April 30, 2005
Video footage of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
Here is a link to a video news release about the rediscovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker which contains a brief glimpse of the bird itself (as well as archival footage from over 60 years ago). (Hat tip: Laura Erickson's Birder Blog, which also has a number of entries on the find.)
The video is really rough . . . like seeing fuzzy pictures of Nessie or Bigfoot or UFOs. But it was enough to identify this flying object.
April 29, 2005
The Terrifying Truth: We Are Normal
Reflecting on the humanity and the madness of Hitler, Cohen runs into the terrifying truth that a people with the graces and skills of the Germans could, almost without missing a step, follow the barbarity of Hitler, and then becomes good citizens once again.
This reminded me of a chapter in Chuck Colson’s 1985 book Who Speaks for God?, which explores the same horror that if we look deeply into ourselves we can see glimpses of the very worst among us.
Colson writes in the chapter titled, The Terrifying Truth, We Are Normal:
Introducing a recent story about Nazi Adolf Eichmann, a principal architect of the Holocaust, Wallace posed a central question at the program's outset: "How is it possible . . . for a man to act as Eichmann acted? . . . Was he a monster? A madman? Or was he perhaps something even more terrifying: was he normal?"
Normal? The executioner of millions of Jews normal? Most self-respecting viewers would be outraged at the very thought.
The most startling answer to Wallace's shocking question came in an interview with Yehiel Dinur, a concentration camp survivor who testified against Eichmann at the Nuremburg trials. A film clip from Eichmann's 1961 trial showed Dinur walking into the courtroom, stopping short, seeing Eichmann for the first time since the Nazi had sent him to Auschwitz eighteen years earlier. Dinur began to sob uncontrollably, then fainted, collapsing in a heap on the floor as the presiding judicial officer pounded his gavel for order in the crowded courtroom.
Was Dinur overcome by hatred? Fear? Horrid memories?
No; it was none of these. Rather, as Dinur explained to Wallace, all at once he realized Eichmann was not the godlike army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. "I was afraid about myself," said Dinur. ". . . I saw that I am capable to do this. I am . . . exactly like he."
Wallace's subsequent summation of Dinur's terrible discovery–"Eichmann is in all of us"–is a horrifying statement; but it indeed captures the central truth about man's nature. For as a result of the Fall, sin is in each of us–not just the susceptibility to sin, but sin itself.
There Goes the Secular Humanist Vote
In what is fashioned as a news release, the Council for Secular Humanism (I’m not making this up) tried to takes its swipe at California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who President Bush has nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Here’s the lead:
Amherst, N.Y. (April 27, 2005) -- The Council for Secular Humanism deplores the intemperate and uncalled-for attacks California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown made on secular humanists at an April 24 church-sponsored service delivered to judges and lawyers in Connecticut. The comments were seized upon this past Monday by evangelical leader Gary Bauer, of the ultra-conservative advocacy group American Values, in an e-mail blast Bauer sent to his supporters, praising Brown and her comments.
The release continues:
She has libeled tens of millions of Americans who do not share her ideological bias. "We particularly object to her claim that Secular Humanism threatens to divorce America from its religious roots," said Paul Kurtz, Chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism.
"We are alarmed at the implications that this first overt attack on secular humanism -- by such a highly placed jurist -- portends for the rights of unbelievers and the separation of religion and state guaranteed in the constitution," said Kurtz. "We are facing a clear and present danger to our liberties in the United States by militant religionists."
I don’t get it. Of course the secular humanists are trying to divorce America from its religious roots. Why wouldn’t they want to, given their commitment to secularism.
I hope this groups speak up more because it helps us all to understand that Secular Humanism itself is a real and present danger to the huge majority of Americans who believe that a nation that ignores the spiritual part of its soul will devolve into a dispirited and unprincipled mess.
Jews Against Anti-Christian Bias
The Jewish people have suffered so much persecution over the centuries that they can see and understand it with more certainty than many others can.
So it’s not surprising for a Jewish group to help battle anti-Christian bias and discrimination. Politics being what they are, however, it takes conservative Jews to take up for conservative Christians.
Don Feder, a Boston Herald writer and syndicated columnist for 19 years, announced this week that he had established a new group: Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, or JAACD. Source: World Net Daily. Also here. (h/t: Considerettes).
Feder said for years he has written about incidents of anti-Christian discrimination in the public square - from the prohibition of crèches on public land to the silencing prayer in the nation's schools.
"What I consider an epidemic of anti-Christian bigotry and persecution is something that has concerned me for a long time noting that in 1996 he wrote a book entitled "Who's Afraid of the Religious Right?" which covers what he sees as the left's attack on traditional Christians.
"Particularly pernicious is the leftist idea that it's legitimate to base your politics on anything except religion," he said. "You can say that my politics are based on the views of Karl Marx or Ayn Rand or Jane Fonda . and that's OK, but as soon as you say your worldview is based on the Bible, that's considered an illegitimate basis for embracing certain political views."
This is reminiscent of some of Michael Horowitz’s statements on the international persecution of Christian. Horowitz is less partisan, but he has spoken and written boldly about Christians as the Jews of the modern era.
The Right Standard for Death: “No Doubt” of Guilt
This may be a death penalty that meets the high threshold of certainty that the Bible prescribes. Governor Romney continues to be impressive on important issues.
April 28, 2005
Ivory-Billed Woodpecker -- Found!
Well, this is cool news.
Once a dominant creature of great Southern hardwood forest, its numbers dwindled as logging increased. The woodpecker inspired one of the first conservation efforts in the nation's history, but its seeming failure turned the ivory bill into a symbol of loss. The last documented sighting was in Louisiana in 1944.
But the ivory bill lived on as a kind of ghost in rumor and in numerous possible sightings. Despite lengthy expeditions, no sighting was confirmed, until Feb. 11, 2004.
On that date Gene M. Sparling III sighted a large woodpecker with a red crest in the Cache River refuge. Tim W. Gallagher at the Cornell Lab saw the report from Mr. Sparling on a Web site where he was describing a kayak trip.
Within two weeks Mr. Gallagher and Bobby R. Harrison of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., were in a canoe in the refuge, with Mr. Sparling guiding them.
Mr. Gallagher said he had expected to camp out for a week, but after one night out, on Feb. 27, he and Mr. Harrison were paddling up a bayou bounded on both sides by cypress and tupelo when they saw a very large woodpecker fly in front of their canoe.
When they wrote down their notes independently and compared them, Mr. Gallagher said, Mr. Harrison was struck by the reality of the discovery and began sobbing, repeating, "I saw an ivory bill."
Mr. Gallagher felt the same. "I couldn't speak," he said.
Once Mr. Gallagher convinced Dr. Fitzpatrick of Cornell, the effort to confirm the sightings began in earnest, and the result, published in the online version of Science, carried the names of 16 people from seven institutions who participated in a search that turned up seven confirmed new sightings and a blurry bit of videotape.
Actually, I'm not surprised that the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker has been "rediscovered." There have been a number of suspected sightings in recent years. And though pedigreed researchers from universities never turned up any Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers, locals always insisted that they had seen the birds.
Very cool. I guess they'll have to put it back into the field guides now.
How We Look
I think that, for the most part, here is how most Americans see Evangelical Christians:
Once I read a book, and this is what it said,
If your music has a beat, then your gonna wind up dead.
It doesn't really matter if its "Christian" or not,
if it's syncopated rhythm, then your soul is gonna rot.
And this book was called:
Ha! you're gonna burn!
and in the second chapter, I went on to learn:
You take 2 houseplants and put ‘em to the test,
set them both in front of speakers and let the music do the rest.
The first one you play Mozart or something lovely like that,
the second one you play that Petra or that MegaDeth.
It doesn't really matter what kind of rock it is.
What we really need, of course, is for Americans to see us in the light of the last two stanzas:
So I took my two houseplants, and I put 'em both back outside, and me and my neighbor, well, we went out for a drive. We talked about all the things that really matter most, like life and love and happiness, and then the Holy Ghost.
Now my two houseplants both sit out in the sun,
and as for my neighbor, well our friendship has become,
a meaningful relationship that’s headed straight to Heaven,
but as for now, we like to sit around and listen to Audio Adrenaline
cranked to eleven!
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no feel good "Christianity's about your self-image and Jesus just loves you the way you are, so do the best you can" type of person (sorry, I just cannot bring myself to put dashes between all those words). I am fully aware that, in each case when faced with a sinner, Jesus, in addition to loving the person, also required the person to stop sinning. (See, e.g., John 5:14.)
Jesus commanded Christians to "Love one another." Do we do that? Do people notice how we treat other Christians with love? For that matter, do people realize that we love them too? Pretty much . . . I think not. Most people see us in the light of the first two verses to the AudioA song above.
It doesn't have to be that way. We can still reflect the love of Christ and the holiness of Christ as well. Perhaps if we focused on the love part as much as the stop sinning part, we'd come a bit closer to the mark.
One good starting point: Modern Christians, particularly Evangelicals, should re-discover the concept of humility. There's not a lot of humility in modern Christian Evangelicals today. No, not much at all. We pay lip service to that virtue, of course, much as we pay lip service to other Christian virtues (you know, like charity). But, frankly, most Evangelicals don't have a lot of time for humility these days. Too busy with other things.
New Screening at the Pearly Gates.
The Reality of Faith: International Persecution of Christians
The message popular in American evangelism is that faith in Jesus Christ is warm and fuzzy, it can make your life happier, your business more successful, increase your bank account, and fix up your eternal future.
The fact is that Jesus’ message is counter-cultural, revolutionary, personally offensive, exclusionary, and will most likely lead to suffering. It just happens to be true and it will transform your life, your values, and your relationship with your Creator.
Communist and other authoritarian bullies, and radical Muslims around the world recognize that the radical faith of Christians outside of the West is a threat to the status quo, and Christians are being persecuted regularly.
The American evangelical lobby should be focusing the attention of our State Department on the instances of blatant religious persecution and the denial of religious freedoms around the world.
Here are a few that have recently come to light:
Two Americans, Ricky Rupert and Zachary Harris, have been arrested in Malaysia, accused of handing out Christian pamphlets outside a mosque in a country where constitutionally protected religious freedom periodically collides with the prohibition on the conversion of Muslims.
A Royal Malaysian Police spokesman said Thursday the two men had been apprehended while handing out pamphlets outside the mosque in Putrajaya, Malaysia's new administrative capital south of Kuala Lumpur.
Some 60 percent of Malaysia's population are Malay Muslims, while large ethnic-Chinese and Indian minorities practice Christianity and other religions. Despite being multi-cultural, Sunni Islam is the official religion. Muslims are not permitted to convert to another religion.
"The constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, it recognizes Islam as the country's official religion and the practice of Islamic beliefs other than Sunni Islam is significantly restricted," the State Department says in its most recent report on global religious freedom. (Source)
From Voice of the Martyrs: Pastor Cai Zhuohua from Beijing, was arrested September 11, 2004, by National Security operatives, for printing “illegal religious literature.” Cai’s wife, Xiao Yunfei was also arrested November 27, 2004. According to a recently released fellow inmate, Pastor Cai was repeatedly tortured by electric shocks and was forced to falsely confess, which could lead to a ten to fifteen year prison sentence under the current criminal code. The Chinese government has repeatedly threatened his attorney not to defend him.
Pastor Gong Shengliang was sentenced to life in prison October 10, 2002, by the Court Hubei Province. He is now being held at Section Four, Te Yi Hao, Miaoshan Development Zone, Jiangxia District, Wuhan City, Hubei Province. This case involved the arrest and sentencing of many women of Pastor Gong’s church who were tortured into falsely accusing Gong of rape.
According to eyewitness reports, Gong’s mental and physical health has suffered due to the harsh treatment in prison.
Mr. Chen Jingmao, age 74, of Chongqing City, was sentenced October 10, 2002, to four years in prison for sending his granddaughter to a Bible class training school. Chen is now being held in Sanxia Prison, Chongqing City. He is reported to be in very poor health and will die in prison if he is not released soon.
Although China has amended its constitution to protect human rights, these three cases exemplify both the arbitrary nature of what passes for justice in the People’s Republic of China and the sad state of religious freedom there.
According to Compass Direct, in Eritrea, 16 full-time pastors are among nearly 900 Eritrean Christians known to be jailed in local prisons, military confinement camps and shipping containers for daring to meet secretly for prayer and worship outside government-sanctioned churches.
Despite a heavy-handed clampdown by Eritrea’s security police, evangelical sources in the tiny northeast African nation have managed to compile a documented list of 883 Christians now being held without trial or charges because of their faith.
Only a handful of prisoners have been released -- after recently being coerced to sign pledges to stop attending religious services of the unregistered, “illegal” denominations.
In an interview April 5 with Agence France Press (AFP), the director of the Eritrean President’s office, Yemane Gebremeskel, claimed that arrested members of the banned Christian groups “are maybe held for five hours and then let off with a warning.” He also accused human rights groups criticizing Eritrea’s violations of religious freedom of getting their information off the internet and giving “arbitrary figures.”
Los Angeles, Mexico
The advertisement is for a local Spanish-language TV news program. "Noticias 62" means simply "News 62," and "Tu Ciudad. Tu Equipo" means "Your city. Your Team." As you can see, in the middle of the Los Angeles skyline, the billboard's creators have dropped in the famous Angel of Independence monument from Mexico City, and of course they have crossed out "CA" and replaced it with "Mexico."I'm tempted to lift much more of Lowell's post, but I think it's important that our readers pay a vist and read it in context over there.
Although Lowell and I disagree on terminology (he prefers "illegal," I prefer "unauthorized"), his assessment of what he calls the nativist and immigrationist factions in this debate, and the dilemma these factions present to the GOP is fair and commendable.
I've had to postpone my series on immigration policy as I got side tracked by an exit poll story that is about to break, but once I get through finals (3 weeks left!) I'll get back in the saddle here at SCO.
April 27, 2005
In all honesty, I don't think that Glenn's worries are unfounded. If nothing else, we must be aware of public perception. The GOP is running a very real risk of convincing the swing voters of this country that it is the party of James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. I don't for one second believe that to be the total truth, but if you're naive enough to be a swing voter, chances are you won't be sharp enough to tell the difference between George W. Bush and Pat Robertson.
Conversely, I think it is legitimate to worry that non-Christians, or at least the unchurched, may percieve that traditional evangelicals and, I suppose in some cases, Catholics, are the religion of the GOP. I doubt very seriously that Justice Sunday helped to dispell that notion. As with the GOP itself, I don't think it's an entirely fair stereotype. Nevertheless we must be aware of public perception, however skewed it might be.
Allow me to simplify. Even if you and I, as conservatives, understand that James Dobson isn't running the GOP ship, we're still in trouble if enough Americans believe that in fact is the case. The truth as you and I know it is just an anecdote if 50% of the electorate thinks the GOP is out to turn the whole country into a church. Likewise with the Church. I know good and well that Al Mohler cares more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ than about the programs of the Republican Party. I do my best to explain this to others when the topic comes up. But what about the guy down the street who can't tell the difference? If the lines are blurred too often, I think it's a serious concern that the church will lose its effectiveness as the Body of Christ.
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Comments and Trackbacks; Digital Music Player Question
Comments and trackbacks are both working. We have begun turning off comments on older posts, whilst we search for a permanent solution. If you come across an old post to which you would like to comment, just send the author an email.
And now for something completely different. No, not a man with three legs, but a request. I am of a mind to get a digital music player. I have no clue about such things (of course, that's a statement that could be made about a wide variety of topics). The iPod seems to be the consensus choice; however, I'd love to hear any suggestions, with ease of use and cost being more important than 10 versus 20 hours of music capability, or, God forbid, coolness.
Time For Stronger Measures Against Sexual Predators
There was another Amber alert in Florida yesterday. Yet another little girl dragged off. Has this been the year of the sexual predator or are we just hearing about more offenses because of the alert systems and 24/7 news?
A child advocate on the Today show last week said the very minimum a parent should do is go online and print your local registry of sexual offenders. So that’s what we did, to pinpoint the locations of the offenders in our area. If you have children, do it today.
State legislatures and local governments need to stop wringing their hands and begin taking stronger measures to maintain control over those who have been convicted of sexual offenses. How many little girls must be prey to the hardened, repeat offenders in their neighborhoods before this horror is taken seriously and these people are intercepted, so they do not hurt more youngsters.
It is time for universal adoption of at least three measures: electronic monitoring, voice tracking, and chemical castration.
Electronic Monitoring: The offender wears an ankle bracelet, which sends out a radio signal precisely showing the exact location. The offender is only allowed to leave their home for specific reasons and at specific times. A monitoring company tracks their movements 24 hours a day, and immediately reports any deviation from the allowed limits to their Probation Officer.
An Ohio official is suggesting taking this a step further, and implanting GPS chips.
While Fox earlier had suggested the use of electronic ankle or wrist bracelets to allow for passive monitoring of offenders, on Monday he took the proposal a step further, calling for a plan of implanting computer microchips into offenders so that they can be tracked and located immediately.
"People have these GPS chips put in their pets and - in some case - in their children, in the event they are lost or kidnapped," Fox said. "I don't see why the same can't be done with probationees."
But Sheriff Richard K. Jones said it would first take an act of the state legislature to give courts the authority to order such implanting. Butler County currently has 296 registered sexual offenders, Jones said.
Jones on Friday launched a new program in which the sheriff's office is now doing random, surprise spot checks on registered sexual offenders to make certain they are living at the addresses they have registered with local authorities.
Voice Tracking: A monitoring company pages offenders periodically during the day and night. A voice recording from the offender has been used to create a computer template which is compared to the caller returning the page, preventing illegitimate callers from responding. Calls are automatically rejected from cellular phones or using call forwarding. The caller must call back within a specified amount of time, and the phone number they called from is automatically recorded.
