Friday, June 29, 2012

Today's Posts

Lessons from the Robin's Nest

After Massive Welfare Spending, Poverty Levels Remain the Same

Now THIS Is An Effective Political Attack Ad

ObamaCare Victory -- Need Help in Figuring Out What Happened? Where To Go Now?

What Are the Elderly Thinking?

Cool American Words


Lessons from the Robin's Nest

For the last couple of weeks Claire and I have marveled at the engineering expertise of the robins whose nest is snugly secured on a low-hanging branch of the tree right outside our door. I mean, the winds we've experienced in the last few weeks here in eastern Nebraska have been (as my Dad used to say) "hard, fast and plenty" yet the nest stayed in place. It was really remarkable. Several times we went out fully expecting to find a disaster on the lawn. But to our surprise and great delight, the nest remained intact and unmoved.

And, of course, Mrs. Robin was always there too, also intact and unmoved. Bless her faithful heart.

We always have a lot of things to pray about, extremely serious things like the advance of the gospel, the persecuted Church, the rebuilding in America and beyond of a culture of life, relief from the Colorado wildfires, and a whole lot of things affecting us and our loved ones. So was God disappointed or annoyed when we included in our prayers the safety of Mrs. Robin's offspring?

I don't think so. After all, the Bible speaks of creation being His handiwork, an expression of His loving, merciful character. We even have specific reference to His provisions for the birds of the air and of God's knowledge of every sparrow that falls to the ground. And God is tender with us too. He knows that seemingly little things can touch us and, as our gracious Father Who always gives us excellent gifts, sometimes He gives us the desires of our heart even when it might only concern...well, something like the successful transition of Mrs. Robin's eggs to little kid robins! God is great.

In the weeks of anxious waiting (anxious for us, I can only imagine what Mrs. Robin was experiencing in those howling, rain-filled winds!), Claire and I talked of many things related to the birds. For instance, we often contrasted the robin's diligence and dedication with the unthinking (even uncaring) attitude that marks parenthood among humans. We talked of the utter foolishness of the Nanny State which would make it a crime (I'm not kidding) for us to try and help take care of the baby birds were they to fall out of the nest. And we talked about the wisdom, power and, yes, whimsey of our Lord  as revealed in so many marvelous mysteries of nature.

Things in that tree, by the way, have come to the climax. The nest has survived the storms, wind and heat. The eggs have hatched. And Mrs. Robin's kids are requiring new efforts on her part to care for them. It will be a glorious adventure for them all. But not an easy one. And so, amid all the other prayers we will be lifting up to our Lord, we still will have a few for the Robin family.

And thanks, Lord, for directing them to build their nest where they did. It was a super cool gift.

After Massive Welfare Spending, Poverty Levels Remain the Same

The federal government is not making much headway reducing poverty despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars, according to a study by the libertarian Cato Institute.

Despite an unprecedented increase in federal anti-poverty spending, the national poverty rate has not declined, the study finds...


Federal welfare spending in fiscal year 2011 totaled $668 billion, spread out over 126 programs, while the poverty rate that remains high at 15.1 percent, roughly where it was in 1965, when President Johnson declared a federal War on Poverty.

Throwing money into wasteful, inefficient, even counter-productive welfare programs is not good government.

And, obviously, it isn't good charity either.

Here's more of the CNS news story.

Now THIS Is An Effective Political Attack Ad

ObamaCare Victory -- Need Help in Figuring Out What Happened? Where To Go Now?

I kinda' figured this would happen; namely, the sun came up this morning.

Despite the shocking ruling that came down from the Supreme Court yesterday, a decision that seemingly twisted logic, morality and the U.S. Constitution in order to uphold ObamaCare, the world didn't end.

So may I offer for your consideration a few angles on the Court decision that you may have missed? Some of these articles hold out hope for the future of the Constitutional system. Some see John Roberts as a cunning conservative hero, others as a cowardly shill, bullied by Barack Obama and the New York Times. Some deal with the crucial next steps we must make to fight the evils of abortion funding, care containment and coerced socialism that is ObamaCare.

All make for important reading.

Do You Feel Like a Winner?

* "If you were above all interested in the bill being struck down, it was mostly a loss. On the other hand, if you were more concerned about the qualitative expansion in the power of the government that the bill represented, it was definitely a win.

First, the Roberts Court put real limits on what the government can and cannot do. For starters, it restricted the limits of the Commerce Clause, which does not give the government the power to create activity for the purpose of regulating it. This is a huge victory for those of us who believe that the Constitution is a document which offers a limited grant of power.

Second, the Roberts Court also threw out a portion of the Medicaid expansion. States have the option of withdrawing from the program without risk of losing their funds. This is another major victory for conservatives who cherish our system of dual sovereignty. This was also a big policy win for conservatives; the Medicaid expansion was a major way the Democrats hid the true cost of the bill, by shifting costs to the states, but they no longer can do this…" (Jay Cost, "What Did SCOTUS Just Do?" at the Weekly Standard.)

Do You Feel Like a Winner? Number 2

* "Conservatives won a substantial victory Thursday. The physics of American politics — actions provoking reactions — continues to move the crucial debate, about the nature of the American regime, toward conservatism. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has served this cause.

The health-care legislation’s expansion of the federal government’s purview has improved our civic health by rekindling interest in what this expansion threatens — the Framers’ design for limited government. Conservatives distraught about the survival of the individual mandate are missing the considerable consolation prize they won when the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional rationale for the mandate — Congress’s rationale — that was pregnant with rampant statism.

The case challenged the court to fashion a judicially administrable principle that limits Congress’s power to act on the mere pretense of regulating interstate commerce. At least Roberts got the court to embrace emphatic language rejecting the Commerce Clause rationale for penalizing the inactivity of not buying insurance…" (George Will, "Conservative's Consolation Prize" in the Washington Post.)

The Pro-Lifer's Call to Arms

* National Right to Life President Carol Tobias "said today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding most of the ObamaCare law is a call-to-action for the right-to-life electorate to work to elect a Congress and president this November committed to repealing ObamaCare in 2013, in order to prevent a future in which abortion insurance will be heavily subsidized by federal taxpayers and federal bureaucrats will be authorized to ration life-saving medical treatment." (From "Supreme Court Upholds Pro-Abortion, Pro-Rationing Obamacare" at LifeNews. com.)

Limited Government Idea Is In "Imminent Danger"

* "The idea that the Supreme Court would save us from Obamacare is more fitting for Greek drama, with its device of the deus ex machina, than for modern constitutional law. The big legal fight over Obamacare was a good one, one worth having — and more remain — but I didn’t think the Court was going to save us from this monstrous pseudo-law.

Nevertheless, the litigation over Obamacare provides a good education in the idea of limited constitutional government and the imminent danger of its passing. It also demonstrates the jeopardy in which Obamacare has placed it. To borrow an expression from another of the Supreme Court’s First Amendment mistakes, Obamacare poses a clear and present danger to limited constitutional government.

Now the fight against Obamacare will be won if it all only on the political battlefield. The Supreme Court has relegated us to the remedy of self-help. The time, coincidentally, is now." (Scott Johnson, "Take This Tax" from PowerLine.)

Is Roberts a Conservative After All?

* "Chief Justice John Roberts has handed a remarkable victory to American conservatives by threading the judicial needle with perfect precision.  The initial disappointment collectively felt by Americans who had hoped for a Supreme Court ruling that would overturn Obamacare soon will be replaced, upon further reflection, by the excitement that will come with a fuller appreciation of what the Chief Justice has wrought." (Dov Fischer, "The Chief Justice Done Good" at American Thinker. See also Charles Krauthammer's "Why Roberts Did It" at NRO and Tom Scocca|'s "Obama Wins the Battle, Roberts Wins the War" at Slate.)

