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« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

October 25, 2007

How many times does he have to say it?

Byron York reports that, according to a new Gallup poll, "55 percent of Republicans aren't sure" whether Rudy Giuliani is pro-life or pro-choice:

In perhaps the most important finding in the poll, Gallup also asked Republicans and Republican leaners whether Giuliani is "generally pro-life or pro-choice, or are you unsure?"  Eight percent said Giuliani is pro-life, 37 percent said pro-choice, and 55 percent said unsure.

Since Giuliani doesn't seem to be doing a very good job of getting his message out, let me help with that.

Beauchamp in the house of Glass

Remember the Scott Thomas Beauchamp story? Last we heard, The New Republic was claiming that their author was standing by his stories of cruel and degrading acts performed by U.S. troops in Iraq, but that if they found out differently, they'd let us know. National Review and others now have copies of documents -- see here, here, and here -- showing that, in short, he didn't and they didn't.

Phone transcripts from September (acknowledged as authentic by TNR's Jonathan Chait in a conversation with Kathryn Lopez) show that Private Beauchamp refused to confirm anything to the magazine and that the strongest statement he would make was "I'm basically saying, like, I basically want it to end."

So, no doubt, do the servicemembers that Beauchamp and TNR slandered. For their sakes, an apology -- at the very least -- would be nice.

(All references to Beauchamp have -- surprise! -- been removed from TNR's site, but the Weekly Standard has a summary of events here.)

Update: Having spoken with Beauchamp's battalion commander, blogger Michael Yon argues that Beauchamp is trying to make amends and deserves a chance to do so:

Beauchamp is young; under pressure he made a dumb mistake. In fact, he has not always been an ideal soldier. But to his credit, the young soldier decided to stay, and he is serving tonight in a dangerous part of Baghdad. He might well be seriously injured or killed here, and he knows it. He could have quit, but he did not. He faced his peers. I can only imagine the cold shoulders, and worse, he must have gotten. He could have left the unit, but LTC Glaze told me that Beauchamp wanted to stay and make it right. Whatever price he has to pay, he is paying it.

Read more. (H/T NRO)

Don't Wait for Netflix!

Bella "There comes a time in everyone's life when something happens that changes them forever and their life will never be the same. If it hasn't happened to you yet... it will."

This film synopsis could be a lead to, hmm, let's see... The King and I, The End of the Spear, Star Wars... okay, just about any movie. Why the vague, generic tagline? Because it's a potential blockbuster with a straight-shooting pro-life message, but the secret's not out yet. Shhh....

So instead of just writing to your congressman or protesting outside of an abortion clinic, go to the theater this weekend instead and show your support for Bella!

The Point Radio: Jesus Loves the Little Children - Do We?

With more than 75 percent of adults in the U.S. identifying themselves as Christians, why are so many foster children waiting to be placed in foster homes or adopted?...

Click play above to listen.

Want to get involved?

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Jesus Loves the Little Children - Do We?" »

October 24, 2007

Daily roundup, political edition

Not completely political, but there do seem to be quite a number of candidate-related and other political stories this time around.

Whitewashing the ’Compass’

NOTE: Golden Compass spoilers below.

At HisDarkMaterials.org (via Cinematical), Golden Compass director Chris Weitz reports to fans,

I have decided, along with Scholastic and New Line and, most importantly, Philip Pullman, to shift the concluding three chapters of Book I of His Dark Materials to the beginning of the second film of our trilogy, The Subtle Knife.

To me, this provides the most promising conclusion to the first film and the best possible beginning to the second.

Smart move. You wouldn't want to end your trilogy-opening film with an act of child sacrifice, committed by one of the trilogy's heroes. Might leave a bad taste in people's mouths, and cut down on those sequel dollars.

Alister McGrath on church reformation

I've just interviewed Dr. Alister McGrath about his new book, Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution -- A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First. As we were on the subject of how the Protestant church tends to reinvent itself, I took the opportunity to ask him about Willow Creek's recent decision to make some big changes.

The story hadn't yet come to his attention, but his response was "It wouldn't surprise me." Inherent in Protestantism, he says, with its emphasis on individual interpretation of the Scriptures, is the idea that "we start doing it this way, and then we re-examine." In fact, in the book he talks about an old Protesant motto, Semper Reformanda, which conveys the idea of "always reforming the self." It's a way of thinking, he says, that carries the seeds of both "creativity" and "chaos."

More to come on the interview with Dr. McGrath, in which we also discussed his recent debate with Christopher Hitchens. In the meantime, you may want to pick up his book. Though I was only able to skim it before our conversation, it looks very insightful and informative.

