Culture of Death

In one week, the USA saw a terrorist in New York killing 8 people, a man “nonchalantly” walking into a Denver Walmart store and fire a handgun at shoppers, leaving three dead, and at least 26 people killed in a “church massacre” in Texas. And this all only one month after a 64-year-old man in Las Vegas killed 58 people in “the worst mass shooting in modern US history”. On Saturday, more than a hundred people have been killed in a truck bomb blast in Eastern Syria. Western Australia saw three people killed on Sunday alone in two separate car crashes, while a Perth man was stabbed to death “in front of his distressed partner”. The death toll from the typhoon that was pummeling central and southern Vietnam has risen to 27. One fact that did not reach the pages or the screens of the news media is, that yesterday, on one day, more than three hundred thousand (yes: 300,000) people died, worldwide. And today also. And tomorrow. Every day again. More than three hundred thousand! That is part of daily life, in this world. So much so, that it doesn’t get reported.

Many more …
The reports of these tragic deaths reached the pages of the news media. Many more are being killed, either through violence, or in accidents or natural disasters. We usually don’t hear about what is happening outside of our ‘Western’ world. The report of the typhoon in Vietnam only made the news because it happened just days before the region is due to host the APEC summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, among them President Trump and China’s leader Xi Jinping. It is remarkable that the death of eight people killed in New York was front page news for many days, while the death of more than a hundred people in Syria could only be found as a short message tucked away among other unimportant news. At the same time, the right to kill unborn babies and terminally ill people (or even non-terminally ill in some countries) is being pushed for or vigorously defended. And the killing of several Christians all over the world, whether adults or children, is conveniently ignored by most of the media. This shows us the bias of the media. (Is it only the bias of the media? A minister knows that if he doesn’t mention the killing in New York in his prayer on Sunday, he will receive comments from members in the congregation, but if he forgets to mention the persecuted church, usually nobody will notice or complain. Do we as Christians have our focus right?)

Infatuated with death
Our culture is infatuated with death. While on the one hand people try to remove the reminder of death out of our lives by banning cemeteries to big plots outside of the city boundaries, where we are not confronted with them every day again, there on the other hand the world relishes the symbols of death and the dead on Halloween. While on the one hand our society has no problem with killing the unborn or the weak and old, as long as we call it with different names (abortion, euthanasia), there on the other hand the whole world is up in arms and in terror if a terrorist kills eight on the streets of New York. Where the killing of 26 church people in Texas is front page news, only because it is the USA, there the murder of hundreds of Christians all over the world is ignored.
On the one hand, our culture embraces death, while on the other hand it tries to escape death and find eternal life. Death is news, because it is shocking, but nobody wants to be reminded that we are all mortal and we all will die, if the LORD doesn’t return soon.

Death not natural
Our society doesn’t know how to deal with death. It can’t give it a place in the daily life. Death is not natural. It doesn’t belong to life, it doesn’t belong to God’s creation. We, Christians, know that death does not belong to this creation. It is the result of sin. We also know that death is defeated, by Jesus Christ. We don’t need to fear death, because death has no power over us. Those who believe in Christ they shall live, even though their body may die. We know that even an ‘untimely’ death, whether it is through violence, accidents, sickness or other reasons, is never too soon. All our days are numbered in God’s book and we will not die before the appointed time. And our death is, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, an entrance into eternal life.
Christians don’t (need to) fear death. Christian culture is a culture of life. That is a culture which is diametrically opposed to the culture of death which has this world in its grip. There is hope, because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. There is hope, because death is defeated. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). The answer to this is: the sting of death is sin, as Paul wrote in the following verse. How can we escape death? Only by being redeemed from the power of sin, through Jesus Christ. Do we give an account to this world of the hope that is in us? That is what we are called to do: always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).