Category Archives: Christian Testimonies
This season Peyton Manning, the quarterback of the Super Bowl bound Denver Broncos, completed the greatest statistical regular season at the quarterback position in the 94-year history of the National Football League (NFL). This regular season saw Manning set records in yards passed in a season (5,477) and touchdowns thrown in a season (55), and he led his team to accumulate more points (606) in a regular season than had ever been done before. Manning also tied the record for touchdowns thrown in a game (7) in the Broncos Week 1 win over the defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens.
Any fan of Peyton Manning or the NFL generally knows that Manning is the consummate professional. He treats the fans, media personnel, teammates, and opponents with respect. He works as hard–and probably harder–at his craft than any other player in the league. And he produces one fun, family friendly commercial after another, showing his sense of humor and a humble assessment of his own importance. But what many fans of Manning and the NFL may not be aware of is Manning’s Christian faith. In the excerpt below from Peyton’s book Manning (available on Amazon), which he co=wrote with his father Archie Manning in 2001, the record-breaking quarterback gives a rare description of his faith and its importance to him. The description is a rare one, not because Peyton’s faith is an insignificant part of his life, but because, as Peyton explains in the excerpt, he has intentionally chosen to speak more by his actions than by his words.
Here is the excerpt:
Like my dad, I make it a point when I speak to groups to talk about priorities, and when it’s schoolkids, I rank those priorities as: faith, family, and education, then football. And I tell all of them that as important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith is number one since I was thirteen years old and heard from the pulpit on a Sunday morning in New Orleans a simple question: “If you died today, are you one hundred percent sure you’d go to heaven?” Cooper was there and Eli (Peyton;s two brothers) but it didn’t hit them at the time the way that it hit me. It was a big church, and I felt very small, but my heart was pounding. The minister invited those who would like assurance through Jesus Christ to raise their hands, and I did. Then he invited us to come forward and take a stand, and my heart really started pounding. And from where we sat, it looked like a mile to the front.
But I got up and did it. And I committed my life to Christ, and that faith has been the most important thing to me ever since. Some players get more vocal about it–the Reggie Whites, for example–and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it, and don’t think it makes me less of a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism than I already am. Somebody sees you drinking a beer, which I do, and they think, “Hmmm, Peyton says he’s this, that, or the other, and there he is drinking alcohol. What’s that all about?”
Christians drink beer. So do non-Christians. Christians also make mistakes, just as non-Christians do. My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me with the assurance I looked for half my life ago. I think God answered our prayers with Cooper, and that was a test of our faith. But I also think I’ve been blessed–having so little go wrong in my life, and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don’t talk about it or brag about it because that’s between God and me, and I’m no better than anybody else in God’s sight.
But I consider myself fortunate to be able to ask Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don’t do too many things that displease Him before I go to Heaven myself. I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you’re committed to God in that way. I find being with others whose faith is the same has made me stronger. J.C. Watts and Steve Largent, for example. They’re both in Congress now. We had a voluntary pregame chapel at Tennessee, and I attended chapel every Sunday with players on the team at Indianapolis. I have spoken to church youth groups, and at Christian high schools. And then simply as a Christian, and not as good a one as I’d like to be.
How do I justify football in the context of “love your enemy?” I say to kids, well, football is most definitely a “collision sport,” and I can’t deny it jars your teeth and at the extreme can break your bones. But I’ve never seen it as a “violent game,” there are rules to prevent that, and I know I don’t have to hate anybody on the other side to play as hard as I can within the rules. I think you’d have to get inside my head to appreciate it, but I do love football. And yes,, I’d play it for nothing if that was the only way, even now when I’m no longer a child. I find no contradiction in football and my faith.
Ah, but do I “pray for victory?” No, except as a generic thing. I pray to keep both teams injury free, and personally, that I use whatever talent I have to the best of my ability. But I don’t think God really cares about who wins football games, except as winning might influence the character of some person or group. Besides. If the Colts were playing the Cowboys and I prayed for the Colts and Troy Aikman prayed for the Cowboys, wouldn’t that make it a standoff?
I do feel this way about it. Dad says it can take twenty years to make a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it. I want my reputation to be able to make it through whatever five-minute crises I run into. And I’m a lot more comfortable knowing where my help is.
This is a beautiful story of Jordan Monge, a Harvard University student, and her journey from atheism to Christ.
I read the Qur’an and Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. I went through The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible and looked up Christian rebuttals to apparent contradictions. But nothing compared to the rich tradition of Christian intellect.
