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June 23, 2008

Religion Isn’t Masculine?

Focus on the Family’s Boundless Line blog had an interesting post on why men dislike attending church. The post featured an except of an interview with author David Murrow, author of the book How Women Help Men Find God.

To appeal to men, Murrow suggested the church should make preaching short, make services more God- and mission-focused, and avoid “Jesus is my boyfriend” type music.

Although Murrow may be right in some ways, I think there's a deeper reason why fewer men go to church. Could it be that there’s an underlying myth that many believe that real men don’t need religion? That religion is only for women, children, elderly and for the weak? If so, the myth only exists in the modern Western culture, because the last time I traveled around the world (via Discovery and National Geographic Channel), I noticed that men are naturally and deeply religious, and that men are actually the dominant gender in other religions in the world. Who could ignore the throngs of Buddhist monks in Tibet, or the crowd of Jewish men praying at the Western Wall, or the sea of Hindu and Muslim men making their annual pilgrimages in India and Mecca respectively?

The problem is modern culture does little to remind men in the West of their spiritual nature and their need for a relationship with someone greater and more powerful than them. Stephen Arterburn once said in his podcast that all men were created by God to worship God for the glory of God. When men do so, they are expressing their true humanity and their true masculinity. So who says religion isn’t masculine?

Don’t Disgrace the Family Name

At one time, this was a common phrase parents spoke to their children. The integrity of the family name was very important. In the same way, the integrity of our country, the United States of America, was equally important. Whatever we did or wherever we went, our actions and words were to honor America, certainly not disgrace it.

When America entered WWII, our government was concerned about how Americans would interact with the British. They were so concerned a book was written titled, Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain. This book reminded the soldiers they were guests in Britain, so they weren't to be show-offs, they were to avoid swiping Britons' girls, etc. Dishonorable behavior was dealt with harshly. In one recorded incident in which an American and British officer exchanged harsh words, the American was sent home by Eisenhower. The British soldier told Eisenhower that the American only called him a SOB. Eisenhower responded that he was informed that the Brit had been called a British SOB, so his order stood.

When did we decide to abandon integrity? Today a large number of citizens are willing to put down, disrespect and ridicule America. We have exchanged integrity for international political correctness. Are we more concerned about what other countries think of us than standing up for our own integrity?

This is also happening within the leadership of the Christian community. Two recent prominent examples are Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger. Both have made claims that they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even non-Christians know that Jesus preached love, forgiveness, grace, inclusion, and loving your neighbor. Wright and Pfleger preach hate, racism, exclusion, mockery, and anti-Americanism. They have not only disgraced the Christian community but the gospel of Jesus as well.

Continue reading "Don’t Disgrace the Family Name" »

Further Down the Moral Vortex

First, the ordination of a bishop who was not only a practicing gay, but left his wife and family for his gay lover. Next, same-sex “blessings” for one and all. Now, the “marriage” of two gay priests, officiated by another priest. Asked whether he had regrets over the ceremony, the presiding cleric twinkled,

"Unrepentant would be the right word. ... I have made no secret about this. I have done something that was a very nice pastoral, godly occasion. ... I certainly didn't do it to defy anyone. I have done what I believe is right."

It reminds me of another moral vortex when “the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” 

Equal opportunity geekery, part 2

Chickensemicolon Continuing Gina's theme (sorry, got nuthin' for you math-types today . . . ):

Has modern life killed the semicolon?

The semicolon has a remarkable lineage: Ancient Greeks used it as a question mark; and after classical scholar and master printer Aldus Manutius revived it in a 1494 font set, semicolons slowly spread across Europe. Though London first saw semicolons appear in a 1568 chess guide, Shakespeare grew up in an era that still scarcely recognized them; some of his Folio typesetters in 1623, though, were clearly converts.

Back then, the semicolon wasn't for interrogation or relating clauses; punctuation was still largely taught around oratorical pauses. The 1737 guide Bibliotheca Technologica recognizes "The comma (,) which stops the voice while you tell [count] one. The Semicolon (;) pauseth while you tell two. The Colon (:) while you tell three; and then period, or full stop (.) while you tell four." Lacking standards for how punctuation shades the meaning of sentences—and not just their oration—18th-century writers went berserk with the catchall mark.

Take this extraordinary passage from Samuel Salter's Sermon Before the Sons of the Clergy (1755):

It is evident then; that, if Atossa was the first inventress of the Epistles; these, that carry the name of Phalaris, who was so much older than her, must needs be an imposture.—But, if it be otherwise; that he does not describe me under those general reproaches; a small satisfaction shall content you; which I leave you to be the judge of. ... Pray, let me hear from you; as soon as you can.

This chaos couldn't last . . .

Read more (thanks to Stephen McGarvey for the article tip).

