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May 31, 2006

Imperfection Will Not Be Tolerated

First the background:

Club foot is one of the most common birth defects in Britain. About one in 1,000 babies is affected, meaning that 600 to 700 infants are born with the condition every year. It results in the feet pointing downwards and inwards, and in severe cases can cause foot deformity and a limp.

However, it is relatively easy to correct and in recent years techniques of splints, plaster casts and boots to set the foot into the correct position have replaced the need for surgery.Club foot is occasionally connected with serious but rare chromosomal defects, although specialists point out that these can also be screened out before birth with additional tests.

Relatively common, but easily correctable. The article that this comes from notes a couple of families where the child has recovered well enough to, in one case, play football. It mentions celebrities like Dudley Moore and Kristi Yamaguchi.

So do you think that should an ultrasound detect this condition in a fetus that a normally illegal 3rd trimester abortion should be allowed? In England, where they are illegal except for cases where the child would have a "serious handicap", the goal posts keep being pushed, and they've arrived at a new low on the slippery slope.

MORE than 20 babies have been aborted in advanced pregnancy because scans showed that they had club feet, a deformity readily corrected by surgery or physiotherapy.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics covering the years from 1996 to 2004, a further four babies were aborted because they had webbed fingers or extra digits, which are also corrected by simple surgery. All the terminations took place late in pregnancy, after 20 weeks.

Last year, according to campaigners, a healthy baby was aborted in the sixth month at a hospital in southeast England after ultrasound images indicated part of its foot was missing.

News of the terminations has reignited the debate over how scanning and gene technology may enable the creation of "designer babies". In 2002 it emerged that a baby had been aborted late - at 28 weeks - after scans found that it had a cleft palate, another readily corrected condition.

Safe, legal, and increasingly common, abortions are now the way we tolerate imperfection; we don't. It used to be that abortions were a last resort in serious cases. Today, they happen over minor imperfections. Tomorrow, a government-run medical system may be deciding who stays and who goes.
Some parents, doctors and charities are increasingly worried by what they see as a tendency to widen the definition of “serious handicap”. The handicap provision, which does not exist in most other countries, permits abortions to be carried out until birth. It was intended to save women from the trauma of giving birth to babies likely to die in infancy.

And the law of unintended consequences, aided by those who see abortion as somehow "freeing" and by those who have a buck to make on it, has taken that foot in the door and opened it wide, allowing all manner of simple contraception to be passed off as "serious handicap". Compromise when a life is on the line is a death sentence in the abortion debate. This is not a matter of prediction, or personal or political opinion; it's our planet's history. This was no doubt a compromise "for the children", but it's clearly been turned into one against them.

By the way, not all doctors are "increasingly worried".

“It was strongly suggested that we consider abortion after they found our baby had a club foot,” said David Wildgrove, 41, a computer programmer from Sheffield, whose son Alexander was born in 1996. “I was appalled. We resisted, the problem was treated and he now runs around and plays football with everyone else.”

Pippa Spriggs from Cambridge, whose son Isaac will celebrate his second birthday in July, was also dismayed when a scan halfway through the pregnancy revealed that her baby had the defect.

“Abortion certainly was not openly advised, but it was made clear to me it was available,” she said. “In fact he has been treated and the condition has not slowed him down at all.”

There are still enough for whom the phrase in their oath "do no harm" is given wide latitude.

But our convenience society and the push by the Left to let people feel better about aborting their babies has caused some to turn a deaf ear to their own children.

Others take a different view and decide not to accept the risk of an imperfect baby. Sue Banton, who founded the group Steps for parents of children with foot disorders, was troubled that a home counties couple last year decided to terminate their baby, despite counselling to reassure them it would have a worthwhile life even with a section of foot missing.

“We gave them other families to talk to, but they just didn’t want to know. The baby was aborted just before the 25th week,” she said.

“It is terrible. I know lots of perfectly nice people with this condition, and you just can’t imagine them not being here.”

Let me say that I am not advocating the total criminalization of abortion. I still believe there are some situations, but very few, where I think abortions are acceptable, most notably for the life of the mother. And I am under no illusion that making the choice to abort is often a difficult one. Further, I never had to deal with this question of a handicapped child; all four of mine were and are fine and healthy.

At the same time, I think that giving parents the choice of killing their slightly handicapped child isn't in anyone's best interest. I think that allowing abortion to become the contraceptive of last resort is morally wrong, not only for the loss of life of the child, but also for the behavior that it becomes an enabler for. (Essentially, those performing abortion as contraception become codependents for the parents who made poor choices, especially unmarried ones.)

But what's at issue at this point is not the line where a zygote becomes a life, but when a life becomes worth living, and who gets to decide. Is it really the parents' right to kill their otherwise healthy child? If so, the next stop on that slippery slope will be blurring or completely removing that artificial line between inside and outside the womb. Think that's not going to happen?

