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April 24, 2009

’Your future is great’

Although I'm not a parent myself, I think James Lileks has some good thoughts here on messages that we knowingly or unknowingly send to kids -- and how those messages affect them.

As for Earth Day, I don’t mind the planting-trees-and-picking-up-trash part - the kids did that last Saturday, which is good. Labor and sweat on behalf of a cleaner city. I put in eight trees last year, so I’m holding up my end. At least the arboreal part. But I’ll have none of that YOUR FUTURE IS BLEAK stuff; I grew up with that, and it was a dark cloud hanging six inches over my head for most of my childhood. If it wasn’t ecocatastrophe that would leave us all living underground or stuck in a small smelly apartment with Edward G. Robinson pedaling a bike for ten minutes of lights, it was nukes, or that “Late Great Planet Earth” stuff that really depressed me. I suppose some kids thought it would be keen to be around when God called the game on account of sin, but I thought it was a raw deal. Can I just have a life down here first ? What’s the hurry? You have all the time in the world. You invented it.

[My daughter] was excited to tell me that they’ve discovered two new planets, and they could have water. I told her I thought there were many planets out there like ours, and I thought some of them had life. Maybe someday she’d learn they had heard a radio signal from one of them. Your future is great.

Ask Miley. Or Don’t.

Miley "I want to be a role model," Miley Cyrus told the L.A. Times. "And my job is to be a role model. But that shouldn't require me to be a parent. I'm going to make mistakes. While your kids are growing up, I have to grow up too."

That's advice blogger Perez Hilton should have kept in mind before asking Miley to weigh in on Miss California Carrie Prejean's comments on gay marriage. In a Twitter to Hilton, Cyrus wrote:

Jesus loves you and your partner and wants you to know how much he cares! That's like a daddy not loving his lil boy cuz he's gay and that is wrong and very sad! Like I said everyone deserves to be happy. I am a Christian and I love you — gay or not. Because you are no different [than] anyone else! We are all God's children!

Of course, at this, everyone's hands fly in the air. Here we go! Another teen star gone south (or, at least, liberal). Another one who's lost forever.

Since when did we ask the 16-year-olds in our lives--pop star or not--to offer an authoritative opinion on gay marriage, or really anything, for that matter? Furthermore, Miley's comment to Hilton was not offered in an official interview or public statement. It was over Twitter!

Now, I'm not saying that I agree with Miley's position or that she should have offered it. I am saying that we ought to examine whether a Twitter sent from a teenager ought to achieve newsworthy status, and whether we ought to give gravitas to a 16-year-old's opinion on the issue anyway. Nor can we conclude that this opinion is Miley's hard and fast stance on the issue from now until the grave. She's 16, folks.

Continue reading "Ask Miley. Or Don’t." »

April 23, 2009

Plan B: Abortion for Kids!

The Food and Drug Administration will soon release a new policy that will allow 17-year-old girls to gain access to an abortive medicine known as Plan B. Though many consider it nothing more than contraception, it has the ability to kill off a fertilized egg by preventing it from attaching itself to the uterus. Therefore, it is an abortifacient.

Although it should come as no surprise that the new administration would move forward on opening up new abortive opportunities to children, we should be appalled by the reasoning.

U.S. District Judge Edward Korman has made the claim that the Bush Administration allowed politics rather than science to guide their decision to refrain from giving 17-year-old kids abortifacients. Given all we know about a baby's development--the heart pumping within 3 weeks of conception, brain activity within a month and a half, etc--what "science" are abortion supporters clinging to in order to justify killing babies? It's strange how the left loves to cry out, "Follow science, not your faith," and yet when it comes to abortion, they ignore the facts to continue their political pandering.

The question of when life begins is dead. There is no question. The left has never distinguished a point of viability in the womb where they are satisfied in not aborting. The fact that partial-birth abortion even exists, and is argued for by educated people in positions of power, shows us how morally depraved the pro-abortion movement has become. 

Abortion-rights advocates march under the banner of "women's health," but as time goes on we hear less of that and more of "women's rights." It's a quick fade to black when this awful practice tries to act in the name of good because it's morally inconsistent to claim that women deserve rights while roughly half of abortions are of baby girls. As Mother Theresa said, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." 

Continue reading "Plan B: Abortion for Kids!" »

April 22, 2009

Four-year-old girl wows America, offers hope

Holding the microphone close to her little mouth, Kaitlyn stares confidently out into the audience, and begins the first few lines of her favorite song, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me ..."

