Archive for October 2, 2011
In April 2005, Katrina Effert, age nineteen, secretly gave birth to a baby boy in the downstairs bathroom. She then strangled the child, wrapped him in towels, and dropped him over the backyard fence behind a neighbor’s shed.
After repeatedly lying to police and trying to pin the crime on a man she hooked up with nine months earlier, Effert finally confessed to killing the child, whom she named Rodney.
In 2006 and again in 2009 juries convicted her of second-degree murder with a minimum of ten years in prison. In September, the same judge who presided over Effert’s trial in 2009 changed the conviction to infanticide and sentenced her to a three-year suspended sentence with probation.
In England since 1922 and in Canada since 1948, infanticide has been separated from murder. Women who killed their newborns were often domestic servants who hid their pregnancies and destroyed the evidence for fear of being fired.
Juries were unwilling to convict those women of murder since it carried the death penalty. Therefore, a new crime with a lesser penalty was created using the dubious assumption that only a mentally disturbed and, thus, morally irresponsible woman would kill her own child. Mental illness, remember, is the way that secular societies replace the judgmental “sin” word.
According to an article in Canada’s National Post, when Justice Joanne Veit gave instructions to the jury in 2009, she told them that if they determined that Efferts was “disturbed” – a word that has no clear legal or psychological definition – they had to find her guilty of infanticide. The jury nonetheless returned a verdict of murder.
Now whether or not Veit should have overturned the jury’s decision can be debated. What can’t be debated was the judge’s chilling rationale. Veit linked her leniency and Effert’s crime to abortion.
Canada, you see, has no restrictions on abortion. If Effert had had an abortion the day before she delivered, all would be well – legally at least. Instead she gave birth.
As reported in the Calgary Herald, Veit wrote that the lack of a Canadian abortion law shows that “many Canadians… generally understand, accept and sympathize with” hard-pressed mothers, “especially mothers without support.” So, such sympathy makes infanticide permissible?
Commentator Mark Steyn correctly states that the judge is, in essence, justifying “fourth-trimester abortion.” He goes on: “So a superior court judge in a relatively civilized jurisdiction is happy to extend the principles underlying legalized abortion in order to mitigate the killing of a legal person – that’s to say, someone who has managed to make it to the post-fetal stage.”
As Dr. Al Mohler puts it, “The willingness to kill within the womb leads logically to a willingness to kill outside the womb.” Of course it does – and don’t let abortion supporters deny it. Princeton Professor Peter Singer has made that argument for years as a justification for killing infants.
At least this case in Canada exposes where the evil logic of abortion leads. It is totally morally unsustainable.
But it’s clear that despite the fact that more and more Americans at least are turning pro-life, the battle is far from over. We, that is, the Church, have a lot of work to do to uphold the dignity – and the sacredness – of every human life, from conception to natural death.
For an atheist, Jeffrey Timmons seems to talk about God more than some of the Christians at his office in downtown Mobile, Ala. Timmons, a businessman, is not shy about announcing he does not believe in God when talking with co-workers.
Photo: Reuters/Colin Braley)Commuters in Pompano Beach who think the gridlock on South Florida streets have reached biblical proportions pass a light-hearted billboard September 10. An anonymous Fort Lauderdale area-based, not-for-profit group has spent several hundred of thousand dollars in an ad campaign to get people to return to religion. CB/CM/JDP
(Photo: LifeJourney Church)Thirty-two of these “Who Stole Jesus?” billboards will be posted around Indianapolis as part of a campaign by LifeJourney Church.
It may be an unusual venue for theological debate, but during breaks at work, Timmons frequently steers the conversation toward God, Jesus Christ, politics, religion and church while sitting around talking over coffee and doughnuts.
“I like to talk about the difference between an agnostic, which is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves there is a God, and an atheist who believes there is no God,” Timmons told The Christian Post.
“I am kind of a religious historian for the streets even though I stopped believing in God. I want people to know the difference about skeptics.”
Timmons says there was a time when he believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.
