Category Archives: Decision Making
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS REACT TO HATE?
By Dan Darling
It’s no secret that the biblical sexual ethic, a beautiful monogamous relationship reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, has swiftly fallen out of favor in our culture. The recent declaration that Jason Collins, a veteran NBA center, has exposed the deep rifts in our society on the issue of homosexuality. While most of the world celebrated Collin’s courage, ESPN NBA reporter, Chris Broussard, a committed evangelical Christian, had his own courage to say, into a stiff wind of opposition, that Collin’s lifestyle choices conflict with the Christian faith.
Nothing in this story should surprise us. Society has been moving this direction for some time now. But what caught me off guard, I guess, was the public shaming of the Christian position on marriage. I heard many, well-respected sports commentators, guys I’ve listened to and followed for many years, seemingly equate Christians like Broussard with bigots and with the ignorant and unlearned. The sweeping intolerance of Christianity, the crude names leveled at Broussard and others seems to mark a new moment in our country. The reality is that holding the biblical sexual ethic will now invite open scorn. I only expect it to get worse. I only expect those who stand firm on the Scriptures to experience further persecution and hostility. And we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus himself promised that his followers would endure some level of persecution. “They hated me, they will hate you,” he predicted (John 15:18).
So the question is this: how now shall we live? What should our reaction be? In my view there are two wrong responses and one right one.
1) We can cave in and seek the approval of men rather than the approval of God. There is a growing movement in the evangelical world that is seeking to make complicated what the Scriptures make plain, namely that perhaps the Bible is not so explicitly condemning of homosexuality as we think. As a person wired to avoid conflict I’m sympathetic to the desire to find this in the Bible, but it is just not there. Jesus himself affirmed the law of Moses when he repeated the words from Genesis, “For this cause a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to His wife” (Matthew 19:5). And while Jesus offered grace to the women who violated the biblical marriage ethic and condemned the Pharisees who wanted to stone her, he also told her, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t act as if her sexual activity out of marriage was okay. He said it was sin. Sin that brought him to this earth and nailed him to a cross. Sin he graciously has forgiven. Sin which invites the grace and holiness of God. As much as we want to cave in on marriage, because to do so would make our lives as Christians much, much easier, to do so is to abandon the way of Christ. I’m reminded of Peter’s words to the persecuted believers of the 1st Century, “Stand firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:19).
2) We can ratchet up the angry, hateful, personal rhetoric. As shameful it is to cave in on Scriptural truth, it’s equally sinful to sort of use our position as an increasingly marginalized minority to lash out at those who don’t agree with us. But if we’re to take serious the truth we claim to uphold, we have to listen to all the words of Jesus, including his words, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-48). And we have to listen to the words of that same Apostle Peter. The same guy who told us to “stand firm” also told us to do it with civility and respect (1 Peter 3:15). I find it interesting that Peter, speaking to an increasingly marginalized, persecuted group of Christians, found it important to say, essentially, “Make sure you suffer, not for your own evil, but for doing good” (1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 3:17). In other words, we are to speak firmly, but with kindness, winsomeness, charity, and grace. If we are honest, we would admit that the Christian community does not always do this well. We should disagree with Jason Collin’s choices, but we should not mock him, we should not post crude or hurtful slurs online. We should not slander those who disagree with us. We should lead with grace, remembering that Jesus didn’t come to condemn, but to offer salvation and life. Jesus came for sinners and so we should seek to love sinners as much as He did. We should, like Paul, remember that we are counted in that group: we are as much sinners in need of grace as the unrepentant homosexual. I find it interesting that Paul, at the end of his life, nearing the time of his martyrdom at the hands of a cruel despot, surveyed the entire landscape and said, “I am the chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Imagine that. Paul looked around the entire world, saw wicked men like Nero and the soft Christians who betrayed him and yet said, “They may be sinners, but I’m worse.” What a spirit of humility! This is the spirit that should inform our engagement on these issues where most of the culture resists. We should as the Spirit to help us fight the urge to return rhetorical evil with rhetorical evil (1 Peter 3:9). We should reject the sort of knee-jerk, crude, mean-spirited kind of speaking that seems to characterize much of our public discourse. Civility is not unimportant and it’s not overrated and it’s not the enemy of courage.
