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« December 2008 | Main | February 2009 »

January 13, 2009

Daily roundup

It’s all about image

Cheney the monster and Carter the hero? Jay Nordlinger begs to differ. His piece about how the media and the educational system create the images they want us to see -- and we obligingly bow to their authority -- is sobering but important reading.

Shakespeare strip club

03h_twelfthnight I'm never picking the front row again.

I thought that my $10 ticket in the first row, middle seat, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Twelfth Night yesterday was a lucky strike. Two and a half hours later, I had changed my mind. (And it wasn't just because of the flying expectorate.)

What I didn't know when I purchased tickets for one of my favorite Shakespearean plays was that I was purchasing little more than a pass to a dramatized strip club. Now, I know that Shakespeare was far from a puritan, but I doubt that a topless Viola was his idea of a closing scene.

I was shocked that what I expected to be an afternoon of witty 16th-century banter turned out to be little more than a visit to a porn shop. But why should I be so shocked?

Earlier in the weekend, I had gone to see Will Smith's latest flick, Seven Pounds. Of course the explicit sex scene was a little awkward, but I shrugged it off with the typical, "That's just Hollywood." But when I sat down in the front row of a flesh and blood reenactment, I got my ire up.

Let's call it like it is. Sexual perversion is inappropriate whether on the stage, on the big screen, or in our hearts. Let's not be so naive to pigeonhole one as more vulgar than the other.

Maybe sometimes it takes a front row seat to get the point.

Image © The Shakespeare Theatre Company

Coming back to haunt us

Perhaps it's time to update an old saying: Those who misunderstand the past are doomed to repeat it. Those who thought (or hoped) that the Terri Schiavo case was over and done with when she died have found themselves mistaken, now that Barack Obama has nominated her husband's lawyer, Thomas Perrelli, as U.S. associate attorney general. And those who thought that case was only about "'government intervening in a private family matter'" may find themselves unhappily disillusioned if one of the pro-life movement's biggest foes gets this high-level job.

Smackdown

 "Who Would Jesus Smack Down?" sounds like a pretty provocative title for an article. But when the subject is Mars Hill's Pastor Mark Driscoll, somehow it fits. (Free registration may be required.)

The Point Radio: Standing Room Only

You're probably seeing a lot of new faces in church these days....


Click play above to listen.

Paul Vitello, “Bad Times Draw Bigger Crowds to Church,” New York Times, 13 December 2008.

January 12, 2009

Another note on comments

For those of you who are wondering, the reason that no comments have gone up for a while is that TypePad is having a glitch. We're hoping it'll be resolved soon. Just wanted to let you know.

Daily roundup

Blogger roundup

Some more full-length articles from your Point bloggers . . .

Grace...

To some folks it's amazing; to others, it's appalling. Find out why.

Where in the World is Joe Biden?

Biden Since the election we hear nary a peep out of Joe Biden. Biden as the Vice-President-elect is going the way of most VPs. . . . into obscurity. I’m sure President Obama will give him some token assignments: If there are any state funerals, you can be sure Joe will be there representing America.

But as I said, from the beginning, this  has been the plight of most VPs. John Adams was the first Vice-President and he actually thought he had responsibilities in the Senate. He would try to participate in debates on the Senate floor until someone told him to keep quiet and that his only job was to break tie voters. Completely demoralized, he said:

“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived. And as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others, and meet the common fate."

This quote still fits the description of the Vice-Presidency today. Vice Presidents preside over the Senate but can only break tie votes and certify the official vote count for the U.S. Electoral College.

Continue reading "Where in the World is Joe Biden?" »

Some people need to get lives

I'm sorry, but there's just no other way to describe this.

Church Metrics

Church1 If you have ever served on a church board or bothered to read the minutes of a church board meeting, you’ve noticed the attention given to attendance, budget, and facilities. And for good reason. Not only are they are important to the functioning of the church, they lend themselves quite nicely to spreadsheet analyses and trend plots.  Yet for all their convenience and importance, these measures have a major drawback... Continue reading.

