Category Archives: Miscellaneous

“Bring Lexi Home”: The Page Family’s Situation (Part 2)

This was a really hard post to write. I want to express the fiercest disapproval, disappointment, and grief at a child being taken from her family, and I will. But I also want to think about how to respond when something like this happens–not from a “theology of suffering” sense, but from a Christian worldview sense, because I need to be asking myself, “How does the Bible clarify this situation, this stand-off, between a family and the courts?”

So I’ll do a little of both. I’ll give my internal reaction to the Page family’s situation, referring back to quotes from an original court document I excerpted in part 1. (Page references to the document will be given in parentheses, like so: (#).) Then I’ll walk myself through what an external reaction ought to look like as it is shaped and even, perhaps, bounded by Scripture. For lack of better terms, I’ll call those sections “the reality” and “the response” respectively.

The biggest reason this is so hard to write is that it’s not my situation. I don’t feel the pain as keenly, or the outrage as ferociously, as the Page family does. For me to drop a casual thousand-word post on how the Bible should govern a response would be woefully uninformed of the emotions and details of the Page family’s situation, not to mention insensitive. “Rejoice with those who rejoice,” the Bible says, and “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). I intend to weep. And yet, “Set your minds on things that are above” (Col. 3:2a). I intend to do that, too.

The reality

So to recap, the court document says the following: Lexi “formed a strong primary bond and attachment with the entire P. family, viewing the parents as her own parents and the P. children as her siblings” (5). The Pages “have provided her with clear and consistent rules, and a loving environment” (8). Lexi “is bonded to the P.s, and has a healthy attachment to them” (8). It’s clear that Lexi has found a family. God placed her with a mom and dad and siblings who all love her as their own flesh and blood.

Then I don’t think that there’s any other way to put it: Lexi was taken from her family. She was torn away and a devastated family was left in her wake.

I’m upset about it. I feel that key decision makers along the way messed up. Lexi’s attorney, whose primary responsibility is for her client’s best interest, “withdrew her objection to Alexandria’s change in placement [thus favoring Lexi’s move from the Pages to Utah]” (10). One “expert” stated that he “believed that with appropriate intervention and support, Alexandria would cope with a transition resiliently, characterizing the possible trauma as a loss, but not the equivalent of the death of a parent” (11). Because, you know, that’s the high standard we want to maintain when we figure out if we should remove a child from the people she calls “mom” and “dad”–as long as the resulting trauma isn’t perceived as equivalent to the death of mom and dad, go ahead, rip her from their arms. The Choctaw nation leadership–to be clear here, I’m not generalizing to the Choctaw community, or the Native American community, but limiting my reaction to Choctaw nation decision makers–“selected the R.s as the planned adoptive placement” (8). And even after Lexi had lived with the Page family for over a year, the Choctaw nation leadership maintained their request for Lexi to move to Utah (10).

For their part, the courts ruled that “the P.s had not demonstrated good cause to depart from the placement preferences and ordering a gradual transition for Alexandria to move from the P.s’ home to the R.s’ home” (12). This despite the fact that another expert directly countered the ridiculous rationalization above, to say that “compared the transition to the death or loss of a parent or family, because ‘she is being taken away from everything that is familiar to her, everything that she’s known to be stability'” (11). So… failure at pretty much every point in that whole system.

Am I upset? Is this wrong? Yes. And yes.

The reaction

Here the objection might be raised that the courts were constrained by ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) and ruled in the only course permitted by the law, even if as individuals, those presiding would have wanted Lexi to stay with the Pages. I understand that, though I still think there were plenty of ways the court could have ruled in Lexi’s best interests. First, according to the Judicial Council of California’s Dependency Quick Guide, a child’s attorney “has the responsibility to represent ‘the child’s interests,’ specifically to investigate the facts; interview, examine, and cross examine witnesses; and make recommendations to the court regarding the child’s welfare. Counsel must interview children age four and older and communicate the client’s wishes to the court” (H-11). I’m not convinced that Lexi’s interests were known and relayed by her attorney, much less represented to the court.

