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 In the CRC it depends on the individual classes( regional groups of congregations).  Some, like the one where I serve as Regional Advocate, are fairly open and receptive, and others are still at the stage where they tell people to confess their sins and the symptoms will dissipate.  At the spring meeting of Classis Eastern Canada one minister made a presentation on a pilot project to provide leave of absence for pastors suffering from a mental illness that was well received, and the next day I made a presentation about my experience with schizophrenia, and the only question I was asked when I asked if there were any questions was to know if I were willing to go make presentations to individual congregations.  And as long as my expenses are paid I have no problem doing that, but I live on Disability Income, and can't afford to travel much.  So you see, it's very uneven.  The elder who drove me to Ottawa (ON) for the meeting said that there had been several Art.17 separations between congregations and their pastors based on mental health issues, so I guess they decided to address the problem.


 Mark, as long as some people in the CRC will continue to consider mental illnesses as spiritual problems rather than brain diseases we'll be dealing with the health and wealth gospel.  Those people claim that people are more than chemical reactions.  Granted, but the brain is a very complex organ, where a lot what happens is caused by chemical processes, and because it also happens to be the seat of our mind and personality, when faulty connections happen they manifest themselves as mental illnesses.  In fact, I think I'll add this to my power point presentation.  To dismiss mental illnesses merely as spiritual problems is to dismiss the possibility that the brain as an organ can become sick, which is absurd. 

Christine, thanks for reminding us of your talk: "From Cure to Community." I listened to it shortly after you gave this talk and was blessed by your honest sharing. As people like you, Michele, and many others share with others your journeys with mental illness, you open the way for others to share too, even if not so publicly. I can only imagine the feelings of vulnerability at this risk you are taking, so thank you . . . to both of you! 

Hi Michele. I live with a mental illness myself and appreciate the considerable theological and social challenges that this can contribute when participating in a faith community. I can't speak for CRC churches since I am from a different denomination (though I follow this blog regularly) but I suspect our denominations are not that different as regards creating welcoming and safe spaces people who live with mental illnesses. An important part of my work is dismantling the stigma of mental illnesses in faith communities and in this regard we have a long journey ahead of us. You might be interested in a video talk on our website in which I talk about the stigma I've experienced and the ways we can interpret the Bible to reinforce or challenge stigma. Here's the link: 

Michele, yes, a lot of people still need the basics explained to them. That's why I love the continuum, the 5 Stages of Disability Attitudes, because it assumes that people are all over the map, encourages people to identify where they are on the continuum, and suggests what they need to do to move forward toward more biblical attitudes toward people with physical disabilities. I'm afraid there never will be a "once and for all" debunking of any false gospel. But you are right, the health and wealth gospel is still alive and well. One time, someone (not a CRC person, though I'm sure you are right that that attitude is among us as well) told me that our daughter lives with multiple disabilities because my wife and I don't have enough faith. She went on, "If you had faith in God, your daughter would be cured of her disabilities." Not only is this not the gospel, it's hurtful. That's why the work we do as advocates is so important - to speak the truth in love. Appreciatively, Mark

 Once again I got the impression that this classis is still at the breast milk stage when they should be eating meat.  In other words, they still need to have basic concepts explained to them, and the author only talks about physical disabilities.  What would it be if he were to discuss mental illnesses?  One of these days some preacher in that classis, or in the whole denomination for that matter, should undertake to debunk the Health and Wealth Gospel for good and show it up as the bullcrap it is.  It's a shame that people in this denomination that prides itself on being more knowledgeable than other churches still believe that nonsense.  I can think of at least two passages off the top of my head that contradict its assumptions: Job 42 :7,8 ; and John 9 :1-5.  And there are probably other ones that could be found if someone did a thorough study on that subject.  How about it? Anyone up to the challenge?

 I did watch this webinar, and it reminded me that even though anxiety is not a major problem of mine, I do tend to get anxious when responsibilities pile up and I have to be careful that I don't take more than I can handle.  Having schizophrenia even if I'm functioning at a high level still leaves me more fragile than people who are healthy.

Caryn, you're welcome. That's why we keep posting stuff here! So glad to hear it will be helpful. Be sure to check out the video by Barbara Newman too that I reference in the note. I think you'll find her advice right on the mark for your needs. Mark

Thanks for posting this! This speaks perfectly to some things our Sunday School program has been dealing with! 

