You are currently viewing archive for May 2006
It may not be too over-the-top to suggest that the push for Same-Sex Marriage is one of a number of trends moving toward an end of marriage. See this summary. For our previous (spirited) discussions of same-sex marriage see this post, and this follow-up.
The Barna Group is reporting that relatively few people who read The Da Vinci Code change their minds about their religious beliefs. Rather, people seem to reaffirm their prior opinions.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Church Herald of the RCA recently noted a Barna Group conducted survey on certain American religious practices.

(From the Church Herald) UNITED STATES
Survey: More Americans Reading Bible Weekly
A survey shows the percentage of Americans who say they regularly read the Bible continues to increase. The survey, conducted by the Barna Group, found that 47 percent of respondents said they open the Bible on a weekly basis, up from just 31 percent in 1995 and 40 percent six years ago. The survey also polled respondents on six other "religious behaviors" including church attendance and attending small groups like Bible studies. Forty-seven percent said they attend church on a weekly basis, up from 37 percent a decade ago, while 23 percent said they attend small group functions affiliated with church. Twenty-seven percent of those asked said that they volunteer through church, while 24 percent said that they attend Sunday school, up from 17 percent in 1996.
. . .
The Barna report was based on data taken from 1,003 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone in January. The Barna Group is a private, for-profit corporation in Ventura, California, that conducts research on spiritual development. (RNS)

Copyright © 2006 The Church Herald. All rights reserved.
4500 60th Street SE • Grand Rapids, MI 49512 • 616-698-7071

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Category: General
Posted by: an okie gardener
As you may know, I am becoming a Cardinal George Pell fan. Here is a link to an interview with him on EWTN. The interview is number 12 on the list. The list also includes interviews with Michael Medved, Peggy Noonan, Rick Santorum and others.
Jihad Watch commemorates the fall of Constantinople to the Turks; the day one of the bastions of Christianity fell to the Muslims. Since I could not find a permalink to the particular article, I have copied it into the extended section below.

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Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
In the early 80s I drove twice-weekly from near Princeton, New Jersey, up to Kearny, on the Jersey side near the Meadowlands. I usually took the Jersey Turnpike until the Kearny exit. For this country boy, the site of the landfill affected me every time I saw it. Huge! Mountainous! Growing! Acres of trash being compacted by heavy machinery and picked over by seagulls. It did not take much imagination to envision a day when the landfills just for the New York City metro area would cover more area than a west Texas county to a depth of over a hundred feet. We can't keep doing this sort of thing forever.

I think it a Christian duty to promote and to practice the Three R's: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Even little steps count. Our grocery store sacks into smaller-sized plastic bags. I reduce the number of bags by requesting no bags for milk jugs, sacks of potatoes, etc. that I can carry just as easily, or perhaps more easily, without the bag. We reuse the bags by using them as trash can liners in the bathrooms (reducing another purchase), and by giving them to a fellow-church member who uses them to clean up after her dog when she walks him. A small step, but small steps add up. I have a box in the corner of my office for white paper to take to recycling. No hardship. Just the cultivation of a certain habit.

Looking at our wasteful culture, it is tough to believe that we are the descendants of people who practiced "A penny saved is a penny earned," and "Use it up, wear it out, make it do."
Category: US in Iraq.archive
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The purpose of Memorial Day is to take a collective, national pause to consider and celebrate those brave dead who gave their “last full measure of devotion…so that this nation [might] not perish from the earth.”

In that vein, Victor Davis Hanson’s Memorial Day analytical tribute, “Looking Back to Iraq: A War to be Proud of,” is a must read.

What went right?

Hanson asserts:
1. Saddam is gone and that is good. A malevolent actor is no longer atop one of the most potentially powerful states in the world, roiling an already turbulent and troublesome region, held in check only through a leaky sanctions regime, which was dependent upon European resolve, Russian morality and Chinese altruism.

2. US action gave Iraq an honest opportunity for democracy.

3. The fight with Islamism in Iraq has shed moral clarity on the vital war with Islamic extremism.

Manifest reasons why we didn’t go to war (Hanson enumerates):
1. Cheap gasoline.
2. Halliburton.
3. Imperialism (some of the President’s strongest critics call for more troops—not less, and it is clear that no one in the USA wants us to stay in Iraq one minute more than necessary).

Hanson touches on the debate over casus belli. He does well to remind us that the pre-war case for action was not mono-causal—but laced with multiple motives. One of my colleagues wrote critically, before the fighting commenced, that President Bush seemed unable to articulate one clear reason for war; he bemoaned the Bush approach of multiple rationales, seeing such variety as a signal that the case was not well made.

However, I believed then and now that criticism of that nature was misplaced. I have criticized the President for the exact opposite mistake: President Bush relied too heavily on WMD as a casus belli. There were myriad imperatives why Saddam’s removal was crucial: the shaky sanctions regime; the fact that we were flying combat missions (and taking hostile fire) over Iraq every day; our presence in Saudi Arabia, a result of the ongoing “state of war” with Iraq, was highly offensive to the Muslim world; and, most importantly, the Middle East is a bad neighborhood with a lot of bad guys and the presence of Saddam exacerbated that precarious balance between threatening and less-threatening entities. Every day Saddam was in power made the United States and the world less safe. Transforming Iraq would be a watershed moment in remaking the Middle East.

Notwithstanding, President Bush, Tony Blair and Colin Powell pinned the case for war on WMD. Why did they do it? It was a sure thing. In the words of George Tenant, it was a “slam dunk.” We know now that the slam dunk was the sure thing that wasn’t.

Almost immediately, even before the full realization that there would be no smoking WMD, the Bush administration began to emphasize the other reasons for toppling Saddam and building a democratic government in Iraq friendly to the United States, which continues to bring criticism from various quarters.

Fluid rationales for wars are not unprecedented in American history. Oftentimes Presidents have had trouble articulating our real reasons for making war. James K. Polk’s War Message to Congress asking for a declaration of hostilities against Mexico is perhaps the most infamous. President Polk charged the Mexicans with rudeness to an American diplomat, primarily, and, as an after thought, an unprovoked attack on American forces (after Polk had moved General Zachary Taylor and company into a position finally so provocative that it engendered an attack).

What Polk could not bring himself to say was this: the United States needed the Great Southwest for our experiment in liberty. Polk was clearly under the spell of “Manifest Destiny” (although you will not find that term in the Message or any of his public utterances; the familiar terms comes from a contemporary Democratic newspaper editor).

