Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today's Posts

An American History Quiz -- And What It Teaches About Inter-generational Dependence

Once upon a time in a land far, far away (west Omaha, to be exact) I tried an educational experiment that yielded some very interesting results about history, experience and the generation gap. Let me explain how it worked.

I was speaking to a group of older Christians at a local church.  Most of the folks in the audience were retired from paid employment but they certainly weren't retired from life itself.  I opened the meeting with the ominous declaration that I had prepared an American History quiz for them: 10 questions which I wanted them to answer on individual sheets of paper.  Well, the reaction to a “pop quiz” is almost always the same no matter the age of the crowd or the situation -- groans, looks of shocked dismay, and nervous movements that range from wiggling in the chair to abject flight from the room.

However, after I soothed their fears with the assurance that no grades would be given and no notes would be sent home in case of poor performance, these veteran saints settled down and accepted the task at hand. And they soon experienced the relief (even joyful pride) when they saw the positive results. For after the totals were added up, the average score was nearly 90%. That’s a B plus average. Not at all bad for a test for which there had been no prior study.  Unless, of course, you understand that merely paying attention to life as you live it counts as prior study.

And you guessed it; that itself is one of the important lessons to be learned from the experiment.

90%!  Pretty impressive historians these guys turned out to be, right? I wonder what the average would be if, say, a younger audience were to take the same quiz. I wonder how YOU would do. Do you?  If so - get ready because here it comes. It's the very same pop quiz I gave to those seniors; 10 simple questions about the history of our own country.

1) Who was Jackie Robinson?
2) Who was President of the United States during World War Two? (Look out, this is kind of a trick question.)
3) Who was Benny Goodman?
4) Who was Al Capone?
5) What general led the Confederate armies in the American Civil War?
6) Who led the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill?
7) Who was Clark Gable?
8) What was a U-boat?
9) Who was Charles Lindbergh?
10) Who was Wyatt Earp?

That’s it - ten simple questions.  And the answers need only be general identifications in order to get credit.  I didn’t require specific dates or other details.

How did you do?  Did you even get close to the 90% those senior citizens did?  If not, then you should take careful note of the second lesson to be learned in this experiment; namely, that older people in our society have a wealth of information about life, culture, history, business, relationships, finance, and just plain living. In particular, young Christians should be honoring and appreciating the knowledge gained by the older crowd and utilizing their knowledge and spiritual gifts to enrich church life.  As these older believers showed by this simple history quiz, they are an important repository of learning - a valuable resource that should not be ignored.

Let me now mention the second part of my experiment.  A couple of weeks after I had given the quiz to these retirees, I gave the very same quiz to a group of 20 high school students who were nearing completion of an American History course.  Most of them were getting ready to graduate.  Would you like to know how they fared on the same quiz?  Well, they didn’t score as high as the older people did. Not even close. Their average was less than 30%!  And that's with at least two of the answers having been included in class presentations just previous to the quiz! Oh, one more thing; these senior high students who fared so poorly on the quiz compared to the elders were a Christian high school.

This discrepancy should be viewed as an alarm clock for us all - an alarm to awaken us to the crying need for higher quality education for our youth, including American history and culture. And, trust me, being able to play complex video games, text messaging your buddies, and knowing all of the contestants on American Idol does not qualify as cultural attainment.

So, let’s start shaking things up in order to better educate and inspire our youth.  Older Christians should put a higher priority in their own lives on Bible study, reading, listening, conversing, and writing. That way the elders are not only examples to the young; they're making sure that their own minds are being richly furnished so that they'll have something worthwhile to pass on. The older believer must help the younger appreciate the critical importance of investing time and effort in learning.  These are practical, necessary and thoroughly biblical lessons.

We need to stop neglecting the wonderful resources we have in our midst, resources quite crucial to the completion of the church's mission.  The Bible makes it clear that education of the young is a primary responsibility of the mature, so believers should be far above the world in exhibiting an intergenerational fellowship.  We’re singing a lot of songs nowadays about breaking down the walls --- let’s make sure the walls of generation get broken down too.

So old folks, take the time and effort and patience to tell your stories to those following behind you. And young folks, take the time, effort and patience to hear what they have to say.  You just might find them more interesting and relevant and smarter than you think.

Oh, by the way, need the answers to the quiz?

1) The first African-American allowed to play in major league baseball.
2) Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman.
3) Big Band clarinetist and bandleader.
4) Chicago gangster of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
5) Robert E. Lee
6) Teddy Roosevelt
7) Movie star
8) German submarine
9) Aviator - the first to fly solo over the Atlantic.
10) Old West lawman and gunfighter

More Loopy Lies From Democrats About Job Creation

Several weeks ago, Ira Glass opened his nationwide hour-long "This American Life" program with a satiric interview about one of the defining elements of [Democrat Governor of Missouri Jay] Nixon's leadership: his whirlwind trips around Missouri to celebrate state-funded job creation schemes.

Glass said that Nixon had visited a plant that made fishing reels, "to announce not hundreds of jobs, or dozens of jobs, but eight jobs." "Eight!" he marveled. "He did a press event for eight jobs!"

At this point, Nixon chimed in, saying, "That's not the smallest we've been to, either. We actually did one in north Missouri where we created one job."

"And you showed up?" Glass asked, laughing in disbelief.

