« April 2005 | Main | June 2005 »

May 31, 2005

Romney's Problem

Like Mark, I'm a bit skeptical that Romney will even make it out of the GOP primaries. I still think our best hope will be for George Allen to take the lead, and for Bill Frist to know when to step down and realize that he doesn't have the Presidential It. That said, I still think Romney's Mormonism can be a very real problem, particularly in the Bible Belt. Southern evangelicals in particular have been instilled with a distrust of the Mormon faith. I don't blame them for this at all, as Mormonism is a very complex and, at times, secretive, religion that presents itself to be as normal as the Baptist church down the street. Romney's real problem is seeking support from Christians whose churches have held cult awareness seminars that prominently feature Mormonism.

I'm willing to split some hairs on the matter, but I just don't think your average Bible belt voter is going to be so kind.

Posted by Matt at 02:02 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Would Evangelicals Support Mitt Romney?

I’ve been impressed this year by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and I’m pleased to see his name being mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. I posted on his judgment on the embryonic stem cell issue here, and on his call for the death penalty in Massachusetts if the standard of “no doubt” is met, here.

Hugh Hewitt points to a good column by Terry Eastland that weighs the merits of a Romney and finds it plausible.

My colleague Matt cites an optimistic NRO column, but he doesn’t believe Romney’s Mormonism will fly in the South or among evangelicals. Mark Daniels doesn’t think Romney’s faith will be a problem unless he pushes it too much.

It is untested ground because there hasn’t been a serious Mormon contender since Mitt’s father, George Romney, and his candidacy crashed for other reasons. My theory is that evangelical conservatives are less inclined to put their faith ahead of their politics in these matters than the secularists believe. That’s not necessary good news, and we’ve decried this tendency in this space.

If Romney’s policy credentials look solid to evangelicals, and it appears he could beat Hillary Clinton, I believe evangelicals will focus on his conservative values and not on his Mormonism.

One rationale I would use is the evangelicals’ embrace of Ronald Reagan, by no means an evangelical and not even a church-goer. He carried the banner for many issues of concern to evangelicals.

Mitt Romney could do the same. And if he can win in the northeast, it’s trouble for any Democrat.

Posted by Jim at 12:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Charlotte Simmons

I realize I'm a bit behind the times, but I'm enjoying Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. That said, Charlotte Simmons may very well be the most obnoxious protaganists I've come across.

I'll have to go back and do some reading, but I seem to recall most conservative critics painted Charlotte in something of a sympathetic light. Hogwash. She is a sheltered little twit.

Posted by Matt at 12:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 30, 2005

Nice Memorial Day Tribute

Here's a good Memorial Day piece. Click on "Neal Vickers Essay."

Posted by Matt at 02:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Memorial Day

I encourage you to meditate on the goodness of God despite the tragedy of war and intercede for the thousands of families grieving as most Americans play this holiday. If you have children, remember also to explain to them why they have an extra day off school. Pray with them for those who bear the scars of war and the families of those who have perished so that we can be free. If you are a veteran or currently serving, from my family to yours, thank you!

Posted by Rick at 01:11 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Mormon President

This could get interesting in another year or two.

I seem to remember the NRO crew discussing this a while back at the Corner. The general consensus seemed to be that Romney's Mormonism wouldn't be much of a problem for the grassroots, which is proof that some folks at National Review know very little about evangelicals and Mormons.

Posted by Matt at 12:39 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 29, 2005

Memorial Day Sunday

Charlie Hall provided worship this morning as he and his band are in town for Spirit West Coast this weekend. We were blessed this morning to have an Air Force Captain, Navy SEAL Chief, Navy Captain, and Marine Corps Master Seargent share with us from the word and offer a prayer for our church and nation. The sermon was, appropriately, Memorial Day focused.

In closing our pastor alerted our church to something disturbing. Our church has occupied an old middle school leased by the local public schoold district. The 20 year lease is about up and the district wants to use the property for a charter school. We built a state of the art gymnasium and upgraded the facilities extensively, so it's no wonder they want it back.

We bought a property in a light industrial/business park area of the City. The zoning conditionally permits churches, so we applied for a conditional use permit. The City has granted a 5-year *UNRENEWABLE* conditional use permit. I'm sure there is more to it than that, but our pastor is gearing our church (the largest in San Diego) up for a fight with the City that has a record of decisions unfriendly to religion (Boy Scouts and Mt. Soledad Cross). With San Diego's massive fiscal problems, the last thing the City should be looking for is a prolonged legal fight. I'm certain that we will mount a massive challenge based on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. All we want to do is worship free on land we purchased, free of government intrusion.

We're in prayer, but I have to tell you that the attitude among congregants seems to be - Bring It On!

Posted by Rick at 02:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 28, 2005


Just found a great SoCal blog: HolyCoast.com

Posted by Rick at 08:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Our Advertisers

I'd like to use this space to draw attention to our advertisers. Lynne Gale of Art Interests Great and Small has been a faithful supporter of SCO since the beginning. Other advertisers come and go, but we always appreciate their support and hope that our readers visit their sites and check out their products.

If you notice, we have a new adverstisement slot on our left column. This slot is for package deals established by Henry Copeland of Blogads. SCO has been added to the Blogads "Evangelical Alliance" and is frequently included in proposals for other clients seeking to market their products to a particular niche. Thanks Henry for the support!

SCO doesn't get rich from blogads, but it does help us pay our debts. We still owe Ray a bit for the site design and we will pay him before any of us recoup our other start-up costs. If you are a regular SCO reader, please visit our advertisers' webpages and learn more about the services or products they offer.

From SCO to our advertisers, thank you!

Posted by Rick at 04:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Star Wars

I finally got around to seeing Episode III this week. It was entertaining, but I'm still unsettled on my overall opinion. George Lucas is a horrible storyteller. The dialogue was awful at times and the CGI effects were just too much. That said, the movie has a lot of positives - Ewan McGregor, the final battle scenes, wookies - that make it worth seeing. The biggest issue for me is still the gaping holes of logic as it concerns the Force. Lucas has invented a religion that he can't figure out, and we're all having to suffer along with him.

Posted by Matt at 11:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


Major League Baseball has caught the blog fever. They have a site, MLBlogs.com, where fans can sign up and start a blog. Tommy Lasorda has a blog. So does Brooks Robinson. Interesting experiment.

Posted by Rick at 12:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 27, 2005

Friday Night Movies

Mark gives a thumbs up to Mulan II. I haven't seen it, so I'll take his word for it. Like Mark though, I watched a movie with my kids tonight: Miracle of the White Stallions starring Robert Taylor, Lilli Palmer, Curt Jurgens, Eddie Albert, James Franciscus. No clue what year its from, but it's old enough that I didn't recognize a single actor. It kept my attention for a couple hours. I wish I could say the same for the wife and kids...

Posted by Rick at 11:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Mulan II is Worth Watching

I just finished watching Mulan II with the kids while my wife got some needed R&R outside of the house. The movie has much of the "me over all" philosophy that infects so many Disney movies of recent vintage. However, on an overall basis, the movie is redeemed, indeed, more than redeemed, by one particular scene. (For those of you who have seen the movie, it's the scene over the gorge when they are hanging by the rope.) A better example of sacrificial love in a movie, cartoon or no, would be difficult to find. Mulan II is worth watching with your kids. Or, previewing for when you have kids.

Posted by Mark at 09:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Around the ‘sphere: Truth, Marriage, Religious Liberty, and Border Control

Total Truth: Daddypundit blogs for Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth. This substantial work by my former Prison Fellowship colleague is getting a lot of blog play.

Adventures in Holy Matrimony: Julie Ann Fiedler, whose blog Fidler One the Roof I’ve been reading since my first week of blogging last October, has a new book coming out June 7 titled Adventures In Holy Matrimony. Julie says: “It's a memoir-type of book, about the many, large, bizarre challenges my husband and I faced in the early years of our marriage, and our story of how we came back from the brink of divorce. I wrote this thing because when my own marriage was troubled, I couldn't find any good relationship books that weren't "the white picket fence kind."

What is Valid Religion?: Guess the Alliance Defense Fund should plug its nose and take up for the Wiccans in this bizarre Indiana court ruling, reported by Ed at In the Agora.

Border Control Strategy: Does someone have a cogent explanation of why we do not control our borders? Is the Hispanic voting bloc that strong? Are we sure Hispanics who have come to the U.S. legally don’t want us to guard the borders? LaShawn’s has been on this case for a while. She says, “There is no border control strategy.”

Posted by Jim at 07:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Moderate Party in the U.S. Parliament

Doesn’t this banding of Democrats leaning right and Republicans leaning left have the feel of a third party? Perhaps the Moderate Party. The Band of 14 throwing its weight around, offering its strength to whichever party yields to its will, resembles the parliamentary system. Get Bill First a powdered wig and lets see where it goes.

Posted by Jim at 07:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Just thought you all should know...

...Rangers are in first place! It's shaping up to be a great summer and I hope it will be a very exciting fall.

Posted by Rick at 01:29 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 26, 2005

Al-Zarqawi Rumors

I’ve heard rumors for a while now that Al-Zarqawi was wounded during Operation Matador. Officials in the Iraqi government (as well as some American officials) now think there is some truth to rumors.

On a related note, Doug Payton of Considerettes caught an interesting point from Christopher Hitchens who comments on a recent New York Times article that can't figure out why the Iraqi "insurgency" keeps getting worse and worse. Yeah, I know Doug...Your post is a week old, but I'm a bit slow.

Posted by Rick at 10:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Runaway Justice: Making Cold Feet and Bad Judgment a Crime

If you’ve followed SCO you may recall that I am a resident of Gwinnett County, Georgia, home of the 2005 heroine (Ashley Smith of the courtroom murder drama) and the female villain (Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride).

I also posted last week about my experience as jury foreman in a criminal trial here in Gwinnett.

I am disgusted that the district attorney forced and a grand jury bit on a two-count indictment yesterday against Wilbanks, with the potential for seven years in prison if convicted.

Oh to be on the jury for the Jennifer Wilbanks trial.

This is an absolute travesty of justice based on public anger at Wilbanks for wasting their time and costing the citizens of Gwinnett some money. This is nothing about the law. At the very worst this should be a civil case to try to recover some of the money spent looking for Wilbanks.

The only folks that would have a potential case against Wilbanks would be the police in New Mexico. She lied to them and caused them to take some action. But they were smart enough to recognize that this was not a criminal at work, but a messed up young woman who needed to go home and get help.

As her story to the Albuquerque police was about to unravel, Wilbanks called the police here in Gwinnett County and related her false story of abduction. But she—-and the fictional perpetrators—-were in New Mexico, not Georgia.

No Gwinnett police officer had to leave a Dunkin Donuts; no district attorney had to leave the golf course. At that point no public employee had to do anything but take a phone message.

And they’ve indicted this space cadet for a felony.

A lot of people are mad at Wilbanks for fooling them, and for costing Duluth, Georgia $40,000. But the call she made to police at the end of the saga didn’t cost anyone anything.

Leave her alone. Let her get help. This has become the case of runaway justice. What an embarassment.

UPDATE: It gets worse. I just read the article on this in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was reminded that Wilbanks did not call the Duluth police. She called home (or her fiance's home) and while she was on the phone, the Duluth police chief rushed to the house and got on an extension. That's how he got the false report, with which he could do nothing! Sham indictment.

Posted by Jim at 08:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Capitalism at Work

I am a resident of the state of Georgia and my brother-in-law, a missionary in Russia, is engaged to marry a young woman from the republic of Georgia. So I was drawn to a post by Sean at The American Mind that points to a fascinating piece (titled Georgia is Larger Than Georgia) at Club for Growth. It charts the GNP of U.S. states compared to the nations of the world. (also noted by Karol at Alarming News).

The GNP of Georgia, the American state, is 21 times larger than Georgia, the country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union ($320B vs. $15B).

The GNP of the United States is nearly double that of China, which has a population three times that of our country. But capitalism is surging in China. Check back in 10 years.

Posted by Jim at 07:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Theocracy is not Conservative

Liberals fear that religious conservatives are trying to impose a theocracy because they are wired to involve the government in all solutions. In this line of thinking, God needs government to accomplish His will and His way. To impose a theocracy (if that were really possible now) is quite un-conservative, though a tidy way to assure religious adherence.

Kent at Trolling in Shallow Water has a good discussion of the topic, and points us to a great column by Jonah Goldberg that includes this:

Contrary to all the bloviating jackassery about how conservatives are more dogmatic than liberals we hear these days, the simple fact is that conservatives don't have a settled dogma. How could they when each faction has a different partial philosophy of life? The beauty of the conservative movement [as Buckley noted] is that we all get along with each other pretty well. The chief reason for this is that we all understand and accept the permanence of contradiction and conflict in life. Christians and Jews understand it because that's how God set things up. Libertarians understand it because the market is, by definition, a mechanism for amicably reconciling competing preferences. Agnostic, rain-sodden British pessimists understand it because they've learned that's always the way to bet. Conservatism isn't inherently pessimistic, it is merely pessimistic about the possibility of changing the permanent things and downright melancholy about those who try.

Posted by Jim at 07:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2005

Christianity and Myth

In a reprinted Star Wars piece, Al Mohler quotes the great Carl F.H. Henry, who once said: "Judeo-Christian revelation has nothing in common with the category of myth."

Professors Tolkien and Lewis would likely take issue.

Posted by Matt at 12:04 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Quick Hits

The filibuter compromise was a very dumb, opportunistic move on the part of Senators McCain, Graham and Warner. I'll say more later, but I stridently disagree with my pro-compromise colleagues.

That said, as bad as the compromise is, it's no worse than American Idol, which may in fact be the worst show ever created.

Season finale of Lost tonight. Woohoo.

Posted by Matt at 11:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

The Filibuster Deal: Compromise Isn’t Always a Bad Word

I was late in coming to the position that the nuclear option should be used to coerce Democrats into playing fair on judicial nominees. My fear all along has been that the Republicans would regret the day that the power of the filibuster was weakened; on that day when they need it. This assumes that the Republicans will not always be the majority in the Senate, a bet I’d be willing to make. There is an arrogance that comes with victory, and with having the strong arm in the all three Houses—Senate, Representative, and White.

I came around during the Terri Schiavo case, when an unresponsive and irresponsible judiciary irked me.

So, my approval of The Deal may be suspect. Perhaps I am a Moderate. Oh, my. But on most issues I am probably a moderate only in comparison to a very hard right.

