Thursday, April 28, 2005

Getting to Know The Real You

"So, what do you do?"
"Tell me about yourself"
"What's your story?"

When someone is trying to get to know you, these are common questions you might be asked, especially here in America. You might also be asked, "What college did you go to? What was your major? What do you look like? (maybe you're getting to know them via Internet)... Do you 'work out'? What are your hobbies? What kind of music, books, movies do you like? What are your dreams? What are your goals for the next five years? Are you married or single? Have you ever 'been in love?' Are you a Republican or Democrat, religious or atheist, conservative or liberal?", and so on.

A lot of these questions might yield worthwhile information, although if someone asks you all of them at the same time your head is liable to explode. Some of these questions probably reveal more about the real you than others. But then again, who is the real you?

When someone asks me, "Who are you?", would I be most inclined to:

a) tell them what I've done
b) tell them where I've been
c) tell them what I hope to accomplish
d) salute and give them my name, rank and Social Security number
e) hurl myself to the floor in a fake epileptic fit, complete with foaming of the mouth
f) run away, flapping my arms frantically and shrieking "leave me alone!!!"
d) all of the above
e) none of the above?

Is there an easy, unobtrusive way for someone to find out who I am? Maybe if they just had a sly look at my CV or resume? I dont think that would tell them very much about the REAL me... Perhaps if I send you my un-official, personal resume, 20 pages long, listing jobs held, college major, chronological bio (my story), interests, hobbies, passions, goals, with a nice glossy head shot of my handsome smiling face, you'll get a better idea of who I am (I'll send it to you for $12 US funds--I accept all major credit cards and PayPal). Or you could visit my web site (oh wait, that's just a starter page). Maybe it would be helpful if I also sent you a video with crucial footage of Me-- Me graduate college, Me get married, Me open all my birthday presents (video is only an additional $10, with purchase of the resume bundle). If you shelled out these nominal fees, read the resume/bio, went to the website, and watched the video, would you know me then?

Of course, the answer is no. Certainly you might now understand many things about me (or perhaps you'd be quite perplexed), but unless you and I had interacted somehow, you still wouldn't really know me, would you? To really know someone, we must be acquainted with something beyond the mere facts of their lives, even if those facts have been conveyed to us in great detail by the person themselves. We need finally, to talk and interact with the individual face-to-face, in order to experience their essence and come into contact with the living soul that resides underneath all the outward trappings.

[At this point I must apologize because this began as quite a serious post but unfortunately Mr. Silly keeps trying to take over. Down boy! Down! OK, now where were we? Oh yes].

My point is that you won't know me by watching my videos (actually I don't have any yet anyway), reading my blog, listening to my music or even, should you lead such a charmed life, by "hanging out" (Americanese, meaning "spend informal time with") with me. Of course, of all of these options for getting to know someone, spending much time together is the most informative, if your purpose is to really know someone. Yet even then, there is an essential, mysterious part of me that you'll never know. Why, you may ask-- am I the "Marlboro Man"--macho and aloof? No, not at all. What I'm saying is that there something mysterious about us all, as human beings.

Each of us is created by a Masterful Designer who has intricately woven together, not only the physical, emotional and intellectual parts of our beings, but also the events of our lives, into a package that is unique, meaningful and beautiful. And this complex package that is each one of us cannot be reduced to our resume plus our biography plus our accomplishments. All of these things may reflect a portion of who we are, but they don't and cannot completely define us.

What role does Christian faith play in all of this? I'll comment on that in a moment. But first note that the world system tends to try to define us superficially--by some outward aspect of ourselves. Perhaps you have seen yourself as a clever wit, or perhaps, as an innocent; maybe you view yourself as sophisticated and with above-average intelligence. Maybe you are just overflowing with charisma and sex appeal. Perhaps you pride yourself on being a man or woman of humility. We tend to forge an identity out of our natural strengths, and define and measure these strengths according to prevailing cultural, and highly subjective, standards. For example, one person thinks it's crucial to be extremely physically fit (because they have good genes, enjoy exercise and have the good fortune of health); the next treasures inner spiritual growth (because they happen to have a reflective temperament, like smoking more than running, and enjoy spending time in meditation).