Nixon affirmed that he had. A program that he initiated had given a low-interest loan to a woman in Bethany. This enabled her to move her T-shirt printing business from her basement to a storefront, and to hire a single employee.

"This is what it's come to, America," Glass hooted. "You can hire your very first employee, and the governor shows up with TV cameras."

Read more of Andrew Wilson's American Spectator article (with more laughingly absurd examples of Democrats trying to boast about job creation) right here.

Don't Question Me!

Over at National Review, Jim Geraghty deftly reviews Obama's uncomfortable press conference.

Has Obama ever given a bravura performance at a press conference? No wonder he goes three months or so without doing them.

Today he mentioned a tax break for corporate jets six times. He didn’t mention that he signed legislation preserving the tax code provision into law, or that the grand total of the savings of ending that tax break would be about $3 billion over ten years.

The man who flies anywhere he wants, anytime, cost-free, complained at great length that other people’s private jets are insufficiently taxed. Tomorrow, Obama will fly on Air Force One to Philadelphia, Pa., to attend two DNC fundraisers, where he will probably again denounce the current tax rates on corporate jets, without anyone remarking on the irony.

What I think this reveals is that Barack Obama is not used to being challenged...

So even ten questions from the White House press corps can take Obama off his game. Among the highlights of today:

Asked about whether the War Powers Act was constitutional, he responded, “I’m not going to put my constitutional law professor hat on here.” Er, wait, wasn’t that a reason folks were supposed to vote for you?

Asked whether marriage was a civil right – a yes or no question that obviously put him on the spot about gay marriage – he began talking about separate issues, like hospital visitations.

Occasionally Obama’s gaffes would seem strangely honest, like when he said, “I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one,” on gay marriage, or “I don’t even have to get to the Constitutional question,” rather bluntly acknowledging he was ignoring Chuck Todd’s actual question on the War Powers Act.

The President constantly infuriated by the perception that he hates the private sector responded to a question, “The business community always complains about regulations.” Unlike unions, trial lawyers, public sector employees, apparently.

Asked about the ATF “Fast and Furious” operation, Obama said that Attorney General Eric Holder made very clear that he would have opposed the operation… you know, the one that occurred on his watch.

Discussing the DREAM Act, Obama said, “Kids who grow up here and think of themselves as Americans… let’s make sure those kids can stay.” There’s no dispute that many of these children and teens often have heartbreaking stories, and no real emotional or physical connection to their country of legal citizenship. But thinking of yourself as an American is not the same as being an American. Citizenship is not a state of mind.

“It’s time to stop playing games,” he concluded, and then ended the press conference for the next event on his schedule: welcoming the WNBA Champion Seattle Storm to the White House Rose Garden.

Obama survives difficult questions by avoiding them and waiting for the world to move on. His Republican opponents must challenge him, early and often, and consistently.

Getting Rid of Girls

In the post below ("Two Pinocchios for Obama -- And Other News to Fire You Up"), I mention a Heritage Foundation article about the United Nation's complicity (through audacious inaction) in human trafficking. Well, our British pro-life colleague, Dr. Greg Gardner, alerted me this morning to another illuminating (if also heartbreaking) article over at the Christian Medical Fellowship blog which tells not only of the UN's inaction in fighting sex selection abortion and infanticide but its active manipulation in the past which promoted these horrors.

Blogging last week about the impact of sex selective abortion in Asia, I speculated on the cultural and socio-economic factors that were leading families to use ultrasound and other in-utero screening technologies to identify girl children and have them aborted. Little had I (or many of us) realised just how implicated the international aid community and the development priorities of Western governments and the UN were in this appalling practice.

Indeed the UN report about which I was reporting totally sidestepped the issue of its complicity in this situation. But Mara Hvistendahl – science writer and author of the soon to be published book, ‘Unnatural Selection‘ has unearthed disturbing evidence that, far from simply being due to cultural preferences and practices amplified by modern medical technology, sex screening and sex selective abortion was a deliberate population control strategy of UNFPA, IPPF, World Bank and other Western agencies and charities during the sixties and seventies.  In an article published yesterday in Foreign Policy Magazine, she explains how the Malthusian fears of population growth led (mostly male) thinkers in the UN and development agencies to actively promote male gender preference, and to fund sex screening and selective abortion of girls as a way of securing long term population reduction amongst the poor populations of India and other parts of Asia.

Demographers suggest that by 2020, in some parts of India, as many as 10-15% of men will have no female counterpart. The consequence of this is already being seen in trafficking and bride abductions in some countries -  as families desperate to secure brides for their sons resort to quite literally kidnapping potential brides from surrounding communities and nations.

What is most shocking about these allegations is that, if true, organisations that claimed to be supportive of the empowerment of women and the promotion of human rights were deliberately involved in the killing of tens or hundreds of millions of girls in the womb. A total denial of the rights and value of women as human beings.

What is more, it reveals a deeply ingrained racism and fear of the poor on behalf of these bodies.  And this assumption that we must impose our values and beliefs about family size and make-up persist to this day...

Here's the rest of this critically-important story.