About a year ago, on her way to an audition for America's Got Talent, then 4-year-old Kaitlyn Maher told her father, "Daddy, I want to see the sparkles come down." Gently, Reuben told his young daughter that it would be nice if she would make it all the way to the Top 10, but that if it didn't happen it would be okay.

"Daddy, I'm going to ask Jesus," Kaitlyn responded, bowing her head to ask Jesus to let her see the confetti fall at the night the winners of the show are announced, but adding that if it wasn't His will, she didn't want it.

Continue reading "Four-year-old girl wows America, offers hope" »

April 20, 2009

Day of Truth

Today is the “Day of Truth.” According to ex-gay and Exodus International President Alan Chambers, this day was formed “…to affirm every students' constitutional right to free speech and to provide an opportunity to have an honest conversation about sexuality… to promote biblical truth, honest dialogue, and authentic tolerance where opinions can be expressed, individuals are respected, and opposing viewpoints can harmoniously coexist.”

Don't you think it’s about time we have this kind of conversation with honesty and civility? The day is not about taking freedom away from those who struggle with, or choose to embrace, homosexuality; it's simply to educate students and young people alike to deal with their same-sex attraction responsibly and according to God’s best plan for sexuality without pressure to conform to any lifestyle. Click here to find out how to get involved.

In the end, every day should be a day of truth when discussing homosexuality and other controversial social issues. Seeking truth based on Biblical principles -- as we try to do here at The Point and in other venues like Twitter and BreakPoint WorldView -- is the best way to engage in conversation about them.

April 17, 2009

Daily roundup

April 09, 2009

’Sexting’ and Teens

Teen texting “Sexting," sending nude photos of oneself or others by cell phone, continues to be a growing trend among teenagers. If caught, a minor can be charged with child pornography violations and land on the sex offenders list, as in the case of this young man from Florida. Prosecutors probably intend to send a strong message to teenagers about the dangers of “sexting.” But is giving kids a lifelong criminal record and possible jail time as a sex offender an overreaction, or justice served?

In any case, this is a strong reminder that parents must be engaged on this topic and must create a game plan to ensure that teens' use of online and digital communication remains safe and positive. Even more importantly, they must teach teens to value themselves as holy and created in the image of God. 

For help teaching your kids Christian worldview, click here

(Image courtesy of Mom Central)

April 06, 2009

Hope amidst the Bones

Rwanda_slah This week's Newsweek features the Chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Bishop John Rucyahana, who returned to his Rwandan homeland after the genocide to help rebuild the broken nation. Ellis Cose documents some of his experiences in this week's piece:

When Rucyahana got back to Uganda in mid-July, he rented a minibus, hired a driver and took to the road with 10 other pastors. They crossed into Rwanda and made their way to Nyamata, near Kigali, the capital. The violence had died down but death was everywhere: "We saw mass graves; we saw dead bodies. In one home, we found 27 dead bodies. . . ."

Rucyahana had to act. Initially, he ran seminars, urging people to repent and rebuild. But that wasn't enough. So in 1996, he packed up his family and returned to the land of his birth to preach hope standing on "a pile of bones," as he puts it. One of his first tasks was to build a boarding school for orphans: "Having lost a million people, lots of babies were left behind." The school in Musanze, near the Volcanoes National Park, opened in 2001. It is now one of the best schools in the country. It is called Sonrise, which, Rucyahana explains, "means the Son of God rises into the misery, into our darkness."

I share part of Bishop John's story, and one of the stories of a student at the Sonrise School/Orphanage, in As We Forgive. To read his full memoir, take a look at his own The Bishop of Rwanda. I'm so glad that the wider world is being introduced to Bishop John, the recipient of BreakPoint's 2009 Wilberforce Award, and to the amazing things God has been doing in the aftermath of this tragedy.

By the way, on this day, 15 years ago, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane plummeted from the sky after being hit by a missile. It became the albatross around the neck of the Tutsi people when Hutu claimed that the RPF shot it down. The sudden streak of a missile and the fiery light of a falling plane were a diabolical kind of fireworks that night--evil's unseemly opening ceremonies to a hundred days of slaughter that would consume the country.

