Notes on Christianity
and Ideas

Issue 23
June 2005

Myodicy homepage

Published by Theodore Plantinga

In this issue ....

Does Christian theology and religious practice get bloated at times? Is it in need of downsizing? Click here to read "Trimming Our Sails with the Help of Philosophy."

Are religious zealots always and only to be feared and avoided? Click here to read "The Right to Annoy People: In Defense of Fundamentalism."

Does the moral high road leads through fields of inactivity? Can we take credit for what we have not done? Click here to read "Moral Highlanders."

Strange proposals are made nowadays in the name of renewing Christian worship. Are we reduced to "marketing" Christianity? Click here to read "Just Give Them What They Want."

Many people are fuzzy about just what goes on in church. Could it be that we go to church to be recycled? Click here to read "Recycling Our Sins."


Don't take the term literally. I don't plan to turn pages for you. What I mean to do in this space is comment on materials in the world of the printed page -- brief book notes, observations about periodicals, and perhaps a comment on an event.

A Christian approach to divorce? One wonders whether there can be such a thing. "I hate divorce," says the God of Israel (see Malachi 2:16). "So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless."

End of story? Not quite. Divorce does take place -- sadly. So what's it like? How does one feel? Does one learn anything from it? Wendy Swallow, a church-goer (she does not identify her denomination) attempts some highly personal answers us in her fine book Breaking Apart: A Memoir of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2001).

It's hard to be honest about these things, but Swallow's account is impressive in this regard. And she recognizes the central role that forgiveness -- and the willingness to extend it -- must play in every broken situation in human life.

Since she has undertaken to write a book, she must have learned something through the sad process. What was it? She writes: "What I disovered in the end about divorce was that we were both to blame -- and we were both to be forgiven. Forgiven by each other, by the community around us, and, someday I hope, by our two boys. Forgiveness is an odd place to go. It isn't very popular these days, old-fashioned and sparsely settled. Many of my women friends find it highly suspect terrain, just bordering on the badlands of powerlessness. But it has a mysteriously healing atmosphere, and I know firsthand it is a place where children thrive." [p. 292] Elsewhere she sums it up in a single sentence: "But mostly I've learned how sweet life can be when you forgive and move on." [p. 284] Well worth reading.

Before Terri Schiavo. The Terri Schiavo case has drawn the attention of people in the United States and around the world, confronting them with painful possibilities they may face at the end of life. What many did not remember is that there was an interesting precedent in terms of the case of Nancy Cruzan, who had entered a persistent vegetative state in 1983 as a result of an automobile accident, when she was only 25 years old. She had no living will. Four years later her family asked that her feeding tube be removed. Then began a series of legal skirmishes that went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Late in 1990, the family's wishes were granted by a lower court, and the feeding tube was removed. In the course of the struggle, the family endured harassment and vilification.

William H. Colby, the lawyer who represented the family, has written an interesting book about the case entitled Long Goodbye: The Deaths of Nancy Cruzan (Carlsbad, California: Hay House, 2002). The book deals at length with the legal procedures, but it also sheds light on touching and painful personal circumstances.

It was the lack of a living will that made the Cruzan case so difficult. The courts had to figure out: what would Nancy herself have wanted? Perhaps the time has come to draft some general laws and legal guidelines for situations in which a person enters a persistent vegetative state without having made a prior legal declaration about such a possibility.

Even so, it is best to be fully prepared. I have a living will: if an accident were to put me into a persistent vegetative state, I would want my loved ones to be protected from the agony the Cruzans endured.

I agree with Pat .... I have often uttered these words when listening to Pat Buchanan on TV. He sometimes sounds extreme -- even outrageous -- but he often hits the nail right on the head. And I muttered the same words many times as I read his book Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2004).

Buchanan is very critical of the current President Bush, who started out a conservative, he admits, but was converted after 9/11 to other views that no self-respecting conservative ought to hold. He emphasizes that the trouble started long before the current president squeaked into office; we are now seeing the results of a long series of bad decisions. Writes Pat, who also opposed the senior George Bush: "Under Bush II, the chickens have come home to roost: A sinking dollar, the deindustrialization of America, and a current-account and fiscal deficit that combined have hit 10 percent of GDP. Like the great commercial and trade empires that preceded us -- Holland, Spain, and England -- the United States has now entered upon its time of decline. Only heroic action and painful decision can reverse it" (p. 206).

Buchanan is never at a loss for words. Also to be recommended is his autobiography, which is entitled Right from the Beginning (Boston: Little, Brown, 1988) and traces his roots as a conservative and a committed Roman Catholic.

General information

This electronic journal is my way of keeping in touch with friends, colleagues, former students, and so forth. It does not have a regular publication schedule. Feel free to download it and pass it around. You may even wish to send me a comment; I do not guarantee a response to each communication. If you wish to repost anything in this journal, please let me know. If you care to print something in paper form, this can also be arranged, provided that I retain the copyright so that I will remain free in my use of the material. Please regard the materials in Myodicy as copyrighted by me, except in the case of articles written by someone else. What is written in Myodicy should not be regarded as reflecting any official position or policy of Redeemer University College.

Theodore Plantinga
E-mail: [email protected]

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