a person attempting to take their own life: repentance and accepting the just judgment of our own heinous actions. And isn’t that the Gospel? We all deserve death, which is the legacy left to us by Adam and Eve. We were born as enemies of God, and until our new birth, we were hardening ourselves further against Him. Yet it was God Himself who laid His life down to be a ransom for us all – even though He had no sin from which to repent. Such love! He walked into death so that we could walk into life. We owe Him everything. We owe Him our very lives.