(Image © Newsweek)

April 02, 2009

Daily roundup

March 31, 2009

Wilson vs. Loury

Recently we ran Glenn Loury's "A Nation of Jailers" in the Daily Roundup. James Q. Wilson of the American Enterprise Institute has now written a rebuttal. An excerpt:

Glenn Loury rightly directs our attention to the troubling fact that we have put into prison a large fraction of our citizens, especially African American men. No one can be happy with this state of affairs. It is difficult to create and sustain a decent society when many of its members are former convicts.

Worrisome as this may be, Loury says little about why this happened other than to say we are a nation of "racist jailers" who operate a "greed-driven economy" and have created a "so-called underclass" that reflects the "moral deviance" of all of us. He looks askance at those who speak about the "purported net benefits to 'society' of greater incarceration."

I am one of those, and I do not feel inclined to apologize. Loury does not refer to the scholarly work of those social scientists who have worked hard to understand why we imprison so many people and with what results. Let me summarize what Daniel Nagin, David Farrington, Patrick Langan, Steven Levitt, and William Spelman have shown. Other things being equal, a higher risk of punishment reduces crime rates.

Read more. Which writer do you think has a better grasp of the problem and the solutions?

March 26, 2009

Daily roundup

March 24, 2009

Daily roundup


Hooked In the past few weeks, both Chuck and Wendy Shalit have reviewed Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children, by Dr. Joe McIlhaney and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush. I have an interview with Dr. Bush in the works, but in the meantime, both of these reviews are well worth a read. 

(Image © Northfield Publishing)

Teaching Morality

Should parents convey moral standards when discussing sex with their children? A new pamphlet produced by England's Department for Children, Schools, and Families suggests that such lessons are inappropriate when they conflict with the state's interest in producing an open and accepting society.

“Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own," the brochure advises. "Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what’s right and wrong may discourage them from being open.”

The pamphlet, Talking to Your Teenager About Sex and Relationships, began distribution in pharmacies throughout England this month, and includes detailed information on various contraception alternatives.

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute has responded to the document, calling it "outrageous."

“Preserving children’s innocence is a worthy goal," Calvert says.  "We would like to see more of that kind of language rather than this amoral approach where parents are encouraged to present their children with a smorgasbord of sexual activities and leave them to make up their own minds.”

Continue reading "Teaching Morality" »

March 18, 2009

’Just don’t kill the baby’

Bristol Tripp Pastor/blogger Rob Harrison has the best analysis I've seen of evangelicals' response to Bristol Palin, and to unwed pregnancy in general. It's so good I wish I could repost the whole thing, but I'll settle for a couple of excerpts.

I'm reluctant to give props to David Frum, who looks more like a giant wooden horse every time I see his byline, but he did a much better job than [Jon] Swift on this issue in an article he wrote six months ago for Canada's National Post.  He opened his piece in a manner Swift would no doubt approve—"Whoever imagined that we would see a Republican convention rapturously applaud an unwed teen mother?"—but then went on to actually think about what that really meant, and what it really tells us:

That moment confirmed a dramatic evolution in American politics: the transformation of the pro-life movement from an unambiguously conservative force into something more complex. . . .

The pro-life movement has come to terms with the sexual revolution. So long as unwed parenthood is considered disgraceful, many unwed mothers will choose abortion to escape disgrace. And so, step by step, the pro-life movement has evolved to an accepting—even welcoming—attitude toward pregnancy outside marriage.

As I wrote about Frum's article at the time, though I think "welcoming" is an overstatement,

Frum has captured and crystallized something of which I was aware—in my own attitudes and approach to ministry, no less than in the lives of others—but which I hadn't consciously thought about. Put simply, when pro-life concerns cross with the concern for other issues, the tie goes to the baby.

The truth is, Frum is (if you'll excuse the pun) dead right on this subject.  Sure, time was that conservative Christians in this country stigmatized teen pregnancy and disapproved of it as hard as we could; and then folks started pointing out that we weren't really discouraging teenagers from getting pregnant—all we were doing was driving them into the ungentle hands of the abortion industry.  Collectively, we took a look at ourselves and realized that the critics were right; and over time, we by and large decided that we could live with teenage pregnancy and teen single motherhood—just don't kill the baby.