Two Pinocchios for Obama -- And Other News to Fire You Up

 * The Fact Checker over at the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, gives President Obama "Two Pinocchios" for calculated (but untrue) statements made at yesterday's press conference. Read the details here. And, by the way, the Associated Press also jumped on Obama's exaggerations and distortions in their own fact check article as they too found the Chief Executive wanting. When the MSM starts exposing Democrats for their mishandling of the truth, you know something is in the air.

* From the early 19th Century French economist Frederic Bastiat -- "When plunder has become a way of life for a group of people living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it."

* The Houston National Cemetery has told veterans and volunteers alike that they can no longer use the word "God,""God bless," or "Jesus" at any and all funerals or condolence cards.  The word has been deemed 'offensive.'

That is according to local volunteer and veterans groups that work at the cemetery.  They are now suing the Cemetery in federal court so that they can use the word God.

To cite one specific example given in the suit, the director of the cemetery, Arleen Ocasio commanded volunteers never to use "God bless you" and "God bless" ever again at the cemetery...

* "Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Thursday that the March 2012 presidential election campaign would be dirty," And, comrade, he oughta' know!

* No surprises here. Another Democrat moves in to defend the bloody interests of abortionists. This particular item involves North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue vetoing common sense legislation that would have required abortionists to give clients more information about the momentous, life-changing, life-ending procedure that abortion actually is..

"Governor Perdue defended her veto by arguing that the bill interferes with the doctor-patient relationship." Right. A "relationship" in which the "doctor" never meets the patient until she's drugged and spread before him. A relationship in which the "doctor" is acting against the Hippocratic Oath, against the historic norms of civilization, and against the immutable laws of Almighty God to brutally destroy the preborn boy and girl his "patient" is carrying. A "relationship" which demands "patients" (and the general public) be kept from knowing even the most basic facts about the impending medical operation. So much for the disclosures required by every other type of doctor in the country.

No, Governor. You're obviously not concerned about women and you certainly don't care about babies. You're just another Democrat shilling for abortionists.

* Ericka Andersen's article over at the Heritage Foundation about the United Nations complicity in human trafficking makes for important reading. Let it serve also as a prayer stimulus and a reminder of why the United States should stop funding the UN, stop being beholden to the UN and, indeed, just kick the UN out of New York once and for all.

* The crackdown on any form of free expression continues in Communist Belarus. It's part of the hardline injustice the regime of Alexander Lukashenko has foisted on his country for many, many years, injustice that attacks freedom of religion, freedom of association, a whole host of economic freedoms, and so on. The facts are violently clear -- Communist thugs just don't like freedom...period.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today's Posts

About That Wedding in the ICU

Obama, Democrats Sliding in the Polls

Doin' America Proud: Hillary Clinton Gets Gay Pride Gig for Lady Gaga

Constitution? The Legislative Branch? How Obama Ignores Both.

Live Action Exposes Planned Parenthood Latest Lies

Obama or General Allen: Who's Telling the Truth About Afghanistan Withdrawal?

About That Wedding in the ICU

Among the post-funeral tasks that we're still in the midst of are business affairs, a gang of thank-you notes, and updates to my siblings. Those updates include a detailed review of our Colorado activities (helping them store away wonderful memories), a copy of the funeral sermon and a copy of the marriage service conducted for James and Tenna in Mom's ICU room last May 12th.

Since the wedding ceremony in the hospital generated such interest (especially at the hospital where we became minor celebrities), Claire suggested I post the brief service that was conducted there. Reading through it again before sending it on to my brothers and sisters, I think that's a good idea for it serves as a tribute to marriage, to the special event that this marriage was, and to my Mom.

But first let me set the stage by quoting from the May LifeSharer letter:

"Finally, here is the next (and last) update for this month’s LifeSharer.  And, again, like almost all the other items I’ve mentioned thus far, this one could easily have a few pages dedicated to it – particularly if one was to count the number of prayers that have soared heavenward for it to happen.  It concerns my conducting a very special marriage ceremony last week.  Now, marrying a couple is momentous enough in itself, but this wedding was a particular treasure for us because the couple getting married was my Harley-riding brother from Florida, James (aka “Highway”) and his long-time girlfriend, Tenna!  I might mention too that the ceremony took place in Mom’s ICU room!

It was my brother’s first marriage (he’s 54) and it was at his request that the wedding occur with Mom present and with me officiating.  Claire and my little sister Sherry were the witnesses.  Tenna was very pretty in a peach dress and holding a bouquet she had made herself.  The groom, more casually dressed as is his style, nevertheless wore a resplendent smile throughout.  Mom was fully awake for the whole ceremony and even with her dementia, the memories of the event are staying with her.  The wedding was the talk of the hospital and staff members were coming from different wards (even different floors) to congratulate the couple…and to sample the wedding cake!  It was quite an event – unusual, memorable, and most delightful."

And here are my remarks at the wedding, spoken over my Mom's hospital bed with Highway and Tenna standing on the other side.

This is a rather unusual setting for a marriage ceremony but it’s all the more precious and meaningful just because of that.  For James and Tenna decided to make their marriage ceremony not only a celebration of their love but also a gracious gift to Ionia, James’ mother who has long hoped and prayed for this day.  They also wanted the ceremony to be a special memorial to James’s father Alva whose birthday was on this date.

So it’s a very special day for all kinds of reasons but most of all because it represents the pledge of love and devotion of James and Tenna to one another.  And those of us who are gathered here to witness and celebrate their marriage are thrilled to see the evidence of their love.