By Jordan Monge
I don’t know when I first became a skeptic. It must have been around age 4, when my mother found me arguing with another child at a birthday party: “But how do you know what the Bible says is true?” By age 11, my atheism was so widely known in my middle school that a Christian boy threatened to come to my house and “shoot all the atheists.” My Christian friends in high school avoided talking to me about religion because they anticipated that I would tear down their poorly constructed arguments. And I did.
As I set off in 2008 to begin my freshman year studying government at Harvard (whose motto isVeritas, “Truth”), I could never have expected the change that awaited me.
It was a brisk November when I met John Joseph Porter. Our conversations initially revolved around conservative politics, but soon gravitated toward religion. He wrote an essay for theIchthus, Harvard’s Christian journal, defending God’s existence. I critiqued it. On campus, we’d argue into the wee hours; when apart, we’d take our arguments to e-mail. Never before had I met a Christian who could respond to my most basic philosophical questions: How does one understand the Bible’s contradictions? Could an omnipotent God make a stone he could not lift? What about the Euthyphro dilemma: Is something good because God declared it so, or does God merely identify the good? To someone like me, with no Christian background, resorting to an answer like “It takes faith” could only be intellectual cowardice. Joseph didn’t do that.
And he did something else: He prodded me on how inconsistent I was as an atheist who nonetheless believed in right and wrong as objective, universal categories. Defenseless, I decided to take a seminar on meta-ethics. After all, atheists had been developing ethical systems for 200-some years. In what I now see as providential, my atheist professor assigned a paper by C. S. Lewis that resolved the Euthyphro dilemma, declaring, “God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God.”
Joseph also pushed me on the origins of the universe. I had always believed in the Big Bang. But I was blissfully unaware that the man who first proposed it, Georges Lemaître, was a Catholic priest. And I’d happily ignored the rabbit trail of a problem of what caused the Big Bang, and what caused that cause, and so on.
By Valentine’s Day, I began to believe in God. There was no intellectual shame in being a deist, after all, as I joined the respectable ranks of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers.
I wouldn’t stay a deist for long. A Catholic friend gave me J. Budziszewski’s book Ask Me Anything, which included the Christian teaching that “love is a commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” This theme—of love as sacrifice for true good—struck me. The Cross no longer seemed a grotesque symbol of divine sadism, but a remarkable act of love. And Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful.
At the same time, I had begun to read through the Bible and was confronted by my sin. I was painfully arrogant and prone to fits of rage. I was unforgiving and unwaveringly selfish. I passed sexual boundaries that I’d promised I wouldn’t. The fact that I had failed to adhere to my own ethical standards filled me with deep regret. Yet I could do nothing to right these wrongs. The Cross no longer looked merely like a symbol of love, but like the answer to an incurable need. When I read the Crucifixion scene in the Book of John for the first time, I wept.
NO WALK IN THE PARK
But beauty and need do not make something true. I longed for the Bible to be true, but the intellectual evidence was still insufficient.
So I plunged headlong into apologetics, devouring debates and books from many perspectives. I read the Qur’an and Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. I went through The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible and looked up Christian rebuttals to apparent contradictions. But nothing compared to the rich tradition of Christian intellect. I’d argued with my peers, but I’d never investigated the works of the masters: Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Pascal, and Lewis. When I finally did, the only reasonable course of action was to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But my head and my heart suddenly switched places. Though I began to know the evidence for the Scriptures, my head full of answers, I began to feel distant from the story that had brought me to tears a month prior. When reading through the Passion narrative on retreat on Cape Cod in the spring, I remained utterly unmoved. I went out to pray.
I walked to a pond surrounded by trees and began praying by the water’s edge. I felt disconnected from God, from the friends I’d begun to hold dear, from my body itself. I begged God to make it all click, as a test for me to know that he was there. After an hour with no progress, I started to walk.
Following the pond to a stream, I began climbing through the surrounding thicket to see if I could reach the ocean a little ways down. I kept pausing, thinking, Do I want to go back? I left all my stuff behind. But each time, I renewed my steps, believing that I couldn’t quit until I’d made it to the end. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I just gave up and went back to where I’d started. I had some sense of direction of where I needed to go, but I didn’t know how to get there.