Sometimes the unvarnished truth is impossible to articulate. Polk knew what Washington, Jefferson and Jackson had known from the very beginning of the American Republic: to reach our full potential as an emerging nation dedicated to a system of self government, we needed a transcontinental “empire for liberty” fueled by a robust economy and westward-moving culture.

Even now the “manifest” truth of that need is hard to articulate, defend and rationalize, but in our hearts we all seem to understand that the Southwest was necessary to our survival and success. Would any of us give it back? We are limited by language and idealism. Our need for pure motives is one of the conundrums of politics in the United States, wherein vital national interests must be tempered with just war doctrine and an acutely American sense of fair play.

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Category: Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
On Friday, noting that the President had a great week, I mentioned the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as a circuit court judge. A Washington Post article today recaps the confirmation but does not indicate the bipartisan support Kavanaugh garnered. It turns out that a friend of the Bosque Boys played a role in this confirmation debate as a signatory to a letter (one of twenty-five Yale Law "aluminaries") to the Judiciary committee leadership. (Click here for the PDF, which was released by DOJ.)

The letter begins:

"We are a bipartisan group who were classmates with Brett Kavanaugh at Yale Law School in the Class of 1990. Many of us have kept in touch with him ever since and value his friendship greatly. We write in support of his confirmation to the United Slates Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit."

and later this:

"Many of us disagree—occasionally strongly—with policy views Mr. Kavanaugh holds. But those disagreements do not diminish our conviction that Mr. Kavanaugh is a fair-minded and reasonable man who would, as ajudge, interpret and apply the law fairly. Based on our years of knowing Mr. Kavanaugh, we are firmly convinced that his allegiance as a federal judge would be only to the Constitution and laws of the United States and not to anypartisan interests."

Two points on this:

1) If I ever decide to go to law school, remind me to go to Yale. Those guys have supreme confidence in their institution to produce movers and shakers, and they stick together. They seem to have the great ability to put politics aside and support service and competence. Well done.

2) Kudos to the President, who continues to put highly qualified conservative judges before the Senate. Kudos to his staff and the DOJ (Harriet Miers deserves a little belated recognition as well) for finding candidates so eminently qualified that the hackneyed partisan criticism (e.g., Ted Kennedy, a Harvard man, called Kavanaugh a "political operative" and the "youngest, least experienced and most partisan appointee to the court in decades") eventually withers in the face of their white-hot credentials, superior training, judicial temperments and fine intellects.
Okie Gardener and I have been having a pretty interesting discussion in re his post, "Sex, Marriage and Same-Sex Marriage" in the comments section. So much so, I decided to extract the comments section and feature it as a free-standing post. I encourage you to read the original post in its entirety, and the acompanying article in its entirety; the discussion below begins with the premise that the institiution of marriage rests on three goods: procreation, fidelity and permanence.

A Waco Farmer wrote:
In re the "three goods:"
I understand that your central argument for marriage is protecting children, but we still believe in, as you note, marriage for heterosexual couples who do not/cannot procreate. Those barren unions are still allowed and seen as a positive good. How is that different from letting homosexual couples who will not procreate marry one another and enjoy the benefits available to opposite-sex couples without children?

an okie gardener wrote:
The short answer it that I encourage you to read the entire paper. The brief answer is that what is at issue is the definition of marriage. When one defines marriage as between a man and a woman, then procreation is the natural result of their union. The exceptions, barren couples, do not change the definition, but are simply an unfullfillment of the general case. Same sex unions are by definition barren, not by accident.

A Waco Farmer wrote:
I will read the paper, but my question is this: why cannot homosexual marriages be another exception? Again, staying with barren couples. Even if we know a man and a woman will not have children before they marry, we still see plenty of good reasons to encourage them to marry and offer them the same protections as a fruitful couple.

What makes the case of same-sex couples different?

A Waco Farmer wrote[continued]:
Okay. I'm back. I read the paper. I will probably go back and read it again.

Here is my summary:

1. In answer to my above question: the RCA does not recognize same-sex marriage because a rational reading of scripture, nature and tradition testifies against it.

Okay. I can accept that. In fact, from my own extremely inerudite theological perspective, I agree. Although I think there is a fundamental inconsistency in the position that places procreation as the sine qua non of marriage, and then favors birth control or allows barren marriages--but "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."

2. Redefining marriage: the RCA argument completely satisfies me in terms of why the RCA is not going to participate or condone same-sex marriages. It rests, as I said, on a rational interpretation of scripture, nature and church tradtion.

On the other hand, the argument against the civil recognition of same-sex marriages falls a bit flat for me. I will need to read it again, but so much of that section seems to admit how little influence the church has on the definition of marriage. Why is same-sex marriage different?

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Well. Okie Gardener has swayed me. As long as we are charting bad journalism, check out this lead from the Washington Post (which I think generally does a pretty fair job of covering the war and the President):

"President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair once bestrode the globe as powerful leaders who spoke boldly of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Now, dragged down by popular discontent over their adventure in Iraq, both have reached the lowest point of their careers."

And it gets worse.

Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing (news analysis/opinion put forth as a straight news story). If you listen to this fellow, Glenn Kesler, the sky is falling. He calls Bush a virtual lame duck.

For a lame duck, and I admit that the poll numbers are dismal, the President had a pretty good week: Hayden (the face of NSA domestic surveillance) confirmed at CIA by a good margin, Brett Kavanaugh (another conservative circuit court nominee) confirmed, and the President's stepping forward to the bully pulpit on immigration seemed to pay dividends in the Senate this week.

Leave the "seeing the world as I wish it was" to us bloggers, boys, and just report the news.

26/05: Memorial Day

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Wizbang site now has a section up for Memorial Day Weekend with links to various sites honoring our heroes. BosqueBoys have this essay, and this movie list.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
In honor of the Memorial Day Weekend, I am once again posting my earlier essay on the funeral of a hometown Marine killed in Iraq.

Written Saturday, Nov. 26

This morning I attended the funeral of a young Marine from Apache, Oklahoma, killed in combat in Iraq. His name was Josh Ware. You may have seen him along with 5 or 6 other marines on the cover of Time magazine during the battle of Fallujah. He was killed by hostile small arms fire last week during operation Steel Curtain. Josh was of Kiowa and Comanche descent, and registered with the Kiowa tribe. He was 20 years old.


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Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The best three hours of television of any given week are usually Friday mornings, 6:00 to 9:00 CST, on C-SPAN when Brian runs the early-bird call-in show, "Washington Journal" (click on the link for 5/26 for an archive of the program).

