Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What comes 'round!

In November 1999, as we were getting ready to leave Hong Kong for good, a number of friends mentioned that it was a shame that I was leaving just a few months away from obtaining Permanent Residency Status, which would have made me a defacto official citizen of Hong Kong.

I didn't care...I was America bound and remember joking, "If God ever wants me back, he'll get me another work visa." Well...10 years later, He did...and He did!

We arrived in Hong Kong after a final flurry of activities in Qingdao (which involved a lot of tears all around). School ended on Dec 18...and we boarded a plane for Hong Kong on the 19th. As we began our decent into the city Tammy and I both experienced a flood of memories and excitement. After 10 years away, we were going to live in Hong Kong again!

The airport shuttle took us to the YWCA serviced apartment where we are temporarily staying, and because we were the LAST hotel on the list, had a pleasant Saturday night drive through the city. It was as if we were getting a welcome back tour just for us. Hong Kong was lit up for Christmas and we kept staring out the big bus windows with wide grins, pinching each other and exclaiming, "We're back!"

Anyhow, some of the highlights of the last few days:

* We visited the school where I will be working and where Gabriel will be attending. Gabriel was amazed as he will be coming from a campus with a secondary student body of 18 to one of 700.

* Went to Hong Kong Disneyland which was decorated perfectly for Christmas. What a wonderful day...but I still couldn't get Gabriel to ride Space Mountain with me!

* Spent Christmas Eve with some dear friends we have known in Hong Kong for many, many years! Good food, wine, and conversation made it a special night.

* Spent Christmas Day and night with Island City Church (the church we planted many years ago) at the Noah's Ark attraction. A group of businessmen built an "ark" to the scale found in the Bible which includes conference rooms, hotel and hostel rooms, team-building activities, restaurants, a museum etc. all along the beach. Had a lot of fun with old familiar faces as well as new friends.

* Have to be careful not to gain weight having moved from a culinary desert in China, to a city where every ethnic dish from a Ruby Tuesday's Blue Cheese hamburger to a take away chicken vindaloo is available!! The diet starts soon :)

* Spent a few days house hunting. Have a couple good leads but we'll see. Having to re adjust my thinking that when a housing agent points to a bedroom that is about the size of a closet in America and remarks, "Look at all the space you'll have" that they are not making a joke.

* Had a wonderful Chinese hotpot dinner with and old friend, his family, and co-workers.

Anyhow, that is why the blogging has been sporadic lately. We've been busy...and happy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

America: Sometimes you gotta be proud!

Living in a country run by a very authoritarian government can, at times, makes me appreciate some of the things America and the West actually does right.

On Monday I was watching This Week with George Stephanopoulos (my favorite news show and one I NEVER miss) and he had on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. As these two sat side by side fielding questions from Stephanopoulos a thought struck me, "Two of the most powerful and influential leaders in our country have given up their Sunday morning to answer questions (and some hard questions) from a journalist, and those answers are being broadcast LIVE across the nation.


What we take for granted in the States would be anathema here in China. A national figure fielding live questions broadcast to the populous? Unthinkable! The nations leaders going on TV and giving a very frank and transparent description of situations facing the nation. Wow!

When President Obama arrived for a visit here last month he expected to have an open forum for a town hall meeting on a University campus in Shanghai. Instead, he found 400 handpicked students that were only allowed to ask "softball" questions. He naively assumed that there would be a frank and open exchange of ideas. He quickly learned in China, ideas flow in only one direction.

Jake Tapper, from ABC NEWS who was travelling with the President was surprised that his own blog was blocked here in China. (Not so surprising to us living here, I'm writing to you on this blog via a proxy server as my blog is blocked as well). In the video I include he is even stopped from asking questions of the students by a government official. When he asks "Why?" the government official simply responds, "There is no why?"

See the video here: Jake Tapper on Obama in China

Could you imagine the uproar that would occur in the States if a government official stopped you from speaking with the press? Especially on a college campus in front of everyone at a lecture? Good Lord, there would probably be a riot. But in China, such actions are normative and so tolerated by the public.

So as I sat watching Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates answering very difficult live questions on TV for the American people, a wonderful feeling came over me;

I was proud of my country!

Friday, December 4, 2009

High Priests of Science

This week a computer was hacked at a scientific lab in England; a lab which is a more respected institution studying the effects of climate change. The break in involved the stealing of a number of e-mails which seem to indicate:

* the need to raise people's fear about global warming
* that raw data that was not helpful to the argument of rising temperatures was thrown out
* and that other data was altered to fit the theories of global warming better.

Now I love Science! One of my favorite courses in high school back in the day and still I love to read science articles about the newest discovery in this and that. But I'm a sceptic in many areas and science is a big one. When I get into discussions on controversial science matters, I am always bewildered when inevitably people always fall back on science as if it was this "pure" and "unbiased" discipline. That scientists dispassionately gather evidence and present those findings in a neutral atmosphere with no external factors at all...just a desire for the truth!

And I'm always like, "You're kidding, right?"

There are big bucks in research grants and right now politics are all geared towards environmental protection. Governments and other foundations are throwing lots of pesos at anything labeled "Green"...cuz being Green is what is hot. So is it surprising that flawed human scientists alter data to fit a political or economic agenda? Of course not!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Scientists Hide Global Warming Data
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Actually, global warming has never been a burr under my saddle. I've always believed that yeah, we're probably affecting the climate a little, but no, not to the degree the Environmental High Priests would have us believe.

I've always taken the approach of my man Dennis Miller when he says, "The average temperature in the last 100 years has risen by one degree...that sounds pretty stable to me."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Water on the Moon

One of the most incredible scientific discoveries in my lifetime occurred this week.

There is water on the moon!

Recently, NASA plummeted a capsule into the moon's surface at 3500 miles an hour to create an explosive plume that could be analyzed. They had hoped to find a few teaspoons worth of water in that plume.

Instead they found 24 gallons!

That there is water on the moon changes the future of our manned spaced program and our vision for exploration (and colonization)of the solar system. Water means not only drinking water that doesn't need to be hauled to the moon (prohibitively expensive) but oxygen and fuel from the hydrogen.

Now its up to the Obama administration to step up to the plate. A recent review by the administration says that a planned return to the moon by 2020 was "unrealistic" given the additional need for funds. The panel determined that NASA is currently underfunded 3 billion a year to reach that goal.

I usually rail against government spending but this is one area that I say we need to open the checkbooks. Time to pony up!

In the words of my favorite quote from The Right Stuff:

"No bucks? No Buck Rogers"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I See Four Lights!!!

In George Orwell's 1984, the protagonist, Winston Smith, is captured and tortured by the State towards the end of the story. As part of his re-education he is shown 4 lights and is asked how many lights he sees. "I see four lights" he responds.

Wrong! He is told he MUST see five lights. Over time he is conditioned so that he finally sees five lights. Its not enough that he says there are five lights, he has to see and believe it to be true.

Watching TV lately I have come to feel more and more like Winston Smith all the time. I feel I am being conditioned to believe something to be true that I know is not.

Today Tammy and I were watching a new TV series we have started to enjoy called Flash Forward. If you haven't seen it, it's about what happens when the whole world blacks out for a couple minutes and everyone experiences a premonition of the future. In a nutshell, its been pretty cool.

Today one of the characters, who is a lesbian, has a date with another lady. OK, we think, "This is the 2000's" its something we have to endure occasionally. Then one of them starts talking about doing a "three way" with Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. I start thinking, "Are you kidding me" This is not a rented movie, or even cable...this is network TV that my 11 year old son watches with me. Then both girls go back to one of the girl's places where they begin to seriously "go for each other". Wow!! Lesbians making out.