I climbed over branches and under bushes, sometimes going in the opposite direction for a while when the bramble grew too thick. I treaded lightly through marshes only to have the mud swallow my leg up to the knee. After pulling myself out, I started walking through the stream, since I figured I couldn’t get any dirtier, and the ground seemed to be most trustworthy along the middle of the river where the water had worn the path. So I followed it until the last light of day was waning.
I quickly realized that my journey through the briar patch was an apt metaphor. I’m trying to get somewhere, but I’m not sure how to get there. There’s no clear path, so I must proceed by trusting my instincts. I might even go off in the opposite direction for a little while. In the end, I may arrive right back where I started. But that’s okay too, because I’ll get there with a clearer head and everything will be waiting for me when I’m done. It won’t be easy. Sometimes I’ll get mired in the mud, or caught up in thorns. But I’ll make it through, though not without a few cuts.
If I wanted to continue forward in this investigation, I couldn’t let it be just an intellectual journey. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). I could know the truth only if I pursued obedience first.
I’d been waiting for my head and my heart to be in agreement. By the end of the church retreat, they weren’t completely in sync. Many days they still aren’t. But I realized that the unity could come later. If my heart had agreed at one point, and my head agreed now, then my heart would follow. I couldn’t let a malfunctioning heart delay the logical course of action, the obedience required by true faith.
I committed my life to Christ by being baptized on Easter Sunday, 2009.
This walk has proved to be quite a journey. I’ve struggled with depression. I would yell, scream, cry at this God whom I had begun to love but didn’t always like. But never once did I have to sacrifice my intellect for my faith, and he blessed me most keenly through my doubt. God revealed himself through Scripture, prayer, friendships, and the Christian tradition whenever I pursued him faithfully. I cannot say for certain where the journey ends, but I have committed to follow the way of Christ wherever it may lead. When confronted with the overwhelming body of evidence I encountered, when facing down the living God, it was the only rational course of action.
I came to Harvard seeking Veritas. Instead, he found me.
She is a political analyst, blogger, columnist and commentator. She is a Democrat who regularly contributes to USA Today, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal among other publications. She formerly served under the Clinton administration from 1993-1998 and was appointed Deputy Assistant U.S Trade Representative for Public Affairs.
In an interview with Focus on the Family, she shares how she converted from atheism to Christianity. She said: “I was not looking to be a Christian. The last thing in the world I wanted to be was a Christian. I had grown up as an Episcopalian, but not evangelical, born again, or any of those kinds of things. It was very high church, kind of mainline, protestant, episcopalian. I did believe in God, but it wasn’t anywhere near what would come to happen to me later in life.
“When I went away to college, whatever little faith I had, I lost. I ended up graduating from college. I worked in the Clinton administration. All my friends were secular liberals. At this point, I really got even more deeply into an incredibly secular world because now, all my friends were basically atheists, or if they had any kind of spirituality, they were very hostile towards religion, Christianity in particular. So, I really didn’t have any interest in it.
“I started dating someone who went to Tim Keller’s church, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. Out of curiosity, I went with him. But I told him upfront that I would never become a Christian; that it’s never going to happen. After about six or seven months, I began to think that the weight of history is more on the side of what [I was hearing at this church] than not. Tim Keller had made such a strong case, that I began to think it’s not even smart to reject this. It just doesn’t seem like a good intellectual decision.
“Really, it was like God sort of invaded my life. It was very unwelcome. I didn’t like it. Obviously, I started having a lot of different experiences where I felt God was doing a lot of things in my life. It’s kind of hard to describe, but I did have this moment where the scales just fell off of my eyes, where I was saying, ‘this is just totally true, I don’t even have any doubt.’ …I don’t really feel like I had any courage when I became a Christian, I just gave in. I wasn’t courageous; I didn’t have any choice. I kept trying to not believe but I just couldn’t avoid [accepting Christ]. If I could have avoided it, I would have. There is nothing convenient about it in my life or in the world I live in. It’s not like living in the South where everybody is a Christian. I live in a world where nobody is a believer. But God pursued me.” Her name is Kirsten Powers.
Article adapted from: Kirsten Powers: How a Liberal Democrat and Former Atheist Came to Know Jesus Christ as her Savior - Gospel Light Minute ^ | 2 June 2013 - Posted on July 14, 2013 5:59:59 AM PDT by Gamecock
(1) The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” (Matt. 28:1–7)
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:1–7)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words (Luke 24:1–8)
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; (John 20:1–8)
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it… and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses… And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all… but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear…explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:33; 10:40; 17:3)
and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord… who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification… because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 1:4; 4:25; 10:9)
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor. 15:3-9)
That he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:20)
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess. 4:14)
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18).
