Archives for June 2012

Law of the Land

There have been a lot of consequential decisions handed down by the Supreme Court lately.

Perhaps one could argue that all decisions made by the Supreme Court are consequential.

There was the decision on Arizona’s immigration law and there was the decision on Obama’s healthcare plan.  There was the decision about giving minors a life sentence without parole and there was the decision about how much power Unions have over non-union members.  There was also the decision about how strict the FCC can be over incidents of expletives and nudity on television.

In the midst of all of this recent uproar, I have been thinking about and looking back on past years of the Supreme Court.

One thing I have found interesting is that this Roberts Court has changed, or at least interrupted, the trend of the Supreme Court to become more and more broad and momentous in its decisions.

Until the 1940’s or 1950’s, the Supreme Court simply made decisions on the cases it was given. Around the mid-twentieth century though, especially during the Warren Court, the Court began making broader and more sweeping decisions that affected the policy of the entire United States rather than solely impacting the case or the law that was under judgement.

This trend has had the effect of giving the Supreme Court the sort of power that is held by Congress and the President. The sort of power that can change the law and policy of our country.

The Roberts Court seems to be deliberately scaling back this trend. The majority of the judgments handed down by this current Court are much more narrow, are applied only to the particular case in dispute rather to the entire country. I will let people who are smarter than I tell you why this is, but one thing I find of interest about this is that there have been many more unanimous decisions with this Court than in the past.

Another interesting effect of this narrowing of the role of the Supreme Court has been that, until fairly recently, the Court has faded a bit in the public eye. Chief Justice Roberts seems to be comfortable with not setting his aim for creating a public legacy, for making himself and his Court more important.

I wonder what you think. Should the role of the Supreme Court be more broad, affecting public policy in a large way, or should decisions be more narrow, confined to the case and the law in question? 

I think that many conservative Christians would instinctively lean toward the latter opinion. After all, wasn’t it the comprehensive judgement in Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal and set our hearts to aching for all of those unborn babies?

Yet in the interest of conversation and in the interest of using our hearts and minds rather than only our hearts, we should think about other changes the Court has made over the years. Good changes as well as poor changes.

The first and biggest example that leaps to my mind is the very broad judgement in Brown v Board of Education. If you need refreshing on your case names, this is the judgement that paved the way for the ending of racial segregation in our country. This is the decision that stated that separate is not equal.

Who of us would ever say that ending racial segregation was a bad thing? Yet when Congress wouldn’t do the job it should have done, it took the Supreme Court making an encompassing judgement to change the policy of our nation.

So. Narrow or broad? Case-deciding or policy-changing? Should the policy and laws of this country be decided only by an elected Congress and President or should the appointed Supreme Court be allowed to step in when others are not courageous enough to do the hard thing? And who gets to decide which hard thing is right: abortion, segregation, right to an attorney, gay marriage? 

I’m interested to hear what you think. 

I’m interested to continue watching the Roberts Court and to discover where they will lead our country.


Understandably, I have been thinking a lot about babies these past few weeks. 

Mostly I think about soft skin and dimpled elbows, downy head nuzzled into my neck, sweet little newborn grunts.

Sometimes I think about nursing frustrations, sleepless nights, and loud cries. But then I remember the delight found in simply being still and watching a baby.

One thing about God that I always had trouble understanding was how God could love someone like me.

Someone who can give nothing in return for His love, someone who needs everything from Him, someone who takes and takes and often sends hateful, ungrateful thoughts towards Him in return for His love.

How could God still love with such a tender love? How could He love me enough to sing over me?

I never understood.

Until I had a baby of my own.

Suddenly, I found myself gazing into her eyes, my heart full of a tender love that almost frightened me in its intensity.

She could give nothing to me. Yet I loved her.

She needed me to do everything for her. Yet I loved her.

She took all that I had and gave me tears and sleepless nights in return. Yet I loved her.

I held her in my arms, loving her with a tenderness that only a parent can feel.

Right then I finally understood.

God loves us as a mother loves her baby. He has given everything to us when we can give nothing in return.

He loves us with such unconditional tenderness that we can know beyond doubt that no matter what, He will always love us.

art credit: Christ and Samaritan Woman by Siemiradzki

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An Announcement

God said “Yes”!!!
Will you join us in welcoming Baby #3 into our family?

And, as I am currently still experiencing the nausea and bone-weariness of the first trimester (although I really should be almost done with that), instead of posting something deep and thought-provoking, I will now take a nap.

Thank you for grace.  :-)

How Truth Got Hijacked

One reason that I wrote recently about character, how we form it and why it matters, is because of the lack of it that I see all around me.

When we can cheat and lie “just a little bit” and still think highly of ourselves, when we show our kids that it’s okay to do little wrong things to get by, when it is more wrong to judge evil than to do evil, we are in trouble. For our society to function, we need people of character in leadership positions from teachers and managers to mayors and governors.

Why is this? Why do ordinary people care so little about acting in moral ways?

I think a lot of this dearth of character, of virtue, comes from the rejection of the idea of truth.

If truth is, at best, all relative, a matter of perspective, and at worst, a social construct, whatever we make it to be, then why should we work hard to develop a character that may or may not be valid to those around us?