Or Is Roberts Just Another SCOTUS Wimp?

* "Roberts’s decision is no conservative Trojan Horse. Any limit it established on the Commerce Clause is more than overpowered by its chilling finding that 'the Constitution does not guarantee…individuals may avoid taxation through inactivity.'

Nor do I see the opinion as a chess move in some long-term gambit. I’m more sympathetic to the view that Roberts felt the pressure, as guardian of the institution, to rule narrowly in a way that would split the difference and protect the Court’s legitimacy. But if he felt such pressure, that in itself is depressing, evidence that the political Left’s sustained attack was effective." (Daniel Foster's "Hate the Decision, Love the Response, Tip of the Cap to Justice Kennedy" at NRO. See also Rich Lowery's "The Umpire Blinks" at NRO and Ramesh Ponnuru's "In Health-Care Ruling, Roberts Writes His Own Law" at Bloomberg, )

The Commerce Clause Has a Limit?

* "They may have lost the battle on Obamacare, but they now have some weaponry to win future battles on this issue. In a major case, the court has found the Commerce Clause indeed has some limits in a major case, and that really hasn’t happened since the New Deal court  basically abandoned the traditional Constitutional  reading of that clause in 1937." (John Fund, "There’s a Limit on the Commerce Clause" at NRO.)

A Violation of the Commerce Clause? Of Course. But Who Cares?

 * "Those who claimed that Obamacare violated the Commerce Clause were right. From the Supreme Court ruling: 'People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society. Those failures—joined with the similar failures of others—can readily have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act. That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned.'

Indeed. But, the majority wanted the policy. So, they rewrote the law to make it a tax case.  That is what is known as judicial legislation."  (Wesley J. Smith, "Obamacare Violated Commerce Clause, But it Doesn’t Matter" at Secondhand Smoke. Also look at Wesley J. Smith's "Obamacare Ruling: Government Didn’t Ask for Mandate to be a Tax.")

Limbaugh -- "The Largest Tax Increase in the History of the World"

* "Hey, folks, have you seen the economic news today?  Have you heard about the unemployment numbers today?  Gross domestic product, have you heard about any of that?  Because I have it here, and it sucks.  It's a disaster.  The economy of this country remains a disaster.  And we, the American people, have just been deceived in ways that nobody contemplated.  And what we now have is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world...

The chief justice was hell-bent to find a way to make this law applicable, so he just decided, you know what, as a tax increase, it works, because there's no limit on the federal government's ability to tax...

The first thing that came down, the mandate, unconstitutional, that was the first thing everybody reported.  Mandate unconstitutional, big sigh of relief.  And then within moments, wait a minute, wait a minute, we're reading further.  Hold it just a second.  The mandate's unconstitutional, but the court has decided it's a tax, and therefore it's okay.

So Obamacare is nothing more than the largest tax increase in the history of the world.  And the people who were characterizing it as such were right and were telling the truth.  We have the biggest tax increase in the history of the world right in the middle of one of this country's worst recessions…

The court upheld a law that was not what we were told it would be.  What has been upheld here is fraud, and the Internal Revenue Service has just become Barack Obama's domestic army.  That is what we face now.  We were deceived.  Obamacare was a lie.  It was a stealth tax on all Americans..." (Rush Limbaugh, "The Court Rules: Obamacare is the Largest Tax Increase in the History of the World" at his website.)

Did Roberts Just Box In Obama, Big-Government Dems?

* "Conservatives gathering now for a low-tech lynching of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. need to take a quick breath of air and think about what he managed to accomplish by upholding President Obama’s highly unpopular, signature piece of legislation.

Though he shocked many by joining the left plank on the high court, Justice Roberts. pretty much did what he was supposed to do. He finally put a boundary on how much freedom the federal government can gobble up from states and individuals under the “commerce clause” — that most specious scheme for so much federal thievery.

Then he told President Obama and his kleptocrats in Congress that they can have their health care law, but they cannot keep lying about it. A tax is a tax and they are liars if they call it anything else. And they just stuck the crippled American taxpayer with one of the biggest, broadest, most regressive tax-hikes in history — and during a deep recession!" (Charles Hurt, "The Silver Lining? Now Obama Owns his Tax Hikes" at the Washington Times.)

Bottom Line? The Court Is Ruining American Democracy, Freedom, and Constitutional Law.

* "I’ve read all the arguments, some ingenious, for why the Roberts majority opinion is actually “good” in the long run. I don’t buy that at all, and worry that rationalizing defeats is no way to learn from them. From now on, the precedent has been established that U.S. citizens can be forced to buy a product that government deems necessary — period. Who cares what a particular president on occasion deems to call it — tax, mandate, whatever — at any given expedient time, or what a justice does to finesse that definition to protect implementation of the law?

The same is true with the Arizona decision. I don’t see how that decision is such great news either: We now live in a country where a state that tries to follow and enforce federal law is seen as a usurping power, while those government entities, such as the sanctuary cities, which deliberately seek to undermine federal immigration law are, for all practical purposes, exempt. Add that Arizona is now supposedly acting unconstitutionally in trying to close its borders, and the president is apparently acting constitutionally as he sidesteps Congress and implements de facto amnesty by fiat, doing far more damage to the notion of federal law than any conceivable action by Arizona. That is surreal.

As for the culture of the Court, we must accept that when four liberal judges vote in typically liberal fashion they are open-minded, and when conservative judges do the same they are partisan and small-minded, putting enormous pressure, apparently, on the latter to now and then vote in liberal fashion, and none at all on the former to do anything but remain orthodox. There is no conservative majority, but rather a 4/3/2 court, with absolutely predictably liberal justices and those inclined often to join them becoming a reliable majority." (Victor Davis Hanson, "Not So Good News" at NRO.)

What Are the Elderly Thinking?

The last several days have found me musing on several passages from Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons, the penetrating and prescient novel he wrote in 1918 about the rise and fall of an aristocratic American family.  But one scene has been in my thoughts more than any other, probably because of our ongoing involvement with “When Swing Was King” as well as an upcoming interview Focus on the Family has scheduled to talk with us about nursing home outreach and other ministries to seniors.

The scene features the elderly Major Amberson, who is suffering from grief and loneliness as well as from the inevitable ravages of old age.  He sits for hours staring at the fire -- awake and yet generally disconnected from anything that’s happening around him.  The other family members assume that he is in some kind of mental limbo. If any cognizant thoughts do slip through, the family believes they are the Major's memories of his military service, the building of his business, or sweet dreams of his wife who died long ago.

They were mistaken.  The Major was engaged in the profoundest thinking of his life.  No business plans which had ever absorbed him could compare in momentousness with the plans that absorbed him now, for he had to plan on how to enter the unknown country where he was not even sure of being recognized as an Amberson...

His absorption produced the outward effect of reverie, but of course it was not.  The Major was occupied with the first really important matter that had taken his attention since he came home invalided after the Gettysburg campaign, and went into business; and he realized that everything which had worried him or delighted him during this lifetime  between then and to-day – all his buying and building and trading and banking – that it all was trifling and waste beside what concerned him now.

A few pages later this scene (and Major Amberson's life) reaches its climax. 

He moved his hand uncertainly as if reaching for something, and George jumped up, "Did you want anything, grandfather?"

"What?"

"Would you like a glass of water?"

"No – no.  No; I don’t want anything."  The reaching hand dropped back upon the arm of the chair, and he relapsed into silence; but a few minutes later he finished the sentence he had begun: 

"I wish – somebody could tell me!"