(Image © FCCNH)

The Point Radio: The Holy Spirit Factor

Anxious to keep your new year's resolutions? Go to church....


Click play above to listen.

January 09, 2009

Daily roundup

Movie poll

Oscar The verdict is in: Point readers want to hear more about ethics and transformed lives. In the age of Blagojevich, Fannie & Freddie, and a general atmosphere of "anything goes" in politics, economics, moral issues, and elsewhere, probably not a big surprise. Thanks to those of you who voted, and we'll try to keep this in mind as we research and prepare future posts.

Now, to go with my post about possible Oscar nominees, we have a new poll up. Go to the right-hand column to vote. And click below to see the full results of the "topics" poll (thanks to Travis for compiling them).

Continue reading "Movie poll" »

Open movie thread

Movie_camera With Oscar season nearly upon us, the Big Important Films are coming thick and fast: Revolutionary Road, The Reader, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. . . . And then, of course, there's Oscar dark horse The Dark Knight, which has been sitting in my room for two weeks and counting as I try to get up the courage to watch it. (I'm hoping the RiffTrax commentary I've downloaded will help take the edge off.)

Have you watched any recent releases that you'd like to see nominated -- or, perhaps, that you'd prefer not to see nominated?

Death, the Great Attention Grabber

Swayze_narrowweb__300x4460 "I don't know what is on the other side. It tests everything I believe in, that there is something unique in all of us that does not die."

"There is a lot of fear here, there is a lot of stuff going on, yeah, I'm scared, yeah, I'm angry, yeah I'm 'why me,' yeah I'm all this stuff. My bull monitor tolerance level does not exist for me or anybody else."

~ Patrick Swayze, singer, dancer, and actor, who has stage four pancreatic cancer

Our impending death brings tremendous clarity to ultimate issues, does it not?

Patrick Swayze, who is now 56, became a recognized star after his role in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing. His biggest hit was the 1990 film, Ghost, in which he co-starred with Demi Moore. In late January of 2008, Swayze was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, an especially aggressive type. Less than five percent of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis.

The Entertainment Weekly blog (profanity alert) links to a short YouTube clip of the Barbara Walters interview with Patrick Swayze. Watch it (it is less than two minutes).

I love his honesty. I was struck by his comment that his bull monitor tolerance level is gone. He wants it straight, and he intends to deliver it straight.

Continue reading "Death, the Great Attention Grabber" »

Tim Tebow: Putting Football in Perspective

Tebow_philippines Both my parents graduated from the University of Florida (not to mention two uncles, two aunts, one brother, one sister-in-law, and over a half dozen cousins). When my mom's 23 chromosomes met up with my dad's and formed me, I got 100% Gator DNA. I've been a fan ever since. I love college football, but especially Gator football.

We've had our share of ruffians, but over the years it has helped to also see so many outstanding Christians among the Gator line-up. Danny Wuerffel was a particular inspiration to me when I was in high school and he was playing for the Gators and being so outspoken about his faith. His subsequent move to work with Desire Street ministries thrilled me.

Then when Tim Tebow came along, I couldn't have been happier. After accepting his Heisman Trophy last year, he traveled to the Philippines, where he had been born, to minister to orphans. I've heard a lot about him speaking in prisons. Last night on the pre-game show there were several minutes devoted to his witness. They interviewed some of the prisoners to whom he has ministered.

Imagine little old me... with my love of this ministry and sharing Christ with prisoners...and my love for the Gators. I was on cloud nine. The only thing that could have made it better was the Gators winning a National Championship! And then, they did.

Hats off to Tim Tebow for his outstanding and bold witness. I pray more of us would follow his example! (Read more here.)