Although we'll hear a lot about how The Deal solves nothing and about how the weak-kneed Republican leadership failed, it appears that the potential downsides of the deal are much greater for the Democrats. Although the Republicans may have to fight the same battles again, it is more likely that the Democrats will have to go along with an up/down vote for candidates that they would have otherwise threatened to filibuster. They will look disingenuous if candidates they filibuster meet the Owen/Brown/Pryor standard.

I believe it was wise to compromise, that it is a good deal for the Republicans, and that there some progress on assuring fairness in the President’s appointment of his own judges. If we can continue on that track without messing with Senate rules, that is preferable.

Posted by Jim at 02:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

NRO Gets it Right

National Review Online has editorialized about why the deal on the filibuster is not a good deal. It's spot on.

In essence, the problem is that when, not if, but when, the deal goes bust, the wording of the deal will be worse for Republicans than it will be for Democrats, all of whom, including the seven in the deal, need merely say that they are "voting their conscience." Once the Democrat Seven "vote their consciences," then Republicans will have to decide whether (i) to take it and have another nomination filibustered or (ii) to change the rules to end the rule of the minority. The risk of number two is that it will take collective action, whereas the Democrats only need engage in 41 individual actions. Thus, the Republican caucus will have to take the formal step that breaks the deal. Republicans will, not may, but will, be labeled as the "dealbreakers," with all the negative publicity that such a move will engender. Given the guts that Republicans have shown thus far on the overall issue, is there any serious person who thinks that the Republicans would take option two and "break the deal." No. Instead, another nominee will be filibustered. Meanwhile, six to nine months will have passed . . . and nothing will have been accomplished, other than three judges getting confirmed.

Update: Put another way, here is what each side can say is what they have achieved tangibly based on the deal today, even if it goes bust:

Democrats: We have preserved the ability to filibuster judicial nominees for the price of caving on three judges. What did we head off? Republicans could have simply changed the rules and run the table on the judges, gettting most if not all of them approved.

Republicans: We get three judges!!!!

Update II: Roll Call is reporting that the Congressional Black Caucaus is not happy with the deal and hopes that Senators ignore it. (Subscription required for full story. Thanks to my friend Brian for the news tip.)

Posted by Mark at 01:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The New York Times: Seeking Your Trust

The New York Times published an internal critique last week titled Preserving Our Readers’ Trust, conducted by a self-named Credibility Group headed by Allan Seigel.

Most of the report makes recommendations that will help the paper take advantage of new technologies and do better and more accurate reporting. So most of the report misses the mark, because it does not deal with the central issues that have caused the Times to violate the trust of its readers—an insular, elitist worldview and blatant bias.

But on the last page of the report, the study group hits on some of the real issues. (h/t: Terry Mattingly)

In a section titled Diversifying Our Vantage Point, the report reads:

Too often we label whole groups from a perspective that uncritically accepts a stereotype or unfairly marginalizes them. As one reporter put it, words like moderate or centrist "inevitably incorporate a judgment about which views are sensible and which are extreme." We often apply "religious fundamentalists," another loaded term, to political activists who would describe themselves as Christian conservatives.

We particularly slip into these traps in feature stories when reporters and editors think they are merely presenting an interesting slice of life, with little awareness of the power of labels. We need to be more vigilant about the choice of language not only in the text but also in headlines, captions and display type.

Many staff members say that the paper covers breaking news well, but that it needs to take additional steps to cover the country in a fuller way. The national desk is already moving in this direction, but we encourage more reporting from the middle of the country, from exurbs and hinterland, and more coverage of social, demographic, cultural and lifestyle issues. We would also welcome even more enterprise reporting beyond New York, Washington and a handful of other major cities.

Nothing we recommend should be seen as endorsing a retreat from tough-minded reporting of abuses of power by public or private institutions. In part because the Times's editorial page is clearly liberal, the news pages do need to make more effort not to seem monolithic. Both inside and outside the paper, some people feel that we are missing stories because our staff lacks diversity in viewpoints, intellectual grounding and individual backgrounds. We should look for all manner of diversity. We should seek talented journalists who happen to have military experience, who know rural America first hand, who are at home in different faiths.

A candid analysis and recommendations that the Times would be wise to heed.

As Mattingly writes in his weekly column, the cover of the report should have had the famous New Yorker illustration, which demonstrates the self-focus of New Yorkers, but notably also fails to include even one church steeple.

As the Times’ study group has pointed out, the paper—and all of MSM—need to more aggressively seek out the steeples that not only dot the New York and the national landscape but animate the lives and dreams of all of America.

Posted by Jim at 08:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Brilliant Political Move

I heard the news hours ago, read a few posts, contemplated, went to Home Depot and got some sand paper, then read some more. My initial assessment: The Memorandum of Understanding is a brilliant political move for the Republican Party.

I submit my opinion to SCO readers as a principled supporter of the Constitutional Option. Politics is rarely the friend of principle and tonight’s compromise is no exception to this maxim. I must view the compromise through the lense of pragmatism and what I see looks good for my party.

We may never know whether Frist had the votes; in fact, I think this compromise suggests that no one truly knew how the votes would fall. If Frist called for the vote and the rule change failed, he would look terribly weak and the party would face bitter division. If the rule was changed, Reid and the Democrats would look like helpless whiners and be forced to engage in petty procedural tactics to stall and obstruct further.

With this deal the Republicans are forced to concede a principled position – that all nominees sent to the floor should receive an up or down vote – but this is not a position overwhelmingly supported by Republicans as suggested by internal Republican Party polling in late April.

The Democrats, on the other hand, spent the last few years and a tremendous amount of political capital branding fine conservative jurists Priscilla R. Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William H. Pryor Jr. as right-wing extremists. Borrowing from the language of the deal, they are by the Democrats’ own definition, the most “extraordinary” of Bush’s nominees.

Two judges will be sacrificed, William G. Myers III of Idaho and Henry Saad of Michigan, but I’m not clear if they are subject to the “extraordinary circumstances” rule. It would seem that they are not, but the rule would be applied to future nominees.

But who are these judges?

I have to admit, I have no clue. I’m willing to bet that most Americans have no clue either. Thanks to the Democrats, many Americans know Priscilla R. Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William H. Pryor Jr. The very nominees that the obstructionists have worked so hard to convince America were scum of the earth will now get a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.

The bar has been set and it has been set very high. Any future Bush nominee, whether Circuit or Supreme, will have to be clearly more “extreme” than Owen, Brown, and Pryor. Senator Mike DeWine sent a signal that I hope will be echoed by other Senate Republicans that abuse of the “extraordinary circumstances” rules will not be tolerated. The Dems won’t have several years to frame a future Bush nominee, say a nominee to the Supreme Court, in this light.

Josh Micah Marshal is asking the right question: “Can this agreement really withstand the appointment of another hard right nominee?” I think not, especially when it will be virtually impossible to be more “hard right” than the nominees the Democrats just allowed to go to the floor for a vote.

Unless there is a hidden agreement to vote no on Owen, Brown, or Pryor, I’m inclined to think that tonight’s Memorandum of Understanding is a brilliant political move for the Republican Party.

UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin and Fraters Libertas readers! I'd like to note that Jim Jewell and Mark Daniels agree with my assessment, but Mark Sides and Matt Stokes dissent.

Be sure to read Mark's two posts on the subject here and here.

UPDATE II: Jim finds wisdom in compromise as does Professor Bainbridge. (HT: Dilley Blog)

Posted by Rick at 02:16 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Status Quo Preserved

As you likely know by now, a group of Republicans and Democrats have made a deal to preserve the Senate filibuster on judicial nominations. As is to be expected,Confirm Them has a boatload of analysis. Sierra Faith is doing yeoman's work on rounding up the reaction from the right side of the blogosphere. The general response, with some exception, is very negative.

My analysis: A group of Republicans are very afraid that someday, perhaps, maybe, possibly, enough judges who didn't drink the kool-aid in law school on Roe v. Wade may actually throw the issue of abortion back to the political process where it belongs. That possibility, however slight, is much more terrifying to those Republicans than any other issue they can think of. They reacted accordingly.

Posted by Mark at 12:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hope and its Daughters

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver delivered a very fine keynote address at the Second Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on May 20th in Washington, D.C. Chaput's comments cover the role of a Catholic in civil society. Although addressed to mostly Catholics, the remarks could have been directed to Christians in general. Here is a sample, but you should really read the whole address:

St Augustine, who had such a deep influence on the mind of our new Holy Father, once wrote that, "Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are." Are we angry enough about what's wrong with the world -- the killing of millions of unborn children through abortion; the neglect of the poor and the elderly; the mistreatment of immigrants in our midst; the abuse of science in embryonic stem cell research? Do we really have the courage of our convictions to change those things?

The opposite of hope is cynicism, and cynicism also has two daughters. Their names are indifference and cowardice. In renewing ourselves in our faith, what Catholics need to change most urgently is the habit and rhetoric of cowardice we find in our own personal lives, in our national political life, and sometimes even within the Church herself. [Hmm, this last part sounds vaguely familiar.]

Chaput's main point is that, as Christians, we have a duty to involve ourselves in the political process and that our participation should be informed by our Christian beliefs. Thus, we are Christians participating in the process, not conservatives, nor liberals, not Republicans, nor Democrats:

What we really believe, we conform our lives to. And if we don't conform our lives to what we claim to believe, then we're living a lie.

Food for thought for all Christians, regadless of your particular political stripe.

Posted by Mark at 12:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 23, 2005

New Blog: Putting for Par

Dave Haveman has joined the blogging ranks with his new blog Putting for Par. Dave looks to be off to a good start. Give it a look.

Posted by Mark at 11:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hot Rod

MLB.com has a nice article about my cousin.

Posted by Rick at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senate Sleepover

Bill Frist could invoke the Constitutional Option as early as tomorrow morning and cots for Senators are being set up in the Capitol for Republican senators who are planning a long night. Minority Leader Harry Reid and Democrat Ken “Up or Down…NOT!” Salazar are grim on the prospects of a last minute compromise.

Reid threatened to block the bipartisan asbestos bill making its way through the Senate. According to the MSNBC reporter:

The legislation, being championed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and the senior Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. is a priority for people with mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by inhaling asbestos fibers, as well as for the insurance industry and corporations with big asbestos liabilities.
This has to be great news for Republicans. There is a reason why Tom Daschle was sent packing. There’s a reason why Republican Senatorial candidates got more votes in November than Democratic Senatorial candidates and picked up four seats. Elections have consequences. If the Democratic response to the Constitutional Option is more obstruction, I say why wait until morning!

Posted by Rick at 06:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Most Dangerous Entanglement of Church and State

The most dangerous entanglement of church and state in the current Administration was not the prayer at the Inauguration, or Christian evangelism at the Air Force Academy, or the lobbying by overtly Christian groups on the issue of filibuster.

It was the establishment of the Office of Faith-based Initiatives in 2001.

This was one of President Bush’s first official acts, and I believe it was prompted by his personal faith and his confidence in the non-profit, and specifically the faith-based, organizations.

The Office was tasked at its inception with leading a "determined attack on need" by strengthening and expanding the role of faith-based and community organizations in addressing the nation's social problems. The President envisions a faith-friendly public square where faith-based organizations can compete equally with other groups to provide government or privately-funded services.

Sounds warm and fuzzy, but we thought this was a bad idea from the start, and that it was short-sighted for Christian organizations and churches to applaud this well-intentioned, but flawed, initiative. It may be that the War on Terror derailed the Faith-based Initiative, because not much has become of the effort.

Writing at The Rooftop Blog, Debbie called for the elimination of the OFBI, because it is unfair to taxpayers, and because it is dangerous for Christian ministries. She wrote:

If the government gives contracts and funding to faith-based organizations, those organizations will of necessity turn into today’s YMCA. (Does anyone even remember that the “C” stands for Christian? I doubt The Village People did.) Faith-based organizations will not be able to witness to those they assist. They will not have the right to refuse to hire people who do no subscribe to the tenants of the stated faith of the organization or church. They will not be able to pray in Jesus’ name before they feed their hundreds of clients. And rightly so, because part of their money will have come from people who do not support those beliefs, and from people who are vehemently opposed to them.

I have heard leaders of faith-based organizations say, “Yes, we’ll take the money provided there are no strings attached.” How arrogant. How selfish. They want the right to take the money from gays and Buddhists, then determine how the money is spent – ways that many gays or Buddhists would despise. They are thinking of only the recipient (themselves) and not the giver (the taxpayer).

Even if the rules for faith-based organizations would be flexible now due to an empathetic Administration, they are likely to change down the road, recognizing that the giver of the money has the right to determine the rules and how the money is spent. Rules that atheists and pro-choicers and Jews can live with. And those rules of necessity will say that an organization cannot preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified with money that came from the personal pocket of the local Rabbi. And when you are dependent on money that becomes 30% or 60% of your budget, will you be able refuse further issuance of that money, and look in the face of the one you are serving and say, “I can’t serve you today?” Will you have the courage to pay the piper, cut that money you are now dependent on out of the budget--thereby cutting your services--and start a new fund-raising program to replace that government money and rebuild your organization?

Faith-based organizations would do well to take the high road. If money is offered from the government, refuse it and instead rely on the One you say is sufficient to meet your needs, and Who will do so for the purpose of making your ministry prosper. The One who gave you that ministry in the first place.

Tom at NewsWithViews agreed:

"A word to the wise: if you are a faith-based charity performing a valuable service providing for those in need, stay away from federal funds. Your program will survive on willing private contributions. If you accept federal dollars to pay for your program then you deserve what you get."

Much more on this topic, with many links here at FailureIsImpossible.

The liberals and secularists oppose the OFBI, but for the wrong reasons. When church and state become enmeshed, it is the church, not the state, that is endangered.

Posted by Jim at 09:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Newsweek in the Toilet

The Newsweek story is a bit old by now, but I don't think we've written about it here at SCO yet, so why not jump in with a few thoughts. First, I can't say that I'm surprised. I've blogged about visceral bias in the MSM before and will continue to blog about it until I find some time to sit down and formulate a more coherent theory supported by analysis of a dataset for a manuscript.

And second, the US Government shouldn't directly censure/censor Newsweek, although I think the DOJ should do whatever it can to help the government of Pakistan and/or the families of those killed in the riots incited by the Newsweek story file suit in US Court against the publication. Okay, I admit that I have no idea whether what I suggest here is possible or even prudent. But, it's my gut reaction after catching up on the story that I had to ignore this week due to finals.

