A Penny for Your Thoughts

There is an old saying, “A penny for your thoughts,” which was usually uttered to somebody who was in deep contemplation.  It might be “a hundred dollars for your thoughts” today.  Typically, our thoughts are kept to ourselves since they are not meant for public scrutiny.  Some thoughts may be so mysterious, provocative, and controversial that we would not reveal these thoughts for anything less than a million dollars.

I never had significant control over my thoughts.  I can remember when I wanted to beat others up.  I can remember when I wanted to have sex with beautiful women that I saw.  I can remember when my thoughts were outrageous, but fortunately I never acted on many of my thoughts.  I felt that I was better than others who lost control and committed murders, rapes, assaults, burglaries, and other deranged acts.  However, I really was not better than anybody else, because I had given in to deranged thoughts.

In the Beatitudes found in Chapter 5 of Matthew, Jesus emphasized that we must have clean thoughts.  I always believed that if I believed in God and did not, in fact, commit adultery or other bad acts, I was a good person, who would be eligible for God’s kingdom.  But Jesus said that lusting for a woman is committing adultery in your heart.  This goes beyond being saved by believing in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb for our sins.  This goes beyond being saved by doing good deeds during our lives.  It reaches into a completely new zone where only a small percentage will tread.  Jesus instructed us in Matthew 7:14 that only a few of us will find this narrow path to Heaven.  Only those few with clean thoughts will pass through the gate.

I would guess that all of us have allowed our emotions to invade our thoughts.  We all have been angry at some point during our lives.  I know that I have been, especially when I have to scream “representative” a hundred times in order to talk to a person on the phone.  But Jesus said that anger could place us in jeopardy of not reaching the kingdom.  Jesus appears to be telling us that our thoughts will be our primary activity after we die.  Our thoughts may be the pathway to everything that happens to us from our death through eternity.

So, let’s stop and think about what Jesus may have been trying to say.  We know that when we die, we will either be thinking or not thinking.  Jesus appears to be saying that all of us will continue thinking whether we believe in God or not.  Those of us who are thinking bad thoughts will be judged accordingly.  Probably there will be just a few of us who will be thinking good thoughts, and these will have a better chance to pass through Heaven’s gates.

It actually makes sense if you think about it.  If you are still thinking at death, your thoughts will be what take you in whichever path you follow.  If your thoughts are clean, then you will take the high road; but if your thinking is faulty, then you will be on the low road.  And the scary thing is that your good thoughts could turn into bad thoughts at any time during the process.  By linking and unifying with God, you will have the best chance to stay on the right path.

Devilish Dream

I have had many strange dreams, but I want to record last night’s dream in this article so that I will remember it.  It was different from other dreams because it seemed very real.  In fact when I awakened, it didn’t feel like I had been dreaming, but it was like I had been transported from a strange location back to my bed. All I knew was that it was a devilish dream.

And that strange location was a classroom.  I was surrounded by thousands of people all sitting in metal folding chairs lined up in hundreds of rows, facing a podium with a speaker, who was addressing the class.  We were all sitting upright and offering the greatest degree of attention that we could muster.  The speaker was talking in a monotone voice that had a tendency to lull us to sleep, but we instinctively knew there would be consequences if we closed our eyes.

The topic of the presentation was the poor choices that many in the room had made during their lifetimes.  However, I was surprised when the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we felt like we had to suffer consequences for these poor decisions, that only a handful of us, including me, raised our hands.  The great majority obviously believed that there would be no punishment for their misdeeds.

I didn’t know the reasoning behind that belief, but I assumed that many of them thought that Jesus died for their sins and there would be no consequences because of that.  I am a Christian, but I have read the Bible enough to know that even though our sins are forgiven because of the sacrifices made by Jesus, the Bible clearly states that there still will be a Judgment Day for all of us.

There will be certain consequences for our actions even though we are forgiven by the death of Jesus.  The Bible is very clear on this, but ministers tend to overlook these passages in the good book so as not to alarm their congregations.  You can find passages all through the Bible that warn us that we will suffer consequences for our acts.

It might be more peaceful going into the afterlife, believing that there will be no punishment awaiting.  As an analogy, it’s probably better not knowing that a shot is going to be painful.  The wait before the shot could be more painful than the shot itself.  If you think too much about Judgment Day, you might have a tendency to unnecessarily worry about it.

