The Man in the Arena

•June 17, 2009 • 1 Comment

Teddy Roosevelt: a man’s man. The kind of man I admire. A gritty, hard-core, take-no-prisoners, live-life-to-the-fullest kind of guy, how could one not admire him? Once he was shot in an assassination attempt just as he was about to deliver a speech. The bullet penetrated into his chest, stopping short of his heart. However, instead of rushing to the emergency room, he insisted on delivering his 90 minute oration with that bullet still in his chest. What a guy!

Coming from a man who new how to stand against long odds, I find the following speech quite compelling:

It is not the critic who counts:

not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles

or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,

whose face is marred by

dust and sweat and blood,

who strives valiantly,

who errs and comes up short again and again,

because there is no effort without error or shortcoming,

but who knows the great enthusiasms,

the great devotions,

who spends himself for a worthy cause;

who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly,

so that his place shall never be

with those cold and timid souls

who knew neither victory nor defeat.


Theodore

Roosevelt

Pink Daisies

•May 6, 2009 • 2 Comments

Pink Daisies

The Decline and Fall of American Christianity? Nope.

•April 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

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From CitizenLink

Answering Newsweek — Again

The magazine has distorted what the Bible says about marriage. Now, it overlooks the results of its own poll and other data showing Christianity’s influence in the U.S.

As families prepared for Holy Week recently, they saw on newsstands the Newsweek“Decline and Fall of Christian America.” But a close examination of the data cited by Editor Jon Meacham opens serious holes in his misguided declaration that the Christian God is “less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory.” cover story,

Meacham drew many of his conclusions from the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS 2008) and the Newsweek opinion poll “A Post Christian Nation?” by Princeton Survey Research Associates. Those studies, viewed in totality, tell a much different story than what Meacham wrote for his more than 2 million readers.

Here’s a point-by-point explanation of Meacham’s more glaring omissions and mistakes:

1. “Christians are now making up a declining percentage of the population.”

That’s true, but it’s not news. Leading religion scholar Robert Wuthnow of Princeton University has said weekly church attendance reached its pinnacle in 1958, “has never reached that level again” and has fallen a quarter of a percentage point each year since. Nonetheless, the absolute number of Christians is growing, even as the percentage of the population declines. Wuthnow explains:

The total population of the United States has grown by almost 50 percent  since 1970, so even though a smaller proportion of the public is attending  religious services regularly, the absolute numbers are larger. It’s just that  they would have been considerably larger if the rate of church-going had  held steady.

That’s an important point Meacham’s essay failed to make.

2. “[T]he percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76 percent.”

The same ARIS 2008 survey Meacham cited showed that the Christian religion still has no close rivals in America, far surpassing the number who say they’re Mormon (1.4 percent), Jewish (1.2), atheist (0.9), agnostic (0.7), and Muslim (0.6). Those Americans who claimed no religious affiliation — a group ARIS calls “nones”— did nearly double from 8 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008, but the Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found that “it is simply not accurate to describe this entire group as nonreligious or ‘secular’.” Just one quarter of these unaffiliated are atheist or agnostic, while the remaining three-quarters described their religion as “nothing in particular” and half of these reported being somewhat or very important in their lives, despite their lack of a specified affiliation.

Regarding the decline of Christianity, of course it is the mainline Protestant churches that have seen “a significant fall in numbers” since 2001, according to ARIS. The survey reads: “The Protestant denominations, mainly composed of conservatives and sectarian groups, have grown in size and proportion …[which] suggests a movement towards more conservative beliefs and to a more ‘evangelical’ outlook among Christians.” The ARIS authors call this growth an “important historical trend.”

More tellingly, Meacham doesn’t say that his own Newsweek poll found 81 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian, with the largest subset being “Evangelical Protestant.”

3. The Newsweek poll found that “two thirds of the public (68 percent) now say religion is ‘losing influence’ in American society”

Meacham didn’t share with readers that the same poll found an even greater number — 74 percent — of Americans think it’s a good thing when religion gains influence, or that 81 percent said it’s a bad thing when religion loses influence. Even more remarkable is that 74 percent said they support “old-fashioned values about marriage and family.”

4. “Many Conservative Christians believe they have lost battles over issues such as abortion, school prayer and even same-sex marriage.”

How did Meacham miss the fact that voters in 30 states approved constitutional amendments, most by big margins? It was only after Meacham’s article came out that the genderless-marriage proponents won their first legislative victory, in Vermont — a state not known as an evangelical stronghold. Even so, losing some skirmishes is not the same as losing a war, let alone the same as giving up the battle for such linchpin social issues as the sanctity of human life.

5. “While we remain a nation decidedly shaped by religious faith, our politics and culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were five years ago.”

We know from reading back issues of Newsweek that Meacham didn’t overlook the presidential candidate debate hosted by Pastor Rick Warren last year, nor Warren’s unapologetically Christian prayer at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Perhaps he simply didn’t comprehend their significance.

6. “The decline and fall of the modern religious right’s notion of a Christian America creates a calmer political environment, and for many believers may help open the way for a more theologically serious religious life.”

Meacham favorably quotes three scholars — Mark A. Noll, Nathan O. Hatch and George M. Marsden — on what he thinks Christians in the public square ought to do:

“We have important obligations to do whatever we can, including through  the use of political means [emphasis added], to help our neighbors —  promoting just laws, good order, peace, education and opportunity.

Perhaps Meacham is asking those evangelicals who work on behalf of the preborn, who defend “old-fashioned” marriage and who fight the sex exploitation industry — all causes associated with the “religious right” — to find something else to do, or to just shut up altogether. Not surprisingly, this is not something he says to the religious Left.

