This evening while watching a Theology Program lecture (about death, actually), I wandered over to the Credo House Blog and found the recent blog post by Michael Patton entitled, “For Christians Who Want to die.”
My first response was, “Well, I want to die! This article was written for me!” So I clicked the link and started reading, and that subsequently prodded me to write a response.
Although it’s not directly part of my Unschooled Master of Theology program, it could be considered tangential in some ways. Especially since one of the main research questions for my program centers on the nature and reality of death (albeit not necessarily on suicide but it’s close enough).
So, let’s dig into Michael’s article and see what we come away with…
How Could a Christian Want to Die?
It might be a strange thing to consider, a Christian who wants to die. After all, isn’t Christianity supposed to make a new believer elated with life? Are we supposed to almost magically have a change of fate, perpetual trade winds turn in our favor?
Maybe. At least, that’s what a large portion of mainstream Christianity would claim. Prosperity. Healings. Jumping up and down, rolling on the ground, mumbling, stumbling, falling down, all in the name of a Spirit that seems more interested in making chaos than improving the lives of new converts.
This is certainly not my Christianity. Not the Christianity I discovered when I was 17, sitting in that hospital room in the middle of the night, my girlfriend in the hospital bed, a dark blue Gideon bible in my hand. I read the words of 2 Peter 2 and something impossible happened to me. For the first time in my life, I could see. I could see God. I knew God. Not everything about him. Not who he was. And I hesitate to call it belief either, because I didn’t believe it. I knew. The moment before I picked up that book and read those words, from the time I started at the beginning of the chapter to the end, something changed in my soul, in my inner most being. It wasn’t sorcery. It wasn’t peer pressure from my girlfriend to convert from Buddhism (in fact, the next day I was shocked to find out she could care less what religion I professed).
But, still, that moment changed my life forever. And now, nearly 30 years later, I still know God is real, I cannot deny the reality of my Creator.
So, why then would I want to die? I’m now a Christian. The world should be revolving around Church services, Church programs, I should be rocking out to my favorite CCM mp3s.
There was a time for all that, certainly. But, none of that has been the mainstay of my faith during the last three decades. Actually, what has held sway over me more than most is the sense I’ve had that I just don’t belong here. This planet, this external, physical world, it is no longer my home. I am, from the moment I surrendered to my King, a Monarchist. My citizenship is in heaven and I have no business being here anymore.
So, yes it is possible that a Christian can want to die. In fact, I think many of us actually do (or, at least, more should).
Why I’ve Always Wanted to Die
It is true, I’ve had what I call a serious soul since I was a young child. I’ve never really fit in. I never really enjoyed playing on the playground with the other kids. I would rather sit inside by myself and draw or write stories or imagine and explore vast worlds in my mind.
Middle and upper grades were worse. I eventually learned to fake my way through. But school was a monster for me. I hated the people around me. I hated my parents. I hated God for creating me. Mostly I hated that I didn’t understand why I existed, why no one had asked me if I wanted to play their little game, why the other shoe was already dropping somewhere for something.
I had an abusive father growing up and the image of him always flashed in my head whenever someone brought up God, and I certainly didn’t need another one of those in my life.
By the time I hit high school, I was immersed in Buddhist thought on death and reincarnation and the rest of their doctrine. I was happy. I found a solution to my problem, to what I considered at the time to be the problem in life.
But, three years later, upon reading that fateful passage, not only did God reveal himself to me, but he also took away any peace, any joy I had received from meditation in the past.
Yet, this didn’t change how I felt. It actually only intensified my despondence toward the world and how the people in it did things.
I’ve wondered over the years if I was suicidal or depressed or somehow mentally ill. Family has been convinced of the last one all my life, for whatever reason (though I would argue – and have been proven correctly in the last few years – they are the mentally ill in question), but I’ve come away lately with a deep sense, a confident realization that I’m not actually suicidal.
The fact is, I rationally, objectively just don’t want to be here.
It, of course, stems from the significant betrayal I’ve experienced by virtually everyone throughout my life. Classmates from an early age. Parents. Spouse. Children (thankfully, not mine biologically, I have been blessed with no children of my own). Employers. Churches and ministers and jack-boot preachers. More recently the US Government. The list goes on and on.
