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One of the toxic aspects of our culture is the way that younger and younger girls are sexualized. Media images of women are mostly as sexual beings. Sexual encounters first happen at younger and younger ages. You may have seen some media reporting on the recent release of the American Psychological Association findings. We are damaging the vulnerable children of our culture. Here is the APA release, with a link to the full report. Some excerpts from the Executive Summary:

Journalists, child advocacy organizations, parents, and psychologists have argued that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls.The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls was formed in response to these expressions of public concern.
. . .
There are several components to sexualization, and these set it apart from healthy sexuality. Sexualization occurs when

a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or

sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. All four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization.The fourth condition (the inappropriate imposition of sexuality) is especially relevant to children.Anyone (girls, boys, men, women) can be sexualized.

But when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them. Self-motivated sexual exploration, on the other hand, is not sexualization by our definition, nor is age-appropriate exposure to information about sexuality.
. . .
Psychology offers several theories to explain how the sexualization of girls and women could influence girls’ well-being. Ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, and attitudes and beliefs.
(Emphasis mine.)

What is wrong with a degree of censorship?

My heart goes out to Britney Spears. She is a comment on us and the society we have made.

What happens when a teenage girl from Kenner, Louisiana, with virtually no education, is suddenly thrust into the national spotlight and told continuously by millions that she is the most important person in the world?

Britney Spears, 1999.

What happens when the intoxication recedes?

Britney Spears in 2007.

Celebrity truly is the song of the Sirens for the current age.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This morning in the Grungebuggy (the old van I and the dogs drive down to the creek in) I caught just a bit of talk radio. All I heard was the conservative host stating that government has no business trying to teach values in our schools. Teaching values is the job of the family.

I do not know what prompted the statement. Probably the host was objecting to politically correct indoctrination. But, whatever the prompt, the statement goes overboard. There is no education without values. I say this as a teacher with experience in Middle School, High School, and College.

Imagine a classroom. Now, try to imagine a classroom with no values being taught. I can't. To create a good learning environment every teacher has a few rules: Don't talk when someone else has the floor. Don't cheat on exams. Do the work on time. These rules reflect and teach values--mutual respect, honesty, responsibility. An educational environment cannot be values-neutral.

For education to occur certain character virtues are necessary, and must be taught and/or reinforced. Patience. Persistence. Self-discipline. Humility. Love of truth.

Perhaps the question we need to ask ourselves is this: can a post-modern, politically correct, consumerist, secular society support the values and virtues that make education possible? I have always been a strong supporter of public schools. But, in the last few years I have wondered if in the future I would not be supporting parochial education instead.
Today is President's Day. Is your flag flying?

In the recent past Americans debated what is called theodicy. That is, why did God permit evil? How can a good and loving God permit bad things to happen? Where was God when we hurt? Further back in our past, when God was understood to be a mysterious, holy and righteous judge of men and nations, another question also was asked: for what sins is God punishing us? What purposes is the Almighty working out in the evil that has befallen us?

Since modern Americans tend to view God as indulgently loving, we tend not to ask the latter questions, and to shout down those who might. (Witness the criticism Falwell and Robertson faced after they suggested that 9/11 was a judgment from God on our sins.)

We also tend not to debate theodicy much anymore. Our questions are more like--why did the government not save us from the horror of Hurricane Katrina? why did the government allow Osama bin Laden to build a terror network against us? how can the government allow dysfunctional schools to exist? why hasn't the government eliminated poverty and cancer and unemployment? why has the government made such a mess in Iraq?

Often, especially for major disasters like Katrina and in foreign policy, we specifically question the president. Why didn't Bush save New Orleans? Where was Bush when disaster struck the 9th Ward? Why did Bush cause war or terrorism or global warming? Why did Bush make a mess in Iraq?

The underlying assumption to these questions is that this one man, the president of the United States, has the power to bend reality to his will, to make the world conform to his wishes. We don't argue theodicy because we attribute the powers of divinity (good or evil) to the occupant of the oval office. When my candidate (Hillary, Edwards, Obama, et al) ascends to the office of power, then the golden age will begin.

