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July 22, 2005
Mark Chanski, a pastor in Holland, Michigan, thinks that many Chistian men fall far short of the biblical vision of what he calls “husbanding.” Several significant cultural factors have contributed to this reality, but Chanski sees even deeper theological issues at stake. Taking his cue from billiards, Chanski describes weak husbands as “passive nice guys,” who have fallen prey to “passive-purple-four-ballism.” The purple ’4′ ball on the pool table is passive, and so are too many men, Chanski argues. His book, Manly Dominion, is worth careful attention. Young men of the rising generation of Christian men needs this book — and so do many of their fathers. Here’s a sampling:
July 21, 2005
Forces opposed to the confirmation of Judge John G. Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court lost no time trying to find any argument with traction. The “e-word” — extremist — has already been employed, but that only makes those who would call Judge Roberts an extremist look foolish.
Some, including Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), warn that they must investigate whether Judge Roberts has “deeply held personal beliefs” that should be of public interest. As before, this is code language used against Christians who hold to the traditional Christian understanding of human dignity and human sexuality. This is nothing more than thinly disguised religious discrimination.
Be on watch for unprecedented and unexpected developments. Take this article from The Los Angeles Times, for example. In “There’s No Doubt About Abortion Position of Roberts’ Wife,” reporter Richard A. Serrano reports this: “A Catholic like her husband, Jane Roberts has been deeply involved in the anti-abortion movement. She lends her name, money and professional advice to a small Washington-based organization — Feminists for Life of America Inc. — that offers counseling and educational programs. The group has filed legal briefs before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of abortion.”
Are the views, involvements, and personal convictions of a nominee’s spouse now fair game for the confirmation process? This is unprecedented and shameful. Reporter Serrano offers this analysis: “A spouse’s views normally are not considered relevant in weighing someone’s job suitability. But abortion is likely to figure prominently in the Senate debate over Roberts’ nomination. And with his position on the divisive issue unclear, abortion-rights supporters expressed concern Wednesday that his wife’s views might suggest he also embraces efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade.” Like her husband, Jane Roberts is a respected attorney who is well-known in Washington circles. This article points to the battle that is now brewing. Keep a close watch on the maneuvering.
July 20, 2005
Ending weeks of speculation, President George W. Bush announced his nomination of Judge John G. Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court last night. Judge Roberts is superbly qualified and will serve the nation with dignity, honor, and great legal intelligence. He is one of the most respected and well-established attorneys in the nation, and his record of public service is stellar. Nevertheless, get ready for a heated and contentious confirmation process. Given the importance of this nomination, liberal opposition to Judge Roberts is almost inevitable. We will keep watch. Stay tuned.
NOMINATED LINKS: Text of the President’s Remarks, The Supreme Court Nomination Blog, The Washington Post, Hugh Hewitt.
July 19, 2005
Retired U.S. General William C. Westmoreland died last nght at age 91. He died as one of the most controversial figures in American military history. He began in brilliance, leading the cadet corps at West Point, reaching the rank of colonel by age 30, fighting against Erwin Rommel in World War II, and eventually gaining his fourth star.
Yet, he became a hated and divisive figure as he led American forces in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968. Eventually, more than 46,000 Americans would die in that war, and South Vietnam would fall to the communists shortly after the American withdrawal. His supporters would claim that he did his best, given the unwillingness of succesive American administrations to unleash the full force of the American military. Others would claim that he was an American war criminal, whose complicity led to the deaths of thousands of Americans and even more Vietnamese civilians.
The Vietnam war is still an unhealed wound in the American soul. The debates still rage, even as time has clarified many of the issues. As for William C. Westmoreland, historian David Halberstam once commented, “I regard him as a tragic figure, a man you just want to look away from.”
That’s not the way I felt several years ago when I unexpectedly met General Westmoreland. I was waiting to fly from Nashville to Dallas on an early morning flight and was at the airport with time to spare. I went into the airline club room to get a cup of coffee and check the newspapers and I found the room deserted except for one older man. I was in the fourth grade when Gen. Westmoreland ended his command in Vietnam, but his face and profile were immediately recognizable to me. I had seen his face hundreds of times on the evening news.
I took a risk, crossed the room, and asked, “General Westmoreland?” He immediately looked up, extended a wary hand, and looked me in the eye. He seemed to take a quick inventory of my age, dress, and facial expression, and then relaxed his grip. I was too young to be a Vietnam veteran, too conventionally dressed to be a radical, and too friendly to be a threat. We spent several minutes in a conversation that ranged across several safe issues. I did not ask about Vietnam. After he asked about my profession, he ventured some thoughts on leadership.
