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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sunday "Thumbs Up!"

Once per week, in the "Thumbs Up!" column, Three of Six highlights at least one blog that is worth a visit. This week's picks are:

The Wesley Blog - Even if he didn't have lots of good content on a broad variety of topics, Shayne Raynor's site would be noteable for the Wesleyan flavour he adds to the Christian blogosphere, which to-date seems dominated by the Calvinist persuasion.

Outsiders' Opinions - My son, "Two of Two," and a few friends have started a team blog. Leave a comment to encourage these young writers!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Pardon my Spanish

SI.com has a story about a Little League umpire who forbade players and coaches to speak Spanish during a recent game in Massachusetts. The Spanish-speaking team was demoralized, and went on to lose the game.

The prejudice against those of Hispanic heritage is an issue that gets less publicity than discrimination against African-Americans, but is just as real. I realized this last year, when we lived for several months in a small community in the Northwest. I don't know that it was a conscious decision on the part of the majority Anglo community to say: "We don't like Spanish speaking people." Mostly, it seemed to be two communities living side-by-side, two parallel worlds, like an old episode of StarTrek: TNG.

How do we tear down the walls between those two worlds?

The tiny outpost of Franklin Center, Quebec may point the way forward. For more than two decades, the province of Quebec has suffered a costly tug-of-war between "French only" proponents, and English speakers with roots elsewhere in Canada. Consequently, Montreal is a shell of its former self, as many Anglophones, frustrated by draconian provincial language laws, voted with their feet and moved to Ontario and other English-friendly provinces. But in tiny Franklin Center, just a few miles from the New York state border, they found a happier compromise. All instruction in the elementary school is bi-lingual, but on alternating days. On Monday, all subjects are taught in English; Tuesday, they teach in French, and so forth throughout the week. In this way, students end up comfortable in both languages.

Like Quebec, the United States has two predominant languages. Increasingly, those who know only one or the other will be at a disadvantage in hiring and promotion. The Franklin Center model is worth consideration. Who knows? Maybe next year, they'll play a bi-lingual game of baseball in Massachusetts, alternating innings. Maybe then no child will have to say: "Pardon my Spanish."

Friday, July 29, 2005

Blue shirt, gray pants?

Legend has it that at the outbreak of the American Civil War, one torn young man couldn't decide whether to join the army of the Union or the Confederacy. At last, he thought he had found the perfect compromise. He slipped into a navy blue shirt and gray pants, grabbed his gun, then charged into battle. Seconds later, bullets whizzed by him, coming from both directions. The hapless soldier became a target for both sides.

Today, Dr. Frist rushed into the fray wearing a blue shirt and gray pants. "I'm still pro-life," he insists, even as he lurches left on the embryonic stem cell debate. In the end, he may end up mistrusted by conservatives and liberals alike.

Senator Frist in his speech assured his fellow Senators that embryos would be treated with "dignity." But no amount of soothing rhetoric can mask the fact that the blastocyst, which Frist admits is "nascent human life," is destroyed in the process.

The tragedy of this political suicide is that it didn't have to happen. A heart-lung transplant surgeon, surely he knows like Wolfgang Lillge, M.D., of 21st Century Science and Technology that adult stem cell research has already proven itself useful in the treatment of the death of heart tissue. In addition, in some cases, it is therapeutic for chronic stomach ailments, as well as blood and skin diseases. (On the other hand, embryonic stem cell research to-date has shown little of the same therapeutic promise). Best of all, adult stem cell manipulation does not wipe out human life; no embryo is destroyed.

The main argument pushing House and Senate members into voting in favor of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is that the embryos would be discarded anyways. But would they? Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune reports that thousands of couples are already adopting embryos leftover from others' in vitro fertilization procedures. These couples of modest means, many of whom could never have afforded their own in vitro regimen, can now adopt an embryo. Nine months later, they have a healthy baby. A nascent life that otherwise would never have fully gestated is welcomed into a loving home. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Meanwhile, Dr. Frist will be sporting his blue pants and gray shirt around Washington, to the applause of many a pundit. One place he's not likely to be wearing them in January 2009 is inside the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Where no safety cone has gone before

Yesterday, a friend of mine complained about the taxes withheld from her paycheck. When she and her husband are working hard just to put a roof over their heads and feed their children, wouldn't it make more sense to let her keep it? After all, doesn't she need it more than the government?