(2) The token resurrection of some saints at the time of the resurrection of Christ
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:50–54).
(3) The resurrection at the rapture
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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:51–58)
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:14–17).
(4) The resurrection of the two witnesses
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Rev. 11:3–13).
(5) The resurrection of the Old Testament saints
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. (Isa. 26:19–21)
Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” (Ezek. 37:12–14)
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:1–3).
(6) The resurrection of the tribulation saints
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4–6).
(7) The resurrection of the wicked dead
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11–15).
Scriptures taken from ESV. Major Headings adapted from: Walvoord, John F. (2011-09-01). Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (p. 452). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.
Dr. Bill Stuntz Godly Response to His Cancer Diagnosis
My cancer has been promoted: I’m officially in stage 4. My doctors have found two can- cerous nodules—a euphemism for “small tumors”—one on each of my lungs. I started chemo this week. Next week, I’ll see a thoracic surgeon who will, sometime this summer, cut those tumors out. Needless to say, this isn’t good news—though, thanks to medical advances (especially, thanks to those evil drug companies that politicians regularly attack), it isn’t disastrous news either. We’ll see what the future brings.
I don’t have any previous experience with this sort of thing, but judging from what I hear and read, I’m supposed to be asking why all this is happening, and why it’s happening to me. Honestly, those questions are about the farthest thing from my mind.
Partly, that’s because they aren’t hard questions. Why does our world have gravity? Why does the sun rise in the East? There are technical answers, but the meta- physical answer is simple: that’s how reality works. So too here. Only in the richest parts of the rich world of the twenty-first century could anyone entertain the thought that we should expect long, pain-free lives. Suffering and premature death (an odd phrase: what does it mean to call death “premature”?) are constant presences in the lives of most of the peoples of the Earth, and were routine parts of life for generations of our predecessors in this country—as they still are today, for those with their eyes open. Stage 4 cancers happen to middle-aged men and women, seemingly out of the blue, because that’s how reality works.
As for why this is happening to me in particular, the implicit point of the question is an argument: I deserve better than this. There are two responses. First, I don’t—I have no greater moral claim to be free from unwanted pain and loss than anyone else. Plenty of people more virtuous than I am suffer worse than I have, and some who don’t seem virtuous at all skate through life with surprising ease. Welcome to the world.
Once again, it seems to me that this claim arises from the incredibly unusual experience of a small class of wealthy professionals in the wealthiest parts of the world today. We think we live in a world governed by merit and moral desert. It isn’t so. Luck, fortune, fate, providence—call it what you will, but whatever your preferred label, it has far more to do with the successes of the successful than what any of us deserves. Aristocracies of the past awarded wealth and position based on the accident of birth. Today’s meritoc- racies award wealth and position based on the accident of being in the right place at the right time. The difference is smaller than we tend to think. Once you under- stand that, it’s hard to maintain a sense of grievance in the face of even the ugliest medical news. I’ve won more than my share of life’s lotteries. It would seem churlish to rail at the unfairness of losing this one—if indeed I do lose it: which I may not.
The second response is sim- pler; it comes from the movie “Unforgiven.” Gene Hackman is dying, and says to Clint Eastwood: “I don’t deserve this. To die like this. I was building a house.” Eastwood responds: “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”
That gets it right, I think. It’s a messed-up world, upside-down as often as it’s rightside up. Bad things happen; future plans (that house Hackman was building) come to naught. Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.
Why, then, are we so prone to think otherwise? This is one of the biggest reasons I believe my faith is true: something deep within us expects, even demands moral order—in a world that shouts from the rooftops that no such order exists. Any good metaphysical theory must explain both of those phenomena: both the expectation and the lack of supporting evidence for the thing expected. The only persuasive way to get there, I think, is to begin with a world made good that was twisted, corrupted, bent. Buried deep in our hearts are hints of the way things ought to be; the ugliest reality can’t snuff them out. Still, that reality exists; it can’t be denied. Christianity sees that reality, recognizes it for what it is—but also sees the expectation, and recognizes where it comes from.
Bottom line: I don’t need anyone to tell me why I’m in the situation I’m in, and I certainly don’t think I merit an exemption from the rottenness to which the rest of the world is subject.
