Tag Archives: Salvation

Everyday Evil

Internet user on a cell phone, Author Raidarmax (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

A young teacher traveling on Southwest Airlines caught sight of disturbing texts by the passenger seated ahead of her on the plane.  Michael Kellar was casually planning with Gail Burnworth to molest two children [1].

Thinking quickly, the unnamed teacher took cell phone photos of the texts.  She then informed the flight crew.

Kellar was arrested in San Jose, CA after the plane touched down; Burnworth was later arrested in Tacoma, WA.  Kellar maintained that he had merely been fantasizing.  His texts, however, revealed the truth.

Kellar is 56 y.o. and Burnworth 50 y.o.  The children they were planning to molest are 5 y.o. and 7 y.o.  Both children were rescued by law enforcement.  Evidently, Burnworth had been babysitting them.

“Folks that are doing these sort of things are literally all around us.  We don’t know who they are…They need to be punished and they need to be kept away from kids.”

-San Jose Police Sgt. Brian Spears, Q13 Fox TV [2]

Evil can be found everywhere.  Many make it part of their everyday lives.  We must remain alert to its presence, and protect ourselves against evil, without surrendering our peace of mind.

That is a difficult task.  We can easily feel overwhelmed, and certainly discouraged.  It often appears that evil is winning the day.

But God will not allow that.  He remains in charge, even when all hope is lost.  The battle between good and evil rages.  However, the war has been won.  It was won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Be sure of this:  the wicked will not go unpunished, but those that are righteous will go free (Prov. 11: 21).

[1]  ABC News, “Man arrested after Southwest passenger says she saw him texting ‘molesting children’ police say” by Julia Jacobo and Alex Stone, 8/3/17, http://abcnews.go.com/US/man-arrested-southwest-passenger-texting-molesting-children-police/story?id=49020167.

[2]  Washington Post, “An alert airline passenger exposed a suspected child predator after glancing at his texts” by Kyle Swenson, 8/4/17, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/08/04/an-alert-airline-passenger-exposed-a-suspected-child-sex-predator-after-glancing-at-his-text-messages/.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Extra! Extra!

First page of Book of John, part of illuminated manuscript known as Athelstan Gospels (late 9th or early 10th Century), British Library (Cotton MS Tiberius A.ii) (PD)

WARNING:  Graphic Images

The news comes crashing toward us at the speed of light these days.  We cope with it as best we can – ignoring some things, shrugging off others, arguing over (or worrying about) those that strike closest to home.

We can at times be grieved by the news, even wounded by it.  More often, in self-defense, we develop calluses.  Occasionally, we dare to hope.

  • Catholic Church Sex Scandal.   Catholic Cardinal, George Pell, the third highest ranking official at the Vatican, has been charged with multiple sexual offenses by Australia [1].  These involve more than one individual, and are believed to extend back decades.  Pell will be returning to Australia to mount a defense.
  • Mother’s Boyfriend a Threat.  Michael McCarthy, convicted of second-degree murder in the 2015 killing of his girlfriend’s two year old daughter, has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Massachusetts court [2].  Evidently, Bella was killed because she did not want to go to bed.  Testimony indicated she had been harshly punished before.  Both McCarthy and Rachel Bond, the girl’s mother, were heroin addicts at the time.  McCarthy will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
  • Opioid Epidemic and Child Abuse/Neglect.   Tragically, incidents of this kind are becoming all too common.  The nation’s opioid epidemic is having a direct impact on children.
    • In urban areas, the number of infants born drug-dependent quadrupled between 2004-2013 [3A]. In rural areas, that number increased by a factor of seven, stretching limited hospital and medical resources to the breaking point [3B].
    • As might be expected, the children of addicts are entering foster care at an alarming rate [4].  Often these children live in deplorable conditions for an extended period before the system takes notice.  Trash and vermin, illicit drugs, and drug paraphernalia fill the home.  Milk and food are absent.
  • Preventing Hot Car Deaths. Meanwhile, Bishop Curry, an 11 year old Texas boy, has invented a device that may aid in preventing the deaths of children left unattended in a vehicle [5].  When the “Oasis” detects a child inside a vehicle alone, it texts parents and police while blowing cold air until assistance arrives.  Toyota is exploring the possibilities.