I can't find the video clip from the pre-game show on line, but I recorded it and here are some quotes:

Continue reading "Tim Tebow: Putting Football in Perspective" »

Fire in the belly

Chuck Colson has a quote in this Christianity Today article about the abortion "battle fatigue" that many evangelicals are feeling:

Younger evangelicals remain pro-life, but I don't think they have the same fire in the belly about the issue that older evangelicals have had.

Do you think this is true? Why or why not?

The Point Radio: Paper Piles

What's cluttering your life?...


Click play above to listen.

Spenser S. Hsu, “Immigration to Go Paperless,” Washington Post, 6 November 2008.

The Paperless Office: On its Way, at Last,” Economist, 9 October 2008.

January 08, 2009

Daily roundup

Supersize Economic Woe

Unsustainableeconomy Don't trust in God? Then don't read this. It will only depress you. If you do trust in God, this may be just the encouragement you need to quit looking to your own strength to weather this financial crisis. Economists don't see bottom any time soon. And if we're not near bottom, then we're certainly not near recovery.

(Image courtesy of Jutia Group)

Having it both ways

Same_sex Last month, Newsweek ran a cover story that twisted the Bible into a pretzel in order to make a "religious case" for same-sex marriage. (We had it in the "Daily roundup" a couple of weeks ago.) Now Allan Dobras has written a rebuttal for the BreakPoint site. As he puts it:

It is interesting that apologists for the homosexual lifestyle typically say, on the one hand, that religious conservatives don’t really understand Scripture; if they did, they would see that there is no prohibition against homosexual love or marriage. On the other hand, they tell us the Bible is not to be trusted as a modern-day commentary when it speaks on moral issues—particularly sexuality.

Read more of Al's piece here. And as Al's and my former pastor used to say, "Don't let the culture teach you theology."

(Image courtesy of Gotham Gazette)

Father Neuhaus, R.I.P.

From Joseph Bottum at First Things:

Richard John Neuhaus, 1936-2009

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away today, January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and the next day, in the company of friends, he died.

My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.

I weep, rather for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.

Funeral arrangements are still being planned; information about the funeral will be made public shortly. Please accept our thanks for all your prayers and good wishes.

In Deepest Sorrow,

Joseph Bottum
Editor
First Things

What if it’s true?

A member of my weekly prayer group shared some disturbing news with us on Tuesday. It seems his daughter's pastor announced last Sunday that "God has removed His hand of blessing and protection from the United States."

That got me thinking about other pastors who, for more than 30 years, have been saying things like "If God doesn't judge America, He'll owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology." Perhaps that time of judgment is at hand. 

What if they're right? What if we, as a nation, have exhausted God's mercy? If it's true, how would you expect to be impacted on a day-to-day basis? How might it change your view of God, your view of your relationship with Him, or your sense of responsibililty for others, especially non-Christians and apostate Christians?   

Thought for the Day

"To kill time is to kill life."  -- Ken Boa

(All I can say is "Ouch!")

The Point Radio: Choosing Life

It's a hard time to be pro-life. What can you do?...


Click play above to listen.

January 07, 2009

Daily roundup

You Knew This Would Happen

The porn industry wants a bailout.

It was just a matter of time.

Pray for Father Neuhaus

Father_neuhaus140x218 Father Richard John Neuhaus, a good friend of Chuck Colson and of this ministry, is in the hospital with a recurrence of cancer. Please keep him in your prayers.

Update: More here.

(Image © CNS; H/T The Corner, which mentions that Jack Kemp also has cancer.)

Civil Rights--What Does It Mean?

Crystal Dixon was wrongfully fired by her employer, the University of Toledo, because of her private opinion. In this video, she explains what civil rights really means. 

Mickey Rourke, Font of Wisdom

Rourkeclose460x276

My grandmother always said: "God has a plan for all of us." I should have went along with his, not mine, my plan sucked.

Heh. True for us all, eh?

(Image © Damien Meyer for Getty Images. Note: Some suggestive ads at link.)

Probably?