I’ve always been label as “sensitive” and basically told I needed to toughen up, needed thicker skin. As a kid I was chastised and made fun of by my parents because things offended me personally. For as long as I can remember, I’ve preferred life alone, by myself.
Today, death is a major topic in my personal research, but more so because it seems to be the gateway (or a gateway) to the afterlife, or the hypothesis of an afterlife (since we have no clinical evidence of it yet). But, this is not a question borne from loss or emotional or physical suffering. I don’t suffer from severe bouts of depression and don’t show typical signs of chemical imbalances in my brain (they checked me when I was a kid). Honestly, I believe my melancholy is a genuine (and rational) response to the actual reality of existence. Not the reality we like to paint it to be. Not the reality we wish it were like. But what is real. J.P. Moreland states truth is believing something about reality that lines up with how reality actually is.
And the reality of this world, at least to me, is pretty evident. Fallen. How else would you describe it? If anything other than destitute and corrupt, I think you might be living life with blinders on. From an early age, I saw suffering as a fundamental enemy. There is nothing inherently good or beneficial in it. Deny it all you like, but suffering of sentient beings is a travesty, even if one might deserve it.
But, my malaise stretches even further, into the depths of how our societies function and how the obligations of life seem nearly insistent. Demanding. We can’t say any of us had a choice in coming here, in being born, in having to live in this place. And, you can’t say this place is inherently good. Maybe for a few. Maybe for the rich or the famous. Even a significant percentage of them are just as miserable as everyone else, if not more so.
So, I can’t help but ask the question, what is the point? And, so, instead of treading water in place an the drain sweeps us all inevitably toward that moment we disappear into the void, I would rather swim toward the unknown than stay put and suffer even more.
The Mysterious Mechanism that Prods Us
There’s something, though, in our make up. Psychologically, maybe even genetic, that pushes us away from death. When I had my heart attack, I remember thinking, “This isn’t a heart attack” because it didn’t hurt enough. And I diliberated for a long time, on whether I should go back to my property and find a quiet place to die or try and make it back across the lake to the dock and call the ambulance. For some reason, I tried for the dock.
Why in the world would I do that?
Because there is some mysterious mechanism that instills the fear of death into each one of us. Yes, some overcome it and end up taking their lives. But this is usually because the pain they are suffering under is so excruciating, their desperation is able to override that built in preventative mechanism.
Why is there such a mechanism in the first place? Who cares if I live or die? If evolution is correct, I should be dead. I have terrible genetics. I have even worse idiosyncrasies. But who was it, what was the context in which this mechanism would arise? If, instead of evolution, we are gratefully and wonderfully made? What if God designed each one of us from scratch, wrapping all that we are, everything that we think and know, how we rationalize and reason through the world, building it all into the microscopic strands of our DNA? Why build in a fear-death mechanism? What’s there to fear? Since Adam (our prototype) was first created as an immortal being, was he afraid of death? Could he have killed himself? We’re told there was no death before the fall. Was Adam created immortal or was he created mortal and was granted access to the Tree of Life, which sustained him? If we, in heaven, fail to eat from the trees of Revelation 22, will we still die? But isn’t death the final enemy to be destroyed?
There are, of course, a lot of questions we can ask. It doesn’t change the fact that there is something within each of us that at least attempts to prevent us from stepping off the edge too soon, or before our appointed time.
In reality, at this point in my life, it is all I’m doing here. I’m waiting for my death. I have no interest in this world anymore. I have no aspirations to make money or to gain power or to become famous. The goals of my youth I’ve all but abandoned. I’m just biding my time because that mechanism makes me terrified of what might happen if I were to commit suicide.
But, I don’t fantasize about it. This is why I say I’m not suicidal. I’m not driven toward it out of a deep seated suffering or a psychological pain that leaches through my veins like hot lava. I know people who are like this. People who are indeed suffering immensely and cannot seem to find any kind of peace. Those who’s brains are malfunctioning from damage or from some kind of chemical imbalance that move them toward thoughts of suicide regardless of their circumstances.
I’m not one of these. Instead, I have been given a knowledge of reality, something that is true that I cannot deny, could not deny if I wanted to (and believe me I’ve tried). With that knowledge of the fundamental reality of God comes with it a disdain for this shabby excuse for existence. I’m no longer interested. Yet, for whatever reason, I’m required to stay.