The next day he had a slight cold, but he seemed annoyed when his son suggested calling the doctor, and Amberson let him have his own way so far, in fact, that after he had got up and dressed, the following morning, he was all alone when he went away to find out what he hadn’t been able to think out – all those things he had wished "somebody" would tell him.

Old Sam, shuffling in with the breakfast tray, found the Major in his accustomed easy-chair by the fireplace – and yet even the old servant could see instantly that the Major was not there.

I think you can see why I found The Magnificent Ambersons a valuable read.  And I think you can see why I find that particular scene so compelling, evoking as it does so many thoughts and feelings connected to my own loved ones even as I'm moved also to think about the elderly friends Claire and I are making in our regular visits to assisted living centers and nursing homes.

The applications are limited, I understand that.  For instance, not every nursing home resident is involved in the same intense search for life’s meaning as was Major Amberson.  And some of those who are seemingly “locked inside” frail bodies and minds are genuinely out of our reach. Some – but not all!  That’s extremely important to appreciate.  So too is the fact that we are usually unable to determine exactly what’s going on inside a person's mind.  Therefore, mercy would direct us to give such souls the benefit of the doubt, moving us to speak, touch and pray for the person until the very end.

Another important point is that explaining spiritual truths to genuine seekers like Major Amberson (serving as the “somebody” who can tell them the answers to spiritual questions), requires sincerity, patience, prayer, and the willingness to win the right to be heard.  This is true of all evangelism and discipleship ministry.  In regards to hospital or nursing home visitation, the ministering Christian must be willing to be a genuine friend, to take the time necessary to shine forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and to demonstrate appropriate sensitivity to others involved, including family members and facility staff.

But with these practical issues accepted, the yearning for spiritual truth exhibited by Major Amberson should move all Christians to remember the important mission field our senior citizens represent.  And, for that matter, we must not overlook those younger citizens who are forced by disease or accident to also require the ongoing care provided by a nursing home.  These places are all around us with every one of them filled with people who need our attention, our love in action, and yes, our answers to their questions about “that unknown country” that lies behind death.

Vital Signs Ministries would love to help you develop your service to seniors -- both to those who yet live on their own and those whose care has required assisted living or nursing homes. Whether it involves becoming a part of our delightful “When Swing Was King” program, another type of visitation program, perhaps even a concerted ministry with others from your church, please contact us or our dear friends at Desert Ministries who have done such splendid work in this area of need.

Cool American Words

I recently caught an interesting piece on Dictionary.com that listed a few of the most interesting and distinctly American words. As an entry into the weekend, I thought you might enjoy it too. Here they are:

Lollapalooza -- [lol-uh-puh-loo-zuh] -- "An extraordinary thing, person, or event."

Sockdolager -- [sok-dol-uh-jer] -- "A decisive blow or remark." It's the product of an American fad to mix and match Latin roots and slang to create new, often silly, words. Partly derived from sock, to punch, and possibly from doxology, the end of a church service.

Catawampus -- [kat-uh-wom-puh s] -- "Confused or diagonal." (My Dad used it of the latter and prounounced it catee wampus) It seems to have its origin in the South or Midwest in the 1840s. Think of the phrase kitty-cornered and you'll see a shared origin between kitty- and cata-. The source of wumpus, on the other hand, may just be a funny-sounding mystery.

Hornswoggle -- [hawrn-swog-uh l] -- Means "to trick or hoax." It would be a deception for us to say we know the exact origin of hornswoggle, but its first known appearance in 1829 was in the U.S.

Foofaraw -- [foo-fuh-raw] -- Either "a great fuss about something insignificant" or "an excessive amount of decoration." The term comes from the American West and is a mutation of the Spanish fanfaron, meaning "show-off."

Discombobulate -- [dis-kuh m-bob-yuh-leyt] -- One of the most common words on this list, discombobulate sounds like something from a cartoon. It was first recorded as "discombobracate," then "discomboobulate." They all mean exactly what they sound like: "to confuse or upset."

Bumptious -- [buhmp-shuh s] --"Offensively self-assertive."

For each one you knew, give yourself a point. For each one you work into a conversation at church on Sunday morning, give yourselves 10 points. We'll tally up and award the prize next week.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Today's Posts

Should You Strive for a Balanced Christianity?

So It Ain't Exactly True. As Long As the Politics Are Left.

Missouri Synod Lutherans Take Their Stand Against ObamaCare

What Are Government Food Stamps Buying? The Government Has No Idea.

Barack Obama: Flip-Flopper Extraordinaire

Family-Friendly Businesses? Not Any More!

Pray for Colorado


Should You Strive for a Balanced Christianity?

It seems that the number of books, articles, sermons and devotionals which extol the “balanced” Christian life are endless.  That’s too bad for, despite their good intentions, they are based upon a false premise, a premise whose source is actually Greek philosophy and not the Holy Scriptures at all.  Indeed, balance is the stuff of Galen, Aristotle and, in a more mystical sense, Plato.  But the Bible presents a much different ideal; namely, spiritual wholeness.  And a grateful, joyful embrace of this truth is a critically important corrective to the confusion, frustration and erroneous division that the pursuit of "balance" inevitably creates.

Let me illustrate the point with an excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon which I print below.  I’m nearing the conclusion of “The Heroic Homemaker,” a 7-part series of expository sermons dealing with the poem of Proverbs 31:10-31.  And as I came to verse 26 I took a few moments to show how the heroic homemaker’s life revealed not a balance of divergent (even competing) values but rather a unified, complete and thorough integration of godly virtues.  Here’s the sermon excerpt:

Verse 26 “She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (NASB)

This verse is connected to the previous one in which the poet described the excellent wife’s adornment as her spiritual strength and dignity.  In other words, it was her godly character that shone through everything she did. Now he continues the same theme, letting us know that when the excellent wife spoke, it too was a reflection of her inner spirituality.  Her true heart for God, her inner beauty and integrity were revealed in the way she lived…including the way she spoke.

Wisdom and kindness are mixed together in her.  That’s true spirituality.  That’s evidence that the Holy Spirit is empowering someone, that their lives are marked by the combination of godly virtues: wisdom and kindness, grace and truth, mercy and justice.  Indeed, these virtues, these characteristics of God must all be present or none of them are!

Christians often suggest that these various characteristics are like counter-weights that need to be finely balanced against one another if you want to live right. In other words, you take wisdom and put it on this side of the scales and then you counter it with the weight of kindness on the other side so that you come up with a spiritual balance. They do the same with grace and truth, mercy and justice, love and holiness, and so on.

But that’s wrong…sadly and critically wrong.  True spirituality does not consist in balancing these virtues.  For crying out loud, they are not in opposition to one another!  Grace isn’t the opposite of truth.  Kindness is not a contradiction of holiness.  The law of God is not an inversion of the love of God.

God is not divided in Himself.  He is not “well-balanced.” Indeed, God is complete.  He is love and truth and righteousness and kindness and grace and holiness and…you get the idea.

These characteristics of God are all together. 100%.  Continual.  Co-existing.  And as the Christian lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, all of these virtues are alive in him. 100%.  Continual.  Co-existing. 

We do not balance one against the other.  We do not encounter situations in which we need to focus on kindness instead of holiness or where we need to tender justice with mercy or where we divide the church up into teams where the "truth guys" go out to do certain jobs while the "love guys" go out to do others.

Verse 26 isn’t implying that the heroic homemaker sometimes spoke wisely whereas, in other situations, she spoke kindly.  No, her speech was wise and kind.  Like the rest of her life, it was a whole thing.  Spiritual.  Infused with the complimentary characteristics of who God is.