Newsweek did America great harm. For that, they should pay. I suppose Americans should cancel their subscriptions as well, but that should go without saying.

As you may have noticed, I didn't touch on the facts of the story. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please visit just about any of the major bloggers, but I found Daddypundit's couple posts informative to start.

UPDATE: It looks like I’m not the only one who thinks that Newsweek is at risk of legal action.

Posted by Rick at 06:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 22, 2005

Supermajority Required to Reject Presidential Nominees?

I haven’t had time to check this out, but Instapundit seems to have endorsed this find by Anne Althouse that Madison actually proposed and the founders discussed requiring a supermajority vote of the Senate to deny a Presidential appointment. Betsy Newmark has more.

Posted by Rick at 08:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Santorum's New Book

This looks interesting.

Posted by Matt at 03:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mt Soledad Cross and War Memorial

Another City of San Diego church-state issue made news this week. The spineless City Council will put a referendum to save the Soledad Mountain cross to a citywide vote. The Council could have simply approved the land transfer from City to federal land, but instead passed the buck. (HT: Michelle Malkin).

Posted by Rick at 03:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Assault on the Boy Scouts

In January 2004, the City of San Diego caved to the ACLU and agreed to pay them $950,000 and terminate their lease with the Boy Scouts. The ACLU claimed that the City's $1/year lease of a part of Balboa Park was unconstitutional because the Scouts are a religious organization. The Boy Scouts carried the lease for nearly 50 years and maintained the property for the City. A U.S. District Judge agreed with the ACLU ruling that there was "overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence" that the Boy Scouts are a "religious organization."

On Wednesday, a panel of scholars and lawyers debated the Constitutionality of leasing public land to the Boy Scouts. Lowell Brown of The Hedgehog Blog alerted his readers to the event's webcast. Lowell's post drew a lengthy comment from Eric Isaacson of Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, one of the panelists. Lowell elevated Mr. Isaacson's comments to a post and provided a few responses that are worth checking out.

I'm solidly behind the Scouts in this matter and my City Council makes me sick. Earlier today, my son's Little League team took the field. Just before the opening pitch, the boys and girls took to the baselines, removed their caps, turned their attention the American flag, and said the Little League pledge, which begins: I TRUST IN GOD. They did this on public parkland provided to Little League by the City at a great price in exchange for maintenance. Is Little League the next great institution of this great land to be targeted by the ACLU and our liberal courts?

Next week the Senate may go Constitutional on the obstructionist Democrats. I only hope that Senate Republicans have more spine than my City Council. Hugh Hewitt, ConfirmThem, and Hedgehog Blog will keep you informed.

Posted by Rick at 01:37 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 20, 2005

Getting Old

Earlier this month, my wife plucked two gray hairs from my head. At least I still have a few hairs to pluck! Although graying hair and male pattern baldness aren't typical of a man in his late twenties, these aren't the signs that I'm getting old. My wife just called with my son to sing happy birthday. She forgot all about my birthday this morning as we spent about 20 minutes together before I dashed off to work. Now I know that I'm getting old!

I received the best birthday present on Wednesday - more time. With finals complete, I am looking forward to summer and can again turn my attention to current events. So, what's going on in the world? A blogger shouldn't have to ask that question (sigh).

Posted by Rick at 10:37 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 19, 2005

Words to Ponder

Whilst reading my Mars Hill Audio Addenda for May (not yet online), I came across an article entitled Christianity and Culture, by J. Gresham Machen, with this intriguing opening that I think gets at the heart of some of the concerns I have about two movements within the Church today:

One of the greatest of the problems that ha[s] agitated the Church is the problem of the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity. This problem has appeared first of all in the presence of two tendencies in the Church—the scientific or academic tendency, and what may be called the practical tendency.
Some men have devoted themselves chiefly to the task of forming right conceptions as to Christianity and its foundations. To them no fact, however trivial, has appeared worthy of neglect; by them truth has been cherished for its own sake, without immediate reference to practical consequences. Some, on the other hand, have emphasized the essential simplicity of the gospel. The world is lying in misery, we ourselves are sinners, men are perishing in sin every day. The gospel is the sole means of escape; let us preach it to the world while yet we may. So desperate is the need that we have no time to engage in vain babblings or old wives’ fables. While we are discussing the exact location of the churches of Galatia, men are perishing under the curse of the law; while we are settling the date of Jesus’ birth, the world is doing without its Christmas message.

The representatives of both of these tendencies regard themselves as Christians, but too often there is little brotherly feeling between them. The Christian of academic tastes accuses his brother of undue emotionalism, of shallow argumentation, of cheap methods of work. On the other hand, your practical man is ever loud in his denunciation of academic indifference to the dire needs of humanity. The scholar is represented either as a dangerous disseminator of doubt, or else as a man whose faith is a faith without works. A man who investigates human sin and the grace of God by the aid of dusty volumes, carefully secluded in a warm and comfortable study, without a thought of the men who are perishing in misery every day!

I think that Machen has eloquently stated the feelings of, and problems with, the extremes of both camps. On the one hand are those who want to out-Calvin Calvin and, to a greater or lesser degree, exhibit an "unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind." (1 Tim. 6:4-5) On the other side, equally dangerous, are those who are so wrapped up in emotivism that they "believe every spirit," and fail to utilize the reason that God gave them to "test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)

Both extremes, then, are dangerous to the body, which is why I think so many are attracted to the concept of the Mere Christianity outlined so eloquently by C.S. Lewis. Lewis, as well as others like G.K. Chesterton, managed to take a reasoned approach to Christianity, while maintaining a love for the world and its inhabitants. They also did it in a winsome and winning way.

Kudos to J. Gresham Machen, then, for putting our modern American Christian dilemma so well into perspective. Kudos, in particular, to his prescience. He gave this talk, after all, in 1912 at Princeton University.

It just goes to show that some things don't necessarily change.

Posted by Mark at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Not the Real Thing: Pepsi President Flips Out

As a present day Atlantan and as an American I’m more than happy to link to Hugh Hewitt’s post on Pepsico President Indra Nooyi's "America is the middle finger" speech at Columbia University graduation. How injudicious, unpatriotic, and amazingly juvenile for a commencement speech. It’s worth a look.

Posted by Jim at 06:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Trial by Jury

A tall, soft-spoken, 62-year-old Jamaican immigrant spent last night in the Gwinnett County Jail because I joined 11 other citizens of the county in convicting him of aggravated assault in a March 2 attack on his wife of two years, when an argument over money got out of hand.

After two days of intense testimony and deliberation, I was the foreman of a jury of mostly young people who found “Alfie” guilty of grabbing his short, stocky and combative wife by hair, punching her, and wielding a knife and waving it threateningly.

His wife’s daughter-in-law jumped on him and no one was stabbed. The overly dramatic and reasonably obnoxious defense attorney (as a jury we joked about asking the judge for permission to indict him for being a drama king) said the slight Vietnamese daughter-in-law could never have stopped Alfie from stabbing Dolores, if he’d wanted to. That’s possible; we’ll never know. What is clear is that he was holding her down on the stove by the hair and waving a knife in her face.

There was a 911 tape that made the case for the prosecutor, in that it captured the terror of the two women. It really defined terror. And it corroborated the testimony of the police officer and the daughter-in-law.

The two Jamaicans were a disaster on the witness stand. Neither could answer questions directly. It’s probably a cultural trait, although perhaps it was just these two individuals. The wife was particularly maddening. She was the last witness the first day of the trial, and I think we all went home thinking we’d acquit the guy, and in our minds figured we’d count living with this overbearing woman as “time-served.”

But the defense brought the defendant, Alfie, to the stand the next day. Although he was much more likeable, his story was ridiculously fictionalized. It didn’t match any of the other evidence and made it sound like he and his wife were discussing poetry in the kitchen on the afternoon of the incident.

Bad decision by the defense. Another bad move by the defense counsel was in his closing argument. His central argument was that his defendant was 62, and that the rules are different for someone 62. He really said that, several times. “When you’re 62, the rules are different.” I still can’t figure out what he meant by that. It sounded like the argument for some government program, where the rules are different for some groups that are old or poor or illegal immigrants, or gay.

No, we compared the evidence to the indictment, and the rules weren’t different for Alfie, although he was 62, affable, and simple.

As a jury we didn’t think the prosecution was able to prove three other counts—aggravated assault on the daughter-in-law and two counts of making dangerous threats, called “terroristic threats.”

We were unanimous on one count of guilty, and three counts not-guilty. No jury room arguments or stubborn hold-outs. No arm twisting.

So Alfie went to jail to await sentencing, and we went home for dinner.

But the trial will not go away in my mind. Surprisingly, it is a heavy weight to stand in judgment on another human being. There was a solemn responsibility that we felt to rule justly. We recognized that we would be altering the life of this generally likeable man—he didn’t have any previous convictions—if we found him guilty. But he had clearly snapped, and may do it again and put these women in further danger if he was not punished for what he had clearly done.

I prayed for Alfie last night, that God might be with him and redirect his life. And I prayed for peace in the family.

Posted by Jim at 09:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Evangelism, the Left, and the Air Force Academy

From time to time it seems as though there can be no meaningful discourse in American public life, particularly between those of diverse philosophies, faiths, or worldviews. It is easy to diagnose this as an inability of the Red States and Blue States to communicate, because red values and blue values are so drastically different. And there is some truth to that.

But perhaps more accurately, we are many red and blue islands, not necessarily geographic, but spiritual, economic, racial, and social. The islands have their own communications channels; their own books, magazines, and newspapers; their own churches, social gatherings, television shows, and political parties.

I’ve seen this kind of an island for many years in the evangelical Christian community. Having been raised in a Christian home, educated in a Christian college, and working much of my career in Christian organizations, I have met many, many believers who cannot identify one non-Christian friend. Or even a non-Christian acquaintance with whom they’ve had a meaningful conversation. In fact, many conservative Christians have never knowingly had a conversation with a homosexual person.

I confess all of this because I know that the flip side is also true—secular elites and many unchurched folks don’t have an evangelical friend or acquaintance. They’ve never met a authentic evangelical person. Most have never had a decent conversation with a serious Christian believer.

This all came to mind when I wrote a post on the criticism of Air Force Academy Christians. Seeing some of the visceral reaction on liberal blogs, I wondered who these bloggers were describing when they wrote about evangelical Christians.

The aggressive, take-no-prisoners evangelical zealots described in media coverage of the Air Force controversy bear no resemblance to 90 percent of the evangelicals I have met and played with, learned with, worked with, and worshipped with. I have been an evangelical Christian for 36 years. And since I have been working in what we call the evangelical cocoon, I have not been isolated from the trends and teachings of the evangelical community.

There are at least three things that we are taught within the evangelical cocoon about evangelism, or sharing your faith. (Never once have I ever heard it called prosyletizing by the church. It’s a word critics use to make it sound scary). First, in order to be obedient to instructions from Jesus Christ, we are taught, we must be a witness of our Christianity to others who are outside the faith. And it’s a joy—although most of us are uncomfortable with intruding on others’ personal privacy—because we believe we have the best news in the world.

Second, we are taught that individuals come to faith in Christ as a result of the moving of the Holy Spirit in them and it is our task only to present the good news with logic, emotion, anecdote, or personal reflection. We don’t bring anyone to faith in Christ. God does that.

Third, we learn that people who are turned off by us personally are not going to be receptive to what we are presenting. Converts at the edge of the sword are converts in name or number only. No one teaches us to badger seekers or use threats or intimidation. That’s a crazy evangelistic strategy.

Because the message of Jesus Christ is unwavering—“no one comes to the Father but by Me”—the Christian message is often characterized as arrogant. The message is clear and unchanging, but not boastful. When Christian believers are arrogant in their manner or words, they do damage to that faith. At those moments, they are an embarrassment to the Kingdom.

All that said, what is it that Americans for the Separation of Church and State, the New York Times and other MSM, and Yale Divinity School are talking about when they describe the activities of Christians at the Air Force Academy?

The NY Times describes what it sees at the Academy as “unconstitutional proselytizing of academy students by evangelists whose efforts were blessed by authority figures in the chain of command.” What is that? Is proselytizing unconstitutional? No, in fact it is unconstitutional to be” prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. Is it unconstitutional for the leaders of a military academy to bless the efforts of those who share their faith on campus? It would be only to the extent that it established one religion as the official religion of the academy or the military.

To avoid the appearance of the establishment of evangelical Christianity as the religion of the Academy there are legitimate lines that should not be crossed. No one should have their rights abridged because they are not adherents to a particular faith or if they have no faith at all.

But the free expression of faith, the open dialogue of all faiths, is not what is at stake here. My hunch is that Christian witnessing—Christians explaining the truths and benefits of trusting Jesus Christ—just grates on those who detest Christianity, or are repulsed by certainty.

The critics have mentioned several incidents:

In its analysis of the Academy’s actions, the Los Angeles Times quotes the Yale report: “During Protestant worship services, cadets were encouraged to proselytize to others and ‘remind them of the consequences of apostasy.’”

Wait. This is during the Protestant worship services! Is Yale suggesting that the administration of the Academy control the worship services? And look at their incendiary message: Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is Lord and that rejecting Him will have negative consequences.

We are in trouble as a nation if Christians cannot share that message everywhere and anywhere. The report continues: “Protestant Cadets were regularly encouraged to witness to fellow Basic Cadets.” Welcome to Evangelism 101. What a threat to the Republic. As I said earlier, this is what we are taught from our earliest days as Christians. Why did it become so shocking just because the men and women are wearing uniforms?

Passion of the Christ
The Times says there were flyers on dining hall chairs inviting cadets to view The Passion of the Christ. What strong arm tactics! How could these impressionable, vulnerable airmen resist such pressure?

Name Calling
Evidently, a Jewish cadet was called a “filthy Jew” by someone. That’s stupid and childish. But if it was an evangelical Christian, denigrating the Jewish people is totally out of line with the teachings of the church. There isn’t a faith group that has more respect for Jews and for Israel than evangelicals. Anyone who would take a little time to learn about evangelicals would know this. To include this in an analysis of the lines between church and state indicates the bias of the reporter.

Christians are not the persecuted minority in America and we shouldn’t act like it. But Christians are, interestingly, the constantly belittled and criticized majority.