I believe that the role Christian faith plays in all of this is that it says, "Wait a minute, you are not just what you do or what you accomplish; you are made in the image of God, you were uniquely fashioned by Him, for a divine purpose." We have been granted the dignity and freedom to make choices that effect our ultimate destiny, yet many of the things that help define who I am are simply given, not chosen. For example, I did not choose where and when to be born, who my parents are, what sex I would be, what my natural strengths and weaknesses are. God has chosen all of these things for me.

Yet what I now choose to do with all these givens is vitally important. Will I acknowledge that there is a Maker? Will I make the most of my talents and gifts, in service to mankind? Do I face my faults honestly, acknowledging the sinfulness I find in myself and turning to the Maker's solution for this problem, His Son, Jesus Christ? It is making these types of choices, I believe, that help us progressively forge a truly human identity, one that reflects the Maker's design and His image in us.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Papal Matters

A new pope has been selected, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. He will become the 265th Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Many liberals are alarmed by the Pontiff’'s conservative positions on abortion, birth control and the ordination of women, which are very much in line with those of his predecessor, John Paul II. Such positions, they say, will prevent the church from modernizing and becoming more relevant to today’'s concerns. Others applaud the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger as a man who will carry on the work begun by his predecessor. Until now, I hadn'’t commented upon the passing of John Paul II, nor the fanfare that surrounded his funeral and the selection of a new Pope; I was simply taking it all in.

As a non-Catholic, I have to admit that the huge outpouring of grief for the Pope, and the tremendous world turnout for his funeral, surprised me. I didn’'t realize what an important religious figure the Pope is—, or that the Roman Catholic Church has over a billion people members! Pope John II seemed to me a very decent, sincere man with strong conservative beliefs and the backbone to proclaim them. He possessed a fine mind, capable of writing scholarly theological works and conversing in eight languages. Many have commented on his personal charisma, which he apparently continued to exude to his very last days, despite the ravages of old age and Parkinson’s disease. Still, it was difficult to understand all the attention being paid to his passing by the liberal media, except that (as pointed out by Gene Edward Veith in WORLD) 1- this was an extraordinarily huge event, the biggest in television history, that was watched by as many as a billion viewers; and 2- in many ways it was the kind of event, visually speaking (complete with "celebrity" at the center of it) that television does well.

I don't have anything truly profound to say about John Paul II, since I write from the perspective of an outsider regarding all things popish. But I am puzzled, I must say, by the inconsistency displayed by those who seem to venerate him. The Pope took a hard-line stance on issues that many, if not most Catholics, seemed to disagree with him on. He did not think priests should marry; he upheld the Church's traditional stance on birth control; and also upheld the Church's positiona against women priests and gay marriage. American Catholics especially have largely ignored, disobeyed or criticized the Church on these issues. What does it mean when someone says they belong to the Roman Catholic Church, yet chooses to disagree with and even challenge the orders of the one whom they claim is infallible when it comes to official Church teaching/pronouncements on such matters? What love and respect for him is demonstrated by this disobedience? And since the newly appointed Pope is known for having the same immovable convictions regarding these modern concerns, such disparity may well continue.

Yet just as there are both serious and non-committal Christians within the Protestant Church, so there are casual Roman Catholics and those who do not display the inconsistency described above but rather submit themselves to the teachings of the Pope in all things.

I am thankful that John Paul II valiantly stood up for crucial Christian beliefs, including the sanctity of life, the protection of individual liberty (such as the freedom to worship), and the obligations we have towards the poor, among other things. His was a voice that was influential and eloquent in defense of Christian truth in these areas. He dared to criticize such men as Fidel Castro and Mikhail Gorbachev. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholicism that the Pope represented is a religion founded upon many erroneous interpretations of Scripture and on the traditions of men. And the question that comes to my mind is: with so much error abounding in their Church, does a sincere Roman Catholic have opportunity to connect with the real Jesus? I don’t know. I sincerely hope so.

Some will ask, "Who are you to say you know that Roman Catholicism is in error?" I don't claim to be the authority; I only read the Bible and interpret it according to the light the Holy Spirit gives me, and look for help in this from my teachers (my pastor and other experienced Christians). Yet I believe that anyone seeking the truth from the Word of God will find it, because it is God's intention that His truth be revealed. I'm not saying that everything in Roman Catholic teaching is wrong. Their beliefs about the Bible, Jesus and many other issues are biblical, and such beliefs were well-expounded by the Pope.

