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August 14, 2008

Watching the Olympics?

Phelps I've heard a number of calls for Americans to forgo watching the Olympics. But, as my limited free time allows, I've been watching.

Yes, I've heard the allegations that the Chinese are cheating. Yes, I know they have a despicable government involved in human rights violations at home and abroad. Yes, I know that they can't be trusted. In the final analysis, all the glitz and all their gold medals can't hide the fact that 1.3 billion Chinese live in slavery because of the most evil philosophy ever conceived by man. 

But, still, I watch. Why? Because I want to honor my countrymen (and women) who have dedicated so many years of their lives pursuing excellence -- whether in swimming (go, Michael!), volleyball (gotta love those women beach volleyball players), gymnastics, wrestling, weight-lifting, running, etc. 

I especially want to honor the Christian athletes who have experienced the joy of using the gifts God gave them to his glory, as another Olympian named Eric Liddell did so many years ago. Remember that glorious scene in Chariots of Fire where Liddell told his sister, "God made me for China, but He also made me fast.  And when I run, I feel His pleasure"? 

May all our Christian athletes experience that same joy, and may we couch-potatoes vicariously enjoy it with them.   

(Image © David J. Phillips for the Associated Press)

Understatement of the week

China's ruling Communist Party is suspicious of any cause that could compete with its authority, including organized religion.

-- Ariana Eunjung Cha, "Some Olympians Dissatisfied with Religious Center," The Washington Post, August 14

August 13, 2008

All for show

Yangpeiyi As Fox News reported yesterday afternoon, the story of two little girls at the Olympic opening ceremony is a symbol of the absurd lengths to which the Chinese government will go in its obsession with appearances.

Lin Miaoke's performance Friday night, like the [opening] ceremony itself, was an immediate hit. "Nine-year-old Lin Miaoke becomes instant star with patriotic song," the China Daily newspaper headline said Tuesday.

But the real voice behind the tiny, pigtailed girl in the red dress who wowed 91,000 spectators at the National Stadium on opening night really belonged to 7-year-old Yang Peiyi. Her looks apparently failed the cuteness test with officials organizing the ceremony, but Chen [Qigang] said her voice was judged the most beautiful.

"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," Chen said. "Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding."

Read more.

(Image © China.com.cn)

August 12, 2008

Daily roundup

When Not to Turn the Other Cheek

0811darfur_cover It’s hard to miss the Olympic coverage—thanks to marketers, news media, and your neighbors. Overheard one of the broadcasters last night saying something about all the preparation that went into the opening ceremony and getting the city ready to receive all the visitors. He said something about it being one-sixth of the world’s population welcoming in the rest of humanity—said something all warm and fuzzy. And I felt a vein pop out on my forehead.

I hate being the damper on the festivities. But this isn’t just some normal thing—just another country putting on a nice show. The Chinese government’s way of conducting business and the lives China’s citizens have to endure aren't just like our experiences—much as everything may appear normal and polished on our shiny TV screens (or not so shiny, depending on how great a screen you might have). It’s like putting on a show in L.A., right? Come on.

So it’s hard for me to enjoy the great stories of athletic prowess and accomplishment, knowing what goes on outside that Olympic village. Those of you who might be bringing up the elephant in the room as you watch the competitions in your living rooms with friends and family probably know what I mean. Everyone’s cheering, excited for the U.S. medal wins, and you bring up something like: “Did you know China is complicit with the genocide in Darfur?” And you get that look—you know the look. The “put a cork in it and just enjoy the show” look.

Well, I’m telling you: Don’t stop talking.

While Bush declined to slap a cheek, China had no qualms about slapping a Cheek. As you know, China revoked the visa of Joey Cheek, co-founder of Team Darfur and gold-medalist speed-skater, who had planned on attending this year’s Games as a spectator—the day before he was supposed to leave.

But the U.S. Olympic Team’s quiet, respectful, and hugely significant response could not have been better orchestrated. I say “quiet” not to mean a sort of defeated murmur—but more in Teddy Roosevelt’s vein. And the big stick was the U.S. flag—carried by former Lost Boy Lopez Lomong (about whom I talked before). “Just 10 hours before he was to carry the flag,” wrote Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell, “Lomong told a tale of grief, endurance, redemption and almost unimaginable hardship that captures in human terms every aspect of the Darfur tragedy. And without Lomong saying a single ‘controversial’ political word, he highlighted China’s culpability [in] cynically supporting the Sudanese regime as partner in the vast oil company PetroChina.”

Continue reading "When Not to Turn the Other Cheek" »

August 11, 2008

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August 07, 2008

Carrying the torch

Joey_cheek Earlier this week, one of America's former Olympic athletes was denied a visa to China, where he had planned to attend the Games -- most likely because he is the co-founder of Team Darfur.

