Recently in Critiques & Controversies Category

Cultivated Europe


A friend of mine took a trip to Paris to visit her daughter. This friend's mother was flying in from Romania so that the whole family could be together. The friend is not in terrible health, but she has a heart condition that can be troublesome and other physical problems that make standing for long periods a problem.

She flew to Amsterdam where she was to catch a plane to Paris. Because of the weather, many flights, including her own, were canceled. It took them a long time to find her a place to stay and nothing was offered by way of compensation. The next day she stood for seven hours in line to rebook. While standing in line she tried to explain to someone who was patrolling the lines that she had a heart condition and other complicating factors and this wait was difficult as it was staged. The response, "I don't have any time for this."

My response, what can one expect from that haven of liberal values in which prostitution and marajuana sales thrive and laws allow for a kind of involuntary euthanasia to be administered to those who are not able to stand in line for seven hours.

I have to say that while I was very impressed with some aspects of European society, courtesy, thoughtfulness, and kindness never did seem to loom large in the spectrum. This merely confirms some preliminary impressions. While hardly an indictment of the society as a whole, it is symptomatic of the illness that lay at the heart.

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A powerful blog defense that includes this:

First up, the Church doesn't bluff. There may be a surface resemblance between the Church's move and the typical move of politicians facing budget cuts -- make the cuts in the most visible, most popular, most needed areas first -- but that's where it ends. The Church does NOT use the poor as hostages for imposing its social agenda.

Read the whole thing here.

And I think his send-off is worthwhile:

"And that's coming from an agnostic gay marriage supporter who is still uncertain as to whether the Catholic Church has been a net boon or bane to modern civilization."

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Obama says, "Let's Ban Blasphemy"


Okay, I don't know that the head is true because I'm not certain I trust the source. However, if so, what an interesting source this "protection" for SOME religion(s) comes from.

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The Dangers of the Language


I know I shouldn't rail. I know, particularly in the place I am in, that I should roll over and allow the tide to swirl past me. But I can't. The principle of human dignity does not allow me to stand by and observe while we continue to treat people with such barbarity--starting from the first words out of our mouths.

I am used to HR speak that tends to refer to people in aggregate as "resources." I understand what is meant by it--both on the surface and in the subtext. On the surface, it is seemingly harmless enough, a shorthand for people and other essential material. Or so it seems--but given that resources rarely refers to "other essential material" it is really short-hand for the interchangeable mass each of whom is as incapable of the next of accomplishing the task.

People are not resources--not unless you are Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or any number of others I could name, eminently capable of doing away with useless "resources." Human dignity rises above the level of a resource, and those of us who are true to our Christian calling need to resist with all of our might the tide of dehumanization that sweeps through our workplaces and our civilization. As small as it may be, changing the language is one place to start with this. When we can stop regarding people as resources, we can begin to understand people as they are--people. A resource is a tool or material that can be put to a limited number of uses in entirely predictable and transferable ways. This description in no way applies to any person. And when we can start thinking of people as people rather than resources, then we no longer have available to us such deplorable and evil euphemisms as "resource reallocation" or "resource sizing" to refer to the potential destruction of hundreds of human lives at corporate whim.

As I said, it's small but it is important. This morning I received an e-mail that asked me "which resources will be used to cover" such-and-such a task. I have not yet phrased my response, but I will tell you without any hesitation at all, it will sharply correct and reflect upon the original phrasing. I do not work with resources--I use them. I work with people, and I endeavor not to use them in that negative sense.

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An election is always difficult for those whose candidate has not succeeded. This is particularly true in the last election when the stakes seemed so high. For the unborn they are high indeed.

And yet, if Obama is a principled, thinking man, as his supporters argue, and if he is indeed a man to be president to "all of us"--those who voted for him and those who did not--as he has promised, the time for carping and complaint is over and the time for engagement has begun--at least until the man has an opportunity to take office and give us a sense of how he intends to occupy it.

This man, for good or ill, is now our president for at least 4 years. His ardent supporters expect things from him that no man yet has ever been able to accomplish, and there are early signs that Obama is significantly aware of this. Washington will continue to be politics as usual.

And yet, I do think that the man about to enter the office is of quite a different sort than what we have become accustomed to over twenty years of mismanagement and duplicity. He is something of a cypher--the product of his own propaganda machine-- and so it is difficult to discern how he will serve the people of the United States. By his own words, it seems clear that he will serve the weakest and most vulnerable among us very poorly indeed.