Not only toy makers but also clothing makers are expanding their line to include kids with disabilities. Here's a story about Tommy Hilfiger's work.

Thanks for posting this. Very powerful. 

 That's the issue in which my story appeared.  I still have copies of it. 

 People who say that mental illness is a sin don't know what they're talking about, so I'm glad you didn't cry about it.  I won't tell you not to let it affect you, because that sort of nonsense does affect us whether we want it to or not.  In a documentary I watched on YouTube titled "Schizophrenia : Stolen Minds, Stolen Lives" we can see two identical twin brothers, one who has schizophrenia, and the other not, and at one point both brothers undergo an MRI, and you can see the difference in their brains.  So, therefore, if mental illnesses manifest themselves at the neurological level where most people have no control over their brain's morphology, how can mental illness be a sin?  God doesn't hold us to account for things we can't control.  Only stupid people do.  So try not to take it too personally when you hear that sort of comment.  They're WAY out in left field.

Michele, thanks so much for sharing a bit of your journey. I appreciate your vulnerability, letting us get a glimpse of some very painful experiences. I hope your sharing will help me and others who read this to be a little more understanding and compassionate.


As a child I was slow and had coordination problems that were "side effects" of the schizophrenia that developed in adulthood. (See "Schizophrenia : Stolen minds,Stolen Lives" on YouTube.)  For example, I had a neurological handicap that prevented my eyes from focusing at the same time, and still makes it difficult for me to see things in three dimensions, which is why I don't drive.  And because I was born left-handed but was taught to use my right hand to write, it was difficult for me to do basic tasks like setting the table because I always had to think first on which side of the plate to put the cutlery.  But my father was an impatient man, and he would often call me names if I didn't do things fast enough to his taste or do them himself so they would be done faster thereby denying me the opportunity to practice and become more skillful at them.

In addition, I was also bullied at school because I was different in some way than the other kids.  At times I had a weight problem, and they would pounce on that. Or I 'd have to wear glasses, and back then glasses only had one style of frames--black and square--regardless of age or gender, and that also made me a prey to those kids. Whoever believes that kids are naturally good has never been living with a handicap in a schoolyard.  Anyway.  Good thing cyberbullying didn't exist back then because I would have been overwhelmed.  Between my dad and the kids at school I had little reprieve to begin with, and when I did start hearing voices, one of those voices telling me to kill myself was my own father's.

I did forgive.  Because I don't burden myself with grudges.  For me, forgiveness is a matter of psychological hygiene.  I can go for days now without hearing the voices, but if something upsets me there they are again, and forgiving whoever is the cause of my getting upset shuts them up so fast they don't know what hit them. And even if they do know they're still silenced.

Michele, Great question! Sounds like people with disabilities are part of the fabric of your church, for which I praise God. I have been in other congregations that are the same way, but that certainly is not true of all churches.

 I don't think people in my church are afraid of people with disabilities, because very often, in our congregation, the people who have disabilities now are people they have had around as they grew up.  I've been attending this church for 40 years, and other people who have developed disabilities with age have been around for even longer.  A couple of individuals have had strokes while others had accidents where they fell down a flight of stairs and now use a walker to get around, but some of those people are founding members of the congregation.  Others have joined our church, but what's one person with a disability more or less when you're used to having them around already?

Michèle, thanks for your story and comments. You describe the enormous challenge that public health officials have. On the one hand, we don't want to go back to the era of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, when people were institutionalized inappropriately. The bar is set very high for involuntary hospitalization. On the other hand, it seems that people usually have to hurt themselves or another before they can be hospitalized against their will. And in the case of your story, even in the tragic instance of the murder of a child, your cousin was still allowed to refuse help. The intrinsic challenge of judging when and when not to hospitalize someone against their will, combined with limited public dollars allocated for mental health and overworked mental health workers results in a lot of suffering that could be abated somewhat. Thinking about these challenges, about the story of your cousin and her child, and about other similar stories in which people refused help even though they could have benefited from it makes me start to feel hopeless. I'm thankful that you are helping me and others at least to be aware of the issues. Perhaps some better way can be found. God, help us! God bless the public health officials and lawmakers with compassion and wisdom. Amen

