Joni Eareckson Tada is wrong about Brittany Maynard’s decision to die

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People Magazine cover featuring Brittany Maynard. Photo courtesy of People.

People Magazine cover featuring Brittany Maynard. Photo courtesy of People.

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In Joni Eareckson Tada's world, the real tragedy isn’t that Brittany Maynard is terminally ill. It’s that she’s chosen to manage her suffering in a way Tada finds personally offensive.

  • Earold D. Gunter

    Well said Sarah.

  • The Great God Pan

    Note that Tada’s repugnant piece was not published somewhere like LifeSite News, but right here at the supposedly “moderate” (or is it “progressive?”) RNS. This raises the question of whether there is ultimately any truly useful distinction to be drawn between “fundamentalists” and supposedly more enlightened Christians. When even the enlightened ones are eager to publish obvious bilge like Tada’s salvo (*), we are reminded that “moderate” is a highly relative term, indeed.

    (*) (And then to double down on the initial publication by gloating over what a “bad day” Maynard must be having in yesterday’s Round-Up post by RNS’s editor in chief).

  • Your use of Tada and empathy in the last paragraph reveals the stark and tragic world of evangelicalism. There is no empathy there – only stern warnings, judgment, empty promises and manipulation of folks like Joni who spout the party line and keep folks happy with her testimony about “victory, power, glory, healing, love and over-coming!” The superman, superwomen, junk that fills evangelical churches these days. Empathy? Are you kidding? There is none in the evangelical world. Thanks for a very fine article.

  • Ted

    If we are to believe the Bible that the human race may divided into two groups comprising those who are saved in one, and those who are not in the other (John 5:29), than I see two ways of looking at someone in Maynard’s situation, but I will only comment from the perspective of my having been justified to God by faith alone in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    We should want to embrace suffering as “being much more precious than of gold that perisheth” ( Jas. 1:2, 1 Peter 1:7). And on whether suicide is ever acceptable, we have four occurrences of suicide in the Scriptures, and all of them cast in negative light to the ones committing it. (Judges 9, 1 Samuel 31, 2 Samuel 17:23, Mat. 27:5). Further, there is a commandment against killing, particularly murder, and suicide has no justification in the Scriptures which makes it a type of murder. Finally, there is Hebrews 9:27 which says death is an appointment made by God, who is the one with sovereign right over life, and death, and the resurrection. (Gen. 2:7, Deut 9:24, John 11:25) Suicide is therefore a sin of rebellion against this ordained and sanctioned act of the Almighty God.

    Therefore, a Christian should not commit suicide.

  • Tom Eggebeen

    1) there are at least 7 instances of suicide in the Bible, and none of them are condemned, or associated with any of the matters the writer suggests. No moralizing at all in the Bible on this matter. Tragic? Yes, because life is tragic. But sinful? No! And no reason to move from these sad stories of desperate people and hard times to some kind of a general dogma that “suicide is wrong.” 2) The embrace of suffering, as the writer suggests, has been one of the strangest dogmatic assertions of Roman Catholicism (a tradition in love with suffering), teaching generations of innocent victims to endure their suffering at the hands of cruel masters, women at the hands of abusive husbands, and the sick – in that case, why even bother with doctors. If you’re sick, it’s God’s will; therefore, going to a doctor, or a hospital, is contrary to God’s will. 3) the cold calculations of logic here are just that – cold, cold to the core, cold to the bone. Not a hint here of compassion, sympathy, kindness. No intent on understanding, but only lifting up dogma and a particularly narrow kind at that. If we’re to embrace suffering, It’s not just suffering in general, but suffering for the sake of Christ and the gospel, and that has nothing to do with disease, even if we stretch Paul’s thorn as far as we can – which may have been a chronic condition but not a killing disease. Even Jesus, for crying out loud, heals when he can; he doesn’t tell anyone to put up with it because it’s God’s will. Sorry, but this post fails on all points.

