Monday, October 31, 2005

This Just In ...

Beth Stroud, the former UM pastor whose credentials were pulled after she "came out" about her homosexuality, has had her appeal turned away. The UM Judicial Council has upheld the initial action that pulled her credentials. She can no longer serve as a UM pastor.

Does this action mean that her credentials as a Christian person have been pulled? Of course not. However, the action and subsequent reactions tells a story about a people who are not the least bit interested in "justice". And I am not speaking exclusively of United Methodists, conservative or otherwise.

President Bush has named a new nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the US Supreme Court. The gentleman happens to have a conservative background. Without even giving the man a chance to speak, NARAL and other pro-abortion organizations as well as senators and congressmen are already having screaming fits that this man will not be fair to their cause.

Whether conservative or liberal, we are not at all interested in justice. We want what we want, and we will use any means at our disposal to be sure we get it. If it means disparaging remarks directed at those with whom we disagree, then so be it.

Of course we pretend that we have a special place in our hearts for justice, and we claim to be a nation of justice. It just is, however, that justice must be according to what suits us or pleases us. The truth be damned.

Regardless of one's position on homosexuality within the Church, the decision denying Ms. Stroud her credentials was right, according to what is written as church law in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The law is about as clear as the English language can allow.

Regardless of one's stand on abortion (which seems to be about the only issue facing the US Supreme Court, to hear NARAL tell it), there is no law written that justifies such an action. It is not written in the US Constitution, and the US Congress has not created a law to be signed by the President. In fact, there is no law that grants to any of us a right to destroy an innocent human being. And abortion, and a judge's refusal to abide by that ridiculous Roe v Wade decision, is an acknowledgement of the fact that among the rights of man is "life". A judge's refusal to rule otherwise, especially in abortion cases, is to rule in favor of those who cannot speak up for, nor protect, themselves - the unborn.

The rule of law is always in favor of what is right.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Politicos are not the only ones watching Blogs

Political commentator John Brummett has a problem though he would try to convince us, the innocent reader, that there is a danger lurking in the cyber shadows from which we all need to be protected by “real newsmen”. I am speaking, of course, of those dastardly, evil “blogs”.

To hear it told, “real newsmen” are the only ones qualified to render an opinion. Of course we are being told that only the most ignorant and wretched of the masses are running these “blogs”. We are told that “if you have a job and a life”, you are not aware of these “blogs”.

I have news for you, Mr. Brummett, and as a “real newsman” – which I am sure you consider yourself to be – you might appreciate this headline. You, sir, are a snob.

Sort of ironic, isn’t it, that you align yourself with those in politics whom you consider to be “progressive” (it used to be “liberal”), those who are out for the “little guy” and seeking to protect the “little guy” from himself, that you would come across as one who almost resents the fact that hundreds, indeed thousands, of regular, working-class “little guy” Americans have opinions of their own. It might also interest you to notice that there are many “bloggers” out there who have “real” jobs and write for free. One cannot help but wonder how much writing you would do if money were not involved.

To be fair, I have come across some “blogs” whose authors seem to have come from somewhere other than planet Earth. I have also encountered other “blogs” whose writers treat the English language as a toilet stool. There are also at least as many “bloggers” who read only headlines and then discern for themselves what the headline must have meant without actually having read the story. I must say that I have also read some political commentary from “real” writers who surely did the very same thing.

How different is this from “real newsmen” who will hear, word for word, a politician’s speech and come away with an opinion that comes nowhere near what the speaker had actually said? How many “real newsmen” read between the lines and come away with such ridiculous statements as, “This is what he said. However….”

Like you, I must admit my own disdain for those who refuse to sign a name. Those who hide behind “anonymous” are those who might actually have something to say but are probably genuinely afraid to be called on what they say. So they hide.

I also have a certain level of disdain for “real newsmen” whose biting sarcasm is dripping with disdain for those whose opinions differ from their own. The truth is, political commentators such as yourself take the “real” news and then expound on that news by interjecting your own opinions as to what was said, what was not said but should have been, and how wrong they were.

The truth is, the only difference between writing such as yours and a “bloggers” writing is a paycheck. We are not paid to publish our stuff nor do we expect to be paid. Consider this. You are likely educated with a degree in journalism or English. What other credentials do you hold that make you especially qualified to speak to a political situation beyond the fact that you pay attention and, lacking a “real” job, have time to do nothing more than read and write?