 Even trying to get help for an adult family member who is psychotic and paranoid and refuses that their psychiatrist inform the family is difficult.  As soon as the patient is 18 or over they are considered able to decide for themselves, even if they obviously aren't.  A cousin of mine who was suffering from paranoid psychosis would not cooperate with her treatment plan as proposed by her doctor, and seeing signs in tree branches that her landlords wanted to kill her, she broke her lease every three months and moved before they'd have time to carry out their somber plans.  Eventually, she killed the one child she'd ever had by drowning the girl in the bathtub after drugging her so the kid would not resist.  And then she tried to kill herself by throwing herself in the nearest river.  (Montreal is an island located between two rivers.  The Rivière des Prairies on the north side and the St.Lawrence on the south.)  When she didn't drown fast enough to her taste, she got out of the water and walked to the nearest house where she was arrested after she'd told the owners her story and they called the police.  After that she fired one lawyer after another as soon as they suggested she get treated for her obvious disorder, because she wasn't aware of being ill.  Psychosis will pull that trick on people. Not all people with psychotic disorders have what is referred to as anosognosia, a term borrowed from neurology to describe the sequels suffered by some stroke victims where they are not aware of having lost abilities, but it is believed that 50% of people with schizophrenia and other forms of psychoses are afflicted in this way.  If it can comfort their close relatives and caregivers, they don't refuse to cooperate just to aggravate you.  In those cases they really don't believe they're ill.

Anyway, at her trial, the Crown prosecutor recommended she be sent to the Philippe Pinel Institute, a prison for the criminally insane, but she refused and ended up in a regular federal penitentiary for women, where she ultimately died by killing herself after three failed attempts.  

Fortunately, not all psychiatric patients suffer such tragic fates.  I am one of the fortunate few who had the symptoms hard enough to know what I'm talking about yet mild enough to be able to talk about the experience.  Some of those who know they're ill are just too severely afflicted to be able to talk about their illness in a cogent manner, or they started being ill at such a young age that it prevented them from getting an education because their symptoms interfered with concentration.  I know from personal experience how ineffective studying for a test can be when you haven't slept a full night in weeks and you're hearing voices.  It doesn't work. I'm writing this so that those who feel frustrated by trying to help mentally ill people and don't get any cooperation from the system will know that they are not the problem.  A system that considers adult people with mental illnesses in a psychotic state as competent to decide whether they need help or not, and entitled to have their privacy respected when they obviously need outside intervention is the problem.  Our system of individual rights was not designed for such patients.

Thanks for bringing up Jeremiah! I am currently studying his live in a Bible study and amazed at the trials and pain he endured. Through it all, he maintained a dialog with God and was obedient. What a challenge for me today. 

Michèle, thanks for sharing from the heart. The power of Scripture is truly amazing. Your image of bearing the pain in your bones, and the indelible mark on your soul, reminds me of an amazing article by the late Nancy Eiesland. Dr. Eiesland was working as a chaplain in a rehab center with people who had spinal cord injuries. She asked residents how they would know if God was with them and understood their experiences. One resident said, "If God was in a sip/puff*, maybe he would understand." Later on, Eiesland was reading the story of Jesus revealing himself to his disciples after his resurrection (Luke 24:36-39). It struck her that the disciples needed to see the marks on his hands and feet to know who he was. Then she writes, 

It wasn’t God in a sip/puff, but here was the resurrected Christ making good on the promise that God would be with us, embodied, as we are – disabled and divine. Reading this passage, I realized that here was a part of my hidden history as a Christian. The foundation of Christian theology is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet seldom is the resurrected Christ recognized as a deity whose hands, feet, and side bear marks of profound physical impairment. In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God. Jesus, the resurrected Savior, calls for his frightened companions to recognize in the marks of impairment their own connection with God, their salvation. In so doing, this disabled God is also the revealer of a new humanity. The disabled God is not only the One from heaven, but the revelation of true personhood, underscoring the reality that full personhood is compatible with the experience of disability. 

Praise the Lord, Christ bears the marks of his suffering and death on himself throughout eternity, and we are better for it. (Eiesland had congenital bone disability and died in 2009.)

*A "sip/puff" refers to wheelchairs and other assistive technologies that are maneuvered by sipping from or puffing into a straw-like apparatus.

Jeremiah speaks specifically about his pain.   

"I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed...."