Dawkins__02_461124a I like this quote from Paul Woolley, director of Theos, about the new atheism ad campaign in Britain:

The slogan itself is a great discussion starter. Telling someone "there's probably no God" is a bit like telling them they've probably remembered to lock their door. It creates the doubt that they might not have.

(Image © Peter Nicholls for the Times)

I did a double take

This may be the weirdest headline you'll see all day. But go on and read the whole thing. As usual, Jon has a very good point. (Adult themes.)

The Point Radio: Get Close to Your Leader

It's the hottest ticket in town....


Click play above to listen.

Avis Thomas-Lester, “ISO the Hottest Ticket in Town,” Washington Post, 11 November 2008.

January 06, 2009

Daily roundup

Conservatism strikes back

Hollywoodsignaddress There's a lot of reading material here, but bear with me: It's good stuff.

Mark Steyn writes in The Corner:

Andrew Breitbart gets to what's really at stake:

If conservatives don't figure out popular culture soon, the movement will die a deserving death.

I think that's right. If the non-political sphere is permanently left-of-center — the movies, the pop songs, the plays, the sitcoms, the newspapers plus the churches, schools and much else — it's simply unreasonable to expect people to walk into a polling booth every other November and vote conservative. The culture is where the issues get framed and the boundaries set.

He's promoting Breitbart's new website, Big Hollywood (occasional profanity), which Breibart himself describes as "a big group blog that will feature hundreds of the big minds from the fields of politics, journalism, entertainment and culture. . . a continuous politics and culture posting board for those who think something has gone drastically wrong and that Hollywood should return to its patriotic roots." The site is edited by John Nolte, formerly of Dirty Harry's Place, and, as advertised, features a number of conservative voices from Hollywood and elsewhere.

If you're thinking that the conservative/liberal divide has no place in the arts or the popular culture, well, as Jay Nordlinger writes here, quoting a reader e-mail, it's already there. And at this point it's not much of a divide anymore.

A couple weekends back, I was listening to Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. And Renée Fleming [the great soprano] sang “In the Bleak Midwinter.” But the lyrics to this beloved and touching carol were changed, in order to celebrate Barack Obama. The original carol is about Christ. But, in this version, Obama was the central figure. What is happening to us?

Looks like Steyn, Breitbart, et al. are onto something.

Continue reading "Conservatism strikes back" »

In the words of a confirmed atheist ...

"Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete."

Huh?

’Dignitas Personae’

In case you missed it, the Vatican recently released a new statement on bioethics called "The Dignity of the Person." It's a must-read for anyone interested in this important issue.

Who will guard the guardians?

Scott_correctional Far too many inmates across the country have experiences that mimic those of Toni Bunton, whose story is told (with occasionally explicit detail) by the Detroit Free Press.

Toni, an inmate at a Michigan women's prison, suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of male prison guards. Only recently has she joined a group of other female inmates to file suit against her oppressors. A survey released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that 38,000 other inmates identify with Toni's pain.

These tragic tales demonstrate a truth we prefer to ignore -- the human nature responsible for inmates' crimes is the same nature that festers in the guards. Those who patrol the halls and monitor courtyards of our prisons are not immune from the seductions of sin. Neither are we. 

The solution to this quandary is not to propagate a noble lie, which Socrates proposed when asked who should guard the guardians of society -- relying on guards' altruism offers little hope for change. Rather, we should ensure that inmates have adequate access to legal redress of grievances by changing the terms of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. We should install strict oversight and accountability mechanisms for prison staff, such as those proposed by the Prison Rape Elimination Commission. This commission has been working for several years to craft standards for prevention, detection, response, and monitoring of sexual abuse in prisons and jails and will release its final draft this spring.

Of course, redemption and transformation of individual lives is the ultimate solution to prison sexual assault. Breaking the power of evil in the human heart can only occur through the One who came at Christmas to destroy the Devil's work.