Continue reading

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Beautiful in His Sight

“Face of Christ” by Claude Mellan (1649), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (PD)

Abuse frequently destroys the faith of victims, undermining our capacity to trust.  While we may reject God or despise Him, He loves and values us.  It can be difficult for us to reconcile God’s love with our experience.  But that love is real.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

Self-Worth and the Cross

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16).

As abuse victims, we were taught at an early age that we were worthless.  Our needs were insignificant.  Our feelings did not matter.  Our bodies were not our own.

These were the inferences we drew from our experience with those who rightly should have loved and cared for us.  God, however, sees things differently.  To Him, we are of infinite value.  He proved it by giving His Son, Jesus Christ over to a death on the cross for our sakes.

Our value is not governed by a predator’s opinion of us.  It was established for all time at the cross.  No one need add to it.  No one can detract from it.

God’s Unconditional Love

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps. 36: 5).

God’s love for abuse victims is limitless and unconditional.  The concept of unconditional love may be foreign to us.  We were taught that love was unreliable.  It had to be earned, over and over again.  Most of us paid a high price for a counterfeit version of love.

Sin and Our Relationship to God

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8: 1-2).

God’s love is not withdrawn when we make mistakes or fall short.  We grieve His heart at such times, but He does not turn away from or reject us.  We are His beloved children.  Even when our relationship with Him is rocky, He continues to love us immeasurably. Continue reading

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Blue on Blue, Part 2 – Despair

This is a highly personal post.  Like most abuse victims and many depression sufferers, I am well familiar with despair.  Having been grievously wounded, we cannot help but wonder whether God has turned His back on us, whether He exists at all.

There are Christian denominations which view despair as sinful.  Not all Church Fathers (influential early theologians) would, however, agree [1].  Neither do I, for that matter.  This post was written to demonstrate that the despair abuse victims experience is NOT sinful, even from that strict perspective.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” (Ps. 130: 1-2).

Depression sufferers often face condemnation from their well-meaning Christian friends.  Such condemnation is misplaced.  Depression should not be confused with despair.   And for despair to be considered “sinful”, certain conditions must be met.

Depression v. Despair

Depression can arise despite our circumstances.  Despair stems from our circumstances.  Depression is the manifestation of a medical condition.  Despair is the spiritual conclusion we draw about an eternal reality.

Both will make us unhappy.  Only despair, however, can be seen as “sin” [2].

Despair as “Sin”

When we despair – as most of us use the term today – we view our suffering as pointless, and God as powerless (or uninterested) to intervene.  This is situational despair.

For our hopelessness to qualify as “sinful”, we must have a genuine understanding of God; must be above the age of reason; must be in sound mind; and — in the strictest sense — must despair not about our circumstances, but about our Salvation.

Abuse victims (and depression sufferers) simply do not satisfy these conditions.

Judas and Suicide

Judas Iscariot’s suicide is often put forward as the classic act of despair.  The apostles had daily close contact with Christ.  Judas had experienced firsthand Christ’s infinite holiness, infinite power, and infinite love.

All these Judas is said to have rejected by his self-destructive act [3][4].  Judas viewed his betrayal of Christ as so heinous it was beyond God’s capacity to forgive.  He despaired, in other words, of his Salvation.

Abuse Contrasted

By contrast, the child who is daily abused and gives up hope is not guilty of the sin of despair.  For one thing, the child may not yet have reached the age of reason.  S/he may not, therefore, be capable of forming the necessary intent.

For another thing, a child who is abused is likely to have little or no understanding of God’s true nature.   S/he has no reason to believe in a just and loving God, so cannot be penalized for the failure to trust Him.  At worst, the child rejects a flawed image of God based on tragic experience with a hostile and painful world.