States need to implement and enforce hormone treatment for repeat sexual offenders. This is not a cure all, but it will help reduce or eliminate the sexual drive of individuals who cannot control where that takes them. Officials seem squeamish about this course of action. They need to think about the young girls who are raped and buried alive by hardened sexual offenders.
This Texas document discusses chemical castration:
Myth: "Castration cures a sex offender." Fact: Castration is not a cure. Castration only reduces testosterone levels and may be helpful in controlling arousal and libido. Physical or chemical castration should only be utilized as an adjunct to treatment and not in lieu of treatment. It should be remembered that deviant arousal is the physical response to a cognitive process (deviant thoughts). Deviant thoughts (impulses) and fantasies are precursors to deviant arousal.
Iowa is one of eight states that has implemented the treatment, but they have been lax in applying it.
The hormone therapy, called "chemical castration" by critics, is required for offenders convicted more than once of serious sex offenses as a condition of their release from custody. However, the requirement is waived when a judge or the Board of Parole determines the treatment would be ineffective.
The treatment is optional for those convicted for the first time of a sexual offense in which the victim was 12 or younger.
"We have done it, but it's very rare," said Gary Sherzan, director of community corrections in the 5th Judicial District.
Rusty Rogerson, superintendent of the state's sex offender treatment facility at Mount Pleasant, said the only time the treatment was needed there, a physician couldn't be found to administer it.
Officials say some physicians question the effectiveness or propriety of the treatment. Others are concerned about medical and legal risks, and about taking part in a procedure that is outside their medical practice.
Others have recommend extremely long prison sentences.
Whatever the cost, lawmakers need to act now to protect our children. What could be more important?
April 26, 2005
Devils and Dust
As far as hackneyed, cliched and downright boring music goes, Bruce Springsteen is on his way to becoming a legend. I'll admit that Nebraska was an alright album, but why anyone takes a guy like Springsteen seriously is beyond me. I can think of a dozen American songwriters who have created and are creating music that is far more moving. Springsteen's politics are as outdated as a sky blue leisure suit, and as liberals go, Steve Earle has him beat in a landslide. Damien Jurado and Richard Buckner are better storytellers. Conor Oberst is probably as full of himself, but at the rate he's maturing, he'll have Springstreen outdone - in the area of songwriting - in twenty years. Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard are still writing powerful music, and that's to say nothing of Townes Van Zandt's output before his death in the late 1990s.
Look at it this way. Gram Parsons died at a very young age, but rock and country fans still recognize "Sin City," "Love Hurts" and "$1000 Wedding." Other than "Born to Run," "Thunder Road" and the terrible "Born in the USA," will anyone remember a Springsteen song in twenty years?
Comments and Trackbacks Down Again
The vile creatures known as spammers have managed to shut down our comments and trackbacks again. You can try to leave a comment, but it may not be successful. You have not been banned (unless you're a spammer, we're actively working on banning you). We are working on this. We suspect that no reader of Stones Cry Out ever responds to online spammers. If you do, though, you might want to re-think that, since it only encourages them and leads to problems like this.
Stones Cry Out
Why Not Pragmatism?
“I'm still not seeing how I am contributing to the decline of American culture simply by insisting on following in the agnostic tradition of my family rather than converting to Christianity,” wrote a mysteriously named “s9” commenter in response to my post on personal responsibility last week.
s9 added: “I contend that identifying the problem of "cultural decline" is a more complicated job than simply blaming it all on the damned liberals. Satisfying as that might seem.”
I don’t believe I was quite that simplistic, and in fact the analysis was fairly thorough, particularly if the reader would at least scan the good article Stanley Rothman, titled The Decline of Bourgeois America.
My summary narrowed the blame, I’ll admit:
“With the growing rejection of the boundaries and guidance of the Christian tradition, American culture slides away from responsibility as it yields to the temptations of an “expressive individualistic ethic” that emphasizes self as the center of the universe. This makes the “collectivist liberalism” of an ever-active and controlling government attractive because of its promise of egalitarian nirvana.”
But nowhere in my post or in the cited article is there an argument for conversion (although I would recommend it for many reasons, mind you). But as Western culture rejects the moorings of the Christian tradition, the void has resulted in the two trends mentions: expressive individualism and collective liberalism. These trends are at least part of the reason for the decline in personal responsibility.
But I was intrigued by a question, which led to this exchange:
JWJ: If not Christian, on what ethic do you base a call to responsibility?
S9: If you must know, I hold ethics derived from Pragmatism. Yes, the capital 'P' is deliberate. I fail to see how my being raised in a family with a different ethic from a Christian one makes me complicit in the decline of personal responsibility. I was raised in a non-Christian household, so therefore my continuing choice not to convert to Christianity is a rejection of "the moorings of the Christian tradition." It would be nice to know how my choice to do this has contributed to the trends you mention.
JWJ: Actually your rejection of Christ is not necessarily a rejection of "the moorings of the Christian tradition." You enjoy many of the advantages of Judeo-Christian and Christian social, economic, and ethical structures. You can thank Christ for that, even as a non-believer.
If pragmatism is your only ethical basis, I'm glad to have you as commenter but I wouldn't want to have you as a neighbor.
S9: All of those are arguable propositions, but I'll decline the opportunity to argue them.
Worried that having an agnostic in the neighborhood will lower the value of your real estate? My, how Christian of you...
JWJ: If pragmatism reigns for you, please read Pascal's Wager.
S9: Good grief, not that again. You do realize that Pascal's Wager is not argument for the existence of God, but rather an argument for the belief in God. Worse, as a Pragmatist, I've seen the argument before— but presented more cogently.
Pragmatism asks its usual question. "Grant an idea or belief to be true," it says, "what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone's actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth's cash-value in experiential terms?"--William James, Pragmatism (1907)
It's not my Pragmatism that makes you dread having me as a neighbor. It's the agnosticism, isn't it?
Since I’m not a philosopher or a theologian, I thought I’d pesent this to SCO readers. It seems to me that pure pragmatism, if truly ones life guiding philosophy, is utterly frightening. Living without a transcendent ethic, values based on something other then the utilitarian, is a recipe for social anarchy and spiritual suicide.
Christianity is pragmatic, but not limited to pragmatism. Its ultimate social benefit is that its “living hope” makes faithful adherents the best citizens.
What do you think? Why, then, not pragmatism?
Is Homeschooling the Best Option?
Is homeschooling good for children? That’s a question being debated here.
I have friends and family who homeschool their children and I have great respect for the sacrifices these parents make for their children.
I’ve seen it work for most children, because parents, usually mothers, are pouring so much of themselves into their children. This is almost always tremendous for kids.
But I’ve also seen situations where parents expect some kind of homeschool magic—the benefit of doing the right thing—to work wonders in the children, without the skills or hard work by the parents. That doesn’t produce the desired results, of course.
It’s interesting that as homeschooling becomes more popular, it is becoming what may be more accurately titled “home-directed schooling,” with students often taking some joint classes in churches, or other arrangements. With online programs such as the Learning by Grace academies, parents can choose to have any level or participation by professional educators.
April 25, 2005
New Media Peer Review
Terry Neal, political director and columnist for WashingtonPost.com took up a story in his talking points column yesterday that I have been working on extensively since March 31. Neal writes:
“…there's lots of chatter in the blogosphere, but little coverage in the mainstream media, of a study that suggests the early exit polls that showed Kerry beating Bush may have been accurate after all. The study, conducted on behalf of U.S. Count Votes, a non-partisan but left-leaning non-profit organization.He’s referring to a study that I mentioned here, signed by a group of mostly math and statistics PhDs from distinguished universities, which suggests the exit poll data is more consistent with a fraud hypothesis than with the official explanation that Bush supporters were more reluctant to participate in the polls than Kerry supporters.
Terry Neal quotes Warren Mitofsky, the exit pollster for the 2004 exit polls, who speaks on the record for the first time regarding the US Count Votes study, as well as Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal, who has posted on the subject here and here.
I will have a bit more to say about this story soon. Read up because behind this story is a much more interesting story of on-line collaboration that brings new meaning to “peer review.”
Let's Get One Thing Straight
Whatever my disagreements with Justice Sunday, and they've been a'plenty around here, let me state emphatically that I do not believe America is becoming a theocracy. Why?
'Cause Michael Barone said so.
The Bible as a High School Textbook
Here’s a constructive response to attempt to expunge any Christian influence from public life. An organization called The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools has managed to have the Bible used as a curriculum text in public high schools.
According to the Council’s president, Elizabeth Ridenour:
“The curriculum for the program shows a concern to convey the content of the Bible as compared to literature and history. The program is concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students. The central approach of the class is simply to study the Bible as a foundation document of society, and that approach is altogether appropriate in a comprehensive program of secular education.”
The organization’s brochure says:
Since 1995, over 170,000 students have taken the NCBCPS course on high school campuses. The curriculum is popular with both teachers and students, and it has been adopted to date nationwide in 92% of the school districts where it has been presented. The NCBCPS uses the Bible as its textbook (The King James Version is recommended) and, through a study of the Old and New Testaments, focuses on its comparisons with, and impact upon, history and literature. Following constitutional guidelines, the course emphasizes that the Bible is the foundation document of our society and is the single most influential book in shaping western culture, our laws, our history and even our speech. It is a lesson in America’s heritage.
Unfortunately, this number of students over 10 years is a drop in the bucket. It is a positive, creative approach that merits stronger examination and more thorough adoption.
With the celebration this week of Passover it is interesting to read about Orthodox Jewish journalist David Klinghoffe, who presents his arguments on why Jesus was not the Messiah, but of more appeal to evangelicals, challenges Jewish liberals who are not faithful to Jewish teachings, and commends the impact orthodox Jews and Christians can have on a Western culture that has lost the meaning of truth.
"For example, Christians have for centuries pondered the unique Jewish role in "salvation history," a mystery often summed up in the familiar statement, "How odd of God to choose the Jews." Meanwhile, Jewish scholars have faced a paradox of their own. As the Jewish intellectual Franz Rosenzweig once said: "Israel can bring the world to God only through Christianity."
Without Judaism, there is no Christianity. But without Christianity,
Klinghoffer argues, there would be no Western civilization as the world knows it and, without Christendom, Europe would have remained pagan and almost certainly fallen to Islam.
Despite their many differences, Klinghoffer is convinced that traditional Jews and Christians can find unity on many controversial questions -- from abortion to euthanasia, and many hot moral issues in between. Christians and Jews are supposed to believe that "we can say, with a straight face, that there is such a thing as 'truth,' " he said.
This matters in an era in which many want to blur the doctrinal lines
between world religions. Others want to deny the existence of religious truth altogether.
"This raises all kinds of questions," said Klinghoffer. "Who gets to
decide what is right and what is wrong? Does God get to play a role in
those decisions or do we just put that up to a vote among ourselves? Where does moral authority come from? Do we just pluck it out of the air or does it come from somewhere?
"When we start asking these kinds of questions, Jewish and Christian believers can stand side by side."
April 24, 2005
If there is even 10% truth to this NY Times story, these families, no, all Americans, should be outraged (HT: Drudge). Our Marines and soldiers deserve much, much better than this. I'd call my Democratic Senators and Representative, but I know they already agree with me on this. To not have armored humvees at this stage in the war is inexcusable.
John makes some very interesting points, but I'm afraid that none of those points matter if the filibuster of presidential appointments is a violation of the Constitution.
The Senate has a Constitutional obligation to advise and consent. The filibuster of judicial nominees disenfranchises a majority of United States Senators from fulfilling their constitutional obligation to advise and consent.
The Senate was specifically designed to protect the views of the minority and that protection is made explicit in the Constitution. The most obvious protection of minority rights is evident by the "first among equals" institutional and voting framework where each state, regardless of population or size, has two votes. Also, where a supermajority among Senatiors is required, it is explicit in the constitution.
The Federalist was written to explain and promote a Constitution which, in its original version, contained super-majority requirements in seven places: Article I requires votes of two-thirds to convict on impeachment (3, cl. 6), to expel a Senator or Representative (5, cl. 2), and to override a presidential veto (7, cls. 2 & 3). Article II requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate to consent to treaties (2, cl. 2) and called for special majorities if the election of the President should be referred to the House of Representatives (1, cl. 3). Article V requires two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the States to amend the Constitution. Article VII required ratifications from 9 of the original 13 States before the Constitution could go into effect.Nowhere in the writings of our founders (that I have found) did they suggest that a supermajority is required to confirm an appointment to the judicial bench as nominated in accordance with the US Constitution by a President.
Since the filibuster of presidential nominees is unconstitutional, then it should be done away with. Until someone convinces me that the filibuster of Bush's nominees is constitutional, I won't have much tolerance for arguments in favor of retaining it. No Senate rule should be above the US Constitution.
Outrageous! ID's Required to Vote!?!?!?
In his latest post, he's all hot about a state bill that will require state approved photo ID's in order to vote in Georgia. Some patriot over at Democratic Underground has a nice picture comparing Republicans to the Nazi SS demanding papers.
I always thought IDs were required to vote and was surprised in November to find that poll workers in the three precincts I poll watched didn't ask anyone for their ID. In fact, they didn't even require a registration booklet. All someone had to do was point at a name on the roster and say that was them. I asked two of the poll workers why they allowed this, and they replied that that demanding proof of registration or residency is a form of voter intimidation.
Without requiring IDs to match registrations, how could we stop ~100,000 crazy Rove worshippers from infiltrating the polls in key states and throwing an election? I suppose that we could always whip out the purple dye. Nah, I like unstained fingers. I'll settle for the photo ID. Way to go Georgia!
I used to encourage people to start a blog. Now I’m more hesitant. Some people have intellectual gifts that should be shared with a broader audience. Others of us may just need a medium to hone our writing skills. But for some people, blogging has become something they feel they should be doing rather than something they feel passionate about. If you’re feeling the fatigue of blogging it might be a good time to ask yourself if it is something you really want to be doing. The barriers to entry in the blogosphere are low. But getting out isn’t always so easy.
I'll admit that the current SCO format is largely the result of blog fatigue. I appreciate many things about the new SCO and my partners, but most of all, I appreciate the fact that blogging is more enjoyable without all the pressure to perform daily. We're all very busy guys, and although there is still a bit of pressure to keep insightful content on the page for our readers, for me, the pressure is nothing in comparison to what it was a few months ago. I can focus on family, work, and school, and still blog. That's fantastic!
Rather than asking yourself if blogging is something you really want to be doing, perhaps ask yourself if blogging the way you are currently blogging is really something you want to be doing. I like the group blog model and although it's not for everyone, perhaps it is a happy medium between stressing out and giving up. It worked for me.
To conclude, a word from Lileks. I know this isn't directly related, but I had to work it in somehow.
Another blogger, James Lileks, described the demands of the blogging routine: “This is an odd hobby. It’s like having a train set, a gigantic train set in the basement, and in the morning you not only find a derailment, you find people streaming out of the tiny houses yelling at you.”I love it! If you are a blogger with a medium to large sized train set, I'm sure you can relate.
The Filibuster: What If?
Very, very interesting comments regarding potential outcomes should the nuclear option be exercised.
From the American Scene. Once comments are working, give us your take. What do my SCO comrades think?
Comment and Trackback Spam
This topic needs it's own category, as it seems the majority of my posts the last couple weeks have been on comment and trackback spam.
SCO readers, we're getting pummeled. Thanks to Jack Lewis, I see that we're not alone.
I just spent an hour deleting over 120 comments (still haven't got to the trackback) that are either gambling or porn related. When I got done, I found another dozen comments had come in while I was deleting. Unbelievable. It makes me want to bring back the iron maiden and rack.
I noticed that Wizbang has a few suggestions, but frankly, it sounds like greek to me and I don't have the time. If anyone has the time and knows how we can stop this, please get in touch. The alternative is to shut down these features completely and we don't want to do that.
Looking in the Mirror Instead of Your Eye
"[L]aw-talk misses the point. Judeo-Christian morality might ideally lead there...someday, but not until its proponents had won the respect of the nation. In other words, if we'd just BE a moral majority, we wouldn't have to name ourselves one."
Well said. I think I'll go work on this plank now . . .
April 23, 2005
The Unalienable Right
...the American Federalist Journal is a resource worth checking out. The site provides a peak at the lead paragraph of columns written from a fine group of conservative thinkers.Now comes word that the editors have a new blog, The Unalienable Right, with recent posts on Bainbridge on the judiciary, Maxine Waters on immigration, John Kerry on Star Wars Episode III, and lots of other great stuff. Check it out!
April 22, 2005
Nearly Half of Americans Still Crack Open the Bible Every Week Somewhere Besides Church
Bible reading is enjoying an upward trend over the last few years and it increased to 45 percent of Americans in the last year, according to a survey completed by the Barna Research Group.
Currently, 45 percent of adults read the Bible during a typical week, not including when they are at church. That figure represents a minimal increase over the past few years, but a significant rise from the 31 percent measured in 1995, the lowest level of Bible reading recorded by Barna in the past 15 years. The current statistic is still below the levels achieved in 1980s and early 1990s, but the report shows that the trend is upward.
Despite the hubbub over evangelicals after the last election, Barna’s research indicates that those who adhere to evangelical beliefs and assertions make up only 7 percent of the U.S. population.
The Post-Modern Question and The Transcendent Answer
April 21, 2005
Another Conservative Pope: Enjoying the NY Times’ Misery
I flew to Chicago last night on business and on the way read every article on Pope Benedict in yesterday’s New York Times. I’ll have to admit that I enjoyed immensely the obvious displeasure the Times showed in the selection of another conservative Pontiff. While showing more restraint than they show with conservative evangelicals, the Times nonetheless demonstrated its discomfort with another Pope from the “conservative wing” of the church with “hard line” theological positions.
