Month: January 2014

NM judge redefines assisted suicide as ‘aid in dying’

A New Mexico judge has ruled that terminally ill patients have a right to “aid in dying” under the state’s constitution but that such actions are not assisted suicide.

You read that correctly. 

“Such deaths are not considered ‘suicide’ under New Mexico’s assisted suicide statute,” Judge Nan Nash of the state’s 2nd District Court wrote in his ruling, according to a Los Angeles Times account. Assisting in a suicide is a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico. 

One of the plaintiffs in the case is a 50-year-old uterine cancer survivor who underwent aggressive chemotherapy in 2011 and began weighing whether or not she wanted to continue living or seek a “more peaceful and gentle death.” 

Translation: I might wish to check out early if this gets worse, but I would want someone else to do the dirty work. 

Obviously, the judge is contemptuous of the law on the books and has essentially mocked it with semantic trickery. 

G.K. Chesterton said it well: “We are always near the breaking-point when we care only for what is legal and nothing for what is lawful. Unless we have a moral principle about such delicate matters as marriage and murder, the whole world will become a welter of exceptions with no rules.” 

He’s spot on. We’ve lost our referent, which was a Judeo-Christian ethos as the basis for law and what is lawful and therefore legal. 

Attorneys for the county and the state AG’s office rightly noted that calling “assisted suicide ‘aid in dying’ does not make the conduct so defined any less an assisted suicide.” 

Yet the spokesman for another of the plaintiffs, Compassion & Choices, shamelessly and absurdly claimed that “Patients who choose aid in dying find the suggestion that they are committing ‘suicide’ deeply offensive, stigmatizing and inaccurate.” 

So it appears we are set free to redefine terms to our liking, and the “we” here includes judges with great social capital. Abortion is now “reproductive health care,” assisted suicide is “aid in dying” or “death with dignity,” homosexual marriage is “marriage equality,” etc. 

Relativism has long been wreaking havoc on behavior. Now it’s working its deleterious charm on language too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prominent Hispanic leaders Martinez and Rangel receive tribute

Valeriano Martinez and David Rangel, two pastors prominent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area Hispanic community, died last month.

Martinez, pastor of the Hispanic Mission at First Baptist Church in Roanoke, died Jan. 20. He was 68.

Martinez was born in San Benito in 1946 and finished high school while in the United States Army. After leaving the military, he worked as an aircraft mechanic in Grand Prairie for 34 years.

He was converted in 1987 at Primera Iglesia Bautista of Grand Prairie and was later licensed and ordained there, eventually serving as the church’s associate pastor.

In preparation for ministry, Martinez attended the Baptist Hispanic Seminary in Dallas for two semesters and took courses at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He was also very involved with Bible Study Fellowship International.

In addition to his role at First Baptist Roanoke, Martinez served as chaplain for the Roanoke police and fire departments.

Martinez was known for his evangelistic and missions fervor. Over the years, he planned and led multiple mission trips to Mexico.

“I asked Bro. Martinez to take charge of the mission trips to Monterrey, Mexico, and he did a fantastic job organizing and planning everything,” said Domingo Ozuna, former pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista in Grand Prairie. “They love him in Mexico.”

Martinez and his wife planted the Hispanic Mission at First Baptist Church in Roanoke in the summer of 2009. It was through this ministry that he became more involved with the Tarrant County Baptist Association and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Widely respected among the Hispanic community, Martinez was known as a man committed to the gospel and to his family, friends said.

“Indeed we are going to miss him, but God is enjoying his presence in heaven right now,” Ozuna stated.

On his church’s website, Martinez said his life mission was “to be used by God to preach the gospel and reach the lost for Jesus Christ in my community and to the ends of the earth.”

Martinez is survived by Lupe, his wife of 44 years, five children and 10 grandchildren.

Rangel, assistant pastor at Lakeview Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, died Jan. 29 after an extended illness. He was 69.