That's the message on which most evangelicals in America have settled, when it comes to kids like Bristol Palin:  just don't kill the baby, and we'll do what we can to support you and help you out.  Why else have we started crisis pregnancy centers all over the place?  We didn't have a utopian choice here, we had the choice of two evils; we stared it dead in the face, thought about it for a while, and picked the lesser one.  This is the bargain we made, and I believe it's done more to reduce the abortion rate in this country than any government policy, even as it's boosted the rate of illegitimacy.

Continue reading "’Just don’t kill the baby’" »

March 17, 2009

Daily roundup

’Unwind’ and the imagination

Unwind As I was looking at one of my favorite book blogs recently, my eye was caught by this review of Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

Generations from now, after the Heartland War, life is protected from the moment of conception until age thirteen.  Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, the parents or guardians of the now-teenaged child have the option to "unwind" -- to retroactively abort -- him or her.  If the parents choose to do so, the teen is sent to a harvesting facility where their body is taken apart and reused. . . .

Unwind was outstanding.  Really freaking outstanding.

I was impressed by, well, everything.  It deals with abortion without ever ever ever feeling preachy -- I didn't once feel that Neal Shusterman revealed his opinion on the issue.  It was action-packed and exciting (I read the last few chapters with my heart in my throat) yet that there was so much to think about -- the characters have conversations about the soul, whether it exists and where it is, and about when life begins.  There are things that can be interpreted in different ways -- some people will attribute those events to science whereas some may attribute the same events to something less tangible. 

The three major characters have distinct personalities, and the character development (especially of the two boys) is very well done and the secondary characters never blend together or into the background.  The unwinding scene is as stomach-turning as anything I've ever read by Stephen King, but without being graphic or gory.  While exploring different visions of our future world, I look for a couple of things beyond the future-stuff:  to see enough of the familiar to make it still seem like our world and to see how our language and stories have evolved.  In Unwind, I found both.

Continue reading "’Unwind’ and the imagination" »

March 16, 2009

Daily roundup

RE: The Coming Evangelical Collapse

If you followed the links in Gina's post, you may have decided that MIchael Spencer’s predictions are overly apocalyptic -- like this:

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants...This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good. Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

But if current trends hold, there are, no doubt, troubling times ahead for Christians (but haven't there always been!).

According to a recent survey referenced here (CNN has more), the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christians is 75 percent, down from 86 percent in 1990. Perhaps more disturbing is that the only result found consistent from state to state is “an increase in the number of people expressing no religious affiliation.” With the increased social acceptability of “having no religion,” this is a trend that will prove challenging to reverse.

Spencer lists seven things foreshadowing the coming evangelical breakdown, the most significant, in my mind, being, “We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.”

Continue reading "RE: The Coming Evangelical Collapse" »

March 13, 2009

’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms

Slumdog-millionaire6 How did Jamal Malik, a slumdog from Mumbai, win 20 million rupees on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

A. He cheated
B. He’s lucky
C. He’s a genius
D. It is destiny

In a swirling explosion of triumphant hope and relentless love against the darkness of poverty, exploitation and violence…that question is answered.

(Spoilers after the jump)

Continue reading "’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms" »

March 11, 2009

The end of opportunity

Sarah and James Parker When President Obama signs the omnibus bill that was just passed by the Senate, which includes a provision that will defund the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program, he'll be kicking two of his daughters' own schoolmates out of Sidwell Friends and sending them back to the stagnant D.C. public school system. Bill Bennett writes:

The Omnibus legislation . . . strips funding for 1,700 poor and minority students in Washington, DC who receive federal aid to attend private schools.  The DC Opportunity Scholarship program died in the Senate last night with the Omnibus vote, despite DC Superintendent Michelle Rhee supporting it and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stating he would like to see the students in that program stay in it.  Keep in mind, the Opportunity Scholarship program currently helps two students attend Sidwell Friends School, where Barack and Michelle Obama send their two daughters, so it now looks like Sasha and Malia will have two less school mates in 2010 as a result of the vote yesterday.  As Virginia Walden Ford said:  "I’d like to see a reporter stand up at one of those nationally televised press conferences and ask President Obama what he thinks about what his own party is doing to keep two innocent kids from attending the same school where he sends his."

I guess the Obama girls are just lucky that daddy and mommy are rich and powerful. If they were in James and Sarah Parker's place, they'd be out on their ear.

(Image © Deborah Parker)

March 10, 2009

Daily roundup

Welcoming the genocidal

Jill Stanek has a post up at her blog about a black Baptist church that invited Planned Parenthood to teach their kids about teen pregnancy.