The politicos had better be paying attention to the “blogs” for these are the thoughts of working-class, voting citizens. We have something to say, and we’ll not wait around for a paycheck to say it.


Michael P. Daniel
10 Pin Oak Dr
Conway AR 72034

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Here We Go AGAIN!

The debate about homosexuality is heating up yet again with the appeal of UM pastor (once removed) Beth Stroud that will soon take place. Ms. Stroud had her credentials yanked for admitting to being involved in a "committed" relationship with her female partner. Now the case will be reviewed once again. **Sigh**

So what? What are we talking about here? Civil rights? Constitutional rights? Pastoral rights? Human rights? Women's rights? Gay rights? What?

A retired clergy related a story to me once about a dear friend of his who was homosexual. What kept this man out of trouble, however, was that he was not a "practicing" homosexual; he was celibate. And the reason, as it was told to me, had nothing to do with the UM Book of Discipline; it had more to do with how spiritually conflicted this man felt about his orientation.

So my question is this: what is the difference between a homosexual and a "practicing" homosexual? Could it be the same as the difference between a sinner and a "practicing" sinner? To be perfectly honest, I am extremely weary of the whole debate. If they want to have homosexual "civil" marriages, I am opposed but not nearly as concerned as I am that we continue to have this discussion/dialogue/debate within the realm of the Church.

The world will do what it will do, and the world will continue to reject the Gospel of the Lord. The world will continue to offer the instant gratification that it offers as a means to lure the innocent and the weary away from the Gospel.

The Church, however, cannot fall into this trap. The Church must necessarily stand as a sanctuary against these types of conflicts. This continuing conflict is the world battling against itself because the Church has a written Word, a LIVING WORD, that settled this conflict long ago.

So let's call it what it is. Ms. Stroud wants the rewards that this world has to offer. Let her have it. Pray for her. Mention her by name in your prayers. However, please do not pretend that this type of relationship is acceptable according to what essentially is the only Holy Scripture we have.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Rosa Parks

For those who are not familiar with her, Mrs. Rosa Parks passed away this past Monday at the ripe age of 92. Beyond her own family, this passing may not have meant much to many. She was simply an old woman who lived a long life and reached the end of her journey much like the rest of us, the Lord God willing.

Mrs. Parks, however, cannot be said to be just any old woman who finally reached the end. This woman, with no plan whatsoever, started a movement in 1955 that culminated in the long-overdue Civil Rights Act of 1964. And to hear her tell it, all she wanted to do was to ride the bus in Montgomery AL home with just a little peace and a little dignity.

I do not curse my skin color; I am caucasion. Think of it, though. The times that this incredible woman - and so many others like her - faced with courage and conviction, knowing full well that something was just not right. And as I reflect on those times, it suddenly occurs to me that they were not only fighting for - not equal rights, as Malcolm X was fond of saying - HUMAN rights; they were leading the way in a movement whose impact is so profound that I am not even sure we can appreciate it today ... at least not fully. And while there were certainly sympathetic whites during those days, there is no possible way we can understand the fear that far too many felt just in lying down in their own beds at the end of a long, hard day. No way.

So much that we take for granted in this life can never fully help us to appreciate what the Civil Rights movement meant then, or now. We have what we have and we expect it to always be there. We will not be able to fully measure its true value unless we no longer have it.

Christians can only hope to have the kind of impact for the Kingdom of Heaven that Mrs. Parks had for human dignity.

And to think ... all she wanted to do was sit down. And she did. And the world has not been the same since.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Another Military Investigation

There is yet another investigation going on with regard to our military's treatment of prisoners. This time it is not about how we are treating the live prisoners; the investigation is centered around a report about burning the bodies of deceased Taliban fighters.

There are several things wrong in the reporting, not the least of which is that the incident's reporter, Australian photojournalist Stephen Dupont, is now claiming that the incident was done not to taunt the Taliban but, rather, for reasons of hygiene.

In the United States, cremation is just another method of burial. In many other cultures, burning the bodies of the dead is part of a regular, religious practice. Why is the Muslim community going to be "horrified" when they find out about this?

In a brief search, I have found something of an answer as to why Islam prohibits cremation. As a Christian, all I can say is, "whudda thunk it?"