A native Texan, Rangel served on staff at a number of Baptist churches, including Iglesia Bautista Central before coming to serve at Lakeview in late 2011 under Pastor Charles Kendall.

In addition to his church role, Rangel had also served as chaplain for the Dallas Police Department, which Ozuna described as a ministry of “taking Christ to the scene of a crisis.”

“David was well loved and respected by his extended family, peers, church and friends who are legion,” Kendall stated. “He has been a very effective gospel preacher, pastor, church starter, missionary and witness for King Jesus.”

Martha Bochenko, a member at Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, participated in several mission trips with Rangel.

“I met David because I was looking for translators for our dental mission trip to Guatemala,” Bochenko said. “He invited himself along and became the team’s chaplain and preacher to the local church there. He also became a good dental assistant to my husband and post-op instructor.” So much so, that Dr. Bochenko enlisted Rangel to extract a tooth on one occasion, and then nicknamed him “Pastor Doctor David.”

Rangel, who worked in restaurant management at El Chico before surrendering to ministry in 1974, planted churches in Antiqua, Seagoville, Cedar Temple and Grand Prairie. Initially a mission, the Grand Prairie church met in the facilities of Inglewood Baptist before relocating on the east side of the city.

Among many good qualities, friends recall that Rangel was known as a man with a passion for missions and evangelism.

“David had a passion for anything concerning Jesus and teaching people the gospel,” Bochenko stated. “He loved to tell strangers, teach young pastors and deacons. We would wake up in the hotel and he would already be out witnessing to the staff.”

In addition to participating in mission trips, Rangel trained young pastors as they prepared to take overseas trips with their churches.

“We have a mutual friend who is going to Guatemala to teach this year. David had been giving him suggestions and instruction on the community there and what they need to hear from the Scriptures,” Bochenko said. “He never stopped.”

As his health declined, Rangel’s family moved him to hospice, where he told an attending nurse that he was at peace and that his “bags were packed.” He shared his faith with her, along with a letter she read at the funeral describing his confident hope in Jesus Christ.

“David Rangel was noted for his humor, his passion for the truth of God’s Word, his love of preaching and his persistent personal and door to door witness,” Kendall added. “His passing leaves a huge void that is felt by all who knew him.”

“David was a Baptist’s Baptist,” added Tammi Ledbetter, a friend from Grand Prairie. “He cared passionately about what should be foremost in the mind of every Southern Baptist—drawing people to Jesus Christ with every breath he took. The standing room only crowd at his funeral was a reminder of that lifelong commitment as Hispanics, African-Americans and Anglos gathered to pay tribute to a brother who got it right.”

Rangel is survived by Estela, his wife of 51 years, along with daughters Laura Medrano and Carol Lopez, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Book Review: “Dying to Grow: Reclaiming the Heart for Evangelism in the Local Church”

Is your church’s pursuit of growth actually a silent killer lurking beneath a façade of health and well-being? Has the pursuit of nickels and noses obscured a biblical focus on kingdom growth through evangelism?

These are questions Nathan Lorick asks in his book “Dying to Grow: Reclaiming the Heart for Evangelism in the Local Church” (Aneko Press, paperback, 141 pages.) Lorick, director of evangelism at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and a former Texas pastor, tells how as a younger man he was awakened to find himself pursuing “the ministerial version of the American dream,” valuing worldly definitions of church success over real, biblical, Christ-centered obedience and Great Commission focus.

With plenteous biblical and real-life examples, Lorick shows how these “fatal attractions” of church growth ensnare well-meaning pastors and what the antidote is. Quite simply, as Lorick writes in the first chapter, “Churches today need to find their way back to the gospel by ignoring the newest self-help church growth books and following the example of the fastest growing and most effective church that history has ever seen—the church in Acts.”

Lorick urges church leaders to become desperate for God, to keep the gospel in focus, to eschew the myths of worldly church “success,” to pray fervently for the lost, to be burdened by the gospel mandate, and to lead local churches to share in that burden.

The end of the book includes two appendixes providing practical suggestions for implementing evangelistic endeavors in churches.