(Image © Doug Savage)

Snow White(s) and the zero dwarves

From the Times Online:

The stage was set, the lights went down and in a suburban Japanese primary school everyone prepared to enjoy a performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The only snag was that the entire cast was playing the part of Snow White.

For the audience of menacing mothers and feisty fathers, though, the sight of 25 Snow Whites, no dwarfs and no wicked witch was a triumph: a clear victory for Japan's emerging new class of “Monster Parents”.

For they had taken on the system and won. After a relentless campaign of bullying, hectoring and nuisance phone calls, the monster parents had cowed the teachers into submission, forcing the school to admit to the injustice of selecting just one girl to play the title role.

Is it just us, or is Japan really singlehandedly trying to make P. D. James's The Children of Men come true? First the lack of children and the attempt to find substitutes, and the preference for, shall we say, unreal romances, and now the apparent attempt to turn the few they do have left into something reminiscent of James's Omega generation (the last generation to be born):

No generation has been more studied, more examined, more agonized over, more valued or more indulged. . . . Many are also cruel, arrogant and violent. . . . They seem incapable of human sympathy. Men and women, the Omegas are a race apart, indulged, propitiated, feared, regarded with a half-superstitious awe. . . . Perhaps we have made our Omegas what they are by our own folly; a regime which combines perpetual surveillance with total indulgence is hardly conducive to healthy development. If from infancy you treat children as gods they are liable in adulthood to act as devils.

The Point Radio: Mom's Salary

What's your net worth?...

Click play above to listen.

“Study: Stay-at-Home Mom Worth Nearly $117,000 a Year,” FOX News, 8 May 2008.

June 20, 2008

Daily roundup

Why I love Lileks, umpteenth edition

Kelly In just one column he writes about my favorite classical piece (Beethoven's 7th) and my favorite dancer in my favorite movie (Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain -- don't miss the video clip. Would've been nice if he'd thrown in Cyd Charisse, though). Now that takes talent.

I love this:

After we finished we drove around the lake listening to the end of Beethoven’s 7th with the windows down. My child admonished me for this, noting how I didn’t like it when other people did that, but I corrected her: this is Beethoven. It has to be played like this, with the windows down. None dare object to Beethoven.

“Well, that’s sort of your opinion,” she said. I said she was right and turned it down.

“No turn it up! But put up the windows.”

That’s my girl.

Way to educate the younger generation, sir!

(Noted in passing: Lileks writes about Gene Kelly better than Mark Steyn does. How's that for a compliment?)

’Anne of Green Gables’: the quiz

First_day_coverAs promised earlier, here's our quiz to celebrate Anne's 100th birthday! (And if you think some of these questions are hard, you should see the ones on Anne's own site!)

You have until next Friday to submit your answers. First prize is an official first day cover of the new Anne stamp, seen at right. Second prize is a $5 bookstore gift card -- Borders or Barnes & Noble, your choice. If there's a tie for first or for second, we'll hold a runoff (and wait till you see those questions).

As usual, this contest is not open to PFM employees or their families. And as I mentioned, you need to get the movies out of your head when you take this quiz. I mean COMPLETELY out of your head. If you don't, I guarantee they'll trip you up, what with differing time frames, characters, and so forth. So be very careful.

Click on "Continue reading" to answer the questions, and good luck!

(Image © Canada Post)

Continue reading "’Anne of Green Gables’: the quiz" »


Robot Has it come down to this? After reading Travis’s well-written article in this month’s BP WorldView magazine on the pure essence of joy and happiness in marriage relationships, I came across this disturbing article. Japanese company Sega has invented a 15-inch tall robotic girlfriend that "kisses on command" or enters into “love mode” when close to a human head. The Eternal Maiden Actualization or “EMA” robot will go on sale in September for $175 and will be marketed to "lonely adult men." Apparently, "though she's not a human, she can act like a real girlfriend."

What’s next... men for lonely robots?

(Image © Reuters)

Is opera over? Doesn’t look like it.

A few weeks ago, a young Washington Post editorial aide wrote about how her love for opera doesn't exactly make her a hot commodity in the dating market. "A girl whose Mr. Right is Giuseppe Verdi isn't exactly a prime cut in the meat market of online dating sites," wrote Emily Langer. "Nor do most 20-somethings head to the opera house when they're looking for a date." Langer cited a 2002 National Endowment for the Arts survey that found "only 2 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 3 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds had been to an opera in the previous year. One third of opera-goers are 55 or older, giving opera one of the oldest audiences among all the performing arts."

What do those 18- to 34-year-olds generally like to do? Well, they are the target audience of TV networks, particularly reality shows. However, what's been going on lately in two talent shows is betraying the statistic that only 10 percent of American adults admit to liking opera. Catherine told us about a Welsh mobile phone salesman, Paul Potts, on Britain's Got Talent singing opera last year. Now, on America's Got Talent, once again the audience betrays itself.

Neal E. Boyd, an insurance salesman from Missouri, also sang "Nessun Dorma," as Potts did. And he got a standing O. Watch.

