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June 30, 2008

Daily roundup

Mark Earley and Pat Nolan: Prison reform transcends boundaries

Earley_nyt Today the New York Times profiles PFM president Mark Earley and vice president (and Justice Fellowship head) Pat Nolan, focusing on how advocates of prison reform are crossing lines in a way that few had thought possible.

Motivated both by religious faith and a secular analysis of public policy, Mr. Earley and the fellowship’s vice president, Pat Nolan, a former California legislator, have regularly testified before Congress, written op-ed essays and given speeches on behalf of efforts to roll back mandatory-minimum sentencing, equalize penalties for crack and powder cocaine, and offer nonviolent offenders treatment rather than incarceration, among other initiatives.

On the surface a redoubt of the religious right, firmly rooted in evangelical Christianity and conservative politics, the Prison Fellowship Ministries’ liberal position on such issues underscores the increasing irrelevance of such rigid categories.

The group’s role in criminal justice bears similarity to the stance taken by evangelical leaders like Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in Southern California, on global warming, AIDS prevention and Third World poverty.

“What’s distinct is that we’re in an ‘Aha!’ moment now,” Mr. Earley, 53, said in a phone conversation. “The crime issue used to be such a driving wedge between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and now it’s not. In the presidential campaign this year, when have you heard crime as a wedge issue? It’s a common-ground issue, and no one would have envisioned that in the ’70s and ’80s.”

Read more.

(Image © The New York Times)

More on AIDS in Africa

Storyaidsafrica2 As Kim pointed out, Africans know there is more to fighting AIDS than pragmatic answers--which aren't real answers at all (treating symptoms instead of the problems).

The Rev. Sam Ruteikara writes,

In the late 1980s, before international experts arrived to tell us we had it all "wrong," we in Uganda devised a practical campaign to prevent the spread of HIV. We recognized that population-wide AIDS epidemics in Africa were driven by people having sex with more than one regular partner. Therefore, we urged people to be faithful. Our campaign was called ABC (Abstain, or Be Faithful, or use Condoms), but our main message was: Stick to one partner. We promoted condoms only as a last resort.

Because we knew what to do in our country, we succeeded. The proportion of Ugandans infected with HIV plunged from 21 percent in 1991 to 6 percent in 2002. But international AIDS experts who came to Uganda said we were wrong to try to limit people's sexual freedom. Worse, they had the financial power to force their casual-sex agendas upon us.

It might not be "popular," but chastity is practical: It works. Or it did. But it has become lost in the debate once more. While people literally are dying as lawmakers debate what to do with the money, it is deadly--literally--to leave chastity promotion out of the aid package to Africa.

Continue reading "More on AIDS in Africa" »

Experts Are Killing Ugandans

I want to scream, spit, and knock heads together, so it's probably a good thing I'm seated behind my computer, miles away from an AIDS expert.

Until the AIDS experts got into the act, the incidence of HIV infection in Uganda had been greatly reduced, all through teaching people chastity and fidelity in marriage--in essence, helping people reform and control their sexual desires.

Due to their perfidious work, HIV is now on the rise again, all because the "experts" have deemed self-discipline  a bad thing.

The Reverend Sam L. Ruteikara, a co-chair of Uganda's National AIDS-Prevention Committee, pleads with the experts, "Let my people go. We understand that casual sex is dear to you, but staying alive is dear to us. Listen to African wisdom, and we will show you how to prevent AIDS." 

’Wanted’: A ’Justice’ unlike God’s

Angelina_jolie_wanted_movie_image Amazing effects? Check. Unexpected plot points? Check. Visually stunning? Check. Uplifting message? Um.

While WALL-E is cleaning up at the box office, Wanted is not far behind. With top actors and exciting action, it's a predictable summer blockbuster designed to get audiences out of the heat and into the theater.

But what will they see? Chris Orr makes a good point about what comment the film makes about the current mentality of his gender [warning: spoilers and profanity in the link]:

Wanted is blunt and unapologetic. I don't believe I've ever seen a movie that advertised itself more plainly as an escapist fantasy for masculine impotence. . . .

Yet there is something sour and inhumane about Wanted that goes beyond the all-too-common ultraviolence. This is a film in which there is no joy to be found apart from the joy of violent mastery, in which any human connection is a sign of weakness and invitation to betrayal. Even sex has been banished from this particular male fantasy: The only times the subject comes up it is as humiliation (Wesley's [James McAvoy] cheating girlfriend), retaliation (his one kiss from Fox [Angelina Jolie] is a vengeful pantomime for the benefit of said girlfriend), or frustration (he--and, as of next week, millions of devastated teenage boys--narrowly misses seeing a naked Fox climb out of her revitalizing bath).