A GOVERNMENT adviser on genetics has sparked fury by suggesting it might be acceptable to destroy children with ‘defects’ soon after they are born.

John Harris, a member of the Human Genetics Commission, told a meeting at Westminster he did not see any distinction between aborting a fully grown unborn baby at 40 weeks and killing a child after it had been born.

Harris, who is a professor of bioethics at Manchester University, would not be drawn on which defects or problems might be used as grounds for ending a baby’s life, or how old a child might be while it could still be destroyed.

Harris was reported to have said that he did not believe that killing a child was always inexcusable.

In addition, it was claimed that he did not believe that there was any ‘moral change’ that occurred between when the baby was in the womb and when it had been brought into the world.

Harris, who also gives advice to doctors as a member of the ethics committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), is understood to have argued that there was no moral distinction between aborting a foetus found by tests to have defects and disposing of a child where the parents discovered the problems at birth.

That's from 2004, also from Great Britian, and that's certainly not the first time such ideas have been proposed. And this time by a "professor of bioethics", no less. No, if the status quo remains, it won't be the status quo for long.

Again, this is not an issue of personal opinion. There's a plain history to chart of the pushing of the envelope, and plenty of folks in high places ready to continue the push to make abortion safe, legal, and oh-so-convenient for our 21st century lifestyle. This must stop.

Posted by Doug at 02:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

International Law Hits Home

International law--law not passed or ratified by any United States governmental body--is sometimes being used to decide cases in the United States. Generally conservative justices are against that and moderate to liberal ones are for it. Regardless of the outcome of cases where international law was taken into consideration, Justice Scalia's observation that such cherry-picking of what laws to consider is so open to manipulation is advice well given, and hopefully well taken.

However, if you think that such decisions will generally be made on strictly the larger constitutional issues, you'd be wrong. Increasingly, the weight of international law is being felt right in the home.

A home schooling association is warning that the U.S., and even more so other countries, faces the threat that home schooling may be deemed illegal due to international law.

The Home School Legal Defense Association's (HSLDA) Chairman and General Counsel, Michael Farris, warns that even though the U.S. has never ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the convention may still be binding on citizens because of activist judges.

According to a new "interpretation" of what is known as "customary international law," some U.S. judges have ruled that, even though the U.S. Senate and President have never ratified the Convention, it is still binding on American parents. "In the 2002 case of Beharry v. Reno, one federal court said that even though the Convention was never ratified, it still has an 'impact on American law'," Farris explained. "The fact that virtually every other nation in the world has adopted it has made it part of customary international law, and it means that it should be considered part of American jurisprudence."

Under the Convention, severe limitations are placed on a parent's right to direct and train their children. As explained in a 1993 Home School Court Report by the HSLDA, under Article 13, parents could be subject to prosecution for any attempt to prevent their children from interacting with material they deemed unacceptable. Under Article 14, children are guaranteed "freedom of thought, conscience and religion" - in other words, children have a legal right to object to all religious training. And under Article 15, the child has a right to "freedom of association." "If this measure were to be taken seriously, parents could be prevented from forbidding their child to associate with people deemed to be objectionable companions," the HSLDA report explained.

Judges, it seems, are now the arbiters of what should and shouldn't be law. But a judge that makes a ruling in a case based on law that the citizens' representatives have rejected does so without giving the citizens any possible recourse. We can then be judged based on rules we have not the slightest influence in creating. How in the world is that government of the people and by the people? It is a further step away from our representative republic and towards a judicial tyranny; whoever controls the judges makes the rules.

And what sort of things can come from the innocuous-sounding "United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child"?

Farris explains that, in 1995, "the United Kingdom was deemed out of compliance" with the Convention "because it allowed parents to remove their children from public school sex-education classes without consulting the child". Farris argues that, "by the same reasoning, parents would be denied the ability to homeschool their children unless the government first talked with their children and the government decided what was best. This committee would even have the right to determine what religious teaching, if any, served the child's best interest."

I'm quite glad that Sandra Day O'Connor is no longer a part of the Supreme Court.
"I suspect," O'Connor said, according to the Atlanta daily, "that over time we will rely increasingly, or take notice at least increasingly, on international and foreign courts in examining domestic issues."

Doing so, she added, "may not only enrich our own country's decisions, I think it may create that all important good impression."

Because, as Bush's critics keep insisting, it's more important to have the rest of the world love us. Justice for Americans, and for the new republic of Iran, takes a back seat. Way back.

Posted by Doug at 02:10 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 26, 2006

Enron’s Criminals Should Not Go To Prison; They Should Make Money for Their Victims

Former Enron Corp. executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were convicted of conspiracy and fraud yesterday, providing the government a major success in one a of the largest business scandals in U.S. history. (Fox News)

Lay, who founded Enron, was convicted of all six counts of conspiracy and fraud. He was also convicted of bank fraud and making false statements to banks in a separate trial related to his personal banking.