Good question. Thankfully, I didn't have to invent an answer. Jesus famously said to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. The Lord creatively practiced what he preached by sending Peter to dislodge a coin from the mouth of a fish. He then told him to take it to the tax collectors. Despite its obvious faults, Christ wasn't opposed to supporting Rome's infrastructure.

Like it or not, April 15 is part of the glue that holds America together as a people. And I've been places overseas "where no safety cone has gone before." Those places had lots to offer, but good roads weren't on the list, nor retirement pensions, nor unemployment benefits, nor good hospitals, come to think of it.

Taxes are a pain. No taxes are worse. VIVE the orange safety cone!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Chaim Potok delivers

If the late Rabbi Chaim Potok had never taken up his pen to write, one wonders whether the world would know anything about this literary giant.

I just finished reading The Promise, the sequel to his better known The Chosen. Now, I'll have to go back and read the latter. I'm hooked!

Potok brings you inside the complex world of New York Judaism following World War II. His characters come to life as they struggle to balance the comforting but confining ways of Hasidism with new ways of interpeting the Torah that seem to better accomodate modern life in America. In those struggles shine both the desire for God and the desire to live as a child of the 20th century. Must one choose one or the other, or is there a "third way"? In each path lies pain. For Potok, there are no easy answers. But then again, whoever said life was simple?

If you don't mind jagged edges, give The Promise a try.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

2005 Political Chameleon Award

The committee of three has met (me, myself, and I), and the Political Chameleon Award for 2005 goes to (appropriate drumroll):

New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Senator Clinton is nothing if not clever. Iraq? As hawkish as they come, using her perch on the Senate Armed Services Committee to push for the expansion of the Army by one division. On abortion, she's re-treading her husband's "safe, legal, and rare" rhetoric, though abortions continued apace under her husband's presidency. Did she have tea lately with Tipper Gore? One would think so, since she's going after video game makers like she's on a moral crusade, all echoes of a once conservative Mr. and Mrs. Gore.

Harvard professor Samuel Huntington argues that the U.S. is going through a religious revival. Will it be accompanied by tectonic shifts in public attitudes about morality? It's probably too soon to tell. However, Senator Clinton tracking to the right seems to be only the latest indicator that if you want to be elected, you must reflect the values of the mainstream of voters, and that mainstream is clearly to the right of official Democratic party dogma. If winning the White House means doing the chameleon routine, so be it.

Whether Clinton's changes are heartfelt or mere window dressing remains to be seen. What is almost certain is that Democratic Presidential candidates in 2008 will look more like Joe Lieberman than Dennis Kucinich. The junior Senator from New York won't be the only chameleon come primary time.

Update: David Shraub responds at TMV.

It's not about the bike

How do you go through testicular cancer, and fight back to win the Tour de France?

That's the message of Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike: A Journey Back to Life. The version I read was in French, picked-up several years ago in the Côte d’Ivoire.

As translations go, it wasn’t half bad, and the inspirational story came through strongly. Even the “big, bad French” wrongly villified by Bill O’Reilly seem enamored by the man from the flatlands of Texas who conquered the Alps.

The Tour de France is one of those events under-appreciated by most of us Americans. I had the joy with my family of watching the cyclists struggle uphill one morning in July ’94 when they passed by a small town in southeast France. It was worth the sleepless night in our roadside tent to experience the excitement. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Now with 7 feathers in Armstrong's cap, don’t be surprised to see an updated version of It’s Not About the Bike coming to a public library near you. Check it out.

Monday, July 25, 2005

"Stargate SG-1" invasion

One of the side-effects of being an American family abroad is that we often have to play catch-up when it comes to popular shows on TV. Last year, when we had a full 12 months Stateside, Two of Two became addicted to "Full House" and "Seventh Heaven." Now that we're back overseas, those shows are no longer on his radar screen. But never to fear...a friend dropped off several seasons worth of Stargate SG-1. So, we've had a major invasion of alien creatures in our home for the past two weeks, as the lazy days of summer turn into a sci-fi marathon for two brothers.

