Local, politics, Social Justice

Holy Week starts off with acts of Christian terrorism

not really

(not really)

This morning a guy bombed a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin.

Then another guy took out his gun and went postal on all his friends at Oikos “University” in Oakland, a Dominionist institution that claims to provide “a Christian education that is based on solid Christian doctrine and ideology. Our main goal is to foster spiritual Christian leaders who abide by God’s intentions and to expand God’s nation through them.” That’s some scary shit.

“Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus

Update April 3: KCHO reports the shooting in Oakland is “the deadliest school shooting in California history.” And The Post Crescent reports the PP bombing suspect has been identified, found, and arrested.


Public transit #fail

I’m never riding the bus again, nor recommending it to anybody. I was standing at the stop in front of city hall and the guy didn’t stop for me. He said I was outside the circle of intent even though I was 5′ away from the pole and there was no one else on the whole block. I ran 4 blocks on my sprained ankle to catch the bus at 2nd & Salem and the driver argued with me and said it was my own damn fault for not standing on the curb.

Fortunately it was a shift change or he wouldn’t have let me on.

Never riding the bus again.


Public transportation is good for your health

So, gas is expensive because Gaddafi won’t leave. I think the liberty of the Libyan people is worth it, however, and I generally get annoyed when the bulk of the media coverage is about money paid for fuel rather than lives paid for liberty. But I was listening to NPR yesterday and they were talking about the benefits of high fuel prices, and it made me want to pick up one of those free bus passes for downtown workers, so I did.

I only fill up the Rabbit once a month, but I think this could in theory save us about $50/mo. I can’t stop at Dutch Bros. on my way to work, so that might help, too. Other benefits of more people using public transportation are supposed to be fewer particulates in the air, and average weight loss of 20 lb. because of the walking to the bus stop part of the equation. Plus I get to sit and play with my iPhone and catch up on the morning’s news.

I started the morning off with a nightmare about missing the bus, in which I ran back and forth between two stops trying to catch the bus instead of just waiting for the next one. When the bus was finally in view, my legs were suddenly paralyzed. Lesson learned from the dream: stay put and wait for the next bus.

In real life, it was harder than it seemed.

Around 8 AM it started storming outside. “This is going to be fun,” I thought. But I wanted to go through with my plans, as a proof-of-concept, to show that this would work for me.

I ended up 20 minutes early to the bus stop, since I read the schedule wrong. It turns out the bus I was aiming for dead-ends on the north end of the route instead of turning around.  It was cold and wet, and the wind blew my umbrella inside out, but I reminded myself people in colder and wetter places use public transportation all the time. Think Portland, Chicago, New York.

The ride was nice enough. The heater was working very well. I got to catch up on some Twitter and Facebook and argue politics with my friends.  Once I got downtown, I realized I had misread the schedule in another regard, as the bus actually stops and sits for a while at the 2nd & Salem transportation center at 9:50 rather than continuing on down Broadway. It took me a few minutes to figure this out, though, and when I did I got off and walked to work from there.  All in all, not a bad start for a transit newb.

Update: The ride home didn’t go as smoothly. Well, the ride was fine from 2nd & Salem, but getting to 2nd & Salem was the hard part. See my follow-up post.

Local, Parenthood

Cause of death

Action news reported tonight that the coroner’s report was released today. The medical examiner confirmed Lydia Schatz died from rhabdomyolysis resulting from the torture and abuse she suffered at the hands of her parents, who whipped their children with 1/4″ plumbing supply line because it was endorsed by fundamentalist preacher Michael Pearl as the biblical “rod” most appropriate for chastening your children.

Today is Lydia’s 8th birthday. Happy birthday, little one.

Local, Parenthood

The Devil Who Made Them Do It…

I’ve seen many episodes of Law & Order in which persons in authority or otherwise powerful positions such as authors, preachers, TV & radio personalities, etc., were considered just as responsible as the actual perpetrators who did what they told them to.

My wife found a blog in which a woman was commenting on the Schatz case. This same woman had commented on other cases which bore eerie similarities. Pretty soon, I found more mention of the plastic tubing and the Pearls, and I was able to track down this confession from Debi Pearl, direct from the website of the “ministry” that brought you Train Up a Child:

The rod we speak of is a plumbing supply line that can be bought at any hardware store or large department store. It is a slim, flexible, plastic tubing that supplies water to sinks, and toilets. Ask for “¼-inch supply line.” They cost less than one dollar. I always give myself one swat before I swat the child to remind myself how much force to exert. It stings the skin without bruising or damaging tissue. It’s a real attention-getter. Michael demonstrates its use in our new Seminar videos.