“In a Celebrating Crowd,” the Times sub-head reads, “Some Show Concern Over His Doctrine.” I watched the announcement on television and it was difficult to see much concern in the roar and adulation of the huge crowd. If a liberal Pope had been chosen, I’m sure the Times would not have been looking for concerned conservatives in the crowd.
For evangelicals, it is hard to imagine a choice that would be more pleasing, for it appears likely that the positive alignment between conservative Protestants and a Roman Catholic church with a conservative shepherd will continue.
The homily Pope Benedict gave the morning of the first day of the conclave should be enough to give those of us in the evangelical great hope that we will continue as co-belligerents against the forces of secularism.
The soon-to-be-Pope said:
"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards.
We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."
Then Cardinal Ratzinger was the central voice in the 2000 Vatican document "Dominus Jesus, which reads:
"This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that 'one religion is as good as another.' "
He was roundly criticized for saying that Jesus was the only way to God. As evangelicals, that part of his message is music to our ears.
My cousin Rod hit his first major league grand slam last night to help the Rangers defeat the Devil Rays, 12-10. Go Rod!
Those Darn Twixters
On Tuesday Al Mohler reprinted his column decrying the Twixter phenomenon. I'll say now, as I said when the piece originally ran, that when Mohler is befuddled when this generation won't grow up, he wrongly assumes that they have been raised in a mature, responsible way. Witness this quote:
Looking at this from a biblical perspective, the most tragic aspect of this development is the fact that these young people are refusing to enter into the adult experience and adult responsibilities that is their Christian calling. The delay of marriage will exact an undeniable social toll in terms of delayed parenthood, even smaller families, and more self-centered parents. The experiences of marriage and raising children are important parts of learning the adult experience and finding one's way into the deep responsibilities and incalculable rewards of genuine adulthood.
Well my goodness. We talk about how un-Biblical this phenomenon is, yet is anyone looking in the mirror and taking Evangelicals to task? I don't want to be one of those blame-the-Church first people. Yet if we see a problem, we might want to look at how it came to be.
Comments and Trackbacks
I noticed Mark's post on comments and trackbacks. I don't think the multiple comments and trackbacks have anything to do with our comment/tb spam problem, although I'm not certain.
Here's my theory: For some (as of yet undiagnosed) reason, processing of a comment takes a while and if you get impatient while it is processing and hit the post a comment button more than once, eventually, more than one comment will emerge. As for trackbacks, I think we are sent a trackback everytime someone updates a post that links to our blog.
If any of our readers would like to comment, please do so, because I am not an IT person by any stretch of the imagination.
April 20, 2005
More on Benedict XVI
In case you were wondering (and really, you weren't now were you), I think the choice of Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was terrific (from the perspective of a non-Catholic of course). That the largest Christian body will stay on the path of orthodoxy and reject humanism's attempt to destroy it is a very good thing for all Christians.
The good Pope has had his share of detractors, in the past, now and, I am sure, in the future. If I were a good writer, I would have written this in response to the detractors. Instead, you will simply have to go to Pastor Mark Roberts's site (always a good idea in any event) and read it there.
Among other things, Pastor Roberts comments on the dismay that Benedict's critics feel at his audicity in keeping Catholic theology, well, Catholic:
Consider a few analogies. If a Vice President for Apple starts publicly touting the benefits of Windows, should she keep her job? If a professional baseball player says, "Hang the rules. I'm going to take steroids anyway," should he be allowed to keep on playing without reprisals? If a university professor plagiarizes the research of others, should there be no consequences? If a reporter for the New York Times makes up facts in news stories, should that reporter keep his job? Every company, every organization, every institution has basic values and rules of operation. If people within that organization choose to reject the values or break the rules, then they are disciplined, and sometimes that discipline includes being excluded from the organization. To be sure, this sort of procedure can be abused by people in power. Sometimes it is vengeful and unjust. But sometimes it is both fair and just. If you're going to be a part of an institution that has clear values and rules, you must expect to live within them.
This reminded me of a statement in the Quodlibet comment "Talking Out of Church" in the April 2005 issue of Touchstone (article not online). The context was a discussion at Oxford University among students and faculty regarding the recent defocking of an Anglican priest for his atheism. The students thought the whole thing unfair; the professors thought otherwise. Finally, Professor Alun Jones, "an Oxford professor of archaeology", found the right analogy:
"Now see here," he said. "Suppose that I, as Professor of Medieval Archaeology at Oxford University, were to start going about telling folks that Gothic cathedrals have thick walls and rounded arches? I say, it just wouldnt do, you know, it just wouldn't do."
A Pope elected to fulfill an agenda other than God's? It just wouldn't do, you know, it just wouldn't do.
Double Trouble--Comments and Trackbacks
It appears that our attempts to slow down the vile spammers have led to a slowdown in responsiveness of comments and trackbacks, which has led to many instances of double comments and double (and triple and quadruple) trackbacks. Hopefully our crack IT team of Rick can get it fixed. In the meantime, bear with us.
Christian Carnival LXVI
The 66th Christian Carnival is now up at Pseudo-Polymath. The Carnival offerings have been set in the form of a Church liturgy--a very creative idea. There are many excellent entries. (Careful and thorough readers of Stones Cry Out will be able to skip the first entry.)
If You Can't Beat 'Em, Introduce the Fairness Doctrine
With legislation on the return of the Fairness Doctrine offered in the House by a New York Congresswoman as a means to defang talk radio, I went to Google News to see what’s been written on this. The second entry was an editorial by my blogger-in-law Doug Payton of Considerettes on Blogger News Network
“What we have then, in effect, is a backdoor attempt to get more of a market for Air America by forcing stations to maintain some sort of balance in "broadcast hours". Stations will be forced to run Al Franken or someone like him to offset any conservatives on the air. While the introduction of HR501 and the 1st anniversary of Air America and the report of its lousy ratings are probably not connected, it does sound like an interesting time for this doctrine to be rehashed. Perhaps since Soros has a horse in the talk radio race now, some folks in Washington may be hoping to be the recipients of some cash to really push this hard. And Bush's veto record is, well, non-existent. For politicos viewing the media landscape with liberal-blocking polarized lenses, this may be the perfect time for a move like this.
If liberals can't compete in the arena of ideas, they pass laws against the competition. This is desperation.”
I predicted this in a December 2005 post at The Rooftop Blog, for whatever that’s worth. I also predicted that it will fail, and I’m still sure it will.
April 19, 2005
Reformation of the ELCA?
Pastor Mark Daniels posts on a movement within the ELCA aimed at reforming that body (read, calling it back to being Christ's Church and not the Church of the Holy Social Left Wing Movement du Jour). The article he reproduces is interesting, but it would also be nice to hear the good Pastor's thoughts on this subject--after all, he has a greater than normal interest in this.
(Is it a sin to goad a pastor?)
Shermblog's Simple Analysis on Benedict XVI
Shermblog reminds us of the old adage: You are known by your enemies.
Kathryn Lopez, as is to be expected, is posting fast and furiously about the new Pope in the Corner. If you want to get a lot of information quickly, go there. Unfortunately, the Ratzinger Fan Club's servers are overwhelmed at the moment(not surprising I suppose). That site is a great Ratzinger resource.
Great quote from the Corner:
Erica Walters, who wrote her master's thesis on Ratz, in TNR: "It's his humility, indeed his lack of desire for the job, that I find most compelling. Anyone who has seen him up close (as I have) knows the reality of the man confounds his image as an enforcer. Shy and soft-spoken, he possesses a scholar's temperament and in his youth was considered a theological innovator. He often wins over the wary after personal meetings. Many Protestant theologians in Germany and America, for example, speak warmly of him after engaging in scholarly give and take. Far from being power mad, he has for years pleaded to be allowed to resign from his office and return to teaching, but John Paul wouldn't consent."
Welcome Pope Benedict XVI
And the new Pope is Cardinal Ratzinger, who has taken the name Pope Benedict XVI. Let us all pray for God's guidance of and wisdom for this man, who takes on a great burden.
White Smoke and Bells Announce New Pope
No doubt you have seen the news reports that a new Pope has been elected. We are eagerly awaiting the who of it (which I suspect to be Ratzinger, since it was so quick). Go to MSNBC for live feed.
The Decline of Personal Responsibility
In his commencement address at Harvard University in 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that “the main cause of the ruinous [Bolshevik] Revolution” and “the principal trait of the entire twentieth century” was that "men have forgotten God." The West's emphasis on secular rights, he told the Harvard students, had produced societies that now stood at the brink of "the abyss of human decadence ... It is time in the West to defend not so much human rights as human obligations."
This was not well received by the Harvard community or Western liberal intellectuals.
Yet in that address Solzhenitsyn brought together two elements that have had enormous consequences on our culture in the 25 years hence. It is the cultural escape from God and the social and moral strictures of the Christian tradition that has resulted in the decline of personal responsibility, or what Solzhenitsyn calls “human obligations.”
In my view, the worst trend in the habits of the American heart is this decline of responsibility. We see this in all parts of life—-the failure of customer service, dependence on government to care for all ills, personal injury suits against tobacco companies for our lifestyle choice, or against McDonalds when we spill hot coffee. We see it in everyone from political and corporate leaders to our neighbors refusing to take responsibility for wrong doing, not accepting the consequences for their own actions, and not taking responsibility for the results of their own promiscuity and carelessness. We are all products of our times, and if we are honest, we see it in ourselves.
So my ears perked up last week when Rush Limbaugh read from a Knight-Ridder article on the decline of personal responsibility.
The article reads:
“Whatever the reasons, most experts agree that how people feel about their obligations has changed, particularly for those in positions of power and influence.
'Responsibility is waning. The strong sense of holding people responsible is getting more and more difficult,' said Joan McGregor, a philosopher at Arizona State University. 'We still hold people responsible all the time in a legal sense. But in a moral sense, it's as though no one is responsible any more.'
It wasn't always so, particularly in the brief period during and after World War II when the country was dominated by what Tom Brokaw would later call the Greatest Generation.”
Unfortunately, the article is largely disappointing, as the writer tries to prove the decline through presidential and other governmental actions. While a product of their times, government leaders are just a small part of cultural trends.
The summary of the article is weird:
Historians, philosophers, political scientists and sociologists cite many reasons for the decline of an ethic of responsibility in America over recent decades, including:
_ A culture of narcissism or self-absorption;
_ The rise of celebrity worship and entitlement;
_ The distractions of the war on terrorism.
I’m sure the young lady behind the counter in my local store who can’t get off her cell phone as she does her job and rings up my order is probably distracted by the war on terrorism. Perhaps she’s on the phone to Homeland Security, being vigilant in a time of danger. Yeah, right.
Looking for a more serious discussion of the problem, I came across an amazing 1996 article in Society by Smith College professor Stanley Rothman, titled The Decline of Bourgeois America.
Summary of the article:
The bourgeois beliefs in the value of work, productivity and restraint that flourished under the rise of liberal capitalism have lost their influence in US society. Personal responsibility has been replaced by the ideologies of expressive individualism and collectivist liberalism.
Rothman draws on Max Weber and others to show how Christian doctrines, particularly those emerging from the Reformation, were the foundation for a Western culture marked by restraint, responsibility, and productivity.
“Cultural developments in the West were unusual from the outset. First, the emergence of a prophetic religion gave a peculiar intensity to the superego. Second, the emphasis was on an individual rather than a communal relationship with God. Third, religious-cultural imperatives stressed general, universal, moral rules. Fourth, God was conceived as standing apart from nature, and his laws could be comprehended through reason. Finally, great emphasis was placed upon repressing the passions in the service of worldly asceticism, that is, fulfilling one's obligations through activity in this world.
To be sure, some of these themes have been present individually in other civilizations. Historically and comparatively though, this was a unique combination. It is undoubtedly true that Confucianism, with its emphasis on the control of the passions, produced a similar result in China and Japan via a shame culture. Confucian doctrine and the quality of popular religion in both countries was such that neither the Japanese nor Chinese could bring the modem world into existence; however, once that world came into existence, they could use the energy derived from the repression of sexual and aggressive drives in the service of science and industry. Thus, given an appropriate response by elites in Japan and later Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and, finally, mainland China, these areas could adapt to the requirements of an industrial society fairly easily, as compared to other Asian, African, or even Latin American nations.”
I can’t take the time to capture all of the thoughts in this fascinating article. I urge you to read it.
My layman's summary: With the growing rejection of the boundaries and guidance of the Christian tradition, American culture slides away from responsibility as it yields to the temptations of an “expressive individualistic ethic” that emphasizes self as the center of the universe. This makes the “collectivist liberalism” of an ever-active and controlling government attractive because of its promise of egalitarian nirvana.
One more quote from Rothman:
“The evidence around us in the culture suggests that many of those in the middle and upper middle classes, having lost the internal gyroscope (and metaphors) that gave the lives of previous generations structure and meaning, feel torn between the desire for power and gratification on the one hand and the fear of losing control on the other.”
Men have forgotten God.
Church and State
My colleague Jim, in a post below, has already demonstrated his concern that local, invidual churches become too involved in the national political process. I echo his concerns. I think there is a definite place for the local church to speak on community and even state issues; national politics is another matter. That said, I believe pastors and church leadership should speak out against the evils of abortion, pornography and other sins that are dangerous to both the soul and to society.
I disagree with our reader who commented "Some are conservative and some are liberal and I wish that they all would just shut up because I am sure that they do not represent God." Certainly God is not Rush Limbaugh, nor is He Howard Dean. But it is naivete at best, bad theology at worst to suggest that God does not have a position on some, though by no means all, political matters. As another reader commented, abortion has become a political issue and yet it would be foolish to suggest that this is an issue where God is silent.
Having said that, I want to offer some examination of the upcoming Family Research Council event.
To begin, I watched Senator Schumer make a royal imbecile of himself on This Week yesterday morning. His rhetoric was juvenile and embarrassing. Serious Democrats should reject his thinking, and it is to their political detriment if they do not. Hugh Hewitt has had much to say about Schumer's Orwellian contention that it is somehow unAmerican for the Family Research Council to hold this weekend's event.
While it may not be un-American, I would suggest that it is not the wisest course of action. Do not misunderstand me. I believe that what the Democrats are doing is unconstitutional. I defy any reader who opposes the FRC to defend the Democrat's unprecedented obstruction. I believe these cynical actions on the part of Harry Reid and his cohorts are a legitimate danger to the Republic. Yet I also believe that increased involvement of identifiable local churches, acting outside the political parameters found in parachurch organizations, are running a very legitimate risk of watering down the Gospel and turning away those who would seek to find Christ within the walls of the Church.
Hugh Hewitt has joined with other bloggers (see Powerline and Althouse) in defending both the right and rhetoric of the FRC. While I fully believe in the constitutionality of the FRC's action, and I would not go as far as the Washington Post and call its action slander, I would remind readers of the Jurassic Park maxim: Just because we can doesn't mean we should.
Hugh Hewitt is correct when he asserts - see the bottom of this post - that the leaders of the Religious Right have not overplayed their hand. Politically, this is true, but I wonder about the local communities. What does the local agnostic think when he sees a church that is, in his view, more concerned with judicial appointments, however important they are, than with the destitute of body, heart and, above all, spirit within his own community.
Ramesh Ponurru is an ardent defender of social conservatives. A staunch Catholic, Ponurru does not shy away from following his Church's teachings in his political involvement. Yet he gently rebukes the views of Hewitt and others in a post this evening. Here is the money quote:
I'm with the Post on this one. I think it is true that many Democrats are enforcing a viewpoint test for judicial office that has the effect of screening out Catholics and many evangelical Protestants who are faithful to their churches' teaching about abortion. And I think Republicans have every right to hold Democrats to account for it. But opposition to Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism is not the same thing as opposition to religion in general, and opposition to pro-life views is not the same thing as opposition to moral conviction, either. The FRC's line that Democrats are filibustering "people of faith" is an overreach. The claim it is making is untrue, and it is untrue in a way that makes the Democrats look worse--which makes it a slander in my book.
I said before that I won't go so far as to use the word slander. I will say that this is a political miscalculation made worse by the fact that this broadcast will not be in homes or community centers; it will be in the local church. As a conservative and an evangelical, I can't support this with a clear conscience.
April 18, 2005
We Each Bear Our Own Cross
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23
I dreamt that I was standing on the Via Del Rosa (it was not called that at the time, of course), when I saw Him. He was carrying the Cross and looked close to dropping from exhaustion and pain. His wounds and His burden were all too tangible.
Filled with compassion, I ran to Him, and started to try to pick up the Cross to help Him. He stopped. He seemed to gather strength from somewhere and looked at me (right through me perhaps). "What are you doing?" he asked. "I want to help you carry Your Cross," I said.
"My good-hearted but foolish child," he answered, "this is My Cross, not yours. It is too great a burden for you to carry. Don't you know, that is why I am here--I carry this for you and for all."
He continued, "surely I say to you that you will indeed carry your own cross, and it will be burden enough for you. Each one of my sheep will carry his or her own cross--and it will be burden enough."
He finished, "fear not, just as I carry this Cross for you, I will also be there to help you carry yours."
He turned, gathered His Cross and continued on His way--to my great sorrow, and comfort.
Does America's Finest City have America's Worst Mayor?
Time Magazine tells me that America’s Finest City has one of the worst mayors in the country. Great. I supported the guy for reelection in November. And Mayor Murphy’s comment?
