September 12, 2007

Early Thoughts on 2008

It’s after Labor Day, and I think every serious candidate who is going to get in is in; so it may be time to begin writing more about 2008. At least today.

As a conservative pragmatist, evangelical Christian, and an increasingly rare supporter of President Bush, what do I want in the next president?

I want sound conservative policy that seeks to limit the role of government, accentuates the value of personal accountability and responsibility, recognizes the values of the free market, and respects the role of spiritually infused moral character in the maintenance of a civil society--and in forging a balance between order and freedom.

One Nation, Speaking English
I want the president to seek to maintain the values and identity of America by addressing the central issue of domestic policy, the control of national borders, immigration—legal and illegal—and the return of the melting pot, not a cultural Balkanization that destroys nationhood. Making English the national language would be a nice touch, and important to this goal.

Keep Battling Jihadism
The new president must recognize that the central international issue is the isolation and discrediting of radical Islam and jihadism, and the defeat of the terrorists that emerge. My president should acknowledge that Iraq is a necessary part of that battle.

The president cannot shrink at the possibility that we must take solid, even military action, against Iran, which is clearly toxic and dangerous and the leading sponsor of international terrorism. We must show Iran strength; they think we are weak.

Total Life Ethic
I want the president to have a total life ethic. For me that starts with persuading people to stop choosing abortion. That is the most important priority, and it is separate from our need to reverse Roe v Wade, which I also believe needs to be done.

(Could just one national Democratic candidate mount a campaign to stop women from choosing abortions? The right to choose has to include the right to choose life. That would be a start; but no one has staked out that ground).

I believe part of a total life ethic is raising the standard for application of the death penalty. I like Romney’s standard of “no doubt” on death penalty, which I have written on.

We need to assure a healthy life for our children by reversing environmental degradation and resulting climate change. My favorite candidate will stop ignoring sound and widely accepted science--the overwhelming proof that human-induced global warming is a problem. Just what the solution should be can be debated; but to deny that it is a problem means the candidate is playing to what he thinks the based wants to hear; pure and simple. The Republicans need to talk more about climate; it is hard to discern their opinions, although from what I’ve seen, Guiliani and Huckabee seem the most open to finding solutions.

Marriage is the Sacred Union of a Man and Woman
I think the president should lead the nation to assure that marriage is protected as the sacred bonding of a man and woman, grounded in faith, history, tradition, all that we have known for all time.

But I also would support states’ rights to establish civil unions between any two consenting adults of any gender. If we give two homosexuals special rights in a civil union, however, we need to also provide them to two heterosexual men who establish households, or a man and woman who set up a household but don’t marry (perhaps aren’t even sleeping together). It provides some benefit to those who in some way establish a stable household.

Democrats Fail on Almost Every Measure
None of the Democrats qualify because they’ve all taken the wrong position on Iraq and on abortion.

On the Republicans
I don’t care if Romney is Mormon. I just want him to be more human. His reaction to the Larry Craig incident was heartless; he feels like a Dukakis automan at times. Is it the Massachusetts air? I like his business sense and his innovation. He just needs to loosen up and be real.

I was a supporter of John McCain in 2000 He is an American hero; I like his candor and passion; I know all of the conservative complaints. I just think he is too old. The presidency is too hard; it makes young men old; it makes old men senile.

There is something very attractive about Guiliani’s strength and honesty. I agree with him on far fewer issues than most of the others, but I feel like he’d be a good president.

Fred Thompson looks like the president of the United States, and I like that he has been in the D.C. trenches as counsel to the Watergate committee. I like that he’s shown partisan independence enough to make his own party mad, but that he’s got a great conservative voting record. I don’t think federalism is the answer to as many things as Fred thinks it is—but there are far worse things in a candidate. He’s formidable, and if he can let his personality come through on the stump, and during debates (remember Bob Dole, who couldn’t), he can beat Hillbama.

I like everything I’ve read about Huckabee, except that he comes from Hope, Arkansas, which is kind of weird, with Bill Clinton and all. His Christian faith resonates; I like his openness on the environment. He supports the Fair Tax, which would change America for the better. Anyone who can conquer obesity and stay thin, has shown great strength and courage. That means more than he’s being given credit for. I just don’t think he has enough gravitas to make it. As I’ve said, Romney or Guiliani should select him as VP—for regional balance and all that Huckabee is.

Maybe Brownback another year. He’s a good guy.

I think a lot of Newt Gingrich—he is smarter than all of the rest of them-- but I don’t he can overcome the baggage and I don’t think he’ll jump in.

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September 05, 2007

Another Giant of the Christian Right Passes: James Kennedy Dead at 76

D. James Kennedy died this morning. His greatest accomplishment was certainly Evangelicsm Explosion, credited with the conversion to Christianity of more than 50 million people. Not bad for a Presbyterian, eh?

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Some Gems from a Very Old Blogroll

As I near the third anniversary of my personal blog, The Rooftop Blog, I’ve decided to clean up the Blogroll. There are blogs on there I haven't visited in months; well, years. If they’re no longer interesting to me, off they go. At the same time, I’ll spend some time mentioning some interesting posts. Here we go:

I Wonder if it’s Superstition

21st Century Reformation, which has a nice mix of serious spirituality and pop interest, says Steve Wonder’s Superstition is the best ever, and points to a fun YouTube clip of a performance. Remind me to tell you sometime about the free concert Stevie Wonder did for me years ago at the Baltimore Penitentiary that cost me $25,000.

If It Was Only Flatulence

A Red Mind in a Blue State muses

“Hearing all this green talk lately, Live Earth, etc. How delicious would it be if we eventually found out that global warming is caused by the flatulence of whales, manatees and baby seals, and that the only sure way to save the Earth is with a club?...”

That would make things a lot easier. But, alas, it’s us—which makes the club less desirable.


Blood and Fire

Adrian Warnock in the UK still appreciates great old hymns. Here’s one by William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army.

One stanza:

To make our weak hearts strong and brave: Send the fire! To live, a dying world to save: Send the fire today! Oh, see us on Your altar lay, We give our lives to you today, So crown the offering now we pray: Send the fire today! Send the fire today! Send the fire today!

Diamond in the Rough

For some reason, this actually brings tears to your eyes.

The Miracle of Grace, in Washington

Beyond the Rim cites Peggy Noonan’s call for grace in response to the Sept. Iraq report.

It will take something that miraculous to keep it from becoming just another political football.

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August 30, 2007

Green Evangelicals No One's Political Patsy: My Op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Those of you who have read my material over the last year know that our public relations firm, Rooftop MediaWorks, has been handling communications for the national Evangelical Climate Initiative. And during the last six months, I have been serving as Campaign Director for the ECI.

In that role, I wrote an op-ed on how mainstream media and Democratic pundits have been wrongly assuming that green evangelicals have become liberal Democrats.

The op-ed is appearing on August 31 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (ECI is headquartered in the Atlanta area).

The piece reads in part:

The clearest way to explain the majority of American evangelicals, including the new — often young — evangelicals is that they are increasingly embracing a total life ethic.

This new ethic still calls for protection of the unborn and of the unwanted through policies against abortion and euthanasia. But it also strives to protect the climate, and to help the poor and disadvantaged in the U.S. and in the vulnerable places of the world, such as Africa. The total life ethic seeks to protect the incubator and divinely designed cradle of human life, the family; but it also calls for human rights, freedom and the rewards of hard work. New evangelicals are reaching into new areas, but they don't stop preaching and demonstrating that fullness of life comes only through lives surrendered to and transformed by Jesus Christ.


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August 28, 2007

More on the Possible Aguilera Pro-Life Position

The Lurking Canary has discovered some inconsistencies in the Aguilera versus Amnesty's pro-abortion stance.


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Big Decline in Poverty Rate: Good for Compassionate Conservatism; Bad for Edwards Campaign

Let's see how the liberals explain away this Bush success story.

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August 27, 2007

Pro-life Activism from Unexpected Quarters: Artists Slam Amnesty’s Abortion Shift

The last place I’d expect to look for pro-life activism is among musicians outside of the Christian music world. But this article discusses the disgust of two singers, Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne over Amnesty International’s decision to support women’s access to abortion. Both singers have made statements against abortion, but are among contributors to an Amnesty CD released to raise money for survivors of the atrocities in Darfur.

Aguilera, 26, is a devout American Catholic. She is reportedly expecting her first child and has taken part in a television show in which she interviewed a teenager who had kept her baby rather than have an abortion.

Lavigne, 22, is a French-Canadian from a tight-knit Christian family. Her song Keep Holding On is the backing track to a pro-life video on YouTube that declares “abortion is murder”.


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August 22, 2007

Inspiring Speeches: Washington, Bush, Colson and Cuomo

I love soaring, poetic speeches, and I particularly appreciate beautifully written short speeches that inspire. I blogged on inspiring short speeches in November 2004

I’m thinking today of great speeches I’ve witnessed in person.


The Enduring Revolution

First, a speech by Charles Colson on September 2, 1993 after he was awarded the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which he donated to the ministry of Prison Fellowship. Now defunct Moody magazine described (Nov. 8, 1993) the setting:

“Prison Fellowship chairman Charles Colson faced a situation that mirrors what the church as a whole faces. People of several faiths, many of whom were attending the Parliament of the World's Religions, gathered at Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago to hear an address on religious liberty. What do evangelicals have to say in a pluralistic setting? How do we talk about the cultural role of religion with those who worship other gods? As the winner of the 1993 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, Mr. Colson had earned the right to stand on the platform. The speech, titled The Enduring Revolution, is what he said when he got there."

An excerpt:

We stand at a pivotal moment in history, when nations around the world are looking westward. In the past five years, the balance of world power shifted dramatically. Suddenly, remarkably, almost inexplicably, one of history's most sustained assaults on freedom collapsed before our eyes.

The world was changed, not through the militant dialectic of communism, but through the power of unarmed truth. It found revolution in the highest hopes of common men. Love of liberty steeled under the weight of tyranny; the path of the future was charted in prison cells.

This revolution's symbolic moment was May Day 1990. Protesters followed the tanks, missiles, and troops rumbling across Red Square. One, a bearded Orthodox monk, darted under the reviewing stand where Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders stood. He thrust a huge crucifix into the air, shouting above the crowd, "Mikhail Sergeyevich! Christ is risen!"

Gorbachev turned and walked off the platform.

Across a continent the signal went. In defiant hope a spell was broken. The lies of decades were exposed. Fear and terror fled. And millions awoke as from a long nightmare.

Their waking dream is a world revolution. Almost overnight the western model of economic, political, and social liberty has captured the imagination of reformers and given hope to the oppressed. We saw it at Tiananmen Square, where a replica of the Statue of Liberty, an icon of western freedom, became a symbol of Chinese hope. We saw it in Czechoslovakia when a worker stood before a desolate factory and read to a crowd, with tears in his eyes, the American Declaration of Independence.

This is one of history's defining moments. The faults of the West are evident -- but equally evident are the extraordinary gifts it has to offer the world. The gift of markets that increase living standards and choices. The gift of political institutions where power flows from the consent of the governed, not the barrel of a gun. The gift of social beliefs that encourage tolerance and individual autonomy.

Free markets. Free governments. Free minds.

Read the full speech, especially the masterful description of the Four Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse.

A personal note: Jonathan Aitken related in his biography Charles Colson: A Life Redeemed, how I—as Colson’s executive assistant—employed some harmless yet somewhat Colsonian means to fill the Rockefeller Chapel for Chuck’s speech.

The Second Inaugural

The second speech on today’s list is George W. Bush’s 2nd Inaugural Address. My wife and I were on the Capitol lawn, close enough to be part of the event and see the participants, but honestly not close enough to see facial expressions, except on the big screen.

It was, I believe, every bit as masterful and soaring as Kennedy’s famous inaugural. Once people are done hating Bush, his second inaugural will be listed as one of the greatest presidential inaugurals in American history:

Excerpt:

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

Notice how Bush tapped Lincoln’s second inaugural for some language.

(Other than the fact that I heard both of these speeches in person, what do these two speeches have in common? This answer to this question is at the end of the post.)

Now for some speeches I didn't see in person:

Edwards/Cuomo

There’s been a lot of talk about the strength of John Edwards' Two Americas speech (regardless of what you think of encouraging class warfare) But notice how he tapped what many see as one of the finest political speeches of our era, Mario Cuomo’s Two Cities speech at the 1984 Democratic convention.

Excerpt:

Ten days ago, President Reagan admitted that although some people in this country seemed to be doing well nowadays, others were unhappy, even worried, about themselves, their families, and their futures. The President said that he didn't understand that fear. He said, "Why, this country is a shining city on a hill." And the President is right. In many ways we are a shining city on a hill. But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city's splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there's another city; there's another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can't pay their mortgages, and most young people can't afford one; where students can't afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate. In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can't find it. Even worse: There are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn't show. There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without a job or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers every day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don't see, in the places that you don't visit in your shining city.

In fact, Mr. President, this is a nation -- Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a "Tale of Two Cities" than it is just a "Shining City on a Hill."

The Most Important Forgotten Words of George Washington

The first George W. saved a young nation with the power of his words and his presence prior to the signing of the peace treaty of 1783. Restless American troops, unhappy with Congress, were scheming a military coup. Washington heard the rumors and surprised a room full of gathered officers, striding to the front of the room and speaking to them. The speech was evidently unremarkable, but what happened next was not:


Following his address Washington studied the faces of his audience. He could see that they were still confused, uncertain, not quite appreciating or comprehending what he had tried to impart in his speech. With a sigh, he removed from his pocket a letter and announced it was from a member of Congress, and that he now wished to read it to them. He produced the letter, gazed upon it, manipulated it without speaking. What was wrong, some of the men wondered. Why did he delay? Washington now reached into a pocket and brought out a pair of new reading glasses. Only those nearest to him knew he lately required them, and he had never worn them in public. Then he spoke: "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country." This simple act and statement by their venerated commander, coupled with remembrances of battles and privations shared together with him, and their sense of shame at their present approach to the threshold of treason, was more effective than the most eloquent oratory. As he read the letter to their unlistening ears, many were in tears from the recollections and emotions which flooded their memories. As Maj. Samuel Shaw, who was present, put it in his journal, " There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye."

Finishing, Washington carefully and deliberately folded the letter, took off his glasses, and exited briskly from the hall. Immediately, Knox and others faithful to Washington offered resolutions affirming their appreciation for their commander in chief, and pledging their patriotism and loyalty to the Congress, deploring and regretting those threats and actions which had been uttered and suggested. What support Gates and his group may have enjoyed at the outset of the meeting now completely disintegrated, and the Newburgh conspiracy collapsed.

American Rhetoric has its ranking of the Top 100 American speeches


Answer to the earlier question about Colson’s Templeton Address and Bush’s Second Inaugural: Both speeches were drafted by speechwriter Michael Gerson, who began his career as a writer for Colson immediately following his graduation from Wheaton College, and went on to write for the president. Any question about who wrote much of the tremendous, spiritually rich prose for Bush will be put to rest if you read The Enduring Revolution.

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Early Michigan Primary Should Help Romney

I would think the Romney camp would celebrate the news that Michigan is trying to move its primary to January. With a good chance of winning in Iowa and New Hampshire, favorite-son Romney could sweep the first three with an early Michigan primary.

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Use the Vick Dogfighting Case to Prompt the End of the Blood Sport in America

I can't think of much of anything more disgusting than organized dogfighting, except for humans being forced to kill or be killed as gladiators (or in modern day, as child soldiers).

I'm not a big animal rights guy, but senseless cruelty to animals is despicable and often a precursor to further violence.

So it's hard to feel a lot of compassion for multimillionaire Michael Vick who has squandered his career and reputation for a cruel blood sport. Even as an Atlantan, I've never been much of a Vick fan anyway. He has never demonstrated either class or character, even before the dogfighting debacle.

However, I've seen a lot of coverage that singles Vick out as a rare perpetrator of a weird and vicious crime. Unfortunately, as this article explains, dogfighting is widespread and as deeply rooted historically as it is troubling and nauseating.

The best outcome of this case would be a fresh focus on dogfighting and real enforcement of the laws against it. I'm not much on prison time for something like this, by the way. I'd like to see a more creative sanction for Vick, perhaps scooping dog poop at the pound for a year or two.

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August 20, 2007

A Review of Arctic Tale

Here's a review of the new film Arctic Tale by Rusty Pritchard, who I work with on creation care issues. He makes it clear in his review that this kid-friendly film is not an environmentalist screed, and that:

this is a documentary without the usual constant droning about the "work of evolution" (as though such inspiring ecologies could arise by accident). At the start of the film is a comment about the way these creatures are "designed" for their habitat, but the film doesn't make a big deal about that either.

If you have kids whose appreciation for Creation has not been diluted yet, you'll probably want the DVD when it comes out. But see it in the theater to fully appreciate the grandeur of the icy handiwork of God.

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August 16, 2007

A Republican Woman for Vice President 2008

The two Democratic frontrunners for President and the four Republican frontrunners all have traits or histories that would have made them untenable in elections past: A former first lady, a Kenyan-American novice, a thrice married mayor, a Mormon, a septuagenarian, and a playboy actor. If Huckabee continues to ascend--a candidate for The Biggest Loser. Interesting times.

On the Republican side, there is one thing we know the candidate will be: a white male. From the standpoint of governing, the Republican running mate needs to be the best qualified public servant available. Of course, politics comes before governing—you have to get elected to have a chance to govern. So it is possible if not likely that the Republicans will need to balance their ticket to compete against a Dem ticket that is likely to be Hillary, or perhaps even Hillary and Obama.

Regional balance is one thing, and as I’ve said before, I’d love to see Rudy or Mitt select Mike Huckabee as VP. I like Huckabee very much, and the northeasterns need a southerner.

But do the Republicans need a woman, a black, or a black woman to balance Hillbama? If there was a clear selection among Republican women, “yes” would be an easy answer.

The first name on many tongues is Condoleezza Rice; first for president, which she apparently is not interested in; and now for VP, in which she probably is less interested

So where do the Republicans turn? Here are three possibilities:

Elizabeth Dole

Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Also here.

Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska. And here.

What women would you recommend as a Republican vice presidential candidate?

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Democrats Failing on the Religion Front; Candidates Trying God Talk

White House hopeful Joe Biden said that Democrats lost the last two presidential elections in part because they let themselves be portrayed as anti-God, FoxNews reports.

"Democrats have been too afraid to talk about faith, Biden said at a Rotary Club luncheon. But what voters really want to know is whether a president believes in something bigger than themselves and whether he or she respects the faith of others," he said.

This was discussed on Hardball by Chris Matthews and Time magazine's Michael Duffy.

MATTHEWS: Joe Biden, who tends to be very honest, whatever you think of him as the next president, although I think he‘s a fine guy, he very clearly said the other day, yesterday, that the people like Al Gore and John Kerry, the last two Democratic candidate for president, said—created an image that they were somehow—we‘re looking at it right now—that if they were—as he put it, when they‘re sitting next to the pew, that maybe he really doesn‘t respect your view.

In other words, they are not really religious people. They don‘t share your evangelical views and your deeply religious views. They are too secular.

DUFFY: Yes. Well, I think, for the last 25 years, Democrats have done everything they can to alienate religious voters, faith-minded voters. And the...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Not a smart move politically.

DUFFY: Oh, no. And it seemed to be part of the program. They did it to woo a secular left that they thought didn‘t want to have anything to do with that.

MATTHEWS: Was turned off by the religious people, yeah.

DUFFY: Starting with Jimmy Carter and...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I hear it.

DUFFY: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I have heard it years of...

DUFFY: Right. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... people making fun of Jimmy—or Jerry Falwell and people like that. But you knew it was a broader brush than that.

DUFFY: Of course.

MATTHEWS: They were really making fun of the people in the churches, in the tents, in the mega-churches.

DUFFY: Right. It was a really stupid thing to do. And they have begun to realize that.

An important distinction is between political efforts to be seen as responsive to God's leading and respectful to people of genuine faith, and actually having those attributes. In this year's presidential debates and discussions, you can tell the candidates who have actively sought a relationship with God and those who have had a conversion--not on the way to Damascus, but on the way to Des Moines (as one candidate quipped).

Among those I've heard, Huckabee, Brownback, Romney and Obama (and maybe Edwards) are the only candidates who seem comfortable discussing spiritual matters. Great awkwardness from most other frontrunners: Clinton, Guiliani, Thompson, McCain.


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August 14, 2007

Michael Gerson is Not Only a Great Writer But a Man of Character

I former Bush chief speech writer Michael Gerson welll. He was on my staff (I was the chairman's chief of staff at Prison Fellowship when we hired Gerson out of Wheaton to write for Chuck Colson), and his exquisite writing skill is surpassed only by his intellect, strength of moral character, and devotion to God.

I don't believe any of Matthew Scully's complaints about Gerson; perhaps he wanted the Washington Post job Gerson got.

Reading this I remember how Colson would explain that when you work in the White House you're very careful to move along the hallways with your back to the wall--so your apparent friends and political allies don't stab you in the back.

Mike has figured out that the back stabbing can continue after you leave the White House.


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August 13, 2007

Are Hispanics the New Republicans?

Democrats hold an edge with Hispanics in national elections, but Latinos' growing tendency to register as independents and split their vote between parties is buoying Republican prospects for 2008, according to Fox News.

This is a nightmare for Democrats, but it is likely that Hispanics will move toward conservatism as they grow older, own property, and raise children. So if the Republicans don’t alienate the entire demographic group with careless rhetoric in the immigration debate, they will benefit. Don’t forget that the strongest foe of illegal immigration is a legal immigrant, so those trying to control the influx of illegals won’t lose Hispanic immigrants if they aren’t abusive and vindictive.

I'm finishing The Right Nation, by two Brits, John Micklethwait and Adrian Woodridge (2004). This related paragraph:

"[Republican optimists say] that Latinos are worthy strivers--hard working, God-fearing, family-oriented and upwardly mobile. They have the highest male workforce participation rate of any measured group--and one of the lowest incidences of trade union membership and welfare dependency (only 17 percent of immigrant Latinos in poverty collect welfare and 65 percent of poor blacks). Latinos are arguably the most family-oriented ethnic group in American society. They also have a marked propensity to start their own businesses and buy their own homes--both incubators of Republicanism."

Could be a good trend for Republicans...

Or Republicans could be dead right on all aspects of the illegal immigrant debate, and perhaps even win on many fronts--and end up giving the Democrats a New Deal type lock on an entire segment of the population, and being out of power for the next couple of generations.

Something to think about.


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Can Guiliani Find Middle Ground in Abortion Debate?

The Brody File has CBN video of Rudy Guiliani at an Iowa diner waxing on his NYC program to increase adoptions, and postulating that advancing adoption is fertile middle ground for abortion opponents and abortion proponents. As a father of two adopted children, I’m a fan of adoption, and I think it should be advanced, promoted and make a priority for people of all political stripes. Can a president advance adoption, beyond the bully pulpit? On the other hand, can a president stop abortions, beyond Supreme Court appointments?

I’m not sure there is middle ground in the abortion debate. Do enough Republicans think there is to give Guiliani a foothold here?

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August 11, 2007

Actions Are Better Than Offsets

In the category Walk the Talk, or Actions are Bettter than Offsets, or Politicians Make Bad Crusaders, or as Snopes titles it: Glass Houses (h/t: Dad Payton). Also here.

HOUSE # 1
Al Gore's Nashville House.jpg

House #1 A 20 room mansion ( not including 8 bathrooms ) heated by
natural gas. Add on a pool ( and a pool house) and a separate guest
house, all heated by gas. In one month this residence consumes more
energy than the average American household does in a year. The
average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400. In
natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the
national average for an American home. This house is not situated
in a Northern or Midwester n 'snow belt' area. It's in the South.


HOUSE # 2
Bush Crawford Home.bmp

House #2 Designed by an architecture professor at a
leading national university. This house incorporates every
'green' feature current home construction can provide. The house is
4,000 square feet ( 4 bedrooms ) and is nestled on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F. ) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape.


Now the interesting payoff:

House #1 (20 room energy guzzling mansion) is outside of Nashville, Tennessee is the abode of that renowned environmentalist (and filmmaker) Al Gore. House #2 (model eco-friendly house) is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas. Also known as "the Texas White House," it is the private residence of the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

The lesson: clean up your act before becoming a international spokesman for a cause to avoid the appearance of hyprocisy. Also: simplify, then buy offsets (and don't talk about it).

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August 09, 2007

Washington Post Understates Evangelical Movement on Climate

An article titled "Warming Draws Evangelicals Into Environmental Fold" by Juliet Eilperin in the Aug. 8 Washington Post is a welcome look at Rev. Joel Hunter and his role in the growing consensus among evangelicals that Christian faithfulness must include responsible stewardship and protection of God's creation. But Eilperin's effort to tell a compelling story and to outline evangelical creation care quickly, leaves the impression that Rev. Hunter is walking this road alone, and that he's followig only British religious leaders.

In fact, Hunter became involved in climate policy as a signatory of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a group of now 106 senior evangelical leaders who as a result of their commitment to Jesus Christ are calling for sound climate policy that will express a concern for the health and well being of our families today and for many generations. Here is the ECI statement that has captured this sentiment and was signed by 106 leaders.

(The public relations firm I head, Rooftop MediaWorks, is a partner with the Evangelical Climate Initiative and has handled the group's communications campaign.)

I regret that the article did not mention that the signatories of the ECI included perhaps the best known evangelical pastor in America, Rick Warren (Saddleback), as well as megachurch pastor Bill Hybels (Willowcreek), the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson, the presidents of many Christian colleges and evangelical relief and development organizations, and several denominational leaders (here is a complete list of ECI Signatories).

Because the article is anecdotal, I've already seen blog responses that call this an indication of thin evangelical support for Christian action on climate and creation care. That impression is wrong. A national Ellison Research poll of evangelicals to be released next month (the top line results of which were part of a testimony by Jim Ball, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, before the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee in June), showed that 70% of the evangelical population believes global warming will pose a serious threat to future generations, and 64% believe action should be taken immediately to curb global warming.

The Washington Post's coverage of evangelical movement on environmental issues may reveal its sympathy for the cause. But the Juliet Eilperin article actually understated the extent and momentum of evangelical action on climate and creation care. Today, evangelical leaders and the community are embracing biblically based creation care without abandoning their worldview and speaking on environmental issues with a unique evangelical voice.

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Helpful News: Sunni Fighters Seeking Alliances with U.S. Troops

Another news report--in the Washington Post-- with good news from Iraq, where Sunni fighters are recognizing the self interest in cooperating with U.S. troops and working toward influence in the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.

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August 08, 2007

A Summertime Iraq Bombshell from Brookings

I spent the last two weeks vacationing in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and on the Ohio shore of Lake Erie, doing all I could to keep my body in the sand, my face in a book, and my mind away from the worries of the workaday world.

So I'm just catching up with some of the news, and amazed by the source and content of the New York Times op-ed piece "A War We Just Might Win" on July 30 by Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack of Brookings Institution.

(Much of my professional history was working with Prison Fellowship chairman Chuck Colson, who was accused by other Watergate defendants of conspiring or considering the bombing of Brookings Instition as a solution to its criticism of Nixon--or something like that. Colson is famous for quips that get him in trouble. I'm sure the Brookings comments was one of these. Today, I'm sure he's pleased by the report from Brookings).

The O'Hanlon and Pollack report is wonderful news, and it has great credibility because it comes from a think tank that leans left and from writers who have been critical of the war effort.

It would be fabulous for America and the world if they are right, and if the positive military news in Iraq continues. It is inconvenient for politicians and presidential candidates who have based their campaigns on bad war news and the call for withdrawal.

For me, the potential that the good news in Iraq could be enduring is far more important then the political embarassment for the (mostly) Democrats who are relying on failure in the Middle East.

Almost worth returning from vacation to see this good report. Almost.

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August 07, 2007

More on Olympian Pressure on China

More, in the Washington Post, on efforts to pressure China as the Beijing Olympics create a world stage.

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August 06, 2007

Calling for an Evangelical Voice at the Beijing Olympics

The Beijing Olympics may provide a prime target for protest for evangelical Christians, according to the International Herald Tribune. Three issues should be high on the Christian grievance agenda when athletes gather in a revitalized and polished Beijing in 2008.

--China must end its state sponsored persecution of Christian and grant total religious liberty if it is to be respected member of the international community.

--China should use its oil-buying leverage to pressure Sudan to end its sponsoring of bloodshed in Darfur.

--China must restrict its emission of CO2, which is contributing to global warming. China is now the leader CO2 polluter (the U.S. is 2nd).

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July 19, 2007

Compassionate Common Sense on Immigration

In a recent post about the broadening of the evangelical agenda I listed a number of legitimate concerns that have come to new prominence among evangelicals, including climate change, international aid, human rights and compassionate common sense in immigration.

It was that last one that got a response. (I’ve learned through my work with the Evangelical Climate Initiative it is usually climate change that stirs the pot). But immigration is one of the issues where the ideological purity police are prepared to attack if the exact formulation of concern is not expressed.

I cannot believe how badly the politicians and bureaucrats have allowed de facto open immigration to change our nation. I cannot be strong enough in my view that our borders should be the most secure in the world. If we are to continue to be the most generous world citizens (by far), our nation must be economically strong and safe from attack. Those who purposefully look the other way because they believe we owe charity to our poorer neighbors have lost sight of the fact that without strong and secure foundations we will become more vulnerable in every way, and our provision of aid and protection to much of the world will be in jeopardy.

Just do whatever is necessary to stop illegal immigration. Everyone knows it can be done; only some have the will to make it happen,

I do not believe it is reasonable, however, to send every illegal alien home; that is an unworkable solution. We have to recognize that a massive new “trail of tears” to Mexico will not happen and would be a tragedy of monumental proportions.

Yes, I am in favor of some path to permanence, even citizenship, for the illegals in our country. Many should be sent to their home countries because they are a menace to our nation. But most are hardworking, industrious and law-abiding. (I know, being here illegally is not legal; but we are a nation of law-breakers, and we all know it. (Oh, you drive 55?)

We do need to focus on both humanity and nationality. To do so is Christian, and for politicians it is also wise. As Michael Gerson wrote in the Washington Post, nativism will not win elections.

It’s a mess that has no ideal solutions. Seal the borders and keep them that way, or nothing else makes sense. With serious security in place, we can be free to show compassion and common sense.

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July 17, 2007

Evangelicals at a Crossroads?

David Brody at The Brody File is thinking about the passions and political influence of evangelicals. He writes:

The bread and butter issues of abortion and traditional marriage have started to become watered down. Now, all indications are that Evangelicals are becoming passionate about other issues too. Immigration, the environment and maybe, most of all terrorism.

I'm working with a number of the leaders who are what the New York Times called recently "the new breed of evangelicals," and I do not believe that this new breed is any less passionate about the strong issues of the last 25 years--abortion and traditional marriage. They are now also passionate about new issues--such as the environment and international aid--that broaden the agenda. But it is wrong to assume that their new interests in any way change their passion on abortion and family. That's like saying that a new baby in the family lessens a parent's love for the other children.

However, there are very few evangelicals who are going to vote for a pro-abortion candidate because of of his or her stance on climate or action on Darfur. Simple as that. There are some, but not enough to make a political difference.

But candidates who are pro-life and protect the traditional family, and are concerned about climate change, genocide in Africa, and compassionate common sense on immigration and other issues--they can count on the passionate support of a whole new breed of evangelicals. And it is a breed that is growing, including the next generation of voters.

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July 16, 2007

Tell North Korea to Free Son Jong Nam, A Christian Marked for Death Because He Shared His Faith

International inspectors reported this weekend that North Korea has shut down a key nuclear reactor, making it eligible for international economic aid. But the world should insist that the North Koreans show progress in another area--religious liberty. Voice of the Martyrs, a ministry on behalf of persecuted Christians, is publicizing the case of Son Jong Nam, a North Korean who faces possible execution for sharing his faith. (h/t: FRC) Last week, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) joined Mr. Son's brother at a press conference at the National Press Club here in Washington to draw attention to the case. (News release here). In 1998, Mr. Son defected from North Korea to China, where he became a Christian after meeting a South Korean missionary. But in 2001 the Chinese deported him back to North Korea because of his evangelistic work. He was imprisoned and tortured for three years, paroled in 2004, but then re-arrested in January 2006. Mr. Son has reportedly been sentenced to public execution as an example to the North Korean people.

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July 15, 2007

What’s Next for Iraq? Breaking the Deadlock

The United States isn’t going to withdraw from Iraq. We be there for generations, just as we still have troops in Germany, Japan, and Korea. Vietnam was an exception, and only Ted Kennedy’s crowd wants to see a repeat of the horror of post-war Vietnam.

Unless we end up with an irresponsible Democratic administration that will bail at any cost, we will define our ongoing national interests in Iraq and adjust troop levels to accomplish them.

There are only about 20 Senators, all Democrats—including Clinton, Obama—who want to get out of Iraq as quickly as the trucks can roll. Actually, there are more Democratic candidates for president who support immediate withdrawal at any cost than there are Senators who are not presidential candidates .

This says something about the choice presented with the 15 Democratic wannabes line up for one of their endless debates. No reasonable choice for a constructive plan in Iraq.

David Brooks July column in the New York Times (subscription only, but you can read it here) describes the deadlock in the Senate on Iraq policy:

To simplify a bit, roughly 20 senators, led by John McCain and Joe Lieberman, believe in Gen. David Petraeus and the surge. There are roughly 30 Republicans, led by Dick Lugar, John Warner and Lamar Alexander, who believe that the U.S. should scale back its mission and adopt the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations. There are roughly 30 Democrats, led by Carl Levin and Jack Reed, who also want to scale back and adopt the study group’s approach. And finally, there are roughly 20 Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold, who just want to get out as quickly as possible.

In theory, it should be possible to get the 30 Republicans and the 30 Democrats who support the study group’s framework together to embrace a common plan. But Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is doing everything he can to prevent a bipartisan consensus. It’s much better politically for the Democrats to stay united and force the Republicans to vote with the president.

“Is there a middle way? Brooks asks. Is there a way that will protect U.S. interests with a solution that can be maintained for as long as necessary—as we have done in most previous conflicts.

Brooks suggests:

The U.S. will still have vital interests in Iraq, like preventing a terror state and stopping an Iranian takeover. Military planners believe a reduced force is viable: 20,000 troops to protect the Iraqi government, 10,000 to train and advise, 10,000 in headquarters and a smaller number of special forces to chase terrorists.

That’s not something you’ll hear in a Democratic presidential debate, but it may be close to where we need to be.

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July 13, 2007

The Democrats Find GodTalk

The Time magazine article Leveling the Praying Field is both encouraging—because of its recognition of the importance of faith and the discussion of faith in the public square—and frightening—because there are plenty of people dull enough to be excited just because a politician is throwing in the word God from time to time like a newfound adjective.

Note this paragraph:

The revival comes at a time when the entire religious-political landscape is changing shape. A new generation of evangelical leaders is rejecting old labels; now an alliance of religious activists that runs from the crunchy left across to the National Association of Evangelicals has called for action to address global warming, citing the biblical imperative of caring for creation. Mainline, evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations have united to push for immigration reform. The possibility that there is common ground to be colonized by those willing to look for it offers a tantalizing prospect of alliances to come, but only if Democrats can overcome concerns within their party. "One-third gets it," says a Democratic values pioneer, talking about the rank and file. "A second third understands that this can help us win. And another third is positively terrified."

I’m heartened that the evangelical community is broadening its agenda and my firm has clients that are in the middle of this transformation. But I’m not impressed with Democrats who hire consultants to learn how to say things Christianly. Its not about the right image; its about the right action

I agree with Tony Perkins here:

"It's a positive thing that Democrats are willing to talk about faith and values," says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "But they are aligned with organizations that sue to stop kids from praying and block the Ten Commandments." Only when the policies evolve, he argues, as opposed to the rhetoric, will the party have a chance to make real gains with Evangelicals."

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July 12, 2007

Disappearing Deficit


Look what is happening to the federal deficit. As unpopular as this is today, how about a little credit to President Bush? Can anyone spell t-a-x c-u-t.

Posted by Jim at 07:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Limit Involvement in Beijing Olympics?

Just after executing the former head of the government food and drug administration for corruption, the Chinese government “announced steps to safeguard food at next summer’s Olympic Games.” Hurray for them. If you’ve visited Beijing recently, or have been following things, China is creating a showcase city for the world to see when it visits Beijing for the 2008 Games, or watch it on the tube.

At the same time, there a troubling development: the government clean-up includes foreign Christian missionaries. According to China Aid Association, from April to June China expelled more than 100 suspected foreign missionaries to prevent evangelistic efforts at the Olympics (Assist News).

It should also be troubling to Christians that the Chinese are now the worst CO2 polluters in the world. China’s output of greenhouse gasses surpassed those of the U.S. last month. Business is booming at the expenses of the global climate.

Nothing would upset the Chinese more than suggestions that the world consider Beijing games to be anything less than a total success. They are pouring everything into making the Olympics a Chinese public relations wonder. That means the world has some bargaining power now. It would be a good time to suggest that Chinese preparation include human rights, religious liberty, and limitation of toxic emissions.

Protecting the food is fine, too.

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July 11, 2007

Biking for Dollars (for a very important ministry)

In the category of really good and important stuff, please check out the innovative fundraising effort to assist the former child soldiers of northern Uganda. ChildVoice International, which is developing strong long-range and Christ-centered program for these kids in Uganda (we were part of an exploratory team last July in Uganda), has brought three former child soldiers to participate in the terrific RAGBRAI--Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa--later this month.

Check out the Campaign Website It's www.3-7-1.com--three riders, seven days, one million dollars--which gives you the chance to participate.

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Fred Thompson: Lean, Tanned, and (Apparently) Read for the Long Distance Run

Because we’re active in the Republican Party in Georgia, my wife and I have had the opportunity to see the most likely Republican contenders—Rudy, Mitt, and Fred—up close and personal. The latest was last night at a meet-and-greet with Fred Thompson at the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce. He demonstrated all the southern charm, dignified presence, and conservative common sense that will make him formidable when he joins the race. He told the activists at the reception to “be patient” but to “keep your powder dry.” Barring a scandal or medical bombshell, he is undoubtedly in. It’s just a question of how many Law and Order episodes he’s promised to allow before they have to be pulled.

Thompson looked tall, tanned, and far thinner than he looks on television. Or maybe he’s dropped some weight for the long distance run.

In photo below, the writer is peering admiringly from the far right.

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The One True Church? Guess Who the Pope Chooses.

To build on Doug’s Pope post below: I’m a generally an evangelical enthusiast of the Vatican, which since the reign of John Paul II has been a bulwark against cultural, moral, and theological freefall, and a friend of conservative Christians of all stripes. I really can’t envision JP issuing the document released by Benedict yesterday, reaffirming that the Roman Catholic Church is the One True Church. I really had no thought that the head of the Catholic Church would be mixed on this question, but no one seems sure why the edict was released, and why now. I’m having lunch tomorrow with a friend and business associate who has spent he career with the U.S. Catholic Bishops office. I can’t wait to chide him about eating with this apostate. And the bit about other Christian groups not having the “means of salvation.” That’s the One True Jesus, the last time I checked. Honestly, the other Christian denominations aren’t the enemy of the Catholic church or of Christianity. How about saving the stronger words for radical Islam and surging secularism?

Posted by Jim at 10:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 10, 2007

Don't Miss Southern Baptist Trending on Global Warming

Despite the usual sound of the Southern Baptist Convention's resolution on global warming last month, there are clear indications that Southern Baptists in the pew--including many of the messengers to the San Antonio convention--recognize the need for stronger action on climate change.

As Rusty Pritchard notes at The Earth is the Lord's:

We ought to note that the Southern Baptist resolution as originally introduced included much stronger language, and noted the need for urgent government action on global warming. When some proposed weakening the resolution by removing the stronger language on global warming, 40 percent of the messengers voted to keep the original version! That shows much stronger support for action on global warming than some Southern Baptist leaders are willing to admit.

Rusty cites other evidences that the rank and file Baptists are moving as readily as other evangelicals on environmental issues.

That's good news for the evangelical community and for our nation.

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July 09, 2007

Huckabee for Vice President?

While I don’t think Mick Huckabee will be able generate enough national support to rise to the top tier of Republican candidates, I haven’t read or seen him say anything I disagree with. His faith seems genuine, and his convictions sound. There’s an interesting column on Huckabee by Terry Mattingly. Huckabee says:

"I sometimes marvel when people running for office are asked about faith and their answer is, 'Oh, I don't get into that. I keep that completely separate. My faith is completely immaterial to how I think and how I govern,' " he said. "To me, that is really tantamount to saying that one's faith is so marginal, so insignificant and so inconsequential that it really doesn't impact the way one lives. I would consider it an extraordinarily shallow faith that does not really impact the way we think about other human beings and the way we respond to them."

If a northeasterner such as Romney or Guiliani gets the nomination, Huckabee would provide wonderful regional balance as a running mate. And a clearer understanding of the blending of faith and policy than any of the other candidates.


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July 08, 2007

Evangelicals and Moslems Together?

It would be good if a relationship would flourish between evangelical Christians and moderate Arabs, something that would seem unlikely in the current atmosphere. A remarkable meeting occurred at the Egyptian embassy in Washington last month, with a number of evangelical leaders and the ambassadors from several Arab nations.

Jonathan Falwell wrote in WorldNetDaily:

On Monday, July 2, I attended what I can only pray may become a historic meeting. Several weeks ago, I received a call about attending a meeting at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C. I was told this meeting would be hosted by the ambassador from Egypt and might be attended by representatives of other Arab nations, as well as by 10-15 pastors, evangelists and Christian media representatives. My interest stirred, I agreed to attend the meeting even though I was not quite sure of its purpose. I asked Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty University's executive vice president, to attend with me. When we arrived at the Embassy, we were greeted by Evangelist Benny Hinn and introduced to several other pastors, evangelists, Christian TV producers and representatives of Christian organizations. Among them were Gordon Robertson of the 700 Club, Paul Crouch Jr. of Trinity Broadcasting Network, Christian lobbyist Ralph Reed, Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, Vernon Brewer of WorldHelp and several others.

Within a period of no more than 10 minutes, the ambassadors from Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Kuwait, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain and the ambassador from the Arab League of Nations all arrived. I now realized that this meeting was far more than a social gathering. Soon thereafter, we sat down at a large table – evangelicals all on one side and Arab representatives on the other, about 24 of us – for lunch.

And I received this in personal correspondence from Richard Cizik at NAE:

The most interesting person there? None other than Hinn, who I found to be extremely gracious. He was born in Egypt, and is part Jordanian, etc., and helped organize the event. He wanted to know if we'd help him organize successive events. No harm, as I see it, and could do a lot of good, that is, if they could get general agreement by certain leaders who have exclaimed, for example, "50 million Muslims want to kill us," that this language endangers evangelical missionaries and relief workers around the world. It also fosters the impression that evangelical Christians want to provoke a religious war with Muslims, something everyone at the luncheon disputed.

It was a positive event, with real potential for good. I spoke of the need to make sure Samuel Huntington's "Conflict of Civilizations" doesn't occur, and that the NAE had issued a call to "respect" and "dialogue" a number of years ago, followed up by our "Islam Initiative" calling for humanitarian missions in the name of Jesus, as well as dialogue here and abroad. I lauded our friendship with Amb. Aziz Mekouar and the Moroccans, and said that we all need some "moral imagination" to see our way through the current difficulties, saying it "could well be the most important thing we set our minds to at this time in history."


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May 23, 2007

Evangelical Leaders Issue Global Warming Policy Principles

The Evangelical Climate Initiative is at it again, suggesting that good Christians can care about the environment, and even sound some alarms about global warming.

As some of you know if you've followed this blog for some time, the ECI is a client of my public relations firm. So I have a self interest in this cause. Nonetheless, I love to bring a little havoc into the world of my brethren who are still flat earthers, and provide a glimpse into the reasoned world of a group that is both Christian and working against global warming.

Today, leaders with the Evangelical Climate Initiative called on public officials to draw on traditional, conservative perspectives to address the challenge of climate change facing the United States and the world. They said, federal policy must maximize the free market, care for the most vulnerable, assure national security, and protect personal freedom, evangelical leaders said in a document of principles that “should guide government officials as they establish policies at the federal level to begin to solve global warming.”

Hey wait, this doesn't sound like a bunch of liberals!

In the paper released today and announced in print ads that will run Thursday in the Washington Times and Roll Call on May 24, the ECI outlined 10 principles for policymakers, including a call for the “scope of the free market to be maximized to allow innovation, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship to generate climate solutions, and to ensure that U.S. businesses can compete internationally in clean technologies.”

See the full document: Principles for Federal Policy on Climate Change

The principles document reads: “We are in favor of climate policies that reduce our dependence on foreign oil (e.g. increasing fuel economy) and thereby enhance our energy security and our advocacy of religious freedom and human rights.”

The 10 principles read in part:

1. The Problem is Real, the Objective Clear
We believe that human-induced global warming is real and, based on nearly universal agreement in the scientific community, we encourage policy-makers to accept this fact.

2. Maximize Freedom in Solving the Problem
When government deals with global warming, a proper policy framework will establish the “rules of the road” and what businesses call “regulatory certainty,” which can enhance freedom by allowing us to begin to solve a problem whose impacts will severely limit that freedom in the future if not addressed.

3. Maximize Protection from Harm from Generation to Generation
A primary function of government is to protect all of its citizens from undue harm, be it from foreign invaders, criminals, or pollution that impacts human health.

4. Take Special Care to Protect the Most Vulnerable
The most important way that federal government policy can protect the poor here and around the world from the impacts of global warming is to begin to solve the problem by reducing CO2 emissions 80 percent by 2050.

5. Enhance National and Energy Security, International Religious Freedom, & Rural Economic Development
American reliance on foreign oil also undermines our national security, and makes us
dependent on undemocratic, despotic foreign regimes that restrict the religious liberty of their peoples, and threaten the stability of democratic allies such as Israel.

6. Disburse Decision-making Authority to the Lowest Possible Level
A robust response to the threat of global warming will involve individuals, families, churches, businesses, and governments at multiple levels. In particular, we believe in states’ rights and responsibilities as the laboratories of democracy.

7. Solve the Problem through the Free Market and Protection of Property Rights
To help ensure competitiveness, climate policy should provide: (1) a stable, long-term, substantial research and development program; (2) long-term regulatory certainty, and; (3) a robust price signal that reflects the true social cost of greenhouse gas pollution.

8. Start Now and Solve the Problem in the Most Cost-Effective, Least-Disruptive Way Possible
Significant reductions in global warming pollution should start sooner rather than later in order to minimize disruption to the economy, and to avoid the necessity of drastic, steep reductions in the future.

9. Lead by Example
Regardless of whether all nations agree to be part of the solution, America must do the right thing.

10. Learn from the Future
Our understanding will continue to grow, and we may find that we must accelerate steps that address climate change.

(The Evangelical Climate Initiative, by the way, is a group of more than 100 evangelical leaders who are—-as a result of their commitment to Jesus Christ and concern for His creation—-encouraging action by evangelical Christians and all Americans to make life changes necessary to help solve the global warming crisis and to advance public policy that will limit global warming pollution, while respecting economic and business concerns.)

Posted by Jim at 07:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 15, 2007

Remembering Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell lived life large and he dies well-loved by many and much-maligned by most. Unlike the many who feel free to mock him even as his friends and family are in the hours of their immediate grief, I knew Rev. Falwell. I served as one of his public relations counselors during some of his best and worst moments. I choose to remember him fondly and to honor his faithfulness, even as I recognize—more than most—the flaws that taint his memory and embolden his critics to dishonor the dead.

Falwell’s greatest accomplishment was his leadership of a large and expansive church, Thomas Road Baptist Church, where many are saved and served. The church’s outreach extends to many, such as unwed mothers and the down and out; many that those who saw the familiar visage of fundamentalists only on talk shows would never believe he had any care for at all.

His message of unwavering fundamentalism became unpopular and easily criticized in modern America, but Falwell never changed. That served him well as a bellwether of the right. His downfall was his more than occasional public carelessness, and his inability to stay away from a microphone or a camera when he could do no good for himself, his cause, or the God he served.

Unfortunately, by the late 1990s it was nearly impossible for any moderation or substance to penetrate his caricature as a southern, overstuffed, intolerant buffoon.

I’ll remember Rev. Falwell as a kind and generous man with an easy laugh and a better vision for America than the nation seemed to have for itself. I was never his primary counselor or a close friend, but I was nearby and involved when media relished reports in one of his publications on Tinky Winky, the gay Teletubbie (blown out of context, but he deserved the firestorm because he refused our counsel to ignore media requests for comment).

And I helped him write his late apology for his callous comments following the attacks of 9/11, when he failed to see that it was time for a pastor’s voice, not a prophet’s rage.

I remember his willingness to reach out to Mel White, his former ghostwriter who began an organization to extend the voice of gay Christians. It was hard for him to stretch toward this natural adversary, but he did so when many others would not.