Skilling was found guilty of 19 counts of conspiracy, fraud, insider trading and making false statements. He was found not guilty on nine criminal counts.

Now the futility of the American criminal justice system will come into full view, as two extremely bright men who allowed greed to turn their talent into tragedy will be sentenced to long prison terms. Lay faces a maximum of 45 years in prison, and Skilling’s crimes carry a maximum sentence of 185 years.

Neither man should go to prison. While they have both caused severe damage to individuals who lost millions of dollars in personal pensions and holdings, and they had a terrible impact on the American economy and in national trust in American business, imprisonment is the wrong sanction.

Their punishment should be severe, but prisons are designed to warehouse people who are dangerous. These two men, and others like them, should be punished in ways that will enable them to help repay their victims and heal and restore their communities.

This is called restorative justice.

“Restorative Justice equates toughness on crime with holding offenders accountable for making their victims whole again or "making things right", to the degree possible. Specifically, restorative justice sees the need to provide victims with a sense of fairness and access to a justice system that has few formal obligations to make things right for them. It does this through programs such as restitution, victim- offender mediation and policies that promote victims' rights.

Similarly, restorative justice recognizes that communities are hurt by crime. It seeks to involve communities in the solutions to crime and holds communities accountable for accepting the offending party back into the community once his/her debt is paid, as well as providing an environment for victims of crime to feel safe and secure.
Offenders are held accountable to their victims, communities and families under restorative justice. They are held responsible for making their victims whole again, to the degree possible. Offenders make community restitution to repair the harm caused to their community. By working to repair the damage done to both victims and communities, criminal offenders earn the self-respect essential to leading a productive life upon their eventual return to society.”

As a society, we want revenge, not restorative justice, so the Enron economic-thugs will do time. But they spend the rest of their lives helping to make things better. What a shame.

Posted by Jim at 09:13 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 25, 2006

A Polar Cap is Not a Presidential Platform

I’m part of the renegade (although becoming more mainstream) movement known as the Evangelical Climate Initiative that is working to rally evangelical action against global warming (See posts on this here, here and here). Scripps Howard distributed a Providence Journal editorial on the ECI today.

But does anyone seriously think that a strong position on the environment is going to propel Al Gore back into presidential politics. What’s his campaign slogan, “It’s the Polar Caps, Stupid!” or “Making the World Safe for Environmentalists.”

Not the platform to launch a presidential run.

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

May 24, 2006

"The Trashing of the Christ"

How did the media treat an historically accurate portrayal of Christianity vs. a movie that accuses Christianity of being false? The Media Research Center runs the numbers (either in short summary form or the full report with charts and details).

Posted by Doug at 03:43 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Press Bungling of Katrina Coverage

Press bungling of Katrina coverage and complicity with Democrats in trashing the Administration is explored by Jonah Goldberg at NRO.

This excerpt from Instapundit:

Where to begin? As I’ve written before, virtually all of the gripping stories from Katrina were untrue. All of those stories about, in Paula Zahn’s words, “bands of rapists, going block to block”? Not true. The tales of snipers firing on medevac helicopters? Bogus. The yarns, peddled on Oprah by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and the New Orleans police chief, that “little babies” were getting raped in the Superdome and that the bodies of the murdered were piling up? Completely false. The stories about poor blacks dying in comparatively huge numbers because American society “left them behind”? Nah-ah. While most outlets limited themselves to taking Nagin’s estimate of 10,000 dead at face value, Editor and Publisher—the watchdog of the media—ran the headline, “Mortuary Director Tells Local Paper 40,000 Could Be Lost in Hurricane.”

In all of Louisiana, not just New Orleans, the total dead from Katrina was roughly 1,500. Blacks did not die disproportionately, nor did the poor. The only group truly singled out in terms of mortality was the elderly. According to a Knight-Ridder study, while only 15 percent of the population of New Orleans was over the age of 60, some 74 percent of the dead were 60 or older, and almost half were older than 75. Blacks were, if anything, slightly underrepresented among the dead given their share of the population.
This barely captures how badly the press bungled Katrina coverage. . . . And yet, an ubiquitous media chorus claims simultaneously that Katrina was Bush’s worst hour and the press’s best.

Posted by Jim at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2006

Bush’s Belief in Good and Evil

What we need is a president with flexible principles who has a personal faith that does not affect his public policy decisions. That, it seems, is the position of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who told Reuters: "I worked for two presidents who were men of faith, and they did not make their religious views part of American policy.” Albright was, referring, of course, to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

"President Bush's certitude about what he believes in, and the division between good and evil, is, I think, different," said Albright, who has written a book about faith and foreign policy titled The Mighty and the Almighty.