The underlying rage against women is hard to miss: Apart from titanium sex goddess Fox, the entire gender is represented by an ugly, emasculating boss and a . . . disloyal girlfriend. But even this sentiment takes a back seat to the contempt the movie heaps on any man weak enough to endure such abuse. Late in the movie, Wesley addresses the audience directly: "Six weeks ago, I was ordinary and pathetic, just like you. ... This is me taking control. What the ---- have you done lately?" Since you ask so nicely, Wesley, I'll tell you: I've watched a movie that, while fiercely entertaining, made me fear for the emotional health of my gender. You have a problem with that?

Continue reading "’Wanted’: A ’Justice’ unlike God’s" »

’Chosen Soldier’: Liberators or Occupiers?

Chosen_soldier_2 The PR struggle America wrestles with today is the nature or role of our troops in the Middle East. We may see ourselves as liberators, but whether we like it or not, we’re viewed as occupiers. “To the extent we are seen as occupiers, or are portrayed as occupiers by al-Qaeda, Al Jazeera, and insurgent groups, our job is that much harder,” writes Dick Couch in Chosen Soldier. “A recent study of suicide bombers revealed that the common thread that ran through their twisted thinking was their conviction that Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan are an occupying force.”

To recap, this summer I’ll periodically be blogging about Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior by Dick Couch, who has written a number of non-fiction and fiction books about military life. Chosen Soldier focuses on the recruitment and training of Army Special Forces, or the Green Berets. On one level, this non-leisurely summer reading is a personal interest.

But on another level, the goal is to understand better this current global war that we, for better or worse, nonetheless are caught up in—and what might lead us out of it. Which is where the Green Berets come in: In this particularly different war, we need a different, more efficient type of warrior. As I wrote in the last post, this “most essential warrior” not only will fight physically, but also intellectually. They infiltrate a region’s culture, gaining the trust of the locals and gleaning invaluable information about who the real enemy is, as that enemy is hidden among innocent communities. Not only that, the Green Berets also act as teachers, equipping the people to work out their own liberation.

So while we entered this war being viewed by some—including some in the United States—as an occupying force, the Green Berets and the rest of special forces could lead us to be seen as liberators. This would be not just PR damage control, but truly providing liberation to people in the Middle East by empowering them to control their destiny. What that may end up looking like, we must realize, is not Western-style democracy. After all, as Couch notes, one argument used against U.S. engagement in counterinsurgency is the Duarte regime in El Salvador and its alleged “human-rights violations and the infamous death squads.”

Continue reading "’Chosen Soldier’: Liberators or Occupiers?" »

Thought for the day

I don't know a lot about anorexia and bulimia but I do know that they are fueled by a culture that glorifies being thin, and that those who purposely starve themselves have a false view of themselves as being overweight. They look in the mirror and see a fat person regardless of how thin they are.

The spiritual implications are obvious here as well. Our culture is awash in its own shallowness. We even glory in it. Shallowness and stupidity are celebrated in many of our most popular movies. I worry that as democracies begin to flourish around the world, it seems that the lifestyle of American culture goes along with them through the power of music and entertainment. We are exporting our own emptiness. And yet when we look at ourselves in a spiritual way, we look fat with so much cultural Christianity. Never in history has a culture looked more Christian while being so spiritually dead. We are, indeed, the spiritually anorexic.

In such a time, it is up to each of us to eat. Come to the table spread with God's mercy and open wide our arms to all those in our midst and welcome them to the feast. Realize our own hunger for God and identify with that hunger in everyone else. Cast off the fatty spirituality that loves the like-minded, and learn to demonstrate the true Kingdom of God in embracing the strangers and aliens among us. A table has been spread for the world. Pass by the coffee and donuts of our thinly veiled fellowship and come to this table spread with God's love for those outside. The world is starving, and we are starving too, and the food is right in front of us!

John Fischer, "The spiritually anorexic," June 26

Politics and Potlucks

I love the story Chuck told a few days ago about William Wilberforce, and about how he and a band of like-minded friends bought homes near one another in the Clapham neighborhood of London and spent 30 years fighting the slave trade and other social evils. But I wonder how do-able this would be today.

For one thing, how many people stay in the same home for 30 years these days? Hardly anybody. And even if someone committed himself to living in D.C. and spending the next two decades fighting social evils, he might find himself, just a few years later, married to a spouse who gets a job transfer to the West Coast.

Fast and easy communication and travel, of course, make it less necessary for social reformers to live near one another, and near the seat of power, than it was in Wilberforce's day: Certain public figures can affect what happens in the Capitol even when they live nowhere near the place (think James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, and Chuck Colson, all of whom can influence voters to jam up Congressional switchboards when an important vote is at stake).

Even so--it's still considered important enough to be in Washington that an entire road--K Street--is known for the thousands of lobbyists who have taken up permanent residence there. Imagine if a Washington street were known as the street where Christians lived and worked to better society.

