Podcast 2: A Christian Perspective
Dr. Dwight Moore interviews the Rev. Jim Hines of Philadelphia who shares an alternative view from one held by many Christians that “Thou Shalt not Kill” is biblical evidence that Medical Aid in Dying is a sin. They discuss Jim’s spiritual calling in life and why the Medical Aid in Dying option is acceptable to God for many terminally ill persons who choose it at the end of life. 17 minutes. Go back to list of podcasts.
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[Autotranscript; may contain errors]
[0:18] Dwight Welcome. I am Dwight Moore, Chair of Arizona End of Life Options. We are a grassroots organization dedicated to passing a medical aid in dying law in Arizona. Today I’m speaking with Jim Hines, a devout Christian, a deacon in his church and an ordained minister. We discuss what the Bible says about medical aid in dying, and how he as a Christian feels about that option at the end of life. Now, I bring you the Reverend Jim Hines. Jim, I want to start if you don’t mind, by telling us a little bit about your background. Growing up, give us a sense of who you are.
[1:03] Jim Okay, well, thank you. Dr. Moore, or Dwight?
[1:08] Dwight Dwight is much more comfortable, thank you.
[1:09] Jim Very good. Okay. Well, I’m a fellow born in Arkansas, back in the 40s. Single mom the whole life. And I had my grandmother in my life for quite a while, she was a strong presence in my life. We called my grandmother Mama and we called my mother by her first name, Sarah. Reason why was because my mother was a teenager when I was born. So therefore, Mama was the mother for all of us. And my mother was Sarah. My grandmother had a relationship with God that was real, real in the sense that she had trust. And she had joy; always a song in her heart. It manifested in how she treated us, her grandchildren. Six younger sisters, by the way. Life wasn’t pleasant all the time. In terms of circumstances, she did domestic work all her life. But she lived as if she was someone who was a child of the King. As a matter of fact, she called herself a child of the King, we’re talking about the creator as the King. My sisters, and I used to hear Mama talking late at night, and we’d peep in her room, and she’d be on her knees at the bed praying for us. My mother entered a relationship with my stepfather. He happened to be a young man who was raised in Virginia, where he experienced abuse. But as a child, I had no idea why I was being picked on. But I understand now what people say when they say by the grace of God, I am who I am. According to statistics, I should probably be some type of criminal, dead already, or incarcerated. By the grace of God, I am who I am. And I have the privilege and the blessing of being a volunteer at the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Center, teaching Christian education for 50 years.
[3:24] Dwight 50 years?
[3:25] Jim Yes.
[3:26] Dwight Tell us about that experience.
[3:28] Jim Well, that began when one of the associate ministers in the church, I was an ordained deacon at the time. And also teaching Sunday school. He said to me, “Jim,” he says, “uh, you know, that Youth Study Center”, is what it was called in those days. I said, “yeah, I know, that’s where the kids get locked up”. He says, “Well, hey, you want to come down? And we’ll check it out”. So we went down there. And at that point, I saw kids locked up on there. And I realize, Wow, that could have been me. And I said, “Oh, man, what can we do to help them here?” And he said, “Well, they need volunteers to teach Christian education, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ, which can provide a new life for these down here”. And when I got down there, I was, as they say, in trucking terms. I was hammered down for the Lord.
[4:31] Dwight Hammered down, that’s like accelerator at the floor, right?
[4:37] Jim That’s right. That’s right. The putting shifting full out in the in the transmission and on the highway moving forward in a direct pattern of progressive movement.
[4:48] Dwight Now, why did you use the trucking metaphor?
[4:51] Jim Well, I also drove tractor trailer for 50 years.
[4:56] Dwight So you were hammered down in a Christian education for these kids in the juvenile detention center, what have you been learning from that experience?
[5:06] Jim Well, I’ve learned a lot more about the account of the Scriptures, the account of people’s lives and the scriptures, because obviously, you can’t teach what you don’t know. So I had, it motivated me to do a lot more in-depth studying in the scriptures. It also taught me different ways to interact with young males. I never had any interaction with males of any significance because I had younger sisters, grandmother and mother, and stepfather didn’t have much of a relationship other than I would help him work on his cars, I must say, even though it was a negative experience for me with a stepfather. I did learn work ethic from him, he worked all the time, even though he had he was a functional alcoholic, would be drunk on the weekends and then work all during the week. Sadly, he was abusive, physically, and emotionally abusive to my mother actually, so it was quite an experience surviving that.
[6:16] Dwight Within the juvenile detention center, you said you learn to relate to young black men in ways that you hadn’t had a chance to prior to that?
[6:25] Jim Well, I don’t think I use the word black, but there was young men, and young women, also. And what I learned, interacting with them was to not take myself too seriously. What I mean by that is, of course I was ordained a deacon. Lots of life experience, lots of understanding of the Scriptures. I kept myself available to them on their level, I didn’t hold back from them sharing my shortcomings and my faults, to let them know that, you know, I’m not Mr. Good Joe Christian coming in to tell them how wrong they are. And they need to do right.
[7:08] Dwight So you are real with them and open and shared your own experiences in the context of biblical Christian education. Well, congratulations, 50 years of service in that it’s amazing. We’re gonna make a little bit of a U turn here on our conversation and talk about death and death with dignity. What are your beliefs about the medical aid in dying? from a spiritual standpoint.