As important, the abused child despairs of his/her situation (not his/her eternal Salvation).  Hell is here and now.  If anything, unfounded accusations – in reality, out and out lies – about the child’s responsibility for the abuse and overall lack of worth may make death appear inviting.

Depression and the Will

Finally, adult or child, our capacity to sin is reduced when our will is compromised as, for instance, by the brain chemistry associated with depression.

God is hardly likely to condemn us for the sins committed against us, or the scars stemming from them.  That, at least, is the opinion of this lawyer.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15: 13).

[1]  Augustine believed that despair was not a sin.  Thomas Aquinas argued the point, seeing despair as a variant of pride.  Aquinas, however, distinguished hopelessness about our Salvation from hopelessness about our situation.  He explained that a physician might despair of curing a patient without committing sin.  Aquinas conceded that God could forgive despair, by way of a miracle.

[2]  It should be emphasized that not all Christian denominations view despair as equally sinful.  Unlike Catholics, Presbyterians and Baptists reject outright the concept of “mortal” sin, i.e. sin so serious it has the potential to cost us our Salvation.

[3]  Suicide has frequently been described as the “unpardonable” sin (Matt. 12: 31-32).  This though is an error.  According to Scripture, it is speaking against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven.  Since the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove when Christ’s divinity was revealed (Matt. 3: 16-17), the consensus now seems to be that the unpardonable sin actually signifies rejection of Christ’s offer of Salvation.

[4]  Even those who never publicly acknowledge Christ as their Savior may accept Him in their hearts, during their final moments.  “But do not forget this one thing dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3: 8).

ANYONE WITH THOUGHTS OF VIOLENCE OR SELF-HARM SHOULD SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Rejection and Missed Deadlines

Messy desk, Author Sugar Pond, Source Mess (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic ).

One way to miss deadlines.  Author Sugar Pond, Source Mess (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic ).

This post was written together with Marie Williams whose remarks are in italics.  Marie blogs at Come Fly with Me, https://mariewilliams53.wordpress.com.

Sometimes it can seem that the world is against us.  Wherever we turn, doors are shut to us.  We can never catch a break; are never cut any slack; keep running into walls.  We cannot find any support.

Sound familiar?  Rejection rules the lives of abuse victims…or does it?

Certainly, rejection played a major role in our childhood.  Let’s, however, turn that experience on its ear.  Let’s instead ask ourselves the unthinkable, whether abuse victims are trained to seek out rejection.

Cruelty v. Kindness

A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself” (Prov. 11: 17).

Treated cruelly in the past, abuse victims may tolerate cruelty from others, presuming it to be the norm or believing we deserve no better.

That is what we have experienced for much of our lives.  In childhood, we don’t know any different.  We cannot reason objectively because we do not have the mindset and the maturity to differentiate between good behaviour and bad behaviour from an abuser.  We willingly accept the crumbs we are given because for us that is better than nothing at all. 

But an older person may, also, settle for abusive behaviour.  Once your will is broken, you lose your sense of self.  Instead, you are continually looking for validation from your abuser.  Abuse and rejection can be mistaken for approval by someone whose view has become skewed.

Victims long for kindness, but may mistake it for weakness.

Though searching for love and approval, abuse victims don’t really know what those look like.  Being treated badly is what they have been conditioned to expect.  Kindness to them is something they are not worthy of.  Having for their formative years experienced abuse, that is what “feels right” to them.

Missed Deadlines

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…” (Eccl. 3: 1).

We miss the deadline for school applications; fail to supply the required documentation for scholarships.  And are rejected.

We hand class papers in late, losing points despite having agonized over content.  We take make-up exams, having missed the scheduled test date; and drop out, rather than risk receiving less than an outstanding grade [1].

We ask favors from acquaintances and strangers; recommendations from people we barely know.  And are ignored or rebuffed.

