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Friday, July 28, 2006

Andrea Yates


There is a place I go on the Internet and read and participate, I find it enjoyable and hope I make myself a blessing to others. Today the subject came up concerning Andrea Yates and her sentencing yesterday. Did justice prevail or was it one of those highly publicized miscarriages of justice.

In the context of this discussion a hosts of issues were raised. Where do you start? The husband was to blame, the doctors were to blame, CPS was to blame, her pastor was to blame, and she was to blame. She was sick, she suffered from depression, and it was a failure of the body of Christ. You don’t understand what she was going through, I do, and I’ve been there. If you believe that she should have received the death penalty then you are still living under the Old Covenant and do not embrace the spirit of love, grace, and forgiveness of the New Testament. If you believe she should have been put to death then you are a Pharisee and you really have no right to be casting stones. People a lot more educated than us determined that she was “insane.”??????? How can a soul ever hope to make “heads or tails” out of this?

I think we could all agree that sin complicates life dramatically. Sin presses us toward hard decisions and difficult dilemmas. In fact there are probably several things we could all agree on.

Murder is wrong.
Andrea Yates obviously was a troubled woman.
There were likely mistakes made by those who knew her.
Her children are the real victims in this terrible series of events.
God will ultimately deal with Andrea Yates and he will do so justly.
The government fulfilled its role in the jurisdiction of assessing guilt and penalty.

I think another thing we can agree on is that there is absolutely nothing pleasant about one thing in this whole drama. My guess is that no one feels good about what happened. The consequences will be far-reaching and no one is better off because it happened. It is a sad story that could not have a happy outcome. Whether Andrea Yates was executed for her actions or sentenced to life, or sentenced to an institution it is unfortunate. For her, the children, the father/husband, the grandparents, the church they attended, their pastor, the cps workers, the professionals who were addressing her problems, no one can be happy about the outcome.

Another thing to keep in mind, as someone else pointed out, is that we were not sitting in the courtroom listening to the evidence. This matters. Also what we know we know from news accounts. What we know about her, what we know about her husband, what we know about her pastor. As I pointed out in another place it should come as no surprise that the media, having found out that they were church going, home schoolers would attempt to place all the people and facts in the most negative light possible. It was an opportunity to impugn the “religious right” and those who home school. In all of their early reporting for sure you could just hear, “See what happens when you are a fanatical church going, home schooling family. The husband is an inattentive, abusive, selfish, tyrant and the woman goes stark raving mad, even to killing her kids. This is an inaccurate characterizations but one the media delighted in making.

So, my thoughts are going to be shared within the framework that she did knowingly kill her children and that she was diagnosed as being mentally ill, her husband and others knew that she was struggling.

Who gets the blame??? Well for sure we know no one wants the blame. They never do. Adam did not want the blame, Eve did not want the blame, and I don’t want the blame. Usually there is enough blame to go around. This is probably the case in this issue. Everyone had responsibilities and most if not all them failed at some level, her husband, her pastor, her church, her doctors, cps, her parents, her in-laws, etc…. Of course it is easy to see this now with five dead children. Maybe it should have been seen before, maybe there was some sinister person who knew it was going to happen and decided for whatever reason to let things proceed. While everyone had his or her area and level of culpability there was one person that committed murder. I do not think anyone else participated in that murder. I for one don’t think anyone ever believed that was going to happen. Even knowing it did happen it is still kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? There was a troubled woman that killed her children. Now while others may have some responsibilities for what they did or didn’t do, Andrea Yates has to take responsibility for the killing of her five children. To believe otherwise, it seems to me, you would have to believe that there was someone who knew she would do this and they allowed it to happen. This is a stretch I’m not prepared to make. While all of the people involved in her life are responsible for how they responded to her, I think it is a hard argument to make that they are responsible for the murder of the children. This seems to be a dangerous place to go. With that reasoning everyone who kills someone should have had someone that could have intervened, someone who saw the signs, the anger, the bitterness, the malice and done something to stop it. Because they didn’t see it they are equally responsible for the murder that was commited.

As for her husband, the one area where I can with confidence question his integrity is in that he divorced his wife. This is not in keeping with the vows he took. As difficult as it must have been, he should have played the part of a man and stood beside his wife to the end, realizing that as head of the home he bore the responsibility, while not the blame. His responsibilities to his wife did not end with the death of the children or the result of the first trial.

As for her pastor, when is the last time the media made a pastor out to be a hero? This poor man is probably still tormented about what happened under his watch. The media is notorious for taking things out of context. I for one, choose to give the pastor the benefit of the doubt. Being a pastor I know what it is to have your words isolated and taken out of context. We cannot be sure that this did not happen.

Now as to whether she should have received the death penalty. In light of my understanding of what took place I believe she should, she did not. Because I disagree with the decision that was rendered that does not mean that I am disobeying duly appointed authority. The fact is I accept the decision. That is the way it is. I don’t agree with it, but it is done. Now if I sought out Andrea Yates to execute what I thought was just punishment then maybe such an accusation could be reasonably made. But simply disagreeing with the decision is hardly the basis for saying that I do not submit to duly authorized authority.

There is a bigger issue here, the death penalty for the murderer. The Bible is not silent. It speaks directly to this issue.