Albright said, "The absolute truth is what makes Bush so worrying to some of us." You’d prefer absolute lies? Or maybe relativism and situational truth?

This all reminds me of William Wilberforce, who we’ll probably be talking a lot about next year, or at least that’s what the people at Walden Media (“Narnia”) hope. In Spring 2007, Walden will be releasing “Amazing Grace,” the true story of William Wilberforce, a British statesman and reformer from the early part of the 19th century who led a twenty-year fight to abolish the British slave trade.

During the years that I traveled with Chuck Colson as his chief of staff and public relations VP, he often cited Wilberforce as a model (and, in fact, we established the annual William Wilberforce Award). And he would quote Lord Melbourne, who sounded quite a lot like Ms. Albright in his criticism of Wilberforce’s actions:

"Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life."

I dread the day when people such as Albright prevail and speaking truth is seen as a form of hate speech.

Posted by Jim at 07:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006

Bible Brawl: Group Disses a Stellar Textbook as Georgia Adopts High School Classes on the Bible

In April, Georgia became the first state to enact legislation that calls for public high school courses about the Bible. The state school board is to develop the curriculum by February 2007, and local school districts, teachers, and even students will decide what version of the Bible to use as a textbook. My Christianity Today article on Georgia’s move is now posted at Christianity Today.

Here’s a bit more.

In Georgia, where it is sometimes difficult to distinguish party affiliation, four Democratic state senators spurred the Bible curriculum legislation. Sen. Tim Golden (D-Valdosta), Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna), and others proposed the concept behind Senate Bill 79, which was passed overwhelming in late March and signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue on April 20. Republicans—who now control both houses of the Georgia legislature—put their mark on the law by requiring that the Bible be used as the textbook, rather than the text The Bible and Its Influence, which was earmarked for use in the Democratic version of the bill.

The Georgia tussle is an extension of wrestling by national evangelicals over the reliability of The Bible and Its Influence for teaching the Bible in the public schools. Released last September by the Bible Literacy Project, The Bible and Its Influence is a textbook to be used with a Bible of the student’s choice. It is designed to meet constitutional standards for public school use as an elective in English or Social Studies programs for 9th to 12th grades. The National Association of Evangelicals and leaders such as Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship, Joseph Stowell of Moody Bible Institute, and Os Guinness of The Trinity Forum support the text.

I have the textbook. It’s excellent. I want to take a course using this book to explore the Bible as literature and historical record. Although The Bible and Its Influence was sadly dropped from the Georgia legislation, there is still a chance the state school board will use it. That would go against the legislation, which requires that the Bible itself be used—because the text is designed to be used with the Bible. Not instead of the Bible, which was some of the misinformation used in the campaign against it in Georgia and Alabama.

D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge and John Hagee of Cornerstone Church are among those campaigning against it, and they are looking silly doing it. They are lonely voices and they’re hitting a sour, discordant note at that. Hagee does a lot of odd things, but I’m surprised by Kennedy—who may have received bad information from someone.

Colson said: “[The Bible and Its Influence] is not meant to be a substitute for the teachings of the church, but rather a means of furthering the foundational knowledge of students.”

Alabama, Tennessee, and Missouri are also considering legislation this session to teach courses about the Bible in public schools. Randy Brinson, head of Alabama-based Redeem the Vote, suggested the Bible curriculum laws to legislators in Alabama and Georgia and recommended The Bible and Its Influence as a textbook that would withstand legal challenges.

“As we’ve worked to register Christian young people to vote, we’ve polled them about their concerns,” Brinson explained. “Religious liberty and education are at the top of the list, which prompted us to look at ways to bring the study of the Bible into public schools.”

But when Tommie Williams, the Republican majority leader in the Georgia senate, prepared the Republican version of the legislation, he consulted with Elizabeth Ridenour, president of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

Ridenour says believes that it is important that the Bible be used as the main textbook in public schools so it is taught from a position of neutrality. She is opposed to the use of The Bible and Its Influence and may have done more to keep it out of the Georgia legislation than anyone is saying. It is revealing that the legislation opens the possibility of the state using the curriculum that her organization offers.

The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools is featuring the strongly worded condemnation by Kennedy and Hagee on its Website. There seems to be some political games being played by Ridenour, and she clearly has a conflict of interest.

While welcoming a new law that will allow instruction on the Bible, Brinson calls the political jockeying tinged by evangelical in-fighting “looking for wedges in an area where common ground should be easy to find.”

In 1963, the Supreme Court prohibited the devotional use of the Bible in public school classrooms but ruled that academic study of the Bible is constitutional. The court said that teaching about the Bible is acceptable, but teaching what to believe is not.