"People should be proud of what we have accomplished in this city," he said. "Tell Time magazine that they just don't understand what's going on."I must admit that I haven’t really followed the many City of San Diego scandals of late, although I know enough to conclude that our City Attorney is a nut, but what kind of statement is that? And, why would the Mayor consent to a press conference in the driveway at his home? Somebody get this guy a better group of advisors with some PR intuition. Geez…
NY Times Editorial Nonsense on Frist and Justice Sunday
Tracking the ongoing discussion of the interplay of faith and politics we normally go to the strident columnists or the purposely provocative left-wing blogs to find opinion as simultaneously insipid and unfounded as the April 15 New York Times editorial diatribe on Bill Frist, faith, and the filibuster. Or for such silly partisan banter, perhaps the community college newspaper.
Whilst repairing a backyard fence this weekend with my brother-in-law Doug Payton, longtime blogger extraordinaire at Considerettes, we discussed this editorial and decided to analyze it in a joint post. (Doug's also posting it here.)
So here's a response to the Times' screed line-by-line, with Doug's thoughts in red and mine in green (we didn't see each other's comments in advance, so we are responding only to the Times):
Right-wing Christian groups and the Republican politicians they bankroll...Loaded language right from the start, which also gives the false impression that conservative Christians supply the vast majority of the money in Republican coffers. Sorry, don't think so.
...have done much since the last election to impose their particular religious views on all Americans.Not political views, mind you, but religious views. Yes, according to the NY Times, conservative Christians have imposed their belief in Jesus as the Son of God on the nation, enshrining it in legislation via our bankrolled politicians. No? Oh, then how about other religious views, like legislating the belief that the only God is the one described in the Christian Bible? No? Perhaps they've passed a law that we should only worship that particular God? Nope, not that either. In fact there is no Christian religious view that is in our laws at all, and no one is pushing for it to happen. The Times and the liberals that think like them may like to raise the spectre of a supposed push for a Christian theocracy, but there's no politician in Washington doing anything close to that. It's outright fear-mongering that one would have thought the Grey Lady to be above. Apparently not.
What conservative Christians have tried to do is get legislation passed on social or political or criminal issues that are consistent with their own values. And this just in; everybody does that. That's what government and self-rule is for. But when conservative Christians try to do it, it's somehow an "imposition" of their "religious views". I'm sure there's a number of KKK members who aren't all that thrilled with civil rights legislation, yet technically we've imposed those views on them, and for very good reasons. So the whole idea of decrying the imposing of views is really intellectual dishonesty. The Times, anytime they advocate for any law, does the same thing.
What right-wing Christian group bankroll politicians? Most I know are asking for money from the same funding sources as the Republican politicians. The organization at issue here, Family Research Council, doesn't fund politicians. It's engaged in battle with words, not dollars. Christian groups haven't "imposed" anything on "all Americans." I hope they've made their views known in the public square. The Republican politicians haven't done much of anything since November.
But nothing comes close to the shameful declaration of religious war by Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, over the selection of judges for federal courts.Appearing on a telecast sponsored by a 501 C 3 organization with religious and political purposes to lobby for his position on the judicial appointment is a declaration of religious war? Oh please. It's Frist playing to his base, not exactly new in Washington. It is legitimate to ask whether the appointment of conservative judges is clearly important to Christian duty and concerns. Have the actions of liberal judges been un-Christian? Most evangelical Christians believe they have been. I think Frist does, too.
Senator Frist is to appear on a telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council, which styles itself a religious organization but is really just another Washington lobbying concern.FRC is a lobbying concern run by Christians on behalf of Christian causes. There's no hidden agenda here.
The message is that the Democrats who oppose a tiny handful of President Bush's judicial nominations are conducting an assault "against people of faith."Tiny? I think its 10 so far. And there will be more if something isn't done. Yes, unfortunately, there is no love lost between the Democrats and many people of faith. I think there is plenty of assaulting on both sides. The art of subtlety and common civility is lost on the ash heap of the last generation.
By that, Senator Frist and his allies do not mean people of all faiths, only those of their faith.The same faith, by the way, that the Times won't be intellectually honest about. Frist ought to be given some slack, as this kind of double-standard is used against conservative Christians in a lot of areas, and this Times editorial is just the latest example. I'll agree that the term "people of faith" may be an overgeneralization, but there's nothing wrong with trying to point out when people who believe the same things you do are getting a raw deal. The fact that they're being held up because of concern that their religious views might show through is a de facto unconstitutional religious test, and worth bringing up. And even outside any views on any subject, since when do we have ideological litmus tests before confirming judges? (Answer: Since Democrats decided to do it.)
Where in the teachings of any major faith group do you find commendation of abortion on demand and same-sex marriage? Not Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. Maybe in the common faith groups-faith in faith, faith in self, faith in destiny, faith in money, faith in power. Yes, I think liberal judges have sullied people of faith.
It is one thing when private groups foment this kind of intolerance.Huh? Arguing for conservative judges is fomenting intolerance?
The Times just had to find a way to use the word "intolerance" in a sentence here. And what's odd is that they're accusing Republicans of this, while the Democrats seem pretty intolerant of views they don't agree with, so much so that they're not giving these nominees the chance for an up-or-down vote. Who's intolerant?
It is another thing entirely when it's done by the highest-ranking member of the United States Senate, who swore on the Bible...Heh heh...the irony is just dripping here. Why exactly did he swear on a Bible? Because our founding fathers were such "intolerant" guys?
...to uphold a Constitution that forbids the imposition of religious views on Americans....that, again, no one is trying to do. And remember, the Constitution says that our federal government may not have an established religion and thus not require a religious test for office-holders. Republicans are not trying to do anything like that. (Did anyone at the Times actually read the Constitution before writing that? Editors!) What Democrats are doing is trying to keep out those who hold religious views to seriously for their comfort. Again, that is the imposition.
I love this. The Times is citing the need for constitutional fidelity because of the Bible's use in an oath. How ironic. Of course this constitutional prohibition on imposition of religious views is creative but inaccurate. Pretty wild interpretation of the establishment clause.
Unfortunately, Senator Frist and his allies are willing to break down the rules to push through their agenda - in this case, by creating what the senator knows is a false connection between religion and the debate about judges.Christians who have many judicial rulings contrary their beliefs see a very real connection.
Whether or not you believe that religion has anything to do with this issue, there are no rules being broken, and the <redundant>Democrats and the Times</redundant> both know that the filibuster rule is in fine health. Apparently, the difference between changing the rules and breaking the rules needs to be understood better by some folks.
Senator Frist and his backers want to take away the sole tool Democrats have for resisting the appointment of unqualified judges: the filibuster.False, there is another tool: Elections. But, in order for that to work, you have to, you know, win them. Democrats have lost them recently, and this is the spoils of winning; choosing your judges.
And all these judges are "unqualified"? Without qualification, that term is also certainly false, unless the Times is again redefining words. In this case, "unqualified" means "don't agree with us".
Everyone knows this isn't about qualifications; it's about ideology. Nice try. (Another tool is to get a majority in the Senate).
This is not about a majority or even a significant number of Bush nominees; it's about a handful with fringe views or shaky qualifications.10 nominees who were qualified by too conservative for the Democrats. I love when the liberals talk about the fringe. I guess when Democrats lose the White House, both Houses of Congress, and the majority of state houses, the fringe is really on the left, isn't it?
But Senator Frist is determined to get judges on the federal bench who are loyal to the Republican fringe and, he hopes, would accept a theocratic test on decisions.The search for strict constructionists has become a theocratic test. Such wild rhetoric.
False. The only folks looking for a theocratic test are Democrats opposing these judges. If they really did expect these guys to give all their decisions a "theocratic test", then they really fouled this up. For example, William Pryor, who was being filibustered prior to his recess appointment, said he agreed that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was in the right with the 10 Commandments display in the Alabama Supreme Court building. Nevertheless, he followed the law as written and did his constitutional duty by having it removed. Does the Times think Pryor will employ a theocratic test? He's proven quite plainly that he won't. The Times is using an extremely broad brush on these folks, and if they're wrong about Pryor (and they are), chances are they're wrong about the others.
Senator Frist has an even bigger game in mind than the current nominees: the next appointments to the Supreme Court, which the Republican conservatives view as their best chance to outlaw abortion and impose their moral code on the country.I think Frist is, indeed, thinking about the Supreme Court. Whose moral code is the court imposing on America now? The law is a moral teacher and, if you will, an imposer. It isn't as though only one ideology seeks to transmit its views.
Links? Sources? And what of moral code double-standards? If outlawing abortion would be the imposition of a moral code, then the legalization of abortion was the imposition of another moral code, or at the very least a values-free look at the death of children, which at the very least is an imposition on those children. Once again the Times is basically saying, "I just change the law, you impose your moral code".
We fully understand that a powerful branch of the Republican Party believes that the last election was won on "moral values."We didn't say that first. The major networks, the pundits, and the polling experts did. They said moral values were a major factor in the election. Yes, we believed it.
Even if that were true, that's a far cry from voting for one religion to dominate the entire country. President Bush owes it to Americans to stand up and say so.I haven't seen that particular piece of legislation. The Christian Domination of America bill.
Again I say, "Who's voting for a religion?"
President Bush isn't asking for that, only for an up-or-down vote on judges.
Bill Frist is complaining that the opposition to these nominees is primarily
religious and he can actually point to this very editorial and prove his
point in spades. This last line comes right out and says so; the Times
believes that Democrats should be allowed to use a religious test on
judicial nominees. That's unconstitutional, pure and simple, but the Times
is all for it. And that's their definition of a "religious war" that
they accuse Frist of starting. In reality it was the filibusters of these
folks that called them on the carpet because of their religion. If there's
a religious war going on here, it's one that the Democrats chose to invent
and fight because, as the Times clearly says, they believe that a vote for
these nominees is a vote to have one religion "dominate the entire country".
This is a pathetic scare tactic.
Ultimately, this editorial really has the whole situation upside down and
backwards, which is apparently how the Times views the world.
Ultimately, this editorial really has the whole situation upside down and backwards, which is apparently how the Times views the world.
Why WE Should Separate the Local Church and Politics
In their haste to smear Family Research Council’s Justice Sunday and Senator Frist’s involvement, the New York Times (about which I’ll say more later) and others in the MSM have not even recognized the most troubling part of the Justice Sunday telecast. The telecast will originate at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and will be simulcast in churches and other venues that sign-up for the satellite feed.
I am a politically active Christian and I encourage followers of Christ to engage the ideas of our time and the opportunities to make a difference in public and political arenas. However, my visits to my local church are for worship and deeply spiritual concerns. I would have no problem with the facility being used by a group to show a telecast such as the Justice Sunday program. The church building is used for a lot of activities outside of the core purposes of the church (such as voting). But I would not want it to be promoted by my local church or discussed from the pulpit.
This is not because it would be dangerous to the state (and Frist’s participation is not even close to being unconstitutional establishment of religion). But if places of worship become centers of political discourse they will lose their focus on the eternal and fall prey to political seduction. It is dangerous for the church.
On the other hand, we benefit from para-church organizations that are established with various purposes by Christians who take up political and any other causes of concern to people of Christian faith.
It is the church not the government that should fear when boundaries are crossed and politics invades the sanctuary of the sacred and seeks to purchase its soul.
April 17, 2005
Why I am switching to Coca-Cola. Forever.
Was this ad campaign developed by Pokemon-saturated high fructose corn syrup-addled tragically hip first graders? Because I do not get it.
Happily, this means I am not the desired demographic.
But, . . . who is? Thirsty robots on a diet?
Comments and Trackbacks should be working. That means everyone reading needs to post comments now. Unless you work for one of those annoying sites that's messing up our comments. You don't post. We don't like that.
Now I'm going to buy a sandwich.
Comments, Trackback Down
No, we haven't banned you (unless I've been banned too). The comments and trackback features are down. Our crack team of flying monkeys are working the problem and we hope to have it resolved just as soon as we can. (Translation: I have no clue how to fix it but I hope one of the other fellas does.)
(Thanks Catez for the heads up.)
So Apparently I'm...Kinda Gay?
The other day I noticed this post at Mere Comments concerning the new phenomenon known as the "man date." The post quotes a New York Times piece defining the man date as the following:
Simply defined a man date is two heterosexual men socializing without the crutch of business or sports. It is two guys meeting for the kind of outing a straight man might reasonably arrange with a woman. Dining together across a table without the aid of a television is a man date; eating at a bar is not. Taking a walk in the park together is a man date; going for a jog is not. Attending the movie Friday Night Lights is a man date, but going to see the [New York] Jets play is definitely not.
I can't even begin to describe how silly this whole thing is. It's a "date" when two guys go eat? Of course it's a date in that two guys might set a time to get together for lunch or dinner. But we all know what's meant. Date means romance. We can't help ourselves, can we? Is this just a gross sexualization of society? Is this the gay-ing of society? I'm not making a statement about gay culture on way or the other, but gay culture has been elevated to some obscene level of prestige that anytime a man acts like something other than a redneck neandrethal, then he's left the burly confines of heterosexuality and is now floating in the ambiguous sea between staight and gay.
Remember the metrosexual? Certainly there's an excess at work here (dudes wearing makeup? No thanks.), but why in heaven's name do journalists feel the need to slap a label on people with suck reckless care? A straight guy with taste in music or clothes is no longer just a straight man; he's a metrosexual. He's into girls but he now has some gay sensibility. As though only gay men can dress well or appreciate a well-decorated apartment. This "man date" business is no different; two men can't have dinner. They have to have a date. What silly, obnoxious rhetoric.
Heterosexuals aren't without blame in this phenomenon. All the old talk about how real men don't do this or do that is nonsense. I like hunting, fishing, football, golf, guns, explosions and red meat. That doesn't make me more straight than I am when I go to an art museum or listen to jazz records. It's just what I do. None of these things say a thing about our identities as straight men. Sensible people, gay or straight, should reject this immature talk. Men having dinner is what it is; it is not a date. A man keeping a clean apartment or shopping at Banana Republic is not a mark of sexuality one way or the other. People are people and these sorts of social stigmas aren't helping anyone.
Lastly, the Touchstone staff got the following comment from one of their own concerning the man date. Pretty hilarious stuff:
Most of my man dates never get beyond foreplay. We eat beef jerky, engage in some provocative box-score exchanges, and then share meaningful bench-press exploits . . . But we never actually arm wrestle. (Sigh.)
Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse
The End is all kinds of nigh. Thus reads the back cover of Jason Boyett's Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual for the End of the World. I wonder if the blurb is a nod to the graffiti in the London cathedral in the fantastic horror movie 28 Days Later, the graffiti reading "the end is really (expletive) nigh?" Just a question.
At any rate, Boyett's book is a timely one. End-times hype has been the rage among evangelicals for a decade now. There's a lot of confusion on the topic, and it's nice to have a, well, field guide to sort out the varying theologies. It's written with a gentle tongue in the cheek, if perhaps to lighten the mood, what with all the plagues and locusts and bloody oceans. I can't say I blame Boyett for his tone; I've always figured the the end of the world would sound look like downtown Birmingham at one a.m. and sound like this.
Therein lies the problem, I think. Eschatology, for all of its confusion and predictions, is important. There is a lot of misunderstanding on the topic, and thus, a great need for clarity. Boyett's book could offer more of it, but nonetheless I think this is a book worth reading.
The book is short (158 pages), divided into six chapters. The first chapter is a very helpful glossary, defining eschatological terms of which I previously had only a passing understanding. Chapters two and three provide a timeline of all manner of prophecies that every major (and a few minor) religions have offered up over the years concerning the apocaplype. The list is pretty extensive, covering a period of roughly four thousand years. Chapter four is a mildly funny look at various candidates for the role of the Anti-Christ. Nominees include, but are not limited to, Mikhail Gorbachv, Saddam Hussein and Bill Gates. Yes, there is the obligatory Windows joke. As their should be.
Chapter five takes a serious though brief look at eschatology. Here Boyett is at his strongest in examining five outlooks on the End Times, including perterism, postmillenialism, amillenialism and the two forms of premillenialism. This is clarifying writing, for a lot of us simply aren't very knowledgable about the various views on this topic. Chapter six concludes the book with a hodge-podge of information. The interview with apocalypse expert Paul Meier is intruiging. The chapter also features two lists of potential end of the world scenarioes, one courtesy of nature, the other of science. Lastly, Boyett tosses up a list of end times of words, mainly for cheesy pop culture phenomenons that deserve all the ridicule and cheap jokes we can muster. Think movies like Left Behind and Devil's Advocate.
One of the blurbs on the inside covers says that Pocket Guide... is "the full-on bathroom book of the century." Is that what Boyett wanted? If so, he has it. This is a fun read and, at times, a very interesting one. Part of me really enjoyed it, but at the same time, part of was thinking that this is a serious topic that should be handled seriously. For those like myself who have not been overly knowledgable about the plethora of opinions on the End Times, it would be nice to have a clear, concise work that explains the differing opinions among Christians. Boyett comes very, very close, but I would argue that he slightly misses the mark.
My final complaint is one I have made before. The book is published by the Relevant Media Group, a company dedicated to making an appeal to my generation, the young to mid twentysomethings. We're seekers, I'm told. They say we're looking for answers and we're not settling for what we've heard before. So they say. At any rate, if that is indeed true, if we are looking for answers, then we need serious answers. We don't need jokes. We don't need irony. Seinfeld is fine, but if you're going to talk to me about the End of the World, then please do so with a certain level of clarity. Church folks who've seen all the Evangelical hype might find it funny, and I'll admit that I do. The college kid who reads Relevant and was raised in church but isn't sure about Christ, however, may not need ironic jokes and cheap laughs. We need clarity, and while there's a bit of it here, I worry that there may not be enough.