Continue reading "Is opera over? Doesn’t look like it." »

Missing the point about teen pregnancy

As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies—more than four times the number of pregnancies the 1,200-student school had last year. Some adults dismissed the statistic as a blip. Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers. But principal Joseph Sullivan knows at least part of the reason there's been such a spike in teen pregnancies in this Massachusetts fishing town. School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, "some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Sullivan says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," the principal says, shaking his head.

Kathleen Kingsbury, Time, June 18

It's hard to imagine anything more shocking, disturbing, and sad than that. Except this.

But by May, after nurse practitioner Kim Daly had administered some 150 pregnancy tests at Gloucester High's student clinic, she and the clinic's medical director, Dr. Brian Orr, a local pediatrician, began to advocate prescribing contraceptives regardless of parental consent, a practice at about 15 public high schools in Massachusetts. Currently Gloucester teens must travel about 20 miles (30 km) to reach the nearest women's health clinic; younger girls have to get a ride or take the train and walk. But the notion of a school handing out birth control pills has met with hostility. Says Mayor Carolyn Kirk: "Dr. Orr and Ms. Daly have no right to decide this for our children." The pair resigned in protest on May 30.

Gloucester's elected school committee plans to vote later this summer on whether to provide contraceptives.

All right, listen very carefully; I'll say this as slowly and clearly as possible. Young women will not use contraceptives if they want to have babies. Even Time recognized there's a problem there: "But that won't do much to solve the issue of teens wanting to get pregnant." This goes so much deeper than "Take two condoms and call me in the morning." It's a matter of heart and spirit, of a fundamental misunderstanding of family structure (wonder where that's coming from?), a lack of hope, and a need for real love -- and that's just the kind of matter our sex education establishment is woefully unequipped, even unwilling, to deal with.

(CBS News has more here.)

The Future of Marriage

Everyone ought to read this terrific piece by Maggie Gallagher about the future of marriage if same-sex "marriage" becomes the law of the land: It would be essentially render marriage meaningless. Marriage would not only become nothing more than a contract (same-sex "marriages" can never be anything else, since same-sex partners are physically incapable of engaging in marital behavior); we would also see a radical redefinition of typical marital behavior.

As Maggie writes, "Many gay married couples reject 'heteronormative' assumptions about marriage" such as sexual fidelity. Even sex involving three persons would be considered acceptable "marital" behavior. Gays not only want the right to "marry," but also the right to radically redefine marital behavior.

So--in the Brave New World of marriage, a matched pair is optional, as are monogamy and permanence. Which means the only thing marital about marriage it will be its name.

If make-it-up-as-you-go-along judges succeed in destroying genuine marriage (not traditional marriage, but genuine marriage), Christian couples may end up fighting back by passing more laws like the one Louisiana passed 11 years ago. The Covenant Marriage Act allows couples to choose a more binding "Covenant Marriage."

Christians may even want to take this a step further, passing "Traditional Marriage" acts in which couples commit to a marriage featuring complete fidelity and permanence. Divorce would not be optional except for abuse and infidelity.

Continue reading "The Future of Marriage" »

Music Friday -- After the Flood Edition

Musical_notesmall At 1 a.m. on Sunday night, I awakened to what sounded like knocking on my door. After the cobwebs cleared, I realized that it was knocking on my door -- specifically, my downstairs neighbor, Lisa. Long story short: the upstairs bathroom toilet had run and overflowed, creating, if not Lake Erie, then Walden Pond in my son's bathroom, which had then found its way into my office and from there down into Lisa's son's bedroom.

Not a good week. But, thankfully, my insurance company sprang into action and things are looking better after pretty much creating a partial vacuum with their mouths.

When life comes at you fast, you need a gentle soul to help you through it. And there's no gentler soul than Suzanne Vega. If you want to see my dark side, complete with the Saracen look, say something bad about Vega in my presence.

Her songs are often sad but in a good way -- the way you want to feel after your home has flooded and you're limited, along with your kid, to about 186.3489 square feet.

Start with her best-known song, "Luka." ("They only hit until you cry. After that you don't ask why. You just don't argue anymore . . .)  I once tried to make an argument that "Luka" held the secret to life in that it described life's senseless pain but also assumed that we would identify with Luka and that this identification was evidence of something that separated us from the rest of creation. In any case, it's a great sad song.

Continue reading "Music Friday -- After the Flood Edition" »

Open book thread: Special edition

Anne Today marks the 100th birthday of someone very dear to me:

On June 20, 1908, Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery received, in Cavendish, P.E.I., the first edition of her soon to be immensely popular novel Anne of Green Gables.


