“Culture of Death” is a phrase used at least as far back as the early 90s by Pope John Paul II in a particular encyclical.
The above link mentions the Didache, also known as “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”, and was a document written by the early Church. That text begins: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death;” the modern use of the phrase “culture of death” fits in well with one part of the Didache’s division of “two ways” and also with the Church’s understanding of the character of a person’s lifespan which had been highlighted with the ministry of Christ. This recognition, which spans nearly two millennia, is that a person’s time on earth reduces to a simple binary set of propositions, “actions of life” and “actions of death”.
And this goes way beyond what we may think when we read these terms, in other words, “life” is not just that action and result which occurs when we come into this world through our mother’s womb, nor is death that final act when we are returned to “dust”. These terms also can characterize and describe our thought processes, actions, motivations, our laws, our politics, especially now in this political season, and lends insight as well to the kinds of solutions society searches for to solve certain problems. The terms “life” and “death” actually cover the whole of human experience from birth to death.
These distinctions about “life” and “death” were sharpened with the Advent of Christ and his salvation message. As the disciples and the later Church influenced society over time, the different conceptions of “life” and “death” began to be contrasted in an objective manner and it also brought attention to the spiritual aspects of these things, which actually is the main driver of much of mankind’s acts.
Something finally reached a pivot point in the 20th century which caused the Pope back in the 90s to condemn what had become a “culture of death”. Abortion and euthanasia were the main targets of that condemnation, but today, the “culture of death” can be extended even further.
What we need to understand is that the underlying mechanism for much of life and which acts as a “causal” factor, is the spiritual state of mankind. In our society, here in the US, the rejection of the Judeo-Christian worldview as the primary source of our ethics and values has coincided with the rise of this “culture of death”. It has to, if spiritual forces are the main drivers of humanity.
As they say, “nature abhors a vacuum” and value systems are no exception. We always need some kind of organized system to provide some kind of “centering” and guidance. If not, even the atheists recognizes that anarchy serves no purpose! And so when the Christian value system began to be dismantled, something had to replace it.
So a question emerges in two parts: first, what has replaced the Christian worldview and, secondly, why is it characterized, among other things, as a “culture of death”.
The first question could have many itemized ideas and thoughts, but they all can be summarized by the fact that the changes and actions these labels would convey are those things which are contrary to the Biblical teaching in many respects. Rejection of God leads to rejection of many of those things associated with Him.
The second question can be answered by noting how so many of those actions which our society, and world even, have embraced and which has subsequently changed our society radically, center around physical death! Also other actions take a direct attack against the designs for society which God had instituted. These other actions illustrate a spiritual”death”.
This characterization of “death” as an attribute and adjective for life is highlighted by the verse in Romans 6:23 which says:
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And this “death” began with Adam when God told him:
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Adam ate anyway, and he didn’t physically die right then, that came later, but the spiritual death did occur immediately, which was separation from God. From that point on somehow sin affected the human race and all are born sinners as a result! Death affected man’s whole being! The problem then became the management of that sinful tendency with the desire and need to have a somewhat stable social structure.
Sin has always been around but there seems to be a attitude about it today. Sin has been managed by and large, we won’t be totally free until the next life, but a different emphasis has arisen which involves the reinterpretation of sin as “good” and the characterization of actions considered off limits as those which actually indicate a positive kind of freedom. If an individual made these characterizations, we would understand it a as kind of self-justification, but when a whole society does this–that is a major upheaval of values! Many of these things which have severely disrupted society are what makes up that “way of death” in the Didache, and the “culture of death” mentioned by the Pope.
What makes up those actions which comes under the umbrella of “culture of death”?
One action is euthanasia. Euthanasia is one of the things which has emerged as a new kind of “right” and hence a freedom. We can sympathize with the many diseases which can debilitate someone and the end of a person’s life is not always as we want it. It can be very heart-wrenching watching loved ones suffer. And while people have found many ways and opportunities to commit suicide, what is different about our times is that this desire to “die with dignity” has risen to a human rights claim, something which should be codified by law and assisted by various social mechanisms.
Physical death is a reality we all will face and it has been faced, no matter how heart-wrenching it had become. Society wants a shortcut, and though the motivation may be in the right place, killing innocent people and helping innocent people die is beyond the limits of our rights God has given us. As a society we basically accepted these limitations but now society has changed and one of the solutions being touted for mankind involves premeditated and organized “death”!
A second action is the rise and legitimization of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This is another kind of death represented as a spiritual death. The death of what, one may ask? The spiritual death of family, the institution which God began at Creation and which has undergirded society everywhere since then. That family is between a man and a woman whose union is paramount to the bearing and raising of children.
Consider that two men or two women in a relationship automatically negate the ability to bear children and raise children in the unique way in which a married man and woman can. Even though science can do things in such a way and in a creative way, to allow those couples to have children via other parties, the “death” aspect continues to extend to the atmosphere of those kinds of families. The correct nurturing atmosphere for children is a male and female influence mutually supporting and affecting the early life of the child. They bring in a masculine and feminine influence which does not occur in same-sex relationships. Only time will tell the destructive aspects society will feel from this change!
A third major action is abortion! We have seen the many Planned Parenthood videos showing how the abortion industry has created an extensive and profitable “body part” machine. It shouldn’t be surprising, after all, if the baby in the womb is only physical material with no moral significance, then who cares what you do with that material! But when actual abortions are shown and clear conversations are heard about these actions, the cold, hard reality of what is happening comes through. The philosophy behind the justification of abortion falls away as nothing when one sees those actual human babies are being slaughtered! Pictures are absolutely worth a 1000 words!
But this is women’s freedom they tell us! The right to choose, whether or not to bring the baby to birth! And though men have largely disappeared, having bought into the idea of this right, so they go their own way and leave the women to their “choices”. But that choice is still a choice of “death”. And it is not freedom when so many millions of children have their lives cut short! It would be overwhelming to see what the impact on humanity has been with all those children being removed from this earth!
And now there is a push-back against those who want Planned Parenthood either defunded or actually closed down. The push-back is happening through Twitter in a campaign called “#ShoutYourAbortion”, in which women give the positive aspects of their abortion.
Somehow the idea is that a certain amount of testimonies will in some way “correct” the images and dialogues which the PP videos have shown. Maybe this should be called the “life through death” campaign.
One of the Twitter feeds said this: “My abortion was in ’10 & the career I’ve built since then fulfils me & makes me better able to care for kids I have now”.
Where do you start with this kind of reasoning? Loose translation: “I can better take care of my kids now because I killed my kids before!” A whole separate article could be written about the illogic of the “culture of death” reasoning!
And so there it is–the “culture of death”! What new actions will the “culture of death” encompass later? Only time will tell, but our present trajectory ensures that it will be widened in its scope! We have reached a point in which we encourage women to celebrate abortions, how much worse can we really get? Unfortunately, we will probably find out!