Presidents have power, but they are not God.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I have been at four funerals in the last week and a half, conducting one and attending three. Three were Comanche, one was Caddo and Comanche. Three were Christian services all held in churches, one was mixed Christian and Native American Church held in the gym of the Comanche Tribal Center.

Here are some things I like about the conduct of these funerals, typical for our area. (more below)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Quietly, a broadly based ecumenical coalition is being built called "Christian Churches Together." Here are the first two paragraphs from The Layman.

PASADENA, Calif. – More than 300 worshipers gathered for worship at Pasadena Presbyterian Church to inaugurate the most diverse ecumenical grouping in U.S. history.

Christian Churches Together begins with 36 member organizations from all five church "families" – Roman Catholic, evangelical/Pentecostal, Protestant, Orthodox and historic racial ethnic – as well as a number of non-denomination religious groups, such as World Vision, Bread for the World, Sojourners/Call to Renewal, Evangelicals for Social Action and the Salvation Army.

"It is our intent and prayer to broaden and deepen the fellowship of Christian churches and organizations in the United States," said the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, the general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and chair of the Christian Churches Together steering committee.
Full article here and then click on the link "Christian Churches Together
talk first about evangelization"

An excerpt from the RCA website news of the event:

"Our purpose is to 'grow closer together in Christ in order to strengthen our mission in the world,'" he explains. In 2001, church leaders began to lay groundwork for CCT, with a goal of expanding fellowship, unity, and witness among the diverse expressions of Christian faith. The group officially organized at a meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, last year. This week's meeting kicked off with a worship service of celebration and commitment to mark the formal beginning of what Granberg-Michaelson calls "a new and promising fellowship." "We set this time for a worship service to announce and inaugurate Christian Churches Together, as well as to work on how we understand evangelism," says Granberg-Michaelson. Special presentations on the understanding and practice of evangelism were made to the membership by spokespersons for each of the faith traditions Full article here.

Perhaps this ecumenical organization, focusing on cooperation among a broad range of groups, will have success. Jesus did pray for the unity of his Church.
In the last two weeks I've visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the OU Medical Center several times. A member of our community had a child prematurely. Very prematurely. The baby girl was born at about 22 weeks and weighed 1 poung 9 ounces. Her eyes still were closed and she was placed in a heated compartment ("incubator") with a respirator. The doctors and nurses were realistic with the family and gave no false hope. But, this little girl is hanging on, is developing (her eyes now can open) and has gained 4 ounces. We will watch, wait, and pray, but things are looking better.

Coming away from NICU I have often thought about all the babies that are right now being aborted at the same age as this little girl, and the other premies on that floor. And some are aborted even later, close to the time of natural birth.

What is the difference here between the premies and the aborted babies? Age and development can be the same. Many aborted babies could live if taken from the abortionist to a neonatal intensive care unit. The only real difference is that the adults in control choose for some to live, and some to die.

Do we really want to be in this situation as a nation? A situation in which the life and death of an individual is completely in the hands of someone else? Capital punishment is somewhat different. In that case one can argue that the individual has done something himself or herself which has placed the defendent's life in the hands of a jury. But the babies have done nothing other than exist. And someone else decides if they should live or die. How is their status of babies any different, morally, from the status of an impaired person who needs some level of care?

For my previous argument against abortion see here.
Today's NYT reads:

Defiant Dixie Chicks Are Big Winners at the Grammys

"After death threats, boycotts and a cold shoulder from the country music establishment, the Dixie Chicks gained sweet vindication Sunday night at the 49th annual Grammy Awards, capturing honors in all five of the categories in which they were nominated" (read entire article here ).

The first clause of the lead contains the MSM stock description of the Dixie Chicks: "threatened, boycotted and mistreated." Woe to any well-intentioned and enlightened dissenter intent on speaking truth to power. McCarthyism lurks in the hearts of these ignorant country-music cretins, and violence and economic coercion are the tools of compliance in Red-State America.

