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June 29, 2007

Tune in next week: Same time, same URL!

We have a couple of special interactive treats in store for you next week. First up is the blog contest that you may have noticed an ad for in our right-hand column -- make sure you stop by on Monday for a chance to find out how to win some nice prizes.

Then, remember all those books we've been talking about here for the past few weeks? Some of our staffers and interns (thanks Travis, Sy, Carol, and anyone else I'm forgetting!) have compiled them into a summer reading list. A few of us here are going to be selecting and blogging books this summer -- and we want you to join in that too. So come back next week to learn how!

Well, this is one way to deal with global warming

Make a bet with Al Gore.

(Via Gospelshout)

The implications of an iSociety

I've been ruminating (another word I love -- and which always reminds me of Gary Larson's Far Side Cows) for a few weeks on two separate, unrelated conversations I had with parents of teens and 'tweens that tie in (at least in my mind!) to recent posts by Jeff and Catherine and at least one of my own old posts.

Since I'm still in the middle of processing, this is more random, stream-of-consciousness thought but I wanted to throw this out there and hear your own experiences and observations on this subject.

In the first conversation, a parent was telling me that she thinks it's more crucial than ever to be in constant communication with her children, to know their friends (and their friends' parents), to know where they are and who they are with (and to sometimes tell them they can't go certain places with certain people) and to be vigilant in teaching them -- through words and actions -- morals, values, character, respect and responsibility. Her response to another parent who called her a slave driver for making her boys mow the lawn, clean their room and do other chores around the house: "My job as a parent is to teach them how to grow into men and to become responsible adults." But, she said, in a world where kids have, expect, and demand instant -- and total -- access to almost anything and anyone at anytime, it's made her job more difficult. Before I had a chance to ask her what that meant, exactly, the conversation shifted to another topic.

In a second conversation later that day with this person and two other parents, I commented on how different kids today are from us when it comes to manners, etiquette, and the idea of "what's yours is mine." When we were kids, it would never enter our head that we could just open up someone else's refrigerator or pantry, help ourselves to whatever and however much we wanted whenever we wanted without so much as asking and without a thank-you. We would have waited until we were offered something by a parent or at least by the kid who lived there. This was true not just at our friends' homes, but even at our grandparents' or other relatives' -- any house other than our own. You didn't treat others' possessions, or food, as your own and didn't take, use, or ingest what wasn't yours without permission.

I asked them why parents don't teach kids today not to do that. Their answer? "You have to understand, kids today are used to having whatever, and whoever, they want, whenever they want. They really think that what's yours is mine and what's mine is yours, and they mean everything and everyone. In today's world, you have to pick your battles even more so than our parents did. So, if it's a choice between taking what is in my refrigerator without asking and, how shall I say this politely, taking my child, I'll spend my time fighting the bigger battles."

There it was again -- the more subtle implications of what the concepts of instant gratification, instant access, total access, and "what's yours is mine" can mean. So subtle, that I didn't quite get their drift.

Continue reading "The implications of an iSociety" »

Re: Lighting Such a Fire

Word just came that not one, but two car bombs were defused today in London.

Apparently, England does have a few people left who know how to pray.

(Zoe, as a Tudor nut, I think I may do a little 16th-century delving here myself before long. Not to worry, everyone, I'll do my best not to bore you to death. :-) But there are some very powerful, very relevant lessons to be learned from that bloody period. Stay tuned . . . )

I’m Going Live at the PFI Convocation

Where do Protestants, Catholics, and members of the Eastern Orthodox Church come together for the Eucharist?

The only place I know is Prison Fellowship International's triannual convocation, an international conference of several hundred delegates from Prison Fellowship affiliates around the world. This year it's in Toronto. And, next week, I'll be there, blogging live. So, look for my daily posts, and if you have any burning questions, like 1) How does prisoner art from Japan different from prisoner art from the US? or 2) What do prisons without guards look like? or 3) Does Philip Yancey have a firm handshake?--don't hesitate to ask.

Lighting Such a Fire

Hugh_latimer Quick pop quiz:

Which British martyr was burned at the stake in 1555 under the rule of Mary I (otherwise known as "Bloody Mary")?

Unless you're up on your Foxe's Book of Martyrs trivia, you're probably still scratching your head. That's okay, because you don't need to know his name to observe the fruit of his sacrifice. But for the sake of narrative flow, his name was Hugh Latimer and he gave his life for Christian orthodoxy. I won't go into the intricate details of 16th-century British politics, but I'll just tell you that Queen Mary hated him for his staunch defense of Christianity, so she disposed of him and his good friend Nicholas Ridley.

As the fires swirled around Latimer, he bravely exhorted Ridley:

Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle  in England as I trust by God's grace shall never be put out.

Want to see that candle? Come with me to the same location on Broad Street in Oxford where Latimer and Ridley died and see what's happening there today.

HT: Christian Hofreiter

Best movie countdown

Diane and Gina, here's a 100 films countdown you might like better. Rather than counting down the best movies, this one, spoofing the AFI's list, is a literal countdown, featuring clips that mention each number from 100 down to 1. And it's just as much fun to see how many of the movies you can recognize.

’Meredith’ and ’Seattle’: racist or anti-racist?

It's rare to see the Supreme Court, and the public, as sharply divided over a case as they seem to be over yesterday's rulings in Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County (Ky.) Board of Education. Even with the recent partial-birth abortion ruling that drew so much ire, at least people could agree, to a point, on what the Court did. But here, if you listen to the uproar going on, you'd think the court did two things at the same time: discriminated on the basis of race, and outlawed discrimination on the basis of race. As the Washington Post puts it, "Three justices took turns reading sometimes-biting opinions that portrayed the ruling as either the natural affirmation or a bitter betrayal of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision of 1954."

Thus, we have this from Chief Justice Roberts's majority opinion:

The parties and their amici debate which side is more faithful to the heritage of Brown, but the position of the plaintiffs in Brown was spelled out in their brief and could not have been clearer: "(T)he Fourteenth Amendment prevents states from according differential treatment to American children on the basis of their color or race." What do the racial classifications at issue here do, if not accord differential treatment on the basis of race?

Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again – even for very different reasons. For schools that never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or that have removed the vestiges of past segregation, such as Jefferson County (Ky.), the way 'to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,' is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

And this from Justice Breyer's dissent:

The plurality pays inadequate attention to this law, to past opinions' rationales, their language, and the contexts in which they arise. As a result, it reverses course and reaches the wrong conclusion. In doing so, it distorts precedent, it misapplies the relevant constitutional principles, it announces legal rules that will obstruct efforts by state and local governments to deal effectively with the growing resegregation of public schools, it threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation, and it undermines Brown's promise of integrated primary and secondary education that local communities have sought to make a reality. This cannot be justified in the name of the Equal Protection Clause.

Public opinion seems to be divided among much the same lines, as you can see here and here.

Continue reading "’Meredith’ and ’Seattle’: racist or anti-racist?" »

Disembodied Community

Following up on Jeff's post . . .Chairs

Ironically, my virtual friend Linc Ashby poses an interesting question over at Common Grounds. He recalls the days of his father and grandfather where they'd meet their friends each morning for a cup of coffee and a chat before starting their workday. Linc then wonders about the shoddy substitutes we call community today: email banter and even (gasp) the blog. He poses the question: can we have or build real community without physical presence? It is is an interesting question. What do you think?

Thinking about iPhones

No, I won't be sitting in line waiting to purchase an iPhone today. But thousands of you have queued up to get the new pocket-sized product that combines an iPod, a cell phone, a web browser and a 3.5-inch touch-screen display.  You will now be able to read your favorite blogs, like The Point, wherever you go.

Will this product launch a new age in mobile computing? There is a good chance it will. Is making another technology mobile a great thing?

Dr. Bruce Weinstein unpacks that question in a Business Week essay called "Ethics and the iPhone":

Our society has devolved into a mass of turned-on, tuned-out, and plugged-in technophiles. Whatever distinction used to exist between public and private life is all but gone ...

He's got a point.  I chuckled as I imagined all of these people standing in line together waiting for their iPhones ... I picture everyone with an iPod on, tuning out the persons on either side of them ... and pausing to yap on a cell phone and pretend like the people standing next to them didn't exist. Remember the days when people talked to each other when queued up for a big event? There was community. I remember, for instance, the community of camping out for tickets for Duke basketball. The good old days.

Continue reading "Thinking about iPhones" »

The i Age, Part II

Iphonearray Since there's been a bit of misunderstanding about my post, I want to make a few more observations. One personalization is not in and of itself a bad thing. But today there is the tendency to so personalize all our selections that we are not exposed to alternate points of view. We find ourselves in an echo-chamber, listening to only the news we agree with, only the music of our personal tastes, etc. I think it is healthy to have the clutter of things I disagree with crossing my path whether in the newspaper or on the radio because it causes me to continually be challenged and refine my views. And sometimes I discover something I like that I didn't know I liked, or something that changes my mind.

Next, the study about inflating egos over time is not advocating that parents withhold praise or affection from their children. That's a gross misreading. If we take an honest look at our society, it is evident that we find often two extremes: households where people have forgotten that children are a blessing and households where children have become the center of the universe. I think both extremes reflect a warping of biblical principles.

On the topic of the i Age, here's an interesting video to continue the conversation. This is a fictitious video concerning the future of publishing. It was made a few years ago. In the video the year is 2015 and Google and Amazon have merged. I don't think the creators believe this is really what will happen, but it is a social commentary and one designed to make us think. I'd be curious to hear your reactions to it. I find it fascinating. Watch EPIC 2015, by clicking on the appropriate player for your browser here.

How is this hurting you?

The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty reports that Beit Menachem, an independent Jewish school in Gothenburg, Sweden, has had its license stripped by the government after Swedish authorites discovered something truly shocking going on there: Children were being segregated by sex during lessons.

The school's adminstrator says the children were separated for religious reasons.But the Swedish National Agency for Education says the Swedish curriculum demands that girls and boys learn together; the Beit Menachem school, it declared, broke the law by teaching boys and girls seperately.

Well, this is shocking. What other horrors are being inflicted upon Swedish children by Jewish and Christian teachers that have yet to be uncovered? Are children being encouraged to pray? Are they being taught to sing Christmas carols? Most scandalously of all, is some teacher telling innocent children that sex should be reserved for marriage? Who do these Christians and Jews think they are?

One longs to ask this gang of Scandinavian busybodies exactly how the school's religious requirement that boys and girls be separated is hurting them--or the children, or anybody else. And don't they have anything to do other than attack people of faith for being--well, faithful?

Re: The Christian John Grisham?

Catherine: AMEN, my friend. I can't tell you how many times I've rolled my eyes at a description of Somebody-or-Other as "the Christian" Somebody-or-Other. Like "Here's that work that everyone likes, watered down and made safe for Christian consumption." Whatever happened to our vision of the church being the leader in the culture, creating works that were so good and so appealing that they could stand on their own?

I mean, it's not like you ever see mainstream bookstores advertising "the secular Peace Like a River" or "the atheist Gilead."

Wouldn't that be a kick, though? Maybe we'd finally wake up and see just how much influence and power the good artists among us really have.

The Christian John Grisham?

Okay, so I get a book in the mail called False Witness, a thriller by Randy Singer. I'll admit that I haven't heard of Randy Singer, although he's apparently won a Christy Award (hats off) and teaches at Regent Law School. I'm sure he's swell and I'm sure the book is swell too, But here's the part that just cracked me up.

Publishers Weekly calls Singer "the Christian John Grisham." Now color me stupid, but I could have sworn that John Grisham would call himself a Christian. I read The Testament after all, and found in it a pretty clear understanding of faith. So I Google: John Grisham Christian. Bingo: I find yes, he's a Southern Baptist and even teaches Sunday School. Hmmm....

So, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt: maybe they mean Singer, unlike Grisham, writes only for a Christian audience, or writes explicitly Christian stuff. If so, sigh. Personally, I'd rather see Singer be the "next John Grisham" and be known for page-turning writing with its Christianity potent, but latent. Maybe you'll disagree, but I tend to take Lewis' side on this debate and say:

Continue reading "The Christian John Grisham?" »

Chimeras and the Sanctity of Life

Unfortunately, Britain is getting ready to permit the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for research and destruction. As a staunch defender of human dignity, the Roman Catholic Church opposes the destruction of any human life and says the genetic mothers of these tiny human beings should be allowed to carry, give birth to, and raise the child. 