3) We can respond with love and grace.
2 Timothy 3:12 reminds us that “all who live godly in Christ will suffer persecution.” The level of persecution we face today in America is low-level at best. Much of what we think is persecution is simply consequences of our own inability to treat people with grace. But we’re moving into an era where our positions on the issues may invite charges of bigotry. This is where we must not react with surprise or fear–remembering that trials are an opportunity for joy (James 1:2) and occasions for growth and Christlikeness (John 15; James 1:2-4). Fear stems from a lack of faith and fear causes us to react in unloving ways. But if we believe that God is completely sovereign and that we have been tasked by Him to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), it is incumbent on us to model Jesus’ behavior and react to hatred and intolerance with grace and love. We should be wise about responding to every charge with a countercharge. We should hold our fire sometimes, as Jesus did in the face of false accusations (John 18:33-38). We should forgive others, looking to Christ’s own forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32) and His forgiveness of those who crucified him, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:42). We should not be defensive, whiny, petulant. We should work hard to see every human as someone worthy of respect (1 Peter 2:17), created in the image of God (James 3:9). We should not make our fight personal or political (Ephesians 6:12). The real enemy doesn’t have a human face, but is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8). And our real hope is not in a short-term victory, but in the future hope of a coming kingdom, another world, a city whose builder and maker is God (Matthew 6:10; Hebrews 11:10).
As followers of Jesus, we’re not simply called to be counter-cultural with our sexual ethics, but also in the way we talk, speak, and articulate these things. If we are called to suffer for our faith, let’s pray God gives us the courage and grace to endure and that our lives are but a small glimpse of Christ within.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). For five years, Dan served as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, and his latest, Activist Faith. He is a weekly contributor to Out of Ur, the blog of Leadership Journal. His work has been featured in evangelical publications such as Relevant Magazine, Homelife, Focus on the Family, Marriage Partnership, In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley. He has guest-posted on leading blogs such as Michael Hyatt, The Gospel Coalition, OnFaith (Washington Post), and others. He is a contributing writer for many publications including Stand Firm, Enrichment Journal and others. Dan’s op-eds have appeared in Washington Posts’ On Faith, CNN.com’s Belief Blog, and other newspapers and opinion sites. He is a featured blogger for Crosswalk.com, Churchleaders.com and Believe.com, Covenant Eyes, G92, and others. Publisher’s Weekly called his writing style “substantive and punchy.” Dan is a sought-after speaker and has been interviewed on TV and radio outlets across the country, including CNN, 100 Huntley Street, Moody Broadcasting Network, Harvest Television, The Sandy Rios Show, American Family Radio, the Salem Radio Network, and a host of other local and national Christian media. He holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College and is pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area. Daniel is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency
Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.
Today I can feel sad that I don’t have more money or I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me from waste.
Today I can grumble about my health or I can rejoice that I am alive.
Today I can lament over all that my parents didn’t give me when I was growing up or I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.
Today I can cry because roses have thorns or I can celebrate the thorns that have roses.
Today I can mourn my lack of friends or I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.
Today I can whine because I have to go to work or I can shout for joy because I have a job to do.
Today I can complain because I have to go to school or eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new bits of knowledge.
Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework or I can feel honored because the Lord has provided shelter for my mind, body, and soul.
Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped. And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping. What today will be is up to me.
I get to choose what kind of day I will have!
