Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Note to occasional readers: This is where i post my original copy with my own headlines from the columns i write for the Newark Advocate and Community Booster. For this "FaithWorks" column in this Saturday's "Your Faith" page in the Advocate, i'm adding below a little more context from the Warren Tribune-Chronicle.

Pax, Jeff

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Faith Works 3-25-06
Jeff Gill

Lots of Venting, a Little Hope

This Lenten season, I’m doing weekly programs at three different churches, so I’ve been getting a wide range of very helpful and interesting feedback on this column (and appreciation of the Advocate for running it, so thanks to Alicia and Mike as well!).
It’s been very nice to hear how many people say "FaithWorks" is cheery, informative, and inclusive.
So of course, this week’s column is mordant, opinionated, and divisive. Any regular readers who want to flip the page now and look for Nancy and Sluggo on the comics page, we’ll see you next week, no problem.
Right now this writer is in a foul mood, and I want to share that sensibility with you, if you don’t mind – but hey, you’re still reading.
Here’s what won’t work, isn’t working: we can’t crank up the DUI laws any further, if not only idiots can drive about with eleven (11!!) on their record, but we have judges with eight still sitting on the bench. As a pastor, I get second chances, but that has nothing to do a) with eight chances, and b) whether the privilege of being a judge, dispensing justice, falls under that category. I learn from a fellow journalist that: "In Ohio, a fourth DUI offense can be considered a felony if a driver has three prior convictions during a six-year period, or five convictions over a 20-year span."
That seems clear enough, doesn’t it?
And here’s what won’t work: decreasing the intoxication level. I get the argument for .08 vs. .10, but when so many of the folks arrested after accidents have .24 and .37 alcohol levels in their blood, moving the bar (ha! He said mordantly…) to .06 or even .04 ain’t gonna touch the heart of the problem.
And raising the drinking age from 18, when you can vote and join the Marine Corps and get shot by your nation’s enemies, but drinking a beer is illegal until you make sergeant, while the horror stories on the roadways are generally triggered by inebriated 30, 40, and 50 year olds, that didn’t work very well and may in the long run backfire.
But here’s what really won’t work. Standing at the casket, looking down at a marvelous 18 year old you had watched grow up at church camp from kid to back as counselor, whose female friend had died immediately the week before, already in the grave.
A third college freshman in the back seat gets to live, although after months of therapy ahead he’ll likely never run and jump, but we believe he will walk. Slowly. Painfully.
And the man who did this to them, age 47, drunk at three times the legal limit, with eleven DUIs, and driving his girlfriend’s truck that the state police had warned twice to quit loaning him, in writing.
There are no laws to stop someone like this. We can’t write enough new ones, or field enough cops (they were right there, following him to pull the vehicle over for, yes, a busted taillight, and the drunk accelerated away, crossing the center line to head-on the kid’s car, which went as far over as he could and still was hit, rolling them into the ditch).
The man in question will no doubt spend the rest of his life in prison. Boy, I feel better now, don’t you? No, I didn’t really think so. He won’t kill anymore, good kids or even very annoying ones, young or old. The next guy with a case of Blatz in him? Will the sentence move him to bum a ride off of a buddy, or let his girlfriend drive?
Only transformation from within can change this kind of situation. The only hope I can offer in such a tragic place is that the effects of religious conversion and transformation can do what the fear of jail and public revulsion can’t. Faith in a larger, wider reality than the twelve ounces in your hand, and belief that you are made for a higher purpose than draining it, that can make a difference.
Red lights in the rearview, for too many, just press the gas pedal, as they try to drive away from their demons. But you can’t go that fast, and you’re likely to drag those burdens into the path of innocent others.
The police and justice system will need to keep doing their work, mainly cleaning up the broken glass and busted lives after the tragedy strikes (but can we move that judge along, please?). What gives meaning and purpose to the simple preaching and elementary study and corporate prayer we share together, in our faith communities around Licking County and beyond, is that we may be making the impact that matters.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; share a story of transformation with him at

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Andrew J. Hopkins,1987-2006

CHAMPION - Andrew J. "Andy'' Hopkins, 18 years old of Champion, Ohio, died Monday, March 13, 2006, in Cleveland Metro Health Medical Center, after a brave battle to recover from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Friends will be received from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 17, 2006, at the Champion Christian Church, 151 Center St. West, Champion, and one hour prior to a 9:30 a.m. funeral service on Saturday, March 18, 2006. The Rev. Roger McKinney, Senior Pastor of Hiram Christian Church, will officiate.

Interment will follow in Champion Township Cemetery.

Contributions may be made to the Andy Hopkins Fund, established at Cortland Banks, 194 W. Main St. Cortland, Ohio 44410, to defray the family's unexpected expenses and ensure a lasting legacy for Andy. Carl W. Hall Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

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Driver in fatal crash is indicted

By CHRISTOPHER BOBBY Tribune Chronicle

CHARDON - The man accused of causing the March 2 crash that killed two Hiram College students was named Friday in a multiple count indictment issued by a Geauga County grand jury.
His girlfriend also was indicted on an involuntary mans-laughter charge because it was her car.

James D. Cline, 47, and Karen Hensley, 50, both of Burton, are scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Tuesday by Common Pleas Judge David Fuhry.

Cline was indicted on four counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and two counts of aggravated vehicular assault that include specifications that he was impaired by alcohol at the time. He also faces a charge of failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer, two counts of involuntary man-slaughter, driving on a suspended license and driving under OVI (operating vehicle intoxicated) suspension.

The vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and manslaughter represent a duplication of the allegations stemming from the accident, and Cline can only be convicted on some of the charges. Hensley's indictment charges that she knowingly provided Cline with the vehicle to drive.

"Hensley owned the vehicle being driven by Cline the night of the crash, even though she knew his license was suspended,'' according to Lt. Heidi A. Marshall, commander of the Chardon post of the state patrol.

"She had also been warned by the Geauga County Sheriff's Office in June 2005 to stop providing Cline with vehicles to drive.''

She said lab results indicated that Cline's blood-alcohol content the night of the fatal crash was 0.26 percent - more than three times the legal limit in Ohio of 0.08 percent.

Cline has been convicted 11 times for DUI dating back to 1984. In Ohio, a fourth DUI offense can be considered a felony if a driver has three prior convictions during a six-year period, or five convictions over a 20-year span.

The crash this month claimed the lives of two 18-year-old college students, one from Champion. Andrew Hopkins, a 2005 Champion High School graduate, died Monday at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland from injuries he received in the crash.

Hopkins funeral will be held today.

Grace Chamberlain of Kirtland died shortly after the crash at Geauga Regional Hospital.

A third passenger in Hopkins' car, Evan DaSilva, 19, of Rhode Island, is listed in fair condition at MetroHealth.

According to the Chardon post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Cline was fleeing from police when his car went left of center on state Route 700, hitting Hopkins' car head-on and rolling the teen's vehicle into a ditch just after 9 p.m. March 2.

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