If there is no truth that we can deliberate and discover together as a society (whatever that truth may be), we are left with “power and propaganda and grievance and anger and caucuses and anti-caucuses and special interest groups and victims and vengeance.” ~ Richard John Neuhaus

There is an assumption in much of society, in many of our universities especially, that we can’t keep society and relationships going if we talk about truth because truth brings conflict. Truth has gained a negative connotation, one that assumes that anything so divisive has no appropriate role in public life.

How did this happen? How did truth get hijacked and associated with the negative? How did truth become linked with religious totalitarianism and Osama bin Laden? How did it become shameful to declare a belief in truth, even simply the idea of truth, regardless of what that truth is?

Part of the answer, I’m afraid, is due to the Church. We have a history of wielding the truth as divisively as possible, of tearing down and even destroying rather than creating and building up. We have used truth as an excuse for starting wars and we have used truth as an excuse to look down on our neighbor.

Richard John Neuhaus says that it is now the Church’s task to learn how to assert truth in public “persuasively and winsomely and in a manner that does not violate but strengthens the bonds of civility”.  He challenges that it is our duty to not just tolerate those with whom we disagree but to eagerly engage them in love.

How? How do we declare truth without being divisive and unpleasant, causing strife, conflict and wars?

By remembering grace.

By remembering that we can’t even live up to our own standards and yet we are loved.

If we despise anyone or feel superior to anyone, we are living by moral performance rather than grace. And living by moral performance is what brings divisiveness to the truth.

By the way we live, living a life of loving and caring for others, we can show truth and speak truth with no divisiveness at all.

This is what the early Christians did when they loved the poor, empowered women, and brought together the races and classes. This is how the early Church overran the Roman Empire when it wasn’t even trying to gain political power.

This. This is the truth we need.

Because this truth is 

a God Who became weak, Who loved and died for the people Who opposed Him, forgiving them. ~ Tim Keller

Will you speak and live this kind of truth to your public? Our world desperately needs Him.

art credits: Medieval image of Peter the Hermit leading the Crusades; Christ Crucified by Diego Velazquez; engraving of the Hotel Dieu; photograph of Christ on the Cross by Asta Rastauskiene

A Year of Writing

One year.

That’s how long I’ve been here at this space, writing about life and culture, things in our daily lives and in the world around us, pain and death and ugliness, life and hope and beauty, and how God resides in all of these things and fills them up with Himself. 

Here is what I wrote in my very first post:

Writing is a difficult thing. It requires one to be vulnerable, to trust the world with a piece of oneself while knowing that the world can be a cruel place.

Perhaps this is why I have declined to join the world of blogging until now. 

Perhaps, too, it seems as though everyone is a blogger. Everyone has something to say and not many wish to listen. Perhaps no one will wish to listen to me. 

Yet I still feel that God is asking me to write. Not to write and hide but also to share. 

I have resisted this for quite a while now. Why? Partly due to the work involved.

Even now, I am only agreeing to write once a week. 

A large part, however, is that I don’t feel that I have anything new to say. To add to the over-quoting of Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun”. (Ecc. 1.9) Who am I to think that I could say something new or even to say something old in an improved way? 

Perhaps God is simply asking me to restate old things for a single reader.

Perhaps God is even more simply asking me to write so that I can grow to be more like Him as I think through various ideas aloud.

Whatever the reason, here I am. Obeying, even though afraid. I will write. God will listen. I pray He will be pleased.

There is not much about these thoughts that I would change, even after a year. It is still difficult to send out my thoughts and ideas, my hurts and my hopes. I still feel almost silly telling anyone that I have a blog. 

And I still feel that God is still asking me to keep writing.

There is a lot that I have learned this year. 

I have discovered that there is a huge world out there called the blogosphere. It is, mostly, a world that I don’t interact with very often. Partly because I only write once a week and haven’t yet made the space for interacting with other blogs. Partly, too, because many in this world have begun their blogs to make money, mostly for very beautiful reasons, yet I have decided that I don’t want to clutter up my space with advertisements and buttons. Not that there is anything at all wrong with any of that. I simply want something different, something more simple for this place.

I have discovered that the more I write, the better I am at this art. The more I write, the more my heart craves to create. The more I write, the more ideas that flood into my mind.

I have discovered that I love the art of writing in this sort of a place, love how I am able to craft and mold my words together with other arts. Photographs, paintings, sculptures, music…it fills something inside of me to bring them together to make words even more beautiful than before.

One of the most beautiful things I have discovered is how my love for God has grown with my writing. When I committed to writing once a week, I was also, inadvertently, committing to continue reading, studying, listening, pursuing God and the things of God. This has expanded my heart and mind and caused my view and knowledge of God to hugely grow. 

Perhaps this is why God asked me to write. 

I still wish to have others read what I write. I still have a dream of being published. 

Yet if all that happens through my writing is that I become more like Christ, I am satisfied.

So. I will close this first year as I began: 

Whatever the reason for my writing, here am I in this space. I will continue to obey, even though it is hard and often causes my heart to feel fear. I will write. God will listen. I pray He will continue to be pleased.

(By the way, I will be changing things around here fairly soon and moving to my truly very own space. I’ll let you know when that time comes, but I pray and hope that you will continue to join me on my journey.)