Today Brian held two separate hour-long chats with "gonzo" historian Douglas Brinkley and NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert (ironically, both guests were the subject of recent Bosque Boys posts and discussion, follow the links above). Is Brian a fan of the BB? Not likely, but I can hope. Something to work toward...One of these days, maybe.

The Brinkley interview was pretty standard. Brinkley is a regular contributor to C-SPAN. What does Brian think of Brinkley? Impossible to say. Brian gives no clues.

Brian's genius is his ability to let guests be themselves. He is the virtuoso of distributing rope. Brinkley was Brinkley, and, at times, his self-inflicted unintentional indictments were devastating. Brian just watched impassively.

In minute 54 of the sixty-minute exchange, Brian asked nonchalantly how does one go about writing a 755-page work of history in only nine months? He added: doesn't the editing process alone on a work that size take about nine months?

Doug Brinkley credited his passion and work ethic and associated himself with literary greats of the past who understood that writing was a matter of putting your seat in the seat of your chair. Lamb followed-up with: were you angry?

One last point (from me not Brian; I do not have his gift for subtlety): What do you call a history that is written in the midst of a critical event, penned by an author who has lost all historical objectivity and then rushed to press? Journalism.

Tim Russert followed. Maybe I am a fool for his working-class persona, but I cannot see how people can generate hatred for Russert. He tells great unassuming stories about being a kid from Buffalo who made good. He offered a meaningful account of how and why his father recently opted for a Ford Crown Vic over a Mercedes, Lexus or Caddy. He read a moving letter attacking the New York Times Magazine for their sloppy journalism in re a feature that dealt with his personal memories of his mom.

Later, a passionate caller castigated Russert for being in the tank for the Bush administration. Ironically, the indignant caller provided an almost inverse interpretation of the Condi Rice interview from David Limbaugh. Why weren't you as rough on Rice as you were on Nancy Pelosi last week? She accused him of letting his corporate bias cloud his news judgment (FYI: the corporate news conspiracy: all the news orgs are owned by a few corporations who filter and water down the news).

This morning reaffirms my C-SPAN thesis: if you watched all three channels of C-SPAN twenty-four hours per day, you would know everything that is going on in American politics.
Some weeks ago I was asked to give my reasoning for opposing same-sex marriage. Sometimes procrastination can turn out for the best. As I mentioned in my ealier post on the One-China policy, I am a member of the Reformed Church in America (website link) and a delegate to this summer's annual meeting which we call General Synod. At this meeting we will be asked to approve a resolution to send the study guide "Human Sexuality and Marriage" to our congregations. I think it is a fantastic document. In this post I will give a few paragraphs as "teasers" to encourage you to read the whole thing. Then I will summarize the argument. Finally, I'll give the link to the document.

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This weekend, remember to honor the brave dead who have given us freedom. Fly your flag. Go to the cemetary. Probably you will not spend the entire weekend outdoors, so rent a movie that reminds us of the cost of freedom.

A Waco Farmer is the real movie guy of this blog, so I invite him to add movies to this post that I have overlooked. Here's my suggested list. (cont.)

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Category: Environment
Posted by: an okie gardener
The Wall Street Journal's online Opinion Journal feature Best of the Web Today by James Taranto links to this story from the New York Post in which Hillary Clinton is reported to have called for a return to a national speed limit of 55 mph.

Well, even Hillary can't be wrong about everything. In this case I agree with her. A 55 mph speed limit may well be a needed step at this time, for the following reasons. (cont.)

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On May 15, 1916, a frenzied crowd of white Waco citizens surged into the 54th District Court and seized Jesse Washington. Moments earlier, a jury had convicted the seventeen-year-old African American male of murdering a white Robinson woman, Lucy Fryer. The mob, convinced that Washington had also raped Fryer, tortured, hanged, burned him alive and then dragged his mutilated corpse through town. A huge crowd of spectators (15,000 by some estimates) looked on with glee, while storied local photographer, Fred Gildersleeve, recorded the event in gruesome detail.

We note that the brutal murder of Mrs. Fryer was a tragic event for her family, and we are mindful that the slaying lingers as a painful legacy for her descendants.

Washington had confessed to the crime. The prosecution presented evidence. After four minutes of deliberation, seven days after his arrest, the jury of twelve white men found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

Notwithstanding, based on the trial record and what we know about justice for African Americans in the Jim-Crow South, we cannot make a conclusive finding of guilt or innocence in this 90-year-old case.

Wholly apart from that unanswerable question, clearly the community of Waco, Texas, grievously violated Jesse Washington's fundamental rights to due process under the Constitution of the United States. The preemptive actions of the mob, and their exhorters, clearly deprived an American citizen of his right to appeal to a higher court and short-circuited the legal process. The events of May 15, 1916 sting with inequity and disgrace.

Even worse, we know that the grotesque inhumanity of the Washington lynching was emblematic of a period in which our community regularly denied our African American neighbors basic human rights. The "Waco Horror," as it came to be known to the world, was not an isolated case; egregious abuses and humiliations were far too prevalent in Central Texas and throughout the South during our long, dark period of racial segregation and mistreatment.

Inarguably, we are the product of our collective past. We are a people, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “connected by the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart” and home in our community. We do well to celebrate the blessings we inherited from our ancestors, who lived in a time that we cannot fully comprehend.

However, we do ourselves a grave disservice when we attempt to evade or ignore the less than heroic chapters in our history. Wacoans of 1916 committed a gross act of barbarity. As a result of that heinous act, and many others, present Waco inherited a history laden with exploitation and mined with racial mistrust.

The present-day community of Waco, Texas, and McLennan County profoundly regrets and fervently renounces the Jesse Washington atrocity. Our community extends our deepest sympathies to the myriad victims of those tragically dehumanizing times. While we cannot change the past, we find it absolutely necessary to confront and condemn our reprehensible heritage of racial inequality and brutality.

We also believe that it is appropriate for us to extend forgiveness to our ancestral community.

We forgive those who have failed us, just as we seek forgiveness for our failures. We come together, preserving a painful communal memory, in order to commit ourselves to justice. Learning from our past and calling upon the better angels of our nature, we dedicate ourselves to fostering a community at peace with itself.
One of my new intellectual heroes is Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sidney. In an address given a couple of years ago, he reminds us that democracy is not necessarily good in itself, but is only an instrument for meeting goals which may be good or not. He also asks us to consider different kinds of “democracies." The following few paragraphs are from his address.