“I just don’t think I am weak, and politically speaking, people usually use God when they hit rock bottom,” he said.
Atheists have become more vocal and visible in recent years as men and women eagerly proclaim their belief that God does not exist. The Internet has helped unite nonbelievers as groups continue to sell angry, in-your-face atheist manifestos.
While religious leaders discuss signs of the times in biblical terms, atheism in America seems to be getting louder, with public campaigns, rallies, billboards, TV appearances and aerial banners, all aimed at gaining attention and drowning out the Christian message. Atheist summer camps now even exist for children.
However, although the stigma associated with nonbelievers is disappearing, recent Harris polls show that most Americans say they would not vote for an atheist for president.
Retired Reverend Howard Stevenson, now residing in New Orleans, La., told The Christian Post those who do not believe in God are getting publicity because our nation was built on the belief in God, making the atheistic message more about “shock value.”
“If atheists today are using fresh material to garner support and draw in more Americans, why are Christians today not battling this issue and defending the faith with the Bible, louder voices and rallies along with publicized personal testimony?” he said.
Stevenson says there are many fellow brothers in Christ that would agree that this strange spell of atheism in the publishing world will continue to cash in on the anti-God message if Christians do not step up and defend their beliefs.
“The proof is in the biblical pudding. Christians today need not analyze atheism with politics, surveys, cynical behavior and long dissertations. Live for Christ and allow him to work through you by creating a culture of belief in America that is strong. Our godly character is our weapon, the Bible is our shield and our testimony is the battle field of faith.”
Robert D. Putnam, a professor of policy at Harvard University, said Timmons is like many Americans today who are increasingly opting out of religion.
Putnam, who has authored many studies on the topic of atheism and religion, says in one study that Americans are changing religions or belief systems that more closely fit their politics.
Mainstream media is also chiming in, publishing op-ed pieces about the rise of atheism in America. Greg Paul wrote in the Washington Post this week that despite its flaws, democratic atheism is “proving superior to faith-based mythical doctrines in practical societal and moral terms.”
Moreover, nine out of 10 Americans believe that there is no God and one fifth of the American population is more or less atheistic, according to the most recent Harris poll.
Another survey on atheism in America, conducted by the Pew Forum of Religious and Public Life, showed major changes in the religious make up of America.
More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion, or no religion at all, the Pew Landscape Survey released this week found.
However, as discussions of widespread turmoil, increasingly turbulent weather events and wars increase, so do the number of Americans who say they believe Christ’s reappearance is close at hand. A poll conducted last year by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 41 percent of Americans expected Jesus would return before 2040.
Christians have stepped up to defend the faith in high-profile ways. As the non-believing community began to widen its reach in America in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI strongly criticized modern-day atheism in a major document in hopes of drawing attention to its evils.
“A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope,” he wrote in the letter. In his second encyclical, Benedict also critically questioned modern Christianity, saying its focus on individual salvation had ignored Jesus’ message that true Christian hope involves salvation for all.
The document, titled “Saved by Hope,” is referred to by most Christians today as a theological exploration of Christian hope: that in the suffering and misery of daily life, Christianity provides the faithful with a “journey of hope” to the Kingdom of God.
Christian apologist Josh McDowell defends the Christian faith in his lectures and through his books such as Evidence That Demands a Verdict, The Resurrection Factor, and He Walked Among Us. He has arranged Christian arguments against skeptics, atheists and agnostics by laying out proof that God is alive on this earth, Jesus is the Son of God and the Bible is the true word of God.
He fires back at nonbelievers by using archaeological discoveries, the extant manuscripts of biblical texts, fulfilled prophecies and the miracle of the resurrection.
And Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, often comments on the issue of atheism in America.
Mohler agrees with most religious leaders that “America is engaged in a great battle for ideas that Christians understand to be a battle for hearts, minds and souls.”
But perhaps one of the best ways Christians can equip themselves to be a witness for Christ in America today is through the words of the Bible, faith in God’s promises and encouraging words spoken by Christian leaders.