Winning the hearts and minds of civilians, especially within a culture that is foreign to the rank-and-file American, is of the utmost importance. This is why the US military is very intentional about teaching soldiers how to respect the culture in which they may find themselves. Fighting a war on the ground is hard enough; they don't also need to be fighting a war of words and principles.

Military commanders are coming out breathing fire (no pun intended) and promising to go after those who are guilty of this "crime". However, considering that knowledge of Islam has been our greatest challenge since 9/11/01, why is it that Islamic chaplains in the US military have not been more aggressive about being sure that American soldiers are well-informed about that which requires all the sensitivity we can muster?

While reasonable persons would never condone abuse of a prisoner under any circumstances, I think rather than demand a soldier's head on a platter, we may need to plead ignorance in this case and move on. We can only apologize so many times.

The (continuing) War on Poverty

David Boaz, executive VP of Cato Institute, wrote a provocative piece exploring the war on poverty and our tendencies to repeat past failures in our continuing efforts to "make poverty history". It is definitely a libertarian perspective and, admittedly, a must-read for everyone.

Mr. Boaz uses figures to show us the trends that have not worked in the past, efforts that we continually insist must be done on a much grander scale to get more done and reach more people. In a nutshell, Mr. Boaz uses these figures to prove that our approach to poverty has not worked in the past and has no hope of working in the future. It is time for new solutions.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Short-Sighted Synod

The Synod of [Roman Catholic] Bishops has been convened recently to re-examine the Church's doctrine regarding the Holy Eucharist and addressed also, among other things, the acute shortage of priests in the Church. In the end, the 250 bishops from around the world gathered at Vatican City to affirm the status quo.

I grew up Catholic and were it not for my poor attitude early on, I would still be a Catholic. It has been difficult to attend Mass, however, while priests have announced that the church I happen to be visiting at the time had been assessed "x" number of dollars as their portion to pay toward the abuse scandal settlements. I have been grieved in watching my beloved Church suffer so at the hands of a select few who have done more damage than can possibly be fully measured. Now it seems that the bishops are not so serious about addressing something that is relatively recent as a tradition and having no apparent foundation in Scripture: the celibacy of the priest.

Far be it from me to attack the Church; I am in no position to do so. It must be noted, however, that this shortage of priests will not take care of itself. For those of you who might be tempted to suggest that married priests will do away with the scandal thing, I ask that you not go there without data to support that very dubious claim. One need only look at the news to see that perversion is not an exclusively Catholic tradition though it is, indeed, universal.


The Lineage of the Covenant

Matthew 22:34-46

How can it be that Jesus is the “Son of David” and “Son of God” and “Son of Man” and “Joseph’s boy” all at the same time? It must be remembered that the neighbors knew Jesus as Joseph’s son. We, however, do know that Joseph is not His father even as Joseph was Mary’s husband. The lineage of King David is through Joseph, so how can it be that Jesus is the “Son of David” if there is no direct link?

Jesus is posing this very question in the text of Matthew 22:45, “If David thus calls [the Son of David] Lord, how can He be his son?”

Jesus is not refuting anything, but He is also not answering His own question. It seems the reader is expected to answer this difficult question alone.

Obviously the question is not so easily answered, but what sort of challenge is Jesus posing to the Pharisees? They have been hitting Jesus with questions in attempts to trip Him up and challenge His authority and His teachings. Now the tables are turned, and the Pharisees do not know how to answer Jesus’ question. To be fair to the Pharisees, do we know how to answer this question?

I have to admit that the answer is not so clear to me, and I have to wonder if we who cannot answer this question have found ourselves in the difficult position that the Pharisees have also found themselves in, a position in opposition with Jesus. What does it mean if we cannot confidently answer this question? What would it mean if Jesus were not the “Son of David”?

I have always taken it for granted that we know Jesus is not literally the son of David because David was several generations before Jesus. And in fulfilling the promise of “the branch of David”, our faith has enabled us to embrace this lineage from King David to the King of Kings because of a Promise; a Promise in earthly terms that we can understand. Yet those who would challenge Jesus at every turn have been asked a question that even Jesus’ own disciples probably could not answer then …. or now.