I’ve seen other blogs mention the welts and bruises this device can leave.

I hope Michael Ramsey finds this.

Local, Parenthood

Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows…

The most in-depth coverage I found so far was posted on the Paradise Post overnight. I have included it below for preservation because the Post seems to have a short news cycle, archiving their articles rather quickly to a section that requires user registration. The good news is that the other child is expected to survive.

Ridge parents arrested in child’s death
By Trevor Warner, Assistant Managing Editor
Posted: 02/09/2010 01:00:00 AM PST

Two Paradise residents were arrested after their 7-year-old adopted child died early Saturday morning.

Kevin Schatz, 46, and Elizabeth Schatz, 42, were booked into Butte County Jail on murder and child abuse charges. Police responded to the 500 block of Crestwood Drive at about 1 a.m. after receiving a report from Elizabeth of a female juvenile who was not breathing. Officers arrived to find the child in full cardiac arrest.

The responding officer, Tim Denecochea, performed CPR and the girl, identified as Lydia Schatz, was transported to Feather River Hospital where she began breathing again with the aid of life support. The girl was to be transferred to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento via LifeFlight, but bad weather prevented a helicopter from making the flight. Lydia was being rushed by ground to the Chico Municipal Airport to catch a plane but died en route. She was pronounced dead at Enloe Hospital.

Paradise Police Sgt. Steve Rowe confirmed that the girl was allegedly beaten for mispronouncing a word. Police determined the incident was a result of child abuse and upon a follow-up investigation, police discovered an 11-year-old girl, Lydia’s adopted sister, in the same residence with significant injuries. Rowe could not elaborate on the elder girl’s injuries, though he said the girl did not suffer cardiac arrest. He said the girl does have kidney failure and originally was not expected to survive. However, the 11-year-old has improved and is expected to survive, he said. Despite her improved state, Rowe said she is still listed in critical condition.

District Attorney Mike Ramsey said the girls were allegedly beaten with a 15″ piece of flexible plastic tubing commonly found in toilet tanks. There were seven other children in the house—the 3-year-old adopted sister and the Schatz’s six biological children ranging in ages from 8 to 16.

The three adopted children were adopted from the Republic of Liberia in Africa three years ago, said Ramsey. He said authorities are investigating how the adoptions were made and through what agency. The remaining youths were taken into protective custody and released to Child Support Services.

Ramsey said the remaining children have indicated that they sustained similar discipline with similar instruments.

The children were being home schooled and had no affiliation with the Paradise Unified School District. Ramsey said the children were being home schooled through a Christian home school organization. He did not know the name of the organization at press time. There were no reports of prior child abuse history with the family. The incident is still under investigation.

Ramsey said that since this is an alleged homicide, the Schatzes are facing a life sentence. According to a Dec. 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record story, Kevin Schatz set up 50 Internet Wi-Fi locations throughout Paradise and Chico through employment at Community Network Wi-Fi. A Paradise Post interview with the Schatz family in April 2007 indicated the adopted girls were named, from oldest to youngest, Princess, Koko, and Blessing. Princess was 8 years old at the time, Koko—whose name appears to have been changed to Lydia—was 5, and Blessing was three months old. The last time the county saw a case like this was in 1982, when a 3-year-old was beaten to death by the parents, Ramsey said.

He said cases like this are wrenching for everyone involved. The district attorney’s office is assisting police with the investigation. An autopsy will be conducted Wednesday, said Butte County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dennis Cooley. He said if it is proven that the child died of cardiac arrest, he would have to have a doctor explain how it is possible for a 7-year-old girl to be beaten into a heart attack.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to call the Paradise Police Department at 872-6241. The Post will update the story as new information is made available.

Local, Parenthood, Reformed Theology

Corporal Punishment and the Two Kingdoms

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:3-4, ESV)

Can we all please take a moment to acknowledge the elephant in the room?

In an example of a contrast that could not be starker, as the Saints and former San Diego Charger Drew Brees were reinforcing their closing lead over the Colts this evening, on the other channel, the district attorney was on the local news to express his sorrow over the tragedies that have come upon these children: first, that it happened, and second, that they cannot all be kept together in order to support each other through these horrific times. He also tipped his hand regarding the county’s case against the parents: they believe that the “cumulative effect” of repeated, habitual corporal discipline in the same location can, over time, cause toxic amounts of potassium to be released into small bodies, resulting in cardiac arrest. But they are still waiting on the coroner’s report to be sure.