I believe you must be realistic as you enter the afterlife or you may forget the most important thing:  you must unify with God.  If you are too peaceful, you may find yourself herded in the wrong direction.  Only unification with God will protect you from false prophets, guides, and leaders in the afterworld.

My guess is that God will administer different punishments for different souls.  It would be similar to our criminal law courts.  Somebody who was guilty of shoplifting may have to perform community service for 100 hours, while somebody guilty of murder may get a life sentence.  God will examine all of our sins on Judgment Day holding us all accountable.

But back to my dream.  As all the attendees were asked to raise their hands if they believed that they would be punished for their bad choices, a big search light came on behind us, so that we could see our shadows in front of us.  I noticed that my hand was raised while nobody else in my row or behind me had their hands raised.

However that was not the biggest surprise.  I was shocked when I noticed that all of us had horns on the top of our heads.  Not one soul in the meeting failed to have two horns positioned on the crown of their heads.  But when I looked at my neighbor straight on, there was no set of horns.  The horns could only be detected by the shadows when the light was behind us.

Those of us who understood that we would have consequences for our actions during our lifetimes were summarily whisked out of the room and were taken to a small room with no windows and only one door.  It reminded me of an interrogation room.  After a moment, a man with a long gray beard entered the room and told us that he was always surprised that only a handful out of each class knew that they would be punished in the afterlife.

Some hoped that they would not be punished and would not admit that it was even a possibility.  Some rationalized that they had not done anything wrong.  Others felt that they had been punished enough during their lives.  Others believed Jesus erased all consequences.  Others thought that there was nothing after death.  Others pretended not to care.

In the last part of my dream before I was transported back to my bed, I was informed that there were other tests ahead.  The small handful of us had passed only the first of many tests.  I assumed there were also consequences ahead for other tests, depending on how we did.

I remembered what Jesus said, “… narrow is the way, which leadeth into life, and few there be that find it.”  Matthew 7:14.  Jesus was saying that only a few of us will reach God’s kingdom.  In all my years of attending church, I have never heard a minister explain this statement.  And even though it will be difficult to reach Heaven even if you become one with God, it will be impossible if you do not unify with Him.

 

 

We All Have Sinned

We humans have a tendency to justify or rationalize the poor choices we have made.  But we all have sinned.  We may even convince ourselves that we are better than criminals or others who have sinned more.  But, unfortunately, we are not better.  We all have sinned equally.

One of my favorite stories is about an older man who approached a younger woman and propositioned her to have sex with him.  She immediately turned toward him down and in an offended voice asked, “What kind of woman do you think I am?”  The old man then asked her if she would have sex for a million dollars.  She turned toward him with a smile and said, “Well, of course I will.”  The old gentleman stroked his white stubble and said, “Well, now we know what kind of woman you are.  All we need to do is to negotiate the price.”

We may go through life without killing somebody, but we should not congratulate ourselves and think that we are better than those who have committed murders.  Just like the lady who believed she wasn’t a prostitute, we may think that we are not murderers.  But under different conditions, such as war or revolution or starvation, who knows what we would do.  Would you kill your neighbor who during a depression was trying to steal your last loaf of bread?  Or would you kill a stranger who was trying to shoot your spouse?

Never say never.  We are all capable to killing and, for that matter, committing any number of sins.  We are all sinners and are capable of committing any and all sins.  We should not delude ourselves by comparing ourselves to others who have committed more sins.  We are no better than any of the criminals given life sentences for their acts of depravity.  And it serves no purpose to weigh sins.  Your sin is just as heavy as those of others.  And for those of you who are proud that you have never committed a sin may have the worst sin to deal with:  pride.

I remember a discussion about ten years ago when a church member announced that he believed that it was not fair for a murderer to repent his sin one minute before execution for his crime.  He thought that the murderer should be treated differently than him in the presence of God.

Quite frankly, I don’t know how the Creator will provide consequences for our sins, but I do believe that He will look on us more favorably if we don’t spend our time judging others and simply accept the fact that we are sinners.  Just like Jesus said, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

I also believe that for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  In other words, I believe there are consequences for our sins.  There may be consequences for our sins if they violate the laws of society.  Or we may provide consequences to ourselves if we feel guilty about what we have done.