I disagreed with the reverend on many things, but I appreciated his faithful engagement and the substance behind the bluster. He was an American original and an important voice in our times. I extend my sympathies to his family, and the many families of Thomas Road, Liberty University and beyond that lived happily in his shadow and flourished because of his inspiration.

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December 29, 2006

Getting Out of the Wild and Into a Mission

Christian men need all of the help they can get staying true to the high calling of the Gospel and staying faithful. Just as important, says Matt Lobel of Out of the Wild, is for men to find the mission God has for them. It's a message profound in its simplicity.

out of the wild.jpg

As Jake and Elwood famously said: "We're on a mission from God."


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December 28, 2006

Top Religion Stories of 2006 Include the Evangelical Climate Initiative

Observing the news of faith and values—what some call religion news—as a professional discipline for more than 28 years, perhaps the most enduring truth is that in the spiritual realm, very little is truly breaking news.

Matters of the spirit--coming to faith, spiritual conversion and formation, and the movement of God in the lives of his people—are rarely headline news. Although matters of faith can at times be personally dramatic, and there are certainly moments of change and first steps in spiritual journeys, these journeys are usually slow and sure. The most important matters of the heart are quiet, personal, and usually quite deliberate.

Which makes our job in the Christian communications business challenging. Most of the really important stuff isn’t news at all. It is God quietly at work in the hearts and minds of people.

But from time to time, God’s people make a difference in a notable way, stand against the culture in bold ways, and—yes—mess up in embarrassing ways.

These are all reflected in Christianity Today ‘s top religion stories of 2006. They include the sad Haggard free fall, the evangelical response to The DaVinci Code, and the story that our firm helped bring to the world—the Evangelical Climate Initiative. (ECI also made Grist’s list of top ten green stories).


CT on ECI:

“Observers say global warming debate signifies broadening political agenda.”

Grist on ECI:

“It was the most public episode in what's been a building drama among evangelicals, pitting the old guard, which plans to keep flogging gay marriage until the checks stop coming, against the new guard, which is pushing to broaden the agenda to issues that involve fewer clear villains but actual, widespread suffering: global warming, poverty, and AIDS.”


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December 06, 2006

The Nanny City Watching Your Diet

Welcome to New York City, where we watch your diet, even if you won't. Jenny Craig, mayor.

NYC's effort to ban trans fat has been in the works for a while, but it's hard to believe that anyone believes it is the job of government to determine what we eat. I love that Wendy's and others are taking corporate responsibility and removing trans fats from their products. That makes it far easier for consumers to make wise decisions. But how does anyone find a role for government in these personal decisions?

Posted by Jim at 09:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 04, 2006

Take a Look at Mitt Romney for President

The last midterm vote was still being counted when the nascent 2008 presidential candidates put their exploratory committees into action. So here we go. I want to reiterate (from this summer) my early interest in Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

I’ve liked his creativity and dexterity in acting on his conservatism in the alligator pond of Massachusetts. He elevated life over self-interest, and I liked his formulation on the standards for the death penalty. And he’s tried to roll back the advances of the same-sex marriages folks in his state.

Would Republican evangelicals support Romney? More than Guiliani or McCain, I think.

Some think they wouldn’t.

Evangelical Republicans out there: How about a conservative who has learned how to get things done in the midst of liberalism? How about Romney?

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December 01, 2006

Conservatives and Christians Give More to Charities, ABC says

As Doug explores in his post below, people of faith give far more to charities than non-religious people, and conservatives give more to the poor than do liberals. That’s the finding of a study by author Arthur Brooks and the conclusion trumpeted by a John Stossel report on ABC this week.

The report says:

“The single biggest predictor of whether someone will be charitable is his or her religious participation. Religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they give, they give more money: four times as much. And Arthur Brooks told me that giving goes beyond their own religious organization: "Actually, the truth is that they're giving to more than their churches," he says. "The religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly non-religious charities."

Christian conviction and conservative ideology increases the likelihood that an individual will give to charities—and not just to their churches, but to a variety of religious and secular causes.

As Christians, we give out of obligation—Scripture tells us to help the poor—but even more out of gratitude to God for his goodness.

Liberals who see care for the poor as a government responsibility, give far less as individuals. At the same time, they describe conservatives as non-caring, and Christians as exclusionary and hypocritical. This could not be further from the truth, and these findings document it.

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November 29, 2006

Ten Ways Media Leaders Can Keep Media Ethics from Becoming an Oxymoron

After reading a list of oxymorons, beginning with George Carlin’s famous “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence, I got a minor laugh in my college course on writing for public communication by introducing as the next oxymoron, Media Ethics. It introduced a section on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, and I suggested the following list of ten ways the national media could restore its reputation.

1. Accuracy: Attention to detail; accuracy at all costs.

2. Thoroughness: Emphasize thoroughness over speed; getting the story right is more important than getting it first.

3. Humility: demonstrate humility through preparation, broad and vigorous research, and by seeking out experts.

4. Real Affirmative Action in news operations: ideological, religious, regional, and socio-economic, as well as racial and ethnic.

5. Journalism not Opposition: Reaffirm journalists as reporters of news, not the opposition party.

6. Historic Values: Reflect traditional values of the nation—ethics, historic teachings of faith groups.

7. Thinking: Recover the serious and critical mind—beyond the sound bite.

8. Rediscover Shame: wrongdoers should not be honored, they should be dishonored.

9. Self Cleansing: Restore credibility by cleaning up your own house so that journalists are trusted to present news fairly and professionally.

10. Leave NYC: Build national media competence and presence outside New York City and Washington, D.C. It would be good if the major networks moved to Des Moines, or Kansas City, or perhaps Indianapolis.

These were my thoughts for one group of future journalists.

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November 27, 2006

Mocking Religion, Happy Feet is Not a Friendly Little Film

I can't remember coming out of movie theater more furious than I did this Thanksgiving holiday after watching the animated and PG-rated Happy Feet. With relatives visiting from around the country, how could we go wrong taking both kids and adults to a cute little penguin story with lots of singing and dancing, with warm and fuzzy animal themes?

I'm not a movie prude; we check out many kinds of movies. And I expect most anything coming out of Hollywood, with any rating, to include something contrary to my values. I let most of it roll off my back. But with Happy Feet, I didn't expect my conservative Christian family to be assaulted with what we all recognized as a anti-Christian screed, with open mockery of traditional Christian preaching against values and lifestyles contrary to church teachings. It was abundantly clear that Happy Feet substituted homosexuality with dancing as the "different" lifestyle that was the unfair target of an Inquisition on ice. It was Dirty Dancing and Footloose all over again, but with the rhetoric and situation developed to make religious criticism of homosexuality counter to everything good and pleasing.

Did they think Christians wouldn’t notice? I suppose the creators just didn’t care. We had four families attending Happy Feet, with children of all ages. Independently, parents concluded during the film that they would walk out if it wouldn’t be a disruption to others in the large group of family members who had come to the movies together.

Clearly, we should have all left together.

The creators of Happy Feet should have taken less time mocking Christians and more time making sense out of the wild leaps at the end of the film, when the dancing penguin so impresses crowds in the aquarium that they release him back into the wild. And when the community of penguins gets happy feet, the commentators of the world decide its time to stop disrupting their food supply. (Of course the humans are to blame for all the animal woes; a long movie-making tradition that goes back to Bambi).

Wild leaps, even with happy feet.

For Christians who have not seen Happy Feet and are considering it as a friendly, family film—make another choice. This film is not good for children or families, and it is another Hollywood example of open mockery of Christian traditions.

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November 20, 2006

Getting Personal About Global Warming

I've been at the heart of the evangelical initiatives to engage the Christian community in an effort to combat human-induced global warming. For my conservative friends who still believe that all climate change we're seeing is simply cyclical, keep reading, because I'm not writing to argue that point (you wouldn't be convinced anyway, although the huge majority of scientists are). For my fundamentalist friends who belive there is no global warming, I'm not sure what world you're living in, but I hope you are enjoying it there.

I've found that most evangelical Christians have come to believe that effective care of God's creation is a moral and spiritual obligation. Not because nature is above human beings, or that the created are above the Creator, but because the earth and all that is within it is the Lord's and we, his children, have been given it as a temporary home, and we've been given the responsibility to care for it.

And if you believe that climate change is impacting the most vulnerable people in the world, as I do, and that it will be deadly for many of these people who live on the margins in the years ahead--then Christians have a deep moral responsibility to stem global warming.

You may not see the solution as government taking responsibility. That's fine, but it is a personal reponsiblity.

As evangelicals we are all about getting personal. We believe in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We believe in personal transformation and personal responsibility. We can also address problems such as environmental degradation and dependence on foreign oil not only through government action but through personal responsibility.

This personal responsibility can include reducing our own use of fossil fuels.

Choose to do this for a variety of reasons. You may be keenly concerned about global warming. Others of you may see environmental conservation as a driving force. Still others of us believe that reducing our personal use of energy is a commitment to national security because it will reduce our reliance on oil from often-hostile sources.

Regardless of your reasons, I encourage you to consider using a tool created by the Evangelical Climate Initiative to participate in a program called Cooling Creation, which will show you the steps to reducing your global warming pollution to zero. Because few of us in the West want to live in grass huts and grow our own food and walk everywhere, we can reduce but not eliminate this personal pollution.

The Cooling Creation program offers an annual offset investment in alternative energies.

Check it out. Forget the arguments about the role of government and the threats to the economy. Is there a good reason why you should not take this personal responsiblity?


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November 10, 2006

New Bloggers on the Election

In addition to my work as a public relations consultant, I am an adjunct professor of communications at Kennesaw State University, the third largest university in Georgia, in suburban Atlanta.

In two of my Writing for Public Communication classes on Tuesday, Election Day, I used a session on Writing for the Web to guide the approximately 40 students in using Blogger to set up personal blogs. It was my attempt to teach about blogs and to add a number of new voices to the blogosphere.

The assignment for students this week was to write and post an article on their reactions to the election (the assignment was made before we knew it was going to be a bloodbath). I’m using this post to introduce these new blogs and students’ analyses of the election.

For my students reading this, links to the blogs from the 3:30 and 5 p.m. classes are combined here.

Danielle at Dani B. Fly doesn’t expect much from the change in Congressional leadership.

Ken at Random Cactus says the Democrats won because they dressed themselves up like conservatives.

Laura called her blog For Com 1135 and writes that she doesn’t like all the arguing.

Holly at Poof U fears that the Democrats are going to use their new power to create the embarrassments of Vietnam.

Kori at a blog she called Communications 1135 is nervous about the many voting problems she still hears about.

Kathy writes at Kute Kathy about evidences of election fever.

Jonathan at Elbows wants political reform but doesn’t see it happening in his lifetime.

Adam at What’s On Peace’s Mind? is going to get more involved in the political process.

Victoria at Victoria’s Blog says that without the Republicans in control of Congress, the job in Iraq will never be completed.

Paul Stippich at Vote for the Man celebrates the right we have as citizens to vote.

Danielle at Faerie's Journey into Public Communication muses about the impact of split government.

Erin at The Story of the Year bemoans the impact of Democratic control of Congress.

Curtis at Me and My Blog is hoping for a new direction in Iraq.

Jennifer at Sobes 1st calls for a big hallelujah.

The negative advertising turned Catlin at Merry Belle Love You against the election.

Monique at Fairie’s Thoughts sees the political landscape changing.

Jeff at Elections sees supeona power taking over the Washington atmosphere.

Matt at My Thoughts 4 U sees America as the perfect working democracy, but he doesn’t vote.

Jeffrey at The Wonderful World of Life is disenchanted

Dustin at Budz Blog is leaving politics to the politicians

Danielle at TFC for Life blames the war.

Rebecca talks in Comm Class about the President’s use of the word “thumpin” in his press conference.

Rachel at Ramblings of RKL has a rare agreement with the President: The people have spoken and its time to move on.

Endia at Endia’s Blog is excited about a new direction

Bunmi at Express Yourself likes the idea of a female Speaker

Jennifer at J.P. Blog analyzes the Sonny Perdue victory over Mark Taylor in the Georgia gubernatorial race.

Tiffanie at some days you feel like a bug, some days you feel like the windshield says the war has been a windshield to the American bug.

Casey at Voting celebrates the the right to vote.

The title of Nate's blog, Long Live the new Flesh, vividly describes his reaction to the election.

Rania at Nia's Thoughts hopes the sea change will bring more attention to domestic problems.

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September 23, 2006

A Story of Forgiveness from Africa

I searched for answers in the eyes of the three Acholi men huddled with me in the corner of an outdoor café on the leafy outskirts of Lira, a major city in northern Uganda. I had met the youngest of the three, Patrick, three days earlier and knew him to be a former child soldier, abducted at nine and in the ranks of the LRA rebels for ten years. Patrick, I learned, was piecing together a new life in the grip of Christian faith and good friends.

Patrick had brought me to the café in the early light of a July day to meet with the other two. Charles was a tall, handsome man with remarkably troubled eyes that I figured must be partially explained by the events that led to amputation of one of his legs below the knee. I had met Charles the day before but hadn’t found out how he’d lost his leg. I was trying to talk with a young woman named Janet, one of the “famous” Aboke girls who had been abducted by the LRA from St. Mary’s Boarding School ten years ago. She had spent most of the past decade in captivity. Charles was introduced to me as Janet’s husband, and as the first person I needed to talk to in order to meet her.

Now, with his crutches propped against the wall behind his chair, Charles leaned toward the man we had all gathered to see, known to me only as Mark.

Mark is a large, imposing man resembling James Earl Jones in stature and visage, particularly Jones’ role as Rev Stephen Kumalo in the movie version of the South African classic on reconciliation, Cry, the Beloved Country. Like Kumalo, he is a pastor. He is also Janet’s father, who Charles had explained mysteriously “held me responsible for what had happened to her.” That mystery was one of many to be unfolded around the table.

Mark was understandably protective of his daughter, no longer a young girl, but one who had begun to see too much of the dark side of life before her 13th birthday, when she was enslaved by the LRA and forced into a life of servitude.

As the café brightened, Mark explained his protective instinct, and much more.

Charles, the pastor said, had himself been abducted nearly 20 years ago, in the early days of the twisted rebellion. He was 17 at the time, and like an early adopter of a pyramid marketing scheme, he was soon one of the commanders in what was to become a ferocious and by any standard evil force that continually increased its ranks with abducted children, some 30,000 over the years.

As young abducted girls came of age, they were given to commanders as—you pick the term--wives, concubines, sexual slaves. It was a privilege soon afforded young Charles, and over the years he was presented with four women; a harem that bore him 10 children.

Janet, Mark’s daughter abducted at Aboke, was one of these young women, and by Charles she had two children in captivity, in the bush--as they say in Uganda.

“When Janet was rescued with her children by the military, and she came home, I wanted to kill the man who had forced himself on her; I wanted to kill him with my teeth, I was so angry,” Mark told me, with Charles, that man, sitting beside him.

Then Charles was captured in a firefight with the Ugandan military, by that time already having lost his leg in an earlier battle.

“Then something strange happened,” Mark continued. “God made it clear to me that I was to forgive Charles for what he had done to my daughter. And only God can give you the strength to forgive such terrible acts.”

Charles produced two wallet photos, one of he and Janet with their two children smiling with a white background, looking very much like the young family that went to JC Penney for family photos in a coupon deal. The other photo had the family, with Charles and Mark shaking hands.

“Not only did God tell me to forgive, he told me to reconcile, to make this man, the husband to my daughter, my son. I have done that.”

Charles looked admiringly at the imposing man and told how Mark meets with him regularly and gives him regular counsel and admonition.

“I’ve told him that he must give his life to Christ,” Mark emphasized.
I marveled at his ability to reconcile so decisively and at how this seemed to come easily to the Acholi, who are offering amnesty to the vilest rebels. Mark agreed that it was remarkable, but said it was also extremely difficult. “It is tough. Only in God’s power can you look beyond such offense and agree to love.”

I talked briefly with Patrick, as Mark and Charles discussed plans for later that evening. Patrick continued the description of the reconciliation between the respected gentleman and his son-in-law.

Mark stopped our conversation mid-sentence: “What is this that I hear you saying? My son-in-law? That is not right. No,” he said looking intently at Charles, “this is my son.”

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September 22, 2006

Possible Peace, Little Trust in Northern Uganda

Since my return from Uganda in late July, I've been following the sitution in northern Uganda with interest.

It is difficult to get reliable reports out of Uganda about the peace talks with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). While there have been reports of a peace deal, and even indications that up to 1,800 rebels have moved to designated areas, the talks continue. One hang up to total resolution is the international court indictments of rebel leader Joseph Kony and his commanders. Uganda is willing to grant amnesty, but the ICC hasn't agreed.

Today, there are indications that Museveni (president of Uganda) is going to attend the peace talks in Juba.

While peace talks continue between the Ugandan government and the LRA, the Acholi people of northern Uganda, 90 percent of whom are displaced by 20 years of terror, pray for peace but find little reason for concrete hope.

There have been at least seven unsuccessful attempts over two decades to secure a peace agreement, and many were followed by spasms of LRA violence.

“People will stay in the protected internal refugee camps until they have enough confidence that the attacks won’t begin again, and that hasn’t happened yet,” said Doreen Achieng , a program director with Action for Children, a Ugandan social service agency.

Some residents are leaving the camps during the day to farm their land near their abandoned or ruined homes. But almost no one has enough trust that the current lull in attacks will last to live in their villages and face nights that so often have been filled with horror.

For now, most of the villages remain empty, the land dotted with the graves of more than 12,000 friends and family members killed by the LRA.

The challenge for the church is enormous.

“Ugandan church leaders struggle today to assure their flocks of God’s love when many cannot remember a time without deep sorrow,” said Conrad Mandsager, executive director of ChildVoice International, one Christian organization that is providing aid to child victims in the Gulu district. “The scope of the horror and death that the people of northern Uganda have seen and experienced is unfathomable.”

The government of Uganda, recognizing the fundamental victimization of the child soldiers, offered them amnesty last year, which made it more attractive for even long-time rebels to escape. Prior to the peace talks, the government extended the amnesty to Joseph Kony and senior rebel commanders who would abandon their rebellion. The offer, although not yet accepted by the senior rebels, is in accord with a traditional Acholi heart for forgiveness.

Most church leaders support the principle of Kony and his commanders being offered amnesty, viewing it as their Christian duty to forgive.

"In fact, we want them to return home and live a normal life like everybody else,” said Rev. Willy Akena, information officer for the Anglican Diocese of Northern Uganda in Gulu. “It would also be a testimony to those in the communities to know about reconciliation, and I believe many people will be changed as we expect that upon their return, they will publicly denounce their previous atrocities."

Nonetheless, some churchmen don’t see the desire for peace as a reason for pardoning the ring leaders.

“The amnesty is not right for Kony and the commanders,” said one Acholi lay leader now in Kampala. “They are international criminals who the U.N. should apprehend in Congo, where the LRA has set up their camps.”

As in most areas of Uganda, there are Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches in most communities. But in the north most stand empty, since almost all families have been forced by the violence to move to one of 60 protected internal displacement camps (IDP).

All families in a village do not move to the same IDP camp, however, so church and social communities are shattered, not just moved. Many pastors do their best to gather new congregations in or near a camp, but they are usually starting from scratch.

Spiritual interest remains high, and many small non-affiliated churches are being established in the camps. The lack of accountability and theological training has resulted in false teaching. “For example, part of the teaching is that people who are victims of atrocities are sinners and that the rebel activity is God's way of removing sinners,” Rev. Akena said.

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September 20, 2006

Believe Pictures and The Last Sin Eater

There is a notable development in Hollywood that should be of interest to Christians. There is a new interest in things of faith and in products that reflect faith and values. Although many believers in the entertainment industry are now involved, the impetus is the millions of dollars that Mel Gibson made on The Passion of the Christ. People in Hollywood like to make money, even if it means advancing the Gospel.

The New York Times noticed this yesterday.

My former World Vision colleageue Brian Bird , who went on to become executive producer of Touched by an Angel, and Michael Landon Jr. are in the middle of this good news, and their new Believe Pictures has signed a deal with Rupert Murdoch's new Fox Faith division for six films that will highlight faith.

The first film from Believe Pictures will be The Last Sin Eater, based on the novel by Francine Rivers, which was terrific.

Jan at A View from Her has more to say on this.


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

Chavez and the Iranian Thug at the UN

There is really only one thing to say after listening to clownish behavior of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. "Say No to Citgo." I think I would push my car before I'd stop at a Venezuela-owned Citgo station. Citgo has been owned by Petróleos de Venezuela, the national oil company of Venezuela, since 1990.

The beauty of America is that Hugo and the Iranian president--whose name I don't even want to learn how to spell--can come onto our soil and verbally soil our nation and its leader--and leave again without being thrown in prison or taken hostage.

Try it in either of their countries.

There is part of me that would like to make it a little difficult for them while they're here. Maybe just a U.S. fighter squadron escort out of our airspace, with no invitation to return.

Posted by Jim at 03:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 16, 2006

The Return of McGovernism

I remember George McGovern. He came to the University of Iowa during my freshman year in 1972 in the last throes of his presidential candidacy. The crowd packed the quadrangle, with students hanging out the windows of the surrounding classroom buildings. The crowds were friendly and supportive, anxious for an end to the Vietnam War and the draft (my selective service number was 11, which meant I would be packing my bags for 'Nam if the war didn't end).

There weren't many happy moments for McGovern thereafter, as he was crushed by Nixon at the ballot box and faded into anti-war history.

Evidently the Democrats of 2006 are nostalgic for the '70s. I miss Crosby, Stills and Nash and the music of the times. But I can't understand why the Democrats don't recognize where the McGovern road leads.

At the Conservative Outpost, Drew McKissick revisits and parallels the era of McGovern with the anti-war radical of our day, in a post titled The New McGovernism.

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August 15, 2006

When the Messenger Falls

It was tragic when the man who is responsible for introducing Jesus Christ to more people than anyone else in our generation demonstrated great public sin and enormous personal problems.

That man, of course, is Mel Gibson, the film star, director of The Passion of the Christ, and evangelist, who accomplished a late night trifeckta—-public drunkenness, driving under the influence, and scapegoating an ethnic group, the Jewish people.

I grieve for Mel Gibson, because he clearly has deep personal issues that have now destroyed his reputation. And I grieve for the impact this has on the fine work he has done bringing the message of Jesus through the thicket of Hollywood opposition to millions of people. When God’s messengers prove to have feet of clay, it gives courage to those who would tramper upon the message.

But much has been written about this incident. I appreciated a column from Terry Mattingly, which included this thought from film critic Michael Medved, an Orthodox Jew.

"When a long-married, 50-year-old father of seven gets arrested for drunk driving at nearly twice the speed limit at 2:30 in the morning," noted Medved, "it's safe to assume that he faces even more serious problems than exposing his anti-Semitic attitudes."

I like Mel Gibson and I honor him for his courage. I pray for his restoration and healing. He found a way to bring the story of Christ to the big screen; perhaps he’ll find a way creatively to help diminish the anti-Semitism that is a curse in the world and a unsavory legacy of Gibson’s own family.

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August 14, 2006

Reuters Photo Fraud to Bring Sympathy to Hezbullah

Here is fascinating evidence of photo fraud by Reuters and other media organizations in their coverage of the war against Hezbullah terrorists.

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Journalistic Balance and Moral Equivalence

Photos and TV images are the most difficult to balance in journalistic reports, according to an article in the NY TImes, and the Hezbullah/Israel conflict has been among the most difficult, the article says.

But the attempt to balance the photo of a dead Israeli child with that of a dead Lebanese child is seen by some as "a dereliction of journalistic duty.:

"Some critics of Israel argue that because the death tolls and destruction are greater in Lebanon, a proportionality of sorts should inform the resulting reports; anything else betrays a pro-Israeli stance. But supporters of Israel say such an approach bestows a misguided moral equivalence. Israel is a democratic nation exercising its right to self-defense, they argue, while Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that uses the Lebanese people as human shields."

Certainly there is no moral equivalence here, with the Hezbollah terrorists responsible for attacking a legitimate and democratic nation. But journalistic balance should not infer moral equivalence, although it takes some wisdom by the reader/viewer (always a risk) to separate the morality from the equivalence of human tragedy.

It's an interesting article on a tough daily struggle for responsbile news organizations.

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August 09, 2006

Northern Uganda: A Journey to the Edge of Darkness

This is Crisis
Occasionally, God puts us in situations where we are forced to realize that we are truly fortunate, and that the events and challenges that we call problems, are truly minor inconveniences in a sea of ease.

We returned several days ago from two weeks in Africa, mostly in northern Uganda, with a few days in Nairobi, Kenya. We were working with Child Voice International, a new Christian organization focusing on the child victims of war.

Although I’ve traveled extensively throughout the world, including a fair amount of time in the poorest countries, the time in Uganda provided a fresh dose of reality, of perspective, of gratitude, and of conviction.

Uganda
Uganda shares with most of Africa the tragic legacy of post-colonial cultural and economic freefall. Actually, the nation has been doing a little better in recent years than many of its neighbors, and because of the influence of the Christian church, it has a better record in its battle with AIDS than much of Africa. (You see abstinence posters everywhere. It’s not a bad word in Uganda).

Thirty years ago, Idi Amin brutalized the nation. When we flew into Entebbe, the world was observing the 30-year anniversary of the successful Israeli rescue of its citizens who were hijacked to Entebbe. Our Uganda guide and friend, however, did not want to talk about it. It is not a proud chapter in Ugandan history.

But now another madman has taken a severe toll on the nation. A deranged rebel spiritualist/terrorist, Joseph Kony, has killed thousands, adducted and enslaved some 30,000 children, and displaced most of the population of two million in the northern provinces of the nation.

One formerly abducted child we met at a transit center, James, had been forced by the rebels to bite his brother until nearly dead, then to beat him to death. At one point in the bush, James took some corn because he was hungry, and a rebel cut off part of his ear because he had not been given permission.

These stories are everywhere. Most families in northern Ugandan have lost a loved one.

When Will They Be Able to Go Home?
There shouldn't be malnutrition in northern Uganda, where the soil is fine and the rains are plentiful. But the murderous attacks of the oddly named Lord's Resistance Army have caused most of the two million people in this region to leave their homes and farmland to live in protected internal refugee camps. While these camps are relatively safe, people are crowded into them and diseases are killing thousands of people. And there is no land there for these people to grow their crops. They are kept alive through the help of international aid agencies.

Once the LRA rebels are subdued or give up, it should be safe for these refugees to return to their homes. But will they feel safe? Will they want to return to homes that have often been scenes of horrible crimes?

Thousands of Children Still Enslaved
According to one source who was abducted at the age of nine and served 10 years as a child soldier, during the which time he became a high-level LRA operative, there are still more than 3,000 child soldiers held by the LRA.

There are peace talks grinding on in Sudan between the LRA and the Ugandan government. Pray for this peace.

The government has offered amnesty to the butchers of the LRA. It blows your mind, but it fits into a culture of forgiveness, which I’ll talk about another day.

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July 06, 2006

To Uganda

We leave tomorrow to visit the children of war and those who care for them in northern Uganda. We’ll spend the next two weeks in Kampala and in remote towns in the north that have suffered much at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

With peace talks possible this next week, it is a good time, it seems, to visit. We go with a group from ChildVoice International, which is seeking to respond to the horrific brutality of the LRA. The group has terrorized the nation of Uganda for 19 years and has abducted children to serve as child soldiers.

ChildVoice wants to raise awareness in the international community about child victims of war. Currently, the organization is planning to build a village in Uganda where children can live after escaping from their LRA captors.

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I hope to write along the way and to report when I can on the road, or when I return.

In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children are routinely forced to participate in the killing of other children who attempt to escape. In addition to the thousands who have been abducted, thousands more have been killed, maimed, brutalized, and used to undertake the worst atrocities imaginable, including murder, rape, theft, and the like, and often on the very communities from which the children had lived.

Children who succeed in escaping from the LRA find their ordeal far from over. Fearing rebel reprisals against themselves or their families if they return to their villages, most escaped children are afraid to go home. Many others have nowhere to return to, as their villages have been decimated and are left abandoned when inhabitants are forcibly evacuated and sent to internment camps.

Posted by Jim at 09:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Serve God, Save the Planet

Former emergency room doctor J. Matthew Sleeth has seen much trauma and heartache in his day, but if you want to see him get really agitated, tell him that the environment is not a valid topic of concern for evangelical Christians.

Dr. Sleeth is bold about his Christian faith and sees as his primary responsibility to bring others to faith in Jesus Christ. He is also one of the emerging leaders in the creation care movement, a position that is growing with the publication this month of his new book Serve God, Save the Planet(Chelsea Green).

On the heels of the Evangelical Climate Initiative that came out with its statement on global warming in Feb. - a statement signed by 86 prominent evangelical leaders - Sleeth's book provides an alternative to big-government "solutions," and shows how voluntary, reasonable creation care can save money in the family budget (Sleeth's monthly electric bill is around $20), limit environmental damage, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.


Sleeth also takes to task hypocritical environmentalists whose actions do not match their words.

He writes in Serve God, Save the Planet:

“There is plenty of hypocrisy among environmentalists. I was invited to visit a woman who writes about the effects of fossil fuel consumption. I pulled up to her rural Maine home one day. Two SUV's were parked in the drive. The Maine house is one of three that she owns. All are heated year-round...As we talked, I thought to myself, 'May the Lord save us from well intended, wealthy environmentalists who want to save the planet.'"
Serve God, Save the Planet is not about politics or the political battles over global warming. It is a deeply personal book with far-reaching ramifications for evangelical Christians and all those who take their devotion to God seriously. A moving personal story that is practical, the book presents a gripping account of Dr. Sleeth’s personal and spiritual journey to creation care. It lays out sobering rationale for life changes, a “how-to” guide for lifestyle adjustments that will help protect God’s creation, and a greater understanding how creation care serves others whose life and health are affected by our pollution.

Sleeth’s unique book tackles this divisive issue from a conservative evangelical perspective – one that urges the reader to focus on small changes each person can make that will have a substantial impact on the environment, rather than waiting for the government to devise “solutions” that intrude on personal freedom.

Ø "It's tempting to point to a self-serving lobbyist or a power-hungry elected official and blame him for one of the sixty-four thousands annual deaths from airborne soot,” Sleeth writes. “ But what about me and what about us? By changing light bulbs,... carpooling, and owning more modest homes, Christians can save lives."

Earlier this year, 86 evangelical leaders released a Call to Action on climate change, signaling a notable shift in the Christian community and a growing concern among evangelicals about the moral questions surrounding environmental stewardship. A poll released in Feb. 2006 by Ellison Research showed that 84% of evangelicals agreed that reducing pollution is a form of obedience to the biblical command to love your neighbor.

Now, they have a handbook they can trust to guide their steps.

Rather than using the environment as an excuse to increase government's role in our lives, Sleeth discusses how reasonable measures taken by each of us can help us practice good stewardship of the creation God gave us as a gift. In the process, Sleeth’s solutions save money in the family budget (Sleeth's monthly electric bill is around $20), limit environmental damage, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Five years ago, Dr. Sleeth and his family lived in a big house on the Maine coast, had two luxury cars and many material possessions. As chief of the medical staff at a large hospital, Sleeth was living the American dream. As he saw patient after patient suffering from cancer, asthma, and other chronic diseases, he began to understand that the earth and its inhabitants were in trouble. Feeling helpless, he turned to his faith for guidance, and he discovered how the Scriptural lessons of personal responsibility, simplicity, and stewardship could be utilized to help alleviate these health problems. The Sleeths have since sold their big home and discarded more than half of what they once owned.

Sleeth writes:

"The changes we have made [in our lifestyle] will not earn our way into heaven, but they do two important things for our souls. They connect us with the family of man around the world, and, more important, they bring us closer to God. If he asks us to give up everything we have and follow him, I now know with certainty that each member of my family would gladly do so."

In Serve God, Save the Planet, Dr. Sleeth shares what was easy and what was hard about the changes his family has made, and how material downscaling led his family to healthier lifestyles, stronger relationships, and richer spiritual lives. He writes: “Serve God, Save the Planet is meant to elicit personal accountability rather than political change. Its lessons are meant to teach individuals, families, and communities not much larger than a congregation; and yet it looks at larger issues because they profoundly affect each of us.”

Posted by Jim at 03:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 03, 2006

Freedom

Freedom isn’t free, the now common slogan says, and true freedom isn’t just physical freedom. As we celebrate 130 years of American independence, it is good to remember these principles.

Our freedom has been costly, but the price has been paid, and is being paid daily. That is true spiritually and politically, although humanists and many liberals will deny both.

To the humanist, people are inherently good unless driven toward bad or deprived in some way, and people are naturally free from sinfulness. As Christians, we understand that people are inherently sinful, even depraved, and that freedom from the oppression that comes with sin has to be purchased. Our souls must be purchased, but we have nothing to pay the price. The only currency that God will accept is the blood of the lamb without blemish, the Lamb of God. The price of spiritual freedom is the blood of Christ.

Politically, liberals believe that if we are nice to everyone and meet their needs, everyone will get along and all the people of the world will be free. The price of freedom, they say, is for people to give up their selfishness and be good to each other. The only reason there is war, the liberals say, is because nations such as the United States are selfish bullies that want to impose themselves on others.

Those who understand human nature recognize that we can never give enough away to deal with the evil in the dark hearts of the world (and in our own country). Freedom has to be protected, at times at a heavy price of blood and life.

In our free nation, however, we are surrounded by people who are not free. Walk through the mall and count the people who appear to have free spirits, who demonstrate joy. Turn on the television and watch for people who appreciate a free nation. Consider your family and think about relatives who are free in the midst of the burdens of life.

Freedom is not a physical position as much as it is a spiritual condition. This came to mind again during Sunday services yesterday when a soloist sang the great song “Free,” by Steven Curtis Chapman. One of the joys of my career was working for and achieving an agreement between Chapman and Prison Fellowship—where I was an executive at the time—for Chapman to visit prisons and promote Prison Fellowship’s ministry, and for PF to help support his Heaven in the Real World album and tour (1996). As a result of this agreement and after one of Chapman’s visits to death row, he wrote Free. It reflects the truth you see often among death row inmates—they are free while under the sentence of physical death.

FREE, by Steven Curtis Chapman

The sun was beating down inside the walls of stone and razor wire
As we made our way across the prison yard
I felt my heart begin to race as we drew nearer to the place
Where they say that death is waiting in the dark
The slamming doors of iron echoed through the halls
Where despair holds life within its cruel claws
But then I met a man who's face seemed so strangely out of place
A blinding light of hope was shining in his eyes
And with repentance in his voice he told me of his tragic choice
That led him to this place where he must pay the price
But then his voice grew strong as he began to tell
About the One he said had rescued him from hell, he said...
I'm free, yeah, oh, I have been forgiven
God's love has taken off my chains and given me these wings
And I'm free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom I've been given
Is something that not even death can take away from me
Because I'm free
Jesus set me free
We said a prayed and said goodbye and tears began to fill my eyes
As I stepped back out into the blinding sun
And even as I drove away I found that I could not escape
The way he spoke of what the grace of God had done
I thought about how sin had sentenced us to die
And how God gave His only Son so you and I could say...
And if the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free indeed,
Oh, You are really free
If the Son has set you free,
Oh, if the Son has set you free
Then you are free, really, really free
Oh, we're free, yearh, oh, we have been forgiven
God's grace has broken every chain and given us these wings
And we're free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom we've been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Because we're free, yeah, the freedom we've been given
Is something that not even death can take from you and me
Because we're free, oh, we're free
We are free, we are free
The Son has set us free
If the Son has set you free
You are free indeed

Posted by Jim at 10:11 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

July 01, 2006

The Southern Baptist’s Lame Statement on the Environment

I was perplexed by the resolution passed by the Southern Baptists in Convention earlier this month on the environment. It is not unusual for me to be perplexed by the odd resolutions that are the usual gurgitation of these conventions, but because I’ve been active on the issue of evangelical environmentalism over the last year, I was particularly interested in the 2006 SBC Resolution No. 8 on environmentalism and evangelicals.

Apparently the resolution is attacking the Evangelical Climate Initiative, of which my firm was a part, but I can’t say for sure because there is too much nuance in the document for the actual purpose to be understood (perhaps someone who attended the conference would know if the floor discussion clarified this), and climate change or global warming isn’t specifically mentioned.

But the climate change politics aren’t interesting to me anyway, because I know where the conservative leadership of the SBC stands. While I think the SBC’s previous statements on global warming demonstrated an antiquated pack mentality, the question of the personal, moral responsibility of the follower of Christ is much more important. That’s what I’m most interested in now.

The Resolution acknowledges sinful man’s culpability when it comes to environmental degradation:

“WHEREAS, Since the fall into sin, humans have often ignored the Creator, shirked their stewardship of the environment, and further defiled the good creation.”

And the Resolution calls on Southern Baptists to protect the environment.

“RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, renew our commitment to God’s command to exercise caring stewardship and wise dominion over the creation (Genesis 1:28); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge all Southern Baptists toward the conservation and preservation of our natural resources for future generations while respecting ownership and property rights; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage public policy and private enterprise efforts that seek to improve the environment based on sound scientific and technological research.”

OK, that’s all good, in my view. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the Resolution is encouraging SBC adherents to do.

Let’s summarize: Baptists should.

1. exercise caring stewardship and wise dominion over the creation
2. conserve and preserve natural resources for future generations
3. encourage public policy and private enterprise to improve the environment.

I just don’t understand what any of this will mean to the Baptists in the pew without more specific directives.

To the drafters, what is caring stewardship? Does that mean establishing habits in your home that will use less non-renewable energy, or carpooling to the Golden Corral after church on Sunday?

How are Baptists asked to conserve or preserve natural resources? What is step one? And is it conserve or preserve—two very different approaches (there was argument between John Muir and Ansel Adams on this point). Do the Baptists really support any significant preservation?

And what legislation will the Baptists now support to improve the environment? What will they encourage private enterprise to do? Could they give us one clue?

The Resolution is useless because it is so vague. The criticisms are lame and the instructions are simply nice words.

There is one other point in the Resolution:

“RESOLVED, That we not only reaffirm our God-given responsibility of caring for the creation, but above all, that we continue to commit ourselves to the Great Commission to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to people of every tribe, tongue, and nation thus bringing glory to the One who will make all things new at His coming (Revelation 21:1).”

So the bottom line for the Baptists on the environment is for us to get more people saved. That’s wonderful; it really is. But when it comes to the environment, what good are more Christians who don’t know how to live their lives in a way that will truly care for God’s creation.

The Southern Baptists don’t know or they can’t say.

In another post I’ll tell you about some folks who can help.


Posted by Jim at 08:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Most Christians Consume Some Christian Media, Just Not Much of It

Christian clergy and laypeople tap into a fair amount of Christian media, but it is a minor part of their daily intake, and the mostly commonly accessed Christian media are music and radio (actually music radio). This, according to a new study by Ellison Research.

The study doesn’t reveal anything particularly surprising. Why would Christians, or anyone, rely on Christian media for news and information when Christian media don’t follow the minimal standards for journalism. Exclusively Christian media are advocates, not journalists, with very few exceptions. World magazine and Christianity Today have laudable journalistic standards, and there may be a few others.

So Christians turn to mainstream media for most of their news, and these days they turn more and more to Fox News Channel, talk radio, and the blogs.

There is no such thing as Christian journalism. There is journalism practiced by followers of Christ. And journalistic treatment of the Christian world. And journalism that exhibits Christian virtues. But news reporting and writing that tries to advocate for the faith isn’t journalism, although it may pretend to be.

Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, points out that although the numbers for Christian media are limited, they are still great enough to get the attention of the business community, which has begun putting big money into Christian films, books, and music.

“Although Christian media of some type reaches the vast majority of Protestants,” Sellers wrote, “for the average person it still represents a fraction of the media they consume.”

Posted by Jim at 12:26 AM | 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

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

May 02, 2006

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

April 30, 2006

A Voice for the Child Victims of War

In a sharply tailored suit with long braided hair and an easy smile, Akallo Grace Grall is thousands of miles away from the African bush and 10 years removed from the living hell in which she was trapped as a child victim of war—a child soldier of Uganda.

Now a communications student of Gordon College and an associate with the new advocacy and aid group ChildVoice International, Grace testified on Wed., April 26, at the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), in an appearance arranged by World Vision.

Her testimony was unimaginably chilling, as she outlined the horror that no woman, no child, no human being should go through, abducted with dozens of other girls from a boarding school in northern Uganda in 1996, and forced to kill or be killed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). She face was subjugated in pure terror, with children killed for offenses ranging from attempted escape to crying. Grace was forced to kill two other children, was given to a LRA officer as a sex slave, and once passed out from exhaustion and buried alive.

She survived and escaped to safety. Today, she recounts the horror and mourns those she left behind, those who died, those who have never escaped and are part of the 30,000 children conscripted by the LRA. They remain the fighters, child shields, and slaves of Joseph Kony and his LRA thugs. Her testimony not only gripped the members of Congress who attended, but provided a chilling illustration of pure evil in the 21st Century.

The children of Uganda are part of the international shame of child soldiers and only one example of the slavery that remains in our world.

ChildVoice International is one group that is committed to shining a light on the problem, and restoring the voices and the vitality of these children, in Uganda and around the world. Others are laboring in Uganda, including World Vision and Refugees International, who were represented at the hearing.

Our own inconveniences of life fade away in the shadow of such horrible images, provided by a soft-spoken and courageous young woman who escaped from hell and has made it her mission to work for the peace of Uganda and the rescue of others who remain in evil’s grasp.

Posted by Jim at 04:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 27, 2006

New Poll Indicates Evangelical Shift on Climate Change, Environmental Concerns

As I mentioned last week, I have been providing public relations and communications counsel to the Evangelical Climate Initiative, in its national release of Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action.

The pronouncement has received significant attention in the media, most of which has pondered the variance in evangelical opinion on the issue of global warming, and weighed the influence of the 86 evangelical leaders who signed the Call to Action against traditional stalwarts who have not accepted scientific findings on climate change--such as James Dobson and Chuck Colson.

There are some indications that there is, indeed, changes in evangelical attitudes on climate.

Fortune magazine (Feb. 8, 2006): “With publications ranging from The Economist to Christianity Today urging action to curb global warming, there's little doubt about which way the winds are blowing, in both the business and evangelical worlds.”

The Associated Press referred to the initiative as "a historic tipping point" (Los Angeles Times, Feb 10) in evangelical response to climate change.

Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said in the New York Times (Feb. 8): “There is no doubt about it in my mind that climate change is happening, and there is no doubt about it that it would be wise for us to stop doing the foolish things we're doing that could potentially be causing this. In my mind there is no downside to being cautious."

New Poll Results
And now details from a new poll of evangelical Christians seem to strengthen the call made the group of 86 evangelical leaders for action to reduce global warming.

In the poll, conducted by Ellison Research—-which frequently surveys church leaders—-70 percent of evangelicals said they believed global warming will pose a serious threat to future generations. Sixty-three percent of evangelicals believed that although global warming may be a long-term problem, since it is being caused today, the nation must start addressing it immediately.

In other findings from the Ellison Research poll, 95 percent of evangelical respondents agreed that “God gave us dominion over His creation, so we have a responsibility to care for it.”

--In the poll, 84 percent of evangelicals agreed that reducing pollution is a form of obedience to the biblical command to love your neighbor.

--92 percent agreed that “in the long run, it will be cheaper to protect the environment now than to fix it later.”

--95 percent agreed that “a healthy environment helps to keep your family healthy.”

--A majority of evangelicals—51 percent—said the U.S. should take steps to address global warming, even if there is a high economic cost.

--Two-thirds of evangelicals are either completely or mostly convinced that global warming is actually taking place.

The study was conducted in September 2005 by Ellison Research, a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Ariz. The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution. The study was designed independently by Ellison Research and funded by the Evangelical Environmental Network.

Posted by Jim at 07:37 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

Evangelical Climate Initiative TV & Radio Campaign

The Evangelical Climate Initiative begins its two week television and radio campaign today, with spots tonight on Fox News Channel, and startly shortly on CNN and ABC Family, and on local television in eight markets. The radio spots will be aired on Salem Radio Networks talk stations, and on about 50 Christian radio stations nationally.

Here is a link to the television spot, featuring Orlando-area megachurch pastor Joel Hunter.

The signers of the evangelical intitiative on global warming include:

Rev. Dr. Leith Anderson, Former President, National Association of Evangelicals (NAE); Senior Pastor, Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, MN
Robert Andringa, Ph.D., President, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), Vienna, VA
Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., Executive Director, Evangelical Environmental Network; Wynnewood, PA
Commissioner W. Todd Bassett, National Commander, The Salvation Army; Alexandria, VA
Dr. Jay A. Barber, Jr., President, Warner Pacific College, Portland, OR
Gary P. Bergel, President, Intercessors for America; Purcellville, VA
David Black, Ph.D., President, Eastern University, St. Davids, PA
Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Los Angeles, CA
Rev. Dr. Dan Boone, President, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, TN
Bishop Wellington Boone, The Father’s House & Wellington Boone Ministries, Norcross, GA
Rev. Dr. Peter Borgdorff, Executive Director, Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, MI
H. David Brandt, Ph.D., President, George Fox University, Newberg, OR
Rev. George K. Brushaber, Ph.D., President, Bethel University; Senior Advisor, Christianity Today; St. Paul, MN
Rev. Dwight Burchett, President, Northern California Association of Evangelicals; Sacramento, CA
Gaylen Byker, Ph.D., President, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI
Rev. Dr. Jerry B. Cain, President, Judson College, Elgin, IL
Rev. Dr. Clive Calver, Senior Pastor, Walnut Hill Community Church; Former President, World Relief; Bethel, CT
R. Judson Carlberg, Ph.D., President, Gordon College, Wenham, MA
Rev. Dr. Paul Cedar, Chair, Mission America Coalition; Palm Desert, CA
David Clark, Ph.D., President, Palm Beach Atlantic University; Former Chair/CEO, Nat. Rel. Broadcasters; Founding Dean, Regent University; West Palm Beach, FL
Rev. Luis Cortes, President & CEO, Esperanza USA; Host, National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast; Philadelphia, PA
Andy Crouch, Columnist, Christianity Today magazine; Swarthmore, PA
Rev. Paul de Vries, Ph.D., President, New York Divinity School; New York, NY
Rev. David S. Dockery, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; President, Union University, Jackson, TN
Larry R. Donnithorne, Ed.D., President, Colorado Christian University, Lakewood, CO
Blair Dowden, Ed.D., President, Huntington University, Huntington, IN
Rev. Robert P. Dugan, Jr., Former VP of Governmental Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals; Palm Desert, CA
Craig Hilton Dyer, President, Bright Hope International, Hoffman Estates, IL
D. Merrill Ewert, Ed.D., President, Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, CA
Rev. Dr. LeBron Fairbanks, President, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Mount Vernon, OH
Rev. Myles Fish, President/CEO, International Aid, Spring Lake, MI
Rev. Dr. Floyd Flake, Senior Pastor, Greater Allen AME Cathedral; President, Wilberforce University; Jamaica, NY
Rev. Timothy George, Ph.D., Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Executive Editor, Christianity Today; Birmingham, AL
Rev. Michael J. Glodo, Stated Clerk, Evangelical Presbyterian Church , Livonia , MI
Rev. James M. Grant, Ph.D., President, Simpson University, Redding, CA
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey E. Greenway, President, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY
Rev. David Gushee, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Union University; columnist, Religion News Service; Jackson, TN
Gregory V. Hall, President, Warner Southern College, Lake Wales, FL
Brent Hample, Executive Director, India Partners, Eugene OR
Rev. Dr. Jack Hayford, President, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Los Angeles, CA
Rev. Steve Hayner, Ph.D., Former President, InterVarsity; Prof. of Evangelism, Columbia Theological Sem., Decatur, GA
E. Douglas Hodo, Ph.D., President, Houston Baptist University, Houston, TX
Ben Homan, President, Food for the Hungry; President, Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations (AERDO); Phoenix, AZ
Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, A Church Distributed; Longwood, FL
Bryce Jessup, President, William Jessup University, Rocklin, CA
Ronald G. Johnson, Ph.D., President, Malone College, Canton, OH
Rev. Dr. Phillip Charles Joubert, Sr., Pastor, Community Baptist Church, Bayside, NY
Jennifer Jukanovich, Founder, The Vine, Seattle, WA
Rev. Brian Kluth, Senior Pastor, First Evangelical Free Church; Founder, MAXIMUM Generosity; Colorado Springs, CO
Bishop James D. Leggett, General Superintendent, International Pentecostal Holiness Church; Chair, Pentecostal World Fellowship; Oklahoma City, OK
Duane Litfin, Ph.D., President, Wheaton College, Wheaton IL
Rev. Dr. Larry Lloyd, President, Crichton College, Memphis, TN
Rev. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Executive Director, World Hope; Alexandria, VA
Sammy Mah, President and CEO, World Relief; Baltimore, MD
Jim Mannoia, Ph.D., President, Greenville College, Greenville, IL
Bishop George D. McKinney, Ph.D., D.D., St. Stephens Church Of God In Christ, San Diego, CA
Rev. Brian McLaren, Senior Pastor, Cedar Ridge Community Church; Emergent leader; Spencerville, MD
Rev. Dr. Daniel Mercaldo, Senior Pastor & Founder, Gateway Cathedral; Staten Island, NY
Rev. Dr. Jesse Miranda, President, AMEN, Costa Mesa, CA
Royce Money, Ph.D., President, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX
Dr. Bruce Murphy, President, Northwestern University, Orange City, IA
Rev. George W. Murray, D.Miss., President, Columbia International University, Columbia SC
David Neff, Editor, Christianity Today; Carol Stream, IL
Larry Nikkel, President, Tabor College, Hillsboro, KS
Michael Nyenhuis, President, MAP International; Brunswick, GA
Brian O’Connell, President, REACT Services; Founder and Former Executive Director, Religious Liberty Commission, World Evangelical Alliance; Mill Creek, WA
Roger Parrott, Ph.D., President, Belhaven College, Jackson, MS
Charles W. Pollard, Ph.D., J.D., President, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR
Paul A. Rader, D.Miss., President, Asbury College, Wilmore, KY
Rev. Edwin H. Robinson, Ph.D., President, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Olathe , KS
William P. Robinson, Ph.D., President, Whitworth College, Spokane, WA
Lee Royce, Ph.D., President, Mississippi College, Clinton, MS
Andy Ryskamp, Executive Director, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Grand Rapids, MI
Rev. Ron Sider, Ph.D., President, Evangelicals for Social Action, Philadelphia, PA
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision, Federal Way, WA
Rev. Jewelle Stewart, Ex. Dir., Women’s Ministries, International Pentecostal Holiness Church; Oklahoma City, OK
Rev. Dr. Loren Swartzendruber, President, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg VA
C. Pat Taylor, Ph.D., President, Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, MO
Rev. Berten A. Waggoner, National Director, Vineyard, USA; Sugar Land, TX
Jon R. Wallace, DBA, President, Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA
Rev. Dr. Thomas Yung-Hsin Wang, former International Director of Lausanne II, Sunnyvale, CA
Rev. Dr. Rick Warren, Senior Pastor, Saddleback Church; author of The Purpose Driven Life; Lake Forest, CA
John Warton, President, Business Professional Network, Portland, OR
Robert W. Yarbrough, Ph.D., New Testament Dept. Chair, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL
John D. Yordy, Ph. D., Interim President, Goshen College, Goshen, IN
Adm. Tim Ziemer, Director of Programs, World Relief, Baltimore, MD

Posted by Jim at 04:57 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Winds of Change in the Evangelical Response to Global Warming?