It is not my intention here to launch into critique of the theology of the Roman Catholic Church. But it is important to note that mixed in with the truths that are biblical, the Roman Catholic Church has included numerous, serious errors. And this is critical because the millions of people drawn to Roman Catholicism and the Pope seem to be looking for a true religious experience, but in Roman Catholicism, they find these false ideas mixed in with truth. Again, Gene Edward Veith describes their quest in his excellent examination:

"... a revitalized Roman Catholicism may prove tough competition for evangelicals. The casualties of postmodernism yearn for "spirituality." Unlike modernists, they are open to the past. They do not prize abstract, rational arguments and formulas. Rather, they are attracted to mystery, mysticism, and the supernatural made tangible."

I think that there is nothing wrong with mystery, mysticism or the supernatural --all these are an authentic part of genuine Christian experience. I seek a deeper connection with God and long for more spiritual power to be expressed in my life and in the life of the church (see my previous post Bearing Fruit for the Kingdom) . Yet such experiences, without being anchored in a truly biblical worldview, will lead people into false religion.

May the Lord speak to us through His Word and by the Spirit lead us into all truth.

John Paul II- The Man and His Legacy

The Catholic moment, Gene Edward Veith's WORLD magazine article

Pros and Cons- Conservatism in a new Pope is both a positive and a negative, Joel Belz in WORLD

The Bible vs Catholic Tradition

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Not Just "Preaching to the Choir"

I note with enthusiasm and a bit of trepidation that I had the most visitors ever to my site yesterday, for reasons completely undeterminable (by me at least). In light of this unexpected development, I thought I would like to say something to any of my visitors here. And that is, I'm not just “preaching to the choir”.

What I mean is, yes, I do without apology express a consistent Christian point of view here, but I don’t have everything completely figured out regarding my politics, my views on the world, or even my theology. I think that becoming a Christian gives one an excellent foundation for pursuing truth in all these arenas, because one is provided an explanation of the way things are; a view of reality. But I am not only speaking to Christians. I hope that what is written here will benefit anyone.

I did not just accept the doctrines of Christianity wholesale, without examining them and confirming their validity, by observation and thought, over the years. People often think that Christianity is all about faith, but by this they mean that one suspends rationality so they can believe fantastical things and be comforted with the notion that God likes them personally and that they will get to heaven someday. I suppose there are some who do believe in Christ that way, but I would say that unless one has thought through their faith, such a conversion is not likely to last past the first blows of the storms of reality. In other words, you need real faith for a real world that has real problems.

As Elisabeth Eliot once said, we could use a few heroes today. A hero doesn’t have to be someone with extraordinary gifts or valor, but he or she is must possess integrity of character, manifested by perseverance in being true to what they believe, even in the face of opposition. But beyond this, a hero also believes in the right things. One can give their life to a cause consistently, passionately and determinedly, yet find out on the other side of eternity that they wasted their time.

Hitler was certainly driven, but his cause was evil, was it not? How does one determine what is the right thing to get passionate about and to give one’s life to? Is there only one right thing?

If you watched the movie "The Passion of the Christ", you saw a man living out the last twelve hours of His life on earth, absolutely determined to fulfill the mission for which He had come. You saw a man beaten mercilessly by his enemies; the movie vividly portrays both the violence and the evil of what happened, exposing the cruelty in men’s hearts. And yet, what passion this man had! This man, who was able to look past his own physical and emotional pain and see a glorious future for humanity, endured the ordeal of crucifixion out of His love, extended even to those who inflicted this upon Him. This is beyond all natural, human comprehension. And yet, don’t we too have moments (hopefully more than fleeting) when we reach beyond ourselves and love another? In those moments, the joy of giving makes us forget to think about ourselves. How freeing and glorious is that feeling! Jesus was One who lived His entire life in this freely giving mode, on a level beyond on any other man who ever lived. And yet, He lived His life of love in His human identity, and not as His divine self. For He was our example of how to live on Earth: He lived out of His relationship with God, and from His connection to the Father, drew upon the supernatural strength that became available to Him. So in that sense, it was not easy. He was burdened with the frailty of His humanity, just as we are. He was subject to temptations, due to that human weakness, that are common to us all: pride, anger, lust, envy, doubt. Yet He was heroic in His choices– He chose to act only as His Father would have Him act; to be holy, as His Father in heaven was/is holy. And He really did choose, and in choosing was strengthened by the Spirit.