Hitching a Ride on the Rockies Bandwagon

Rockies I saw the Colorado Rockies play in Philadelphia just a few days before their incredible sprint to the World Series began. And as they dismantled the Phillies that evening, the Rockies announced loudly that they would not slip away quietly into the offseason. Six weeks later, they're still playing like champs. And unlike Chuck Colson, I am an undivided and unflinching Rockies bandwagon member as the Series opens tonight. The Red Sox are a fine franchise, but this year's Rockies have displayed everything that is right and fun about sports.

Meanwhile, author Gregg Easterbrook writes an ESPN column about that other team in Boston, which might want to take a few notes.

Patriots at Colts on Nov. 4 is shaping up to be one of the most attractive and exciting NFL regular-season games ever staged. The pairing is fabulous; the teams are the league's best; and there is a chance both will take the field undefeated. Plus, Patriots at Colts has a powerful, compelling narrative. Namely -- Good vs. Evil.

The fact that I don't even need to tell you which team represents Good and which stands for Evil says a lot about how low New England has sunk. You knew instantly which was which, didn't you?

Ok, maybe that is a bit over the top ("Maybe," says the Colts fan), but there is certainly something to be said for a team that puts a premium on character, both on and off the field. Sports are big business, and like any business, they are tainted when ethics are sacrificed for profit -- when it should always be the other way around. What a treat to have organizations like the Rockies and the Colts that are both successful in their games and commited to class and integrity. I hope it's the start of a trend.

’Reality-based’ or naive?

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus opposes President Bush's choice of Dr. Susan Orr (with whom I used to work at Family Research Council) as acting deputy secretary for population affairs at HHS. Because Orr believes that employers should not be forced to insure their employees' contraception, Marcus suggests that the President's own daughter would be a better choice.

[Jenna Bush's] book, "Ana's Story," about a Central American teenage mother who is HIV-positive, is refreshingly reality-based about sexual behavior -- in a way that her father's administration resists.

President Bush pushes funding for abstinence-only sex education, with students given no information about birth control or safe sex. Jenna Bush, who met Ana while working as a UNICEF intern in Latin America, understands that abstinence isn't always the chosen path.

"If you decide abstinence is right for you, don't let anyone tell you otherwise," she writes. "But if you decide that you're ready for a sexual relationship, the best way to protect yourself from HIV and other [sexually transmitted infections] is to be faithful to your partner and use a condom every time."

Good advice -- if only the federal government wanted American children of Ana's age to hear it. Instead, abstinence-only programs are riddled with misstatements that exaggerate the failure rate of condoms and minimize their ability to protect against disease.

President Bush requires abstinence-only programs to teach that "sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." Jenna Bush describes how Ana, then 16, has sex for the first time with HIV-positive Berto: "She felt no fear, only love." She relates approvingly how a nurse told Ana at age 10 that "when she was older and ready to have sex that it was very important to always use condoms."

Continue reading "’Reality-based’ or naive?" »

Prayer requests for California

Our colleague Becky Beane passes along this prayer request from Clef Irby, Prison Fellowship executive director for southern California:

As of today, several of my staff members' families, friends, and local PF volunteers have lost their homes. . . . More than 360,000 people in San Diego County alone have been evacuated. We really need your prayers. We know of at least two churches that have burnt to the ground. Most of the churches have become shelters or relief stations. One of the things we are thinking about is the possible effect this situation will have on our Angel Tree season. During the 2004 fires, churches began to back out at the last minute because they decided to focus their efforts on the people who were affected by the fires. This is, of course, expected. The effects, however, could be a major problem for our Angel Tree children.

Please keep all of these people, and everyone else in the area, in your prayers.

’A Little More Thank You, a Little Less Blank You’

Civilettes2 In the tradition of Martha Stewart's "It's a good thing," I ran across this the other day and thought it was worth sharing. Now sure, it's an ad ploy to sell more paper goods, but a little card company called Greer is trying to start a "Civil-ution." According to their website and the mag ad I read:

In our campaign against rudeness and incivility (think Sisyphus and the rock,) we created these portable thank you notes (sized to fit purse, pocket or wallet) to inject a little more thoughtfulness, appreciation and respect into this world; a little more "Thank You" and a little less "Blank You," if you will. Hand one to the stranger who used his van to push your idiotically gas-less car to the nearest station (true story,) drop one on the desk of the colleague who had your back during that contentious meeting, place one in the tip jar at your local coffee shop (preferably with a dollar bill wrapped around it.) With Civilettes we unashamedly hope to spark a "civil-ution," aided in part by the "Please reuse" printed on the back of each card. Cards are printed in brown on heavy white 100% cotton paper encased in a sturdy, yet elegant chocolate package embossed in silver.

Hey, who couldn't use a "little more thank you and a little less blank you."

And while I'm thanking, I'd like to give a shout out to one of our readers down in Hog Mountain, GA, who sent me some Ghirardelli Chocolate after reading my post, "More Meat, Less Chocolate." You'll all like the fact that he addressed the envelope to Catherine "Chocolate-E" Claire. Nice! I'm also accepting Omaha Steaks, gift certificates to Outback, Ruth's Chris, and Longhorn Steakhouse if any of you were touched by that post....