Joey Cheek isn't the only athlete getting the squeeze from Beijing because of his beliefs. Chinese officials have made it clear that they expect Olympians to keep their faith to themselves, as well. So how will the faithful respond? That's the subject of an article in yesterday's Washington Post, found here.

(Image © Alex Wong/Getty Images)

August 06, 2008

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August 05, 2008

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August 04, 2008

He told the truth

200pxsolzhenitsyn Alexander Solzhenitsyn died yesterday at age 89. From an editorial at NRO:

Born in 1918, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn became the voice and conscience of the Russian people. There was no greater or more effective foe of Communism, or of totalitarianism in general. His Gulag Archipelago was a crushing blow to the Soviet Union — after its publication in the mid-1970s, the USSR had no standing, morally. The book was effective because it was true. . . .

Like everyone else, he had his critics: He was accused of being a megalomaniac, a Slavophile, a right-wing nationalist, an anti-Semite. He was too humane for any of that.

And he did not spend much time on his critics, for better or worse — some of his admirers wished he had. But, as his son Ignat once put it, he could have written The Red Wheel (his multi-novel magnum opus, treating the Bolshevik Revolution) or he could have kept up with his critics. He could not do both. He was not interested in popularity or fame. He simply wanted to tell the truth, wherever it took him.

It strikes me as a peculiar coincidence that this should have happened -- that we should be thinking about Solzhenitsyn and the gulags again -- the week that the Beijing Olympics begin, just as world attention is being drawn again to persecution in a Communist country. Last week PFM received an e-mail from a constituent concerned that calling attention to the persecuted in China would only make things worse for them.

Continue reading "He told the truth" »

August 01, 2008

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July 30, 2008

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July 28, 2008

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July 25, 2008

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July 23, 2008

Pray, Pray, Pray

This story about Olympic athlete Eric Liddell's story being published in China (where he is considered THEIR Olympic champion, not Scotland's) made me think again of the tremendous preparations now going on, probably by thousands of now-unknown people, to use the occasion of the Olympic Games in Beijing to highlight China's human rights abuses and the persecution of Christians. I couldn't help a grim inward chuckle at the thought of the extremes Chinese leaders are going to, to control and shape the news coming out of China during the Games--after all, a zillion tourists will be there with cell phone cameras--but then it occurred to me that what Western Christians ought to be doing, right now, and every day up to the Games and during them, is to pray for the safety and wisdom of Christians who may be preparing to risk their lives and freedom to make a statement during the Games.

While it seems unlikely that Chinese leaders will risk a televised gun battle with dissidents, those who embarrass them will likely face severe punishment after the journalists and tourists pack up and go home. 

So--I am urging fellow Pointers and our readers to pray, pray, pray for our dear brethren in China. Pray for their safety and for their families--and also that they will have the courage to do what they believe God is commanding them to do when the eyes of the world are on them next month. 

July 21, 2008

What a real sports hero looks like

Sal_fasano I never watch baseball, but nonetheless, my new hero is minor-league backup catcher Sal Fasano.

In the August 2008 issue of Reader's Digest, Jeff Pearlman tells Fasano's story ("Mr. Clean," p. 132, print version only):

Ever since Fasano was selected by Kansas City in the 37th round of the 1993 June amateur draft, friends and family members have watched in dismay as he's been bypassed and overlooked. The routine became mind-numbingly familiar: Fasano would put up great minor-league numbers, sniff a promotion -- and then hear that another player was getting the nod. "It frustrated Sal, but it really frustrated me," said [Sal's brother] Mike. "All I wanted was for him to get a legitimate shot."

Hence, the phone call:

Mike: "Sal, I think you really should consider taking stuff."

Sal: "I just don't know ..."

Mike: "Look around you. I know a lot of guys are doing it -- it's obvious. Why not make yourself better?"

Sal: "It doesn't seem right."

Mike: "Right? You can be either a mediocre player or a great player. You can make either $200,000 a year or $10 million a year."

For the ensuing couple of minutes, Sal Fasano thought about it. Really, really thought about it. . . .

Continue reading "What a real sports hero looks like" »

July 17, 2008

What the Fashionable World Leader Will Be Wearing This Year

Photo_wristband2 President Bush has been asked to wear one of these "Free North Koreans" wristbands during his visit to China to attend the Olympic Games.

I hope he does wear one, but then, I'm a troublemaker...