In the book’s foreword, LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer notes that “fewer and fewer unchurched individuals are visiting churches, necessitating Christians living out a missional, incarnational faith on a daily basis.”

With that in view, “Dying to Grow” provides a much-needed prescription for what ails too many congregations.

When it comes to the “culture war,” Baptists could learn from the English Puritans

A cursory glance at the state of cultural morality in America is disheartening. The Defense of Marriage Act has been labeled unconstitutional. A healthcare reform act is requiring all businesses, no matter the religious beliefs of the owners, to offer access to abortion-inducing drugs. Same-sex marriage is being legalized in numerous states. The list could go on.

If we are honest, we can see that we live in a post-Christian culture. The dominant Christian culture has faded. For someone like me, a pastor of a Baptist church in the Bible Belt of Texas, I hear the alarmists sound the end of Christian influence and the demise of our country. Now that we stand on the other side of a failed “moral majority,” there is one question everyone is asking, “What now?”

As is often the case, we can find direction for moving forward by studying the history of those who preceded us. In many ways, the English Puritans of the late 16th century experienced the same sense of political failure that the Religious Right is feeling now. They had tried for decades to influence the politics of Elizabeth I and reform the Church of England and the religious state of their country. They, much like conservative efforts in the 1980s and ’90s, were galvanized for a time in believing they could influence Elizabeth and the national church, only to realize their efforts were ultimately futile. But it was their response to their political frustration that sheds light on how a religious minority can still influence the future of a nation.

By the 1590s, the Puritans realized they weren’t going to convince the monarchy or the leadership of the Church of England to reform. They had lost the political battle and “retreated” from London to Cambridge. While the political scene in Washington might make it uncomfortable for a Christian to express belief in the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, it was illegal for the Puritans to separate from the Church of England and even gather to worship. If any group could have held a defeatist attitude toward the state of their country, it would have been them. However, while they had to admit their failure to influence the government, they didn’t give up or sound the alarm.  They didn’t lament the future of their nation. They simply changed their strategy.

Rather than continually trying (and failing) to influence the monarchy toward reform in the Church of England, they focused on educating and influencing the next generation of leaders who were studying at Cambridge. The Puritans embraced their minority status and changed their aims. They realized that a top-down approach wasn’t working, so they switched to bottom-up. No longer focusing solely on those in power, they went about teaching biblical truth to the next generation of leaders. While presenting the power of the gospel to these university students, many were saved and developed a biblical worldview.

Many Puritans eventually separated from the Church of England and started churches that produced theologians like John Smyth, who in turn pastored Thomas Helwys, who began the first Baptist church on English soil. Additionally, Helwys wrote a groundbreaking work on religious liberty, “A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity,” which made a lasting impact on generations of believers. He greatly affected those who eventually helped get the Act of Toleration passed, which allowed some conditional religious freedoms to dissenting groups.

It seems that God worked mightily among these Puritans when they stopped trying to change the government and simply started sharing biblical truth with the masses. 

This is why the position of Russell Moore and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission should be so encouraging to Baptists moving forward. He has openly stated that we must switch our thinking from a “moral majority” to a “prophetic minority.” We must share the truth of the Bible no matter the cost. We should focus on the gospel and teach a biblical worldview. 

As the Puritans learned, who is in political power shouldn’t be our greatest concern. Our greatest concern should be sharing and spreading God’s truth. If we do that, God can work through our prophetic minority in the same way he worked through the Puritans. As believers, we need to continue to fight to ensure that our nation maintains religious liberty. With the freedom to share God’s Word, we should trust in its power to change people and culture.

—Zach Crook is the pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Weatherford and a master of divinity student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Morals built on sand

Last month’s federal district court decision out of Utah that struck down part of the state’s anti-polygamy law prompted much talk about slippery slopes. Clearly this is another shoe dropping from earlier decisions against the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act and even the Lawrence v. Texas decision, which declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. It really is hard to imagine how such decisions, which blur the definitions of morality and marriage, will have no catastrophic consequences. In fact, there is little doubt that advocates of minority morals are counting on the slope being slippery.