Walking in the Spirit is a unified walk.  It integrates fully the fruit of the Spirit – all of them.  And all at the same time. It's not from 9 – 10:30, peace emphasis; 10:30 – noon, concentrate on love; noon – 2, let patience be foremost; 2 – 3:30, go for goodness; and so on.

Remember how we’ve emphasized that the New Testament teaches that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is all these things.  Fruit – singular.  Not fruits.  The single fruit of the Spirit is all of those wonderful things. Once again, let me repeat it. True spirituality is all of the virtues operating. 100%.  Continual.  Co-existing. 

So get away from thinking of spirituality as something that can be measured with scales.  The fruit of the Spirit does not consist of isolated virtues that serve in counter-weights to other virtues.  Remember, that whole balance thing comes from Greek philosophy, not Christianity.

True spirituality is a wholistic thing.  It is walking in the Spirit, empowered by all of His graces  and demonstrating all of His blessings.  We are complete in Christ – not divided, not full of competing values.  When we operate in Christ, we act in wisdom and kindness (both, at the same time) and we reveal love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering and so on (all of them, all at the same time).

This isn’t merely a matter of semantics.  This is a very important matter.  And many Christians have a lot of problems in their lives and ministries because of misunderstandings in this area.  They are forever living in the tension of competing forces: “How much should love be involved here as compared to righteousness?” “When should I act according to truth and when should I act in mercy?”

No.  God is not divided – ever.  Nor is the person who walks according to His Word, dependent on the Holy Spirit.  We are complete in Christ; liberated to live with all of the fruit of the Spirit enriching our life and blessing the lives of others. So leave the balance business to gymnasts, engineers and accountants. You commit to walk in the Spirit and experience the integration of His virtues in you. 100%. Continual. Co-existing."

So It Ain't Exactly True. As Long As the Politics Are Left.

Is there any doubt that Mark Steyn is the most inventive, most effective conservative writer of our generation? I read him and not only get the political and cultural ideas he presents but I also get teasing echoes of Tom Wolfe, James Thurber, Bill Buckley, Malcolm Muggeridge, Bob Novak, Evelyn Waugh, G.K. Chesterton, even Stan Freeberg and the writers of the 1960s-era Mad Magazine.

Want a brief example? Here's the first section of a recent column exploring the new biography of our President, "Obama the First Invented-American President." It's choice.

Courtesy of David Maraniss' new book, we now know that yet another key prop of Barack Obama's identity is false: His Kenyan grandfather was not brutally tortured or even non-brutally detained by his British colonial masters. The composite gram'pa joins an ever-swelling cast of characters from Barack's "memoir" who, to put it discreetly, differ somewhat in reality from their bit parts in the grand Obama narrative. The best friend at school portrayed in Obama's autobiography as "a symbol of young blackness" was, in fact, half Japanese, and not a close friend. The white girlfriend he took to an off-Broadway play that prompted an angry post-show exchange about race never saw the play, dated Obama in an entirely different time zone, and had no such world-historically significant conversation with him. His Indonesian step-grandfather, supposedly killed by Dutch soldiers during his people's valiant struggle against colonialism, met his actual demise when he "fell off a chair at his home while trying to hang drapes."

David Maraniss is no right-winger, and can't understand why boorish nonliterary types have seized on his book as evidence that the president of the United States is a Grade A phony. "It is a legitimate question about where the line is in memoir," he told Soledad O'Brien on CNN. My Oxford dictionary defines "memoir" as "an historical account or biography written from personal knowledge." And if Obama doesn't have "personal knowledge" of his tortured grandfather, war-hero step-grandfather and racially obsessed theater-buff girlfriend, who does? But in recent years, the Left has turned the fake memoir into one of the most prestigious literary genres: Oprah's Book Club recommended James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," hailed by Bret Easton Ellis as a "heartbreaking memoir" of "poetic honesty," but subsequently revealed to be heavy on the "poetic" and rather light on the "honesty." The "heartbreaking memoir" of a drug-addled street punk who got tossed in the slammer after brawling with cops while high on crack with his narco-hooker girlfriend proved to be the work of some suburban Pat Boone type with a couple of parking tickets. (I exaggerate, but not as much as he did.)

Oprah was also smitten by "The Education of Little Tree," the heartwarmingly honest memoir of a Cherokee childhood which turned out to be concocted by a former Klansman whose only previous notable literary work was George Wallace's "Segregation Forever" speech. "Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood" is a heartbreakingly honest, poetically searing, searingly painful, painfully honest, etc., account of Binjamin Wilkomirski's unimaginably horrific boyhood in the Jewish ghetto of Riga and the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. After his memoir won America's respected National Jewish Book Award, Mr. Wilkomirski was inevitably discovered to have been born in Switzerland and spent the war in a prosperous neighborhood of Zurich being raised by a nice middle-class couple. He certainly had a deprived childhood, at least from the point of view of a literary agent pitching a memoir to a major publisher. But the "unimaginable" horror of his book turned out to be all too easily imagined. Fake memoirs have won the Nobel Peace Prize and are taught at Ivy League schools to the scions of middle-class families who take on six-figure debts for the privilege ("I, Rigoberta Menchu"). They're handed out by the Pentagon to senior officers embarking on a tour of Afghanistan (Greg Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea") on the entirely reasonable grounds that a complete fantasy could hardly be less credible than current NATO strategy.

In such a world, it was surely only a matter of time before a fake memoirist got elected as president of the United States. Indeed, the aforementioned Rigoberta Menchu ran as a candidate in the 2007 and 2011 presidential elections in Guatemala, although she got knocked out in the first round – Guatemalans evidently being disinclined to elect someone to the highest office in the land with no accomplishment whatsoever apart from a lousy fake memoir. Which just goes to show what a bunch of unsophisticated rubes they are…


Steyn isn't done. Read the rest of the column here.

Missouri Synod Lutherans Take Their Stand Against ObamaCare

"The free exercise of religion does not mean simply the freedom to assemble; it means the freedom to practice our religion in the public sphere, in institutions that we have and run." (Rev. Dr . Matthew C. Harrison, President of the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod)

What Are Government Food Stamps Buying? The Government Has No Idea.

It's such a typical government program -- one that takes a huge amount of money from working taxpayers and then gives it away to other people but without strings, without oversight, and without even a knowledge of how the money is being spent!

Can you say waste? Can you say fraud?

Can you say food stamps?

I print below excerpts of Luke Rosiak's important story in The Washington Times about the outrageous government attack on any and all parties who try to to peek behind the curtain of this massive welfare program. Truly infuriating stuff.

Americans spend $80 billion each year financing food stamps for the poor, but the country has no idea where or how the money is spent.

Food stamps can be spent on goods ranging from candy to steak and are accepted at retailers from gas stations that primarily sell potato chips to fried-chicken restaurants. And as the amount spent on food stamps has more than doubled in recent years, the amount of food stamps laundered into cash has increased dramatically, government statistics show.

But the government won’t say which stores are doing the most business in food stamps, and even it doesn’t know what kinds of food those taxpayer dollars buy.

Coinciding with lobbying by convenience stores, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program in conjunction with states, contends that disclosing how much each store authorized to accept benefits, known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), receives in taxpayer funds would amount to revealing trade secrets.

As a result, fraud is hard to track and the efficacy of the massive program is impossible to evaluate…

Maryland denied The Washington Times’ request for data under the Freedom of Information Act, saying the information belonged to the federal government, which instructed states not to release it.