June 28, 2007

He Saved a Wretch like Me

Newton My friend Jonathan Aitken is a very capable and gifted biographer, and with his usual facility with words, Jonathan brings to life an almost forgotten eighteenth-century Christian. His latest biography, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, is about the life and work of John Newton, a former wretch and slave-trader who, through the grace of God, was transformed and became a devoted Christian minister, husband, writer, and songwriter. 

Jonathan's biography about Newton is really a prequel to biographies about William Wilberforce because of Newton's influence upon Wilberforce. Wilberforce met Newton as a child and then sought Newton out as an adult during his struggles with the Christian faith.   

After Wilberforce's conversion, Wilberforce questioned whether he should resign his seat in parliament and return to private life. Thankfully, before Wilberforce acted on his feelings, Newton wrote, "You are not only a representative for Yorkshire, you have the far greater honor of being a representative for the Lord in a place where many know him not...." Newton goes on to remind Wilberforce of the great strides he already made toward the abolition of slavery. 

Newton and Wilberforce corresponded and spoke about the slavery and the abolition campaign frequently. While Newton became an "effective campaigner in his own right," Jonathan writes, "Newton's greatest contribution to the campaign was his influence on Wilberforce at important moments."

Newton lived a full and interesting life. While he received little formal education, Newton became a real intellectual powerhouse. Jonathan describes Newton as “an ardent self-educator.” Newton read great works of literature, studied theological and other intellectual subjects constantly, and as a result, he was able to produce prodigious numbers of theological works among other things. 

Personally, I hope someone turns Jonathan's book into a movie like the 2006 release of Amazing Grace

They who must not be named

Roberto—understood. I’m not encouraging anyone to wallow in the toxic waters of the celebrity culture. (For the record, I’m all in favor of Ms. Brzezinski’s impulse to stifle the Paris Hilton story, whether the theatrics were appropriate or not. It had no business leading the news on that or any other night.)

And believe me, I would never count you among the “preeners.” In fact, I remember all those film junkets you used to have to do, so I can appreciate that you must feel jaded about the whole topic! I would probably feel the same way by now if I’d had to wade through all that. I’m not saying that all who avoid the celebrity culture are snobbish—most of them do it for excellent reasons—or that the two choices you mention are the only choices there are.

What I was talking about are the people who find it necessary to pick up the garlic, stake, and cross every time a celebrity’s name is pronounced in their vicinity. I exaggerate . . . but not by much. I’ve heard from people who are so sick of celebrities being shoved in their faces—and I do understand that feeling quite well—that they’ve come to believe it’s their right not to have to read or hear those names ever written or said by anyone. (Which can make it very difficult to talk about Christian worldview and its relationship to the arts, media, or pop culture at all.) Or they look down their noses at anyone and everyone associated with the rich, the entertainment industry, and all combinations and permutations thereof, and habitually think and speak of them en masse as less than human. And that’s where I think the problem lies.

All I’m saying is this: When the subject does come up, even though we may have made praiseworthy efforts to avoid it for our own mental and spiritual health, perhaps we should try to think of these people not as either gods or monsters, but as human beings and even fellow Image-bearers. I would think it would prevent us from rushing to either extreme, and just might do us a bit of spiritual good.

Re: Celebrity

Gina, you ask,

Supposing that God Himself would ever deign to look at Hayden Panettiere, what would He see? Just another blond, indistinguishable actress? A product? Or something more?

Obviously, He would see a great deal more. Since, to state the obvious, I'm not God all I get to see is what Ms. Panettiere and what I call the "entertainment stupidity complex" (ESC) allow me to see. And this definitely qualifies as one of those things that should be scraped, never mind rationed, from our lives.

This is neither "preening" nor a claim to "gravitas" -- it's a recognition that not all information is created equal. If the choice is between labeling something or someone "vapid," not worthy of my attention, and coming off as smirking and superior or refusing to call the vapid "vapid" for fear of being taken for a snob, I choose the former.

Now, if Ms. Panettiere or any other celebrity were in need and I was in position to help them, then I would, hopefully, treat them as I would my friends and family. But that's the point: the chances of that happening are as close to zero as anything gets. Thus, paying attention to their lives serves no purpose other than to satisfy what St. Augustine called curiositas, a disordered desire for novelty and knowledge that is the opposite of studiousness.

As usual, St. Thomas Aquinas has the definitive word on the subject. Writing about curiosity in the Summa, he says:

One may watch other people's actions or inquire into them, with a good intent, either for one's own good--that is in order to be encouraged to better deeds by the deeds of our neighbor--or for our neighbor's good--that is in order to correct him, if he do anything wrong, according to the rule of charity and the duty of one's position. This is praiseworthy, according to Heb. 10:24, "Consider one another to provoke unto charity and to good works." But to observe our neighbor's faults with the intention of looking down upon them, or of detracting them, or even with no further purpose than that of disturbing them, is sinful: hence it is written (Proverbs 24:15), "Lie not in wait, nor seek after wickedness in the house of the just, nor spoil his rest."

Truth’s Accomplice

Hirsi_ali I finally finished Infidel, the memoir of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Muslim turned atheist. Read my synopsis here. And, thanks to Jason, here's a video documentary on her daring life.

An Honorable Man

Chuck's BreakPoint commentary today deals with the raw deal given to General Peter Pace, who was not re-nominated to serve a second term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as is usual, because his supporters knew he'd be put through a televised Senate show trial over his telling a reporter that he believed both  adultery and homosexual sodomy were immoral. As far as I know, no adulterers complained, but homosexual groups, along with homosexual editors at the nation's newspapers (and their supporters), pretended such views--shared by most Americans--were the sickest, most twisted thing they'd ever heard, not counting what they might hear on a typical night in a gay bar.