Thanks also to Brian Tefft who wrote to thank me for the post "On the Way to Golgotha," and said he would be thinking about my words and doing his best to take the blinders off. It's always encouraging to know that people out there are reading! So in the spirit of civil-ution, thank you!

The Point Radio: Sports Psychologists for Kids

Psychologists for 10 year old athletes?! Has the world gone mad?...

Click play above to listen.

What do you think about this trend? Leave your comment here and join the discussion.

October 23, 2007

Daily roundup

The Real Iran

An acquaintance who has strong ties to Iran--he was once a missionary there--recently sketched a picture of life in this Muslim country, and the people's amazing openness to Christianity. He writes, in a letter to my church:

Never before have the people of Iran been so receptive [to the gospel]. For many people, Iran today is a nation that threatens world stability and behaves in ways that seem incomprehensible. But there is another Iran. . . . We estimate that about 70 percent of the population is under 25 years old and 25 percent are under fifteen. This generation is being called the "lost generation" because many of the youth are addicted to drugs and of those who are not, only one out of ten will be accepted to college. . . . This generation sees life as a dead-end; the result is a prevailing sense of hopelessness. With a failing economy and high inflation many young girls become prostitutes and sadly we are now learning that approximately one in a thousand has AIDS.

Islam has lost the hearts and minds of many Iranians, and the very regime that hoped to create an Islamic utopia on earth has produced a generation which now says that it is not merely the government that is the problem; it is Islam itself. . . . If you were to penetrate the on-going discussions among [Iran's] intellectuals, you would be confronted by the growoing number of those who are now denying the very existence of God. This should not surprise us because in Romans 1 God has revealed what occurs when the truth is suppressed, leading to despair and disbelief. It is in this environment I am told that if you witness to ten Iranians five will come to Christ. . . . Never before have the people of Iran been so receptiove--a message which must get to Christians all around the world.

Continue reading "The Real Iran " »

Willow Creek: Repenting, rethinking, and revealing

Dennis Babish comments under yesterday's "Daily roundup":

The article about Willow Creek should be read by everyone. T M Moore speaks to this very thing in his new book "Culture Matters" . . . This article should have been one of the Point's articles and not buried in the daily roundup. So I ask the Point bloggers to do something great and discuss this article more and maybe even ask T M Moore to expound on what he said in his book.

Understood, Dennis, but some days we're doing well just to get articles into the roundup, let alone their own posts. It's just the old "too much to read, not enough time" syndrome rearing its ugly head again, which is also why I haven't yet gotten to my own copy of T. M.'s new book. Drowning in reading material is an occupational hazard around these parts. Also, we're still working on getting a review copy of the book discussed in the article, Reveal: Where Are You? (What a title -- sounds like a handbook for budding magicians.)

Nonetheless, the article is worthy of discussion, as you say, and as the heated debate underneath it demonstrates. Some of the biggest points of contention at the Out of Ur blog seem to be these:

Continue reading "Willow Creek: Repenting, rethinking, and revealing" »

African Missionaries in America

Albert Mohler has a short commentary on a new trend in missions. After 200 years of Western Christians going to Africa to make converts, now the Africans are sending missionaries to us.

While it's a sad commentary on the decline of Christianity in the West, it's also a reason to celebrate the power of the gospel message to endure the rise and fall of any nation or civilization. My prayer is that we in America will be humble enough to see our need to be evangelized and discipled by our African (or Asian or South American, etc.) brothers and sisters. They just may be the key to revival breaking out in America.  It's certainly something worth praying for.

’Into Great Silence’

Roberto, I must say I'm tempted by your description of the film -- if only to counter the effect of this kind of thinking that's been creeping up on me lately.


Intogreatsilencepic Today is a  good day — no, make that a wonderful day. It's the day that the most important movie you may ever watch finally is available on DVD in the U.S.: Into Great Silence.

This remarkable (no, "remarkable" is far too anodyne for this film) wonderful film was the subject of a Boundless piece I wrote over the summer. Please forgive me for quoting myself but it's easier to tell you the story of this great film (can you tell that I really adore this movie?) this way.

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.

Continue reading "Honshirabe" »

The Point Radio: Truth-Telling Time

The Equality Ride is coming to Christian colleges. It’s truth-telling time....

Click play above to listen.