We show up late for our driver’s test, then are upset at the DMV policy not to reschedule for another 30 days.  Yet, we choose not to pursue litigation to enforce our rights, when legal representation is available and cost free [2].

I was the other way. Too eager to please.  Too early for everything, and panicked if a few minutes late or even on time! 

Chaotic Home Life

Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind…” (Prov. 11: 29).

Often, these issues can stem from a chaotic home life.  As children, we had far greater concerns than the due date of a paper.  Perhaps a parent was chronically intoxicated, an “uncle” a little too interested in our development.  Perhaps there was no food in the house, and another beating just a few hours away. Continue reading

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Mustard Seed

Mustard seeds, Author Dsaikia2015 (CC BY-SA 4.0 International) 

Abuse is among the most depraved and destructive behaviors of which human beings are capable.

Less than Trash

We were taught as children that we were inferior, inadequate, lacking. Victims were cruelly used, abandoned, and discarded. Valued as less than trash.

Those lessons sank in deep. They continue to warp victims’ reality. Now, our inner life is marred by a pervasive sense of worthlessness. Depression is rooted in this. Groundless guilt and shame (rightly belonging to our abusers) are added to the mix.

Whatever we may accomplish in this life, in our darkest moments we see ourselves as devoid of good, and our lives as meaningless. It is not though true that the world would be better off without us.

An Act of Faith

Our supposed worthlessness is the cornerstone in a system of lies which allows us to see only our faults. That fact has enormous significance for abuse victims, for it implies we have a choice in how we see ourselves: either as worthless or as the infinitely precious children of God we really are.

Many of us lost our faith, as a result of abuse. After all, God did not rescue us. We find it incomprehensible that God might cherish us, let alone send His Son, Jesus Christ, to give His life for ours. Yet, astonishingly, that is the case.

So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,” and it would obey you’ ” (Luke 17: 6).

The feeling of worthlessness is a link in the heavy chain of sin which binds us. That link was forged by our abuse. In its place, victims are offered freedom. We are invited to step out in faith by letting go of worthlessness.

To do that, we must trust God to be greater than our abusers. In point of fact, He is.

Trusting God can feel dangerous and foreign, at first. The journey of faith lasts a lifetime. But we only need a mustard seed to take the first step.

This post has been modified

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Ugliness, Part 1

Classic Comics, No. 18, “Hunchback of Notre Dame” (PD)

In the Dumas classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the hunchback (chosen the ugliest man in Paris) does not get the girl.  The pair do not live happily ever after, though they are eventually united in death. This is no real surprise. In fact, it is the tragedy on which the story hinges.

Kindness and Beauty

Both mistreated and physically deformed, Quasimodo is drawn to kindness and beauty as a moth is drawn to flame.

We sympathize with, even admire him. Our hearts are stirred.  But we do not root for the hunchback, not in the same way we root for the prince to rescue Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. Quasimodo is never seriously considered a romantic partner for Esmeralda. His love is doomed from the outset.

That fact tells us more about ourselves than it does about Quasimodo.

Exclusion

In the same way that Quasimodo was excluded from normal human society, abuse victims often feel themselves ostracized, outside the very definition of “human”. How does this happen and, equally important, how we can counteract it?

There seems a tendency by infants to favor symmetrical faces – possibly an inborn preference for the genetic “norm”. For the most part, however, we are taught the meaning of ugliness and beauty by the comments and actions of others.

First as infants then children, we see ourselves reflected in a parent or caregiver’s eyes, and are defined by that reflection. Ugliness on our part (assuming it has any basis at all) is likely to come as a surprise. It does not occur to us that we may be ugly, until others point that out.

Not infrequently, those who believe themselves ugly and worthy only of rejection are not ugly at all. Would not be considered ugly by strangers – only by the so called “loved ones” who should have been able to see past any obvious flaws. Continue reading

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Spring

Cherry blossom, Author Maksym Kozlenko (CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and…all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Ps. 96: 11-12 NIV).