"The purpose of my observations about television standards, and the past and present situation on contraception and abortion, is to highlight the point that for secular militants today democracy, more than anything else, means that anything is possible. Freedom today, in its everyday sense, means the limitlessness of possibility: whatever you want, whatever you like, you can do it. This is nonsense, of course. A moment’s reflection on any number of “possibilities” reminds us that they are impossibilities. The American sociologist Philip Rieff has written of the important part that culture plays in creating a basic resistance to possibility, something within us that can give a compelling answer when our desires and will ask us the question “why not?” [8] Compelling answers to this need for self-restraint, for delayed gratification, are in short supply. The resources secular democracy has for this purpose seem to be exhausted, in a sea of rhetoric about individual rights.

I use the term “secular democracy” deliberately, because democracy is never unqualified. We are used to speaking of “liberal democracy”, which as currently understood is a synonym for secular democracy; in Europe there are (or were) parties advocating “Christian democracy”; lately there has been much interest in the possibility of “Islamic democracy”, and the shape it might take. These descriptors do not simply refer to how democracy might be constituted, but to the moral vision democracy is intended to serve. This is true even, or especially, in the case of secular democracy, which some commentators—John Rawls, for example—insist is intended to serve no moral vision at all. In his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II makes just this point when he argues that democracy “is a means and not an end. Its ‘moral’ value is not automatic”, but depends on “the ends which it pursues and the means which it employs. . . . [T]he value of democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes”. [9] Democracy is not a good in itself. Its value is instrumental and depends on the vision it serves. "

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23/05: Media Bias

Wizbang this morning links to an analysis by David Limbaugh of the Tim Russert interview with Condi Rice. David Limbaugh shines a devastating light into the dark corner of media bias and the way popular opinion is shaped through manipulation. A must read.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. I would like to think that certain newsmedia figures do not intend to be biased, but are simply shallow thinkers, or unaware of their own biases, or repeating media cliches. But over the last few years it has become impossible for me to give the benefit of the doubt any longer. I think some of these folks must be aware of what they are doing.
It may be that the resurgent radical Islam engaging in terrorism world-wide is the last-gasp of the Muslim religion and culture as a powerful force in the modern world. As we enter the 21st century, traditional Islam is under siege from two sources.

On the one side is the attractive power of Western consumer society in all its decadence--modern television programming, movies, music videos, pornography, fashion, consumer geegaws. In sum: the exaltation of the individual as hedonistic consumer. Enough anecdotal evidence can be found in media reports over the last decade to verify that many, many young Muslims have felt this attractive power, even in the Middle East.

On the other side is the attractive power of Christianity. While not widely reported in the MSM, Muslims are converting to Christianity at a rate probably not seen before in history. This is true not only for Africa, but there is even a growing movement of underground house-churches in Iran. Many of these conversions are the results of missionary radio with clandestine follow-up by local believers.

Not only is the future of the West at stake; the future of Islam is also.
Today (Sunday, May 21) the Waco Tribune-Herald published a portion of my piece on the Waco Horror (read it here) extracted from the fuller blog piece that appeared earlier in the month. The piece underwent a fairly heavy edit from the Trib , which probably improved it stylistically, and certainly freshened it up (a lot had happened since I wrote it two weeks ago).

You will note that the introductory narrative of the event and the portion asking that the pain of the Fryer family not be forgotten were forgotten. But the essence of the piece remained in tact.

The Waco Horror continues to interest a national audience. Here is a very limited sampling of some of the national news organizations that have covered the story recently:

NPR (last weekend): Waco Recalls a 90-Year-Old 'Horror'

The Washington Post (in late April): In Waco, a Push To Atone for The Region's Lynch-Mob Past

Fox News (May 16): Group Denounces Lynchings 90 Years After 'Waco Horror'
Category: Films & Ideas
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I finally screened Good Night, and Good Luck and Capote on DVD (in fact, I purchased them sight-unseen). The following represents my thoughts on Good Night, and Good Luck (with thoughts on Capote to follow at some undetermined date).

In re Good Night, and Good Luck: I should warn you that I liked it.

Good Night, and Good Luck is a morality play. Evil is clearly defined. The forces of good wage the noble and difficult fight and win in the end. Along the way, there are sacrifices to be made and lessons to be learned and advice to be dispensed. I love a good morality play.

The main villain in Good Night, and Good Luck is not Joseph McCarthy, although he is a bad man (and he does a fine job of indicting himself in archival footage). Good Night, and Good Luck is, more than anything else, a jeremiad against American complacency and the coma-inducing "wires and lights in a box," television.

The story depicts the tension between objective reporting, crusading journalism, entertainment, selling advertising and corporate control in the TV News business.

In the end, after saving due process and the American way from a wily and powerful malefactor, Edward R. Murrow and his "See It Now" crew (our heroes) are assigned to the Sunday afternoon graveyard. Fred Friendly, noting the success of Uncle Miltie's "Texaco Star Theater," wryly rues: "You should have worn a dress."

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It seems to me that there are big obstacles to our winning the “War on Terror”; and they seem almost insurmountable.

1) Political correctness: note the name "War on Terror;" we cannot even name the enemy correctly—we need to be talking about the War Against Imperial Islam, or perhaps the War on Radical Islam; sloppy terminology reflects sloppy thinking. And we must be clear-headed because the danger we face is as great as any external threat in our history. Because of political correctness we cannot engage in reasonable and needed security profiling. (If the IRA ever starts a war against the US, I will understand if I get searched and questioned more than Native Americans or Asians. I will not blame my government; I will blame the enemy who started the war.) We need to monitor mosques and shut down those that spread the disease of militant Islam here in the US.

2) Moral equivalency: "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." “Who are we to say that the Western way is superior to medieval Islamic fundamentalism?” “Our killing them is just as bad as them killing us.” As has been observed, those who say things like this don’t really believe what they say. They are not moving to countries without a free press, freedom of assembly, free speech, freedom of religion, freedom from unreasonable searches, the right to be judged by a jury of one’s peers, habeas corpus, the right to vote, etc.