[7:38] Jim I don’t have a personal philosophy. My belief is based upon knowing the heart of God, through reading the scriptures, through reading, as I said earlier, the account of God’s interaction with man in the Old Testament, and that was mercy is seen throughout the Old Testament, as God dealt with Israel, uniquely, dealt with Israel, the Old Testament has been called a book failures. Because God had provided so much for Israel. But over and over, they would sin, turn from God, God would send prophets to warn them of punishment, and they would say, okay, we’ll obey and then it wouldn’t last, even after Moses received the law. They said, Oh, yes, we’ll obey. But they couldn’t. The law represented God’s character, God’s nature. But in the midst of all that, we see God’s mercy, I found a definition of mercy, which said, the withholding of a deserved punishment. And the prophet Jeremiah wrote in the book of Lamentations, that God’s mercy is new every morning,
[8:47] Dwight Jim, I’m hearing you correctly the concept of God’s mercy if God is looking down at a person that has pancreatic cancer and four months to live and is in intractable pain, and anxiety, is the Bible say anything about whether medical aid in dying is appropriate or not?
[9:09] Jim Well, when the Bible was written, there was obviously nothing similar to that going on with people who suffered and died. But there was several accounts of suffering. And I’m sure if people who were suffering to the point where if there was medical aid available, they probably would have taken it. But the point here is that because God has experienced what it’s like to be in human flesh, we obviously understand that God is a spirit and he’s omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. And the humbling thing about Jesus Christ is that he laid aside the prerogative of his omnipresence when he was in the flesh, and he experienced everything that we can experience physically, you know, the hunger, the thirst, the the anger, the physical pain. So the main thing about what God sees concerning a person, like you mentioned the pancreatic cancer, and other situations where their life is just so horribly miserable, they want to end it. God’s heart reaches out to them. And they decide they want to end this pain, by allowing the breath of life, to cease from this body, God, in His unbelievably merciful reality, just welcomes them in his presence. One thing I understand about God is God is a merciful creator, a loving creator, a graceful creator, God does not have to give us anything. If someone wants to use, Thou shalt not kill, as a something against the person who wants to take their own life, because they’re physically suffering. Well, thou shalt not kill is part of the law. And the law given to Moses, for Israel uniquely, was given to Israel, so that they would be a nation of people living among idolaters, and all kinds of people who had various carved images of various gods, that was given to people so they would be uniquely different, that they would have this invisible God, and trust Him, and live day by day by his his grace. So the law was broken constantly by human beings. So Jesus Christ was born under the law, he fulfilled the law, he was taken to the cross, as a lamb to the slaughter, an innocent person. And that law was fulfilled. Before Jesus left, he gave his disciples a new law, he called it a new law. And he said in the new law is to love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. So love conquers all. And the Agape love that’s described, describing God’s type of love, which is a love that’s not motivated by something external. But Agape is one who exists because of himself. And part of that existence is love.
[12:40] Dwight I’m impressed by that. It’s not, it’s not a punitive language that you’re using. It’s not finger pointing. It’s not destructive. It’s not punishing. It’s about mercy and love. If you got to the end of your life and you had a terminal illness, would you consider medical aid in dying as a choice for yourself?
[13:00] Jim Well, I can answer that without any hesitation or reservation. I would think about those that care for me, and I would let them know this is it for me. I’m ready to go home now. What am I clinging to? Am I clinging to a vessel aof clay? I’m clinging to it a scarred, damaged vessel? But yes, I would I would certainly choose medical aid in dying.
[13:33] Dwight And what you told us earlier is you’re gonna go be with Mama, that’s where you’re going.
[13:37] Jim King David, the second king of Israel, when he had taken the wife, Bathsheba, the wife of one of his faithful soldiers, Uriah, when he had taken her and they had, and she became pregnant, and the child became sick, died. Well, when the child was sick, David put himself in sackcloth, which is something like burlap and ashes symbol symbolizing the pain and the suffering because the child was sick. And then when the child died, David refreshed himself. And people were saying, well, when the child was sick, you were broken and sad. Now the child has died. Why are you not broken and sad anymore? He said, “Well, I know that I can’t bring the child back to me. But I can go to him.” The biblical dispensation is a period of time during which mankind is tested regarding his obedience to some specific revelation of God’s will. And the dispensation of innocence was, don’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge, good and evil. The dispensation we live in now, which is the sixth dispensation, biblically speaking, this dispensation that God has said, I have given my son, this taken the penalty for your sin. Here’s a gift, accept it. And we accept it through belief. And that’s what’s required of us in this particular dispensation.
[15:16] Dwight You mentioned just a couple of things. You mentioned that you were a deacon in your church. Is that correct?
[15:22] Jim Yeah.
[15:24] Dwight And are you also ordained as a minister?
[15:27] Jim Yes, I was ordained to the ministry in 2009.
[15:33] Dwight Anything on any other final thoughts about this topic of religion, spirituality, medical aid in dying before we close?
15:44] Jim Medical aid in dying is, I think one of the blessings that God in His sovereignty has allowed man to relieve suffering of the people that he loves. God loves us. I mean, certainly, he wouldn’t wag a finger of accusation at us, because we want to stop the suffering, whether it be physical or emotional. I mean, even people who suffer to the point where they just can’t stand it anymore, emotionally, that they have in their lives. Who are we to sit in judgment of someone who wants to be relieved from suffering? I just, I don’t think there’s anything that can be proven in Scripture. They’re not talking about traditional things that are passed along from ministers, which is a lot of that in Christianity, people have taken Scripture out of context. And they pass that along, and then people just take it without verifying what they’ve taken. And they repeat it. I mean, I’ve seen that so much. That’s one thing that we deal with at the Juvenile Justice Center, we make sure that people don’t come in there teaching church doctrine. We need to be sitting squarely in the Scripture. That way we can be assured that we’re dealing with the way God sees it, not the way we see it.
[17:10] Dwight It’s been an honor and pleasure talking to you about this, it brings a tremendous amount to my thinking about this very complicated, difficult topic. Jim, thank you so much for your time and your knowledge.
[17:26] Jim You’re welcome. Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.