In joining James (known as Highway to his friends in Florida and around the country) and his beautiful bride Tenna in this solemn but joyous act of matrimony, we are taking part in the plan of God which He established at the very beginning of time.

Marriage is carefully defined in the Scripture where it is also praised and celebrated.  Jesus Himself consecrated the marriage ceremony by His presence at a marriage in Cana.  Indeed, His first recorded miracle occurred there as He gave a very special wedding gift to the family.  Furthermore, Holy Scripture commends marriage to be honored as the symbol of that mysterious union which exists between Christ and His Church.

Marriage is also given to mankind for several quite practical reasons including the joy, comfort, challenge and friendship which marriage brings to the man and the woman who embrace it.

Understanding these reasons and willingly accepting them even as they also accept the many responsibilities of marriage, Highway and Tenna come here in the presence of Almighty God to become man and wife.  They do so in the presence of Ionia, Sherry, Claire and myself -- and the nurses who are waiting to help us eat the cake!

So, may I now lead you in the vows of marriage?

I, James, take thee, Tenna, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, guard and cherish till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance.

I, Tenna, take thee, James, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance.

James then gives Tenna her ring.

Shall we pray together?

Father, for bringing these two together, we thank You.  We thank You for the joy they experience in each other’s presence and for the opportunity the rest of us have to share in this very happy event.  Please help them to keep loving one another with ever greater understanding, patience, forgiveness, and friendship as the years go by.  And lead them in the path of everlasting life which comes simply by trusting what Jesus did on the cross for us.  Thank You for that awesome love. It is the foundation and empowerment of all the love that we can give to one another.  Amen

Will you take each other’s hands?  After hearing the declaration of love between James and Tenna and witnessing their vows of marriage, I am honored (and really delighted) to present to this company, to the state of Nebraska for whom I serve as a legal agent, and to the glorious God Who rules heaven and earth – James and Tenna Hartford.

Congratulations, Jim, you may kiss the bride.

(The ceremony, naturally brief because of Mom's condition, was followed by very delighted hugs and kisses between Mom and the newly married couple.  Mom was wide awake, keenly involved and ecstatically happy throughout the event.  It was, I believe, her happiest day in years.  Therefore, the whole Hartford family is proud and grateful to Highway and Tenna for this act of loyalty and loving kindness.) 

Obama, Democrats Sliding in the Polls

I'm sure the White House and the Democratic National Committee are not pleased to see the latest public opinion polls. This morning, for instance, Rasmussen's latest showed Barack Obama losing to any Republican. The same poll puts Republicans running for Congress with a 7 point lead on the Democrats.

But while this is hopeful news for those who want to rescue our country from incompetence, irresponsibility and the ever-growing powers of the Nanny State, it can also create a false sense of security among conservatives.

Guys, we do not have this in the bag.

Indeed, when you consider 1) the media being so heavily skewed to the left, 2) the Democrat bureaucracies being in charge of the vote counting, 3) the mindlessness and craving for entitlement shown by a large portion of the American electorate, and 4) the penchant of Democrats for dirty tricks and October surprises, then you remember we are still fighting a very uphill battle.

So don't be satisfied with the polls and don't let them curb your zeal to keep telling everyone you know about what's happened to America under President Obama. Keep talking about the economy tanking, about the President's preference for golf and basketball over the hard work of leadership, and about the moral devolution of culture that comes with a Chief Executive and his Democrat Party who so aggressively promote abortion, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, the marginalization of Christianity, the usurpation of Constitutional freedoms, and so on.

A 4% lead isn't enough to crow about. It's only enough for us to redouble our efforts to take back America.

Doin' America Proud: Hillary Clinton Gets Gay Pride Gig for Lady Gaga

Hillary Clinton -- “And then there is the work that our embassy team in Rome has been doing. Two weeks ago they played an instrumental role in bringing Lady Gaga to Italy for a Euro Pride concert. Now as many of you know Lady Gaga is Italian American and a strong supporter of LGBT rights. And the organizers of the Euro Pride event desperately wanted her to perform and a letter to her from Ambassador Thorne was instrumental in sealing the deal.”

And you thought the State Department had better things to do.

Constitution? The Legislative Branch? How Obama Ignores Both.

For all of candidate Barack Obama’s campaign rhetoric promising to respect Congress’s authority to draft the nation’s laws, President Obama has demonstrated a persistent pattern of circumventing the legislative branch via administrative fiat whenever his agenda stalls. And though one of the Obama campaign’s legal advisers cautioned against a President who would “take the law into his own hands and shred it when it’s convenient,” Obama has done just that time and time again.

The Obama Administration generally employs one of two strategies to legislate without—and often in spite of—congressional action: (1) administrative decree establishing a new federal rule, or (2) a refusal to enforce existing federal law. In five separate policy areas, the President and the federal agencies under his command have spurned congressional authority to achieve Obama’s objectives...

Lachlan Markay goes on to give alarming examples of those five areas in this excellent Heritage Foundation report. This is a great pass around article showing clear, specific and very frightening ways of how liberals are making an end run around the U.S. Constitution. And getting away with it.

Live Action Exposes Planned Parenthood Latest Lies

The Obama Administration is demanding that Planned Parenthood be funded by individual states as well as the federal government. Indeed, President Obama is using extortion tactics to try and force state legislators to do his immoral bidding.

