It is becoming increasingly apparent that societal and moral trends originating in the USA inevitably travel across the Atlantic to infect our shores. This is even true in spiritual matters with the twin heresy movements of the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses emerging in 19th century America, then spreading to Europe.
It used to be said that the USA was the bastion of evangelicalism which sent out evangelists to all parts of the world to preach the Gospel. Billy Graham’s crusades in the UK were a notable feature of Christian outreach in the second half of the twentieth century.
However, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to a dilution of traditional evangelical belief in the USA. The toleration of same sex marriage and the ‘dumbing down’ of clear Biblical teaching on a raft of social and moral issues by some evangelicals should be a cause for concern on this side of the Atlantic.
The latest evidence of the growth of moral confusion amongst American evangelicals comes from a survey by Pew Research into end of life medical treatment. It found that in certain situations an increasing number of evangelicals believe suicide is a moral right.
In a summary of the research published recently in the journal ‘Christianity Today’, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra notes that: “about a quarter of evangelicals believe that a person has a moral right to suicide if he or she is ready to die because living is now a burden, or if that person is an extremely heavy burden on his or her family.
The number keeps rising for other situations……………..about a third of white evangelicals and a third of black protestants believe suicide is a moral right for those who have an incurable disease. And 42 per cent of both groups believe suicide is a moral right for those in a great deal of pain with no hope of improvement.
Belief in suicide as a moral option for those who are suffering has grown modestly in the general public since 1990, rising to 62 per cent from 55 per cent. Since the percentage of American adults who say suicide is never morally right has stayed roughly the same, most of that growth comes from people who answered "I don't know" last time now taking a stand, according to the study.”
This is a worrying trend. Evangelicals are the group most noted for taking a strong stand on all pro-life issues, so any confusion or softening of a Biblically based position should be a cause for concern.
It should be of particular concern for Scottish Christians with the launch of MSP Margo MacDonald’s Assisted Suicide Bill in the Scottish Parliament on November 14.
In reporting the launch of the Bill on the BBC website, journalist Andrew Black’s balanced piece also quotes a response from the Scottish anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing. This is an alliance of 50 groups, including faith-based organisations, which is strongly opposed to Ms MacDonald's proposals.
Care Not Killing convener Dr Gordon Macdonald said: “The Scottish Parliament overwhelmingly rejected an attempt by Margo MacDonald to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2010. MSPs concluded that vulnerable people would be put at risk from such legislation. Scotland can learn from the damaging effects of legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide in other parts of Europe and North America.
Europe can learn from Scotland's example as a country which has rejected the view that some people's lives are not worth living. We believe that society has a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable.”
Well said Dr MacDonald!
The Bible is very clear about the matter of suicide, assisted or not. For God, life is the only option. The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy captures the very heart of the Living God with these words:
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life..."
Let’s pray that Scotland’s evangelicals will stand up for this great truth unlike some of their American cousins.