Even dad has sat down for a handful of episodes, and mostly, I like what I see. Admittedly, I miss Richard Dean Anderson's "MacGyver" who could build just about anything in 20 minutes out of wire, aluminum foil, and his trusty Swiss Army knife. His new character, Jack O'Neill, though a good commando, is about as bright as a 25w lightbulb, but that's not so bad. He provides a good foil for the other three characters, who are brilliant in archaeology and linguistics (Michael Shanks as Dr. Daniel Jackson), math/science (Amanda Tapping as Major Samantha Carter) and alien mythology (Christopher Judge as Teal'c). "Stargate" makes being smart cool.

While "Stargate" is generally wholesome, some of the messages coming across are not helpful. In one episode, Teal'c must be disabused of his belief in a false god. The not-so-subtle humanistic undertone was that the only "god" that we should believe is the "god" of self-reliance. That's a good American message, but not particularly Christian. As Blaise Pascal once said, having faith is the most reasonable thing to do. Yes, there are false gods, unworthy of our worship, but there is a true God who is both good and loving. This lesson is entirely missing from "Stargate" ideology.

Despite these cautionary words, there is much to admire in the "Stargate" universe. The loyalty on-display between the four primary characters means looking out for each other, no matter what. Furthermore, notions of "good" and "evil" are often in evidence. The former is to be embraced, while the latter should be shunned.

"Stargate" has rightfully won a number of awards. We're come a long ways from the low-budget days of "Star Trek" when productions were made on a shoe-string. Parents should talk to their kids about some of the on-screen messages. "Stargate" is an excellent opportunity for good entertainment and honing the ability in our children to discern what is in agreement with a Christian worldview and what falls short.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Light blogging this week

Time to jump-start my PhD research. Check back in next week.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Paying back evil with good

Donald Sensing has incredible footage of a sniper's attack on an American soldier patrolling in Baghdad. The impact knocked the G.I medic over, and later when he and his buddies arrested the sniper, he gave him first-aid for his wounds. Any guess whether this story will make headlines? Nah, shows our soldiers in a good light. Can't let that happen!

UPDATE: CNN has video coverage up on their site today (Tuesday). Good job, CNN.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A warning from a silver maple

"Another tree is down." When my father-in-law heard the news, he rounded up his three "expert" helpers: myself, and his two strapping grandsons. Chain saw in hand, safety glasses on, he began cutting up the downed silver maple. A trained forest ranger, he made quick work of the once impressive tree. Piece-by-piece, we carried it away.

What made this giant fall?

The question haunted me while working together that day. Finally, as we examined the trunk, I saw my first clue. Hundreds of ants scurried along the contours of the twisted trunk, diving into cracks, working away as if nothing had happened, as if their wooden home was still in vertical position, and not laying defeated on the damp ground. My father-in-law came over and had a look. "Those aren't just any ants," he told me. "Those are carpenter ants, and they can fell a tree."

How long had those ambitious creatures been gnawing away on the trunk of that silver maple? Had it been weeks? Months? Years? The havoc they were gradually wrecking went unnoticed. It was happening on the inside. Though invisible on the outside, eventually, its effects could no longer be hidden; they were obvious to all.

A proud silver maple fell.

Carpenter ants are a warning to individuals and societies. As individuals, we can sometimes hide from others the shameful actions that risk shattering the trust upon which our relationships are built. As societies, we can sweep under the carpet practices that later negatively affect us all. It's never hard to rationalize at the time, but it's excruciating later to pick up the pieces. There's always a price to pay, whether it's an affair that rips apart a family, or embezzlement that brings down a company like Enron.

Time to take action. Silver maples can fall, and so can we.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

So long, Jack

This weekend marks Jack Nicklaus' last time to play golf competitively in the British Open. To mark the occasion, the Royal Bank of Scotland is issuing a special five pound note, an honor it has only bestowed upon Queen Elizabeth and her now late mother, the Queen Mum.