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Drudge today links to a story from the Washington Times that recounts the recent Senate vote to make English the official language of the US. The headline is "Reid Calls Language Proposal Racist." Where to begin? Dear Senator Reid:

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Submitted for your approval:

As Americans, we believe that religion is necessary to the establishment of social order. Man must construct a moral government and an efficient religion to guide him and bring out the brighter side of his nature. Human institutions are finite while God is infinite. Personal piety has much more consequence than social order. Political liberty and religious liberty are inseparable. Slavish obedience to nobles and bishops are equally reprehensible. Persecution is wrong and tolerance is right. National identity and national unity are dependent on a national orientation toward religion. Religion equals morality; rational religion that rises above dogma, superstition and mystery lays the foundation for a citizenry that is good and moral and free. A religion that does not promote morality is bankrupt. A childlike faith in God as Creator and Father and master of the universe is the beginning of wisdom and upright behavior. God is omnipotent and awesome. Be wary of a human-centered religion. Hubris and arrogance and pride of place and self is the original sin. Man must acknowledge God over man. Religious diversity is good. Religion unshackled by government is good. A vital religious community of Christ doing the work of God on earth is an essential part of God's plan. There is great power for good in a unified community of Christ.

Are you willing to sign on?

Some of you may recognize the long paragraph above as a conflation of Edwin Gaustad's seven basic religious imperatives in American history, government and culture. Obviously some of these seven are easily compatible, while others, you will notice, are mutually exclusive. On the other hand, all of these impulses have made great impact on who we are as a people.

Accept this as notice of my intention to consider the inherent and historic tension between church and state in American politics and religion and culture. I intend to develop this narrative over a series of essays this summer.

One more note: The backbone of these posts come from a series of three lectures that I composed for a Chautauqua at Seventh & James Baptist Church (Waco, Texas), which I delivered last summer.

One last caveat: almost of all of this material will be synthetic and derivative. I am not a church historian or theologian. I leaned heavily on scholars with expertise in these areas to make the story of American religion make sense in the context of a larger narrative of American political history.
Category: Immigration
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I appeared on local TV Tuesday morning to discuss the President’s speech on immigration. I was not especially enlightening, but I did correctly predict that the President’s message would not help him with his conservative base.

Although numerous commentators have taken the President to task for his “comprehensive” approach, asserting that comprehensive is a code word for doing nothing, I offer my kudos to the President for his five-pronged plan. And I agree with his assertion that a wall and mass deportations will not solve the problem.

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Replying to Gossenius. In line with the comments from A Waco Farmer, it appears to me that it is a reach to interpret the story of Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery to signify Jesus’ absolute condemnation of capital punishment. First, note that Jesus' affect is not at all what one would expect if he were indeed making a categorical command. He is neither active (cf. driving the money changers from the Temple) nor angry (cf. “Woe unto you . . . hypocrites”). Second, note that there is no explicit teaching statement attached condemning the death penalty per se. (cf. “You have heard it said, but I say unto you . . .; “But in the kingdom . . .”). Third, the case itself is said to be a trap laid for Jesus (“to test him . . .”) with only one of the two guilty parties brought to him. Any new interpretation of a biblical story must bear a heavy burden of proof. I am not yet convinced.

In addition, Paul will not go away. Specifically Romans 13:1-7 gives the state the sword, the right from God to take human life. It seems to me that with his explanation of John 8:1-11, Gossenius has only two options with regard to Romans 13: either throw out Paul’s teaching here; or, take the Anabaptist option and forbid Christians to participate in government and public justice.
The attack on the US by radical Islamists has turned our attention away from the threat posed by Communist China to US interests. A flashpoint in the not-too-distant future will be Taiwan, an island claimed by the Communist Chinese. The claim is dubious. Since when did an empire (modern Chinese borders are the result of Chinese imperial expansion, with some adjustments such as those done by Russian imperialism) have a sacred right to every bit of territory that it ever claimed? In the case of Taiwan, the claim does not stand up to close scrutiny. And, believe it or not, an American mainline denomination this summer will consider a resolution in support of an independent Taiwan. (cont.)

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
According to a poll done by the Religion Newswriters Association of its members, the top religion news stories of 2005 were:

1.The death of Pope John Paul II after a long and eventful papacy.
2.Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger elevated to the papacy as Benedict XVI.
3.Terry Schiavo’s death and the controversy surrounding the end of her life.
4.Churches and faith-based groups responding to disasters world-wide such as the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
5.Debate over homosexuality continues in mainline US denominations.
6.Debate over evolution, especially in Kansas.
7.Court cases involving Ten Commandments, Pledge of Allegiance, abortion, euthanasia.
8.Faith-based groups involved in the debate over Bush’s three Supreme Court nominees.
9.Vatican releases statement on homosexuality; first major statement by Benedict XVI.
10.Billy Graham does final Crusade in New York City.

The events in this list, especially numbers 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, & 10, demonstrate once again a major thesis of the Bosque Boys, namely that America cannot be understood without attempting to understand religion’s (especially Christianity’s) interaction with American politics and culture. (cont. below)

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In an earlier post, I pointed to Benedict XVI's clear thinking on Islam and its relation to modernity, especially pluralism. There are signs that Benedict XVI intends to give consistent attention to the relationship between Islam and Christianity, including gently putting pressure on Islam to respect Christianity. Recently he has called for Muslim nations to show tolerance toward Christians. While the Pope's words would seem very gentle to American readers, they would not be heard as gentle words in nations that practice Islamic law.
In addition, (cont.)

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In early January Hugh Hewitt did an interview with Father Jospeh Fessio that deserves more attention that it has received. In the interview candid comments from Pope Benedict XVI (former Cardinal Ratzinger) on Islam were related. The gist of the Pope's comments are below

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Today in the New York Sun, Bill McClay, a Bosque Boys favorite, reviews the latest from "gonzo" historian Douglas Brinkley, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

It is the policy of the Bosque Boys to promote charity and humane treatment toward the intellectually defenseless, but, for all of those who have practiced the art of history in New Orleans, or suffered through a Doug Brinkley moment on some cable news network, I am making an exception in this case.

The full review is linked here (which I heartily recommend), but I am posting a few choice excerpts below:

One can be excused for wondering from the outset whether enough time has passed for anything of this epic scale to be written about these tragic and infuriating events - or whether Mr. Brinkley is the man for the job. Let me confess that I haven't read all of the writings of Douglas Brinkley. I doubt that anyone - perhaps not even Mr. Brinkley himself - has ever done that. He is a veritable ... deluge of literary productivity, with books to his credit on a dizzying array of subjects, ranging from Beat poetry to Jimmy Carter, and from Henry Ford to, most recently, the failed Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Indeed, the range of his literary productions is so wide as to seem indiscriminate. But his bestknown writings seem to have three things in common.