Moreover, given the conflicting testimony by the experts, I would think that there would be room to conclude that yes, this would in fact be traumatic for Lexi. To reiterate, there was an expert who testified that Lexi’s removal from the Pages could be “compared the transition to the death or loss of a parent or family, because ‘she is being taken away from everything that is familiar to her, everything that she’s known to be stability.'” Granted, I am no legal scholar. It may be that the courts were indeed constrained by ICWA to rule in favor of the tribe’s placement preferences. If so, then the courts have an immediate responsibility to uphold the law.

But let me make this clear: the courts have a “one step removed” responsibility to uphold biblical morality, because the courts uphold the law, and the law has an immediate responsibility to reflect biblical morality. Romans 13 makes this clear: “[T]here is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (13:1b); “rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad” (13:3a); “he is God’s servant for your good” (13:4a). Earthly, human government is a sub-authority of God to uphold its citizens’ good and deter bad conduct. It is safe to assume that Paul assumes a biblical moral definition of “good” and “bad” as “that which reflects God and His statutes” and “that which does not.”

I think there is a tension here. The court decided something which is immoral. Isaiah urges, “bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (1:17). Lexi’s cause was not pleaded here. A law was followed, but to the detriment of the well-being of a little girl. How do we react to an unbiblical, immoral decision? How do we respond?

Here’s how Mr. Page responded: “In spite of our pleas to the county, we’ve received word that the county has every intention of taking Lexi today. And we will, with very heavy hearts, comply with the order and we’ll be waiting here for them to come take her” (source–I originally saw the video on Facebook but can’t seem to find it any more). Given that the Pages attend church–my church, actually–I think this comes from a Spirit-led understanding of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities,” and 1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” Given that the historical context of 1 Peter is during Nero’s reign, who was not at all kind to Christians, I think that the “or” in the middle of the passage is a contrasting “or”–as in, some governors that are sent by God do their job properly, or at other times, emperors do as they please in abuse of their earthly supremacy.

There are situations in which we can–and must–disobey the governing authorities. In Exodus 1, the Hebrew midwives disobey Pharaoh’s commands for male infanticide/genocide, and are blessed by God for it. Namely, we must disobey earthly authority if we are instructed to transgress God’s authority. But the Bible does not model disobedience to authorities that are immoral but do not instruct us to do wrong. Such was the case with Nero, who, I’m told, had Christians sewn alive into the carcasses of dead animals and dropped in the middle of sports arenas to be eaten by predators. Did Nero do wrong? Most definitely. It was a horrific abuse of delegated divine authority. Were the Christians instructed to commit evil? No. And in response to authorities that are immoral but do not instruct their citizens to commit evil, Peter does not instruct the Christians to run away, or resist, or disobey. He instructs them to be subject to the emperor, and even to “[h]onor the emperor” (2:17).

The Page family situation, I think, parallels the latter example. The decision makers in this whole process did wrong. It is immoral. They are injuring Lexi and the Page family. They are separating a daughter from her parents, a girl from her family. And yet, the governing authorities have not instructed the Pages to sin. So in the face of all that, I am thankful for Mr. Page’s example: “[W]e will, with very heavy hearts, comply.” Not because the courts were right, or because the Pages want to be separated from Lexi, but because God’s divine authority instructs us to be subject to His delegated human authorities as long as they do not compel us to commit evil. It is a difficult thing, and He means for us to love Him and trust Him in the midst of it.

Meanwhile, God blesses us with a country where citizens have been given means to appeal to the government in a way that honors those authorities. The Pages continue to fight to be united with Lexi, to bring Lexi home, by means of appeals to higher courts. More importantly, though, God fully intends for us to trust Him, appeal to Him, rely on Him. In light of the fierce persecution of the Christians, the close of Peter’s first epistle is all the more poignant: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (5:6-7). The weak, the persecuted, the suffering–God cares for them and encourages them to be humble before Him and to trust Him. We love Lexi and the Pages, and we join them in prayer for the reunification of their family. We pray, too, that they would rest their full weight on the Lord knowing that He cares for them.

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“Bring Lexi Home”: The Page Family’s Situation (Part 1)

A lot has gone around the Internet over the last few days regarding the Page family in Santa Clarita. I’ve read some of the comments (which you should not do) and there seems to be a combination of emotions running high and miscommunication/misinformation about the situation. So, as we should train ourselves to do, I went to the original documents for some clarity. (But not until a friend prompted me by reading it first. Thanks, friend!) Here are some excerpts from an appeal the Second Appellate Court of California. You can find the link to the appeal on the Pages’ petition to bring Lexi home.

