We need to begin with the question, the answer, and the qualification.
The question is why are Americans so afraid to die? The answer is that we are afraid to die because we deserve to die, about which more in a minute. And the qualification is that, of course, not all Americans are afraid to die, and not everyone who wears a mask is afraid to die either. I recently wore a mask because it was the only way to get a haircut. So the reasons can of course vary.
But there is no denying that we are dealing with an overall climate of fear, an environment of panic, and at the center of all that fear and panic is the specter of death — a death we all have coming.
So why are Americans afraid to die? It is not because we shrink from the injustice of it. The thing that troubles us deep down is the justice of it.
The first thing to do is reaffirm what Scripture teaches about all of this, and the second thing to do is to identify what the god of this generation is trying to do. We will get to that momentarily.
God’s Word Confirmed
The Scriptures are very plain about where death comes from.
“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.”
Genesis 2:17 (KJV)
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”
Ezekiel 18:20a (KJV)
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 6:23 (KJV)
So the bite is the bite of death. But the venom in the bite is guilt — the fact that we deserve to die.
“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”
1 Corinthians 15:56 (KJV)
The law does not just draw the boundary. The law sets the penalty for transgressing that boundary, and the law, being altogether holy, also establishes the defilement of guilt for having crossed it. If we are found on the wrong side of that fence, it is altogether righteous for our bodies to be hanged from a gallows so that passers-by might take heed. And when this happens, the worst thing about it, from our perspective, is that our bodies ought to be hanging there. There is no injustice in it anywhere.
And so, naturally, we are afraid. Now we might bluster a bit and say that we are not afraid, and puff out our chests a little, but if you took an honest look around you would have to admit that you are out on a bike trail, five miles from town, all by yourself, and wearing a mask. You’re afraid of something.
If you are not in Christ, then that means you are under the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil. But the devil was destroyed through the death of death in the death of Christ on the cross. And that means that those who are still under the fear of death are afraid of a shadow, of a vanity.
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Hebrews 2:14-15 (KJV)
When Choice is Checkmated
But it gets worse. Not only are we fearful, we are also bewildered by our fear. This shouldn’t be happening, we mutter to ourselves.
The current idol of our age is the idol of personal choice, and this is an idol that is currently lying flat on its face like Dagon in that Philistine temple. This is problematic for those who want to continue to prostrate themselves before a god that is prostrate.
Before getting to the substance of my point here, allow me to say first that I yield to no one when it comes to my admiration for the power of choice in lawful free market transactions. When it comes to stocking the shelves of our grocery stores with every kind of breakfast cereal imaginable, there is nothing like untrammeled consumer choice. Adam Smith’s invisible hand is there for you, whether you wanted chocolate-covered sugar blams, or organic and nutritious shredded lawn clippings. The free choices of customers in such situations should always be trusted, and left entirely alone.
But there is a snare. The Peter Principle teaches us that in every organization, an employee tends to rise in the hierarchy until he gets to a position of relative incompetence. And there he remains. Because he did a good job down in the warehouse, he got promoted, and he kept getting promoted until he wasn’t doing a good job anymore. And as soon as he is not doing a good job anymore, he stops getting promoted, and we make the arrangement permanent.
And that is just what we did to poor old consumer choice. He was doing such a good job delivering the breakfast cereal that we decided to make him a god. Having made him a god, we put him in charge of all kinds of things. Consumer choice must reign over all, and we get irritated and angry when someone even hints to us that we cannot actually have the gender-assignment equivalent of the chocolate-covered sugar blams.
This poor warehouse worker is now expected to rewrite genetic code so that a consumer dude can choose to release the little girl inside, and wear his hair in ringlets. He is expected to rewrite history because someone has chosen to be descended from African princes. Not only so, but he is also expected to have rewritten that history without rewriting anything, so that the chooser can continue to have been oppressed throughout all history, meaning that he is expected to rewrite the law of non-contradiction also. He is expected to rewrite the laws of biology so that the small child in the womb can be redefined as a parasite. And all of a sudden, he has everybody yelling at him. “Do this for him! Do that for her! Don’t use those pronouns!”
That poor little warehouse god of personal choices was fully extended on the breakfast cereal question, but he was doing good. And so we, in our collective and democratic wisdom, promoted him and put him in charge of the human genome, the course of history, the laws of logic, the realm of biology, and the laws of deep grammar. We insist that we be allowed to choose anything. We went from designer jeans to designer genes.
But then — somebody needs to cue the ominous music — we heard the footsteps of the ultimate unchosen thing. Death approaches. The death of every man and every woman approaches, and we turn to our poor little overtaxed god of choice, noting that he has beads of sweat all across his forehead, and we say that something needs to be done about the dark one over there with the scythe.
And so the god of personal choice, wishing he had stuck with the Honey Bunches of Oats gig, starts to flail. Masks! Vaccines! More vaccines! Health care! Single payer health care! Vitamins! Preventative medicine! Cryonics! Eat right! You shall not surely die!
Said the serpent (Gen. 3:4).