What used to be restricted to the back aisle porn section of the video store is now front and center on network TV. Would someone explain how we went in fifty years from Lucy and Ricky sharing separate beds and not being able to say the word "pregnant" over the air to lesbian sex?

And then I realized they won't do this yet with guys yet because its still to creepy but girls...thats a little more palatable. Ten years ago this would never have been allowed...ten years from now? Mmmmmm

I'm being conditioned!

I know something is wrong, but they are telling me its right. I know there are four lights but they are going to keep at me until I see five. Its not enough that I say there are five lights, I have to believe it!

But they won't get me and you know why?

Because I see four lights!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tuesday's Election Recap

“The rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated” said a witty Mark Twain more than a century ago. Perhaps the same could be said of the Republican Party.

Last night’s GOP victories for the Governorships of New Jersey and Virginia were a major setback for the Obama administration. The President carried both New Jersey and Virginia in his victory last year and personally made trips to New Jersey to campaign for the Democratic incumbent Joe Corzine but it was not enough to for Republican long shot Chris Christie to take the victory by an amazing 4 percentage points. What’s even more stunning is that Corzine outspent Christie by a 2-1 margin. For a Republican to take New Jersey is HUGE for the GOP.

Likewise in Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell defeated Democrat Creigh Deeds in a closely watched race for the Governor spot there. What is most worrying for the Democrats in 2010 though is the swing in voting habits for voters claiming to be independents.

In New Jersey, the Republican candidate took the Independent vote by 27% over the Democrat incumbent. Likewise, in Virginia, the Republicans won Independents by a 62% to 37% margin. This bodes well for the Republicans as Obama hands down won Independent voters in his 2008 victory.

Now last year people were talking about the demise of the Republican Party; that it was destined to become a regional southern party. I was always doubtful of this. True, the Republican Party was acting, speaking, and portraying themselves in a way that was completely embarrassing to many in our party and much of our defeat was self inflicted. But at the end of the day, Americans are inherently minimalists when it comes to government involvement in their lives and I knew that once the Dems were in power, taxes started going up, and Washington began telling us what to do and how to do it, the scales would begin to balance itself again.

Then there is New York’s 23 Congressional District. A solid Republican stronghold that could only have been lost once Sarah Palin got involved. Not that she should be blamed alone; but the Republican revival would be faster, stronger, and more palatable to the average American if she would confine her activities to the fringes of civilization.

Another surprise was the voter's of Maine overturning a homosexual marriage policy passed by their legislature earlier this year. This was viewed as a major setback for the homosexual rights lobby as Maine is one of the most liberal minded states in the Union. Homosexuality is much hipper in America these days... but apparently not hip enough.

All of this bodes well for the Republicans but they are far from out of the woods yet. We still lack a Statesman who can articulately state a vision from America that can inspire the average American. Their gains two days ago were more the result of Democratic disgust than Republican trust.

But Democratic disgust may be a pretty good place to start...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where are you Bill Buckley?

I was watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart the other day and, in between laughs, was forced, when confronted with witty and intelligent liberal satire, to bemoan the sad state of affairs when it comes to witty, intelligent conservative satire.

As a conservative (small c) with a thirst for pithy, political discourse I think I am in my rights to ask, "Where are you Bill Buckley when we need you?" Buckley, who died last year was the "Godfather of Modern Conservatism". His mind was razor sharp and he used it to turn the tide of liberal thought in this country. He did it with charm, humor, and a little twinkle in his eye that seemed to say, "When I'm done embarrassing you, I'd like to buy you a drink."

But where are the intelligent voices on the right these days? I know they are out there but they tend to get drowned out by the bombastic ravings of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the like. Now don't get me wrong, I am amused when I watch Beck or listen to Limbaugh. I can even enjoy the same way I can enjoy a WWF wrestling match for a few minutes; but I would never call it a sport.

It is what it is...lowbrow entertainment. They will continue to feed the piranha that swirl beneath them awaiting their next frenzied feeding, but will never create a conservative shift in the cultural arena in the way Buckley could.

To put it in a nut-shell...Bill Buckley made it hip and cool to be conservative in way that the current host of talking heads could never do.

But don't dispair, there are some bright lights out on the horizon but you do have to look for them:

Dennis Miller: I've loved Dennis since the 80's when he did Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. I used to go see him as well in the comedy club circuit and have always enjoyed his clever word play. Unfortunately he is more libertarian than conservative, but in a desert, beggers can't be choosers. I love listening to him anyway. Lately he has camped out on FOX News and my advice to him is that I know he has to pay the bills...but aim higher. Check him out at:

Dennis Prager: Another very smart Dennis. Dennis Prager hosts a syndicated morning radio show out of Los Angeles. I used to catch it in Denver and loved it. I may have to pay up for his podcasts as I can't listen to the live broadcast anymore here in China.

Joe Scarsborough: Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarsborough hosts "Morning Joe" on MSNBC and is the token conservative on that rather interesting little cable news channel. I'm able to catch the Itunes podcasts here and I always love his perspective on political and cultural situations. If all conservatives were like Joe the Republican Party wouldn't be in the mess they are in.

Dinesh D'Souza: Recently a conservative friend who was citing the positive qualities of Rush Limbaugh to me asked who Dinesh D'Souza was when I suggested he give one of his books a try. The fact that he knew Rush but didn't know Dinesh shows you the uphill battle conservatives with a brain are fighting. Dinesh is an American of Indian descent who is primarily a writer but is also featured regularly on the lecture circuit. I'm currently reading his book, Letters to a Young Conservative which is outstanding. I suggest you read one of his books or check out the many entries he has on Youtube.

Now I don't endorse every position these four gentlemen take and it is certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list BUT it should get you started. None of them can replace the great Bill Buckley, but we can try to emulate the culture of wit, reason, and humor he brought to the conservative argument.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top 10 Guy Flicks

Time to take a break from politics & theology and blog about other important movies. I was watching Dirty Harry this week and started musing about my top 10 "Guy Flicks" (I'm hopelessly addicted to "lists")

Now to make MY top 10 Guy Flick movies there has to be not just a testosterone driven storyline, but a character or characters who adhere to a strong moral code, even if that code goes against society's mores. Now, I don't care much for car chases and explosions bore me. Instead a top "man flick" must have good guys who fight bad guys (usually against overwhelming odds),say really cool things while doing it, save the girl, and ultimately, serve as a beacon of masculinity in an increasingly metrosexual world.

My top 10 in no particular order:

1) DIRTY HARRY: The movie that started this list. The 1971 Clint Eastwood classic was a cultural phenomena when it was first released. When the liberal policies of President Johnson & the Warren Court were creating an America that seemed to reward criminals at the expense of law and order, Dirty Harry Calahan arrived on the scene to fight not only a serial killer but "the system." 30 years before Jack Bauer, Harry was torturing the bad guy to save innocent lives...and America loved it! Favorite quote: "You're wondering did I fire six shots or only 5?...Well do you feel lucky, punk?"

2)The Three Musketeers: This 1940's classic is a favorite of mine. Gene Kelly and Van Heflin lead the musketeers against the English...and the "system" (Its a recurring theme in these movies) Great swordplay but mixed with a fantastic story and dialogue. Favorite quote:
Villian(during a swordfight)- "Why don't you fight with your right hand Athos?
Athos- "I save my right hand for my drinking."

3) Tombstone: Both Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer's best film. Kilmer's Doc Holliday is so good it nearly overshadows the flawless performances of Russell and Sam Elliot. The story of 4 guys who just want to be left alone but bringdown hellfire when their world and the lives of innocent townspeople are threatened. Favorite quote:
Jack Johnson- "Why you doin' this, Doc?
Doc Holliday: Because Wyatt Earp is my friend.
Jack Johnson: Friend? Hell, I got lots of friends.
Doc Holliday: ...I don't.

