Posts tagged ‘Crime’

Jeffrey Epstein and the Diminishment of Human Life

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Credit: Kat Wilcox from Pexels

As the evidence against Jeffrey Epstein continued to pile up, the circle of powerful men who counted him as acquaintances – or, depending on how one interprets the evidence, as close, personal friends – continued to expand. A couple of weeks ago, The New York Times published an exposé on Mr. Epstein’s nebulous business partnership with Leslie Wexner, of Victoria’s Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch fame. Questions abound. Who among Mr. Epstein’s social and business associates knew about his alleged sex trafficking crimes? Was there anyone among these associates who participated in his purported despicable sexual acts with underage girls?

Regardless of who was involved with Mr. Epstein, this much seems certain: Mr. Epstein himself used his power and wealth to exploit and abuse the vulnerable. He viewed women as sex objects to which he was entitled.

Mr. Epstein’s crimes were grizzly and his actions were egregious. His attitude, however, is all too common. When sex becomes something to which a person feels entitled, he will use – and yes, even sickeningly abuse – others to get what he desires.

A Christian theology of relationships reminds us that from Adam and Eve on, relationships are gifts of grace. Adam did not receive Eve as his companion because he was entitled to her or deserving of her, but because God desired to bless him. Eve did not receive Adam as her companion because she was entitled to him or deserving of him, but because God desired to bless her. This reality should shape the way we relate to each other – not as commodities to be used, but as gifts to be cherished.

Sadly, how we relate to others does not always reflect God’s created order. Some men speak of woman as “notches in their belt.” Some women speak of men as “sugar daddies.” But our relational disfunction goes far deeper than a smattering of vulgar slurs. Resentment takes root in marriages when one spouse feels as though their partner is not “meeting their needs.” Fights break out when one person feels another is not “pulling their weight.” All of these things are indications that we often use each other selfishly instead of cherishing each other lovingly.

Clearly, what Mr. Epstein has allegedly done reaches far beyond the more mundane everyday disagreements and disputes people have in their relationships. But there are still lessons here for us to heed. First, diminishing the value of a person’s life may end with crimes like Mr. Epstein’s, but it can begin with something as simple and socially acceptable as a demanding spirit. So, be careful with your seemingly small selfish acts. Second, diminishing the value of another’s life ultimately degrades how you see your own life. This was certainly true of Mr. Epstein. He was found dead of an apparent suicide in his jail cell on Saturday. When justice came for him because of his lack of regard for the lives of others, he despaired of his own.

Now would be a good time, then, to say “thank you” and “I love you” to your spouse, your children, your relatives, and your friends. Now would be a good time to cherish them in their humanity rather than treating them like a convenient commodity. After all, this is what Jesus did for you. He did not use you. Instead, He gave Himself for you. You are precious to Him.

Who’s precious to you? Make sure they know they are.

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August 12, 2019 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

A Package Bomber and a Synagogue Shooter

It’s been a tragic week in our nation.  And that’s putting it mildly.  Beginning last Monday, a series of packages containing explosive devices began to turn up at homes, at business, and in post offices.  These packages were addressed to Democratic politicians, including the Obamas and the Clintons, as well as to financier George Soros, actor Robert De Niro, and CNN.  Though none of the packages detonated, they were sent by a man who was, to put it mildly, devotedly partisan in his views.  He drove a van covered with bumper stickers showing Democratic politicians in crosshairs.  He also posted violent and threatening rhetoric on social media.

Then, on Saturday, a gunman armed with an AR-15 and three rifles showed up at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.  He shouted, “All Jews must die,” and opened fire.  By the time his shots fell silent, eleven were dead and a number of others were injured.  As investigators looked into this shooter’s past, he too was found to have posted violent and threatening rhetoric on social media.  He was also a member of an egregiously anti-Semitic online community.

It’s no secret that we’re a nation on edge.  A lot of people hate a lot of other people.  This hate, in turn, when coupled with a mental health crisis that seems to be creeping across our society, erupts in violence – just as it did in the case of these two men.

At this moment, when hatred is hot, Christians must be on the frontlines advocating for love.  Our culture is fighting the wrong demons.  Our culture sees demons in politicians and positions it doesn’t like.  It sees demons in religions and races it doesn’t like.  But Scripture is clear.  We are called to fight:

…not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

If we’re fighting other people, we’re doing it wrong.  Our struggle is against the demons the Bible identifies as truly demonic – not against the demons created for us on social media.

In his new book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other – And How To Heal, Senator Ben Sasse offers a convicting analysis of our cultural milieu:

It seems clear that in America today, we’re facing problems that feel too big for us, so we’re lashing out at each other, often over less important matters.  Many of us are using politics as a way to distract ourselves from the nagging sense that something bigger is wrong.  Not many of us would honestly argue that if our “side” just had more political power, we’d be able to fix what ails us.  Fortunately, we can avoid addressing the big problems as long as someone else – some nearer target – is standing in the way of our securing the political power even to try.  It’s easier to shriek at people on the other side of the street.  It’s comforting to be able to pin the problems on the freaks in the pink hats or the weirdos carrying the pro-life signs.