Shameful? You bet.

And yet besides the unconstitutional bully tactics, there's another thing that should really bother the tax-paying public; namely, that Planned Parenthood's claim that women require the abortion corporation for Medicaid-covered health care is pure balderdash.

But don't take it from me. Listen to the Planned Parenthood staffers themselves.

Obama or General Allen: Who's Telling the Truth About Afghanistan Withdrawal?

Lieutenant General John Allen told the Senate Armed Services Committee today that the Afghanistan decision President Obama announced last week was not among the range of options the military provided to the commander in chief. Allen’s testimony directly contradicts claims from senior Obama administration officials from a background briefing before the president’s announcement.

In response to questioning from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Allen testified that Obama’s decision on the pace and size of Afghanistan withdrawals was “a more aggressive option than that which was presented.”

Graham pressed him. “My question is: Was that a option?”

Allen: “It was not.”...

So the new top commander in Afghanistan says Obama went outside the military's range of options to devise his policy, and the White House says the president's policy was within that range of options. Who is right?

Here's more from Stephen Hayes over at The Weekly Standard.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today's Posts


Somebody Tell the NEA, Republican States Produce the Best Schools.

When it come to excellence in education, red states rule—at least according to a panel of experts assembled by Tina Brown’s Newsweek.

Using a set of indicators ranging from graduation rate to college admissions and SAT scores, the panel reviewed data from high schools all over the country to find the best public schools in the country.

The results make depressing reading for the teacher unions: The very best public high schools in the country are heavily concentrated in red states.

Three of the nation’s ten best public high schools are in Texas—the no-income tax, right-to-work state that blue model defenders like to characterize as America at its worst. Florida, another no-income tax, right-to-work state long misgoverned by the evil and rapacious Bush dynasty, has two of the top ten schools.

Newsweek isn’t alone with these shocking results.

Another top public school list, compiled by the Washington Post, was issued in May. Texas and Florida rank number one and number two on that list’s top ten as well.

There’s something else interesting about the two lists: On both lists, only one of the top ten public schools was located in a blue state...
(Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest, posted here at Business Insider)

Shocking Planned Parenthood Abortion Contract: If We Screw Up Your Chemical Abortion, You're Committed To Let Us Do The Resultant Surgical Abortion!

Just when you think that the abortion industry could not possibly get any slimier, you find something like this, from the Bronx Planned Parenthood web page:

Here’s what you need to know about abortion services at this health center:

Abortion Pill (Medication Abortion)

Abortion pill (medication abortion) is offered up to 9 weeks after the start of your last menstrual period. If your last menstrual period was more than 9 weeks ago, read about our in-clinic abortion services below.

Abortion pill (medication abortion) services are available by appointment only.

Plan to be at the health center for 2-3 hour(s) for your entire abortion pill visit (medication abortion).

During the abortion pill (medication abortion) visit, you must agree—before you start—that you will have an in-clinic abortion if the abortion pill does not work.

After your abortion visit, you will need access to a telephone, transportation, and backup medical care available to you once you are home.

Mailee Smith from Americans United for Life goes on to explain exactly what this "contract" means and why it is so misleading, so sinister and so dangerous.

Definitely pass this post around.

Lightbearing or Lightweight: The Modern Worship Service

On a recent Sunday, I found myself visiting a Protestant megachurch. Entering the "worship center" was eerily similar to being ushered down the aisle of a movie theater: floor lighting, padded chairs, visual effects shown on two large screens, and music over the speaker system.

A band appeared on stage to begin the service with live music. It was dark, and I thought I heard the audience singing along, but it was impossible to tell. And although I was seated in the front row, I sensed that the congregation was almost superfluous to the activity on stage. As in most forms of entertainment, the audience functioned as passive onlookers, participating only in an unseen, intensely personal way.

While the band played, song lyrics flashed across the two big screens, with words like great, God, and high figuring prominently. The musical performance was outstanding, even if the vocabulary was extremely limited. If the songs aimed at an emotional response, they were probably successful, but like so much contemporary worship music, they lacked any element of substantive teaching.

Immediately after the singing, without any announcement, much less Paul's words of institution (1 Cor. 11:23-26), the elements of the Lord's Supper were hurriedly handed around. Again, I was amazed at the blandly efficient nature of this activity. We could have been passing pretzels and soda pop. No one offered any guidance whatsoever on the sharing of this critical ordinance or sacrament. It seemed a strictly vertical encounter between each individual and God.

Next came the sermon, offered by a capable person who worked very hard to relate while teaching some biblical content. A simple outline appeared on the screen so that we could follow the train of thought. So did the relevant Bible passages, lest anyone could not find them in an actual Bible. I noticed that the illustrations came almost solely from popular movies and television. Then the service ended as abruptly as it began, with a few announcements over the speakers and a cordial "thank you" to the congregation. No benediction or closing prayer—not even a person to give it. The house lights came on, and it was time to leave...

Can you identify with D. H. Williams' description? Are you bothered about it -- either because you believe modern church services have lost integral elements or because you suspect that Williams is going to completely reject a style of doing church that you enjoy? In either case, I encourage you to read the rest of his article, "Contemporary Music: The Cultural Medium and the Christian Message." You'll find it at the Christianity Today web site right here.