On page A9 of the February 9 New York Times, a full page ad began with the words: “Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us…” It’s unusual to see these words so prominently in the Times, even in an ad. But what was to follow sent shock waves through official Washington and much of the country focused on the issues of the day.

The following was the full headline of the ad:

“Our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to solve the global warming crisis.” A little bold for the liberals, readers may have thought. But reading further they discovered that this was an advocacy advertisement from a group of 86 evangelical leaders operating under the banner of The Evangelical Climate Initiative.

The group, which signed a document called Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action , is not easily classified. It includes individuals from the right, the center, and the left; from the Reformed, Wesleyan, Charismatic traditions; old and young; all regions of the nation. The list is heavily academic—the presidents of some 40 Christian colleges and seminaries; with many leaders of evangelical relief and development agencies.

(Disclosure: My public relations firm managed the communications campaign for The Evangelical Climate Initiative, and although we are no means disinterested, we have not been part of the evangelical environmental movement to date).

The evangelicals participating in the initiative made it clear that their passion aligned with the mainstream of the evangelical community. The ad and other materials read:

“With the same love of God and neighbor that compels us to preach salvation through Jesus Christ, protect unborn life, preserve the family and the sanctity of marriage, defend religious freedom and human dignity, and take the whole Gospel to a hurting world, we the undersigned evangelical leaders resolve to come together with others of like mind to pray and to work to stop global warming.”

The document calls on the federal government to impose economy-wide limitations on CO2 emissions, and it is complementary of the Domenici-sponsored “will of the Senate” resolution on emissions.

National media jumped all over this story, and it continues to pile up the column inches. Beginning with The New York Times, the Initiative was covered by the Associated Press,
ABC World News Tonight, NBC Evening News, Fox and Friends, CNN American Morning, hundreds of local newspapers, Christianity Today, World, Charisma, and still counting.

A group called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance issued a rebuttal, and engineered a letter from James Dobson, Chuck Colson, D. James Kennedy and about 15 others, successfully urging the NAE not to allow its staff to sign the documents (signatories participated as individuals, not as representatives of their organizations).

Operation Rescue launched a scathing missive that cited funding of this Initiative as “blood money,” and Joseph Farah questioned the spiritual integrity—indeed, the very regeneration--of the participants. But most evangelical leaders have kept any disagreements fairly muted, although it may build.

But as the AP said in one of its articles: The winds may be shifting on the evangelical response to global warming. William F. Buckley wrote in his newspaper column:

“We hear now (in full-page ads) from the Evangelical Climate Initiative. Their summons, signed by 80-odd evangelical leaders, is to address the global-warming crisis .... We are indeed stewards of nature, and calls to conjoin our concern with a sense of Christian mission are noteworthy.”

There are new polls, and new ads, which I’ll cover in another post.

Posted by Jim at 09:25 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

February 22, 2006

Returning in a Time of Strange Alliances

It is difficult to support the Administration's decision to allow the sale of major port operations to the United Arab Emirates. But it is even stranger to see Democrats such as Charles Schumer reborn as defense hawks. Now the President is in a corner, because it appears he was not in the know when the decision was approved, and although he is now probably inclined to reverse the decision, it would appear that he is caving to critics on the left. That would enable them to beef up pathetic national defense credentials with a contention that they've protected the ports from Bush and his Middle Eastern friends.

It can't believe that my last entry at Stones Cry Out was in November 2005. What can I say? I've been busy. But now I'm back to write in a time strange bedfellows and unlikely alliances.

More on some of those in the days ahead.

Posted by Jim at 04:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 08, 2005

Rebuilding a Seminary in New Orleans

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is one of the largest seminaries in the world (about 2200 on campus and 1800 by extension), and by some accounts the largest Southern Baptist seminary. But none of that counted for much when Hurricane Katrina made the urban seminary campus part of Lake Pontchartrain. When the waters receded, the NOBPTS was facing some $20 million in damage, and many thought it was time to move to a more comfortable and safer setting. But the trustees voted to rebuild and return. Posted today is my story from the new issue of Christianity Today on the seminary's struggle to recover from Katrina.

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

October 25, 2005

My Story of Persusion, Ralph Reed and a Most Favored China

Information can be power, and the use and practice of persuasion at a public relations agency includes many layers of decisions and choices unseen and usually unappreciated by those outside of the industry.

This is certainly true when the agency is involved primarily in the Christian community, and is seeking to make decisions that are in concert with Christian ethics.

I say all this because my name was in the newspaper Sunday. A long investigative story on the front page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, includes references to my role in using the skills and persuasion of the agency I was with at the time—The DeMoss Group—to help gain Christian and conservative support of Most Favored Nation status for China in 1998.

It’s a long story, and I think an interesting story, about Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, and now a political consultant and candidate for Lt. Governor of Georgia. The AJC is writing a lot about Reed these days; this article is about his stealthy ways and use of connections in the Christian community.

In 1998, Reed was our client for a campaign, in which I pulled together a group of missionary organizations who were working in China and would also agree with a statement that it was better for mission work in China if it was open to world trade instead of closed and isolated.

I named this group the Alliance of Christian Ministries in China (ACMC), and used the group’s identity for some hard-ball publicity, advertising, and lobbying.

I don’t have time to tell you the whole story now, but the AJC article looks at a lot of the details. And it reports on the full-page ad that Reed ran with the ACMC name without telling us—-arousing the ire of the Dalai Lama and effectively ending our professional relationship.

It was a long time ago. It’s now hard to imagine China as an isolated giant. And there are still layers of decisions about the use of persuasion and stealthy—-some would say deceptive—-means to accomplish a laudable mission.

Posted by Jim at 11:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

Evangelicalism Broadens Its View and Its Impact

There’s a marvelous article by John Cochran this week in Congressional Quarterly (CQ Weekly; subscription needed) that captures the maturing and broadening of the evangelical public agenda. It is a refreshing consideration of the issues of evangelicals concern, in addition to pro-life and pro-family (anti-homosexual rights) matters.

The article takes a closer look at the emerging evangelical environmentalists, who are making a significant contribution in this area, but one that is different than the agenda of the secular crowd that has dominated this issue.

At a time when the evangelicals’ bargain with fiscal and movement conservatives in the Republican Party has been shaken by opposition to the Miers nomination, they are increasing their interest and activities in issues such as creation care, global poverty, and international human and religious rights, while maintaining their orthodoxy of faith and pro-business spontaneity.

CQ asks if the covenant will crack:

“The bargain that brought evangelical activists into the Republican Party was this: They would support the low-tax, small-government agenda of fiscal conservatives, who had long been the bedrock of the GOP, and fiscal conservatives would support evangelicals on the cultural and social issues that matter most to them. There’s lots of interplay between the two camps, but at its most basic, what they had in common was that the Democratic Party was not addressing their agendas, says University of Texas at Austin political historian Lewis L. Gould, author of “Grand Old Party: A History of Republicans.” That arrangement made the GOP the majority party. But nothing is forever in politics.

And that’s the big reason why the gradual shift in the debate under way among evangelicals is potentially significant, even disconcerting for politicians: Evangelicals are thinking beyond their traditional set of issues, and it’s not clear where it will lead them.”

But unless the national Democrats shift dramatically away from the left margins on a number of issues, it’s not likely a significant number of evangelicals will switch party support. It is more likely that the alliance that has produced majorities will lose its potency and the Republican Party will lose its edge.

The criticism by some conservatives of evangelical support of Miers as one-issue, soft heartedness is doing nothing to prevent this break. And the move by the evangelical middle to embrace the issues in this article may further cook the goose that laid the golden egg.

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

October 07, 2005

An Eloquent Speech on The Bush Doctrine

I agree with Matt.

The President's speech yesterday was one of the bold and important speeches of his presidency, and an eloquent presentation of the Bush Doctrine. I watched it on Fox and I'm reading it again now. It is terrific.

Posted by Jim at 11:28 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 06, 2005

The Split of the Evangelicals and the Conservative Elite Over Miers

The reinforced cord of ideological conservatives and Catholic and evangelical Christians that helped elect George W. Bush is fraying over the Harriet Miers nomination, to the delight of Democrats.

Although there are many people with feet in both camps, the shots taken at Harriet Miers by the conservative elite rejects any loyalty to their coalition partners, the evangelicals, and shows the natural strains that have been hidden by political common cause.

At its root, visceral opposition by the ideologues of the right isn’t about Miers’ credentials or paper trail, as they would have you believe. It is about the prescription drug bill, irresponsible post-Katrina spending, and others actions that have shown that George Bush is a big government Republican who shows no signs of backing up language that paints him as a fiscal conservative.

The conservatives have been getting madder about that as Bush strays from good fiscal principles, as the war on terror grinds on, and as their support for the President seems less necessary.

They wanted President Bush to nominate a true blue, in-your-face, conservative with a track record that would drive Ted Kennedy crazy; they wanted Bush to prove to the Democrats that they are not in charge.

Instead they got a longtime friend of Bush, a President who they believe has strayed too far off the conservative ranch to be trusted anymore. And they got someone very much like Bush—someone who became a follower of Jesus Christ in midlife.

The President’s plan to nominate someone he knows to be a social conservative, but who won’t have to defend past judicial decisions, was a sound plan. But he didn’t count on the conservative elite calling in its debts and kicking a President who they have come to dislike.

We can’t fall for the nonsense that the nominee should have been the best legal mind in the country, or the very best qualified jurist. In a perfect world, that’s how Supreme Court justices would be chosen. But we’re talking about politics. We’re talking about Washington, D.C.

The Democrats are loving it. The right is taking shots at their favorite target. What an unexpected pleasure.

The evangelicals, on the other hand, have one of their own as a nominee. We don’t know how she is going to come down on eminent domain or the commerce clause. But we have a better sense than anyone that’s come along in a long time that she is going to have a genuine, faith-based interest in protecting life--from conception to natural death. Miers’ Christian faith also will guide her protection of religious freedoms.

The elite has abandoned the evangelicals, whom they consider to be their weak-minded cousins. After all, Bush is one of those evangelical types, and he’s left the fiscally responsible farm. What good are they?

It’s time for the evangelical community to rally support for Harriet Miers. James Dobson was the first to endorse her nomination, but he’s not alone.

Charles Colson issued this statement on Monday:

“I enthusiastically support the nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is a surprising, but inspiring choice. She is a woman of great integrity, remarkable accomplishment, with a fine legal mind. Ms. Miers will be a great addition to the Roberts court.”

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, who argues regularly before the high court and has a pro-life protest case at the high court this term, went even further in his support: .

“Once again, President Bush showed exceptional judgment in naming Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court to replace Justice O’Connor. At a time when the high court is facing some of the most critical issues of the day, including a number of cases dealing directly with abortion and life issues, the person who replaces Justice O’Connor is critical.

“Harriet Miers is an excellent choice with an extraordinary record of service in the legal community and is certain to approach her work on the high court with a firm commitment to follow the Constitution and the rule of law. I have been privileged to work with her in her capacity as White House counsel. She is bright, thoughtful, and a consummate professional and I enthusiastically endorse her nomination.”

Don’t miss the subtlety in Bush’s nomination of Miers. She has plenty of experience and know-how. But he knows her heart, as well. This nomination was for the pro-life evangelicals. He can’t say that, or they’d both be crucified on Capitol Hill. Bush choose a closet pro-lifer. The conservative elite hates it, and the left is going to hate her, the more they dig into her Christian conversion and quiet pro-life activities.

It’s time for the evangelicals to throw their weight behind Miers, or go back to their happy churches and shut up about having a social agenda.

Posted by Jim at 08:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 05, 2005

Standing by Miers and her Evangelical Conscience

I am unabashedly enthusiastic that Harriet Miers has come to faith in Jesus Christ in midlife, and that her evangelical belief will be part of what she brings to her role as a Supreme Court justice, if confirmed. But I do not want to be misunderstood as a Pollyanna Christian who celebrates faith but ignores ability and ideology.

I don’t use the Christian Yellow Pages and, like Martin Luther, I’d rather be ruled by a “competent Turk” than an incompetent Christian. And after working for nearly 30 years in the very bowels of the evangelical community, I know that a person’s Christian faith does not assure competence. Trust me, I know that well.

Anymore than a person’s conservative orthodoxy assures sound moral character.

Those who worship at the feet of William Buckley and see conservatism as life’s guiding light, and particularly those who are more comfortable inside the beltway that inside a church, have decried Miers’ selection and dismissed personal relationships—that the President has with the nominee, and that the nominee has with Jesus Christ—as inferior to a judicial record or a paper trail.

I do not think the evidence of Miers’ evangelical belief is enough to provide comfort to those who want to be assured that she will not slide to liberalism as part of the court. But when I add that to my belief that the President understands the stakes, and he has known Miers as a close colleague for more than 10 years, I am far more comfortable than I am with others who were less known by the Presidents who appointed them (they say Bush 41 couldn’t pick David Souter out of a lineup). [I incorrectly wrote Reagan in an earlier version]

There’s more certainty on some key issues—such as life issues--with Miers than with Roberts, or many others who could have been chosen. How many Republican evangelicals that you have known for 10 years are pro-abortion?

Posted by Jim at 09:38 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 04, 2005

Trusting the President on Miers, the Evangelical

The nomination of Harriet Miers has created an amusing bipartisan pout in Washington. She has no record that pegs her judicial philosophy, and nothing has surfaced that assures either conservatives or liberals.

That’s disturbing to David Frum at NRO, who expresses a common sentiment among conservatives in the last 24 hours.

“But there is no reason at all to believe either that she is a legal conservative or--and more importantly--that she has the spine and steel necessary to resist the pressures that constantly bend the American legal system toward the left. . . .I am not saying that Harriet Miers is not a legal conservative. I am not saying that she is not steely.”

What disturbs Frum and other conservative leaders is that they are being asked to trust the President.

History prevents any bold predictions about what men and women will become when they put on the august robes of the nation’s highest court. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to think of an instance when a justice has drifted to the right.

But I’m choosing to trust President Bush on this, for three reasons:

First, because I believe he understands the importance of righting the Court; and second, because he knows nominee Miers very well. This is not a new face to Bush, vetted by the staff and subjected to a getting-to-know-you session in the Oval Office. Miers has been Bush’s personal attorney, and she’s been a close associate for more than a decade.

Finally, and most intriguing, there are reports that Miers is an evangelical.

J. Grant Swank, Jr writes at the ArriveNet blog:

"Harriet Miers is said to be a conscientious church-going single. She’s also a workaholic. She’s a determined career woman. She’s trusted by US President George W. Bush. And now she’s been nominated for the highest court in the land. But what is particularly significant is the give-away secret. She’s an "evangelical."

Focus on the Family CitizenLink includes this:

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul Gonzalez has known the nominee for more than two decades.

"Harriet is an outstanding individual," he told CitzenLink. "She is a born-again Christian and goes to an evangelical church in Dallas. She is a very, very compassionate and able person."

And this from the NY Times:

One thing Ms. Miers shares with her boss is a deep faith. She was introduced to Valley View Christian Church in Dallas by Justice Hecht, of the Texas Supreme Court. He was an elder at the church and often plays the organ during Sunday services.

"Harriet has placed her faith in Jesus," said the Rev. Ron Key, who was the longtime pastor there until recently. "She may have been religious before, but it's become more of a priority, more of a focus of her life. She has become a strong example of what happens in a person's life when they come to the faith."

I’ve heard this from several sources during the last day, but it isn’t something that the White House or Miers will talk up during the confirmation process. It would reassure Christian conservatives, but disturb the secularists who dominate the Democratic Party.

For these reasons, I’m willing to trust Bush on this one.

Posted by Jim at 07:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 03, 2005

What’s That in Blogyears?

October 1 marked the one-year anniversary of my foray into the blogging world. On that day in 2004 I began The Rooftop Blog with the following mission statement:

“Exploring the news and interplay of the Four Estates--family, church, government, and the media--and the moral imagination of a culture informed by the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

I’ve been able to devote much of the space to materials within these parameters, although at times I’ve written purely on the passion of the day, and in times of political drama, on the politics of the moment.

In February, I joined four others to begin this blog, Stones Cry Out. I cross-post the majority of my posts, but because Stones Cry Out has good contributions from (now eight) others, most of those who enjoy what I write read it here—and The Rooftop Blog has become somewhat of a compilation of just my works, with occasional posts that are too personal for the more august air of SCO.

I enjoy any opportunity to write, and would welcome more time to devote to the blog. As our public relations business has picked up, I have had to chisel the amount of time I spend on the blog. When I began supplementing the PR business by teaching three college courses this semester, my blogging time has decreased more.

I have found blogging immensely satisfying and interesting, and I believe it helps my work because it keeps my nose in the news. I share the frustration of so many bloggers: There is not enough time to pour into the ever-hungry blog There is always more material than time. Until we find a way to drive the economic part of “the tail,” blogging will remain for many of us a tantalyzing but frequently frustrating attempt to speak to the world.

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

September 28, 2005

Superdome Reporting: Fair, Balanced, and False

Many journalists put themselves in potentially dangerous situations and worked beyond their physical limits to provide round-the-clock coverage of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But now it is becoming clear that courage, tousled hair, breathlessness, and good work ethic are no substitutes for journalistic standards. It is also clear that rumor posing as fact resulted in egregious charges and vastly sensationalized reports throughout the media.

As Doug reported below, The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the serious and most alarming reports from the Superdome and the Convention Center—of bodies piled high, mass rapes, children with slit throats—were simply not true. They were rumors that initially broadcast media, and then without further investigation, print media reported as fact.

As further evidence that Mayor Nagin and other Louisiana officials are criminally incompetent, one media excuse is that the mayor and others were making public statements about the horrendous—-but evidently fictional—-abuses. The public officials may have picked up some of their information from media reports; some media outlets took courage in reporting on the conditions because of what officials said.

The Associated Press said today:

The ugliest reports — children with slit throats, women dragged off and raped, corpses piling up in the basement — soon became a searing image of post-Katrina New Orleans.

The stories were told by residents trapped inside the Superdome and convention center and were repeated by public officials. Many news organizations, including The Associated Press, carried the witness accounts and official pronouncements, and in some cases later repeated the claims as fact, without attribution.

But now, a month after the chaos subsided, police are re-examining the reports and finding that many of them have little or no basis in fact.

They have no official reports of rape and no eyewitnesses to sexual assault. The state Department of Health and Hospitals counted 10 dead at the Superdome and four at the convention center. Only two of those are believed to have been murdered.

So there is mutual culpability. However, it is the responsibility of journalists to ferret out the truth; those who failed to do so bear primary responsibility in the reporting of terrible atrocities that did not occur; reporting that damaged the international image of the United States, that prompted FEMA’s refusal to send its volunteers with aid into what was being reported as a war zone, and that began the slanders against the President.

It is a great example of the importance in modern society of accurate and independent reporting. I teach college journalism classes and I have a wonderful example for tonight’s classes of why we drill the importance of fundamentals in reporting—multiple sources, constant attribution of unsubstantiated statements, remaining personally uninvolved in the stories. These and many other principles were ignored by overly tired, alarmed, and emotionally distraught reporters who were fed bad information and broadcast it to the world.


Posted by Jim at 07:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 27, 2005

Foursquare Kingdom Building

One of the interesting characters in American church history of the last century was Aimee Semple McPherson, founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, the first prominent Pentecostal denomination.

McPherson was reportedly the first woman in America to be granted a radio license by the FCC. The station she began in 1924, operated by the church ever since, was sold earlier this year for a whopping $200 million. Foursquare has used these funds primarily as the corpus of a grant-making foundation. The most interesting aspect of the foundation’s policies, which I reported on in Christianity Today, is that at least 10 percent of the annual grants will be given to causes outside of the denomination.

That’s Kingdom thinking that is not commonly found in denominational decision-making. A hat tip to the spiritual heirs of McPherson.

Posted by Jim at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Snow Daze

President Bush singled out Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue for praise yesterday because the chief executive of our state called on all of the public schools in the state to use two of its snow days, Monday and Tuesday, in order to conserve diesel fuel.

This decision was communicated to the schools at 3:45 p.m. on Friday, so the kids came home for the weekend with a slip of paper announcing their great news and an unexpected two-day vacation.

There weren’t many people in Georgia singing Perdue’s praises, however, except the school children. Although the governor was no doubt trying to exert leadership and preempt shortages, when Rita failed to destroy as it was expected to, the snow days looked silly. And for parents who had to miss work because there wasn’t time to make other arrangements, the decision was maddening.

The irony is even greater when you know that Georgia’s public schools are routinely ranked #49 or #50 in the country (sometimes the state can brag: We beat Alabama!) What does it say about education priorities when sending the kids home is the first line of conservation.

Perdue gained some political capital earlier in the month when he lifted the state gasoline tax, to bring post-Katrina gasoline price back below $3 a gallon. He’s mismanaged that good will away.

This is all an exercise in controlling perceptions and panics. Two days off school or the Governor carpooling to the State House are not going to make a significant difference. The President suggested a number of similar “band-aid” measures yesterday.

We need more leadership to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, on all fossil fuels, and on one region of the country for refining oil. We need more refineries. And we need to fast track the moribund nuclear power industry.

In the meantime, just calm down. And let the kids go back to school.

Posted by Jim at 08:37 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 23, 2005

Vegetable Power: An Alternative to Gasoline Guzzling

With reports that the price of gasoline will hit $4.00 a gallon if the Texas refineries are closed very long because of Rita, I found this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quite interesting.

With very little modification, a local Gwinnett County fellow has converted his VW Jetta diesel to run on vegetable oil. Nothing fancy, just vegetable oil that is being discarded by an area Thai restaurant.

We certainly need to be heading this way, to far greater use of renewable fuels to run our engines.

The article is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the story is real. And it really does make one hopeful that there are alternatives to our dependence on fossil fuels.

Posted by Jim at 09:46 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Democrats Dazed and Confused on Roberts

The transparent duplicity of the Senate's Democratic leadership emasculates whatever strategy they had in mind regarding their verdict on Chief Justice nominee John Roberts.

Do they expect anyone to believe that the liberal warhorse Patrick Leahy measured John Roberts and found him worthy, while Harry Reid, the anti-abortion Democratic Leader from a conservative-leaning state, found the judge wanting?

Strange indeed.

I understand the eagerness of the Democrats to look reasonable regarding Roberts, now that their opposition is doomed. If they can look thoughtful now, perhaps Americans will remember their thoughtfulness when they become rapid in their attacks on the next nominee.

But is Reid, and by proxy the Democratic Party itself, so weak and beholden to the liberal interests groups of the left that have marched through his office that he had to become the designated symbol of opposition to the impressive but conservative jurist.

And with the first signals from these two leading Democratic senators, with others making far less news as they lined up for or against Roberts, the Democrats botched their message.

Reid looks pathetic, and the Democrats look dazed and confused.

Wait, that’s not news, is it?

Posted by Jim at 07:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

Punish Executive Crooks Without Punishing Ourselves

In what is becoming common treatment of senior executives who abuse the public trust, the ex-Tyco leaders were given long prison sentences of 8-25 years. What is different about these convictions is that they are state cases, not federal, and because of the length of the sentences, prison time is likely to be served at the terrible Attica prison in western New York.

There is a tendency to relish the harsh punishment of arrogant leaders who have hurt many people financially; who thought they were above the law, and who had no regard for the damage they were causing others.

But as I have explained before, prisons should be used to punish violent and dangerous offenders, not people we dislike. There is a range of severe and appropriate punishments that do not use expensive prison space, and do not mix non-violent lawbreakers with murderers and other thugs.

Community-based punishments would be appropriate for the Tyco rascals. Sending them to a maximum-security prison is cruel and unusual punishment.

There a biblical sense of justice, however, that points to the need to be merciful, as God has been merciful to us, with an ironic twist not unlike a reverse reading of Matthew 18:21-32:

In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the hearing, [the prosecutor] read aloud from a letter [Tyco executive] Kozlowski had written in 1995 to a Houston judge overseeing the sentencing of a Tyco employee who had been convicted of stealing from the company; Mr. Kozlowski urged that a maximum sentence be imposed.

[The prosecutor] said of Mr. Kozlowski, "What the defendant said on that occasion applies on this occasion."

(Source)


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

September 19, 2005

A Great Speech Moment

While we’ve debated in this space the merits of President Bush’s recovery proposals, and how they should be funded, I can’t let the time pass without noting a great moment of speechmaking.

The closing of the President’s speech in New Orleans last week was brilliant, and it illuminated the crisis with imagery well known to the New Orleans community, and to many of us who are familiar only with the caricatures of the city and its culture:

In this place, there is a custom for the funerals of jazz musicians. The funeral procession parades slowly through the streets, followed by a band playing a mournful dirge as it moves to the cemetery. Once the casket has been laid in place, the band breaks into a joyful "second line" -- symbolizing the triumph of the spirit over death. Tonight the Gulf Coast is still coming through the dirge, yet we will live to see the second line.

Perfect.

Posted by Jim at 07:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Reality Check

I spend a few hours a week sitting at a table in the student union at Kennesaw State University, preparing for two news writing courses I teach at the Atlanta-area school. Overhearing conversations around the table gives me raw exposure to the thoughts and passions of the next generation, as frightening as that may be.

Last week I picked up from the gaggle of students next to me the following sentiment: “I am sooooo tired of hearing about this hurricane stuff that is, like, on all the time.”

The adult response, of course, is that the only thing more tiring would be to be living in a Red Cross shelter hundreds of miles away from home for weeks, then piecing together a life in an apartment nowhere near any of your friends and family, attending a school where you don’t know anyone, and trying to figure out how to stretch the food you picked up at The Salvation Army recovery center.

But, yes, these are college students. It takes people with real life experiences to connect them to reality. I guess that’s why I’m there.

Posted by Jim at 07:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2005

We Combat Natural Disasters with Acts of God.

Yesterday, my wife and business partner, Debbie, read me the best headline for the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, from her work with a client who is responding to the tragedy: We Combat Natural Disasters with Acts of God.

The hands and feet and smiles and heart of God are seen everywhere, as the acts of God’s people bring life, food, shelter, reunion, and hope to the victims of wind, water, and folly. Fundraising for hurricane relief is ubiquitous—in nearly every store, every club, and every church. Everywhere you turn.

Americans are caring for their own, just as they care for the victims of disasters and tragedies around the world. Why?

While it perturbs those of other faiths and no faith when I point this out, it is our Judeo-Christian heritage that prompts the faith and heart of modern-day believers, and that informs, inspires, and compels this pluralistic nation to reach out to others--out of bounty, or for some, with great sacrifice.

It was the God of Abraham who told his people “not to reap all the way to the edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor” (Lev. 23:22)

He promised them that “if you offer yourself [a] to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday” (Isaiah 58:10).

Jesus equated caring for the sick, hungry, thirsty, and imprisoned to caring for Him, (Matthew 25:31-46), and from the early days of the Christian church goods were “distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 4:35).

History demonstrates that it was the followers of God, the God of the Jews and Christians, who were the first demonstrate generosity and philanthropy as a part of their philosophy and practice.

The American culture, steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition, is the most generous in the world. The Christian churches have led the way in giving to not only Katrina victims, but also to the victims of famine, war, earthquake, and pestilence around the world.

In many of its expressions, beliefs, and practices, America “has forgotten God” (to quote an old Russian saying). But the teachings of the Scriptures and the words and practices of generations still inspire us to give to others in need.

There are Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, secular humanists, and atheists in our midst who have joined in reaching out to hurricane victims. But they do so as part of an American culture whose roots are still drawing from the wellspring of historic Judaism and Christianity.

Last winter, Debbie and I traveled to northern Mongolia to observe the work of LifeQwest rescuing the street and sewer children of a nation still suffering from some 80 years under the Soviet boot and centuries in godless misery. I wrote about this in Christianity Today.

It is one of the colder spots on earth, and during our January stay we took a day trip to a small village about an hour from Darkhan--I believe it was called Orhan--a gathering of round teepees call “ger’s” and small shacks.

We took food and supplies to a family headed by a widowed grandmother of about 70 (she looked 90), her widowed daughter, and four or five small children. We crowded into their home, happy to be out of the below-zero cold.

As we walked in, we noticed that there was ice on the inside walls, and all of the children were still in their jackets. A very small fire was burning in the oven/stove/firebox, but it could not keep the home warm. “Why don’t you have a larger fire,” LifeQwest’s Jerry Smith asked. “Didn’t we bring you firewood?”

Yes, there was firewood, but no one in the home was strong enough to split it, so it could fit in the firebox.

Soon, members of our team were chopping wood. But as we worked and visited, we noticed a man at the next house, hearty and healthy, bringing his wood into his home.

His home was no more than 30 feet away, but he hadn’t lifted a finger to help two widows and their children stay warm during the coldest time of the winter.

We were furious about this uncaring neighbor. Jerry shared our disgust, but explained that it was not just this man, but the culture. Everyone looked out for himself and his family. There was no culture of giving and caring. No history of helping neighbors.

Religious heritage and cultural foundations do make a difference. And acts of God can help us recover from the very worst disasters.

Posted by Jim at 08:59 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 07, 2005

No Excuse for Feeding Racial Hatred

It is fair and appropriate to debate the competence and conduct of public officials in the response to the hurricane, broken levees, and urban anarchy. But there is no excuse for contentions by politicians, celebrities, and some journalists that delays and malfeasance were in any way related to the race of hurricane victims. These claims have absolutely no basis in fact, and they dreg up stereotypes and prejudices that have been steadily declined in American public life. Worse, they feed racial hatred and put us on a dangerous path to the assent of racial warfare.

This political cartoon by Mike Luckovich in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution represents this irresponsible public discourse. It is beyond the pale; although playing the race card is a common political ploy, even today, to advance the charge that the federal government is purposefully allowing black victims of a natural disaster to die is beyond irresponsible. It is morally reprehensible.

luckovich back of the bus.gif

Many of the bodies floating in the New Orleans sludge are there because the mayor of the city--a black man--did not forcefully and effectively evacuate his majority-black city. An anti-black policy? Of course not.

Critique the efficacy of the response, but stop questioning the morality of federal officials. They are fighting words, and there is no place for them in 21st Century America.

Posted by Jim at 11:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Dozen Thoughts on the Katrina Crisis Thus Far

The commentary on the hurricane here at SCO has been excellent; although I’ve been paying attention, I have been too busy to write much, partially because I have clients that are responding to the Katrina devastation.

Here are 12 thoughts on the hurricane-force disaster, responses, and politics.

1. Recognize Personal Responsibility: Perhaps the most important lesson of the last week is that we are all responsible for ourselves and for our families, and in a society that works people take care of their neighbors. We should not expect the government to come to our rescue; although it may be able to, it is by nature a slow-moving bureaucracy.

It will be years before people ignore hurricane warnings again. The people in New Orleans who were the greatest victims were those who chose not to act responsibly, and those who were unable to leave. The fact that friends and relatives did not help the old and disabled-—and that there were more looters than good neighbors--reflects the utter failure of community.

2. Make Changes at FEMA: FEMA chief Mike Brown must resign because he is now a symbol of a bureaucracy caught acting like one. I’m sure he’s a fine guy and that he didn’t intend to harm anyone, but he is in now as politically toxic as the New Orleans sludge. Politics is largely perception. The foot-dragging at FEMA costs lives--this reality is heartbreaking and the political perception is even worse. Brown’s resignation should be on Bush’s desk shortly; and Bush should accept it with all the right regrets. There is no reasonable alternative.

3. Look to the Private Sector. Salvation for the victims of Katrina will come from the good people of the nation driven by a moral impulse to help those in need, and from the private institutions they support—-from local churches to large agencies such as The Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse. These private groups can pull together the “little platoons” of compassion and head to the gulf for a weekend of building or a decade of support.

4. Don’t Forget Mississippi: The most old-fashioned hurricane devastation is not in Louisiana, but the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Biloxi and Gulfport are virtually destroyed and need massive assistance.

5. Impeach the Governor: Although the electoral process has a way of taking care of incompetence, it would be good for the Governor of Louisiana to resign in the next few weeks. Her delays and political turf games are probably the closest to criminal negligence of any public official involved in this crisis. It may be that the Mayor of New Orleans should do likewise. His failure to call for a general evacuation on Saturday, and his mysterious refusal to follow the city’s own crisis plan are mind boggling, at least in hindsight.

6. Call for Leadership: With the Governor and Mayor paralyzed by the crisis and FEMA contemplating its collective belly button, there was no one who stood tall and acted “Guilianian.” There needed to be a figure of grass roots leadership in the first hours and days of the crisis. There wasn’t then, but the recovery and rebuilding is going to take years, and it isn’t too late for someone to step forward and lead. The President will have a role, but there needs to be someone focused just on this problem.

7. A Regional New Deal: The aftermath of Katrina may be more akin to a regional version of the Depression than a southern 9/11. We may need to establish work corps similar to Roosevelt’s—-to rebuild an entire region and to put thousands of people to work.

8. Lay Off President Bush: Despite the political opportunism of Bush opponents, Bush has done fine, although he has to take responsibility for incompetence anywhere in his Administration. He has done that--his recognition of the slow response and his strong efforts to fix it changed everything. He couldn’t go back and fix the slow response, but he’s rallied the troops since then (and still needs to accept Mike Brown’s resignation). Bush is a naturally genuine and compassionate man, and that comes through when he addresses the suffering of others.

9. Put the Reporters to Bed: Television reporters got a kick out of using their broadcasts to direct the relief and military efforts, which was OK at times, but it went beyond the confines of journalism and got out of hand. Also, a lot of reporters became “Geraldo-like” (including Geraldo), with histrionics that did little to inform the public and made the reporters look like they needed a nap (most did).

10. Condemn Irresponsible Rhetoric: While the politicizing of everything has become commonplace, the most damaging rhetoric of the week was the charge of racial prejudice in the slow response to the crisis. That was irresponsible and terribly dangerous--also obviously false. Are we trying to promote tribalism, where the whites and blacks of America become the Tutsi and the Hutus? Also the remarks by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. were as insensitive as Jerry Falwell’s after 9/11.

11. Unpredictable Predictability: There’s a lot of coulda, shoulda, and woulda going around—-but seriously, on Monday afternoon the word was that New Orleans had averted the bullet and the hurricane’s fury had turned to Mississippi. No one was sending National Guardsmen to New Orleans at that time. The levee's breach wasn’t a surprise in an emergency scenario-planning sort of a way, but it was a “late breaking” surprise on Monday. Second, who could have predicted that the inmates would gain control of the asylum; that thugs would create an atmosphere of total anarchy, requiring troops to protect relief workers. What is this, the Democratic Republic of Congo? (international relief workers have faced menacing rebels and marauding bands in that nation).

12. Les Miserables: New Orleans is a miserable city. I’m sure there are a lot of great people there, but it is not a great city. It’s not just the decadence of Bourbon Street; it’s the broad absence of moral strength and civic vision. New Orleans was such a depressed and dysfunctional city that it did not have strength to rise above the challenges of the week. We wouldn’t be having a debate about when the federal government should use its force if there was any semblance of competence in the New Orleans or Louisiana government.

Posted by Jim at 10:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 02, 2005

The Very Best and the Very Worst

The destruction of a hurricane that transformed over the gulf from another summer storm into a category 5 murderer has sucked the life from thousands of people, destroyed countless homes, rendered a major American city uninhabitable for the foreseeable future, and unleashed immense suffering, utter despair and absolutely putrid evil. And as the generosity and compassion of the American spirit flourish and produce responses from every corner of the nation, there’s an outcry because the pipeline of help can’t move fast enough through the destruction and flood waters to produce the pictures of healing that we so desperately long to see.

Disasters are terribly inconvenient, and many people seek only to name the perpetrators, cast blame, write a few checks, and expect the government to fix the problems. We want to see happy images on our televisions, and we want to see them quickly.

But instead, with the civil structures of New Orleans flooded away, it is a heart of darkness in the longtime troubled city that has filled the vacuum and produced the environment of a prison riot, with the inmates in control of major sectors. The collapse of civil authority has exposed the dark depravity of the city’s underside.

And yet, goodness will prevail. The void of hope has touched our hearts, and there will be help for the thousands upon thousands of families who find themselves homeless and with no idea how they will rebuild their lives. Massive amounts of aid are streaming to the areas of need, even as the coastal refugees are making their way to Houston and Dallas, Birmingham and Memphis, even to Atlanta and beyond.

It is a dizzying conflict of good-hearted generosity and positive action seeking to replace the pictures of devastation and sheer evil.

Posted by Jim at 07:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

God, When They Need Him

The Air Force issued new directives yesterday that limit the expression of faith by its officers, while seeking to maintain the spiritual life of its academy and forces. However, the guidelines are rife with contradictions, and are unlikely to be unworkable in the highly charged military environment.

The military pays for chaplains from more than 100 denominations and faith groups. The evangelicals have made it a priority to provide chaplains to the military, and as a result their numbers have grown. However, the number of mainline Protestant and Catholic clergy has sagged, because of the declines of available clergy in those groups. There are smaller numbers of non-Christian clergy available to troops.

The new orders are a response largely to vocal 1977 Air Force Academy graduate Mikey Weinsten, and a desire for political correctness that is seeping into the military from the larger culture. This has resulted in a push for vapid generic faith that contradicts decades of military tradition and is unsatisfying in the life and death realities of war and preparations for war.

Military chaplains have a long history:

The tradition of chaplains in the U.S. military goes back to George Washington, who first sought a minister for his Virginia regiment in 1756. In the early days of the republic, commanders simply chose a chaplain who shared their beliefs. But with the expansion of the military in World War II, the armed services set quotas for chaplains of various faiths, attempting to match the proportion of each denomination in the general population.

There’s great irony in the new set of guidelines:


The guidelines discourage public prayers at official Air Force events or meetings other than worship services, one of the most contentious issues for many commanders. But they allow for "a brief nonsectarian prayer" at special ceremonies like those honoring promotions, or in "extraordinary circumstances" like "mass casualties, preparation for imminent combat and natural disasters."

Inherent in this directive is recognition that in extraordinary circumstances, and there are many when our armed forces are in harm's way, there is a desire to turn to God for help or solace. The tidy boxes that officials can put God in for military ceremonies and friendly events are naturally ripped open when soldiers are bleeding, dying, afraid, or grieving.

Regardless of the limitations military brass may put on their forces, there have never been and never will be atheists in foxholes, and our men and women in uniform will continue to be politically incorrect in their search for vibrant faith as they fight our battles and risks their lives.

As one soldier preparing to go to Iraq, Spec. Scott Higgins, 20, said in an interview:

"God will definitely help out, especially if he's deployed to a battle zone. It'll help me cope with what I'll see on a daily basis
."

Posted by Jim at 07:35 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

An Embarrassing Retraction by Robertson

“Do you realize,” syndicated radio host Neal Boortz said to evangelicals in his audience yesterday with some. Emphasis. “Do you realize how much damage Pat Robertson has done to evangelical influence in this country?”

He was speaking, of course, about Robertson’s call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Boortz also remarked that MSM headline interest in Robertson’s bluster was a purposeful attempt to diminish the influence of evangelical Christians.

I’ve made my views clear on Robertson unconscionable comments, and I called for him to apologize and then “go silent.” Yesterday, he sputtered in his attempt to extract himself from the morass, when he first said: “I was misinterpreted by the AP. But that happens all the time.”

But then when clip of Robertson’s clear endorsement of assassination circulated, he issued a still-nuanced apology. Two reports: here and here.

Since I’m involved professionally in public relations work for Christian clients, including a fair amount of crisis communications, I cringed not only at his careless and, in my view, unChristian call for murder, but at his fumbling of the damage control. An immediate apology and clarification were the only appropriate and wise responses. What a mess.

I find it additionally distressing to read of Robertson’s attempt to wrap himself in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s cloak. Bonhoeffer’s Christian conscience resulted in his returning to the dangers of Germany, his decision to conspire in the [obviously unsuccessful] assassination of Adolf Hitler, and in his eventual execution in a German prison.

Unless your beliefs result in complete pacifism, it is clear the Christians often must support killing as a part of war. That is quite a bit different than calling for the assassination of a foreign leader who is ideologically at odds with America.

It’s lousy theological logic and amazingly stupid politics by the former presidential candidate.

But back to Boortz’s comments that Robertson has done terrible damage to evangelicals, and that the MSM love it.

He’s probably right about both, although more and more people are realizing that the blowhards of evangelicalism don’t represent the rank and file, and that evangelicalism is diverse and not represented by one or few leaders. Unfortunately, there are too many who do not make those distinctions; enough that comments such as Robertson’s can indeed diminish evangelical influence in the public square.

That’s why it is important for evangelicals to condemn of this sort of recklessly, something they did not do this week, as far as I can tell
Ted Haggard of NAE is trying to arrange a meeting with Chavez, which seems like a tremendous move. Other evangelical leaders have remained mostly silent:

“evangelical leaders and conservative groups declined to comment on Robertson's remarks, including Focus on the Family; evangelist Franklin Graham; the National Association of Religious Broadcasters; and the Family Research Council.” (source)

And again, it’s time for Robertson to hang up his spurs.


Posted by Jim at 07:54 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

What’s that you say, Mr. Robertson?

Please Mr. Robertson, I beg of you. Please stop talking. Smile at the camera. Hug people. Say a silent prayer. Direct your empire. Bounce your grandchildren on your knee. But stop moving your lips when a microphone is in the same zip code.

Pat, what where you thinking as you flippantly called for the assassination of a foreign leader whose policies are distinctly un-American? On what Scripture, what teaching of the church, what Christian principle did you base your call for the elimination of a political leader?

In case you missed it, Robertson said on The 700 Club:

``We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability,'' Robertson said yesterday on the television program. “ [Robertson said] Killing Chavez, who is visiting Cuba, would be cheaper than starting a war.

The U.S. can't allow Venezuela to become a ``launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism,'' Robertson said, according to AP.

This is probably the first pronouncement of this sort by a Christian leader since some Pope in the middle ages, and it is a total embarrassment to the American evangelical community.

I agree with The Conservative Voice that Robertson is free to say what he wants in a free country. I just pray that he won’t, and I’m disappointed by the Voice’s weak response to this outrage.

Redstate.org’s opinion is closer to mine, wondering if Robertson is insane.

The last public pronouncement by Robertson should be a series of apologies. One to the fellow Christians, whose witness he has serverely diminished. And to the President. The State Department. Oh, Mr. Chavez, too.

Then, go silent. Please.

Posted by Jim at 12:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Intelligent Design in the Crosshairs of the Mainstream

After listening last night with a great deal of fascination to my Bible study leader advancing the merits of the Gap Theory relating to the Genesis creation account, I was interested to read in the NY Times today that proponents of Intelligent Design recognize the gap between Gen. 1:1 and 1:2, and agree that the earth is billions of years old.

A long, skeptical article on the emergence of the intelligence design scientists reads:

“Unlike creationists, design proponents accept many of the conclusions of modern science. They agree with cosmologists that the age of the universe is 13.6 billion years, not fewer than 10,000 years, as a literal reading of the Bible would suggest. They accept that mutation and natural selection, the central mechanisms of evolution, have acted on the natural world in small ways, for example, leading to the decay of eyes in certain salamanders that live underground.”

This article and yesterday's are worth reading. The mainstream scientific community is trying their best to diminish the efforts of scientists who start with the supposition of a master designer. Those opposing intelligent design are facing still opposition from well-funded groups such as The Discovery Institute.

With the proper support and willingness to avoid wild rhetoric and short-term gains that will hurt the long-term effort, we may see tremendous progress in the teaching of ID alongside the theory of evolution in the nation's public schools.

Posted by Jim at 07:59 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 19, 2005

Friday Blog Review: The NCC, Porous Borders, Condotels, and more

A quick look around the blogosphere:

The Church of the Latter-Day Leftists: Jacob Laksin at OrthodoxyToday.com writes about the leftist agenda of the National Council Churches. (h/t: Father John)

A sample:

This should not be taken to mean that the NCC has been wholly silent on the issue of human rights. The organization continues to issue press releases decrying abhorrent human rights conditions around the world. However, the countries that the NCC chooses to single out for opprobrium show the extent to which the organization's religious mission has been corrupted by its radical leftist politics. One study, conducted by the Institute of Religion and Democracy in September 2004, found that "of the seven human rights criticisms it issued from 2000-2003, Israel received four, the United States two, and Sudan one." Moreover, the study noted, "Fully 80 percent of the NCC resolutions targeting foreign nations for human rights abuses were aimed at Israel."

An Entryway for Terrorists: LaShawn Barber is discouraged by the Bush Administration’s inability or unwillingness to deal decisively with illegal immigration and the vulnerability it creates against the very threat we’re fighting in Iraq. She writes:

Even more mysterious is Bush’s “fair” immigration policy that allows terrorists, the very people we’re fighting in Iraq, to walk right across the southern border. Every time an American is killed for “freedom” in that stinking desert, I wonder how better served our country would be if he’d been here at home guarding his borders.

Broken Masterpieces is also writing on the porous borders invites terrorists theme, citing Chuck Colson and introducing a further Christian perspective.

Mark Steyn on The Hugh Hewitt Show: Hugh has the text of his interview with British blogger Mark Steyn today.

They touched on the NY Times story on CBS’ ideas for revamping its evening newscast:

HH: Last story. CBS moving to find a new look for news is the headline in the New York Times today, Mark Steyn. It's a lengthy kind of inside baseball of what's ABC going to do, and what CBS is going to do. I compared it to Edsel versus Studebaker, and was upbraided by Studebaker club members for insulting Studebaker. Does it really matter? Does this stuff have any impact at all? MS: No. I think the days when you had one distinguished man in late middle age, who pontificated for half and hour, and basically told you what you should think about what had happened in the world that day, I think those days are over. And it doesn't really matter whether you hire another distinguished man in late middle age, or a couple of sock puppets to do it. Those days are over. And Americans are more diverse sources of news, and they're also more engaged in finding out for themselves. That's the great thing about a lot of what's happened on the internet. You can actually read the Pakistani papers before you go to bed each night. That's the new world.