This passage always leaves me close to tears because I remember the mental pain I endured before medication took effect and reduced it to the point where I am more affected by its side effects than by the illness itself.  At my lowest point, when I was watching the river flow by and considering throwing myself in the water God convinced me not to give up on life, and I never came that close to killing myself again even though things didn't improve right away.  Actually, not for at least a year after that, and as a result I think I got that pain in my bones so to speak.  It left an indelible mark on my soul, and I can't forget it.  I guess that's what keeps me credible when I talk about my illness.  Nobody can say that my witness is trite because I REALLY know what it feels like. I can still recall it in a heartbeat.  And Lamentations expresses that better than any other passage I've come across so far.

Hi Michèle, thanks for your comment. What is it about Lamentations 3:19-33 that you find especially helpful? Or to ask another way, what is it about this passage that moves you so deeply?

 I don't know if I ever mentioned this in these posts but one passage that means a LOT to me is Lamentations 3:19-33.  I prefer it in the NIV than the New King James Version.  Actually, the whole chapter, even the whole book, would be pertinent, but for the sake of brevity I narrowed it down to this passage.  I find it comforting, but at the same time it seldom fails to bring tears to my eyes even though I haven't been depressed in years, and depression was my dominant negative symptom for decades next to insomnia.

Michele, no apologies necessary. I praise God with you that your mother is doing so well. My mother-in-law is almost the same age and is just as sharp. It's wonderful. 

 My maternal grandfather developed senile dementia in his last years, mostly from age 87 to 90 when he passed away in 1984, and when I went to see him with my mom he seemed only a ghost of the man I'd known as a child and young adult when he taught me how to make his liver pâté, so we began our mourning process long before he breathed his last.  I wasn't there on that day, but my mom and dad were.  I'm sorry that you're losing your mother that way.  Mine, however, is still "all there" on the verge of her 89th birthday, which will be on January 31st.  She even drives her car still and got a new one last spring.  She's also planning on moving to a larger apartment in her seniors' residence in March that will be closer to the elevator to make it easier because some of the medications she takes for her heart condition make her dizzy and the hallways are long there.  But it IS a seniors' residence and NOT a nursing home.  And it doesn't smell like a nursing home.  

Sorry that the contrast between my mom and yours is so stark, but I'd rather have my mom the way she is than with senile dementia any day, and I imagine you'd prefer it this way too.

Hi Terry and Michele: 

It looks like this litany/prayer was provided by Church of the Crossroads (with permission to use). I've added in this information. 

Thanks for asking!

Yes, please use it, Michele!

BTW, even though the Network attributes the litany to me, I am not the author. I inherited it in my RCA Disability Concerns role.

 Do you mind if I use this in Sunday's order of worship?

Christine, I wondered if Sheila was Mennonite, being from Goshen. I'm thankful for the connections that Disability Concerns has with ADNet, and that we can be co-laborers in God's work.

Michele, I guess that would be called a balanced perspective on your disability. I am one (among many I'm sure) who is thankful that you are able and willing to share so openly about living with schizophrenia. 

 I've come to figure out that the reason God allowed me to suffer from schizophrenia was that I would have it hard enough to know what I was talking about yet mild enough to be able to speak on behalf of those who can't tell what it's like to live with schizophrenia.  How's that for God' will?

Thanks for bringing this article to light! Some time after Sheila wrote the article you quote from, she became one of the founders of Anabaptist Disabilities Network. Sheila continues her disability advocacy both informally and formally, working now in Deaf ministry at College Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana. She is my go-to resource person to review materials I write or edit on hearing loss and the Deaf community. 

Christine Guth, Anabaptist Disabilities Network,

Well said, Mark!  You express the thoughts of many of us at the CRC who knew and loved Paul.

We all loved Paul here at the CRCNA in so many different ways, his tenacity for life and smile will forever be embedded in my memories of him. Thanks Mark for this tribute.

Thank you for writing this piece, Mark. With the links you included, it's a beautiful window offering a glimpse into Paul's remarkable life.

I'm grateful for the brief exchanges I had with Paul, who obviously made an impact on lots of people. While I did not know him well, the flood of comments from so many sources all seem to have a consistent sentiment expressed in them. I can't think of anyone for whom the "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your reward" salutation seems more appropriate.

Paul was also a prayer warrior, and when he was here at the denominational building delivering mail and good cheer, he also made sure he attended two prayer groups. And he loved music - one of the ways he loved to participate in prayer was when we would sing a short chorus together - He is Lord, Father I Adore you, or Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying. I love to think of Paul singing now, a new song of the redeemed, and without struggling for breath!