Spring, the season of hope and new life, is here again.  The trees are in bloom, the first tender shoots pushing their way out of the soil, and the children decked out in their Easter finery.

Greeting cards may giddily proclaim the equinox, as if God had not ordained it.  But Spring is more than just our chance to air out the house, lay down mulch, and pull the patio furniture from storage.  It the season that points us toward resurrection, the victory of life over death.

That has special meaning for abuse victims.  We are all too familiar with death and darkness.  The battle with evil is fought (or re-fought) everyday.  It has been part and parcel of our lives for as long as we can remember.  If the abuse has passed, we continue to wrestle with its scars.

Which is why we are astonished by the beauty of daffodils.  Light and life may be foreign to us, but we long for them the way a seed buried in the ground longs for the sun it has not seen.

“ ‘He is not here; for He is risen, as He said’ ” (Matt. 28: 6).

Only one Man in history conquered sin and death.  But He conquered them – absolutely and irrevocably – for the rest of us, even the abuse victims.  Most especially the abuse victims, the outcast, the downtrodden, the poor, the abandoned and forgotten.

We commemorate Jesus Christ’s victory over sin and death at Easter.  There is no celebration more profound.  Christ arose from the tomb – once and for all time – to offer us hope and life eternal.

Little wonder that the earth, itself, sings for joy!

Happy Easter!

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

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Full and Satisfying

Tree decorated for Valentine’s Day, San Diego, CA, Source/Author Johntex (GNU Free Documentation License/CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported, CC BY 2.5 Generic)

Can the victims of abuse ever lead full and satisfying lives? That depends, to a large extent, on how we define “full and satisfying”.

There is no question that abuse can kill. Those of us who survive may be left with lifelong physical and emotional scars. Abuse can leave victims struggling with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Abuse can turn sex into a weapon, in the desperate search for love. Abuse can lead to self-medication, with drugs or alcohol.

But that is not the whole story. Not by a long shot.

“…even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.”

– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning described his experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp. He concluded that human beings strive for purpose, and that – whatever our circumstances – we have the ability to give life meaning through love, work, and suffering.

At first glance, that may not make sense. Oh, most of us would agree that life can be given meaning by romantic love, perhaps brotherly love. After some thought, we might be persuaded that life can be given meaning by work – even tedious or menial work, if done to support the ones we love.

Yet suffering? Not such a stretch as it might seem. We recognize the concept of sacrifice in a noble cause (love of God, love of country, etc.), and sacrifice for the sake of a beloved. Mothers who have lost a child will understand that their grief is, in part, a testament to that child.

How does this relate to abuse victims? Well, we have certainly suffered. That our suffering was not to any purpose makes it all the more cruel. We were innocent victims. Blameless.

And that is the place to start… Continue reading

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Nice

“Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

O, Holy Night

The victims of abuse do not, for the most part, think of themselves as nice. Not “really” nice. Not white glove, blue hair nice. Not church twice a week nice. Not first tier, upper crust, silver tea tray nice.

We know what goes on behind the lace curtains. We have seen the underbelly of life, the face of evil hidden from public view.  We have been told we are worthless, and treated as if we were. Beaten, spit upon, handled in ways that left us feeling dirty.

But good manners are not the measure of our humanity, whether we have or lack them. Salvation does not require good breeding and a sterling reputation. The silver tea trays and white gloves are irrelevant.

It was not “nice” for Jesus Christ to associate with tax collectors. It was not “nice” for Him to heal lepers or hemorrhaging women. Lepers (Lev. 13: 45) and bleeding women (Lev. 15: 19) were, in fact, considered ritually unclean. It was certainly not “nice” for Jesus to pardon prostitutes.

It may have been compassionate, even merciful.  But it was not “nice”.

What Christ offered these desperate people was redemption, transformation beyond anything that could be accomplished through worldly means alone. For that He was castigated, and ultimately crucified. Continue reading

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