The New Wave of Condotels: Interesting post at The American Scene on the popularity of “condotels.” Quoting from the Wall Street Journal:

The hotel industry has gotten into the act, bringing about the rise of the "condotel," a hybrid of a hotel and condo where people buy what are effectively hotel rooms. Smith Travel Research, a hotel-research firm based in Hendersonville, Tenn., last week released a new database tracking the nascent segment. Their research shows a boom with 227 projects under way nationwide representing 93,425 units. A little more than 24,000 of those are hotel rooms.

Condotels tend to be in prime second-home destinations, though many are popping up in other urban areas in part because condo owners are attracted to the hotel services they can access, such as room service.

Posted by Jim at 07:54 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 18, 2005

How Much Steam Does the Fair Tax Train Have?

Enough to run over some politicians, says Matt Towery at Town Hall.

(There’s a new blog coalition forming for the fair tax called Fair Tax Fans. You can sign up here.)

Towery writes of the impact of The Fair Tax Book by Neal Boortz and John Linder:

Republicans and just about everybody else in the Washington establishment have been scared to touch this proposal in the past. The reason is simply that most of them are afraid of radical change of any sort.

After all, there are plenty of big government bureaucracies as well as law and accounting firms that potentially could be wiped out by a fundamental simplification of the revenue system.

Another impediment will be those who view a fair tax as some sort of right-wing attack on the nation's middle class and the poor.

But the book and its concept have arrived at a perfect time. The Republican-led Congress is viewed right now as having few, if any, new ideas. The president is taking a five-week vacation while Iraq simmers closer to a boiling point.

I've witnessed and even been a modest player in some of those rare moments when a set of key political players seized on the nation's sense of frustration and turned it into a gain.

The effort I participated in was led by a man named Newt Gingrich, and it was called the "Contract with America." Much of what Gingrich and his pals passed in the spring of 1995 had at one time been viewed as radical, too.

Already critics of the FairTax are using sleight-of-hand tactics to shoot it down before it takes off. To confuse the public, they are using artificially low rates under the current tax system and comparing them favorably to the FairTax.

Doomsday scenarios to frighten those with lower incomes are another anti-FairTax move, even though the FairTax would provide rebates to families with modest incomes.

We've yet to fully poll this issue because first it needs to get some much-deserved attention. But let me assure both Republicans and Democrats that once these red herrings are put aside and the public understands the FairTax, the train will be pulling out of the station. Our elected leaders can either be on it or get run over by it.

Posted by Jim at 07:28 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What will be Enough for the Palestinians?

It is so difficult to generate genuine optimism about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because hope has always been dashed in some way. And perhaps that is the way it will always be. I believe the establishment of an independent Palestinian is right and just, and this move toward autonomy for Gaza a worthwhile move. However, the Palestinians have not failed to disappoint in the past, and I will be surprised if the Israeli action is treated as anything but an insignificant gesture.

Peter Glover has a thoughtful piece on Gaza, the West Bank, and ultimately, Jerusalem. He writes:

Now I am well aware that many take differing views on this process and these critical issues. Some views are coloured by particular theological interpretations, others are along historic lines, others are based on purely pragmatic considerations to achieve peace.

”Whatever our theological views however, God also calls each one of us to pursue justice for all peoples. That is why I, like Premier Sharon, perceive settling the Palestinian in a re-enfranchised state may be just. However, like many Christians, I have watched the Palestinian leaders squander opportunity after opportunity (including the amazingly one-sided 'give away' offer of Ehud Barak's Israeli government at Camp David just a few years ago - an offer Yasser Araft incredibly refused) to settle the dispute. They have today another real opportunity. But I predict it will not be enough for them in the long run.

Sharon is taking a massive political risk for himself and for Israel. While Palestinians are free to live almost anywhere in the Arab or Jewish world the same cannot be said for the Jews, who would be persecuted mercilously in most Arab countries. The situation of the two peoples then are not synonymous. The Israelis are however prepared to relinquish land and give the Palestinians their state. By doing so, Sharon has calculated there is at least a chance for a permanent peace. Gaza and the West Bank make up those lands. Jerusalem, currently, does not. And there is the rub.”

Posted by Jim at 07:05 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 16, 2005

Media Voyeurism and the Grieving Mother

The reason the grieving mother in Crawford can create such a media firestorm is that the notion that “there is nothing worth dying for” has gained such acceptance in popular culture that media find its expression by a sympathetic figure to be an ideal staging for political theatre.

War should never be a popular pastime, but until the advent of this—my—generation, a nation of patriots understood that it was necessary for young men and women to sacrifice their lives to confront palpable evil and dictatorial belligerence that threatened civilization.

As Nick wrote at Redstate.org: “Can anyone even imagine the media giving voice to a distraught, grieving mother who lost her son at Normandy, demanding that the war be ended? The bunch of them would have been shot.”

I can understand the pain of a parent losing a child in the prime of his life, and I do not question the sincerity of the grief nor the desperate measures that unanswered grief can cause. And while it seems clear that the anti-war militants have taken Sheehan under their wing and given her boldness and camaraderie, I find the assassination of her character to be unseemly.

But even more repulsive is the voyeurism by national media, championing a mother’s grief that has led her to an embarrassing undressing of patriotism and family, and belittling of the sacrifice of one of America’s gallant sons. We will, in good taste, look away from the unsavory spectacle.

Posted by Jim at 08:12 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 15, 2005

Justice Sunday II: Wrong Place, Off Target?

The only real news from Justice Sunday II was logistical: who spoke, who sang, how crowded the church was, where media sat, and prominence of bloggers.

The messages were the same. Arrogant judges. Judicial activism. As important as all of this is, it all seems rather secondary at the moment, since the President has nominated Judge Roberts to the High Court. Presumably Roberts will not be arrogant and will prove to be an originalist.

Evidently Roberts wasn’t mentioned all that much at JSII because his credentials are in question, because—for this crowd—he may have been on the wrong side of protecting homosexual rights.

Soon there will be another Supreme Court vacancy, and maybe a third by the end of the Bush presidency. I’m not sure JSII had any bearing on any of these matters.

Family Research Council paid close attention to bloggers, inviting 12 to the event. They’re listed on the event homepage. They included Captains Quarters, Voluntarily Conservative, Reasoned Audacity, and Yeah Right, Whatever, among others.

Unfortunately, too much of the blog coverage is of the “Gee whiz, I can’t believe I’m here variety.” Joe Carter has the best coverage that I’ve seen so far.

My strongest reaction to JSII: I am totally opposed to conducting this kind of political event in a church. God’s house should be a place a prayer, but you have made it a den of politicians.

We know better. Rent a convention center and have Christian activists gather and organize. Keep these political rabbles out of the places of worship.

Posted by Jim at 07:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 14, 2005

Pay Attention: A Fair Tax for America

The book on a national consumption-based tax to replace the income tax is out, and it is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The new book is by Congressman John Linder—sponsor of fair tax legislation—and Atlanta-based syndicated radio guy Neal Boortz.

We’ve talked about the fair tax a few times this year, here, here, and here.

The proposed change would be an enormous boost for America and it would be remarkably fair to individuals at all parts of the socio-economic spectrum. But it would put a lot of lobbyists out of work, so it is going to continue to face great opposition.

Boortz is on a huge book tour, and surprisingly the idea seems to be gaining some steam, at least among real people. We’ll see what it does in Congress.

boortz fair tax book2.jpg


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August 12, 2005

Friday Blogview: Profiling, Baking Cookies, Intelligent Design, Ad Nauseam and More

The Crusader makes a compelling argument for profiling with his farcical history test

Bill Hobbs and others are going to attend and live blog Justice Sunday II, this Sunday, August 14. They’re looking for recommendations on how to best cover this for the blogosphere.

Zach at ITA looks inwardly and to the Republicans to share blame in the growth of the Nanny State. He writes:

The core principle Republicans need to return to the most is honoring non-governmental action within society. The government is a leviathan because too many of its citizens have become dependent and comfortable with the extent to which it has intruded into our lives. As I wrote in February: While politicians found appealing rhetoric based upon small government and budgetary discipline, there's no underlying cultural fortitude. People (myself included) still can't bring themselves to say to Uncle Sam, "No sir, I want to do this myself," for a large number or programs.

Dory is understanding God by baking cookies.

Al Capp's journey out of liberalism is described by Roy in Dispatches from Outland.

Dawn Treader has some evidence that Intelligent Design may have reach a Tipping Point in the American public square.

Dan at Elected Blogline visits the coming out of Senate candidate Jeanine Pirro and wonders if this is a bump in the road for Hillary. I wonder if there’s ever been a Senator whose spouse has done prison time. (Not if there are any Senators who should have done prison time!)

Midwest Mugwump takes a look at Christians at Yale and other places.

I love new marketing ideas, like General Motors’ employee discount, but hate when the rest of the world parrots the idea. Ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Intolerant Elle says its happening.

Posted by Jim at 08:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2005

Evangelical Muscle and Elite Embarrassment

It is often a surprise to the casual observer of the evangelical Christian community that there are deep concerns in matters of social and foreign policy ranging far beyond the issues of abortion or homosexuality that dominate public discussion of evangelical involvement.

Stan Guthrie, a senior editor at Christianity Today, writes of this surprise, but also of the elitism that decries the Christians beating the lions in the arena. Guthrie posts on his personal blog:

[NY Times columnist Nicholas] Kristof writes in his July 24 column, for example, “[T]hese days liberals should be embarrassed that it’s the Christian Right that is taking the lead in spotlighting repression in North Korea.” Two days later, Kristof wrote, “Time magazine gets credit for putting Darfur on its cover—but the newsweeklies should be embarrassed that better magazine coverage of Darfur has often been in Christianity Today.” (Disclosure: As an editor at CT, I’ve played a small role in coordinating some of that embarrassing coverage.)

Do you detect a pattern here? Acknowledging that theologically conservative Christians have been pivotal in fighting and spotlighting human rights abuses worldwide, Kristof nevertheless expresses an unconscious elitism. Being beaten by a presumed equal is no shame. But losing to an inferior is necessarily an embarrassment.

The good coverage in CT may have been a reflection of the consistent, and apparently effective, efforts of evangelical groups maintaining pressure on the Administration on hotspots such as North Korea and Sudan.

There’s a recent effort of this type at a Christian festival in Midland, Texas.

The displays were part of a growing movement by conservative Christian groups to press the White House on human rights in North Korea, much the way they drew attention to the civil war in Sudan and kept pressure on Mr. Bush after his first days in office.

These are not rare, only under-publicized by MSM. Instead, the MSM is trying to create a frenzy around the protests of the grieving mother who lost a son in Iraq and is now camped in Crawford .


Posted by Jim at 05:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 09, 2005

Still Savoring Summer

In Georgia it feels like the middle of summer, but the kids went back to school yesterday. Assuming it is still summer in most of the country, as it should be, here’s a new blog called Points of Light by my friend Jim Jordan, who is still savoring summer. He and his wife spend a lot of down time in Wisconsin and his descriptions and photos will help you understand why.

Savoring Summer.jpg


Posted by Jim at 07:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Defining Evangelicals

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost, who just took the job as managing editor of the World Magazine blog (don’t’ know what that means for EO), is defining evangelical for us.

There was a very interesting 2004 conversation on this topic, conducted by the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Titled Understanding American Evangelicals: A Conversation with Mark Noll and Jay Tolson, it includes comments by the two principals and questions from selected journalists.

Mark Noll is particularly good and fascinating on the history of evangelicalism. He has a level head in fitting the modern church into the sweep of history.

Noll uses a David Bebbington recipe in identifying the following ingredients of evangelicalism:

(1) conversion, "the belief that lives need to be changed"; (2) the Bible, the "belief that all spiritual truth is to be found in its pages"; (3) activism, the dedication of all believers, including laypeople, to lives of service for God, especially as manifest in evangelism (spreading the good news) and mission (taking the gospel to other societies); and (4) crucicentrism, the conviction that Christ’s death on the Cross (Latin crux) provided the means of reconciliation between a holy God and sinful human beings.

Noll said in the dialogue:

Since the mid-eighteenth century evangelicals have played a significant role in the history of Christianity, especially on the North American continent and wherever else the British or American empire has spread.3 For much of the nineteenth century, white evangelical Protestants constituted the largest and most influential body of religious adherents in the United States (as also in Britain and Canada). Today groups descended from those eighteenth- and nineteenth-century movements are more visible than they had been for several decades. A majority of those in full-time preparation for the ministry in the Church of Eng-land have, for some years, been trained in evangelical colleges. In Canada, a majority of the Protestants in church on any given Sunday are in evangelical congregations. And throughout the world, Pentecostal and charismatic movements, which trace their lineage to developments within Anglo-American evangelicalism early in the twentieth century, are far and away the fastest-growing segments of world-wide Christianity.

Posted by Jim at 06:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Peter Jennings Moment

What I remember Peter Jennings for is that he was the driving force behind hiring Peggy Wehmeyer at ABCNEWS in 1994 as the first correspondent to report for a network on religious and spiritual issues. Peggy served in that role for a number of years.

Based in the ABCNEWS' Dallas bureau, she reported for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, 20/20 and PrimeTime Live. As an evangelical, she was anguished by maintaining her Christian faith while listening to the pleas of fellow evangelicals and the accusations that she was favoring them. Wehmeyer said consistently that Jennings was her biggest ally

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

August 08, 2005

The Mainline Breaks Toward the Terrorists

The Presbyterian Church USA voted at its convention last week to threaten a handful of corporations that provide military-related equipment to Israel. Listen to this statement. The NY Times reported:

“The Presbyterian committee said in its announcement that it included United Technologies Corporation, a military contractor, because a subsidiary provides helicopters used by the Israeli military “in attacks in the occupied territories against suspected Palestinian terrorists.”
And the problem with that is? (As a side note, does any really believe that Mossad doesn’t know who the Palestinian leaders are? They’re not suspected; they’re identified and eliminated).

The divestment threats of the mainline denominations against corporations that provide selected products to Israel underscores the moral bankruptcy of these religious groups. It would be of more concern if these fading bodies had a vibrant, growing presence, but they are shrinking in size and influence.

The Stop Divestment from Israel blog has a good compilation on the efforts by mainline churches to hurt Israel. FrontPageMag.com says these groups may be violating U.S. law

My friend Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews said of the divestment actions:

“At the same time that we’re seeing the results of 25 years of efforts in bringing together Jewish and evangelical groups in support of Israel, we’re also facing the sobering reality of mainline denominations not only turning their backs on Israel, but lining up to viciously attack the only Middle Eastern country with democratic values and practices.”

Although I have never supported the Christian leaders and groups that blindly approve every action of the modern state of Israel as though it is led by Moses himself, the actions by the UCC, the Presbyterian Church USA and others to undermine the only stable democracy in the Middle East and an ally of the United States are unconscionable.

The liberal gaggle of mainline churches, the National Council of Churches, took another blow last week, when the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America withdrew its membership. According to Scripps Howard columnist Terry Mattingly:

“The Antiochian archdiocese quit the council, in large part, because of what he called an "almost a politicized agenda" under [executive director Bob] Edgar -- with a strong emphasis on sexual liberation and opposition to conservative Christianity.”

I am not without sympathy for the Palestinian people, but not for the terrorists who have been killing Israeli citizens for years.

I have been to Israel twice; not as a tourist, but to work with a client called Nazareth Village that runs a First Century Village and an interactive center on the life of Jesus—in his hometown. It is a wonderful multi-denominational Christian group that is a great source of inspiration and reconciliation in the largest Arab town in Israel.

During those visits I met with and came to love a number of Palestinian Christians, many whose families have been Christians for many generations. They have no love for the Israeli government, but neither do they support Palestinian terrorism. They are in a difficult place, and I think of them whenever I read of trouble in northern Israel.

I pray for the peace of Jerusalem. But trying to disable Israel and prevent it from protecting its people is a foolish and naïve way for Christians to work for that peace.

Posted by Jim at 06:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 06, 2005

Evangelicals Within Denomination Endure Actions of UCC Synod

My reporting on the United Church of Christ convention in Atlanta is online now at ChristianityToday.com.

Although evangelicals remaining in the United Church of Christ have grown accustomed to scenes at the national synod like the cross-dressed Transgender Gospel Choir singing Amazing Grace, decisions at the July meeting in Atlanta were disturbing to the theologically conservative remnant in the most liberal Christian denomination in America.

The UCC Synod passed resolutions endorsing gay marriage and supporting divestment of funds involving Israel.

Jesus is Lord Resolution Seen as Bright Spot
At the same time, the Synod passed a resolution affirming the person and work of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, while refusing to add the affirmation to ordination vows.

Rev. David Runnion-Bareford, director of the Biblical Witness Fellowship, a voice for evangelical renewal in the UCC, is disappointed in the gay marriage and divestment decisions but not surprised by actions of the Synod, which he says is out of touch with UCC churches.

“We draw encouragement from resurgence in hundreds of UCC-affiliated local churches where the Gospel is being preached for the first time in years,” Runnion-Bareford said. “In an internal survey, 27 percent of people who attend UCC churches identify themselves as evangelical. And two-thirds of the local churches in the UCC send no funds to the national group.”

Rev. Brent Becker of St. Paul United Church of Christ in Cibolo, Texas, who wrote an unsuccessful counter-resolution affirming marriage as the union of a man and woman, said: “The leadership hailed the July 4 resolution endorsing gay marriage as some kind of independence for the denomination. I believe it signaled the Synod’s independence from the clear teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19: 4-6, and the counsel of the rest of Scripture. It established UCC independence from every other Christian group, and from the beliefs and scholarship of 2000 years of church history.”

Posted by Jim at 10:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2005

Something Stinks in Louisiana

We spent the day yesterday at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where 5,108 men with life sentences (at least 66 years) are spending the remainder of their days. It’s a farm, really, 116,000 acres surrounded on three sides by the Mississippi Rivers, scattered with low building filled with men and surrounded by razor wire and towers with armed guards.

Life in prison has a character all its own when prisoners know their last days will be there. While time in a southern work camp is rarely easy, the experience of prisoners at Angola is really what they make of it. If they have years of good conduct, they see a lot more of the acreage and they experience remarkable freedom within the confines of the farm. Screw up and they'll spend 23 hours a day looking at the walls of 6 X 9 cell.

There’s much to say about Angola and much has, indeed, been written about this unique place. We were there to discuss the plans of the children’s ministry called Awana to connect children with their incarcerated fathers in a remarkable event on September 10 , and to get them memorizing Scripture together, even though they will spend almost all of their days apart.

But I came away with a grinding, insipid sickness about the most obvious reality of Angola, which has nothing to do with the way the fine warden and his staff run the place: 80% of the men at Angola are African-American. Yes, 80% of the men sentenced to life in the state of Louisiana are black.

I spent the day in prison seeing results, not studying causes. But as I drove the two plus hours back to New Orleans, there was the recurring thought that something here is screwed up in a big way. Something stinks, and it's coming from Louisiana.

It may be that the black culture is producing thugs. It may be that poverty is a great predictor of criminal behavior and poverty besets the black publication far more in Louisiana. It may be that the criminal justice system in the state is far more likely to arrest and convict a black man than a white man, and far more likely to sentence a black man to life in prison than a white man. And it may be all of these things.

Angola is a remarkable place with a lot of bad people and a lot of rather good ones. You can sense that God is at work in there, where the sins are grievous and well-known, where there is little hope aside from the hope God provides, and where redemption is strikingly obvious.

But something needs to be done to address the problem of this state throwing so many black bodies into a farm of bondage with too many cement walls.


Posted by Jim at 06:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2005

Christians In Danger on the Horn of Africa

Christians in Eritrea are being arrested and detained without trial for no apparent reason other than the government’s desire to limit surging growth of the evangelical church. Eritrea’s constitution calls for freedom of religion, and there is religious plurality, with the nation split largely between Sunni Muslim and the Eritrean Orthodox church, with lesser numbers of Catholics and evangelicals.

But Christianity Today reports that recent growth by the evangelical church is of concern to the Marxist-tinged government, which has begun to brutalize, intimidate, and imprison these believers.

The U.S. State Department has designated Eritrea as a Country of Particular Concern for severe violations of religious freedom. But this designation requires that further action be taken by our government if Eritrea failed to improve its record (by March 2005). CT says that nothing has been done by the U.S., despite continuing persecution of Christians.

Speak up for the Christians of tiny Eritrea. Urge the Bush Administration to take action against the oppressive North African government if its does not release these prisoners of conscience and stop harassment of followers of Christ.

There’s more information at Compass Direct .

Posted by Jim at 09:16 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2005

Heirs of the Sixties

While Jesus said that the peacemakers are blessed, today’s supposed peace movement is no place for the followers of Christ. For those who criticize America’s involvement in Iraq—not strategic or tactical decisions, but the right and need for action—are not seeking to make peace but to make nice. And to alter evil by taking its hand.

While pacifism is a legitimate theological template, although difficult for me to understand in the face of the vile evil of our age, I do not believe Christians can defend identification with and verbal support of the enemies of freedom and faith. How can we understand the Left’s utter fascination with and sympathy for Islamic terrorists and the ideology of oppression that is at its core?

It is reminiscent of the Religious Left’s alignment with the Marxists of earlier decades. The self-described “penitent former liberal” who writes thoughtfully at the Blue Goldfish blog said:

“The evil spirit demanding a response of that age in the early 1970s was that of the Marxist tyranny known as communism. And from the Christian Left, there was - indeed - enabling, useful foolishness, appeasement, apologies, and complete denial.”

And this quote from Richard John Neuhaus:

At the height of Mao’s cultural revolution in which as many as thirty million died, the National Council of Churches published a booklet hailing China as an admirably “Christian” society. In 1981, 60 Minutes did an hour-long program on the National Council of Churches’ support for Marxist causes, and I spoke with Morley Safer about religious leaders who had become “apologists for oppression.” That was the end of some important friendships, or at least I thought they were friends. I was then a much younger man, learning slowly and painfully what many had learned before. Allegiance to the left, however variously defined, was a religion, and dissent was punished by excommunication.

Today, the liberals desire to oppose the Republican administration has morphed into the absurdity of defending and excusing the utter evil of Saddam and al Queda and developing an apologetic for addressing the oppression of poor Middle Eastern Muslims as the way to stop the ideology of terror that is producing the bomb throwers of our time.

The anti-war activists of today’s Religious Left are the heirs of yesterday’s NCC Marxist sympathizers. They have no footing in the church of Jesus Christ.

Posted by Jim at 07:54 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 02, 2005

The Sounds of Repositioning

As Congress slips out of the August Washington swamp and John Bolton slips into the United Nations, that other sound you hear this summer is that of potential presidential candidates re-positioning themselves for an election that is still three years away.

Hillary Clinton has been doing the sidestroke to the right all year, and last week it appeared that Bill Frist was paddling slightly to the left. I’m not certain the Senate Majority Leader was doing anything but staking out a position on stem cell research that should not be surprising, given his urging of President Bush to consider federal funding of the research in the past.

But the criticism of Frist from conservatives has been bitter and despondent, as if they’d been betrayed by a friend.

Frist’s position, though, is not all that radical, and it is close to that of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Although opposing the creation of embryos for the purposes of research, embryos that would be destroyed by fertility clinics could instead be used for research.

I agree with Romney and Frist on that proposal. It would not result in the creation of human life for the purpose of destroying it—even for laudatory research. But rather than embryos being destroyed with no further benefit, they could be used to advance science and the quality of life.

There’s more on Romney’s repositioning in a NY Times article today.

On many social issues, Mr. Romney has recently appeared to stake out ground to the right of many constituents but slightly to the left of the country's most conservative Republicans.

Instead of taking the pure conservative position of opposing all embryonic stem cell research, Mr. Romney, whose state is full of leading scientists, has said he supports using embryos if they are leftovers from fertility clinics, but not if they were created solely for research.

Mr. Romney wants to reinstate capital punishment in Massachusetts, but his proposal for a "foolproof" death penalty restricts when it can be applied to the point that some conservatives say it would make executions exceedingly rare.

Even on gay marriage, which Mr. Romney has consistently opposed, his record is not universally praised by conservatives. They applaud that he invoked a 1913 law to prohibit same-sex couples residing outside Massachusetts from getting married in the state. But Mr. Romney's support of a constitutional amendment last year to ban gay marriage but also create civil unions upset some conservatives.

Posted by Jim at 08:26 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 01, 2005

Road Trip

The ribbons of Interstate highway from central Florida to upstate New York have been our home for much of the last two weeks, on a road trip that included family time at theme parks and amusement parks, picnic lunches, a lot of natural beauty, and too much fast food. Here are a few observations from traveling:

--Upstate New York, particularly the Finger Lakes region, is among the most beautiful and interesting that I’ve seen in the country. The region around Ithaca, with it soaring hills, gorges, water falls and the town descending to Cayuga Lake, is dramatic and gorgeous (or “gorges” as the local t-shirts say). The drive on Highway 14 from Watkins Glen to Geneva along Seneca Lake, with vineyards on rolling hills down to the long, seemingly endless lake, felt like a trip along the Mediterranean.

--The first drop on the Superman roller coaster at Six Flags Darien Lake is the biggest and fastest I’ve even been on. What a great thrill ride, even without the loops and corkscrews common to the other thrillers.

--We paid from $2.099 in Atlanta to $2.499 once in New York for gasoline, but the high prices did not keep people off the roads. The Interstates were packed much of the time; the roads were full yesterday through Virginia on I-81 and through the Carolinas, with frustrating delays.

--I believe it was Charles Kuralt who said that because of the Interstate Highway System you could now drive from coast to coast in America and see absolutely nothing. The same is generally true from Florida to the Canadian border. Certainly if a visitor to America was to take the drive we did this week, it would seem obvious that the nation is forested, agrarian, and underpopulated. It does make me wonder why most of us crowd into cities, when there is so much open land and beautiful vistas, even along the east coast.

--How did we as families take long trips without DVD players in the back seats, not to mention Gameboys and CD players with headphones. The license plate and alphabet games only went so far.

--Returning from long, fast travel on crowded roads, I realize how vulnerable we have been every mile and on every turn, and I'm so grateful to God for a safe trip, free from mishap, illness, or breakdown.

The drive was worthwhile to see family and to create new memories for the kids, and for us, but it certainly is good to be home, even if I’d rather be looking out over the Finger Lakes rather than suburban Atlanta.

Now, to figure out what happened in the world while we were gone.

Posted by Jim at 07:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2005

Ebbers Should Not Go To Prison

The 25-year prison sentence for 63-year-old former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers is a tragic example of how criminal justice has failed to mature and respond creatively to differing crimes and the needs of society.

Ebbers' crimes were staggering in scope and financial impact and he should be punished severely. But we should not send to prison a retirement-aged financial and management expert—-probably a genius without sufficient moral character. Find a better punishment that is relentless, long-lasting, and difficult, but redemptive for society and for Mr. Ebbers.

We should not be using precious and expensive prison space for non-violent, non-dangerous offenders. Alternatives to incarceration, if creatively developed and effectively enforced, are a way to punish wrongdoers without punishing ourselves.

It was right for the court to take nearly all of Ebbers assets and to leave a small amount of money in his account. Instead of placing him in a prison cell because we’re mad at him, for the next 25 years Ebbers could be forced to earn little more than minimum wage, and to serve the community in a way that would use his skills, benefit the poorest of the poor in the community, and in no way enrich him or his family or enable them to prepare for retirement. This is one thing he stole from many people.

Non-prison punishments can be quite taxing, would enable more restitution, and would have a positive impact on all involved, rather than simply tossing an older man in prison to rot for the rest of his days.

There’s more information on restorative justice here.

We need to hold offenders responsible and be sure that punishment is sure and swift. But punishment is not necessarily prison. We’d all be better off if we learned that and encouraged enlightened legislators and judges to be more creative and restorative as they deal with crime and punishment.

Posted by Jim at 09:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 12, 2005

The Republican Coalition

Guest columnist Ed Stephan at the liberal blog, The Carpetbagger Report, discusses 19th century author Herbert Spencer, who he calls the granddaddy of conservatives.

Stephan writes:

Spencer's philosophy highlights the fundamental conflict in today's Republican Party. Business must, he says, ultimately come into conflict with both Government and Religion. For Business to triumph, Government must be reduced to its "protective functions" only — protection of life, property and contracts. He obviously opposed any scheme involving government direction of the marketplace, much less such "promotive functions" as health, education, welfare, any forms of the pursuit of happiness. And even regarding simple protection of life, he favored a drastic reduction in spending on military adventures which he regarded as nearly always harmful to Business. There should be no interference by Religion in the marketplace either. If I want to hire a prostitute, or consume tainted horse meat, or hire someone our society disapproves of … so be it; it's no one else's business what I do, so long as I threaten no else (pretty radical thinking for a conservative).

This is clearly the fundamental three-way contradiction in today's GOP — laissez faire (or "Log Cabin") Libertarians vs. neo-con (often chickenhawk) Militarists vs. parochial (and pharisaic) Theocrats. Wall Street vs. the Pentagon vs. Evangelical Fundamentalism. Greed vs. Guns vs. God. Cheney vs. Rumsfeld vs. Dobson.

Stephan presents the hope of the Democrats that these are warring factions within the Republican party, and that the conflict of these ideas will accomplish what the Democratic party cannot without ideas.

The Republican Party is a coalition of interests, although the groups’ battles are largely on the field of debate and discussion not the ballot box, because the Democratic Party presents an alternative too far a field, and the Libertarian Party is an expression of principle not a viable voting option.

The libertarians, neo-cons, and evangelicals will rally around a reasonably conservative Republican against nearly any Democrat that can be nominated with the Party's current leftist lean.

There is a fourth faction of Republicans that represent many of those currently in Washington—-the big-government Republicans. This group is odds with the libertarians, to be sure, but they are also on a course away from traditional limited-government conservatism.

This analysis also breaks down because there are a large number of libertarian-minded, national defense obsessed, moral values Republicans.

A possible rupture among the Republicans will come if the President nominates an individual for the Supreme Court who has the social libertarian impulses of O’Connor, rather than the moral conservatism of Thomas. Then we’ll see a fracture led by the evangelicals and conservative Catholics that may endanger the Republicans in the 2006 elections.

Posted by Jim at 08:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2005

Relgious Right to Work More Quietly on SCOTUS Nomination

The religious right will allow President Bush to make his choice for a nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court without any further threats or bashing of Alberto Gonzales, we learned late last week. Although there may be some mavericks who wander off the farm, the key leaders of the conservative Christian movement whose primary passion is opposition to abortion have agreed privately that their public criticism of the President is likely to be counterproductive.

The opposition to the nomination of Alberto Gonzales is nearly unanimous among these leaders, and although they’ve agreed to hold fire, their greatest fear is that with a second opening on the court, which is likely with Rehnquist’s apparently imminent departure, they will get their original intent strict constructionist conservative on the one hand, and Gonzales on the other. That would leave the court essentially unchanged, in their view, and would leave the movement disheartened and probably on the sidelines for a number of years.

Although a minority of these leaders is anxious for a fight and are fearful that to remain silent at this point is to be unfaithful to the spiritually charged cause, they have agreed to stay in line at the urging of a number of the key leaders whose caution would surprise most observers.

Posted by Jim at 07:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 08, 2005

The Center of the World

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The center of the world for a moment is not Washington or Paris or New York, but London. Rarely do such divergent events converge on a city and a people, the British, and on a leader who grows in stature by the day, Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The British have a history of resolve, or steady, stoic, unwavering backbone. At its worst it is the stiff upper lip of obstinacy, and at its best it is a Churchill-rallied island withstanding Nazi bombardment.

And now, in a two-day span, Londoners have celebrated victory in landing the 2012 Olympic Summer Games and mourned the death and destruction of terrorist horror in the Tube. All the while, UK hosting the G8 in Scotland.

At the center of it all is Blair. In response to the terror, Bair addressed the nation from 10 Downing Street, sounding Churchillian:

“When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed. When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm."

Certainly that is the nation’s historic posture and it seems to have captured the steadiness of modern Brits.

And while the most important deliberations and decisions will fall to the Gleneagles summit, where Blair is driving the agenda and probably cashing in debts from President Bush, my favorite Blair moment came earlier in the week in Singapore, remembered for Japanese humiliation of the British in WWII, where the Prime Minister personally lobbied for London and won. This is most enjoyable because it came at the expense of the French.

Here’s the NY Times account of this beautiful moment:

London organizers arrived in Singapore with their bid still the expected runner-up to Paris, the longtime favorite. But while the Parisian organizers, including Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, could often be found during the past week in the hotel lobby bar, conferring among themselves instead of lobbying for their bid, Mr. Blair enthusiastically met with International Olympic Committee members until Tuesday, when he flew to Scotland to act as the host for the Group of 8 Summit.

When President Jacques Chirac of France was quoted earlier in the week insulting British food, Mr. Blair remained the statesman, refusing to be drawn into a spat.

Day by day, the London bid appeared to gain momentum, members said, and Wednesday, the city defeated its longtime European rival, 54 to 50, on the final ballot to bring the Olympics back to Britain for the first time since 1948.

"If it hadn't been for him," Dick Pound, an I.O.C. member from Canada, said of Mr. Blair, "we'd be holding a press conference in French."

But sport is sport, although with the Olympics it also represents great economic momentum and even urban renewal, and terror is the hard reality of our day. We pray for our true allies, the British, and for the loss of any sense of innocence or protection they may have felt from extremist butchery.

With Tony Blair at the helm they are demonstrating that their heritage lives on and that when joy and tragedy collide, it is the center course of determination and steady resolve that helps a nation to endure.

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

July 07, 2005

A Nation of Young Therapeutic Deists?

George Barna has done extensive research on the faith of young America and the task of bringing children and youth to faith in Christ, which he has summarized in the book Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions.

A group of Christian leaders and ministries in the U.S. and Canada--called The 4-14 Forum-led by Barna and Awana Clubs International has been grappling with how to better deal with the task of child evangelism.

In a report to The 4-14 Forum, Barna writes:

The research reinforces one simple but profound truth, over and over again: if you want to have a lasting influence upon the world you must invest in people􀂷s lives; and if you want to maximize your investment, then you must invest in those lives while they are young. The research simply crystallizes lessons that we can observe through history and personal experience: if you connect with children today, effectively teaching them biblical principles and foundations from the start, then you will see the fruit of that effort blossom for decades to come. The more diligent we are in these efforts, the more prodigious a harvest we will reap. Alternately, the more lackadaisical we are in our efforts to raise up children as moral and spiritual champions, the less healthy will the Church and society of the future be.

The difficulty and complexity of the task has become more evident.
Researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and have written up findings from a recent study in a new book: Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press).

Gene Edward Veith writes about the findings here, in an article reprinted from World magazine.

After interviewing over 3,000 teenagers, the social scientists summed up their beliefs:

(1) “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
(2) “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
(3) “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
(4) “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
(5) “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

Even these secular researchers recognized that this creed is a far cry from Christianity, with no place for sin, judgment, salvation, or Christ. Instead, most teenagers believe in a combination of works righteousness, religion as psychological well-being, and a distant non-interfering god. Or, to use a technical term, “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

Ironically, many of these young deists are active in their churches. “Most religious teenagers either do not really comprehend what their own religious traditions say they are supposed to believe,” conclude Mr. Smith and Ms. Denton, “or they do understand it and simply do not care to believe it.”

Another possibility is that they have learned what their churches are teaching all too well. It is not just teenagers who are moralistic therapeutic deists. This describes the beliefs of many adults too, and even what is taught in many supposedly evangelical churches.

Clearly many churches are not teaching young people the deep truths of the Christian faith. I’m beginning to fear that even evangelical churches are striving so much to be relevant to the culture and to attract seekers that they are not digging deep into the marrow of Christianity—-leaving their parishioners young and old with a thin and ultimately inadequate set of beliefs.

Posted by Jim at 07:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2005

The Speech: "Your fighting sons ...they are splendid in every way"

The excerpts in this post are from this speech, known as the Old Soldiers Never Die speech, delivered on April 19, 1951 before a joint session of Congress by General Douglas Macarthur, upon his retirement and to defend his conduct of the war in Korea.

Kyle Bruns emailed me with the right answer and received the top prize of the complete satisfaction of being the first smart person to respond.

I was struck by how timely much of what Macarthur said is to modern day.


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Africa’s Fate Will Be Determined By Africans

America gets a bad rap on international aid. As a nation, first we’re pressured or shamed into making massive loans to African nations, then pressured to forgive the loans, while all along being cajoled to make outright aid grants to help African children and families.

As Doug pointed out, America is the most generous nation in the world, and the American people—informed and inspired by their Christian ethic to help those in need—give more to address international poverty, hunger, disease than any other group in the world. Hands down.

Now the leaders meeting at the G8 Summit are being called on to give more, forgive more, and even make long term commitments of aid.

Americans will continue to aid Africa, both through our government’s international aid programs and largely through our Christian churches, missions, and aid organizations. But there needs to be more strings attached to aid, if Africa is ever to become something more than a continent of nation beggars.

Africa can solve their own problems in the long run, but only through deep spiritual and moral regeneration, a commitment to capitalism, the ultimate rule of law, and broadly adopted sexual ethics.

Aid must be tied to progress in all of these areas, or we will continue to be co-dependents in the continent’s cultural suicide.

The NY Times editorializes today that Africa’s fate will be determined by the eight men at the G8. That’s nonsense. Africans and the decisions they make on the fundamental foundations of their nations and people groups will determine Africa’s fate.

Posted by Jim at 08:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2005

"Your fighting sons ...they are splendid in every way"

As the appeasers and 21st Century peaceniks and their liberal comrades snipe at the Administration for staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is good to consider the words of one of the nation’s great speeches. Its themes suggest not only persevering but intensifying the War on Terror and its vital corollaries.

Who will be the first informed SCO reader to correctly identify the speaker and the speech?

“Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war.

We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence, an improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years.

It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh." But once war is forced upon us, there is no other alternative than to apply every available means to bring it to a swift end. War's very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.

In war there is no substitute for victory.

There are some who for varying reasons would appease. They are blind to history's clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier war. It points to no single instance where this end has justified that means, where appeasement had led to more than a sham peace.

Like blackmail, it lays the basis for new and successively greater demands until, as in blackmail, violence becomes the only alternative.”

Posted by Jim at 01:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to Shrink a Denomination: The UCC Endorses Gay Marriage

The United Church of Christ took a stand for homosexual marriage at its national convention yesterday, which the networks touted as a move by one of the large Christian denominations.

But the UCC is not large at all, and it--as well as other mainline denominations--is shrinking because of its biblical unfaithfulness. Whereas the church must open its arms to homosexuals, it cannot do so at the price of ignoring Scripture’s clear teaching against homosexuality and for marriage as a union of man and a woman.

The UCC is not among the top ten religious groups in America. And it's sinking like a rock.

Posted by Jim at 11:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2005

Responding to Kelo

Before we dive headlong into the SCOTUS vacancy debates, let's ask: After Kelo, what’s next on property rights?

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, already has introduced a bill called "The Protection of Homes, Small Businesses, and Private Property Act of 2005" Cornyn's legislation would prohibit transfers of private property without the owner's consent if federal funds were used - and if the transfer was for purposes of economic development rather than public use.

To help call for swift passage of the Protection of Homes, Small Businesses, and Private Property Act of 2005, you can sign a petition at ACLJ.

Posted by Jim at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I’m Glad We Have That Cleared Up

Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc.'s editor in chief, said that he concluded after much reflection that, "We are not above the law."

[This as Time Inc. said] that it would provide documents concerning the reporter's confidential sources to a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. operative, Valerie Plame.

The magazine's decision to give in to the demands of federal prosecutors followed the Supreme Court's decision on Monday to reject appeals by the agazine and its reporter, Matthew Cooper, as well as a reporter for The New York Times, Judith Miller. (NY Times).

While this is clearly the right decision by Time Inc., it is not without consequences.

The ability of the media to use sources that wish to remain anonymous is paramount to the freedom and the capabilities of the press.
I was trained as a journalist and although I have spent most of my career in public relations, I have also been a reporter. Most stories with any bite to them at all rely on background, off the record, and unattributed quotes and information. If sources cannot trust that you will keep their identity hidden, much of this information will dry up.

I also understand the decision by reporters to go to jail rather than reveal confidential sources. Their word is central not only to their ongoing ability to get information from sources, but it is also part of their journalistic soul. To yield would be akin to the abortion protester getting up off the sidewalk and going home when the police arrive and threaten arrest. Their civil disobedience has a purpose beyond the parameters of any one case.

But in matters of life and death and national security, a corporation such as Time Inc. must obey the courts. Appeal it as far as possible, which they did, but when all avenues are blocked, obey the law.

I sympathize with the journalists, but if we don’t have rule of law we lose everything.

As a side note, I believe the whole anonymous source thing is out of control and in many cases has gone from a vital part of reporting to lazy even dishonest reporting. Every source should assume that a reporter will keep his or her confidence, but that in America the law is king and if the courts require a media company to disclose a source, their confidentiality will be forfeited.

Courts should exercise this power with great caution, because anonymity does allow the tongue to way, but no one should be above the law.

Posted by Jim at 08:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 30, 2005

A Sad Day in Our Home

There is deep sadness in our home today that many homes have known, but never this one. After a short pregnancy that still had the freshness and vibrancy of an early spring day, our baby has died. There is no good reason at such an early stage, just six weeks old, and there will be no great physical trauma. But the new trajectory that we had just been planning for our lives must now be recalibrated without this child, who we resisted naming even as my other children reveled in the process of coming up with new names and possibilities.

The joy, which I described in an earlier post, was strong and heartfelt, but it was not the opposite of this bitter taste of death. For the joy was mitigated with the view of danger—we knew this was a high-risk pregnancy—and the anticipation of the hard process of bearing and birthing a child. In this world there is little that can mitigate the terrible finality of the death of such promise, the end of a life before it can be truly celebrated.

Because we believe in life and know beyond doubt that human life begins when it is conceived as such, we also know that God took home this young addition to our family, who we had not even named except to call it our “little pumpkin seed,” and He has a name for it that is listed in his book of life.

Almost everyone we have talked to has suffered similar pain, and we know the loss is a common one. We don’t mean to heighten our own sorrow as something special or even unique. But we mourn the loss of this child and the suspension of this hope and the darkening of the light that this growing baby was already bringing to our lives.

We’ve prayed long and hard about all of this, and we don’t have any thought that God lost control. No, we recognize His hand, and we are sad that today His plan was for our home to suffer this loss.

Goodbye little pumpkin seed, until we meet again.

Posted by Jim at 08:09 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Writing on Celebrity and True Stardom

Ben Stein, in his last column for E Online in December 2003, asked some very important questions, such as “Who is a star?”, “What is my purpose here?”, and “Who is in charge of the universe?”, and comes up with some very good answers.

On the latter he writes:

“We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives to Him, he takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves.

In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him.”

(Hat tip: Broken Masterpieces)

Posted by Jim at 07:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 29, 2005

Rite of Passage

Last week I finally took the big step with my son. He’s 10 and I thought it was time. Why wait any longer for the important rite of passage.

I took him to Starbucks.

I had my usual coffee of the day with cream. He had some health bar thing, which he found lacking.

While there he asked: "Why is there a girl on the Starbucks logo?" I did not know. Here are some explanations.

(It’s a mermaid. But I still haven’t figured out what this has to do with coffee).


Posted by Jim at 07:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Denominating

Just what flavor of Christian are you? MediaCulpa is trying to help you with his latest quiz, and Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has a tongue-in-cheek tool called The Denominator.

Posted by Jim at 07:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

The Forgotten Emergencies

Either by sheer magnitude, access by the world’s communicators, or political prominence, some humanitarian crises grab international attention, appearing on the evening news or in the morning papers, and staying there for some time.

Even then, the attention moves elsewhere as people focus on their own lives and the daily pressures and problems that face anyone, whether the residents of affluent cities or squatters in refugee camps. Life goes on, and even the horror of a natural disaster, war, or genocide disappears into crowded memories.

The tsunami is no longer news and last year’s Caribbean hurricanes have blown by. Buried even more are the lingering multi-year crises that never made it to page one and have never been of major concern to the world’s powers or the media gatekeepers.

Humanitarians call these The Forgotten Emergencies.

Reuters AlertNet asked more than 100 humanitarian professionals, media personalities, academics and activists which of the world's "forgotten" emergencies they wanted the global media to focus on in 2005. Among them are eight regions that have been in crisis for many years. Conflicts in Congo, Uganda and Sudan are the three biggest forgotten emergencies, dwarfing the Asian tsunami's death toll but attracting scant media interest.

Top forgotten crises include:

o Congo
o North Uganda
o Sudan
o West Africa
o Colombia
o Chechnya
o Haiti
o Nepal

Reuters also found AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and infectious diseases worldwide to be of paramount concern but relatively uncovered by the world’s media.

Posted by Jim at 05:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 27, 2005

Finish the Job in Iraq

The Democratic Party is ratcheting up the anti-war rhetoric of retreat. For those of us old enough to remember the retreat from Vietnam, the voices sound eerily familiar.

As Hugh Hewitt points out, the unintended consequences were devastating:

The Democratic Party and its liberal/left supporters negligence with regard to southeast Asia in the '70s bought about the deaths of millions and the enduring communist governments of Vietnam and Laos and the desperate circumstances of Cambodia. They did not intend that result.

Unlike South Vietnam, there is a credible and viable political solution. But this solution is possible only if the coalition maintains a strong military presence. Because the insurgency shows no sign of folding, it is time to escalate, not retreat. Unleash the troops; allow our military leaders to take the actions necessary to defeat the enemy.

As David Brooks wrote last week, ignore the polls and finish the job.

Posted by Jim at 07:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's OK, Dr. Graham

Billy Graham’s last crusade in New York City has become a media love fest, and it is really great to see the admiration for Dr Graham and the way the Crusade is pulling together the Christian church in the city. But please don’t pay attention to anything Dr. Graham says these days, except in his prepared sermon. He has lost his political discretion, but it’s OK. He deserves a little senility late in life. Don’t condemn him, as some have. Just smile when it sounds as though he’s endorsing Hillary Clinton for president (when Bill Clinton joined him on stage, Graham "quipp[ed] that the former president should become an evangelist and allow 'his wife to run the country'”). This wasn’t politics; just a good-natured quip at an evangelistic crusade. We need to read in the discretion the grand old man of evangelicalism is now lacking.

Posted by Jim at 07:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Examining the Joel Osteen Cult

The teaching of Joel Osteen has great appeal because of its sunny prescription for good times. It’s the epitome of the froth that is bubbling up in pulpits throughout the nation. Ken Silva has a sobering look at Osteen and the Word/Faith movement:

As one looks deeper into this “feel-good” message of Joel Osteen, however, it becomes clear that his doctrine is actually far worse than junk-food, for it is indeed the spiritual poison of the metaphysical Mind Science cults which is the actual root of W/F.

Posted by Jim at 07:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 23, 2005

More Stones to Cry Out

On April 29, 2002, when most of us still thought a blog was the result of a spill or computer term that remained beyond us, an Atlanta-based blogger cited bias in the media as it related to the homosexual elements of the molestation crisis in the Catholic church. He has been blogging regularly ever since.

During the blog explosion of 2004, a Virginia-based baseball fan, homeschool advocate, and prolific reader launched his blog in the run up to the election and called John Kerry’s hypocrisy as a goose hunter.

On behalf of the Stones Cry Out team, I am pleased to announce that these two bloggers, Doug Payton—the pioneer, and multi-faceted and well-read Tom Parsons, have agreed to join the SCO team of contributors.

If you’ve had an eye on our blogroll—-which probably isn’t all that likely—-you would have noticed that we’ve been fans of Doug’s Considerettes, and Tom’s Daddypundit for some time. (Doug is also my brother-in-law—-he coined the term, blogger-in-law; and the person who launched me into the blogosphere).

The Stones Cry Out vision statement reads in part:

We believe the role of a blog produced by followers of Christ is to--like Paul at Mars Hill--"reason in the marketplace day by day with those who happen to be there" (Acts 17:17). As we contend for the faith, we seek to bring glory to Jesus Christ (Luke 19:40), and advance His kingdom.

We firmly believe these two talented bloggers will help us advance this mission.

We’ll be getting their biographies and photos up shortly. In the meantime, please join us in welcoming the newest Stones.

Posted by Jim at 03:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What’s in Domain Name? This Eminent Domain is Called Tyranny

Stay tuned for Rick's post on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision today to allow governments to use eminent domain to seize the land of private landowners for the purpose of giving the land to other private interests, for economic purposes. He has professional expertise that will inform his analysis.

From my standpoint, this is one of the worst Court decisions since Roe v. Wade.

Property ownership is a pillar of our free society, is it not? Not according to the liberals on the Supreme Court. We’re not talking about taking private land to build a road or put in a river levee or a power plant. We’re talking about seizing land so Wal-Mart can add a store, or a land developer can put in a multi-use development, office park, or hotel complex.


Why is it that the liberals want every kind of freedom, except the freedom to buy and own land?