(Image © North Korea Freedom Coalition)

July 16, 2008

Daily roundup

Bibles at the Olympics

Chinese_gospel_booklet World magazine reports that 50,000 Gospel booklets will make their way to China to accompany the Olympic Games, in, perhaps, a shocking display of religious freedom. That's not to say persecution isn't still rampant, but at least it's a turn in a good direction.

(Image © Bible Society)

July 15, 2008

Behind the scenes in Beijing

Soccer_ball Chuck Colson gives us something to think about while we watch soccer at the Olympics this summer:

For printing Christian literature, Pastor Cai Zhuohua was tortured and imprisoned “in a cold and cramped cell with 27 other prisoners and forced to make soccer balls for 10-12 hours a day for the Olympic Games.”

That's just the tip of the iceberg, of course. As Chuck reminds us in today's commentary about "the systematic persecution of Christians in China," "We Christians cannot permit the world to turn a blind eye to the persecution endured by Chinese Christians. The Rutherford Institute claims that 50 to 100 million members of the house church movement are coming under increasing pressure as the Olympics approach." Ironically, the harder the Chinese government tries to make their country look good for the Games, the worse the persecution grows. Wouldn't want the world to think that there might be anybody in China who doesn't agree 100 percent with the government.

Read Chuck's commentary (and take a look at our resource page on the Beijing Olympics, if you haven't already), and then vote in our new poll on the right side of the page: "What will your response be to the Beijing Olympics?" Again, you can choose up to four answers.

Click on the "Continue reading" link below to see the results of our last poll.

Continue reading "Behind the scenes in Beijing" »

July 09, 2008

Daily roundup

Two Cents

Lomong190 If anyone should talk about human rights at the Olympics, it's Lopez Lomong of Sudan. He went from Lost Boy to member of the U.S. Olympic track team this past weekend on July 4. And very fitting that he qualified on the Fourth:

When Lopez Lomong finished speaking with a group of reporters after qualifying Friday for the final in the 1,500 meters, he said, "Happy 4th of July."

Lomong was not the only athlete at the U.S. Olympic track trials who earned the right to represent his adopted country in Beijing.

But if he paid a little more attention than most to the significance of competing on Independence Day, it has to do with Lomong realizing every day just how incredible his liberty is.

"I came a long way, for sure," he said, "from running through the wilderness to save my life, and now I am doing this for fun."

See, Lomong was captured by government-backed militia in Sudan when he was only 6 years old. If he had not escaped with help from others, he would have become a child soldier. But now, thanks to missionaries, a host family in New York, and others along the way, Lomong will be running for the United States. Read more of his story here and here (HT Thunderstruck). Why running?

Continue reading "Two Cents" »

July 08, 2008

Restorative justice, canine style

Pit_bulls I'll be honest: Pit bulls scare me to death. If I were president, I'd push legislation to ban them -- that's how badly they scare me.

Nonetheless, I was intrigued by this article about efforts to rehabilitate the pit bulls that were tortured by Michael Vick and his dogfighting organization.

. . . The court gave Vick's dogs a second chance. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ordered each dog to be evaluated individually, not judged by the stereotype of the breed. And he ordered Vick to pony up close to $1 million to pay for the lifelong care of those that could be saved.

Of the 49 pit bulls animal behavior experts evaluated in the fall, only one was deemed too vicious to warrant saving and was euthanized. (Another was euthanized because it was sick and in pain.)

More than a year after being confiscated from Vick's property, Leo, a tan, muscular pit bull, dons a colorful clown collar and visits cancer patients as a certified therapy dog in California. Hector, who bears deep scars on his chest and legs, recently was adopted and is about to start training for national flying disc competitions in Minnesota. Teddles takes orders from a 2-year-old. Gracie is a couch potato in Richmond who lives with cats and sleeps with four other dogs.

Continue reading "Restorative justice, canine style" »

July 07, 2008

Daily roundup

PSL: This Should Make You Gag

Ian O'Connor says the robber barons--oops, I mean football barons--are fleecing would-be fans by charging them very large sums of money to put their names into a lottery to buy season tickets. 

Anyone stupid fanatical enough to put their money into this get-rich scheme will get what's coming to them: empty pockets.  But what I can't understand in any way, shape or form is why taxpayers are being fleeced to pay for stadiums--we'll never see a penny of the profits.  The local, state and federal government must be in cahoots with the barons--and like O'Connor, I'd call it PSL (Plain and Simple Larceny).

June 27, 2008

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.

June 26, 2008

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June 23, 2008

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June 06, 2008

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June 05, 2008

Oh the Spread!

Office_workout Let's face it, most of us sit behind a desk every day, resulting in an embarrassing spread. MSN offers office exercise suggestions. (Warning: site has a lot of commercials.)