There are those who argue that conservatives keep voting for those whose policies are against their own best interests. Even if that were true, we'd have nothing on those who extend a hearty welcome to the group that's trying to wipe out their race, one baby at a time.

March 09, 2009

How Violent Video Games Prepare Our Children for Armageddon

My college-age son sent me this funny Onion "news" report, possibly because I'm frequently on his case about playing violent video games. Something to make you laugh on a Monday....

(Note: Page contains some profanity and sexually themed content.)

March 06, 2009

Define ’support’

Rihanna and Chris Brown So, it seems the abused has gone back to the abuser in one of the most high-profile criminal cases going on right now. I don't generally follow R&B very closely, but I was skimming the latest Washington Post story about Rihanna and Chris Brown over breakfast yesterday when this throwaway sentence pulled me up short:

And the father of Rihanna (real name: Robyn Fenty) said he would support his 21-year-old daughter if she decided to get back together with Brown.

Hold it right there.

Support has become one of the key catchwords of our culture, and to a certain extent, that's not a bad thing. "I support my daughter no matter what" sounds better, and usually builds a stronger relationship, than "I'll throw her out into the snow and change the locks if she doesn't listen to me."

However, we've tended to let the definition of support remain a little vague, and, as with most misuses of language, I think that's started to cause some serious problems. Support now is too often used to mean "I'll go along with whatever my loved one wants to do" -- even if, as in this case, it's insanely dangerous.

And when the speaker is a father whose daughter has been attacked, it strikes me as an especially bad thing to say. Fathers have a special duty to protect their daughters, and when they fail to fulfill that role, the results can be devastating. To quote my favorite chapter title from Dr. Meg Meeker's great book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, a dad's job is "Protect Her, Defend Her (and use a shotgun if necessary)." A girl needs to know that her father will stand up for her and keep her safe.

Continue reading "Define ’support’" »

Eleven year old charged as an adult

Brown_320 Would you put this 11 year old in prison for the rest of his life?

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have charged an 11-year-old boy as an adult for murdering his father's girlfriend. They said that they intend to ask that he be imprisoned for the rest of his life under Pennsylvania's Juvenile Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) statute. Let me be clear: what the boy did is awful, and there should be consequences for it. But those consequences should include reforming his moral compass, rather than writing him off as unsalvageable. Putting him in an adult prison for the rest of his life is essentially denying the young boy the possibility of redemption and rehabilitation.

It surprises most people to realize that in forty-two states and under federal law, a child under 18 who commits a serious crime is classified as an adult for prosecution and punishment. In some states, children as young as ten are transformed instantly into adults for criminal justice purposes. Remember, these children are too young to buy cigarettes and alcohol, too young to shave, often too young to drive. Many of these kids still have stuffed animals on their beds. Yet, they are tried as adults, and if convicted, they are sent to adult prison, often for life without any possibility of parole.

There are currently at least 2,225 people incarcerated in the United States who are imprisoned for the rest of their lives for crimes they committed as children. These are not "super-predators" with long records of vicious crimes. In fact, an estimated 59 percent of these youngsters received the sentence for their first-ever criminal conviction.

The crime this boy committed was horrible. He hid a shotgun under a blanket and calmly walked downstairs and shot his father's girlfriend in the back of her head. This is a shocking crime. But it was also his first run-in with the law. Despite his clean record, state law requires that he be charged as an adult. And the District Attorney said he expects the boy to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Continue reading "Eleven year old charged as an adult" »

March 03, 2009

Daily roundup

Godparenting for Dummies

Baby_godmother_loves_me One of the greatest blessings in my life is two adorable little girls whom I get to call my goddaughters. But although I love being a godmother, I'm still figuring out the nature of the job. I look forward to the day when they're old enough for me to introduce them to my favorite books, take them toy shopping, and do all kinds of other fun things. But I know there's a lot more to godmother duty than that.

Kathryn Slattery shares some helpful tips in this article at Guideposts.com:

Books on the subject are surprisingly hard to find. I also talked to friends, godparents and godchildren alike, to learn from their experiences. And what I discovered was fascinating.

The tradition of god-parenting among Christians is an ancient one going back to the days of the early church, when believers were persecuted—and when life expectancies in general were much shorter than they are today. 