Legislation seemingly designed to protect the industry goes so far as to say that anyone who releases the amount of food stamp dollars paid to a store can be jailed…

The USDA is notoriously secretive about who receives its money, relying on weak legal reasoning, said Steve Ellis of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

“USDA hides behind a specious proprietary data argument: The public doesn’t want to know internal business decisions or information about specific individuals’ finances,” he said. “The USDA sees retailers, junk food manufacturers and the big ag lobby as their customers, rather than the taxpayer.”

The agency also has no idea what type of food the benefits are buying, even though the combination of universal bar codes and benefit cards makes that entirely feasible…

Last year, the Argus Leader, a South Dakota newspaper, sued the USDA for the information, and the USDA has fought fiercely in court filings that have stretched through this month to prevent disclosure.

This month, the public-interest group Eat Drink Politics called on the USDA to release the totals by retailer and for Congress to require the USDA to determine what types of food are purchased.

In a few cases, states have released subsets of the information, triggering the anger of the USDA...

Barack Obama: Flip-Flopper Extraordinaire

Like a catfish out of water, Barack Obama's flip-floppin' has become wild, desperate, and real ugly.

It's hardly surprising then that even his friends are becoming convinced that the President's chances for a second term are as doomed as that poor catfish; that is, unless he does really well in mobilizing the illegal -- and dead -- voters of the big city political machines.

Want a case in point? How about a whole boatload of 'em?

Here's Victor Davis Hanson with today's must-read from over at NRO, "Obama, Story-Teller: What matters is the progressive intent — not some supposed objective truth."

Great stuff to pass around too.

Family-Friendly Businesses? Not Any More!

Claire and I have written four letters expressing our principled protest of businesses that have suddenly become agents for homosexual activism. They are certainly not the first letters she or I have written to these companies -- these companies have pulled bonehead plays before -- but the reasons for writing them again and letting them know they are on our No Shop List were fresh. And thus so was our motivation.

If you dare to speak up for the Bible's teaching about sexuality and marriage (and, by so doing, speak up for the moral values that have allowed Western civilization to thrive), by all means, write a few letters too.

Within the letters I have made links to articles which give more information about each company's latest foray into the field of immoral activism. And at the conclusion of each letter is the contact information.

Dear Mr. Powell,

We were extremely disappointed to learn about General Mills taking such an aggressive stand against, of all things, traditional marriage! In your recent press statement hailing the quest for sexual "diversity" and promoting same-sex marriage, you offended millions of Americans who hold deep religious convictions about sexuality and marriage as taught in the Bible -- teaching that has stood Western civilization in great stead for millenia. How irresponsible.

Why get involved in this issue anyway? Why not stick to making cereal?

We have begun to search through the list of General Mills products with an eye to replacing them on our shelves with alternatives. Indeed, we will be diligently avoiding any and all General Mills products as long you thumb your nose at traditional American families.

General Mills, Inc.
P O Box 9452
Minneapolis, MN 55440
1-800-248-7310 

Also see DumpGeneralMills.com.http://www.dumpgeneralmills.com/

 Dear Mr. Johnson,

Though a faithful customer at J.C. Penney's for decades (it was my go-to store for clothes and household goods), I stopped shopping at your stores when you made an outspoken lesbian and aggressive promoter of same-sex marriage your national spokesperson.  But then your business went further to discredit traditional morality by displaying “in your face” same-sex couples ads for Mother’s and Father’s Days. And so I became more active in my opposition to your business plan by urging others among my family, friends, church members and the readers of my husband's blog to avoid shopping at J.C. Penney.

With the recent revelations of how your stock has tanked and how you’ve posted such a dramatic drop in sales, I'm hoping that J.C. Penney's will get out of homosexual activism and back into customer satisfaction. So, come on; return to your roots.  Supporting biblical morality and the traditional family values that have been the blessing of Western civilization is always a good course. When you go back to that, I’ll be back shopping at your stores. But definitely not until then.

J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc.
6501 Legacy Dr
Plano, TX 74024

To the Target Executive Officers Committee,

After reading about your strong public support of gay marriage, we will no longer shop at any Target store.  By declaring such disrespect towards the deeply held religious convictions of Catholics, evangelicals, orthodox Jews, Mormons, Muslims and others, your company has taken an irresponsible path into the culture wars rather than sticking to sound business principles.

Target has long been a favorite store of ours...but no more. And we plan on encouraging others among our family, friends, church members, and blog readers to shop elsewhere as long as Target continues to play politics, deliberately offend religious consumers, and dis marriage.

Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Dear Ms. Rosenfeld

Hmm. Yet another company which has decided to jump headlong into the culture wars instead of sticking to business? Another company that has gone out of its way to attract the interest of homosexual activists (loud but very few in number) while grievously offending the millions of American citizens (Catholics, evangelicals, orthodox Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and others) who hold religious convictions about sexuality and marriage?

After reading about Oreo's "gay cookie" which the company's Facebook page made such a splashy event, we have decided to avoid buying Kraft/Nabisco products.

This was a very irresponsible move. Just ask J.C. Penney how homosexual activism worked for them.

Kraft Corporate Headquarters
3 Lakes Dr. Northfield, IL 60093

Pray for Colorado


Friday, June 22, 2012

Today's Posts

Barack Obama Wants Your Wedding Gifts...And More

 And forget about Christmas gifts, donations to church or charities, 
even your kid's allowance. 

After all, the needs of Barack Obama are so much more important 
than anything going on in your dull, insignificant, puny life.


The Fallout from Same-Sex Marriage

Is the National Association of Evangelicals Now Enabling Sexual Sin?

Yet another reason for biblical-oriented Christians to put distance between themselves and the left-leaning National Association of Evangelicals -- besides those I've referred to in past blog posts which include the NAE's "progressive" positions on global warming and fighting terrorism, defending President Obama's lawlessness,  promotion of irresponsible welfare programs -- is that the organization has now jumped into bed (the pun is sadly appropriate) with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a program devoted to promoting contraceptive use by unmarried sex partners.

 Good grief.

Here's two parts of a developing story about this outrageous sell-out written by Marvin Olasky and printed in the online version of World Magazine: "Strange Bedfellows" and "Conflicted."

Can I say it again? 1) Stop all personal support of the NAE. 2) Seek to persuade your local church and denomination to stop supporting the NAE. and 3) Spread the word.


Priority Reading for Your Weekend

Some of these are alarming. Some amusing. Some designed to stimulate to specific action. But all are of value to the counter-culture Christian.

* Aaron Goldstein's American Spectator article detailing the long and sad history of Eric Holder, "Holder Has Long Been Contemptible: Just don't let him resign before November 6."

*  George Will's interesting column in the Washington Post, "The Beach Boys Still Get Around."

* An editorial from Investor's Business Daily with yet more information on Barack Obama's bizarre (and it turns out, wholly invented) family history. The editorial is boldly titled, "Is President Obama A Pathological Liar?"

*  It was a dream come true for Reggie Littlejohn of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers to actually meet blind Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng for whom she has worked so diligently to free from the hands of his Communist Chinese torturers. Read about that momentous meeting right here.

* Those of you who watch golf on TV and, like me, are getting fed up with boorish spectators disturbing the peace, will appreciate Alex Myers' piece in Golf Digest, "Dear Gallery, Stop Yelling Stupid Things!"

(Excerpt -- I'm not trying to sound all Bobby Jones-preachy here. I don't think fans should be restrained to soft "golf claps" and dressing like they're about to attend a business conference, but they should keep in mind that players can actually hear them. And worse, everyone else watching -- both in person and on TV -- can as well.