Remember when the Boy Scouts of America decided to abandon a national ban on openly homosexual scouts but did not go so far as to accept homosexual scout leaders? Protesters and advocates who pushed for homosexual rights responded by saying this is only the first step. And we agreed with them. Those who favor public endorsement of licentiousness have taken encouragement from the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military, from the growing number of states that now recognize same-sex marriages and from cases where private businesses have been punished for their private refusal to participate in same-sex ceremonies.

But don’t get caught up in the hysteria of slippery-slope discussions, as if stopping the slide at some arbitrary point would address anything more than symptoms of a more basic problem. A slide occurs when a layer of rock or soil is too weak to support what’s piled above it. A slide is inevitable when a lofty structure is built on material that does not hold together, sand for example. Moral cohesion is rapidly degrading in our culture.

Some of the commenters on the Utah decision expressed this reality in a less disapproving manner. In a column at CNN.com, law professor Mark Goldfeder argued that the polygamy case may have only aggravated the problems caused by anti-polygamy laws. His idea is that full recognition (endorsement) of multiple marriages is the only way to ensure that women and children are not victimized by this model of family. In an aside he noted that, in previously declaring DOMA invalid, the Supreme Court also “declared morals-based legislation invalid.” This was his less-than-precise way of saying that laws that have a primarily “religious” rationale have been declared unconstitutional by definition. Of course we still have morals behind our laws and we’ll always have a dominant religion. Even “marriage equality” for same-sex couples has been portrayed as a primarily moral issue. To me the question is less focused on where the slope takes us next—that is nearly impossible to predict—and more on the basis for future moral decision-making on the part of our legislative and judicial leaders.

Future moral decisions in America will not have a Christian or biblical foundation. That’s really what Goldfeder meant to say, I think. What he was doing was paraphrasing what Justice Kennedy said in the Lawrence majority opinion: That religion is an unconstitutional foundation for morality. Perhaps we can be forgiven for thinking the justice means Christianity when he says “religion.” Judge Waddoups, in the polygamy case, cited Justice Kennedy’s opinion as a reason for striking part of Utah’s polygamy law—the part that bans cohabitation by multiple partners who represent themselves as being married. Waddoups struck that prohibition because it violated the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment. The polygamous family’s right to cohabit was upheld partly because it is the practice of their sect of Mormonism, and it was upheld because the state’s ban of it was based primarily on the traditions of orthodox Christianity.

Moral decisions in America will continue to have a religious foundation then. Judge Waddoups was not necessarily invested in fundamentalist Mormonism in making his decision. Neither were Justice Kennedy and the court majority that voted with him in Lawrence necessarily in favor of sodomy. Both of these decisions were made in favor of personal privacy and sexual license, and against biblical morality. Since the 1960s, our nation has made more than a few foundation-smashing decisions based on these two priorities. Some have been made in reaction against the beliefs that brought us here. That body of work has now attained mass sufficient that we might call the commitments to privacy and license a replacement religion.

Moral decisions in America will not necessarily be based on majority decisions. Indirectly you might say that democratic processes eventually produce a judiciary based on the opinions of the people.

And yet the federal Defense of Marriage Act was more directly the result of democracy than was its overturn. The Utah law overturned by Judge Waddoups was more arguably the will of the people than was his dismantling of it. Even the Lawrence decision on sodomy took a Texas law passed by an elected legislature and signed by an elected governor and used it as the occasion for vacating all such laws in every state. Agree or disagree with the particulars, it’s hard to say that these significant decisions rose up from the grassroots.

This is an extended earthquake rather than a slide. I don’t know the basis for public morality going forward in America. For now I know that abortion of all sorts is legal in America but not so generally considered moral at the grassroots level. Polygamy’s star will rise legally in America more rapidly than will its moral status in our communities—that will be partly because our highest leaders will have to bless it in order to undergird same-sex marriage. Perhaps there is a theme that draws all this together, but I don’t see any cohesive idea that explains it. I guess that’s the point, no cohesion. 