But I do need to know some things. Three, to be precise: first, that I’m not alone; second, that my disease has not made me ugly to those I love and to the God who made me; and third, that somehow, something good can come from this. My faith tells me that the God of the universe suf- fered everything I suffer and infinitely worse. Death and suffering don’t separate human beings from our Creator—on the contrary: those things unite us with our Creator. The barrier became the bridge: that is the great miracle of the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection. So I need never suffer alone. Job’s story confirms that, far from rejecting the ugli- ness of disease and pain, God embraces those who suffer and takes on their suffering. Beauty and ugliness are turned inside-out. Joseph’s story and the gospels alike show a God who delights to use the worst things to produce the best things. That doesn’t make life’s hells less than hellish. But it does make them bearable.
This isn’t just whistling in the dark—at least, I hope it isn’t. It all makes sense to me: it fits the world I see and feel, with all its shades of glory and misery. And it answers the questions my soul cries out. “Why” isn’t one of those questions.
Article adapted from: http://www.law.upenn.edu/blogs/dskeel/archives/2008/04/ more_cancerstuntz.html#more
[In Dr. Fritzt own words: “I’m a law professor—I teach criminal law and criminal procedure at Harvard—and also an evangelical Christian.That puts [me] in a pretty small, and maybe pretty weird, demo- graphic. I’m also a political junkie and a registered Republican, though I’ve cast as many Democratic votes as Republican ones. I’m interested in all those things—law and legal theory, crime and criminal justice, everything about American politics and political culture, the culture of evangelical Protestantism, and the intersections of various items on that list.] From: http://www.law.upenn.edu/ blogs/dskeel/archives/2008/02/ welcome.html]
Harvard Law School: Obituary for Dr. Stuntz
William Stuntz, a renowned scholar of criminal justice at Harvard Law School, an evangelical Christian and a teacher much beloved by students and colleagues, died March 15 after a long battle with cancer.
Stuntz, 52, joined the HLS faculty in 2000 and was named the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law in 2006. His influential scholarship over the past three decades addressed the full spectrum of issues related to criminal justice and procedure, from the overcrowding of prisons and racial disparities in incarceration to the appropriate role of faith, emotion and mercy in the penal system. He authored three dozen law review articles and essays on criminal law, and published articles and op-eds in the New York Times, Christianity Today, First Things, The New Republic and The Weekly Standard. This fall, Harvard University Press will publish a book he authored on the collapse of the criminal justice system.
In a statement to the Harvard Law School community today, Dean Martha Minow observed: “Bill was extraordinary; his wisdom and compassion touched our lives in so many ways, large and small. His gifts to society through his scholarship and teaching on criminal law and justice changed and improved academic inquiry and policies on the ground. His scholarship and teaching of Christian legal theory and of confronting life’s burdens inspire people in our community and well beyond it. He imbued his work and his life with a vision of mercy and compassion. The Harvard Law School, the larger community of scholars, and the communities connected through Bill’s writings are better, wiser, kinder because of Bill.”
That kindness—and a personal style marked also by good humor and generosity—profoundly affected those who knew Stuntz or knew of him through his writing. As Minow wrote: “Among his many gifts to us was the grace with which he lived his life. In knowing Bill, we couldn’t help but be reminded to live life as our better selves. Bill once wrote, ‘We understand that the world is not what it should be, and that our own capacities to understand it are severely limited.’ He described and lived his life in recognition of the need for humility and also for judgment and work to repair what we find around us. His devotion to family and friends remains legendary. Those of us lucky enough to have been able to consult with him for personal or professional advice will never forget his insights and generosity.”
Carol Steiker, the Howard J. and Katherine W. Aibel Professor of Law at HLS, and a criminal justice scholar who was a close colleague of Stuntz, said: “He was an extraordinary and unforgettable teacher, scholar, colleague and friend. He was someone we’ll all miss, more than we can really say.”
Celebrated for his unusual ability to appeal to a wide variety of legal scholars and others of all political and methodological perspectives, Stuntz was generous with his time and guidance. Colleagues and students were especially struck by his open-mindedness, as reflected in his willingness to listen to a variety of opinions and to change his own when he felt it appropriate. Many observed that his style served as a model for civil discourse. Extremely popular among his students for his compassion and accessibility, Stuntz was the 2004 recipient of the HLS Sacks-Freund Teaching Award, given by the graduating class to honor a professor for his or her contributions to teaching. In the upcoming week, the the Harvard Law & Policy Review will be publishing a series of student reflections on Professor Stuntz (Read the introduction to the collection at http://hlpronline.com/2011/03/professor-bill-stuntz-in-memoriam/).