The new Georgia law seeks to meet this standard, requiring that courses be taught “in an objective and non-devotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students." But the use of the Bible itself as a textbook takes the law to untested ground. Georgia Senator Doug Stoner said he and his colleagues recommended use of The Bible and its Influence in the original legislation for this reason.

As to why there shouldn’t be similar courses on other religious works, such as the Koran, Stoner said: “In his works, Shakespeare has 1300 references to the Bible, not the Koran. Students need to know the Bible to understand western civilization and western literature.”

Posted by Jim at 05:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Myth of Aid

The Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty has their own PowerBlog worth keeping track of (and a semi-occasional podcast). I missed this last week (my blog reading got way behind), but it's a good one; the Myth of Aid.

Why do we continually think that throwing money at a problem solves it? Acton highlights their efforts to bust the myth as well as ABC's John Stossel. Often the money simply buttresses corrupt governments and reinforces the bad policies they inflict on their people. We should be more concerned with bringing capitalism to these countries rather than encouraging graft (think "Oil-for-Food").

Posted by Doug at 11:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006

History Repeats Itself

Comparisons of the Iranian regime to Nazi Germany just got more legitimacy.

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

UPDATE: Looks like the story wasn't true after all. Hot Air has the details, step by step as the truth came out. My commentary on why we need to take real action against Iran, however, still stands, regardless of whether or not people are being tagged.

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."

And guess who's been a big sponsor of this?
The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And the official line is "no comment".
A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. "This is nothing to do with anything here," said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani.

"We are not here to answer such questions."

The question before the world now is whether history will repeat itself. Is there a diplomatic solution to this? Consider how often Ahmadinejad has been slamming those doors and upping the ante, both in rhetoric and now in legislation.
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, protesting the Iranian law and calling on the international community to bring pressure on Iran to drop the measure.

"The world should not ignore this," said Rabbi Hier. "The world ignored Hitler for many years -- he was dismissed as a demagogue, they said he'd never come to power -- and we were all wrong."

Mr. Farber said Canada and other nations should take action to isolate Mr. Ahmadinejad in light of the new law, which he called "chilling," and his previous string of anti-Semitic statements.

"There are some very frightening parallels here," he said. "It's time to start considering how we're going to deal with this person."

Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a myth and earlier this year announced Iran would host a conference to re-examine the history of the Nazis' "Final Solution."

He has caused international outrage by publicly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Outrage, yes, but has that done anything constructive? There are still steps we can take short of war to try to force the issue, but no one has the guts to take them yet. Just issue another report and have another vote and go home thinking you've done something. It's time for action on Iran. The longer we wait, the more strenuous the action must be to make a difference.

But remember that the Left in this country was outraged just over sanctions. Ahmadinejad may be counting on such allies to keep the wolves at bay until he has a nuclear club to threaten them with. And if America doesn't put its weight behind such sanctions, they're highly unlikely to work.

It may be time to choose your weapon. Continuing to watch 1940s Germany replay right before our eyes shouldn't be an option.

Posted by Doug at 12:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 18, 2006

What's Da Big Deal About Da Vinci?

"The Da Vinci Code" is a work of fiction, right? Right, but it's based on a series of "facts", many of which have been debunked. Thus it winds up leaving to the reader where to draw the line as to where fact stops and the fiction begins, even when dealing with Brown's "facts".

The results, then, are not surprising.


"The Da Vinci Code" has undermined faith in the Roman Catholic Church and badly damaged its credibility, a survey of British readers of Dan Brown's bestseller showed on Tuesday.

People are now twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children after reading the Dan Brown blockbuster and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect.

"An alarming number of people take its spurious claims very seriously indeed," said Austin Ivereigh, press secretary to Britain's top Catholic prelate Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.

"Our poll shows that for many, many people the Da Vinci Code is not just entertainment," Ivereigh added.

The Edmonton Journal:
Almost one in five Canadians believe that Jesus Christ's death on the cross was faked and that he married and had a family, according to a new poll that challenges the cornerstone Christian belief in the resurrection.

Albertans were most likely to accept The Da Vinci Code's premise, with 22 per cent reporting they believe in a hoax.

See extended entry for an update.

It is true that this book and movie will also cause people to look more closely at the Bible to find the truth, but I believe it will mostly be those who would already be skeptical of Brown's book. But the price at which this is bought--the further distancing from the truth those who haven't made up their mind--seems too high for a Christian to stomach. Saying "it's just fiction" doesn't answer the problem. Saying "I wasn't fooled" ignores the problem. Saying "only the foolish will be fooled" condemns the uneducated and ignorant (something Jesus wouldn't do).

The reason Christians need to make a noise about this is because the truth is being muddled to the point that people are being led away from the truth under the guise of a work that, while covered by the fig leaf of the label "historical fiction", blurs the line between "historical" and "fiction" so profoundly that a significant number of people can't tell the difference.