While modern-day believers in America are not persecuted as the early church once was, it could be said that the healthy growth and development of our children's faith is threatened as never before by the cumulative effect of society's ills: widespread divorce; broken homes; rampant materialism; both parents working out of economic necessity rather than choice; lack of parental supervision; parental mental illness; alcohol and drug abuse; parental physical, sexual and emotional abuse; and the desensitization of our children to violence and sex via unsupervised viewing of inappropriate television, videos, movies and the internet.

In other words, kids today need all the help they can get! Over and over I was astonished to hear from clergy and laypeople alike that good god-parenting could make a powerful difference.

Read more here. And if you have any ideas to share from your own godparenting experience, please leave a comment below. I can use all the help I can get, too.

(Image © BuyAthletic.com)

February 26, 2009

Daily roundup

She’s Having a Baby

Candacenshelly A WNBA star is pregnant . . . and of course, this savvy young mother-to-be has run into opposition regarding her pregnancy. Is it because she's single and financially unstable? No -- so find out why.

(Image courtesy of Seattle Weekly)

February 25, 2009

Daily roundup

How to help kids ’get it’

Kids.jpg A new BreakPoint column about young people and worldview, by John Stonestreet, executive director of Summit Ministries, contains some helpful insights that relate to the conversation Anne started yesterday.

I often hear students describe their experience of Christianity in these terms: “I’ve been a Christian my whole life, but I don’t really get it”; or, “I prayed the prayer when I was four, but I don’t think it stuck”; or, “I committed my life to Christ when I was 15, but I am not sure it stuck.” . . .

Often, our approaches to youth ministry sanctify adolescence. Whereas teenagers have the capacity—and thus, I would argue, the calling—to think deeply and broadly about their culture, confront evil and injustice, and champion the truth, they instead are encouraged in their adolescent narcissism. We present a neutered Gospel, only about them and their needs, lacking vision (Proverbs 29:18).

Read more here about why Christian kids aren't "getting it," and how we can help make sure they do.

February 24, 2009

Daily roundup

February 18, 2009

’A love supreme’

Johnson family Getting shot in the mouth by a teenage robber might turn some people against their fellow human beings. C. Kenneth Johnson let it inspire him to adopt eight at-risk children and foster 144 more.

And he has done it all as a single man, too busy to look for a mate, he says, figuring that the chances of finding someone willing to help raise so many troubled children would be slim to none.

"When I look back, I can see that it was a lot of work," Johnson told me. "But I didn't think about it that way. I just did it."

While in his care, none of the children was neglected or abused. They did not run away from home, skip school, commit crimes or otherwise disappear through the cracks of a dysfunctional child welfare system.

Nothing bad to report. You might even say that when it comes to adoptions and foster care, no news is good news -- except that if you want to know what it really takes to help children in need, you need to know about people like Johnson.

Go here to read more about this incredible man.

(Image © Courtland Milloy for The Washington Post)

And a Little Child Will Lead Them

Liaspeec Remember the 12-year-old girl whose videotaped pro-life speech became an Internet sensation? More of her story is now available--and it's one amazing story.

I'm reminded in hearing little Lia of another young one--David, who could not stand by and let the name of his God be blasphemed day after day. Sometimes it takes innocence to see injustice and evil as stark and ugly as they truly are.

For the full story, go here or here.

(Image © LifeSiteNews)

February 17, 2009

Abstinence: realistic or unrealistic?

Bristol Tripp Last night Greta Van Susteren ran part one of an interview with Bristol Palin -- the first interview that Gov. Sarah Palin's oldest daughter has given, if I'm not mistaken, and an interview she chose to do herself. It must take tremendous courage to go on the air and tell your story after being the target of months of filthy gossip, jokes, and name-calling. (You see, we're all for respecting and supporting girls in this society -- until we scent blood in the water, and then it's no holds barred.) But as you can see if you watch the interview, this is a young woman who prefers to speak up on her own behalf.

I think it's a good thing that Bristol wants to help prevent teen pregnancy, that she emphasized that raising a child is "hard work" and not "glamorous" at all, and that she thinks it's better for kids to wait. She had a difficult line to walk between not glorifying teen pregnancy and demonstrating that a child is a blessing, not a curse or a punishment. On the whole, I think she did pretty well at that.