That is a matter for two courses of action. The first is prayer--each of us should be storming heaven each night praying for this man and this congress that will shape the years ahead of us. Rather than complaining and throwing up our hands in disgust, it is even more imperative to become involved in supporting the causes of good and opposing evil. To this end, we also have incumbent upon us the responsibility to make clear to this obviously intelligent man that as leader of the free world, he does not have the luxury of having any "question that is above his pay grade." (This was his famous response to people questioning him about the morality of abortion.) It is now part and parcel of his job to wrestle with each of these questions and to deal with it with integrity and with something more than a lick and a promise. Because if he is to lead us all, he must lead a divided country and he must come to some terms with that division that does not simply dismiss half of its constituents. Will he do this? I suspect not. But without the combined effort of prayer and engagement, it seems certain not to happen.

I was very pleased in this last election when both California and Florida voted to define marriage in the traditional way--Florida within its state constitution. (That's not such a big deal as it may sound--apparently the FL State constitution can be altered on a whim--a few years back we inserted an amendment about conditions in pig-pens.) I was pleased not because I support the causes themselves. I was pleased because at a time when the American people expressed their disgust and aggravation with the present regime and voted for some sort of nebulous and unreliable "change," they also sent a clear message that they are not interested in the entire agenda. We do not wish to have an agenda crammed down our throats. There needs to be a time of discussion with real engagement and real listening rather than talking past each other and dismissing points as though no points have been made. We need to hear what the people who support marital rights for gays have to say and on what they base their reasoning and argument. We need to recognize that both sides have not so much reasoned with one another as they have fumed at one another. Is the "slippery slope" argument against the validation of gay rights reasonable and logical? If the matter is a matter of sin, is it also a matter for legislation? Must everything sinful also be illegal? It is not presently so, etc.

Obama is our president for the next several years. Perhaps through our prayers and through our frequent (let us say constant) vigilance and willingness to inform the government, perhaps we can bring about some of the justice we seek and some of the real change that he has promised--change that is meaningful, right, and which makes us a stronger nation, more dedicated to the principles upon which we were founded and more dedicated to doing always what is right, not what is convenient. We must acknowledge that we are likely to see much good as well as much bad from the next administration. There is little that is unmixed. We will need to pay attention to everything that he says and does and we will need to react to it, not with the nearly senseless vituperation I have seen in some quarters but with constant reasoning and argumentation.

[note: I am dissatisfied with this entry because it fails to capture the spirit of what I'm trying to say. I guess in part that I am arguing that we have now assumed the character of the "loyal opposition." Rather than doing what seems to be the case in recent politics, carping and tearing everything down, it seems we would better serve everyone by engagement and active amd thoughtful conversation. We may not achieve all of our goals, but we can hope to maintain the infamous Washington gridlock that keeps us from progressing too rapidly in the wrong direction.]

Update: entry altered for accuracy. Obviously, this statement proved untrue, and I must have misunderstood my source in reading: "His buckling on Rick Warren is just one such sign." This statement has been removed. Mr. Warren spoke at the inauguration, there could have been no buckling. My sincere apologies.

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Obama--The View from a Child


The other day while riding home from dance class, the subject of Obama came up and Samuel shared some desultory comment along with a long sigh and the name said almost as an imprecation.

"What wrong with Obama?" I asked him.

"Well, you know," he answered rather defensively.

"No, I don't. Why don't you tell me."

"Obama wants to kill babies." Ah, at last, the problem. In this I could see his staunchly republican mother's hand at work.

I said, "Sometime people are very misled. They think that what they are doing is a good thing for everyone. But they have been deceived by Satan and see and think things that are not real."

"Like mirages. I know."

I continue, "Obama has not yet taken office. We may not judge him in these ways. Additionally, the office of the President (if not the man--although I didn't say this to Samuel) is worthy of respect. We must give him a chance."

"But he wants to kill babies." You can't deny the simple logic of that.

"Is that a reason to dislike him and say bad things about him? Isn't a more appropriate response to pray for him so that God might guide him and prevent some of the things he says he'll do?"

"Oh, yeah."

"So rather than saying bad things about him, what must we do with respect to the man who will become President Obama."

"We must pray for him."