The battle to put conservatives on the Court gains in importance as each day passes. Especially today--a bad day for freedom in America.

Posted by Jim at 01:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Oh, the Boycott Hadn’t Already Ended?

The Southern Baptist Convention, which kick-started a widespread conservative religious boycott of Walt Disney Co. eight years ago, voted Wednesday to end the action but warned Disney that it was keeping its eye on the company (MSNBC).

I’m not against boycotts, but they just invite derision if they have absolutely no impact. It seems to me the boycott by the Southern Baptists and others had no effect on Disney, either because not enough conservative Christians participated or because Disney’s size and popularity could sustain the loss of a small portion of its business.

Next time, it would be good to do an impact study before sticking out our necks.

Posted by Jim at 07:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

“It Can Never Forget What They Did Here”

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. (A. Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863)

We are met to build a casino on this hallow ground? Is there nothing in our history sacred enough to shield it from the developer's shovels. A casino by the Gettysburg battlefield? A bad idea.

From ABC News:

A group of developers proposing to build a casino, hotel and spa near the Gettysburg battlefield call the plan synergy that would benefit the national park, the community and the state of Pennsylvania, but a local citizens' group that opposes the plan says it is just a sin.

"This is a desecration. They're bringing in a product. They're saying we want to sell this product in your town and we're saying that product is fundamentally exploitation, and it's a product we don't want here," said Susan Star Paddock, a spokeswoman for No Casino Gettysburg, a group that formed in the town after the investors' group announced its plan on April 26.

The plan needs to die at this hallowed resting place.

Posted by Jim at 07:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Air Force Academy Findings

A Pentagon panel investigating charges of improper religious pressure at the Air Force Academy found zealotry and what it called “insensitivity” by Christians sharing their faith, but no overt religious discrimination. (Source)

Of course this wasn’t good enough for the likes of the NY Times, which editorialized that the findings were a whitewash, evidently because they didn’t agree with a Yale University investigation.

Let’s see, who do a go with on issues of Christian expression, the Pentagon or a liberal east coast university? I’m supporting the men in uniform. This was a witchhunt from the start, which took advantage of the whines of a handful of cadets and tried to smear Christians preparing men and women who will put their lives on the line.

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

June 22, 2005

How Are We Doing? A Mid-Year Look at 2005

In December 2004, in the afterglow of a Bush victory and solid Congressional gains fueled by a coalition of values-voters, I made my predictions for this New Year. While only a few of the predictions were off-track, somewhat unrealistic optimism is clear in the timetables for change. Meaningful social, political, and geopolitical change is slow cooking. While we see some of the predicted advancements brewing, it appears that it will be some time before they are possible. Many will depend on the mid-term elections of 2006, the 2008 presidential election, and the effectiveness with which the conservative evangelicals use their supposed political power.

Let’s take a look at mid-year progress on these predictions:

1. Iraq: There will be no meaningful reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq during 2005, and there may be an increase. However, the insurgency will begin losing its popular support and violence will decline.

I did not envision the dramatic success of the Iraqi election, or its impact on the movement of democracy throughout the Middle East and the world. There is no sign of troop reduction and solving the insurgency remains a mystery. But I still predict that by year’s end the Iraqi political progress will take some of the wind out of the insurgents sails.

2. Iran: The opposition in Iran will grow in strength and the government will accelerate meaningful reforms rather than face upheaval. There will be a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations.

The protests prior to the election, and the election itself, suggests that there is, indeed, a meaningful move toward reform. I believe this prediction is on the right track, but that it is unlikely that there will be signficant reform during this year.

3. Palestinians: There will be significant progress on an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, with Egypt and Jordan exercising a strong hand. A firm timetable will be set for the establishment of a Palestinian State.

Things are relatively quiet and there are more positive signs than negative. I’m optimistic about continuing progess, but don’t see a firm timetable for a Palestinian state this year. Hope can be dashed so easily here.

4. Attack on the U.S.: As a result of the progress in the Middle East, those who do not benefit from the advance of democracy will turn to additional terror in the U.S. and attempt another major attack in 2005.

Not yet, praise theLord. Although I’m grateful, I honestly don’t know why. Our homeland security isn’t that good; we know that. Border security? All a Middle Eastern terrorist has to do is learn Spanish and swim the Rio Grande disguised as a Mexican peasant.

5. Deaths: There will be major losses in evangelical leadership, as key leaders die. As I’ve mentioned in this space, there is a generational shift in the evangelical community, with the entrepreneurs of the 1950’s passing or fading from active involvement. (Who will die in 2005, and what will the impact be? I’ve provided my 15 names to the morbid Dead Pool, competing to predict the most of those who will pass to the next life during 2005. Mine are a combination of religious leaders, statesmen, and heads of state, among others.)

Here are the 15 that I predicted will pass in 2005:

1. Rev. Billy Graham, evangelist, born November 7, 1918
2. Pope John Paul II, Bishop of Rome, (Karol Józef Wojtyła), born May 18, 1920
3. William Rehnquist. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, born October 1, 1924
4. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State, born May 27, 1923
5. Rev. Robert Schuller, TV pastor, born September 16, 1926
6. Gerald Ford, former President, born July 14, 1913
7. Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan born December 24, 1957,
8. Dr. Iyad Allawi, interim Prime Minister of Iraq, born in 1945
9. Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, born October 13, 1925
10. General Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, born August 11, 1943
11. Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba, born August 13, 1926
12. Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, born July 18, 1918
13. Rosa Parks, civil rights hero, born February 4, 1913
14. Muhammad Ali, American boxer, born January 17, 1942
15. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (Philip Mountbatten), born June 10, 1921

I’m failing miserably. Only the Pope has died,which is great news for these other folks, and really for all of us. In fact, Billy Graham is preaching a New York City Crusade this week. Never say die.

6. Conservatives: Bush will begin falling out of favor with the most conservative groups, as more focus returns to domestic issues and he fails to deliver on their social priorities.

More than anything, the President has been falling out of sight, with the focus on Congressional Republicans. Conservatives seem to hanging with the President, but largely in support of his war against terror. Hard to find a rock-ribbed conservative with any enthusiasm for Bush’s domestic policy. The greatest disappointment may be in his failure to lead in stopping illegal immigration. This prediction is on track; the disenchanment will deepen..

7. Evangelical Politics: The political high water mark will soon pass for the evangelicals, as leading evangelicals overplay their hand and politicians calculate that they will succeed in 2006 with more moderated positions.

The high water mark probably passed when the Senate Moderate Club dictated how the filibuster issue would be handled, which left First hanging out in church with the suddenly emasculated religious right. The evangelicals seem more comfortable in the opposition. In power, they find ways to eat their own young. This prediction seems to be on track.

8. Network Change: At least one of the major networks will make an attempt to bring more conservative viewpoints to its reports, but in a way that will be more showcasing than meaningful change.

Anyone see any evidence of this? This prediction now looks like wishful thinking.

9. Blogosphere: Blogging will explode, but there will be efforts to organize the blogosphere to create categories of bloggers, and to further separate types of blogs and degrees of professionalism.

The explosion continues, although we feel as though the fever has broken in the post-election months. The organization is yet to come. I have no idea when this may happen, but if the growth continues, it must.

10. Charity Scandal: There will be a major legal case against one or more charities, probably Trinity Broadcasting Network, but perhaps elsewhere. This will have a slight negative impact on charitable giving.


Might be TBN, or perhaps Benny Hinn. Could happen at any moment, or might not be part of the 2005 story.

11. Supreme Court: Two Supreme Court seats vacancies will be created, one at Chief Justice. Bush will want only two confirmation battles, so he will nominate two new justices—a conservative for Chief Justice, and a moderate for Associate Justice. This will enrage just about everyone, but both will be confirmed.

Renquist should retire soon, which will set up the battle everyone has been preparing for. I don’t think Bush will try to move Clarence Thomas to Chief Justice, facing that confrmation battle, and then another to fill Thomas’ post. The White House must already know who they’ll nominate as Chief. This selection and the battle that ensues will frame the relationships and effectiveness of the White House and Senate over the remainder of the Bush presidency.

12. Bin Laden: Osama Bin Laden will be captured or more likely killed, but the impact will be largely symbolic, since he has been ineffective hiding in a cave anyway.

This may or may not happen in 2005. At some point, Bin Laden will be history, as will al Zawari. But the inevitability of these captures no longer captivates the public as much as the question of when the insurgency will be defanged in Iraq. That won’t happen in 2005, but if the situation in Iraq is not greatly improved by November 2006, the nation may be seeing blue.

13. Fair Tax: The Fair Tax movement will grow and progress will be made in the Congress, although passage is years away.

There’s good momentum for the Fair Tax legislation, but right now it appears impossible to get much of anything done in Congress. Still waiting for the new book on the fair tax by John Linder and Neal Boortz, which should be out any day.

14. Radio: Democrats will push for a return of the Fairness Doctrine, as an attempt to defang the Republican advantage on talk radio. The effort will not succeed.

At the moment, the liberals are still playing with a competitive radio network, but it’s failing, so an attempt for legislative remedies can’t be far behind.

15. China: The growing business class in China will push for more civil freedoms as their economic power grows, and the Communist government will yield some ground.

This is going to happen, but no news yet.

16. Same-Sex Marriage: The homosexual community in America will change tactics, backing away from the same-sex marriage initiatives and seeking equal rights for homosexual couples without using “marriage” language. This will not raise the same red flags among many groups across the country.

Except for a few localcourt rulings, there isn’t much happening on this front. Mitt Romney is trying to reverse the Massachusetts measures. And it does appear that the homosexual community is laying low on this for now, looking for a fight they can win.

17. Economics: There will be steady economic growth, and the stock market will continue its climb and end the year over 11,000.

We’re over 10,500, and with a little good news out of Iraq or Israel, or a significant drop in gasoline prices, we’re reach 11,000 this year.

18. Pharmaceuticals: The positive economic trends will be marred by the collapse of major pharmaceutical companies, fueled by massive class action suits.

If a pharmaceutical company can come up with vaccines for the bird flu, it will give them some air to breath.

19. Social Security: Social security restructuring will see some progress in 2005 because of a relentless campaign by the Bush administration. Fear of demagoguery will prevent meaningful reform, but the steps taken will be seen—in retrospect—as the beginning of serious change.

I think I got this one wrong. Social security reform is probably dead for now, and I’m sure Bush is wishing he hadn’t burned so much political capital to fight for the private accounts. The groundwork by this Adminsitration may payoff in the long run, however.

20. EU: The European Union will seek to flex its muscle and establish itself as a major economic and political competitor to the United States—opposing the U.S. on key international and trade policies. The U.S. will shrug and turn to the Far East.

The death of the EU constitution makes it more difficult for the EU to be a unified competitor. Until the Europeans work as hard as the Americans, the Japanese, and Chinese, they’ll never pose a serious economic threat.

What is most striking about making any predictions for a new year, is that other events overtake those that seems so important at a previous time. Who could have predicted that Terri Schiavo and the filibuster would dominate political news in the New Year. Or that the Democrats would let Howard Dean push their national rhetoric further to the left.

Posted by Jim at 07:30 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 20, 2005

Bloggers Could Have Told Them It Would Be a Problem

Frank Barnako relates that:

“The Los Angeles Times' experiment with readers' comments on editorials came to a crashing halt over the weekend. Trouble occurred soon after the newspaper, owned by Tribune Co. (TRB), posted an editorial about the Iraq war, and opened it for comments, additions and corrections. "Unfortunately, we have had to remove this feature, at least temporarily, because a few readers were flooding the site with inappropriate material," said a message on the Times' Web site. Michael Kinsley, the newspaper's editorial and opinion editor, was pleased that hundreds of people did respond to the invitation to add their two cents to the paper's opinion. However, he added, the mischief was "quite a strange thing."

At SCO, like many other blogs, we know all about inappropriate commenters spamming up our site.

Posted by Jim at 01:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

PCA Rejects Anti-Public School Resolution

Last week the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) wisely rejected a resolution that would encourage Christian parents to remove their children from public schools. It was proposed by a Tennessee minister who does not believe any subject can be taught separate from a intentional Christian worldview.

The PCA stated:

"We strongly affirm that it is the responsibility of Christian parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; it is not appropriate for the General Assembly to make such a recommendation as contained in [the] Personal Resolution to all the members of the PCA,” stated the Bills and Overture Committee.

Those who have made the legitimate choices of Christian schools and homeschooling often unfairly criticize those who make the choice to sent their children to public schools. Well-grounded Christian children who received proper training and care at home can thrive in public school settings. And they can be salt and light in school. Who is going to do that if all the Christian kids are pulled out of school?

And many families cannot make the choice to send their kids to private schools of any kind, and cannot teach them at home. Nothing but public schools are available for families who can barely make ends meet with both mother and father working.

Instead of demeaning their brethren who either choose to mainstream their children or don’t have any choice at all, Christians are better served engaging the system, tackling the structures and policies of public education, and seeking to make a difference in this very public square.

Posted by Jim at 09:28 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Romney: The Right Stuff?

There’s a nice post on Mitt Romney at Homocon, which also links to SCO.

Posted by Jim at 09:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Study Skewed Facts on Sexual Conduct of Virginity Pledgers

The results of a study on sexual activity by young people who have taken a virginity pledge were purposely skewed, according to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation.

[Heritage researchers Rector and Johnson] conclude that virginity pledgers are substantially more likely to not engage in risky sexual behaviours, and that those who do break the pledge are still less likely than non-pledgers to engage in more risky anal or oral sex – a direct contradiction to the supposed conclusions reached by [the study’s researchers Bearman and Bruckner.]

The Heritage reports says:

“The centerpiece of their argument about pledgers and heightened sexual risk activity is a small group of pledgers who engaged in anal sex without vaginal sex,” Rector and Johnson explain. “This ‘risk group’ consists of 21 persons out of a sample of 14,116. Bearman and Bruckner focus on this microscopic group while deliberately failing to inform their audience of the obvious and critical fact that pledgers as a whole are substantially less likely to engage in anal sex when compared to non-pledgers.”

“This tactic is akin to finding a small rocky island in the middle of the ocean, describing the island in detail without describing the surrounding ocean, and then suggesting that the ocean is dry and rocky,” they add. “It is junk science, a willful deception of the American public.”


Posted by Jim at 08:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2005

For Father’s Day: Portrait of a Great Day

June 9 was a great day.

I awoke in a cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan a few miles west of the Mackinac Bridge on the northern most tip of lower Michigan to the sound of light waves breaking on the gentle shore. After a big breakfast fit for a male outing, my 10-year old son, Michael, and I were standing in our waders, with brother-in-law Dave and nephews Caleb and Enoch, in the shallows of Sturgeon Bay, lazily urging the bass to bite. It was a bright morning, and although we caught very little, there was cool breeze on a warm day, with the expansive clear waters stretching to the shores of Upper Peninsula. The only concerns were keeping bait on the hook and finding the rock refuges of the reticent fish. I doesn’t get any better, it seemed to me.

It was the final day on our fishing expedition, and after an ice cream and coffee in quaint Mackinaw City, and buying fudge for the women in our lives, we headed south to my sister’s house in Grand Rapids, where our families were gathered.

Amazingly, the best part of my day was yet to come. An exuberant wife, happy to see me, noticeably even more happy than usual, greeted me. After pleasantries, Debbie took me by the hand and we went to our downstairs room, and she urged me to kneel with her by the bed, where she began to pray.

“Thank you, Lord, for bringing back safely to me my husband. . . and the father of our new child.”

As I’m processing what she’s prayed, she leaps to her feet and grasps a positive pregnancy test indicator, with all the right lines. We’re going to have a baby. We embraced and kissed and tears rolled down my cheeks. We plotted an announcement to the family, and spent the rest of the evening sharing the good news.

A great day, indeed.

Posted by Jim at 07:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 18, 2005

The American Way: Mocking Dads On Television

Can you think of one consistent positive portrayal of a father on prime time television since Bill Cosby’s Huxtable?

John Tierney can’t.

We can make our share of mistakes, but fathers aren’t nearly as stupid as we are made out to be on television. The decades-long campaign to emasculate men and to demean fathers has been remarkably successful. Its part of the devastating trend of the great disappearing father and the resulting delinquency, teenage pregnancy, increasing drug use, and much more.

Here’s one group, the National Fatherhood Initiative, whose mission is to restore the proud role of fathers.

Posted by Jim at 08:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 17, 2005

Why Won’t the Christians Play Nice?

Former Senator John Danforth, now an Episcopal minister, boils down the Christian relationship with the state to an expression of the “Love Commandment,” in an op-ed today in the Times.

But the lovefest Danforth prescribed for moderate Christian is one where we don’t advance meaningful public positions on issues such as the Terri Schiavo case, embryonic stem cell research, and homosexual marriage.

He writes:

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube. When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.

Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

There’s a great need for more humility in Washington, no doubt. But a love for God is empty if it does not include applying His truth to all areas of life. And loving one’s neighbor cannot be interpreted as capitulating on seminal issues of life and the foundations of family.

Posted by Jim at 08:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mitt Romney Still Afloat in the Massachusetts Alligator Pond

Mitt Romney is showing creativity and dexterity as he carves a thoughtful conservative agenda in Massachusetts. Now he’s trying to roll back the advances of same sex marriage in his state. It’s a bit like watching the protagonist using the alligators to step his way across an alligator pond.

Posted by Jim at 07:48 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 15, 2005

Turmoil at Hollywood Presbyterian

Hollywood Presbyterian Church, an evangelical congregation within the liberal Pacific Presbytery, is in turmoil as two of its pastors are placed on leave by the Presbytery.

The news article I wrote for the next edition of Christianity Today has been posted on the CT website.

Posted by Jim at 08:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Gitmo Discussion

Because we are a nation founded on and sustained by Judeo-Christian values, central among them that human beings are created in the image of God, we treat prisoners and prisoners of war humanely. That’s why there is a prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and not a mass grave.

While there will be violations of policy wherever there are young soldiers and old wounds, it is our values that cause us to correct our excesses. But it is clear that the drumbeat of criticism of the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo stems not from the concern for human rights, but distain in some media and Democratic circles for the military and this Administration.

The Anchoress has a selection of articles on Gitmo, including links leading to this good piece by Patrick Ruffini.

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

June 13, 2005

From Grand Rapids: A Study Shows Profitability of Family-friendly Films

I spent the last week in Michigan with my family, most of it in Grand Rapids and a few days bass fishing on the northern-most shores of lower Michigan, on Lake Michigan near the Mackinac Bridge.

Grand Rapids is a tidy city of conservative values and largely Reformed faith, the former Congressional seat of Gerald Ford, and home of Amway. It’s the buckle of a northern Bible belt, headquarters of Zondervan and Baker publishing houses, the site of Calvin College and Cornerstone University.

While I was there I ran across (h/t: Doug) this report, from the Hollywood Reporter, that Grand Rapids-based Dove Foundation will release a 10-year study tomorrow that “family-friendly movies are more profitable than R-rated films.

The Dove Foundation advocates wholesome family entertainment. The study examines the revenue and production costs for 3,000 Motion Picture Association of America-rated theatrical films released between Jan.1, 1989, and Dec. 31, 2003, using the 200 most widely distributed films each year based on the number of theaters.

"While the movie industry produced nearly 12 times more R-rated films than G-rated films from 1989-2003, the average G-rated film produced 11 times greater profit than its R-rated counterpart," said Dick Rolfe, Dove’s founder and chairman.

The new study found that the average profit for films rated G rose to $92.3 million from $74.2 million, PG vaulted to $78.8 million from $9.9 million, PG-13 rose to $45.6 million from $15.4 million, and R-rated films increased to $17.9 million from $3 million. The study notes that those increases are probably due in part to higher ticket prices, coupled with a decrease in home video manufacturing costs.

"Dove is not suggesting that Hollywood produce only G and PG movies," he said. "We just think the proportionality is out of balance, given the relatively few, highly profitable family-friendly movies released each year. Our study reveals that Hollywood is not serving the most prolific audience segment in the entertainment marketplace: the family."


Posted by Jim at 07:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 03, 2005

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

It seems to me that this concoction is nothing short of blasphemy, not because of its elevation of women, but because of its total perversion of the biblical text without any basis in the historic documents, and because it's a violation of the 4th commandment: "Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God" (Holman CSB).

Posted by Jim at 02:41 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Trouble for the European Repose

Reading about Europe in the aftermath of the rejection of the EU constitution by France and the Netherlands made me think about China. France and so much of Europe are going the way of the welfare state, which has deadened ambition and work ethic in the seedbed of Western Civilization. I contrast this with what I saw in Beijing on two trips there last year. The ability to be rewarded for hard work, as capitalism emerges, has unleashed fresh ambition that is red hot.

European ease, comfort, and privilege are going to be left in the dust by Asian ambition. It’s a theme that Thomas Friedman has written about today in the Times.

This article from Acton Institute on European statism is also a good read. (h/t: Considerettes). It notes:

People who expect the state to do everything for them will come to do nothing for themselves, whereas a healthy democracy depends on notions such as self-governance and moral responsibility supported by vibrant religious faith and practice. It is no surprise that Europe’s woes continue as governmental power grows and faith lags.

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

June 01, 2005

Vetoing the Morally Repugnant

A clear and compelling column by Andrew Sullivan on a Bush veto of embryonic stem cell legislation. (h/t: Jeff at Shermblog)

Posted by Jim at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Lazy French Reject the Godless Constitution

The French made the right decision for the wrong reasons. Fearful that they lose some of their cushy government social giveaways, Frenchies rejected the accountability of a European union with teeth. But the constitution is a horrendous collection of bureaucratic nonsense in which the European framers choose to deny the existence of God. It will go down in flames, praise The One Who Was Ignored.

George Will has a good column on the right decision, wrongly determined:

Posted by Jim at 06:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

An Identity for Deep Throat; But Do We Know Everything?

In a shot at the Blog Nation, the NY Times editorialized Wednesday that the identity of Deep Throat was now certain, although “it’s likely that by tomorrow at least a few bloggers will have set about trying to prove that it wasn’t really him after all.” The free exchange of ideas would be terrible, wouldn’t it?

I don’t have any evidence that Felt isn’t the man who provided Bob Woodward with information that helped him crack the Watergate case with Carl Bernstein. I indicated in an earlier post that Watergate figure Chuck Colson, with whom I worked for many years, had always said that no single individual had access to all of the information that was attributed to Deep Throat.

Perhaps Chuck never imagined that the source would be a trusted law enforcement officer.

Colson said he's shocked and saddened to learn that Mark Felt was Deep Throat. Colson said he's sad for Felt, with whom Colson worked --and whom Colson always considered a "consummate professional." "I never thought anybody with such a position of sensitivity at the Justice Department would breach confidences," Colson said in a Today show interview.

Yesterday, Chuck told AP: "[Felt] had the trust of America's leaders and to think that he betrayed that trust is hard for me to fathom.”

It’s quite possible that “Woodstein” attributed to Deep Throat information that they received from more than one anonymous source.

It is disappointing that Deep Throat didn’t turn out to be someone who was better known, but more than that its unfortunate that Felt is so old he can’t engage in interviews and conversations about the entire affair. That’s going to leave a lot of history unknown, at least for those of us who believe that Bob Woodward frequently plays fast and loose with the truth.

Even more mysterious that the identity of Deep Throat is the question: Why did the Committee to Re-elect the President hire the “plumbers” to break into the Watergate office of the DNC? There has never been a credible answer to that core question of the entire debacle.

Posted by Jim at 06:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

And Yes, There Are Failures

I am a huge supporter of President Bush and this Administration, for many reasons, high among them the President’s courage to fight the good fight against international terrorism and against domestic opposition to the very strength that has resulted in the expansion of democracy in the world.

But there are disappointments. For me, the major disappointments of the Bush Administration thus far:

(1) Illegal Immigration: Failure to secure our borders and stop or even slow illegal immigration. This problem didn’t start with the Bush Administration, but I am shocked that it has not been addressed meaningfully—particularly in a post 9-11 world. I am for liberal immigration—I think it makes our nation strong. But allowing unfettered illegal immigration makes no sense at all. None.

Some think the tide may be turning. John at What Can Brown Do For You cites Mark Krikorian at NRO:

Perhaps most important, the public is becoming increasingly concerned about immigration. The issue is seldom among the top two or three issues for voters, but that seems to be changing. Recurrent reports of terrorists and super-violent gang members exploiting our broken immigration system are finally getting people's attention. The way the Minuteman Project border-watch program in Arizona resonated on talk radio, its spread to other states, and its adoption by prominent politicians like California Gov. Schwarzenegger are all signs that the McCain/Kennedy amnesty bill may well be the last gasp of the anti-borders crowd.

Others weighing in here and here.

(2) Darfur: Failing to take effective action to halt the genocide in Darfur. With a miniscule expenditure of money and military personnel, we could stop most of the killing and abuse. This would not be another military front; it would be a demonstration of compassion. Must we wait for Hotel Darfur, the movie, to be outraged as a people and a government?. Here and here are two posts on the travesty.

(3) Bankruptcy: The bankruptcy bill, which was a total sell-out to the banking industry. Rick wrote about this here, and I did Christianity Today’s news article. I share Dave Ramsey’s outrage.

Posted by Jim at 06:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 31, 2005

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

May 27, 2005

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

May 26, 2005

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 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

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

May 23, 2005

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.

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May 19, 2005

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:

Chaplains
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 16, 2005

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 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

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.


THE NAVY HYMN (ETERNAL FATHER)

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

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 10, 2005

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

May 09, 2005

WHO WILL STOP THE GENOCIDE IN DARFUR? FRANCE WON’T; WILL WE?

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.

Darfur_map.png

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 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

May 03, 2005

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

May 02, 2005

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.”


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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

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

April 29, 2005

The Terrifying Truth: We Are Normal

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen writes about the film Downfall, which examines the last days and hours of Adolf Hitler.

Reflecting on the humanity and the madness of Hitler, Cohen runs into the terrifying truth that a people with the graces and skills of the Germans could, almost without missing a step, follow the barbarity of Hitler, and then becomes good citizens once again.

This reminded me of a chapter in Chuck Colson’s 1985 book Who Speaks for God?, which explores the same horror that if we look deeply into ourselves we can see glimpses of the very worst among us.

Colson writes in the chapter titled, The Terrifying Truth, We Are Normal:

Introducing a recent story about Nazi Adolf Eichmann, a principal architect of the Holocaust, Wallace posed a central question at the program's outset: "How is it possible . . . for a man to act as Eichmann acted? . . . Was he a monster? A madman? Or was he perhaps something even more terrifying: was he normal?"

Normal? The executioner of millions of Jews normal? Most self-respecting viewers would be outraged at the very thought.

The most startling answer to Wallace's shocking question came in an interview with Yehiel Dinur, a concentration camp survivor who testified against Eichmann at the Nuremburg trials. A film clip from Eichmann's 1961 trial showed Dinur walking into the courtroom, stopping short, seeing Eichmann for the first time since the Nazi had sent him to Auschwitz eighteen years earlier. Dinur began to sob uncontrollably, then fainted, collapsing in a heap on the floor as the presiding judicial officer pounded his gavel for order in the crowded courtroom.

Was Dinur overcome by hatred? Fear? Horrid memories?

No; it was none of these. Rather, as Dinur explained to Wallace, all at once he realized Eichmann was not the godlike army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. "I was afraid about myself," said Dinur. ". . . I saw that I am capable to do this. I am . . . exactly like he."

Wallace's subsequent summation of Dinur's terrible discovery–"Eichmann is in all of us"–is a horrifying statement; but it indeed captures the central truth about man's nature. For as a result of the Fall, sin is in each of us–not just the susceptibility to sin, but sin itself.

Posted by Jim at 04:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

There Goes the Secular Humanist Vote

In what is fashioned as a news release, the Council for Secular Humanism (I’m not making this up) tried to takes its swipe at California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who President Bush has nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Here’s the lead:

Amherst, N.Y. (April 27, 2005) -- The Council for Secular Humanism deplores the intemperate and uncalled-for attacks California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown made on secular humanists at an April 24 church-sponsored service delivered to judges and lawyers in Connecticut. The comments were seized upon this past Monday by evangelical leader Gary Bauer, of the ultra-conservative advocacy group American Values, in an e-mail blast Bauer sent to his supporters, praising Brown and her comments.

The release continues:

She has libeled tens of millions of Americans who do not share her ideological bias. "We particularly object to her claim that Secular Humanism threatens to divorce America from its religious roots," said Paul Kurtz, Chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism.

"We are alarmed at the implications that this first overt attack on secular humanism -- by such a highly placed jurist -- portends for the rights of unbelievers and the separation of religion and state guaranteed in the constitution," said Kurtz. "We are facing a clear and present danger to our liberties in the United States by militant religionists."

I don’t get it. Of course the secular humanists are trying to divorce America from its religious roots. Why wouldn’t they want to, given their commitment to secularism.

I hope this groups speak up more because it helps us all to understand that Secular Humanism itself is a real and present danger to the huge majority of Americans who believe that a nation that ignores the spiritual part of its soul will devolve into a dispirited and unprincipled mess.

Posted by Jim at 07:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Jews Against Anti-Christian Bias

The Jewish people have suffered so much persecution over the centuries that they can see and understand it with more certainty than many others can.

So it’s not surprising for a Jewish group to help battle anti-Christian bias and discrimination. Politics being what they are, however, it takes conservative Jews to take up for conservative Christians.

Don Feder, a Boston Herald writer and syndicated columnist for 19 years, announced this week that he had established a new group: Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, or JAACD. Source: World Net Daily. Also here. (h/t: Considerettes).

From WND:

Feder said for years he has written about incidents of anti-Christian discrimination in the public square - from the prohibition of crèches on public land to the silencing prayer in the nation's schools.

"What I consider an epidemic of anti-Christian bigotry and persecution is something that has concerned me for a long time noting that in 1996 he wrote a book entitled "Who's Afraid of the Religious Right?" which covers what he sees as the left's attack on traditional Christians.

"Particularly pernicious is the leftist idea that it's legitimate to base your politics on anything except religion," he said. "You can say that my politics are based on the views of Karl Marx or Ayn Rand or Jane Fonda . and that's OK, but as soon as you say your worldview is based on the Bible, that's considered an illegitimate basis for embracing certain political views."

This is reminiscent of some of Michael Horowitz’s statements on the international persecution of Christian. Horowitz is less partisan, but he has spoken and written boldly about Christians as the Jews of the modern era.

Posted by Jim at 07:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Right Standard for Death: “No Doubt” of Guilt

This may be a death penalty that meets the high threshold of certainty that the Bible prescribes. Governor Romney continues to be impressive on important issues.

Posted by Jim at 07:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

The Reality of Faith: International Persecution of Christians

The message popular in American evangelism is that faith in Jesus Christ is warm and fuzzy, it can make your life happier, your business more successful, increase your bank account, and fix up your eternal future.

The fact is that Jesus’ message is counter-cultural, revolutionary, personally offensive, exclusionary, and will most likely lead to suffering. It just happens to be true and it will transform your life, your values, and your relationship with your Creator.

Communist and other authoritarian bullies, and radical Muslims around the world recognize that the radical faith of Christians outside of the West is a threat to the status quo, and Christians are being persecuted regularly.

The American evangelical lobby should be focusing the attention of our State Department on the instances of blatant religious persecution and the denial of religious freedoms around the world.

Here are a few that have recently come to light:

Malaysia
Two Americans, Ricky Rupert and Zachary Harris, have been arrested in Malaysia, accused of handing out Christian pamphlets outside a mosque in a country where constitutionally protected religious freedom periodically collides with the prohibition on the conversion of Muslims.

A Royal Malaysian Police spokesman said Thursday the two men had been apprehended while handing out pamphlets outside the mosque in Putrajaya, Malaysia's new administrative capital south of Kuala Lumpur.

Some 60 percent of Malaysia's population are Malay Muslims, while large ethnic-Chinese and Indian minorities practice Christianity and other religions. Despite being multi-cultural, Sunni Islam is the official religion. Muslims are not permitted to convert to another religion.

"The constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, it recognizes Islam as the country's official religion and the practice of Islamic beliefs other than Sunni Islam is significantly restricted," the State Department says in its most recent report on global religious freedom. (Source)

China
From Voice of the Martyrs: Pastor Cai Zhuohua from Beijing, was arrested September 11, 2004, by National Security operatives, for printing “illegal religious literature.” Cai’s wife, Xiao Yunfei was also arrested November 27, 2004. According to a recently released fellow inmate, Pastor Cai was repeatedly tortured by electric shocks and was forced to falsely confess, which could lead to a ten to fifteen year prison sentence under the current criminal code. The Chinese government has repeatedly threatened his attorney not to defend him.

Pastor Gong Shengliang was sentenced to life in prison October 10, 2002, by the Court Hubei Province. He is now being held at Section Four, Te Yi Hao, Miaoshan Development Zone, Jiangxia District, Wuhan City, Hubei Province. This case involved the arrest and sentencing of many women of Pastor Gong’s church who were tortured into falsely accusing Gong of rape.

According to eyewitness reports, Gong’s mental and physical health has suffered due to the harsh treatment in prison.

Mr. Chen Jingmao, age 74, of Chongqing City, was sentenced October 10, 2002, to four years in prison for sending his granddaughter to a Bible class training school. Chen is now being held in Sanxia Prison, Chongqing City. He is reported to be in very poor health and will die in prison if he is not released soon.

Although China has amended its constitution to protect human rights, these three cases exemplify both the arbitrary nature of what passes for justice in the People’s Republic of China and the sad state of religious freedom there.

Eritrea
According to Compass Direct, in Eritrea, 16 full-time pastors are among nearly 900 Eritrean Christians known to be jailed in local prisons, military confinement camps and shipping containers for daring to meet secretly for prayer and worship outside government-sanctioned churches.

Despite a heavy-handed clampdown by Eritrea’s security police, evangelical sources in the tiny northeast African nation have managed to compile a documented list of 883 Christians now being held without trial or charges because of their faith.

Only a handful of prisoners have been released -- after recently being coerced to sign pledges to stop attending religious services of the unregistered, “illegal” denominations.

In an interview April 5 with Agence France Press (AFP), the director of the Eritrean President’s office, Yemane Gebremeskel, claimed that arrested members of the banned Christian groups “are maybe held for five hours and then let off with a warning.” He also accused human rights groups criticizing Eritrea’s violations of religious freedom of getting their information off the internet and giving “arbitrary figures.”

Posted by Jim at 08:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 27, 2005

Time For Stronger Measures Against Sexual Predators

There was another Amber alert in Florida yesterday. Yet another little girl dragged off. Has this been the year of the sexual predator or are we just hearing about more offenses because of the alert systems and 24/7 news?

A child advocate on the Today show last week said the very minimum a parent should do is go online and print your local registry of sexual offenders. So that’s what we did, to pinpoint the locations of the offenders in our area. If you have children, do it today.

State legislatures and local governments need to stop wringing their hands and begin taking stronger measures to maintain control over those who have been convicted of sexual offenses. How many little girls must be prey to the hardened, repeat offenders in their neighborhoods before this horror is taken seriously and these people are intercepted, so they do not hurt more youngsters.

It is time for universal adoption of at least three measures: electronic monitoring, voice tracking, and chemical castration.

Electronic Monitoring: The offender wears an ankle bracelet, which sends out a radio signal precisely showing the exact location. The offender is only allowed to leave their home for specific reasons and at specific times. A monitoring company tracks their movements 24 hours a day, and immediately reports any deviation from the allowed limits to their Probation Officer.

An Ohio official is suggesting taking this a step further, and implanting GPS chips.

While Fox earlier had suggested the use of electronic ankle or wrist bracelets to allow for passive monitoring of offenders, on Monday he took the proposal a step further, calling for a plan of implanting computer microchips into offenders so that they can be tracked and located immediately.

"People have these GPS chips put in their pets and - in some case - in their children, in the event they are lost or kidnapped," Fox said. "I don't see why the same can't be done with probationees."
But Sheriff Richard K. Jones said it would first take an act of the state legislature to give courts the authority to order such implanting. Butler County currently has 296 registered sexual offenders, Jones said.

Jones on Friday launched a new program in which the sheriff's office is now doing random, surprise spot checks on registered sexual offenders to make certain they are living at the addresses they have registered with local authorities.

Voice Tracking: A monitoring company pages offenders periodically during the day and night. A voice recording from the offender has been used to create a computer template which is compared to the caller returning the page, preventing illegitimate callers from responding. Calls are automatically rejected from cellular phones or using call forwarding. The caller must call back within a specified amount of time, and the phone number they called from is automatically recorded.

Chemical castration

States need to implement and enforce hormone treatment for repeat sexual offenders. This is not a cure all, but it will help reduce or eliminate the sexual drive of individuals who cannot control where that takes them. Officials seem squeamish about this course of action. They need to think about the young girls who are raped and buried alive by hardened sexual offenders.

This Texas document discusses chemical castration:

Myth: "Castration cures a sex offender." Fact: Castration is not a cure. Castration only reduces testosterone levels and may be helpful in controlling arousal and libido. Physical or chemical castration should only be utilized as an adjunct to treatment and not in lieu of treatment. It should be remembered that deviant arousal is the physical response to a cognitive process (deviant thoughts). Deviant thoughts (impulses) and fantasies are precursors to deviant arousal.

Iowa is one of eight states that has implemented the treatment, but they have been lax in applying it.

The hormone therapy, called "chemical castration" by critics, is required for offenders convicted more than once of serious sex offenses as a condition of their release from custody. However, the requirement is waived when a judge or the Board of Parole determines the treatment would be ineffective.

The treatment is optional for those convicted for the first time of a sexual offense in which the victim was 12 or younger.

"We have done it, but it's very rare," said Gary Sherzan, director of community corrections in the 5th Judicial District.

Rusty Rogerson, superintendent of the state's sex offender treatment facility at Mount Pleasant, said the only time the treatment was needed there, a physician couldn't be found to administer it.

Officials say some physicians question the effectiveness or propriety of the treatment. Others are concerned about medical and legal risks, and about taking part in a procedure that is outside their medical practice.

Others have recommend extremely long prison sentences.

Whatever the cost, lawmakers need to act now to protect our children. What could be more important?

Posted by Jim at 06:33 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 26, 2005

Why Not Pragmatism?

“I'm still not seeing how I am contributing to the decline of American culture simply by insisting on following in the agnostic tradition of my family rather than converting to Christianity,” wrote a mysteriously named “s9” commenter in response to my post on personal responsibility last week.

s9 added: “I contend that identifying the problem of "cultural decline" is a more complicated job than simply blaming it all on the damned liberals. Satisfying as that might seem.”

I don’t believe I was quite that simplistic, and in fact the analysis was fairly thorough, particularly if the reader would at least scan the good article Stanley Rothman, titled The Decline of Bourgeois America.

My summary narrowed the blame, I’ll admit:

“With the growing rejection of the boundaries and guidance of the Christian tradition, American culture slides away from responsibility as it yields to the temptations of an “expressive individualistic ethic” that emphasizes self as the center of the universe. This makes the “collectivist liberalism” of an ever-active and controlling government attractive because of its promise of egalitarian nirvana.”

But nowhere in my post or in the cited article is there an argument for conversion (although I would recommend it for many reasons, mind you). But as Western culture rejects the moorings of the Christian tradition, the void has resulted in the two trends mentions: expressive individualism and collective liberalism. These trends are at least part of the reason for the decline in personal responsibility.

But I was intrigued by a question, which led to this exchange:

JWJ: If not Christian, on what ethic do you base a call to responsibility?

S9: If you must know, I hold ethics derived from Pragmatism. Yes, the capital 'P' is deliberate. I fail to see how my being raised in a family with a different ethic from a Christian one makes me complicit in the decline of personal responsibility. I was raised in a non-Christian household, so therefore my continuing choice not to convert to Christianity is a rejection of "the moorings of the Christian tradition." It would be nice to know how my choice to do this has contributed to the trends you mention.

JWJ: Actually your rejection of Christ is not necessarily a rejection of "the moorings of the Christian tradition." You enjoy many of the advantages of Judeo-Christian and Christian social, economic, and ethical structures. You can thank Christ for that, even as a non-believer.

If pragmatism is your only ethical basis, I'm glad to have you as commenter but I wouldn't want to have you as a neighbor.

S9: All of those are arguable propositions, but I'll decline the opportunity to argue them.

Worried that having an agnostic in the neighborhood will lower the value of your real estate? My, how Christian of you...

JWJ: If pragmatism reigns for you, please read Pascal's Wager.

S9: Good grief, not that again. You do realize that Pascal's Wager is not argument for the existence of God, but rather an argument for the belief in God. Worse, as a Pragmatist, I've seen the argument before— but presented more cogently.

Pragmatism asks its usual question. "Grant an idea or belief to be true," it says, "what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone's actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth's cash-value in experiential terms?"--William James, Pragmatism (1907)

It's not my Pragmatism that makes you dread having me as a neighbor. It's the agnosticism, isn't it?

-----------------
Since I’m not a philosopher or a theologian, I thought I’d pesent this to SCO readers. It seems to me that pure pragmatism, if truly ones life guiding philosophy, is utterly frightening. Living without a transcendent ethic, values based on something other then the utilitarian, is a recipe for social anarchy and spiritual suicide.

Christianity is pragmatic, but not limited to pragmatism. Its ultimate social benefit is that its “living hope” makes faithful adherents the best citizens.

What do you think? Why, then, not pragmatism?

Posted by Jim at 08:34 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Is Homeschooling the Best Option?

Is homeschooling good for children? That’s a question being debated here.

I have friends and family who homeschool their children and I have great respect for the sacrifices these parents make for their children.

I’ve seen it work for most children, because parents, usually mothers, are pouring so much of themselves into their children. This is almost always tremendous for kids.

But I’ve also seen situations where parents expect some kind of homeschool magic—the benefit of doing the right thing—to work wonders in the children, without the skills or hard work by the parents. That doesn’t produce the desired results, of course.

It’s interesting that as homeschooling becomes more popular, it is becoming what may be more accurately titled “home-directed schooling,” with students often taking some joint classes in churches, or other arrangements. With online programs such as the Learning by Grace academies, parents can choose to have any level or participation by professional educators.

Posted by Jim at 07:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

The Bible as a High School Textbook


Here’s a constructive response to attempt to expunge any Christian influence from public life. An organization called The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools has managed to have the Bible used as a curriculum text in public high schools.

According to the Council’s president, Elizabeth Ridenour:

“The curriculum for the program shows a concern to convey the content of the Bible as compared to literature and history. The program is concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students. The central approach of the class is simply to study the Bible as a foundation document of society, and that approach is altogether appropriate in a comprehensive program of secular education.”

The organization’s brochure says:

Since 1995, over 170,000 students have taken the NCBCPS course on high school campuses. The curriculum is popular with both teachers and students, and it has been adopted to date nationwide in 92% of the school districts where it has been presented. The NCBCPS uses the Bible as its textbook (The King James Version is recommended) and, through a study of the Old and New Testaments, focuses on its comparisons with, and impact upon, history and literature. Following constitutional guidelines, the course emphasizes that the Bible is the foundation document of our society and is the single most influential book in shaping western culture, our laws, our history and even our speech. It is a lesson in America’s heritage.

Unfortunately, this number of students over 10 years is a drop in the bucket. It is a positive, creative approach that merits stronger examination and more thorough adoption.

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

Orthodoxy

With the celebration this week of Passover it is interesting to read about Orthodox Jewish journalist David Klinghoffe, who presents his arguments on why Jesus was not the Messiah, but of more appeal to evangelicals, challenges Jewish liberals who are not faithful to Jewish teachings, and commends the impact orthodox Jews and Christians can have on a Western culture that has lost the meaning of truth.

Columnist Terry Mattingly writes today about Klinghoffer:

"For example, Christians have for centuries pondered the unique Jewish role in "salvation history," a mystery often summed up in the familiar statement, "How odd of God to choose the Jews." Meanwhile, Jewish scholars have faced a paradox of their own. As the Jewish intellectual Franz Rosenzweig once said: "Israel can bring the world to God only through Christianity."

Without Judaism, there is no Christianity. But without Christianity,
Klinghoffer argues, there would be no Western civilization as the world knows it and, without Christendom, Europe would have remained pagan and almost certainly fallen to Islam.

Despite their many differences, Klinghoffer is convinced that traditional Jews and Christians can find unity on many controversial questions -- from abortion to euthanasia, and many hot moral issues in between. Christians and Jews are supposed to believe that "we can say, with a straight face, that there is such a thing as 'truth,' " he said.

This matters in an era in which many want to blur the doctrinal lines
between world religions. Others want to deny the existence of religious truth altogether.

"This raises all kinds of questions," said Klinghoffer. "Who gets to
decide what is right and what is wrong? Does God get to play a role in
those decisions or do we just put that up to a vote among ourselves? Where does moral authority come from? Do we just pluck it out of the air or does it come from somewhere?

"When we start asking these kinds of questions, Jewish and Christian believers can stand side by side."

Posted by Jim at 07:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

Nearly Half of Americans Still Crack Open the Bible Every Week Somewhere Besides Church

Bible reading is enjoying an upward trend over the last few years and it increased to 45 percent of Americans in the last year, according to a survey completed by the Barna Research Group.

Currently, 45 percent of adults read the Bible during a typical week, not including when they are at church. That figure represents a minimal increase over the past few years, but a significant rise from the 31 percent measured in 1995, the lowest level of Bible reading recorded by Barna in the past 15 years. The current statistic is still below the levels achieved in 1980s and early 1990s, but the report shows that the trend is upward.

Despite the hubbub over evangelicals after the last election, Barna’s research indicates that those who adhere to evangelical beliefs and assertions make up only 7 percent of the U.S. population.

Posted by Jim at 03:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

Another Conservative Pope: Enjoying the NY Times’ Misery

I flew to Chicago last night on business and on the way read every article on Pope Benedict in yesterday’s New York Times. I’ll have to admit that I enjoyed immensely the obvious displeasure the Times showed in the selection of another conservative Pontiff. While showing more restraint than they show with conservative evangelicals, the Times nonetheless demonstrated its discomfort with another Pope from the “conservative wing” of the church with “hard line” theological positions.

In a Celebrating Crowd,” the Times sub-head reads, “Some Show Concern Over His Doctrine.” I watched the announcement on television and it was difficult to see much concern in the roar and adulation of the huge crowd. If a liberal Pope had been chosen, I’m sure the Times would not have been looking for concerned conservatives in the crowd.

For evangelicals, it is hard to imagine a choice that would be more pleasing, for it appears likely that the positive alignment between conservative Protestants and a Roman Catholic church with a conservative shepherd will continue.

The homily Pope Benedict gave the morning of the first day of the conclave should be enough to give those of us in the evangelical great hope that we will continue as co-belligerents against the forces of secularism.

The soon-to-be-Pope said:

"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards.

We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

Then Cardinal Ratzinger was the central voice in the 2000 Vatican document "Dominus Jesus, which reads:

"This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that 'one religion is as good as another.' "

He was roundly criticized for saying that Jesus was the only way to God. As evangelicals, that part of his message is music to our ears.


Posted by Jim at 05:56 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 20, 2005

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Introduce the Fairness Doctrine

With legislation on the return of the Fairness Doctrine offered in the House by a New York Congresswoman as a means to defang talk radio, I went to Google News to see what’s been written on this. The second entry was an editorial by my blogger-in-law Doug Payton of Considerettes on Blogger News Network

Doug writes:

“What we have then, in effect, is a backdoor attempt to get more of a market for Air America by forcing stations to maintain some sort of balance in "broadcast hours". Stations will be forced to run Al Franken or someone like him to offset any conservatives on the air. While the introduction of HR501 and the 1st anniversary of Air America and the report of its lousy ratings are probably not connected, it does sound like an interesting time for this doctrine to be rehashed. Perhaps since Soros has a horse in the talk radio race now, some folks in Washington may be hoping to be the recipients of some cash to really push this hard. And Bush's veto record is, well, non-existent. For politicos viewing the media landscape with liberal-blocking polarized lenses, this may be the perfect time for a move like this.

If liberals can't compete in the arena of ideas, they pass laws against the competition. This is desperation.”

I predicted this in a December 2005 post at The Rooftop Blog, for whatever that’s worth. I also predicted that it will fail, and I’m still sure it will.

Posted by Jim at 06:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2005

The Decline of Personal Responsibility

In his commencement address at Harvard University in 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that “the main cause of the ruinous [Bolshevik] Revolution” and “the principal trait of the entire twentieth century” was that "men have forgotten God." The West's emphasis on secular rights, he told the Harvard students, had produced societies that now stood at the brink of "the abyss of human decadence ... It is time in the West to defend not so much human rights as human obligations."

This was not well received by the Harvard community or Western liberal intellectuals.

Yet in that address Solzhenitsyn brought together two elements that have had enormous consequences on our culture in the 25 years hence. It is the cultural escape from God and the social and moral strictures of the Christian tradition that has resulted in the decline of personal responsibility, or what Solzhenitsyn calls “human obligations.”