My flight was called all too quickly, and I had to go. I thanked General Westmoreland for his service to our country and for his graciousness in conversation. We shook hands again and I left. I have revisited that short conversation many times since. News of his death brings the memory alive. I am thankful for that brief encounter with history. I will be watching the responses to the news of his death with interest.
NEWS COVERAGE: The Los Angeles Times, BBC News, The Washington Post.
July 18, 2005
Sunday’s edition of The New York Times features a lead editorial that sets out its demands for a new associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The editorial, “The Right Kind of Justice,” is filled with the kind of rhetoric we can expect in coming weeks.
The paper warns of the prospect that President Bush will nominate “a radical ideologue who would work to upend well-established legal doctrines and take away basic rights that Americans have come to cherish,” and then instructs: “The Senate must work hard to ensure that this does not happen.”
Note carefully that the “basic rights” to which the paper refers would include rights that cannot be found, implicitly or explicitly, in the U.S. Constitution. Just how do they define “basic?” Further, the editorial makes a direct reference to abortion, demanding a justice who will uphold abortion rights. Given the divisive nature of the abortion issue, can the editorial board keep a straight face when it claims such a “right” as something “Americans have come to cherish?” Which Americans?
The paper also castigates conservatives for opposing justices who demonstrate what the paper calls a “capacity to grow on the bench.” Note clearly that this “growth” goes only one way. The editors are thrilled with a justice who “grows” into a defense of abortion rights and similar concerns of the left. What about a justice who “grows” in understanding the importance of a strict constructionist reading of the Constitution? Such a justice would be the nightmare of the paper’s editorial board. “Growth” is a code word for growing in accord with the ideology of The New York Times, of course.
July 15, 2005
Elina Furman writes about the emergence of the “boomerang nation” — a nation of adult children who don’t assume adult responsibilities, but come home to live again with parents. Don’t get her wrong — she’s not opposed to the trend. She just wants the boomerang ‘kids’ to understand why their parents may not be so excited to see them living at home once again. From her book, Boomerang Nation:
July 14, 2005
Following my usual practice, a couple of years ago I quickly ran into a local card shop to pick up a Mothers Day card for my wife. Easy enough, you may say. Not so. Men are just not well equipped for greeting card shopping. It’s bad enough to pay an outrageous sum for painted paper covered with sloppy prose — it’s even worse to be forced to read through a few of the insipid messages in order to find just the “right” card for the occasion. This time, I blew it. Big time.
As the kids and I were gathered to tell Mary how much we love and honor her as the mother of our household, the time came for her to open and read my card. Disaster quickly followed. It turns out that I had picked out a card for “blended families,” which we are not. The card expressed awe for the mother’s ability to blend two families together. You can imagine the sound of a crashing airplane as background music.
Understanding wife that she is, Mary turned the occasion into an opportunity to laugh rather than to get angry. Our kids enjoyed it even more, warning me never to go into a card shop alone.
Greeting cards are a sign of cultural decadence. The card companies have largely invented new holidays, just to build business. What’s next? National Plumbers Day? When genuine sentiment disappears, the greeting card industry will remain. The slogan for the industry should be this: “How to say something close to something when you have absolutely nothing to say.”
The emergence of greeting cards for “alternative” families is just a sign of how commercialism follows demographics. But, does the commercialism merely follow? In some sense, it appears that the commercial aspect may actualy drive cultural momentum. After all, a new family form represents a new market. Every new lifestyle is a new opportunity.
Keep this in mind when you read The Los Angeles Times news story on the emergence of a new line of cards for adulterers. In “Adulterers Need Cards Too,” the paper reports that a woman named Cathy Gallagher has developed a line of cards for couples involved in an adulterous affair. The whole idea is profoundly sick, but the reality is truly revolting. A Christmas card for the adulterous couple includes this line: “As we each celebrate with our families, I will be thinking of you.”
According to the paper’s report: Gallagher says her Secret Lover Collection of 24 cards is the first line exclusively for people having affairs, and she expects hot sales. She says half of married people have had affairs (though some studies show the figure to be far less — more like 15% of married women and 22% of married men, according to the University of Chicago). From former President Clinton’s relationship with “that woman” to shenanigans on TV shows like “Desperate Housewives,” affairs are out in the open.
Further: Gallagher says her cards express sentiments that people in affairs can’t express to anyone else, even their best friends. “These are not sex cards; these are emotional,” she says. “No other card reflects having to share someone or not being able to be with that person on the holidays.” Yes, there’s nothing like a little home-wrecking sentiment to warm the adulterous heart at Yuletide.