I mean, if you're going to take advantage of total silence, why not at least scream something that's for a good cause? Maybe something like "Peace and goodwill!" Or, "Lower gas prices!" Or better yet, "Stop making Adam Sandler movies!"
)

* "If anything, though, the bad economy will make Americans more inclined to be angry about Fast and Furious and the administration’s attempt to cover up the scandal. If American were happier about the economic situation, they would be more willing to cut the president some slack on issues that have little impact on their daily well-being. Since they are unhappy, they may well tend to view Fast and Furious as a manifestation of the administration’s incompetence and dishonesty." (This is just one of the illuminating observations about the political impact of Fast & Furious scandal. You'll find more in this PowerLine column by by Paul Mirengoff.)

* Of course, the rule of law doesn't matter much to Team Obama. But for the rest of us who still respect it and who desire the Constitution to remain in force, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano's detailed explanation of the legal background of executive privilege and why Obama's move to exploit it is a dastardly deed, is a good read. You'll find it at Fox News right here.

J.C. Penney's "Gay Turn" Is a Financial Bomb

So J. C. Penney, how's that shift towards homosexual activism working for you? What? You say the company lost $163,000,000? Hmm. I knew you had lost our business but, obviously, there were a lot of folks that felt the same way we did. And a 20% dip in sales too, you say? Wow. Bad move, Binky.

Wouldn't you say it's time to return to your formerly family-friendly ways? The evidence couldn't be clearer that it's not in your company's interests to pursue the cause of "normalizing" sexual perversion.

And you might pass on that advice on to Target, Starbucks and the other businesses who have taken that same shift towards homosexual activism.

Here's the latest from the Family Research Council's Washington Update:

J.C. Penney has lost its way -- and in the process, its profits! "Is J.C. Penney trying to become GayC Penney?" ABC News is asking--and so are customers. In the last several months, the company once known for its Christian roots has undergone a radical transformation. It started last year, when J.C. Penney hired Ellen DeGeneres, a vocal proponent of same-sex "marriage," as its spokesperson.

The choice drew fire from several people who thought DeGeneres was a departure from the store's longstanding values. When organizations like American Family Association's One Million Moms complained, J.C. Penney's new president, Michael Francis, stubbornly dug in his heels. On Mothers' Day, the company shocked consumers with a blatant endorsement of homosexuality in an ad that featured two moms. The grassroots protested again. J.C. Penney responded with another same-sex ad for Father's Day. Underneath, the text read, "What makes Dad so cool? He's the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer, and hug giver--all rolled into one. Or two."

As Ford Motors will tell you, siding with radical homosexuals has its price. And in J.C. Penney's case, the cost is about $163 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, J.C. Penney's stock "has lost more than a third of its value since a disastrous earnings report in mid-May, when Penney's posted a $163 million loss and said sales fell 20% in the first three months of its fiscal year." CEO Ron Johnson also admitted that Father's Day sales were a bust. "Penney's shares fell 8.8% Tuesday to their lowest level in a year, [and] store traffic was down 10%."

Obviously, the company's far-Left approach is driving away shoppers--and its executives. Michael Francis was fired after just eight months on the job. Whether J.C. Penney will learn from its mistakes is yet to be seen. But its freefall should serve as a warning to other companies who are itching to jump on the same-sex bandwagon. Catering to homosexuals may earn you a pat on the back from the Human Rights Campaign, but in the long term, it's bad business. Americans want corporate neutrality in the culture wars, and when they don't find it, they'll go elsewhere--like my family has done with J.C. Penney. Shoppers are shrewd enough to know that speaking up is important--but sometimes what speaks the loudest is their wallets.

Let this be a cautionary tale to General Mills, Starbucks, and other corporations on the wrong side of the marriage war. This is a political wager that companies will lose. Even Target is putting its bulls-eye on traditional families by introducing a new line of same-sex merchandise. One hundred percent of the proceeds are dedicated to putting Christian adoption agencies out of business. If you haven't signed our petition protesting the company's "love is love" campaign, click here. Then, print out the flyer of protest and take it to your local store!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Today's Posts

A Busy and Varied Agenda

Claire's and my life together is rarely dull or monochromatic. It is painted vigorously, boldly and in many colors. And that's a good thing.

For instance, this morning Quint, Don, Carol, Claire and I were in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion mill praying, holding signs of cute babies, sidewalk counseling...and praying some more.

After that we zipped home so I could blog, cross-post items to Facebook and Blogs Lucianne Loves, and get the lawn mowed before the rain. Meanwhile Claire is running an overdue errand and cleaning out the Oldsmobile in preparation for Don coming to come get it this afternoon.

Then it will be a quick clean up because we need to be in Fort Calhoun around 2 to set things up for a "When Swing Was King" presentation in a nursing home there at 2:30.

Next it's back to Omaha to meet Don and start in on the evening's activities which include ordering new pro-life signs from Pat, getting ready for a meeting tomorrow with Steve about expanding and improving the Vital Signs' internet outreaches, answering a few calls and letters and, we certainly hope, getting further into the 800-plus pages of Wilkie Collin's novel, No Name, which is the selection for the Saturday night meeting of our book club.

And somewhere in there, we'll have a bite to eat.

NYT Columnist: Obama "Doesn't Seem In Command"

 

Should You Cancel That Short-Term Mission Trip?

Hey, I know this will be a controversial post but those of us who have international experience know that the issues Darren Carlson, the founder and president of Training Leaders International, brings up in this article ("Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Mission Trips") should be honestly, carefully evaluated by church leaders if they truly want their time, talents and money to be most effectively invested in the Kingdom.


I have seen with my own eyes or know of houses in Latin America that have been painted 20 times by 20 different short-term teams; fake orphanages in Uganda erected to get Westerners to give money; internet centers in India whose primary purpose is to ask Westerners for money; children in African countries purposefully mutilated by their parents so they would solicit sympathy while they beg; a New England-style church built by a Western team in Cameroon that is never used except when the team comes to visit; and slums filled with big-screen TVs and cell phone towers.

I have seen or know of teams of grandmothers who go to African countries and hold baby orphans for a week every year but don't send a dime to help them otherwise; teams who build houses that never get used; teams that bring the best vacation Bible school material for evangelism when the national church can never bring people back to church unless they have the expensive Western material; teams that lead evangelistic crusades claiming commitments to Christ topping 5,000 every year in the same location with the same people attending.

Short-term missions is fraught with problems, and many wish such trips did not exist, at least in the common form today. Writing in his book Toxic Charity, Robert Lupton says, "Contrary to popular belief, most missions trips and service projects do not: empower those being served, engender healthy cross-cultural relationships, improve quality of live, relieve poverty, change the lives of participants [or] increase support for long-term missions work." Ouch!...

The rest of the article (which is part of a series being printed by the Gospel Coalition) is right here.

The Press Is Still In the Tank for the Big O

...Someone needs to say this: There is a culture of corruption in the media world that is the White House press corps.

Let's be specific.

This corruption -- corruption defined as not honestly reporting the news or asking hard questions of the President of the United States and his White House colleagues -- revolves around three very real, very specific problems. And a looming fourth problem that we will get to shortly.
..

Interested in just what those four specifics are? You should be. So go read Jeffrey Lord's exceptional American Spectator article, "Obama's Post-Constitutional Wingmen."

Jesse Jackson Anti-Gun Protest Misfires Badly...So Does The Press Coverage

Rick Ector, a NRA-credentialed Firearms Trainer and owner of Rick’s Firearm Academy of Detroit, reports for AmmoLand (a sports shooting blog) on the rather pathetic demonstration created by Jesse Jackson against gun ranges.

Gun ranges?

That's right. Gun ranges.