This seems unfair because we have been the faithful ones, or at least we have tried to be! We are followers of Jesus; we are His disciples. So why can’t this question be readily answered? If a believer struggles with this question, does this mean that the believer is really a Pharisee in the heart? Does this mean that the faith we’ve carried for so long is not really faith at all but is, instead, an indoctrination that has been ingrained in us since childhood in which we are “taught” what we ought to believe rather than how we ought to think for ourselves?
Many would suggest that it may not be for us to know, or that it is not important to know. The fundamentalist would reason that there are some mysteries where man is simply not allowed and that faith will carry the day. After all, if one is “saved”, what else is there to know? Is it not enough to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God? Is it not enough to believe that He was crucified for our sake and was buried, only to rise again on the third day to fulfill Scripture? In the end, what else do we really need to know?

Sometimes it does seem that theologians and the Church have made the study of Christianity so complicated, especially in demanding advanced degrees so that our clergy are learned men and women of letters, that many tend to move aside and ultimately give up. Would this reasoning account for at least some of the dramatic decline in church attendance in the US? Has it really reached a point where we have created a sort of scholastic “discipline” so much so that living by faith is no longer good enough and that expectations and standards are so high as to be perceived as unachievable?

The Pharisees were faithful men, true to their calling. They were pious men of religion. Yet the Hebrew Scriptures that they were presumably familiar with were turned against them and caught them in their own trap. So if they did not comprehend what Jesus was saying about the Messiah or even why it might be important to know, especially when quoting from their own text, what does it say about Christians when we don’t understand what He is saying?

I know there are many who have already come to certain conclusions about this passage based in no small measure on a lot of thought, prayer, class discussion, and past sermons. For many, however, simply saying that Jesus is staking His claim as the Messiah will go no further with a non-believer than it did with the Pharisees.

What if Jesus had simply walked away after the scribes and the Pharisees finished with their questions? What if He had never mentioned such a thing? Could the confrontation have been cut short? Would anything have been accomplished then?

There is still a covenant at work here. As it has been said so many times before, there is far more to Jesus’ life than just His death. If this atonement were the sole reason for His existence, there would not be nearly as much to write about.

Israel is under occupation by Rome; their enemies hold them hostage. They are not the free people created by the Lord God to proclaim His name to the nations. And while it can easily be said that the arrival of Messiah had long been prophesied, much like the Second Coming there could be no real way of knowing exactly when He would come.

What is certain, however, is that we get pretty anxious when we pray. We need to know that our prayers are heard. We need to know that help is on the way. Even if the answer to our prayer is going to be “no”, we still need an acknowledgment.

Is this not the existence of Messiah in a nutshell? The Lord makes covenants with His people throughout history, promising them that He will always be present and that He will always protect them. Now Israel is facing another enemy. Is the Lord not simply making Himself known so that others may know that their prayers have been answered and that they have not been forgotten after all?

Our Lord has fulfilled another Promise and is trying to make Himself known to His own people and yet, they do not recognize Him! This is not what they wanted to see, and they did not want to hear such drivel as “Pray for your enemies”. Why, King David would never have dreamed such a thing!

The difficulty in appreciating what Jesus is saying is dependent entirely upon one’s perception of danger. We can see with our own eyes the dangers that this world imposes on us. We can see the threats that come to us from this world. Like Israel, however, we cannot see the real danger that is lurking in the shadows. The danger is not an occupying army or a repressive regime. The real threat to the well-being of Israel – and to us – is evil. And we need help.

Help has arrived. Why can we not see it?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Public Education

Arkansas has had continuing problems with public schools and adequate funding for years. Governors and the legislature have tried various approaches to public education funding that have, according to the Arkansas Supreme Court, come up woefully short of constitutional mandates.

For the sake of simplicity, the Lake View ruling declared that public education in Arkansas is not fair or equal or equitable. If I understand it correctly, the Court ruled that the STATE - not the city - is responsible, according to the Arkansas Constitution, for educating children. And the state is responsible for funding that education.

What it seems to boil down to is that some districts that enjoy a broader tax base can afford better buildings, better equipment, and better teacher pay than others. Rural areas removed from these metropolitan areas do not share in the wealth and cannot offer the children what these larger districts can. The Court has declared that these rural children are entitled to the same educational opportunities, and the state has failed its constitutional mandate to provide it.

Most municipalities like the idea of "local control". They have their school boards and PTA's that provide input as to how the money that is available must be spent. They also (WRONGLY) believe that the revenue that is collected in that county or city is theirs to keep.

