You are currently viewing archive for November 2006
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
In Ray Bradbury's novel, Farenheit 451, published in 1953, a future America is a nation in which books are banned. While it is the government which searches for and burns books, it has merely institutionalized a popular movement. In Bradbury's alternate history, book burning began as a popular movement. Americans came to believe that each had the right not to be offended. Since any book will somehow offend someone, ergo burn the books.

Books are not as important to Americans as they once were. (Is there an author from whom our culture eagerly awaits the next book, as in years past we awaited the next Updyke, Bellow, Hemmingway, Steinbeck?) But, Bradbury may prove a prophet yet for other forms of expression. This article covers fascist-style denial of free speech on college campuses. And this essay by Victor Davis Hanson on the loss of will in the West to defend free speech.
An interesting essay from the NYT. Thanks to Tocqueville.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The slow schism in the American Episcopalian church may be picking up speed. This report from the Modesto Bee covers the upcoming decision of the San Joaquin diocese (area ruled by a bishop) on whether or not to remain in the denomination. Denominational support for same-sex sex is the stated reason for unhappiness.

Several parishes have left the Episcopalians while remaining within world-wide Anglicanism under the authority of a foreign bishop, usually third-world. We'll see what happens in California. (would Farmer use his California insight to tell us about the political leanings of this area of Ca.?)
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Sylvester Stallone is reaching out to the churches to publicize his new movie. As he does this he is sharing his story of faith and redemption. A report and response to a conference call with Stallone here from Focus on the Family. Link from Drudge.

Is Stallone for real? Of course I don't know. But, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. His Rocky movies had a Roman Catholic sensibility about them (think of the priest and the statue of Jesus, etc.), probably reflecting Stallone's own upbringing. But his private life went downhill into self-absorbed hedonism.

Has Stallone had a spiritual experience, calling him back to the faith of this childhood? I hope so. We'll have a better idea a few years from now. Jonathan Edwards, the colonial preacher and theologian, wrestled with the question of how to distinguish genuine from spurious religious experience. He was well aware that people can be caught up in emotional experiences and mistake them for spiritual. But he also believed profoundly in the reality of God's grace. Edwards' answer was "Wait and see." Genuine spiritual experience has staying power, leading to a Christian life over the long haul. Spurious experience fades and disappears.

In his assessment this New England pastor was echoing his Master, who told the story of seed sown on various sorts of ground. Some sprouted and looked good for a time, but eventually withered in the heat. The seed falling on good soil endured and produced a harvest.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I'm a white guy who speaks English as my native language. Living in the US I have not had much experience at being a member of any minority group. (Though the city of Cincinnati does prohibit discrimination against people of Appalachian ancestry. My people, however, left Appalachia about 140 years ago.) Now I find myself a member of a minority--married folks. And, I suppose I'm in a shrinking demographic--married nearly 28 years and never divorced. A member of a minority group, how did that happen?

The following are the unscientific thoughts of this one 50-year old, not based on sociology, just close observation of the latter half of the twentieth-century. One more fact before I begin, the average age of first marriage now has risen into the late twenties. (more below)

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The newest growth area in sports stadium food? Kosher food stands. The business began at Shea and Yankee stadiums in New York and now is spreading. America, what a country. Article here.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that many chain retailers such as Walmart and Target are reverting to "Merry Christmas" this year rather than the generic "Happy Holidays." I guess most Americans were not yet ready for an all-inclusive, politically-correct, post-Christian holiday.

It still disturbs me, though, that the Holy Day of celebration for Jesus' birth has become an orgy of Mammonism. I don't think Jesus approves of our materialistic consumer Christmas habits.

Neither does the Church, really. We soon will begin the season of Advent with its purple cloths on pulpit and table. Traditionally Advent was a season of self-examination and repentance (every feast day had its penitential prelude, best known being Lent before Easter). (more below)

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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The YMCA gradually is returning to its Christian mission. YMCA stands for Young Men's Christian Association, and was founded originally as an evangelical ministry to young urban men. Somewhere along the way the focus was lost and YMCAs became simply family health clubs. The LA Times has this article on the rediscovery of Christian mission by various local YMCAs. Bravo.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Give thanks to God today, and not just in pious generalities, but in specifics.

For holiday cybertravel here is the official website of Plimoth Plantation which includes a virtual tour. And here is a copy of the Mayflower Compact. Here is Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. This site has presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations up to this year's by President Bush.

My earlier Thanksgiving Day post.
A few days ago, I summarized and linked to an argument by Joab on his blog in favor of legalization of marijuana and prostitution. I agreed with him on marijuana, arguing as a Christian citizen here.