The Ol' Ball Coach Is Back
The greatest time of year starts at the end of August or the first of September. Not the fall semester, but the college football season. Sure, basketball is nice. Baseball is wonderful. Golf is good. But football is the sport of men. I've grown up in a state with one of the grandest college football traditions in America. The University of Alabama has not been at the top its game in recent years, but football is still the best game in town.
This fall readers can expect to hear me go on and on and on about the joy is that Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium. On Alabama's schedule this fall is South Carolina, an SEC team that Bama plays in a two year set only ever four or five years. The game is in Columbia, and I will not be in attendance due to the wedding of a very good friend. The game is important for one very big reason: the last time Alabama played a time by Steve Spurrier, the Tide was completely dominating as it won another SEC championship.
Steve Spurrier is cocky. He walks and talks with a proud Southern swagger. He runs his mouth and he runs up the score. He's flashy and showy and proud of himself. As an Alabama fan, I've grown to dislike the man simply because that's what we do, but I must say, despite every inclination to the contrary, I'm glad Steve Spurrier is back. The SEC will no longer be the boring place it has been the last few years. When Tommy Tubberville running his mouth is the most excitement you can get, things are in sad, sad shape. Here's to hoping the Ol' Ball Coach can begin rocking the boat, and soon.
April 16, 2005
Unto the Least of These
Jessica is the daughter of our friends. Every day, the school bus comes for Jessica, who happens to be the last child on the route. On this particular bus, the kids have assigned seating, and Jessica sits next to the same young boy--day after day. And, day after day, this young, frightened boy cried the whole trip. He was crying when the bus came to Jessica's house, and he cried the rest of the way to school.
One day, Jessica decided to help the boy. She reached out her small hand, and gently laid it on his arm. The boy stopped crying. The mere touch of another, gentle soul was enough to comfort him. The next day came, the boy was crying. Jessica sat down, reached out, touched his arm, and he stopped crying. This pattern repeated the next few days. She did not have to say anything, her touch was all he needed.
And then, a few days later, something interesting happened. On this day, the boy stopped crying a few blocks before the bus reached Jessica's house. He knew she would be getting on the bus soon and that was enough to comfort him. She still put her hand gently on his arm, of course. This pattern repeats to this day. The boy stops crying a few blocks before Jessica's house.
I suppose he can sense where the bus is because of the curves in the road near her house. You see, the boy is blind. He can neither see Jessica, nor her house. He just senses when the bus is almost there.
Jessica's actions on the bus do not surprise her parents. She has four siblings at home, including a newborn sister. Whenever one of her sisters, or her brother, is hurt, Jessica is there to comfort the child. Offering her gentle shoulder and heart for another's comfort. That's who Jessica is--comforter of the hurting. She is also one of the happiest children I have ever seen. There's always a smile on her face.
Jessica turned five this past February. That, in itself, is a miracle. Jessica was born with hydrocephalus. While in her mother, the fluid built up in her tiny brain and damaged it. Jessica also has Down Syndrome. There are many things that Jessica will not be able to do in her life. To some, Jessica should never have been born. Some, having received the news of her condition, as her parents did, by amniocentesis, would have chosen to end the pregnancy, and her life. The reason, I suppose, is that she won't have much quality of life. She'll never be a productive member of society. She may not be able to take care of herself. Not much of a life in our modern society.
However, I know one little boy on a bus who knows that Jessica is nothing short of a gift from God.
April 15, 2005
Play Golf on April 15 Next Year
If you are like millions of Americans, including me, you spent part of your day today completing your federal tax returns, either because of procrastination (my vice) or because you didn’t want to pay the money you owe Uncle Sam until the last possible minute.
At risk of being irritating by returning to a topic I've covered at least twice before: If Washington would pass the Fair Tax Bill introduced again by Congressman John Linder of Georgia (my Congressman, and a good one), us late filers could have spent our time differently today. And the responsible earlier filers would be spared the chore, as well.
We’d be spared the IRS, and a simpler and fairer tax would support the ravenous desires of the federal government.
The inertia of slack
Sorry for my lack of contribution to this site. It's been a busy week. And when it wasn't busy, it was far too nice outside for me to spend it sitting in front of the computer.
Part of the problem (and part of the solution is admitting it) is that the longer I stay away -- for whatever reason -- the easier staying away becomes. When you're uninspired, it's easier to stay uninspired than to expend energy in the search for inspiration.
But while I didn't spend a lot of leisure time in front of the computer, I did spent a few hours in front of the television. And here's what's been inspiring me:
Wonderfalls was a television series that aired briefly on the Fox network last year. Though it launched to critical acclaim and quickly gained a strong following, it wasn't strong enough, and the series was cancelled after only four episodes aired. But 13 episodes were produced, and they're now out on DVD.
Though I've only seen about half the episodes so far, I'm really enjoying the series. The premise is certainly original. The protagonist, Jaye Tyler, is a twenty-something slacker who attended Brown University and earned a degree in philosophy, but then returned to her home in Niagara Falls where she works in a souvenir shop and lives in a trailer park, much to the chagrin of her affluent, successful family.
Though Jaye's main personality trait is an ironic detachment to life and the people around her, everything changes when a lion figurine at the souvenir shop begins talking to her. The lion (and a wide assortment of knick-knacks and chotchkies) start commanding Jaye to commit random acts of kindness. Though these acts don't always seem like kindness, no one is more surprised than Jaye when obeying the voices brings about good consequences for those around her.
On the surface it sounds like a one-gimmick show, yet over the course of just the seven episodes I've seen, I'd say the show works on multiple levels. On one level, the show perfectly captures that angsty post-college period of finding your place in the world. The snappy dialogue and ironic sensibility fit the wacky situations that Jaye encounters. But on a deeper level viewers will notice existential questions about God and life and "the meaning of it all." This other level isn't readily apparent in the four episodes that aired, but start to color the series in the episodes viewers will only get to see on DVD.
Jaye, the slacker philosophy student who hears voices and reluctantly accepts her role as "Joan of Niagara Falls" find a fitting foil in her brother, an atheist theology student who first thinks Jaye is going crazy, but begins doubting his belief that nothing is out there.
Christians will probably be a little put off by prime-time-level obscenities ("bitch" or "ass" for example) and the frank talk of sex (the series is not appropriate for children in spite of having the occasional talking puppet), but may find much to embrace in a tale of a woman who regularly hears a still, small voice and obeys it. In being forced to connect with other people -- in spite of herself -- she changes both their lives and her own.
The show has also has me reflecting on God's providence, and passages such as Jeremiah 29:11 or Romans 8:28. The objects that speak to Jaye do not explain themselves, and at times their instructions seem counterproductive (in one episode she is told to smash the taillight on a car) but there are always good results.
And sometimes following God means doing things that just seem . . . crazy. Or sometimes things seem like they must be outside of God's will because they don't make sense from a human point of view. But everything works out for the good anyway.
In that sense the show strengthens my own faith and has me listening a little more carefully for the still, small voice.
Drew says "check it out"
Faith, Frist and Filibuster
A telecast on what is being called Justice Sunday will contend that opposition to judicial nominees by Senate Democrats is essentially opposition to faith and faith-based moral values.
Senate Majority Leader Frist has agreed to participate in the April 24 simulcast, which has the Democrats blustering.
The program is an effort to “connect the dots” for Christian conservatives who have not configured the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees as a battleground for faith.
(I for one had not been in favor of changing Senate rules on the filibuster, but announced in a post that I had changed my mind because of the demonstration of judicial arrogance during the Terri Schiavo case.)
The telecast is being sponsored by Family Research Council. FRC President Tony Perkins says in a website message:
"As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism. For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."
Senate Democrats aren’t opposed to all Christians. Just conservative Christians. On the other hand they’re not opposed to just Christian conservatives, but to conservatism in all of its forms.
While Frist’s decision to use the faith card is by no means the threat to the republic that Chuck Schumer and others claim, it is nonetheless a risky calculation. It may help focus the attention of Christian conservatives on the filibuster issue, but if the concentrated power of the Christian lobby is defeated here, it may embolden those who seek to discredit the newly realized power of the movement.
But it is worth the risk because of the damage being caused by activist and liberal judges.
Jeffrey King at Three Bad Fingers is trying to rally the blogosphere, given Senator McCain's jumping ship yesterday on the Constitutional Option and Senator Rick Santorum's indication that Republican momentum has been lost in resolving the filibuster impasse.
“Many blogs are encouraging readers to email or call fence-sitting senators, to press for their positive vote in changing senate rules. While this is powerful in itself , I believe with proper coordination, the blogosphere is capable of much much more. Each call received or email sent currently ends up as a tally, presented to the contacted senator. I would like each email to be entered into the public domain, and centrally linked, creating public pressure never before seen.”
Go to ThreeBadFingers for more on Jeffrey’s call to arms.
April 14, 2005
A Touch of Good News
Lord Elrond notes tomorrow's Washington Post story about Senator Frist's push for action. Frist has the support of Senators Allen and Santorum.
Frist, Santorum and Allen. Three men who want to be President.
I'll vote for Senator Allen.
'08 predictions aside, if these men want to activate change, they must act and act soon. The base is fed up with the delay, but I do believe that if a group of Senators act with strength and determination, they will be revered by conservatives for some time. Any Republican Senator with Presidential aspirations should think long and hard about this issue.
More On Judges
What a Bunch of Wimps
This is troubling on so many levels. What kind of wimps are in the Senate? The Republicans were not elected to sit on their hands and let a nobody like Harry Reid hold up important legislation and confirmations. This is nonsense.
Day of Silence
I agree with him on all but two points. First, I'm not entirely convinced that the protest originated as a systematic attempt to promulgate a pro-gay agenda. I'm willing to believe that the protest is rooted in pro-gay ideology and a refutation of anti-gay bigotry that has, over time, trickled down into high schools. Mohler refers to the protests in high schools, but he never acknowledges that they are taking place in elementary schools. I am fully aware of attempts, in some areas, to push a pro-gay agenda on children in elementary schools (see "Heather Has Two Mommies"), but when dealing with high school students, let's not use words like "children" to conjur up images of defenseless toddlers. Christians should create an environment in the home and church that prepares junior high and high school students to deal with this sort of thing. If a fifteen year old Christian is defenseless against such arguments, whose fault is it? Here's a hint: it's not the school administrator. Having said that, high school is not the place to bombard students with a message of GLBT revelry. College electives? Maybe, but it has no place in high school cirriculum.
Secondly, and perhaps I'm grasping at straws here, but as Christians we should realize that there are young people who are very, very trouble and confused. The simple truth is that students who would call themselves gay or lesbian are often subjected to bullying and torment. This sort of thing should be refuted on all counts and we should exhibit gentleness and love to all people, though I agree with Mohler that our compassion to the lost should not lead us to accept a pro-gay agenda with open arms.
Another Pope Frontrunner
Every time I read an article on who will be the next Pope a different Cardinal is mentioned as the frontrunner. Many--such as the Neuhuas piece cited by Matt below--list Ratzinger.
Here's another interesting candidate, described in the Daily News.
Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi of Milan is the odds-on favorite of every bookmaker taking wagers on the next Pope.
A moral theologian who looks like Pope John XXIII and thinks like Pope John Paul II. . . . he is avuncular and charming. Tettamanzi has been able to bridge political chasms within the Vatican without making important enemies. He is popular with both conservatives and progressives.
At 71, he's old enough to make another 26-year papacy unlikely. He's the leading Italian in a year when many foresee the job returning to Italian hands.
And most importantly, he was a favorite of John Paul, is believed to have ghostwritten some of his encyclicals and would represent a smooth continuation of the late Pope's policies.
File It Under "Awesome"
A Spring Ballad
It's Spring (finally) here in the frozen North. So, my heart naturally turns toward, what else, Celtic Folk Music and love. Here's a nice rendition of Wild Mountain Thyme by the Brobdingnagian Bards, which draws together the whole concept. Puts one in the proper mood for the season, I think. (Here are the lyrics. Make sure your pop-up blocker is on, as I am not otherwise familiar with this lyrics site.) If you like Celtic music, check out the Bards, they are quite talented.
April 13, 2005
Levin Tries to Clear the Air
I'm not so sure it worked.
In this Corner post, Mark Levin tries to clear up the KKK issue with Dr. James Dobson. Levin makes a few good points when he notes the way the Supreme Court has consistenly been problematic. He veers off track, in my view, when he says that "it's time to engage on the substance." Indeed it is, which is why Dr. Dobson should have stayed on topic and avoided the rhetoric. Here's hoping he'll do likewise in the future.
Additionally, Jonah Goldberg cites an apparently typical reader e-mail on the topic. I just can't buy this line of thinking; excess on the Left does not excuse excess on the Right.
Like Jim, I have a lot of respect for Dr. Dobson's work. I believe, like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson before him, he needs to clarify his mission. Whatever Christians think of his position, Dobson is viewed by the media and general public as a Christian leader. Thus he is unable to engage in the sort of rhetoric that might, might be acceptable for a Rush Limbaugh or a Sean Hannity. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't feel comfortable with those guys speaking like in such a manner, but at least they don't operate under the banner of the Evangelical community.
Just Apologize, Dr. Dobson, and Move On
It may be too late, but if James Dobson would ask me what he should do (I’m actually in the business of giving this kind of advice to Christian leaders), I would recommend that he issue an apology now and not do any interviews on the judiciary for some time. He needs to let someone else take up that particular fight. He’s been disqualified for playing dirty.
I agree with my colleague Matt. Despite the fact that Dobson is angry at the judiciary, his statement comparing robed judges to the Klu Klux Klan is unbefitting an evangelical leader and anyone who is seeking change, not colorful headlines.
Since I’ve been in the Focus on the Family broadcast booth, I know how the program is taped and repeatedly edited. This was not a slip on live radio. He or someone working with him should have recognized how repulsive it is to equate judges and racist murderers. It could have easily been edited from the program, without diminishing its effectiveness.
It is absurd to suggest that it is beneficial for religious spokesmen to resort to over-the-top rhetoric to communicate passion and gain visibility.
As I said in a post earlier this year when Dobson played hardball,
Evangelicals are dissatisfied and impatient with the spiritual direction of the nation, as they should be. As Christians, we are called to preach, and bear witness, and pray, and work for change. But we must guard against the error of Abraham, who when impatient with progress on God’s promise of an heir, slept with Hagar, the handmaiden. We struggle with the sons of Ishmael today.
As Christians, we have responsibility to remain active in the political process. But cultural change will come from the inside, by the truth being spoken in love, by the transformation of hearts and minds. Our Christian leaders must resist the handmaiden of political seduction.
We gain not as Christians playing politics, but as politically engaged citizens living as Christians.
Apologize, Dr. Dobson, and get back to focusing on the. . .well, on the family.
April 12, 2005
I think I was pretty clear in my post on Dr. Dobson's recent remarks. I don't feel that I need to clarify anything, but I do want to flesh out a couple of ideas.
To begin with, Dr. Dobson and I are on the same team. We want the same thing: a judiciary that works within prescribed Constitutional boundaries. I don't bedgrudge him for his work in the area. In many ways, I'm thankful for it. I simply disapprove of some of his rhetoric.
In reference to some of the comments we have received below, I fully acknowledge that segments of the judiciary are completely and totally out of control. I can't make that any plainer. I am irate over the whole matter. I just believe that in the same way we castigate the left for such rhetoric, we on the right have no business using loaded words or references to things like the Ku Klux Klan. Even if Dobson is not trying to suggest that the judiciary is our present-day KKK, the phrase carries too much weight to be tossed around.
I said below that this sort of speculation might work around the coffee table. It might even work as a high-minded academic exercise, comparing the effects of a runaway judiciary with that of a tyrannical state. That's all well and good. I've engaged in that sort of talk more times than I can remember, and I'll no doubt do it again. I just don't believe that this sort of phrasing (see "God's people-hater") is necessary. If said in the heat of panel discussion on a television talk show a la Charlie Rose or the Capital Gang, I could understand. The quotes I have cited were done in a docile setting. I simply ask that our leaders, particularly those who have ascended through media attention and force of activism, mind their words. Anger has its place, but I just don't believe this sort of language is neccesary.
Lastly, a question. The Weekly Standard has been an astute conservative publication for over a decade. National Review is celebrating its fiftieth year. These publications have been fighting for a conservative judiciary, both in practice and in makeup, as long as this fight has existed. In the case of National Review, the fight was being waged decades before anyone had heard of the Religious Right. There are now and always have been Christians at both places; why is it that they have never resorted to such polarizing language? These folks aren't caving in on their convictions, and they're being effective without speaking in catch phrases and talking points. The Religious Right should aim to do likewise.
Jeff Brokaw at Notes and Musings takes issue with my post below on Dr. James Dobson. I'll deal with his response in length later this afternoon, but for now let me address one question he poses:
Besides, with all the ridiculous, overheated rhetoric about the “Christian right” running the country and embarking on a fevered rush to take away our freedoms to surf for pr0n 24x7, aren’t Christians allowed to make some over the top statements once in a while, without being pilloried?
Around the coffeetable? Maybe. In public? Nope. No one's perfect, but we've got to be above this sort of thing. Wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove.
April 11, 2005
Encouraging News for the Largest Congregation
Pastor Mark Daniels posts on an article discussing the large number of youth that went to Rome for John Paul the Great's funeral last week. This, of course, is good news for the Catholic Church (and, ipso facto, all Christians).
Now, what will the Catholic Church do with these youth and will they stay in it for the long haul, once the thorns of life start threatening to choke out their faith?
A good reminder that it is not simply converts, but disciples that we are commanded to make.