Today we have the dignity of “free will”, the God-given right to choose our actions, our beliefs and our responses. Yet I believe the God who created us has a claim on our lives. I am not here just to please myself. Of course, I can make the choice to live a life of self-indulgence, but then I am sure to find unhappiness and misery and miss out on the whole point of living. If the God of the Bible (a personal God who loves His creation) exists, He must have a claim on me. And because I believe that He exists, and has revealed most fully who He is and what He is all about through His Son Jesus, I choose to believe and follow Him. And if God came and lived life on Earth, then the kind of life He led and the choices He made and the priorities and values He had reveal to me what is really worth living for.

I hope from my explanation above that you see that there is a logic to Christian living. You may not yet be convinced that Jesus is who Christians believe Him to be. But perhaps you may understand a bit more, that if He truly is the divine One, then we all have a choice to make about Him. Yet there is also mystery here, for in certain passages the Bible teaches that faith is a gift from God. So I choose, yet I am also enabled to choose.

Jesus said simply, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." Take up His challenge and find out for yourself.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bearing Fruit for the Kingdom

Lately I have been reading (speed-scanning is more accurate) a number of books dealing with the theme that there is power in true Christianity that often isn't utilized by the evangelical community. We evangelicals who grew up in the faith in a Western cultural context lean heavily toward an "academic" approach to spiritual growth (e.g., Bible studies, discussion, analysis, learning lots of information). This results in much "head knowledge" concerning principles for Christian living, but lives and hearts that often are only minimally impacted and transformed by the power of God.

On the other hand, the "post-modern" generation is one that seems to desire above all personal relevance as it approaches Christian living; this may not be a bad thing, since it counters the lack of application that head-knowledge is guilty of, but it seems these believers care not so much for biblical study, but want action and experiences. And of course, this presents its own dangers.

It seems to me that we must achieve a balance between these extremes, and wed disciplined study of God's word with dynamic application of its truths. If we go out and do the things the Bible is telling us to do, the truths of the Word will come alive for us, and not remain merely theoretical abstractions.

Today we have more Christian books, ministries, articles, websites and other resources than ever before, yet it seems rare to encounter Christians who walk in the same power as the early disciples.

Part of the problem I believe is that our Christianity has been influenced by our culture's individualistic approach to life. I know I personally have been guilty of making my walk with God about actualizing myself, and therefore emphasizing private devotions, reading for personal growth, and prayer only for myself and my immediate circle at the expense of obeying the call to engage with the world in a pro-active way.

Of course, much time spent with the Lord is crucial to spiritual development, and Jesus was our example in constantly getting away from the crowds to be alone with the Father, receiving guidance, instruction and simply enjoying His relationship with the Father. Yet Jesus used this time to become energized for the mission of reaching out to the world with the love of God and the saving message of the gospel. And He did so in a way that demonstrated the reality of "the kingdom of God", His constant theme in preaching. His wisdom was both profound and authoritative, and the signs and wonders He performed were living, powerful examples of His teaching about this kingdom.

So I have been excited and challenged by these books that speak on the authority and power we have in Christ, not to make our own lives full of ease, comfort and prosperity, but to do the works God has called us to do: healing, casting out demons, teaching about the kingdom, making disciples. Now as we pursue these tasks, God is very often pleased to bless us personally and materially, but such blessings are secondary to the higher blessing of service in the kingdom. Besides, in terms of material blessings, Western Christians already have so much to be thankful for.

I have been especially excited by prophetic gifts that function in the life of the church to encourage and challenge us to obedience and growth as words from the Lord can do. And as I have been learning more about the spiritual authority we can use against the demonic world, I'm gratified to know that by exercising that authority, we can bring a freedom to ourselves and to others that perhaps we did not even realize we were missing. In the area of healing, as well, although I still have questions as to why prayers for healing may go unanswered, I have heard enough testimonies to become convinced that healing is real and ought to be a vital part of kingdom ministry.