I thought it was not possible to feel more contempt than I already did for those who decided to demonize this honorable man for political gain. I was wrong. Sitting in the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, yesterday, waiting for my son to complete an appointment, I paged through a copy of The Journal, a hospital newspaper. On page three of yesterday's edition was the headline "Pace Picnic Honors America's Wounded Heroes." Beneath the headline was a photograph of General Pace in the front yard of his home at Ft. Myers, Virginia, shaking hands with wounded service members from the Navy Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The general and his wife had invited these wounded warriors and their families for a picnic last Saturday. An excerpt from the story:

Kids played Frisbee or kicked around hacky sacks. Clowns made balloon animals. There was fried chicken, ribs, potato salad, and desserts. Adults sat around tables, ate, talked and listened as a combo from the Marine Corps Band played country songs. . . .

Army Spc. Caleb Huss, an infantryman from New Brighton, Minn., watched the festivities from his wheelchair and held his two-month-old son, Logan. Huss was serving in Kunar province in Afghanistan when an automobile accident ended his tour two weeks before he was due to come home.

"I want to stay on active duty, but I don't know if I can yet," Huss said.

Despite the abrupt ending of a distinguished career in the glare of ugly publicity, General Pace is going about his usual business: Taking care of his men.

God bless him.

Celebrity and worldview

Panettiere Catherine's intriguing post and question reminded me of something I read a few weeks ago in the Washington Post Magazine, when Hank Steuver decided to end his celebrity column there. Here's the reason he gave:

I've started to feel a fatigue that I think must grip some sports fans, who, tired of the folderol that surrounds professional athletics, give up watching the actual games. The mind starts to disregard new players and new stats. Wanly flipping through what I hope is my last Us Weekly for a while, it occurs to me that I don't really know who Hayden Panettiere is, except that she's blond and on a show called "Heroes." Worse, it occurs to me I don't care who she is. I'm certain that, as her star rises, she'll date the wrong hunk, or suffer some legal or personal calamity, but she'll have to do it without my attention. By her indistinguishableness alone, Hayden Panettiere did me in.

I'm sure every one of us can sympathize with that kind of feeling -- and probably, for many of us, the sympathy is accompanied by a smirk at this parting jab at the latest product of the Hollywood machine.

But here's something to think about. Our goal here, a goal shared by all of us bloggers and the majority of our readers and commenters, is to try to look at all of life from God's point of view. ALL of life. Just for a lark, ask yourself this: Supposing that God Himself would ever deign to look at Hayden Panettiere, what would He see? Just another blond, indistinguishable actress? A product? Or something more?

Most of us here choose not to follow that part of the world that gushes with excitement every time a celebrity blows her nose or hits the divorce court again, and in my book that's a wise choice. But does that mean we need to follow that part of the world that dismisses them collectively with a "Get out of my face and stay out, annoying person"? Sure, it's tempting. It even lets those of us who are so inclined engage in a little harmless preening on how much gravitas and high-mindedness we possess. ("Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as this woman drooling over the photo spread of Anna Nicole's baby in the supermarket tabloid.") But following a different part of the world is still following the world, isn't it?

Could there, just possibly, be another way altogether?

The Proof is in the Pudding

One way to determine the validity of a belief system is to examine how it plays out in the lives of its champions. In Two Men and Two Worldviews part I and part II, I've attempted to do that for Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, the most influential figures of the 20th century for the materialistic and spiritual worldviews, respectively. Read and share your thoughts with us.

Just Shut Up!

What do you call a nearly-three hour long film with no dialog and no narrative structure to speak of? "Something of an international underground hit." I'm referring to Into Great Silence, the subject of my latest piece at Boundless.

In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning contacted the Carthusian order, whose motto is "Stat crux dum volvitur orbis" (the cross stands while the world turns), asking for permission to make a documentary about the order and its great charterhouse in Chartreuse in the French Alps. The order replied that it would get back to him when the time was right.

Sixteen years later, it got back to him.

The end result was worth the wait.

Moxie or Bravado?

So apparently, Mika Brzezinski of MNSBC refused to report on Paris Hilton as their lead story. On air, she balks, hands the story to a co-anchor who crumples it. Later in the broadcast she tries to light the story on fire, but then ends up shredding it. You can watch the video here

On the one hand, Mika is saying for the world, we refuse to follow the antics of celebrities as if this is the most important thing in our world. On the other hand, Mika seems to behave a bit like the spoiled Hilton herself by trying to burn the story on the air. So what do you think: is this journalistic moxie or purely bravado? How should Christians relate to the celebrity culture of our day?

The i Age

So today, I open my browser to my iGoogle page (personalized according to my own preferences); I could download (if I owned one) iTunes to my iPod or my iPhone according to my own personal tastes and not a radio dj's. I could (if I had one) send you to my myspacepage or mynewyorktimes or mymovies or myfamily. I could go online and buy clothing at selfish.com with messages ranging from "It's all about me" to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of My Own Happiness," or I could find similar items at any department store. I can even print a stamp with my picture on it. I can find a church where I can worship the way I want to worship with the kind of music I want to listen to and the kind of people who are mostly just like me. I can get a Bible for women or extreme teens or sportsmen for that matter. And I can even chat with igod. (Disgusting, yes.)

Is it any wonder then that a new study has shown that kids are more self-centered than previous generations? According to Jean M. Twenge's "Egos Inflating Over Time: A Test of Two Generational Theories of Narcissism Using Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis" (read more from Twenge here), almost two-thirds of recent college grads (2006) display higher levels of narcissism than those tested in 1982. And that signals danger ahead. Big surprise here folks: narcissists have trouble forming meaningful relationships, they tend to be materialistic, and have high levels of infidelity, substance abuse, and violence.

But you are probably wondering, "What does this have to do with me?" If so, count yourself part of the i Age.

Weekly Must-Have Tune of the Week #4 (& CONTEST)

Bagpipe What? There's no bagpipes in your punk rock?? That error, my friend, needs to be corrected. And I've got just the thing: "Will Ye No Come Back Again?" by The Real McKenzies*.

File it under Kilt Rock.

Missed the other weeks' Weekly Must-Have Tune of the Week from other weeks? Que lastima! Life's too short to miss out, so you'll want to hit these links:

CONTEST: Be sure to check back next week, as you'll have a chance to win an iTunes gift card. You might want to be thinking of songs that make you laugh. Just a hint.

