Friday, March 23, 2018

What the Bible Says to Schlitterbahn, and Why They Should Be Held Responsible for a Boy's Death

Earlier today, a former Schlitterbahn executive was charged with involuntary manslaughter regarding the death of a ten-year-old boy who died in 2016 on their famous water slide called Verruckt, once billed "the tallest water slide in the world."

The ride is similar to a log flume that you see in most large fun-parks: several persons board a boat that drops down a couple steep watery slopes. Big splash at the end, fun had by all. But in the case of Verruckt, the "boat" that persons get into is a multi-seat raft that sits more on the surface of the water than in the water. This poses a higher danger than a log flume ride.

How dangerous? Well, the ride has netting over the slide to keep riders from being thrown off if the raft, which reaches speeds of 70 mph (112 kph), should go airborne. There were stories of rafts flying into the air when the ride was being tested, hence why netting was installed. (Seen above. I haven't been on the ride, but I've driven by it. It's on the Kansas side of Kansas City just two hours from where I live.)

What happened when the boy died was the raft he was in flew into the air, he hit one of the support hoops holding up the netting, and he was decapitated. It's an incredible and horrible tragedy, and it is right that Schlitterbahn is being held responsible.

Some are saying Schlitterbahn shouldn't be charged with wrongdoing. I saw one comment on Twitter where a man said they should just put up signs that say "Danger" and "Ride at your own risk," and that should be enough. Another gentleman said something to the effect of, "Why is this executive being charged for involuntary manslaughter? It was an accident! People know the risks of riding thrill rides. He didn't do anything criminal!"

Schlitterbahn is standing by their executive being charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony in the state of Kansas. "He was conscientious and committed to providing visitors to the water park a safe and enjoyable experience," a spokeswoman with the company said. "We stand by him and are shocked by these allegations."

But Schlitterbahn should be held accountable. God's word, the Bible, has said so.

Deuteronomy 22:8 says, "When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it." God's judgments are always good and always pure.

Someone might say, "Well that has to do with a roof on someone's house, not a thrill ride!" Maybe so, but I think you can recognize the principle. The builder is responsible for the safety of everyone who uses the structure he has built. A roof in ancient Israel was as much a usable part of the house as anywhere inside. Builders needed to take necessary precautions to ensure people who used the roof didn't accidentally fall to their death.

Someone else might argue, "But Schlitterbahn did build a 'parapet!' They had netting over the ride to prevent someone from falling off!" I think you would agree a parapet on a roof and netting on a thrill ride are not the same thing. When someone hits a pole going 70 mph, they will likely die, and all the netting will do is keep their lifeless body from being thrown from the ride that killed them.

Now, I'm not a judge or a juror in this case -- there are many details I'm not familiar with and I don't know to what extent Schlitterbahn is at fault (it's unquestionable, in my view, that they are at least somewhat at fault). I'm simply making the point that from a biblical perspective, you can be guilty of involuntary manslaughter for building an unsafe structure that results in someone's death, even if it was an accident.

Of course, there are many cases where this concept has been abused and resulted in frivolous lawsuits. But the principle still stands. If you want to build the tallest water slide, you are responsible to ensure the safety of everyone who rides your ride. If you're going to tell people it's safe, a customer can safely believe they won't get decapitated if they ride it.

Fortunately, Verruckt is scheduled for demolition. It is clearly an unsafe ride, and it's insensitive for Schlitterbahn to say they're "committed to providing visitors to the water-park a safe and enjoyable experience" when a person got decapitated. They need to belly-up to the bar of justice and admit they got this one wrong.

My heart breaks for the family who lost their little boy. I pray that the Lord will heal them even as this case goes to court. I also pray that the executive being charged will take responsibility for what happened, as well as anyone else at Schlitterbahn who might be liable.

We live in a fallen world, full of death and tragedy because of our sin. Pray that the Lord Jesus will come quickly. All who believe in Him will be forgiven and spared the righteous judgment of God. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more" (Revelation 21:4).

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time: A Pastor's Review

Hot on the heels of the action blockbuster Black Panther, Disney continues its theatrical takeover this weekend with A Wrinkle In Time. Starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling as the three Mrs. W's; Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the scientific parents; and Storm Reid, Levi Miller, and Deric McCabe as the child heroes. It's rated PG "for thematic elements and some peril."

The pre-release reviews haven't been good. Critics say the movie doesn't work, it has no flow, it's a mess, and a tragedy. (If Oprah was planning on using this as a pre-presidential campaign vehicle, it won't earn her any style points.) This is Disney's second attempt at making A Wrinkle in Time into a movie. The first was 15 years ago, a made-for-TV flop. This latest effort might be as good as the movie can get. The book is practically unfilmable (read: very strange).

A Wrinkle in Time is an over-hyped young adult fantasy novel written by Madeleine L'Engle, an Episcopalian who believed in universal salvation. "All will be redeemed in God's fullness of time," she wrote; "all, not just the small portion of the population who have been given the grace to know and accept Christ" (from A Stone for a Pillow, pg. 117). This theology of hers was not merely personal; she dispensed it in her fiction, including A Wrinkle in Time.