"And what must we pray for in particular?"

"That he not be allowed to kill babies."


Isn't it amazing the way children catch on so quickly? I certainly have no great fondness for Obama, but then, neither had I for the other candidate, and I can't say that I'll be sorry to see the present President leave office. Nevertheless, the office of leadership deserves my respect, my loyalty, and above all my prayers for guidance, strength, and a willingness to speak out in truth at all costs. This last is not a commodity in abundance within the world of politics. I dread what Obama may do upon assuming office, but the truth of the matter is neither I nor anyone else knows for certain what this might be, and now is the time for prayer--to earnestly implore God to change the mind and heart of the man who will be the next leader of the United States. Given that his whims will be essentially unopposed, let us pray that they are more often breezes from Heaven rather than draughts from Hell.

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A friend sent me this link by Michael Pollan, whose books you have seen reviewed here from time to time. The article is an interesting critique of the food industry in the United States and some suggestions for improvements. While I think some of these are worthwhile ideas, they probably present certain difficulties of their own. Pollan's ideal is one for each person to strive for, but whether you can remake an entire industry in their image remains to be seen.

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Unlike those dire and mordant souls who wish to tell me that the apocalypse is just around the corner with the Antichrist firmly seated on the throne, I wanted to share what I saw as two shining rays of light in all of the nonsense of the past year.

First, it is extremely gratifying to me to see that the United States seems to be coming of age. I was of the opinion that Obama's skin color would be sufficient to keep him from office, and I found that a sad statement (if a desired result). Indeed, it did not, so we have an undesirable result (King Herod rules again) but a wonderful statement regarding possibility for persons of color. That is extremely gratifying.

Yet another gratifying result, to which I was able to contribute my own little bit, were the results on Constitutional Amendment 2 in Florida and Proposition 8 in California. I should start by saying that I have vanishingly little interest in what the government chooses to see as a marital union. Whether given the name or not, persons living together in whatever aegis should have certain recognized rights and privileges--such as visiting one another in the hospital, etc. I know we will all disagree vociferously, but I hope civilly on that point. However, I deliberately voted for Amendment 2, not so much as a statement on marriage, although I must admit I'm also not particularly interested in the social engineering much of government seems so set on these days, but because I suspected that Obama would win the election. If so, I wanted to send a clear signal:

While you may have been able to gull and cully a small majority of the voting populace into thinking that they were going to get something other than Washington business-as-usual (I'm afraid those people are in for a most painful awakening), there are those of us who have no interest in "change" for the sake of change.

In short, I wanted to send a message that said--do what you want with raising and lowering taxes and playing the political games Washington is so fond of, however, keep your hands out of the "great society" thinking that you want to inculcate.

Now, the efficacy of this is in question. However, when it comes to these matters, no matter how I feel in reality about domestic partnerships, I will invariably vote to maintain long-established tradition because reckless and foolish social experimentation is what has brought us to this cusp of an election with no acceptable candidates. Starting in the late 50s and early 60s we have changed a great many things about society have been changed--some of them good--the present seeming color-blindness, as I pointed out before, is extremely gratifying; some of them bad--recently overheard at a party--"I don't care about integrity, character, or morality, we need a change. But almost all of them to society's detriment. I do not feel now that I live, overall in a better world than did my grandmother. With the recent election and the likely liberalization of abortion and removal of nearly every barrier to abortion and even to infanticide, along with the explicit statement from our president elect about his desire to overturn the Federal Marriage protection act, thus undoing the protections the individual states have instituted, we see the end results of change for the sake of change and social engineering.

Those who voted for Obama implicitly voted to continue social engineering and experimentation. If I felt that this had resulted in an over-all better society and way of living in the past thirty years or so, I might be moved. But I have seen nothing but an increase in violence, callousness, and casual brutality starting with the death of anything approximating courtesy from most people. By voting for Amendment 2 and proposition 8, and having them pass, the American People have said, "Enough with the social experimentation--get about the business of governemental leadership and leave societal experiements as a whole to the people." Let's hope that Amendment 2 and proposition 8 keeps these social engineering tendencies in check and gives us all a respite from the continual ramming of the agenda of a very small number of people onto the vast majority. (In FL Amendment 2 passed by a margin of 24 percentage points (62-38), which was reported by the local newspaper as "passing by a slim margin"-- sign of what mechanisms are already in place.

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