* (Note: iTunes' iMix function oddly wouldn't work for this tune, so you'll need to select it from the list to which this link will take you. It's probably the third song. Sorry for any inconvenience.)

Seeing (Red) Made Ben Want to Buy (Less)

Red Some of you may be familiar with what happened when Bono teamed up with Bobby Schriver and the brand names of the world. The world began to see (red). Basically, a percentage of each product sold that has partnered with (red) -- Apple, Gap, Armani, etc. -- is donated to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The parenthesis or brackets are a marketing technique and according to the website identify those companies which have embraced (red).

It's a good idea, but Ben Davis had a slightly different notion. He's created something he calls Buy (Less). It parodies the Red campaign's style and look, but his point is we already own too much. According to Davis' line of thought, we don't fight poverty by buying more. His website encourages people to buy less and donate directly to the Global Fund. According to Davis, for the Red Campaign "to spend what must amount to more than $100 million dollars [a speculated amount] on advertising to raise a tenth of that for charity seems a hollow investment."

So what do you think? Do you agree more with Bono or Davis on this one? (By the way, just as a warning, the intro to the Buy (Less) site has some partially unclad figures, similar to the edgy Calvin Klein ads. Some may prefer not to enter the site for this reason, and that's why I've neglected to offer a link.)

Re: Defining Martyrdom Down

I'm not sure I'd use the term "wuss" but there are some very low expectations at work here.

It reminds of something our greatest living moralist -- I refer of course to Chris Rock -- once said: he hated the way that some men "always want credit for [things] they're supposed to do." They'll say things like "I take care of my kids," to which Rock replied, "You're supposed to, you dumb [lumpenprole]. What are you talkin' about? What are you braggin' about? What kind of ignorant [nonsense] is that?"

Likewise, they'll say, "I ain't never been to jail." Rock's reply? "What do you want, a cookie?"

Unfortunately, just as in some social settings taking care of your kids and staying out of jail is cookie-worthy, in others putting your kids' well-being and need ahead of your own desires can seem like martyrdom. Like I said: low expectations.

June 27, 2007

Laughter and Joy are Contagious

Paws I have said it before, but one of my highest compliments for an author is that he or she is funny or joy-filled. It might strike you as a queer sort of rating scheme, but the more I contemplate it, the more I think laughter and joy a very Divine notion.

The American Chesterton Society has a television program hosted by their president Dale Ahlquist called G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense. It struck me last night that Chesterton is completely right when he said, “Man is more man-like when joy is the fundamental thing in him and grief the superficial.” Do Christians in America have joy and laughter and grief and sorrow inverted?      

Christ Himself must have been fun to hang around. He was on a serious mission to be sure, but somehow I can’t picture our Savior as a dour or critical sort man. The facts speak for themselves—Christ was always surrounded with people, and he was always spreading His Father’s message of salvation, love, joy and peace, and also exhorting people to be anxious about nothing.

Heaven is going to be a place of great laughter and joy, but here on Earth, as Chesterton says, “We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levity of the angels.”

Here’s my own attempt at writing something humorous which I’ll title, “What I Really Need is Tactical Training.” 

Continue reading "Laughter and Joy are Contagious" »

Defining martyrdom down

Traditional definition of martyrdom:

The suffering of death on account of adherence to a cause and especially to one's religious faith.

Modern definition of martyrdom:

When the youngest of my three children was 7 years old, their mother told me she wanted a divorce. We decided that the welfare of the children was most important, but we didn't want to make martyrs out of ourselves either; that would be not only bad for us but also a poor model for the kids. Fortunately, we had an extra bedroom, so we got the divorce but continued living in the same house.

Does it ever strike you that we've become a bunch of wusses?

For the Love of Couth

Couth. One of my favorite words, not just because of its definition but just because of how it sounds. Another favorite word is rogue, perhaps most famously used on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, when Chuckles the Clown met his demise when he was dressed as a giant peanut and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.

But I digress.

Couth, as a word and concept, sadly seems to have fallen out of favor in our culture. Couth relates to people and their behavior, and means refinement or sophistication. In other words, knowing what behavior is and is not appropriate in public or social situations, or, put even more simply, minding your manners.

When I was young, my mother would often exclaim, "You kids are the most uncouth generation ever!" She thought it because we would openly discuss subjects with both male and female friends that her generation to this day would not bring up in conversation with anyone. I thought at the time that our openness was positive, demonstrating a greater intimacy and authenticity and healthiness than previous generations who seemed to simply either put on a happy mask, or soldier on and suffer in silence.

But now that I'm the older generation and see how where the slippery slope from couthness has taken us, I wonder whether my mother was onto something when she mourned the loss of couth.

Continue reading "For the Love of Couth" »

Another Reason for Kevin to Love Winnie

Mckellar Okay, for people who know me, you will know that numbers give me hives. I am not a number person. I am a word person. After passing college calculus, I swiftly deleted from the hard drive of my brain all math knowledge. Had I known however, that Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years (one of my all-time favorite shows) would go on to become a math star, write her own theorem (Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem involving magnetism in two dimensions), and come out with a book called Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle-School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail, I might have hung in there a little longer. In fact, I might check it out when it comes out in August.

According to Danica McKellar (Winnie's real name), savvy shopping requires killer decimal skills. Danica's on a crusade to help girls like math. She says math has bad PR. On her website, you can send in math questions. Here's my question for Danica: "What's the probability that a hard-core word geek like me could be converted into a math superstar like you?" I think I need a conversion experience to math; I know God created even numbers, but sometimes I have a hard time believing that math was not a repercussion of the Fall. Someone needs to convert me. Maybe Winnie can do it.

Light and the Nature of God

Prismandlight Theologians and Bible commentators have observed that among the four gospels, the Gospel of John is unique. Whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke emphasize what Jesus did and what he taught, John’s emphasis is on who Jesus was: the Son of God, the Word made flesh, the One who was with God from the beginning and who, in fact, was God. He is the One who introduced himself to Moses as, “I AM.” It is fitting that John’s account, highlighting the divinity of Christ, contains the great “I am” statements of Jesus.