Here are some more resources for learning how to speak the truth in love:

Continue reading "The Point Radio: Truth-Telling Time" »

October 22, 2007

Daily roundup

Wafer Wars in San Francisco

Here’s another example of how the Christian church is being challenged in America. Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco issued an apology to “Catholics of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and to Catholics at large.” The apology stemmed from the outrage of conservatives and Catholics when the Archbishop delivered the Eucharist to two men, bizarrely dressed as nuns, who are members of the radical activist group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Fox News Channel's Bill O’ Reilly stood up for the Catholic Church and denounced the transvestites' actions as sacrilegious, criticizing the media for going under the radar and San Francisco's mayor for not condemning the incident. Read what O'Reilly had to say and read the San Francisco Chronicle’s report 10 days after the incident happened.

Thoughts for the day

  • We live in a dark world. Our hearts long for goodness, beauty, justice, and peace, but they are often hidden behind the shadow cast by evil and sin. This is why preaching is so necessary. Whenever the kingdom of God is proclaimed, it is like a bright burst of light. In those brief moments, the shadows recede and we are given a glimpse of a world behind the darkness. It is a sublime vision that reorders our perception of reality and leaves us hungry for more.

    Skye Jethani at Out of Ur

  • I say that imagination is a Christian duty for two reasons. One is that you can't apply Jesus' golden rule without it. He said, "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12). We must imagine ourselves in their place and imagine what we would like done to us. Compassionate, sympathetic, helpful love hangs much on the imagination of the lover.

    The other reason I say that imagination is a Christian duty is that when a person speaks or writes or sings or paints about breathtaking truth in a boring way, it is probably a sin.

    John Piper, "God is Not Boring" (via Wittingshire, via Brandywine Books, via What Athol Wrote . . . obviously I'm not the only one who liked this quote!)

Loving Dumbledore

Dumbledore J.K. Rowling has just outed Albus Dumbledore, which I'm sure will be one more piece of ammunition in the anti-Harry Potter club arsenal. Since I've been one of Harry's biggest supporters here at the blog, I guess I need to weigh in with my two cents' worth on what is sure to be more controversy over the value of reading Harry.

First, authors often imagine a backstory for their characters that never becomes an overt part of their fictional works. The boyhood friendship that Rowling alludes to can be read on that level: there's nothing in the book that suggests they are anything more than friends. The falling out between the two friends is over the misuse of their powers, not over a failed love affair. So even if it's the backstory that Rowling imagined, it doesn't show up in the books. 

Second, as I'm sure all of our readers know, a certain percentage of the population is homosexual (from 2-10% depending on whom you read). All of us have members of our families, friends, neighbors, etc. who are homosexual. As Christians, are we supposed to stop loving them because of their sexual orientation? As we have blogged on this site many, many times before, those of us who are not gay need to find a loving and Christ-like way of dealing with those who are, without compromising what the Word of God says. We have to balance the clear condemnation of homosexual activity (as opposed to orientation) with Christ's admonition to "love others as we love ourselves." 

My experience has been that it's always much easier for me to love people who share my own particular weaknesses: I want to love and forgive them because they're like me in their struggles with sin, struggles I understand from the inside out, struggles I also need much grace and forgiveness over (so if I want it, I'd better give it). It's much harder when we're dealing with people who are driven by temptations we don't share: it's too easy to label them "worse sinners" than ourselves and then use that as an excuse not to love them as Christ commands.  But Jesus didn't tell us to love only those people we like, or understand, or sympathize with: He told us to love everyone.

So, rather than giving the anti-Harry crowd more reasons to hate the books, I think Rowling has once again given us a reason to appreciate them. She is forcing us to apply Jesus' greatest command and show the mark of a true disciple: one who loves others as He loves us. 

Making Disciples

Trudy Chun has written a timely and thoughtful piece on missions called "Manufacturing Converts or Making Disciples?" that is a must read for anyone involved in overseas missions. First, there's the painful part as Trudy warns about the tendency, particularly of short-term missionaries, to go overseas and act in a culturally condescending, if not downright bullying, manner: They're wise words of warning on what not to do!

However, the loveliest part of her essay deals with what Trudy terms "incarnational witnessing": She argues that the most effective witnesses are those who live out their faith rather than trying to force feed it to people who may not yet be ready to hear and accept the good news.

Her article reminded me of the many full-time missionaries I've been blessed to know in my life, especially those who patiently minister in Muslim lands -- often for decades -- without seeing any converts. They know all too well the necessity of learning the language and the culture so they can make the Bible come alive to those from other backgrounds, the importance of forming genuine friendships with people who are often suspicious if not hostile toward Christians, and the need to wait in faith for the Holy Spirit to accomplish His transformational work.

I hope you will check out Trudy's article, and that you'll also pray for her since she's a missionary in Hungary.

Little-known film was one of Kerr’s best

End_of_the_affair I knew if I thought long and hard enough, I could come up with a Christian worldview application for this. One of my favorite actresses, Deborah Kerr, died last week at the age of 86. You may know her from An Affair to Remember or The King and I or From Here to Eternity.