It seems to me that if the Constitution reads as the Supreme Court has interpreted it, the state is responsible for disbursement of the monies. This means that if district A can spend $3,000.00 per student and district B can only spend $2,000.00 per student, the state has failed to adequately oversee state public education. If I understand the ruling and the state's response, the state Board of Education should have taken control and divvied up the money so that each district could equally spend $2.500.00 per student.

Is this fair? A city with a large industrial base would say no because the tax revenue that is derived from local business and property taxes is "theirs" since it is within their district. However, what makes it "theirs" beyond the fact that the business chose to locate there? What gives that municipality the "right" to claim that revenue?

A rural district that has no opportunity for this kind of revenue and is far enough removed to make busing to the larger district unreasonable might suggest that this is the only way it can possibly be fair. It is not reasonable, especially with fuel prices as they currently are, to expect parents to drive further or for cash-strapped schools to move more buses farther to get kids to the "good" schools. And the state, according to the Court, cannot neglect the children from these rural areas.

So let it be written; so let it be done. And get the lawyers out of it before we all go broke!!

Take Your (cigarette) Butt Outside

With the exception of some bars I used to frequent when I was a drinker, I have not smoked a cigarette indoors since 1992. My wife has never smoked and, thank goodness, none of my children smoke. It soon came to be that my wife used my own words against me to put me outside where my smoke and I belonged.

At my work place where smoking was still allowed, there were many non-smokers. They had become accustomed to cigarette smoke in the work place and simply learned to live with it. More and more information, however, made it clear that second-hand smoke is essentially non-filtered smoke and is dangerous. Whether is it more dangerous that smoking first hand is irrelevant. Non-smokers have more of a right to breathe clean air than we smokers have a right to foul it up. It is more reasonable that a cigarette smoker step outside for ten minutes to smoke than it is to expect a non-smoker to step outside for ten minutes of fresh air.

I bring this up because more cities are lining up to declare all public places to be smoke-free, including private establishments such as restaurants and bars. Smokers are up in arms over the whole deal and trying to convince anyone who will listen that their "rights" are being violated. Even business owners are upset because they are being told by the government what they can and cannot do and allow in their "private" establishments.

Should the government be involved at all? Does the city, county, or state have any business telling a restaurant that smoking must not be allowed? In a word, yes.

The government is already involved with the various Health departments that come and inspect facilities, food, preparation areas, and sanitation facilities. There are rules by which a business must abide if it expects to stay in business. The law is absolute: if you endanger the well-being of the consuming public, you will be shut down until corrections are made.

I had an unfortunate bout with samonella not long ago. Once I had tests done at a local hospital (doctors were not sure what was wrong), the hospital notified the state Health department as required by law. The Health department then contacted me to determine whether I worked in food service or child care. Had I been engaged in either of these businesses, I would have been forced to quit until the Health department gave me the ok to return to work. Why? Because I was sick, and it was a risk to public health.

So why is cigarette smoking any different? Science tells us that the smoke is dangerous, so why do smokers believe that they have "rights" to include usurping another's rights? Because cigarettes are legal. And tobacco is subsidized by the US government. And believe me, the non-smoking sections in restaurants do not work. My wife can become deathly ill while smelling or breathing cigarette smoke while she is trying to eat. Being in a separate room does not remove the cigarette smoke from the building.

Restaurant owners are also in a tear about the potential loss of business. Do they really believe that smokers will stop eating out if they cannot have a cigarette with their meal? It is highly unlikely. I would venture to guess that it is more likely that non-smokers who stopped eating out will return. And if the city makes the regulation across the board with no exemptions, one restaurant cannot enjoy an advantage over the other.

The fact is we smokers have every right to smoke if we so choose, and we can smoke to our heart's content (and detriment, you know!). With rights, however, come enormous responsibilities to one another. We lose our rights when our rights begin to trample on the rights of others. I do have a right to smoke, but I do not have a right to force another to breathe it.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I Pledge Allegiance to ...

In the syndicated cartoon Zack Hill, the young boy Zach chose to take a stand regarding the recitation of the Pledge in his class room. A classmate, Winona, had taken exception to the phrase, "Under God", and decided to take her own stand. In the end, the teacher decided that a debate might be in order as a good learning point about how to settle such differences in a civilized manner.