To the religious establishment of the day, Jesus uttered the shocking claim, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” I imagine that was the first time those words had been uttered since the burning bush. Nothing could have been more offensive to the ears of a first-century Jew—little wonder that Jesus got nailed to a tree.

To his disciples, Jesus said that he was “the vine,” and “the way, the truth and the life.” And to the crowd, he announced “I am” the gate, the good shepherd, the bread of life, and the resurrection and the life. But prior to these proclamations, Jesus revealed to all: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

As an educated and trained physicist, I have always been profoundly impressed by the metaphor of light for Jesus. In my opinion, nothing in the material universe reveals as much about the nature of God.

At the surface level of understanding, light is a source of illumination that opens our senses to the visible world. At a deeper level, “light” opens our minds to rational argument, understanding and truth. Light is also a source of life. Biological life, as we know it, would not exist without the carbon food cycle dependent on photosynthesis. However, it wasn’t until the advent of the 20th century that some of the hidden mysteries of light would be made known.

Continue reading "Light and the Nature of God" »

Blessings for sale

Just to prove that it isn't just the Episcopal church that struggles with orthodoxy, the Washington Post's On Faith section features this story about the popularity of Pentecostalism in Africa. Where the people are dying from disease and starvation, the miracles and prosperity promised by sometimes unscrupulous preachers has an understandable attraction. And the prosperity promised to unscrupulous preachers has, perhaps, an equal attraction:

The pastor touches an old woman, she faints. Then out come the collection envelopes. Minimum is 100,000 Uganda shillings ($62.5), although the poor can give as little as 10,000 to receive a blessing...

Francis Adroa gave her car to a Ugandan church promising to cure her of HIV/AIDS. The miracle failed, she got sicker. And she's now a pedestrian.

Moses Malay heads a Ugandan organization helping what he calls victims of "pulpit fraud" after quitting a church whose pastor claimed divine powers.

"I saw people robbed and I participated. How do they do it? Simple. They instill hope, they nurture it, they reap."

Greedy preachers in fancy cars are one American export the African people could very well have done without.

Boys WILL Be Boys: Get Over It!

Kristine:

The author of The Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn Iggulden, says that when he wrote the book, "I wasn't trying to please anyone else. I was just trying to free boys to be themselves again, the way we were when my brother and I were growing up."

That's just as well, because plenty of people are NOT pleased with his book. I can tell you, as the mother of two boys (now 19 and 21) that there really IS a war on boys behaving like boys, as Christina Hoff Sommers writes in her book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. Boys are considered defective if they don't behave like girls in the classroom, if they think games ought to have a point to them (when they played T-ball, my sons always kept track of the score. So did every other boy, probably; we all knew who'd won each game, even though we weren't supposed to notice), and if they prefer rough games over dolls.

When I reviewed Christina Hoff Sommers's book a few years ago for Citizen magazine, I described what happened when my sons received, in a pair of Happy Meals, not the the advertised Hot Wheels, but miniature Barbie dolls:

The boys reluctantly took the Barbie twins home, and it wasn't long before they began to find unconventional ways of playing with them. They placed the Barbies on our sloping driveway and strapped on their Rollerblades. "Two points!" Trevor hollered as he raced down the drive and bounced over Barbie No. 1's plastic torso.

When they tired of playing Hit 'n Run Barbie, they boys offered the dolls to the dog as chew toys. Both dolls underwent radical plastic surgery when Trevor and Travis discovered they could reshape pert Barbie noses with nail scissors.

The boys genuinely mourned when the Barbie twins disappeared. They had pounded one of them into the ground with a croquet mallet and couldn't locate her afterwards. The other doll was reduced to pink plastic chunks by the lawn mower.

My point was that both my sons grew up with a strong sense of right and wrong, and playing violent games as children did them no harm and probably did them a lot of good.

Continue reading "Boys WILL Be Boys: Get Over It!" »

From Moon Unit Zappa to 4real

The Associated Press ran a story this weekend about a New Zealand judge who refused to allow a couple to name their newborn son "4real." The judge said numerals are not allowed.

The parents, Pat and Sheena Wheaton, said they decided to name their infant "4real" after an ultrasound image made clear that there, was, for real, a baby in there.

New Zealand's baby-naming rules, in addition to forbidding numbers, are intended to prevent parents from giving names "likely to cause offense to a reasonable person"--such as Satan or Adolf Hitler.

"For most of us, when we try to figure out what our names mean, we have to look it up in a babies book and...there's no direct link between the meaning and the name," "4real's" mother said.  "With this name, everyone knows what it means."

In reality, until the baby is old enough to change his name, what everyone will know is that "4real's" parents are flakes. As one blogger put it, "The parents of '4real' shold have changed their names to 'Jack@ss#1' and 'Jack@ss#2.'"

Continue reading "From Moon Unit Zappa to 4real " »

Dead Sea Scrolls make special appearance

If you live in the San Diego area or will be visiting there in the next six months, you can see fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls thanks to a special exhibit. From the L.A. Times:

The scrolls, many of them pieced together like puzzles from fragments and tatters, contain the oldest known biblical writings — among them a text of the Ten Commandments that will be part of the six-month Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition that opens Friday at the San Diego Natural History Museum. It's billed as the largest and most comprehensive ever.

What you won't see is an explanation of the different views scholars hold on the origin of the scrolls and the nature of the community that preserved them. Exhibit designers decided the competing views would be too confusing to the general public. Better to give them one version and look credible than show controversy and look like no one knows what they're talking about. (I think that's why creation theory gets left out of the Smithsonian's exhibits, too. Okay, probably not.)

And Then I Knew

Over at Get Religion, Daniel Pulliam writes about what is arguably the most under-reported religion story of the year: this speech delivered by senator Barack Obama last Saturday night. In it, he shares what in any Evangelical context would be called his testimony:

So one Sunday, I put on one of the few clean jackets I had, and went over to Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. And I heard Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright deliver a sermon called "The Audacity of Hope." And during the course of that sermon, he introduced me to someone named Jesus Christ. I learned that my sins could be redeemed. I learned that those things I was too weak to accomplish myself, He would accomplish with me if I placed my trust in Him. And in time, I came to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world and in my own life.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn't fall out in church, as folks sometimes do. The questions I had didn't magically disappear. The skeptical bent of my mind didn't suddenly vanish. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth and carrying out His works.