If someone wrote a "historical fiction" novel about the the battle of Gettysburg with as many problems with the facts as "The Da Vinci Code" has, it would be rightly panned by Civil War historians. It wouldn't change their minds as to the truth of what happened during that battle, but they would be properly concerned that the general public, who didn't have the same information they do nor necessarily the inclination to research it, would tend to believe it. They would try to convince people to stay away from such a movie. No one would blame them. It should be the same for the response you're hearing from many churches (sans any calls for banning books or movies).

And with "The Da Vinci Code", there's far more at stake than simple historical accuracy. There's eternity to consider.

UPDATE: In case you still think that Dan Brown's motive is purely entertainment, consider this quote from an interview on CNN (emphasis mine):

SAVIDGE: Obviously, you were just looking at the Last Supper there. When we talk about da Vinci and your book, how much is true and how much is fabricated in your storyline?

BROWN: 99 percent of it is true. All of the architecture, the art, the secret rituals, the history, all of that is true, the Gnostic gospels. All of that is -- all that is fiction, of course, is that there's a Harvard symbologist named Robert Langdon, and all of his action is fictionalized. But the background is all true.

This is a book meant to persuade under the guise of entertainment.

Posted by Doug at 01:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Online Integrity

Josh Trevino's "basic plea for basic decency" on the web is called Online Integrity. The main points of the effort are:

  • Private persons are entitled to respect for their privacy regardless of their activities online. This includes respect for the non-public nature of their personal contact information, the inviolability of their homes, and the safety of their families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted. The separateness of private persons’ professional lives should also be respected as much as is reasonable.
  • Public figures are entitled to respect for the non-public nature of their personal, non-professional contact information, and their privacy with regard to their homes and families. No information which might lead others to invade these spaces should be posted.
  • Persons seeking anonymity or pseudonymity online should have their wishes in this regard respected as much as is reasonable. Exceptions include cases of criminal, misleading, or intentionally disruptive behavior.
  • Violations of these principles should be met with a lack of positive publicity and traffic.

A worthy, bipartisan effort to help clear the air and keep the conversation civil.

Posted by Doug at 06:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 16, 2006

Name That Spin

Yesterday's "Best of the Web Today" column by James Taranto (a daily must-read) has a rather long section (scroll down to "High Bias") on how the news organizations keep spinning the news, including:

  • A New York Time headline that says precisely the opposite of what the story says.
  • An AP headline that sounds more ominous than it really is.
  • Speculation and editorializing in an AP news report.
  • Headlining poll results with selectively aggregated information.
  • Poorly worded poll questions.

And guess which way--pro- or anti-Bush--all these stories are slanted? (Do I really have to ask?)

Posted by Doug at 01:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 12, 2006

Comments Working Again

Comments are back on again. Don't know how they got shut off, but it was brought to my attention that they weren't allowing anyone to post, and I've cleared that up.

Sorry for the inconvenience. (It did seem kinda quite around here.)

Posted by Doug at 04:22 PM | TrackBack

Criminalizing Dot Collecting

The revelation yesterday that the NSA has the same phone records that they pull weekly on "Law & Order" has Washington in a tizzy. However, it's not causing much concern outside of there.

A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it.

A slightly larger majority--66 percent--said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made, the poll found.

I'm not a big fan of polls in general, especially when they ask Americans about information outside their expertise. (Would a poll on how far away people think the moon is really mean anything? Should it affect policy on anything? The Patriot Post has a great article today on what it calls "Pollaganda" that's well worth reading.) But what this poll does show is that what some folks are calling "controversial" is only a controversy in their own mind. Is it illegal? Is it good or bad policy? This poll answers none of this, and as such doesn't really give us much information. What it does do is expose the bias of anyone suggesting that this program is currently controversial, unless their bar of controversy is somewhere north of 3/4ths agreement, which is rather silly and self-serving.

As to those who have an extremely low secrecy threshold, Scott Ott nails it.

Concerned that the National Security Agency (NSA) may have violated the civil liberties of Americans by analyzing records of millions of phone calls to detect patterns that might indicate terrorist activity, a bipartisan coalition in Congress today will unveil legislation to scrap the NSA and replace it with a more 'transparent' spy agency.

According to language in the measure, the new intelligence unit, dubbed Open-Source Intelligence (OSI), will "harness the power of the internet to protect the right of the American people to know how their spy dollar is spent."

"There's nothing like sunshine to ensure accountability," said an unnamed Congressional aide who spoke in exchange for a lobster dinner, a fine chianti and a $12 Macanudo cigar. "Just because the enemy is among us, using our telecommunications infrastructure to plot the next major attack, doesn't mean the government can sneak around doing secret stuff simply to save a few thousand, or million, lives. We have rights."