What you may not know is that she starred in the first film adaptation of Graham Greene's great novel about a woman's struggle with God, The End of the Affair. I just saw this film recently, and though for some reason I never would have thought of Kerr or Van Johnson for the lead roles, I was deeply impressed by them and by the film itself, which is no small compliment considering how much I love the book. 

(Make sure you get the 1955 version, not the recent Ralph Fiennes/Julianne Moore version. Although they're both talented actors, the first version -- or so I gather from what I've heard Roberto say about the remake -- is far more faithful to Greene's novel. Plus, the remake doesn't have Kerr!)

It’s here!

PinkitIt came Friday at 3:18 p.m. I would have made the announcement then, but I was out of town with only intermittent computer access.

And what is it? It's our 5,000th comment here at The Point! Yes, Pointificators, you have sent us five thousand comments in just a little over a year. Give yourselves a big pat on the back -- and then go take a nap. You must be worn out.

Comment number 5,000 came from Steve (SBK) and can be read here. Steve, you win a prize of your choice. I'll contact you shortly to let you know what the choices are and to get your address for mailing the prize out. Congratulations!

A big thank you to Travis for keeping things running in my absence, and for commendable patience with frantic e-mails from Hershey, Pennsylvania ("Get the bloggers out of the comment sections RIGHT NOW so one of them doesn't win the prize!!"). And a special thank you to Lee, a manly man of the male persuasion, for providing our graphic for this post.

Rich People Got the Blues

Stacks_of_money Newsweek confirmed that money can’t buy happiness. The economists and psychologists who did the research "'generally concluded that wealth increases human happiness when it lifts people out of abject poverty and into the middle class but that it does little to increase happiness thereafter.' The article also stated that more money brings more choices, and the wealth of having too many options to buy and acquire is a source of anxiety to many people who have lots of cash to spend.

So what is the secret of having a happy life? Although it's not directly mentioned in the article, one can conclude that happiness does not depend on one’s financial well-being or circumstances but on what and whom we believe in and what we do. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27, knowing Christ and His words and putting them into practice are the only way to true and long-lasting happiness.

The Point Radio: Playing Offense

Walls topped with razor wire crumble as yet another prison closes. Is it a sign that crime is receding in America?...

Click play above to listen.

To find out more about how you can join in this mission, click here.

October 19, 2007

The Evils of Two Lessers

An article in yesterday's Salon by Micheal Scherer told readers that

Key conservative and religious leaders will continue discussing a mass defection from the Republican Party in a private meeting at a Washington hotel Saturday afternoon, just hours afterr the pro-choice presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani speaks before thousands of pro-life voters.

This meeting is a follow-up to a September meeting in "Salt Lake City" that sent "shivers through the Republican establishment by adopting a resolution to consider a third-party candidate if Republicans nominate someone like Giuliani."

There's no shortage of opinions on this story. One of the better ones is that of Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly. Matthew Yglesias weighs in here and Ezra Klein does here. (Yes, I know that they're all liberals. You can supply the conservatives.)

For what it's worth, I think that eventually, most -- not all but the overwhelming majority -- of Evangelical and social conservative leaders and activists will wind up supporting the Republican nominee because, institutionally speaking, it's the least-bad option.

Continue reading "The Evils of Two Lessers" »

The Cremation Controversy

Ad for the day: Looking for a way to spice up your death experience? How about taking a journey to the afterlife with your favorite tree? This company will sell you an environmentally friendly companion to absorb your cremated remains. And, if you don't want to do it alone, bring your family along!

Chuck’s BreakPoint commentary on this generated a lot of response, particularly about cremation. I think most would agree that tree burial seems hokey at best, but what about the issue of cremation? Personally, I never knew that it was historically considered a pagan practice. And I would guess that many Christians haven't seriously considered it's implications either.

What about you?


Image: NBC While I'm waiting for the new seasons of Lost and Battlestar Gallactica to begin in Jan 2008, I've been cautiously checking out some of the new programs on television this Fall to see if any are worth watching. The only one that has captured my attention thus far is Journeyman, an NBC show that comes on just after Heroes on Monday night. 

People who liked Quantum Leap will find the premise familiar: Our hero unexpectedly travels back in time to help someone who needs it. Unlike Quantum Leap, however, the hero of Journeyman retains his current appearance and he remains in San Francisco, where he is a newspaper reporter on the crime beat.

What I like about this show thus far is the fact that he's a family man -- with a wife and son he loves. His unexpected traveling, however, creates problems in his marriage (he's "never there" for his wife's big moments). So in addition to trying to figure out why he has been zapped back in time to help people, he has to deal with complications in his present life as well. Other plot complications involve the woman he was once engaged to who supposedly died in a plane crash (turns out, she's a traveler, too), and the fact that his wife was once in love with his older brother (and she has a bad habit of calling on the older brother when her husband isn't around). I'm not sure how those plot complications will pan out, but I'm hoping not into infidelity! Right now, I like the show enough to keep watching with a wait-and-see open mind. 