Continue reading "Politics and Potlucks" »

The Point Radio: Parental Bliss

Parenthood's a recipe for misery! At least that's the conclusion of a recent Harvard study....

Click play above to listen.

Harvard Professor: Children Can Send Marriage Into Downward Spiral,” FOX News, 8 May 2008.

June 27, 2008

Daily roundup

Fun Friday videos

This video, made by a staffer at RiffTrax, is very naughty -- not in a prurient way, don't worry -- and (I think) very funny. The trailer featured in the clip is a real trailer for a real Disney movie. No wonder the guy looks horrified. Somewhere, Walt is weeping.

Continue reading "Fun Friday videos" »

Only One Way to Be Pro-Life?

Starting the fireworks early . . . after all, they already have in my neighborhood (darn little whippersnappers!)

As many offices are up for election this November, probably the key issue on the minds of Christian voters is abortion and other life issues. No doubt, the way our laws permit and regulate abortion is a critical policy issue.

But I’m just going to throw this out there for discussion: Is there only one right way to be pro-life?

Generally, believers have frowned upon candidates who say they’re personally against abortion but cannot/won’t vote to make it illegal or restrict it severely. The view is that’s not being pro-life at all.

But for the sake of (friendly!) argument, and I’m not saying anything about my own views on this, so don’t make assumptions about why I’m posting this—consider: Is it possible to be pro-life while not focusing on legislative answers to the problem?

Continue reading "Only One Way to Be Pro-Life?" »

The ’Anne of Green Gables’ runoff

Kristin and Rebecca, your questions are below -- and as promised, they're a whole new level of difficult (I hope). Send your answers to my e-mail address, which you should both have, or just use the "Contact" link again. Be careful -- some of them may be trickier than they look.

If we have another tie, the first person to submit her answers will be the winner of the first prize (the first day cover of the new Anne stamp), and the other will win second prize (the bookstore gift card). The deadline is Tuesday morning at 9; if I haven't heard from both of you by then, first prize will be awarded to whoever did submit answers. But if I do hear from both of you before then, I may announce the results early.

Again, all answers are based on Montgomery's books, not the film adaptations.

Good luck!

Continue reading "The ’Anne of Green Gables’ runoff" »

Y Viva España

"Inolvidable" ("unforgettable" to non-Spanish speakers) was how El País, Spain's largest newspaper, described Madre España's 3-0 thrashing of Russia to reach the finals of Euro2008. On Sunday in Vienna, they will play Germany, whose best players, it should be noted, are Polish. (The irony didn't register with some German fans who, following Germany's win over Poland, chanted Nazi slogans.)

Whenever Spain is doing well, the song "Y Viva España" is heard in the stands. (I was at a World Cup game in 1994 between Spain and Switzerland at RFK stadium in Washington. As soon as Spain got rolling, about the half, the stadium started singing the song.) Judging by this video, perhaps German fans are expecting things to continue going well for well-prepared Madre España.

Open book thread

Open_book_2 Today, my contribution is just a quotation from Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady that struck me when I was recently reading the novel for the first time. The speakers are Ralph Touchett (whom I've added to my list of Prince Charmings) and Isabel Archer; the subject of discussion is an English lord with "radical" sensibilities.

". . . He's a man with a great position who's playing all sorts of tricks with it. He doesn't take himself seriously."

"Does he regard himself as a joke?"

"Much worse; he regards himself as an imposition -- as an abuse."

"Well, perhaps he is," said Isabel.

"Perhaps he is -- though on the whole I don't think so. But in that case what's more pitiable than a sentient, self-conscious abuse planted by other hands, deeply rooted but aching with a sense of its injustice? For me, in his place, I could be as solemn as a statue of Buddha. He occupies a position that appeals to my imagination. Great responsibilities, great opportunities, great consideration, great wealth, great power, a natural share in the public affairs of a great country. But he's all in a muddle about himself, his position, his power, and indeed about everything in the world. He's the victim of a critical age; he has ceased to believe in himself and he doesn't know what to believe in. When I attempt to tell him (because if I were he I know very well what I should believe in) he calls me a pampered bigot. I believe he seriously thinks me an awful Philistine; he says I don't understand my time. I understand it certainly better than he, who can neither abolish himself as a nuisance nor maintain himself as an institution."

One is tempted to wonder at this point whether James was really reflecting on the nobility of 19th-century England, or if he had somehow figured out a way to look into the future and catch a glimpse of 21st-century American ideas.

What books have you been reading and reflecting on lately?

Anne quiz update: We have a tie!

First_day_cover In last week's Anne of Green Gables quiz, both Rebecca Slominsky and Kristin Duckworth got all the answers, including the extra credit answers, correct. Well done, ladies!

Later today we'll hold a runoff to determine a first-place winner and a second-place winner. As Rebecca informed me, my questions in the first round weren't hard enough. So now we're going to remedy that. This will be a no-holds-barred, the-sky's-the-limit kind of runoff (though it will be shorter than the first round). So start hitting those books, you two, and come back this afternoon for your final round.