Why We're Here
[For those of you who used to read Sidesspot, this is, alas, a retread. However, it generated a lot of discussion and I hope it will here too.]
This post is aimed at Christians. Non-believers may read it of course (that's big of me, I know), but you're not the target. If you'd prefer, go check out today's day by day.
Now, one thing that we Christians need to get straight: We were made by God to serve Him--to worship Him and love Him with all our hearts. To hear some Christians talk, I wonder if we're not clear on this. Some act as if God's there to serve us and make sure we're happy. Got a problem? Call big daddy and he'll get it squared away for you. Lonely, unhappy, insecure? God's here to make sure you feel okie-dokie. Now, don't get me wrong, God is a loving father, and does actually help us out in times of trouble. But, that's not His purpose.
I was driving by a local church tonight, which had this sign: "Troubled? Talk to God, he's up all night anyway." Now, I know that this was a well-intentioned sign and is really speaking to each person's need to have a relationship with God. But, it does have a bit of a "God's there to make me happy" flavor to it. Happiness, or more accurately joy, is our response to God--not the duty he owes us. We owe Him worship, love and fealty. God owes us nothing. He gives us lots, but he owes us nothing. He's the alpha and omega. We're the created things.
My position is that romantic love toward any member of the Godhead is inappropriate. Perhaps the author of this song would say that s/he did not intend these words to imply romantic love towards God or Jesus, merely the depth of the personal relationship with him. However, "I've fallen deeply in love with You" means only one thing to me.
One would wish that Joe would not have to post on such a subject. Sadly, I have noticed this phenomenon myself and think Joe's right on the mark.
Thanks for letting me rant. Now back to the usual touchy feely kum ba yah drivel.
Dobson Needs a Timeout
I take a backseat to no one in my crticism of the erratic Andrew Sullivan, but he has zeroed in on a quote by James Dobson that is simply inexcusable. I reiterate that I find Sullivan to be quite nauseating these days, but these are Dobson's own words:
I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South and they did great wrong to civil rights to and to morality and now we have black-robed men.
This is absurd. I fully believe the judiciary to be out of control, but to compare it to the Ku Klux Klan is rhetorical nonsense. I might not be surprised if a Republican said this, though I would be disappointed. No serious intellectual conservative would say this. And lastly, for a Christian to make such an accusation is really low. This is where I have a problem with Dr. Dobson. He knows full well that he is speaking for millions of evangelicals, including those (like myself) who never fully agreed to his position of leadership. Nevertheless he has that authority, and I would argue that he is making very, very poor use of it. Until a wiser, more sane leader is willing to lovingly yet firmly criticize Dobson's rhetoric, evangelicals will be deserving of every overblown media stereotype.
I recieved an e-mail from a reader a few weeks ago questioning why I included Dobson as an evangelical leader in the vein of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. I never replied to the reader, and my apologies for that, but my reasoning is clear: In the public's eye, Dobson is a Christian leader the same as Falwell or Robertson. That he is not a minister or televangelist is beside the point.
As I said above, I have no use for this sort of rhetoric coming from a Republican or a movement conservative. But to come from a Christian is even worse. Dobson needs to make up his mind; either he speaks as man of faith or a Republican. Christians can be Republicans, no dobut, but to use political rhetoric while speaking as a leader of Christians is over the top. Calling Patrick Leahy, a sorry Senator, to be sure, a "God's people-hater" was bad enough. This new business is strike two. Here's hoping Dr. Dobson calls a timeout before we reach strike three.
And finally, if the judiciary is so evil, Dr. Dobson, where were you while Terri Schiavo was starving to death and only Jesse Jackson would stand by her side?
April 10, 2005
65th Christian Carnival
Please include the following information with your entry email:
The name of your blog.
A link to your blog's home page.
The title of your post.
The URL to your post.
A short description of your post.
The deadline for submissions will be Midnight (Central) Tuesday.
Desert Island Discs
Christianity Today is polling readers for their Desert Island DVDs. (HT: Looking Closer)
I'm quite used to making out this list as it concerns music, but I've never done it with movies. Let's give it a go, shall we? Readers are welcome to respond.
Desert Island Discs, of course, refers to a list of discs, usually ten, that you would want if you were stranded on a desert island. Since this is my list, I'm taking my own rules. Follow along.
1. The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm counting this as one movie because it was filmed as one giant piece. Cheating? Maybe, but it's my list. Fight me for it.
2. Waking Life. An exhilirating animated romp through modern philosophy. Incredibly thought-provoking.
3. The Royal Tenebaums. My favorite of Wes Anderson's four films, a fine work depicting a charming tale of forgiveness and redemption.
4. Punch-Drunk Love. A graceful woman repairing a wounded heart.
5. North by Northwest. Perhaps the best of Hitchcock's films, a masterful acting job by Cary Grant and a brilliant script. And Eva Marie-Saint. Yowza.
6. Annie Hall. Cliched? Maybe, but it's funny, romantic and Woody Allen's not being too crazy. It's a can't miss.
7. O Brother! Where Art Thou? A wonderful story of sin and redemption, with a fine Southern soundtrack.
8. L.A. Confidential. The best modern noir. Russell Crowe's best performance ever, and I do mean EVAH.
9. Some random war or western movie with either John Wayne or Gary Cooper. The Longest Day? Maybe. Or High Noon, perhaps.
10. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Do I need to explain this?
So there we have it. I can assure you that this list will be completely different in a week, if not sooner. But for now, if I were forced off to a gulag with only ten movies, that's my list. Now, anyone want to help me refine that Number 9 into a definite choice?
Signs of the Reformation's Success?
Christian History & Biography on the Christianity Today site has an interesting interview with Timothy George, Dean of the Beeson Divinity School, regarding John Paul the Great and the gradual closing of the gap between Protestants and Catholics since the late 1890s (dating from Dwight Moody, who, a surprise to me, was quite open to Catholics).
Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom have just written a book called Is The Reformation Over? In my endorsement I said, "The Reformation is over only in the sense that to some extent it has succeeded." Which is to say that Roman Catholicism has taken on many, but not all, of the main emphases that come out of Luther. There's a clear movement in that direction, and I think evangelicals can celebrate that and see our commonalities.
Not sure that Catholics would quite agree with the exact language of that thought, but I hope we can all of us, Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox, agree on this: That which unites us is stronger and more important than that which divides us.
A Brother in Trouble
Andrew Stuttaford points to a case of persecution in Iran.
We should be concerned two reasons. First, this is a gross and ugly violation of human rights. Seconly, for Christians, this is a brother in Christ facing possible death for his witness. Our prayers must be with him and his congregation at this time.
Do any of our very smart readers know of the best way to generate 100 "lists" of random arrangements of binary data? Each list would need 450 "0"s and 50 "1"s. When I get these lists, I will select every 10th record to sample 50 records of each list and plot the distribution.
Yes, I know I need to get a life.
UPDATE: Friend of SCO, Lotharbot, answered my call and whipped out the data with shocking speed. Thanks, Lotharbot. Yet another reason why I love blogging :-)
Movin' On Up
Our friend the Anchoress have relocated. Do keep track of her; it's worth your while.
A while back I was at an art show for a friend of mine at the Kentuck Gallery in nearby Northport, Alabama. I mentioned to her that she needed a blog for purposes of keeping friends and supporters up to date about her work. She recoiled at the idea, thinking that blogs were merely a political tool.
That provoked an interesting rhetoricial question for me to consider. Are blogs, like punk rock and hip hop, going to be forever viewed as a political medium?
What say our readers and colleagues?
Me vs. PostModernism
April 09, 2005
Comments are working again. Something happened after a comment spam attack yesterday advertising on-line casino gaming. Ocassionally we get trackback pings from porn sites. I try my best to remove this spam as soon as it is posted, but sometimes don't catch it for serveral hours.
I wonder if comment and trackback spammers will ever get a 9 year prison sentence like this guy.
In reference to the David Brooks column Jim mentioned below, I think Brooks is making one greivous error: He's relying on polls to support his evidence. This is just shoddy. He uses polling data to support his argument that most Americans weren't comfortable with government intervention into the Terri Schiavo case. Has Brooks been under a rock the last three weeks? Every blogger sitting in his dorm room has noted that the MSM polls on the subject were pratically rigged.
Brooks should know better than to trust these polls.
That said, I think there is something to be said for his call to prudence. That doesn't mean backing away from a message, but as Brooks notes, it might mean reevaluating our methods. The GOP's first priority in the Senate should be confirming some judges. The House? Someone wiser than me will need to answer that, but I imagine some progressively conservative but tempered work on Social Security might be a good idea.
And yes, I know the comments aren't working. We're working on it.
A Conservative Nation?
A big problem for Republicans, David Brooks contends in today's New York Times, is the conservatism of the American people. He suggests this may be at issue in the Terry Schiavo, social security, and Tom DeLay matters. But this isn't good news for the Democrats, who-- experiencing a collapse of credible ideas--are in a freefall.
A good Saturday read.
April 08, 2005
The Backlash Mirage
A man journeying across the desert sands looking longingly toward the horizon for any sign of an oasis will often see one. It’s called a mirage. Chances are you’ve never seen one in the desert, but we all see mirages reported regularly in the MSM.
There was one in USA Today this week--a classic example of a reporter seeing a public opinion mirage. In this case, reporter Susan Page was looking longingly at a national poll for a trend away from a moral agenda.
The article begins:
WASHINGTON - The controversy over Terri Schiavo has raised concerns among many Americans about the moral agenda of the Republican Party and the power of conservative Christians, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds.
In the survey, most Americans disapprove of the efforts by President Bush and Congress to draw federal courts into the dispute over treatment of the brain-damaged Florida woman. She died last week.
The reporter quotes George Mason University professor Mark Rozell saying the Shiavo case created a “clear backlash.”
But the poll’s main finding was that the majority—55 percent—of Americans disapproved of Congress getting involved in the local Florida case. The question itself was loaded, asking if respondents thought that the Republicans are “trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives” of Americans. But even if the question was fairly worded, the sentiment that individuals are supporting is a limitation of the involvement of the federal government.
Does USA Today, or anyone, really believe that because Congressional Republicans were moved by the plight of one woman and took extraordinary action to try to save her life that they they’ve switch roles with the Democrats, and that they have become the party of large, intrusive government? You can accuse the Republicans of becoming more and more like the Democrats when it comes to increasing the size and scope of government. But it’s absurd to use one case to suggest the Democrats are now the states-rights advocates and the Republicans are the federalists.
I haven’t understood the polls on the Schiavo case, generally. Certainly the wording greatly influenced the responses. But somehow, probably as a result of the coverage of tghe MSM, the majority of Americans believed that Michael Schiavo was telling the truth about Terri’s wishes, and did not want government to go against the end-of-life preferences of an individual. I do not understand why most Americans (not to mention the trial judge) did not see the tragic conflict of interest that was created when Michael Schiavo took a common law wife and began a new family. That conflict negated his ability to be a credible arbiter of life and death.
In the Schiavo case we saw great political theater, desperate actions to save lives, judicial ineptitude at best and perhaps malfeasance, and heart-wrenching grief.
We did not see a backlash against the “moral agenda of the Republican Party.” That’s a mirage.
I think that any person concerned about the state of young Catholic priests and their potential impact on the future of the Catholic Church will be heartened to read this letter reproduced by Hugh Hewitt. Very moving.
April 07, 2005
A Confident Man
I wish I could share in his enthusiasm. Frankly, and Rush has been speaking on this topic heavily all week, I'm pretty well convinced that the Congressional GOP is a fraternity of wusses. Nevertheless I am preparing a letter to send to my own Alabama Senators Shelby and Sessions, as well as Senator Bill "Please Please Please Let Me Be President" Frist. Once written and delivered, it shall be posted in this space.
I don't know how many times it has to be said, whether by Rush or Hannity or the writers at National Review or the Weekly Standard or every astute blogger sitting comfortably in his pajamas: Republicans win when we run on hard, focused conservative principles. We win when we play fair but very very tough.
As a great man once said, "There's no substitute for guts." I hope our GOP Senators remember that when it comes time to confirm these judges.
I've been arguing in this space for weeks that Wallis is a bonafide liberal on every issue save for abortion. This article pretty well backs up my assertion. I'll confess that I'm not bothered by Wallis' liberalism so much as I am his self-righteous tone in suggesting that he's just a humble Christian seeking a peaceful dialogue with the rest of the world. Nonsense. He is a classic post-Vietnam liberal in almost every sense of the word, and he should have the courage to say so.
On the topic, I saw Wallis on CSPAN2's After Words over the weekend. He was being interviewed by Randy Tate, formerly of the Christian Coalition. The interview was pleasant and fair, I must say. I can't find a transcript, but I remember being very, very unimpressed. I don't doubt Wallis' heart for the downtrodden, but when judging his abilities to navigate political turf, I am hardpressed to find someone more intellectually vacuous. No doubt this has something to do with his lack of followers.
Group opposes lowering flag for Pope
This week I'd noticed that a number of flags around Our Fair City were at half-mast, and I couldn't figure out why. Then it occurred to me that it was probably for the Pope. Rather unexpected, given that he wasn't an American, but on the whole I think everyone would agree that it's a nice gesture.
Everyone except these people.
An anti-religion group is denouncing [Wisconsin] Gov. Jim Doyle's executive order to lower flags to mark the death of Pope John Paul II.
Doyle's directive appears like "an endorsement of Roman Catholicism over other religious viewpoints," according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
On Saturday, the governor praised the pope as both an inspiration spiritual leader and a man who has made "a significant impact on social justice." Doyle cited the pope's fight against communism, his opening of dialogue with other faiths, and his fight for peace around the world.
The governor's office today noted President Bush had directed that flags be lowered to half-staff at all public buildings. The governor's directive matches the president's order.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, saw the pope in a different light from the governor.
"The pope was the world's leading sexist," Gaylor said in a statement issued today. "Why should Wisconsin women be expected to revere his anti-woman, antediluvian teachings?" The pope also had been critical of gay marriages, the statement noted.
"Let's reserve the honor of half-staff for true American heroes," Gaylor said.
Hmmmm. How did she feel about flags at half-staff for Ronald Reagan? I wonder . . .
Anyway, here's a link to the group's statement. Oh, look! Reagan is mentioned!
Has there ever been anything like this media adulation? Whole front news sections were devoted yesterday to "His Holiness," as if the whole world were Catholic. It is hard to imagine the death of any world leader summoning the same kind of uncritical coverage, with the possible exception of an assassinated U.S. President. Former Pres. Reagan's death last summer certainly rated nothing like this.
Go to the link for the whole ridiculous thing. I shouldn't be giving these guys any more attention than they're already getting, because I know they just love it.
Review Free Books
Stacy L. Harp has a new blog called Mind and Media where she invites bloggers to read and review books on the site. She is helping publishers with blog publicity and giving bloggers the opportunity to receive and review complimentary books. (h/t: Daddypundit).
Putting His Money Where His Bad Translation Is
John Brown, a born-again Christian and founder of Zion Oil & Gas of Dallas, is using his Bible as a guide to finding oil in the Holy Land, according to this account.
“Most blessed of sons be Asher. Let him be favored by his brothers and let him dip his foot in oil,” Brown quotes from Moses’s blessing to one of the 12 Tribes of Israel in Deuteronomy 33:24.
Standing next to a 177-foot derrick at Kibbutz Maanit in northern Israel, Brown said the passage indicated there is oil lying beneath the biblical territory of the Tribe of Asher, where the agricultural community is located.
Unfortunately, the best translations of this passage render the word “olive oil” (an ancient symbol of prosperity), not black crude.
Perhaps God will bless his good intentions and faithfulness anyway.
China Still a Dangerous Place for Christians
Having visited Beijing twice in the last year and observed the emerging freedoms that the Chinese people are enjoying, particularly on the economic front, it is sobering to read of continuing religious persecution. Eric at Evangelical Underground relates news of the beating death of a Chinese Christian woman for distributing Christian literature.
Open trade with China is a great way for Christian influence to spread, since Communist officials now allow Westerners more and more freedom to interact with the people. But access and leverage must be used to assure more religious freedom and a crackdown on the persecution of Christians. .
I'm in the process of rereading Francis Schaeffer's works. Powerful stuff, and I wish that more evangelicals would take heed. Joe at the Evangelical Outpost is serious about digging in to the matter of Christians and visual arts. Worth reading, especially if you think Thomas Kinkade is making good art.
April 06, 2005
Euthanasia and Co-Dependency
The Pope wasn't the only person who passed away while I was taking a blogging break.
This third attempt by the courts to end Terri Schiavo's life succeeded. And as a result I can't help but think that we as a nation failed. The polls that showed that nearly 70% of Americans supported the removal of her feeding tube utterly astound me. This was not, as some seemed to think, an issue that followed the usual political divides. Conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, supported ending her life.
I commented earlier that I thought the reason so many people supported removal of her feeding tube was because we fear that we may one day be in that state ourselves, and because we don't think we could handle it, we don't really want her to handle it either.
Rachel Rose, guest-blogging for her daughter at The Dawn Patrol, says this is an issue of co-dependency. (Now there's a psychobabble phrase I haven't heard in quite awhile. I think it's fallen out of vogue.)
It must have been about 15 years ago. The concept of co-dependency was just making the rounds at the time. A friend of mine was interested in learning more about it. She decided to attend an open Codependents Anonymous meeting. When I met her afterwards, I asked her how it went. "Ridiculous", she replied. "There was a woman there who described her mother as saying, "Here, take a lozenge. I have a sore throat."
"What's wrong with that?" I playfully rejoined.