Have any of our Pointificators seen the show? If so, what are your thoughts?

Trickle Down Economics in Action!

I'm as big a President Reagan fan as likely exists, but even I have to admit the genius of The Onion, even if it is somewhat at The Gipper's expense:

HAZELWOOD, MO—Twenty-six years after Ronald Reagan first set his controversial fiscal policies into motion, the deceased president's massive tax cuts for the ultrarich at last trickled all the way down to deliver their bounty, in the form of a $10 bonus, to Hazelwood, MO car-wash attendant Frank Kellener. ...

..."When the tax burden on the upper income brackets is lifted, the rich and not-rich alike all benefit," said Arthur Laffer, who was a former member of Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board. "Eventually."

Continue reading "Trickle Down Economics in Action!" »

The Best Two Minutes of Your Day

Could you possibly need any better reason to encourage your kids to memorize Scripture at a young age than this? Surely not. This will be the best two minutes of your day.

Your Top Christians in Hollywood

Mel_gibson Guess who’s the most powerful Christian in Hollywood. According to Beliefnet, it’s Mel Gibson. Beliefnet explained of its list of Hollywood's 12 most powerful Christians, "We chose them from dozens of candidates, in consultation with insiders and observers who are part of the Christian-Hollywood scene. Those who made the Beliefnet Power Dozen are here because they have the clout to choose their career direction, while keeping their faith and even injecting it into their work in subtle or not-so-subtle ways."

What do you think of the list? Who else do you think should be (or should not be) on it?

Rising Son?

If you were asked to name the world's most secular society, you would probably, with reason, name one of the Scandinavian countries. But an equally good, if not better, answer might be Japan. As Jennifer Van House Hutcheson writes in MercatorNet:

An extensive 2006 [Gallup] poll in which a mere 30 per cent of Japanese avowed a religion seems to confirm the widely-accepted understanding of an agnostic and even fatalistic Japan. Of this 30 per cent of believers, 75 per cent considered themselves Buddhist and 19 per cent considered themselves Shinto. Yet today, both of these traditional religions have become mainly ceremonial and do not play an active role in the daily life or moral outlook of most Japanese.

This lack of religion, Hutcheson argues,

is evidenced by a disturbing trend in suicides, abortion used as birth control, rampant pornography that businessmen shamelessly imbibe in supermarkets and on subways, and a general lack of hope. Bill McKay, research director for the 2006 Gallop Poll, explains: "There is a degree of fatalism in [the Japanese people's] sombre mood. Teens' perspectives on life tend to a sense of nihilism to an alarming degree."

Japan is said to be especially resistant to Christianity, which is odd, given the Japanese fascination with western Christian "cultural artifacts," for lack of a better term. The Japanese love Bach; Christmas is a big deal in Japan; and recent years have seen an explosion in the number of "church weddings."

Continue reading "Rising Son?" »

The Point Radio: When is Enough Enough?

Advertisers love to ask questions. Is your car fast enough? Your picture sharp enough? Your jewelry box full enough? But one thing they won’t ask you to consider is, “Do you have too much?”...

Click play above to listen.

October 18, 2007

We’d like to thank the little people . . .

Schmooze_award1 Richard Smolenski at Prudent Musings was kind enough to bestow on us the Power of Schmooze Award, for "those people that were exceptionally adept at creating relationships with other bloggers by making an effort to be part of a conversation, as opposed to a monologue."

Richard, we're honored. Thank you. And thank you, Pointificators. Goofy post title aside, we literally couldn't have done it without you. And Kathy Griffin, I'm sure you'll be happy to know that Jesus had everything to do with this award.

Now, we're supposed to pass the honor along to five more blogs. However, the criteria listed above force me to leave out a whole bunch of my favorite blogs that don't have comment sections. And to avoid playing favorites -- and help narrow things down -- I'll also leave off blogs to which our Point bloggers contribute. (However, they're all in our blogroll, which I encourage you to visit if you haven't yet!)

So I hereby award the Power of Schmooze award to . . .

Please see Dave the Swede for your swag bag. (No, Roberto, you may not swipe the Cosmopawlitan dog dishes.)

The Mouse Lives in a Sewer

Mickey_mouse Bill Johnson of AmericanDecency.org reveals that Radio Disney has demanded that the words "chosen by God" be removed from advertising promoting the new Promenade Pictures film The Ten Commandments.

Johnson writes: "The ads originally stated that Moses was 'chosen by God.' An email from Radio Disney to a media buyer about requiring the censorship is posted online at www.LC.org."

This despite the fact that Radio Disney "promotes other movies with refernces to mythical gods, Tiki gods, Navajo gods and animal gods," Johnson notes.