Many of the same people who blamed Bush for not "connecting the dots" prior to 9/11 are probably in that 35 percent that now want to make collecting those dots illegal.

Posted by Doug at 01:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006

We Have the Technology, But...

Where is the outcry among activists about the fact that over 2 billion of the world’s citizens do not have electricity, or that over 2.5 billion do not have access to basic sanitation? Where is the outrage that over 4 million preventable deaths occur each year due to tuberculosis and other lung infections stemming from indoor pollution caused by using dung as fuel for fires? What about the 6 million people who die from unsafe water or spoiled food?

These are not hypothetical future deaths; these are real deaths that are occurring right under our noses, which could be easily thwarted if the proper technology were applied to certain poor regions of the world.

Read this article by Daniel Son for the reason these conditions haven't improved when indeed they can.

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

May 08, 2006

"Day of Truth" vs Journalists and Educators

Religion in schools will not be tolerated. Anti-religious views are just fine.

The Sampson County school system stands behind a decision to suspend a student for passing out Christian leaflets at Midway High School, Superintendent Stewart Hobbs said Friday.

Hobbs said the student was given in-school suspension for insubordination after disobeying the principal about distributing the fliers.

The handouts, which presented a Christian viewpoint on homosexuality, caused a disturbance in the school and prompted some students, teachers and a parent to complain, Hobbs said.

Bias and nonsense, both in the same line of news.

First of all, handouts themselves can't cause disturbances. They are, in fact, simply pieces of paper, incapable of independent action. Yes, I know that all sounds rather silly to have to explain, but the journalist who presumably studied Language Arts got this wrong, and I just wanted to set the record straight if others had the same misconception.

Second, if handing out fliers is "disturbing", then the very same handing out of fliers by students on the previous day's Day of Silence should not have been allowed either. I doubt that's the "disturbance" being referred to, however. Instead, I would bet that there were students who got upset at the contents of these fliers and likely they caused this disturbance. Unfortunately, this journalist did not answer all the proper questions a news article should, and we're left with the impression that the student handing out the fliers was the responsible party. There's your bias; not reporting the whole story and thus implicitly placing the responsibility for the disturbance on the guy voicing non-PC viewpoints.

But the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group, said the student, Benjamin Arthurs, was wrongfully punished for expressing his religious beliefs. The group has filed a federal lawsuit against the school system, saying it violated Arthurs' freedom of speech by not allowing him to wear a Day of Truth shirt and to pass out the leaflets during noninstructional time.

"That, in our opinion, is unconstitutional," said David Cortman, a lawyer with the alliance.

Hobbs said the student was allowed to wear the shirt but told not to hand out the fliers. "The only thing the T-shirt said was, 'Day of Truth,' and we felt that was not forcing his religion on others," Hobbs said. The handouts, however, did present religious views, he said.

If you have to voluntarily accept a flier, how is that "forcing" anything? No one is compelled to take the flier. The problem for the school is that religion, to them, has no place in the public square, even during noninstructional time.
Arthurs, a ninth-grader, handed out the fliers following the April 26 Day of Silence, an event promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. He asked Canady if he could wear the shirt and hand out Day of Truth cards, the lawsuit said. He was told he could not wear a religious T-shirt or distribute religious literature because that would be “pushing his religion on others,” the lawsuit said, and “religion is not allowed in school.”

"Religion is not allowed in school"? Banned? You're not allowed to speak about it? I mean, if you can't hand out printed material to those who volunteer to take it, what about actually talking about it? Those who think the First Amendment is doing just fine in America need to know what educators think about it.

Students don't lose their constitutional rights in school, but there are valid restrictions on them while in public school. In fact, I would agree that Arthurs should have been punished for disobeying the administration. If you don't have some semblance of order in school, you soon have little else. So even though I think the rules are being misapplied and use a double-standard, I agree with the suspension. I also, however, agree that the decision and the rules that led up to it need to be dealt with, and if that requires the courts to (hopefully) clarify the Constitution and possibly reverse the punishment, so be it.

Cortman said it is unfair that the school system allowed students to participate in the Day of Silence but did not let Arthurs express his Christian views. Day of Silence is a nationwide movement that allows students to protest anti-homosexual bullying and discrimination. Students hand out fliers and remain silent throughout the day.

So it's not the handing out of fliers that is the issue, and again this points out the misinformation given in the first paragraph of this story. If handing out fliers was a "disturbance", it should have been so on the Day of Silence as well. Thus, the disturbance was most likely caused by other students reacting to these fliers, not the student handing them out (nor the allegedly self-aware fliers themselves). No mention is made of these students or (possibly) teachers that really caused the disturbance. Whether this is due to journalistic incompetence or bias is not known, but it doesn't speak well of the writer.
The Day of Truth, which is held after the Day of Silence, was established by the Alliance Defense Fund to express the Christian perspective on homosexuality.