There is controversy over some of these things, with some Christians believing that spiritual gifts such as healing, tongues and prophecy are no longer valid today. Many also object to the strange "manifestations" that may take place in Pentecostal, Charismatic or Third Wave churches: things like being "slain in the Spirit" or dancing or waving banners. My thought on this is that, yes, some people may be so eager for an "experience" that they attempt to manufacture one. But on the other hand, it seems that many who are really seeking God wholeheartedly and open themselves to receive the Holy Spirit do have authentic, unpredictable encounters with the Lord. I won't venture to say that such people are not experiencing God; I will wait to see the fruit in their lives. I know that I personally welcome encounters with the Lord that help me overcome my selfishness as I see Him better and the light of His glory shines upon my darkness, canceling it out. I also believe that it’s probably because of the human tendency to think and do "in the natural" that our expectations of seeing God work often stay so low. As He performed miracles, Jesus tried to open the eyes of His disciples to see the possibilities of divine power available, not only in His ministry, but also in theirs (see Matthew 17:20, John 14:12, Mark 11:23).

But the foundation for operating in this kingdom power, and a necessary safeguard for our hearts as we begin to operate in these gifts, is cultivation of intimacy with Jesus.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15: 5-8).

P.S. Here's the titles of some the books I've been reading: "Authority to Heal" by Ken Blue, The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and the Spiritual Gifts Used by Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today? Gary S. Grieg, Editor, "Defeating Dark Angels" and "I Give You Authority" by Charles H. Kraft, and "Dialogue with God" by Mark Virkler. I recommend these and welcome any comments for those of you who have read them or will do so.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Brothers Judd Fallacies

As I often do, I was "Google" searching the Internet. On this particular occasion, I was doing a search for "The Screwtape Letters" (that unique novel by C.S. Lewis) and happened upon a site called, which has a review of the novel. As a preamble to the review, Mr. Judd (I'm not sure which of the brothers is the author) testifies that he is a Christian, depite the fact that he doesn't attend church and likes to swear, along with other (presumably) un-Christian behavior. He thinks it strange that, because of such behavior, people have questioned the integrity of his claim to be Christian, since he doesn't claim to be "pious" but only Christian. Apparently he thinks being Christian means believing a certain set of propositions; he goes on to state what these beliefs are, outlining a personal creed of his Christianity.

I felt I should respond to Brother Judd's statement, lest someone who wants to know what Christianity really is should stumble upon the site, and be led seriously astray.

First I'll address his initial statement: his thought that others should not question his being Christian because he outwardly behaves in ways that seem contrary to his profession of faith. Well, Brother Judd, that is as it should be. According to Scripture, Christians do not merely believe certain doctrines--they are people who have been "born again" of the Spirit, as a result of having placed their faith (belief) in Jesus Christ. In so doing, they become, not what they once were, but "new creations", so that the "old (way of being and acting) has gone, and the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). It is such changes that authenticate the claim of belief.

Now of course, even Jesus Himself was often negatively judged, according to false standards of piety (e.g., healing on the Sabbath, eating with sinners and tax collectors). Nevertheless the Bible presents clear standards of right behavior for one who calls himself Christian. James 1:26 says: "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless". And there are many more such verses dealing with acceptable behavior for believers.

Now this does not at all mean that a Christian will never sin again, or that once someone becomes a Christian, there is never again a struggle with sinful behavior. On the contrary, the Bible teaches there is no instant maturity and that there is struggle for Christians as they pursue righteous living (see especially Romans 6-8). Yet Christianity is a call to holiness; not merely a matter of believing certain propositions about reality. The Bible maintains that the struggle of the "flesh" continues because Christians have not yet been perfected. So long as we remain in our mortal bodies, Christians are susceptible to the same moral weakness that all humanity inherited through the sin of Adam and Eve.

And speaking of Adam and Eve, the Brothers Judd also have a post on their site which completely misinterprets the truth and message of the biblical account, and blasphemously charges God as the "malefactor" in the story.

According to them, God didn't want the "competition" of the man and woman attempting to become like Him; that's why He banned them from Eden and didn't let them eat from the Tree of Life. While correctly asserting that mankind did not have the moral capacity to use eternal life properly (represented by the Tree of Life), Brother Judd attributes God's banishment of Adam and Eve not to love, but rather to divine egoism. It is not for Adam and Eve's sake that He banished them--it is because He's afraid of the competition. This would be laughable except that is also insulting to God, and that's not funny. So rather than see the story of Adam and Eve as a fall into sin, Brother Judd says we should view it as a testament to man's heroic, on-going quest to become "Gods".

This is about as wrong an interpretation of the story as one could possibly come up with. It was Satan's desire to be like God that got him banished from heaven; infected with this sinful desire, he now comes to tempt Adam and Eve to believe the worst about their God. It is ironic that Brother Judd's twisted view of Adam and Eve's original sin comes in the context of a review of the book "The Screwtape Letters". For the theme of Lewis' Screwtape Letters is how unseen demonic powers subtly pervert truth to lead souls away from God, and ultimately, to their doom.