- Author unknown
A TEMPLATE FOR SHAPING MY LIFE WITH INTENTIONALITY
Developed by Dr. David Craig – Pastor and Life Coach – Vertical Living Ministries
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do. Do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31
Head – Convictions What do I need to Know? Personal
Heart – Communication What do I need to Say/Convey? Relational
Hands – Contribution What do I need to Do? Practical
For each of the nine areas below set goals in light of the above 3 questions: What will I study or need to know about_____; What will I feel or communicate about _____; and what will I do or what actions shall I take about ______. Each goal is meant to turn what you value into an intentional habit that will make a great difference cumulatively in others lives, your own life, and for the sake of God’s ultimate glory.
Nine Primary Areas of Living Intentionally:
(1) Spiritually – Your Relationship to God through The Lordship of Jesus Christ. Psalm 37:3-7; 1 Peter 1:3-11; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:17
(2) Marriage – Your triune covenantal relationship with Christ at the center. Gen. 2:18-25; 1 Cor. 7:1-7; 13:1-8; Eph. 5:22-31
(3) Family/Parenting – How to be a Christ-centered family and raise Children that love Jesus above all else. Deut. 6:1-9; Proverbs; Eph. 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:8
(4) Vocationally – Your Work in the World and with the Church. Genesis 2:15; Colossians 3:23-25; 1 Cor. 3:5-23
(5) Health – Taking care of the Temple that God will use on this earth until the day of your final glorification. 1 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 10:31; Philippians 4:4-9
(6) Friendship – Your connections and building bridges with others as you reflect Christ in your community. Matt. 5:13-16; Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:15-18; Col. 4:5-6; Lk. 6:27-31
(7) Financially – Your stewardship of God’s resources. Matt. 6:19-24; 1 Tim. 6:6-11, 17-19; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 9:6-8
(8) Mentoring – Your investing in Others Using your Unique Skills, Gifting, Talents, and Personality. Prov. 27:17; 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 2:4; 1 Thess. 5:11
(9) Discipleship – Your Investing in the Spiritual Growth of other followers and would-be followers of Christ. Lk. 6:40; Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:10
The healing of the demon possessed boy (Matt. 17:14–20) at first glance seems to be only one more in a series of miraculous healings recorded by Matthew. What makes this one unique is Jesus’ emphasis on the role of faith. It is true that faith is prominent in the miracles recorded in chapter 9, but in chapter 17 it is the lack of faith that is emphasized by Jesus.
That God is not dependent on human faith for accomplishing His work is clear from the accounts of other miracles recorded by Matthew. The transfiguration of Jesus immediately prior to the healing of the boy is a prime example. It was a spectacular miracle; yet no human faith was involved. This is also true in the feeding of the five thousand (Matt. 14:13–21) and the four thousand (15:32–38). So the first thing we need to learn about faith and the power of God is that He is not dependent on our faith to do His work. God will not be hostage to our lack of faith.
The second thing we need to learn, however, is that God often requires our faith in the carrying out of His purposes. We see this in the healing of the demon possessed boy. Mark, in his account, brings this out sharply in Jesus’ conversation with the boy’s father. The father, in great distress, said to Jesus: “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). He had already experienced the failure of the disciples, so he was not sure if Jesus could help. His faith at this point may be described as no more than an uncertain hope that Jesus could do what the disciples could not do.
Jesus responded to the father: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes” (v. 23). Biblical faith may be described in different ways depending on the situation. The description of faith in Hebrews 11:1 as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” was appropriate for the Jewish recipients of the letter, who were facing severe opposition and needed to be encouraged as to the certainty of their hope in Christ.
For the father of the boy, faith would mean believing that Jesus could heal his son. We are often like the father. We may face what seems to be an intractable situation, and because we have prayed a long time without an answer, we begin to doubt that God can answer our prayer. But we must believe that with God nothing is impossible.
Sarah, the wife of Abraham, doubted that God could give them a son in their advanced age, to which God replied, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14). Centuries later, the prophet Jeremiah wavered in his faith when God told him to buy a field in the face of the Chaldeans’ invasion (Jer. 32:6-26). Again God’s response was: “Is anything too hard for me?” (v. 27). To have faith in God, even in the face of unanswered prayer or a seemingly impossible situation, means we continue to believe that He can do what seems impossible to us.