In a press conference dutifully given splashy coverage by the Detroit Free Press, Jackson described the protest as a general call for "the ban on assault weapons, stricter controls on illegal weapons and a review of the stand your ground laws." And he wanted to somehow establish a link between Detroit's massive joblessness and...uh...gun ranges.

A silly proposition? Maybe that's why only 3 "anti-gun range protesters" showed up (Jackson not being one of them) as compared to a interracial crowd of about 50 who were there to support the Action Impact Gun Shop, gun ranges as a legitimate business, recreational shooting, and the 2nd Amendment. And that's where Rick Ector comes in...

This past Saturday, the anachronistic and increasingly irrelevant Reverend Jesse Jackson called for an anti-violence rally against 25 gun ranges in the United States.

Despite his personal indiscretions, he somehow felt justified to ask dads during Fathers Day Weekend all across our great nation to adopt his mantra of “Guns Out = Jobs In.”

According to the puzzling logic of Jackson, the local communities where the targeted gun shops operate are stifling the creation of jobs, which if you believe Jackson, is the root cause of urban violence. Somehow, Jackson manages to ignore the fact that these gun ranges employ people, including African Americans like myself, who pay taxes. Also, those very same businesses pay income taxes and collect sales taxes on relatively expensive products…

Moreover, Jackson’s so-called rally at the Action Impact gun range did have an unintended effect. He actually brought the so-called divided people - whites and blacks - together to mount a counter-protest.
[See photo above right.] Jackson’s designated minion, the Operation Push Detroit Chairman, and two other people doubling as props were given a most proper reception from about 50 freedom and gun loving folks of all hues.

The aforementioned demonstration did garner interest from the local media. However, when the event unfolded, it was quite evident that Jackson’s message was ignored by a community over-run with violent criminals and local law enforcement’s ability to keep crime in check. In fact, as of June 10th there have been 152 homicides in the city Detroit alone per DPD’s web site. Jackson has lost touch with the community he is trying to lead.

No one in the metro-Detroit area is buying the rhetoric Jackson is selling. Criminals do not buy their firearms from gun ranges. Make no mistake about it, gun ranges are making a lot of money these days by selling their products to law-abiding citizens who have to jump through bureaucratic hoops and governmental obstructions to legally buy handguns: Handgun Purchase Permits or issued Michigan Concealed Pistol Licenses, Basic Pistol Safety Questionnaires, and background checks. Maybe Jackson is looking for a way to cash in on this cash cow created by criminals who in many cases are forcing the hands of good people wishing to not be victims.

Of all the media that covered the story, only one outlet (CBS Detroit), had the integrity to even mention that there was a counter-demonstration that also significantly outnumbered Jackson’s three stooges. Furthermore, other mainstream media stations grossly inflated Jackson’s camp at a tally of twelve – a far cry from the actual number of three.

Jackson embarrassed himself and his latest so-called movement this past weekend. All it took to make that happen were concerned citizens who support local gun rights groups, such as “Legally Armed In Detroit”and “Michigan Open Carry, Inc.” No longer are citizens content to let out-of-touch and out-of-town race-baiters divide us from each other and our firearms.

When the Law Isn't Just Blind, But Stupid

As an illustration of my post yesterday ("Living in a World Gone Mad," most specifically, the observations it contained about our sadly misnamed justice system), I submit this item I ran across a couple of days ago by Ed Whelan over at the National Review Online's law-oriented column, "Bench Memos".

1974—Jacob John Dougan and four other members of his Black Liberation Army begin implementing their plan “to indiscriminately kill white people and thus start a revolution and a race war.” Armed with a pistol and a knife, they pick up an 18-year-old white hitchhiker, Stephen Anthony Orlando, drive him to a trash dump, stab him repeatedly, and throw him to the ground. As Orlando writhes in pain and begs for his life, Dougan puts his foot on Orlando’s head and shoots him twice—once in the chest and once in the ear. Later, Dougan makes tape recordings bragging about the murder and mails them to Orlando’s mother and to the media. Sample content: “He [Orlando] was stabbed in the back, in the chest and the stomach, ah, it was beautiful. You should have seen it. Ah, I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved watching the blood gush from his eyes.”

In 1992, on Dougan’s sixth appeal to the Florida supreme court, three dissenting Florida justices opine that the death penalty was a disproportionate sentence under the circumstances. Justice Parker McDonald’s dissent, joined by chief justice Leander Shaw and This Day Hall of Infamy inductee Rosemary Barkett, include these remarkable observations (emphasis added):

“This case is not simply a homicide case, it is also a social awareness case. Wrongly, but rightly in the eyes of Dougan, this killing was effectuated to focus attention on a chronic and pervasive illness of racial discrimination and of hurt, sorrow, and rejection. Throughout Dougan’s life his resentment to bias and prejudice festered. His impatience for change, for understanding, for reconciliation matured to taking the illogical and drastic action of murder. His frustrations, his anger, and his obsession of injustice overcame reason. The victim was a symbolic representation of the class causing the perceived injustices.”

“The events of this difficult case occurred in tumultuous times. During the time of the late sixties and early seventies, there was great unrest throughout this country in race relations.… I mention these facts not to minimize what transpired, but, rather, to explain the environment in which the events took place and to evaluate Dougan’s mind-set.”

“Understandably, in the eyes of the victim, or potential victims, the aggravating factors clearly outweigh the mitigating; in the eyes of the defendant, his friends, and most of those situated in the circumstances of Dougan, the death penalty is not warranted and is disproportionate to the majority of hate slayings, at least where the victim is black and the perpetrator is white.”

“In comparing what kind of person Dougan is with other murderers in the scores of death cases that we have reviewed, I note that few of the killers approach having the socially redeeming values of Dougan.” (This apparently refers to the dissent’s earlier observations that Dougan was “intelligent,” “well educated,” “a leader in the black community,” “taught karate and counseled black youths,” and once “participated in a sit-down strike in defiance of a court order” at a lunch counter that refused service to blacks.) 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today's Posts

The Delights of "When Swing Was King"

A Guest Column from Claire...

The Delights of "When Swing Was King"

There are several scenes from our recent “When Swing Was King” presentations that I’m going to treasure for quite awhile.  One of them is Denny sitting down talking to the three ladies that surrounded him after a program at Pacific Springs.  There were talking and laughing and having such a wonderful time that only the activities director having to close up the room could finally put an end to their fun.

Another memorable moment was at Lindenwood when Lyle and Anna got up and started dancing to a Mills Brothers song we have in this volume.  We had heard stories about Lyle’s prowess on the dance floor back in his younger days and we had seen evidence of his rhythmic grace even as he moved with the music in his chair.  But, though a bit unsteady on his legs nowadays, this unusual moment was a real crowd pleaser.  And I especially loved his little grin and his wink as he caught my eye, reminding me that there’s a lot more to these folks in the nursing homes and other facilities than what is sometimes on the surface. You just need to take a little time, a little interest, a little love to start finding the jewels.

There’s also the scene from just yesterday over at Skyline.  Earl, who is very hard of hearing and deals also with weakness of cognizance and memory, always sits right next to Denny so he can be as close as possible to the speakers – and because they get along great! Well, yesterday the activities director brought in a little guitar that Earl keeps in his room and within minutes, we had a little “hootenanny” going before the WSWK program.  Earl would kinda’ strum the guitar and sing snatches of old tunes – a verse here, a chorus there and sometimes a few lines from a story related to his past.  We applauded after every number (the residents too) and Earl was transported!

One especially funny moment was after Earl had sung three or four lines of “Honey, Baby, Mine.”  Denny said to him (well, he has to kinda’ yell at him), “Hey, I know that one.  I remember Andy Griffith singing that on his TV series.”  Earl smiled as he replied, “Well, I don’t know the man but I suppose he must have got the song from me.  I’m the feller what brought that song out!”