Thanks to all those who participated in the quiz! Click on "Continue reading" to see the answers.

Continue reading "Anne quiz update: We have a tie!" »

What Makes a Summer Movie Great

Wall_e I love big, dumb blockbusters and superhero movies as much as the next guy, but if I could only make one visit to the theater this summer, there's no question that I would choose to see a love story. About a robot.

That movie opens today, and because Pixar's name is on the credits, there is little doubt that WALL•E will be a thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining two hours. It is the tale of the last robot on Earth, a garbage collector left behind when humanity abandoned the planet 700 years ago. The little guy is frightfully lonely until a scouting robot called "EVE" comes down from space to see if Earth is habitable. If that strikes you as utterly ridiculous, then you probably don't appreciate talking toys either -- or bugs, or monsters, or cars.

And the director, Andrew Stanton, even found ways to weave Christian principles into this unique story. Both Christianity Today and WORLD Magazine have interviews this week where he offers insights into the creation of WALL•E. I especially appreciated this part:

WORLD: How does WALL•E represent your singular vision?

STANTON: Well, what really interested me was the idea of the most human thing in the universe being a machine because it has more interest in finding out what the point of living is than actual people. The greatest commandment Christ gives us is to love, but that's not always our priority. So I came up with this premise that could demonstrate what I was trying to say—that irrational love defeats the world's programming. You've got these two robots that are trying to go above their basest directives, literally their programming, to experience love.

With the human characters I wanted to show that our programming is the routines and habits that distract us to the point that we're not really making connections to the people next to us. We're not engaging in relationships, which are the point of living—relationship with God and relationship with other people.

It's these kind of subtle but powerful messages that make Pixar movies so reliable -- they defy what Hollywood has become and rely on the truth and common sense, clean but witty humor, and the power of love. Among robots, toys, rats -- or people.

(Image © Disney/Pixar)

The Point Radio: P.E., the Sequel

Pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups--if you thought you were all done with P.E., think again....

Click play above to listen.

Government to Unveil Fitness Tests for Adults,” MSNBC, 14 May 2008.

Go here for The President’s Challenge.

June 26, 2008

Daily roundup

I couldn’t have said it better

Kocher(Warning: Mild language.)

The Washington Post asked a former Marine sergeant, who earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in Iraq, "the question that's bedeviled Hollywood lately": why movies about the Iraq war have done so badly at the box office.

His response:

"Because they kind of suck."

(Image © The Washington Post)

The bride-to-be and her brand new book

As_we_forgive What Catherine didn't mention is that, at the same time she's dealing with Wedding Panic (in a most commendable and non-Bridezilla-like way), she's also dealing, equally competently, with Book Panic. Her book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, is in the final stages of preparation, to be published by Zondervan in February 2009. Click here to learn more about the book -- and as a bonus, to get a preview of Catherine's soon-to-be last name. (And click here to read Catherine's BreakPoint WorldView article about some of her experiences in Rwanda.)

In related news, Catherine's friend Laura Waters Hinson, maker of the companion film As We Forgive Those, won the Gold Prize at the Student Academy Awards for it. Congratulations to her! Learn more here (scroll down) and here.

Ramblings from a Bride-to-be on Beauty’s Forgetfulness

Bride_with_bouquet_2 I've been re-reading recently a book that meant a lot to me in college when I journaled through it during my quiet times. It's by the Puritan writer Matthew Henry and is called The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. Those are things the Scriptures speak highly of, but our present culture would despise.

One of the Scripture passages Henry exposits is the passage from 1 Peter 3:2-4 which says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

Being currently nine days away from getting married, there's a lot of pressure from the wedding-industry machine on beauty. And it's easy to get caught up in it. Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful on your wedding day, but 1 Peter is a great reminder of the self-forgetfulness of beauty. True beauty has a trusting, God-centered spirit. True beauty is yielded to God.  True beauty is found in a person's inner being.

Continue reading "Ramblings from a Bride-to-be on Beauty’s Forgetfulness" »

The Problem with North Korea

Starving_children This morning President Bush announced his plan to lift key trade sanctions from North Korea after the communist regime handed over accounting of its nuclear work to Chinese officials. This was just one step in denuclearization. He said he remains very skeptical. And Secretary of State Rice said that mere verbal admittance isn't enough. "We will not accept that statement on faith. We will insist on verification," she wrote today in the Wall Street Journal.

Bush did call this move only a "first step" -- and one that can be rescinded if North Korea fails to be forthcoming. He also mentioned being "deeply concerned about North Korea's human rights abuses," for which sanctions remain in place. I, for one, hope this administration and the one to come continue to put North Korea's horrific human rights abuses in the spotlight.