There was a slight problem in the "rules", however. The teacher pointed out to Zack that "the school prohibits the use of the word 'God' during the debate." Even Winona's eyes are shown bulging at that bit of news.

I could not help but wonder: would it even be possible to have such a debate if the use of certain words were to be prohibited, especially a particular word around which the entire debate is centered? Of course the cartoon may very well have been doing nothing more than making light of a situation that has gotten completely out of hand. As a child growing up, it never occurred to me that saying a prayer before class and reciting the Pledge could possibly be offensive to some, and I do still question whether anyone is genuinely "offended". I do remember one kid who was always excused during Easter and Christmas parties (but not before he got his "stuff"!!) and was sent home. We all thought he was Jewish even though we didn't really know what Judaism meant. It turned out, however, that the boy was a Jehovah's Witness. Such celebrations are prohibited in the practice of their faith, as I understand, including even birthdays. Bummer.

I remember reading once where Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota, being quoted as saying that people who practice religion are generally weak and in need of a crutch. Then it occurred to me that if we are talking about "rights" in this nation, why can I not have my crutch and be left alone? Why must I be labeled or categorized as "weak", "insensitive", or "narrow-minded" just because my "crutch" is my Lord?

What Mr. Ventura and so many others like him fail to understand or appreciate is that our religious faith is precisely a crutch; the faithful should make no pretense about this. Without a little help, most of us would go over the edge. Mr. Ventura was a Navy SEAL. Tough guy and elite among the elite, but I guarantee he operated within a "team" environment. In military situations, it is absolutely essential to have faith in one's team members. A whole platoon of "crutches", if you will.

It crosses my mind, however, the irony of the Pledge itself. "One nation under God, indivisible ..." is an oxymoronic statement alone. Those of us who would prefer to sleep at night knowing that the US is under the watchful eye of the Lord are immediately divided from those who are "offended" by such statements.

Maybe it is time to retire the Pledge. While we're at it, let's take the flags down as well because there is no way I will pledge my allegiance to any piece of cloth. "I pledge allegiance TO THE FLAG ... AND to the republic for which it stands ..."

Does it not seem that a decision right then and there has become necessary? Are we loyal to a flag OR to the republic? Does it really matter?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Justice at the Hands of Politics

Let me say, first, that I am a Republican (for lack of a better word). I am also a supporter of President Bush. What I am NOT is in favor of this "political" appointment that the President is suggesting for the US Supreme Court.

Ms. Miers may very well be an excellent lawyer. She may very well be a conservative, evangelical Christian. What she is NOT is a person with any judicial experience.

I am not an attorney, but I suspect that being a judge is quite different and perhaps requires different skill sets from a defense attorney or a prosecutor. A judge cannot be predisposed in one direction or another and Ms. Miers, as an attorney, has been an advocate for one "side" or another her entire career.

If ever there was a political appointment, this has to be among the top few. Ms. Miers is simply not qualified for the position. With her experience - and yes, it is LIMITED relative experience - she may be better suited for the attorney general's position. Regardless of her qualifications as an attorney, being a judge on any level certainly has a different list of demands. She may be the best lawyer in the world, but this alone still does not qualify her for the Supreme Court.

This type of appointment comes dangerously close to suggesting that the President is making a definitive move to "stack" the Court. Does he owe this person something? He certainly owes the country something, and this ain't it. This has the face of "cronyism" all about it, and it sets a dangerous precedent. A member of the Cabinet must be willing to "follow the leader" and be everything that president would expect him or her to be. A judicial appointment, on the other hand, means that the appointee must serve ..... the law. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. The unbiased, passion-free, prejudiced-free law.

The US Supreme Court does not speak for the president, it does not speak for the Congress, and it does not even speak for the people. The US Supreme Court speaks for, and gives voice to, the law. This requirement demands a person who has a proven track record of such advocacy.

Considering my ramblings, however, I must say this. The President does have the constitutional authority to appoint whomever he may choose. The Senate also has its own constitutional duties in considering this appointment. Now that the President has made this appointment, his dutiful and lawful nomination is still entitled to an "up" or "down" vote. With the "advise and consent" of the Senate means that the entire body must consider her nomination and then do with it what it will.

This is what the law demands, and the law must settle for nothing less.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

In The Absence of Desire

At my secular work place, a revelation involving one of my subordinates came to light that has left my soul gasping for air. The details are not important. What is important, however, is that my boss had mentioned that this person needs our prayers.