In this part, I’ll just provide key excerpts from the appeal with headings that clarify what is going on. I’ve made the headers as factual and unbiased as possible so that you can simply get information on what has happened. Tomorrow, I’ll give my thoughts on the situation.

NOTE: The document calls Lexi by her full name, “Alexandria,” and abbreviates the Pages to “the P.s.” The Pages are referred to as “de facto” parents to distinguish them from Lexi’s biological parents and her extended family in Utah.

A description of the situation
A 17-month-old Indian child was removed from the custody of her mother, who has a lengthy substance abuse problem and has lost custody of at least six other children, and her father, who has an extensive criminal history and has lost custody of one other child. The girl’s father is an enrolled member of an Indian tribe, and the girl is considered an Indian child under the ICWA. The tribe consented to the girl’s placement with a non-Indian foster family to facilitate efforts to reunify the girl with her father. The girl lived in two foster homes before she was placed with de facto parents at the age of two. She bonded with the family and has thrived for the past two and a half years. After reunification efforts failed, the father, the tribe, and the Department of Children and Family Services (Department) recommended that the girl be placed in Utah with a non-Indian couple who are extended family of the father. De facto parents argued good cause existed to depart from the ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences and it was in the girl’s best interests to remain with de facto family. The child’s court-appointed counsel argued that good cause did not exist. The court ordered the girl placed with the extended family in Utah after finding that de facto parents had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that it was a certainty the child would suffer emotional harm by the transfer. (2-3)

The Page family knew that Lexi’s placement was subject to ICWA
The P.s were Alexandria’s third foster care placement, initially arranged in December 2011 as a “respite care” placement5 that evolved into a long-term foster care placement. The P.s were aware that Alexandria was an Indian child and her placement was subject to the ICWA. By the time Alexandria was placed with the P.s in December 2011, her extended family in Utah, the R.s, were aware of dependency proceeding and had spoken to representatives of the tribe about their interest in adopting Alexandria. The tribe agreed to initial foster placement with the P.s because it was close to father at a time when he was working on reunification. If reunification services were terminated, the tribe recommended placement with the R.s in Utah. (5)

The Page family was a good testimony of familial love and care
Alexandria’s first months after being placed with the P.s were difficult. She was weepy at times, did not want to be held, and had difficulty differentiating between strangers and caregivers, indiscriminately calling people “mommy” or “daddy.” These behaviors were considered signs of a “reactive attachment, the disinhibitive type.” The P.s addressed Alexandria’s attachment issues with consistency and loving care. They did not ask the social worker for a therapy referral, understanding the issues to be ones they could work out on their own. After a few months, Alexandria’s behavioral issues resolved, and she formed a strong primary bond and attachment with the entire P. family, viewing the parents as her own parents and the P. children as her siblings. (5)

The Page family wanted to adopt Lexi
Alexandria has lived with the P.s for over two and a half years, beginning in December 2011. By all accounts, they have provided her with clear and consistent rules, and a loving environment. Alexandria is bonded to the P.s, and has a healthy attachment to them. The Department consistently reminded the P.s that Alexandria is an Indian child subject to the ICWA placement preferences. At some point after father’s reunification efforts failed, the P.s decided they wanted to adopt Alexandria. They discussed the issue with the Department social worker, who advised them that the tribe had selected the R.s as the planned adoptive placement. (8)

Lexi’s attorney decided not to oppose Lexi’s removal
Over the next six months [February to July 2013], the court granted de facto parent status to the P.s, the ICPC request permitting Alexandria’s placement with the R.s in Utah was approved, Alexandria’s attorney withdrew her objection to Alexandria’s change in placement [thus favoring Lexi’s move from the Pages to Utah],8 and all parties submitted briefing addressing whether good cause existed to depart from the ICWA’s adoptive placement preferences. (10)
NOTE: The remarks in [square brackets] are mine for clarification.