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The Bosque Boys are blessed with a host of brilliant friends, one of whom is a noted legal scholar, who happens currently to be investigating the problem of capital punishment and Christianity. In response to an Okie Gardener's "Zacarias Moussaoui, the Death Penalty, and Christianity," I asked "Gossenius" to provide a concise contrasting perspective. Many thanks for this contribution:

Christ and the Death Penalty

In attempting to reconcile the Christian faith with support for the death penalty, the Okie Gardener asserts that he “needs a New Testament warrant, explicit or implicit, to dismiss an Old Testament command.” I certainly agree with that. What I think the Okie fails to consider is that Jesus explicitly condemned the death penalty.

In John 8, Jesus is asked to opine on a lawful execution which is about to occur. There is no suggestion that the defendant was innocent, or that the crime was minor by the standards of that day. Contrary to the Okie’s position, Jesus did not shrug his shoulders, summarily conclude that the death penalty is necessary, and walk away.

Rather, he challenged the gathered crowd: That a person without sin should cast the first stone of the stoning. Famously, no one does. They do not have the moral authority to execute another person, even when the law of man calls for it. Could his teaching be any clearer? Jesus came upon the death penalty, about to be conducted, and stops it. Imagine if he had come upon an abortion about to be committed and condemned it. Wouldn’t that be our first argument in fighting against abortions? Why should we draw a different lesson regarding his direct condemnation of capital punishment?

Of course, there is also the fact that the execution of a convicted criminal is at the very center of our faith—the execution of Christ himself. Can we truly reflect on that killing of the truest of innocents and support the death penalty, a punishment which threatens (and has inflicted) death on those who were innocent of the crime?

Oddly, once Okie dismisses the gospels as a basis of authority, he justifies the death penalty by saying that “a dead murderer cannot kill anyone else.” Zacarias Moussaoui won’t have that opportunity, either, living out his days in the Supermax prison.

But what of general deterrence—the theory that the bare fact there is a death penalty deters some who would kill from doing so. As Albert Camus observed nearly 50 years ago, if we really believed in this, we “would exhibit the heads. Society would give executions the benefit of the publicity it generally uses for national bond issues or new brands of drinks.” Even if executions were public, would they deter murder? Consider this: In early 20th-century England, where public executions were common, 170 of 250 condemned convicts had, prior to their crime, actually witnessed an execution. Some deterrent.

Camus was wise, but he does not settle my mind on the issue, for Camus is not at the center of my faith. Christ is, and his direct condemnation of the death penalty is plenty good enough for me.

--- Gossenius
Along with hunger, thirst, and other basic human drives is one that modern secular elites continue to overlook: the religious impulse. Humans naturally seek to understand and explain their world and themselves in ways that give meaning to their existence. Humans want to feel connected to "something more" beyond themselves. We need a "Beyond" so badly that if we turn from traditional religions we still turn to something--whether UFOs or the Hollywood fad of the year such as Kabbala, channeling, or crystals. To understand a person you must come to understand how his or her religious impulse is expressed. To understand a society or group we must understand the shape and content of its religious expression.

Little Green Footballs today provides a glimpse into the mind of radical Islam that we must see and try to understand: the mother/child relationship, and, understanding the Quran.
Powerline has this discussion of Romney and his chances with GOP evangelicals. While I think they may be correct in that many evangelicals could embrace him as a fellow "Christian," the identification still is problematic. See my earlier post.
Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
I am giving this letter to this year's high school graduates of the church I pastor.

Dear Graduate,

Congratulations on this milestone in your life. You now are among the best educated, most privileged people on the planet, with opportunities before you that most of the human race could not even dream of. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48b) Live your life wisely, in a godly way, and be a blessing in this world. Whether God takes you around the world, or keeps you in Apache, remember who you are—a Christian, blessed by God to be a blessing—and be careful who you become.

(cont. below)

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Category: American Lives
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Note: This essay is the first installment in a series entitled, "American Lives," which spotlights great Americans, famous and anonymous, who have lived exemplary American Lives.

As we glide comfortably into the twenty-first century, social commentators ask if this generation of Americans will embrace the ancient cause of liberty. Because we live in a free society dependent on enlightened self-government and public service, each generation is called upon to embrace the mantle of citizenship. Free men and women dedicated to upholding sacred institutions handed down from our heroes of the past must give new life to Democracy.

Lt. Colonel Charles Yates, USAF-Ret is one of our heroes. Through tenacity and a desire to serve, Charles and millions of Americans like him met every challenge of their critical times. Our generation inherits the blessings of freedom, security and prosperity from men like Charles Yates. If we are to meet the challenges in our future, we do well to appreciate and emulate his model American life.

Born in Rutherford, Tennessee in 1924, Charles Clancie Yates inherited a tradition of stubborn self-reliance, independent thinking and devotion to duty from his Gibson County antecedents. Men of that region, who intrepidly pioneered the Northwest Tennessee frontier during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century, a few generations later, bucked the prevailing tide of secession as the Civil War approached. A significant number of them volunteered to fight for the preservation of the Union; one of those volunteers was W. C. Bell, maternal great grandfather to Charles Yates. By the 1920s, however, like most rural Southerners, residents of Rutherford battled an enemy at least as furious as civil war: the onset of the Great Depression.

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May Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) be called “Christian?” To put it another way, is Mormonism part of the Christian tradition? The question may be kicked around in the press in the coming year as the ’08 presidential race gets underway. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, seems to want the Republican nomination. Given the strength of conservative Christians in the GOP, his religion could be an issue. A few years back, Senator Orrin Hatch, a fellow Mormon, expressed dismay that not everyone would recognize him as a Christian. To Senator Hatch it seemed self-evident—he was a Mormon, Mormons are the true Christian Church, so he must be a Christian. After all, the official name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. But, . . .

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In the spring of 1916, a group of white Waco citizens surged into the 54th District Court and seized Jesse Washington, a seventeen-year-old African American who had been convicted of raping and murdering a white Robinson woman, Lucy Fryer. The mob hanged and burned and tortured Washington and then dragged his mutilated corpse through town. A huge crowd of spectators (15,000 by some estimates) looked on with glee, while storied local photographer, Fred Gildersleeve, recorded the event in gruesome detail.

Washington had confessed to the crime, the prosecution produced compelling evidence, and a jury of twelve white men found him guilty after four minutes of deliberation, seven days after his arrest. Nevertheless, for many reasons, we cannot make a conclusive finding of guilt or innocence in this 90-year-old case at this juncture, and we should not try. Also, we should be mindful that the brutal murder of Mrs. Fryer was a tragic event for her family, and we should be sensitive to the reality that the slaying lingers as a painful legacy for her descendants.