But the potential for the most devastating consequences are out of sight and sometimes out of mind.  In a closed universe where matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed, there is a strong possibility that we will still be thinking after we die.  And for those of you who wanted to live forever, think again… and again… and again… in fact, think forever.  And without your senses to entertain you, you might indeed be in Hell.

But let’s be positive.  I am positive that we all have sinned.  I am positive that there will be consequences.  I am positive that we can prepare for the consequences, whatever they might be.  I am positive that if I repent of my sins and let God enter me and be a part of me, I will have an ally and guide through Hell.  Without Him, I will be lost in the chaos of Hell.

 

Dealing with Death

Does death mean “no more?”  Does it mean that our thought process ends with our being brain dead?  Or is death the beginning of something altogether foreign and new to us?

Of course, nobody knows the answer to these questions, but scientists do discuss the law of conservation of energy and mass as a known.  Following this law, energy and matter can neither be created nor destroyed in our recycling universe, but may be transformed.  Does this mean that your thinking cannot die?  If your brain is no longer functional, your thinking may evolve into a new form.  Since awareness could be converted to something else, thoughts still may exist outside our bodies after death.  Unfortunately, it is not likely that your thinking will ever stop.

The best thing that could possibly happen is for us to die and stop thinking.  Death, then, would be the end to consciousness.  We could welcome death if this were the case.  There would be no pain, no suffering, and no consequences after death.  We would have absolutely nothing to worry about.  Since we are all sinners, we all could breathe easier since our poor choices in life would have no repercussions.

If we died and our thinking terminated at that point, we could easily deal with death.  Death would be the same as nothing, and everybody should be able to deal with nothing happening.  Everything would end and there would be no more.  Believe me… that would be a good thing.

That would be a great ending for us because most of us feel guilty about something and those who don’t should.   And the bad choices we made in life would have had no consequences after death.  Of course, society, family, and peer pressure still would provide their own consequences for your sins during your lifetime.  But there would be no afterlife to worry about.

So, the real problem in dealing with death occurs if our final breath does not stop our thinking.  If we are still aware after we die, we definitely have a problem.  Most likely, the afterlife will be strange and scary for us.  How do we prepare for a nightmarish unknown?

Quite frankly, I don’t know.  There are many religions to study and select your favorite.  But I am concerned that religion, by itself, will not be sufficient.  I fear that beliefs that are lukewarm to warm will not serve us well during the high stress of facing the unknown.  Attending church and praying to God probably are not going to help that much either.  So, how do we deal with death if we are still thinking?

It seems logical that there is a Creator outside this universe, since we live where nothing can be created.  And I believe that it is critical to make contact with this Creator before we die and certainly after we die.  How do we do that?  Again, I don’t know.  But it makes sense to attempt to unify with the Creator in some manner.  If you have sufficient faith and trust in the Creator and allow Him into your thoughts, you will be on the right path.

There are no guarantees that the path will be smooth.  I’m fairly confident that we will be tested on that journey through the afterlife.  But your beliefs in the Creator must be powerful enough to withstand the chaos and darkness so that you can find the light from your guide and ally along this road.  Never give up on the Creator because only He can remove you from the eternal damnation of being stuck with your own thoughts for infinity without any diversions.

Now, that would be Hell!

Insanity Should Not Be a Defense

The insanity defense drives some members of the public insane.  In fact, one of these members of the public, claiming temporary insanity, might run out and shoot a murderer who used this defense.  This example points out the absurdity of the insanity defense.  The problem is that many murderers are, at a minimum, temporarily insane when they kill.

Even though a small percentage of criminals are found not guilty by reason of insanity, this controversial defense needs more scrutiny.  Let’s examine the rules of law that apply to this defense.

There are five tests of criminal responsibility involving insanity:  (1) M’Naghten Rule in 1843, which states that the accused must prove that he didn’t know what he was doing or didn’t know it was wrong, (2) the irresistible impulse in 1897, which means that the charged could not control his conduct, (3) the Durham Rule in 1954, which is mental illness caused the criminal act, (4) the Model Penal Code in 1972, declares the he lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control it, and (5) the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which currently requires showing the lack of capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.