4)The Lord of the Rings: Yep, I include all three movies under one banner here. Each part has its special "guy moments" and although The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite installment the battle at Helm's Deep in The Two Towers has to rank as one of the best "yes we're going to die, but we'll die gloriously" moments in cinema history. Favorite quote:
Aragorn: I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you I will not let the White City fall, nor our people fail.
Boromir: Our people, our people. I would have would have followed you, my brother... my captain... my king.
Aragorn: Be at peace, Son of Gondor.

5) 300: I think George Bush could have sold the Iraq war to the American people easier if there were a few more caped American soldiers sporting bare six-pack stomachs and wielding spears on CNN every night. Alas, that was not to be. But we do have Gerard Butler as the Spartan king Leonidas leading his 300 Spartans against the Persian armies numbering in the thousands. I'm betting on the guy with the six pack.. The quotes are too numerable so we'll have to go with:
King Leonidas: "The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed."

6) The Man who Shot Liberty Valance: My favorite John Wayne movie also stars Hollywood legends Jimmy Stewart and Lee Marvin. The story: Before Stewart's character, young attorney Ransom Stoddard, can prepare the American west for rule of law, John Wayne has to deal with a the the evil Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Never has shooting someone in cold blood been so justified. Yes, the act is morally ambiguous, but when John Wayne does it, it must be OK...right?
Favorite quote: (Valance trips Stewart in the saloon while carrying John Wayne's steak)
John Wayne: "That was my steak Valance...pick it up"
Libert Valance: "Hear that boy (to Stewart) pick it up"
John Wayne: No Valance I said you!. YOU pick it up."

7) Fight Club: Ok, I'm stretching the criteria for morally strong protagonists by including this one but I have to do it. Now Tammy really hates this movie but I think it speaks to a generation of men who have slowly been worn down to a nub. In a society of increasingly androgynous "girly men" this film rebels against the cultural neutering that is taking place across the Western world and says "No, you will not be defined as a person by your choice in dining set."
Brad Pitt's Tyler Durden secretly hides in every one of us who is willing to admit it. After watching this movie I wanted to blow up an IKEA :)
Favorite quote: Tyler Durden: "No, it is not. How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight? I don't wanna die without any scars. So come on; hit me before I lose my nerve"

8) The Godfather: The granddaddy of "guy" flicks. I have never met a guy who did not like this movie. Marlon Brando's Don Corleone sets the standard by which all other cinema mob bosses are inevitably compared. James Caan's Sonny is not just a mobster, he's a force of nature and, of course, Al Pachino' Michael. From the moment he pulls the trigger on Capt. McClusky, we know his destiny as the future head of the Family has begun. Once again the favorite lines are too numerable but this one ranks up there:
Johnny Fontaine: (Whimpering) "I don't know what to do Godfather...I don't know what to do."
Don Corleone: (Slapping him) "You can act like a Man!"

9) Braveheart Ok you have to include at least one Mel Gibson movie in a list of "guy films." Gibson has single handedly cornered the " bad guys have killed my wife and/or kid so lets break out the can of whup-ass" genre and whether it be Lethal Weapon, Mad Max, Ransom, or The Patriot, Mel it sure to rain holy fire down on whoever he is seeking revenge for. Of course his magnum opus in this series is his Academy Award winning Best Picture "Braveheart". In it, Mel's wife is murdered (surprise) and he and his merry band of men take on all of England. A classic!
Favorite quote: "Freedom!!"

10) Ocean's 11 & 13: George Cloony and Brad Pitt radiate cool out to about 15 feet in this classic heist series. (But notice how I omit Ocean's 12). Honest crooks who take on nastier real crooks are always a favorite movie plot to any real man. These films have an added bonus; because of the inclusion of Brad Pitt and George Clooney, they camouflage themselves as "chick flicks". By watching them, girls think they have made the movie choice of the evening when it was really you getting the pick. Pretty cool huh?
Favorite quote: No quote here (although there are some). Instead I have to include the scene at the beginning of Ocean's 13 when Brad Pitt is with a crew breaking into a bank. The wall is broken down and they are just about to take the money when Pitt's phone rings. Its a call notifying him his friend is in trouble. Ignoring the money around him he just says sorry to his crew and walks away as they stare on in disbelief. Too cool! Gotta go, a friend needs me.

Ahh finished and yet there are others that come to mind so Honerable Mentions must go to:

* The Magnificent Seven (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen)
(...This really should be in the top 10)
* The Untouchables (Kevin Costner & Sean Connery)
* Highlander (Christopher Lambert & Sean Connery)
* Excaliber (The John Boorman King Arthur film)
* Silverado (Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, Kevin Kline & Scott Glenn)
* The Right Stuff (Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Sam Shepherd)
* Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.)
* Nearly anything with Robert Duvall

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hong Kong: Its Official!

Well, its really official now! In about 9 weeks we will leave China for Hong Kong to take up a new position as Head of Christian Education at Yew Chung International School. In affect we are going "home"!

We left Hong Kong ten years ago to plant a church in Boulder Colorado but for the last few years we pined for our lost home in Asia. Its funny because Hong Kong often drove me crazy but after a while both Tammy and I just missed the "crazy". Sometimes you don't appreciate things until it isn't there anymore.

In 2005 we returned to the city to visit Island City Church, which was the church we founded, on the occasion of it's 10th anniversary. On our first morning there while walking the busy streets Tammy was almost giddy! She finally just turned to me and said, "Lets come home."

I was pretty sure then that we would be back in Hong Kong one day. Of course there was a long haul between then and now.

In 2008 I flew to Hong Kong to explore some job opportunities. In a nutshell after a week I had a couple of possibilities that would allow us to relocate back to the city but nothing "felt" right.

Increasingly though we were feeling God's tug and I responded to a friend's suggestion that I apply for a Dorm supervisor position in Qingdao China. I was very reluctant. One, I didn't want to be a "Dorm Parent" and two, I knew Tammy would not entertain a move to China. But we argreed to an interview and, lo and behold, it was the best interview I had had in a while. I knew that the Dorm Parent position would be a foot in the door to both a higher position and a move back to Hong Kong and I was given every opportunity and encouragement from the school. In the last year I assumned many other duties including secondary teacher and campus coordinator while Tammy has assumed the Dorm Supervisor role as well as teaching art.

Last month I received a call from the main office in Hong Kong indicating that the Head of Christian & Moral Education (who is a friend of mine) would be resigning and offering me the position. Wow!

God does have his ways. We followed his leading even when it didn't always make sense and now He is leading us back to the place where we had started.

Hong Kong is so special to us. Its the city where Tammy and I met and fell in love. Its the city where as a young couple we spent years doing missionary work and eventually pastoring a church. Its the city where our son was born.

So, I don't know yet what He has in store for us as He brings us home to Hong Kong but we are ready...older...and hopefully a little wiser :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Colorado Rockies: What a Season!

The Colorado Rockies ended their 2009 season with a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to the Philidelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series. Both their losses on Monday & Tuesday (yes, I know it was Sunday & Monday but I'm watching the games in China) were nail biting heartstoppers that came down to the last batter of the 9th inning both times. In the end however it was the Phillies who prevailed.

But when you think where the Rockies were in May of this year, then the fact that they were in the playoffs and had the highest seasonal wins in franchise history(92)
becomes all the more extraordinary.

On May 29th the Colorado Rockies were fighting for last place with a 19-28 record and a frightful 15 games out of first place. Its about that time when the fans gave up any hope on the current season and begin making loud voices about what needs to be done to be contenders in 2010.