(Image © Patricia Beck for the Detroit Free Press)

Numbers game

The "recovering evangelical" speaking in this video interview strikes me as looking at religion and politics with an oddly utilitarian slant. Since when are Christians supposed to play the numbers with human lives -- and where does this fascination with the number of references to a topic in the Bible come from, anyway? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question; I know very well where at least some of it is coming from.)

If a "non-recovering evangelical" insisted, for instance, that we should pay more attention to following Old Testament dietary laws than preserving the environment because of the respective number of biblical references to each topic, he or she would be laughed off the national stage, and rightly so. And the same would happen if he or she tried to prove that the two goals were mutually exclusive. (Also, I'm not entirely sure why someone who thinks evangelicalism is something that you recover from is speaking for evangelicals.)

No one has yet explained to me, in any way that makes sense, the liberal Christian philosophy that you save more lives by taking away the right to life. As long as "recovering evangelicals" keep trying to apply the term Christian to a belief that actually harks back to paganism, I don't expect that anyone will.

The Point Radio: Keep Traveling

It's an exciting journey....


Click play above to listen.

Epiphany and the Magi,” About.com.

January 05, 2009

Daily roundup

Taking Innocence Seriously

Over at CommonConservative.com, our very own Karen Williams speaks up about life as an innocent behind bars:

Dwayne Allen Dail is the 207th entry on the long list of stories of injustice. Seeing Dwayne's bright smile gives no indication of the pain he has experienced. But, when he opens his mouth and, with halting voice, he begins to relate the events of the past 21 years of his life, there is no denying the horrors that will forever live in his mind.

Read Karen's full article to learn more about those who have suffered wrongful convictions and the steps that states are taking to take innocence seriously.

You know you’ve crossed a line

Davies_1212504c . . . when Andrew Davies complains that you're being too raunchy.

(I may have to stop picking on Davies, though, at least for a while. The buzz from across the Atlantic seems to indicate that his Little Dorrit adaptation is something to celebrate. I'd forgive a man a lot for that.)

(Image © Claire Lim for the Telegraph)

A worthy welcome

My dad -- who literally had to sneak home from Vietnam a few decades ago to avoid the rage of "peaceniks" at the airport -- wishes that Bert Brady had been around back then. So do I.

The Root of All Evil

It's bad enough that our government decided to bail out companies such as AIG, but I was totally incensed when I learned that our hard-earned money is actually financing terrorists via that bailout. See Thomas More Law Center's recent press release for information. (See also Angelise's post on Islamic Banking for more on the subject.)

After you've done your homework, you just might want to get on the horn with both houses of Congress and express your outrage at this act of self-destructive stupidity. 

Death Camps: Why Christianity Is Necessary for Human Rights

Shin_donghyuk Every once in a while I hate reading, and the other day was one of those times.

As I was enjoying my Christmas vacation--going here or there, cooking this or that, attending Christmas Mass--some people a world away were being tortured and abused because of their faith or political beliefs, including prisoners in North Korea. Most North Korean prisoners who get shipped to the infamous Camp 14 never get released, but thankfully, one prisoner did escape, and tells of the horror of genocide. Read here and here

How could atrocities like North Korea's genocide continue with political organizations like the United Nations around?   

Joe Loconte identifies the problem. He writes, "The problem is that rights have been profoundly secularized--and severed from their deepest moral foundation, the concept of man as the imago Dei, the image of God."

(Image © Blaine Harden for the Washington Post)

What a difference an ’a’ makes

Jennifer at Conversion Diary writes that the best blog post she read last year was the post in which the blogger Raving Atheist -- a participant in the documentary The God Who Wasn't There -- announced that he is now a Raving Theist. To be specific, a Christian. God is good indeed!

(Watch out for some profane remarks in the comments -- not just from the atheists, I'm sorry to say.)

And while we're on the subject of the best blog posts of 2008, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that my own favorite was Jennifer's own "How would you know?"