Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Adopted Child's Nightmare

Lynn Paddock is a name that might be familiar to those of us who live in the Raleigh, NC area. She is an adoptive mother who lived in Johnston County and is on trial for first-degree murder in the death of her four-year old adoptive son, Sean. Her trial is ongoing right now in Smithfield, NC and each of her surviving adoptive children have been called to testify against her. They have now all been placed in other foster care by social services.

From the accounts given in the testimony, Lynn Paddock is a monster. There are stories told by the children of extremely harsh punishments such as beatings with a plastic pipe or hose, being forced to eat their own feces for soiling their clothes, being forced to miss numerous meals for minor infractions at the table, and many other extreme measures. Read the testimony yesterday from some of the children in this Raleigh News and Observer article:

Her little boy Sean was found dead by EMS responders. It was determined that he suffocated after being so tightly wrapped in a blanket that he was unable to breathe. According to the charges, this tight wrapping in a blanket was another disciplinary method used by Lynn Paddock to keep the little boy from waking up in the night and roaming around the house. Essentially, it was a restraint. The autopsy revealed a host of bruises and other former wounds to his little body. When the other children were examined they were also determined to have other previous wounds.

The entire episode is much to long for me to recount here. It has played out for several months in the Raleigh newspaper. But, it has all been very troubling to me. First, one of the most troubling aspects of this case is that Lynn Paddock seems to be a follower of Rev. Michael Pearl, a Tennessee pastor who has written books and conducted seminars advocating such extreme disciplinary methods. Just do a Google search for his name and you can find out all you need to know about him. Paddock is not the first of his disciples to face the justice system.

A second thing that bothers me about the Lynn Paddock case is that she is an adoptive parent and so are my wife and I. It troubles me that a child (children in her case) who was in a really bad situation with his birth parents, was placed in a worse situation that ultimately led to his death. What a tragic, tragic story.

Someone dropped the ball in the adoption/social services involvement here. The Children's Home Society of North Carolina (which actually helped us with a part of our international adoption) was responsible for Sean's placement. This is a fine organization that has done really good work for decades in North Carolina on behalf of children. I don't think the entire organization should be blamed, although there is a lawsuit in the works against them. But, someone clearly dropped the ball in this case and subsequently created a nightmare for these children that ultimately ended up with in Lynn Paddock's chamber of horrors.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Honoring the Vets

William Tanner, the president of the old Home Mission Board of the SBC (1977-86) once told a story from his childhood growing up in a small town in Texas. It was during World War II and in his town there was an insurance agent who had four sons who were in the military fighting the war. This particular insurance agent had a display supporting the war effort in his storefront window that he changed regularly. Tanner said that he liked going by the store regularly and gazing at the different displays.

One day, as he rounded the corner to look in the window, the poster that he saw caught his attention. It was a picture blown up to about 3 feet by 3 feet of a soldier lying face down in the dirt. His helmet had been blown off his head. His outstretched hand seemed to be reaching for the weapon that was just out of his grasp. But the thing that caught Tanner the most was the caption that went with the picture: "What have you done for your country today that a soldier should die for you tomorrow?"

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Many Americans simply think of this holiday as another day off from work, a three-day weekend that traditionally marks the beginning of the summer vacation season. I enjoy Memorial Day for the same reasons. However, sometimes I think it does us good to pause and reflect about the meaning of this day. It honors the veterans who have served in the military certainly. But, more importantly, it memorializes those who have been killed in the service of our country.

If you read all my blogs you can probably tell that I am opposed to this war in Iraq. It was truly the "wrong war, fought in the wrong place, at the wrong time." One of the reasons that I am supporting Barack Obama is because he opposed the war from the beginning and is pledging to end it as soon as possible after he takes office. It may go down as the biggest foreign policy blunder in American history. I could not be any more opposed to the war in Iraq.

However, I am not opposed to the soldiers who are fighting it. They are us. Kids, moms and dads, sisters and brothers. They chose to answer their country's call and serve in the military. I believe that supporting them for me is working to bring them home soon. That's why I oppose the war.

My generation made the mistake of opposing a war and the soldiers who fought it. That scenario was a big mistake. In fact, a large part of the Vietnam Veterans were drafted; they had no choice. Nevertheless, this time we can support the soldier but oppose the war.

So, tomorrow I am going to think about and be thankful for our veterans, especially those from the American Revolution to the present who gave their lives in service to their country's call. And, I am going to continue to work to bring an end to the war in Iraq. And, I am going to re-commit myself to serving my country in every way I can.

Remember Captain Miller's words to Private Ryan on the bridge in the movie Saving Private Ryan: "Earn this!"

"What have you done today that a soldier should die for you tomorrow?"

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Best Wishes Big Daddy Weave!

The son of my friend Doug Weaver, who has a blog called "The Big Daddy Weave," ( was in an automobile accident Thursday evening. Things could have been worse. He came out of it, however, with a broken wrist, a strained back, a concussion, and a totaled vehicle.

I enjoy the Big Daddy Weave's blog. It is one of the best blogs out there for news among Baptists. So, here's to Aaron's speedy recovery! Hope you get well and return to blogging soon!