In my view, the worst trend in the habits of the American heart is this decline of responsibility. We see this in all parts of life—-the failure of customer service, dependence on government to care for all ills, personal injury suits against tobacco companies for our lifestyle choice, or against McDonalds when we spill hot coffee. We see it in everyone from political and corporate leaders to our neighbors refusing to take responsibility for wrong doing, not accepting the consequences for their own actions, and not taking responsibility for the results of their own promiscuity and carelessness. We are all products of our times, and if we are honest, we see it in ourselves.

So my ears perked up last week when Rush Limbaugh read from a Knight-Ridder article on the decline of personal responsibility.

The article reads:

“Whatever the reasons, most experts agree that how people feel about their obligations has changed, particularly for those in positions of power and influence.

'Responsibility is waning. The strong sense of holding people responsible is getting more and more difficult,' said Joan McGregor, a philosopher at Arizona State University. 'We still hold people responsible all the time in a legal sense. But in a moral sense, it's as though no one is responsible any more.'

It wasn't always so, particularly in the brief period during and after World War II when the country was dominated by what Tom Brokaw would later call the Greatest Generation.”

Unfortunately, the article is largely disappointing, as the writer tries to prove the decline through presidential and other governmental actions. While a product of their times, government leaders are just a small part of cultural trends.

The summary of the article is weird:

Historians, philosophers, political scientists and sociologists cite many reasons for the decline of an ethic of responsibility in America over recent decades, including:

_ A culture of narcissism or self-absorption;
_ The rise of celebrity worship and entitlement;
_ The distractions of the war on terrorism.

I’m sure the young lady behind the counter in my local store who can’t get off her cell phone as she does her job and rings up my order is probably distracted by the war on terrorism. Perhaps she’s on the phone to Homeland Security, being vigilant in a time of danger. Yeah, right.

Looking for a more serious discussion of the problem, I came across an amazing 1996 article in Society by Smith College professor Stanley Rothman, titled The Decline of Bourgeois America.

Summary of the article:

The bourgeois beliefs in the value of work, productivity and restraint that flourished under the rise of liberal capitalism have lost their influence in US society. Personal responsibility has been replaced by the ideologies of expressive individualism and collectivist liberalism.

Rothman draws on Max Weber and others to show how Christian doctrines, particularly those emerging from the Reformation, were the foundation for a Western culture marked by restraint, responsibility, and productivity.

Rothman writes:

“Cultural developments in the West were unusual from the outset. First, the emergence of a prophetic religion gave a peculiar intensity to the superego. Second, the emphasis was on an individual rather than a communal relationship with God. Third, religious-cultural imperatives stressed general, universal, moral rules. Fourth, God was conceived as standing apart from nature, and his laws could be comprehended through reason. Finally, great emphasis was placed upon repressing the passions in the service of worldly asceticism, that is, fulfilling one's obligations through activity in this world.

To be sure, some of these themes have been present individually in other civilizations. Historically and comparatively though, this was a unique combination. It is undoubtedly true that Confucianism, with its emphasis on the control of the passions, produced a similar result in China and Japan via a shame culture. Confucian doctrine and the quality of popular religion in both countries was such that neither the Japanese nor Chinese could bring the modem world into existence; however, once that world came into existence, they could use the energy derived from the repression of sexual and aggressive drives in the service of science and industry. Thus, given an appropriate response by elites in Japan and later Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, and, finally, mainland China, these areas could adapt to the requirements of an industrial society fairly easily, as compared to other Asian, African, or even Latin American nations.”

I can’t take the time to capture all of the thoughts in this fascinating article. I urge you to read it.

My layman's summary: With the growing rejection of the boundaries and guidance of the Christian tradition, American culture slides away from responsibility as it yields to the temptations of an “expressive individualistic ethic” that emphasizes self as the center of the universe. This makes the “collectivist liberalism” of an ever-active and controlling government attractive because of its promise of egalitarian nirvana.

One more quote from Rothman:

“The evidence around us in the culture suggests that many of those in the middle and upper middle classes, having lost the internal gyroscope (and metaphors) that gave the lives of previous generations structure and meaning, feel torn between the desire for power and gratification on the one hand and the fear of losing control on the other.”

Men have forgotten God.

Posted by Jim at 09:04 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

NY Times Editorial Nonsense on Frist and Justice Sunday

Tracking the ongoing discussion of the interplay of faith and politics we normally go to the strident columnists or the purposely provocative left-wing blogs to find opinion as simultaneously insipid and unfounded as the April 15 New York Times editorial diatribe on Bill Frist, faith, and the filibuster. Or for such silly partisan banter, perhaps the community college newspaper.

Whilst repairing a backyard fence this weekend with my brother-in-law Doug Payton, longtime blogger extraordinaire at Considerettes, we discussed this editorial and decided to analyze it in a joint post. (Doug's also posting it here.)

So here's a response to the Times' screed line-by-line, with Doug's thoughts in red and mine in green (we didn't see each other's comments in advance, so we are responding only to the Times):

Bill Frist's Religious War
Right off the bat, the Times frames this as a war of Bill Frist's making. No mention of the way the Democrats are rewriting the Constitution to say that the Senate Judiciary Committee is now the "advice and consent" body rather than the Senate itself. And a "religious war"? We'll see how the Times has redefined that term in a bit.
Right-wing Christian groups and the Republican politicians they bankroll...
Loaded language right from the start, which also gives the false impression that conservative Christians supply the vast majority of the money in Republican coffers. Sorry, don't think so.
...have done much since the last election to impose their particular religious views on all Americans.
Not political views, mind you, but religious views. Yes, according to the NY Times, conservative Christians have imposed their belief in Jesus as the Son of God on the nation, enshrining it in legislation via our bankrolled politicians. No? Oh, then how about other religious views, like legislating the belief that the only God is the one described in the Christian Bible? No? Perhaps they've passed a law that we should only worship that particular God? Nope, not that either. In fact there is no Christian religious view that is in our laws at all, and no one is pushing for it to happen. The Times and the liberals that think like them may like to raise the spectre of a supposed push for a Christian theocracy, but there's no politician in Washington doing anything close to that. It's outright fear-mongering that one would have thought the Grey Lady to be above. Apparently not.

What conservative Christians have tried to do is get legislation passed on social or political or criminal issues that are consistent with their own values. And this just in; everybody does that. That's what government and self-rule is for. But when conservative Christians try to do it, it's somehow an "imposition" of their "religious views". I'm sure there's a number of KKK members who aren't all that thrilled with civil rights legislation, yet technically we've imposed those views on them, and for very good reasons. So the whole idea of decrying the imposing of views is really intellectual dishonesty. The Times, anytime they advocate for any law, does the same thing.

What right-wing Christian group bankroll politicians? Most I know are asking for money from the same funding sources as the Republican politicians. The organization at issue here, Family Research Council, doesn't fund politicians. It's engaged in battle with words, not dollars. Christian groups haven't "imposed" anything on "all Americans." I hope they've made their views known in the public square. The Republican politicians haven't done much of anything since November.

But nothing comes close to the shameful declaration of religious war by Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, over the selection of judges for federal courts.
Appearing on a telecast sponsored by a 501 C 3 organization with religious and political purposes to lobby for his position on the judicial appointment is a declaration of religious war? Oh please. It's Frist playing to his base, not exactly new in Washington. It is legitimate to ask whether the appointment of conservative judges is clearly important to Christian duty and concerns. Have the actions of liberal judges been un-Christian? Most evangelical Christians believe they have been. I think Frist does, too.
Senator Frist is to appear on a telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council, which styles itself a religious organization but is really just another Washington lobbying concern.
FRC is a lobbying concern run by Christians on behalf of Christian causes. There's no hidden agenda here.
The message is that the Democrats who oppose a tiny handful of President Bush's judicial nominations are conducting an assault "against people of faith."
Tiny? I think its 10 so far. And there will be more if something isn't done. Yes, unfortunately, there is no love lost between the Democrats and many people of faith. I think there is plenty of assaulting on both sides. The art of subtlety and common civility is lost on the ash heap of the last generation.
By that, Senator Frist and his allies do not mean people of all faiths, only those of their faith.
The same faith, by the way, that the Times won't be intellectually honest about. Frist ought to be given some slack, as this kind of double-standard is used against conservative Christians in a lot of areas, and this Times editorial is just the latest example. I'll agree that the term "people of faith" may be an overgeneralization, but there's nothing wrong with trying to point out when people who believe the same things you do are getting a raw deal. The fact that they're being held up because of concern that their religious views might show through is a de facto unconstitutional religious test, and worth bringing up. And even outside any views on any subject, since when do we have ideological litmus tests before confirming judges? (Answer: Since Democrats decided to do it.)

Where in the teachings of any major faith group do you find commendation of abortion on demand and same-sex marriage? Not Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. Maybe in the common faith groups-faith in faith, faith in self, faith in destiny, faith in money, faith in power. Yes, I think liberal judges have sullied people of faith.

It is one thing when private groups foment this kind of intolerance.
Huh? Arguing for conservative judges is fomenting intolerance?

The Times just had to find a way to use the word "intolerance" in a sentence here. And what's odd is that they're accusing Republicans of this, while the Democrats seem pretty intolerant of views they don't agree with, so much so that they're not giving these nominees the chance for an up-or-down vote. Who's intolerant?

It is another thing entirely when it's done by the highest-ranking member of the United States Senate, who swore on the Bible...
Heh heh...the irony is just dripping here. Why exactly did he swear on a Bible? Because our founding fathers were such "intolerant" guys?
...to uphold a Constitution that forbids the imposition of religious views on Americans.
...that, again, no one is trying to do. And remember, the Constitution says that our federal government may not have an established religion and thus not require a religious test for office-holders. Republicans are not trying to do anything like that. (Did anyone at the Times actually read the Constitution before writing that? Editors!) What Democrats are doing is trying to keep out those who hold religious views to seriously for their comfort. Again, that is the imposition.

I love this. The Times is citing the need for constitutional fidelity because of the Bible's use in an oath. How ironic. Of course this constitutional prohibition on imposition of religious views is creative but inaccurate. Pretty wild interpretation of the establishment clause.

Unfortunately, Senator Frist and his allies are willing to break down the rules to push through their agenda - in this case, by creating what the senator knows is a false connection between religion and the debate about judges.
Christians who have many judicial rulings contrary their beliefs see a very real connection.

Whether or not you believe that religion has anything to do with this issue, there are no rules being broken, and the <redundant>Democrats and the Times</redundant> both know that the filibuster rule is in fine health. Apparently, the difference between changing the rules and breaking the rules needs to be understood better by some folks.

Senator Frist and his backers want to take away the sole tool Democrats have for resisting the appointment of unqualified judges: the filibuster.
False, there is another tool: Elections. But, in order for that to work, you have to, you know, win them. Democrats have lost them recently, and this is the spoils of winning; choosing your judges.

And all these judges are "unqualified"? Without qualification, that term is also certainly false, unless the Times is again redefining words. In this case, "unqualified" means "don't agree with us".

Everyone knows this isn't about qualifications; it's about ideology. Nice try. (Another tool is to get a majority in the Senate).

This is not about a majority or even a significant number of Bush nominees; it's about a handful with fringe views or shaky qualifications.
10 nominees who were qualified by too conservative for the Democrats. I love when the liberals talk about the fringe. I guess when Democrats lose the White House, both Houses of Congress, and the majority of state houses, the fringe is really on the left, isn't it?
But Senator Frist is determined to get judges on the federal bench who are loyal to the Republican fringe and, he hopes, would accept a theocratic test on decisions.
The search for strict constructionists has become a theocratic test. Such wild rhetoric.

False. The only folks looking for a theocratic test are Democrats opposing these judges. If they really did expect these guys to give all their decisions a "theocratic test", then they really fouled this up. For example, William Pryor, who was being filibustered prior to his recess appointment, said he agreed that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was in the right with the 10 Commandments display in the Alabama Supreme Court building. Nevertheless, he followed the law as written and did his constitutional duty by having it removed. Does the Times think Pryor will employ a theocratic test? He's proven quite plainly that he won't. The Times is using an extremely broad brush on these folks, and if they're wrong about Pryor (and they are), chances are they're wrong about the others.

Senator Frist has an even bigger game in mind than the current nominees: the next appointments to the Supreme Court, which the Republican conservatives view as their best chance to outlaw abortion and impose their moral code on the country.
I think Frist is, indeed, thinking about the Supreme Court. Whose moral code is the court imposing on America now? The law is a moral teacher and, if you will, an imposer. It isn't as though only one ideology seeks to transmit its views.

Links? Sources? And what of moral code double-standards? If outlawing abortion would be the imposition of a moral code, then the legalization of abortion was the imposition of another moral code, or at the very least a values-free look at the death of children, which at the very least is an imposition on those children. Once again the Times is basically saying, "I just change the law, you impose your moral code".

We fully understand that a powerful branch of the Republican Party believes that the last election was won on "moral values."
We didn't say that first. The major networks, the pundits, and the polling experts did. They said moral values were a major factor in the election. Yes, we believed it.
Even if that were true, that's a far cry from voting for one religion to dominate the entire country. President Bush owes it to Americans to stand up and say so.
I haven't seen that particular piece of legislation. The Christian Domination of America bill.

Again I say, "Who's voting for a religion?" President Bush isn't asking for that, only for an up-or-down vote on judges. Bill Frist is complaining that the opposition to these nominees is primarily religious and he can actually point to this very editorial and prove his point in spades. This last line comes right out and says so; the Times believes that Democrats should be allowed to use a religious test on judicial nominees. That's unconstitutional, pure and simple, but the Times is all for it. And that's their definition of a "religious war" that they accuse Frist of starting. In reality it was the filibusters of these folks that called them on the carpet because of their religion. If there's a religious war going on here, it's one that the Democrats chose to invent and fight because, as the Times clearly says, they believe that a vote for these nominees is a vote to have one religion "dominate the entire country". This is a pathetic scare tactic.

Ultimately, this editorial really has the whole situation upside down and backwards, which is apparently how the Times views the world.

Posted by Jim at 02:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why WE Should Separate the Local Church and Politics

In their haste to smear Family Research Council’s Justice Sunday and Senator Frist’s involvement, the New York Times (about which I’ll say more later) and others in the MSM have not even recognized the most troubling part of the Justice Sunday telecast. The telecast will originate at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and will be simulcast in churches and other venues that sign-up for the satellite feed.

I am a politically active Christian and I encourage followers of Christ to engage the ideas of our time and the opportunities to make a difference in public and political arenas. However, my visits to my local church are for worship and deeply spiritual concerns. I would have no problem with the facility being used by a group to show a telecast such as the Justice Sunday program. The church building is used for a lot of activities outside of the core purposes of the church (such as voting). But I would not want it to be promoted by my local church or discussed from the pulpit.

This is not because it would be dangerous to the state (and Frist’s participation is not even close to being unconstitutional establishment of religion). But if places of worship become centers of political discourse they will lose their focus on the eternal and fall prey to political seduction. It is dangerous for the church.

On the other hand, we benefit from para-church organizations that are established with various purposes by Christians who take up political and any other causes of concern to people of Christian faith.

It is the church not the government that should fear when boundaries are crossed and politics invades the sanctuary of the sacred and seeks to purchase its soul.

Posted by Jim at 09:07 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 15, 2005

Play Golf on April 15 Next Year

If you are like millions of Americans, including me, you spent part of your day today completing your federal tax returns, either because of procrastination (my vice) or because you didn’t want to pay the money you owe Uncle Sam until the last possible minute.

At risk of being irritating by returning to a topic I've covered at least twice before: If Washington would pass the Fair Tax Bill introduced again by Congressman John Linder of Georgia (my Congressman, and a good one), us late filers could have spent our time differently today. And the responsible earlier filers would be spared the chore, as well.

We’d be spared the IRS, and a simpler and fairer tax would support the ravenous desires of the federal government.

World Net Daily filed an article on the Fair Tax yesterday, and you can read my earlier posts here and here.

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

Faith, Frist and Filibuster

A telecast on what is being called Justice Sunday will contend that opposition to judicial nominees by Senate Democrats is essentially opposition to faith and faith-based moral values.

Senate Majority Leader Frist has agreed to participate in the April 24 simulcast, which has the Democrats blustering.

Justice Sunday image.gif

The program is an effort to “connect the dots” for Christian conservatives who have not configured the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees as a battleground for faith.

(I for one had not been in favor of changing Senate rules on the filibuster, but announced in a post that I had changed my mind because of the demonstration of judicial arrogance during the Terri Schiavo case.)

The telecast is being sponsored by Family Research Council. FRC President Tony Perkins says in a website message:

"As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism. For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."

Senate Democrats aren’t opposed to all Christians. Just conservative Christians. On the other hand they’re not opposed to just Christian conservatives, but to conservatism in all of its forms.

While Frist’s decision to use the faith card is by no means the threat to the republic that Chuck Schumer and others claim, it is nonetheless a risky calculation. It may help focus the attention of Christian conservatives on the filibuster issue, but if the concentrated power of the Christian lobby is defeated here, it may embolden those who seek to discredit the newly realized power of the movement.

But it is worth the risk because of the damage being caused by activist and liberal judges.

Blog Action
Jeffrey King at Three Bad Fingers is trying to rally the blogosphere, given Senator McCain's jumping ship yesterday on the Constitutional Option and Senator Rick Santorum's indication that Republican momentum has been lost in resolving the filibuster impasse.

Jeffrey says:

“Many blogs are encouraging readers to email or call fence-sitting senators, to press for their positive vote in changing senate rules. While this is powerful in itself , I believe with proper coordination, the blogosphere is capable of much much more. Each call received or email sent currently ends up as a tally, presented to the contacted senator. I would like each email to be entered into the public domain, and centrally linked, creating public pressure never before seen.”

Go to ThreeBadFingers for more on Jeffrey’s call to arms.

Posted by Jim at 07:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 14, 2005

Another Pope Frontrunner

Every time I read an article on who will be the next Pope a different Cardinal is mentioned as the frontrunner. Many--such as the Neuhuas piece cited by Matt below--list Ratzinger.

Here's another interesting candidate, described in the Daily News.

Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi of Milan is the odds-on favorite of every bookmaker taking wagers on the next Pope.

A moral theologian who looks like Pope John XXIII and thinks like Pope John Paul II. . . . he is avuncular and charming. Tettamanzi has been able to bridge political chasms within the Vatican without making important enemies. He is popular with both conservatives and progressives.

At 71, he's old enough to make another 26-year papacy unlikely. He's the leading Italian in a year when many foresee the job returning to Italian hands.

And most importantly, he was a favorite of John Paul, is believed to have ghostwritten some of his encyclicals and would represent a smooth continuation of the late Pope's policies.

Posted by Jim at 07:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

Just Apologize, Dr. Dobson, and Move On

It may be too late, but if James Dobson would ask me what he should do (I’m actually in the business of giving this kind of advice to Christian leaders), I would recommend that he issue an apology now and not do any interviews on the judiciary for some time. He needs to let someone else take up that particular fight. He’s been disqualified for playing dirty.

I agree with my colleague Matt. Despite the fact that Dobson is angry at the judiciary, his statement comparing robed judges to the Klu Klux Klan is unbefitting an evangelical leader and anyone who is seeking change, not colorful headlines.

Since I’ve been in the Focus on the Family broadcast booth, I know how the program is taped and repeatedly edited. This was not a slip on live radio. He or someone working with him should have recognized how repulsive it is to equate judges and racist murderers. It could have easily been edited from the program, without diminishing its effectiveness.

It is absurd to suggest that it is beneficial for religious spokesmen to resort to over-the-top rhetoric to communicate passion and gain visibility.

As I said in a post earlier this year when Dobson played hardball,

Evangelicals are dissatisfied and impatient with the spiritual direction of the nation, as they should be. As Christians, we are called to preach, and bear witness, and pray, and work for change. But we must guard against the error of Abraham, who when impatient with progress on God’s promise of an heir, slept with Hagar, the handmaiden. We struggle with the sons of Ishmael today.

As Christians, we have responsibility to remain active in the political process. But cultural change will come from the inside, by the truth being spoken in love, by the transformation of hearts and minds. Our Christian leaders must resist the handmaiden of political seduction.

We gain not as Christians playing politics, but as politically engaged citizens living as Christians.

Apologize, Dr. Dobson, and get back to focusing on the. . .well, on the family.

Posted by Jim at 02:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 09, 2005

A Conservative Nation?

A big problem for Republicans, David Brooks contends in today's New York Times, is the conservatism of the American people. He suggests this may be at issue in the Terry Schiavo, social security, and Tom DeLay matters. But this isn't good news for the Democrats, who-- experiencing a collapse of credible ideas--are in a freefall.

A good Saturday read.

Posted by Jim at 07:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 08, 2005

The Backlash Mirage

A man journeying across the desert sands looking longingly toward the horizon for any sign of an oasis will often see one. It’s called a mirage. Chances are you’ve never seen one in the desert, but we all see mirages reported regularly in the MSM.

There was one in USA Today this week--a classic example of a reporter seeing a public opinion mirage. In this case, reporter Susan Page was looking longingly at a national poll for a trend away from a moral agenda.

The article begins:

WASHINGTON - The controversy over Terri Schiavo has raised concerns among many Americans about the moral agenda of the Republican Party and the power of conservative Christians, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds.

In the survey, most Americans disapprove of the efforts by President Bush and Congress to draw federal courts into the dispute over treatment of the brain-damaged Florida woman. She died last week.

The reporter quotes George Mason University professor Mark Rozell saying the Shiavo case created a “clear backlash.”

But the poll’s main finding was that the majority—55 percent—of Americans disapproved of Congress getting involved in the local Florida case. The question itself was loaded, asking if respondents thought that the Republicans are “trying to use the federal government to interfere with the private lives” of Americans. But even if the question was fairly worded, the sentiment that individuals are supporting is a limitation of the involvement of the federal government.

Does USA Today, or anyone, really believe that because Congressional Republicans were moved by the plight of one woman and took extraordinary action to try to save her life that they they’ve switch roles with the Democrats, and that they have become the party of large, intrusive government? You can accuse the Republicans of becoming more and more like the Democrats when it comes to increasing the size and scope of government. But it’s absurd to use one case to suggest the Democrats are now the states-rights advocates and the Republicans are the federalists.

I haven’t understood the polls on the Schiavo case, generally. Certainly the wording greatly influenced the responses. But somehow, probably as a result of the coverage of tghe MSM, the majority of Americans believed that Michael Schiavo was telling the truth about Terri’s wishes, and did not want government to go against the end-of-life preferences of an individual. I do not understand why most Americans (not to mention the trial judge) did not see the tragic conflict of interest that was created when Michael Schiavo took a common law wife and began a new family. That conflict negated his ability to be a credible arbiter of life and death.

In the Schiavo case we saw great political theater, desperate actions to save lives, judicial ineptitude at best and perhaps malfeasance, and heart-wrenching grief.

We did not see a backlash against the “moral agenda of the Republican Party.” That’s a mirage.

Posted by Jim at 08:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 07, 2005

Review Free Books

Stacy L. Harp has a new blog called Mind and Media where she invites bloggers to read and review books on the site. She is helping publishers with blog publicity and giving bloggers the opportunity to receive and review complimentary books. (h/t: Daddypundit).

Posted by Jim at 07:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Putting His Money Where His Bad Translation Is

John Brown, a born-again Christian and founder of Zion Oil & Gas of Dallas, is using his Bible as a guide to finding oil in the Holy Land, according to this account.

“Most blessed of sons be Asher. Let him be favored by his brothers and let him dip his foot in oil,” Brown quotes from Moses’s blessing to one of the 12 Tribes of Israel in Deuteronomy 33:24.

Standing next to a 177-foot derrick at Kibbutz Maanit in northern Israel, Brown said the passage indicated there is oil lying beneath the biblical territory of the Tribe of Asher, where the agricultural community is located.

Unfortunately, the best translations of this passage render the word “olive oil” (an ancient symbol of prosperity), not black crude.

Perhaps God will bless his good intentions and faithfulness anyway.

Posted by Jim at 06:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

China Still a Dangerous Place for Christians

Having visited Beijing twice in the last year and observed the emerging freedoms that the Chinese people are enjoying, particularly on the economic front, it is sobering to read of continuing religious persecution. Eric at Evangelical Underground relates news of the beating death of a Chinese Christian woman for distributing Christian literature.

Open trade with China is a great way for Christian influence to spread, since Communist officials now allow Westerners more and more freedom to interact with the people. But access and leverage must be used to assure more religious freedom and a crackdown on the persecution of Christians. .

Posted by Jim at 06:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 06, 2005

Total Truth: Christianity for All of Life

David Mobley at A Physicist's Perspective has a helpful review of Total Truth, a new book by my former Prison Fellowship colleague Nancy Pearcey, who was the founding editor of Breakpoint with Chuck Colson.

He writes:

The title "Total Truth" comes from the idea that the Bible, and the gospel, are the truth about all of life -- they're "Total Truth". However, Pearcey argues convincingly that much of society, and even the Christian world, thinks that religion and Christianity are exclusively personal issues, with no bearing on much of life. This results in something she calls a "two-story" view of truth: There are certain objective facts about reality which everyone must agree to (and these are often supposed to be determined by "science"), and then there's religion, which is a personal choice. Religion is an "upper story", added on to the "lower story" to which everyone must agree, so religion is "optional".

Later in the review, David adds:

One part I found especially interesting -- and which I'll discuss more in a subsequent post -- is how evangelicalism has influenced this two-story view. Particularly, Pearcey argues that, during the second Great Awakening after the Revolutionary War, the evangelical emphasis on a personal conversion experience combined with the idea of revolution and led to a rejection of authority, including church authority. Many involved in this downplayed doctrine, or even spoke against the teaching of doctrine. Thus expository teaching and preaching gave way to topical sermons on "felt needs" and preachers became performers, with stories and anecdotes. Revivalists had sort of a personality cult. Some even engaged in deliberate manipulation of emotions in an attempt to produce a conversion experience. This emotional intensity -- which often came at the expense of doctrine -- helped make it seem like Christianity is just an irrational, emotional belief. This further intensified the two-story split.

Pearcey is top-notch thinker and a very good writer. Sounds like a book worth reading.

Posted by Jim at 08:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2005

Satellite Radio’s Opening Day

A big difference in the media coverage of baseball’s opening day this year is its transmission on satellite radio over the XM network. XM signed a deal with Major League Baseball last October worth $650 million that enables the company to carry most regular and postseason games over the next several years.

For the young satellite radio industry, the baseball deal is another indication of viability. Rival Sirius Satellite Radio has a five-year, $500 million deal to bring Howard Stern on board in January 2006. Last year, Sirius also paid more than $220 million for the rights to broadcast all NFL games, adding to NBA and NHL (what’s that?) packages.

The satellite radio companies are pouring millions into their new ventures, and they are still swimming in red ink. But the new medium appears to be surging.

The New York Times reports today:

The announcement on Friday by XM Satellite Radio - the bigger of the two satellite radio companies - that it added more than 540,000 subscribers from January through March pushed the industry's customer total past five million after fewer than three and a half years of operation. Analysts call that remarkable growth for companies charging more than $100 annually for a product that has been free for 80 years. Total subscribers at XM and its competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio, will probably surpass eight million by the end of year, making satellite radio one of the fastest-growing technologies ever - faster, for example, than cellphones.

So if you want to listen to sports constantly or get your jollies from shock jocks like Howard Stern or Opie and Anthony, you’re all set. What else is happening here?

Actually, quite a lot. This is the first I’ve looked into the content available, and I’ll have to admit I’m impressed. There are many channels and a lot of variety. On XM, there are music channels of every kind, talk programs from the right and left. Sports galore. Christian music and talk. Several high octane programs. You pay more for access to the smut.

Check out the XM schedule.

There’s still the need to get the hardware, which it appears will set you back at least $150.

A big selling point for satellite radio is that is commercial-free. Your subscription of about $14 a month frees you from commercial overload.

One challenge for satellite radio is that there isn’t local programming, a problem for listeners who rely on the radio for local weather, traffic, and news. They’re making an effort to address this deficiency, but can only do so for major markets at this point.

The one thing I want to know before diving in is whether the reception is solid or spotty, particularly in bad weather. Lot’s of you are probably way ahead of me. How are you enjoying satellite radio so far?


Posted by Jim at 09:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 04, 2005

Death, Thou Shalt Die

As of this date the Person of the Year for 2005 is. . . the Grim Reaper. Death in 2005 is breaking news and the impetus for cultural debate. The judicial killing of Terri Schiavo inflamed the nation. The graceful death of Pope John Paul II showed the world the door to heaven.

Grim Reaper.jpg


Each in its own way focused on minds on death, reminding us of the death of others in our lives, and surely, the inevitability of our own death.

The American Tract Society saw this and released today a new tract that focused on death, and being ready for it. It begins:

Pope John Paul II, the beloved spiritual leader to more than 1 billion Catholics, has died “with the serenity of the saints.” His close friend, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was at the pope’s bedside as he died, declared, “We entrust with confidence to the risen Christ, Lord of life and history, our beloved John Paul II who for 27 years guided the universal church.”

Although millions will mourn his passing, the Bible reminds us that all of us will one day die. You could say that in God’s economy, death is a fact of life.

American Tract Society  Death.jpg

Because death is our personal reality, it is comforting to hear the words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). As the ATS site says: Death need not be a bitter end...it can be a bright dawning.

Or hear John Donne in Holy Sonnet X:

One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


Posted by Jim at 09:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spiritually Significant Films

Interesting list of the Top 100 Spiritually-Significant Films at the Arts and Faith website. The list includes every possible genre, from esoteric independent films (Au Hasard Balthazar, 1966; Babettes Gæstebud ("Babette's Feast"), 1987), to It’ a Wonderful Life, Life of Brian, and even Star Wars.

See what you think.

Posted by Jim at 06:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Bankruptcy Bill Built on a Myth

I don’t think I’d find many reasons to refer readers to BlackCommentator.com, but this article on the federal bankruptcy bill barreling through Congress resonates with a lot of what I discovered researching the bill for Christianity Today magazine. This bill is built on the myth that most people who file for bankruptcy are fleecing the system. It’s a myth spread by the credit card industry, which essentially bought this legislation in a brazen show of old-fashioned strong-arm lobbying.

This bill is yet to get through the House. Perhaps there is time to stop it, although most believe it is a done deal. This site has more on the bill and links to Dave Ramsey’s strong words on what he calls “the worst legislation to come out of Washington, D.C. in many years.” And that’s saying something.

Posted by Jim at 05:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 01, 2005

More on the Fairest Tax for America

The American Scene is enthusiastic about the Fair Tax, which we explored earlier. George Will has waxed eloquent in his support, and the Scene’s post includes many other links and good thoughts.

Posted by Jim at 05:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What Happens If the Pontiff Dies?

If the Pope dies, here’s what happens.

Sources say the selection of a new pope will be a wide-open contest.

MSNBC lists some of the favorites:

On the theory the cardinals may seek a transitional figure, one name that has emerged in Rome is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a German who heads the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He’s 77 and has proposed retiring several times to John Paul, but the pope has turned him down. Ratzinger is favored by those who want assurances the conservative policies of John Paul — opposition to contraception, women priests and any loosening of mandatory celibacy for priests — won’t be relaxed, according to a prelate who closely follows the succession maneuvers.

Another camp is touting Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who at 62 is seen as a dynamic churchman from Latin America.

Other prominent names mentioned include Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Vatican-based Nigerian; Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina; Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium; Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico; Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Austria and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy.


The Independent Online presents more possibilities:

John Allen, a Rome-based correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, argues that Pope John Paul II leaves behind "a more united world and a more divided church".

"John Paul II directed much of his energies towards the outside world rather than on the inner workings of the Church," Allen argues. "Under his pontificate, liberals and conservatives have found it increasingly difficult to talk to each other," he adds.

At the same time, demands for "collegiality" and "subsidiarity", two terms used to describe the need for lower-ranking clergy to be given a greater say in church government, are increasingly being voiced.

These could favour Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium, who is seen as a reformist who often campaigns for a greater spread of power within the Church.

According to the late Peter Hebblethwaite, author of a book aptly called The Next Pope, Danneels is "one of the few cardinals with vision and clear analysis". However, Hebblethwaite notes in his book, "he is not particularly inspiring" and is said to lack human warmth.

Although many believe the papacy should be returned to an Italian, Allen argues that the church no longer needs an "administrative pope". Instead, it needs a man capable of arousing interest in all corners of the world, particularly where converts are needed.

Giacomo Galeazzi, a Vatican expert in Rome, agrees.

"They won't elect an Italian because that would mean withdrawing to put the house in order at a time when there is a need for expansion," he argues.

Both Allen and Galeazzi believe, therefore, that the next pope could easily be a foreigner, even a non-European.

American candidates won't be in contention, Allen says, because the Vatican jealously guards its diplomatic independence, while an American pope would give rise to suspicion that he is being influenced by the United States.

Galeazzi notes that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there is even more need for a pope that comes from a developing country. He cites Asia, where political instability could favour the Church in the future, and Latin America, where the Church has been doing particularly well.

The name of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos features high up in his list of candidates.

Castrillon, who is in his 70s, is described by Hebblethwaite as being "mind-blowingly conservative on Church matters", but also "a man of courage".

He is known for helping the derelict and confronting corrupt coffee barons and policemen in his native Colombia. It is said that he once disguised himself as a milkman and visited drug baron Pablo Escobar to force him to confess his sins.

Castrillon currently heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, an influential body in charge of priests around the world.

His chances are also boosted by the fact that Latin Americans form one of the biggest blocks of voters at the next conclave.

Posted by Jim at 05:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ted Koppel and Bill McCartney

I’ve been in public relations for nearly three decades, and Ted Koppel, who is leaving Nightline, is the only anchor or reporter in the MSM who has ever opened the Scriptures for a discussion during my visit to a television green room.

The time was 1997, and I was accompanying Promise Keepers President Bill McCartney on media interviews in Washington, D.C. the day before Stand in the Gap. McCartney was about to tape a segment with Koppel for that night’s Nightline, when Koppel strode into the green room and greeted us warmly. He sat down and chatted with McCartney about the remarkable gathering of men, and asked him about the Scriptural basis for the event and the Promise Keepers movement, which McCartney provided. Then Koppel pulled out his copy of the Jewish Scriptures (would that be the Torah?) and said,”Llet me share with you what I was reading in the Scriptures today.” I don’t remember the reference; I think I was in shock that a network anchor was sharing from his daily devotional.

It hadn’t happened before, and hasn’t happened since. But that, together with his commencement address at Duke many years ago when he said that the Ten Commandments were not the Ten Suggestions, gave me a higher opinion of Koppel than other network news characters.

Posted by Jim at 04:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pope John Paul II, The Most Influential Individual of Our Time, May Be Near Death

Pope John Paul II is in very serious condition after he suffered a heart attack last night, and it appears he is near death. The Vatican's 6 a.m. statement reads:

"This morning the Holy Father's health situation is very serious. Yesterday afternoon, March 31, as already announced, following a diagnosed infection of the urinary tract, the Pope suffered septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse. The Holy Father is being treated in his private apartment by the Vatican's own medical team. The Pope also received all appropriate cardio-respiratory assistance. The pope himself asked to stay in the Vatican and to be treated by his medical team there.

The Pope is conscious, aware, and tranquil. He received the Sacrament of the Sick at 7:17 last night. At six this morning he concelebrated Mass."

Pope John Paul II is arguably the most powerful and influential spiritual, moral, and even political leader of our time, and together with Ronald Reagan the individual perhaps most responsible for the collapse of communism. He has been an unparalleled conservative force in the church and world. He may be the most important public figure in the last century.

It is difficult to imagine a pontiff of such intellectual, spiritual, and political expansiveness and strength succeeding him. Christians of all traditions should pray for this spiritual lion in winter, that he might continue to lead, in his words, “the great springtime of the human spirit.”

Posted by Jim at 08:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Remembering Terri Schiavo

Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri Schiavo's sister

"Terri is now with God and she's been released of all earthly burdens. After the recent years of neglect at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and care for her, she's finally at peace with God for eternity."

Randall Terry

"There will be to hell to pay.”

The Vatican

The Vatican issued a statement calling Ms. Schiavo's death a "violation of the sacred nature of life" that had "shocked consciences."

Jesse Jackson
"Worse - more violent and wrong--than the convicted's executions. This is not right."

President George W. Bush
"I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected -- especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life. I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected -- especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life."

Governor Jeb Bush

“After an extraordinarily difficult and tragic journey, Terri Schiavo is at rest. I remain convinced, however, that Terri’s death is a window through which we can see the many issues left unresolved in our families and in our society. For that, we can be thankful for all that the life of Terri Schiavo has taught us.”

Nat Hentoff, Village Voice

"I will be returning to the legacy of Terri Schiavo in the weeks ahead because there will certainly be long-term reverberations from this case and its fracturing of the rule of law in the Florida courts and then the federal courts—as well as the disgracefully ignorant coverage of the case by the great majority of the media, including such pillars of the trade as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, and the Los Angeles Times as they copied each other's misinformation, like Terri Schiavo being "in a persistent vegetative state."

Rudy Giuliani

"I think the right decision would have been to keep the feeding tube in, under the circumstances of the case.”

Hillary Clinton

Continuing to observe a two week-long, self-imposed gag order on the Schiavo case.

Tom DeLay
"We promised the Schindler family that we will not let Terri die in vain. There's a bill that the House passed two weeks ago sitting in the Senate -- the Senate could pick that bill up and pass it -- that deals with this issue on a general basis. We will look at an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary that thumbed their nose at Congress and the president. When given the jurisdiction to hear this case anew and look at all the facts and make a determination, they chose not to participate, contrary to what Congress and the president asked them to do. We will look into that."

James Dobson

"Every Florida and federal judge who failed to act to spare this precious woman from the torment she was forced to endure is guilty not only of judicial malfeasance -- but of the cold-blooded, cold-hearted extermination of an innocent human life. Terri Schiavo has been executed under the guise of law and 'mercy,' for being guilty of nothing more than the inability to speak for herself."

Bobby Welch, president of the Southern Baptist Convention

"America should be hanging its head in shame because of its complicity in the horrible death of Terri Schiavo, a woman’s whose body committed no crime. No matter what the laws of our land may say concerning euthanasia, and no matter that America slouches toward a culture of selfishness even in death, God is the ultimate authority over life and death."

Ken Connor, Center for a Just Society

“Our society abandoned Terri Schiavo and I believe that we will all suffer as a consequence," he told BP. As the poet John Donne said, ‘Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.’ We are all diminished by Terri’s death and all bear responsibility for what has happened to her. The character of any culture is judged by the way we treat the weakest and most vulnerable among us. It’s not judged by how we treat kings, princes and presidents or the rich and powerful; it’s easy to honor those.”

Mathew Staver, Liberty Counsel

"Terri’s life must not end in tragedy. She clung to life for 14 days without food and water. Her life struggle should be the catalyst for legislative reform. Terri Schiavo should make us all more sensitive and eager to protect human life from birth to natural death."

Posted by Jim at 07:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 31, 2005

Pope John Paul II Condition Worsening, news agency reports

Pope John Paul II is probably more gravely ill than the Vatican has said.

This just came across the wire from APcom, the Italian news agency.

22:13 PAPA/ CONDIZIONI DI GIOVANNI PAOLO II SI SONO MOLTO AGGRAVATE

BabelFish.com translation:
22:13 POPE CONDITIONS DI GIOVANNI PAUL II IS ITSELF MUCH AGGRAVATING

Fox News says the agency is reporting that the Pope's health is worsening, with concerns about the drop in his blood pressure.

UPDATE: Vatican reports at 3:55 that the Pope has a high fever as a result of a urinary infection.

Posted by Jim at 03:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Requiem for Terri

Heaven opens its doors this day for a soul in flight from its diminished body, a life cut off from its fullness years ago and cut short today because she could not ask otherwise and those assigned to guard her in her weakness grew weary of her unnecessary presence.

We cannot celebrate her passing, for although Terri’s spirit is eternally alive without tubes or tethers and--no longer an object of pity or revulsion--in the embrace of God, we mourn for those who wanted more time with their damaged kin and for a nation that would not rise above legal arrogance to give life another day. We mourn in shame.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine


Terry Schiavo.jpg


Posted by Jim at 10:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Generation M: More Multi-tasking Media

Young people are spending more time using computers, the Internet, and video games without reducing the time they spend with television, print, and music. Young people are able to fill increasing amounts of media content into the same amount of time each day because of "media multi-tasking," e.g. going online while watching television, according to the study. (Source)

This from a new study released earlier this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds.
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One area of concern raised by the study is that children's bedrooms are increasingly becoming "multi-media centers." Two-thirds of all 8-18 year olds have a television in their bedroom, and 49 percent have a video game player there. Fifty-four percent have a VCR or DVD player; 37 percent have cable or satellite television; 31 percent have a computer; and 20 percent have Internet access in their bedroom. The study shows that youth with a television in their bedroom spend almost 1 ½ hours more in a typical day watching television than those without a set in their room.

The study also finds that a majority of all 8-18 year olds say their parents have no rules about television watching. Forty-six percent indicated they do have rules, but only 20 percent say their parents enforce the rules "most" of the time.

Now if Gen M could do all of this and communicate with other human beings at the same time, we'd be getting somewhere.

Posted by Jim at 08:12 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Legislation to Protect Religious Freedom in the Workplace

There is good bi-partisan support for a reasonable bill introduced by an odd couple of northeastern Senators to require workplace accommodations for an employee’s religious practice or observance, such as time off and attire.

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) of 2005 was introduced in the Senate by Rick Santorum (R-PA), and John Kerry (D-MA). Similar legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Mark Souder (R-IN), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Bobby Jindal (R-LA), and Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

Santorum said:

“Throughout the ten years that I have been in the Senate, I have worked to raise the profile and importance of religious freedom, both domestic and international, including currently leading a working group to discuss these issues. “While most employers recognize the value of respecting religion in the workplace, sometimes employees are forced to choose between dedication to the principles of their faith and losing their job because their employers refuse to reasonably accommodate certain needs. We need to be respectful of people’s expression of faith in the workplace and in the public square. Senator Kerry and I hope that through this legislation we can find a balance for people who want to have their religious convictions respected at work and an employer who is trying to run a business.”

Kerry said at a press conference that he has been pushing the bill for almost a decade, since he was contacted by "two Catholic ladies who lost their jobs because they couldn't work on Christmas. No American should ever have to choose between keeping a job and keeping faith with their cherished religious beliefs and traditions.” (Source)

However, leave it to the ACLU and a homosexual lobby to find a problem with the WRFA.

Evidently, the ACLU sent an action alert to its members on June 9, implying that the Workplace Religious Freedom Act is an attempt designed to restrict access to abortions and to privilege harassment of homosexuals. (Source)

Christopher Labonte, legislative director at the Human Rights Campaign, said that though the bill was apparently created with good intentions, the way it is written could cause harm to gay people.

“The concern here is that employers would have serious difficulty resolving instances where an employee posts a sign reading ‘God hates fags’ in his office or cubicle; where workers proselytize on the ‘sins of the homosexual lifestyle’ over lunch and on breaks; where a social worker proffers a religious objection to being the case manager or counselor for a youth who is gay or transgender; or where a truck driver on 24-hour driving shift who gives a religious reason for refusing to drive with a co-driver who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”

More on the legislation from Family Research Council:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ' 2000e-2, prohibits employers with fifteen or more full-time employees from discriminating against an employee based upon that individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious belief or practice, unless such an accommodation would impose an "undue hardship" on the employer.

The "undue hardship" standard worked well until the Supreme Court ruling in TWA v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977). In Hardison, the Court ruled that requiring an employer to "bear more than a de minimis cost" in order to accommodate an employee's religious request constitutes an undue hardship on the employer's business. The Court specifically cited as the reason for its ruling Congress's failure to define "undue hardship" in Title VII.

Because the de minimis standard is exceptionally low, employers routinely and summarily deny requests and religious workers are left to deny their faith or lose their jobs. Many lawsuits asking for reasonable accommodations are unsuccessful.
The WRFA would restore the intent of Congress in Title VII by providing clear statutory guidance to those employers who wish to comply with the law but are unsure what level of deference the law requires. The WRFA is also good for business, as it is likely to significantly reduce employee lawsuits and any associated costs.

Case Examples:
· In 1999, Edward Pipkin, a truck driver, was forced to leave D. M. Bowmen, Inc., a Maryland trucking company, because he refused to compromise his Sabbath observance even though he had expressed his beliefs about Sunday work during his job interview and was assured that his beliefs would be accommodated.

· In 1999, California nurse Michelle Diaz was fired from the Riverside Neighborhood Health Center for refusing to distribute the "morning-after" pill based on her belief that dispensing the medication would be assisting with an abortion, a violation of her religious beliefs.

· In 1996, Kmart fired Karen Brauer, an Ohio pharmacist, for refusing to dispense Micronor, a birth-control pill. K-mart did so even though Ms. Brauer had informed them when she was hired in 1989 that, based on her religious beliefs, she would not do so.

· California's Department of Financial Institutions refused to allow an employee to hang a religious calendar in his work cubicle because the calendar was "inappropriate and offensive."

· A twenty-seven-year-old evangelical Christian filed suit against the Delaware State Police after being denied a position as a state trooper because a psychological screening test determined that he had strong religious beliefs.

· The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority has threatened to fire a Christian bus driver for wearing a head covering on her job based upon her religious beliefs.

The Rutherford Institute has issued a special report and 10-year overview of religious discrimination in the workplace. Specifically, the report calls for the passage of the proposed legislation.


Posted by Jim at 07:48 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

Old Man on A Feeding Tube: Extending Schiavo Ethics to the Pope

On the wire this morning comes the troubling news that Pope John Paul II is now being nourished through a feeding tube. Why in the world would we use the precious resources of the Church to artificially maintain an elderly prelate who has outlived his usefulness? My goodness, the aging bishop of Rome couldn’t even speak a blessing over the Romans on Easter. What good is he? Not just is he having trouble breathing and eating normally, which greatly restricts his effectiveness as Catholic leader, but his body is wracked with Parkinson’s Disease. And that isn’t going to be going away any time soon.

Let’s use some logic here. It’s time for a new Pope and there are quite a number in men in red prepared to step in. If there’s anyone who is ready to meet his Maker, it’s got to be this wonderful Pope who has served so long, so well. It’s practically a moral imperative for us to unplug him.

(jk)

Yes, that’s where the culture of death will take us!

Posted by Jim at 03:35 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Religious Right and The Reasonable People

Most contemporary references to the religious right are an attempt to tarnish today’s Christian conservatives with the unsavory image of those who awkwardly returned fundamentalism to political life 20 years ago. It became a pejorative term some time ago, and is used to discount the arguments of the newly powerful evangelical activists.

Unfortunately, when media are looking for conservative Christian voices, they often look not to the experts in a given field who are Christian conservatives, but to the tried and true voices of the right who will speak on anything (whether or not they have speak with an authority on the topic). The messages aren't that different, just the messengers and methodology.

The old voices of the religious right—Falwell, Robertson, and others—are joining the new voices of evangelicalism in the fight for Terri’s life. They are joined by people of all stripes who recognize the profound evil in starving a handicapped woman to death. Jesse Jackson is passionate on the subject. As Matt mentioned below, Ralph Nader of all people is aligned on the side of life.

The moral bankruptcy of the right-to-murder campaign cannot be hidden by the tired tactic of besmirching those lobbying for life with old labels like “the religious right.”

Jeff Jarvis ended his Easter post trashing people of faith who are passionate about saving Terri Schiavo’s life by separating them from himself and others who on Easter morning “go to church -- huge numbers of them who may not be devout in media terms and, in fact, go only once or twice a year. These are the reasonably religious, not the zealots, not the theocrats, just Americans.

Let’s see. Religious people who attended houses of worship a couple of times a year and aren’t passionate about human life. Neither hot nor cold. Jesus had a few things to say about them (Rev. 3:16).

Posted by Jim at 09:18 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

A Glimmer of Hope in Atlanta? Is It Too Late for Terri Schiavo?

[The Court of Appeals] will consider the request for a new hearing based on the facts of the case, rather than whether previous Florida court rulings have met legal standards under state law. (Source)

Why didn’t the 11th circuit consider this before? It is a new finding of fact, not cold rulings on points of law or jurisdiction, that the family and others have been looking for all along.

Posted by Jim at 05:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2005

Michael Schiavo Guility of Bigamy; The Court Ignores Marriage

Terri Schiavo moves ever so close to death. The only thing we don’t know about this right-to-murder case is the truth. We hear the hyperbolic screeches of Randall Terry and Michael Savage, we cringe at the calculation of Michael Schiavo, who may very well be an evil man, and we almost have to look away from the wishful thinking of Terri’s grieving family.

I believe the President and the Governor—and even the Congress—have done what they can under the law. It has failed. But to expect them to engage in civil disobedience and do for Terri by force what the courts have not down by law is to wish for a breakdown of constitutional rule that would be far worse than the tragic result we are about to endure.

