That Wicked City, Joplin, that Slew Nancy Cruzan
25 May, 2011
What was the matter with Joplin? Why all the nasty wind?
Of course, we who are not speaking as prophets of God can only speculate about the occasion for disasters. When are such devastating weather-related events “natural disasters”? And when ̶ judgments? Let us propose that there are no “natural disasters” since God, Himself, rules and sustains His creation from beginning to end and from moment to moment. This is historic Christian doctrine. Now, if these “disasters” are judgments, for what sin(s) are they executed? Since He is omnipotent and omniscient, He has full knowledge of and is able to change the course of any event that occurs anywhere at anytime.
Some suffer great losses and others enjoy wonderful blessings for reasons, which though they cannot be discovered by men, still serve divine purposes (Job). We are told by the great Revelator, the Messiah himself, that sometimes diseases or handicaps occur for the awesome purpose of displaying God’s glory through a miracle at the hand His Servant – with the apparent intention of validating his Servant as the authentic messenger from God and “so that the works of God might be displayed” (John 9:3).
The increase of His glory in that fashion is attenuated in the post-apostolic age by the absence of those miracle working, hand-picked-by-Jesus Apostles walking the earth, but the idea of someone’s life bringing Him glory through affliction is still a fact in as much as it serves to “sanctify” God’s people (Hebrews 12). One may turn, for a contemporary example, to the paraplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, whose diving board accident and subsequent testimony to God’s grace has resulted in immeasurable praise and countless personal conversions.
But let us consider the judgment of entire cities and nations. The Scriptures record the fact that judgment comes in many forms: war, famine, disease, and weather. Drought and flooding are the instruments of judgment associated with Elijah and Noah. Storms are sent by God to Jonah and to Jesus to accomplish His purposes. The weather serves God’s purposes in bringing judgments (Deut. 28:23, 24) as well as His favor (Deut. 28:11). Devastation comes to cities and nations when they corporately refusal to respond to the Truth when it is made abundantly evident to them. Whole cities are called to account for their rejection of the Gospel when the message has been accredited by miracles (Matt. 11:20-24). Cities are also called to account for violating perspicuously moral behavior. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are famous for committing the eponymous sexually perverted acts known as sodomy. But this deed – capital crime as it is, along with rape, adultery, incest, witchcraft, blasphemy, bestiality, murder and juvenile delinquency ̶ wasa product of their sinful life style: “arrogance, abundant food and careless ease”; in which they “did not help the poor and needy” (Ezek. 16:49).
There was someone needy in Joplin. She needed simple sustenance and the whole city knew about her need.
Sin and the City
Let us consider, again, the matter of divine judgment of a city. Of course, all cities have a number of unregenerate sinners and if, by tolerating or even encouraging miscreant and criminal behavior, they have earned divine chastisement if not retribution from God. And it is only by His own forbearance that any of our particular, blood-soaked, American cities are not smashed by any selection of the variety of meteorological catastrophes available in His heavenly arsenal (Luke 13:1-5).
The salient point in these meditations upon that Word is for the observer to reflect upon the sins of a given doomed city to discover whether, perhaps, repentance is overdue for ourselves. This is precisely the message Jesus gives to his listeners when he references the judgment of “the Galileans” and “Siloam” (Luke 13). That these cities, when destroyed, were judged by God is not in question. The sovereignty of God is orthodox Christian doctrine.
Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth,
Who makes lightnings for the rain,
Who brings forth wind from His treasuries.
He smote the firstborn of Egypt,
Both of man and beast.
He sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt,
Upon Pharaoh and all his servants.
He smote many nations
And slew mighty kings . . . (Psalm 135:6-10).