I know exactly where Brother Judd's interpretation of this passage comes from. It comes from the one who in his pride long ago decided he could not stand being just a created angel, and sought to exalt himself as a god. Now, as I read the Bible's tale of creation and the fall of man, Brother Judd would like me to think more highly of man and satan and less highly of God. Hmmm, sounds familiar. Maybe Brother Judd should read Screwtape Letters again, and take its message more to heart. It sounds like a screwtape has got into his head somehow.

No, Brother Judd, Christ doesn't call us to become "Gods" through accumulation of knowledge and the extension of life. Rather we are "blessed" when we are "poor in spirit" and "meek" in attitude, and recognize our lostness and utter estrangement from God, due to our own sinful choices. Then individually we cry out to the Lord, "God be merciful to me, a sinner". Whatever God makes us of after that, all the glory will go to Him.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Blogger Blues

I'm just a lonely blog, man
Nobody done read me in a long, long time

I keep postin' it up baby
But seem like my game is up and I just get left behind

I tries to be funny...I tries to be kind...
But it ain't working out baby, and ama 'bout to lose my mind...

I got them BLOGGER BLUES, o oh ye-ah!!!

You know I always lose, o oh ye-ah
because because because be-cah -aw-ozz....

I got them nasty-nobody-gonna-know-nohow-cause-they-dont-read-my blog-anyways-BLOGGER BLUES...
Yes I've got them nasty-nobody-gonna-know-nohow-cause-they-dont-read-my blog-anyways-BLOGGER BLUES

Monday, April 04, 2005

Homeless Riff

Have you ever seen one of those homeless guys in NYC who's skinny and fit, young-looking, with lots of hair? Sure, he's a bit disheveled, smells a bit...but the guy has muscles..not a trace of fat on his body. He could kick your butt, easy. And where does he get that mop-top? Does sleeping in a cardboard box make your hair grow (maybe I should try it)?...Anyway he's racing up the street with a steel shopping cart (yes, a shopping cart from your local Food Emporium) full of bottles loaded up in black or blue platic garbage bags. Well here in NYC I've seen a guy like this RACING to get to the next garbage he can find all the empty cans and bottles and load them up in bags and put them in his cart and bring them to the local grocery store and redeem them for...5 CENTS EACH??

Now this guy works hard, man. That's why he's so thin and muscular. He's constantly on the move, lifting his heavy bags full of cans, hurtling down the streets. He knows his stuff too-- which streets get the most bottles, the best back alleys to search, what times are best for scavenging. And he knows he has competition..that's why he's frantic to get to the bins before the next guy...well, anyway I was thinking. Why doesn't this guy just...GET A JOB!!

I mean, he's shrewd, fit, energetic, industrious..if he got himself cleaned up, wore a suit and tie, and applied all this energy and intelligence to a job interview..well I'm sure he'd get the job! Then he could get himself off the street, start paying rent, start being a productive member of society...Yes...Maybe he's meet someone, get married, start a family...Wake up early everyday to go to work, day in, day out, buy a TV and watch it for hours with his family, eat lots of food, get nice and fat, buy lots of stuff, pay bills--car payments, mortgage, electric, cable, doctors, credit cards--spend time with the kids, go to sleep, commute to work, work all day, commute home, maybe share an intimate moment with his wife once in a while, sleep, wake up, go to work, go home, eat, watch TV, play with the kids, sleep...start all over again. Yep... The great AMERICAN DREAM....oh....OHHH...

Give me a shopping cart and plastic bags, baby, Move over brother, here I come!

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Schiavo Legacy --The Crippled Soul of America

Bad Judgment
What have we come to in this nation when the President, a Governor, and our elected leadership could exert no power to intervene over faulty rulings made by judges? Was this yet another example of the dangerous powers judges have been given, powers that often overreach by making law rather than ruling on it?

Bad judgments "legitimize" immorality--what was once thought of as wrong comes to be seen as right, because the courts decide it is so. Over time, seeing evil happen over and over again, we become de-sensitized to it. Our conscience cannot live with these actions so we devise rationalizations to quell our collective guilt. Thus has the murder of the unborn become a "woman's right to choose"; some will now attempt to portray Terry Schiavo's case as "death with dignity".