When it comes to matters of faith, there is too much whining on the left and too much hand wringing on the right.

Frankly, if we—-as evangelicals—-took all of the opportunities presented to us each day to authentically and sensitively communicate our faith and our concern for others, the rapid expansion of the Christian community might scare the daylights out of those who think the armed forces that we rely on to defend our nation can’t possibly resist the spiritual entreaties of their colleagues.

Posted by Jim at 08:44 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 18, 2005

New Lost!

There's a new episode of Lost tonight. Excellent.

Posted by Matt at 04:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bono In Print

Thanks to comments like these at Looking Closer (a crucial site for Christians and culture), I can't wait to get a copy of Bono's new book.

And if anyone needs reminding, U2 is the best rock band of the last twenty-five years. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Posted by Matt at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2005

Showdown Over Filibuster Looms

A friend has sent me the latest story on the filibuster showdown from Roll Call, which story I cannot legally reproduce here, nor is there non-subscription access. The jist of the story, which is also being reported in other outlets, is that the Senate negotiations over whether the President's previous judicial nominees will receive a majority up or down vote are over. Unless a group of "moderate" Republicans and Democrats can broker another agreement, at some point Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Frist is expected to "call up the nominations of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown." The fireworks would then ensue. Among the many sites following this story is the excellent Confirm Them, which you should continue to check to keep up to date.

Posted by Mark at 01:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2005

Mohler vs. Hitchens

This is the first in what I hope becomes an ongoing examination of the evangelical approach to conservatism. The lack of evangelical presence within the conservative intellectual world is no accident, and I am eager to explore the reasons behind this development. Reader comments, e-mail and trackbacks are encouraged and appreaciated.

Though the relevant pieces are a week or so old, two recent works by Christopher Hitchens and Al Mohler reveal some interesting viewpoints on the part of a leading evangelical. Though Hitchens was recently described by Hugh Hewitt as being “center-left,” Hitchens is one of the most difficult pundits to categorize. The patient reader finds much to chew on concerning his work, even if he does not agree with the author. Mohler, too, is confusing in his own way. A leader of the Southern Baptist Convention with heavily Reformed leanings, he is a fine scholar. He is conservative, generally speaking, but Mohler has yet to come out as a anything resembling a Buckley or Kirk-style conservative. The closest parallel that I can find is that of the brilliant Catholic Richard John Neuhaus, though Neuhaus’ work has for a long time been more specifically political.

It was Mohler who brought the matter of Hitchens’ view of religious conservatives to his own blog, referring to the juxtaposition of contrasting articles by Hitchens and James Taranto concerning religious conservatives that recently appeared in OpinionJournal. Hitchens’ piece clearly discusses his disagreement with, if not his disdain towards, Christianity. Nothing new there; Hitchens' atheism is well-documented. Hitchens goes on to demonstrate his opposition to a “shallow, demagogic and above all sectarian religiosity.” It is worth mentioning that the only evangelical leaders mentioned in his article are Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. In his own analysis, Mohler would have done well to acknowledge this tidbit. Hitchens points towards two thinkers who have been influential in modern American conservatism: Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss. Both were non-religious if not atheistic, and Hitchens is acknowledging that conservatism has heretofore allowed such thinking into its tent. (Readers interested in the fumbling talk of Pat Robertson should follow this link to the Evangelical Outpost.)

Mohler’s disagreement with Hitchens is muddled, in my own view, simply because in many cases Mohler’s point is unclear. Hitchens cites Barry Goldwater as a model conservative, a point duly noted by Mohler. Would Mohler disagree with this? I should hope not, but if so, there’s a lot of conservative – many of whom are religious believers – who would jump to Hitchens’ and Goldwater’s defense. Whereas Hitchens merely denounces a particular religious approach to politics, Mohler claims that Hitchens seeks a Right willing to denounce all believers. This is nonsense. Hitchen’s citing of Rand and Strauss is simply a demonstration of the fact that conservatism, while rooted in a Judeo-Christian ethos, has never been an idea exclusive to those who profess Christ. The Christian Russell Kirk would agree with this, as he included the works of nonbelievers, Benjamin Franklin and John Locke, to name two, in The Portable Conservative Reader. Hitchens himself defended religious conservatives (in his own unique manner) in this post-election piece for Slate.

Dr. Mohler is a wise man, and I wish very much that all evangelical leaders possessed his level of knowledge. Yet at the risk of sounding like a certain boor from Massachusetts, I wish his own writing bore a trace of nuance. Hitchens may be philosophically at odds with the Christian faith, but does not suggest that Christians stay quiet in their churches while the atheists run the land. He does, however, disapprove of a certain political approach that is embodied in the Falwells, Robertsons and perhaps even Dobsons of the world. It is not likely that Hitchens would take such umbrage at the political work of Neuhaus or Chuck Colson. While I do not fully agree with Hitchens, it is disappointing that Mohler cannot understand the differences between Robertson and Neuhuas. Until such distinctions can be made and articulated, it is unlikely that the evangelical influence on politics will progress beyond a grass roots campaign.

Posted by Matt at 07:29 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Darfur Collection

Catez at AllThings2All is presenting The Darfur Collection, a number of posts on the genocide in Darfur, including one written here last week. Please check this out and do what you can to keep this issue alive in the blogosphere.

Posted by Jim at 05:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Doug Bass Wants to Apprehend More

Doug Bass, a fellow Minnesotan, has launched a new blog entitled Apprehension. To find out why he closed down his old blog Belief Seeking Understanding, and why the Swiss Guard is a bit worried about Doug, check out his first post.

Posted by Mark at 01:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Godcasts Getting Attention

One of the hottest trends in podcasting is 'Godcasts.' Many "pod preachers" of all faiths are converting their weekly sermons into Godcasts to more easily spread the word, according to Adam Curry at Lycos.

Frank Barnako of Marketwatch says in the past week, searches for Godcasts were as popular as queries about TV's "ER" and model Naomi Campbell.

Posted by Jim at 09:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

Cruncy Cons and Punk Rock

I was happy to learn that Rod Dreher's book on crunchy conservatism is pretty well finished. Though my current living situation, to say nothing of my bourgeouis, Vanity Fair-inspired proclivities, prevents me from being a full-fledged cruncy con, I share many sympathies with the movement. My refrigerator full of organic milk and Bolthouse Farms juice can back that up. But I did give my Birkenstocks to my little brother.

One area of crunchy conservatism that finds some common ground with the Left is the matter of land use and urban development. We're concerned that our towns and cities will become one big strip mall. I spent yesterday cruising around my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, and I know of what I speak. Economic growth is a necessary thing, but heavens to Betsy - are we going to perish without that extra Blockbuster and Hallmark mini-mall? I doubt it very much. Here's hoping Dreher's book can kickstart a sensible conversation on the topic.

On a similar note, I've always found the urban-centered liberalism of the Washington, D.C. punk scene to be interesting. It's far less belligerent than what one hears from Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, though both of those men would find a home in the Beltway. Fugazi is a band that always stood for left-wing causes, but in a rational, debatable manner that this right-winger could always appreciate. I'm pretty bummed that the band is effectively no more, but thank goodness for the Evens. The Evens are Ian Mackaye of the legendary Fugazi, Embrace and Minor Threat and Amy Farina of the Warmers. (Anyone know if she's related to Geoff Farina of Karate?) The sound of their debut self-titled album is Fugazi-lite, quiet and minimalistic, with a greater emphasis on jazzy instrumentation and quirky harmonies. There's nothing that a Fugazi fan like myself can't enjoy, while at the same time, there's a sense of growth in Mackaye's work, both lyrically and musically.

The lyrics, as one would expect, are often politicaly in nature, but there's never a feeling of unresolved cynicisms. Ian Mackaye doesn't snarl; he asks questions. And I'm pretty sure he's willing to talk about an answer. Thank goodness for bands like the Evens, who consistently push the envelope of what rock music can be, and what it can ask and what it can dare to conclude. I hope the Evens are planning to tour, though I won't be surprised if they don't. Fugazi toured less and less as the years wore on, and I am thankful for having seen them late in their career, still full of passion and energy.

Posted by Matt at 04:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Pentecost Sunday

"O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of blessings and giver of life, come and abide in us, cleanse us of all impurity, and save our souls, O good one."

On this Pentecost Sunday, Frederica Mathewes-Green offers some interesting and, to my thinking, insightful thoughts on the Holy Spirit.

Touchstone's James Kushiner writes on Episcopal Bishop Frank Griswold's view of the Holy Spirit, which view might differ somewhat from Frederica Mathewes-Green's view.

Speaking of Pentecost, Touchstone's Daily Reflections offers this definition:

Pentecost: In the early Christian liturgical calendars the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost constituted a single lengthy feast, because the Resurrection of Jesus is inseparable from the giving of the Holy Spirit (thus, cf. John 20:19-22).

This day, the name of which signifies that it is the 50th day, was known in the Old Testament as the "feast of weeks." That is to say, it has as many weeks as a single week has days. For the Jews it commemorated the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai 50 days after the Passover. The two events, the Exodus and the revelation at Sinai, formed a single theological reality, containing both deliverance and covenant.

Likewise, according to Acts 2, it was on the day of Pentecost that God also gave the Church the New Law, the indwelling Holy Spirit by which the community of faith would be directed to the end of time. All of those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God, says Romans 8, and the Book of Acts, which we are reading during this season, repeatedly tells how the Apostles put their entire ministry under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

"[W]hich we are reading during this season"--if you are looking for a good devotional, or just looking for further grounding, the St. James Daily Devotional Guide for the Christian Year is an excellent resource that is put out by the organization that also puts out Touchstone. I have been using it for about six months and have found it to be invaluable. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Mark at 12:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

AAPOR Reflections

I have a plane to catch in a few hours (literally), so I can't reflect much. Not that all of you are dying to know what happened at the conference, but hey, some might find this post interesting.

About aapor in general. I had a great time, met lots of new and remarkably intelligent people, and collected more papers and e-mails for additional papers than I could possibly read before next year's conference.

The leading pollsters take their job VERY seriously. There seemed to be a trend this year in studies and talks regarding non-response bias (the idea that the people not responding to the polls are not the same as the people responding to the polls, leaving a result that is not reflective of the true public opinion). If his absence at the conferencfe and the number of snarky comments/jokes made about John Zogby are any indication, he's the black sheep of the industry. Warren Mitofsky is well known for his "charm."

Perhaps the most important thing I discovered at the conference is that everyone who is anyone in the polling profession read Mystery Pollster. Reporters from NY Times, AP, and USA Today (among others), read his blog frequently as well. Mark Blumenthal's (Mystery Pollster) session on blogging and polling in the 2004 election was well attended. The panel included Chris Bowers of MyDD (via taped video), Joel Bloom of the University of Oregon who is studying blogs, and John McIntyre of Real Clear Politics. It wasn't just the number of people in the room, but who was in the room. The chair of the talk was the current AAPOR President and the new President elect was in the audience. So were influential pollsters from all the major polling firms.

From what I gather, the polling world wants to understand the blogosphere and they are trying to understand it through reasearch. This is good news for the blogosphere because they seem to recognize that bloggers are here to stay and that bloggers help shape the public opinion that they are trying to capture with their polls.

Related to the exit polls...

Check out this story from AP writer Will Lester. He's staying in my hotel and I just caught him about an hour ago. Nice guy. Really doesn't care much about the stats going on behind the story, which is why his article is so bland. However, there was a bit of controversy stirred up by Dr. Ron Baiman of University of Illinois at Chicago, not captured well by the piece. Exit pollster Warren Mitokfsy presented in a plenary before the entire AAPOR membership (basically the most influential public opinion people from academia, politics, and media in America were in attendance). I wish I could tell the whole story, but perhaps I'm not the best one to do it and this is probably not the best forum for that story. Hmm... Probably more on that coming soon...

As Mark Blumenthal explained to me early yesterday after I arrived in Miami, I jumped into a conversation that has been taking place between survey researchers for over 50 years. There's a lot of catching up to do - I'm hooked. See you next year AAPOR.

Posted by Rick at 12:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2005

We are above it all

Cynicism is not realistic and tough. It's unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don't have to try. Peggy Noonan, in Good Housekeeping

It is a hallmark these days of those with a bit of education to be cynical about everything. Cynicism, it seems, is really the only transcendent value. To be cynical allows one to be above it all--to be able to criticize but not become involved. To not really join in the fray. It is sad, but true, that many of those I am with on a daily basis seem to live their lives from one cynical thought to another. I am not above it, unfortunately, I can become cynical myself. However, I wonder if is time that we all just become a little less cool; a little more involved; a little more emotionally committed; a little more passionate. Perhaps cynicism is really a wall that we have built up against post-modernity. A wall that needs a few good whacks to come tumbling down.

Posted by Mark at 09:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 13, 2005

Scrappleface Reports on the Air Force Academy

(2005-05-13) -- The Pentagon today ordered a contingent of Marines to occupy the Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs, CO, to protect Air Force cadets from aggressive proselytizing by evangelical Christians on a campus where more than 90 percent of cadets identify themselves as Christian.
Read the rest.

Posted by Jim at 04:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Savage Nation Falls Prey to Longstanding Urban Legend

Michael Savage fell prey to a longstanding internet Urban Legend when he read a piece sent by a listener and identified it as something Andy Rooney had delivered on 60 Minutes “a few weeks ago.”

You can read it at Loadmouth Soap.

But Andy Rooney never gave this commentary. As Snopes.com explains, Rooney denied that it was his material in 2003 and

whoever created this version appears to have lifted some parts from an earlier piece known as "Yes, I Guess I am A BAD American" and falsely credited to comedian George Carlin. Here’s the list from the psuedo-Carlin.

Snopes traces the origin of much of this material back to a bootyist-monk at Free Republic in September 2000.

A lot of this is quite true, plenty of it blatantly insensitive, and a little of it too crude. Enough of it is really funny.

So: Michael Savage meet bootyist-monk. And beware of the urban legend.

Posted by Jim at 09:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Our Gotta Have it Now Society

I'm a sometimes offender in the "must have what I want now" category, so I don't want to come off too self-righteous here. Generally, I think it's a disturbing facet of our post-modern culture and leads to a lot of bad behavior. So, I think it's just a bit disturbing that the Catholic Church seems to be giving in to the same impulse. Pope Benedict XVI has apparently announced that he will seek "fast track" sainthood for Pope John Paul II. This follows John Paul II's similar decision with respect to Mother Theresa. For an institution that relies, to some degree, on history and tradition as support for some of its beliefs, I'm not sure that this is an entirely wise move. Why not wait the five years and keep the traditions intact? Asked another way, if the five-year waiting period is just another historical relic that can be overlooked for convenience, what else can be overlooked for convenience?