Paul was the best friend you could imagine and his caring spirit, sense of humor, and love of God will stick with me for a long, long time. I will miss him so much! Thanks for sharing these reflections on a life well lived, Mark. 

Thanks Michele. Yes, this is an especially hard time of year to mourn the passing of a loved on. There will be an empty chair at the Buursma Christmas feast this year. I pray God will give them comfort, peace, strength, and they they will be comforted with the certain hope that they will indeed see Paul again. 

 My sympathies to you, Mark, as you mourn the passing of a friend at this time of the year.  Losing touch with friends or loved ones is never easy, but around the holidays it's even harder.  Praying for God' comfort to you and his family.

Thank you for writing this Mark.  Looking forward to the great reunion in heaven the resurrection brings.

Michele, yes, it's sad that people fear others coming to church. Just a few days ago I just talked with a man who advocated in his own congregation for including people with various disabilities and the importance of making accommodations so that they can participate. He said that one person objected saying, "Well, if we make more accommodations, then more of those people might start coming." What a terrible thing! The church might grow. Oh no!!!!

Of course, this man did not fear church growth. He feared growth via people coming that he did not consider desirable. But the gospels make plain that Jesus was not concerned about the "right" kind of people coming to church. He was concerned about people coming to him, anyone, maybe especially people whom society pushes to the margins. 

 Our congregation in Montreal is inclusive, and I am not aware that anyone was asked to leave because they were different or handicapped in some way. On the contrary, we have added an elevator over the years to accommodate people who could not climb stairs, and the church p.a. address is used at congregational events to accommodate those who are hearing-impaired.  And, of course, I as a member with schizophrenia have been part of this church for close to 40 years now.  We also have a child in our congregation who has an Autism spectrum disorder, and none of us have ever been told we should leave.  

I'm sorry for the people attending the congregation served by that pastor friend of yours because he needs to realize that handicapped people are no longer confined in nursing homes or asylums, and God doesn't put our personal convenience at the top of His priorities' list.  I hope he smartens up. SOON.

Michele, yes, multiple studies confirm that people with mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than people without mental illnesses. In fact, people with mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims of violence than the general population. 

Regarding your comment about guns, in America, we have a constitutional right to "keep and bear arms." The constitution, however, does not instruct citizens how to do so safely or responsibly. I fear that some people, even law enforcement, are encouraging dangerous behaviors. After the San Bernadino attack, news sources are reporting that "Two sheriffs on opposite sides of the country this week are urging citizens licensed to carry a firearm to please do so in light of recent events. Among those asking citizens to carry every day is controversial Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio who on Tuesday publicly advised the state’s 250,000 permit holders that having a ready firearm could mean a difference between life and death in an active shooter incident involving a terrorist or other mass shooter." I find the sherriff's announcement terrifying. It encourages gun owners to come out with guns blazing whenever an attack like this happens. I suspect that if that actually happened, many more people would be killed than if law enforcement alone subdued the attacker. 


  I tend to think out loud in public places, and as a result sometimes when I get off a public transit bus some people look at me as if I were dangerous or something.  This is another prejudice against mentally ill people. Actually, people who think out loud are probably a lot less dangerous than terrorists who strike when you don't expect them to and because you didn't the attack coming.  You SHOULD be so lucky as to hear a terrorist thinking out loud, but it's not likely to happen.  The truth is that the chronically normal are a lot more dangerous than mentally ill people who take their medication, and even many mentally ill who don't.  

I pray that despite the fact that this last shoot-out was indeed a terrorist attack, the American people will come to a consensus about the need to control firearms AND take action on it.  Don't let the NRA fool you. Having a handgun in a desk drawer will not help you if someone hell-bent on righting a perceived wrong barges in to your workplace with a machine gun.  You won't have time to pull it out anyway.  And how does the fact that so many Americans do have firearms contribute to the order of your society?

One more time Mark.  You are right that Christians, like anyone else, should be allowed to voice an opinion.  If I were facing a situation of great pain, or physical disability and hopelessness (for the future), I would want to know what opinions are being voiced and weigh the validity of each point of view.  But I would not want someone telling me what I had to do, especially if I didn’t agree with a particular point of view.  I wouldn’t want someone else’s viewpoint or religion imposed on me.  After hearing the different arguments let me make my own choice.  That’s what the physician assisted suicide advocates are recommending, allowing a person to make their own choice..  Not so for those opposed to euthanasia.