There’s nothing more that some in the media want than for evangelicals to stay silent, to stop criticizing President Obama for his reversal of President George W. Bush’s pro-life policies, for example. But as Christians recognized during Holy Week, there’s no holding back Christ and His church.

Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson put it this way when he appeared April 14 on the Fox News Channel’s “Hannity”:

“The Left-wing media is itching for members of the pro- family movement  to put up a white flag and declare the culture war over and to just hand the country to them,” he said. “Terrible things are going on right now, including  using taxpayer money to support abortion around the world. Those things  are very, very troubling. But we believe they’re temporary, and whether  they are or not, we as speaking of myself as a Christian, we’re not called  to be successful. We’re called to be faithful, and that’s what we plan to do.

“In tough times,” Dr. Dobson added, “good people hang in there and wait  for things to change — and we pray a lot.”

What is music?

•April 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Itzhak Perlman – a violinist of violinists, a musician of musicians. He is the great violinist of our time. Music is a language and he is its prophet. But what is it about Itzahk and the violin and even music that enchants us?

The concert hall was packed, every seat sold, the lights dimmed, the orchestra tuned, the suspense built as we waited for Itzhak Perlman to emerge. Finally the thick black curtain was drawn and we saw him. But he wasn’t what you would expect. He didn’t stride onto the stage; he struggled. You see, Itzhak lost much of the use of his legs when polio gripped him at age four. We stood as one and gave thunderous applause to the great prophet of the violin, and he, with marked dignity and humility, stiffly bowed and eased into his seat. Beethoven’s great violin concerto in D major began.

As he moved his bow over the strings, there arose the sweetest, most beautiful, eloquent notes I have ever heard. What set him apart from other violinists, however, was what he did with his music. If you listened, he was not just playing music, he was speaking to us—like a bard to his clan, like Cicero to his friends. His notes spoke without speaking of deep mysteries which cannot be uttered. He was communicating to us with his music.

Itzhak’s playing made me question, what is this thing—music? It is commonly said that music is the universal language of emotion. Yet, there are things in music we do not understand. Why is a Mozart Symphony scientifically proven to make listeners smarter? Why does rock music prevent mice from solving problems and even cause their very neurons to split? Why does water crystallize in certain configurations based on music played around it when it is frozen? Why does a wine glass resonate and eventually split apart when a soprano sings the perfect note? When reduced to musical notation, why does the molecular structure of milk produce a lullaby? Why do the velocities of our rotating planets exactly correspond to the ratios in our harmonic scale?

Even a greater mystery is music’s role in our universe. According to modern quantum mechanics and string theory all matter is nothing more than vibrating energy, music. This leads us to the startling question—are we music? I find this significant, for in the Bible I find that our origin is sound, for God “spoke” the world into existence.

And now I see it…there is much more to Itzhak Perlman’s music than meets my ear. His music speaks to my essence—music to music. I am like the soprano’s wine glass, for I hear his music and it makes me resonate.

itzhak-perlman

Never Overlook the Obvious

•April 3, 2009 • 3 Comments

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. As they lay down for the night, Holmes said:” Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see?”

Watson said, “I see millions and millions of stars.”

Holmes: “And what does that tell you?”

Watson: “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorogically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”

Holmes: “Somebody stole our tent.”

Coffee cup composition

•April 3, 2009 • 2 Comments

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cup of coffee

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Barack Obama, CEO…and Car Salesman of the Year?

•March 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

On April 8, 1952, President Harry Truman ordered Commerce Secretary Charles Sawyer to seize and take over operation of most of the country’s steel mills. Truman cited no legislative authority for his actions. Instead, he cited the Korean War. Truman claimed there was a national emergency and his presidential war powers were all the authority he needed to nationalize the steel industry. The steel companies fought back, and in the landmark case Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer the Supreme Court found Truman’s actions to be unconstitutional.

Justifying President Barack Obama’s unprecedented control over the U.S auto industry, an administration official told Politico: “We’re in an economic crisis, which takes shared responsibility and shared sacrifice. The only way that we will recover is if everybody puts a little skin in the game.” Unlike Truman, Obama actually has some legislative authority to hang his nationalization hat on: the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which created the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds that Obama is using to control General Motors and Chrysler. But, as we argued at the time, the broad delegation of powers in the bill makes it constitutionally suspect. Did any member of Congress voting for EESA really even contemplate that the bill would lead to a President of the United States saying this:


In this context, my administration will offer General Motors adequate working capital over the next 60 days. During this time, my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan. … I am confident that if we are each willing to do our part, then this restructuring, as painful as it will be in the short-term, will mark not an end, but a new beginning for a great American industry; an auto industry that is once more out-competing the world; a 21st century auto industry that is creating new jobs, unleashing new prosperity, and manufacturing the fuel-efficient cars and trucks that will carry us toward an energy independent future.

As great of a lawyer, community activist and law professor as President Obama may have been, when has he ever run any company or come up with a single business plan? Now he’s running General Motors? But Obama didn’t stop at auto company CEO:

No one can deny that our auto industry has made meaningful progress in recent years. Some of the cars made by American workers are now outperforming the best cars made abroad. In 2008, the North American Car of the Year was a GM. … just in case there are still nagging doubts, let me say it as plainly as I can –- if you buy a car from Chrysler or General Motors, you will be able to get your car serviced and repaired, just like always. Your warranty will be safe. In fact, it will be safer than it’s ever been. Because starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.

Did we elect a president or a car salesman? Problem is, when we let the government become a market participant, there is no difference. Hence the slew of other incentives Obama threw at the auto industry.

From the Heritage Foundation “morning bell”