For me, Nicklaus' 18 major golf titles are summed-up in a sultry Saturday at the Oak Hills country club in Rochester, New York in the late summer of 1980. The PGA Championship was in town, and Nicklaus was teeing off on the par 4 first hole. He put his second shot nicely up on the "dance floor," and was walking down the fairway. Everyone knew that he would score a birdie if he sunk the next putt. As he came by, about 30 yards away from where I stood with other spectators, lining the rough, something came over me. "Put it in!" I yelled to the passing legend. Is it just my memory embellishing things, or did Nicklaus really scan the crowd, catch my eye, smile faintly and nod his head in agreement? Whatever happened, 5 minutes later, I heard a roar go up from the crowd. I rushed up to the edge of of the green and asked one of the spectators what had happened. "It's Nicklaus," he said. "Just sank a 50 foot putt for birdie." The Golden Bear went on to win the PGA that year, and as Paul Harvey says, now you know the rest of the story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

To translate is to betray

The French have a saying: "Traduire, c'est trahir -- to translate is to betray." Former President Jimmy Carter found this out the hard way when his interpreter famously used the wrong word in Poland. The affable man from Plains, Georgia said with his southern American English: "I love the Polish people." Carter's hapless interpreter rendered it: "I lust the Polish people." Oh, the difference the right word makes!

Pitfalls notwithstanding, we'll always need someone to bridge the gap between languages. WatchingAmerica.com is a unique site that translates selected articles from countries around the world. Each article has something to do with the United States, allowing the American reader to penetrate the linguistic veil and see what others are saying about us.

Because the Christian Science Monitor recommended the service, it wasn't surprising to find many positive elements upon visiting the site. For my fellow Americans convinced that the world hates us, you can find unflattering articles, such as the headline in the Tunis Hebdo of July 6, simply titled "America: An extraordinarily voracious country." Others present a more positive view, such as the July 7 Asia Times that trumpets: "Why 71% of Indians like the United States."

As a student of French, I wanted to see whether the English was an accurate translation from the French original. A July 8 article from Liberation was my test case. I compared the headlines, and found that in French it spoke of abortion, and Bush being "at the feet of the Supreme court." Strangely, no mention of abortion appeared in the English translation of the headline. Worse, it added elements that never appeared in the original French headline, saying that "the ideological choices have never been starker, nor the battle to come as fierce." Call me a strict constructionist, but a translator does not have the liberty to put words in the mouth of a writer.

The first paragraph of the article was considerably better than the botched headline. In general it was accurate, but even here, there were discrepencies. The French spoke of "lobbies of the religious right" crusading against abortion. In English, this was rendered "the religious lobbies." Considering that there are many religious people on the left who would be in favor of maintaining current abortion law, this is a significant error. Furthermore, the French original calls the Supreme Court "a powerful institution." On the other hand, the English translation calls it "one of the country's most powerful institutions." As Billy Crystal says in The Princess Bride, there's a big difference between "dead" and "mostly dead." And so, there's a big difference between these two descriptions, like the difference between a bicycle and a Harley Davidson.

We might live in the era of instant gratification, but some things still just take good, old fashioned hard work. Language learning is one of them. Let's not start any wars based on something we read on WatchingAmerica.com. And the next time your local school board is looking for ways to cut the budget, tell them to keep their hands off the foreign language program. Our national security may depend on it.


This article has been double-posted to DigitalDissent.com.

"Veggie Tales" addiction

Whoever said "Veggie Tales" is only for munchkins?

One of the latest videos, "Minnesota Cuke," includes a silly song titled "Pizza Angel." One of Two, my seventeen year old, transcribed all the words, and has been crooning it around the house all day with his little brother, Two of Two. Funny thing is, it's kind of catchy. Will I be dreaming of pizza tonight?

"Veggie Tales" has found a niche in the media market. Unlike some other video productions that excuse shoddy work with spiritual mumbo-jumbo, Big Idea has top-rate animation and good story lines. Just when it gets a bit preachy, the chuckle-factor kicks in. "Veggie Tales," may your tribe increase.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Royal blue Nikes with yellow swoosh stripes

The summer Olympic games of 1976 changed my life.

