A surprise from ego-surfing

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I must confess to a "crime."

Now that the reader's attention is fully engaged after that opening sentence, the crime to which I refer is not jaywalking (for which I was cited once in Washington, D.C.) Nor is it for a moving violation, which has occurred -- I'm sad to say -- more than once in my life. The unspecified offense to which I refer to is something not found in any book of criminal statutes, but perhaps should be.

You are reading the words of an ego-surfing scofflaw. Here's what ego-surfing is. You go online and find an Internet search engine. Google is my engine of choice. You type in your own name and hit search. You then wait for the computer to spit out its results. My name comes up a lot; it's a rather common name. It seems there are quite a few Jeff Longs out there. One is the athletic director for a major university (Arkansas). Another is a novelist. Still another is a bodybuilder of some note.

But it is yet another Jeff Long that this column now turns. Dr. Jeff Long is a radiation oncologist who believes there is life after death. He believes it because of his decade-long research involving 1,600 persons who have had near-death experiences or NDEs.

The scientific community is overwhelmingly dismissive of NDEs. One noted medical researcher says NDEs are a "trick of the mind." Another argues that a certain enzyme may be produced when a person is near death that presents as euphoria in the patient. Dr. Long respectively disagrees, which puts him outside the mainstream of his profession. Long has written a book, "Evidence of the Afterlife," in which he asserts that medicine cannot account for the consistencies he's found in NDE patients all over the world.

What is a near-death experience? A person must be near death -- which is to say, the patient must be so physically compromised that permanent death will occur if there is no improvement. Also, NDE patients are unconscious, often clinically dead -- with no heartbeat or breathing evident. It is in this state that a person so compromised, who later survives, has an experience. Such experiences, Long says, are "generally lucid and highly organized."

My wife, in her previous career as a television journalist, once interviewed near-death experience survivors. Her strong memory from those interviews is that the NDE folks no longer had any fear of death after returning to life from clinical "expiration." What they experienced was so thrilling that death no longer troubled them.

At this point, since this is a religion column, you may be wondering if Dr. Long, the oncologist, is a believer. I cannot tell for sure from what I've read of his work.

Perhaps the best thing is to offer you his words, presented in the pages of Time magazine: "I'm a physician who fights cancer. Despite our best efforts, not everybody is going to be cured. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us -- and a wonderful afterlife -- helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I've ever faced before. [Knowing this], I can be a better physician for my patients."

Someone once said that the job of science is to describe and that religion's role is to give meaning to the description. The good physician, whose name I share, sums up with these words: " by the time you look at the [NDE] evidence, the amount of faith you need to have [to believe in] life after death is substantially reduced."

The author of this column, who shares a first and last name with the aforementioned physician, is in total agreement.

The Rev. Dr. Jeff Long is senior pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: