I am convinced God uses trials like the Terri Schiavo case to test men.
Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge George Greer was tested – and found wanting.
He had seven years to consider this case and got it wrong every time.
I don’t know Greer personally, but I know many people like him. They go to church on Sunday and then between Monday and Friday lead lives with no seeming connection to what they hear preached in the pulpit, what they read in the Bible, what they claim to believe of the Christian faith.
This may be the biggest single problem we have in America today – this disconnect between the spiritual lives of Christians and how they practice their faith in the world.
Greer, until recently, was a member of the Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla. He left at the urging of Pastor William Rice, who counseled him wisely: “You must know that in all likelihood it is this case which will define your career and this case that you will remember in the waning days of life. I hope you can find a way to side with the angels and become an answer to the prayers of thousands.”
Rice has my highest regard for that decision. Too many pastors in this country don’t require obedience to God as a prerequisite for church membership. They seem to believe in a kind of “cheap” grace that comes with regular attendance or tithing rather than a Christian walk. They seem to have no minimal standards for fellowship and communion with the saints.
There are few heroes in the Terri Schiavo scandal. Her parents and siblings qualify. Terri herself qualifies. Those who braved arrest to bring her cups of water qualify. And, in my book, so does Rev. William Rice.
Do you want to know why the church doesn’t have influence and impact in our increasingly secular world today?
Because there are too many so-called Christians like Judge George Greer and not enough like Pastor William Rice.
Greer’s friends have attacked the church and defended the judge, saying he was interpreting the law to the best of his ability. However, if that is true, then Greer, as a Christian, had a duty to obey God’s laws rather than man’s laws. That would require him to leave the bench if he truly saw a conflict. Instead, Greer opted to leave his church – and, presumably, his weak faith.
“Like evangelicals across the world, we are horrified at the thought that a handicapped woman could be, in effect, starved to death before a watching world,” Rice wrote. Admitting he was not a legal or medical expert, Rice asserted: “I know right from wrong. I know what God thinks about human life. I know there is only one way to describe the prospect of starving a woman to death because she cannot feed herself. It is wrong.”
Rice continued: “Morality and truth must serve as our guide. Terri Schiavo is not on life support. She is not dying. Good evidence exists to suggest that she is responsive. All she receives is food and water, the same as you and me. Are we to conclude that she is less than human because she cannot feed herself? Can a month-old child feed himself? Is an elderly patient stricken with some debilitating disease and unable to feed herself suddenly less human? Do we now use an IQ test to determine if someone possesses the right to live? Isn’t that God’s choice? Only God can give life, and only He should take it away.”
“Tread carefully if you think this is simply about a dying woman being allowed to die peacefully,” Rice wrote. “Remember when we were told that Roe v. Wade was simply about helping women who had been raped or whose lives were imminently threatened? Today, few abortions fall into that category, but millions of human lives have been sacrificed upon the altar of selfishness. And the slide down the slippery slope continues.”
In case Greer was still confused, his pastor gave him more to think about.
“This case seems complex, but it is as simple as four words: ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ If you need a compass for this complex case, you’ll find it there,” he wrote. “As we all know, the Sixth Commandment means it is wrong to murder – to take the life of an innocent person without just cause. If I were the nurse in that hospice center and the directive were given to me to discontinue feeding a living human being and watch as he or she starved to death, I couldn’t do it. I’d rather get fired, resign or do something else.”
Christians can go on blaming others for the problems we face in this country. Or we can go into the churches and start cleaning up the messes we have in our own houses of worship. It’s time to take back the churches. It’s time to renew the idea of standards. It’s time to make church membership mean something again.
Judge George Greer did the wrong thing. Pastor William Rice did the right thing. If we had more pastors like Rice, we’d have fewer judges like Greer.