  • Ted

    In addition to the aforementioned reasons a Christian should not commit suicide, there is the problem of being unable to confess it and repent of it. That’s a sin you’ll take with you to the Judgment seat of Christ. (1 John 1:9-10)

    Also in addition to the previously mentioned suicides, there are three additional instances of suicide in Scripture, and all are overshadowed by of same shameful reproach of sin, as an example for us not to be like them. Samson, who refused to repent of his adulterous ways and became the play toy of the Israel’s enemies (Judges 16:28-31), Saul’s armor bearer who killed himself after being unable to kill Saul and watched Saul kill himself (1Samuel 31:5), and Zimri who came to a treacherous end after a treacherous ascension, reigning a grand total of seven days.

    All this to affirm our previous conclusion, brethren, that a born again follower of our Lord Jesus should never commit suicide, nor advocate for others to sin (Proverbs 31:8), nor assist in the commission of sin (Proverbs 11:21, Eph. 5:7).

  • Ted

    Tom, your main error lies in your misunderstanding of who my audience is. It is those who have the born again fear of God and wish to abide faithfully in Him. Sure we should mitigate our sufferings by the provisions made available to us, including such things as prayer and medicine. But we don’t want to cross the line and sin in order to avoid it, but that’s exactly what suicide does. The child of God will rather glory in his infirmities, just like Paul did in his. (2Cor 12:9)

  • Tom Eggebeen

    My primary audience is those who’ve “been born again,” too … to help those trapped in fundamentalist categories of thought to shed those shackles and find a more authentic walk with Christ.

    As for Paul, his “infirmity” was a chronic condition – not a terminal disease. Huge difference, wouldn’t you say?

    While you might choose to endure through to the end, it’s helpful to offer sympathy to those who make other choices. It’s perfectly fine, in all Christian regards, to ask for medical help in ending life when medical help cannot “cure” the disease … and as we know, medicine cannot mitigate severe pain without, at the same time, rendering someone virtually stupefied. Lots of folks prefer to end their days in mindfulness.

    Suicide is NEVER a sin! Augustine dreamed that one up, because, especially, males were the property of the king – to end one’s life was equivalent to theft of taxes and potential soldiers.

    Suicide comes in a lot of different versions – but each of them asks for our sympathy, our kindness, our love and acceptance, not condemnation and law.

  • Ted

    Well, Tom, your reply and $1.05 would get me a small regular cup of coffee. Everything else is pretty much opinion or half truth that doesn’t jibe with the Word of God, not that you tried to validate any of your thinking with the Word. You also claim “Augustine” as an authority, but the final authority for those called to be saints by faith in Jesus Christ is the truth (John 17:17), because the Bible says there is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof leads to death. (Pr. 14:12) My Lord has made me the promise that SURELY goodness and mercy SHALL follow me all the days of my life, regardless of whether it is a “chronic” condition or terminal disease, NO difference. (Psalm 23:6) For a Christian to deny his final days shows a lack of faith in that promise, and denies God from displaying these loving attributes to the dying and to his witnesses.

    And yet another reason a Christian should not commit suicide: Such a sin is of the presumptuous premeditated kind, the worst kind in the Christian life. Sin for the born again believers, according to 1 John 1, should be unplanned, unintentional, repented of, and confessed, and forgotten (1 John 3:20-21).

  • Tom Eggebeen

    Well, Ted, you sure know a lot of about sin … I think on your fixated on it. It’s a tool for pride and for manipulation. This will be my last comment … I don’t live in your world, and for that, I’m grateful to God. There is so much pain in your life – evident in everything you write. You’re living in a very hard place, a place full of judgment and the terrible burden of having to be absolutely certain how the universe is governed. You’re hard on others, very hard … that kind of hardness comes only from a frightened heart! I hope that something will come along and set your free, so that you can be an ambassador of freedom for others. The freedom of Christ! This is my LAST post in reply to your comments.

  • Bryan

    Your lack of sophistication on what is suicide and what isn’t is quite problematic. Physician-assisted suicide is a misnomer that NEEDS to leave our language. We should properly refer to it as Aid-In-Dying. You see, Maynard ISN’T suicidal. She doesn’t WANT to die, she is GOING to die, and it will be a really horrible death that even pain medications will eventually fail to aid in. Please refer to this:

    With that said, I would imagine you would retort with something along the lines of we are all going to die and God should be in charge of when and how that happens… however if you want to logically take that stance, then you should resist all forms of medicine that prolong life or ease death. If you severe an artery or catch a terrible virus, I hope you refuse all help for treatment, as that is clearly interfering with God’s control over your life. Likewise, if you are on your deathbed and it is horribly painful, I hope you refuse all forms of pain medications, as that interferes with God’s sovereignty again.

