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March 26, 2005
Column #1,230

                       
                       What Is God's Purpose?                
     
                               
     The week before Easter has been a disturbing one, a time of death not a season of hope.

     A court ordered that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube and hydration be withdrawn on March 18.  As her life ebbed away, Congress cut short its Easter vacation, and returned to Washington last weekend to enact a law allowing federal courts to review her case.

     However, as a federal judge studied it, he did not order the tubes be reinserted, which was the purpose of the law.  s Mrs. Schiavo's parents put it in a legal brief, "Death is absolutely irreparable." Federal District Court Judge James Whittemore agreed that "irreparable injury" was at stake, but said "Plaintiffs have not established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits." Later a Federal Appeals Court and a Florida court came to the same conclusion.

     Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband who sought to have the feeding tube removed, argued she was in "a persistent vegetative state." However, a nurse who once cared for her, said "When I worked with her, she was alert and oriented. Terri spoke on a regular basis while in my presence, saying such things as `mommy' and `help me.' `Help me" was in fact one of her most frequent utterances. I heard her say it hundreds of times." The nurse re-told her story on Fox News.

     As the nation was debating the merits of extending her life, it was shocked to learn that a 16-year-old student, Jeff Weise, killed his grandfather and his 32-year-old female companion, a school guard, a teacher, five students, and then himself in Red Lake, Minnesota. It was the worst school shooting incident since Columbine High School.

     The inevitable question: how could anyone value life so little?

     A partial answer is that no one valued the life of Jeff Weise. 

     His father committed suicide a few years ago. His mother drank heavily and beat him. She's in a nursing home with head injuries suffered in a car accident. The boy was sent to live with his grandfather who was focused on his lover. But his record of anti-social behavior, including a threat to shoot up the school last April 20, Hitler's birthday, prompted the school to remove him and place him in a home tutoring program in a facility separate from his grandfather.

     The only group which accepted the tormented boy was an Ayran supremacist group, which he communicated with via computer. He called himself "Todesangel," German for "angel of death." He wrote that "I've always carried a natural admiration for Hitler and his ideals, and his courage to take on larger nations."

      One member of the group replied, "We welcome you, brother."

     No one else gave him that welcome. Not his father, nor mother, nor grandfather, nor the school.

     Last week, Ashley Smith, a 26-year-old widow, who lost her husband to murder, found herself a hostage of  Brian Nichols. He had just killed four people. She had reason to be utterly terrified. But she appealed to his better nature by picking up Rick Warren's powerful book, "The Purpose Driven Life," and read from Chapter 33, where she had just been reading:

     "Remember God shaped you for (ital) service (cl ital) not for self-centeredness."

     He replied, "Look in my eyes. I am already dead."

     "You are not dead. You are standing in front of me," and she added, "You are in my apartment for some reason." She said he had a purpose in life. She urged him to turn himself in, and use his remaining years in prison to acquaint others with God.

     He lay his guns down on the bed, which she could have grabbed, but she did not. Nor did she escape when she could have. She waited hours until she was certain that she had given that killer hope for his future.

     Rev. Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," was asked on CNN this week, if he could explain how the school killings were part of God's plan.

     He could not. But he said there was one theme that tied together Jeff Weise, Brian Nichols and Easter - the importance of hope. The two killers both lost hope in their future, but the Resurrection's message is that there is hope indeed.

      "The Purpose Driven Life" begins quoting Bertrand Russell, an atheist: "Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless."

     Exactly. Or as Warren puts it:

     "Without God life makes no sense."

     Jeff Weise' idol was Hitler not God. Brian Nichols discovered God, but too late.

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