The matter that Jesus addressed was the false doctrine of the Jews of Jerusalem who thought that they were beyond the reach of the Law’s condemnation. Judgments did not pertain to the covenant people. They were blameless because they had been chosen and were in possession of God’s Law. Whenever they heard of the fall of other cities they did not humble themselves in gratitude that God had overlooked their sins and extended them mercy. Rather, they thought themselves distinguished from those sinners whose guilt was evident by the judgment they received. What God had intended for mercy, they interpreted as credit. They were not wicked like those Gentile cities.
The recent disaster visited upon Joplin follows soon after the earlier destruction of Japan two months ago. It is useful to contemplate any particular wickedness which may have incited the Almighty’s indignation, but with humble recognition of the fact that it is always by His grace that we are not treated worse some one else. “His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.” (Lam. 3:22,23).
I had not been thinking about Joplin’s history when I received an email from a friend. Cathy Ramey was the editor and contributor to my book, A Time to Kill, who wrote something about Joplin and Nancy Cruzan following the tornado destruction of a few days before. She opined upon the subject with a phrase which serves me as the title of this short article. The Cruzan name is associated with accelerating the development of “euthanasia” as a means of ridding society of burdensome, handicapped citizens. To me sure, there are more complicated issues surrounding the method that humans exit this biosphere than there are their entrance into it. Nevertheless, the rejection of the traditional western (Judeo-Christian) high view of human life together with the exaltation of “the environment” invites some bizarre considerations regarding compulsory population control (e.g. forced abortion in China which continues without criticism from elitists of the western academy and political community). The western (post-Christrian) world has lost its way so that a heartland city like Joplin can be as depraved as any California San Franciscan.
Nancy Cruzan suffered severe brain damage from a car accident in 1983 and the moral and legal controversies in her case led to legal conflicts from which the case law has been established which governs current end-of-life issues. She remained until her death in 1990 in a “permanent vegetative state” in which, allegedly, all higher brain activity had stopped. Ethics professor Scott Rae in his text book Moral Choices describes her condition as most people like to imagine it: “Only the involuntary function, such as heartbeat, breathing, and digestion – the functions regulated by the brain stem – continued.” She was kept alive by supplying her with foods and liquids through a tube inserted into her stomach. After seven years of this, the parents wanted to stop feeding her this way. The controversy centered around the question of terminating not “medical treatment” but “basic care.” When the courts finally allowed the tube to be removed, she died 12 days later – having starved to death.
In the middle of the Cruzan controversy, Operation Rescue was at its height, organizing Christians around the country to come physically down to their local abortion facility and block the doors to prevent to intentional killing of innocent children – healthy or unhealthy. Ramey happened to be in Joplin, working for an OR ally and the primary news vehicle for the anti-abortion movement, Life Advocate Ministries of Portland Oregon, serving as editor of Andrew Burnett’s Life Advocate Magazine (subsequently sued out of existence by Planned Parenthood in Planned Parenthood v. ACLA, 1995). She had this to say about Joplin after I asked about her now-titular quip:
I was in Joplin running the OR communications center at the time. My personal task at one point was to contact every church in the area and ask them to hold Nancy up in prayer at their Sunday services. Every pastor but one declined in one way or another; “we don’t want to get involved,” and excuses of that sort. It was quite discouraging to see that just requesting prayer, nothing else, and hoping the Lord would then lead them was not something they were willing to risk.
Yes, there are some complicated end-of-life issues distinguishable from those surrounding the intentional destruction of human beings in their earliest stages of development: fetal, pre-natal, neo-natal, even post-natal! But is it not damnable that the most vigorous champions of the innocent womb children in the 1980s, Operation Rescue – when they appealed to the churches of Joplin to simply pray for Nancy Cruzan – should be rebuffed so?
The most essential moral and doctrinal message that must be preached today in our pagan land is the sanctity of human life – that human beings are created in God’s image; that homo sapiens are not just another mammal on Linnaeus’s taxonomy chart. This doctrine of the imago Dei in man is of the most profound importance and fundamental to all forms of philanthropy and humanitarianism.