Cohesion is the difference between sand and sandstone. A democratic body will not hold together, will not hold moral ideals in common unless its autonomous members generally agree on something ultimate. For our nation, that ultimate thing changed with the times but it repeatedly proved more powerful than those things that separated us. Most often over the history of our nation the unifying ideal had Christian underpinnings. It was not considered to be persecution of the irreligious for believers to express themselves in worship or charity or evangelism. Our nation cannot declare war on the faith upon which it was founded without fragmenting in a thousand unforeseen ways. If there is one theme that best explains the changes I’ve seen in our American institutions, it is the matter of fact way Christian values are being searched out and banished. If those biblically based ideals were the cohesive power that kept our sand joined into a solid foundation, their loss will cause the fall of everything built upon that rock.

UN, Kenya seek lower “demand” for children

ASHEVILLE, N.C.—For Kenyan parents wanting three or more children, the United Nations and the Kenyan government want them to lower their expectations.

A 300-page “Kenya Population Situation Analysis”—sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Kenyan government—states that many Kenyan women have unmet needs for family planning services. Moreover, it cites a more fundamental problem with high fertility rates in the African nation: Women want more children than the UN and the Kenyan government deem desirable for the country’s development.

“The demand for children is still high and is unlikely to change unless substantial changes in desired family sizes are achieved among the poor in general,” the report states. “… [T]hus the challenge is how to reduce the continued high demand for children.”

UN efforts to discourage population growth in many regions aren’t new, but the Kenya report doesn’t just call for broader access to birth control; it faults Kenyans—particularly the poor—for desiring larger families.

Kenya’s population exploded from an estimated 10.9 million people in 1969 to more than 41 million today. The country’s per capita income has grown threefold during the last 35 years, but the poverty level remains as high as 42 percent. Higher populations create strains on depressed economies and challenges for communities struggling with steady access to basic necessities like food and clean water.

Still, fertility rates in Kenya have declined since the 1980s. The average number of children per woman in Kenya dropped from 8 to 4.5 in the last 30 years.

But the UN and the Kenyan government want that number to drop more. The report sets a goal of 2.6 children per woman by 2030.
Kenyan women, however, have consistently expressed a desire for more children. The report noted women in 1993 expressed the ideal number of children at 3.5. In 2009, that number hadn’t changed.

While the report doesn’t call for the kind of government-enforced quotas that the Chinese government has imposed on its citizens for more than 30 years, it does recommend “education” efforts to persuade Kenyans to have fewer children.

Steven Mosher of the U.S.-based Population Research Institute (PRI) called the report’s premise “insulting to women,” adding, “The Kenyan government, urged on by the UNFPA and USAID, is asserting the women of Kenya should not be allowed to make their own decisions regarding how many children to have, and should be re-educated into rejecting large families.”

Mosher—who also noted that the United States gives millions to the UNFPA and contributes to family planning efforts through USAID—said the new policy could violate the Tiahrt Amendment, which prohibits U.S. government funding for coercive population control programs, including targets or quotas for births. While the Kenyan policy doesn’t recommend quotas or forced coercion, it does set targets for fertility rates. Mosher’s take: “Congress ought to investigate.”

Meanwhile, the UN, USAID and dozens of nonprofit groups spend millions to offer family planning services in Kenya each year. Planned Parenthood distributed 1.3 million condoms in Kenya in 2011 alone. (Surgical abortion remains illegal in Kenya, except in cases where the mother’s health is endangered.)

And while the UN and other groups might persuade some women to have fewer children, a more important challenge remains: Working toward decent living conditions for the children who do arrive. Though USAID has spent millions on worthy efforts in Kenya, the group’s spending on health programs in 2011 was revealing. The organization reported spending $60,000 for nutrition. The budget for family planning and reproductive services: $10.9 million.