At least our contempt unites us with other Americans who think like we do.

At least we are not like them.

Senator Sasse speaks specifically to our political climate, but his words can be applied to our broader cultural problems as well.  There is an attitude prevalent among many that does not want to solve problems.  Instead, it only wants to grab power.  There is an attitude prevalent among many that does not seek understanding.  Instead, it only traffics in character assassination.  And the results, even if they are, thankfully, generally not violent, are certainly not good.  People begin to trade transcendent commitments for tribal grievances.  They stop looking at others as people who are precious by virtue of being created in God’s image and instead see them as enemies needing to be eradicated.  They make demons out of mortals.

The Psalmist describes God’s patience with the Israelites of old like this:

He was merciful; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. (Psalm 78:38-39)

God was patient with and merciful to the Israelites because He remembered who the Israelites were – mere, fragile mortals.  Their lives were so short and fragile that they were like passing breezes.  God is patient with and merciful to us because He remembers who we are – mere, fragile mortals.  Our lives are so short and fragile that we are like passing breezes.  Perhaps we should see each other like God sees us.  Perhaps we should restrain our anger and wrath like God does for us.  I hope this past week has taught us at least that much.

Life’s too short to hate.

October 29, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Faces of Las Vegas

Mandalay Bay Victims

These are the faces of lives lost.  These are some of the people who went to a country music festival in Las Vegas for a fun night out only to find themselves on the deadly end of a mass murderer’s bullet.  These are mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, coworkers and friends – human beings made in God’s image.

From the moment SWAT officers burst into Stephen Paddock’s hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, investigators began to ask the question, “Why?”  Why would a man with no ostensible axe to grind or radical ideology to vindicate carry out the largest mass murder in modern American history?  Why would he pick this venue?  Why would he do so without leaving any apparent clues as to his motivation like a manifesto of his grievances or a record for his place in history?  Why?

These are the types of questions that have been the primary drivers of countless news stories over this past week.  And “why” questions are indeed very important, for their answers have the potential of helping prevent another attack like this one.  But they may also be unanswerable.  Indeed, one of the strangest features of this tragedy is that a week has passed and, still, the motive of this man has remained elusive.  So, rather than asking “why?” I want to take a moment to focus on “who.”  Who was it that lost their life a week ago Sunday?

Bill Wolfe Jr. coached youth wrestling and Little League in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.  He had worked for an engineering firm and was well-known as being fun-loving and “a devoted Christian.”

Candice Bowers was described as a woman who “was so busy taking care of everyone else…that she rarely took time for herself.”  She lived in Garden Grove, California and had recently adopted her two-year-old niece, Ariel.  She also had two older children, ages 20 and 16, and worked as a waitress.

Christopher Roybal was a 28-year-old Navy veteran whose mom was supposed to join him at the concert that night, but before she could meet up with him, shots rang out.  He was medically discharged from the Navy in 2012 after going mostly deaf in his left ear.  He was a man who would graciously watch chick flicks with and for his mom and had the Lord’s Prayer tattooed on his side.  He worked as a fitness trainer in North Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Sandy Casey was a special education teacher in Manhattan Beach, California.  She was engaged and was attending the concert with her fiancé.  The Superintendent of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District described Sandra as “a spectacular teacher who devoted her life to helping some of our most needy students.”

Charleston Hartfield was a Las Vegas police officer and was off-duty when attending the concert.  He was a 34-year-old military veteran who coached youth football.  He published a book titled Memoirs of a Public Servant, detailing his time on the Las Vegas Police Force.  He leaves behind a wife, a son, and a daughter.

These are the names of only five of the victims who lost their lives a week ago Sunday.  58 were murdered in all.  That leaves 53 other names.  53 other faces.  53 other stories.  53 other people.  I would encourage you to take some time to learn more about them.

The questions of “why” will always be, in some sense, unanswerable – even if a motive is discovered and a record of the assailant’s thinking is uncovered.  Shooting up a concert full of innocent people can never be made to make actual sense, even if investigators uncover what made it make sense to the perpetrator.  Sin never leads people to act sanely.  Before sin ever affects our actions, it infiltrates and corrupts our minds.  This is why the questions of “why,” though they may be important to investigators, cannot eclipse the stories of the people who lost their lives.  They matter most.  For they are the reason families are grieving and a nation is reflecting.  May we never become so obsessed with the motive for a crime that we forget about the people hurt – and, sadly, taken – by this crime.

October 9, 2017 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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