The Rockies ownership did something more drastic. They fired their Colorado loved manager Clint Hurdle who had led the team to a dramatic World Series appeareance in 2007 and replaced him with Bench Coach Jim Tracy. I had read a book on leadership by Richard Nixon years ago and one of the points he made in the book went along the lines of , "Never underestimate the value of a stratigic firing."

Well, it worked. Inbelieveably so. In the month of June the team posted their franchise best wins in a month by winning 21 out of 28 games. The rest is history now as the Rockies made an incredible run climbing out of the division basement.

I followed all the action from China thanks to and a high speed internet connection. In fact Tammy said at a Rockies game we attended before we moved that a move to China was now OK as long as we could still watch the games.

You know when you can get a wife to say that, you have found "the One!"

Anyhow, my dilemma for the last couple days have been that the games were on during school class time here on the other side of the world. No problem! I set up my netbook in the office, give the kids book work to do in class, and let a few select baseball fans among the students join me in my office to watch the game...keeping an eye out for the principal of course :)

Anyhow, great year Rockies! Good luck in 2010...Oh Lord, how I love this game!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama & Nobel

Wow! So President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Although everyone, including the President, is a little shocked at this little sudden turn, we really shouldn't be. This follows the natural order of events surrounding Obama; Give him awards and positions because, you know, one day he'll probably get it anyhow.

President of the United States? "Sure, he's not experienced... but he probably will be one day, so lets give it to him now."

Nobel Peace Prize? "Sure, he's only been in office 8 months and hasn't really done anything yet... but he will, so lets give it to him now."

As of late, I have been at odds with some of my compatriots in the Republican Party who I feel criticize Obama just for getting up in the morning. Last week when they rallied in opposition to his Chicago Olympic support in Europe, I couldn't go there. I thought it was a fair move and supported the President.

But even I was shocked when I opened my web browser and saw President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. My first thought was, "For what?"

Now to be fair to the President, he seemed to have a "for what?" look on his face as well and responded that he viewed the decision "less as a recognition of his own accomplishments and more as 'a call to action'".

Translation: "Ok, Yes, we all acknowledge its pretty silly I got the Nobel Peace Prize but hey they're Europeans, and, really, who can understand what Europeans do or why they do it? But maybe I can use this completely ridiculous situation to help get healthcare passed."

So just why did the committee in Norway decide to honor our still wet behind the ears president for such an illustrious prize?

The Nobel prize is awarded by 5 lawyers who are nominated by the Norwegian Parliament. Traditionally those in the 'Nobel inner circle" have espoused a world view that is decidedly European and President Obama fits neatly between their goal posts. The election committee was unanimous in it's vote and said in justifying their decision, "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."

Translation: "He's not Bush, so welcome back to the fold America"

Hey, why we're at it, let's give him the Nobel Prize in Literature as well, because, you know, he wrote a book too.

The disturbing aspect to all this is that there are people who toil a lifetime to bring both International and Domestic peace to troubled regions around the world and by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to an untried and inexperienced President goes beyond absurd; it reduces a highly respected and distinguished recognition into a scoffed at political tool.

President Obama may have one the Nobel Peace Prize one day, but even he knows, he hasn't won one yet.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hollywood Hypocrisy

In 1977 famed actor and director Roman Polanski (who was 44 at the time) gave drugs & alcohol to a 13 year old girl while doing a photo shoot for Vogue. He proceeded to take nude photos of the girl and then raped and sodomized her. Polanski admitted guilt to all of these charges but then fearing that a plea bargain would be reneged on by the judge, fled the United States to France where he has lived in exile ever since.

This week, while traveling to Zurich to receive an award at a film festival there, Polanski was arrested by Swiss police and is facing possible extradition back to the U.S to answer for his outstanding charges.

What is baffling is how the Who's Who of the Hollywood elite such as Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, and Harvey Weinstein, among others have rallied to their friend's defense.

Debra Winger read a statement which said his arrest was "Philistine" in nature and that his next "masterpiece" was awaited. Whoopi Goldberg, speaking on her talk show The View said its not like it was "rape-rape".


For years Hollywood has joked non stop at the sexual scandals of priests within the Catholic church. Comedians have had a field day and hardly a crime investigation show has aired that hadn't at least one episode where a priest and pedophilia were front and center. And now that same Hollywood cabal is defending sexual conduct with children. The hypocrisy is staggering...

What I find amazing is that the calls for Polanski's release in Hollywood makes no acknowledgement of his heinous crimes. I could appreciate an argument that at least paid lip service to the fact that a 44 year old man drugged and raped a 13 year old.

Instead we get the argument that the great art he has given the world should be some kind of "get out of jail free" card. Debra Winger sounded amazed that he was even arrested because, you know, he's an Academy Award winner and all.

And you know what...he is a great artist. As a film lover, I love Polanski both as actor and director. A 1995 movie with Gerard Dipardieu and Polanski called A Pure Formality is a personal favorite of mine. But that doesn't put him above the law.

Hollywood has instead put blame not on Polanski, but on "Puritanical" American law enforcement. Crazy Puritans!!... if it wasn't for them 13 year olds would be fair game.

The truth is, 30 plus years have passed and the Roman Polanski that raped that young girl doesn't exist anymore. Instead, the person the police have in custody is an old man who has lived in France and been married to his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, for twenty years. Furthermore, the victim in all of this, Samantha Geimer, is a woman in her 40's now and does not want Polanski prosecuted anymore. I don't blame her, this just brings all the ugliness back up to the surface again. I'm sure she just wants to move on with her life.

But there is no statute of limitations on what Polanski has done and Hollywood must now go to the board and write 100 times so they remember it, "Raping and sodomizing children is a bad thing."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Obama & Gitmo

Like most people I have a little "I told you so" reflex that I have to keep under wraps on occasion. But whenever I make a prediction, particularly a political one that comes to pass, I have to crow just a little bit.
The Oval Office chair was still warm from George W. Bush when the recently inaugurated President Obama signed an Executive Order closing the detention center at our Navel base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba which housed over 700 terrorist suspects. It was done amidst a lot of hoopla, flashing cameras, and a proclamation from the president that it was being done to "restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism." He stated that the facility would close by Jan 2010.

Sounds noble right?

And it was, but not very realistic or well thought out. Indeed, my first thought was, "OK, so where are they going to put all the prisoners?" I knew even as Obama was smiling there was no way Gitmo was going to be closed in a year. And now CNN reports that the Obama administration ackowledges that the deadline might not be reached.

Lets face it, if you are fighting a "War on Terror" your're going to have terror suspects. I don't know about you but sticking them in a detention facility at a U.S. Navel base 90 miles off America's shores seems like a pretty good idea to me.

Of course, if you don't keep them there, you have to keep them somewhere. The first suggestion was maximum security prisons in America, but the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) voices came (ironically often from Congressmen who were arguing for the closure of Gitmo) saying that housing terrorists on U.S. soil was to dangerous.

So the Obama Administration turned to other countries. "Hey, we're closing that nasty legal cesspool created by that evil predecessor of mine, but we need to put some guys in your countries for awhile...'K?

And the response was mostly "Mmmmm...No thanks" (except for some countries that reportedly received cash and other political concessions for doing so). Why else would the mostly Roman Catholic south Pacific Island of Palau offer to take some?

First of all, I support the President in bringing better legal accountability into the process. We are a nation of law, and if people's civil rights and due process are being violated, I fully support inquiries and policy enforcement to correct those wrongs.

But if a local prison has reports of abuse, the action to take is to stop the abuse, not close down the prison. The answer to Gitmo is to fix Gitmo not close Gitmo.

