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Jim Harvey: We need to constantly re-examine old truths

To the editor:

I am writing in response to a recent letter “Disagreeing with philosophy on planned suicide,” which commented on Laurie Loisel’s July 31 story about Lee Hawkins of Northampton.

As a retired Christian pastor and as one who is closer to the end of life than the beginning, I was troubled by the writer’s assertion that as a Christian she believes that “life is given and life is taken and in between we have limited control over how a life will evolve and often how it will end.”

Well, that is not quite true. We live a lot longer today, and with less pain, than our colonial ancestors. Modern medicine and dietary and exercise choices give us a lot of control over how our life will evolve and how and when life will end. If suicide is thwarting God’s will, then so are antibiotics and heart bypasses. I do not pretend to have an easy answer to the issue of suicide for the elderly, but I would point out that much has changed since suicide was first deemed a “sin.”

Prohibition against taking one’s life made some sense in biblical times with an under-populated planet and among societies whose strength was determined by numbers of citizens. It is less obvious today when the problem is overpopulation and technology, more than population, determines economic and political strength.

The church has adapted to new realities over 20 centuries, which is why it has lasted so long. Perhaps now is the time to re-examine old truths about the end of life to see if they still hold true in the modern world. Invoking traditional doctrine does not always work and we need to constantly re-examine old truths, as we have with polygamy and same-sex marriage.

I am grateful that Lee Hawkins is raising the question of ending life on one’s own terms in such a thoughtful manner.

Jim Harvey

Hadley

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Jim Harvey -- How nice to read your quietly-stated counter-point. It almost makes me wish I were a Christian or a Jew so that I could have done the same with something approximating the same grace. Thank you.

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