Now, this little line of cards is not yet a major cultural phenomenon. After all, the major national greeting card companies have no similar product line — at least not yet. But consider this fascinating and revealing section from The Los Angeles Times story:
Hallmark, the nation’s largest greeting-card seller, says some of its relationship cards are broad enough that their meaning can vary depending on the situation, so it doesn’t see a need for an explicit line of cards for adulterers. The “Between You and Me” line covers a wide variety of relationships, says spokeswoman Rachel Bolton. She points to a card that says, “I love the private world that you and I share.” “I look at that and I’m thinking of my husband. You might look at that and think of your secretary,” Bolton says. “The purpose of a greeting card is to make somebody feel good — to solidify or further a relationship.”
Well, there you have it. Hallmark is marketing toward adulterers with a line that is “broad enough that their meaning can vary depending on the situation.” Capitalism triumphs with blandness and moral relativism combined.
As for me — I’m not going into the card store without a chaperone. It’s dangerous in there.
July 13, 2005
Historian David Halberstam, one of the most popular and influential historians of modern America, reflected on his generation as his Harvard class of 1955 celebrated its fiftieth reunion. In “A Modest Generation,” published in the May-June 2005 issue of The Harvard Magazine, Halberstam characterized his generation and the vast changes that have reshaped America over the last half-century.
Consider these selected insights: We are children therefore of the Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the atomic age. That, it strikes me, ought to make us a serious, somber, and reasonably skeptical generation and I suspect we are. We were somewhat more modest about our career possibilities than those who came after us, and with good reason; no one we knew when we were young had ever been that successful on a large scale in Wall Street. No one, when we were young, talked about disposable income, and even those members of our class who went off to Wall Street did not think in terms of making millions and millions of dollars–if they thought they might be millionaires, and I suspect few of them did, it was over the course of a long career, not in just one year or two.
We are part of an era where Americans tended to live in one place and have one job with one firm for most of their lives. I think that’s important because in some ways our values evolved from that, and are involuntarily more traditional. We have, for a variety of reasons, what I would call slower values, less given to fad and to change. We are stodgier, more cautious; in our dress codes I suspect we still prefer the tweed jackets, blazers, and grey flannel pants that we wore when we were young; we are more likely than generations that have succeeded us to be–in dress, and in thought process, and in cultural attitude–what we were when we were younger. That does not make us better or nobler than those who followed us, but perhaps we are more careful and more wary of change, possibly more aware of the consequences of events. We did, after all, grow up with the dire consequences of other people’s miscalculations.
The change in our country in those 50 years, so much of it driven by technology, is startling. We have gone from a semi-Calvinist society, or at least a society that still paid homage to Calvinist values, to a modern, new-entertainment-age culture where we all have television sets which are close to being de facto movie screens in our homes, often with hundreds of channels. It is a society where, because we are supposed to be entertained at all times, the great new sin is not to sin, but to be boring. As such we have reversed our values–something quite obvious now to anyone watching sports on television. The more provocative your behavior, the more you violate the existing norms of the sports society, the more everything is about you, the more handsomely you are likely to be rewarded. If we are a society with a higher level of energy than that of our youth we are also, for a variety of reasons, one with a much lower level of basic civility.
July 12, 2005
When the Church of England began ordaining women as priests back in 1994, ecclesiastical laws were put into place that prevented the election of a woman as bishop. As one Anglican friend told me at the time, the prohibition against women bishops was a concession made necessary at the time. Just wait, he told me, and you will see that as soon as there is a large number of women priests, the rule against women bishops will fall. Now, fully half of those studying to be priests are women. The total feminization of the Church of England is well underway.
BBC News now reports that the church’s governing body has just taken steps to remove the barriers to women bishops. As the report indicates, “The vote beginning ‘the process for removing the legal obstacles to the ordination of women’ came after a debate at the General Synod in York.” In reality, once the biblical pattern of ministry is compromised, further compromise is all but inevitable. As my friend understood, it’s only a matter of time.
July 11, 2005
A leading Roman Catholic cardinal has issued a statement that has caused quite a stir in both scientific and theological circles. Christoph Schonborn, the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, published his controversial remarks in the pages of The New York Times, and in the form of an op-ed column entitled “Finding Design in Nature.”
July 10, 2005
On this Lord’s Day, direct your thoughts to the vision of God revealed in Walter C. Smith’s great hymn, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” The hymn is a beautiful and majestic testimony to the omniscience and sovereignty of our all-knowing God:
Immortal, invisible, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes, Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might; Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small; In all life Thou livest, the true life of all; We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, And wither and perish–but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight; But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.
All laud we would render; O help us to see ‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee, And so let Thy glory, almighty, impart, Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.
You can listen to the hymn tune, St. Denio, at CyberHymnal.com.
July 10, 2005
An honest sense of moral discomfort marks Jim Holt’s article published in today’s edition of The New York Times Magazine. In “Euthanasia for Babies?“, Holt considers the now-infamous Groningen Protocols developed by a team of Dutch doctors. These medical protocols allow for the killing of infants judged to be enduring great pain.