Christian themes are more overt in A Wrinkle in Time than they are in C.S. Lewis's allegorical The Chronicles of Narnia. L'Engle even quotes Scripture. But do not be fooled -- A Wrinkle in Time is about as Christian as a book written by Rob Bell; meaning that L'Engle's use of the Bible is not honorable but blasphemous and heretical.

A Warped Theology

The first of these abused references occurs in chapter four. The young main characters Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace travel to a distant world with three mysterious women named Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit. Meg and Charles Wallace are a sister and her younger brother looking for their father, a scientist who has learned to travel via tesseract, or a "wrinkle" in time and space.

While on this new world, Mrs. Whatsit unveiled her true form, a centaur-like creature with giant wings. Her upper-torso now looks like a man, and it might be prophetic how the author struggles with pronouns: "He? She? It?"

Calvin is so amazed by Mrs. Whatsit's appearance that he falls to his knees, and Mrs. Whatsit promptly tells him, "No. Not to me, Calvin. Never to me. Stand up." This of course is like John bowing to an angel in Revelation 19:10, but the angel says, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God."

Lest you think this is L'Engle's way of saying, "Worship God," you'll understand in a moment why that's not her intention.

The children climb on Mrs. Whatsit's back, and they go for a ride. On their tour, they see other creatures like Mrs. Whatsit enjoying a heaven-like paradise. The creatures are all singing the same song, and this is what Meg hears:
"Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift their voice; let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord."
This is taken from Isaiah 42:10-12, and it's rather startling when it comes up. The book has given no indication prior to this of being "Christian." Suddenly we're introduced to these creatures quoting Isaiah (the reference isn't given), but we're not told how they know Isaiah, or even if anyone reads the Bible.

Mrs. Whatsit climbs higher and higher and shows the children a distant darkened "Black Thing" made of pure evil (the names are not terribly creative). They learn their father is on a world called Camazotz, a dark planet that has given in to the evil of The Black Thing, which Mrs. Which also refers to as "the Powers of Darkness."

But there have been fighters that have conquered The Black Thing before. Many of those fighters have come from earth. To give them a hint as to who they are, Mrs. Who quotes John 1:5, saying, "And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not."

"Jesus!" Charles Wallace exclaims. "Why of course, Jesus!" But there are others, and the children begin to name them: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Bach, Pasteur, Einstein, Schweitzer, Gandhi, and even Buddha.

Yup, Jesus is just one of a line of great men who have fought a evil intelligence in science fiction. He's no one of any more significance or importance than Gandhi or Buddha or Shakespeare. If you do great things and fight the darkness, you can be just as important as Jesus was.

A Wrinkle in Time also includes a reference to Romans 8:28 (chapter 10). The children encounter some large, sightless beasts with tentacles, and these are revealed to be the actual angels of the Bible, "Messengers of God" (chapter 11). Mrs. Who quotes 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, which is of course taken completely out of context (chapter 12).

The religious pluralism and new age thinking smattered throughout the story are right up Oprah's alley. It's of little wonder why she took the role of Mrs. Which. She would never be aligned with something exclusively Christian. But to say that Jesus is just one of many great and good historical figures and not the Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is exactly Oprah's theology.

The story concludes suddenly with an "All you need is love" kind of ending. The author tells the story from Meg's vantage point and at times feels like reading a middle-school girl's journal. For example, every time Calvin touches or looks at her can be kind of awkward for the reader. She's also rather whiny and prone to mood swings (what middle-school girl isn't?). I didn't enjoy the book on multiple levels. Even taking out the blasphemy and the new agey-ness, the enthusiasm over L'Engle's classic is undeserved.


I don't recommend A Wrinkle in Time, neither the movie nor the book. Whether you let your child watch or read is of course up to you. Just be sure you talk to them about the story's "Christian" themes. Help them understand why this is not a Christian book or movie -- just because someone mentions God or quotes the Bible doesn't mean they are of God or love His word.

The moral of the story is that anyone can defeat evil with "love," or by just being a good person full of light. Everyone is basically good infected by some outside evil. But the Bible tells us we are evil from the core. The intention of man's heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21). The heart of man is so deceitfully sick, who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9)? No one is good, not even one person (Romans 3:12).

Only God is good (Mark 10:18). Jesus, the Son of God, is the only person who lived a good life -- not Buddha, not Gandhi, not Beethoven, not Bozo the Clown. Jesus is not a fictional character. He is really and truly God, who took on human flesh and lived a perfect life, dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the grave. All who believe in Him will not perish under the wrath of God burning against us unrighteous people, but through faith in Christ we will have eternal life. That's the good news of the gospel.

Neither L'Engle nor Oprah have understood that no ones gets to God but through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). God will judge all who did not believe in Him and did not obey the gospel. But if you repent and follow Jesus, He will "make you worthy of His calling and fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).