Obama added that

doing the Lord's work is a thread that's run through our politics since the very beginning. And it puts the lie to the notion that the separation of church and state in America means faith should have no role in public life. Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural without its reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's "I Have a Dream" speech without its reference to "all of God's children." Or President Kennedy's Inaugural without the words, "here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own." At each of these junctures, by summoning a higher truth and embracing a universal faith, our leaders inspired ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things.

Obama's use of explicitly religious Christian language was enough to give Andrew Sullivan the heebie-jeebies:

Obama is aggressively staking his candidacy in part on an explicitly religious appeal. In this, he is Bush's natural successor, and threatens to make secular politics even more elusive in a fundamentalist age.

Sigh. Pulliam writes that "every media account I’ve seen has ignored what I see as being the most significant part," i.e., Obama's conversion story and his explicitly Christian appeal -- proof, if any more is needed, of just how little the press gets religion.

Continue reading "And Then I Knew" »

A Little Too Ironic, Don’t Ya Think?

Ashtray I just found this too funny. Had to share. The lung ashtray. For that person you've been trying to get to quit, it's a gift that says it all.

The U.S.S. Oriskany

Oriskany Chuck Colson's recent BreakPoint commentary about Christians being good stewards of the earth's resources made me think of where my husband, daughter and I spent last Saturday -- diving the world's largest artificial reef, made from the U.S.S. Oriskany some 24 miles off the coast of Pensacola, FL. The retired aircraft carrier was reefed just over a year ago, and is already covered in marine life. There was something utterly delightful in seeing her in her new role -- not a weapon of war, but a home for hundreds of sea creatures. In my mind, her new incarnation makes me anticipate all the more the day when the Prince of Peace will finally bring peace upon the earth and turn "swords into plowshares" (Isaiah 2:4) ... and, perhaps, more ships into reefs.

(Photo courtesy of VisitPensacola.com)

June 26, 2007

The Joy of Beltane

June 26 is here and that means you can pick up a copy of Sinead O'Connor's new album Theology.

According to USA Today, the album marks the Irish singer's "foray into the mainstream Christian music market," which "O'Connor says, is not as out of character as it may seem." According to her, the album represents an acknowledgment that "music [is] a way of talking to God."

No argument here. But, as USA Today asks, "Will the Christian market buy it?" After all, there are what the paper calls her "public antics":

The Irish singer/songwriter has torn up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live, refused to have The Star-Spangled Banner played before a concert, been excommunicated after her "ordination" as a Catholic priest and announced that she was a lesbian — before shortly recanting.

(Which did she recant: being a priest or being a lesbian? I really don't know and I'm too tired to look it up.) Then there's the -- shall we say? -- eclectic strains of Christianity, Rastafarianism and paganism that are "strongly mixed" in her music.

Still, there is one Christian demographic that USA Today thinks O'Connor has a shot with: "younger Christians, especially those involved in the emerging church movement."

That sound you hear is the head of a well-known Evangelical leader's head exploding.

(Via Mark Shea)

The 4-Hour Workweek

Money A segment on yesterday's Today Show pitted Timothy Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich against advertising CEO-turned-CNBC commentator Donny Deutsch of The Big Idea.

Timothy advocated working fewer, but more productive hours, leaving lots of leisure time to pursue dreams. Donny claimed true financial and professional success can only be achieved by working longer, harder hours. Both seem to think the definition of work is paid employment, and success is making lots of money. And both acknowledge that in today's world we seem to think number of hours put in is as or more important than the purpose or quality of our labors.

Seems to me that neither view conforms to what a biblical view of our attitude towards work should be. But what is a biblical view of work?

Continue reading "The 4-Hour Workweek" »

Backlash

Has Hollywood finally grasped that people are getting tired of the antics of celebrity girls gone wild? It sounds too good to be true, but according to this article, at least, there may be hope.

RE: Gerson’s Compliments

In response to last week’s post about Michael Gerson’s claims that “Roman Catholic social thought” is behind the Administration’s disastrous education and prescription drug legislation, Pastor Brett Heubner from Kansas responds very thoughtfully:

I am not sure whether Mr. Gerson was justified in suggesting whether President Bush was using Catholic social thought to determine his policy program, but it does seem to be pretty clear that the Vatican does support a more progressive style of immigration program.

… So, though Bush may not have originally campaigned with Catholic social thought in mind, I imagine he has become keenly aware of it in his years as President, and though his immigration may be unfair to those who have waited to enter the USA legally [which, to me, is a far greater reason to oppose the bill than nativist concerns about job loss and general racism; the biggest victims are Mexicans who have respected our laws], at least the President is not using anti-humanitarian rhetoric when he speaks about even illegal aliens [as he has come close to doing when speaking about al Qaeda].

Being both pro-immigration and pro-border security, my frustration about the current immigration bill’s insufficiencies is not unlike what I’d guess Pastor Heubner’s to be. Regardless, I do agree with him that Bush’s position on immigration does seem to be based upon moral conviction rather than political expediency (which No Child and  Drugs For Votes surely were). And there’s something to be said for that.

Continue reading "RE: Gerson’s Compliments" »

Don’t yell ’fire!’ in a movie theater, either

The Associated Press (via the Chicago Tribune) reports that a student lost a free speech case in a ruling handed down by the Supreme Court. At a "school-sanctioned event," the high schooler unfurled a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Right. The AP says:

Frederick said the banner was a nonsensical message that he first saw on a snowboard. He intended the banner to proclaim his right to say anything at all.

Frederick's principal, claiming the student was advocating illegal drug use, disabused him of the notion that he could say "anything at all" and, today, so have the Supremes. I think his high school civics teacher should be equally concerned that at least one student got an inadequate education in the limits on free speech.