However, the President has already smiled and taken his photo op. Gitmo will eventually be closed.

But there is a reason Gitmo exists. Arguably some suspects were found to be innocent...others were not. And some of those thought to be innocent turned out to be terrorists after all. CNN reported earlier this year that 18 released Gitmo detainees have been directly involved with terrorist activities upon their release and another 43 are suspected to have including Adballah Salih al-Ajmi, who blew himself up in a suicide attack in Iraq after leaving US custody.

Obama is essentially betting that one of the detainees released to third party countries will not be involved in a direct attack on U.S. forces, or even worse, an attack on the U.S. homeland in the future.

That is a scenario that would haunt him the rest of his days and I just hope he wins his bet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tragedy in Zimbabwe

This week the government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe lifted the ban on a number of foreign journalists and news agencies. CNN is going to shortly be airing the first interview Mugabe has given to the Western media in years. In the run up to that there have been a number of stories at their website featuring some of the tragedy that has befallen the country since Mugabe came to power in 1980.

This post may be off the normal radar for some of the readers of "Beyond the Pale" but over the years I have known and worked with a number of white Zimbabweans and have listened to their heartache as they tell the almost unbelievable stories of their homeland descending into madness.

Since the Mugabe government came to power in 1980, replacing the previous white led government under Ian Smith, the country had slowly came unravelled as crime, corruption, incompetency in administration increased. But the bottom finally fell out beginning in 1999 when Mugabe ordered the country's prosperous farmlands, and cornerstone of the economy, to be redistributed to the county's black citizens.

Although many, including most of Zimbabwe's white population, were open to some policies to address years of racial inequalities, no one was was ready for the violence and thuggery that descended on the country. The agricultural sector collapsed and hundreds of thousands of black farm laborers were suddenly unemployed as the farms they had worked on were seized by militia groups. In the years since, the economy has continued to disintergrate. The local currency, recently acknowledged by the government to carry no value, has been replaced by foreign currencies and a make shift barter system.

Only today I was talking to a white Zimbabwean coworker about his country. He said, "Steve, I can't even watch the media on the issue because my blood boils when I see what is happening to my country". I sympathized and could only imagine how I would feel if my country had collapsed and thugs, like those in the CNN clip, were running loose.

For the first time though, a glimmer of hope has arrived. In the recent election, Robert Mugabe was forced into a power sharing agreement with a new prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

My hope is that the nightmare unleashed by Robert Mugabe will soon be over and peace will prevail once again in that wonderful country.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why I'm into Organized Religion

When I was in the U.S. during August I was perusing the shelves of the local Bible book store. Ignoring the promotional display for the #1 book by Jon & Kate Gosselin on marriage and family (are you kidding me?) I grabbed a little book whose title caught my eye, Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. I grabbed it!

I for one am a little tired of the church becoming the whipping boy for every perceived injustice, real or imagined, since Cain slew Abel. I'll be honest, when someone says to me, "I'm spiritual, but I'm not into organized religion" I quench the need to throw up right there and then with a straight face usually respond, "That funny because I'm not really into spirituality, but I LOVE organized religion." (Yes, I do have fun at other people's expense but they make it SO easy and the Lord is dealing with me on it :)

Another group of people that need a re-boot are the "I love Jesus, but have serious problems with the church." crowd. If someone came up to me and said, "You know Steve, we really like you, but Tammy, wow, she can be a real jerk" how positively inclined toward that person am I really going to be. You can't love me and hate my wife.

Now thats not to say that if someone was hurt by Tammy that they can't come to me and discuss the situation. Honest critique done in love is God born but...

...don't you get the feeling that many who bash the church (and some even make a living doing it) really enjoy doing it! I mean they make it sound like they are doing the world a favor by exposing and critiquing certain issues but you don't get the feeling they are doing so to see the Bride of Christ cleaned and ready for the Bridegroom...

...rather it feels more like the smile an assassin gives when he plunges a knife into his victim's back and turns.

While some see the church only as a hotbed of boredom, hypocrisy, and scandal I instead see the people who tirelessly give of themselves day after day around the world, often in harsh conditions, to feed the poor, heal the sick, defend the downtrodden, and preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The book of James says this in Chapter 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

And so that, my friend, is why I'm into organized religion...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ernie Harwell: My Tribute

There are certain things in life that can instantly put me in a good mood. Reading the Bible, the smell of a pine Christmas tree, or anything Disney related will quickly turn a sour mood for me. The voice of Ernie Harwell also does the trick. However it was deep sadness I felt when I learned that Harwell, who was the voice of the Detroit Tigers for 40 years, was recently diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

When I hear Harwell's voice I instantly become 11 years old again. It's Saturday afternoon circa 1977, my dad is fixing the brakes on the car and Harwell's southern drawl is calling the Tigers play-by-play on the transistor radio blaring from the garage. I would have both my baseball glove and my father's pleading with him to take a break so we can play catch for just a few minutes. Aahhh!! I loved my childhood and for many 30+ yr old native Detroiters Ernie Harwell was an integral part.

More than just being the Voice of the Tigers, my respect for him extends beyond baseball. At 91, he is still happily married to the wife of his youth, Lulu Harwell and as a devout Christian believer he has been heavily involved with Baseball Chapel which serves as an evangelistic organization for professional baseball players.

In Colorado I would often have coffee with a dear friend named Bob who was a fellow Christian and lover of baseball. I confessed to him one of my dreams was to be in heaven one day playing at Heaven's Field of Dreams with some of my baseball heroes. Farmhouses and cornfields would surround, kids would be playing to the side, hotdogs would be grilling on the Bar-B-Qs and a young Ernie Harwell would be calling the play by play. Just the thought of it makes my eyes well up...

Yesterday the Detroit Tigers had Ernie return to Tiger Stadium (I still can't call it Comerica Park) for possibly the last time so fans and players alike could show their gratitude and say good-bye. The video of the event moved me to tears.

I'll be praying for you Ernie. You and you precious family as you prepare for your final journey home. God Bless you...and thank you for being part of my life!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bad Form Rep. Wilson

In 1998 President Bill Clinton, along with Hillary and Chelsea, made a trip to Hong Kong where we were living at the time. The President's limousine slowly traveled right past Tammy and Gabriel at one point quite near. Chelsea saw Gabriel in Tammy's arms and motioned to her father to have a look. Bill waved, Chelsea waved and Tammy excitedly waved back.

Now, we're Republicans who never voted for Bill Clinton and probably given the chance again, still wouldn't. So why were we so excited...

Because at the end of the day, he's still the President of the United States!

It's for that reason I join the rest of the blog-o-sphere in loudly proclaiming the "bad form" of Republican South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson. Wilson delivered a MAJOR faux pax by yelling out "You Lie!" to President Obama during a speech to a joint session of Congress.

The particulars at this point are irrelevant. I don't care what your position is on the health care debate...I don't care if you're Republican or Democrat. There are a number of things one can do that quickly earn my contempt;

and disrespecting the office of the President is high on that list.

Honest disagreement?...fine. Anger at certain happens? Some political parody on Saturday Night Live?...its part of the American way.

But when the the President of the United States addresses you in a joint session of Congress you have one, and only one, responsibility.

You shut up and listen....

Bad form Rep. Wilson. Very bad form!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Edward Kennedy: 1932 - 2009

I know its a little late but I wanted to add my personal eulogy on Sen. Edward Kennedy's passing this past week. Despite any political differences I had with the man, he sat in the U.S. Senate for 47 years and had a passion for securing justice for the working class people of America...a passion I share.