Posted by Mark at 08:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 12, 2005

An Air Force Tradition: A Hymn to the Protector of our Souls

As a courtesy to friends visiting Stones Cry Out to read our defense of the Christian voices at the Air Force Academy, and especially for the Americans for the Separation of Church and State, here are the lyrics to the Air Force Hymn, which are best followed by listening to this vocal presentation of this plea to the Lord.

Lord guard and guide the men who fly, Through the great spaces of the sky, Be with them traversing the air, Through darkening storms and sunshine fair. Amen.

And for no additional charge, here’s the Navy Hymn, too.

You’ll particularly love this stanza:

Oh Trinity of love and pow'r,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour,
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them where so e'er they go.


Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep,
Its own appointed limits keep.

Oh hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! Amen.

Eternal Father, lend Thy grace
To those with wings who fly thro' space,
Thro wind and storm, thro' sun and rain,
Oh bring them safely home again.
Oh Father, hear a humble prayer,
For those in peril in the air! Amen.

Oh Trinity of love and pow'r,
Our brethren shield in danger's hour,
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them where so e'er they go.

Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea! Amen.

Posted by Jim at 05:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Conservatism 101

Lest anyone be confused about the definition of conservative, Jonah Goldberg clears things up today. I concur with his analysis.

Likewise, read up on Ramesh Ponnuru's bout with Andrew Sullivan over the nature of conservatism.

And lastly, to clarify, I do not support gay marriage. I support the FMA though, like a lot of conservatives, with some degree of reluctance. I am simply saying that support of gay marriage is not enough to say someone is not a conservative. Like Mark said below, I believe we at SCO agree with our readers more than we disagree, but having said that, I plan to revisit this topic in light of recent articles by both Al Mohler and Christopher Hitchens.

Sounds fun, right?

Posted by Matt at 10:32 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

The Assault on Christians at the Air Force Academy

The artificial controversy concerning overzealous Christians at the Air Force Academy is a textbook example of how liberals influence public opinion. In this case, a renowned anti-Christian liberal group (Americans for the Separation of Church and State) visited the Academy, talked with 15 students and staff, wrote a 13-page report, sent it to the Department of Defense, and announced it through the AP and others.

The MSM (here and here) picked up the charge and gave liberal ink to the “high level investigation” that “uncovers Christian bias” at the Air Force Academy. Now, the MSM says, the military is investigating.

Congratulations to the AFSCS. It was a wonderful exhibition of using the media apparatus available to them to create a crisis that exists only in the minds of people who hate to see strong Christians in positions of authority in any part of the government, including the military.

It is clear that faith is quite important to the cadets at the Air Force Academy. When life is about to involve screaming through the sky at unimaginable speeds or landing a plane on a piece of steel bobbing in the middle of an ocean, I’m not surprised that airmen want to be acquainted with their Creator and Sustainer.

It may be that their have been some who have been too aggressive in spreading the Word. And guidelines are fine. But don’t base anything on a bogus public relations campaign by a biased group seeking to wipe Christian influence entirely from the public square.

One Air Force Academy graduate and former officer, said in an interview with a Christian magazine that it's really an attempt to quash the free speech of Christians.

"I totally disagree with what they're saying. I applaud any chaplain that would encourage students to know the Lord. This is a free country, even in the military. If I did experience a bias in the Air Force, it was against Christians. Now, while we do have Christians at the Academy and in the Air Force, it's definitely a minority."

If you’ve ever visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the most striking structure is a dramatically designed modern chapel in the center of the campus. Those who risk their lives each day to protect America have always looked to God to protect them and guide their perilous steps. For decades, the centrally located chapel has been a symbol of that dependence of God. May it always be.

Posted by Jim at 08:42 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 11, 2005

Operation Matador

Hugh Hewitt is all over the story.

File this under "pending verification": AL-ZARQAWI SERIOUSLY INJURED, SAYS IRAQI OFFICIAL.

Hugh is right. The WaPo story is gripping and tells a story of an encounter with insurgents in a home that left two Marines dead and others wounded.

My good friend's brother Diego is a Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) driver for a Marine infantry platoon and is stationed in Anbar province, near the Syrian Border where Operation Matador is taking place. I posted a prayer for him and his family this weekend, perhaps as Operation Matador was beginning. I know not why the Spirit urged me to pray at that moment, but I ask that you join me in prayer for our fighting men and women in general, but Diego and his family in particular. They've already lost one son in Iraq.

Posted by Rick at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

AAPOR 2005

Tomorrow I leave for Miami Beach to attend this year's American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) conference. Warren Mitofsky hosts a plenary on the 2004 Presidential election exit polls. Another interesting session: "Blogs and Bloggers 2004: Extending the Reach, Influence, Understanding and Misperceptions of Pre-Election and Exit Polls." Mystery Pollster is seeking correspondents and plans to update his readers on occassion during the conference.

I have my last final of the semester next week and I hope to contribute to SCO more regularly soon thereafter.

Posted by Rick at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gambling, Exit Polls, and Election Irregularities

My colleague Drew announced the arrival of Arianna Huffington's group blog yesterday. On her website's mainpage, Arianna writes:

Day Three -- and our bloggers are beginning to mix it up. Visit The Blog, where Jim Lampley, Byron York, John Conyers and Robert George go toe-to-toe-to-toe-to-toe.
What are they "mixing it up" about? Gambling, exit polls, and election irregularities that lead some to conclude that Bush stole the 2004 election. Mystery Pollster offers a few intersting observations of the "smack down."

Perhaps most ironic is that the mainstage event was held the same day that the AP reported on real evidence of fraud in the 2004 election.

Milwaukee recorded 277,565 votes, but investigators could find only 272,956 people who registered to vote. Investigators said they do not yet know why there were so many extra votes.
That's right. Evidence of fraud in a Kerry stronghold of the battelground state Wisconsin, where Bush lost by roughly 11,000 votes. (More from the local reporter who broke the story here).

I'm not suggesting a conspiracy, but this is evidence of a broken electoral system in need of reform. The Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by James Baker and Jimmy Carter, should look into this and other election irregularities in 2004.

Posted by Rick at 09:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 10, 2005

The Anchoress says it all with just one headline: Bush dances with free people; Albright danced with Kim Jong Il.

Posted by Drew at 07:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Narnia Trailer/Disney's new partnership

In case you missed it during Saturday night's airing of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" on ABC, here is a link to the first trailer for "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."

It looks great!

I think Disney made a wise move to team up with Walden Media. Walden seems to be picking the right properties to turn into feature films. "Holes" was an excellent book-to-film translation, even if the movie didn't have the same feel as the Newbery Medal-winning book. (The book is a deceptively simple children's book, but in fact is a philosophical treatise on fate and self-determination. At least, that's how I saw it.) "Because of Winn Dixie," was a Newbery honor book, though reviews were mixed. (Haven't seen it yet.) Walden is working on a live-action "Charlotte's Web," too. And along with "Narnia," Walden is planning another multi-book series: "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper, a five-book series, one of which was a Newbery Honor Book, and another which won the Newbery Medal.

Disney needs a new partnership since its partnership with Pixar is at an end, and everything Pixar has done has been a winner for Disney.

With properties like the above, the Disney name could start being synonymous with "family films" again.

By the way, I've always wondered why more filmmakers didn't turn to Newbery titles when looking for family-oriented films. I can think of a bunch that would make excellent movies. I'd love to see a film version of the strongly pro-life book "The Giver." (Not because it's pro-life, but because it addresses a number of serious ethical questions that resonate with modern society.) It would have to be black and white, too, so it could be all artsy and stuff. (In my spare time (asssuming I have some once the kids get older) I think I may have to start writing screenplays of some of the better Newbery books.)

Posted by Drew at 07:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Failure to Communicate

A friend writes:

You may have heard the tragic news of the death of two eight year old girls in Zion, IL. Zion is the town in which I was raised.

While listening to Fox News (while waiting for an elevator at work) the female anchor was interviewing someone and asked a question like the following "since this town was founded as a religious community in the early 1900's has it been difficult to get information out of the town?"

I always found Zion's history interesting.

But, even as a child in the '70s I knew that Zion had been sociologically absorbed into the Chicago metropolitan area. I found the anchor's question amusing since the thought of 20,000 people living a life in no way isolated from the broader economy\transportation system\communication system\etc . . . and could in some way maintain a distinctive sense of community is pretty amazing . . . .

Not only amazing, but perhaps slightly offensive.

So here's the set-up. Scrap all the Red-State/Blue-State stuff. What lack of understanding is evident here? Is it that the coasts can never understand the heartland? Is it that the media elites -- whether conservative or liberal -- can't understand the common folk? Or is that the secularists -- whether conservative or liberal -- will never properly understand religious people?

Or is it something else?

Posted by Drew at 06:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Don't Click Here

Feel free to ignore Arianna Huffington's new blog, which isn't so much a blog as it is a 48-car celebrity freeway pile-up, with pearls of wisdom from such luminaries as Bill Maher, Larry Gelbart, Gary "Monkey Business" Hart, Rob "Meathead" Reiner, Jerry "Governor Moonbeam" Brown," and Walter "I'm Still Alive" Cronkite.

Sense a theme?

Posted by Drew at 01:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

the Great Evangelical Misunderstanding

Al Mohler, President of Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, has finally started a real blog. His Crosswalk blog is more column than blog, and this new blog is very thorough. NRO blog geeks like myself will realize that Mohler's style is more Stanley Kurtz than Jonah Goldberg. The biggest problem right now is that Mohler is not using permalinks. This is problematic, but check him out at any rate. Scroll down to the piece entitled "The Strange Case of David Brooks."

Here's a load question. Does Mohler - and by default, do evangelicals - understand what conservatism really is? Mohler's chief issue with Brooks is his defense of gay marriage. Brooks' position is one I find to be wanting, as do many other conservatives. (See National Review, the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, etc.) But Mohler seems to imply that any support for gay marriage is, de facto, an un-conservative position. By what standard? I don't agree with Brooks on this point, but I don't find his argument so outlandish that I'll put conservative in quotes when referring to him. By what standard does Mohler make this assertion?

Mohler then goes on to refer to Andrew Sullivan as a "homosexual "conservative." " (The first quotes are mine; the second set are Mohler's) To be such a well read scholar, Mohler should know that there's not a writer at any major conservative publication who considers Andrew Sullivan to be a rank and file conservative. Sullivan calls himself a conservative, but his political values could be - at best - described as a sort of Sheilaism. (Scroll down)

Mohler finally states, "Like the neo-conservatives with whom he has been closely associated, Brooks would require Christian believers to privilege the habits of democracy over the demands of revealed religion." That's a loaded statement if I've ever read one. Is that what neo-conservatives believe? That Christians value democracy over religion? Hmmmph. I must have missed that one. Maybe Bill Kristol will make mention of that one the next time he's on Brit Hume's show.

I repeat my question again. Does Mohler understand what conservatism means as a political and social ideology?

UPDATE: John Derbyshire proclaims conservatism dead. I'd say he's on to something, though I won't fully agree with him. He makes one very, very interesting observation. Thus sayeth the Derb:

There are two main strands of politically significant religiosity in this country: evangelical Protestants, and devout Roman Catholics. Evangelical Protestantism is theologically conservative by definition; but as NR's own Jeffrey Hart has noted, it is under no necessity to be conservative on any of the Burkean points, and historically has not been. (Try grading William Jennings Bryan on the Burke scale.) Evangelicanism is, in fact, too intellectually flimsy to sustain any coherent political position outside a narrow subset of "social issues."

I'm tempted to call that harsh, but is Derbyshire wrong? There's potential to prove him wrong, but other than Chuck Colson, are there any Evangelicals who can compete in the world of political ideas? I don't believe that evangelicalism is, on its face, "flimsy," but is it strong enough as a body of ideas, politically speaking, to compete on an intellectual level?

Posted by Matt at 10:41 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

Gender Gap

The City of Riverside General Plan includes the following policy:

Encourage ongoing analysis to demonstrate the direct correlation between the arts and improved test scores, attendance, and behavior in K-12 education.
With this policy, the City announces interest in supporting studies that agree with the Council's preconception that the arts are associated with better educational development of children. Science isn't supposed to work like that.

I smell a similar trick with this Washington Post article.

President Bush closed the gender gap in American presidential politics with his vicotory last November. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the gender gap:

A Democratic polling memo released yesterday found that women, who voted for President Bush last year in large numbers, have begun migrating back to their traditional home in the Democratic Party...[the poll] found women picked unnamed Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by a 13-point margin...Some pollsters questioned the survey's methodology, objecting to its comparison between actual candidates' performances at the polls and the theoretical takes of unnamed candidates. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who issued the memo, defended the methodology, saying, "There's not really anything else we have."
I imagine that the DNC tasked the Democratic pollster to provide evidence that the gender gap is alive and well. The Democratic pollster whips together a generic poll of unnammed candidates that comports with their agenda and sends the Washington Post a press release. The Post falls for the bait and runs with the story. Bias dressed up in science and journalism. Nice.

Posted by Rick at 09:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Heart of Courage

I received an email today from a longtime friend and former colleague. Her 16-year-old daughter Esther had surgery on a badly weakened heart this week at the Cleveland Clinic. The surgery was perilous and the outcome uncertain, but Esther pulled through and she seems to be out of immediate danger. But there are great struggles—and probably more surgery—ahead.

But today, her daughter has a grin as wide as her face because she is keeping food down and there’s hope that she may have the strength to ride a bike again, something she has been unable to do since 2nd grade

Esther was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy at the age of seven and she has lived a limited life physically. But although the muscles of her heart are diseased, Esther’s spirit is strong, encouraging, and illuminating.

Esther and her family are faithful followers of Christ, deeply spiritual as they approached this ordeal years ago, and attuned now to every lesson and every provision from the hand of the Lord. Every challenge is for growth, every personal contact an opportunity, every provision—from an ice chip to a new medicine—is a blessing of God.

The Cleveland Clinic provides a personal blog for each patient to update family and friends as often as they would like. What a wonderful use of blogging.