Ge 9:6 - Whoso sheddeth man‘s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
Ex 21:12 - He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
Ex 21:14 - But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.
Le 24:17 - And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.
Ro 13:4 - For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

I don’t see how anything could be clearer. This is the word of God on the matter. If I take this as my position how can that be considered vicious and savage? When God said these things was he being vicious and savage. The problem here is that there are people who do not want to embrace the full range of God’s being. There are some things that God hates, murder happens to be one of them. And we know the degree to which God hates it by the judgment he attaches to the statute, death. Now if Andrea Yates killed her children according to God’s word she should be executed. She is not going to be. From my perspective I cannot agree with this decision. I accept it, I do not agree with it.

The fact that God allowed her to be spared does not mean that he desired her to be spared. To reason thusly is not to reason thoroughly, but emotionally. The fact is God allows a multitude of things with which he is not personally pleased. I believe it would be futile to provide examples for those who cannot think of them on their own.

Some seem to believe that the very nature of God in relation to sin was changed somewhere between the Testaments. What God was in the Old Testament, he is in the New. What God is in the New Testament, he is in the Old. If he is not the same then that necessarily means he changed. If he changed then that means one of two things are true. He either got better or worse, either way he is not the God of the Bible.

Heb 13:8 - Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
Heb 1:12 - And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
Ps 102:27 - But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.
Mal 3:6 - For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

To attempt to reason that Andrea Yates is not a good candidate for the death penalty because her execution would not serve as a deterrent and that she would not be a danger to society is not true. All executions are to a degree a deterrent. When she came up for execution, people would remember why she was there and they would not help but be able to draw the connection between the behavior and the consequences. How can it be said she would not be a danger to society, she was a danger to her own children. What if the voices returned and told her someone else would be better off dead, the neighbor kids, her nephews, her parents. What we do know is that she has the potential to kill, she had done it, and plenty of people who struggle with depression for whatever reason have never killed anyone. This lady is clearly a danger.

Some would argue that people much more educated than us have determined certain things to be true about Andrea Yates, and because we are not equally educated we do not have the ability to make sound judgment on these matters. This is a false premise. Education, in and of itself does not make a person noteworthy. There is no education that does not take place in the context of a worldview. All education is in effect the transmitting of a worldview. Consider the following:

Two highly educated individuals look at the same fossil, the same rock, and the same layers in a canyon. The one says this indicates that the world is billions of years old and the evolution took place. The other says this indicates the world is about 6,000 years old, experienced a catastrophe and that there is a creator. How can this be? Both highly educated but differing opinions about the same evidence. The reason is because of worldview. The one was educated in the framework of a secular/humanist worldview; the other was educated in the framework of a Biblical worldview.

Again, Two highly educated individuals look at the same case of human behavior, same charts, same symptoms, and same person. The one says this indicates that this person has psychosis that needs to be treated by a wide range of therapy and drugs. The other says this indicates that this person is a sinner that needs to have the word of God and the power of Christ blood made real in their life. How can this be? Both highly educated but differing opinions about the same evidence. The reason is because of worldview. The one was educated in the framework of a secular/humanist/Freudian worldview; the other was educated in the framework of a Biblical worldview.

I would not give you two cents for the former but place great confidence in the latter. Many Christians give homage to the former while embracing the latter, especially when it comes to human behavior.

The church is not good at dealing with these issues because it has lost its confidence in the power of Christ and his Word to deliver and give victory in the life of the believer. I think the Bible is clear about the victory that is available in Christ. Many believers pay lip service to this but then immediately find excuses for the things they really struggle with in life. And consequently they end up in an endless cycle of therapy, and drug use, with no hope of deliverance.

The woman caught in adultery is often used to dismiss God’s view of how sin is to be addressed. There are a couple of things about this story that is worthy of note. Jesus never says she was not worthy of death. The men that brought her said that she was caught in the very act and if so then there was a man present and the law required that they both be stoned. They were not being judicious in the application of the law. Another thing is that the Jews did not have the power of capital punishment at this time. Being under Roman jurisdiction the Romans were the only ones who could sentence a person to death. They were seeking to operate outside their realm of authority. There were a number of problems with this scenario.

How would I counsel a man in my church whose wife was obviously struggling? Well, for one I hate hypotheticals. You can back yourself into a corner. It is easier to decide when you have set of real facts before you. But let me give just a couple of general thoughts. I would, as I often do from the pulpit, remind the man that he is responsible for the well being of his wife. He has a responsibility to lighten her load, lower her stress, bear her burdens and in general minister to her. I would also counsel the man that he has a responsibility to teach his wife. He is to teach her how to handle life and problems. He is to apply the Word of God to her life in a loving, patient fashion. He is to live a spiritual life before her showing her every day how it is done. I would proceed to give him some practical advice that would be determined by the particulars of their situation. Lastly I would offer hope. That no matter how bleak it may seem at the time God has answers. The Bible has direction. As it is faithfully applied things begin to look up. It may be slowly, but the important thing is that progress is being made.

I firmly believe that the Bible applied to the life of the believer has the potential to equip them for every eventuality in life. At least it says so, and I choose to believe it.

2Pe 1:3 - According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

Because Andrea Yates is going to live it would be wonderful if she could know true deliverance through the power of Christ.

These are just a few thoughts, quickly addressed on the subject. It may give rise to a more detailed analysis at another point.
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