From his perspective as a legal scholar and also an evangelical Protestant, Stuntz co-authored a blog that addressed law, politics, and other topics, “Less Than the Least,” with fellow evangelical David Skeel, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. As they noted in their blog, “We are both law professors and evangelical Protestants – a weird combination in our time. We hope it’s also an interesting combination.” Stuntz wrote honestly and lyrically, with humor and wisdom, about his struggles with chronic pain and his long battle with cancer, as well as the role of his religious faith in helping him deal with his illnesses.
Said Skeel: “Although Bill was an enormously influential scholar, and was widely viewed as the leading criminal procedure scholar of the past generation, he may have had an even broader impact writing and speaking about his struggles with cancer the past three years, and with debilitating back pain before that. His blog posts and other writings have been reprinted in numerous church bulletins and widely circulated elsewhere. I’ve never known anyone who lived out the Christian call to love one’s neighbor as oneself the way Bill did. He was an inspiration to everyone who came into contact with him.”
Many readers of the blog, including fellow cancer patients, wrote of being deeply touched by the honesty and compassion that imbued his writing. A year ago, in March 2010, a large group of his many admirers, including legal scholars, colleagues, friends, and students—“a simply dazzling array of conference participants,” as Dean Martha Minow said in opening remarks—gathered at HLS for a two-day conference, “A Celebration of the Career of Bill Stuntz.” In tribute after tribute, they noted that Stuntz had exerted a tremendous influence on the fields of American criminal justice and criminal procedure while at the same time having a profound effect, professionally and personally, on so many who worked with or were taught by him.
Present at the conference, Stuntz described factors that had led to what he called the “disaster of criminal justice in our time,” in particular, the massive and “racially unfair” prison population in the U.S., but held out hope that the system might become fairer.
HLS Professor Jeannie Suk ’02, a former student of Stuntz, and a moderator of one of the panels at the conference, said after learning of Stuntz’s death: “He was a wonderful mentor to me since my time as a student at Harvard Law School. He was the one, when I was a student, who looked me right in the eye and told me not to worry about seeing things that might be unconventional or that might surprise or anger people, that it was a good thing if I had those instincts. He encouraged me to develop that and to be unafraid.”
She added, “The whole time I was an assistant professor, he was very ill, yet … he would stop by my office, he would read all my drafts [of articles] and have something to say about them, with great insight. I really think he was one of the main reasons, the primary reason, I became a professor, that I became a criminal law scholar.”
Born on July 3, 1958, Stuntz grew up in Annapolis, then attended the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia School of Law. After two judicial clerkships, he was a professor at the University of Virginia for 14 years until he joined the Harvard Law faculty in 2000.
Stuntz was the loving husband of Ruth Stuntz of Belmont, and devoted father of Sarah Stuntz, Andrew Stuntz, and Samuel Cook-Stuntz, all of Cambridge. He also leaves his parents, John and Sandy Stuntz of Annapolis, Md., and siblings, Linda Adamson of Annapolis, Michael Stuntz of Silver Spring, Md., Richard Stuntz of Annapolis, and David Stuntz of Durham, NC, as well as many nieces and nephews, and a daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Cook-Stuntz.
A memorial service will be held at Park Street Church in Boston on Saturday, March 19 at 5:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, guests should feel free to make donations to International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) or the Cancer Center Priorities Fund at Massachusetts General Hospital (165 Cambridge Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114-2792).
I have so much to be thankful for – now 15 treatments into Chemo and Radiation – almost half way done with my 33 treatments here are my reflections on Thanksgiving Day. DPC
Originally posted on LifeCoach4God:
“Thank God It’s Thanksgiving Everyday – Especially on Thursday’s!”
I have always loved the Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s one of the few times of the year where our very large family can come together from all over the United States and enjoy giving thanks for our many blessings. This year more than likely I’ll be having liquid formula through a feeding tube in my stomach. I already had the G-Tube surgically implanted in my stomach this past week. During chemotherapy and radiation around Thanksgiving time will be a time of great testing for me, when according to my Doctors I will be unable to swallow and chew due to the severity of my treatment for throat and neck cancer. Watching every one I love dearest passing around the turkey with all the trimmings will be something my eyes will enjoy, but not my taste buds. However, I’m good with that. I’m good with whatever comes my way because I can choose whether I’m a “reactor” or a “responder.” Let me explain.