The posts of this personal password-protected blog show us the courage of a young person, emboldened by faith in God to confront deadly illness with purpose and confidence.

There are lessons for us, too.

1. Life is a precious and delicately balanced gift.

2. Life’s struggles have a purpose. At times the purpose may be the witness of persevering through trials, yielded to God.

3. Courage is often exhibited in small packages. We have much to learn from the courage of a young person such as Esther, finding meaning in the midst of great pain and fear. Her Mom is showing a lot of courage, too!

4. There is, of course, the gift of perspective. What problems are you facing today? Perhaps they are as serious as Esther’s. I know mine pale in comparison and that I need to be as grateful for a good night’s sleep or a new project as Esther is that she can walk down the hall and back.

We pray that God will mend Esther’s heart and give her many more years. We pray that she’ll be able to ride her bicycle, and dance and sing and celebrate a full life. And we pray that we would have her courage to see God in each detail of the day, and to lean on Him when we find it hard to stand on our own.

Posted by Jim at 08:29 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Idle Hands

So the saying goes...

When I was 16, I was rarely bored. That's because I was very involved in aquatics and I had to study hard for my grades. I kept busy, so I couldn't get in too much trouble.

This article makes me wonder why kids are allowed to spend so much time on their computers (HT: Drudge). I knew a hacker in college who was busted by the FBI back in 1994, when hacking was pretty new. He said he did it because there was nothing better to do and it presented a challenge. Actually, he confessed that it was a majurity thing. Toilet papering for nerds. Maybe super-duper smart kids just aren't mature enough to play with computers.

Posted by Rick at 03:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

City Comforts

I finally got around to writing a section on placemaking for one of my final projects when I stumbled across my first City Planning blog: City Comforts.

Blogger and author David Sucher says that City Comforts is about:

Cities, architecture, the 'new urbanism,' real estate, historic preservation, urban design, land use law, landscape, transport etc etc from a mildly libertarian stance. Our response to problems of human settlement is not "better planning" and a bigger budget for local government. But alas, conservative and libertarian (not the same, to be sure) response to shaping our cities is too often barren and in denial. Our goal is to take part in fostering a new perspective. But not too earnestly.
I'm looking forward to having a spare moment to peruse his site and I'm curious to find out more about his approach to planning.

Posted by Rick at 12:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2005

Tyranny of the Little Things

At times, I think that the challenge of modern American life, the true heroics, is not necessarily to be found in facing those larger, life-changing events--death of loved ones, losing a job, etc.* Pastors are trained for such events, friends and loved ones can be a comfort, books have been written, Oprah still plies her wares (I think). Our society, although perhaps not great at maturely dealing with such issues, at least has a response mechanism.

Sometimes, though, the challenges of daily life seem to be the ones that overcome more Americans. That next load of laundry, that next project, that next stack of papers to deal with, that next dinner to make . . . . Sure, these challenges are nothing compared to the important ones mentioned above. Sure, they are mundane--some may contend that they are not challenges at all. Yet, I think, these are what bring many more people down than unemployment and death. These quiet, seemingly meaningless battles with the nit-pickiness of everyday life--these overcome us.

Perhaps it should not surprise us. After all, our post-modern American culture provides us very little, if any, guidance for a meaningful context in which to live our lives. Without this, such small battles, which often make up the greater part of our lives, lose meaning. Thus, lives lose meaning.

The answer, of course, is to provide your own meaning against which you can then measure your little battles. Easily said--perhaps not as easy to implement.

Christianity provides a teleology by which Christians are guided. This is helpful. Yet, many Christians live as if even they have little in the way of an overarching meaning for their lives and, perhaps more importantly, an overarching meaning by which they measure the worth of their response to their daily struggles.

Those of us who are Christians, as well as those of us who are not, need to explore more deeply the meaning behind our lives--to place ourselves in a greater context. To find out why we deal with the little things every day. That, I think, is the challenge of the post-modern life.

*If you are or have recently faced such an event, please don't misunderstand me. My heart goes out to you and this is not intended to minimize what you are going through.

Posted by Mark at 10:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Back in Action

Sorry I've been M.I.A. as of late. Things have been busy down in Dixie. Here's a brief run down of some very superficial things.

I'm reading this book. And this one.

I'm listening to this album. And this one. And both albums by this band.

Tonight I'm going to watch this movie.

I'm working on a post about this guy and this fellow, as well.

And I'm going to try to write about every one of these things in the next few weeks.

Keep me accountable to it.

Posted by Matt at 06:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


In Darfur, destruction moves quickly across the African Sahel, marauders terrorizing defenseless villages too far from anywhere to expect help. With hundreds of thousands dead and almost two million people now squatters in refugee camps in neighboring Chad, hope moves with alarming reticence, the world too busy to scare away this apocalypse of darkness that’s descended on the Christian and other non-Arab peoples of western Sudan.

Prior to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the UN called the Darfur conflict the world's worst current humanitarian crisis. When the tsunami devastated Asia, the focus of the humanitarian community necessarily shifted to the East.

It is time for the United States to stop the genocide in Darfur. How many times are we going to look the other way as hundreds of thousands of African families are decimated. Did we learn nothing from Rwanda?

This should be a job for the United Nations (yeah, right). Darfur is a failure of the international community, but its doubtful that anyone but the United States has the moral will and the ability to do anything.

Potential Progress Thwarted by France?
It is time to accelerate the diplomatic, and if necessary, the military, action. Even the slightest progress has us pitted once again against France, which wants to do nothing on its own.


This is the latest news:

The latest piece of a solution is a decision last week by the African Union (AU) to triple its troops in Darfur to 7,700 and ask NATO for logistical support. Even that additional foreign presence in a region the size of France wouldn't be enough, but it shows confidence is growing that outside intervention can be effective.

Sudan's government tacitly approves NATO's potential role in Darfur, but France, which has preferred a strictly European role in Africa's crises, may be ready to shoot down this request of NATO by African nations.

So far, France has preferred to deal with Darfur by weaker measures, such as UN Security Council steps to impose sanctions on Sudan and put Darfur's attackers on trial (if they can be caught). These have been inadequate. Only by backing AU troops with essential NATO planes and other equipment can the Arab militia, known as Janjaweed, be intimidated to give up for good.

NATO's post-cold-war role has yet to be defined. It wasn't included in the antiterrorism invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now it has a chance for a limited role in an African conflict. The US would like more NATO intervention on the continent - perhaps with the AU leading - to keep failing states from becoming home to terrorist groups. If France again fails to back the US in such ventures, NATO itself may wither and bilateral ties worsen.

The Coalition for Darfur maintains a daily blog kof actions on Darfur.

Mark Daniels points us to a strong column on Darfur by Nicholas Kristoff.

From the Financial Times:

The failure of the international community to halt the ethnic cleansing, mass rape and killings in Darfur in western Sudan is a disgrace to our time. For two years the world stood by while Darfur burned. In place of action there was a grotesque debate over whether we should call it genocide.

A little over a month ago the United Nations Security Council finally agreed to refer Darfur to the International Criminal Court. This was an important breakthrough. But the promise of justice in the future is not enough. The people of Darfur need protection now.

If we cannot move NATO, we need to support the AU on our own. We didn’t overcome the failures of Somalia by invading Iraq. We’d accomplish that by intervening with what would be a relatively small contingent of U.S. military.

Of course there isn’t much oil in Darfur. Saving the lives of African villagers probably doesn’t advance the war on terror. But there weren’t many good reasons for intervening in Kosovo, either,except to stop genocide. Why not now, in Darfur?

Another blog resource:

The Darfur Conflict
Here’s a summary of what’s happened:

The Darfur conflict is an ongoing conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan, mainly between the Janjaweed, a government-supported militia recruited from local Arab tribes, and the non-Arab peoples of the region. Note that both sides are largely black in skin tone, and the distinction between "Arab" and "non-Arab" common in western media is heavily disputed by many people, including the Sudanese government. The conflict has been widely described as "ethnic cleansing", and frequently as "genocide". In September 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated 50,000 deaths in Darfur since the conflict's beginning, mostly by starvation; in October, its head gave an estimate of 71,000 deaths by starvation and disease alone between March and October 2004. While a recent British Parliamentary Report estimates that over 300,000 people have already died[1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4268733.stm), the United Nations estimates that 180,000 have died in the 18 months of the conflict [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4349063.stm). More than 1.8 million people had been displaced from their homes. 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad. The refugees include non-Arab victims of non-Arabs, Arab victims of non-Arabs, and Arab victims of Arabs; however, the large majority are non-Arab black Africans fleeing Janjaweed attacks [3]

Last month, a U.S. envoy received assurances from the government of Sudan that they would step in and stop the slaughter. No one believes them. Or about as much as the fox in the henhouse.

So Who Will Stop the Killing?

From the Los Angeles Times:

So who will stop the killing? That question should trouble any tender soul who has ever mindlessly muttered, "Never again." That incantation is repeated after every genocide — after the Holocaust, after the Cambodian killing fields, after Rwanda — and yet the next time mass slaughter breaks out, the world conveniently averts its gaze. The major exceptions in recent years have been Kosovo and Bosnia, which had the good fortune to be on Western Europe's doorstep. The rest of the world is treated to high-minded cluck-clucking and, maybe, ex post facto prosecutions.

The only way to save Darfur is to dispatch a large and capable military expedition. But Security Council members France, China and Russia have blocked a U.N. decision on armed intervention because they covet trade ties with Sudan.

That still leaves the possibility of civilized states acting independently of the U.N., as they did in Kosovo. But the only nation with a serious military capacity, the United States, is overstretched in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The European Union should step into the breach. Its economy is as big as the United States' and its population is even bigger. But it has chosen to spend its euros on extravagant handouts for its own citizens rather than on the kind of armed forces that might bring a ray of hope to the "heart of darkness." Although the European members of NATO actually have more ground troops than the U.S. — about 1.5 million soldiers — only about 6% are readily deployable abroad. The Europeans could still scrape together the 25,000 to 50,000 soldiers it would take to pacify Darfur, but it would be a stretch for them given their existing commitments, and not one they're willing to make.

As a last resort, even if they're not willing to send their own troops, the U.S. and the EU could offer to provide much more logistical support to allow the African Union to dispatch more of its own peacekeepers to Sudan. That's not asking a lot, yet it's more than anyone has been willing to do so far.

Aside from a handful of journalists and human rights activists, the only Westerners who have shown any sustained interest in the Sudan are evangelical Christians, who've been exercised primarily about the fate of their coreligionists in the south.

Little solace to hundreds of thousands of people still suffering. We have the might to stop genocide in Africa at the same time we establish democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must see to it that it is done.

Posted by Jim at 09:49 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 08, 2005

Disadvantages of Pissing Off America

This is very funny, but with a lot of truth in it.

(h/t to Doug at Considerettes)

Posted by Jim at 09:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 07, 2005

The antichrist doesn't live here anymore

No wonder we haven't been able to discover the identity of the Beast. We've been dialing the wrong number!

A newly discovered fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament indicates that, as far as the Antichrist goes, theologians, scholars, heavy metal groups, and television evangelists have got the wrong number. Instead of 666, it's actually the far less ominous 616.
So I guess this means that the Beast isn't R-O-N-A-L-D W-I-L-S-O-N R-E-A-G-A-N or G-E-O-R-G-E W-A-L-K-E-R B-U-S-H-J-R .

Meanwhile, Satanists are taking it in stride:

. . . [S]atanists responded coolly to the new 'Revelation'. Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan, based in New York, said: 'By using 666 we're using something that the Christians fear. Mind you, if they do switch to 616 being the number of the beast then we'll start using that.'

Posted by Drew at 08:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Michael Yon has a fine blog. If you love our men and women in uniform and want a bit of insight into their trials and triumphs in Iraq, visit Michael's blog. It will make you smile and cry. (HT: Michelle Malkin)

Last night I met up with a couple of old friends. It was the 9th anniversary of our friend Gary Tillman's death. Gary played bass for the band I played in in college. He died in a tragic skateboarding accident at UCSD at 20 years of age. Pat, who was there last night, was with Gary when he fell.

Joe was there last night as well. His cousin, Marine Cpl. Erik H. Silva was killed in Iraq, April 3, 2003. Joe's younger brother, Diego, is now in Iraq with the Marines. Diego signed up after Erik's death. War is so terrible. Why You would allow Erik to fall, is beyond me and I can't imagine that You would allow the Hernandez/Silva family to lose another son. I ask Lord that you protect that young man. Not that he's any more special than all the rest, but because his family has suffered enough. Have mercy, please.

Posted by Rick at 04:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 06, 2005

Doomed if you do, doomed if you don't

(Hat tip: Everything I Know is Wrong)

We'd long been told by our environmental betters that the planet is doomed because of global warming, so we'd best reduce our toxic emissions, including those caused by that 4-alarm chili. So here in the U.S. we've been doing a great job keeping the air clean and pure, imposing lots of environmental regulations on businesses, increasing standards for automobiles, etc.

So have we delayed doom?

No, say our environmental betters. In fact, we now have a new problem. Our air is too clean.

Reductions in industrial emissions in many countries, along with the use of particulate filters for car exhausts and smoke stacks, seem to have reduced the amount of dirt in the atmosphere and made the sky more transparent.

That sounds like very good news. But the researchers say that more solar energy arriving on the ground will also make the surface warmer, and this may add to the problems of global warming. More sunlight will also have knock-on effects on cloud cover, winds, rainfall and air temperature that are difficult to predict.

. . .

Researchers will now focus on working out the long-term effects of clearer air. One thing they do know is that black particulate matter in the air has been contributing a cooling effect to the ground. "It is clear that the greenhouse effect has been partly masked in the past by air pollution," says Andreas Macke, a meteorologist at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany.

In other words, "Oops, sorry folks. I guess air pollution actually reduced global warming!"

Sigh. Ever feel like you just can't win with these people?

Posted by Drew at 09:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Shrek: Blech

Last time I checked, the number one movie at the box office last year was "Shrek II." "The Passion of the Christ" came in third.

Third, of course, is amazingly good for a film that had so much stacked up against it: an R-rated Biblical film in a foreign language with tons of gory violence and a lot of bad press by people who pronounced it anti-Semitic.

In contrast, "Shrek II" had it easy. An animated sequel to an enormously popular film, aimed squarely at the family filmgoers.