While I agree that we all stand in need of prayer, this revelation indicated that this person was about to get everything coming to him that he deserved, including prison time. Considering the nature of his offense, his prison time is going to be very dangerous for him personally. And the truth is, I don't think he is going to be tough enough to withstand it.

Those who mention that this man needs our prayers know exactly what this man did. In fact, he turned himself in and, at last word, was working out a plea with prosecutors. Now I have heard folks who endured lengthy death watches and finally just reached a prayer "saturation" point when they finally were just prayed out because "nothing was there anymore", according to a parishioner.

So when we consider such heinous crimes as this and it is such a crime that finding compassion in one's heart when reading of such things involving strangers in the paper is very hard - if not impossible - to come by, how does one pray? For what does one pray?

Do we pray that the perpetrater finds Christ somehow in all this? Of course. Do we pray that the punishment truly fit the crime? Probably. Do we pray that somehow out of the rubble of this despair that lives will somehow be restored, especially for the victim? Absolutely.

The prayers must come because, while few of us can claim to be guilty of this person's particular crime, even fewer of us can claim complete and total innocence. And in spite of this truth, there is a greater Truth Who came to claim us for Himself. The penalty that we deserve (not past tense) has been paid.

How can we NOT pray mercy for this person and others like him?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Where is the End?

The US Supreme Court is hearing arguments about Oregon's assisted-suicide law for the second time, and I have to admit that the notion of doctors using their training, education, and skills to end life rather than preserve it is completely foreign.

I distinctly recall a sermon years ago by a priest who warned in 1973 after Roe v Wade that sometime in the not-to-distant future, we will be having conversations about issues we never would have considered in polite company.

Since that time we have "protected" that despicable act of partial-birth abortion, and now we are arguing about whether states have a duty to protect one's will to die.

What is life if not hope? And what is hope without life? Where do we think we are going?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Equal but Opposite

"For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction." Sir Isaac Newton

"See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil." Moses

"He who is not with Me is against Me ..." Jesus of Nazareth

In exploring Matthew 21:33-46, the parable of the vinedressers, the above-mentioned passages and Newton's theory crossed my mind as well as the saying, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

While the Bible lesson itself is a good representation of what Jesus was facing during His own time, some passages are not so easily applicable to our time. It then occurred to me that this particular passage is completely relevant to our time and probably more specifically to me.

Even though we do not actively seek to kill anyone, we probably do our greatest harm when we simply fail to do any kind of "good". The harm we ultimately do in the absence of "good" may be greater and more profound than if we had actually ended a life.

Dr. Lynn Scoresby, in his book Bringing Up Moral Children In An Immoral World, reminds us that moral behavior is not simply the absence of immoral behavior. In other words, it is not enough to refrain from bad behavior; one must be actively involved in "good". I suppose this is why I don't get too upset with court rulings pertaining to the Ten Commandments; these "ten" emphasize "thou shalt not ..." One has to continue to read in order to learn that these Ten Commandments are not the entire law; there is so much more to what the Lord expects of us than to simply "don't".

While the chief priests and the elders certainly considered themselves authorities, teachers, and keepers of the Law, they failed to recognize themselves in Jesus' story. Is it any wonder, then, that they did not recognize the Son of the Most High if they could not recognize themselves?

Jesus never contradicted the Law by which these teachers lived, and yet they could never discern for themselves exactly what the Law is all about. Even when Jesus tried to explain it to them, they only got angry especially when they were bested.

Were these men actual and knowing "agents" for the evil one, or were they just blinded and absent any good? Did they actually plan evil, or was good simply absent from their thoughts? Even though these men were not directly responsible for the "servants" in the story who were killed by the vinedressers, I think Jesus was reminding them of the harm that is done in the absence of a fuller understanding of the Word.

What is most unsettling about this epiphany is that I have a difficult time distancing myself from the role of the "vinedresser" in Jesus' story. No, I am not responsible for anyone's death. There have been times, however, when I have refused to be responsible for anyone's life, either. There have been more times when I refused to listen to others who tried to bring me a good word because their word conflicted with what I already made up my mind about.

There is either good or there is evil; there is no middle ground that is offered by Newton, Moses, or Jesus. What is equal in one way is equal in another.