But Why Did She Have to Die?
Now Schiavo's case involves an adulterous husband who decided he no longer wanted to abide by his marital vows (presumably, "till death do us part"). Certainly many people would have done the same in his shoes; i.e., have found someone else to live with. As a husband myself, I empathize--it's very difficult to contemplate the pain and suffering Mr. Schiavo underwent as he watched his once vital wife deteriorate. To be robbed of the opportunity of a normal married life was surely a deep personal tragedy, and certainly there would have been much temptation to find companionship elsewhere. Apparently even the Schindlers encouraged Michael Schiavo to date other women.

Yet at the same time, others have experienced what he has and handled it differently. Despite the fact that he could have moved on with his life by turning the reins of his wife's care over to her willing family, he (selfishly?) refused to do so. Was letting Terri die a way for him to drown out feelings of guilt over his failure to keep his promises to his wife? If he was just emotionally exhausted and no longer capable of dealing with her, why not just let her family do so? Why did she have to die? Some have speculated that Mr. Schiavo was motivated by desire for money coming from her death, but giving him the benefit of the doubt that money was not the motivation, why then?

Choosing Life or Death-Whose Perogative?
In commenting on the film "Million Dollar Baby", I mentioned the difference between turning off life support for a person who otherwise would have absolutely no hope of living, and killing a person (as that movie portrays) who could continue living because we (or they themselves) decide that their life is no longer "worth" living.

Beyond the Schiavo case, the question at the heart of the matter is this: who has the authority to determine when someone (not a criminal or an wartime enemy, but a civilian) dies? The court's decision to disconnect Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube was based on the premise that it had been her wish not to be kept alive by artificial means, and that such a wish therefore obligated her family and the court to comply with it. But is her family or the state morally compelled to obey this wish (if indeed this was her wish)? It seems they must follow her wishes if the premise is accepted that the individual has the right to determine if they should live or die, based on a subjective notion of quality of life.

Imagine a different scenario altogether. Suppose Mr. Schiavo, knowing that it was Terri's desire not to be kept alive by artifical means, nevertheless couldn't bring himself to become the agent of her death, out of love for her and because of a deep conviction about sanctity of life. Would it have been wrong then for him to keep her alive, despite her wishes? Apparently yes, according to prevalent belief; it seems the individual's desire is thought to be paramount in such decisions. But this raises many questions.

In the absence of the knowing the individual's choice regarding how they wish to die (e.g., a living will) does a husband/wife have authority to decide whether their spouse should live or die?

Was the court that decided Terri's case obligated, despite conflicting reports from experts about whether or not she was vegetative, and in light of the fact that she would otherwise have continued to live and be cared for by her family, to mandate that Ms. Schiavo must die, because supposedly this was her wish?

I agree that a husband should have authority over decisions regarding his wife in these types of scenarios. But this husband broke his marital vows, which would seem to nullify some of his rights. And in any case, I do not believe that a husband's authority extends to taking the life of his wife. I don't think the court has that right, nor do I think that even Terri Schiavo would have had that right. This perogative belongs to God alone.

"Whose life is it, anyway?"
This was the title of a popular play a few years ago. It is a key question here.
If extraordinary measures must be used to keep a person alive, who otherwise would die, then perhaps that person should be allowed to die. Not so much because it is the person's desire, but because it would seem that under such circumstances we would be fighting the will of God by keeping the person alive. But otherwise it seems to me that we must consider, as we make such serious decisions, the truth that life is valuable in and of itself; that it is a gift from God and we are accountable to him for it. The Bible says to the Christian particularly, "You are not your own, you were bought with a price", referring to the fact that the Christian's body has been purchased by Christ's death on the Cross. But even for the non-believer, the claim of God's ownership remains. For who creates the body? Who creates life?

Last week a group of us got together and prayed for Terri Schiavo, that perhaps God would do an incredible miracle and heal her, and that she would be able to speak for herself and give glory to God for her healing. Sadly, that did not happen, but perhaps the legacy of Terri Schiavo will be to have exposed the crippled soul of America.

Other recent and thoughtful takes on the topic:

C. Everett Koop on Euthanasia

"Always to Care, Never to Kill", A Talk with Robert P. George on NRO

Debra Saunder's piece "Why Terri Must Die"

Jeff Jacoby "Terri Schiavo: Less certainty, more prayer"