This funny episode became a sad object lesson to me today, as I began to see my American brethren as (maybe) fitting into the roles of just "co-dependent" people, good people, compassionate people, but pathologically overidentifying with how they thought they would feel in Terri's place. It is, of course, impossible for anyone to know how they would really feel. Any student of elementary logic knows that A cannot be B unless all the attributes of both are equal. This is one of the big rational problems with relativism. Yet, these moral relativists were in so much pain looking at Terri and thinking about how they thought she must be feeling. There had to be a way to stop those intolerable feelings. "That's it!" they concluded.
"Here, Terri. Let's have your feeding tube. I have a sore psyche."
Sure it's darkly amusing, but I think there's something to this connection between co-dependency and our cultural support of euthanasia and doctor-asssisted suicide.
Executing My New Powers as Name-Giver
I hereby dub Hugh Hewitt the Gandalf of the blogosphere. (And yes, I know he's quoting Galadriel, but work with me here)
And from here on out, Andrew Sullivan will be known as the Jan Brady of the blogosphere for the simple reason that he won't stop whining. Come on, Andrew. Cry me a river. Or maybe we should call him Justin Timberlake.
Any readers have an opinion?
Christian Carnival LXIV
Next week's Carnival will be held at the interestingly named AnotherThink. Want to learn more about the Christian Carnival and add yourself to the mailing list? Go to Wittenberg Gate and Dory will give you the details.
Total Truth: Christianity for All of Life
David Mobley at A Physicist's Perspective has a helpful review of Total Truth, a new book by my former Prison Fellowship colleague Nancy Pearcey, who was the founding editor of Breakpoint with Chuck Colson.
The title "Total Truth" comes from the idea that the Bible, and the gospel, are the truth about all of life -- they're "Total Truth". However, Pearcey argues convincingly that much of society, and even the Christian world, thinks that religion and Christianity are exclusively personal issues, with no bearing on much of life. This results in something she calls a "two-story" view of truth: There are certain objective facts about reality which everyone must agree to (and these are often supposed to be determined by "science"), and then there's religion, which is a personal choice. Religion is an "upper story", added on to the "lower story" to which everyone must agree, so religion is "optional".
Later in the review, David adds:
One part I found especially interesting -- and which I'll discuss more in a subsequent post -- is how evangelicalism has influenced this two-story view. Particularly, Pearcey argues that, during the second Great Awakening after the Revolutionary War, the evangelical emphasis on a personal conversion experience combined with the idea of revolution and led to a rejection of authority, including church authority. Many involved in this downplayed doctrine, or even spoke against the teaching of doctrine. Thus expository teaching and preaching gave way to topical sermons on "felt needs" and preachers became performers, with stories and anecdotes. Revivalists had sort of a personality cult. Some even engaged in deliberate manipulation of emotions in an attempt to produce a conversion experience. This emotional intensity -- which often came at the expense of doctrine -- helped make it seem like Christianity is just an irrational, emotional belief. This further intensified the two-story split.
Pearcey is top-notch thinker and a very good writer. Sounds like a book worth reading.
The 2005 EO Symposium (2nd Quarter)
Joe Carter at the evangelical outpost has announced his Second Quarter blog symposium: Judeo-Christian Morality in an Ethically Pluralistic Society. Here is Joe's explanation of the topic:
For this quarter, I’ve decided to broaden the topic around the theme of Judeo-Christian morality in an ethically pluralistic society. Entries can explore the history of the concept, the applications toward public policy, the best means of arguing for it in the public square, or anything else that you choose.
There are great prizes for the three best posts, which will be chosen by a panel of anonymous judges. Joe's first symposium was wildly successful (although I was personally miffed that I did not win based on the purely technical point that my submission was not one of the three best). Whether you are a new or seasoned blogger, this is a great way to show your stuff and advance cultural dialogue.
April 05, 2005
Newsflash: Socialism Doesn't Work
Saul Bellow Has Died
Allow me to echo John J. Miller's comments concerning Saul Bellow. Like Miller, I am only familiar with a small amount of Bellow's work, namely, Seize the Day and the Actual. I know that many of Bellow's other works are monuments in post-World War II American literature. I highly recommend the above works, and I plan to dive into the other novels this summer.
My prayers go out to Bellow's family. (His son Adam is a noted editor, formerly of NR)
Gene Robinson hints that Jesus was gay
Greg at What Attitude Problem says "Gene Robinson is a goiter on the body of Christianity."
A goiter? Why a goiter? Well, while you're pondering that, ponder this: in recent comments, Rev. Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church of the U.S. whose ordination made headlines not too long ago, seemed to be hinting that Jesus was gay.
Bishop Robinson, whose consecration in 2003 triggered a schism between evangelicals and liberals in the worldwide Anglican Communion, was giving an address entitled "Homosexuality and the Body of Christ: Is There a New Way?"
In answer to a question from the congregation about how the acceptance of homosexuality could be squared with the scriptural emphasis on redemption for sins, the Bishop replied: "Interestingly enough, in this day of traditional family values, this man that we follow was single, as far as we know, travelled with a bunch of men, had a disciple who was known as 'the one whom Jesus loved' and said my family is not my mother and father, my family is those who do the will of God. None of us likes those harsh words. That's who Jesus is, that's who he was at heart, in his earthly life.
"Those who would posit the nuclear family as the be all and end all of God's creation probably don't find that much in the gospels to support it," he said.
While Robinson certainly doesn't come right out and say it, he does seem to be strongly suggesting it, while at the same time severely downplaying the importance of the nuclear family. (Maybe this can form the plot of a new Dan Brown conspiracy thriller. "Oops! I was wrong about the whole Mary Magdalene thing.")
John Paul the Great
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies--make straight your way before me . . . . For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:8, 12.
Pope John Paul II, or "John Paul the Great," (HT to the Corner's K.J. Lopez) as some are appropriately calling him, was an extraordinary man sent by God at a pivotal time in history to do a seemingly mundane task: Keep the Catholic Church faithful to its mission. That he did so during a time when there were great pressures in the opposite direction, demonstrates his greatness.
John Paul was not physically prepossessing, yet he was a towering figure of the late 20th century. He was so by focusing on his simple mission: To be a faithful servant of his Lord Jesus Christ and to be a faithful shepherd of his sheep. The simplicity of stating his mission, however, belies the very real challenges that were present throughout his papacy. When John Paul became Pope, it is safe to say (at least from my perspective as a non-Catholic observer) that the Roman Catholic Church was at a turning point. The Church was beset by differing voices within and by cultural challenges from without. Internally, again to an observer, the Church appeared to be on the verge of losing its spirit and voice as the pre-eminent Christian Church. Indeed, if you would have asked many evangelical Christians at the time their impression of the Roman Catholic Church, they might have questioned calling the Roman Catholic Church a Christian Church at all. They certainly would have questioned whether it retained its spirit and, importantly, its evangelical mission. (I say this not to criticize, for I obviously believe otherwise now; however, I would suggest that this is an accurate description of at least how some, perhaps a goodly number, of evangelicals would have felt about the Roman Catholic Church in 1978.)
At that time, the Catholic Church seemed to be struggling to define its mission and to find its voice. In particular, although not the exclusive issue, the Church was wrestling with such movements as Liberation Theology, as well as challenges to its historical teachings, that sought to re-direct the resources, and perhaps more importantly energy, of the Church to social and political causes, de-emphasizing the Church's historical mission, namely to preach the good news of Christ and shepherd his sheep.
John Paul ascended and quietly, but firmly, adopted the mission mentioned earlier--serving his Lord and shepherding his sheep. Through his personal ministry, through his writings, through his appointments, and through the help, of course, of the Holy Spirit, his mission became the mission of the Catholic Church, and this mission is now the driving force behind the Church today. Today, largely due to John Paul's example and leadership, the Catholic Church has re-discovered, perhaps re-invigorated is a better term, its historical evangelical mission. In short, the Catholic Church is a Church once again on the move--filled with the Spirit. John Paul also recalled the Church to its mission to the poor and the suffering, and in doing so has challenged nations, and other believers, to follow his example.
Far from being easy, implementing this simple mission has been a struggle for John Paul. He has had many detractors, both within his Church and without. Looking back, it would have been very easy for him to simply have given in to the forces arrayed against him--to please the headline and opinion writers and gain for himself soothing words from the intelligentsia. Instead, he remained faithful to the Gospel and kept the church orthodox. This has led to much derision from so-called Catholics who, rather than adhering to the teachings they have learned since childhood, sought to remake the Catholic Church in their own image, which is not the image of Christ's Church. John Paul's faithfulness has also led to derision from the cultural elite outside the Church--derision that has survived his death and has led to the unsavory examples of biting criticism that have been displayed by those with many words but little judgment, or manners, this week.
In contrasting John Paul with his detractors, both within and without the Church, we can see the missions of both sides displayed. On the side of John Paul, fidelity to the historical teachings of the Church--Christ crucified and risen, charity to the poor, obedience from the faithful, salvation to the unsaved, and moral uprightness. On the side of the detractors--a desire to implement a social and political philosophy within an institution responsible for over 1 billion souls. John Paul II wanted to please Christ and re-invigorate the historical Catholic Church. His detractors wanted to play politics and destroy, yes destroy, the Catholic Church--remaking it in accordance with their marginalized beliefs. John Paul resisted that. Savaged on earth, he will be rewarded in Heaven for his stand and he has been reverenced here by many of the faithful because of it. In addition, because of his fidelity to the truth, the Catholic Church is again a vital and growing church.
It is also instructive to contrast the path of the Roman Catholic Church during the last several decades with the path of the Protestant mainline denominations both in the United States and in Europe. In 1978, within Europe and the United States, one could argue that the mainline Protestant denominations and the Catholic Church stood in roughly equal positions--historical institutions that were still a part of the fabric of society. The mainline Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church had a place at the table both in private and public affairs. Like the Catholic Church, the mainline Protestant Churches were also at a cross-roads--voices within and without those churches were calling for radical change to their historical missions and teachings. Unlike the Catholic Church under John Paul, however, a goodly number of the mainline Protestant churches listened to the piper's call of post-modernity. They watered down the gospel. They ran away from historical teachings. They scraped away the moral foundations of the Judeo-Christian tradition as one might scrape moss from a rock. They allowed those who sought to destroy their historical mission into their sanctuaries. Instead of converting the destroyers, they were converted to the message of the destroyers.
Today then, we can see the results of the different paths. The mainline Protestant churches in Europe in the United States have been losing members and are in decline. In addition, nobody seeks out the opinion of these churches on cultural matters, other than social and political liberals when it is convenient for them to hear a "church voice" that backs up their positions. In short, they are no longer a serious cultural force in either the United States or Europe. They did not take the truth seriously and, accordingly, they are no longer taken seriously. Contra the Catholic Church (and of course evangelical churches). The Catholic Church's position on both continents has been enhanced during the last few decades. On matters of cultural importance, the Catholic Church wields a wide and growing influence. The Catholic Church is growing in numbers and it is intellectually vibrant. The Catholic Church remained focused on the truth and has kept its cultural influence. Because of John Paul's leadership, the Catholic Church is more important today, and more vibrant, than it was when he began his mission. He would rightly say, of course, that it was Christ that did the work. That is true. However, much like Mary, whom John Paul revered, John Paul was a willing vessel through whom Christ worked. He is to be commended for his faith and obedience.
Of course, the cultural factors, both within and without, that John Paul II withstood will not go away. Indeed, one would assume that they would be emboldened with his death. Moral relativism, humanism, faddish pop psychology and social movements (such as liberation theology) will continue to have a corrosive effect on society and will continue to seek to weaken the Catholic Church. Let us pray that John Paul's successor(s) will show the strength of his predecessor and adopt the same simple mission--and that such mission will be continued for a long time. (Thanks to Matt T. for suggesting this paragraph.)
The legacy of John Paul will continue to be revealed for many years to come. Perhaps after 10 or 20 years, we will have even more of an understanding of what he meant to the world. At this time, I can say that his work has been instrumental in advancing the cause of Christ, both in the Catholic Church, and in the rest of Christ's Church. He has strengthened and revitalized the largest Christian body of believers. In doing so, he has also indirectly strengthened and revitalized the entire Church. In addition, he has been instrumental in breaking down the barriers between Christian denominations, most notably with the Eastern Orthodox Church and with the Lutheran Church. However, his influence has also caused in-roads to be made between Catholics and evangelicals. Let us pray that the barriers continue to be broken down, as that which unites us, namely Our Lord Jesus Christ, is greater than that which divides us. Thus, let us follow John Paul's example and continue to work together, as Christians, to unite under the banner of Christ. Let us also follow his example in being obedient servants.
Rest in peace Karol, you deserve it.
In response to Rick's query on immigration, I have some pretty basic views.
Immigration = good
Illegal immigration = bad
Look, we have laws in this country. I have a very, very hard time believing that it is unjust to suggest that someone make their presence known if they plan to cross our borders and stay here. On top of that, America is a big ship, but it is a ship nonetheless. We can only handle some many people. That's why there are limits to the number of immigrants we take every year. I realize life is difficult in Latin America. Let's work to correct the problems, but giving every poor farmer south of the Rio Grande carte blance to walk into Arizona and Texas is not a proper solution.
Satellite Radio’s Opening Day
A big difference in the media coverage of baseball’s opening day this year is its transmission on satellite radio over the XM network. XM signed a deal with Major League Baseball last October worth $650 million that enables the company to carry most regular and postseason games over the next several years.
For the young satellite radio industry, the baseball deal is another indication of viability. Rival Sirius Satellite Radio has a five-year, $500 million deal to bring Howard Stern on board in January 2006. Last year, Sirius also paid more than $220 million for the rights to broadcast all NFL games, adding to NBA and NHL (what’s that?) packages.
The satellite radio companies are pouring millions into their new ventures, and they are still swimming in red ink. But the new medium appears to be surging.
The announcement on Friday by XM Satellite Radio - the bigger of the two satellite radio companies - that it added more than 540,000 subscribers from January through March pushed the industry's customer total past five million after fewer than three and a half years of operation. Analysts call that remarkable growth for companies charging more than $100 annually for a product that has been free for 80 years. Total subscribers at XM and its competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio, will probably surpass eight million by the end of year, making satellite radio one of the fastest-growing technologies ever - faster, for example, than cellphones.
So if you want to listen to sports constantly or get your jollies from shock jocks like Howard Stern or Opie and Anthony, you’re all set. What else is happening here?
Actually, quite a lot. This is the first I’ve looked into the content available, and I’ll have to admit I’m impressed. There are many channels and a lot of variety. On XM, there are music channels of every kind, talk programs from the right and left. Sports galore. Christian music and talk. Several high octane programs. You pay more for access to the smut.
Check out the XM schedule.
There’s still the need to get the hardware, which it appears will set you back at least $150.
A big selling point for satellite radio is that is commercial-free. Your subscription of about $14 a month frees you from commercial overload.
One challenge for satellite radio is that there isn’t local programming, a problem for listeners who rely on the radio for local weather, traffic, and news. They’re making an effort to address this deficiency, but can only do so for major markets at this point.
The one thing I want to know before diving in is whether the reception is solid or spotty, particularly in bad weather. Lot’s of you are probably way ahead of me. How are you enjoying satellite radio so far?
Minuteman Project Update
If you’ve read my previous posts on immigration (here, here, here, and here), you can probably guess what I think about the “Minuteman Project.” To be honest, when I first heard of the project, I envisioned a bunch of mullet sportin' rednecks, riding around in pick-ups with a full gun rack, two cans of Blue Ribbon in hand, strands of chew spanning the gaps between their teeth, and "red neck woman" blasting from the AM radio - achin' to spot some "spics."
I’m relieved that there haven’t been reports of abuse or vigilante violence; in fact, some reports I’ve read have made the volunteers look very professional, and even, Christian (see this for example). That said, I still think the project is ill-conceived. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the whole concept just doesn’t sit right with me. I guess I can't get the redneck/mullet/pickup/gunrack/blue ribbon image out of my head. And, with volunteers continuing to disrupt the Border Patrol’s work by tripping sensors, I can’t help but wonder if the net impact of their efforts is more, not less, illegal border crossings.
I haven’t forgotten about my immigration series as I'm still collecting data and thinking through the issues. I must say though that writing on this topic is really stretching me and definitely requires research. Opinions are nice, but often fueled by emotion. I’d prefer to tone it down a bit and look at our immigration “problem” a little more calmly and factually.
HUD Consolidated Plan public review deadlines are this week, I’m gearing up for finals, and I’ve been defending/discussing my exit poll paper over at Mystery Pollster and DailyKOS (~350 comments - read them all for a real culture shock). The exit poll discussion has been an interesting experiment in on-line peer review and I'm having quite a bit of fun with it. For the most part, the Kossacks haven't assailed my faith or politics, but have stuck to the merits/demerits of the stastitics and logic. I can't say the same for the folks at Democratic Underground.
I figure the immigration topic isn’t going anywhere. I’ll get to it. In the meantime, any of the other SCO writers care to share their thoughts on the subject?
Headed toward Civil War?
The Washington Times brings word that the more moderate Democrats (what is left of them) have challenged their liberal counterparts for the party to take a tougher stance on the war on terrorism.
In an attack on the party's dominant left wing, anti-war base, and a warning for new Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean "to do no harm," the centrist-leaning Democratic Leadership Council said it is "a delusion to think that if we just turned out our voters, we could win national elections."The liberal response?
I can't tell the difference between the positions the DLC puts forward and Republican policy," said Jack Blum, counsel for the liberal Americans for Democratic Action.I suspect that the DLC fired a flare, rather than a warning shot; a cue to the party that "someone" will be emerge soon in the race for 2008.