My tattered copy of Anne of Green Gables is one of my most cherished possessions -- it and the 30 or so other Montgomery novels and short story collections I acquired after it. Since my mother first bought me the original novel, when I was a little younger than Anne herself, Montgomery's bright, imaginative heroine has been someone I adored, looked up to, and wished I could have as a friend. I tore through the Anne series (and other Montgomery series) at breakneck speed, buying a new book at our little local bookstore in Brandon, Florida, every time I got the chance. One day when I was home sick from school, Mom picked up books number 5 and 6 for me as a special treat. I read Anne's House of Dreams -- all 230 pages of it -- that afternoon and was well into Anne of Ingleside before she finally intervened, afraid for my eyesight.

The beauty, wit, and profundity of Montgomery's writing and the depth of her characterization have made her books stand out from the crowd of juvenile literature, and made them classics for both children and adults. "She held . . . the unconscious influence that every girl, whose ideals are high and pure, wields over her friends. . . . In Gilbert's eyes Anne's greatest charm was the fact that she never stooped to the petty practices of so many of the Avonlea girls -- the small jealousies, the little deceits and rivalries, the palpable bids for favor. Anne held herself apart from all this, not consciously or of design, but simply because anything of the sort was utterly foreign to her transparent, impulsive nature, crystal clear in its motives and aspirations." (Anne of Avonlea)

In honor of Anne, I'll be posting a quiz here later today. So get out those books and start brushing up on your Anne trivia. Note that all answers will be based on the books, NOT the movies. I'm not a fan of the movies; they changed so many things for no good reason. And enjoy these two sites celebrating Anne's 100th birthday: Anne2008.com and 100 Years of Anne. (Guys, don't feel left out; I'll get one of our male bloggers to come up with some sort of testosterone-laden quiz just for you one of these days. Although if any of you do know the Anne books well enough to take a stab at this quiz, my hat is off to you!)

In keeping with our usual practice, this open book thread is available to weigh in on any book or books you feel like talking about. But today I'd be especially interested to hear any thoughts or reminiscences you have about Anne and her legacy.

(Image © Starfire)

The Point Radio: Life Credits

What have you sacrificed for others?...

Click play above to listen.

90 Year Old Accepts High School Diploma,” MSNBC, 10 June 2008.

June 19, 2008

Daily roundup

Equal opportunity geekery

Crop_circle This article's for the English geeks; this one's for the math and science geeks. Bonus points to any geek who dares to cross the line and read the article intended for the other group.

And I'll even put up a picture just for the math-oriented among us. Geeks of all stripes, unite!

(Image © Lucy Pringle/Apex News)

Newsworthy Prayers

Yesterday, I was listening to a sermon by pastor Gene Cunningham that really hit home. You see, like many people I know, I'm sick and tired of watching the news -- which has become little more than a 24/7 tsunami of gloom-and-doom prophecies about the economy, the election, the weather, the war, etc. Not a day goes by that we don't hear about murders, rapes, kidnappings, and other unspeakable acts of cruelty which human beings inflict upon each other. After a while, I just want to turn off the TV, throw out the newspaper, and avoid any news-related websites because all it does is depress me. 

However, Gene offered me a new way of viewing the news -- with prayer, not despair.

As Gene watches the news, he prays. For instance, he may pray for the family of a murder victim, for people harmed by natural disasters, for a criminal who has just been convicted and sent to jail, and even for terrorists awaiting trial for the murders they have committed in the name of their religion. As Gene explains, Jesus Christ died for everyone, so everyone is a candidate for prayers that ask God to open up hearts to the gospel. 

Gene especially likes to pray for victims of natural disasters, specifically for Christians on-the-scene to boldly witness to others who do not know Jesus. He told a fascinating story about one such family who did just that during the earthquake in Pakistan, where many survivors evidently thought it was Judgment Day. Talk about hearts receptive to the gospel of Jesus Christ! 

So, the next time I watch the news, I'm going to let the Holy Spirit guide my prayers about what I see and hear. And rather than give in to despair, I'm going to believe that God will answer my prayers in ways beyond what I can think or imagine.  Will you join me?

Bratzerizing Gen X Icons

Strawberry_shortcake Manufacturers are "updating" well-known toys and characters (H/T Thunderstruck).

Strawberry Shortcake? Try Strawberry Haircake -- and now with less chub! They trimmed down Angelina Ballerina too. Care Bears: "less belly fat, longer eyelashes." Even the Ninja Turtles -- now with more muscles. And even beloved Mickey (blasphemy!): “I love classic Mickey, but he needs to evolve to be relevant to new generations of kids,” Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said in an interview. What?? And returning to Miss Skinnycake:

On top of her new toy line, Strawberry Shortcake is getting a new computer-animated movie and a new TV series, starting next year. This time, in keeping with contemporary nutritional concerns, the franchise will downplay the sugary dessert theme and move, as Mr. Conrad put it, “fruit-forward.”

“It’s also about creating a cohesive line,” Mr. Conrad said. “We’re downplaying characters that were part of Strawberry’s world but who didn’t immediately shout out fruit.”

