Saturday, April 30, 2005

Florida Foster Care Fiasco

Dear All,
This story falls into the category of: Are you kidding me?

Here are the facts as reported in the :
- 13 year old girl
- neglected or abused by parents
- in foster care
- repeated runaway
- now pregnant
- talked with case worker
- cannot afford to support a baby
- wants abortion
- psychologist finds no mental problems
- Florida judge says no

And here is the "Are you kidding me?" bit:
The state of Florida is trying to argue that the girl is not able to make an informed medical decision because she is too immature. So they are going to force her to become a mother. Because she is too immature to decide to have an abortion. The logic must be, "You don't need as much maturity to be a mother as you do in order to decide not to be one." Excuse me?!?

But this is directly counter to the argument that anti-abortion activists ususally make. Usually we hear, "Since you were mature enough to decide to have unprotected sex, you must be mature enough to accept the consequences of that choice." Apparantly that line of reasoning wasn't working out. So someone decided to switch from the "You are mature enough" argument to the "You are too immature" argument. Both of these arguments, by the way, are grounded in nothing more than a political agenda, neither in compassion for the unborn baby or the mother, nor a desire to celebrate the abundant life God gives.

What is my reaction to all of this? Well, my reaction is that more Christian families should should open their homes for foster care and adoption, and states should do everything possible to make it easier for people to adopt. Christians are called to a life of compassion and grace, not moralizing and judgement. The
list of children waiting for adoption is long. I mean, it is long. I wish there was as much passion in the adoption debate as there is in the abortion debate. If we are truly "pro-life," we are going to make is as easy as possible for healthy families to adopt and provide foster care for children in need.

A 13 year old girl in foster care wants an abortion because she knows she cannot be a mother for this baby. What is the Christian response? We can choose to be a "NO" or a "YES" for this girl. We say either "NO abortion for you" and slam the door in her face, or perhaps we say "YES, I will welcome your baby into my home and care for her or him as my own child," and open the door to the rest of her life.

L'chaim, Andy B.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Saint Stuart

Stuart Whitney Posted by Hello

Jesus said, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."

Dear Friends,
Reverend Stuart Whitney died last Tuesday afternoon. (You'll have to create an account with the Kansas City Star to view the article I have linked.) At last, this man, who has for decades been laying down his life for his friends, can rest. There will never be another Stuart. The cancer that robbed him of his body robbed him neither of his passion for the gospel nor his compassion for people in need. We are blessed to have known him, and to have walked the journey alongside him for a little while. Please pray; gratitude for the life of Stuart and healing for the grief in the hearts of the ones who love him.

Stuart decided to start a homeless shelter 20 or so years ago, and was not going to let a little thing like Kansas City's zoning laws stop him. When winter temperatures fell into single digits, Stuart opened the doors of reStart without the approval of the city. And because it was the right thing to do, no one stopped him. Stuart worked tirelessly for justice for the homeless, the hungry, the impoverished - anyone anywhere who had a need Stuart could meet, he worked to get it met. Grounded in scripture, shaped by the church, and formed by his own experiences with injustice and poverty, his compassion for his friends was unmatched.

And we all were his friends, you know? When I sat across the table over coffee, talking with Stuart, I knew that in that moment I was the most important person in the world to him. That's the way he treated everyone. No greater love. He was discipleship incarnate.

Stuart, we will miss you. We owe you so much. How many lives did you touch? How many broken souls did you help get put back together? How many people would not be who they are today without your impact? I want you to know that there are a bunch of young clergy who are ready to pick up where you left off. You go ahead and rest, we'll take it from here.

Grace and Peace,
Andy B.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Happy Birthday to ... ewww!

Her parents are so proud. Posted by Hello

Dear Rainbow Dwellers,
I really just wanted to see how easy it is for me to post pictures within my blog entries, so I chose this lovely photo of my cousin Amanda celebrating at a recent family birthday party in order to see if posting pictures is in the realm of my ability. On an unrelated note, I would like to take a moment and thank Amanda for being who she is.
The good news is, it seems to be pretty painless to post pictures. A whole new world is open before me!
Andy B.

Loose tooth after ... Posted by Hello

Loose tooth before ... Posted by Hello

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Not Just Numbers from Iraq

This is from the latest Christian Century, which cites the Guardian, March 19 as its source:

Toll of the Iraq war:
- 1,512 U.S. troops killed in Iraq
- 1,157 combat deaths
- 355 U.S. noncombat deaths
- 11,285 troops wounded
- 17,053 - 19,422 estimated civilian casualties since the war started, according to Iraq Body Count
- 189 foreign nationals kidnapped since October 2003, 47 still captive
- 170,000 coalition troops as of March 2003
- 175,000 coalition troops as of March 2005
- 18,000 estimated insurgents
- 1,000 estimated foreign insurgents

This is from me: Every one of the numbers represents a sacred human life, with parents, pet peves, dreams and desires, passions and personality quirks. Every single digit on that list is a child of God, and therefore of immeasurable worth. This is not a list of numbers, it is a list of souls.
AJ Muste said, "There is no way to peace, peace is the way." Marla Ruzicka said, "It is a luxury for people to say war is bad when they are in San Francisco. ... You can't say something is bad unless you come in with ways to fix it." Dwight Eisenhower said, "I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."
War is not an abstract concept; real people get hurt and bleed and even die. Peace is not an abstract concept, either; real people survive and live and even flourish.
Make peace today, so that there will be no more lists of not-just-numbers tomorrow.
Grace and peace,
Andy B.