Notwithstanding, clearly the community of Waco, Texas permitted an egregious violation of Jesse Washington’s fundamental rights to due process under the Constitution of the United States. Although a McLennan County jury sentenced the convicted man to death, the preemptory actions of the mob, and their exhorters, deprived an American citizen of his right to appeal to a higher court and short-circuited the legal process. For all of us who salute the flag and pledge “justice for all,” the events of May 15, 1916 sting with inequity and disgrace.

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"People will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn into the driveway, not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. 'Of course we won't mind if you have a look around,' you'll say. 'It's only twenty dollars per person.' They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have, and peace they lack. They'll walk up to the bleachers and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they had dipped themselves in magic waters; the memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers; it has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and raised again. Baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again. Oh, people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.” From FIELD OF DREAMS

Some of my earliest memories from childhood are of lying in my bed early on twilight summer evenings with the windows open, listening to Harry Carey calling Cardinal’s games over my grandfather’s radio in his bedroom fifty yards north of mine. (We both went early to bed, I because my mom believed children needed their sleep, he because he believed a day had been half wasted if the cows had not been milked by daylight. His radio was turned up loud because he was half deaf as an old man.) I’m not sure I really remember the first time I attended a baseball game I was so young. We went to St. Louis and saw the Cardinals; we went to Kansas City and saw the Athletics. In the car, on the tractor, at home, baseball on the radio has been as much a sound of spring and summer and fall for me as spring frogs and cicadas.

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As almost all readers of this blog know by now, Zacarias Moussaoui has been sentenced to life in prison, probably in a Federal “supermax.” Do I think this was a good sentence? No. On the one hand, imprisonment probably will be hard on the fanatic would-be martyr who believes he has a divinely-ordained role in history. By the 3,000th morning in his concrete cell he may begin to wonder how his life fits into “Allah’s” plan. On the other hand, the punishment does not seem commensurate with the crime, he will be a constant threat to prison guards and staff—he still wants to kill infidels, he will try to spread his religion of hate, and I await the day when terrorists seize hostages demanding his release. I think he should be executed.

So how do I reconcile my affirmation of the necessity of capital punishment with my status as a Christian? Neither easily nor comfortably. Taking a human life is a momentous, tragic action. And I have helped do it many times. So probably have you. Whenever the Federal or state government of which I am a part (“We the people . . .”), to which I pay taxes thereby enabling its actions, whose services I use including police protection, and whose legitimacy I affirm each time I vote, takes a human life I am involved. I can be involved and support executions, or I can perhaps minimize my involvement by protesting executions and moving to a state without capital punishment. We all of us are involved already (unless maybe you are in prison for nonpayment of taxes and have renounced your citizenship)

So how do I reconcile my affirmation of the necessity of capital punishment with my status as a Christian?

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A few weeks ago Arthur Schlesinger attempted to frame the War in Iraq and the actions of President Bush in an historical perspective. In addition to unfavorable comparisons to four modern presidents, Professor Schlesinger cited Congressman Abraham Lincoln’s 1848 opposition to James K. Polk’s War with Mexico to inveigh against the evils of "preventative war" and the Bush doctrine of preemption.

The day before, Thomas Bray, attempting to associate Bush with Lincoln in a positive formulation, told the story of the Civil War president, who made miscalculations based on faulty prewar intelligence, faced down unstinting criticism of his cantankerous secretary of war, curtailed civil liberties and outlasted “embittered Democrats, [who claimed that] the war had been an utter failure [and] demanded that the administration bring the troops home.”

Most American wars have compelling parallels, for they all exist within the the same basic political framework. The title of Bray’s essay, “President Lincoln Lied Us into War Too,” is instructive. Presidents carry the burden, in our democratic-republic, of making the case for war ("selling the war") and convincing Congress and the American people that war is in our vital national interest and the only rational alternative.

For this reason, American presidents have tended to manipulate and exaggerate the threats posed by our intended enemies and taken great latitude in outlining the casus belli when they call us to war. This is true of Polk prior to the Mexican-American War, both Wilson and Roosevelt during the extended preludes to American entry into the two World Wars, and Bush 41 in the run-up to the first Gulf War (to cite a few examples).

And it gets worse. Once committed, the president also has an especially onerous but critical burden during a time of hostilities: maintaining popular support for “his” war. One obvious key: keeping the struggle brief and securing overwhelming and indisputable victory. Win big and win fast.

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Category: From the Heart
Posted by: an okie gardener
Adding to my thoughts on the sin of Despair (see earlier post Life Is Unpredictable):

In The Lord of the Rings Tolkien contrasts Despair with various virtues. Sam, the true hero Tolkien later said, demonstrates Loyalty, and so helps save Middle Earth. Frodo demonstrates many virtues, including Duty, and so helps save Middle Earth. And so on. The heroes persevere, even when all looks hopeless, carried forward by loyalty, duty, honor, courage.

Two important figures illustrate the sin of Despair: Saruman and Denethor. Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, beheld the might of the enemy, and concluded that all would be lost. He killed himself and tried to kill his son. Saruman, the Wizard, also beheld the might of the enemy, and concluded that resistance was futile. He allied himself with the Enemy, Sauron. A shared characteristic of each of these characters is pride.

Despair is a form of pride, assuming we know infallibly that things are hopeless. Not a bad thing to remember in these days of terror amidst the War against militant Islam.
In answer to an Okie Gardener's challenge:

First of all, I must confess that I cannot play an instrument, read music, carry a tune or keep a beat. I have always suspected that my musical ignorance makes me the perfect country music fan, an art form that is much more literary than it is musical. Even though I cannot appreciate “great” music, I have always understood the country sound and appreciated the profundity of the the folk "poetry."

One of my favorite American writers splendidly described country music as “the lonesome, helpless cries from those tired men and rapidly aging women, who had rebelled against their fate to toil rocky hillsides and raise bands of illiterate, naked children. Their song was heard and understood, and hillbilly music moved beyond the hills. The Texas cowboy heard, and instantly knew the plight of the hillbilly was the same as his own, as did the Nebraska farmer and the lonesome Okie picking oranges from California groves belonging to other men. It was the wailing of depression and deprivation, simply expressed melodies of yesterday’s happiness and sorrow, of mothers, fathers and sweethearts lost forever in memories….”