Angel Cake and Crepes Suzette, I think yer outta here. Ay yi yi . . .

(Image © TCFC)

She CANNOT be serious...

Ranks right up there with the lawsuit by the woman who sued McDonald's because she burned herself after trying to hold a hot cup of coffee between her thighs while driving....

Snakes Do Not Make Good Attack Animals

Victor Rodriguez found this out when the police showed up at his apartment because he was threatening his girlfriend with his pet python. When the door to his apartment was opened Rodriguez commanded his snake to "get them." Well, the snake didn't move. It probably was thinking, they don't look like food, and besides I just ate. The lesson to be learned is if you are looking for a pet that will attack on your command, get a dog!

What it means to have God as a friend

Aslan Between the school of thought that makes God out to be a "buddy" and the school of thought that considers Him too distant and remote to be approachable, John Fischer finds a reasonable middle ground.

. . . The truly amazing thing about God is that He will relate to any one of us as a friend. He stoops to our level, and in doing so, confirms both our intrinsic value and our value to Him.

The Old Testament portrays God as a friend to Moses, Abraham and David, often sparring with them in debate over His rule of the nation of Israel. Adam walked and talked with God in the garden of Eden in the cool of the morning. Enoch walked so closely with God that one day, they simply walked right into heaven. And Jesus, as the embodiment of God in human form, was called a friend of sinners, and had close relationships with His twelve disciples and a very special relationship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

God is into being a friend to you and me. Not that He is a buddy or "one of the guys." Our access to Him as a friend is a revered part of our worship. To worship God is to carry on a conversation with Him—to talk with Him, share our hopes and dreams and fears with Him, and even our displeasure or impatience with the way things are going. He wants our honesty. (He knows us anyway, better than we know ourselves, so how foolish is it to try and be something we are not around God!)

In C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, the children have a special relationship with Aslan, the lion, who represents Christ in the stories. They are allowed to share intimate moments with him where they sink their hands into the deep fur of his golden mane, or feel the warmth of his breath or ride on his back over the Narnian countryside. But Lewis is careful to remind us that Aslan, though warm to these friendly gestures, is not a tame lion.

Read more.

(Image © Disney)

The Point Radio: Wait a Second

I'll give you thirty seconds -- then watch out!...

Click play above to listen.

Bill Weir, “Efficiency Overload: Why Demanding More May Be Wearing Us Thin,” BBC News, 8 May 2008.

June 18, 2008

Daily roundup

What Hitler would look like

Old_hitler According to this article, "Award-winning photographer Andrzej Dragan gave [Marilyn Monroe, Adolf Hitler, and Bruce Lee] a digital makeover to reveal how they would have aged over the years." At right is the picture of how Hitler would supposedly look if he were still alive today.

I'm not sure I buy it. We all know beauty is only skin deep. But we are talking Hitler here, and I find myself subscribing to a sort of Dorian Gray-type (and utterly unscientific) theory that a person who committed heinous acts on such a massive scale for so many years would look considerably worse than that.

What do you think?

(Image © WENN)

Why Do Indians Dominate the Spelling Bee?

Sameer_mishra Indian kids dominated this year's National Spelling Bee. Why?

This article points to the supportive family environments that many south Asian cultures foster. But is it positive family encouragement or unhealthy pressure?

What do you think?

(Image © Mark Bowen/Scripps National Spelling Bee)

Divine Souls Stuffed with Gossip

Solzhenitsyn Thirty years ago this month, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn gave a memorable commencement address at Harvard University. The speech shook up the Harvard faculty (he accused members of the U.S. anti-war movement--which included many of the professors he spoke to that day--of being complicit in the genocide that followed the end of the Vietnam war).

On the subject of Western freedom, Solzhenitsyn had much to say, although it was not, perhaps, what might have been expected from someone who spent years living in Soviet gulags:

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against the young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counter-balanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And Solzhenitsyn perfectly expresses my feelings about being endlessly bombarded by celebrity gossip: It's a huge burden. (There have been times when, confronted in the grocery store checkout lines with racks filled with People and Us and The National Enquirer, I've been visited with a wild temptation to snatch up every copy and heave it under the wheels of the nearest Hostess truck): 

We may witness shameless intrusions on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: "everyone is entitled to know everything." But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era: people also have the right not to know, and it is a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.

Read (or listen to) the entire speech here.

(Image © Jurij Filistow for Spiegel)

What a girl

Lemonade_stand (Although, this probably wasn't the safest reaction, but still: the gumption.)

Call it a lemonade standoff.

A young girl whose lemonade stand was robbed of $17.50 chased the suspect into a nearby home and called police, who spent nearly an hour trying to coax the man into surrendering.

“The guy came up and was, like, ‘Give me your money,’” said Dominique Morefield, who was running the lemonade stand with a group of friends. “I was shocked. It was just my immediate reaction to chase after him.”