The importance of faith is further emphasized in Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question: “Why could we not cast it out?” (Matt. 17:19). He said it was because of their little faith. We are not told in what way their faith was deficient. We do know that Jesus had previously given them authority over demons to cast them out (Matt. 10:1–8), so why was their faith so weak at this time? Perhaps it was because the demon did not respond immediately to their command, and so they began to doubt the power of Jesus. Or perhaps they presumed that because they had been successful before, they would be at that time. So we see that faith not only involves a firm reliance on Jesus’ power and ability, but also a complete renunciation of any confidence in our own.
Last month we looked briefly at the subject of God’s providence. In Matthew 17 we see an example of it in action, in connection with a mundane event — the paying of the temple tax. Jesus, as the Son of God, was under no obligation to pay the tax. Yet in order to give no offense, He sent Peter to catch a fish in whose mouth was the required shekel. This brief account raises some questions: How did the shekel get into the mouth of the fish? How did Peter just “happen” to catch that fish and not another one nearby? It is possible that Jesus performed a miracle and created the coin out of nothing in the mouth of the fish.
It is more likely, however, that it was a work of providence. Someone “accidentally” dropped a shekel into the sea. A particular fish grabbed it, and it stuck in its mouth. The fish swam to the exact spot where Peter cast his net and the fish was caught. None of these events was miraculous; yet all of them were necessary to accomplish Jesus’ purpose, and Jesus was in control of each one of them. God’s power is as much at work in His providence as in His miracles. So as we struggle with our own faith, or lack of it, in the difficult situations of life, let us believe that God is able, whether through miracles or providence, to care for us.
About Dr. Jerry Bridges: an author and speaker, as well as a staff member at The Navigators in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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THE VOICES OF VISION
Where does vision come from? To find the vision that is indispensable to leadership, you have to become a good listener. You must listen to several voices.
The Inner Voice: Vision starts within. Do you know your life’s mission? What stirs your heart? What do you dream about? If what you’re pursuing in life doesn’t come from a desire within—from the very depths of who you are and what you believe—you will not be able to accomplish it.
The Unhappy Voice: Where does inspiration for great ideas come from? From noticing what doesn’t work. Discontent with the status quo is a great catalyst for vision. Are you on complacent cruise control? Or do you find yourself itching to change your world? No great leader in history has fought to prevent change.
The Successful Voice: Nobody can accomplish great things alone. To fulfill a big vision, you need a good team. But you also need good advice from someone who is ahead of you in the leadership journey. If you want to lead others to greatness, find a mentor. Do you have an adviser who can help you sharpen your vision?
The Higher Voice: Although it’s true that your vision must come from within, you shouldn’t let it be confined by your limited capabilities. A truly valuable vision must have God in it. Only He knows your full capabilities. Have you looked beyond yourself, even beyond your own lifetime, as you’ve sought your vision? If not, you may be missing your true potential and life’s best for you. —The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader
MAKE SURE YOUR VISION CONTAINS ALL THAT IT MUST FOR YOU TO REACH YOUR POTENTIAL.
Source: Maxwell, John C. (2008-10-28). The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You (Kindle Locations 5088-5102). Thomas Nelson – A. Kindle Edition.
THE POWER OF PURPOSE
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. – PhiIippians 1:12-14
Paul might have been forgiven had he chosen to take a little sabbatical as he sat in prison, awaiting his trial. Yet he used even this opportunity to advance the gospel. Paul was a leader who never drifted from his mission. He determined to leave his mark wherever he went. How did Paul’s sense of purpose keep him in the battle as he sat in prison? What did he learn behind bars? Consider the following:
- A purpose will motivate you.
- A purpose will keep your priorities straight.
- A purpose will develop your potential.
- A purpose will give you power to live in the present.
- A purpose will help you evaluate your progress.
Article adapted from John C. Maxwell. Leadership Promises for Every Day (Kindle Locations 80-86). 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).