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MEDICAL UPDATE

I’ve been home for a week and things continue to improve.  My weight is down, my energy is up and as you’ve heard people say, “It feels good just to feel good.”  The next follow-up appointment is in early April – just an oil change and tire rotation – so we hope the positive trend continues.

BLOGS 

For the time being I’ve decided to continue blogging on this site.  I’ve got a couple more in the pipeline; you should be receiving email alerts when a new one is posted.  If you know people you think might be interested in the blog, please refer them to the CaringBridge site.  (www.caringbridge.org/visit/cecilvanhouten)

A LOOK BACK, A LOOK AHEAD 

It was probably the biggest story of the week, at least in evangelical circles:  Fred Phelps, founder of the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, died. As with most things Westboro, there was mystery surrounding his standing with the church in his last days and accurate information has been sketchy.  So what do we think about his passing?  How do we respond to comments from people who are glad he’s dead?  Do we engage or just let it go?

To generalize and say, “Yeah, I’m glad the bastard's dead” may satisfy some of the people who have found his actions and beliefs reprehensible through the years.  But what's been most interesting to me in the last few days is to see some of the most virulent reactions coming from believers, not same-sex marriage proponents or the LGBT community.  They've shown more grace than many Christians.

The Westboro crowd was best known in recent years for its appearances at funerals, especially military funerals, waving anti-homosexual protest signs and chanting hate speech like, “God hates fags.”  Hardly the best way to engage in meaningful dialogue but that wasn’t Phelps’ goal.  His was a slash and burn mentality, a “take no prisoners” approach that probably never persuaded anyone to believe as he did.  Our country was not spared either for “tolerating homosexuality”.  God was punishing America with tragedies from the Sandy Hook school shooting to the attacks of 9/11.  (I think he stole the 9/11 thing from Jerry Falwell but it’s a moot point now.)

Do we mourn his loss?  Some may; a small minority of believers who share his philosophies and believe in his tactics will regret his passing.  And for the rest of us, there’s a sense of sadness; first, for his family in their time of loss.  Regardless of anything else, that is a fact.  But second, for all of us who name the Name of Christ as our reconciler to God.  We wish he would have just shut up.  We wish he would have repented and not allowed his heart to become bitter and hateful. We regret the damage he has done to thousands of lives by his arrogance and merciless actions.

In the end, his death should cause each of us to examine our own hearts.  Why? To see if there is any wickedness in us. To make sure we’re responding to hate with grace and intolerance with acceptance.  To realize that no argument was ever won by the one who shouted the loudest and whose actions were “hate speech” personified.

If we respond to hate with more hate, we are no different than the Fred Phelps of the world.  Mercy, love and grace will bring people to Christ.  The “gospel of hate” has no place in the Kingdom of God.

                  *                                  *                              *

I’ve written several times before about Hobby Lobby’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act’s (Obamacare) birth control mandate.  After eighteen months of legal proceedings,the case will be argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday (3/25).   

This may be one of the most high-profile cases the Supremes hear this year.  Nearly one-hundred other Christian-owned businesses and non-profits have joined with Hobby Lobby in friend of the court briefs.  There are two basic questions the Court must consider:

Does Hobby Lobby as a corporation have religious rights protected by the First Amendment?  

And, have those rights been violated under the statute (established in 1994) that sets a high bar for government interference in religious freedom?

On the one hand, the argument is that a business cannot be “Christian” or "Jewish" or "Muslim" regardless of its practices (Hobby Lobby sells Christian merchandise, they close on Sundays, etc.), therefore the mandate must apply.  On the other hand it is argued that the government does not have the authority to coerce a business to violate its moral, religious or ethical values, which would happen if the business complies with the mandate.

The Court is expected to announce a decision in June.  But for this week, pray that the presentation of the case before the Court is clear and compelling and that the Justices will be guided toward a favorable decision.