Dominique dashed after the man who ran into a house, and then she called police. Officers eventually persuaded Steve Tryon, 18, to come outside after 45 minutes and arrested him on a preliminary felony charge of robbery.

Read more.

(Image © North Bend Originals)

When Put in Perspective

The_fight Here's a paragraph that I thought you might like to read from John White's book, The Fight:

In the Christian conversion, as in any other conversion, you may experience many such psychological events, and you will certainly experience a change in life view. What makes Christian conversion different is that supernatural events also occur. The feeling states in non-Christan conversion are temporary. They are equally temporary in Christian conversion.  But the super-natural, and often unfelt, events are permanent. They mark you in the sight of demons and angels as a human who is different. They bring your body into touch with eternity and with the eternal God.

(Image © InterVarsity Press)

It was bound to happen

Friend_and_friend "I now pronounce you . . . friend and friend: Some argue it's time to legally recognize the bond of friendship"

(H/T The Line)

(Image © Melinda Beck for the Boston Globe)

The Point Radio: Where Have All the Good Samaritans Gone?

A young child is all alone on a street corner. What would you do?...

Click play above to listen.

Kristin S. Pisarick, “An ABC News Experiment Tests Unknowing Passersby With an Ethical Dilemma,” ABC News, 24 April 2008.

June 17, 2008

Daily roundup

’Re-branding the C-Word’

Mccann_sydney Top marketing and advertising agencies in Australia recently came up with new ways of “selling” Christianity. Whether you love it or hate it, according to this blogger, “seeing top ad agencies' perspective on marketing Christianity is always a refresher and a challenge--we (the church) should be leading the world in this, but we're not. Yet.” See what the marketing gurus from Down Under came up with and let me know what you think, or what we can learn from their ads.

(Image © McCann Sydney)

Not Dead Yet Member Dies

Harriet_mcbryde Harriet McBryde Johnson died this past week. Despite being significantly disabled, Ms. Johnson had the gumption to debate infanticide and euthanasia enthusiast Peter Singer. 

Here's what Chuck Colson had to say about the debate, and I'm also including a link to Ms. Johnson's New York Times piece regarding the debate, as well as a link to another of her pro-life articles. She and the contributions she made will be greatly missed.

(Image © Wade Spees for the Post and Courier)

’Chosen Soldier’: ’Our most essential warrior’

Chosen_soldier_2 “We are currently locked in an insurgent war, one that’s likely to go on for a very long while,” writes Dick Couch, author of Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior and many other books. Chosen Soldier is the main book I’ll be blogging about this summer. This niche of the military—the Green Berets—is a significant detail of a larger issue that will figure prominently, not only in the upcoming election, but also in our nation’s near future and that of the rest of the free world.

This war with terrorists and religious radicals in the Middle East has made both our technology and “conventional military superiority” nearly irrelevant. What’s needed now is getting an “in” with the locals in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. They are the ones who can tell our soldiers who the enemy is. “Simply stated, if we lose or fail to gain the popular support of the people, we lose it all,” writes Couch in the introduction to his book. “Our initial victories in Afghanistan and Iraq will have been for nothing.”

(I’ll leave alone whether or not we should have entered this “war on terror” in the first place. Regardless, we’re in it now. So we have to be savvy about where we are and what we’re now doing there.)

So, we are in a very different war, indeed. (For example, as Anne highlighted and I referred to in my first post on Chosen Soldier, we’re dealing with suicide bombers the age of U.S. high school freshmen.) It is one that requires intelligence as much as—really, much more than—it requires brute strength. And that’s where our branches’ special operation forces come in—namely, Army Special Forces (SF), or Green Berets. As Couch writes, “Special Forces are the most valuable asset on this battlefield. The Special Forces soldier is the most important man in uniform—our most essential warrior.”

Continue reading "’Chosen Soldier’: ’Our most essential warrior’" »

How Not to Get Household Chores Done

Dirty_dishes You're single, sitting in your house, and it's a mess -- dirty dishes are piled all over the kitchen, floors have a 2-inch layer of dirt and grime, and your shirts have more wrinkles than a 120-year-old man. What can you do?

You could do it yourself, but you realize you are domestically challenged. Maybe hire a maid service, but you find yourself financially challenged. Or you can do what this Italian man did: kidnap your ex-girlfriend and threaten her with violence if she doesn't do the chores.

Probably not the brightest idea this guy has ever had. Now not only do the chores still need to be done, but he is charged with kidnapping.

Maybe he should have just called Mom.

Our Economy in Perspective

I have to admit, in recent months I have been suffering from a low but constant level of anxiety--all because of the constant economic doomsday rhetoric spewing forth from almost every American news source. 

And just when I was getting depressed...I got my copy of Imprimis. The lead article is from a speech given at Hillsdale College by Patrick Toomey (his credentials are impressive), in which he outlines our real significant economic progress.