Four years ago the North Korea Human Rights Act was finally passed and signed into law. Implementation, however, is the proof of its significance. North Korea's citizens have been victimized by their government for too long.

Recently, Point blogger and former BreakPoint intern Angelise Anderson detailed the horrifying conditions of North Korea's prison camps and what happens to prisoners and their families.

Continue reading "The Problem with North Korea" »

An Artful Response To The Anti-Science Rap?

Jim Manzi, a CEO of a software company and former CEO of Lotus Development Corp, writes a thought provoking piece in NRO called "Science Without Experiments." Manzi unpacks the term “integrated complexity,” which is used to describe certain fields of science that are resistant to falsification.

While some fields of science lend themselves well to proving claims through falsification and experimentation, the science we care most about does not. It is dominated by highly complex, highly interconnected systems. These fields of science rely on dueling models rather than experiments. Examples include environmental science, systems science and epidemiology. These are also the areas of science that more and more influence public policy. 

Because of the probablistic nature of these sciences, scientists are highly vulnerable to reaching conclusions driven by their worldview, or as Manzi phrases it, their “unconscious bias.”

Serious scientists in fields dominated by integrated complexity are constantly trying to develop methods for testing hypotheses, but the absence of decisive experiments makes it much easier for groupthink to take hold. A much larger proportion of scientists self-identify as liberal than conservative, so when scientific questions of integrated complexity impinge on important political questions, the opportunities for unconscious bias are pretty obvious. Hasty conservative political pushback (e.g., “global warming is a hoax”) naturally creates further alienation between these politicians and scientists. The scientists then find political allies who have political reasons for accepting their conclusions; consequently, many conservatives come to see these scientists as pseudo-objective partisans. This sets up a vicious cycle. Unfortunately, that’s where we find ourselves now in far too many areas.

Continue reading "An Artful Response To The Anti-Science Rap?" »

Cool Idea

Skyscrapers Here's something in the works for people who like changing views. Architect David Fisher is planning the first rotating skyscrapers. He's using wind technology to help with energy cost. 

(Image © Times Online)

Young, blonde terrorist

At one time parents were encouraged just to talk to their kids about sex. In a post-9/11 world, they have to talk about terrorism:

A schoolboy aged 12 has been identified as an al-Qaeda inspired extremist after sending beheading videos to his classmates, police have disclosed.

Anti-terrorism chiefs have said the example revealed how violent extremism is spreading “like a virus infecting young minds”.

The blonde, white schoolboy from West Yorkshire is among 120 people being dealt with by police in a new anti-terrorism scheme targeting al-Qa’eda inspired youths. . . .

Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, said: . . . “He is not a Muslim. He is not driven by ideology – he is too young to spell the word.

“But he is being influenced and intoxicated by the imagery and appeal of Jihadist and other internet violence."

Continue reading "Young, blonde terrorist" »

The Point Radio: Pre-Mortgage Counseling

I'm sure you've heard of marriage counseling, but mortgage counseling?...

Click play above to listen.

Daniel McGinn, “Homebuying 101: Mortgage Loan Counseling Can Be Helpful, Should It Be Mandatory?” Newsweek, 28 May 2008.

June 25, 2008

Daily roundup

Oh the Creep Creep Creep Towards Death

Coverwozzned Apparently many people in the Netherlands are convinced that by 2012, the country will sink into the ocean. Some are attributing it to overcrowding.   

I guess medical professionals are trying to do their part to ensure that the sink rate will stop. BioEdge says Dutch doctors are peddling the book Information about the Careful Ending of Life. 

According to the article, the book tragically promotes suicide for people who are not experiencing "unbearable and hopeless suffering." Euthanasia proponents say everyone has a right to suicide. 

Who says no one’s willing to take a stand anymore?

Vances Looks like the youth of America can still rally behind a cause, after all.

(In related news, Chuck Colson makes the case for offshore drilling in today's BreakPoint commentary. Way to reach out to that younger demographic, Chuck!)

(Image © AP)

Thought for the Day from Jim Elliot

From The Journals of Jim Elliot come these words about impacting culture:

This problem of meeting a culture with truth from God is the most difficult kind of thing. One comes as a renovator, a conditioner of society, and society is in no mood to be conditioned. Each man has his fixed concepts and supposes that he has arrived at them originally, giving himself the credit of thinking by insisting, "Here's the way I look at it." Then he proceeds to say what his teachers, parents, and friends have taught him, who, in turn, repeated what their teachers, parents, and friends have taught them. The fixedness of the mind is as the walls of Jericho to Gospel preaching. God must shake, or there will be no shaking.

Charlton Heston, Denzel Washington, and Russell Crowe

Heston Yes, there's a common denominator.