    This grotesque stance by evangelicals, when followed to their logical conclusions, are absurd in the modern world where people do not need to suffer like it is the Middle Ages again. Let Maynard have her dignity in death, and if you are going to protest it, then follow your own damned logic.

    Also recommended: the documentary How To Die In Oregon.

  • Tom Eggebeen

    Excellent, excellent, excellent … thanks.

  • Ted

    “Please refer to this:

    My thoughts turned immediately to Colossians 2:8 as I read your reference. I see the use of semantics guided by flawed human wisdom to rationalize killing from a culture in love with sin and death. Maybe you should take a look through Foxes Book of Martyrs sometime to see what a healthy Christ-honoring death looks like compared to the man-centered link you’ve provided. Foxe’s is in the public domain so you should be able to find it easily online and w/o copyright.

    “…however if you want to logically take that stance, then you should resist all forms of medicine that prolong life…”

    Not so. The Bible says “the wages of sin is death”. (Romans 6:23) Christians should resist sin to the bittersweet end. (Hebrews 12:4).

    “Likewise, if you are on your deathbed and it is horribly painful, I hope you refuse all forms of pain medications,…”

    One might expect such cold sentiment from a physician-assisted-murder advocate.

    “…as that interferes with God’s sovereignty again”

    Nope, 1 Timothy 5:23 says painkilling medicine is approved by the great physician himself.

    Likewise recommended: The Attributes of God by AW Pink, Chapter 12, The Patience of God.

  • Angie

    Absolutely appreciate your comment. For any person who has witnessed the progression of glioblastoma and the decline of someone suffering with the horrible disease, there has to be some sort of ultimate understanding and empathy. I am a retired nurse who has seen the devastating effects first hand. I also suffer from chronic pain, debilitating migraines, and disability and very much support a persons right to choose physician assisted euthanasia. If I could, I would hold the hand, in support, commpasion, love, and empathy those facing such devastating life and death choices. Without one second of judgement!! The choice is their own. My heart goes out to anyone with such a devastating illness that they know only death is a choice. My hope for them, is that they make peace with that choice and ignore all of the harsh opponents and ultimately come to view their death, by whatever means they choose, as a good thing for them.

  • Angie, beautifully said … your heart of gold shaped in the fires of caring … may others offer the same level of care to you, too.

  • Please do SOME research on Joni Tada before criticizing her. She’s had breast cancer, is not in the best of health and her long-term life expectancy isn’t great. She’s one of the longer-lived quads around. Many don’t last into their 60s as she has, so she’s known for years that she’s one infection away from death. Click on PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly’s interview with Tada when she wasn’t sure she was going to make it through cancer: before you trash her.

  • Julia, no one is questioning Joni Tada’s character. The question here is her Christian world view (one of many available), and her willingness to condemn Brittany Maynard for her decision. I’m grateful that Joni has made it this far in an otherwise very difficult circumstance. But having followed her “celebrity status” among evangelicals, I find her world view lacking in compassion, and in this case, missing the distinction between a chronic condition and a terminal one. She makes a common evangelical error: universalizing her story!

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  • Alex

    This bit about having to repent before death is nonsense. What if you commit a sinful act (there are many which we are not conscious at the time we are commiting it) before you repent of it? Will you go to Hell? We are either born again or we are not. Jesus has forgiven all sins, past, present and future to those who belong to Him.
    In response to suicide not allowing one to ask for forgiveness, how about a guy shoots himself in the head or wherever else and death is not instantaneous. The guy asks God to forgive him as he is bleeding out. What then?
    Your comment about someone else’s comment and $1.05 for coffee was very unChristlike and I hope you repent lest a sudden accident befall you and you be sent to Hell. NOT! I will pray that you are truly born again. The Bible says the 2 greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and love everyone the way you love yourself.