Descent into Distress

"And they were in terrible distress."  Judges 2:15

The Hebrew root for to "be in distress" can take several forms. All of them have in common the meaning of being vexed or distressed, or, to put it more colloquially, "in a bind." The people of Israel frequently found themselves "in a bind" and distressed, particularly when, because of rebellion against God, they were hemmed in by their enemies, unable to enjoy the promises of God, and incapable of exerting an influence for good on the societies around them. Israel was in distress and in a bind when she found herself marginalized, captive to pagan influences and practices, cavalier in her attitude toward God's Word, and more enthralled with prosperity than with the proper worship and service of God.

Hmmm. To be marginalized. Without influence. Awash in pagan practices and captive to unbelieving ways. How does a people get that way?

Continue reading "Descent into Distress" »

Global Warming Bandwagon Running Out of Gas

This must be a frustrating time for the Catastrophic Global Warming prophets. After all, the cultural momentum has been going their way for so long that to hit scientific speedbumps just prior to finally pulling the bandwagon into Green World must be infuriating.

First, CGW prophets got Earth Day into public schools to work on the kids. Then they got eager journos to repeatedly declare the “scientific fact” that CGW was a reality, as determined by an “overwhelming consensus” of scientists. Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurie David, and much of Hollywood added their cultural influence to the cause. Al Gore got his own Oscar-winning movie promoting CGW, and – while the “popular vote President” no longer held an office – British PM Tony Blair maintained an ongoing duel with other European Union leaders as to who could call for Kyoto surrender with the greatest earnestness. Back in the U.S., the Democrats took Capital Hill and promised action on CGW. Internationally, with either gall, nerve, or both, the UN Secretary General blamed the Darfur atrocities on CGW. Goodness, even the Terminator took their side!

[Quick aside: I’m beyond impressed that, fresh off their victory over the Iranian armada, the British military is now preparing a Normandy-like assault on the coming effects of global warming. “Thermopylae” indeed!]

Now, however, it seems that there are a growing number of scientists determined to tell the inconvenient truth that, well, there ain’t no “scientific consensus” about the reality of CGW after all. And, whether as a result or coincidentally, the public isn’t buying CGW either, with a recent poll in the eco-happy UK finding that 71% of the public doesn’t believe global warming is caused by man. Sixty-five percent believe the CGW predictions are “far fetched.” And 59% believe that Al Gore is a “granola and caviar munching wackadoo.”

OK, I made that last one up. But I blame the pollsters for failing to ask that rather obvious question about Gore and the caviar.

Continue reading "Global Warming Bandwagon Running Out of Gas" »

Boys can be boys

Boys2 An article in the Washington Post put me in mind of a post Allen did a few months ago. As the older sister of two boys, I remember how my quiet days of reading and playing with every variety of doll (baby, Barbie, paper) suddenly gave way to a household of loud car noises and impromptu wrestling matches. Remembering his own boyhood, Conn Iggulden wrote The Dangerous Book for Boys with his brother Hal. In the Post article, Conn wrote:

It's about remembering a time when danger wasn't a dirty word. It's safer to put a boy in front of a PlayStation for a while, but not in the long run. The irony of making boys' lives too safe is that later they take worse risks on their own...Boys are different from girls.

Indeed, the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible says God created two sexes, male and female, each designed to reflect His glory in a unique way. Here's to the bold, rough, loud glory of boys!

(Photo courtesy of the Washington Post)

Have sex, but please, try not to fall in love

Chastity is one of the most (if not the most) counter-cultural aspects of the Christian life, and it's getting stranger and stranger as the years go by. (It's always been strange, by the way--that whole "well, in biblical times it was expected" argument is just plain not historically correct, not in cities like Corinth where prostitution was a form of worship. But that's a topic for another post.)

What's hit me lately, though, is a subtle shift of our thinking about sex and love. I was reading one of Peter Mayle's light novels not long ago, and thought, Wow, it took them four dates before sleeping together. Then I realized it had been published ten years ago.

The thinking used to be, if you love someone, why not have sex? It's a genuine expression of that love. The thinking now is, sex is just physical--so go ahead and have sex, but please, try not to fall in love.

Gina wrote about the one-night stand in Knocked Up, which I haven't seen, but this idea is everywhere--from Grey's Anatomy, where it's clear that a mid-afternoon romp in the storage closet does not entitle a girl to expect dinner, to movies like Something's Gotta Give, where Jack Nicholson's character explains to Diane Keaton's character that he's just not good at monogamy, so she really shouldn't expect anything from him--besides the sex, that is. Or The Holiday, where Cameron Diaz takes to bed a drunk stranger who shows up at her door (okay, it's Jude Law, but still...), promising him first that she won't fall in love.

I guess I just hadn't realized that the thinking had shifted so much. I don't mean this as a judgmental bad, bad Hollywood thing (I think those who don't share our faith have little motivation to pursue chastity), but it makes me think...

It's a man's world.

I cringe for our daughters growing up in this environment.  What kind of emotional wreckage does this kind of thinking create?

RE: Humble Heroes and a Cold Case File

A while back Zoe asked us for nominations for humble heroes. I just ran across another one. Pastor Tim Mason of Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Hooks, Texas, will speak to his congregation on the power of forgiveness and the possibility of redemption. Mason's cousin and friend (both 19 years old at the time) were abducted, beaten, whipped, and brutally murdered by Klansmen in Southwest Mississippi in May of 1964. The once cold case has just re-opened and a long-delayed justice is finally on its way to being delivered. The AP news reports:

The government's star witness was confessed Klansman Charles Marcus Edwards, 73, who ... surprised courtroom spectators one day by apologizing to the victims' families.

"I can't undo what was done 30 years ago and I'm sorry for that. I ask for y'all's forgiveness for my part in this crime," said Edwards from the witness stand while jurors were out of the courtroom.

Pastor Tim Moore stands out as a hero in my mind because not only has he forgiven this horrific crime, but he is teaching his congregation about forgiveness. He is stopping a cycle of violence and hate with the power of forgiveness. His twin brother is doing the same:

Mason and his twin brother, Tom Mason, grew up in Franklin County, where their parents were sharecroppers and raised pigs. ....Tom Mason now lives in Azusa, Calif., near Los Angeles, where he works as an estimator for Southern California Edison. Like his twin, he said he forgives Edwards and Seale.

"Our parents always taught us that you cannot hate, no matter how much you are hated," Tom Mason said. "This was based on their belief in Christ."