On its own, this is one thing. But add to it the fact that another of their lovely children is simultaneously hospitalized in critical condition, from child abuse injuries. Action News’ Debby Cobb reported late last night that she had taken a turn for the worse, and late tonight said her “condition is deteriorating”, so please keep her in your prayers.

We know this family. Our hearts are broken. We have been to their home and benefited from their hospitality. The meek mother and daughters were welcome guests at Ava’s baby shower. Their love for their children was apparent. Out of respect for the family, we don’t want to speculate. We weren’t there the other night when it all went down, and under the law, they are innocent until proven guilty and condemned by a jury of their peers. God has not made me a judge, and I am only reporting what was released to the media outlets by the police and district attorney. But I need to talk about how Reformed theology speaks to this situation, and what we can learn from it, and how we all ought to change our hearts going forward, according to Scripture and the Confessions.

There is an unfortunate tendency for Christians to think that they can do no wrong, and that everything bad that happens to them is not of God, but is a conspiracy or attack from the devil or the so-called Secular World (a.k.a. liberals and New-Agers). It is this issue that I want to address, as it relates to evangelical Christians in general, especially in a backwoods corner such as the north valley. I want to stress that I am not speaking about the particular situation I have mentioned, other than the fact that it brings these sentiments to light in all those acquainted with it.

First, and most importantly, God is sovereign, and he is not surprised by untimely deaths. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 10:29-31, ESV). We must take comfort in the fact that everything is working according to his perfect plan, and that this crazy world in which we are living is in the end going to prove to be the best of all possible worlds, in that God will get more glory in the end because things happened this way than we would if they happened differently.

Second, I want to talk about the Reformed doctrine of the two kingdoms, which topic will take up the remainder of this post. This doctrine comes from the Scriptural teaching that God has not only sovereignly ordained the government of the Church, but he has also sovereignly ordained the governments of nations, states, counties, and cities.

We confess:

It is the duty of the people to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their obedience to him: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted; much less hath the Pope any power or jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and least of all to deprive them of their dominions or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever. (WCF 23.4)

Civil magistrates being set up by God for the ends aforesaid; subjection, in all lawful things commanded by them, ought to be yielded by us in the Lord, not only for wrath, but for conscience’ sake; and we ought to make supplications and prayers for kings and all that are in authority, that under them we may live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty. (1689 LBC 24.3)

The Westminster Confession goes on in chapters 30 and 31 to describe the distinct spheres of the church officers civil magistrate. Luther wrote about these two “kingdoms” in his book On Secular Authority, but I make the following quotes from his sermon on 1 Peter 2:1: “It is this way: Our sins being blotted out through the blood of Christ, we need not to make remuneration or render satisfaction for them; we are children of grace and enjoy forgiveness. Nevertheless, inherent sin is not entirely purged out, or mortified…” (Martin Luther, Sermon for the Third Sunday after Easter; 1 Peter 2:1). In the Lutheran view, even if the entire world were to be converted to Christianity, with remission already being made for their sins, their sins would still be in need of mortification. The world would still be a world full of sinners, and for this reason, a civil government is still necessary to keep us in line.

“Peter goes on to say: ‘Be subject to every ordinance of man…whether to the king…or unto governors’; again, ‘Servants, be in subjection to your masters…also to the froward.’ How is it consistent with royal citizenship in a celestial country to be a pilgrim on earth? How can we live here with wives and children, houses and lands, and being citizens under a temporal government, and yet not be at home? There is a distinction here which, as before said, was at first difficult for the beloved apostles themselves to understand. But to Christians, especially those of today, it should be clear. Christ and the apostles do not, in this teaching, design the rejection of external government and human authority—what Peter here terms ordinances of men. No, they permit these to remain as they are; moreover, they enjoin us to submit to and make use of them…” (ibid.)

We “make use of them” in various means, in that they make daily life function and offer us protection from wicked men, but also in that the laws and the enforcement of those laws help keep our own sinful natures in check and help us to mortify our sin.

“Every Christian, be he lord or servant, prince or subject, should conduct himself as befits his station, using in trust whatever God has given him—dominion and subjects, house and home, wife and children, money and property, meat and drink. He is to regard himself solely as a guest of earth, as one eating his morsel of bread or taking his lunch in an inn; he must conduct himself in this earthly harbor as a pious guest.” (ibid.)