The court determined Lexi’s best interests by professional testimony
The social workers and therapists who testified all agreed that Alexandria has a primary attachment and a strong bond with the P.s. She considers Russell and Summer P. her parents and the P. children her siblings. Regarding Alexandria’s ability to attach with a new caregiver if her bond with the P.s is broken, Javier and Lingenfelter acknowledged that a change in placement would be potentially traumatic, but that the existence of a primary bond and healthy attachment increases the likelihood that a child will successfully attach to a new caregiver. Marquez believed that with appropriate intervention and support, Alexandria would cope with a transition resiliently, characterizing the possible trauma as a loss, but not the equivalent of the death of a parent. Lingenfelter and Marquez both acknowledged that any transition would pose a risk of trauma, including the possibility of depression and anxiety. Javier did not believe Alexandria would suffer any severe trauma because she sees the R.s as family and would not feel as if she is being sent to live with strangers. Axline, on the other hand, compared the transition to the death or loss of a parent or family, because “she is being taken away from everything that is familiar to her, everything that she’s known to be stability.” She also believed that Alexandria would have a more difficult time adjusting to a new placement than when she first came to the P.s because of the length of time she has been living with the P.s, and because she is able to understand far more than when she transitioned to the P.s at two years of age. (11)

The court ruled against the Page family
The court issued its written statement of decision on December 9, 2013, finding the P.s had not demonstrated good cause to depart from the placement preferences and ordering a gradual transition for Alexandria to move from the P.s’ home to the R.s’ home. In its decision, the court reviewed the law governing the ICWA’s placement preferences and concluded that the R.s were extended family entitled to preference under section 1915(a) and Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.31(h) unless the P.s demonstrated good cause to depart from that preference. (12)

Ultimately, the court concluded that the P.s “were unable to meet their burden by clear and convincing evidence, that either the child currently had extreme psychological or emotional problems or would definitively have them in the future. Without that evidence, supported by experts, there is insufficient evidence to warrant a deviation from the placement preference. The evidence is uncontroverted that Alexandria is extremely bonded to the [P.s] and that she sees this family as her primary attachment. And while the bonding with the [P.s] is significant to this court, it does not supersede the placement preference under the ICWA. (13-14)

Reblog: Fun Articles

These are a collection of articles I’ve read over the past couple months. I think they’re pretty interesting, so I thought I’d reblog them.

“The Rise of Stephen Curry” (Grantland): Focuses in particular on Curry’s college career, which is–needless to say–impressive. Fun fact: Curry “was so electric that his worst-ever statistical performance [in college] also became one of the most bizarre college basketball games ever played, as Loyola defended him so single-mindedly that it held him scoreless — but still lost to Davidson [Curry’s college] by 30.” You know he’s good when a team spends their entire game making sure he doesn’t score a point, and doesn’t care about losing by 30. The author also suggests that there’s a certain joy to watching Curry play, which I agree with. (You know, out of the 1.25 Warriors games I’ve seen.)

“Stephen Curry: The Full Circle” (ESPN): This article talks a bit about Curry’s childhood and how he trained as a kid, which I found intriguing. He learned basketball in the most difficult circumstances, setting him up to do well later on when he wasn’t playing outdoors on a (very) non-regulation hoop.

“How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran” (Wired): The backstory for the movie “Argo,” which I watched recently. (A good movie! In the heist genre.) During the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979-1981, several US State Department employees were hiding in Iran, trying not to get captured. CIA officer Tony Mendez used his subterfuge skills to extract the six employees. Their cover: a sci-fi film crew. Good read and a good accompanying movie–“Argo” won the Best Picture award at the Oscars. (If you thought this was interesting, see “How a Brilliant Intelligence Officer Used ‘Monopoly’ to Free WWII POWs,” HT Challies.)

“The Future of Data Visualization” (Jeffrey Heer, Strata + Hadoop 2015): OK, not an article; it’s a video. But I’m including it because I’m a statistics major. It’s pretty short–10 minutes long–but talks about how helpful data visualizations can be at discovering patterns in the data. There’s also a really helpful graphic at 3:00 ranking different kinds of ways to compare quantities, from most helpful to least helpful. If you want insight into what makes a helpful visualization, watch this video.