In-between mowing lawns for the neighbor for $ 6.00 a pop and endless games of "Risk" with my brothers, that summer brought a memorable event. Frank Shorter ran into the history books when he won a silver medal in the Montreal Olympic marathon.

Before then, I never thought I could compete in foot races. In fact, my all-too-miserable one year of Little League in third grade and the constant shelacking my brother gave me in tennis convinced me that when God passed out the athletic ability, He'd played a cruel joke on me. My sporting "meter" registered somewhere between little and none-at-all.

But Frank Shorter gave me hope. After all, how hard could running be? You don't have to throw a ball or pin an opponent. By my way of thinking, what could be easier? All you had to do was put one foot in front of another. A few lawns later, and I had enough to make the "big purchase." I was the proud owner of a pair of royal blue Nike trainers, with a distinctive yellow "swoosh" up the side.

I'll never forget the first day of cross-country practice. I was a green freshman, but Mr. Tike (pronounced "tie-key") was a veteran. Whistle hanging around his neck, his body bulging with muscles I doubted I'd ever have, he barked out the orders like a drill sergeant: "Ok, everyone, take a mile lap." We took off around the course. My time was around 7 1/2 minutes. "Do another one," he snapped. 7 min 45 sec this time; I was tiring. (Maybe I should have trained a little harder at home?) My disbelief only grew as he said "do another one" six more times. That day, we ran 8 timed miles around the ball fields of our high school. Purgatory is too pale a word.

The next two years brought many cross-country meets, and most of the time, I was 2/3 back in the pack at the finish line. Mediocre though I was, it helped that I ran for a mediocre team. At the end of the second year, they pinned a letter on me. I'd proven something to myself. I could compete not only in academics, but also in athletics. My junior year saw me working produce part-time at the neighborhood grocery store. I'd proved my point; I never competed in cross-country again.

The summer of '76 seemed like a long time ago tonight when I ran a mere two miles around the property where we now live. A human body at 42 is a different creature than one at 13. Slow though I now am, I'm reminded as I puff along the rocky path that running is more than earning an athletic letter, or even shedding a few unwanted pounds. Running is a metaphor for life.

Running has taught me that there's bound to be someone better than you. That's no reason to sit out the race. It's a reminder that just when you feel the most like quitting, don't. Your "second wind" is about to kick-in. Running teaches perseverance, that anything worth winning is worth the hard work. And most of all, running reminds us of our limitations, that to press up the next hill, we need the strength that only God can give, and the encouragement that comes from teammates in the race, or cheerleaders along the course.

I never accomplished a fraction as a runner of what Mr. Shorter did, but that's OK. Maybe there's another competition for me yet. But even if I never race again, I won't forget the lessons learned when for two seasons I strapped on my royal blue Nikes with yellow swoosh stripes.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

"Everything and more" a wholesome alternative

I'm always a bit hesitant to give kudos to a talented vocalist, for fear they'll go the way of Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake. Too often, a wholesome singer gets "big" then mutates overnight from a mild PG to a strong R, a definite turn-off.

With that disclaimer, let me recommend a new album from difficult-to-label Billy Gilman. "Everything and more" was in the "country" section at the store where I picked it up, but many of the cuts on the CD can hardly be called "country" in the traditional sense. The title cut (also a video, according to Gilman's website) spotlights the former boy soprano's new high tenor range. As a second tenor myself, I appreciate the ease with which he navigates the higher notes. The nearly two year exile imposed upon him is already paying dividends. "Looked into the wings," a later cut on the album, chronicles the young performer's angst as he wonders whether he'll ever sing again. This touching tribute to his manager Angela's unshakeable faith in him resonates with anyone who has ever had their best gift put in doubt.

Gilman sometimes sings as one teenager to another. "Missed you on Sunday" shows concern for a friend who is missing church and drifting toward the shadows. "Peaceable kingdom" is another hat-tip to Christianity, and indicative of the kind of soft-pedaled faith that won't please the fundamentalist, but is likely to build bridges to those seeking faith. In a day when many teens live in cocoons no bigger than their own high school, Billy shows sensitivity to world events. "Is anybody out there?" is a cry for help from a soldier wounded on a battlefield in Iraq. On the other hand, Billy's not afraid to lighten-up with the more honky-tonk sounding "Three words, two hearts, one kiss," a sure crowd pleaser.