I have to echo what my friend Bob said when he mentioned he wouldn't have voted for him, but I think I could have been his friend. He was a diplomat who was known for his ability to make relationships and form bonds even with political rivals.

And here lies one of the problems with politics today. Gone are the days it seems when we could argue together during the day and drink together during the evening.

When I was at the University of Colorado, my Public Affairs school hosted a talk with former Senator Alan Simpson and Congresswoman Patricia Schroder. When asked what was different in the legislative halls from when they were there they responded that the partisanship had gotten more personal. They remarked how President Reagan and House speaker Tip O'Neil would be political foes during the day but afterwards they were both Irishmen who enjoyed beer and each other's company.

Senator Kennedy seemed to enjoy people across the aisle from himself. The testimony and eulogies from his political foes following his death demonstrate he was a man of respect who overcame many obstacles to become one of America's greatest legislators.

So, farewell Senator Kennedy! You'll be missed.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

On the Healthcare Debate Pt.1

My friend and reader of this blog Bob recently asked me to do a post on my take of the healthcare debate.!

First of all the Republicans are reaping what they sowed. The American people have consistently voiced healthcare reform as one of their top issues over the years and in two terms of a Republican led administration, it failed to even register on President Bush's radar. Now President Obama is the one in the driver's seat framing the debate and the Republicans once again look like the party of "no".

Second, the fact that our healthcare is tied to employment is one of the reasons we are in this mess. During World War 2 when wage freezes were implemented, companies needed to find non wage package inducements to lure top employee candidates. In the following decades the American healthcare system got hopelessly entangled with employment benefits. Is your employer responsible for your car or home insurance? People have been afraid to leave their job for no other reason than the status of their family's health insurance. Healthcare reform must include the delinking of healthcare from employment.

One of the reason's President Obama has lost some steam recently on healthcare is because he has been more focused on providing a government run single payer option rather than addressing the real problem of skyrocketing health costs.

In order to drive down costs, insurance has to go back to what insurance is supposed to be for; those unplanned catastrophic events in our lives. You get cancer or heart disease, health insurance comes to the rescue. You don't use insurance for a 5 minute check up at the doctor's office. You shouldn't have to produce an insurance card if you have the flu.

Take for example; auto insurance.

What is it for?

You get in a crash or your car is stolen, insurance kicks in and takes over. You don't produce an insurance card everytime you tank up for gas. Can you imagine what your auto insurance would cost if paperwork had to be submitted and administrated everytime you needed wiperblades or an oil change? This ridiculous use of insurance for mundane issues is what has driven up medical costs beyond all reason.

Personal story: A couple years ago I had to have a nuclear stress test. It was a 2 hour test using a pretty expensive piece of medical machine. Fortunately I DID have medical insurance because I saw the bill paid for by the insurance company and my little exam cost US$ 5000!! Now I'm not saying such a test should be cheap (maybe $500)... but $5000??

And that not the kicker. Just to show you how screwed up and out of control our system is, a week later I get the signed diagnosis from the doctor. It was a single line that basically said all was OK. Doctor's diagnosis cost? ...$200
You think if you pay $5000 for a test the diagnosis would be included...but not in the insane crazy world of the American healthcare system.

Well...lets make this a multi-parter. I have a lot more to say on this subject especially on the current debate in congress right now...but I actually have work that pays the bills stuff to do now!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hillary's Claws Strike In Africa

Watching Amy Pohler on Saturday Night Live parody Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can be REALLY funny. Watching Hillary Clinton act as if she were Amy Pohler mocking herself in real life...mmmm less so!

Thats the way her behavior came across during an interview in Africa recently. Pohler's Clinton is an insecure, power hungry woman who is frightfully sensitive to any perceived slight that would imply her political career is nothing more than an extension of her husband Bill's.

So when a question from the audience (wrongly translated) asked her what she thought her husband's position was on a diplomatic issue, an obviously irritated Clinton (channelling Amy Pohler channeling Hillary Clinton) shut the audience member down with a small tirade reminding everyone that SHE was Secretary of State and not Bill Clinton.

This whole situation was quite damaging for Clinton and I believe her future aspirations for the Oval Office. (Oh yes, she will run for President again)

Clinton could be forgiven some irritability as she crisscrossed Africa giving multiple speeches in multiple settings in multiple countries. Anyone of us could be guilty of lashing out a bit in such conditions.

And yes in her perception of the inquiry (the audience member had meant to ask what Mr. Obama thought not Mr. Clinton) the question did seem to cut across her authority as Secretary of State but this is the ONE area Clinton needed to remain stoic despite any feelings to the contrary.

I for one have grown to have a grudging respect for Hillary Clinton over the years. I'm no fan mind you but have often tried to remind those friends of mine who live in the political spectrum to my right that Clinton is, in fact, fairly centrist. She often received harsh criticism from those on the Left for her more moderate positions...positions that were often conveniently ignored by those on the Right who were to busy burning her in effigy.

However some of my friends fears have also revealed themselves to be true. Hillary's actions in Africa re-enforced the notion that she indeed struggles with insecurity and sees her relationship with Bill as being competitive rather than complimentary....who doesn't stand on her own but instead lives in the shadow of her higher profile (and far smoother) husband.

In the end, this incident will come back to haunt her in the future...mark my words

Saturday, August 8, 2009

In Memorium: John Hughes

I'm a product of the 80's! When the decade started I was 13 years old and when it was finished I was 23. During those years the movies of John Hughes were hugely impactful and defined our generation.

Hughes, who passed away yesterday of a heart attack while taking a walk, was the writer / director of a number of movies that were formative to many of us "children of the 80's". The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off to name just a few.

Perhaps my favorite John Hughes movie however, was one of his least remembered, and that was the Kevin Bacon - Elizabeth McGovern film, "She's Having A Baby". For me it was the classic movie describing the trials and tribulations that nearly every young married couple goes through.

So good-bye Mr. Hughes, you left us WAY to early...but we have your movies, many of which had a large impact on many of my generation.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This Test MUST be wrong!!

My Political Views
I am a center-left moderate social authoritarian
Left: 2.39, Authoritarian: 1.1

Political Spectrum Quiz

Noooooooooo! I just took one of those "Where are you Politically" tests and I was shocked!. I always consider myself right of center but according to the 30-40 questions I answered...I'm...I'm a liberal!

Say it ain't so Joe!

My Culture War Stance
Score: 3.25

Political Spectrum Quiz

As expected, I came out right of center on cultural issues like homosexual marriage and abortion. I think what put me on the left (at least according to the test) was some of my positions that ultimately come through my Christian filter on economic matters. I feel very strongly about individual responsibility and often that is where my Republican brothers like to stop on the issues.
My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -0.06

Political Spectrum Quiz

However I also have the commands of Christ to look out for the disadvantaged members of society. Of course how we do that is open to endless debate but I do think it changed some of the test's answers for me that a few years ago would have been a little different.

Monday, August 3, 2009


I think every husband has faced it at some point. You flop down on the couch with a cold beer in your hand and begin to watch some sports on TV. Its been a long day and you confidently put your feet up on the coffee table with the cool feel of satisfaction. All seems peaceful and perfect.

And then she appears!

She's standing in the doorway...eyes glaring with lasers that seem to bore right through you. Your heart rate quickens...your breathing becomes shallow...a sweat bead forms on your brow.

Its your wife...and she ain't happy!

"Surely there is something more productive you could be doing around this house than sitting on the couch and watching TV" she announces with that tone which causes panic to grip the soul of any man married for any length of time. "There's dirty dishes in the sink, a broken fixture in the bathroom, laundry to be hung...yada...yada...yada" (At this point it becomes the sound made by Charlie Brown's teacher)

No doubt thats how President Obama must have felt this week during his much publicized "Beer Summit" with Professor Henry Louis Gates and police officer James Crowley when he attempted to clean up some of the damage he brought on himself with his ill advised input into a local law enforcement situation.