There’s more memories I could write down – again, just from the last few presentations.  For instance, there was our keen sense of loss in going over to Life Care Center, not only because of the memories of Denny’s Mom who passed away a year ago this month, but also because one of our biggest fans, Glen, had died a couple of weeks earlier.  But there was also the special joy we felt on a couple of occasions as family members of residents (who were old friends of ours) showed up.  And there were so many other precious moments: Dolores being so thrilled that we played the Tommy Dorsey/Frank Sinatra song in which her name is the title; visiting with our dear friend Betty who for years was part of a special book discussion series with Helen, Denny and me; Denny taking requests for future WSWK volumes from enthusiastic residents; the thrilled response a couple at Pacific Springs had to a Jan Garber poster which promoted an appearance at the Surf Ballroom because they had personally danced to his music at that very ballroom; and more.

“When Swing Was King” has become a very effective ministry for Vital Signs in so many ways but among them are the blessings God has given to us personally.  We are learning a lot.  We are being inspired.  We are continually being challenged, encouraged and delighted.  And, of course, these blessings are available to you too as you come join us…or as you get involved in your own visitation ministry to seniors.  The opportunity awaits.

Living in a World Gone Mad

Could we live in a more ironic, a more irrational culture?  A culture in which laws now prohibit the sale of carbonated soft drinks (in the cause of good health) while other laws protect abortion, that grisly trade in human souls which is certainly the extreme contradiction of health?

And what can one say about the U.S. Congress wasting precious time (and millions of dollars) to go after a prominent professional athlete while failing to give proper attention to such grievous human right abuses as sex trafficking, forced abortion and sterilization, violent mistreatment of women, slave labor, and the persecution of Christians and other prisoners of conscience?

There’s also the woeful state of our justice system, one that worries more and more about thought crime, violations of political correctness and niggling regulations of the Nanny State than it does about ending the careers of rapists, robbers, gangsters, drunk drivers and deliberate murderers.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn decried the devolution of culture that resulted in injustice being protected by law rather than being restrained by it. He had seen the horrendous results of such devolution in the Soviet Union but he knew it was not merely Communism that created such evils but secularism itself with its headstrong rebellion against the ancient boundaries.  No, Solzhenitsyn's understanding came not only from his personal experience in the gulag but from the wisdom he knew well from an ancient source...

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (Isaiah 5:20)

Lord, pour out grace upon America, grace enough for us to find Your way out of the mess we've created.

Honoring Life (And Working To Save More)

...My work at the AAA Center for Pregnancy Counseling has solidified in me an awe for the beauty and miracle of life. Seeing tiny hearts beating away at five or six weeks after conception, and knowing that the same heart will continue to sustain life as long as it continues is a staggering concept. Each child is so unique, created by God for His purposes. We all lose when one of them dies; we will never have a chance to know all that they might have accomplished.

No one should ever pass into death without being remembered by someone. Each life deserves to be honored. That is why we lit our candles last night. Now we can be at peace and leave them safely in the arms of Jesus, as we continue on with our work to save more.


This is just the conclusion of an especially compelling essay from Barb Malek. Read it in its entirety (it's really worth it) right here.

Peter Pan and the Modern Church: "We Won't Grow Up."

Beginning in the 1930s and '40s, Christian teenagers and youth leaders staged a quiet revolution in American church life that led to what can properly be called the juvenilization of American Christianity. Juvenilization is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults. It began with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young, which in fact revitalized American Christianity. But it has sometimes ended with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith...

Having been converted to Christianity in the heady days of the "Jesus movement" but then carefully discipled and launched into adult life through a Bible-centered, eminently relevant, counter-culture ministry, I relate closely to several of the points made in this provocative Christianity Today essay, "When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity" by Thomas E. Bergler, professor of ministry and missions at Huntington University.

I found the essay fascinating and good. Indeed, I cannot recommend too highly that you read it, consider it over a bit of time, read it again and then discuss it with friends and church leaders.

The effects could just change your church greatly...and for the better.

Will the United Nations Rule the Internet?

It's easy to understand why countries like Russia, China and Iran would want to rewire the Internet, cutting off access to their citizens and undermining the idea of a World Wide Web. What's more surprising is that U.S. diplomats are letting authoritarian regimes hijack an obscure U.N. agency to undermine how the Internet works, including for Americans.

The failure by U.S. negotiators to stop attacks on the Internet became known only through documents leaked last week. They concern a U.N. agency known as the International Telecommunications Union. Founded in 1865 to regulate the telegraph, the body (now part of the U.N.) is planning a World Conference on International Telecommunications in December, when the 193 U.N. member countries, each of which has a single vote, could use the International Telecommunications Regulations to take control of the Internet. The U.N. process is mind-numbing, but as Vincent Cerf, one of the founders of the Web, recently told Congress, this U.N. involvement means "the open Internet has never been at a higher risk than it is now."


And you thought that your hassles with Facebook were a big problem.

Here's more of L. Gordon Crovitz' story, "The U.N.'s Internet Power Grab," over at the Wall Street Journal.

National Association of Evangelicals Applauds Obama's Lawlessness

I've long complained that the National Association of Evangelicals is way out of touch with most of the churches who give them money. Now the NAE has endorsed Barack Obama's decision to leave deliberately unenforced national law regarding illegal immigration -- a law that he swore as President to carefully uphold.

Specifically, the law that Obama has brazenly announced he will ignore  involves perhaps millions of illegal immigrants under age 31 if they came to the U.S. prior to age 16. Excuse me, I should say "who claim to have come to the U.S. prior to age 16" since the government has no way in place of determining that case.

The policy is controversial on its face. But, most important, the Obama administration is declining on yet another issue to ignore its responsibility to enforce U.S. law! And this is what the NAE is applauding.

But then, the NAE's endorsement of this lawlessness is just the organization's latest goofy bow to "progressive" political-correctness.

Is your church and/or denomination giving its blessing (and its money) to the NAE? If so, it's way past time for you to politely protest that action.

Mark Tooley, the Director of Institute on Religion & Democracy, comments, "Evangelicals and other Christians may disagree about the right immigration policies of course. The Scriptures and church tradition offer no detailed guidance for modern civil states and immigration law. But Christians have nearly always affirmed obedience to civil law, except when egregiously evil, and absent lawful means for amending the law. The NAE’s chief spokesman has affirmed an Administration’s decision to disregard the law after Congress has declined several times to legalize younger illegal immigrants."

"Does NAE President Leith Anderson favor the Administration ignoring or ceasing to enforce other laws? Earlier this year the Administration announced it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Presumably the NAE disapproves, but on what basis, if a chief executive and his appointees may unilaterally pick and choose the laws they will enforce?"

"Do most members of NAE churches agree with such a cavalier stance towards our nation’s laws? Very doubtful."

Though not personally a member of the Mennonite Brethren, that is the denomination to which the small inner-city church where I preach belongs. So I'm preparing another letter to the denomination asking them to strongly protest this latest action of the organization AND to withdraw support until the NAE turns away from the liberal stands it has taken in recent years.

For further background, check out a few earlier Vital Signs Blog posts dealing with the NAE:

* The "National Association of Evangelicals" Doesn't Really Represent Evangelicals

Pro-Abortion National Association of Evangelical Board Member Picked by Democrats

* More Disappointment with the National Association of Evangelicals

* The National Association of Evangelicals' Latest Blunder?

* Under Pressure, Richard Cizik "Reluctantly Resigns" from the NAE