Hillary is perhaps the one candidate who could run to the center-right on some issues (immigration and GWOT in particular) without offending the base badly enough to cause a lasting revolt. "The sooner these fights take place, the better," the DLC said. If it's Hillary, the fights will only be for show. Hillary is at heart, one of them - no matter what mask she wears for the next two years.
April 04, 2005
Death, Thou Shalt Die
As of this date the Person of the Year for 2005 is. . . the Grim Reaper. Death in 2005 is breaking news and the impetus for cultural debate. The judicial killing of Terri Schiavo inflamed the nation. The graceful death of Pope John Paul II showed the world the door to heaven.
Each in its own way focused on minds on death, reminding us of the death of others in our lives, and surely, the inevitability of our own death.
The American Tract Society saw this and released today a new tract that focused on death, and being ready for it. It begins:
Pope John Paul II, the beloved spiritual leader to more than 1 billion Catholics, has died “with the serenity of the saints.” His close friend, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was at the pope’s bedside as he died, declared, “We entrust with confidence to the risen Christ, Lord of life and history, our beloved John Paul II who for 27 years guided the universal church.”
Although millions will mourn his passing, the Bible reminds us that all of us will one day die. You could say that in God’s economy, death is a fact of life.
Because death is our personal reality, it is comforting to hear the words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). As the ATS site says: Death need not be a bitter end...it can be a bright dawning.
Or hear John Donne in Holy Sonnet X:
One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Spiritually Significant Films
Interesting list of the Top 100 Spiritually-Significant Films at the Arts and Faith website. The list includes every possible genre, from esoteric independent films (Au Hasard Balthazar, 1966; Babettes Gæstebud ("Babette's Feast"), 1987), to It’ a Wonderful Life, Life of Brian, and even Star Wars.
See what you think.
Bankruptcy Bill Built on a Myth
I don’t think I’d find many reasons to refer readers to BlackCommentator.com, but this article on the federal bankruptcy bill barreling through Congress resonates with a lot of what I discovered researching the bill for Christianity Today magazine. This bill is built on the myth that most people who file for bankruptcy are fleecing the system. It’s a myth spread by the credit card industry, which essentially bought this legislation in a brazen show of old-fashioned strong-arm lobbying.
This bill is yet to get through the House. Perhaps there is time to stop it, although most believe it is a done deal. This site has more on the bill and links to Dave Ramsey’s strong words on what he calls “the worst legislation to come out of Washington, D.C. in many years.” And that’s saying something.
A few weeks ago I looked at the question of the decay of youth culture. I have not come to any definite conclusions, but I do think part of the answer lies in the zeitgeist; Francis Schaeffer's line of decay has finally seeped into popular culture and education. It is being fully realized. The nihilism found in much of popular culture is by no means new, but now, instead of being discussed in pubs and coffeehouses, it is seen on television and heard on radio with stunning regularity. It is no surprise that school shootings take place in such a climate, though it remains a terrible, awful tragedy.
Meet Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith
April 03, 2005
Barajas Impressive in Pre-Season
Rangers kick off the season against the Angels on Tuesday. Cousin Rod put up some impressive numbers in pre-season play and the rest of the team seems to be playing well together. Rod ended up hitting .389, with a .778 slugging percentage, 3 HR, and 5 doubles in 14 games and 36 at bats. Wowzers! Here's a nice screenshot of Rod (middle) with future hall of famers Michael Young (SS) and Hank Blalock (3B).
April 02, 2005
Yesterday I recieved in the mail a copy of Jason Boyett's Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual For The End Of The World. It's a somewhat satirical look at the end-times beliefs of Christians, and our subsequent interest in the subject. My brief perusing says this will be a fun read; a full review coming soon.
Blogs that mention candidates for local office that receive more than 500 hits will be forced to pay a registration fee and will be subject to website traffic audits...Hmm.
Related, but unrelated - the American Federalist Journal is a resource worth checking out. The site provides a peak at the lead paragraph of columns written from a fine group of conservative thinkers. It also maintains one heck of a blogroll ;-).
I will have more to say about Pope John Paul II if, as seems likely, he does pass on to see the "[w]hite shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise." However, at this moment, I feel compelled, at least on my own behalf, to say that I feel that he is Our Pope. I am not Catholic and, similar to Matt and Dr. John Mark Reynolds, likely never will travel the road to Rome. However, this Pope has done much to bridge the gap between Christians that was created in the early 1500s--much more than most Protestants, including me. In addition, he has fought the good fight and has kept the faith--the one true faith. At a time when theological liberalism was as likely to take over the heart of the Catholic Church, he was called by God to be a bastion of support for orthodoxy. He is my brother in Christ and my heart grieves, as should the heart of all Christians. We should all pray that his successor continues the healing steps that he has started--until that great and glorious day when we all come together as The Church of Christ, and not as the Catholic Church, nor the Evangelical Church, nor any other church. Let us all join at this sad time at the Cross of Our Savior and celebrate the life of a great servant, while acknowledging our own grief.
April 01, 2005
Words on Mourning
Let me echo the sentiments of Dr. John Mark Reynolds concerning the seemingly inevitable death of Pope John Paul:
"I am no Roman and never shall be. However, this gallant knight, this friend of Reagan and the unborn, has been one of the greatest men to ever sit in Peter's chair.
God be with you brave defender of the right. Soon God will vouch safe to give you a vision of Himself unmediated by pain in that Undiscovered Country from which no man must return."
More on the Fairest Tax for America
What Happens If the Pontiff Dies?
If the Pope dies, here’s what happens.
Sources say the selection of a new pope will be a wide-open contest.
On the theory the cardinals may seek a transitional figure, one name that has emerged in Rome is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German who heads the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
He’s 77 and has proposed retiring several times to John Paul, but the pope has turned him down. Ratzinger is favored by those who want assurances the conservative policies of John Paul — opposition to contraception, women priests and any loosening of mandatory celibacy for priests — won’t be relaxed, according to a prelate who closely follows the succession maneuvers.
Another camp is touting Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who at 62 is seen as a dynamic churchman from Latin America.
Other prominent names mentioned include Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Vatican-based Nigerian; Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina; Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium; Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico; Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Austria and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy.
John Allen, a Rome-based correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, argues that Pope John Paul II leaves behind "a more united world and a more divided church".
"John Paul II directed much of his energies towards the outside world rather than on the inner workings of the Church," Allen argues. "Under his pontificate, liberals and conservatives have found it increasingly difficult to talk to each other," he adds.
At the same time, demands for "collegiality" and "subsidiarity", two terms used to describe the need for lower-ranking clergy to be given a greater say in church government, are increasingly being voiced.
These could favour Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium, who is seen as a reformist who often campaigns for a greater spread of power within the Church.
According to the late Peter Hebblethwaite, author of a book aptly called The Next Pope, Danneels is "one of the few cardinals with vision and clear analysis". However, Hebblethwaite notes in his book, "he is not particularly inspiring" and is said to lack human warmth.
Although many believe the papacy should be returned to an Italian, Allen argues that the church no longer needs an "administrative pope". Instead, it needs a man capable of arousing interest in all corners of the world, particularly where converts are needed.
Giacomo Galeazzi, a Vatican expert in Rome, agrees.
"They won't elect an Italian because that would mean withdrawing to put the house in order at a time when there is a need for expansion," he argues.
Both Allen and Galeazzi believe, therefore, that the next pope could easily be a foreigner, even a non-European.
American candidates won't be in contention, Allen says, because the Vatican jealously guards its diplomatic independence, while an American pope would give rise to suspicion that he is being influenced by the United States.
Galeazzi notes that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there is even more need for a pope that comes from a developing country. He cites Asia, where political instability could favour the Church in the future, and Latin America, where the Church has been doing particularly well.
The name of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos features high up in his list of candidates.
Castrillon, who is in his 70s, is described by Hebblethwaite as being "mind-blowingly conservative on Church matters", but also "a man of courage".
He is known for helping the derelict and confronting corrupt coffee barons and policemen in his native Colombia. It is said that he once disguised himself as a milkman and visited drug baron Pablo Escobar to force him to confess his sins.
Castrillon currently heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, an influential body in charge of priests around the world.
His chances are also boosted by the fact that Latin Americans form one of the biggest blocks of voters at the next conclave.
Ted Koppel and Bill McCartney
I’ve been in public relations for nearly three decades, and Ted Koppel, who is leaving Nightline, is the only anchor or reporter in the MSM who has ever opened the Scriptures for a discussion during my visit to a television green room.
The time was 1997, and I was accompanying Promise Keepers President Bill McCartney on media interviews in Washington, D.C. the day before Stand in the Gap. McCartney was about to tape a segment with Koppel for that night’s Nightline, when Koppel strode into the green room and greeted us warmly. He sat down and chatted with McCartney about the remarkable gathering of men, and asked him about the Scriptural basis for the event and the Promise Keepers movement, which McCartney provided. Then Koppel pulled out his copy of the Jewish Scriptures (would that be the Torah?) and said,”Llet me share with you what I was reading in the Scriptures today.” I don’t remember the reference; I think I was in shock that a network anchor was sharing from his daily devotional.
It hadn’t happened before, and hasn’t happened since. But that, together with his commencement address at Duke many years ago when he said that the Ten Commandments were not the Ten Suggestions, gave me a higher opinion of Koppel than other network news characters.
Pope John Paul II, The Most Influential Individual of Our Time, May Be Near Death
Pope John Paul II is in very serious condition after he suffered a heart attack last night, and it appears he is near death. The Vatican's 6 a.m. statement reads:
"This morning the Holy Father's health situation is very serious. Yesterday afternoon, March 31, as already announced, following a diagnosed infection of the urinary tract, the Pope suffered septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse. The Holy Father is being treated in his private apartment by the Vatican's own medical team. The Pope also received all appropriate cardio-respiratory assistance. The pope himself asked to stay in the Vatican and to be treated by his medical team there.
The Pope is conscious, aware, and tranquil. He received the Sacrament of the Sick at 7:17 last night. At six this morning he concelebrated Mass."
Pope John Paul II is arguably the most powerful and influential spiritual, moral, and even political leader of our time, and together with Ronald Reagan the individual perhaps most responsible for the collapse of communism. He has been an unparalleled conservative force in the church and world. He may be the most important public figure in the last century.
It is difficult to imagine a pontiff of such intellectual, spiritual, and political expansiveness and strength succeeding him. Christians of all traditions should pray for this spiritual lion in winter, that he might continue to lead, in his words, “the great springtime of the human spirit.”
Remembering Terri Schiavo
Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri Schiavo's sister
"Terri is now with God and she's been released of all earthly burdens. After the recent years of neglect at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and care for her, she's finally at peace with God for eternity."
"There will be to hell to pay.”
The Vatican issued a statement calling Ms. Schiavo's death a "violation of the sacred nature of life" that had "shocked consciences."
"Worse - more violent and wrong--than the convicted's executions. This is not right."
President George W. Bush
"I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected -- especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life. I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected -- especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life."
Governor Jeb Bush
“After an extraordinarily difficult and tragic journey, Terri Schiavo is at rest. I remain convinced, however, that Terri’s death is a window through which we can see the many issues left unresolved in our families and in our society. For that, we can be thankful for all that the life of Terri Schiavo has taught us.”
Nat Hentoff, Village Voice
"I will be returning to the legacy of Terri Schiavo in the weeks ahead because there will certainly be long-term reverberations from this case and its fracturing of the rule of law in the Florida courts and then the federal courts—as well as the disgracefully ignorant coverage of the case by the great majority of the media, including such pillars of the trade as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and the Los Angeles Times as they copied each other's misinformation, like Terri Schiavo being "in a persistent vegetative state."
"I think the right decision would have been to keep the feeding tube in, under the circumstances of the case.”
Continuing to observe a two week-long, self-imposed gag order on the Schiavo case.
"We promised the Schindler family that we will not let Terri die in vain. There's a bill that the House passed two weeks ago sitting in the Senate -- the Senate could pick that bill up and pass it -- that deals with this issue on a general basis. We will look at an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president. When given the jurisdiction to hear this case anew and look at all the facts and make a determination, they chose not to participate, contrary to what Congress and the president asked them to do. We will look into that."
"Every Florida and federal judge who failed to act to spare this precious woman from the torment she was forced to endure is guilty not only of judicial malfeasance -- but of the cold-blooded, cold-hearted extermination of an innocent human life. Terri Schiavo has been executed under the guise of law and 'mercy,' for being guilty of nothing more than the inability to speak for herself."
Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention
"America should be hanging its head in shame because of its complicity in the horrible death of Terri Schiavo, a woman’s whose body committed no crime. No matter what the laws of our land may say concerning euthanasia, and no matter that America slouches toward a culture of selfishness even in death, God is the ultimate authority over life and death."
Ken Connor, Center for a Just Society
“Our society abandoned Terri Schiavo and I believe that we will all suffer as a consequence," he told BP. As the poet John Donne said, ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.’ We are all diminished by Terri’s death and all bear responsibility for what has happened to her. The character of any culture is judged by the way we treat the weakest and most vulnerable among us. It’s not judged by how we treat kings, princes and presidents or the rich and powerful; it’s easy to honor those.”
Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel
"Terri’s life must not end in tragedy. She clung to life for 14 days without food and water. Her life struggle should be the catalyst for legislative reform. Terri Schiavo should make us all more sensitive and eager to protect human life from birth to natural death."
You Might Say I'm Irritated
I've had a terribly long day. I've driven a few hundred miles, stomping through rural Alabama just to have some people sign some papers. I'm tired. I've been up since six a.m., and it's now early Friday morning. I want to be in bed, sound asleep listening to the rain pound the pavement outside my window.
I can't sleep. Not yet. I am simply too angry. I am still livid. I first heard of Terri Schiavo's death on the Glen Beck show this morning, sitting in my car. I was putting cream cheese on a bagel from Panera Bread Company. My coffee was starting to cool. It was rainy and grey and I was hungry.
Terri Schiavo was hungry. For two whole weeks. I've had a lot happen in my life since Terri's feeding tube was removed. I had friends coming into town that fateful afternoon, and my rooommate and his girlfriend and I were cleaning the apartment like crazy. The past two weeks have been a blur for me, but not for the Schindlers. In all I've done since that day, Terri's family has had to watch her starve to death. Time only flies when you're having fun. For the Schindlers and their loved ones, time has been, to paraphrase William Carlos Williams, a storm in which they have been lost for the last fifteen years.
I'm angry not just because the media blew it. Not just because these smart aleck namby-pampy know-it-alls at ABC, CNN, NBC, PBS, NPR or whatever acronym you can create decided that playing cute political games with the Republicans was more important than telling the ever-loving truth. It was more fun for Judy Woodruff to take a cheap shot at Jeb or George Bush than it was to tell the whole world that a bone scan revealed that Terri had multiple fractures throughout her body, while her loving husband blamed a therapist but never called for an investigation. I'm angry because some commentators are too cynical to understand that maybe, just once, other pundits really did care about Terri Schiavo. I'm angry because normally reasonable people cared nothing about the facts in the case. I'm angry because the polls were crooked, and since the media was lying through their rotten teeth, the public is still clueless about what really happened down in Florida. I'm angry because a suggestion that Christian political leaders like Jeb Bush owed something to a higher law were met with scoffing. I'm angry that we have come to worship at the alter of the judiciary, unquestioning anything said from a man or woman in a black robe. It's like a bad Lord of the Rings nightmare.
And I'm really, really, really angry that the best we could do - we who supported Terri's right to life and food and water and some blessed due process in our oh-so hallowed courts - was to send up Randall Terry and Jesse Jackson to defend her poor family. Every right-wing Christian leader in America, Catholic and Protestant, has used this tragedy as an opportunity to rail about a runaway judiciary and the perverted worldview that has affected our culture. Rightfully so, but where we these people? I may think them loons in every other aspect of their lives, but God bless Randall Terry and Jesse Jackson. Whatever faults we may find with these men, and Lord knows it may take a while to list them all out, at least they had the courage to step up to the plate. My prayers are with Jerry Falwell right now, but where was James Dobson? Where were Richard Land and Al Mohler and every other leader of the Southern Baptist Convention? I've been to the Southern Baptist Convention a number of times. I know what goes on, and I've applauded, and will continue to applaud the call to a Christian presence in our culture. Euthanasia has been decried at ever SBC meeting for twenty years. It will be mentioned again this summer, likely with Terri Schavio's name, but not one SBC leader could leave their office for a day or two and stand up for this woman. But I'm sure you'll all hear about it on Sunday. What about Richard John Neuhaus or John Piper or Ravi Zacharias? Where were the Catholic bishops who threatened to deny Communion to John Kerry? This is shameful. The Christian Right is ridiculed in the mainstream press, and while Terri's Fight is about more than PR, we should be embarrassed that we abandoned the Schindler family to be consoled by two of the more polarizing figures in American politics. Ralph Nader took the time to issue two press releases, but we can't find one - not one! - respectable and noted Christian leader to go stand with the Schindler family and say "we support you"? Shame on us!
We can't be content to show up at the polls every two years or call our Congressman or write out cute blog posts for our friends and family to gawk at. At some point the rubber must meet the road, and we must be willing to demonstrate that we care about these matters in a real, tangible way. A woman was murdered over the last two weeks, and our leaders took a walk.
There was an old Calvin and Hobbes comic strip wherein Calvin ponders the idea of modern, realistic superheroes. Hobbes coolly suggests that the heroes could attend council meetings and write letters to the editor. As Hobbes yells, "Quick! To the bat-fax!," Calvin begins to see the problem. The same is true of us. I rebuke all calls for violence and disorder, but until we are willing - as sane, rational Christians - to stand in the streets and rebuke the Fred Phelps of the world while we rebuke the perverse and maddening culture that starved Terri Schiavo to death, then we can blame no one but ourselves.