I'd like to suggest that this article could serve as a great connecting point for a luncheon/breakfast/coffee discussion. So, how about it? Any of my friends who are in their 20s or 30s want to get together and kick this stuff around? Print off the article and read it through. Then give me a call or send me an e-mail. I'll be looking forward to it.

Thinking About the Blagojevich Trial

There were several items I found decidedly uncomfortable in the Chicago Tribune's initial story about Rod Blagojevich's conviction on 17 (count 'em, 17) criminal charges. Here's just the top three.

“I, frankly, am stunned,” said Blagojevich.

Huh? Wasn't the swindling former governor present for all that testimony and all those recordings? Did he become so absorbed in his own lies and justifications that he actually believed them? Or, like so many of the priviliged class, does he simply bend the rules of morality and logic to provide cover for anything he does? Sad.

One juror said she found Blagojevich “personable” and said his likability complicated deliberations.

Con men throughout history have banked on their "likability" to fleece the foolish and this juror proves that suckers are still being born every minute. The evidence for Blagojevich's crimes was clear and overwhelming. And those crimes were horrendous, cutting to the very heart of our country's political system. Blago wasn't merely a crook; he was a traitor. Yet here's testimony from one of the jurors admitting that he/she and others were almost dissuaded from doing their duty because of Blagojevich's dimpled demeanor. Yipes.

“I thought the first trial was well-presented. I think the second trial was better presented because we learned from the first trial and made it simpler,” [U.S. Attorney Patrick] Fitzgerald told reporters.

This too is bothersome for it suggests that modern American juries contain people who are not only gullible in the face of a smiling, affable crook but who are just too shallow to follow the course of a complex trial. It seems that decades of watching television have dulled not only our moral sensibilities but our intellects as well. Combine these basic weaknesses of will and wit among jurors with the many other corruptions of the American legal system and you've got a real mess indeed.

Why Aren't Young Americans Mad About Being Ripped Off?

Why does Medicare favor the old and discriminate against the young? Because like Social Security, Medicare finances work like a chain letter. Although workers have been repeatedly told that their payroll taxes are being securely held in trust funds, they are actually being spent—the very minute, the very hour, the very day they arrive in the Treasury’s bank account.

No money has been saved. No investments have been made. No cash has been stashed away in bank vaults. Today’s payroll tax payments are being spent to pay medical bills for today’s retirees. And if any surplus materializes, it’s spent on other government programs. As a result, when today’s workers reach the eligibility age of 65, they will be able to get benefits only if future taxpayers pay (higher) taxes to support them.

Just as Bernie Madoff was able to offer early investors above-market returns, early retirees got a bonanza from Social Security and Medicare. That’s the way chain-letter finance works. But in the long run, there’s no free lunch. That’s why things look so dismal for young people entering the labor market today.
(John Goodman posting at his Health Policy Blog)

To which Rob Long over at Ricochet responds:

And yet: no protests in the streets.  No marches.  No student sit-ins.  No youth agitation at all, really, except for a couple of College Republicans in blue blazers.  What?  Are they stupid?  After all of that college tuition?  Are young people in their 20's just dumb?

At a certain point, as the Bernie Madoff saga unfolded, a lot of us wondered if there wasn't some blame to be shared with the folks who believed his nonsense, who credulously cashed the  checks in good years and bad, who never asked how he managed such stellar and consistent returns.

As a man in his 40's who is currently participating in the great swindle, I've got to say to the kids in their 20's:  thanks for making it so easy.

When Deviance Becomes the Norm

Until I can convince my friend Jack Niewold to start his own blog, I'll just have to keep posting his columns here. At least a few of them anyhow -- they're just too good to go without the attention of a larger audience. Yes, those of you on Facebook can "Friend" jack and read his stuff there. But for those of you who are afraid of Facebook (and not without reason, I might add), you'll have to find the occasional Niewold commentary over here. The one I print below is "The Road to Costco."

Today after church as my wife and I were driving to Costco for the weekly shopping, we saw a young dark man on the sidewalk: no shirt, red headband, kerchief around his neck, tight jeans, tattooed torso, cigarette, swagger, general defiance—in short, as the Hispanics of the Central Valley of California would call him, a Cholito.

Victor Davis Hanson sometimes tells of a not-so-hypothetical general surgeon at a Tulare or Fresno hospital forced off of a downtown sidewalk and threatened by a group of such individuals, the same surgeon who, later that night, will perform a pro bono procedure on one of those men—now stabbed in a knife fight—in order to save his life.

The questions of citizenship or insurability are never even raised in such situations.  To do so may well be a crime.

A few moments later, we rolled into the parking lot and got out of the car, when we heard a portly lady nearby complaining loudly that the store wouldn’t give her a refund on a package of cakes. A package of cakes? Well, we inquired, why wouldn’t they do so? “Because I don’t have a Costco card! Do you think that’s right? Why would they require me to have a card?”

Well, duh, we thought, of course you’d have to have a card, especially if you didn’t have a receipt. At Costco, as everybody knows, you have to have a card just to get in the door. My wife and I exchanged incredulous blank glances similar to those Internet animations with the funny voices, and walked off, wondering what else we’d see during our great shopping adventure.