Happy days are here again!

The Detergent Church

Detergent Doug Giles has written a four-part series called "The Detergent Church" which offers his thoughts on the "state of the Church in America" and what we need to do about it. (WARNING: his language can be rude and even crude in places.) Here's a quick run-down of his list, but you will need to read all the articles to discover the reasons for each statement:

1.  Get men who dig being rowdy back in the pulpit.
2.  Could we have some sound doctrine, por favor?
3.  Preach scary sermons (at least every fourth one).
4.  Get ride of 99.9% of "Christian" TV and sappy Christian music.
5.  Quit trying to be relevant and instead become prophetic contrarians...
6.  Put a 10-year moratorium on "God wants you rich" sermons...
7.  Embrace apologetics and shun shallow faith.
8.  Evangelize like it's 1999.
9.  Push lazy Christians to get a life or join a Satanic church.
10.  Demand that if a Christian gets involved in the arts that their "craft" must scream excellence and not excrement. 

I especially like the way he ends his first article: "What's the solution to our cultural pollution? Historically, it's always been men who would be men, which means we don't need puppets, panderers, ... and wussies. We need prophets, patriarchs, warriors, and wild men." 

Since I'm currently studying David Jeremiah's series on Judges, this point seems especially relevant. However, to be fair, God even used a warrior woman, Deborah, to lead His people during a time of national decline. It's going to take both bold Christian men and women to bring about the kind of change this nation needs. Read Giles' articles and let us know which point resonates with you. 

The Point Radio: Web Seekers

Think the Internet is just being used for work or entertainment? Well, think again....

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Learn more in this article from USA Today.

June 16, 2008

Daily roundup

Re: Judith Warner and fathers

Kudos to Anne! Not only has she written our 10,000th comment, but she used it to point to a very important piece of information that throws a whole new light on Judith Warner's rant against protective dads. A Google search inspired by her comment turned up this:

In a book review for this newspaper early last year, Warner wrote what must be among the most startling first paragraphs ever. She doesn't explain it, or come back to it in the piece.

"My father, a psychologist, spent the last three decades of his life writing what he called his Book of Love. . . . When he died, in 1995, and I sorted through his papers . . . I found a couple of old manuscripts that had been rejected by publishers back in the 1970s. And beyond that, nothing but notes -- boxes and boxes and file drawers and desk drawers and closets and bookshelves and kitchen cabinets filled with notes. All expressing his passionate and prodigious hatred. Largely of me."

(Go here and scroll down for the complete text of that review.)

What can one say to that except -- ouch. But, sadly, it explains a great deal. Chris commented on how Warner's views might be expected to affect her own daughter, but I guess there's no need to wonder about that -- Warner herself, it turns out, is a poster child for the terrible consequences of an absence of fatherly love.

The Vatican Gets It Right

Angelsanddemons1_352779a It seems that the Vatican has moved to prevent the filming of another Dan Brown book, Angels and Demons -- or, at least, to prevent scenes from being filmed in the Vatican or in any churches in Italy.

Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, head of the Vatican's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, said that the author had "turned the Gospels upside down to poison the faith. It would be unacceptable to transform churches into film sets so that his blasphemous novels can be made into mendacious films in the name of business."

Well, Amen! However, I can only pray that the Vatican's stance will prick the conscience of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard, both professing Christians, about the professional choices they are making. I can only hope that they will feel shame about the anti-Christian venom their films are spreading throughout the world. As for the rest of us, if we buy Brown's books or see movies based on those books, we're equally guilty.

And, to anticipate the question ... No, I never bought a copy of The Da Vinci Code. I read a copy purchased by a friend who didn't know anything about the book when she bought it. She was horrified when she got to the scene where the main characters began trashing Christianity. But rather than throw her book away, she gave it to me. As an English teacher and a Bible teacher, I had had so many people asking me about the book that I decided I'd better read it. Eventually, that led me to develop a four-week worldview course for my church to expose its lies. One Dan Brown novel (and a very poorly written one at that) was enough to convince me to stay away from anything else with his name on it.

(Image © Francesco Proietti/AP)

Like Peanut Butter Cups to My Soul

Peanut_butter_cups Reese's Peanut Butter cups work because, as the old ads used to say, they're two great tastes that go great together.

Felicitous blending isn't limited to chocolate and peanut butter. I love jazz and I'm fascinated by all things Indian (as in the country, although I also enjoy learning about Native American history and culture).

That's why my "you must buy this album and listen to it incessantly" award goes to Miles From India. As the name suggests, the album, produced by Bob Belden, features jazz legends such as Ron Carter, Chick Corea and John McLaughlin, joined by some of the best India has to offer (and that best is very good), playing the music of Miles Davis.

In his latest book, Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks calls human beings a "musical species." He points out that more parts of our brain are involved with producing and listening to music than even language. (This makes the idea, put forward by evolutionary psychologists like Steven Pinker, that music is a "happy accident" seem even more ridiculous.)