Check out his blog if you haven't seen it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama's Not Ashamed of His Christian Faith

If you haven't seen this story you ought to take a minute to scan through it. Barack Obama seems to be the first Democrat in a long time to be able to talk comfortably about his Christian faith and articulate how his faith impacts his politics. This will be good for him as he turns toward the general election in the fall. I think he is better at this than John McCain and the openness about his faith may help him win over some of the blue collar voters that he needs.

UPDATED Obama launches ads touting Christian beliefs
By Ryan
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign has ramped up its efforts to emphasize his Christian faith in a series of new radio and television ads, as well as in a flier that volunteers have distributed.
Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who endorsed Obama on Sunday, narrated a new radio spot for Obama that highlights the Illinois Senator’s upbringing and values, including how Obama is “a strong Christian.”
Mongiardo said he felt compelled to make the ad after constituents contacted his office with what he called “misconceptions” about Obama.
“The negative calls have been talking about either the color of his skin or claims that he’s not a Christian,” Mongiardo said. “As I’ve listened to news casts of primaries across the country, it struck me that there is a segment of people who are not voting for Hillary Clinton but are voting against Barack Obama because of issues that don’t pertain to substance.”
U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles recorded a similar radio ad for Obama.
Obama’s race, religious background and patriotism have become controversial subplots during the drawn-out primary season. E-mail chains circulated earlier this year questioning whether Obama was a Muslim, while talk radio shows seized on why he doesn’t always wear a flag pin on his lapel.
Obama, during his speech in Louisville Monday, dismissed such arguments as static designed to divert attention from important issues.
Campaign spokesman Clark Stevens, however, said the ads and flier weren’t “in response to any issue.” “The focus is really to let voters know what issues are important to Sen. Obama,” he said. “Part of our effort is to reach out to people of all faiths and to communicate common values.”
The flier links Obama more overtly to church than the radio spots and television commercials, which focus on Obama’s life. The pamphlet shows him speaking from a pulpit with a cross and pipe organ behind him.
“My faith teachers me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won’t be fulfilling God’s will unless I go out and do the Lord’s work,” says the quote attributed to Obama on the front of the piece.
The campaign distributed similarly-designed fliers in other states, including South Carolina, where Democrats voted Jan. 26.
“There was at least one not-too veiled reference to his faith aimed at dispelling the notion that the name Obama is Muslim,” said Todd Shaw, assistant professor of political science at the University of South Carolina. “To this day you probably have some contingent in the voting public who may not be aware of his religious convictions.”
Obama attended Catholic and public schools in Indonesia, a Muslim nation, for four-and-a-half years during his childhood. He said in a speech last month in Pennsylvania that he was baptized at age 26 at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago — a church that attracted him with its social outreach and ministries for HIV/AIDS. Obama’s radio ads and flier highlight that work.
“A Christian, Barack’s first job was with churches helping communities left behind when local plants closed,” Chandler says in his commercial — a reference to his community organizing in Chicago’s South Side where several steel mills shut down.
It was Trinity’s now-retired pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., who created one of the biggest stirs of the Democratic primary when inflammatory snippets of some of his old sermons surfaced.
Last month, Obama denounced Wright after his former pastor made more public comments, such as claims that the U.S. government played a role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The flare-up didn’t help Obama in Kentucky.
A Herald-Leader/WKYT Kentucky Poll conducted last week showed that 43 percent of the 500 likely Kentucky Democratic voters surveyed said Wright’s comments were important factors in how they will vote on Tuesday.
“He stayed in his church that proclaimed hate and biases against white people. He stayed in it for 20 years to advance his own political gain,” said Miriam Picconi of Lexington in an interview last week.
Shaw, of the University of South Carolina, said the fliers and ads are ways to clarify both his faith and how church fits into who he is.
“In the aftermath of the Jeremiah Wright situation, I think he’s trying to give some context to what that means in his life — why he would stay in that church for 20 years,” Shaw said.
But too much of a concentration on religion could have a downside, Shaw warned.
“There is some risk of the problem of pandering,” he said. “If you make too strong of a pitch, are you in fact tweaking your image to fit what people want to hear?”
In Oregon, which shares its Election Day with Kentucky, Obama hasn’t highlighted his religion in ads and literature, said Robert Sahr, associate professor of political science at Oregon State University.
Oregon, Sahr said, “is among the least religious states in the country,” so such ads wouldn’t have the same effect there as they might in Kentucky or West Virginia.
All this comes on the heals of one of Obama’s most lopsided losses, which occurred in West Virginia Tuesday . Clinton defeated him by 41 points.
But Clinton aides said the campaign hasn’t tried to key in on any stereotypes or take advantage of misperceptions.
“We believe the criteria all voters should use is who is the best candidate,” said Howard Wolfson, Clinton’s communications director on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
In addition to prominently mentioning Obama’s faith, the new TV and radio ads describe the candidate’s upbringing by a single mother and grandparents, who were from Kansas. They also detail his plan to provide tax breaks to the middle class.
Herald-Leader reporter Jim Niemi contributed to this report.