I write as a Christian and a member of the Church of England.
I hear that you have written to the House of Lords about your disquiet over the Assisted Dying Bill.
There are two things I wish to say in response to this.
Firstly, I am deeply grateful that you are engaging with politics in this country. There is much that is wrong in our society, indeed I do believe it is wounded at its heart, and people of faith should take a stand and make their views known. When senior faith leaders like you speak out, the public notices and people of faith take heart.
Secondly, I am disappointed that you comment on so few matters, typically focusing on the beginning and end of human lives, and on sexual matters. This makes people of faith seem bigoted and small-minded, and far too easy to dismiss. It is not that these are unimportant issues, but there are matters of great temporal and spiritual importance that you do not speak about in public and political forums.
You are concerned that people’s lives will be shortened by this Assisted Dying Bill. I am a retired healthcare chaplain. People’s lives are shortened and diminished much more by poverty, lack of meaning, lack of worth, lack of community, lack of assisted living, lack of well-titrated analgesia, lack of social and spiritual formation in meeting and living with ineluctable suffering.
None of this is the fault of the NHS for which I have enormous respect, and which it was my honour to serve for 8 years. In my experience, healthcare staff are overwhelmingly caring. But they are poorly served by us, society at large and government, so that they are not equipped with staffing and adequate practical and personal resources to meet the needs of the growing number of elderly in our society. And no one seems to notice that caring daily for the sick and dying is traumatising.
One of many painful lessons I gained as a chaplain is that oftentimes people want to die because they are no longer loved and valued. This is not the fault of healthcare workers. It is not even the fault of relatives. It is all our fault because we prioritise money over people.
Why are you not protesting about the loneliness, isolation, and neglect of our elderly – of the lack of communal welcome, gratitude, embrace, and provision that is their due?
Why are you not protesting about the lack of love and worth shown to people of all ages?
Why are you not protesting about the scandalous inequality in our society in which the poorer members die years earlier than those who are lucky enough to have been born in happier circumstances?
Why are you not protesting about the lack of support for pregnant mothers and early-life care of children?
Why are you not protesting about the atrocious level of housing that some people have to endure?
Why are you not protesting that most members of our society are not treated as sacred, whatever their age?
Why are you not protesting that education has been replaced with teaching? I mean by this that our children are not being formed within traditions of human flourishing so that they know how to live well together, but are being force-fed facts to turn them into workers to further the god of Economic Growth, which only serves the few.
Why are you not protesting about public greed and selfishness displayed extravagantly by the few?
And above all, why are you not protesting that in protecting our right to choose and consume, to get and spend, we are exterminating the other creatures on this planet, all of which are sacred?
Why are you not protesting that the Body of God has become a corpse to strip and plunder?