The Chicago Statements on Biblical Inerrancy and Hermeneutics

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (PDF)
Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (PDF)

I was watching the question and answer session from this year’s Shepherds’ Conference (a fun and profitable way to spend free time, by the way) when I heard Al Mohler say:

I became president of Southern Seminary when I was 33. I’m now 55. You can do the math. The issues are back, [Ligon Duncan, chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary]. Now, they’re not back on my campus, and I’m so thankful for that. It’s nailed down tight. And that’s one of the great things that does come as one of the effects of this kind of civil war in a denomination: the people who are left know what was bought at so high a price. (36:15-36:40)

As I was listening to him say that, I realized that despite growing up in the Southern Baptist Convention–a fact for which I have repeatedly mentioned my gratefulness, because I’ve lived in the Convention after the fight over inerrancy was settled, so I have never questioned the veracity of Scripture–I don’t know exactly “what was bought at so high a price.” So I googled the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the document of contention for biblical inerrancy mentioned in the Q&A, at which point I found out there was also a Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics, and one on Biblical Application. If you haven’t read it, you can download those documents from the links above.

2015_03 - Shepherds' Conference
(We had quotes from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy hanging on banners at church during the Shepherds’ Conference Inerrancy Summit, which is what originally piqued my interest in the document.)

NOTE: I sourced the Chicago Statement material from the Dallas Theological Seminary page on the International Council for Biblical Inerrancy (which links to the full texts for both Inerrancy and Hermeneutics, as well as Application), and from a page on Danny Akin’s website (the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary). I’ve re-typeset it for readability and copyability, as the DTS records are scans of the documents, and thus difficult both to read and copy-and-paste.

Fun Things I’ve Learned

Keeping your tea hot

As it turns out, a thinner cup for your tea keeps the beverage hot longer–think china cups used for teatime, the ones with saucers. Because mugs are thicker, I guess they absorb more heat from the tea, whereas a thinner china or porcelain cup doesn’t have as much mass to draw heat away from the tea. There are lots of other interesting tea facts at that link, which is part of a series of blog posts by NPR called “Tea Tuesdays,” featuring a blog post about tea–you guessed it–every Tuesday. (HT: Lifehacker)

Oxfords vs. derbys (or bluchers)

Oxford shoes are back in fashion these days. But it probably doesn’t surprise you to know that not all shoes marketed as oxfords are oxfords. It all depends on the laced section of the shoe. Here’s a picture of an oxford shoe:
AE Park Avenue - bourbon
Notice that the section of the shoe with the laces (called the “quarter”) is sort of one part with the rest of the shoe. There are no tongues hanging off the shoe. The quarters are sewn under the front of the shoe (called the “vamp”).

The next picture, on the other hand, is of a derby shoe (or a “blucher”). The quarters are sewn on top of the vamp, and you can imagine, and even see a little bit, that the tongues will hang off of the rest of the shoe a bit when the laces are undone. That’s the sign of a derby/blucher shoe.
AE Kenilworth - bourbon
Oxfords are considered more formal than derbys, presumably because of the sleeker, more streamlined look. (The pictures above are of Allen Edmonds models, the Park Avenue and Kenilworth, respectively. They are shown in a “bourbon” color.)

How (good) shoes are made

Allen Edmonds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVihz2DbPd8 (10m)
Crockett & Jones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dxbk8PfFePY (7m)
Loake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W7_hPugqro (6m)

“There’s something like 200 operations in making a pair of classic English brogues, and most of these operations will be done purely by eye, without any guides on the machinery. They’re mostly highly skilled jobs, and each person in the chain is entirely dependent on the previous people doing their job to the highest degree of accuracy” (Loake). There are still a few companies in the world who do this, and it’s fascinating to see how much work goes into a quality shoe like this, and how much they love their work and the pride they take in it.

Back in the day, before Nike and Reebok, shoes used to be made entirely of leather, with leather soles sewn (or “welted”) on. (They make them now with rubber soles for those who may want a bit more durability.) The full-leather construction allowed the shoe to slowly mold to the shape of one’s foot during the break-in period, for maximum comfort. They didn’t need all sorts of cushy padding in those days. (Granted, there probably wasn’t anyone running marathons in those shoes.) The sewn-on soles allowed the owner to keep the rest of the shoe–which by the time the sole wore out was probably several years old, and handsomely aged due to the leather construction, and fit to the shape of the owner’s shoe–and simply remove the old sole to sew a new one back on. It is common for a good welted shoe to last the owner for several decades.

“I think nice shoes are a good illustration of the fact that, in an age where we tend to throw a lot of things away, there is still a place for timeless classics and enduring quality” (Loake). This sums up why welted shoes are my new phase.