Thursday, March 31, 2005

Don't Dare Read Your Bible

Over the past few weeks much has been said about the judicial system over-stepping their boundaries and ignoring the popular will of the people. While much of this backlash against the courts can be attributed to high profile cases like Terri Schiavo and others, another case illustrates just how out of touch the court has become.

In 1995 Robert Harlan kidnapped and brutally murdered a young woman in Colorado. He was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty. His death sentence was recently overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court because it ruled the jury consulted the bible during their deliberations and thus violated the law. Apparently, the bible wasn't considered part of the facts in evidence and therefore the jury used information outside the scope of the trial to arrive at their sentence.

When I first heard about this case, I had to check and make sure it wasn't April 1st because I was sure somebody was making it up. How could a fair sentence, determined by a non-biased jury be thrown out simply because they sought to bring their religious perspective to the case. Have we really come this far in our antipathy towards Christianity? Isn't this the same court that used to have people swear on the bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help them God?

I find it highly ironic that our laws are based on a moral code of right and wrong but when a juror has a religious basis for applying this moral code, they have somehow overstepped the law. If Christians are not allowed to bring their religious and moral judgment to trial then maybe they should be excluded altogether. We could just add a new question on the jury application and when you check Christian they automatically disqualify you from jury service. This could be a very good evangelical tool.

The court should not expect people of faith to check their world view at the steps of the courthouse. To do so would compromise their most deeply held beliefs. Christian jurors cannot and should not make their determination in a moral vacuum free from their personal experiences. Interestingly, the court has no such difficulty allowing preconceived bias to accompany other jurors to the trial as long it's based on culture, economics, race or sex. Religion is the one factor that judges are afraid of. And that makes me very afraid of our judges.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


Today is the Saturday before Easter and I am waiting for Easter to come. Yesterday I went to a good Friday service which I enjoyed. We sang some of the old gospel songs which I don't get to sing very often. It was good because I was able to spend some time to reflect on Christ's sacrifice.

Tomorrow I will get up early and go to church and celebrate the resurrection. I know it's a big day when my parents are driving to Lansing to attend church with me. Tomorrow afternoon I will spend with my whole family. While it most likely won't be very spiritual it will be fun.

Today however I wait. Today is no holiday. No event to celebrate and no service to attend. We don't really even have a name for this day. Why not? We have a name for Maundy Thursday but nothing for Saturday.

I wonder what it must have been like for the followers of Jesus on Saturday. They had this draining emotional day on Friday. Their leader and friend had been tortured and killed. Their hopes for reform and freedom gone right before their eyes. Jesus had told them the about the resurrection but they didn't really understand it. It must have been awful. They had to wait and they did not fully understand the end of the story.

I wait today as well. But then I realize that I already have the full story. I know how it ends. I get to experience the resurrection everyday and I don't have to wait Easter. Then why do I feel like I am still waiting?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Terri Schiavo

I have been trying to put together my thoughts on Terri Schiavo for some time. When I first heard about this case, I simply tried to ignore it and wondered why the news was focusing so much attention on one case. After all this is only one woman. There are many similar cases everyday. Why are people so passionate about this one particular case? Then I realized that it is not often that we experience such a confluence or moral and legal questions. On one side are those who want to let her die because that is what she wanted and she has no hope of recovery. On the other side are those who want to protect her life even if means circumventing the law.
Both raise significant questions.

First, I have an issue with framing this as a matter of her choice to die with dignity. There is no written or verbal record that this is indeed her choice. All we have is the word of her husband who has already moved on to another woman and fathered two children with her. Because of this conflict of interest there is reason to question his validity. In fact there is currently a bill in the Michigan legislature that would take away the rights of spouses to make life and death decisions if they are involved in an adulterous relationship so as to avoid this type of case happening in Michigan.

Secondly, there are a lot of misconceptions about her medical condition. She is not completely brain dead. She is able to respond to certain stimuli. Her body can function on its own. The only artificial help she needs is a feeding tube which is much different than being kept alive by a machine that keeps her heart beating. When I hear that she is suffering and she would want to die, I often wonder how they know this? Then I wonder what we would do to someone who was born this way. Would we simply walk away from her and let her die because she suffering and subject to a life of disability? I have a hard time thinking we would starve a baby to death simply because she didn't have full brain activity. Is Terri's quality of life directly tied to probability of her recovery? Does she still have value if she never recovers? When someone asked her brother if he thought she would ever recover, he simply replied that he loved Terri in her current condition. To me that says it all.

From a political perspective, I find it fascinating that the media thinks this case will somehow help Republicans. The polls suggest a majority oppose government intervention. One reason for the polls is because of the public's desire to simply see this issue go away. This is not a fun topic to discuss or think about. Life and death issues never are. As a professional politician, I can tell you that it is not good politics to oppose the will of the majority. Sometimes however, even politicians muster the courage to do the right thing regardless of public opinion and this is one of those times.