I think that Christians are caught between a rock and a hard place.  The Christian’s strongest argument is the teaching that people have been created in the image of God (the sanctity of human life).  Therefore because of the ultimate value of human life, a Christian or anyone cannot even consider suicide as an escape from pain and suffering.  But this is a Christian argument and doesn’t argue well when establishing law in a pluralistic society.

The humanistic argument for forbidding euthanasia depends on logic and reasonableness in coming to a solution. What is the most humane way of handling such a situation?  Does those arguing “for” or “against” euthanasia have the most reasoned and logical point of view.  Christian and other religious points of view should be put aside when establishing law in a pluralistic culture.  Based upon reason, I think that those favoring physician assisted suicide have the stronger argument on this front.

Thinking of the humane treatment of a much loved pet dog who has lost all of its legs, what would be the most humane treatment for this pet?  No doubt, it would be to put the dog down (end its life).  It would be inhumane to expect such an animal to live out its years without legs.  But that’s what you are suggesting for a person.  The owner of the dog would make the decision for his/her pet.  In regard to a person (in a humane society) facing a life or death decision, he/she would be primary in coming to such a decision.  You can think of all kinds situations of suffering pets, in which the most humane treatment is to put the pet down.  But in the treatment of suffering and hopeless people, you suggest giving them no choice but to live in likely hopelessness.  

Of course animals and people are different.   People have the capability of logic and reason.  Adults can logically and reasonably make important decisions for themselves, even in life and death situations.  They should be given the dignity and the honor that belongs to human beings  to do so.  If they choose life, then by all means, those close to such a person will do all they can to make the remainder of their life comfortable and meaningful.  If they choose death, then those close will also make the passing as comfortable and guilt free as possible.  To give an individual the right of choice gives the individual the dignity and honor that humans deserve.  The right to choose seems, to me, to be the only reasonable and Christian option.

Hi Roger, you are right. I could have done a much better job illustrating the painful situation in which many people find themselves when considering the option of physician-assisted suicide. 

I believe that as Christians we can give arguments against physician assisted suicide from within a Christian worldview, and submit these as part of the public discourse. As I said, we have as much right to participate in the public square as others. In addition, there are organizations like Not Dead Yet that oppose assisted suicide that do not use arguments from a Christian worldview but from a humanist point of view. They too have as much right to be part of the public discourse on the topic as those who favor assisted suicide. This is not "imposing our opinion" on others but contributing to society's discussion on this topic. 

I disagree with you that those who oppose assisted suicide "offer no options" to people in severe pain or living with severe disabilities. As I argued in my article, the options include excellent palliative care and excellent social supports (from the public and private sectors - this is where the church comes in) to do as much as possible to give difficult lives meaning, to keep people in meaningful relationships with other people, and to provide as much comfort as possible. 

Thanks Mark for your clarifications.  As to your examples, if the third was a made up example, as you say, you could have, at least, added some compassion to show the concern and suffering that such a cancer victim was likely experiencing.  As it stands, it is still obvious where you stand simply from your examples.

When you suggest that opponents of physician assisted suicide are not faith based and do not use religious arguments to make their case, I hope that is not the case for you, as you represent a Christian organization, the CRC and Disability Concerns of the CRC.   And you are addressing a Christian audience.   As such, I would think your opposition to euthanasia would mainly lie in a distinctly Christian argument.  Unless, of course, the Christian argument doesn’t carry much weight.  Unless the Christian argument doesn’t represent ultimate truth. Unless you feel you can only argue from a humanistic point of view.

But then if you are arguing from a humanist point of view and not a Christian perspective, then there is no ultimate authority from which to argue.  You can only argue from a position of opinion.  And your opinion carries no more weight than that of others.  I hope you recognize that  Western opinion on a number of issues (including euthanasia) has been strongly informed and shaped by a long standing Christian tradition that has spanned centuries of thinking.  That is rapidly changing in our pluralistic Western societies.  