Of course, none of this is anywhere near as bad as the Fall lineup The Mouse Network (ABC) has in store for us.

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Maybe there’s hope?

Santorum As much of the blogosphere mocked Rick Santorum's 8-year-old daughter for crying as her dad lost his Senate seat, one Nashville songwriter (and you were surprised that I love country music, Allen?) was inspired to write:

Blessed be the child who turns a loving eye
And stops to pray
For these times in which we live

The story is told here. As the comment section of the post will show you (warning: profanity), there's no getting away from cynicism and viciousness for long. But thank God for those who can help us rise above it at least for a little while.


Alexis_stewart I was tipped off by sources (thanks, Mom!) that Alexis Stewart, 42-year-old daughter of Martha Stewart, was on Oprah the other day talking about how "medical miracles" are failing to help her get pregnant. Which reminded me to go check again and see whether Mark Steyn's excellent NR piece on that very subject was online yet. Fortunately, it is. (Be aware that it contains what are known as "adult themes.")

Fond as he is of Stewart's mom, Steyn feels the need to point out:

Nevertheless, there is something almost too eerily symbolic about the fact that America’s “domestic diva” is a divorcee with an only child unable to conceive. The happy homemaker has no one to make a home for. You look at Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving and think: Why bother just for her and Alexis? Why don’t they just book a table at the Four Seasons?

Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? As National Review’s in-house demography bore, you’d expect me to find in a successful single woman’s $27,000 fertility treatments the flipside of the Afghan baby boom I mentioned last issue. Just as Europeans preserve old churches and farms as heritage sites, so Martha has amputated the family from family life, leaving its rituals and traditions as freestanding lifestyle accessories. So okay, let me nudge the argument on a bit. Today, many of the Western world’s women have in effect doubled the generational span, opting not for three children in their twenties but one designer yuppie baby in their late thirties. Demographers talk about “late family formation” as if it had no real consequences for the child.

But I wonder. The abortion lobby talks about a world where every child is “wanted.” If you get pregnant at 19 or 23, you most likely didn’t really “want” a child: It just kinda happened, as it has throughout most of human history. By contrast, if you conceive at 42 after half a million bucks’ worth of fertility treatment, you really want that kid. Is it possible to be over-wanted?

Read more here -- and in case you missed it, read Chuck Colson's take on the same subject here. Oddly enough, it looks like being "over-wanted," and all that goes with that, is a consequence, not of exalting the value of human life, but of degrading it.

Uncertainly Pro-Life

Regarding the column Gina mentioned, I feel a good deal more certainty about the life issues discussed by Jonah Goldberg than he apparently does. But I think Jonah's sort of "pro-life by default" stance is utterly reasonable, and utterly necessary. As he explains:

In death-penalty cases, “reasonable doubt” goes to the accused because unless we’re certain, we must not risk an innocent’s life. This logic goes out the window when it comes to abortion, unless you are 100-percent sure that babies only become human beings after the umbilical cord is cut. I don’t see how you can be that sure, which is why I’m pro-life -- not because I’m certain, but because I’m not.

For a position that would probably be considered "extreme" by a large number of legislators and abortion advocates, this seems like the only prudent conclusion. And there is plenty of reason to think that, at the very least, the unborn child might be entitled to the most basic of unalienable rights.

A lack of definitive information may not be enough to make someone an ardent opponent of abortion or embryonic stem-cell research, but it ought to at least produce a bit of moral discomfort that we might be allowing something very wrong. If the Supreme Court had been prone to such caution, then perhaps Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Stenberg v. Carhart, and other cases would have been decided quite differently.

The Point Radio: Defending Your Faith without Losing Your Cool

How do you defend your faith without losing your cool?...

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Here are some more resources to help you defend your faith:

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October 17, 2007

Daily roundup

Selective Hope

In December, the U.S. stood alone against the 185 other countries represented at the UN in its commitment to uphold life without parole for teenagers. Courageous or heartless? You decide.

At 14, Ashley Jones helped her boyfriend stab and shoot her grandfather and aunt and attacked her grandmother, who says that Ashley should serve 15-20 years, then begin rebuilding her life.

Many, like Ashley's grandmother, want to loosen the reins on "life without parole" sentencing for minors, in the spirit of the 2005 Supreme Court abolition of the death penalty for minors.

"Thirteen- and 14-year-old children should not be condemned to death in prison because there is always hope for a child," said Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.

Yes, there is always hope for a 13-year-old. But does that mean there is no hope for an 18-year-old? Or a 40-year-old for that matter? What about a murderer named Sidney who now delivers gifts to less fortunate inmates at Louisiana State Pen? Or a former murder accomplice named Gary who's developing a smoking cessation class for tobacco addicts at his prison? Or a former face on the FBI's Most-Wanted list who dedicated her life to loving children of prisoners (Happy 25th anniversary Angel Tree!)?