Like any maturing artist, there's always room for improvement. Gilman's first instincts to exclude "Awaken the music" from the CD may have been correct. This modern interpretation of a Mozart composition includes rapid lyrics that are difficult to decipher; the song seems the odd-one-out stylistically.

Gilman's appeal is clear: implicit faith, wholesome lyrics, and the common touch. "Everything and more" was my Father's Day gift, but it has multi-generational appeal, if the number of times my sons played it in the car on our recent vacation is any indication. It's an auspicious return to the stage for a likeable star with a bright future. Keep up the good work, Billy, and never give anyone a reason to miss you on Sunday.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

"A house without books is like a room without windows." - Horace Mann (1796-1859), early American educator Posted by Picasa

Houses with no windows

The snapshot above is from the sculpture outside the public library of Fruitville, Florida, in the St.Petersburg/Tampa area. It was one of those serindipities. On family vacation, we'd taken a wrong turn, and while turning around in the library parking, the sun caught the shiny surface of the artwork. Behind it was a placid pond, and a single bench in a grassy knoll. So...we forgot about the destination, and started enjoying the trip.

Mann's quote gets you thinking.

In my work-related travels, I've noticed three groups of people. The first group is allergic to the printed word. You won't find a book or a newspaper anywhere in their living room, though the TV may blare constantly. Another group are those who want to appear as if they like books, so to make their home look a little more classy, they'll display a handful of nicely bound volumes with gold lettering. It's not intended for use, just to impress. The third group are those who have books tossed all over the place, books of all kinds. Some are deep, some are funny, but usually they're dog-earred, and many came from Goodwill for 10 cents or a quarter. I usually know whether we'll have much to discuss by seeing which category the family's living room falls into.

It's summer time. What have you read lately?

Tell me:

1. One thing you like about what you're reading;
2. One thing you'd improve if you were the author.

Enjoy the trip.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The demise of temptation

Temptation - remember that word? It survives mostly in the names of sugary confections promoted by TV ads during the year-end holidays. Or for some of us who are a bit older, we think of Diana Ross and the Temptations, or maybe even the old image of a tiny angel on one shoulder, and a horned and tailed red devil on the other. As a culture, we have a memory of the word, even if in the era of Dr. Phil it has fallen on hard times.

The word temptation, nonetheless, is a crucial one in the conversation we're having in America about issues like homosexuality. Wrapped-up in that one word are two key ideas:

1. Outside influences matter -- No one is an island. We are born into a specific context, a family of some kind that leaves its imprint upon us like a foot in wet cement. No one chooses the environment in which one is raised; it is chosen by others, by the procreative act of a man and woman. As we age, the circle of influence broadens to include peers, teachers, pastors, friends, and many others. Parents soon realize the shaping power of others, and seek to protect the character of their offspring by monitoring those with whom they associate. "Those who lie down with dogs get fleas." Others influence each of us, for evil or for good.

2. Ultimately, each of us must choose our own path -- While outside influences matter, each of us is faced with a decision. Temptation would not be temptation if we were obligated or forced to act in a certain way. That would be compulsion. Christian theology teaches that there is a tendency in the human heart to follow what is wrong. On the other hand, there is divine influence upon us, calling us to a better way. In the end, we will follow that path to which we surrender the power of our own will.

So what does temptation teach us about the current dialogue on homosexuality? It tells us that both sides in the debate have latched on to part of the truth, but are neglecting the rest of it. How so?

On the one hand are the rabid sign-carriers, those who are ready to condemn the homosexual to hell. They see only a person who has chosen evil, and could have chosen good. Such a misguided zealot has forgotten that, while God might not create a person as a homosexual, the complex dyanamics of early life, what psychologists call "nurture," are an incredibly powerful force that should not be dismissed out-of-hand.

On the other hand are the advocates for so-called "gay marriage," who are agitating at all levels of government for a change in the notion of what marriage is, i.e. a life-long union between one man and one woman. They have correctly understood the power of early-life influences upon their own character. However, they have failed to realize that however strong those influences, they do not rob the individual of moral choice. While they may not choose the feelings of same-sex attraction, they still have the power, with God's help, to choose how to respond to those feelings.