Finally, the questions is: do we really want government involving themselves in such personal matters? Where does the fight for life trump respect for the law. The law is inherently neutral and based on fact. This often sets it apart from the moral implications it hands down. I have been trying to find a parallel case in our legal history. Probably the closest thing I can compare is the dred scot case which ruled that slaves were property and had no rights under the law. This case was based on the law of the day but was obviously immoral. I am glad our country had the courage to not accept the court's decisions as final. Today we look back and wonder how the court could have made such a bad decision. I hope that someday we will look back at this case and ask the same question.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

March Madness

I love March Madness. It's my favorite sporting event. Let's hope I do better than last year when I picked Stanford. But I am sticking with the west coast theme this year as Arizona willl win the whole thing over North Carolina. Washington and Kentucky round out my final four.
Good luck everyone and enjoy the games this weekend.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Church

This morning I went to my home church for the first time in a couple of weeks. It was good to be back. The sermon was on temptation which was very apropos. Sometimes I laugh at how God coordinates his messages to apply to my life's circumstances.

As I left church it got me to thinking about the church as a whole. I recently read a post on Eric Nentrup's site and he explains that the people having a bible study in the back of starbucks is the church. Is that really all there is to church? Maybe. I used to think so. Now I wonder. If all we are is the group in the back of the coffee house, how are we any different than the group that meets there on Thursday's to read Oprah's book of the month?

It seems to me that Eric's view is symptomatic of a greater backlash against traditional church services and orthopraxy. Now I am not a traditionalist by any means, but I wonder why the church is held in such low disregard. Many in my peer group were brought up in the church so why have they became so disgruntled? Was there something wrong with the methodology of the churches we group up with? Is it a rebellious spirit against structure and authority? Is it just the natural longing for something new and different. I don't know.

My fear is that we are finally reaching the logical conclusion of Protestantism. As soon as someone gets tired of their current church they protest by leaving. Don't like the pastor? Leave. The music sucks? Leave. The church doesn't share your view of ministry? Leave. The doctrine is too liberal? Leave. The church is too legalistic? Leave.

We can't just leave the church every time we disagree with it. At some point we run out of options. And counting all the time we spend socializing with other Christians as church just doesn't cut it. The Church is about community but that community is more than just meeting together. It includes accountability and service to others. The Church provides the structural framework to interpret the scriptures and keep us from falling into heresy. It is the vehicle for spreading the gospel.

In our zeal to reform the church, we need to keep in mind who we are reforming it for. We talk about reaching the lost. Yet most of the unchurched people I have come across do not have the negative preconceived notions against the church that we have. Many have simply never even given church a second thought. They are not looking for the newest, hippest church but they are seeking love and belonging and hope. They want church to be relevant but they don't want to hear all our problems with the church and what needs to be fixed.

Yes, the church needs to be more accepting. Yes, the church needs to engage the culture more effectively. Yes, there are many crappy churches that give us a bad name. But our negative attitude towards the church can end up being a turn off to those that we are trying to reach. We cannot build the so-called emerging church on our hurts and complaints of the existing church.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Must read

The Kyperman Report has an excellent post on abortion. You can link to it by clicking on Todd Kuiper under my cool blogs list.

Fantasy Baseball Addiction

Top 10 signs that you take the upcoming fantasy baseball season too seriously.

1. You spent $10 for your fantasy baseball magazine three months ago to give you plenty of time to study for the draft.

2. You stay up late at night debating the merits of drafting Chase Utley over Chone Figgins.

3. You actually know who Chase Utley and Chone Figgins are.

4. You think draft day is more exciting than Christmas.

5. You participate in on-line mock drafts during work.

6. You are anxiously following the Detroit Tigers spring training to see if there are any hidden gems on their pitching staff.

7. You decided to limit yourself by joining only 10 leagues this year.

8. You think about fantasy baseball more than sex.

9. You are still bitter about drafting Rick Ankiel over Barry Bonds in 2001.

10. You started taking steroids to give you an edge.

Monday, March 07, 2005

A Good Start

Today, George W. Bush nominated John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. Many people do not know him but he is a very good choice for this position. He is the kind of straight shooter that fits well with Bush's second term agenda. During his post as undersecretary of state for arms control he has developed a reputation as being an aggressive advocate of America's interest and putting our enemies on the defensive.

Not surprisingly Mr. Bolton's bluntness has brought rebuke and hand wringing from leading democrats who are concerned about his diplomatic skills. It seems they are more worried about alienating the thugs and despots at the UN than protecting our country's best interest. It appears they are determined to mount an effort against his nomination.

A tough ambassador to the UN is what we need. Our make nice approach really isn't working. Let's face it, the UN is in desperate need of reform. There is no easy way to begin listing all the errors the organization has recently made. They have been feckless in enforcing their own resolutions against Syria's occupation in Lebanon. Iran is building a nuclear weapon and the security council is upset with the US for sponsoring a resolution in opposition. Worse yet the UN looked the other way while thousands of women were being gang raped by rebels in the Congo.