Regarding prostitution. I understand the points Joab made regarding the continuing demand for prostitution, and that the social cost of prostitution being less if all states used the Nevada model. But, I have decided I cannot support legalized prostitution.

It seems to me that a bedrock belief of American culture is that each individual has a inherent dignity. (Yes, I know as well as you the history of how we have denied dignity top various groups, but, that has been/is being overcome through appeal to this core value.) The belief in intrinsic human dignity means that the human person never can be reduced simply to a commodity, without injustice being done. Even if one does this to oneself, it is still injustice to violate one's own intrinsic dignity and worth.

That means that I believe in limits to capitalism. The worth of workers must be respected. (I am pro-union as an ideal, and both pro and con in real life.) I also think it is to treat a human being merely as a commodity to allow the poor to sell one of their duplicate organs (say, a kidney) to the wealthy, or to allow a suicidal person to sell all organs.

Exchanging sex for money differs from exchanging your time and talents for money by doing accounting or picking up trash. There is an intimacy, a link to the deepest self, in sex. Selling sex is more like selling yourself than hiring out your time. It is to reduce yourself to a commodity.

I think legalized prostitution goes against a core value of our society. And, if you assert that this core value has religious roots and so should be banished from the public square, I will argue that you are making an illegitimate claim. Religion, considered as a system of beliefs, is indistinguishable from philosophy considered as a way of life.
Anybody out there who in elementary school put your hand on a piece of paper, traced around it, then colored in the Thanksgiving turkey? I thought so. Remember the construction paper Pilgrim hats, bonnets, and Indian headdresses we made and wore? Then we'd hear the story of the FIRST THANKSGIVING again: how the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, nearly starved to death, lost half their number, and were saved when local Indians brought them food and helped show them how to raise corn, etc. Then, in 1623 the feast of Thanksgiving, with red and white enjoying the bounty.

Like a lot of simple stories, this one is both false and true. The false part is that it was not the first Thanksgiving. The original landing party on the James River in what became Virginia had a Day of Thanksgiving in 1619, beating the Pilgrims to become the first Thanksgiving. But, the true part is that it was the tradition of the Pilgrims that spread throughout New England and eventually across the northern states observed on various days. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. (FDR moved it forward a week to give a longer Christmas shopping season.)

(more below)

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Recent reports and polls indicate that an increasing number of Americans and Europeans have a negative view of Islam. Part of the reason can be found below from this article. Found on

Six Muslims were removed from a plane after a passenger reported suspicious behavior. This is the Muslim reaction:

"They took us off the plane, humiliated us in a very disrespectful way," said Omar Shahin, of Phoenix.

The six Muslim scholars were returning from a conference in Minneapolis of the North American Imams Federation, said Shahin, president of the group. Five of them were from the Phoenix-Tempe area, while one was from Bakersfield, Calif., he said.

Three of them stood and said their normal evening prayers together on the plane, as 1.7 billion Muslims around the world do every day, Shahin said. He attributed any concerns by passengers or crew to ignorance about Islam.

"I never felt bad in my life like that," he said. "I never. Six imams. Six leaders in this country. Six scholars in handcuffs. It's terrible."

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed anger at the detentions.

"CAIR will be filing a complaint with relevant authorities in the morning over the treatment of the imams to determine whether the incident was caused by anti-Muslim hysteria by the passengers and/or the airline crew," Hooper said. "Because, unfortunately, this is a growing problem of singling out Muslims or people perceived to be Muslims at airports, and it's one that we've been addressing for some time."

Not a word about the legitimate fears Americans have about a group of Muslims on an airplane. Not a word reported of condemnation for the terrorists that kill in the name of Islam. Not a word, apparently, to their fellow passengers ahead of time that it was time for them to pray, but please do not worry. I would also suspect that there was no shaking of hands, introductions, and greeting of fellow passengers on boarding.

And CAIR. What a CROCK. If the IRA or the Aryan Nation begins bombings in the US, I will expect to be searched at airports (I am of Scots-Irish ancestory with fair skin, a rudy face, reddish-brown hair turning gray, and blue eyes). I will turn my anger toward my fellow white folks who are causing the problem. If CAIR expended as much energy at rooting out terrist sympathizers in U.S. mosques, we would have a more positive attitude toward Muslims.
Over at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler is this post on the power of firearms training to curb violence. Very thoughtful. Recommended reading.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
For Whom the Bell Tolls
by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

As many of you know, a few years ago, Baylor University committed to moving up into the "elite" circle of American institutions of higher education. Many of us who loved and valued Baylor as it was, assumed that the transformation would entail a facelift and an increased commitment to research. We believed that an "improved" Baylor would continue to be what it had always been: a vital institution shaping the lives of Texans in a positive way; we believed that Baylor would continue to offer high standards in all facets of student life and a call to rigor and sacrifice in the name of human improvement and Christian obligation.