In his 1956 interview with the Times, Heston offered a profound analysis of the mechanics behind a spiritually transformed life. “It is interesting to note that once Moses climbs Mt. Sinai and talks to God there is never contentment for him again,” Heston observed. “That is the way it is with us. Once we talk to God, once we get his commission to us for our lives we cannot be again content. We are happier. We are busier. But we are not content because then we have a mission—a commission, rather.”

Heston’s observations regarding contentment, happiness, and commission took on an interesting perspective as they relate to American Gangster co-stars Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Leaving analysis of the film to others, I became far more interested in the way the two Academy Award-winning actors view their craft and commission.

Both men are considered to be in the top echelon of their profession, deeply respected as actors, and able to command top-dollar for their performances. Master and Commander, Training Day, A Beautiful Mind, Philadelphia, Gladiator, and Malcolm X are just a handful of Washington’s and Crowe’s noteworthy performances. Both of them literally stepped into the ring and took the body blows to play boxers in The Hurricane and Cinderella Man. Most recently, the two actors have become more outspoken about their spiritual lives.

Read the rest of "Of Craft and Commission" by Steve Beard, founder of Thunderstruck, in the current issue of BreakPoint WorldView magazine.

An Eyewitness to Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe A college friend of mine is reporting undercover in Zimbabwe. Here is his account of an interview with some victims of the Zanu-PF violence:

Moleen explained that the violence was unrelenting. "They told us to lay facedown. They started beating us with irons and with their feet. They were beating us everywhere: face, back, legs, buttocks. They would beat us until they started to sweat and then they would go outside and call another to take over beating us. They took cold water and poured it on us. Then they started beating us again. They never stopped the whole night or the next day."

The children sat against the walls of the room while their mothers were beaten. They were spared from the attacks except when they grew afraid and clung to their mothers. In those instances both mother and child would be struck until the child withdrew.

While the women were assaulted, their attackers threatened further violence and death. "MDC will never rule this country; we want war," they yelled. "You supported MDC, so we want to beat you until you die."

Read the entire piece here at ABC. And may Psalm 9 find its way to Zimbabwe.

What the comprehensive sex educators don’t want you to know

From Ryan T. Anderson of the Witherspoon Institute, in First Things:

We know that when contraception is used “consistently and correctly,” it can be remarkably effective—only 0.3 percent of women using the pill and 2 percent of women relying on condoms become pregnant during the first year of a sexual relationship. Most teens, however, don’t use contraception consistently and correctly—and it has proven difficult for comprehensive sex-ed programs to eradicate teenage laziness, forgetfulness, lack of discipline, and poor judgment in the heat of the moment. Studies show that only 28 percent of females and 47 percent of males use condoms consistently—as Wilcox notes in A Scientific Review of Abstinence and Abstinence Programs, his report for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This might account for what scholars call the “typical use” of contraception. So, for instance, we know from the National Survey of Family Growth that 11.8 percent of sexually active women who use contraception nevertheless become pregnant within a year. The rates are even higher among teens: 14.6 percent of non-cohabiting and 30.6 percent of cohabiting teens become pregnant during their first year of contraceptive use.

And they say abstinence-only programs are ineffective.

New novels on the horizon

Thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet for the good news that Marilynne Robinson has a sequel to her Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel Gilead coming out in September. If it's anywhere near as good as Gilead, it'll be worth snatching up. (I wrote a little about Gilead here.)

I'll return the favor by mentioning that Jeffrey's debut novel Auralia's Colors is very good and is a finalist for two Christy Awards -- and also has a sequel coming soon.

The Point Radio: Buying Status

You've heard of the golden arches, but a golden hamburger?...

Click play above to listen.

NYC Eatery Unveils $175 Burger,” FOX News, 20 May 2008.

June 24, 2008

Daily roundup

The Judgment Olympics

Gold_medal He shoots, he scores! As Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like points out, Olympic athletes have nothing on us Christians.

. . . I decided to hold the first annual Stuff Christians Like Judgment Olympics. Not only is it topical in this Olympic year but I think it will give you something great to say back to someone that says something judgmental to you. Imagine yelling "Gold Medal!" when someone in your small group says something unkind to you. . . .

Here are the events:

1. The "I used to"
You've just confessed something that is going on in your life and the person across from you pauses and then says, "I used to do that a lot too before I really connected with God." Ohhh, I used to is a powerful, powerful phrase. What this does is set up that the person you're talking with has moved beyond what you are struggling with. When they were a sweaty Philistine they used to do what you are doing, but now that life is angelic that just don't do that anymore.
Gold Medal

2. The "I'm with God."
The best thing to do when you really want to judge someone is draw up sides. Make sure you take the side of God first which automatically puts the other person on the side of satan. Sound extreme and like something that doesn't happen? It does. Here's what it looks like: "I understand what you are saying, I guess I'm just going to go with God on this one." Or, "I'm not telling you my opinion, I'm just telling you what the Bible and God say." The implication is that you're not disagreeing with the other person, you're disagreeing with the Alpha and Omega. Which does not feel awesome.
Silver Medal

Zing! Oh, yeah. Been there. And I am so yelling "GOLD MEDAL!" next time. For Jon is incorrect, or so I judge (heh) -- that one deserves the gold. Get the full list over at Stuff Christians Like -- and if you have any thoughts to share about Judgment Olympics events you've experienced, let's hear 'em!

