Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Couldn’t Help My Son—A Small Thing to Others, A Big Thing to Me

I've served our region for over seventeen years as pastor of Catskill Mountain Christian Center (, a local church and ministry organization in Margaretville, NY. Between our church, school, radio, food program and many other activities, we've touched literally thousands of area families over the years and have been glad to do it. I love serving God and helping our neighbors.

Besides my love for God, my family and faith in Jesus Christ, I am also very proud to be an American. I believe this country, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the premise that all men are created equal, is a bright and shining star in human history. I believe that America is worth fighting for, and if need be, dying for. To date, two of my five children have proudly served in the U.S. military--one marine and one soldier. The soldier, Paul, is the reason for this writing.

Paul was honorably discharged from the Army at the end of last January shortly following his 15 month tour as a cavalry scout stationed in Baghdad. He came straight home from the military to Margaretville with a chest full of medals and documentation of exemplary service on over 200 combat missions including having his Humvee blown up twice by IED explosions and personally apprehending the number four high value target on the brigade's list. Needless to say, at 24 years old, after the sustained pressure of 15 straight months at war, like warriors before him, he was in the mood to celebrate when he arrived safely home.

Within 30 days of his return, he went out one evening with his girlfriend and met up with a couple of his buddies in the town of Oneonta, about an hour from Margaretville. He had a few beers after dinner and was stopped by the police while driving home. Paul was cooperative with the process and has a clean driving record. However, even though he only registered a .08 blood alcohol content the officer gave him a full DWI anyway. His appeal to the policeman that he had recently gotten home from fighting in the Iraq War made no difference.

As a minister and responsible citizen, I do not condone drinking and driving. However, as an American, a father and one who knows right from wrong, I am convinced that the ones who voluntarily fight our country's battles and come home with medals of courage and valor on the battlefield do deserve some measure of special treatment and understanding. There must be adequate allowance for decompression for a combat vet and consideration by authorities, especially on a relatively low test result less than 30 days home. As it turns out, the officer, DA and judge do not share my feeling.

Paul went to court and had his ticket reduced from a 'Driving While Intoxicated' to a 'Driving While Ability Impaired' which is, "exactly the same deal anyone else would be offered in this situation," said the assistant DA. Paul has had his license marked and driving privilege restricted for three months. He also has to pay lawyer fees, court fees and State mandated fines in addition to submitting to the full range of classes as that of a problem drinker. I believe that the DA and judge should be ashamed.

A valiant young man, a hometown boy, a real-life hero just off the battlefield is treated ‘exactly the same as anyone else.’ This is not justice. It is simply easier than doing the right thing. Drinking and driving is understandably a serious issue but when a brave American soldier fresh home from war gets no consideration from his community... no gratitude, no understanding, no thanks, no empathy or thought that it might be a somewhat understandable lapse in judgment after 15 months at war. Just treat him ‘exactly the same as anyone else.’ This is America at her worst. It is politically motivated, cookie-cutter justice by authorities at peace with quietly convicting a young hero rather than forgiving his perfectly understandable mistake because it might stir up a public relations mess.

Paul was not looking for special treatment but I expected it on his behalf. Retaining legal counsel and believing in the system, we found there is even a provision in the law for this kind of circumstance called a motion for the ‘Furtherance of Justice’ which when presented, the judge simply refused to consider. It seems that a soldier in this particular courtroom is not given any special treatment. He has earned no deference for his service. He is treated the same as everyone else. There was no official willing to stick his neck out for a kid who stuck his neck out for us. Unbelievable. And we in soft, no-fault, politically correct America can pretend that everyone is treated fair. Actually, true fairness is when both sides of an issue are fully measured and weighed. Unfortunately, it seems that modern justice is so blind that she cannot discern the balance of weights on her scales.

I am mostly disappointed that I could not help my son. I believe that he is a hero and I wanted to be a hero for him, but words fell on deaf ears as I respectfully argued on his behalf. I feel terrible about it. The ADA privately told me he was concerned with the public outcry (code for special interest groups) if he gave Paul any special treatment and the judge admitted that when he was a police officer he wouldn't have given Paul the ticket in the first place. A young man, at the request of his country, drinks the bitter cup of war and our local community offers him zero consideration in the wake of his sacrifice—none dare risk their precious political career for the sake of a lone American soldier.

Oh America, how far you have fallen from the nation who once honored her courageous heroes with parades and gratitude. I am so deeply concerned for your future.

-I'm sorry Paul. Daddy knows you are a true hero and not only do you not deserve this outcome but should have been lovingly protected by the authorities and sternly warned against this behavior ever happening again. Unfortunately, it takes courage to do the right thing. I am proud of you, son.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Cremation Vs. Burial

Dear Pastor Bob,
I recently had a conversation with a respected friend about the Christian view of cremation vs. burial. They believe cremation shouldn’t be practiced by Christians because it is scripturally wrong. Is this true?

Answer: Dear Reader,
This is an interesting subject especially since the historical position of both Christianity throughout her two thousand years and classical Judaism has been unambiguously committed to earth burial and against cremation. Only in recent times has there been a breakdown in this biblically based tradition. Here are a few commonly sited reasons for burial:
  1. The body is constructed by God to: a) hold human life, b) to function as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and c) to be resurrected unto eternal life. Therefore, intentionally destroying human remains by fire is disrespectful to God because bodies are containers of the very special life specifically created in God’s image (Genesis chapters one and two).
  2. God’s people in the Bible were always buried. Abraham, Sarah, Rachel, Isaac, Rebecca, Leah, Jacob, Miriam, Aaron, Moses, Joshua, Joseph, Saul, Jonathon, David, Solomon and many others are sited as being buried. It is important to note that fire was certainly available to the ancients if they had decided to burn their remains but they universally site burial as the way they cared for their dead loved ones. There is no instance in the Bible of a righteous person having their body intentionally burned after death... always buried. The only righteous people burned are burned as martyrs. Only pagan religions burn their dead as a funeral practice.
  3. The most important reason for burial is that Jesus was buried and He is our example in life and death. We believe that as Jesus was buried and raised from the dead, we are buried and wait to be raised in the resurrection. This is what baptism represents; burial and being raised from the dead. Burial and resurrection is a central theme of our faith. Earth burial is a way that we express our faith in the Savior.

The scripture says "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). It is ancient Jewish tradition and 2,000 years of Christian tradition that we are following when we are buried. It is a prophecy of our hope in Christ. It is only during the last century that liberal, pagan and atheist practices began eroding this traditional Christian thinking.

Pastor Bob