The second clause of the lead offers an abysmally flagrant cliché to describe the Grammy triumph for the Chicks: "sweet vindication." And not because it is merely a trite phrase--but it is also inaccurate. Sweet Vindication? Vindication equals justification. In its most literal sense, vindication connotes exoneration through argument or the exhibition of evidence. I suspect that the verdict of the Grammy voters will enjoy an extremely limited jurisdiction.

Sweet revenge? Maybe. Delicious counterpunch? Probably. Shot across the bow of the "country music establishment"? Yes. The Times actually gets it right in the fourth graph of the story, describing the Grammy haul for the Chicks as a "rejoinder" and a "sharp counterpoint to their shut-out at the Country Music Association awards in November."

An aside: Why did the Country Music Awards "shut out" the Chicks last November? Because the Chicks are no longer on country radio. Country fans in the United States, in general, are no longer buying tickets to see the Chicks in concert or buying their albums. The Chicks are off the radar for most country music fans.

Why did the hicks from the sticks disown the Chicks?

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Gateway Pundit has the news on Albert Pujols becoming a citizen of the United States. Congratulations Albert.

For those of you who are marginal baseball fans. Pujols is having a career that will have him mentioned with the greatest when baseball is talked about in a hundred years. He deserves to be in the company of Dimaggio, Williams, Cobb, et al. If you can make a way to see a Cardinals game this coming year, do it. You then can tell your grandchildren you once saw Albert Pujols play in person.
In his comments on the recent series of posts on denominationalism and the new Baptist coalition, Martian Mariner asked the following:

On a different point, you've mentioned the democratization of American Protestant denominations in the early 19th century and you've got an ongoing series about the decline of mainline denominations. I would add the ecumenical movement of the mid 20th century to the category, and then ask the question: What do you see as being the dominant bent of American Protestant Churches in the 21st century?

Making no predictions, here are my thoughts on 21st century American Protestant Churches. (below)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
The South Florida Sun-Sentinal has a good article on the future of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and its related ministries. Link from The Layman.

In late December the pastor, D. James Kennedy, was hospitalized with heart problems. Kennedy has been an important figure among conservative Protestants and in the culture wars for over 25 years. Kennedy official bio sketch.

Coral Ridge website. I notice you can listen to an address by Alan Keyes from the site.

A Waco Farmer has responded with two questions to my post on Uniting Baptists?. Each question is worthy of its own posted reply. My reply to one of the questions is here. Now, the Farmer's other question:

2. Historical question: the early nineteenth century has been depicted by most American historians as a period of "Democratization of Religion." The big idea that seems to emerge from this thesis is that the Baptists and Methodists appealed to the Americans of the Early National period. In essence, the Baptist and Methodist style was much more attractive to the consumers of religion during that era. Do you agree with that? If so, do you see our era as more consumer-driven than then?

The brief answer is, Yes. The longer answer is below.

» Read More

A Waco Farmer has responded with two questions to my post on Uniting Baptists?. Each question is worthy of its own posted reply. Here is one of the questions.

1. I appreciate your recognition that the new Baptist coalition is not based on consumerism. I am convinced that Baptists united for the Democratic Party agenda is not going to be a hot commodity. In my experience, mega-churches with a conservative political bent do much better. Would you agree with that?

First, yes, in general "mega-churches with a conservative political bent" are doing better numerically than churches with a liberal political bent. Although there are some large flourishing congregations with liberal politics, and many large flourishing congregations that are apolitical.

Second, I do not want to cede these social issues to "the Democratic Party agenda." I understand your point, you are speaking of congruity of goals, I t hink. But, . . . (cont. below)

» Read More

Back in 1980, after driving all night from the East Coast, we pulled into New Berlin*, Illinois, for breakfast. On the edge of town were the usual signs welcoming you to the community from civic organizations and churches. One caught our eye: The United Baptist Church of New Berlin. My buddy in the front seat and I laughed till we almost cried. A beaut' of an oxymoron: "United Baptist." Sort of like the fictional "Holy Trinity Unitarian Church," or "Four-Square Fundamentalist United Church of Christ."