It occurs to me, based on these passing scenes and a multitude of others like them, that there are two kinds of societies: those primarily safe for normalcy, and those primarily safe for deviancy. Most democratic societies strike a balance, but up until recently the civilized West has favored normalcy over deviancy. That is no longer the case; deviancy now threatens to overwhelm the normal.

Try speaking out against almost any kind of deviancy, and you may face possible hate crimes charges. Speak out against normalcy, and you are considered “cool.”

These days we’re expected to show equal respect to anyone or anything that wanders into the Star Wars Cantina that our culture has become.

I know, I know, the good progressive will at this point actually look up from his light-emitting diode and ask in a voice both wise and weary, “Who’s to define what’s normal, and what’s deviant?”

The question itself is an example of deviance. No society has ever survived where a  permissible range of human behaviors expanded without limits. The glories of the secular democracies has always been their ability to both foster and to assimilate dissent, nonconformity and aberration. The death of those same societies is ensured when they no longer recognize where moral boundaries lie. 

Of course, we all know the difference between normalcy and deviancy, even when we’re too intimidated to admit it. (So completely have we internalized multicultural agnosticism.) Still, the wanabee gangbanger is deviant, no matter how you romanticize him. The clueless woman is deviant, no matter how you might want to identify with her small-minded populism.

What’s different today is that we have a pop culture, a legal system, an educational establishment, and even a presidential administration directed towards enshrining the rights of deviants while deriding or penalizing the normal. This can’t end well.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Today's Posts

Back from Colorado

After my Mom's funeral, after the family gatherings and after a couple days of much-needed readjustment in the mountains of Colorado, Claire and I are back in Omaha and back at work.

Driving back from Denver, we had an excellent discussion about the next chapters of our lives (especially as they relate to spiritual priorities, Vital Signs Ministries, family and friends, and our services to Faith Bible Church) and we're ready to go.

Life will be a lot different for us than it has been for the last several years of my Mom's afflictions but we believe the Lord is now showing us just how that extra time on our agenda should be filled in.

Highlights in Colorado included the services at the Foothills Chapel and grave site, the many family conversations at Ric and Ellen's, a great family picnic up in the mountains, the discovery of a previously unknown diary of my Mom's that included precious comments about her courtship with Dad, a couple of nostalgia tours around Denver, a meal at our favorite Denver restaurant (Piccolo's) and 3 other meals at places visited by the Food Network's “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” a couple of days in the mountains with just Claire and I, and several visits with Colorado friends and family. It was a very hectic, very emotional week -- one that we will never forget.

But now we're back and ready to proceed with "When Swing Was King" presentations, developing a prayer presence outside the Planned Parenthood abortion center, expanding our Russian-language web site (along with the VSM site and the daily blog), continuing our educational efforts aimed against chemical abortion, and pursuing a more personal, more persistent visitation ministry. It should be a busy summer.

John Stossel Admits, "I Could Have Run with ACORN Sting for a Month, But Couldn't Because of ABC's Politics."

Sure, we all know that the media leans liberal to the point of falling over. Nevertheless, this admission from John Stossel is infuriating...and scary. The admission is that he could have (and should have) spent a month on the ACORN sting but couldn't because of the entrenched political biases of ABC.

Check it out on this video clip from NewsBusters.

Rolling Stone Story on Michele Bachmann Rolls Over Facts, Balance, Ethics

And you still think the media can be trusted to report accurately, fairly and ethically when it comes to conservative political figures -- especially conservative women?

Think again, Bunky.

Here's a nifty Gina Dalfonzo essay over at Big Journalism in which she reviews Rolling Stone's recent attack on Michele Bachmann. Gina shows how the magazine story was not only a perverse package of political venom and poor reporting, it also involved plagiarism that was condoned by the Rolling Stone editors.

Why Is George Soros So Afraid of Lila Rose?

What Has Obama Wrought?

Twenty-eight months after Congress passed President Obama’s signature economic stimulus law, and nearly one year after he declared the summer of 2010 to be “Recovery Summer,” 1.9 million fewer people are employed.

Pass the word...because the media won't.

Criminals Use "Science" to Steal Millions from European Union

First there was bad science -- so-called science which operated on flawed data and sometimes even evil assumptions. Those examples include eugenics and macro-evolution. Then came junk science fueled by irresponsible ideological zeal which was used to further a purely political agenda. Think man-made climate change. What's next?

How about criminal science?

Steven Hayward over at Power Line comments on a story out of Europe about some $72 million that organized crime has pocketed through scams involving science grants. Check it out.

The strange part of this story is that it offers no details about what specific areas of government research funding were pilfered, or what "results" may have come of the fraudulent research projects they supported. Could it have been in the climate science domain, where the most government research money seems to be sloshing around? 

We know that there has been organized fraud in the European carbon trading market. Trading had to be halted back in January when it was discovered that millions of dollars of carbon allowances had been stolen and cashed on the spot market, so this wouldn't be the first time that organized crime had fixed on the climate circus as an easy mark. 

And one of the overlooked e-mails in the "Climategate" scandal involving the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit two years ago was a message from one of the scientists suggesting that a particular grant be routed through a Russian organization as a means of tax evasion.

Seems like this story needs some follow up...

Goodnight, America: Debt Crisis Isn't Looming. It's Here.

