To Die For ... Really?

Santa Clarita Signal • Ethically Speaking Column • For August 8th weekender, 2015

 To Die For

David W. Hegg

Photo courtesy of Simon Howden at

Sometimes clichés just stick in my head and I start turning them around and around wondering if folks really mean what they’re saying. Recently I have been hearing more and more say that something is to die for, as in “O that lemon pie was to die for!” Really? That slice of lemony goodness is worth your life?

I know, I’m being too picky about words! But that does bring up an interesting question. Are there things that really are “to die for?” Do you and I have such a passion for something that we would give our lives to gain or protect it? There are three possible answers to this question, and each says something about us as a people.  

First, consider those who are so self-absorbed that they find nothing outside themselves is worth dying for. Their greatest passion and primary goal are to feel good, and be happy and satisfied all the time. They worship their own wellbeing and bend with the fairest winds.

The benefit of sacrifice or delayed gratification is anathema to them. Nothing, especially not pain nor the advancement of others, can be allowed to stand in the way of their passionate pursuit of personal pleasure. When it comes time to stand up for something that might mean pain, they find their love of pleasure has left them without conviction or backbone. Good thing these weren’t the kind of folks awaiting the British regulars that morning on the North Bridge in Concord, MA when, as Emerson immortalized in his poem someone “fired the shot heard round the world.” If so, the American dream would have died as they were running away.

On the other end of the spectrum might be those who see life as a throw away item in the first place. They’ve grown up with the culture of death as the wallpaper of their world. The growing homicide rate in our inner cities, along with the more fashionable murder machinery that has taken the lives of over 55 million children in our abortion clinics have contributed to a worldview in which life has almost no value, especially when combined with the destructive belief that life also has no meaning.

These are the folks who strap on explosives and walk into the mall, who carry an armory into classrooms and open fire, or decide on a whim to end their lives with some friends in a suicide pact. Or even more likely, they live lives immersed in a despair fueled by the supposed reality that they never had a chance to have a dream let alone chase it and find it. For them life is the inexorable march through the broken world that has conspired against them. Death begins to look better and better as the light of life fades day by day.

While those in the first group find nothing to die for, these people find there is very little to live for, and too often consider death to be the greatest thing about life. Is anyone else noticing that one word is increasingly used in describing the rising suicide rate and the number of mass killings? We hear all the time that this is “senseless.” Senseless killing, and senseless suicides simply mean that none of this makes sense unless we admit that for far too many the pain of life has become something to die for.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Life can have meaning and a purpose worth both living and dying for. The third way to answer the question is to declare boldly and courageously that there are some truths, some principles, some people who are well worth protecting with our lives.

The Declaration of Independence ends with these words: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

 Our country was built, and continues to stand only because there really are truths and people worth dying for. But it goes back much further than that. Jesus taught such passion grew out of love when he said “Greater love has no one than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends.”

So, what matters so much to you that you would give your life to protect it? My great fear is that far too many today would have to think far too long to formulate an answer. My greater fear is that adversity may overtake our great union before we’re able to recover the strength, honor, and courage of conviction that grew our American experiment out of the soil of tyranny.

Let’s recover our verve, our integrity, our commitment to freedom and justice before we turn around and find that America no longer affords us anything to die for.