When I briefly taught theology at a Christian university in the United States, homosexuality was a topic on which students wanted answers. Temptation is the most important idea upon which a Christian response should be built. The concept of temptation forces each of us to listen with compassion to the individual struggling with same-sex attraction. We realize the power of outside influences, whether on the internet, television, or from upbringing. Because of this, while we acknowledge the destructiveness of any sin, we cannot glibly condemn. We can only love! In the same way, we realize the power of grace, that God does not leave us alone in our temptation, but will help those who ask for it. Equally importantly, we will seek to surround such persons with positive influences, others who refuse to view homosexuality as a "greater" offence, but only as one of a long list of maladies that the Lord can heal.

The next time someone says "I am gay," challenge them to put it this way instead: "I'm constantly tempted to act on my romantic feelings toward others of my gender, and too often, I fail." With God's help, and the help of caring others, the next time they can say: "While I'm still tempted in this way, more and more, I'm able to overcome this temptation." In this way, let us bring the resources of the Christian faith to the rescue of many who didn't choose their orientation, but are looking for help to head in a new direction. Would Jesus do any less?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Time to overturn Roe v. Wade

On September 11, 2001, 2,819 individuals from 115 nations were killed when terrorists slammed fuel laden jets into the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. That heinous act of terror, combined with the attack on the Pentagon and the jet crashed into a Pennsylvania farm, was the opening salvo in a War on Terrorism that continues to this day. Its theatres include Afghanistan, Iraq, and perhaps covert operations in obscure countries few Americans could locate on a map.

On January 22, 1973, another event happened that few noticed then, but which has produced infinitely more carnage than the rabid Saudi Arabians unleashed from a clear blue NYC sky. The Supreme Court on that January day struck down numerous state laws that outlawed abortions. Since that watershed ruling, approximately 40 million abortions have been performed in America. To put this in perspective, that's roughly the carnage of 14,200 September 11 attacks, but because it happens privately in abortion clinics and not on our TV screens, most of us give it little thought. Too many of us still must learn, like Peter Parker, that with great power comes great responsibility. Of all powers, the power to create human life is unquestionably one of the greatest. The peace of mind of individuals and communities requires that we take responsibility for the children that we create, within marriage and without.

With the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, President Bush has an opportunity to nominate someone to the Supreme Court who will review Roe v. Wade. Should such a judge be seated on our nation's highest court, it is possible that we as a people will once again be given the opportunity to take responsibility for our creative choices. In the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion law would happily revert to the pre-1973 patchwork of laws, which allowed those who were determined to have an abortion to travel to another state to receive it. On the other hand, those who live in states that find abortion abhorrent would still be able to avail themselves of adoption options upon a child's birth. The double advantage of this state of affairs is:

1. a built-in "waiting period" in which a woman who has to travel across state lines has a chance to reconsider her choice;

2. the principle of Federalism (guarding State rights) is upheld. There is always less fallout from political decisions when they are made closer to the people. Ever wonder why abortion wasn't controversial before Roe? This surely explains it.

There is precedent for putting life issues in the hands of State Legislatures. The death penalty, which is also the taking of a life, is largely decided by the States. Laws on putting criminals to death are supported by the population of a given state, and thus there is less public outcry when such laws are enforced. On the other hand, abortion clinics in states like Nebraska are currently roundly criticized by majorities of the local population precisely because they are out-of-step with the values of its citizens, where a "culture of life" is dominant. In other states, such as California, abortion would likely continue to be available. What is certain is that nationwide the numbers of abortions would plummet as communities come together to create better systems of taking care of unwanted newborns and their caught-in-a-pickle mothers. Surely this is the same spirit of caring about the forgotten which prompts both Democrats and Republicans to denounce the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib or the killing of baby seals in the Artic circle. Or is consistency a victim of the rank partisanship that has spoiled political discourse in our great nation? Only too soon, we'll know the answer to that question.

This has been double-posted to DigitalDissent.com.