In addition to thier misguided policies they have faced one embarrassing scandal after another. Most recently the oil for food debacle in Iraq which is still being investigated. They are so corrupt that there are even scandals regarding their investigation into their scandals. The list of corruption and incompetence goes on and on.

Mr. Bolton is not afraid to speak the truth to world powers. He will be a tough negotiator. His background in arms control will be extremely useful. Hopefully he can get the UN to take the issue of weapons proliferation more seriously. I have heard he wants to reform the security council structure, which is long overdue. However, his first priority should be to encourage the resignation of Kofi Annan. A new secretary would be the first step in bringing credibility back to the UN.

I wish the new ambassador the best. He has a very tough job ahead of him.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

On Killing Kids

Recently the supreme court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute persons under 18 years old. Capitol Punishment has always been an issue that raises heated debate. However, I am not going to argue the particular merits of capitol punishment this morning but rather I am going to express my concerns as to how the court decided this case.

Essentially, the court said that capitol punishment for juveniles violates the 8th amendment which states that people should be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The interesting thing is that they didn't use the cruelty portion in the clause to void the law but rather they found the practice of executing juveniles to be unusual and therefore unconstitutional. They came to this conclusion by looking around the world and seeing that most other countries do not execute juveniles. Using this argument is a slippery slope. Suppose for a moment that most countries decided to lower the age of sexual consent from 16-14 years old. (This is actually being argued in some countries already) Would it then be unusual for us to imprison pedophiles that prey on 15 year olds? Would the court declare our laws that protect kids under 16 as unconstitutional? This may sound like a stretch but strange things happen when we allow others to become the moral arbiter of our laws. The implications for this case are wide because it sets a judicial precedent to use other countries laws to judge our own.

My other problem with this decision is that it creates a fictional line of culpability. It basically says that a kid who is 17 years and 11 months old should be held less accountable for his crime than someone who committed his crime on his 18th birthday. Do people change that much in one month? Are all 18 year olds more mature than all 17 year olds? Why draw the line at 18? Why not 21? One could argue that 21 one year olds have a much higher degree of appreciation for their crimes. Whatever age you choose it is completely arbitrary and this is the problem. No longer is punishment decided on the individual merits of the case and the maturity level of the individual criminal. I am far more comfortable having jury members, who have sat through the case, deciding a person's fate instead of having a universal law imposed capriciously.

When you see through the court's faulty reasoning, you begin to realize that this decision is simply an excuse to impose the judges own moral opposition to executing juveniles. Isn't this the exact same thing that the Democrats are worried about with the Bush judicial nominees? That they will somehow make new law based on their opposition to abortion or gay rights or whatever. I guess in this case it's okay because they agree with the final decision. However, If the law needs to be changed, it the duty of legislature and not the courts to make law. The people of each state should decide the moral implications of capitol punishment for juveniles instead of unaccountable judges.

My problem with this case is not the final conclusion. In fact I agree that we should not execute juveniles. However, I have very serious reservations with the method they used to reach their conclusions and fear the consequences of this judicial precedent.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Cool Blogs

A new feature I just added today is a list of other blogs written by people I know. I hope you will check them out as they have a lot of interesting things to say. I would specifically recommend a post on Jason Makowky's blog about his and my friendship. There is also a great picture of yours truly on David Drury's site. CJ Good has a more serious post on the nature of sin that is very thoughtful. I would recommend Todd Kuiper's posts as well but I am still waiting for him to send me my pictures from our DC trip.

If anybody else wants to be listed, feel free to drop me an email with your credit card number and I will add you to the list.

Going home

Last weekend I took a short road trip back to Indiana Wesleyan. It had been a long week and I wanted to get away to see my friend Jason and my other friend Jason and his wife Melanie. Over the course of the weekend a strange thought occurred to me; Marion still seems like home to me. Those of you who have been to Marion understand just how unattractive the city can be. Yet there is something magical about the college experience that makes up for the town's shortcomings.

On campus, all the buildings I used to know are mostly torn down with new, fancier buildings taking their place. I must say that I really like the McConn Coffee Shop and wish we would have it while I was a student there. It certainly beats the coffee at Cafe 37 even if they don't put a spoon in your drink. And though I do miss Williams Hall, the old student center and other popular hang outs, I have discovered my memories are not tied to the buildings but to the people and the spirit of the school.

All weekend we stayed up late talking about women we wish we would have dated and women we wish we wouldn't have dated. We also talked about our futures, told old stories and laughed and laughed. Oh yeah, we also played a little euchre and Saturday we watched some cult classic called Napoleon Dynamite with a bunch of college kids.

It was really fun and I miss that environment. It seems like the farther I am removed from college the harder it is to find the same type of community that I had at Indiana Wesleyan. I am very thankful for my friends here in Lansing but the relationships are a little more intentional and less spontaneous.

So thanks Jason, Jason and Melanie for the memories of this past weekend. I really enjoyed going home again.