In Miles From India, the music of Miles Davis becomes, as Belden writes in the liner notes, the "common language" between people from disparate cultures. The combination of Davis veterans like Carter and Indian stars like Rakesh Chaurasia (the student and nephew of Hariprasad) works so well you wonder it didn't happen before.

While Variety thought that the combination on "Spanish Key" worked as well as "jalapeños [atop] a hot fudge sundae," I was too busy smiling like a fool to care. If jalapeños and hot fudge work as well as this combo, I might have to add them to the list of things go together well.

Re: I Speaks Russian--Does You Speaks Russian?

Chicken_bone On Tuesday, I witnessed similar desperation. I was taking the girl I mentor to CVS to purchase Father's Day cards. On our way in, I saw what looked to be the typical homeless figure on a stoop outside the store. This man looked a little more disheveled than most, but I didn't glance long, other than to notice a young guy drop a few coins in his cup.

I've had a variety of such encounters, ranging from accidentally dropping coins into someone's drink (and, no, I wasn't trying to imitate Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping) to giving someone money in response to a day of mental anguish over the issue, but have become a little more leery of such gestures since hearing from a former homeless person give an insider's perspective. But this particular guy looked more mentally derailed than most. His clothes were almost in shreds and his eyes roamed in all directions.

Fifteen minutes later, when we emerged from the store, he was gone. Where he sat I noticed the remnants of what I thought was a chicken. "Please let it be chicken," I told myself. My stomach lurched at the thought of this half-crazed guy sitting on the concrete eating . . . something . . . I wasn't sure what.

Was I seeing someone more man or more beast? I didn't know.

I considered the demon-possessed Gerasene in Mark 5 who would cut himself with stones. More man or more beast? All I know is that one touch of the Master put this guy right and unveiled his humanity.

What could I have done for this man-beast? I suppose I could have started by looking behind the bird bones and the half-crazed stare to see glimmers of a man who could also be touched by the Master's hand.

The Point Radio: Spiritual Limp

In this case...if it's broken, fix it!...

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Learn more in this article from the Fox News.

Well, you’re welcome

Trees2 "Officials fell trees inscribed by U.S. soldiers who fought for France"

The names “Thomas and Dorothy” were carved in the bark of one trunk. Another said “Bob and Carma”. Other trees were marked with soldiers’ home states - Iowa, Maine or Alabama - and several bore hearts and the names or initials of a wife or girlfriend.

The beech trees of Saint Pierre de Varengeville-Duclair forest bore a poignant testimony to the D-Day landings for more than six decades. Thousands of American soldiers stationed there after the liberation of Normandy spent their spare hours with a knife or bayonet creating a lasting reminder of their presence.

Although the trees grew and the graffiti swelled and twisted, this most peculiar memory of one of the 20th century’s defining moments remained visible - until now. Amid bureaucratic indifference and a dispute between officials and the forest owner, most of the trees have been felled, chopped up and turned into paper.

Claude Quétel, a French historian and Second World War specialist, was horrified when he discovered what he called a catastrophe and a shameless act. “It is a typically French failing to wipe out the traces of the past,” he told The Times. “I am indignant.”

Read more.

(Image © Times Online)

Now that’s more like it

What Judith Warner got so very wrong about fathers and daughters, Jeanne Marie Laskas gets right.

June 13, 2008

Daddies, don’t let your babies grow up to be virgins

Just in time for Father's Day, we have this charming little tribute from the NYT's Judith Warner:

. . . Beneath a report showing paid family leave to be on the decline, beneath a Newsweek article on a new children’s book, “My Beautiful Mommy,” that tells the story of a mom who becomes even prettier after a nose job and a tummy tuck, I found the story that the [news about Muslim women in Europe having hymen reconstruction] had immediately brought to mind.

It was also from The Times, from May 19, and featured 70-odd girls, of “early grade school to college” age, with their fathers, stepfathers and fathers-in-law-to-be, at the ninth annual, largely evangelical “Father-Daughter Purity Ball.”

“The evening, which alternated between homemade Christian rituals and giddy dancing” – and which culminated, for at least one father and his daughters, with a dreamy walk in the night around a lake, “was a joyous public affirmation of the girls’ sexual abstinence until they wed,” said the Times article.

“From this, it’s only a matter of degree to the man in Austria,” I’d scribbled across the first page.

The “man in Austria,” of course, was 73-year-old Josef Fritzl, who was around that time also making headlines after it was discovered that he had kept his daughter, Elisabeth, 42, locked up in a cellar for 24 years, during which time he’d raped her regularly, and had her bear him seven children.

And then, after that, she has the nerve to assert, "I don’t mean to imply that there’s any equivalency between Josef Fritzl’s acts and the Purity Ball."

Continue reading "Daddies, don’t let your babies grow up to be virgins" »

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