American evangelist Dr. Billy Graham defended the Christian faith by saying he believes people today often misunderstand atheism, thus finding it appealing.
“Many atheists, I find, reject God for one reason: They want to run their own lives,” Graham said in a popular sermon on atheism. “Atheism says we are here by chance, and life has no meaning or destiny. Taken to its conclusion, atheism ends in despair.”
Dale and Shannon Hickman, the Oregon couple who rubbed oils on their sick baby instead of seeking medical attention, will be going to jail after a Clackamas County jury this week found them guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
(Photos: Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department/Oregon)Shannon Hickman, Dale Hickman – Both parents were found guilty of second-degree manslaughter Sept. 29, 2011, a Class B felony that requires a sentence of at least six years and three months in prison under Measure 11, Oregon’s mandatory sentencing law. However, because of a religious exemption that was eliminated after the Hickmans were indicted, they could face no more than 18 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The case centered on the act of faith healing and parental negligence. The Hickmans’ baby, David, was born about two months premature and weighed just three pounds five ounces, according to court records. The baby developed a bacterial infection and died nine hours after delivery.
The conviction is a class B felony under state law that requires a sentence of at least six years and three months in prison under Oregon’s mandatory sentencing regulations, according to state records.
However, because of a state religious exemption that was eliminated after the Hickmans were indicted, they could face no more than 18 months in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Prosecuting attorney John Wentworth told reporters that the couple, who have two other children, will be sentenced Oct. 31. Prosecutors asked that they be held in jail until sentencing, but Judge Robert Herndon allowed the couple to remain free until they go to prison.
During the trial, Dale Hickman testified that he didn’t call 911 once he realized his infant son was ill “because I was praying.” Shannon Hickman said that as a woman in the church, she must listen to her husband, reports the Oregon City News. “That’s not my decision anyway,” she testified. “I think it’s God’s will whatever happens.”
The child was born at home, not in a hospital. Female church members, who called themselves “midwives,” were present when the infant died. Child abuse and neglect experts testified in court that home birth was a terrible choice for the safety of the baby.
The Hickmans are members of Oregon City’s Followers of Christ church, which has a long history of children dying from replacing medical care with faith healing at home, according to local news reports in Oregon.
The Oregon City News reports that medical experts for the prosecution testified that the baby had a 99 percent chance of survival if his parents had sought medical care.
“They let their baby die,” Wentworth told local reporters. “Nobody lifted a finger to call 911 or sought medical care.”
Holly Scholles, a licensed Estacada midwife, told local newspapers the Hickmans’ actions were “unconscionable.” Even family members of the church told prosecutors that a baby born so early is a concern.
The Hickman case will most likely be the last legal battle involving faith healing in Oregon. State records show that the Oregon Legislature passed a bill earlier this year to repeal the remaining religious exemptions for parents or guardians pertaining to medical care of sick children.
According to defense attorneys, social norms trend more to unlicensed home births in Clackamas County. Midwives without licenses oversee almost half, or 43.5 percent, of home births in the county, compared to 27.3 percent of at-home births statewide.
A missions ministry that has been closely following the case of an Iranian Christian pastor facing execution says the Iranian government is trying to confuse and deceive the Western media with conflicting reports.
Fars news agency, the Iranian government’s unofficial mouthpiece, reported that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is not on death row for apostasy, but for crimes against national security. Those crimes include rape and extortion.
“We have the original written verdict from both the provincial court in Gilan and the Supreme Court branch in Qom that detail apostasy,” the ministry wrote on its website Friday.
Nadarkhani was arrested on Oct. 13, 2009, after protesting the government’s decision to force all children, including his own Christian children, to read the Quran.
He was initially charged for protesting but the charges were later changed to apostasy and evangelismto Muslims. In 2010, he was sentenced to death and the ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court of Iran this year.
This week, the Christian pastor was given the chance to recant his faith in court but he refused to do so and now awaits a final written verdict, which is expected in a matter of days.
His attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, was surprised by Fars’ new report, and stated that he only defended Nadarkhani against the death sentence in the case of his charge of apostasy.