The original and fundamental error made by the Florida court was to ignore the fact that marriage is a civil and spiritual relationship defined by law, by many faiths, and by 4,000 years of human history. There are reasons that it is solemn, sacred, and given rights and responsibilities. Two people in a marriage are expected to have special consideration for each other, their mutual interests are intertwined, and their common experiences are expected to create a future desire to provide and protect each other.

The marriage between Michael and Terri Schiavo has been over for some time. Perhaps not when Michael began seeing other women, but certainly when he established a common law marriage with another woman and started a family.

I should make it clear that I do not blame Michael Schiavo for moving forward with his life and settling down with another woman. That is understandable.

In most cases, there is no reason to formally divorce a spouse in this condition. But how could a judge grant the hangman’s power to a man who has in body and in spirit gone through a de facto divorce?

In Utah, by the way, Michael Schiavo would be charged with bigamy. And in Florida, he could be charged with Openly Living in Adultery. (h/t): A Soft Answer.

When the Florida court ignored the responsibilities of marriage, it seems now, Terri’s fate was sealed.
--------------

From Release the Hounds:

Here is something that troubles me deeply about the Terri Schiavo situation. I have heard more than once from the proponents of simply killing her...pardon, letting her die...that withholding food and water would not result in a painful death but rather would allow her to peacefully "slip away.'

Why then is she being administered morphine when nurses noticed Terri Schiavo was "moaning and grimacing"?


Posted by Jim at 03:12 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

Faith and Decisions

Questions of innocence and guilt and life and death are moral judgments. On what shall jurors derive their morality, if not on their own faith and values.

In an interview Christianity Today editor Stan Guthrie did with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the senator said:

"The idea that we cast aside our faith and don't replace it with something else to influence your worldview is ridiculous. If you don't have faith, you replace it, I assume, with some secular concepts, or with some other belief system, which goes unidentified. I think that really is—I won't say dishonest, but I think it certainly lacks intellectual honesty to say that by removing your faith as a component of how you conduct yourself that you somehow can do so neutrally. You don't. You just do so with another worldview or another set of values that come from another source."

Posted by Jim at 02:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Argument for Bible Memorization

Just when we think the courts can’t get any more absurd, along comes this case from the Colorado Supreme Court.

“In a sharply divided ruling (3-2), Colorado's highest court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision throwing out the sentence of a man who was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict. The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a ‘higher authority.’”

In the decision on Monday, the dissenting judges said the majority had confused the internal codes of right and wrong that juries are expected to possess in such weighty moral matters with the outside influences that are always to be avoided, like newspaper articles or television programs about the case. The jurors consulted Bibles, the minority said, not to look for facts or alternative legal interpretations, but for wisdom.

"The biblical passages the jurors discussed constituted either a part of the jurors' moral and religious precepts or their general knowledge, and thus were relevant to their court-sanctioned moral assessment," the minority wrote.

Would it matter to these three Colorado judges if the jurors had the Bible verses memorized, rather than consulting the written text?

Good fodder for the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the last couple of weeks maybe I’ll change my vote on whether to use the nuclear option to make judicial appointments filibuster proof. There are just too many judges outside the mainstream of American justice and out of touch with ancient wisdom.

Posted by Jim at 02:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Black and Asian Women Earning More Than White Women

I’m going to recommend that my wife file a lawsuit, or stage a protest, or write a scathing article about the terrible inequity she and others like her are suffering.

Last week, the Census Bureau released data that showed that black and Asian women with bachelor's degrees earn slightly more than similarly educated white women. A white woman with a bachelor's degree typically earned nearly $37,800 in 2003, compared with $41,100 for a college-educated black woman and nearly $43,700 for a college-educated Asian woman. Hispanic women took home slightly less, at $37,600 a year.

You can practically hear the hand wringing by liberal groups that can’t quite explain how this has happened.

Notions that black women are struggling financially as much other groups are should not be dismissed, said Barbara Gault, research director of the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

We’ve reached equity in this area, and exceeded it. The advocacy groups will need to whine about something else.

Of course white men with four-year degrees still make more than anyone else. So sue me.

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March 28, 2005

I Know That My Redeemer Lives


“I’m guilty.”
“Lord Jesus, you are innocent.”
“Remember me.”

These are the simple words of a sinner who faced his own guilt, recognized a holy God, and asked for help. They are the words of the repentant thief on the cross next to Jesus. The appeal of Easter for all of us is that in the only passage where an individual is actually promised a place in heaven, Jesus responds: “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” This promise is valid only because the man on the middle cross rose from the dead and defeated death. Jesus died on Friday and death died on Sunday.

I’ve spent many an Easter weekend over the last 20 years in prison. No, not as an inmate, but as part of a Christian ministry, accompanying Chuck Colson. We journeyed into the tombs of our society on the weekend each year that holds great meaning to those men and women behind bars who have come to know the One who promised paradise to the criminal who called on him.

Because society has issued sentences of condemnation to those in prison, their sin is publicly declared. With that help, many inmates genuinely see their need for a redeemer. It’s something many of us on the outside have a harder time admitting. As we complete another Easter weekend, it’s a recognition that can break chains far stronger than prison bars.

Posted by Jim at 12:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2005

The Greatest Threat to Marriage

When I said in a post on Evangelical First Things in Public Life that homosexual unions were not the greatest threat to marriage, I was called “soft” on the issue of same-sex marriages. This made me laugh out loud, because I’m not and because it was probably written by someone has never been married or hasn’t had a serious martial problem (yet).

The greatest threat to the institution of marriage is bad marriages and the decisions and choices that make them bad.

One of my longtime friends, Nancy C. Anderson, is dispensing advice to people in troubled marriages in her book Avoiding the “Greener Grass” Syndrome How to Grow Affair-Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage and at crosswalk.com.

She writes in a recent column:


“If you're struggling in your relationship and feel like you've grown apart from your spouse, today can be the day of new beginnings. I know how lonely, desperate, and exhausted you may feel, because I've felt that way. I was in a marriage full of emptiness. Ron and I were both selfish, angry, and critical; but we aren't anymore. Well . . . I'm still a little selfish, but mostly our lives are full of light and love -- and yours can be too. We admitted our faults, ask for forgiveness, changed our behavior and decided to love each other. Our feelings eventually caught up with our actions and we slowly grew a lovely "green grass" marriage in own backyard”

Joe at Evangelical Outpost has a good post on the dangers to marriage. He writes:

"Social conservatives spend an inordinate amount of hand-wringing over the threat to traditional marriage posed by the legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Gay marriage is, of course, a legitimate concern. But it would take an army of homosexual rights activists several decades to do as much damage to the sacred institution as heterosexuals have done by tolerating no-fault divorce and the repeal of common law marriage. The looming threat pales in comparison to the present danger of destructive marriage laws which have, for at least one young woman, literally become a matter of life and death."


Posted by Jim at 08:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sharpton Criticizes Rap Violence

Good for Al Sharpton. He’s not one of our favorite politicians or reverends, but he deserves credit for taking on violence in the hip hop culture and the radio stations that support it.

Sharpton asked the Federal Communications Commission yesterday to punish artists and radio stations connected with violent acts. After meeting with FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and two other commissioners, Sharpton said artists connected to such acts should be denied airplay on radio and television for 90 days, he told reporters. He also urged the agency to fine and review the licenses of radio stations "that encourage a pattern of this, including allowing employees to do on-the-air inciting of violence." (Source)

It will take individuals such as Sharpton to bring change in this area. It’s leadership that should be noticed and applauded.

Posted by Jim at 07:54 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Jeb Bush Rising; Randall Terry Sinking

Evidently the authenticity of Jeb Bush’s fight for Terri Schiavo is raising his stock in Florida and throughout the country. Although there is criticism of politicians who appear to be using the crisis for their political gain, The New York Times reports today:

"The Florida governor's emergence as the most prominent politician still fighting, despite a string of court and legislative defeats, to have a feeding tube reinserted in Ms. Schiavo was very much in keeping with someone who has repeatedly declared a deep religious faith.

Several associates noted that he had been devoutly religious longer than President Bush, and even critics said his efforts - prodding the Florida Legislature and the courts and defying much of the electorate - were rooted in a deep-seated opposition to abortion and euthanasia rather than in political positioning.

Yet inevitably, the events of recent days have fed the mystique of Mr. Bush as a reluctant inheritor of perhaps America's most famous dynasty since the Adams family two centuries ago."

This in contrast to the rantings of Randall Terry about Jeb “blinking,” and not doing enough. I find the Schindlers to be wonderfully sincere and incredibly sympathetic characters, but they made a terrible decision naming Terry as their spokesperson. He has been a disaster for the pro-life movement throughout the years, and is the wrong voice for this case and any other when we need measured reason and effective discourse.

Posted by Jim at 07:37 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Seeking Parental Consent for Homosexual Clubs

This item here in Georgia: A proposal being considered by the Georgia Board of Education would require high school students to obtain parental permission before joining homosexual-affirming clubs at school. State Superintendent Kathy Cox is asking the Georgia Board of Education to adopt a policy that would require all students to obtain parental permission before joining an extracurricular club.

A supportive state senator said: “We just felt that this is an issue that the parents need to be fully informed about. If they're going to have to give permission for their student to take an aspirin in school, then I feel like they ought to be asked permission for their students to join a club such as this."

Posted by Jim at 07:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Can I Help Terri Schiavo?

We received a plaintiff email from Sarah in Tuscon asking: “How do I protest for Terri Schiavo in my area?” I know individuals throughout the nation feel powerless as every effort to save Terri’s life is turned aside.

Honestly, the best thing you can do today is pray that God will intervene in the affairs of man and deliver Terri from evil.

Continue to rattle the sabers of truth: write and call media and your elected representatives, telling them that you do not want Terri to be starved to death.

But regardless of whether Terri is spared, the work has just begun. Here are a few suggestions on what you should do in honor of Terri and all those who cannot protect their own lives:

1. Call for and support conservative candidates for judicial appointments.

2. Work for a return to a balance of power through a reduction in the strength of the judiciary. Mark Levin’s new book Men in Black has a number of good ideas on this.

3. Support legislation in your state that would require a living will to remove life support and a preference for life if one is not found.

4. Support politicians who worked to save Terri Schiavo, particularly if there actions reflect a consistent ethic of life.

Posted by Jim at 07:21 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 24, 2005

Write Your Own Headline Here

A gay and nudist cruise was barred from stopping at the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis on Wednesday after authorities said the group would offend local customs.

"We don't want it to be a part of our culture," said acting general manager of the Nevis port authority, Oral Brandy. "It's not a practice society likes here."

Here's the whole story.

Posted by Jim at 03:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Congressional Action On Behalf of Another Daughter: The Elizabeth Morgan Case

It was amazing political high drama when the lights of the Capitol were on past midnight Sunday for the Congress to pass a bill and the President returned to Washington to sign it at 2 a.m., allowing the federal courts to consider the Schiavo case.

It was extraordinary for the Congress of the United States to turn its attention to one individual and to act with dispatch to right what it sees as a wrong in a case replete with hot emotion and an endangered daughter.

Extraordinary, yes; but not unprecedented. I know because I was involved in just such an action in 1989: the Elizabeth Morgan case.

I was working at the time as chief of staff for Chuck Colson at Prison Fellowship Ministries. Our staff working at the District of Columbia jail had met a woman there who stood out in a number of ways. Dr. Elizabeth Morgan was a tall, white, affluent plastic surgeon from northwest DC in a jail full of almost entirely poor black women from east of the river.

She was already a heroine in the jail. She has been there for nearly two years for contempt of court because she refused to allow her six-year-old daughter to go on court-ordered overnight visits to her ex-husband. She accused her husband of sexual abuse of the child, hidden the child, and went to jail rather than tell the court where the child was.

The imprisoned women, the large majority of whom had been abused (you find this in most women’s prisons in the country), loved Morgan for her courage in protecting her daughter from abuse.

Judge Dixon of the District court could not be persuaded that Morgan’s ex-husband, Virginia oral surgeon Eric Foretich, had been abusive. He would not budge, he cited Morgan for contempt, sent her to jail—and left her there.

When Morgan and this case came to our attention, we were amazed by her fortitude and by length of time an unconvicted individual had spent in prison. When we studied the evidence, it, and the witness of Morgan’s action, persuaded us that there had been sexual abuse.

Colson wrote an article calling for Morgan’s release, for which he was condemned and praised. Interestingly, it was our natural allies, the conservative Christians, who were outraged, and our usual adversaries, the liberals and women’s rights activists, who were supportive.

(Both Morgan and Foretich were professed Christians, but he was of the more conservative variety and a member of a prominent northern Virginia evangelical church).

We began lobbying our conservative Christian brethren. I went to visit with James Dobson and presented our large file of evidence. He agreed to have Colson on the Focus on the Family radio program. Our campaign picked up steam.

At the same time, we talked with our local Virginia congressman, Frank Wolf, about the case, as well as a few Senators. I remember one strategic lunch in the Senate Dining Room with a Senator from Tennessee, whose influence was necessary to create and move a piece of legislation to free Dr. Morgan.

Within a couple of months, our efforts were successful. The U.S. Congress passed a bill specifically for the release of Dr. Elizabeth Morgan. She was freed from prison after serving the longest detention for civil contempt in American history--25 months.

In February 1990, the daughter was discovered living in New Zealand with her maternal grandparents. A New Zealand court gave Morgan sole custody, but the visitation requirement by the U.S. court remained in effect, meaning that if Morgan returned to America with her daughter she would have stillto allow her ex-husband to see their daughter. That wasn’t going to happen. Morgan remained in New Zealand with her daughter.

In 2003, a federal appeals court ruled that the law passed by Congress to help the mother was unconstitutional because it applied to one person.

By that time, the daughter was 21 and safe from the harm that a mother spent two years in jail to protect her from.

In a previous shining moment, repeated last weekend in an effort to save the life of another endangered daughter, Congress saw an individual’s rights as more important than the rights of a state.

In the case of Terry Schiavo, Congressional heroics were not enough to move a stubborn judiciary. Sixteen years ago, with a different set of circumstances but a similar motivation, it worked.

Posted by Jim at 06:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Moral Bankruptcy and the Failure of the Family Movement

There aren’t too many people in America who are unaware of aggressive marketing by credit card companies. Count the envelopes arriving each week selling new cards and pushing attractive new deals. The effort to entice new customers is not limited to those with good credit. Individuals and families struggling to make ends meet are primary targets. You don’t have to have a job; in fact you don’t even have to be out of college to be courted by the credit card marketers.

The availability of easy credit at a high cost has contributed markedly to the bankruptcy crisis in America. The marketing by the banking industry, the irresponsibility of their disbursal of credit, their usury, and their exorbitant fees and constant penalties is obscene.

For eight years the banking industry has lobbied Congress to have bankruptcy rights curbed. Now, they are celebrating success after pushing through the Senate legislation that will make it much more difficult for individuals to file for bankruptcy. All parties agree that the bill is virtually assured House passage and the President’s signature.

Although it doesn’t appear that the banking lobby has simply purchased votes (see this NRO article), it has been successful in returning the stigma, the guilty whispers, and the image of the unsavory bankrupt fool. The purveyors of obscene credit have accomplished this while successfully taking on the victim’s cloak. As a result, hundreds of thousands of families will not achieve federal protection from their creditors.

At issue: Whether these families are themselves victims of the credit card companies, medical misfortune, and other calamities or financial predators with no one to blame but themselves.

I’ve talked to people on both sides of the issue in preparing a short article for the next edition of Christianity Today. The bankruptcy debate illustrates the clash between competing Christian values: holding individuals responsible for their actions versus granting them a fresh start.

Most alarming in my research is that the Christian groups that make it their business to be a voice for the evangelical community in Washington—particularly on issues that effect the family—appear disinterested or incapable of action on issues other than the sanctity of life or sexual preference.

Groups such as Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America, and Focus on the Family rose to the occasion to on the Schumer amendment to the bankruptcy bill and successfully defeated this effort to punish abortion protesters (perhaps a few hundred?)

But with that accomplished, it was virtually impossible to get reactions from these groups on the massive bankruptcy bill, which will impact hundreds of thousands of a families each year. [I couldn’t get a substantive comment either way from these organizations].

One group, perhaps the leading Christian financial group in the nation (that would not speak on the record), was opposed to the bill because, it said, it considered bankruptcy to be a bad choice for Christian families.

(That’s like being opposed to pregnancy crisis centers because you are against teenage pregnancy).

The heightened rhetoric on both sides masks the truth of who is benefiting from bankruptcy protection. What’s clear is that the enormous promotional effort of the banking industry has demonized those who file for bankruptcy. And the Christian family lobby was absent from the debate on 2005 legislation that may have more impact on the American family than any other.

Posted by Jim at 07:06 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 19, 2005

Schiavo Drama: Florida Justice in a Persistent Vegetative State

Business and family affairs converge this weekend near Tampa, Florida, where I’m listening and watching local and national coverage of the Terri Schiavo case. Here are some impressions and thoughts:

--Pinellas County Circuit Judge George W. Greer has chosen to disregard a Congressional subpoena for Terri Schiavo and ordered the feeding tube removed. What power, Congress? Greer has decided that the Congressional motion is trumped by his own court. How is this not contempt of Congress? Couldn’t federal marshals enforce the order that there be no tampering with a federal witness? Or perhaps the marshals could apprehend the state judge.

--Why are the liberals and Democrats against allowing this horribly damaged life being allowed to continue? How does the culture of death align with their political agenda?

--Activists have gathered at the hospice where Terri lives to express their views as the vigil becomes a death watch, and the legal and legislative wrangling becomes more desperate.

--The President issued a statement acknowledging the complexity of the case, but urging that error be made on the side of life.

--The New York Times editorializes: “We can only lament the Republicans' theatrical effort to expand their so-called pro-life agenda to include intervening in a case already studied and litigated exhaustively under Florida law. Congress's rash assumption of judicial power and trampling on established state and federal constitutional precedents in "right to die" cases is nothing short of breathtaking.”

--The Washington Post editorializes: “With Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube scheduled to be removed today, Congress sprang into action to pass legislation granting the federal courts the power to review the state court judgments that would let her die. (The Florida legislature is, for the second time, also acting to force her to continue living.)” (Italics mine)

More language of the culture of death.

--Many of us have had informal discussions with our spouses about not being kept alive if we’re incapacitated terribly, being kept alive on life support, or in a vegetative state. I suspect that’s the kind of discussion Terri and Michael Schiavo had. That’s clearly not good enough. It’s time to do a living will.

--The news the last few days, both here in Florida and nationally, has been dominated by news of two tragic individuals—Terri Schiavo and 9-year-old Jessica Landsford, the victim of a twisted sexual predator who confessed to stealing the little girl from her home and murdering her.

--Tampa radio host Schmidt reflects on the irony that Republican conservatives are going against the grain of their ideology of states rights in their federalizing of the Schiavo case.

--Atlanta-based syndicated radio guy Neal Boortz, who is on a station in the Tampa market, rides that point hard and is pretty ugly in his criticism of the Republicans and the pro-life activists trying to keep Terri alive. This strident libertarianism is rankling and in this case seems anti-individual and anti-freedom, rather than on the side of liberty.

--Interesting that the television stations now have, in addition to the gape-mouthed footage of Terri, a new set of photos from before her heart attack and brain damage. She was a beautiful young woman then, and it seems to garner more sympathy to have this more glamorous view. What quality of life and physical beauty do we require in order to care for those who can’t care for themselves?

There is sure to be more legal and legislative action both here in Florida and in Washington in the few days left before Terri would starve to death if nothing is done. Clearly justice is in a persistent vegetative state here in Florida, where judges were the pawns of Al Gore in the 2000 election, the allies of Fidel Castro in the Elian Gonzales travesty, and now the agents of death for the severely impaired.

Posted by Jim at 06:20 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

Deeper Issues of the Heart: Center for Christian Statesmanship

We spent the early part of this week in Washington, D.C., learning about one of the most effective Christian activities in the Nation’s Capitol. It has nothing to do with legislation, homeland security, or judicial activism.

Members of Congress and their staff can regularly be found stepping away from their work to meet in small group Bible studies being led by robust believers who are part of an organization called the Center for Christian Statesmanship.

The Center conducts more Bible studies on Capitol Hill than anyone else.

In the shadow of the Capitol dome, these studies focus on spiritual development, not public policy. The hardened partisans that dominate life inside the Beltway can’t accept that any group would consider matters of the soul as more important than matters of the legislative chamber. As a result, skepticism about the Center’s motives endures despite nearly ten years of devotional faithfulness.

The ministries of the Center, which is affiliated with D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, are described at www.statesman.org.

During a week of Congressional nonsense on social security, bankruptcy, and baseball’s steroid abuse, its good to know that there’s solid work being done on the deeper issues of the heart.

Posted by Jim at 09:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005

Trade Has Been the Trojan Horse for the Gospel in China

The discussion that my blogger-in-law Doug at Considerettes has with Bill Bennett on Homespun Bloggers Radio program #6 about his concerns that engaging China in the world economy will keep us from holding them accountable for their human rights record reminds me of my secret project to keep China open to trade.

Several years ago, when Congress voted each year on whether to maintain China’s Most Favored Nation trade status, I took on a public relations project that served the cross purposes of Christians ministering in China and the U.S. business community. Hired by individuals whose identity remains secret to this day (I’ll reveal them when they die), we worked to target key congressman with the message that keeping China open to trade also kept open the channel through which the Gospel was being delivered. Business was—-and is—-a Trojan Horse for the Gospel in China.

We created the Association of Christian Ministries in China, which was comprised of a group of U.S. missionary-sending organizations working in China. Many of these organizations had to remain anonymous. But the ACMC was real and the organizations wanted trade to remain robust and China to remain a Most Favored Nation.

With so many anonymous partners, this campaign drove the media crazy and infuriated other Christian leaders who were opposed to MFN status for China.

Today, we need to keep the pressure on China’s human rights performance. But we can best do that as we engage them in business. However, we have to step through these open doors and seek more freedoms for the Chinese people. Otherwise, we’re just stuck with all the cheap Chinese products in our stores, with no impact on the faith and freedom in China.

Posted by Jim at 08:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Like a Laser Beam: Townes Wins Templeton Prize for Religion

Scientist Charles Townes, the Nobel laureate whose inventions include the maser and laser and who has spent decades as a leading advocate for the convergence of science and religion, has won the 2005 Templeton Prize.

Awarded by the Templeton Foundation, “the Prize is intended to help people see the infinity of the Universal Spirit still creating the galaxies and all living things and the variety of ways in which the Creator is revealing himself to in which the Creator is revealing himself to different people. We hope all religions may become more dynamic and inspirational.”

Sir John Templeton, for many years a Presbyterian is now, well, an Everythingian. But the award goes to some interesting people, including in past years Mother Teresa, Alexandr Solzenitsyn, Billy Graham, and Chuck Colson.

Religion News Service reports on this year’s award:

Townes, 89, secured his place in the pantheon of great 20th-century scientists through his investigations into the properties of microwaves which resulted first in the maser, a device which amplifies electromagnetic waves, and later his co-invention of the laser, which amplifies and directs light waves into parallel direct beams. His research, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964, opened the door for an astonishing array of inventions and discoveries now in common use throughout the world in medicine, telecommunications, electronics, computers, and other areas. It was the 1966 publication of his seminal article, "The Convergence of Science and Religion" in the IBM journal THINK, however, that established Townes as a unique voice - especially among scientists - that sought commonality between the two disciplines. Long before the concept of a relationship between scientific and theological inquiry became an accepted arena of investigation, his nonconformist viewpoint jumpstarted a movement that until then few had considered and even fewer comprehended. So rare was such a viewpoint at the time that Townes admitted in the paper that his position would be considered by many in both camps to be "extreme."

Nonetheless, he proposed, "their differences are largely superficial,
and...the two become almost indistinguishable if we look at the real nature of each."

The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about
Spiritual Realities was founded in 1972 by pioneering global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. Given each year to a living person to encourage and honor those who advance knowledge in spiritual matters and valued at 795,000 pounds sterling, the Templeton Prize is the world's best known religion prize and the largest annual monetary prize given to an individual. The prize's monetary value is in keeping with Sir John's stipulation that it always be worth more than the Nobel Prizes to underscore his belief that research and advances in spiritual discoveries can be
quantifiably more significant than those recognized by the Nobels.

Posted by Jim at 07:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

Since the MSM Can’t Beat the Evangelicals, It is Refocusing Its Spotlight on Their Greens and Blues

It’s taken a few months for the mainstream media to figure out just how to deal with the extreme makeover that seems to have left evangelicals muscle-bound and primed for battle.

But now there is an emerging MSM strategy for neutralizing the evangelical impact on American politics. While not abandoning the stratégie de guerre of featuring old-line fundamentalists and evangelical firebrands in an unflattering and embarrassing light, there’s a new plan.

Find the evangelicals that are espousing liberal positions and position them in a radiant glow.

How else do you explain the media fascination with Jim Wallis, a barnacled vessel of 70’s evangelical liberalism? Wallis is everywhere and his book God’s Politics is the new holy grail of the MSM.

Now today, The New York Times is painting the Christians green.

“A core group of influential evangelical leaders has put its considerable political power behind a cause that has barely registered on the evangelical agenda, fighting global warming,” the Times gushes.

The Washington Post leads a similar article

with a quote from a Washington-area pastor:

Such "creation care" should be at the heart of evangelical life, along with condemning abortion, protecting family and loving Jesus. He uses the term "creation care" because, he says, it does not annoy conservative Christians for whom the word "environmentalism" connotes liberals, secularists and Democrats.

I am in favor of expanding public understanding of the concerns of evangelicals beyond the hot-button issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. Some of Wallis’ cautions are worth considering and I agree that care of God’s creation is a valid Christian concern.

But isn’t it interesting that the most prominent and positive glow surrounding 2005 evangelicals features issues the MSM know and love. As evangelicals reach into the liberal pockets and pick up issues of legitimate concern to them, it is those who lean left that are getting the spotlight.

Since the MSM doesn’t like the entire painting on the evangelical canvas, it will shine its spotlight on the greens and blues.

Posted by Jim at 03:16 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 09, 2005

Christian Positions on Bankruptcy?

I'm working on a news story this week for Christianity Today on the bankruptcy bill that is making its way through Congress.

I am interested in the major Christian positions for and against the bill, which makes it more difficult for individuals to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The political positions:

The bill keeps the courthouse door open, but also holds people accountable for their debts," said Laura Fisher, spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association. "It eliminates some abuse in the system."

But critics point out that the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 -- which could get a final vote in the U.S. Senate this week -- is not intended to protect lower-end economic groups either.

What about the biblical positions?

What say ye, blogosphere?

Posted by Jim at 05:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Your Turn: How to Persuade Bill Maher that Jesus is Not an Imaginary Friend

OK, I’ve said enough. And this might be old news to many people. But after yesterday’s post I’m more interested in what Maher has said. Just read this and let’s come up with a cogent evangelism strategy for Bill Maher. I think his comments are extremely harmful, not to me, but to seekers.

Posted by Jim at 01:05 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Internet Is Growing Source of Political News; Citing the Blog Elite

A new Pew Center study found that the use of the Internet to get information during the 2004 campaign increased six-fold--to 18%--from 1996. TV rose to 78% and newspapers declined to 39%.

The author of the study, Lee Rainie, said:

Blogs "are having a modest level of impact on the voter side and probably a more dramatic impact on the institutional side. Blogs are still a realm where very, very active and pretty elite, both technologically oriented people and politically oriented people go."

Posted by Jim at 06:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

Bill Maher is an Idiot

Bill Maher is an idiot and is on his way to hell.

[UPDATE: Some have asked what I was thinking using the word "idiot," given Jesus's caution on anger in Matthew 5. I was trying to use the extravagant tone that is so common to Maher as a way of diminishing his remarks. As for the word itself, I'm meaning more "raca" (HCSB suggests that's something like "airhead") than "moron," if I have my choice between the Mt. 5:22 words. Most important, I'm not angry at Maher. I pity him because he is so caught up in his own rage that he is refusing the embrace of God. And as I've said in the comments below, while I believe Maher is on his way to hell, I certainly hope he doesn't end up there. While I'm sure he'd resist the overtures of the church, I pray that the hound of heaven will hunt him down.--JJ]

Now, on to the story. Maher, the former host of "Politically Incorrect," said on MSNBC in late February that Christians and others who are religious suffer from a neurological disorder that "stops people from thinking."

Maher said:

"We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder. If you look at it logically, it's something that was drilled into your head when you were a small child. It certainly was drilled into mine at that age. And you really can't be responsible when you are a kid for what adults put into your head."

More Maher quotes:

"When you look at beliefs in such things as, do you go to heaven, is there a devil, we have more in common with Turkey and Iran and Syria than we do with European nations and Canada and nations that, yes, I would consider more enlightened than us."

"When people say to me, 'You hate America,' I don't hate America. I love America. I am just embarrassed that it has been taken over by people like evangelicals, by people who do not believe in science and rationality. It is the 21st century. And I will tell you, my friend. The future does not belong to the evangelicals. The future does not belong to religion."

That’s all outrageous and melodramatic, Mr. Maher. You can make fun of people and deride beliefs different than your own. Very funny.

But can we talk about that future thing? I don’t believe you’ve made the right Wager.

Posted by Jim at 07:04 AM | Comments (30) | TrackBack

Is this a good idea? A school for the bullied and harassed.

Rather than dealing with peer and faculty harassment in Milwaukee high schools, school officials in Milwaukee will move victims to a school for the harassed.

The Alliance School, a charter high school that will focus on students who feel discriminated against or bullied, will open in August.

Report from the Milwaukee Sentinel:

“That might be a Goth student, a painfully shy student or a gay one. All three have enrolled in the school, which plans to open in August. The school will be the first of its kind in the state, and possibly the nation, its founders say.

Last spring, the Milwaukee School Board approved the concept, and school officials are looking for a building. A charter school is publicly funded, but has more autonomy and flexibility than most traditional schools.

'I saw a lot of students who were being bullied and no one was doing anything about it,' said Tina Owen, a teacher at Milwaukee's Washington High School who will leave her job to become the lead teacher at Alliance. Some students who look and act different from the mainstream are 'really tormented,' she said. 'I've even seen teachers be really hard on them.'"

No mention of the harassed Christian students. In that case, I predict your parents will have to pay for isolation in a Christian school, or home school.

This all seems so wrong. Remember when the bullies got sent to detention hall. Now the bullied are shipped off to mass ostracism.

Posted by Jim at 06:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

“O” is not for Oscar: Catholic Bishops Give Million Dollar Baby Its Worst Rating

The film critics of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gave "Million Dollar Baby" an "O" -- morally offensive -- rating and warned that its "guilt-wracked, but ultimately permissive" take on euthanasia "will leave Catholic viewers emotionally against the ropes."

(Matt saw the movie and has the SCO review here.)

"We praised it on the artistic level and, in many ways, it is a fine film," said Harry Forbes, director of the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting. "But we also felt duty-bound to give it the worst rating we can give, in terms of moral content. ... In the end, we did not believe it was propaganda for the euthanasia cause, although we know some people did."

Thus, the office's review said: "The pain and devastation of those involved is achingly evident. However, in spite of all the soul-searching that precedes it, the deed itself is presented as an act of reluctant heroism. ... Our sympathies and humane inclinations may argue in favor of such misguided compassion, but our Catholic faith prohibits us from getting around the fact that, in this case, the best-intended ends cannot justify the chosen means: the taking of a life."

Catholic ethicist Thomas Hibbs went even further, calling "Million Dollar Baby" a trip into a "nihilistic hell" in which Eastwood meditates on life in a chaotic, amoral and ultimately hopeless universe. At the movie's heart is the ultimate question: "What if God does not exist?"

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

March 07, 2005

Blogger Issued White House Press Pass

The White House on Monday issued a visitor pass to attend the daily press briefing for Garrett Graff, who writes a blog about the news media from the nation's capital called Fishbowl DC.

A White House spokesman said he believed it was the first time a blogger had been given access to the briefing (h/t: John Shinal at MarketWatch).

Graff writes:

"After a week of attempts, getting into the White House this morning was a piece of cake. We arrived at the northwest gate today promptly at 9:30 as instructed by the Press Office on Friday. The Secret Service officer at the gate was a little puzzled when we explained we didn't have any press credentials, but a scan of the driver's license confirmed we were on the list for the day. After we passed through the gate, he presented us with the Holy Grail: A brown and white pass reading "Press." And we were in."

Posted by Jim at 03:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Noticing Conservative Black Clergy

There are more signs that the Republicans will be in trouble if they move to a moderate candidate on social issues in 2008. An article over the weekend on black churches leaders explores the faction of African-American clergy that aligns with Republican positions on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

If Republicans make addition inroads with black voters, it will most likely be among blacks troubled by declining moral values, not those who rethink economic policy (although there is some movement there, as well).

“At the heart of the debate [among black] church leaders is whether to stay focused primarily on issues like job creation, education, affirmative action, prison reform and health care, which have drawn blacks closer to the Democratic Party, or whether to put more emphasis on issues of personal morality, like opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, which would place them deeper in the Republican camp.”

Posted by Jim at 09:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Decline of Atheism

Atheism is in decline, UPI Religious Affairs Editor Uwe Semon-Netto reported last week. (h/t: Considerettes).

This is not a brilliant piece of research, as Joshua at ITA points out, but a report of the opinions of various social and religious observers.

Interesting viewpoints, however, particularly about Europe's move away from godlessness. We haven't heard anyone citing those kinds of trends in Europe.

The article says:

“Two developments are plaguing atheism these days. One is that it appears to be losing its scientific underpinnings. The other is the historical experience of hundreds of millions of people worldwide that atheists are in no position to claim the moral high ground.”

Interesting thoughts:

Munich theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg: "Atheism as a theoretical position is in decline worldwide.”

Oxford’s Alister McGrath: [Atheism's] "future seems increasingly to lie in the private beliefs of individuals rather than in the great public domain it once regarded as its habitat.”

Turkish philosopher Harun Yahya: "Atheism, which people have tried to for hundreds of years as 'the ways of reason and science,' is proving to be mere irrationality and ignorance."

John Updike: "Among the repulsions of atheism for me has been
is drastic uninterestingness as an intellectual position," appears to become common currency throughout much of the West.

Semon-Netto writes:

“A few years ago, European scientists sniggered when studies in the United States -- for example, at Harvard and Duke universities -- showed a correlation between faith, prayer and recovery from illness. Now 1,200 studies at research centers around the world have come to similar conclusions, according to "Psychologie Heute," a German journal, citing, for example, the marked improvement of multiple sclerosis patients in Germany's Ruhr District do to "spiritual resources."

The Challenge for Christianity

The Rev. Paul M. Zulehner, dean of Vienna University's divinity school: "True atheists in Europe have become an infinitesimally small group. There are not enough of them to be used for sociological research."

The only exceptions to this rule, Zulehner said, are the former East Germany and the Czech Republic, where, as the saying goes, de-Christianization has been the only proven success of these regions' former communist rulers.”

Zulehner cautions, however, that in the rest of Europe re-Christianization is by no means occurring. For although in every major European city except Paris spirituality is booming, according to Zulehner, this only proves the emergence of a diffuse belief system, Pannenberg said, but not the revitalization of traditional Christian religious faith.

Zulehner, a Catholic, sees Christianity's greatest opportunity when its message addresses two seemingly irreconcilable quests of contemporary humanity - the quest for freedom and truth. "Christianity alone affirms that truth and God's dependability are inseparable properties to which freedom is linked."


Posted by Jim at 08:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 06, 2005

Colson on Martha Stewart and the Purpose of Prison

Terrific NY Times op-ed article today by Chuck Colson on Martha Stewart and the purpose of prison. Colson writes:

"I was pleased to learn of one of Ms. Stewart's first statements upon her release from prison: "I will never forget the friends that I met here." This is the same promise I made 30 years ago. I hope that Ms. Stewart, who is a remarkable influence on women of all walks of life, uses her talents to reach out to the 100,000-plus women who are still behind bars. If Martha Stewart does this, I am certain she will find the same paradoxical happy ending to her prison journey that I have."

(Disclosure: I spent 12 years as Chuck Colson's chief of staff and communications VP)

Posted by Jim at 08:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

CJR on the Threats to Journalists’ Privilege

These are perilous days for journalists’ privilege. So says Columbia Journalism Review. Journalists and media rights advocates are nervous about the Plame case becoming a test case for media privilege, according to a long article by Douglas McCollam in CJR.

McColllam writes:

“As a general rule courts believe they have the right to “hear every man’s evidence,” and privileges against testifying are not favored in the law. Over time only a few such exemptions have been endorsed, including the attorney-client privilege, the doctor-patient privilege, the priest-penitent privilege, the spousal privilege, and, most recently, the therapist privilege. The Constitution also forbids compelling people to testify against themselves.

[The defendants claim that] “reporter’s privilege should now be added to that list, but fashioning a reporter’s privilege presents special challenges.”

But it is becoming more and more difficult to determine who is a journalist, particularly with bloggers now providing an additional flank.

The article goes on:

“All the other recognized privileges involve inherently private information given to members of accredited professions. Journalism, by comparison, trades in public information and is less a profession than an activity in which anyone can engage. As the courts in both Branzburg and Plame have asked, Who qualifies as a “journalist” for purposes of the privilege?”

If you are interested in the Plame case or the issue of journalist privilege, this is a good read, understanding that it is written with the bias of a media trade publication.

Posted by Jim at 07:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

Barriers for Abortion in Georgia

The Georgia legislature, which for the first time is totally in the hands of the Republicans, sent Governor Perdue a bill today (which he will sign) that will delay abortions and require parental consent for minors in most cases. The Georgia Senate passed the Woman’s Right to Know bill by a vote of 41-10.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

A bill requiring women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours is on its way to the governor's desk.

HB 197 passed the Senate Friday morning by a vote of 41-10.

It deletes a provision in Georgia law that allows someone other than a parent or legal guardian -- such as a grandparent or other relative caring for the child -- to be the one notified when a minor seeks an abortion.

The bill also would require physicians to offer women seeking an abortion information on the medical risks associated with abortion, the probable gestational age of the fetus, fetal pain, and alternatives to abortion, including adoption.


Posted by Jim at 04:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Toward the Fair Tax: Greenspan Endorses Move to Consumption Tax


Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan weighed in on tax reform yesterday, endorsing a move toward a consumption tax, while cautioning against rapid, wholesale change.

"Many economists believe that a consumption tax would be best from the perspective of promoting economic growth - particularly if one were designing a system from scratch - because a consumption tax is likely to favor saving and capital formation," Mr. Greenspan said.


That should provide a boost to the Fair Tax bill introduced and championed by Georgia Congressman John Linder, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Congressman Linder (R-GA), reintroduced his personal consumption tax proposal, H.R. 25, also known as the “FairTax.” on the first day of the 109th Congress.

There are several Republican lawmakers who recognize that tax reform and social security reform need to be considered together.

A total tax overhaul will take enormous political effort, but Linder sees good momentum in Congress. It’s time to get behind this commonsensical tax bill that lives up to its name—“fair tax.”

Posted by Jim at 09:10 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Cruel and Unusual Decisions on the Death Penalty

Just when you thought it was safe to oppose to the death penalty, along comes a scoundrel like the BTK (bind, toture, and kill) murderer in Kansas, for whom any kind of execution seems too humane.

I wrote briefly about developing a consistent ethic of life as a mark of the Christian statesman, and I do believe its ability to save lives must be the biblical standard in state use of capital punishment.

But what is the Constitutional standard? The court wrestled with this as it relates to children under 18, wading into the perilous waters of the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.

The simplifiers of sound-bite media have derided the court this week for citing national and international consensus. It’s easy to see this as a continuation of the High Court’s decades-long trend of legislating from the bench. But how do we determine the definition of subjective terms such as “cruel” and “unusual?” Do we use the definitions of the 18th Century, when the Constitution was crafted? Or some other milestone along the way? Or shall we revert biblical times (Old Testament or New?).

What is cruel and unusual punishment? The court has now decided that the execution of the mentally retarded and those under 18 is cruel and/or unusual.

This column by Stanford professor Robert Weisberg is a reasonable examination of the issue. Here’s an excerpt:

The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments," but for much of its history the United States has allowed the death penalty. In 1958, the court ruled that "evolving standards of decency" should define what constitutes "cruel and unusual," and since then it has been forced to confront the legality of capital punishment in various types of cases. Could the death penalty be imposed for nonfatal crimes? When the defendant did not kill intentionally or at least in a manner exhibiting "extreme indifference to human life"?

In answering these kinds of questions (in both of these cases, the response was no), the court committed itself to a challenging set of tasks. First, it would examine the patterns of state laws or court decisions to determine by a rough empiricism whether the death penalty in a particular category has become cruel by virtue of being literally unusual. Of course, this approach raises the perfectly reasonable question of how the scope of the Bill of Rights, which was designed to limit the powers of legislative majorities, could depend in part on the decisions of those very majorities.

Next, the court would consult various other sources for evidence of some sort of moral consensus. In doing so, the court would refer to philosophical or moral principles or political attitudes outside the realm of law altogether - and even to international expressions of moral value. This strategy provokes the (again perfectly reasonable) complaint that unelected jurists are now acting like pollsters, assessing the public's moral values. Or, worse, they are becoming arbiters of moral value themselves.

There do have to be cultural benchmarks that are consulted in determining the tangible implications of subjective terms. As such, as alarming as it has been made to sound in recent days, the Republic will survive the Court’s decision to take a reading of modern society.

Posted by Jim at 08:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 03, 2005

The Ten Commandments Folly

Given the history and religious composition of the nation, it is a travesty that tax dollars have to be spent to combat opposition to the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings and on public grounds.

We hear so much about the people of other faiths being offended by the Ten Commandments. The Christians and Jews are fine with it. So who is opposed: the Muslims, Hindus, or the Buddhists? Or it is just the atheists?

Which of the commandments is of such great concern to the people of other faiths? Is the Murderers Lobby hard at work? Do a lot of folks want to covet on the Sabbath? Where would our politicians be without false witness?

Of course, posting the Ten Commandments at the Courthouse does very little to stop unsavory action. People going to court have already broken the law. Seriously, it has very little practical impact. However, and this is a big however, when the government acknowledges these moral foundations of civilization, it helps parents teach the Ten Commandments at home. That’s where it really matters.

We’re learning this week of religious symbols all over the Capital. Among the statues of lawgivers are many religious figures:

Here are the relief portraits above the gallery in the House chamber:

George Mason, Robert Joseph Pothier, Jean Baptiste Colbert, Edward I, Alfonso X, Gregory IX, Saint Louis, Justinian I, Tribonian, Lycurgus, Hammurabi, Moses, Solon, Papinian, Gaius, Maimonides, Suleiman, Innocent III, Simon de Montfort, Hugo Grotius, Sir William Blackstone, Napoleon I, and Thomas Jefferson.

There are 18 figures of lawgivers on the walls of the Supreme Court chamber:

Menes, Hammurabi, Moses, Solomon, Lycurgus, Solon, Draco, Confucius, Augustus, Napoleon, John Marshall, William Blackstone, Hugo Grotius, Louis IX, King John, Charlemagne, Muhammad, and Justinian.

Posted by Jim at 04:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Over-sexed Sports Heroes and the Fall of Icarus

We need a few good sports heroes to step forward and present a wholesome and selfless side of sport.

Someone assure us that there are sportsmen who don’t sleep with a different woman in every town. Someone assure us that there are top performers who perform without being pumped up on steroids. Someone assure us that he would play for less money because he loves the game so much and he doesn’t need any more money. Someone assure us that he loves his city so much that he wouldn’t think of going somewhere else to make a few more million dollars.

Someone tell me why I should aspire for my son to grow up to be like you.

I’m thinking about professional sports this morning because Kobe Bryant has settled with his accuser. He was not convicted of a criminal offense and he and his victim or partner won’t have to go through the disclosures of a civil trial. They both feared that because their lives are so slimy and they know it.

Kobe is, of course, as guilty as the day is long. Although he is probably not guilty of rape, the guilt that’s on his head (which, by the way, is known in the Bryant home court) is that of adding to the tarnish of modern sport that has so obscured the beauty and celebration of professional athletics that fans can hardly see the through it.

Jose Canseco says nearly everyone in baseball is doing steroids and, without restraint, doing the bimbos who hang around professional athletes. Jose says he remembers only a few married teammates who didn’t cheat on their wives on the road.

Canseco’s actions throughout the years are despicable and his credibility is questionable, but is anyone coming forward with a different picture?

Baseball recently adopted a tougher steroid-testing program after the sport came under increased scrutiny about the drugs. But I want to hear the stories of athletes who say they are happy for the testing but are even happier that they know that their performances are drug free and legitimate.

Show me the heroes. I don’t care about their money.

In the meantime, many will look beyond the debacle that has become modern professional sports. As the lives of egocentric, drugged up, and sexually indulgent professional athletes come crashing down, we will go on with our own lives, a bit curious, but otherwise disinterested.

Humbug Journal wrote about Jason Giambi’s fall from grace, citing this painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, called "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus":

icarus falls.jpg

Icarus is barely visible, splashing down in the lower right corner. W.H. Auden wrote of it:

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Bryant, Bonds, Giambi—professional athletics—unrestrained by the call of character and good taste will, like Icarus, fall. But it will be nothing but a little-noticed splash in a large, busy landscape.

Show us heroes. We may notice.

Posted by Jim at 07:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 02, 2005

The Ferment of Freedom

The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world. America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

President George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address

The progression of freedom is not inevitable, but given a modicum of support and protection, freedom possesses an inexorable contagion. How quickly we are seeing that 2005 will be known as the Year of Freedom. The keynote for change was sounded in President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address, seen as historically inspirational by some and wildly unrealistic by others.

What is evident is that the clarion call of the President, and a foreign policy based on strength and initiative against terror on the blood-soaked soil of the terrorists, has struck a match in international kindling soaked with the combustible sweat of human oppression.

Around the world, the churning and tonic of freedom’s ferment are making daily headlines:

Afghanistan: The striking image of woman in Afghanistan, formerly shrouded and humiliating, striding confidently to a voting booth.

Iraq: Despite toxic threats, the people of Iraq flipping the purple finger of democracy and turning the tide of Middle Easterni history.

Libya: The formerly brazen Quaddafi of Libya standing down on nuclear weapons when being a member of the world community looked better than being on the serious end of a cruise missile.

Ukraine: The Orange Revolution refusing to succumb to the bullies of Ukraine and their Russian sponsors and making their voices heard in new elections.

Palestinians: After electing a leader who recognized the value of peace, the Palestinans see more hope beyond the shadow of Arafat, and the Palestinian Authority shows increasing confidence in working against their own terrorists.

Egypt: The possibility that Egypt will see the first truly contested national election in its 5,000 year history.

Former Soviet Republics: Opposition parties in Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan cloaking themselves in orange, hoping to "do a Ukraine" and remove unpopular governments in parliamentary elections.

Russia: Putin looking chastened after a meeting in which Bush clearly confronted him on the slipping of democratic freedoms in Russia.

Saudi Arabia: Women are granted suffrage in local elections for the first time. A small step, but in the right direction.

Lebanon: Lebanese citizen-protest leads to downfall of pro-Syria government, breaking 29 years of Syrian domination, Lebanon's pro-Damascus.

Recognizing that the road to freedom is never a straight line and it will continue to be strewn with the bodies of heroes, many are celebrating freedom’s ferment:

From FrontPageMag (h/t: The American Mind):

From Hosni Mubarak’s opening up Egyptian elections for the first time, to Syria’s strong efforts to accommodate American demands for withdrawal from Lebanon and for cooperation in Iraq, the Middle East is changing in ways unforeseen even last fall.

Lebanon’s Druze Patriarch Walid Jumblatt pinpointed the genesis of this metamorphosis in the pages of The Washington Post:
It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it.

In other words, a sea-change is taking place in the Arab world: democracy is becoming reality for the first time in history – and all this progress came about because of the determination of President George W. Bush and over the most vicious objections of the American Left.

Shermblog shares a Chris Muir cartoon that highlights the dilemma of the left: How can we stop President Bush from getting any credit for all of this.

Cartoon on Freedom.gif
Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Roger L. Simon weighs in:

In the last three years, Afghanistan and Iraq have gone more or less democratic, Libya has stood down on nuclear weapons, Ukraine has gone democratic, the Palestinian Authority and even Egypt are making democratic noises and now a near-fascist pro-Syrian regime has resigned in Lebanon. Will all of this work out perfectly? Of course not. Nothing in history moves in a straight line. But this is a rather remarkable achievement of epoch proportions and is clearly the result of a strong US foreign policy.

