Acts 8:18–19 (ESV) Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
The first time I can recall encountering the term “Culture of Death” was in a Peggy Noonan op-ed piece in 1999. Her immediate reference was to the Columbine massacre. Many have applied the term to America’s shameful abortion policy as well as the rising tide of assisted suicide, euthanasia and increasing suicide rates. It fits.
But why death? Why has that become so important to us? How is it that we seem preoccupied with death before birth (abortion) and ending more mature life more quickly than “nature” would seem to proscribe? It seems inexplicable to me.
Treated as an issue unto itself, the “culture of death” seems mysterious. And the problem with mysterious things is that we stop looking for answers. We don’t probe too far. The darkness surrounding what seems to make little sense in the broad scope leaves us feeling that maybe there is no real answer. So we gaze at the horror out of the corner of our eyes, knowing something is horribly wrong, but clueless as how to understand it.
Perhaps we are looking a little too narrowly at the problem. Perhaps, the issue is not really death itself – but a problem which is far more explicable.
I would like to suggest that it is not death itself that is so drawing, but something far more tangible, definable and addressable. And I think the answer is captured in our text above. It isn’t death per se which motivates so many – it is power. And nothing spells power, like power over life. Determining which lives should “live” – and when and how we die.
Since the Fall, human beings have universally hated one thing more than any other – powerlessness. Call it slavery, victimization, subjugation – whatever – we want power. Power over ourselves, our circumstances, our bodies, our destinies, our money, spouses, our careers, you name it. And the ultimate power – is power over life.
But Christianity is not meant for personal empowerment. It was a mad grab to seize power back in Eden that got us into the pain that informs every part of life in this fallen world. Christianity is meant to reverse the Fall – not perpetuate it. The Christian does not want power over anyone else – and certainly not over whether or not they live or die. Our call is to recognize once again the authority and power which belongs to our God alone – and to give ourselves in complete faith, over to His loving care.
It is our lust to be like God – if not god – that is behind the culture of death. And only a heart and mind surrendered to the Savior can find reversal. Oh how we need the Gospel more than ever.