“If he is under trial in another court on other charges, I am not aware,” the attorney told International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “The charge the court staff announced that I defended during several different court sessions was apostasy and no other charge.”
Fars reported Rezvani as saying on Friday, “The subject of the crime and this individual’s death sentence are not belief-based and related to his religion. Nobody is executed in our regime for choosing a religion, but he is a Zionist who has security crimes. Right now, carrying out the sentence is not a definitive matter.”
While Fars accused Western media of producing false reports about Nadarkhani, the pastor’s attorney stressed that just this week “the charge of which the court informed him was about his apostasy,” as reported by International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Iran is listed as the second worst persecutor of Christians in the world, behind North Korea, by Open Doors, a ministry that supports persecuted Christians. The ministry reported just last month that the Iranian government is stepping up its watch on Christians and doing its best to squelch the growing house church movement there.
Nadarkhani served as the leader of a 400-strong house church movement in Rasht.
U.S. lawmakers and Christian leaders have condemned the Iranian government for refusing the pastor’s basic right to religious freedom and have called for his release.
Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, stated on Friday, “It is unfathomable to most thinking people that a person in the 21st Century can be put to death simply for espousing a faith that differs from that of his nation’s ruling powers.”
Graham had harsher words for the international community and its silence.
“A man is sentenced to be killed for the ‘crime’ of a sincere belief in Jesus Christ – a sentence in clear violation of international law. So where is the international outrage?” he posed.
“We, as U.S. citizens, must join our voices to continue to press world leaders to take action. Pastor Nadarkhani’s life hangs in the balance.”
What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your
I recently sent my son, Nathan, off to college. He’s a freshman at New York
University. (That’s 1844 miles away from home, to be precise.) As Nathan
experiences the joys and challenges of college life, I find myself reminiscing
about my own freshman year. (I was 2,791 miles away from home, in case you’re
curious.) I had many adventures during my first months of college, though I
struggled considerably with homesickness. As much as I enjoyed the freedom of
being on my own, I will never forget how it felt to come home for Christmas
vacation of my freshman year. There was nothing like hugging my dog, sleeping in
my own bed, and, most of all, being with my family. Truly, there is no place
That’s how the writer of Psalm 84 felt about the temple in Jerusalem. He
celebrated the beauty of God’s “dwelling place” (84:1). He longed to enter the
temple courts (84:2). In fact, he claimed that “a single day” in God’s courts
“is better than a thousand anywhere else” (84:10). Thus, he exclaimed, “What joy
for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises” (84:4).
So where does that leave us today? The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by
the Romans in A.D. 70. In its place stands the Dome of the Rock,
one of Islam’s holiest places. Thus, we will never be able to sing God’s praises
in his temple or its surrounding courts.
Are we simply out of luck, then? Not at all. Remember what Jesus said in John
14:2-3: “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not
so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When
everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me
where I am.” We hold tightly the promise of living in
God’s house in the age to come.
This promise is not only about our heavenly lodging, however. The word
translated in John 14:2 as “home” or “house” refers, not only to a building in
which to live, but also to the families that dwell in these buildings. Jesus
invites us into the family of God, an invitation we can accept now, even as we
await a greater fullness of family life in the future. You and I have the
opportunity to be brothers and sisters in the family of God, beloved children of
our heavenly Father. In this sense, we can be at home with the Lord today. And,
indeed, there is no place like home!
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When in your life have you
felt truly at home? Why? How did this feel? Have you ever felt at home in God?
in the family of God?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, how grateful I am for the
invitation to join your family, to be at home in you. Thank you for the promise
of one day knowing this reality fully. Thank you for the fact that I can begin
to live as a member of your family today. Help me, Lord, to experience life as
one of your children, deeply engaged with my brothers and sisters.
Indeed, Lord, there is no place like home with you. Thank you for receiving
me into your family. Thank you for accepting me in spite of my faults and
foibles. Thank you for loving me with a love that will never let me go. How good
you are to me! Amen.