Christian, do you live as a polite guest in this nation? …in this state? …in this county? …in this city? Or are you constantly at odds with it?

Now let us go straight to the source, with this decidedly un-American section from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Romans 13:1-7, ESV

Paul clearly teaches that if one is imprisoned, it is more likely that the one is deserving of chastisement than that he is unlawfully imprisoned. I am not denying that false imprisonment occurs, merely that it is the exception, not the rule. If Paul, who himself was imprisoned innumerable times for the gospel, said this about the tyrannical government of the pagan Roman Empire in the first century, how much more in this modern, post-Christian government, fashioned after the Reformed polity with distribution of powers, in which freedom of worship has been established and the slaves have been emancipated.

As it concerns the situation at hand: a lot of people in the local home school clubs are in flat-out denial. Pastors are declaring from the pulpit that this couple is being falsely accused merely for being “salt and light.” On the other side, local newspaper website comment threads are filling up with people blaming CPS and the System.

But if you want to know who to blame, all you have to do is look in the mirror.

When bad things happened to so-called good people in the New Testament, Jesus said, “Do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you all will likewise perish” (Luke 13:4b-5, ESV). In saying this, Jesus declared that all Adam’s offspring are likewise guilty and deserving of all the bad things that happen to everybody else. (This is also why those false teachers who claim that Haiti got what she deserved should be trembling in their boots.)

Christians are still corrupt. Left to our own devices, we are prone to all kinds of aberrations. In order to mortify sin, believers must submit themselves to a covenant community, where elders can practice church discipline and call them to account for their errors. The same fundamentalist independent spirit that causes Christians to refuse to submit themselves to the covenant community is manifest in the broad anti-denominationalism which causes pastors to seek to be accountable to no one. It can also be manifest in some families which home school not out of necessity (e.g. missionaries, farmers, special needs, or those who, like my sister’s family, have lived out in the middle of nowhere where there are no schools), but because they believe they know better than professional educators and the government. Look—professional educators with a five-year college education are necessary for this simple reason: kids are a handful. Moreover, this constant opposition to the government needs to be tempered with this fact: our government was structured to resemble Presbyterian polity, under the premise that we are all corrupt, but, when we get together, we can hold each other accountable through checks and balances. Raising kids is hard, especially in isolation. In a school, teachers are trained to spot the signs, so that you and your children can get the help you need before things get out of hand. In a church, seminary-educated pastors and elders—even Sunday school teachers—are likewise trained to spot the signs and doctrinal errors and bring the necessary intervention.

This fundamentalist, narcissistic spirit seems to be the spirit of the age. R. Scott Clark writes in Recovering the Reformed Confessions, “The purpose of the fable of Narcissus is to warn of the danger of self-absorbtion and to warn against mistaking subjective experience for objective reality” (p. 17). Many Christians use the false logic that says, “I am a Christian; I think ____; therefore, ____ is Christian, and anti-____ is anti-Christian.” Along these lines there is the potential for people to harp on their own interpretation of one portion of Scripture and run with it, rather than taking the written revelation as a whole. For example:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6, ESV).

  1. This is not an absolute promise. We all know someone or have been someone who in fact grew up in the covenant community but walked away from the faith in their adulthood, so God-given natural revelation shows us that there are limits to the possible meanings of this text.
  2. This is not actually what the Bible says. The text does not include “should go” in the Hebrew, and the verse is more likely a warning rather than a promise; it should probably be rendered: “If you train up a child to go after his own way, when he is old he will be stuck in it.” In other words, if you teach a child to follow his own path, as it were, he will stay on that path. With this reading, this verse speaks more about the narcissism I have mentioned than to the particular home school ethic which has embraced it.

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die” (Prov. 23:13, ESV).

  1. Consider that in Exodus 21:20 the Holy Spirit acknowledges that this same rod can be lethal in the wrong hands.
  2. We interpret the Old Testament with the New. Whatever Jesus or his brothers or the apostles say about a subject takes precedence over what was said in the Old Testament:

And Jesus did say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42, NASB), and, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40, ESV). I think of the scene in Mel Gibson’s Passion, where the Roman soldiers were flogging our Lord and Maker. Could I be one of those soldiers, methodically counting each lash out loud as his back splits open and his sacred blood spills out on the ground…

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a, ESV).