You suggest that Christians are part of our pluralistic society and have a right to add their voice to the mix of many voices.  I think you have a right to add your opinion and certainly impose your own opinion on yourself.  But to tell someone who fundamentally believes differently from you that they have to act according to your opinions or values in a pluralistic society is unjust.  Christianity is no longer seen as the guardian of our society and culture.  That is why groups such as “No Longer Dead” will argue their position from a humanistic perspective.  But their humanistic perspective is no more compelling or authoritative than the humanistic perspective of those advocating for physician assisted suicide.  Those wanting to legalize physician assisted suicide are not suggesting that anyone suffering or in pain must submit to such action.   That would be wrong, as well.  They simply want this to be an option.  In contrast those protesting euthanasia are giving no options.  People in severe pain or greatly disabled are not allowed to make such a decision for themselves.  Therein lies the error of your view advocating for a Christian position ruling our pluralistic society.

If the Christian church (or Christians) wants to prohibit physician assisted suicide it should prohibit it within their own church or denomination.  But why go outside of their own church (of like thinking) and try to prohibit it in society which is not under the jurisdiction of the church.   If the church cannot enforce such a law in their own churches why should the church or Christians be allowed such authority in society.

There are other valid arguments for those advocating for physician assisted suicide, but I’ve said too much already.  Thanks for listening and responding.

Roger, thanks for your comments. Clearly, you have thought a lot about this issue. My third example is made up, so it is difficult to paint as full a picture as with the other two which come out of my own experience. 

You imply that the primary reason to oppose assisted suicide is that we live in a pluralistic society, and must not "impose our values" on others. I'm far from an expert in political science, but I would disagree with you on two fronts. First, Christians and other people of faith are part of that pluralistic society, so we and our values have as significant a place at the table as people with other value systems. We do have a right to add our voices to other's voices concerning what we believe to be best for people in society, and that should be done with the kind of respect that God calls us to have toward all people. Second, the primary opponents of legislation permitting assisted suicide are people of faith (various faiths) and disability rights groups. Not Dead Yet is a disability rights organization that vigorously opposes assisted suicide legislation. You'll find that none of their arguments are based on "Christian values", yet are powerful reminders of the dangers of such legislation for many vulnerable people in our society. 

Compassion is a value I aspire to live by in all of life. If what I wrote appears to be uncompassionate toward people facing suffering and trail at the end of life, I'm sorry. However, if we only consider compassion toward people contemplating assisted suicide, we will be mislead. We must also have compassion toward other people, such as those for whom assisted suicide legislation endangers their lives (see the Not Dead Yet article referenced above). And if we are guided only by compassion, we will forget about other important values like justice. 

Thanks Mark for your insights into the topic of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide.  I noticed that in painting a picture of three different end of life situations, you painted the first two examples with a greater sense of compassion for the person dying than you did in the third example.  From that alone, I knew where you stood on the topic of physician assisted suicide.  In a sense, the rest of the article was not necessary to know where you stand.  Had you painted a much more compassionate view of the third, your viewpoint would have not been so obvious from the start, and might have shown some balance.

Most Christians oppose physician assisted suicide because of their view of human life. Human life is sacred, not just valuable.  The sanctity of human life stems fundamentally from people (as opposed to animals) being created in the image of God.  And because humans are created in God’s image, we do not have the right to take that life from anyone.  If humans were simply one step up the evolutionary ladder from monkeys, we might not feel the same.  So it is our Christian perspective that pushes us in the direction of being pro-life, whether at the beginning or end of human life.

The fundamental question in our informed age is, do Christians have the right to impose their religious views on the general population?  Because Christians believe in the sanctity of human life, should they dictate to the public that particular view?  Wouldn’t that be like people of the Islamic religion wanting to impose sharia law on the general population of a democracy such as the U.S. or Canada?  It is one thing for Christians to say that they believe in the sanctity of human life, but it’s entirely a different thing to impose our beliefs on others.  The church should be staunch supports of such principles within their church communities, without imposing their views on others outside the church. Don’t we believe in a separation of church and state?  I don’t know if the church does such an effective job within the church community, why should they go outside the church to impose their beliefs?

As for those promoting physician assisted suicide, they can definitely present and promote a much more compassionate and loving perspective on the topic than you have done with your third example.  In fact, if shown in the way promoters intend, it is the most loving, compassionate, and hopeful thing that can be done (or allowed) for those facing severe pain and hopelessness.

Kory, Friendship Ministries is producing a new curriculum called "Together" that can be used in small group Bible studies that include people with and without intellectual disabilities. It's really exciting! Also, Walk with Me, a popular Sunday school curriculum for children, as well as hymnals, liturgical resources, and materials for adults are available in braille and/or large print from Faith Alive Christian Resources.