The evolution of the insanity defense has followed the public’s concern that a murderer will get back out on the street because a high-paid psychiatrist told the jury that he was insane.  Prior to 1843, if you proved that when you committed a murder, you did not know what you were doing; you could be released.  When Daniel M’Naghten killed Edward Drummond, M’Naghten claimed he believed that Drummond was the Prime Minister of Great Britian, so he got off.  The public was incensed.  Quite frankly, M’Naghten intentionally killed a man.  It shouldn’t matter whether he mistook Mr. Drummond for the Prime Minister.

The M’Naghten Rule soon came into existence, which is used by several of the states even today.  In short, the rule is that if at the time of the act you are laboring under a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, so as to not know the nature and quality of the act you are doing, or if you do not know the difference between right and wrong, then you could use the defense of insanity.

As we learned more about mental disorders, some professionals have argued that some people may be able to distinguish right from wrong and still be insane.  Some states allowed defendants to argue that even though they knew that what they were doing was wrong, they were unable to control an urge to commit the crime, which was termed the irresistible impulse rule.  This test is problematic because murderers could argue this quite frequently.  It opens up a big exit door for the defense.

Then the Durham Rule came along.  Monte Durham had a long history of both criminal activity and mental illness.  The court held that Durham was not guilty because his criminal acts were the product of a mental disease or defect.  This rule provided that insanity was caused by many factors, not all of which need to be present in each criminal case.  This rule was very controversial since it did little to define mental disease or defect.

All the federal courts and many state courts adopted Model Penal Codes by 1982.  These codes stated that if at the time of the conduct as a result of mental disease or defect, the accused is not responsible if he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.  In effect, this broadened the M’Naghten and Irresistible Impulse rules, by focusing on the individual’s substantial capacity.  This gets away from the black and white of being able to distinguish right from wrong.

When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan, his defense team showed that Hinckley was insane, so he was acquitted.  This created a public backlash, leading to several states abolishing the insanity defense and twelve states changing the law to provide a verdict of “guilty but mentally ill” leading to a prison sentence with psychiatric treatment.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 modified the federal rules regarding the insanity defense, shifting the burden of proof from the prosecutor to the defendant.  The test for insanity was a lack of capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.  This gives a professional psychiatrist plenty of leeway to testify that a murderer was insane.  A person found not guilty by reason of insanity would be committed to a mental hospital until that person would no longer be dangerous to society.

Today, the insanity defense is just too confusing for jurors and they are at the mercy of the psychiatrists who are paid well for their opinions.  The best approach is to allow the case to be prosecuted without the insanity defense.  Then, the court would allow evidence of mental defect or insanity in the sentencing portion of the trial.  The jurors could even require prison with psychiatric assistance during the prisoner’s sentence.  If the prisoner is really bad and needs full time psychiatric care, then that could be arranged.  When the prisoner is better, he would be returned to prison.  There are many possible options under sentencing to deal with insanity, but giving a killer a free pass is not one of them.

What about a murderer who does not have the capacity to defend himself in court?  A friend of the court could be appointed to represent that individual’s interest, separate and apart from his attorney.  It would be similar to a civil court appointing a representative for somebody who is being declared incompetent.

What about the element of intent in murder?  In order for an accused to be charged with murder, there typically has to be malice aforethought.  This requires a deliberate, premeditated, and willful killing of another human being.  Many states determine if the accused knew his behavior had a strong chance of causing death or was reckless in conduct that caused death.

If the accused had a mental defect, such as being a paranoid schizophrenic, then the facts of the case have to be examined.  If the individual was on medications that made them normal, but they stopped taking the medications, then this provides evidence that the accused was criminally negligent and when he stopped taking the medications, he showed indifference to life and recklessly engaged in conduct that caused death.

Each crime must be examined on a case-by-case method to determine whether murder or manslaughter is involved.  Insanity should only be examined as a mitigating factor in the murder trial.  In some cases, it may lead to a manslaughter indictment.  In most cases, it would lead to mitigation in the sentencing phase of the trial.  But the bottom line is that insanity should not be a defense that erases the crime.