No sooner had the three men sat down over some suds to work out their disagreement (AS MEN DO!!) than Mrs. Jan Larimer, co-Chair for the Republican National Committee, laid into the President for the boy time when surely he had more productive things to do around the White House. Says Larimer, "We are at war and Barack Obama is talking about beer in the White House" and then went on to say, "the president needs to focus on more important issues."


I have already blogged on my criticism of Obama and his "acted stupidly" comment and knew the moment he said it, he was in trouble. But for crying out loud, if the President of the United States wants to sit down with a couple guys and work out some issues over a cold beer, he should be able to do it without some nagging man OR woman breathing down his neck.

Besides, if the President is busy relaxing with the guys, it means he's not spending money we don't have on things we can't afford!

Anyhow...thats all I have to say about that...Cheers!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The New Sacraments: Mystery

A couple weeks ago I was driving near the neighborhood I grew up in and passed an old church we used to attend in the late 1970s. It was called Macomb Christian Community Center back then but the name on the church now was Discovery Church

That got me thinking again on one of the "New Sacraments" I have been writing on recently. Previous sacraments of the church including baptism, marriage and Holy Communion have largely been replaced (at least in priority and importance) with Authenticity, Relevancy, and today's topic, Mystery aka "uncertainty".

Uncertainty and Mystery are BIG in the church today. Like the aforementioned Discovery Church, churches with names like Journey, and The Next Level are increasingly doting the American landscape and for a post-modern generation the message is clear, "I don't know, and you don't know...but maybe we can find out together."

Now, don't get me wrong! Like Authenticity, and Relevancy, I love a little Mystery in my Christianity. I readily admit I don't know everything and fully embrace Paul's admonition to the Corinthians that one day all will be clear but now we see as through a dirty window.

It's just that I'm not sure wearing uncertainty on my sleeve like some badge of honor has any long term appeal. When I attend a college course, I can appreciate the humility of an instructor who admits to not knowing everything about a subject, but at the end of the day, I'm more interested in what he knows than what he doesn't.

Only Socrates knew, after a lifetime of unceasing labor, that he was ignorant. Now every high-school student knows that. How did it become so easy? ---Alan Bloom

For the church, this over-emphasis has, in my opinion, long term consequences. Take for example when Pricilla nd Aquilla approached Apollos and asked him about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and he replied he hadn't even heard of that. They didn't respond that it was OK as each has his own God experience. No, they took him to the side and the Bible says, "expounded to him the way of God more perfectly"

There is a Mystery to be sure but Jesus says in Mark 14:11 "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God" Again, what we know is more important that what we don't know. Returning to the names of churches, Christians in the New Testament were referred to as members of "the Way". Can you imagine a church or group of Christians calling themselves that today?

Again, I'm not suggesting Mystery in itself is wrong but rather the over reach of the topic, particularly in many younger and / or post-modern church streams, does not bode well for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Much of the pendulum swing is a reaction to the very real (but sometimes imagined) offenses committed by previous generations. Alan Bloom in his book The Closing of the American Mind says it well when he writes:

The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.

In like manner, many of today's Christians with a strong penchant for uncertainty grew up in very dogmatic evangelical Christian homes. Anyone who has been part of this culture for any length of time has been exposed to some forms of self-righteousness, arrogance, and hypocrisy by church leaders who KNEW they were right. Whenever these very human traits are exhibited without the Godly traits of humility, peace, and love our own perception of Christianity becomes distorted. Like Bloom suggests, our goal becomes then not to correct those mistakes and really be right, but to find comfort in not being right at all.

In the days when Christ walked the earth he was always "right". In him there was "no shadow or turning". No uncertainty. He was the straight path in a crooked world, the sure rock in a storm, and the anchor in the waves. I may be uncertain often but thats when I look to the Words of Christ to reset my compass to True North.

The world is looking for answers and we don't do anyone any favors by pretending we don't have one...when we do!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Perfect Game

The Perfect Game is the Royal Flush of baseball. In fact, in roughly 100 years of Major League Baseball there have only been 18.

27 batters...27 outs. Seems easy but so many things have to come together to produce it.

That's why this week Baseball fans around the country celebrated White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle's perfect 5-0 victory over Tampa Bay.

When it happens, its like lighting in a don't happen often...

and that's what makes it special!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama & The Daily Show

I caught the Obama press conference on health care this week and witnessed that "final question" he took in regards to the arrest of a black Harvard professor by a white Cambridge police officer.

I almost felt sorry for the president... almost!!

As soon as he said the police had acted "stupidly" I knew he was in trouble. Our first "black" president commenting on a controversial race issue when he was not aware of the facts? Everything he had said in the previous 50 minutes on health care would be drown out in the following day's news cycle. (and it was)

President Obama might have been saved if the history of Sgt. Crowley (the arresting officer) had shown any accusation of previous racist behaviour. Unfortunately, quite the contrary, Sgt. Crowley had once tried to save a black man's life by giving him mouth to mouth resuscitation and had been chosen by his African-American boss to teach classes on racial profiling; hardly a candidate to levy racist charges against.

As the facts began to emerge, Obama was made to look increasingly ridiculous by defending the foolish behaviour of a friend rather than the actions of a police officer doing his duty.

This is what happens when you stop thinking like the President of the United States and more like an urban community organizer with ACORN.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
White House M.D.
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

My sentiments were echoed by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show the next evening. Watching Stewart trying to save Obama from himself is hysterical.

(Sorry the video includes all the health care stuff at the beginning. If you have the patience to watch it till the end, its REALLY funny)

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Christian Nation??

One of the themes I have consistently seen arise while viewing the blogs of my peers is the notion of whether America is a "Christian nation" or not. What I find interesting is that the debate's contestants are (typically) not American Christians vs. non but conservative Christians vs. their more liberal brethren.

Those espousing a Christian nation viewpoint produce a plethora of quotes, letters, and articles from America's Founding Father's proving (in their minds) that their intention was to be Christian from the start. The Left then (of course) counters with their arsenal of ammunition arguing that the Founders were more Deist than Christian and producing their own documentation cementing (in their minds) the notion that America is a secular, religiously neutral nation.

There in lies the crux of the issue. There is no singular proof that you can point to and say, "Ah Hah!" that is the end of the debate and the reason for that is because;

The Founding Father's were deliberately vague!

I took a Constitutional law class in grad school and realized that things would be much less argumentative if the Founder's had been a little more specific...but they weren't, and I believe that was intentional. The vagueness, frustrating as it can be sometimes, helps keep issues in balance. Neither side has enough ammuntion to score a touchdown. Instead there is an ongoing scrimmage near the 50 yrd line...which is where it should be

I must admit though that this particular post is inspired by a book I am currently reading by Richard Hofstader entitled, The American Political Tradition.

Hofstader, who certainly was not advocating Christianity, nevertheless begins the book on page one by claiming that the U.S. Constitution was inspired by the idea of original sin and the Fall of Man. Says Hofstader:

Long ago Horace White observed that the Constitution of the United States is "based upon the philosophy of Hobbs and the religion of Calvin." It assumes that the natural state of Man is a state of war and that the carnal mind is at enmity with God. The men who drew up the Constitution in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787 had a vivid Calvinistic sense of human evil and damnation and believed with Hobbs that men are selfish and contentious.

I wouldn't say this proves America a "Christian Nation" but the idea that our founding document was arguably written with the Judeo-Christian belief of original sin should at least give pause to consider where our cultural heritage lies.