’Ring any bells?’

This is going to be a very long quotation, but it needs to be for you to get the full force of it. From Dr. Benjamin Wiker's 10 Books That Screwed Up the World:

Although your high school biology textbook undoubtedly had a short section on Darwin and was laced throughout with discussions of evolution, it probably left out Darwinism's eugenic implications. But such was not always the case. Witness this discussion from a high school biology text in use in 1917:

Improvement of Man. -- If the stock of domesticated animals can be improved, it is not unfair to ask if the health and vigor of the future generations of men and women on the earth might not be improved by applying to them the laws of selection.
Eugenics. -- When people marry there are certain things that the individual as well as the race should demand. The most important of these is freedom from germ diseases which might be handed down to the offspring. Tuberculosis, that dread white plague which is still responsible for almost one seventh of all deaths, epilepsy, and feeble-mindedness are handicaps which it is not only unfair but criminal to hand down to posterity. The science of being well born is called eugenics.

The book goes on to warn students about the infamous Jukes family, whose prodigious mental and moral defects wre passed on through even more prodigious breeding. Of the 480 descendants of the original genetically ill-starred pair, "33 were sexually immoral, 24 confirmed drunkards, 3 epileptics, and 143 feeble-minded." The book continues:

Continue reading "’Ring any bells?’" »

Trendy Zen

Buddhas Americans: They amuse me. From the L.A. Times, "Buddhamania" (H/T Thunderstruck):

Buddhas are big. They're everywhere these days, more likely bought at the local mall or garden center than during an overseas vacation. The principal religious figure for an estimated 6% of the world's population now doubles as visual shorthand for soothing interior design to so many others -- an instant tranquilizer set on the console or hung above the mantel. Scott Thomas of Thomas-Somero Design in Hollywood says that whenever he hears the word "Zen" from clients, he automatically draws a Buddha into the design sketch -- much to their approval.

Can you just picture it?

Marcy: So, how do you like my new living room?!?

Buffy: Wow! So bright, so now!! . . . Oh, say, look at this little thing. You became a Buddhist?

Marcy [blank stare]: A what?


(Image © Los Angeles Times)

Word art

Thanks to Ted Slater at The Line for the link to this cool little program. I entered one of my favorite poems and, with a little tweaking (interestingly, they originally went with a black-and-white color scheme called "Ghostly," I guess because the word "ghost" is in it!), got the image you see above. Try it yourself, with text of your choosing, and see what comes up!

Re: Forced Marriages and Secret Abortions

Anne, I see your point about the hedonism of teen life in Western countries and how that gets overlooked in these stories. It's an important and often neglected point.

But regarding the point about family matters, here's how I see it: There is a principle at issue here, and that's the importance of consent. The fundamental principle on which the Western world (or the Judeo-Christian code of ethics, if you prefer) bases its ideas about forced marriage, underage marriage, human trafficking, statutory rape, bestiality, and more -- the reason Christians and others fight these abuses -- is the principle that non-consensual sex is always unlawful -- that it is in fact rape. And these parents are effectively forcing their daughters into non-consensual sexual relationships. That's a violation of the girls' human rights, and thus a justification for rescuing them.

(One could argue that Islam does not acknowledge the Judeo-Christian ethical code. But as the Post points out, not even Islam endorses forced marriages. In addition, these parents are engaging in all sorts of other behavior that none of these religions or cultures officially endorses, including deceit, death threats, theft, and other forms of abuse, to force their children into this essentially unlawful arrangement. All of these things take this beyond a simple, cut-and-dried parental rights case.)

As for what the girls do after they're rescued, that is indeed a matter of grave concern. But I think it's a different type of concern. That goes under the heading of why the Western world no longer tries to live up to its own code of ethics, and what needs to be done to change that.

Forced Marriages and Secret Abortions

Pakistan I read the story on the front page of Sunday's Washington Post about the British diplomat who rescues young Muslim girls who are flown from Great Britain to Pakistan for the purpose of forcing them into marriage. I'm glad  the diplomat is doing this, but the picture of one rescued 17-year-old, back in London with her boyfriend, made me wonder how the girl's life will ultimately turn out.

Will she engage in premarital sex, like most other British teens? Will she end up with an illegitimate baby? Will she end up living on the streets? Will her life ultimately turn out better because she was rescued from a forced marriage--or worse?