Well, I haven't commented on this yet, but former Presidents Carter and Clinton are trying to unite some Baptists, including black and white groups. Article here from The Sun News, Myrtle Beach. Lots of luck. Baptists do division much better than reunion.

One thing from the article caught my attention. (More below)

» Read More

Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
I heard on our local television station the other day that Oklahoma led the nation in Army recruits per capita in the eligible age range. Arkansas came in second.

The Kerry crowd probably would point out that we poor Okies and Arkies have limited opportunites and poor quality education which limits our options so that more of our young folks join the military out of desperation.

Let me offer another explanation. (more below)

» Read More

Americans have gotten fatter in the last decades; I know I have. There is a lot of talk today about overweight children as well as adults. So, what's going on?

The following are the unscientific observations of one man who has managed to live for 50 years. I have seen some changes that could explain our "obesity epidemic." Here are my geezerly ramblings.

On the intake side:
1. When I was a kid, soda pop came in 10 or 12 ounce glass bottles or 12 ounce cans. Most of the kids I knew drank no more than one a day. Now, the most common serving seems to be the 20 ounce plastic bottle. Even assuming that kids still drink only one a day, that is an increase of 8 oz per day, or about 100 empty calories. And, my observation is that many people drink more than one/day.

2. Home cooking is on the wane, and more people eat out daily, or eat ready-to-microwave meals. While home-cooking of 40 years ago could be heavy, most resturaunt meals are pretty high fat, especially fast food. Maybe its my imagination, but resturaunt serving sizes seem larger than 30 years ago. And, many ready-to-heat meals have a high fat content as well.

3. Family home life is more fragmented/hectic, which I think leads to more snacking and fragmentary meals rather than a traditional supper of meat, starch, and vegetables.

On the output side:

1. I don't see kids play outdoors much anymore. After school and on Saturdays my generation played outdoors a lot. (It was not uncommon for the mom to chase the kids out of the house till dinner if they did not go on their own.) Now, computers and video games and television seem the prefered entertainment.

2. I see more either hired done or let go around the house and yard. Fewer calories burned.

02/02: The "A" Word

I continue to ask what was wrong with Joe Biden's description of Barack Obama. Everyone seems to agree that it was an egregious example of insensitivity and latent racism--but I continue to search for a detailed explanation of why.

Eugene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post, weighs in:

"[A]rticulate" [is] a word that's like fingernails on a blackboard to my ear."

Really? What don't you like about it?

"Will wonders never cease? Here we have a man who graduated from Columbia University, who was president of the Harvard Law Review, who serves in the U.S. Senate and is the author of two best-selling books, who's a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and what do you know, he turns out to be articulate. Stop the presses."

This line of thinking assumes a definition of articulate that strikes me as so broad as to be too confining. One meaning of articulate is capable of speech. But, in political terms, articulate connotes an ability to express yourself and your ideas with clarity and effectiveness. Every person who graduates from a prestigious institution is not necessarily articulate. Not every celebrity writer is articulate. Not every senator (perhaps not even a majority) is articulate.

"Articulate is really a shorthand way of describing a black person who isn't too black -- or, rather, who comports with white America's notion of how a black person should come across."

"The word articulate is being used to encompass not just speech but a whole range of cultural cues -- dress, bearing, education, golf handicap. It's being used to describe a black person around whom white people can be comfortable, a black person who not only speaks white America's language but is fluent in its body language as well."

So Biden called Obama too white? Are you sure about this?

"Before you accuse me of being hypersensitive, try to think of the last time you heard a white public figure described as articulate. Acclaimed white orators such as Bill Clinton and John Edwards are more often described as eloquent."

I went back and checked my own writing on this blog. I have, indeed, called a black man, Michael Steele, articulate. But I also spoke of my good friend, Tocqueville, whom I admire as a persuasive writer and thinker, as articulate. Several times I have described as articulate one of my academic writing heroes, Bill McClay. I have referred to John McCain, whom I support for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, as an "articulate spokesman for conservatism."

I am unhappy that articulate is fast becoming off limits as a way to describe gifted African American public figures.

Disclaimer: This was not an actual interview. Read Robinson's article here in full.