Monday, April 18, 2005

My Hero

Marla Ruzicka was killed Saturday in Iraq. I never heard of her before I heard that she was killed. She is now my hero.

28 years old. By herself. Going door to door in Afghanistan and then Iraq, assessing the damage done. A total of $50 to her name. Helping the innocent was her thing, and she was doing it, and had been for a while. She started an organization called CIVIC Worldwide in order to continue to do what needed to be done. Please visit their website. It is remarkable. Watch the Nightline piece done a couple of years ago about CIVIC. If you do not weep openly, something is wrong with you.

Marla Ruzicka is my hero. She wanted the world to change, and went about changing it. Before any relief agency of any kind was organized and operating in Iraq, Marla was there. She was visiting families, playing with orphaned kids, listening to grieving parents lament, confronting military bureaucracy, offering love and compassion from a seemingly inexhaustible well. She said, "No one can heal the wounds that have been inflicted; you just have to recognize that people have been harmed."

I am nothing. My big three story house, my two cars, my enormous salary, my closet full of clothes, my fridge full of food. It's dust in the wind. I can sit here in affluence and comfort and bitch and moan about the problems of the world all I want, but I know I'm not going to actually do anything worthwhile.

Marla Ruzicka did, and she got killed because of it.

What would I die for?

God help me, I don't know if there is anything.

I thank God for Marla Ruzicka. I pray that I can be like her. God give me her strength. Her passion. Her unwavering commitment to what is good and right and peaceful. Marla Ruzicka is my hero.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

How Much Tolerance is Too Much?

When do I draw the line?

This question rattles me a little bit, and I ask it a lot. There is a point at which tolerance becomes apathy. Where is that point?

My daughter Cori has a classmate I'll call Debbie. Debbie was at Cori's birthday party. As far as I knew, they were the best of friends. A couple of days ago, I asked Cori if she wanted to invite Debbie over for a play date. Cori's expression immediately constricted into her famous "I-am-very-angry" face. Her brow furrowed, her lips pursed, her eyes flashed. With seven-year-old fists on seven-year-old hips, she said quite firmly, "No! She's not my friend any more."

I, being Mr. Tolerant, wanted to give Debbie a fair hearing. "What happened?" I asked.

Cori said, "She is too rough at recess, and when I got hurt she laughed at me."

Now I know that compassion deficiency is not uncommon in the first grade, but Debbie had reached a boundary with Cori. It was clear in Cori's mind - "She's not my friend any more" becaue she laughed at me when I was hurt. Cori could not tolerate this heartlessness, and acted accordingly.

Oh, that I could be so certain! Life is complicated, and it is very difficult to separate personalities from actions. How many "Debbies" are there, whom I must love as Jesus commands, but whose actions I cannot tolerate? And when you substitute the word "beliefs" for "actions," it gets even more tricky, doesn't it?

My prayer is that I can learn from my daughter on this one. There has to be a time when a person is "not my friend any more" because of his or her hatefulness, heartlessness, prejudice, or discriminatory ideology. Where do I draw that line?

Maybe I can apply Cori's recess test. So, if you are too rough at recess and you laugh at people when they are hurt, I'm not going to be inviting you over for a play date any time soon.

Grace and Peace,
Andy B.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I Have Officially Seen Everything

Hoo, boy! Something is seriously out of whack with the planetary alignment. In the past two days I have read two columns by conservative commentators that have really blown my mind. If what these two guys have to say is actually true, something is going on that is way more freaky than anyone could have predicted.

Today, Jonah Goldberg wrote a column claiming an issue for conservatives that, I have to say, I have never really heard claimed by them before. Listen to this: conservatives are now ... (are you sitting down?) ... environmentalists. That's right, according to Mr. Goldberg, being rich makes you environmentally friendly. As if any of us actually know what happens to our garbage after we put it on the curb, let alone care! And I don't even want to mention the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, do I? When forests are bulldozed to make room for new neighborhoods of half-million dollar homes on a daily basis - this is environmentalism? Give me a break.

But even more bizaare was yesterday, when David Brooks tried to make a claim that conservatives are actually ... (and if you weren't sitting down before, you should definitely do so now) ... diverse! Now I actually agree with Mr. Brooks' claim here; it's what entering the rainbow is all about. But Brooks says it as if it is a brand new idea he is introducing to the world. Furthermore, he entreats liberals to claim their own diversity as a way to make themselves stronger, since it has evidently worked so well for the conservatives. The kicker is, of course, that diversity is now and always has been a core value of liberalism. I am grateful that Mr. Brooks is just now discovering that conservatives are a diverse group, but I could have told him that a long time ago. So don't try to "introduce" liberals to the concept, please. When it comes to diversity, we pretty much already know that song. (It is even hard for me to use the labels "conservative" and "liberal," as I have in this entry, because doing so paints with too wide a brush stroke. I do so merely for the sake of simplicity.)

Somebody tell me what is going on! With environmentalism and diversity now being claimed by more conservative types, what will be next? Might conservatives begin supporting Head Start? Maybe public schools will be "discovered" next by the political right. One morning, a conservative columnist is going to write, "Hey, I just noticed that there are poor people in our country who need help!" If that happens, we will then know for certain that the planets are lining up funny! At least, by noticing their own diversity, Mr. Brooks and other conservatives may start to notice the rest of the world, too.
Grace and Peace,
Andy B.