The Congressional Budget Office released a new report this week showing that the federal government’s publicly held debt would top 101% of GDP by 2021, more than the value of everything produced in this country over the course of a year. Think of it like owing more on your credit cards than your entire family income. By 2035, the publicly held debt, CBO says, could top an almost unfathomable 190% of GDP.

And that was the good news...

Michael Tanner's report in the New York Post isn't fun reading. But you'd better read it anyhow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Remembering Ionia Hartford

Claire and I are still in Colorado and I will not be resuming regular blogging activity until next Monday. However, I did want to post this obituary before too much more time elapsed. As most of our friends already know, my Mom passed away on Monday evening, June 11. 

The funeral was held last Friday afternoon in Golden, Colorado. Present at the funeral were family members, friends from the old neighborhood and some of Claire's and my friends who live in Colorado. There was a very moving graveside service held at the cemetery where many gave testimony to Ionia's life. 

But before that, at Foothills Chapel also located there in Golden, I conducted a brief funeral service which included comments about Mom's life, her firm standing as a Christian, the resurrection, heaven and a clear explanation of the gospel. Scriptures specifically referred to were John 14: 1-3, several verses in Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, and John 3:16. And beginning the service was this obituary I had written, based upon remarks I had composed a year ago when Mom was named Resident of the Month at Life Care Center.

The fifth child of John and Ethel Ellsworth, Ionia was born on a farm in Stahl, Missouri on September 13, 1924.   She graduated from Novinger High School where she was a good student and a star player on the girl's championship basketball team.  On August 8, 1942, she married Alva Thomas Hartford in Kirksville, Missouri.   Alva being turned down for military service because of health issues, the couple immediately moved to Wood River, Illinois where they worked at Western Cartridge (an ammunition factory) throughout World War II.

Alva and Ionia spent many years in Wood River. But after several vacations to Colorado, they decided suddenly to move there in 1959, settling eventually in south Denver and then Lakewood. After Alva's death in 1985, Ionia lived a few years in Aurora before moving to Omaha, Nebraska.

In addition to raising her own five children, Ionia worked in several other jobs. They included child care, retail sales at Montgomery Wards and Rexall Drug, positions with Stanley Home Products and Rocky Mountain Bank Note and an especially rewarding career as a skilled technician with Cobe Laboratories, a company that made sophisticated medical tubing for heart and lung machines. She finished her working career as Cobe's Quality Control Supervisor.

Ionia and her husband enjoyed a truly blessed and happy marriage. They loved camping and picnicking, porch-sitting in the evening, visiting friends and neighbors, and times with family. Ionia also enjoyed traveling and was pleased to have visited many states. She also made two international trips seeing sights in England, Wales,and Holland.

Ionia liked reading, especially poetry, Golden Age mysteries and history. I remember her reading the 5-volumes of Winston Churchill's History of World War II in less than a month. She also loved working crossword puzzles, playing rummy and double solitaire with her kids and grandkids, and so many other activities.

Mom loved old movies, particularly those with military or espionage themes and Westerns. She could watch  over and over again The Guns of Navarone, The Hunt for Red October, Where Eagles Dare, The Dirty Dozen,  anything starring John Wayne or anything directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She liked music and was quite eclectic in her tastes. When I was growing up, for instance, the records that Mom played on our blonde wood, hi-fi  phonograph included Elvis Presley, Johnny Horton, Marty Robbins, Dean Martin, the Mills Brothers, the Everly Brothers, Jim Reeves, Andy Williams and the soundtracks to musicals like Oklahoma, West Side Story and South Pacific. Later in life, she was really fond of The Irish Tenors.

Also in her later years, Mom took up fishing. She wasn't all that keen on eating what she caught (she usually gave the fish away to someone along the bank) but she loved the gamesmanship of the sport as well as the beauty and serenity of her surroundings. She also became a fan of the Denver Broncos in football, the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals in baseball and, in the PGA, Phil Mickelson.

Ionia Hartford was an intelligent, engaging and attractive woman. She made friends easily and was a favorite among her friends and neighbors, including the last places she lived: Immanuel Assisted Living Center, Life Care Nursing Home and even the ICU of Immanuel Hospital where she spent the last 5 weeks of her life. She was a woman whose virtues included gratitude, wit, compassion, a keen sense of justice, a priority on cleanliness  (which her children have inherited, but in diluted concentrations), a pleasant curiosity about life, a sincere  and longstanding dedication to Christianity, and a deep love for her husband, her children, her grandchildren and  her extended family. Indeed, Mom's happiest moments were when her whole family was together.

Ionia Hartford passed away peacefully on June 13, 2011 in Omaha, Nebraska after many years of battling various health problems. She was 86 years old.  Ionia is survived by her five children and their spouses: Linda Bale and her husband Jon of San Jose, California;  Dennis Hartford and his wife Claire of Omaha, Nebraska;  Sherry Whissen and her husband John of Wichita, Kansas;  James "Highway" Hartford and his wife Tenna of Deltona, Florida;  and Richard Hartford and his wife Ellen of Littleton, Colorado. She also leaves four grandchildren (Kimberly Bale, Jeffrey Bale, Heather McNeil and Brian Whissen); two great-grandchildren (Haylie Converse and Leah Whissen); one sister-in-law (Farris Ellsworth); and many nieces and nephews.

Memorials can be made to Vital Signs Ministries.