I find most people's notions of culture and nations overly simplistic. Americans like to view themselves as this diverse mosaic of culture, ethnicity, and religion. To non-Americans though we are a "white", "Christian" country. Some years ago a missionary I knew was applying for a teaching position in China. The application asked for the applicant's religion and my friend asked what he should put. I answered, "Christian. To the Chinese we are a Christian country, to put anything else is what will get you unwanted scrutiny."

Americans are just as guilty of this overt simplicity. I often get comments from my compatriots like, "China? They're all Buddhist over there right?" When I remark that by 2050 China will have the largest Christian and Muslim populations at the same time, they appear shocked. They've seen David Carradine and Kung Fu and no fact is going to spoil the image that China is populated with millions of wisdom dispensing Shaolin priests.

Is America a Christian nation? Yes...and no. And thats the way I like it. I like the tension it produces. This side of heaven, I'm not looking for a theocracy. When Jesus sets it up, I'm in...until then thanks but no thanks.

On the other hand...

I don't like the direction this country is taking which tries to delink America from its Judeo-Christian underpinnings. We may like to "celebrate diversity" but I have lived and traveled in many places which have as their country's foundations the quaint "diversity" we celebrate here.

It usually isn't pretty!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11 Anniversary

Since man began walking on this earth we have looked up at the moon with the dream of one day travelling there. Early science fiction writers such as Jules Verne speculated on what a trip to the moon might be like.

On July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong descended the ladder of the lunar lander and became the first man to set foot on another celestial body. The event is arguably the greatest achievement in human history.

I have always been a strong supporter of the manned space program. I think it is inexcusable that we have spent the last 35 years twittling our thumbs and reducing NASA's budgets rather than celebrating the 10th anniversary of landing a man on Mars!!

I recently saw an interview with an ex-NASA engineer from the 1970's that said the team of engineers were all ready for the challenge of how to land a man on Mars when the rug got pulled out from under them. There was neither the political will nor the budgeted funds to make it viable.

In the meantime, we got a rather uninspiring Space Shuttle program which never reached the potential it was boasted to achieve.

In 2004 President Bush challenged NASA to return us to the moon and use the new technology that would be developed to put a man on Mars.

Finally at least a little vision cast from the White House!!

It would not rival John Kennedy's invoking our reaching the moon by the end of the decade speech, but it was enough to get the ball rolling. However, because of budget cuts due to the economic crisis the new Constellation program to put a man back on the moon will be delayed to at least 2015. Currently the Obama administration is reviewing NASA's budget for possible further cuts. I pray that isn't the case.

Man has to explore. We decline as a civilization when we have no new horizons to conquer. So on this anniversary I want to salute those first brave explorers, Niel Armstrong, Buzz Aldren, and Michael Collins, who left our planet and for the first time walked on the moon.

It was truly "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Checking in

Hey everyone,

Just a little update to apologize for the lack of posts of late. Most of you know I live in China as a teacher at Yew Chung International School. Well, I am REALLY getting into this "teacher summer vacation" thing. We are in America now for a few weeks starting in Boulder Colorado and travelling across the country visiting friends, family...and national monuments. We stopped by the "Field of Dreams" in Iowa and I am currently writing this over coffee at the "Steel Magnolia" house in Louisiana!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My thoughts on Mark Sanford

There is at least one person who is benefiting from the sudden death of Michael Jackson. The passing of the pop icon effectively knocked the peccadilloes of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford off the front page which helps him in his attempt to stave off calls for his resignation and keep his job.

I hope it doesn’t…

This week the Governor went missing. His wife didn’t know where he was, nor did the Lt. Governor of the state. Staffers finally revealed that Sanford had gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail to “clear his head”. Turns out that was the least of um…ah... what he had cleared.

Governor Sanford had actually traveled, on taxpayer expense, to a rendezvous with his mistress in Argentina. What has really got the blog-o-sphere humming about this story though is the fact that the governor was quoted as saying that people who hold public office should be held to a higher standard and called for then President Clinton’s resignation during his adultery scandal. Thus said, Sanford’s resignation should be a forgone conclusion…but its not.
And that is the essence of his hypocrisy.

Governor Sanford, as a practicing Christian, has now publicly admitted to his failings and has asked his family as well as the people of the State of South Carolina for his forgiveness but he has already attempting to sweep his misdeeds under the rug. He has begun quoting the Bible and talking about the great things David did after his confessed sins with Bathsheba. But if the Governor was really seeking to get right with those who he has disappointed, starting with God, he should not be talking about any great things in his future. Such talk serves only to render any remorse he is attempting to show now as suspect.

The United Kingdom has a much better track record of its politicians doing the right thing when faced with poor decisions. Recently the Speaker of the House of Commons resigned amidst allegations of financial impropriety. In the U.K, asking forgiveness does not translate into keeping your job. Whether former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Idaho Senator Larry Craig, or New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey the list of scandal plagued politicians on this side of the pond that cling desperately to their positions seems to grow geometrically.

Some people have taken delight in pointing out the hypocrisy in Governor Sanford’s actions. However much of the ridicule seems to almost exonerate Clinton rather than universally condemn the repugnant behavior of both men. The fact that Sanford did essentially the same actions he accused Clinton of doing should not make the actions of either more palatable. If I rail against alcoholism and then get drunk one night, my actions do not make my condemnation of alcoholism less true.

My disappointment with Sanford does not center on his adultery. As a Christian minister and sometimes even as a friend, I have had to deal with adultery with those around me. Its what ones actions are when faced with it that dictates my response. When someone is broken, contrite and desperately wants to seal the breach with God and spouse, my heart leaps for the joy of a family saved . Other times I have dealt with people that go through a form of sorrow because they know it’s the quickest way of getting back to their place of respectability again. Its pitiful to watch and I feel I’m watching now in South Carolina.

I make no judgments on Governor Sanford but my advice would be to take the high road. Resign your position now and be a man. Spend the next weeks and months working on your family and then, because we serve a God who redeems, renter the public arena a forgiven man with your wife at your side.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iranian Protests

The verdict has been reached in Iran with the supreme leader of the country Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaiming a decisive electoral victory for incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and declaring any further demonstrations by supporters of the losing candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi illegal. Should such demonstrations continue, swift retaliation by the government would be justified.

In hindsight, there was not really another outcome that could have occurred. Had the spiritual leader wavered at all in support of the present regime, revolution very well may have been a result. Such an outcome though is still a possibility. Moussavi has declared that he is ready to “face martyrdom” and vowed to continue leading the people in protest in what has been seen in their view as a rigged election.

This is going to end bloody!

The government will begin to exercise every increasing force in ending the protest. Although Ahmadinejad and his entourage have made the typical accusations against American and Zionist intervention, the present administration is well aware of the real groundswell of support in Iran for reform and a change of direction for the country.

Reform and change that will not be tolerated!

For his part, President Obama has done a commendable job of walking the tightrope between supporting the democratic voice that is being displayed in Iran and the pragmatic view that knows he will undoubtedly be dealing with Ahmadinejad, and not Moussavi, in the coming months.

Even as I write this, the death count is estimated to have reached 150. My prayer is for peace in the region as I feel in the next few days, barring some divine intervention, many, many more people will be killed or injured.

PS: As a side note, demonstrations are occurring on behalf of the protestors in various cities around the world. Tens of thousands are currently protesting in Paris and it always strikes me odd that no matter what conflict is happening in the world, people protest in Paris. Israel and Lebanon fight…Paris protests. The Dali Lama mixes words with China…Protestors in Paris take to the streets. Iran has suspected election fraud…Parisians join the protest. Does anyone have a job in that city????