While I don't approve of forced marriages, I do have some sympathy with outraged Muslim parents who chafe at official interference in what they consider to be a private family matter. I can't help but think of Christian parents in America who get just as angry when representatives of the state (such as public school teachers) take underage girls for secret abortions, without their parents' consent. The British diplomat believes she is protecting the rights of the young girls she rescues. So do those who think young girls are entitled to end their pregnancies through abortion.

Christian parents believe they are protecting their daughters from a great moral evil, and exploitation by abortionists. Muslim parents also think they are protecting their daughters from the state--and from the moral evils they fear their daughters will be exposed to if they are not safely swept into marriage at a young age.

Again--I believe it's wrong to force anyone into marriage. But I'm not sure the Brits are freeing the rescued girls into a better life. And I think Christians will have a hard time explaining why they think it's okay to interfere with family decisions when it comes to Muslims, but not when it comes to Christians.

I'm still thinking this through, but I thought I'd throw it out there for the rest of you to play with.

(Image © The Washington Post)

What is going on in Canada?

They're going after journalists, pastors, and now parents. Is there anyone left in Canada who's allowed to do anything without a judge jumping down his or her throat?

(H/T Cranach)

The Point Radio: Won't You Be My Neighbor

How well do you know your neighbor?...

Click play above to listen.

Where America Lives Survey,” Parade, 4 May 2008.

June 23, 2008

Daily roundup

A Ted Kennedy story you might not have heard

As a former "Jerry's Kid," as Liberty University students have been called, I still receive the school's Liberty Journal. The opening column by current chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., in the July/August 2008 issue caught my eye. Here's an excerpt:

. . . Philosophically and politically, Kennedy and my father were diametrically opposed, but that did not prevent their friendship. My father invited Kennedy to speak at Liberty University on Oct. 3, 1983. I was in my third year at Liberty and remember the event well.

We were impressed with Kennedy as he and his family ate dinner at our family's home. He was warm and personable and reminded me of Dad in many ways. When he spoke to Liberty University students, he was well received and, even though the students did not agree with much of what he said, they were polite and kind. He stayed in touch with my father after he left Lynchburg.

The next year, I applied for admission to the law school at the University of Virginia, where Kennedy had attended. He volunteered to write a letter of recommendation for me. I am sure the faculty was surprised to see a Kennedy recommending a Falwell, but I guess it helped because I was admitted. Later, when I was a student at the University of Virginia Law School, Kennedy invited our entire family to have dinner at his home in McLean, Va.

On another occasion, when my father was in south Florida, Kennedy asked him to come and pray with his mother who was nearly 100 years old and in failing health. Dad was honored to oblige the request and visit with Rose Kennedy.

Continue reading "A Ted Kennedy story you might not have heard" »

Update on teen pregnancy pact

According to the Boston Herald and other sources, there may not have been such a pact at Gloucester High School after all. It's all too true, however, that 17 of the students are pregnant, and at least some of them appear to have become pregnant on purpose. We'll try to keep track of the story and let you know when -- or if -- anyone gets to the bottom of this.

Isn’t that nice

Planned Parenthood is going to kill babies in a more environmentally friendly way.

Ageism -- the Last Acceptable Prejudice?

Mccain_john_0408 How many times have you already heard this criticism of Sen. McCain: "He's too old"? What is that supposed to mean? Age has made him mentally sluggish? He needs to take long afternoon naps? He's fixated on "the good old days"? He's out of touch with what younger people want? He's too physically feeble to handle the pressures of the job? What negative assumptions -- spoken or unspoken -- go with the criticism that "he's too old"?

What I find ironic about this statement is that is reeks of prejudice, though the people who use it most often see themselves as the champions of fair play and tolerance. In our youth-obsessed culture, we have programmed ourselves to see any signs of aging as something abhorrent--so we fight every gray hair, every wrinkle, every sagging muscle that is a normal part of living past 30. We go to extraordinary lengths, and even to great expense, to stave off the appearance of growing older.

However, in fighting these exterior signs of age, we lose sight of the benefits living a long time may bring to the soul and spirit. We devalue the wisdom that comes from life's experiences -- wisdom that is often hard-won as we deal with a host of circumstances and tragedies beyond our control, as well as the lessons we learn in the aftermath of our own decisions, whether wise or foolish (and if you live long enough, you'll have a fair number of both). 

Not all cultures share our disdain for older people. In fact, when I go to Africa, I'm amazed at the respect I'm shown simply because I'm "old" -- which isn't a derogatory word to them as it is in our culture. In fact, my gray hair is seen as a sign of my wisdom. It is, in the words of Solomon, my "crown of glory" (Proverbs 16:31). 

So, the next time you hear someone criticize Senator McCain's age, realize that it's simply a sign of the last acceptable prejudice in America -- ageism -- and resist it. You are within your rights to criticize him for his beliefs and his stand on the issues. But his age -- as with Senator Obama's race -- should not be part of the debate.

(Image © AP)