Ken Lay and the reverend
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.