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Men without Chests (Hair)

Starbucks_cup My son David and I have a a post-Mass ritual: we go to the local Safeway where David gets two large sugar cookies. We sit down in the attached Starbucks, where I order a tall latte with two shots of espresso and a biscotti. It's a ritual we both enjoy.

Then came the food nannies and ruined it. The next-to-last time we did this, I noticed that my coffee tasted funny. Then came the horrible realization: they had made my latte with skim instead of whole milk. When I pointed out the mistake to the coffee-machine button pusher (calling him a barista would cause both mine and Gina's Italian ancestors to spin in their graves), he told me that all lattes came that way unless the customer specified otherwise.

Say what? I didn't know which was worse: that this might be true or that he thought I was stupid. Well, I got my answer this past Sunday: I specified whole milk when ordering my latte and was told that Starbucks no longer uses whole milk -- your choices are skim or 2%.

This is more than sad; it's more than pathetic; it's, as my brother says, "sad-thetic." First of all, there's a good reason why espresso aficionados call the chain "Charbucks": as a former Prison Fellowship colleague Scott the Aussie (not his real name) used to say, "Starbucks coffee tastes burnt." That's why people who like straight espresso get their shots elsewhere. You need whole milk to round out the burnt flavor -- 2% won't do it. As blogger Ron Rosenbaum says, "when 2% milk is steamed and added to coffee it gives it a flat, burned-milk taste."

He's also right when he says that

If I want to be put on a low-fat diet I’ll go to a professional nutritionist. I don’t need Starbucks adjusting my diet for alleged “health” reasons. I mean if it’s health they’re trying to show concern for why do they serve all those hideous-tasting sugary pastries? Why not nothing but raw vegetables?

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Giuliani and abortion

NRO has had one of those debates that wander all over the site and require multiple links -- this one between Deroy Murdock and Ramesh Ponnuru over Rudy Giuliani and his stance on abortion. Fortunately, many of the links were collected in the site's daily e-mail newsletter. So here they all are (or at least I think this is all of them). Despite its long and winding nature, this is a debate well worth reading.

And while we're on the subject, Jonah Goldberg today explains why he's pro-life: "not because I'm certain, but because I'm not."

The Great Awakening

Baptist_church I’ve not studied the Great Awakenings in Colonial America before, so I’m glad I had the opportunity to delve into Thomas Kidd’s forthcoming book, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (Yale University Press, Nov. 2007). The book is very colorful because Kidd provides readers with many great passages from letters and sermons which aptly convey the flavor of the time as ministers and laymen and congregants spread their ideas. The Great Awakening is not written for skimming because of the complexity of the movement; however, I think it suitable for most readers. It provides a great history lesson about a movement which changed America forever. 

As with any movement, there was a great deal of bickering and skirmishes amongst the revivalists and anti-revivalists, the moderates and radicals, which included disagreements about acceptable modes of behavior of congregations, like whether laughing, shaking of body or hands, and visions during services are legitmate. As Kidd writes, “Both the role of the Spirit and the methods of revival were hotly contested among early American evangelicals.”

It was during the time of the Awakening that individualism started to flourish in churches. Unlike today, church hopping was considered a very serious affair, but it was during the Awakening that people started switching churches and denominations to suit their new spiritual vigor. A distinguishing characteristic of the Great Awakening was its “dramatically increased emphases on … [the] outpourings of the Holy Spirit, and on Converted sinner experiencing God’s love personally.” (Emphasis in original.) 

Thankfully the egalitarian spirit of the evangelists included other races like the “Negroes” and “poor Indians.” As Kidd writes, “early American white evangelicals’ commitment to evangelization set in motion perhaps the most remarkable change in American religious history: the nearly wholesale conversion of African Americans to some form of evangelical Christianity.” In part, the evangelicals imparted the message of “liberation and equality” to the African Americans. A good example of this can be seen in the writing of Benjamin Colman, who wrote, “… poor Negroes, chuse you the Service of CHRIST; He will make you his Freemen; The SON OF GOD, shall make you free … Why should you be Men’s Slaves and Satan’s too. CHRIST calls you, mean [lowly] as you are, into the glorious Liberty of the Sons of God.”

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The Point Radio: More than Slogans

Abortion. It’s hard to even say the word without picturing two sides angrily yelling slogans at one another....

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Want some more ideas on how to winsomely oppose abortion?

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October 16, 2007

Daily roundup

Just to clarify

The "It" to which Catherine refers is not the same "It" to which I referred yesterday. That It is still on the way.

Clear as mud, right?

In any event, I wholeheartedly second Catherine's recommendation. Lori has done an amazing job with this book. It's one of the most honest and insightful studies you'll find, not only of life in Jane Austen's time, but also of what life is like for young women today who are trying, in a very different age, to live the way Jane did. Go follow that link and get your copy!