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Ken Lay and the reverend

July 11, 2006

I’ve heard a lot of reactions to the death of Ken Lay, none of which would be much of a comfort to his mother.  Suffice it to say, he wasn’t universally loved, and the thought of him clutching his chest and dying in agony doesn’t seem to have cost anybody any sleep.

It isn’t that he committed a crime, nor even that it was such a big crime; it’s the number of people he hurt and the cold, calculating, persistent premeditation of his crime… and the fact that he was so damn sanctimonious about it.  If you really want to be hated, you have to work at it consistently.

Fast forward to Bloomington, IL (twin to Normal, IL), then and see the conundrum of the pastor of the local Presbyterian church here.  It isn’t just any church; it’s one of the oldest, yet most innovative, and highly respected churches in the county.

The lead pastor, Ted Pierce, has spearheaded the formation of an outreach mission to the homeless.  He’s maneuvered a building program to replace the main sanctuary which had become unsafe.  He helped create an annual countywide volunteerism campaign.  Most people would say he’s a good guy.

And yet… a little less than two weeks ago, he seemed on the verge of killing his wife.  The Pantagraph reports has been “charged with aggravated battery, criminal trespass to a residence and domestic battery”…

The dispute started when Pierce arrived at his wife’s new home and learned she was inside with a male friend, according to court records.

Prosecutors say Ted Pierce entered the house, grabbed Laura Pierce by the neck and began choking her in an attempt to make her admit the man was her boyfriend… [he] then held a knife to [her] and said he was going to kill her if she didn’t confess by the time he finished counting to three, according to the charges.

Laura Pierce suffered several scratches and wounds from the knife as she pushed it away from her body, charges state; those wounds led to the charge of aggravated battery. Ted Pierce eventually left the home after his wife told him to think of their two children, court records said.

That’s an absolutely horrible thing to do, but it was, as they say, a “crime of passion”.  Somehow I just can’t work up the dislike for Rev. Pierce that I have for Ken Lay.  Pierce didn’t work at being evil; just the opposite.  But the incident will certainly complicate his memory.

If you are ever tempted to think that Christians are all unforgiving, judgmental Pharisees, consider the example of this church, which has placed him on medical leave and is waiting for more information.  An associate pastor said; “Do we approve of what happened? Of course not. Nobody in their right mind would.  But the issue is that Ted is still one of us. These things happen to people. Nobody is in a position to point fingers.”

OK, so the church is a loving, caring community, not quick to judge.  Fine.  But what about the man’s wife?  How is she doing now?  The article did not say.  But it’s not hard to imagine her thinking; “Sure, they’re all protective of their great leader.  If it was anyone else they’d be saying ‘get the rope’!”

Then again, she may be, like the church itself, a model of forgiveness.  It probably depends on how much of the picture she wants to take in at one viewing.  That equation may change over time.  I can only imagine how her immediate family must feel.

Pierce will no doubt be punished – he was just a quick move away from being our local example of O.J. Simpson.  And he should be punished.  You can’t have a civil society without exacting a cost for behavior like that. It will radiate out to taint everything he accomplished. 

This is where it would be comforting to believe in a personal God who could put it all on a balance and decide, thumbs up or thumbs down.  And because of that God’s perspective, we’d all just accept it.

But in the absence of any such being, we’re all kind of stuck trying to figure out what to put at the right of the ‘equal’ sign.  Because despite the doctrine of original sin, some people just add up differently from others.

Categories: Religion
  1. July 12, 2006 at 05:57 | #1

    “Then again, she may be, like the church itself, a model of forgiveness.  It probably depends on how much of the picture she wants to take in at one viewing.  That equation may change over time.  I can only imagine how her immediate family must feel.”

    I for one could give a damn about how she felt if she was screwing around on her husband. I guess he could have just set down and waited for them to stop screwing and then have a rational discussion about her cheating ass ways and maybe the effect that might have on there two children.

  2. July 12, 2006 at 10:36 | #2

    jog, I get the impression from reading the quote above that Pierce and his wife were divorced, or at least separated (Pierce arrived at his wife’s new home).  If that’s the case, even if she was “screwing” her male friend (and nothing in the article indicates that they were doing more than having afternoon tea), Pierce still has no leg to stand on.  I speak with knowledge only of NC law (not IL law, which is where this took place), but in NC, a separated couple can both “behave as if not married” once the separation becomes legal (both parties have signed the separation agreement).

  3. July 12, 2006 at 11:46 | #3

    DOF: It isn’t that he committed a crime, nor even that it was such a big crime;

    I think what you mean is that: “It isn’t that he committed a violent crime;

    For what he did was a crime and it was a big one.  My definition of a big crime, is one that a reasonable person would consider violent, or it caused harm, physical or mental, to more than a couple people.  I would say his crime was a big one.  How many pensions were ruined because of what he did; how many families went broke or went on welfare; how many people’s lives got ruined?

  4. July 12, 2006 at 12:16 | #4

    I’m pretty sure I know what I mean, Webs.  The magnitude and effect of his crime are stipulated in both sentence and paragraph, and we are in agreement on that point.  I said his premeditation and sanctimony make the crime more hate-worthy.

    I heard they quit diagramming sentences in English class a few years ago.  True?

  5. July 12, 2006 at 12:24 | #5

    Sorry, but I was just confused, because what he did was a crime and I think that’s an important distinction to make.  The reason why these executives try to rip off people and the company is because they do not feel as though what they are doing is wrong.  I fell it’s important to keep people aware that this is wrong and they deserve every piece of punishment coming to them.  I was in a bar about 2 or 3 years ago when the Martha Stewart case was big.  A gentleman sitting next to me said, “I don’t see why they’re making a big deal out of this, It’s not like she did something wrong.”  This kind of thinking just further strengthens the beliefs that the actions are justified.

  6. July 12, 2006 at 22:22 | #6

    It’s interesting to compare Rev. Pierce’s action, which is definitely an act of passion and violence to what Zidane did on the soccer pitch in the World Cup Championship Game.  In both cases, anger overcame control, i.e., a line was crossed and rational thought and action was no longer a factor.  In that sense, Pierce was/is no different from anyone else, including all of us who could “snap” at any time.

    Lay schemed and connived, which speaks to a moral vacuum, not sudden loss of mind.

    And JOG, the article says “estranged wife”, and as morning glory states, she had her own home, so I seriously doubt this was a case of her just stepping out for a moment to “screw around”.  It pays to really read source information.  The Pantagraph isn’t perfect, but I doubt they got that bit wrong.

  7. July 13, 2006 at 08:31 | #7

    WeeDram is correct in the fact that she was an “estranged wife”, and I am not familiar with the law in that state concernting seperation and activities before final divorce. I am not defending his actions but I am also sure there is much more to the story than was published. I am also certain if the man had been a truck driver and not a Pastor the story wouldn’t have even hit the paper. Interesting how the ” other man” slinked out the back door.

  8. July 13, 2006 at 19:13 | #8

    JOG: Thank you for not defending violence against another human, be it man or woman. 

    Knowing the Pantagraph, a local truck driver in the same circumstances would have received the same treatment, though of course not being a pulic figure, it might have been difficulting reporting so much background information so quickly.  That is just the nature of being a well-known public figure.

    Likely “the other man” was scared and thus ran.  Not defending another person who is being assaulted is despicable.  At the very least call 911.  So I don’t defend his flight, but stark fear can prompt “irrational” just as can passionate anger.

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