The perfect country song must embody those sentiments.

Runner-Up: I am tempted to give the ultimate honor to Hank Williams and "Your Cheating Heart." This classic is nearly the quintessential song about pain and betrayal, composed and performed by the archetypal country artist in the midst of personal agony and miserably adrift in his celebrity and success. He recorded the track merely weeks before his death by overdose in the back of his Cadillac on the way to a booking in Ohio; he was not yet thirty years old. Your Cheating Heart was a huge posthumous hit for Hank in 1953. Later that year, his widow (his second wife, to whom he had been married for only a few months) married another country singer, Johnny Horton, who would die in a car wreck in 1960.

“When tears come down like falling rain, You'll toss around and call my name…”

But the perfect country and western song, with all due respect to Hank Williams (and Steve Goodman), is ...

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A couple of weeks ago I had to be out and about in my car for a few evenings. Listening to a geezer rock station I heard a nationally syndicated program hosted by Alice Cooper. What a trip! Rock music, anecdotes, Bible lessons, and occasional libertarian/conservative political commentary. In the 1970s who could have imagined Alice Cooper on the radio explaining the context of a New Testament story? Or warning against the dangers of excessive drinking? Life is totally unpredictable.

For much of my life, from childhood until about fifteen years ago, I had a recurring dream: I was standing in the back yard of my paternal grandparents. I looked to the southwest and saw the top of a nuclear mushroom cloud (the direction of Kansas City), then I looked to the southeast and saw the top of another mushroom cloud (in the direction of St. Louis). I assumed, given the talk of those days, and later given my own analysis of the world's political situation, that nuclear war between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was inevitable. (Boy did I feel that in the early 80s). I also recall, growing up in the 60s, having the feeling that America was doomed by enemies without, and by problems within. The same thoughts recurred in the late 70s with oil shortages, strong inflation, and the hostages in Iran. But, the U.S.S.R. is no more, the United States is still here, and my premonitions/predictions did not come to pass. The future is unpredictable.

For me this unpredictability gives me hope. Traditionally Christianity has regarded Despair (not to be equated with depression) as a sin. Despair is the rejection of hope. It is a sin because it is a form of pride, an assumption of omniscience. The person who chooses to despair assumes that he/she knows all the facts of the present, and knows what will happen in the future. We never know enough to declare that life is hopeless.

Category: Baylor
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Baylor website:

Naymond Keathley Appointed Senior Vice Provost
Baylor University Executive Vice President and Provost Randall O'Brien has announced the appointment of Dr. Naymond Keathley, professor and interim chair of the religion department, as senior vice provost, effective immediately. Keathley succeeds Dr. Larry Lyon, professor and dean of the Graduate School, who will become vice provost for institutional effectiveness, while remaining dean of the Graduate School. (End Quote)

This is a bold and wise move. Mainly because it is the right thing to do for a good and talented man, who has demonstrated his loyalty to the university in spades. This announcement, and the earlier decision to make Randall O'Brien the permanent Provost, represents very good news for the future of Baylor.

Well done, President Lilley.

Category: From the Heart
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
As May is the month for graduations, this magnificent commencement address from two years ago deserves your consideration. (Please Note: I have omitted a few graphs of introduction, self-deprecating remarks and material specific to the event and venue, Vanderbilt; I have also emboldened the must-read sections for skimmers):

Remarks by the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice
May 13, 2004

The Southerner in me is happy to be here, a little closer to my roots in this region that has changed so much so quickly.

You are here because you worked hard. You are here because you value education. You are here because this university saw in you the raw potential that is now being realized.

But let's be very clear. Merit alone did not see you to this day. There are many people in this country, many from your hometown, some even from your own high school, who are just as intelligent, just as hard-working, and just as deserving, but for whatever reason, they didn't have that one teacher that inspired them, or parents who made it possible, and they didn't enjoy the opportunities that came your way.

Don't ever forget that when you leave here. Don't ever forget that just because you deserve something it doesn't mean that you'll necessarily get it. And don't ever assume that just because you got something, it meant that you deserved it.

Commencement is an opportunity to graduate to humility.
Also never forget

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Some years ago William Tenn wrote a science-fiction short story entitled "The Custodian," in which a man, prior to the earth's destruction, gathered only what could fit into a small spaceship from all earth's cultural and artistic treasure. What to choose? Sometimes I have day-dreamed of myself in a similar role. What would I choose to save, what paintings, sculpture, poetry, music, etc. would I choose to represent each area of human artistry?

To represent Rock Music, I would flip a coin to choose between the Rolling Stones Jumpin Jack Flash and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.

I have a theory as to why the Stones work so well as a Rock Band. They include both of the basic impulses of human beings, indeed, the two basic contradictory impulses of the world: chaos and order, head and heart. Definitions: Dionysian--(from the god Dionysus (Bacchus)) individualistic, exuberance, chaos, heart/emotions, madness; Apollinian (from the god Apollo) beauty, rationality, order.

Mick Jagger is the Dionysian, chaotic, emotional impulse. Think of his singing--he rarely hits a note straight on, his voice slides around the notes, constantly threatening to go into the wrong key. Think of his dancing--chaotic movement. Think of his persona on stage--a good imitation of the god of wine.
Charlie Watts is the Apollinian, orderly, rational impulse. Think of his drumming--simple and spare, exact as a machine. Think of his movements--nothing wasted or excessive. Think of his stage persona--a good imitation of the god of reason.

The genius of the Stones is that these two contradictory impulses both are harnessed, complimenting each other, demonstrating that each needs the other. Without steady Charlie, Mick's singing would devolve from music into pure chaos. Without exuberant Mick, Charlie's rythmn would lack a heart, would degenerate from music into pure formality.

(Challenge to A Waco Farmer--what song would you choose to represent country music and why?)
Written Saturday, Nov. 26

This morning I attended the funeral of a young Marine from Apache, Oklahoma, killed in combat in Iraq. His name was Josh Ware. You may have seen him along with 5 or 6 other marines on the cover of Time magazine during the battle of Fallujah. He was killed by hostile small arms fire last week during operation Steel Curtain. Josh was of Kiowa and Comanche descent, and registered with the Kiowa tribe. He was 20 years old.

I walked down to the Comanche Tribal Center in Apache for the funeral. A local Indian man picked me up and gave me a ride. We were waved through the security cordon around the center. Rumor had it that the group from Kansas (God Hates Fags) would be coming to protest. The tribal center and the land on

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