The pastors of Joplin were called upon a few decades ago to pray at a very crucial, opportune and even divine moment. They refused the call. The country has continued to wander through this slough of Godless folly. It might it be that Joplin was judged for its sin of omission on the particular occasion of the death of one helpless woman whose threatened life was made known to the whole population.
Yes, sympathizers will respond with that American charity which will surely be heaped upon Joplin. But many of these generous philanthropists, even in their kindness, have overlooked the doctrine which must be declared and upheld if the very continuation of the spirit of humanitarianism is to triumph over misanthropic environmentalism! That doctrine is homo imago Dei – the image of God in man. This is the foundation for the dignity of man and the protection due the innocents. It is not difficult to imagine that environmentalism may replace humanitarianism as a primary virtue to be desired and encouraged in the ideal citizen. It is crucial to the health of mankind to recognize and defend this cardinal doctrine. It is crucial to the re-establishment of the “right to life” for womb children and for those who are severely injured ex-utero persons.
The reports of Nancy Cruzan lying in a “persistent vegetative state” are untenable. As Dennis Graves reported in KY3 News (Mount Vernon, Mo., Oct. 22, 2003):
Sheriff Doug Seneker guarded Cruzan’s room at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center. Lawrence County Sheriff Doug Seneker was a deputy sheriff at the time. He questions whether Nancy Cruzan was in a persistent vegetative state. His opinion is based, in part, on her reactions three days before her death when he went into her room to check on her. “She turned and looked at me and stared at me with a panicky look, sweating profusely, and the thought I had was, she was thinking, ‘Oh, here’s a policeman, he’ll help me.’ But we weren’t allowed to do that,” said Seneker.
In fact, Seneker and other officers were required to prevent others from helping her.
“We had a group called Operation Rescue that were intent on getting into her and they had a nurse with them that was going to replace the feeding tube,” said the sheriff. “That was their stated goal and they kept finding ways to get into the hospital. We arrested 15 of them.”
Ramey reports to me from her own research that the realities of this case were misrepresented by national news media. She says:
Here are the facts as presented in legal affidavits by the “rehabilitation” facility staff and others who had a relationship with Nancy; she was able to eat on her own just as a 10-month baby would, with someone spooning food into her mouth. But feeding Nancy that way was deemed “too slow,” so a feeding tube was placed in her stomach to facilitate the busy staff and her too-busy family that also could not spare the time to feed her.
The whole tragedy was indeed a terrible ordeal for the victim’s family. Nancy’s father, Joe, killed himself in 1996, five years after Nancy died. Her mother, Joyce, died in 1999.
Maybe this city was being called by God through the mouth of OR and other Christian activists – a band of prophetic servants of God – to repent and honor the God who gives life and takes it away. And if indeed that city failed to answer the call, mercy was shown for 21 years. The opportunity for repentance for some is now over. May the living in all the rest of the United States heed the warning and repent from the shedding of innocent blood.
Local KY3 television showed many pictures of damges areas around St. John’s Hospital. One of the serires shows an orange and light brown (“tope”?) tent. My son, a Green Beret and captain in the U.S. Army, helped put it up. En route to his new duty assignment in Colorado from Ft. Bragg, he was visiting us in Ohio just before the second tornado hit, and he determined to use some of his leave time to help with the search and rescue. Joplin was an hour off his route, so he drove there and arrived the night of 25 May. During the two days he searched, commanding other volunteers he walked through what seemed like a garbage dump. No living persons were found, just debris. Pieces of flesh – no bigger than a hand ̶ and mangled fat were recovered, sometimes discernable as human because of the skin or the distinct odor of rotting human remains. Sometimes the matter was not recognized with certainty as the remains of a mammal. The quick method of distinguishing flesh from inorganic debris amounted to simply sniffing it. Collected items were sorted out for subsequent testing.
In all the calamities of this world, his mercies are new very morning. In this truth and in the hope of His coming, the Day of the Lord will be both Light and Darkness. May a spirit of repentance be granted to our nation.