I didn't see either film. I did see the original "Shrek," and with all the adulation heaped upon it I thought I might be the only one who hated it. All poop and fart jokes and double entendres. No thanks. It bugs me when Hollywood creates a movie designed to appeal to pre-teen kids, and then fills it with adolescent- to adult-level vulgarities. Mixed messages? You bet.

So I was pleased to see Nehring ripping Shrek II today. He also makes some great points about this and other "post-modern family films."

I really hated this piece of crap. I know this is a very successful film and people loved it. I am not one of those people. Honestly, I think films like this are quite damaging to our culture. This film is another in the new string of post-modern family films. These films (Shrek, Robots, Shark Tale, Cat In The Hat) are thinly veiled attacks set up to usurp traditional morality. They push relativist morality, sneer at traditional life and disdain for all authority beyond one’s nature. These “kid films” also are littered with blunt sexual and drug references, and poop humor. Shrek II is the king of these post-modern films. It pushes the notion that we should trust in our natures over our traditions. The characters find happiness in themselves over accepting the tenets of society. Can societies be wrong in their thinking? Yes, without question. But Shrek and the rest of these films push the blanket notion that traditional society is always wrong. The individual and his singular truth are always right. This is a deadly message to offer to children. (Emphasis mine)
He also adds this:
And to think, the director Andrew Adamson is helming The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Yep. That worries me a bit, too. I left that out of my post on the pitfalls facing the new Narnia film, but it did occur to me as well.

Last year pundits couldn't resist setting up the false dichotomy of "Fahrenheit 9/11" vs. "The Passion of the Christ," but perhaps the great divide should have been betwen "The Passion" and "Shrek II."

Posted by Drew at 04:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Temptation to Hoard

I thought this entry from Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey was interesting and worth pondering. Not necessarily a message aimed at anybody, just worth pondering on an individual basis:

As fearful people we are inclined to develop a mind-set that makes us say: "There's not enough food for everyone, so I better be sure I save enough for myself in case of emergency," or "There's not enough knowledge for everyone to enjoy; so I'd better keep my knowledge to myself, so no one else will use it" or "There's not enough love to give to everybody, so I'd better keep my friends for myself to prevent others from taking them away from me." This is a scarcity mentality. It involves hoarding whatever we have, fearful that we won't have enough to survive. The tragedy, however, is that what you cling to ends up rotting in your hands.

Posted by Mark at 07:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 05, 2005

The Awful Majesty

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind. He said. . .Can you command the clouds so that a flood of water covers you? Can you send out lightning bolts and they go? Do they report to you: "Here we are"? (Job 38: 34-35 Holman CSB)

From time to time it's good to remind ourselves how awful the majesty of the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

The Awful Majesty.jpg

This from Trolling in Shallow Waters. There are several more. Awesome photos. Check them out.

Posted by Jim at 05:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

God Bless America, Land That Loves to Eat

America is eating itself to death. Obesity is rampant. The sweet land of liberty has more desire for sweets than liberty. When the advertisements said: “Have it Your Way,” we choose the double cheeseburger and lots of fries.

Indeed, this may be a new long-range strategy for Al Qaeda. In the pursuit of vascular terrorism, the nefarious characters may be buying stock in McDonalds, Burger King, and Pepsico. Advertising for Ryans and Golden Corral—all you can eat until your arteries are completely clogged and they carry you out in a cattle wagon. Starting blogs that constantly reinforce the notion that heavy people are just big-boned and suffering from glandular disorders.

Fatitude is not a respecter of party or ideology. Rotundity is transcending the great political divides from Michael Moore to Rush Limbaugh (yes, I see he’s again the round mound of sound), and from Teddy Kennedy to Dennis Hastert.

Just when we thought there was no hope, two from the South--where there’s nothing that cannot be deep fried and you can get enough cholesterol for breakfast to last you the whole day--are introducing a new campaign to fight fat. Former President Bill Clinton and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Tuesday announced the launch of a 10-year initiative to combat childhood obesity, calling it a national epidemic. (h/t: Broken Masterpieces)

It’s a worthy effort from two who have something to say on the matter. Clinton has always had bad eating habits, and paid for with by-pass surgery. Huckabee was huge and lost 110 pounds in the last couple of years. He said in a Newsday interview:

"Two years ago I would not have been asked to be here today to speak to this issue, for the simple reason that I would have been about the worst role model you could have had. My doctor sat me down and said if you don't change your lifestyle you're in the last decade of your life."

Yesterday, Limbaugh said that the campaign needs a new slogan--something like Mrs. Reagan’s anti-drug line: “Just Say No”—-and for Clinton it could be “Just Don’t Swallow.”

Or maybe: "Fight Terrorism. Eat a salad."

Posted by Jim at 07:41 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 04, 2005

I Want My M(onk)TV

(Hat tip: The Anchoress)

Though most reality tv participants get their fifteen minutes of fame and disappear back into obscurity, here's one reality tv show that gave its participants something eternal.

Five men, ranging from an atheist in the pornography trade to a former Protestant paramilitary, have found their lives unexpectedly transformed in the latest incarnation of reality television - the monastery.

More Oh Brother! than Big Brother, the five underwent a spiritual makeover by spending 40 days and 40 nights living with Roman Catholic monks in Worth Abbey, West Sussex.

The experiment, which will be shown on BBC 2 this month, was designed to test whether the monastic tradition begun by St Benedict 1,500 years ago still has any relevance to the modern world.

Although participants were not required to vote each other out, they faced the challenge of living together in a community and following a disciplined regime of work and prayer. By the end, the atheist, Tony Burke, 29, became a believer and gave up his job producing trailers for a sex chat line after having what he described as a "religious experience".

Gary McCormick, 36, the former Ulster Defence Association member, who spent much of his early life in prison, began to overcome his inner demons.

Peter Gruffydd, a retired teacher, regained the faith he had rejected in his youth and Nick Buxton, 37, a Cambridge undergraduate, edged closer to becoming an Anglican priest.

The fifth "novice", 32-year-old Anthony Wright, who works for a London legal publishing company, started to come to terms with his childhood traumas.

Posted by Drew at 08:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Deleting an "Incredible" Scene

At Townhall.com, Paul D. Gallagher writes about a scene that was deleted from the theatrical release of The Incredibles, but shows up on the DVD. It would have been interesting to hear the reaction a theater audience might have had to this scene. I suspect certain members of the audience would have stood and applauded. But I'll let Gallagher tell about it:

The setting is a backyard barbeque in their neighborhood. Helen Parr is introduced to Beth, a commodities broker. Beth talks excitedly about her job, then asks what Helen does. “I’m a homemaker,” Helen replies. Blank stare from Beth, who cuts off Helen’s next sentence with a curt, “That’s nice.” Beth walks off, and Helen scowls.

A minute later, Helen overhears Beth talking to some other neighbors:

Beth: “Throw away my prime years trailing after a bunch of snotty kids? No, thank you! Hello, no thanks! Hello, I want to do something with my life!”

Helen: “Wait a minute! You consider raising a family … nothing?”

Beth: “Well, it’s fine if you’re not suited for more substantial things.”

Helen: “Do you have any idea how much suffering would fail to take root if more people were just good parents? What’s more important than that? What kind of job?”

Beth: “Uh … uh …”

Helen: “A job saving lives? Is that important? What about risking my life?”

Beth: “Well, I … uh …”

Helen: “What about confronting evil on a daily basis for years so that people like you can sleep in safety and security? Would you consider that kind of job ‘substantial’?”

Beth: “Yeah. I would. Yes.”

Helen: “Well, that’s the job I gave up for my new job -- raising a family. And nobody’s going to tell me it’s any less important.”

Wow. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. We have a hero in a major film defending the job of homemaker. Rewind it all you like. Then notice the sky’s not falling. And if you think I liked it, imagine how my wife, Cindy -- a homemaker and mother of six -- felt about it.

Like I said, imagine a theater full of stay-at-home moms who have taken the kids out to a Saturday matinee showing would have reacted. Loud applause? I think so.

Before you presume some Hollywood conspiracy to take out this powerful scene, read on:

Brad Bird said he included the scene because it reflected what his own wife encountered every time they went to a social function. People who found it easy to chat with others who worked outside the home felt awkward and didn’t know what to say when they met this strange creature who called herself . . . a homemaker.

. . . But Bird said he cut it reluctantly and only because he realized it would be better to begin with the heroes being heroes (and he was right). Besides, the finished film still strongly endorses the homemaker option (albeit implicitly), and the scene is available for all to see on DVD.

By the way, if you haven't seen Brad Bird's "The Iron Giant," go out and rent (or buy) that one. It's quite enjoyable.

Posted by Drew at 08:20 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Cool Pictures of Storm Clouds

Kent at Trolling in Shallow Water doesn't know where these pictures came from, but he's posting them anyway.

This is what storm chasers live for. Typically, I don't mind severe thunderstorms. In fact, I think they're pretty cool to watch through the big picture window in the living room. But when the wind picks up, I head for the basement. Tornados are one of my recurring nightmares. I've never seen one, but when I was a kid one touched down in our tiny town. If you'd traced the path of the damage, it appeared that it might have touched down a half a block to the SW of our house, and then again a half a block to the NE of our house, and then again about another block NNE, where it must have stayed down, doing lots of damage in a two-block area. One person was killed by downed power lines. I was a bit freaked out, to put it mildly.

I'd still like to see an actual tornado someday, out on the prairie where you can watch 'em from a distance.

Knowing that I'm a big baby about tornados, I don't know why I went to see Twister when it came out in the summer of '96. But I did. And it just so happened that a big windstorm hit Our Fair City later that evening. At the time I lived in a second-floor apartment, and I spent most of the night in the stairwell.

I should have known better.

Welcome to tornado season. I'll be in the basement until September.

Posted by Drew at 08:06 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Hollywood's Agenda?

Steve McCoy at Reformissionary – a great blog that you should be reading – passes along this article by Kelly Boggs, a relatively well-known Southern Baptist pastor. Boggs is arguing that Hollywood has an agenda it’s trying to push.

While I acknowledge that movies are often vehicles for political correctness and the occasional issue-based agenda (see Cider House Rules), it is intellectually vacuous to suggest that every non-family movie is trying to push an agenda. Is Boggs so determined to wage the culture war that he refuses to understand the difference between an agenda-based movie like the Contender and a movie like Mystic River that explores humanity and ultimately comes to a conclusion different from that of Christians? If a prominent film presents a series of conclusions that are at odds with Christian teaching, we should be willing to discuss the matter artfully and critically. We should not chalk it up to Hollywood's nefarious agenda.

I’m not saying we have to agree with everything we see. I’ve written before about the despair that prevails in a movie like Million Dollar Baby. But the conclusion of despair is not necessarily advocacy for it. Adaptation, despite its fantastic screenplay, directing and performances, is a very hopeless film. Yet it is not an endorsement of hopelessness. The movie simply is what it is. Ingmar Bergman consistently produced movies with existential undertones. It is likely that Bergman himself was an existentialist, but it is hopelessly naïve to suggest that he was promoting existentialism in the same manner that Michael Moore was promoting gun control or an end to the Iraq War.

I am not suggesting that Hollywood is innocent and free of depravity. And I also realize that many films’ ideologies are rooted not so much in agenda as they are the fallen worldview of the script writers and directors. Nevertheless, Boggs is simply off base. He fails miserably in his cultural analysis. At the risk of sounding like John Kerry, there is a serious need for nuance in this discussion. I pray that the culture war does not reduce itself to this sort of argument. If it does, we are sure to be defeated. Boggs’ analysis is terribly narrow-minded, no matter how well intentioned he may be.

For a more mature and critical Christian analysis of art, I would start at Looking Closer and then follow all subsequent links.

Posted by Matt at 02:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 03, 2005

Should'a Stuck with Legolas

Matthew Anderson at Mere-Orthodoxy reviews, and pans, Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott's new movie starring Orlando Bloom. A good review, and interesting extended thoughts.

I think I'll just wait for the book.

Posted by Mark at 10:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Serving God, one ink cartridge at a time

Some monks make wine, and some make delicious fruitcakes.

And then there are the Laser Monks, providing office supplies at huge savings.

I'm not making this up.

Posted by Drew at 07:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Narnia movie a minefield for Disney

The Life section in today's USA Today has this lengthy article (lengthy for USA Today anyway) on the new Narnia movie which Disney studios hopes will be the first of a seven-film franchise. The first trailer for the movie will air Saturday night during ABC's showing of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and a longer trailer will be attached to this summer's most highly-anticipated film: Revenge of the Sith. The film itself won't arrive in theaters until December.

I'm looking forward to seeing the film, but it will be interesting to see if Disney can avoid all the pitfalls that accompany bringing a book like this to the screen. Consider this:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an enormously popular book: Until HarperCollins got the US Publication rights, LWW was considered the first book in the series (it was the first Narnia book that Lewis wrote, and really should be read first even though HarperCollins numbers it second), and as such, it's the book most people will have read if they read any of the series at all. Fans of the book will want to see a film version that's faithful to the story. Even minor detractions will cause an uproar from some quarters.

The story is a parallel of the death and resurrection of Christ: C.S. Lewis was one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the last century. His books are read, reread, quoted, excerpted, and passed along almost like religious tracts by many Christians, and Christians -- who already have a love/hate relationship with Hollywood -- will want to make doubly sure that a film version of one of the best-loved novels in Christendom remains faithful to its message of sacrifice and redemption. If the film downplays or dilutes the Christian message in any way, count on an outcry.

Actually, count on an outcry anyway, because no matter how faithful the film version is, some people won't be happy unless there's an altar call at the end. And other people will reject it because a) it's a fantasy, b) it's got a witch in it, and c) the Christ figure isn't Jesus himself.

Disney has been repeatedly targeted by some Christian and pro-family organizations: In recent years, Disney's managed to alienate the very audience it seeks, so this is a big risk for Disney. If they don't do it right, they will only be confirming for some Christians how seemingly out of touch they are.

The first trailers will be telling. A positive reaction from Narnia fans will likely result in an overall positive feeling toward the filim as the release date approaches. Negative reaction will dog the film until December.

I'm hoping Disney manages to pull it off, if only because I want to see film versions of the later books in the series. But I'm already wondering how Disney will handle "The Last Battle," which is essentially the Narnian "Revelation" with all that end of the world heaven and hell stuff. If the Narnian worship of Aslan is Lewis's parallel to Christianity, what will Disney do with the Arab-like Calormenes who appear in later books, and whose religion is Lewis's parallel to Islam?