I did find myself wishing, though, that she could have made a stronger case for premarital abstinence. Obviously, just the sight of this 18-year-old girl with a baby -- even a baby that she clearly loves -- is going to make your average teenager think twice about sexual involvement. But when Bristol mentioned that abstinence can be "unrealistic" for a teenager, I don't think she gave enough credit to those teens who think it through and commit themselves to waiting, even when they're head over heels in love. It may be difficult in a sex-obsessed culture that gives the abstinent virtually no support at all, but it is possible and desirable.

As Bristol recounted, after becoming pregnant, she had to sit down with the child's father and come up with a plan as to how they were going to handle things. It's just as possible to make a plan before becoming pregnant, about how you're going to handle your romantic life -- and in the end, it saves a lot of difficulty and heartache.

I wish Bristol and her precious little one all the best -- and I hope that if she spends more time speaking out against teen pregnancy, she'll give some serious thought as to how best to encourage teenagers to wait, and why it's by far the best -- and yes, a perfectly realistic -- option.

(Note: Please keep all comments on topic, in accordance with our comment policy. If you have smears about the Palins and/or the Johnstons, keep them to yourself or prepare to see them deleted. This is not the National Enquirer or the DailyKos, and I am not in a mood -- in fact, I am never in a mood -- to be lenient toward petty gossip.)

(Image © Fox News Channel)

February 16, 2009

It Could Not Happen to Everyone

Theresa Flores (Warning: disturbing themes)

It could happen to anyone. Really?

Last night, MSNBC aired "Sex Slaves: The Teen Trade," an exposé on the prevalence of sex trafficking in suburban America. The gist: It's not just poor girls from southeast Asia who find themselves at the mercy of violent pimps who sell girls to 10 guys a night and keep all the money for themselves--it could be your daughter. In the episode, Theresa Flores, a middle-class suburban girl, tells how she was sucked into sexual slavery as a 15-year-old high school student.

Enamored of an upperclassman named "Daniel," Theresa allows him to drive her home one day. On their way, Daniel brings her to his house, where he rapes her. The next day he blackmails her by showing her pictures his cousin has taken of the rape, informing her that she must do whatever he tells her or he will pass the photos around the school. Afraid everyone will find out and that her parents will be angry with her, Theresa agrees to come to Daniel's house that night, where she is gang raped.

This, of course, isn't enough to eliminate the blackmail, and Theresa gets sucked into a two-year nightmare of sexual slavery. And her parents don't have a clue.

After one of the worst nights she can remember, Theresa is finally rescued by the police and brought home in the dead of night. Her parents' response--shock and anger. The next day, her mother won't speak to her. "We didn't have parents we could talk to about these things," recounts Theresa's younger brother.

The family eventually moves away from the town and relocates in another suburban location.

It could happen to anybody, says Theresa, now an advocate and mother. It doesn't matter if your dad makes $100,000, drives nice cars, and provides a decent education for his children. Anyone can get sucked into sex trafficking.

I began to think about that. I grew up in suburbia. Could this have happened to me? I don't think so.

Here's why:

Continue reading "It Could Not Happen to Everyone" »

February 13, 2009

Daily roundup

Out of the mouths of babes

(Via The Other McCain)

February 11, 2009

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February 09, 2009

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February 06, 2009

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February 05, 2009

Movie bleg: Help a fellow Pointificator


Reader Sue Norton writes:

I noticed you reviewed Bedtime Stories and Inkheart. I'm trying to find a good movie for our youth, ages 12-18, to watch during a pizza night. Do you have any suggestions? I'd love it!

I threw out a few suggestions: the Narnia movies (although most of the kids have probably seen them), City of Ember (haven't seen it, but I've heard it praised by Pointificators and others), Wall-E, and The Incredibles. Maybe The Princess Bride, if it's not considered too ancient. But the truth is, I'm not the ideal person to answer the question. I didn't do many church youth activities at that age; I was usually the kid holed up at home with a rented MGM musical from the '50s or something equally uncool.

So I promised Sue I'd throw the question open to all of you. What are some good youth-group-pizza-night movies?

February 02, 2009

Chasing the Rainbow

Rainbow I just finished Alex Kotlowitz's (1991) bestseller There Are No Children Here, a sobering look at two boys growing up in one of Chicago's worst projects in the '80s. Unlike many books that attempt to "get inside" life in the ghetto, this one actually does...because Kotlowitz did the journalist's hard work, gathering the story slowly and patiently. For three years, he spent almost every weekend with Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers (10 and 7, respectively, at the beginning of the book).