(Image © MSN)

May 27, 2008

An Indy Ear Worm

Indy I was one of the masses who went to see Indiana Jones this weekend. Now, unfortunately, the theme music is the soundtrack to my day's routine. Mostly, I'm noticing that it isn't fitting any of my adrenaline-filled office tasks, like checking emails, writing, writing and more writing. But I did read this article this morning, and the heroic anthem seemed to fit that.

Anyone else see Indy? Personally, I missed the hunting for Bible relics. But, otherwise, I thought the movie did live up to the hype. Your thoughts?

(Image © Paramount)

May 12, 2008

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May 02, 2008

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April 30, 2008

Good timing

Nazi_olympics The "Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936" exhibit has come back to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. I hope it will help keep people thinking about the problems raised when the Games are hosted by a tyrannical regime.

(Image © The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

April 21, 2008

A very special appearance

Do you ever get the feeling that this presidential race is getting a little . . . silly?

April 17, 2008

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April 16, 2008

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April 15, 2008

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April 09, 2008

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April 07, 2008

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March 28, 2008

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You are now entering the Twilight Zone

That's what I thought was happening to me when I picked up a section titled "Reports from China" in today's Washington Post (print version only) and saw headlines like "Torch relay goes as planned," "Home for athletes, friendly to the environment," and "Laws deliver opportunity and equality."

Then, of course, I saw those magic words: "An advertising supplement to the Washington Post . . . Prepared by CD Features, a service of China Daily, People's Republic of China."

In other words, it's all about the cash. Yes, I know, the Post has every right to let whoever they want advertise in their pages, and those who advertise can say what they like. Free speech and all that. I'm sure it'll be a great comfort to all those souls in China whose free speech rights are honored every day, that one of America's most prestigious papers wasn't glossing over their fate on its own account, but rather, took money to do it.

March 27, 2008

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March 26, 2008

Sarkozy for President

Sarkozy Sometimes moral leadership comes where you least expect it. But vive la France, at least when it comes to the exceptional efforts made domestically and in foreign affairs by their new President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

First we witnessed the unheard of: a French President who dared to break the longstanding rule about a politician invoking belief in God as a good thing for French culture. You may pick yourself up from the floor now. Yes, as reported in this Newsweek story and elsewhere, this is a French President who sees the value in religion and God-inspired activities.

Now, Sarkozy is one of China's fiercest critics regarding the recent crackdown in Tibet, raising the specter of a boycott of the Chinese Summer Olympic Games. While such a boycott would be sad for athletes from nations that agreed to stay home, it would be an even greater blow to the Chinese leadership. You know them: the ones who want international respectability while cracking heads and killing in Tibet.

There aren't too many statesmen and women left in the world who are willing to put principle ahead of the profits of trade with the world's most aggressive economy. And for all we know, Sarkozy may be bluffing, just wanting to play the boycott card in the hopes that the Chinese will buckle on Tibet.

But it's refreshing to see someone stand up to the bully.

(Image © AFP/Getty)

March 25, 2008

Let the Games Begin!

Protester CNN is showing pro-Tibet protesters disrupting the Olympic torch-lighting ceremony. I'm beginning to think it was a good thing China got the Games, after all. Just imagine: Months of worldwide exposure to China's human rights abuses! The Beijing Games just might be the best thing that ever happened to those whom China persecutes and murders: Chinese Christians, North Korean escapees, Tibetans, etc. Let the Games begin! (And let us pray for the safety of those who are courageously risking their lives to publicize the plight of those who suffer.)

(Image © AP)

March 20, 2008

’I did a lot of praying for him’

Gardner_babilonia Ten years ago, former world champion skater Randy Gardner went looking for his biological mother. What he found was the sad but inspiring story of a truly courageous woman. Read more here.

(Image © Los Angeles Times)

March 06, 2008

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March 03, 2008

A PR Nightmare--I Hope

Chuck talks today about the outrage of Olympic athletes being told to keep their mouths shut about any human rights abuses they witness in China. The good news is that there is absolutely nothing the Chinese can do about the hundreds of thousands of non-athletes who will be visiting China during the Games, many of whom will undoubtedly be speaking out--loudly--about human rights abuses. In fact, that's probably the main reason they'll be attending the Games.

Yes, the Chinese could try to shut them down, too--but only if they want a PR nightmare on their hands that will overshadow coverage of the Games themselves. I hope the Western press has the courage to cover it...

And the Darwin Award Goes to...

Nemo ...people who don't have the sense to stay out of arms' reach of deadly sharks while holding bloody fish. 

What really gave me the willies while watching this sad story was when reporter Michelle Kosinski put her hand in icky, bloody fish parts to emphasize a point.   

(Image © Disney)

February 27, 2008

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