In spite of the changes to the source material, Tolkien fans were so pleased with the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy that their initial outcry turned to fevered anticipation for the next two films. But because the Narnia series has such strong religious symbolism, Disney's going to be walking a minefield with each release.

Posted by Drew at 01:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The GOP's Need

In reference to Mark's fine post below, to say the GOP needs a...um...spine is about the most polite way I could put it.

Hats off to my colleague for being more cordial that Bill Frist really deserves.

Posted by Matt at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Public Schools Telling Us “Who’s in a Family”

Michelle Malkin writes about a David Parker, father of a 5-year-old boy in Concord, Mass., was arrested Wednesday at his son's kindergarten over a disagreement about the appropriateness of the book, "Who's in a Family?." It teaches preschoolers about "multicultural contemporary family units" including nuclear, intergenerational, mixed-race, and lesbian and gay arrangements.

At Blogicus, Tim says:

Christian parents are concerned about the promotion of homosexual marriage in the classrooms of their children, and they should be. However, this latest controversy reveals something much worse: the ethical bankruptcy of the school system, the forcible indoctrination of students and the illegitimate acceptance of the government as the source ethical truth.

The easy answer is to get your kids out of public school. But that is also a cop-out answer. We should not capitulate so easily, for it is our tax dollars at work. And private schools or homeschooling is not an option for all parents. These are issues worth some civil discourse and, like Mr. Parker, even civil disobedience.

Posted by Jim at 08:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Runaway Morality

We’ve wondered about this, too.

Could we have an explanation concerning the failure of the Baptist church in Duluth, Georgia, to make any reference at all to the fact that the Runaway Bride and her Live-in Groom shared a home without the benefit of marriage?

In all of the newscasts that I saw on the story here in Atlanta, the fact that the marriage had been consummated before the wedding was presented as commonplace. We’ve come to expect that of popular culture, but we’d like to believe that evangelical churches would require a bit more from their Sunday school teachers.

UPDATE: I may have called this one too quickly, if Mason, the fiance, is being straight. Hannity interviewed him last night. Her'e an excerpt:

HANNITY: Now, she had just basically moved her stuff into your place.

MASON: Yes. Over the last months and weeks and whatever, she'd just kind of moved stuff down. And she would kind of started staying the night at the house. It was just convenience more than anything else.

Our relationship from that standpoint is still very pure. We have not broken the sanctity of marriage yet, if that's the right way of putting it. In God's eyes, our relationship is still very pure.

But we did sleep under the same roof from time-to-time and that has come up this week. And I know that that's been a question on a lot of people's minds. But we weren't technically living together.

(h/t: JackLewis.net)

Posted by Jim at 07:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Censorship but hopefully not for long


As a temporary means of thwarting the dreaded spammers, until a better and more permanent solution can be found, we have implemented the comment approval feature of Movable Type. When you post a comment, it will need to be approved. We will try to approve them as quickly as possible.

We hope you understand. We are not thrilled with this.


Posted by Mark at 01:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 02, 2005

What Republicans Need

Below, my colleague Matt speculates as to what Senate Republicans need.

Here are my thoughts, in order:

1. A collective spine implant.
2. An effective leader who will have the cajones to lead them--not just another consensus maker.
3. A concise, well-thought out agenda.
4. An articulate spokesman to discuss number 3.
5. Refer back to number 1.

Here's what they don't need:

6. Unanimity. Whip enough for a majority into shape and get on with it already.
7. A bunch of big egos, all of which need stroking.
8. The cooperation, or the friendship for that matter, of Senate Democrats.
9. The cooperation, or the love for that matter, of the mainstream media, which, despite the lunatic ravings of the left wing blogosphere, continues to be liberal in both philosophy, opinion, and news shaping.

Senate Republicans are too infatuated with 6 through 9 and haven't a clue about 1 through 5.

My goodness. Republicans control both houses with majorities, as well as the Presidency. Get on with it already. You do not need the mainstream media's permission to make progress. The mainstream media despised Ronald Reagan. Guess what, he managed to make progress despite them.

Give leadership a chance. You can always crawl back into your bunker of Senate collegiality if it doesn't work.

Posted by Mark at 10:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

GOP Filibusters?

It's been suggested around the blogosphere that the Republicans in the Senate were responsible for filibustering some of President Clinton's judicial nominees. While it's true that some of Clinton's nominees were never confirmed, Mark Levin dispells the notion that delays are the same as filibusters.

I wonder why the GOP isn't doing a better job of countering this charge? The Republican Senators are in desperate need of a new PR guy. Well, they're in desperate need of a lot of things they don't have, but I suppose a PR dude tops the list.

Posted by Matt at 07:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Runaway Gwinnett County, Georgia

I live in Gwinnett County, Georgia, which up until this year was best known as a poster child for runaway suburban sprawl. Now, the county is nationally known for the Runaway Bride.

And earlier this year, judge killer Brian Nichols ran away TO Gwinnett County to elude justice, and ran into Ashley Smith, who used Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, her gritty life and strong faith to talk him into allowing her to escape his grasp and call the police.

Both the runaway bride and runaway killer stories were in Duluth, the Georgia one that’s not frozen half the year.

But now Jennifer Wilbanks is back, and the Gwinnett County DA is deciding whether or not to charge her with a felony. Oh, please.

First of all, she’s already been punished. Think about it. She rode a Greyhound bus all the way to Las Vegas, and back to Albuquerque. No wonder she was pleading for help.

The only thing Wilbanks did that was illegal was call 911 in Albuquerque and lie about being abducted. She didn’t stick with that story very long, and the police there wisely just put her on a plane home.

It isn’t illegal for an adult to run away from home. She didn’t ask for the police or anyone else to look for her, so don’t sue her for that!

Have you ever had an experience where someone you love is late getting home and doesn’t call? When the person finally shows up—just forgot to call—you’re so relieved to see the person that you’re filled with joy, for a while. Then you get very angry about their inconsideration.

Now the second shoe drops for Jennifer Wilbanks. But it shouldn’t be the District Attorney’s. The Come to Jesus meeting should be sponsored by her family. They’re the ones who had to suffer through all of this.

As for fiancé. Time to runaway.

Posted by Jim at 09:42 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

But Can They Beat Hillary?

The social security and filibuster debates boring you to tears? How about a little banter on the 2008 election?

Jason at Antioch Road says: "Please Tell Me the Field Gets Better Than This."

David at Swiftly and With Style says “Run, Rudy, Run.” I love Rudy, but he's not conservative enough on social issues. As the campaign heats up it will be more than five years after 9-11. I don’t think America’s Mayor will be able to ride his performance in NYC all the way to the nomination. And he’ll get killed by the social conservatives. Remember McCain in South Carolina? Someone will hire Ralph Reed to make Guiliani look like Chuck Schumer in the South and he’ll be finished.

My favorite at the moment is Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. A Republican who is socially conservative, has a great GOP pedigree, and got elected in Massachusetts. He’s sharp, well spoken. I’ve been impressed with his leadership in recent months. He’d be popular with the evangelicals, but he isn’t one—-he’s Mormon. Watch his stock rise.

Posted by Jim at 09:02 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Total Truth on Christian Political Activism

Catez at AllThings2All is writing some thoughtful material on politics and faith, in response to Nancy Pearcey’s new book, Total Truth.

Catez writes: The point I wanted to bring out was we should not toe the party line if it means overriding conscience. I want to expand on that. Firstly I'd like to bring in a quote from Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey, in which she comments on Christian involvement in political activism:

"This heightened activism has yielded good results in many areas of public life, yet the impact remains far less than most had hoped. Why? Because evangelicals often put all their eggs in one basket: They leaped into political activism as the quickest, surest way to make a difference in the public arena - failing to realize that politics tends to reflect culture, not the other way around."

It's easier to get a conversation going on this topic among evangelicals, now that the bloom is off the rose of the November election and there is more disappointment in Republicans, even amidst the recurring disgust with most Democrats.

Posted by Jim at 08:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gordon Smith Reported to be Fristian on Filibuster

Jan at A World Of Speculation reports that moderate Republican Gordon Smith will vote to end the filibuster for judicial nominees, citing Sid at New Frames, who writes: “Smith is Fristian after all.”

Posted by Jim at 07:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fonda’s Faith

Tony at A Red Mind in a Blue State is sick of seeing Jane Fonda out on her book tour. I haven’t seen her at all—my TV time has been short—but I haven’t seen any comments from the Christian community about her declarations of faith out promoting the book. Here in Atlanta the big news a few years ago was when Ted Turner left her because of her new Christian faith. Here’s a little more detail on Fonda’s faith.

Posted by Jim at 07:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 01, 2005


What an embarrassment. Even moreso because this guy is from my town. At least I'm not in his district.

Can someone explain to me how this is not plain censorship and bigotry?

Here's a little more.

Posted by Matt at 06:04 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack


Like most everyone else, I resented all the Jesusland talk after the election. Nevertheless, it's likely the name has caught on in some cultural context. On the new Ben Folds record, Songs for Silverman, the song "Jesusland" offers a gentle yet poignant critique of red state America. Not entirely accurate, but worth considering.

Posted by Matt at 05:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Oh, Messy Life!

What a weekend. I believe it was sometime around one a.m. Saturday morning when I noticed that the temperature felt more like December than it did April, but I can be thankful that today it at least looks like spring. That wind is still pretty stiff, though I can safely classify today as gorgeous. That said, I am not like outside relaxing on a blanket like the dozens of people I just saw. Nope; I'm updating a blog that's read by roughly a few thousand people each week. You know how some people thank someone else for pushing them in the right direction in life? They thank that friend or roommate or teacher who forced them out of their comfort zone and now they've got this great life?

Well, let me tell you I have a great life but you know who I thank for getting me addicted to this blog business and keeping me indoors on the prettiest day this spring? Andrew Sullivan. Glenn Reynolds. Hugh Hewitt. Thanks, guys. When it's June and I'm pasty white with no tan and I'm desperately out of shape, I'll read a copy of Blog and drink a skinny hazelnut double espresso - to keep me blogging furiously into the wee small hours of the morning - in your collective honor.

There's a copy of Key Largo sitting on my entertainment center. I'm dying to get into it, but I've got exams and graduate school applications. I'll have to wait. Studies call. This is what we refer to as maturity. It wasn't so mature yesterday when I caroused around Tuscaloosa looking for eggs, orange juice and maple syrup. We wanted pancakes. We had pancakes. The pancakes were good. Just one caveat. We ate the pancakes at two-thirty in the afternoon. When I was leaving the supermarket with my maple syrup and orange juice, having already procured the eggs from the health food store, I saw Chick-Fil-A across the street. I was starving. I wanted a biscuit. I knew it would not spoil by appetite for pancakes but then it dawned on me that it was after one p.m. No more breakfast. There were families in the drive-thru ordered kids meals and fries as they made their way home from the mall. They were leaving the mall. I had yet to shower and these families were done shopping. What nerve they had, being responsible and waking up before noon. I couldn't believe it.

Ah well. I had my pancakes and they were most excellent. The Braves have won two in a row, the sun is shining in Dixie and I can still blast Interpol from the car and get a curious glance from the Jackie O sunglasses in the next car over at the red light.

Life is good.

Posted by Matt at 05:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Deliver Us From WalMart’s Critics; Give Us WalMart Alternatives

Like many people I know, I hate the experience of shopping at WalMart, but find myself there a few times a week because it is so convenient, and so much cheaper than the alternatives.

But is WalMart acting Christianly? That’s the question examined by Jeff Sellers at Christianity Today. He’s focusing on issues such as low wages and benefiting from sweat shop labor.

What you’ll find, however, is that the shots being taken at WalMart are the same fired by liberals at any major corporation—writ large because of WalMart’s size. I believe WalMart is more sensitive to the Christian market than any retailer out there.

I will continue to shop at WalMart, while I wish for competition that will provide a more pleasant experience and shopping alternatives that will be both practical and enriching.

Posted by Jim at 08:47 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Febble's Fancy Function or the Liddle Model that Could

Last week, Terry Neal of WashingtonPost.com drew attention to a study of the 2004 exit poll data posted on the web on March 31 by the organization US Count Votes. The USCV study authors, highly credentialed professors from distinguished universities, declare that the explanation put forth by the exit pollsters, Edison-Mitofsky, is not supported by the data. They suggest instead that the data are more consistent with a "fraud in Bush strongholds" hypothesis.

Yesterday, Mystery Pollster and DailyKOS carried summaries of a working paper critical of the USCV study prepared by Elizabeth Liddle, a former USCV contributor. Elizabeth draws the following conclusion from her analysis:

...the conclusion drawn in the USCV report, that the pattern observed requires “implausible” patterns of non-response and thus leaves the “Bush strongholds have more vote-count corruption” hypothesis as “more consistent with the data”, would seem to be unjustified. The pattern instead is consistent with the E-M hypothesis of “reluctant Bush responders”, provided we postulate a large degree of variance in the degree and direction of bias across precinct types.
As Mark said, the story is a bit "complex and geeky," but worth hearing. I won't get into all the details in this post because I think you should read Elizabeth's paper first and then Mark Blumenthal's excellent summary, followed by DemFromCT's post at DailyKOS, which will fill you in. The DailyKOS post has over 300 comments and it appears to be very well received.

Big hat tip to SCO reader LotharBot who generated the random data lists I requested within a few hours of putting out the call. Your contribution helped solve a piece of this puzzle. Thanks again!

Aw heck... Since everyone else is doing it, why not:
[Full disclosure and adapted from the Mystery Pollster and DailyKOS, who have similar disclaimers: For the last two weeks, I have had the unique opportunity to watch the development of Elizabeth Liddle's work through a running email conversation between herself, Mark Blumenthal from Mystery Pollster and DemFromCT from DailyKOS. This post benefits greatly from their input, although as always, the views expressed here are my own. It was one heck of a ride! ~Rick Brady].

P.S.: Buy Elizabeth's Children's Book, Pip and the Edge of Heaven and share it with your kids.

Here's a review:

This book is the journey of a child's thoughts and discovery of love and connection, heaven and G-d. My kids are 8 and 9 (boy and girl) and they still both sit so quietly for it. They smile at the sweetness of the thoughts that Pip shares with his mother. They like the way the mother talks with Pip. It sets a nice tone for us for going to bed. I love this little book. It may make it to the books I save to read to grandkids someday.

Posted by Rick at 02:36 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack