January 27, 2007

"American Idol:" Case Studies in Sociology

If you’re one of the millions who watch the wildly popular American Idol I trust you will appreciate what I am about to say. Week after week in these early stages of tryouts, we are “treated” to a montage of Americans who, with stars in their eyes, gyrate, rotate, vibrate, juggle and dance with a song in tow and a dream of being the next pop super star.

To be sure, many show up just to say they went and I have to believe that many more are totally putting on when they act upset and shocked when they are told they can’t sing. Tear, sobs, wails and expletives often accompany the star struck entertainers, supposedly crushed to the core, when they are told flatly--they stink.

But what are we to think when the others, who are truly awful by any objective standard of talent, are honestly shaken to the core because—apparently for the first time--someone is honest with them? The fact is, being judged for the actual quality of their performance and not quality of their desire obliterates the bubble of self-esteem inflated over the years but a culture of mediocrity—and worse.

Everyone seems to loathe Simon Cowell. He is blunt, no nonsense and sometimes downright mean—all true. But meanness aside, his assessment of talent,

more often than not, is dead on. And contestants leave in tears or cursing or both insisting these professionals who make their livings assessing real talent, have “no idea what they’re talking about.” And why? Because they have never been told they are anything but fantastic! Great! Awesome! much less that they have no talent what so ever.

What we see in American Idol is the fruit of a hollow generation where no one was ever cut from a team, few if any have ever been allowed to “fail” and all were given an abundance of ribbons, awards, and trophies.

And so this generation of deluded adults struggle through life bewildered why everyone doesn’t bow to their demand for success; a demand founded on the perilous sands of false compliments and worthless awards.

When God was kicked out of our schools, truth also packed its bags and children were left to find meaning in cheap diplomas and certificates of participation. But the real world does not function on the measure of one’s sincerity no matter how hard one works if that which the hard work produces is still below average. And it cares even less about one’s self-esteem. So, instead of a red carpet, they get a pink slip having been set up for failure in the absence of truthful criticism. These young adults are left shattered—the product of a life constructed on deceitful “Way-to-go’s” and “Atta-boys.”

God allows us to ignore Him and His wisdom for life—but we do so at our own peril. “The sins of the fathers are visited to the third and fourth generation” and its up to us to stop the delusion.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”

(Proverbs 27:6) The young people of today have been given the kiss of death in so many ways. Will we love them enough, to speak the truth in love?

Elsewhere-Christians Are Dying!

While we North American Christians worry about our retirement portfolio, or whether there will be enough snow to go skiing this weekend, who will be the next American Idol or if they will be playing my favorite songs in church Sunday, Christians in other parts of the world are losing their lives for the crime of being a believer in Jesus.

Muslims are rampaging against Christians in Ethiopia—that’s nothing new. This has been going on for some time. Last October in the town of Henno, Islamic leaders urged Muslims in the area to kill full-time Christian evangelists. The situation has reached such intensity that Christian leaders are in fear and moving in pairs to ward off attacks. Local Muslim authorities failed to take action against the Muslim attackers,” according to persecution.org.

January 5 when Christian Ajja Delge—a father of five-- was killed by an unknown person in the town of Kofele. His body was found in a nearby jungle the following day," Voice of the Martyrs said.

Shortly after the murder, Muslim militants burned the homes of three Christian families. "All of the family belongings were burned." "At last report, the police have not investigated the incident or taken any action to bring the arsonists to justice."

In a separate case, ten Christian youths have also been living in a church building as they "were chased from their homes after their families threatened to execute them for converting from Islam," three months ago.

In 2005, Christians were being murdered and of course the Muslim authorities refused to take any action against the murderers. To read the details makes your blood boil but I can’t leave you on that note. The story concludes with the following:

Again according to persecution.org in the following weeks, many Muslims denounced the actions taken against the Christians. To express their disgust, Muslims refused to go to Mosques. In fact, forty-seven key leaders became Christians and renounced Islam stating, “If Islam means killing innocent brothers and sisters – we do not want to follow it!”

The notion of real persecution is totally foreign to us living in the protection of the United States. If I read the Scriptures right, it will not always be that way. Honestly from my vantage point, I am not too optimistic that the Church will shine in that day. But there will be shining stars as those who truly love the Lord will endure to the end. I just hope I am ready.

Hurray For AirTran Airways

Sometimes I think the airlines do over react. In fact I KNOW they do. I have experienced it first hand. The conduct of a flight attendant was phenomenally atrocious and over the top. The incident didn’t concern me but I was sitting right next to the person it did. The flight attendant should have been fired.

But that doesn’t mean they’re always wrong and AirTran Airways got it right when a three year old girl wouldn’t settle down and take her seat as the plane was ready to depart.

Little Elly Kalesza “was climbing under the seat and hitting the parents and wouldn't get in her seat" during boarding. The parents of course are crying “Victim!” and of course the big mean airlines just wouldn’t cooperate with the family’s schedule who wanted more chances to hold the girl and calm her down even though the flight was already 15 minutes late. The parents said they just needed a little more time. Talk about self-absorbed.

Were they willing to pay the fines the airline must pay if they do not leave the gate within a determined length of time from their scheduled departure? Apparently the schedules and connections of the other 112 passengers didn’t concern the Kulesza’s.

The parent’s were irate that the flight attendants wouldn’t let them hold their little girl on their lap. If you fly at all, you know that FAA regulations prohibit such action.