However, in its quest to woo the best scholars in the nation (as measured by GPAs and the LSAT), the law school may have succeeded in recruiting too many students who know it all already. The anonymous manifesto below comes from a group of unhappy law students, who posted this message on various blogs connected with the institution. What does John Donne have to do with this? My suspicion is that these sentiments are not unique. As a party invested in the future of American education, I read this particular declaration of independence, equality and hostility, and I worry that the bell tolls for all of us.

The Coyote Ugly Manifesto:

"I am really getting tired of the god-syndrome running around the Baylor Law school faculty. Teachers, you get paid to teach and that is all. You are not our parents, so please stop trying to give us life lessons. Frankly, most of us have been successful in our undergrad institutions and that is why we got to this "fine institution" where the "best belong." The faculty need to realize that we are the heart of this school not them. This school was created for the students not as a tool for the faculty to pick up outside consulting gigs...

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From the Washington Post, this article on three groups and same-sex sex.

(1) The Roman Catholic bishops continue to affirm that homosexuality is a disordered condition since it goes against the natural purpose of sex. And they affirm that Roman Catholic leaders are not free to ignore this teaching. (2) The North Carolina Baptist Convention (the Southern Baptist Convention congregations are organized in state conventions) moves to ensure that no congregations affirming same-sex sex as good can remain within the Convention. (3) The Presbyterian Church (USA), the mainline Presbyterians, are conducting a trial of a minister who performed a same sex wedding.

The action by the bishops is significant given the history of American Roman Catholicism: there has been a tendency in our country on the part of some to ignore official teaching. The NC Baptist action is no surprise. The Post is behind in reporting on the events on the Presbyterian case: charges have been dismissed because a filing deadline was missed. Article here from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Most Americans are merely consumers: we consume food, entertainment, clothing, etc but do not produce any. Not enough gardens, not enough home guitar or piano playing, not enough sewing. We take that consumer mentality and expand it into all other areas of life: sitting back and consuming political choices without becoming involved in politics ourselves, shopping for the church that "meets our needs" without ever teaching Sunday School or leading a youth group or sweeping the floor, complaining about social problems without working to produce solutions ourselves.

Want to change your life and to change the world around you? Become a producer, not just a consumer. From the Dallas Morning News comes this inspiring story of a Producer of Positive Change. Hat tip Powerline which points out that this man works outside governmental and civil rights bureaucracy.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I just returned from the Veterans' Day Pow-wow sponsored by the Comanche Indian Veterans Association (CIVA). I've described pow-wow's before, and have written on the patriotism among the tribes around where I live, and on the way veterans are honored.

Today I just want to note that one of the WW2 veterans honored was a survivor of the Bataan Death March. Think about him the next time your civic duty seems burdensome.

The list of Christian leaders who have fallen because of a sex scandal is too, too long. Today we add another name: Ted Haggard. Haggard is a nationally prominent figure, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and a leader against same-sex marriage. He also is pastor of New Life Church in Colorado, a megachurch.

The accusations come from a male prostitute who works as an "escort." He claims a three-year relationship, including sex and methamphetamine use. Haggard has admitted to buying meth, but claims he never used it; and admits to receiving a massage from the accuser, but not sex. He has resigned from the presidency of the NAE and is on adminstrative leave from his church. See this article.

Forget about the timing of the accusations. Since I have trouble believing in terrific coincidences, I suspect the accusations were timed to impact the elections, especially the same-sex marriage issues on the ballot. But that is not the important issue. The truth and integrity of the Christian ministry is the more important issue.

Haggard's claims so far sound much too lawyerly to me, rather than truly Christian contrition. He admits to the massage but not to sex: what was he thinking when he hired an escort and had a massage? He admits to buying meth but not to using it: again, what was he thinking when he bought it? Brother Haggard, you've done damage. Come clean publicly because you are a public figure; then, after repenting, leave the public eye and your big church. Go work in a Rescue Mission, Soup Kitchen, or some other non-glorious place.

Why do we have these scandals regularly? And why do we have so many, more even than make the national press? (thoughts below)

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02/11: Mental Recess

When I was a kid, my favorite part of school was recess. I find I still need it today. So, in the midst of my crazy life, and this crazy election, and this crazy world, let's do recess.

Wizbang, in a similar mood, has posted a list of all-time favorite TV theme songs here. My list is below. Add yours in the comments if so inclined.

1. Mr. Lucky
2. Peter Gunn
3. Miami Vice
4. Ironside
5. The Mod Squad
6. Secret Agent
7. Beverly Hillbillies
8. Dukes of Hazard
9. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
10. Twilight Zone