“School officials shouldn’t be treating religious students any differently than they treat other students,” Cortman said, “and that’s exactly what is happening here.”

According to the lawsuit, Arthurs belongs to the Bible Club, the National Honor Society and Who’s Who of American High School students. The lawsuit says his religious beliefs “compel him to share his faith and to address relevant subjects from a Biblical point of view with other students.”

In the lawsuit, the alliance is asking that Arthurs’ in-school suspension be removed from his record and that the school system write a policy giving students the right to free speech including religious speech.

I remember a video I saw of students praying around a school flagpole before school started in one of the early "See You at the Pole" events. School had not yet started for the day, and the event took place outside, so no disruption of learning occurred and no religion was "forced" on anyone. And yet, students were arrested because educators didn't understand the whole "free exercise of religion" concept. It's been 15 years since "See You at the Pole" got started, and yet the ignorance and double-standards continue (and this ignorance dates back long before that). And still educators keep needing further education on this topic.

This is a sad commentary on the public school system, and further exposure of the double-standard applied to Christians, both in actions taken against them and in the reporting of those actions.

Posted by Doug at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 02, 2006

Israel by the Numbers

Tomorrow is Independence Day in Israel, celebrating their 58th year. In honor of this, The Israel Project has put together some numbers about Israel and its history. Very enlightening.

Posted by Doug at 10:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Some DaVinci Thoughts

Walking from meeting to meeting in New York City last Friday—-it was a beautiful Spring day in the city and I preferred walking to a taxi or the subway—-I passed St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is a stunning site at any time, but what stunned me was the sight of a bus stop placard adjacent to the Cathedral for the movie The DaVinci Code. It was a vivid symbol of Dan Brown and his sponsors “flipping the bird” in the face of the Church.

I read the DaVinci Code last year because it was being discussed so widely by non-Christians, and being so thoroughly criticized by Christian believers who hadn’t read it.

Now the movie is about to apppear, and those of us who are followers of Jesus have to deal with the question of how to react and what to do. Do we know how to answer those who come away from the book and movie with deep doubts and new, false information about the foundations of our faith?

Does the church have the moral authority or societal relationships to effectively respond to this great cultural affront to the fundamentals of historic Christianity?

I found the novel to be fine, about on par with dozens of Robert Ludlum novels, and not as good as most Tom Clancy stories. I found the ending disappointing—if you’re going to be bold enough to make the claims about Mary Magdalene, have the guts to find her grave.

But it is, of course, profoundly blasphemous, and historically inaccurate on so many counts. Christianity is based on many empirically proven facts and accounts, but it also requires what Francis Schaeffer called “the leap of faith.” But rather than find a basis of doubt in that leaping area, Dan Brown based the blasphemy on the wrong telling of known facts.

But Brown’s supposedly bold effort simply reminds me of being in 6th grade. During that year, north of Boston, I pursued grade-school rebellions of that time—-the mid-1960s—-sneaking off behind the big house on the hill with other prepubescent friends to smoke a pack of Kents from the purse of a friend’s mother. Pulling a fire alarm and running. And a variety of other stupid acts that were made delicious because they were so wrong according the rules my parents had communicated so clearly.

And so it is with Mr. Brown. He can call Jesus names and get away with it. He can say that the church made up all that stuff about Jesus Christ being God, and the church can’t touch him. He can make God Incarnate sexually active, and the culture will snicker and sneak off into dark theaters to watch the revelation, because Christians won’t declare a jihad against writers like others would.

There is much being written and said to equip Christians to confront the lies that have been presented as the truth behind Brown’s fiction.

CNN Online has a good roundup of some opposition.

Included are these examples:

To give just one example, Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary is following up the criticisms of the novel in "The Gospel Code" with lectures in Singapore, Turkey and 30 U.S. cities. He's given 55 broadcast interviews.

Assaults on "Da Vinci" don't just come from evangelicals like Witherington. A senior Vatican official, Archbishop Angelo Amato, called for a boycott of the film Friday, saying it contained slanderous offenses against Christianity.

Among more liberal thinkers, Harold Attridge, dean of Yale's Divinity School, says Brown has "wildly misinterpreted" early Christianity. Ehrman details Brown's "numerous mistakes" in "Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code" and asks: "Why didn't he simply get his facts straight?"

The whole "Da Vinci" hubbub, Witherington says, shows "we are a Jesus-haunted culture that's biblically illiterate" and harbors general "disaffection from traditional answers."

But he and others also see a chance to inform people about the beliefs of Christianity through the "Da Vinci" controversy.

"If people are intrigued by the historical questions, there are plenty of materials out there," Yale's Attridge says.

And that may be the book and movie’s greatest contribution. We welcome the honest inquirer who asks: Who is this Jesus?

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