He saw their lives at the rawest points--the days when they huddled inside their grotto-like apartment while bullets from gang wars riddled the hallways outside; the days they visited their big brother in jail; the day they discovered that one of their best friends had been shot by the police. Kotlowitz watched Lafayette and Pharoah fight for survival in their unique ways--Lafayette retreating into his room or into the silence of his thoughts, once in a while admitting that "I'm tired," tired of life; Pharoah stuttering through spelling bees, hoping some day to graduate from college and move out of the projects.

He saw their premature adulthood, but, once in a while, he caught a glimmer of their unadulterated childlikeness--like the day that the boys saw their first rainbow. Enchanted by thoughts of gold and leprechauns, the less-jaded Pharoah urged his older brother to chase the rainbow with him. Lafayette couldn't move, mentally trying to reconcile his lost childhood with the urge to follow the rainbow to his forgotten dreams. Kotlowitz tried to make sense of Lafayette's thoughts:

Heaped with disappointments, fourteen-year-old Lafayette wanted to believe. He wanted to be allowed to dream, to reach, to imagine. He wanted another chance to chase a rainbow.

Is it worse never to see the rainbow in the first place, or to see the rainbow only to realize that you're too old to chase it? In that question lies the tragedy of lost innocence, whether for the boy who survived the Rwandan genocide, the girl who endured sexual abuse, or the child who grew up on the darker side of town.

January 30, 2009

Daily roundup

Open movie thread: Family movie edition

Movie camera On recent outings with friends, I've caught two family movies that I enjoyed very much: Bedtime Stories and Inkheart. With nothing that might be considered objectionable except for a bit of gross-out humor in the former and some fantasy-type violence in the latter, both movies featured good stories; strong, appealing characters; and loving families. Bedtime Stories, which in its best moments reminded me of the days when Disney really knew how to make 'em, did well at the box office. But I was sorry to see that Inkheart didn't follow suit. Perhaps the violence took it out of the running for the youngest kids, or perhaps, as some have suggested, it was just released too soon after its predecessor. But in any case -- again, unless the violence in Inkheart would be a problem for any of your children -- I would recommend either for a night out with the kids.

Have you seen any good family films lately that you'd like to recommend?

January 27, 2009

Rites of passage

Miley-cyrus-vanity-fair Most of us are well aware that pop culture is contributing to hyper-sexualization of young girls. Study after study -- not to mention the evidence of our own eyes and ears -- has shown that. But in this piece, University of Wisconsin student Allison Prolte starts a train of thought about how the process works and why it's so effective.

The main female stars that kids look to as role models are definitely the Disney stars, such as Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens and Nickelodeon star Jamie Lynn Spears. Though all of the aforementioned celebrities have starred in squeaky-clean movies and television shows, their personal lives are anything but clean.

Sixteen-year-old Cyrus, who prides herself on being a good Christian girl, is currently dating 20-year-old underwear model Justin Gaston. Parents of "Hannah Montana" fans everywhere must be proud. Cyrus has also had her fair share of racy pictures on the Internet, showing her in nothing but her underwear and in seductive poses.

In 2007, then-18-year-old Vanessa Hudgens got herself into a little problem that no song and dance from "High School Musical" could begin to solve. Naked pictures of her spread like wildfire on the Internet.

And 17-year-old Spears, star of the hit Nickelodeon show, Zoey 101, announced that she was pregnant last year.

More than a decade ago, adolescents could watch "Clarissa Explains it All" on Nickelodeon without the fear of cancellation because Melissa Joan Hart was pregnant with her boyfriend's baby.

It's no surprise that television shows and their stars have become racier as years go on. There are networks like The CW, which primarily has teen-oriented material, showing advertisements of the stars of the highly-popular "Gossip Girl" naked in a pool. People of all ages see and remember that.

Prolte's words suggest a certain pattern that, when you think about it, has become a modern rite of passage in the eyes of young viewers. A preteen or teenage actress or singer starts off fresh, wholesome, and innocent -- someone mom and dad can feel comfortable with as their little girl dresses like her, lip-syncs all her songs, or covers her room with posters of her. The whole family is happy. Then, one of two things happens. Or sometimes both.

Continue reading "Rites of passage" »

January 15, 2009

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January 14, 2009

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January 09, 2009

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