Mark Steyn writes in The Telegraph:

Consider just the past couple of days' news: not the ever more desperate depravity of the floundering "insurgency", but the real popular Arab resistance the car-bombers and the head-hackers are flailing against: the Saudi foreign minister, who by remarkable coincidence goes by the name of Prince Saud, told Newsweek that women would be voting in the next Saudi election. "That is going to be good for the election," he said, "because I think women are more sensible voters than men."

Meanwhile in Damascus, Boy Assad, having badly overplayed his hand in Lebanon and after months of denying that he was harbouring any refugee Saddamites, suddenly discovered that - wouldja believe it? - Saddam's brother and 29 other bigshot Baghdad Baathists were holed up in north-eastern Syria, and promptly handed them over to the Iraqi government.

And, for perhaps the most remarkable development, consider this report from Mohammed Ballas of Associated Press: "Palestinians expressed anger on Saturday at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed attacks on their Israeli foes."

No disrespect to Associated Press, but I was disinclined to take their word for it. However, Charles Johnson, whose Little Green Footballs website has done an invaluable job these past three years presenting the ugly truth about Palestinian death-cultism, reported that he went hunting around the internet for the usual photographs of deliriously happy Gazans dancing in the street and handing out sweets to celebrate the latest addition to the pile of Jew corpses - and, to his surprise, couldn't find any.

Why is all this happening? Answer: January 30

NickieGoomba puts tongue firmly in cheek and suggests a Michael Moore reaction:

Michael Moore insisted that a "Plague of Democracy" was upon us and could spell the end of progressive politics. Waving a breadstick to emphasize his points, he said:

"Look at Ukraine, look at Iraq, look at Afghanistan, look at Egypt, look at the Palestinians, look at Lebanon. That idiot, George Bush Jr., is establishing countless non-union democracies. I'm talking low wages, non-OSHA workplaces, elected govenment officials without Liberal Arts degrees...it is madness. And have you noticed a lack of diversity in the new so-called democracies? All I see are Arabs and Muslims. It looks like Martin Luther King died for nothing. Stop being sheep. Bush is ruining the whole world. This Democracy crap is a disease and we have to nip it in the bud..."

Remarkably, amazingly, even the Gray Lady is struck by the advancement of freedom:

This has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power. Washington's challenge now lies in finding ways to nurture and encourage these still fragile trends without smothering them in a triumphalist embrace.

Posted by Jim at 06:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 28, 2005

Love Divine: The Atlanta Sacred Chorale Sings at Emory

This weekend we attended a concert of the Atlanta Sacred Chorale, with The Michael O’Neal Singers and the Atlanta Boy Choir. It was an evening of great, uplifting music in the beautiful new Schwartz Center at well-endowed Emory University. It was a joy to listen to sacred music in the liberal university setting. Classical music is one area where the expulsion of God would pretty much shut down the discipline, since so many composers are dead white male Christians.

The Atlanta Sacred Chorale (a client of my PR firm) is arguably the finest chamber chorus in the nation dedicated to a sacred repertoire. They sing almost everything a cappella, with amazing precision and beauty.

The evening ended with the combined choirs singing the great hymn by Charles Wesley, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling (Text: Charles Wesley, 1707-1788. Music: John Zundel, 1815-1882):

Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down; fix in us thy humble dwelling; all thy faithful mercies crown! Jesus thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art; visit us with thy salvation; enter every trembling heart.
Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit into every troubled breast! Let us all in thee inherit; let us find that second rest. Take away our bent to sinning; Alpha and Omega be; end of faith, as its beginning, set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

What a sound. What a song.

Posted by Jim at 01:43 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

State Constitutions: Grateful to God

All fifty state constitutions include a reference to God, most in the preamble. A sampling:

California 1879, Preamble. We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom ...

Iowa 1857, Preamble. We, the People of the State of Iowa, grateful to the Supreme Being for the blessings hitherto enjoyed, and feeling our dependence on Him for a continuation of these blessings ... establish this Constitution ...

Massachusetts 1780, Preamble. We...the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe... in the course of His Providence, an opportunity ... and devoutly imploring His direction ...

North Carolina 1868, Preamble. We the people of the State of North Carolina, grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for ... our civil, political, and religious liberties, and acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those ...


The rest are here.

Posted by Jim at 01:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Cry, the Beloved Country: Life Expectancy Plummeting in Africa

This from the 2005 Economic Report of the President

"As a result of its lethality and the relative youth of its victims, HIV/AIDs has reduced life expectancy by more than 20 years in many African countries. Life expectancy in some countries is projected to fall to roughly 30 years within the next decade, whereas in the absence of HIV/AIDS some were expected to approach or exceed 70 years. (h/t: Ben Muse and Trolling in Shallow Waters).

I am shocked by this graph.

Africa_life_expect.jpg

I always turn to World Vision when confronted by the enormity of an international humanitarian crisis. They have something called The Hope Initiative.

The Hope Initiative is an unprecedented campaign to address the needs of children, families and communities that have been devastated by the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. There is an urgent need to mobilize the Christian community and the general public around the global HIV/AIDS crisis.

Posted by Jim at 08:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free Speech for Churches and Charities: Pass the Houses of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act

Churches and non-profit charities lost their right to free speech 51 years ago when Lyndon Johnson, then a Senator, introduced and forced through a terrible piece of legislation to silence his critics.

As a result, churches and charities have forfeited their right to free speech as the price for exemption from certain taxes under the IRS code, section 501-C-3. If a church or charity violates regulations that prohibit them from “substantial” lobbying or the endorsement of political candidates, the IRS can revoke the group’s 501-C-3 status, and individuals who donate funds to the group cannot deduct these contributions.

It’s time to stop this nonsense and allow church and charities their First Amendment rights. Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ wrote last fall:

The special power given to the IRS not only stifles the First Amendment rights of pastors and churches, but the IRS has been selective and biased in its enforcement.

The law is flawed, misplaced and a disaster.

Sekulow continues:

The IRS often ignores political involvement from liberals and targets conservative churches and ministers such as the Church at Pierce Creek in New York, which had its tax-exempt status revoked after the pastor placed newspaper ads in 1992 calling attention to then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton's position on the critical moral issues of abortion and sexual abstinence outside of marriage.

Religious leaders not only have a constitutional right to address the moral issues of the day; many believe they have a responsibility to do so - especially in the context of political campaigns. And pastors should have the ability to speak out from the pulpit - and support or oppose a political candidate based on where the candidate stands on the issues. Unfortunately, that is not permissible now.

This article from the trade publication for CPA is extremely helpful in defining the limits. It begins:

In 1954, at the height of the McCarthy era, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson sought a legislative route to silence some of his anticommunist critics. Encouraged by Johnson, the U.S. Senate passed a major tax code revision by a voice vote. Although Johnson’s revision was targeted specifically at nonprofit groups that were contesting his seat, churches—which also are nonprofit organizations—fell under the new tax code provisions.

Although the ban excluded churches and other IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations from active participation in the political process, years passed without major incident. Then, in 1992, the religious organization Branch Ministries, Inc. (BMI), purchased a newspaper advertisement urging Christians to vote against presidential candidate Bill Clinton, and the IRS initiated an investigation. In January 1995, the IRS revoked BMI’s status as a section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. By contrast, in the 1994 New York gubernatorial campaign, the IRS chose not to initiate an investigation when Governor Cuomo received vocal support from the pulpit of a Harlem church.

The liberals should want the law changed, as well, since the political axe can swing both ways. As LaShawn Barber writes, the NAACP has been whining about being targeted by the IRS for its political violations.

The social club liberals at the NAACP thought they were above the law. Well, there is no such thing as skin color entitlements when it comes to the IRS and its rules against political activity.

But as the Washington Post pointed out:

The Internal Revenue Service followed “established procedures” in deciding which tax-exempt entities to investigate for possible improper involvement in last year’s political campaign, and there is no evidence that the agency’s decisions were politically motivated, according to an inspector general’s report released yesterday.

The IRS attracted headlines last fall when the NAACP announced that the agency was threatening to revoke its tax-exempt status because its chairman, Julian Bond, had given a speech attacking the Bush administration.

In the early days of the 2004 presidential campaign, the Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act was proposed as a means to reverse a portion of the 1954 legislation and to return First Amendment speech protection to America’s churches, synagogues, and mosques. That bill (HR2357) failed to pass the House in October 2002.

In October 2004, a Republican congressman joined African-American clergy and other members of Congress to re-introduce the legislation.

North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones enlisted Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) to drum up support for Jones' bill, the Houses of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act (HR 235).

"There is a muzzle upon the clergy. As ministers, we are obligated to speak about the moral and political issues of the day, and taking away that right is harassment. It is wrong, and it is extortion," said Clergy United leader Bishop Anthony Muse, who called on the Congressional Black Caucus to back Jones' bill and to push for its passage. (Source)

The House bill introduced by Congressman Jones, HR 235, was referred to the Ways and Means Committee, where it remains.

It’s time to return freedom of speech to America's churches and charities by passing the language in HR 235.

Posted by Jim at 07:42 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 25, 2005

The New Peculiar Institution

Joe Carter considers The New Peculiar Institution: Abortion, Embryos, and Property Rights:


"Prior to abolition, slavery in the U.S. was often referred to as the “peculiar institution.” The phrase was used not because chattel slavery was considered unusual but because the English word peculiar is derived from the Latin peculiaris – personal property. While the concept of human beings as personal property may seem anachronistic, abortion supporters are left with few alternatives but to accept the semantic shift in order to continue to justify denying the dignity of the unborn."

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

Israel Drawing A Line

The Big Trunk at Powerline wonders why Israel has not produced a great statesman, explains why he doesn’t see Sharon as one, and disagrees some with Charles Krauthammer’s column. I understand the concerns but agree with Krauthammers larger arguments (as usual).

He writes:

“Last Sunday Israel crossed two Rubicons. The Cabinet decided once and for all to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle 25 settlements -- 21 in Gaza and four in the upper West Bank. Yet, had Israel done only this, it would be seen, correctly, as a victory for terrorism, a unilateral retreat and surrender to the four-year intifada. That is why the second Israeli decision was so important. The Cabinet also voted to finish the security fence on the West Bank, which will separate Israeli and Palestinian populations and create the initial border between Israel and a nascent Palestine. The fence decision makes clear that the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is only part of a larger strategy, the first serious strategic idea Israel has had since its period of utter confusion and demoralization at the beginning of the 2000 intifada. The idea is this: Israel must (unilaterally, if necessary) rationalize its defensive lines -- in order to (1) protect its citizens, (2) permanently defuse the Palestinian terrorist threat and thus (3) open the door to a final peace.”

Posted by Jim at 09:04 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Blog Radio on Social Security

The fifth Homespun Bloggers Radio program is a special edition on the topic of Social Security. Here's the list of contributors:

· Jay has a couple of segments. One (representing his blog The Radical Centrist) notes that to have a reasonable and honest discussion about Social Security, we have to understand the program as it really is and how it was intended to be. Representing his other blog (The Bird's Eye View), he gives us a bird's eye view of the Homespun Bloggers group and reports on how some of us are covering this topic.

· Derek (Weapon of Mass Distraction) asks how people lived before Social Security existed, and wonders if we dare consider how senior citizens managed before the New Deal?

· Doug (Considerettes) gives the history of the politicization of this issue among Democrats who now say there is no crisis.

To listen, go here.

Posted by Jim at 08:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Algoreithm

Yes, it’s true--Blue Goldfish rolls his eyes—there actually is a Al Gore 2008 website. That’s not going to happen.

Posted by Jim at 08:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Genocide in Darfur

The continuing genocide in Darfur is not generating outrage among the American public, which as Blue Goldfish points out, may be why Washington has been tepid in its response. This is the worst man-made catastrophe in the world right now. It isn’t necessarily an American problem (although I believe we should do what we can), but something needs to be done. How about the Arab nations sending troops to stop the killing by their Muslim brethren. Wouldn't that be a shock.

Posted by Jim at 08:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

35 Facts You Were Perfectly Happy Not Knowing

Just because it’s Friday and some of these are actually interesting, here’s a list I picked up somewhere (sorry, can’t find the source).

1. Rubberbands last longer when refrigerated.
2. Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite.
3. There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.
4. The average person's left hand does 56% of the typing.
5. The shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.
6. There are more chickens than people in the world.
7. Two-thirds of the world's eggplant is grown in New Jersey.
8. The longest one-syllable word in the English language is "screeched."
10. All of the clocks in the movie "Pulp Fiction" are stuck on 4:20.
11. No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver or purple.
12. "Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".
13. All 50 states are listed across the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the $5 bill.
14. Almonds are a member of the peach family.
15. Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

16. Maine is the only US state whose name is just one syllable.
17. There are only 4 words in the English language that end in "dous" - tremendous, horrendous, stupendous and hazardous.
18. Los Angeles' full name is "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula"
19. A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.
20. An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.
21. Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.
22. In most advertisements, the time displayed on a watch is 10:10
23. Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer.
24. The Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie were named after Bert the cop and Ernie the taxi driver in Frank Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life."
25. Some dragonflies have a life span of 24 hours.
26. A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.
27. A dime has 118 ridges around the edge.
28. It's impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.
29. The giant squid has the largest eyes in the world.
30. In England, the Speaker of the House is not allowed to speak.
31. The microwave was invented after a researcher walked by a radar tube and a chocolate bar melted in his pocket.
32. Mr. Rogers was an ordained minister.
33. The average person falls asleep in seven minutes.
34. There are 336 dimples on a regulation golf ball.
35. "Stewardesses" is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand

Posted by Jim at 07:12 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Anglican Leaders Tell Rebellious North Americans to Stay Home

The worldwide Anglican communion is thrashing about desperately to find a way to avoid schism. Many of the Anglican leaders around the world were infuriated by the Church’s relatively mild rebuke of the American Espiscopalians last fall when they consecrated an openly gay man as bishop.

Now, (from the NY Times) the Anglican hierarchy has asked the “Episcopal Church U.S.A. and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw their representatives temporarily from a key governing body of the denomination.”

“The annual meeting was regularly scheduled, but the main task facing the 35 primates who attended was fashioning a response to a report last fall that examined the North American churches' decisions on homosexuality, their impact on the global communion and the options of continuing as one denomination in light of fierce opposition among many other national churches to the moves.

The request to withdraw representatives from the June meeting was meant to appease critics, including many bishops in Africa, Asia and Latin America, who wanted a sharper rebuke of the North American churches than the fall report offered, members of the Episcopal clergy and experts on the church said."

Posted by Jim at 07:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 24, 2005

Saint Vladimir: Putin Religious, by Russian Standards?

Russian President Putin communicates well with the Christian U.S. President George Bush because Putin is quite religious, by Russian standards. So said Mortimer Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report today on Fox News.

That is an unexpected thought, given Putin’s history as the chief thug of the KGB.

But evidently, Putin has many faces. This from The Atlantic Online:


“Over the years, Atlantic correspondent Paul Starobin has researched Putin's history and background and spoken both with those who know him personally and with political analysts who have studied his behavior. In "The Accidental Autocrat," Starobin portrays Russia's leader as a complex mixture of seemingly incongruous parts. There is Putin the fighter—a man who describes himself as having a "pugilistic nature," and who has long held a black belt in judo. There is Putin the canny former KGB operative—rigorously trained to calculate his every move and to dispense information sparingly. And then there is Putin the believer—a man of faith, who as a child absorbed his mother's strong Orthodox Russian beliefs and continues to practice devoutly.”

I have a relative who teaches in a seminary in Moscow. I’ll see what he thinks about all of this.

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

Name a Guardian ad litem for Terry Schiavo

The best route for the Florida legislature to protect Terry Schiavo from her estranged husband (to put it mildly) is to declare him an unfit guardian.. The court could name her parents as guardians, or perhaps name an independent guardian ad litem, as the court sometimes does for a minor child.

Terry Schiavo’s parents, the Schindlers, are urging the Legislature to amend state law so a spouse cannot serve as a guardian if he is living with someone else.

The Florida Senate President hints that such a change may be the most feasible action the Legislature could take.

“We have a guardian who essentially has moved on and is living another life but retains the responsibilities and obligations of guardianship," said Sen. Tom Lee. "I think that is unique in this situation."

Posted by Jim at 02:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Evangelical First Things in Public Life: 12 Things We Should Expect of Evangelicals

After the election, I wrote a post at The Rooftop Blog titled What Do the Evangelicals Want? As evangelicals continue to gain visibility, I think it is worthwhile to turn the topic around and ask: What Should We Expect of Evangelicals in the Public Arena?

What is the role of individual followers of Christ in the public arena? By this I do not mean solutions presented by the political parties and the governing philosophies that must guide public policies. For evangelical Christians in public life there must spiritual first things--the bedrock that precedes and provides the foundation for actions, traits, and political positions, and that must supercede interest in re-election.

Individuals that are engaged in the public arena in any way find it tremendously difficult to find—and even to do—thinking about public policy and public life that precedes political philosophy and does not rely on the positions articulated by politicians, media commentators, and other political observers.

With some exceptions, Christians looking at public issues are faced with religion-based information in two groups. First, biblical teaching on spiritual life and personal growth that does not attempt to address public issues. And second, political discourse that starts with political philosophy then seeks biblical proof-texting.

I agree with what Jim Wallis wrote in the introduction of God’s Politics: “The best contribution of religion is precisely not to be ideologically predictable or loyally partisan but to maintain the moral independence to critique both the Left and the Right” (pg. xix).

Unfortunately, Wallis immediately puts his counsel in question by his own measure when a few pages later he reprints the copy from his pre-election advertisement: God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat. The language sounds like it is directly from a John Kerry campaign speech (“Do the candidates policies pursue wars of choice or respect international law and cooperation.” “Do the candidates tell the truth in justifying war.”) How is repeating the Democratic litany for international cooperation anything close to a biblical issue or moral independence?

I have probably posed bigger questions than I can come close to addressing at this time, but I will plod forward, nonetheless, with brief thoughts in 12 areas. Perhaps I will return to each at another time.

12 First Things
What should we be able to expect of evangelical Christian in the public arena? I suggest that there are the 12 first things that should be embraced by faithful Christians whatever their political philosophy. While there can be honest and worthy disagreements on how to apply political philosophy to adddress these concerns, they should transcend the call of the party.

1. Value Character
2. Support Human Rights
3. Develop a Consistent Ethic of Life
4. Honor and Protect Families
5. Help the Poor and Imprisoned
6. Be Responsible Citizens
7. Be Good Stewards
8. Do Justice
9. Recognize Evil
10. Seek Spiritual Vision
11. Demonstrate a Graceful Spirit
12. Share Your Faith

Now, a closer look at each of these:

1. Value Character. Recognize, honor and create public policies that promote personal character and virtue, such as personal responsibility, temperance, duty, respect, kindness, perseverance, and patience. These and other virtues are clearly held in high regard in the Scriptures, and they need champions among policymakers.

2. Support Human Rights: I do believe that the basic human rights of safety from abuse and bondage, the opportunity to worship as we please, freedom of movement and livelihood, and fundamental fairness are God-given, not government-given. It is the role of government to confirm and protect these human rights.

3. Develop a Consistent Ethic of Life: The ethics of life are perhaps the most difficult and divisive issues in the public arena, although there are those who would say that they are the simplest.

Abortion
When people say life ethics are simple they are in most cases speaking of the unacceptability of taking innocent human life through abortion. I agree that it impossible to develop a Christian ethic that supports abortion on demand as a means of birth control.

To back up a bit, it is essential that the Christian in public life develop a consistent ethic of life. Something like this: To influence culture and create laws to best save and extend lives; to honor the inherent value of human life, made in the image of God; and to safeguard lives in the present and in future generations.

Death Penalty
A life ethic that argues only against abortion is not complete. I believe it must also re-examine the death penalty, which is routinely supported on both sides of the aisle. The taking of human life by the government is always troubling, and must be constantly scrutinized. If execution is necessary to save lives, then there is an ethical reason to continue is use for capital offenses. But both the death penalty and life imprisonment without the chance of parole effectively remove the perpetrator from society. As such, the death penalty is not necessary for that purpose. If, however, it can be proved that the death penalty is a deterrent to other potential murderers, we should support the death penalty, because it will save lives. I haven’t seen such findings, by the way, but would be open to this proof.

Is it necessary to kill a murderer in order to exact justice or fairness, or is that simply retribution masquerading as “closure?”

Euthanasia
Life is a precious gift of God. But what should we allow when the gift is terrible burden to its holder. Should we allow the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit. Strong emotional arguments for euthanasia are presented in cases where an individual’s pain is overwhelming or remaining days will be essentially unconscious. But as merciful as it seems at times, and do not believe that we are granted the divine right to take innocent life before God’s time.

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D. wrote:

"... we must be wary of those who are too willing to end the lives of the elderly and the ill. If we ever decide that a poor quality of life justifies ending that life, we have taken a step down a slippery slope that places all of us in danger. There is a difference between allowing nature to take its course and actively assisting death. The call for euthanasia surfaces in our society periodically, as it is doing now under the guise of "death with dignity" or assisted suicide. Euthanasia is a concept, it seems to me, that is in direct conflict with a religious and ethical tradition in which the human race is presented with " a blessing and a curse, life and death," and we are instructed '...therefore, to choose life." I believe 'euthanasia' lies outside the commonly held life-centered values of the West and cannot be allowed without incurring great social and personal tragedy. This is not merely an intellectual conundrum. This issue involves actual human beings at risk..."

War
Our Christian duty as we approach the issues of war and peace is to first look at them as issues of life and death, not geopolitics. Although the temporal issues may need to be factored, questions of life must be first because warfare kills people. Not going to war can either save lives or cost many more lives that the war itself. That recognition is why a longer view of impact must be considered in life ethics. I do believe that strength is the best peacemaker, a contention that has gained great credibility with the collapse of communism.

However, war is unacceptable to satisfy national ego, to gain creature comforts, or to settle scores.

4. Honor and Protect Families: God ordained the institution of the family and His children need to try to keep it together. We must recognize that the family is the primary conduit of the values that civilize us. The leading cause of economic and moral poverty is a broken families. Kids need to grow up with a mom and a dad to love them, to teach them virtue, and to train them up in the ways of the Lord.

There is probably no greater challenge for our culture than maintaining strong families, and there are many forces pulling in the opposite direction. Curbing these negative forces is a worthy role of the public servant.

(By the way, I believe the advance of homosexual unions is way down the list of dangers to the traditional family).

5. Help the Poor and Imprisoned: There is no clearer mandate in Scripture than to bear good news to and serve the poor, those in prison, and the brokenhearted. (Luke 4:18). To care for the widow and orphans. This should be high on the agenda of individual Christians and the church. It is vital that believers personally demonstrate that they follow Jesus Christ by their care for the poor.

How do we deal with this mandate as it relates to the levers of government?

As my colleague Matt at SCO wrote:

“I see the Bible with a lot to say about caring for the less fortunate, but I never see Scripture advocating that we use the state as a means of doing so. If anyone can provide with clear Biblical teaching and some church history that suggests otherwise, I'm all ears, but I've yet to see it. I don't believe that the state is an effective means of curing poverty. It has never proven to be such a thing.”

If government largesse was effective at creating anything dependence, I believe we could assume biblical support. The Bible certainly doesn’t prohibit action of the state to assist the poor. But our history shows that government isn’t good at anything but providing relief. Government fails at community and personal development.

6. Be Responsible Citizens: As Christians we are called to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13). Although in cases when the laws of the state violate God’s laws civil disobedience is the right path, there are far fewer times when that is necessary than some lead us to believe. The Bible clearly calls for submission in most cases, even when the authorities are unjust.

Christians in public life must lead by adhering to this teaching, but must also appreciate and teach the tension between the state and the church. In The City of God, Augustine wrote:

“The heavenly city, or rather the part of it which sojourns on earth and lives by faith, makes use of this peace only because it must, until this mortal condition which necessitates it shall pass away. Consequently, so long as it lives like a captive and a stranger in the earthly city, though it has already received the promise of redemption, and the gift of the Spirit as the earnest of it, it makes no scruple to obey the laws of the earthly city, whereby the things necessary for the maintenance of this mortal life are administered; and thus, as this life is common to both cities, so there is a harmony between them in regard to what belongs to it.” (Book XIX, Chapter 17)

7. Be Good Stewards: We should expect evangelicals in public life to acknowledge that all good gifts are from God and that He calls on us to be grateful for them and to be good stewards and worthy caretakers of all he has given us.

When there is bounty, God calls for personal generosity. We are to enjoy good things in moderation. And we are to care for the earth, our temporary home. It is right to determine the truth on the impact of human actions on the environment, and exaggerations and blatant lies have undercut the credibility of environmentalists. We cannot fall prey to the emotional earth-worship of hyper-environmentalism.

However, there is simply no biblical support for being anti-environment. When we blindly follow the ravings of many conservative commentators in their criticism of all things pro-environment, we are falling in line with a political strategy, not biblical teaching.

For more on the evangelical approach to the environment, look at the Evangelical Environmental Network and its Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation.

8. Do Justice: When we hear someone calling for justice, it is usually a cry for a right to be wronged or for the government to help with pay-back. Getting even. Micah 6:8 says that God requires us to “do justice,” or to “act justly.” The task of the public servant is to look deeply at the biblical call for justice, which has embedded the understanding of fairness, of justification, of equal treatment, and of reconciliation:

"[In biblical times] when wrongs were done, ordinary people went to the city gates to seek justice in a 'legal assembly' in which citizens participated. The focus of this court, sometimes called an 'organization of reconciliation', was not to satisfy some abstract concept of justice but to find a solution. Restitution and compensation were common outcomes. Biblical Justice seeks first to solve problems, to find solutions, to make things right, looking toward the future." (H. Zehr, Changing Lenses, p. 140-1, 152)

9. Recognize of Evil: The Bible teaches that the forces of evil are aligned against the forces of good. Evil is not a concept; it oozes from every heart not constrained by love. It seeks to overcome the world. The Christian seeking to impact public policy must recognize what the founders did—man is inherently inclined toward evil and dominated by self-interest. It is not a popular thought, but thinking otherwise makes for deadly policy.

“The total depravity of man,” said G.K. Chesterton, “is the one doctrine empirically validated by 4,000 years of human history.”

We have lost sight of this in modern society, which endangers the republic.

“The most common myth of [our time] is that people are good. We aren’t,” wrote Charles Colson, who after a career in cut-throat politics and 20 years in prison and prison ministry knows of what he speaks.

10. Seek Spiritual Vision: The Christian cannot view the struggles and triumphs of our days only through the lens of our immediate interests and of our age. The eyes of the Christian soul must see further, with a view of the unseen (spiritual vision) and a view of the world (world vision).

Although we acknowledge in our churches and personal study that we are only passing through this world, it is difficult to apply this to the rough and tumble struggles of our days and in public life. When we are granted spiritual vision, we see a spiritual dimension to how history is unfolding and our role in it. Paul wrote: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).

Also, I am not sure that a mature Christian can be a thorough isolationist, at least not as he or she becomes aware of the violation of human rights around the world, and the persecution of the church. This requires a world vision.

11. Demonstrate a Graceful Spirit: The Christian in public life undercuts his witness and diminishes his effectiveness if he does not show the grace that his been shown to him by God. For the many in leadership the twin challenges in this area are showing humility and forgiving others. Both of these graces are in rare supply in the halls of power and there is no higher work for the Christian public servant than to model these disciplines.

C.S. Lewis said to British servicemen after World War II (the text of which was to become Mere Christianity):

Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. “That sort of talk makes them sick,” they say. And half of you already want to ask me, “I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?”

So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must no deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do—I can do precious little—I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.” There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. What are we to do.

12. Share Your Faith: Those who observe evangelicals for any length of time should at some point be aware that they are telling others about their faith in Jesus Christ for the grace to live each day and for eternal salvation. IN a day when “proselytizing” is said with curled lip and a sneer, it should be known in the public square that this is part of the Christian’s obligation. To be obedient we must tell of the hope that is in us and the source of that hope. It is gives us joy to do so. To do otherwise creates a much high level of condemnation.


Observers should also expect evangelicals, along with everyone else, to fail. We are but “jars of clay” who recognize that it is through our weakness that God’s strength can be seen.

Posted by Jim at 08:45 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 23, 2005

Would You Vote for A Woman for President?

More than 80 percent of Americans would vote for a woman for president, according to a poll, conducted by the Siena College Research Institute and sponsored by Hearst Newspapers. (Source)

Of those polled, 53 percent think New York Hillary Clinton should try for the job, 42 percent of voters said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should run for the White House, and 33 percent named North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

Posted by Jim at 05:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

More Skepticism on Deep Throat

I wrote earlier this month that Woodward and Bernstein’s Deep Throat May Be A Composite of Multiple Sources, which has been the opinion of Nixon aide Charles Colson. Here, Jonah Goldberg explains why he believes Deep Throat is “Bob and Carl’s imaginary friend.”

Goldberg also adds to the composite theory:

Recently, Fox News media analyst Eric Burns revealed that the late, great historian Stephen Ambrose had told him there never was a Deep Throat. Burns' evidence was second-hand at best. He said Ambrose had shared an editor with Woodward and Bernstein - the legendary Alice Mayhew - and she had told him that Deep Throat was a composite of various sources. Mayhew told Ambrose that the first manuscript of "All the President's Men" contained no references to Deep Throat and that she told them the book needed a stronger plot device. D.T. was the result.

Posted by Jim at 03:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pardon me, You’re in My Kitchen: The Supreme Court and Eminent Domain

When you walk through the housewares section of your local Wal-Mart, remember that it used to be Maggie Smith’s kitchen, and she’s not happy you’re there.

Or at least there a fair chance the area used to be someone’s kitchen, or living room, or back yard.

Wal-Mart has been a common beneficiary of local governments using their power of eminent domain to seize private property for the economic advancement of the community. Wal-Mart is hardly alone, as communities across the country have found more and more reasons to seize private property for the enrichment of their citizens (except the property owners whose homes were taken).

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a typical case brought by a group of New London, Connecticut homeowners. The Supremes heard oral arguments yesterday.

It’s risky to jump to conclusions on the sentiment of the Court based on oral arguments. Here’s what some media outlets thought:

CNN:

Striking an unusual populist tone, the Supreme Court appeared divided Tuesday over whether city officials in Connecticut have the authority to seize homes in a working-class neighborhood and turn the property over to private developers.

Detroit Free Press:

The Supreme Court appeared sympathetic Tuesday toward a group of New London, Conn., homeowners fighting to keep their land, but justices seemed equally skeptical of their own power to keep the city from seizing property to create an upscale development.

It's the first major case on eminent domain -- the power of the government to condemn property for redevelopment -- to reach the high court in years.

Washington Post:

An attorney for a group of Connecticut homeowners told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that his clients have a constitutional right to stay in their houses even though their city says it needs the sites for privately developed offices, hotels and parking, in a case that could affect property rights nationwide.

The lawyer, Scott Bullock of the libertarian Institute for Justice, said that if New London, Conn., can use its power of eminent domain to force Susette Kelo and six other owners to sell for the sake of jobs and tax revenue that private-sector development brings, the Fifth Amendment guarantee that private property cannot be taken for "public use" without just compensation would be a dead letter.

If you think private property rights are important this may very well be the most important case facing the Supreme Court in our lifetime.

Posted by Jim at 10:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 22, 2005

What End, The Wounded Butterfly?

The hammer is poised over the wounded butterfly, Terri Schaivo, and the dark day has arrived. There is still much that the blogging community can do. Catez at AllThings2All has a good summary of the situation and the actions that can still be taken, which follows her post with the haunting title:

Who Crushes a Butterfly with a Hammer?


Posted by Jim at 08:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Pay For Your Own Erection

“Drug companies,” it is reported, “are strenuously resisting bipartisan efforts in Congress to prohibit Medicare from paying for Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction.

The drug companies need to shut up.

Look, I feel bad for the guys who have had some physical issues that leave them impotent or with some degree of ED. And I’m sure the performance enhancement drugs such as Viagra have provided fuller lives for many men, most of them senior citizens.

But frankly, the Constitution doesn’t grant the right to an erection. It is a violation of the rights of others to force them to pay for yours. Further, the estimated costs of Medicare’s new prescription drug benefit have spiraled wildly beyond original estimates, and we certainly cannot afford to cover these or other “lifestyle drugs.”

It’s hard to believe government has become so involved in our lives that this even has to be debated.

Posted by Jim at 06:42 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 21, 2005

For President’s Day: Presidential Greatness

George Washington.gif

James Thomas Flexner wrote in George Washington: In the American Revolution of what may be considered the most important unknown moment in American history. On March 15, 1783 in Newburgh, New York, General George Washington resisted the perennial revolutionary temptation advocated by some of his officers to address their frustrations by taking power as king. Although the troops gathered in a large hall were not deterred by Washington’s rhetoric, the atmosphere changed when he began to read a letter to the group and, as Flexner writes, “he pulled out something that only his intimates had seen him wear. A pair of glasses. With infinite sweetness and melancholy, he explained: ‘Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.’”

This simple statement exposed his humility and his humanity, and the revolutionary temptation passed. As a result of that, many other decisions by men, and the providence of God, America became and remains the model of representative democracy for the world.

Posted by Jim at 10:53 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

For President’s Day: Presidential Quirks

Just for the fun of it, here are 20 things you may not have known about American presidents, from Encarta’s Lists of Lists:

1. In warm weather, 6th president of the United States John Quincy Adams customarily went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River before dawn.

2. 9th U.S. president William Henry Harrison was inaugurated on a bitterly cold day and gave the longest inauguration speech ever. The new president promptly caught a cold that soon developed into pneumonia. Harrison died exactly one month into his presidential term, the shortest in U.S. history.

3. John Tyler, 10th U.S. president, fathered 15 children (more than any other president)--8 by his first wife, and 7 by his second wife. Tyler was past his seventieth birthday when his 15th child was born.

4. Sedated only by brandy, 11th president of the United States James Polk survived gall bladder surgery at the age of 17.

5. 15th U.S. president James Buchanan is the only unmarried man ever to be elected president. Buchanan was engaged to be married once; however, his fiancée died suddenly after breaking off the engagement, and he remained a bachelor all his life.

Abraham Lincoln.jpg

6. Often depicted wearing a tall black stovepipe hat, 16th president of the United States Abraham Lincoln carried letters, bills, and notes in his hat.


7. 17th U.S. president Andrew Johnson never attended school. His future wife, Eliza McCardle, taught him to write at the age of 17. (Bonus fact about Andrew Johnson: He only wore suits that he custom-tailored himself.)

8. Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the United States, died of throat cancer. During his life, Grant had smoked about 20 cigars per day.

9. Both ambidextrous and multilingual, 20th president of the United States James Garfield could write Greek with one hand while writing Latin with the other.

10. Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th president of the United States, underwent a secret operation aboard a yacht to remove his cancerous upper jaw in 1893.

11. The teddy bear derived from 26th U.S. president Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt's refusal to shoot a bear with her cub while on a hunting trip in Mississippi.

12. William Taft, 27th president of the United States, weighed more than 300 pounds and had a special oversized bathtub installed in the White House.

13. Warren Harding, 29th U.S. president, played poker at least twice a week, and once gambled away an entire set of White House china. His advisors were nicknamed the "Poker Cabinet" because they joined the president in his poker games.

14. Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States, had chronic stomach pain and required 10 to 11 hours of sleep and an afternoon nap every day.

15. Herbert Hoover, 31st U.S. president, published more than 16 books, including one called Fishing for Fun-And to Wash Your Soul.

16. 32nd president of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt was related, either by blood or by marriage, to 11 former presidents.

17. The letter "S" comprises the full middle name of the 33rd president, Harry S. Truman. It represents two of his grandfathers, whose names both had "S" in them.

18. Military leader and 34th president of the U.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower loved to cook; he developed a recipe for vegetable soup that is 894 words long and includes the stems of nasturtium flowers as one of the ingredients.

19. 40th president of the United States Ronald Reagan broke the so-called "20-year curse," in which every president elected in a year ending in 0 died in office.

20. George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, and his wife Laura got married just three months after meeting each other.

Posted by Jim at 10:36 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

France Pushes EU to Lift Chinese Arms Embargo

Just as President Bush visits Europe and will “talk about how this is a time to move beyond past differences and work in unity,” the EU announced plans to lift its arms embargo against China.

“[A U.S. official said] the United States had "real problems" with EU. plans to lift an arms embargo imposed on China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.” (Source)

(When my wife and I visited Tiananmen Square last August our Chinese guide told us it was the place where “a few bad characters misled a large group of students.”)

From The Scotsman:

“The issue of military sales to China will be much harder to fudge. The EU, pushed by France, is set to lift an embargo imposed in 1989. US officials including Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s chief of staff, see the EU move as a fundamental challenge to US interests. Mr Bush has promised to defend democratic Taiwan from China.

China claims Taiwan is a renegade province, and Beijing yesterday condemned US support for Taiwan. America’s stance on Taiwan "concerns China’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security, and the Chinese government and people firmly oppose it," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Richard Fisher, a prominent Washington analyst and commentator on Chinese affairs, said the EU move was a serious provocation to the president’s pro-democracy agenda.

"As both Japan and the US begin to seriously prepare for a real war on the Taiwan Strait, it is simply sickening that European leaders are proposing to take any steps that would help to enable a dictatorship to kill democracy," said Mr Fisher.”

When was the last time the French have shown any cooperation with the U.S. or support for the expansion of democracy?

Posted by Jim at 07:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2005

The Case for Condi Replacing Cheney

Early in George W. Bush’s first term, before 9-11 changed his presidency, I predicted that Dick Cheney would step down either with real health problems or as a strategic move, and Bush would name Condoleezza Rice as his new vice president. Rice would the run as Bush’s vice presidential candidate in 2004.

This, I thought, would be a the right political calculation because it would change the dynamics of the 2004 election in a way that would breathe life into what appeared to be a vulnerable Bush re-election candidacy, and it would set Rice up to compete with Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Of course none of that happened, and Cheney has served the nation with distinction and class.

Now this report from Jack Wheeler at To The Point that Vice President Dick Cheney likely will step down next year due to health reasons and be replaced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (h/t: WorldNewsDaily)

Wheeler says there's a "red-breasted rumor bird" flying around Capitol Hill that has whispered the same thing to most congressional committee chairmen.

One such chairman evidently told Wheeler: "None of us will be surprised if, sometime next year, he will step down from the vice presidency due to his health."

According to the Wheeler, in this scenario these Members of Congress believe Bush would appoint Condoleezza Rice. “As a sitting vice president, Condi would be in an impregnable position for the GOP nomination in 2008 and would suck every breath of wind from Hillary's sails.

Exactly.

Posted by Jim at 08:05 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 19, 2005

The Vatican, Paul’s Grave, and Noah’s Ark

The Vatican will make a public announcement soon that archeologists have positively identified the tomb of St. Paul the apostle, according to Catholic World News. (h/t: WorldNetDaily via Considerettes.)

From Catholic World News:

“A sarcophagus which may contain the remains of St. Paul was identified in the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, reports Giorgio Filippi, an archeology specialist with the Vatican Museums. The sarcophagus was discovered during the excavations carried out in 2002 and 2003 around the basilica, which is located in the south of Rome. Having reached what they believe is a positive identification of the tomb, Vatican experts will soon make a public announcement of their discovery.”

From WorldNetDaily.com:

“Giorgio Filippi, a specialist with the Vatican Museums, said a sarcophagus that might still contain the apostle's remains was identified in the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. ‘The tomb that we discovered is the one that the popes and the Emperor Theodosius [A.D. 379- 395] saved and presented to the whole world as being the tomb of the apostle,’ Filippi said. He has no doubt, Paul was buried on the site, ‘because this basilica was the object of pilgrimages by emperors; people from all around the world came to venerate him, having faith that he was present in this basilica.’"

I’ve been to active archeological sites in Israel and I fined archeology a fascinating discipline. The painstaking examination of layers of rock and soil has told us much about human history, and it has done much to verify the truth of the Scriptures. But there are dangers.

The Dangers of Discovery

Unfortunately, this kind of discovery presents a major problem. The burial site will be a site of worship, not of the Christ preached by Paul, but of Paul himself. Veneration of the saints is already a far too common diversion from the worship of Christ.

Another issue is the use of archeological discovery as an evangelism tool. Whenever there is a find—-and there have been many—-that affirms biblical accuracy, Christians and Jews celebrate the confirmation of their faith. Nothing wrong with that. It’s healthy.

But it isn’t the evangelism tool some think it would be.

Noah's Ark

All of this reminds me of a project that I worked on seven years ago. I took a call at the public relations agency where I worked from one of the best-known figures in evangelicalism, now deceased. I will let him remain unnamed, because the corpus of his life work is laudable, and he was one of the most humble servants of Christ I’ve ever met.

It was late 1998 and this Christian leader felt that God was calling him to facilitate the discovery of Noah’s Ark, because it would show that the Bible is true and would prompt mass conversions around the world. The timing was important because this leader believed it was important to complete the task of world evangelization by the year 2000.

He was offering a $1 million prize to the individual or group that provided inconvertible evidence of the existence of Noah’s Ark. Now by this time there had been books written and movies made that recounted the proof that adventurers had that remains of the ship were on Mount Ararat or nearby. But they weren’t treated with any great interest, and it hadn’t resulted in millions of new believers.

Our client thought a better approach was to advertise the contest in Turkey. “Certainly there are people in the villages of the Turkish mountains who know about the whereabouts of Noah’s Ark.” A million dollars would loosen their tongues.

He wanted proof that would convince skeptics, media, and the world community.

So we created ads, in Turkish, and had them placed in several newspapers in Turkey. And, indeed, we received a lot of mail and emails. Much of it in Turkish (which created significant translated expenses). And lots of fuzzy photographs.

Nothing rose to the level of certainty. After about a year, the project was declared over. The new millennium arrived without the benefit of Noah’s Ark.

What if the proof had been convincing? What if the ossuary recently found is that of James the brother of Jesus? And what if the Vatican archeologists have found Paul’s body?

What will be the impact on world evangelization? A similar scenario was posed by Jeusus in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In hell, the rich man asks for Abraham's permission to send Lazarus back to warn his five brothers, for “if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”

The response: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

Nor will many unbelievers be convinced by archeology. (I still hope it really is Paul’s grave.)

Posted by Jim at 12:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 18, 2005

Harvard Releases Transcript of Summers Remarks on Gender Differences

A transcript of remarks by Harvard President Lawrence Summers on women in science was released by the university yesterday. Disgruntled members of the faculty had been calling for the transcript of the January 14 speech to be made public. The university had previously declined to release the transcript, saying they had been given in an off-the-record setting.

The transcript includes his contention that intrinsic differences between the sexes, along with family pressure and employer demands, probably play a bigger role than cultural factors and discrimination in explaining why fewer women than men have top science jobs. (source).

Here’s the salient comment by Summers on why women are generally not in high positions in science and engineering:

"In the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.”

At the vortex of political correctness, Harvard’s president committed the cardinal sin of surmising that there is an intrinsic difference between men and women, and that this and the desire of women to spend more time with their children—-not only discrimination—-has resulted in variances in the work force.

Here’s a site with links to many of the articles written on Summers remarks.

Two Harvard professors wrote in The Boston Globe:

“Considerable evidence exists on women making different choices than men with regard to the family-career tradeoff. Female medical doctors, for example, reduce their practice hours when they have families, particularly after the birth of their second child. But male doctors do not. Women economists occupy positions that have less intense tenure pressure. Female lawyers shift to smaller firms and the government sector.”

Often, women are making the decision that spending time with their families is more important that reaching the highest positions. Anywhere west of the Hudson River and east of the Sierra Nevada’s this is generally seen as a good thing.

However, now that the comments are on the record, the pressure will mount for Summers to be ousted, and that this cardinal transgression by the Charles River be declared a mortal sin.


Posted by Jim at 08:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Shortest Seminary Course

Organizations use a distribution feature offered Religion News Service to send their news releases out to people like me. Yesterday’s releases included this one:

“The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, in conjunction with the Chicago Theological Seminary, has launched a first-of-its-kind curriculum, ‘Theology and Reproductive Choice,’ to teach seminary students theological perspectives on reproductive freedom as a distinct subject.”

It seems to me this would be the shortest seminary course in history.

Posted by Jim at 07:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 17, 2005

Blogosphere Appeals for Terri Schaivo

Are you tired of the Terri Schaivo story? Those who wish to see her killed have not tired and it seems the clock is ticking to a February 22 slow execution. Many are calling for the blogosphere to try its hand at turning the scythe of the Grim Reaper. The Anchoress has written compellingly on this. I hope you'll read it and do what you can.

Posted by Jim at 09:07 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Noonan on Blogging

Peggy Noonan today on why the MSM is so upset by the bloggers, and why the smart money will join rather than fight. A good read, of course.


Posted by Jim at 08:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hillary, Abortion, and the Partisan Juggernaut

Even those who might be otherwise viewed as ideologues often get caught up with the juggernaut of partisanship, putting preservation of the party over advocacy or principle.

We’ve seen support among conservatives for changing historic Senate filibuster rules because the Republicans are frustrated by Democratic misuse of the rule that protects the minority party. But even more blatant is the failure of the pro-life movement to recognize and even praise unquestionable shifts within the Democratic Party on abortion.

“Since its defeats in the November elections, nothing has put the fractured soul of the Democratic Party on display more vividly than abortion. Party leaders, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and the new chairman, Howard Dean, have repeatedly signaled an effort to recalibrate the party's thinking about new restrictions on abortion.” (Source)

When Senator Clinton moderated her public position on abortion restrictions, infuriating the pro-abortion cabal, the only thing we heard from conservatives was skepticism and analysis of the enemy’s political calculation.

William Saletan wrote in Slate:

[Clinton said]: "There is no reason why government cannot do more to educate and inform and provide assistance so that the choice guaranteed under our constitution either does not ever have to be exercised or only in very rare circumstances."

Does not ever have to be exercised. I searched Google and Nexis for parts of that sentence tonight and got no hits. Is the press corps asleep? Hillary Clinton just endorsed a goal I've never heard a pro-choice leader endorse. Not safe, legal, and rare. Safe, legal, and never.

Senator Clinton’s move is no doubt a political adjustment, not a change of heart. But if we discount changes by politicians that are, well, political, we will discount much that is done in Washington (maybe a good idea).

Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t hear any pro-life conservatives celebrating this shift by Clinton. All I heard were observations about how early in the election cycle she was moderating her positions in order to be electable. I’m sure she is doing just that, and that is the right political commentary. But the pro-life movement should be celebrating any new successes and praising Democrats for the changes that are being made.

And it’s not just Hillary:

Other examples:

Senate Democrats named a professed opponent of abortion rights, Harry Reid of Nevada, as the leader in the Senate.

Many Democrats supported another abortion opponent, Timothy J. Roemer, for the party's chairmanship.

The party has recruited Robert P. Casey Jr., Pennsylvania's treasurer and a Catholic opponent of abortion (and son of one of the party’s renowned abortion opponents) to challenge Senator Rick Santorum.
One Republican Senator has noticed.

Pro-life Senator Sam Brownback, (R- Kansas) said: "Just the language that allows for the Democrats to open up and even encourage people to run for office as a pro-life candidate is an enormously positive development for me."

(I guess the pro-life groups are otherwise occupied. I just noticed that the American Life League has announced its National Pro-Life T-Shirt Day. I’m sure that will change a lot of hearts and minds.

The list of thoroughly pro-life Democrats is short, mind you (Note the website of Democrats For Life), but progress on the issues of life on both sides of the aisle should be praised by pro-life advocates, if indeed saving lives is more important than electing Republicans.

Posted by Jim at 08:10 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 16, 2005

Changing the Filibuster Rules

Senate Majority Leader Bill First has the votes needed to change filibuster rules, which would clear the way for easier confirmation of judicial appointments, according to The Washington Times.

Hugh Hewitt agrees with Frist “that the Constitution does not provide 41 Senators the power to block nominees. Thus every time a filibuster is employed against the nominee, damage is done to the Constitution's intent. I think that is a damage worth halting at the first opportunity.”

And Hugh argues that the fact that Republicans may need to use the nominee filibuster at a later date is unconvincing because it is “the embrace of extraconstitutional means to reach political objectives.”

Yes, but not unconstitutional. We should be careful seeking rule changes that serve immediate political goals but may be dangerous for long term protection of the power of the political minority. I’m not ready to assume that the current domination by the Republican Party will last. The political landscape could easily trend back toward the Democrats, particularly if inroads into the Hispanic community don’t continue.

Posted by Jim at 06:10 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 15, 2005

Why Baseball is Better than Football

Hope springs eternal. Tomorrow is the first day of baseball Spring training. There has never been a year when we so desperately need baseball. Football is over, basketball--well, can anyone name more than about five players anymore, and hockey has a death wish, with the rest of the season about to be cancelled.

This year, baseball returns to the Nation's Capital, and one of the nation's best sports writers, Thomas Boswell, is as enthused as he can be.

As a salute to the beginning of Spring training, here's the classic (1987) Boswell piece: Why Is Baseball So Much Better Than Football? (h/t: Daddypundit).

Posted by Jim at 07:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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