Why I Keep On Going
This is not to say I don’t have reasons to keep living or things I do or occupy my time with that I don’t find enjoyment in or get excited about. Quite the contrary. I find a great deal of satisfaction in my research, and the answers to my questions are so illusive I will probably be searching and expanding and unearthing them until the day I face death personally. I actually look forward to it, because I know, I believe, the moment I exit my body, when my soul is disconnected from the physical shell (however this actually, practically occurs), I will step into a new state of being, a new state of existence, and with it will usher in a new set of knowledge, a new understanding of creation, of the physical universe, of the spiritual realm, of my own nature and how that nature will be healed from it’s currently infected state. Not only will I receive explanation of how, but I’ll receive justification on why. Why was I brought into being in the first place? What was the point of suffering through life on earth? Why is everything in the bible and with God and the perplexing angelic realm so cryptic? This is why I keep going, so, one day, on the appointed day and hour, God will require from me the spark that animates my flesh. The soul will dislodge itself from my body, the spirit will return to God, and I will be – that which makes me who I am – will be set free from the bounded state of existence in a mortal, fallen corpse.
Maybe I’ll just cease to be, dying spiritually just as I die physically. So be it. For either I am anxious and ready.
So, can and should Christians want to die? I can’t really speak for anyone else and I think that which is often called the Church today spends a whole lot of time speaking for other people when it should just keep its mouth shut. I know, speaking for myself alone, I want to die. I will to die. I pray most every night to God, asking him to take me tonight in my sleep, so I no longer have to endure this dreadful place. But, it is a paradox, for I am also grateful for the mystery for the gift of life, for the ability to enjoy and express myself and to learn and know and understand what I’ve been given. I am so grateful for Christ and the promise of his resurrection in my life, the hope I will one day stand beside him as this forsaken world burns.
To be honest, I’m a little confused more Christians wouldn’t prefer death over this life. I mean, isn’t heaven real? If we all really, truly believe after we die we enter a genuine paradise that is incomprehensible, why aren’t there rash Christian suicides?
Maybe many of us are just a little too attached to this place after all….
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Excerpt from The Light Aurora:
The door’s lock released and Dr. Lewis looked around at each of them.
“Stay close, and be ready for anything. I’m not sure if they’re all in the Command Center or if they are trying to secure Level 4. Hell, they could all be evacuating.”
He stared at Scott as he came up onto the landing.
“Let’s go,” Scott said.
Dr. Lewis pushed the door open and walked out into the hall, followed by the others – in ones and twos.
Level 2 was similar to the other level, with a long corridor, doors on either side, all with security displays recessed into the wall next to them.
But, as they entered the corridor, Scott’s breath caught in his throat.
As he stood there with the others, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
In front of them, probably no more than a few yards away, were three bodies lying on the floor. One was sitting up against the wall, the side of his face melted, exposing his right eyeball and a good portion of his right skull.
Another one was laying face down, his entire back opened up at the spine, as if his spinal cord had been ripped out of him from behind.
The last one was a few more feet away from the others, on his back, his eyes seared from his head, black, burnt flesh where his eyes used to be.
The intercom came back to crackling life.
Derrick said over the intercom.
“Don’t worry. You can answer,” he said. “I can hear you.”
Scott looked up, then fixed his gaze on the security camera at the end of the corridor.
“Yes?” Scott finally asked.
There was a pause, static.
“What are you doing, Derrick?” he asked. “Did you do this?”
“Indeed,” Derrick said, coming back on.
“They refused to help me.”
“What are you trying to do, Derrick?” Scott asked.
There was another pause.
“I want to go home, Professor,” the boy said.
“Yes,” Derrick said, his tone soaked with some other-worldly confidence that did not belong in an innocent, ten year old boy.
“I want to go home, Professor,” he said again. “Would you be interested in coming home with me?”
Buy the entire story The Light Aurora today and get ready for the thrill ride of a lifetime! What is this foreign and hostile place these strangers find themselves in? What does it all mean? Will all of them survive?
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But, trust me when I say, reading this book will change your life forever.