The Orlando-based carrier reimbursed the family the cost of the three tickets, and offered them three roundtrip tickets anywhere the airline flies. Frankly, that was not necessary.

Now call me cynical but I’ll lay you ten to one that the three year old has never experienced loving, corporal punishment.

Certainly if you are given to violent, uncontrolled behavior, you shouldn’t spank your child at all. But most people know the difference between a beating and a swat unless your name is Sally Lieber, a Calfornia legislator trying to outlaw any corporal punishment of a child three and under.

"I think it's pretty hard to argue you need to beat a child three years old or younger." Lieber said.

And there you see how language is perverted to abuse truth. We went from a swat to a “beating” in the time it takes to say “time out chair!

Kudo’s to AirTran Airways. Next opportunity I have, I’m with you!

January 19, 2007

Multiples In The Womb--National Geographic Special is Marvelous!

On January 14th the National Geographic Society broadcast a program called “In the Womb—Multiples.” The show is cast as a “two-hour world premiere special, [that] utilizes groundbreaking technology to take viewers into the extraordinary world of twins, triplets and quadruplets as they develop in utero. The special follows the stories of three expectant mothers from conception to birth and travels inside the womb to see the tiny fetuses begin to interact with each other.”

As I was watching I was spellbound by the utter marvel of being right in the womb from the earliest days after conception until birth. I don’t know what technology they used but the footage was absolutely breath taking and though it was certainly not the intention of this ardent, pro-evolution organization to give a living, visual apologetic for the true miracle of life, it was absolutely compelling. You see little embryonic humans interacting with each other, crowding each other, poking each other, and preparing for their entry into the world. Even though they are referred to as fetuses, the images belie any notion of unfeeling, unintelligent ectoplasm even at the early stages.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, this feature length video is worth 10 million. This one broadcast is probably more effective for curtailing abortions than a hundred picket lines at abortion clinics.

The old saw about the fetus being a lump of tissue is dispelled so compellingly that even the producers seemed to have an awed response to the miracle of life inside the womb.

What I wonder is what cognitive dissonance must any pro-abortion devotee experience with such a remarkable presentation of life long before it ever reaches the light of day?

Do they not make the connection that the human life--so vibrant, so real, so alive they are viewing in awe, could also be dismembered by the blade of an abortionist?

What we must hope for—pray for—is that with the technology of our day, Satan’s schemes to destroy these tiny, image-bearers of God, must surely be curtailed. No sensible human being could behold such wonder and still demand that these cellular inconveniences belong to the woman carrying them and therefore are hers to do with whatever she chooses. May God use such technical innovation for His glory, once and for all.

January 18, 2007

Young Girls Pommel Classmate

The folks at North Babylon High School on Long Island have another extra-curricular activity for students. It combines the arts of pugilism, cinematography and journalism.

It seems that a 13 year old girl made a disparaging comment on line about another classmate’s boy friend. So in this day of anarchy and free speech, three girls decided it would be cool to beat the snot out of the 13 year old, film the beating, and then post it on YouTube and MY SPACE.com.

The video shows the three girls mercilessly kicking, gouging, hitting, and punching, the 13 year old while she lays helplessly on the ground.

The video that was posted for the viewing pleasure of her classmates and anyone else in the world who visits either website, is now being used as evidence. The age of these charming young ladies? Two are 14 and one is 13. My how things have changed.

But we are such an advanced society now. Now that we are all technologically savvy and modern, we don’t need any archaic notions of a belief in God. Can you say “Babel” anyone? The syndrome is pretty much the same. Their technological prowess birthed a pride that gave them the confidence to tell God to take a hike. How are we any different?

What was interesting was Dr. Joseph Laria commenting about the story on Fox News said we have a “crisis of values” in our nation. But what is tell tale is that he expounds on what needs to be done to correct this crisis of values mentioning all kinds of social institutions, organizations, yet without a single mention of the church an that is a problem of monumental proportions.

You see without the Values Giver, there can be only social constructs which may or may not be good for society. But even where the irreligious pragmatist may stumble onto good values, there is absolutely nothing compelling the spirit of man to value those values much less to adopt them as his own.

In other words, by cutting out the church as the solution to society’s woes, you necessarily cut out the solution. This is no surprise of course; this has been coming for decades. As Nietzsche wrote several decades ago, God is dead, and we have done it ourselves. On Long Island, we are seeing only the tip of a massive and brutal iceberg.

Unless Pornography is Outlawed, Our Children Will Continue To Dissappear

In what has become a thoroughly bizarre case of kidnapping, there are more questions than answers but there are answers.

When Ben Ownby never arrived at home after leaving his school bus we were all going through every parent’s worst fears. Odds were, that Ownby would be found--dead.

Imagine everyone’s utter shock when not only Ownby was found but Shawn Hornbeck who had been missing for four years. Hornbeck and Ownby were found in the home of 41 year old Michael Devlin.

There really haven’t been any details forthcoming on the “how’s” the “why’s” and the “wherefores.” About all we know thus far is that Devlin has now been charged regarding child pornography as well.

Everyone who knew Devlin is shocked because he was so “normal” and therein lies a cultural change; a judgment against our collective wickedness of immoral sensibilities.

You see pedophiles no longer necessarily look sinister and act weird. In days gone by it used to be just the psychopaths who committed these horrible crimes. Today, it is the principal of your local school; a deacon at your church, or the very people you put into office who are supposed to pass laws to constrain evil, not energize it.

And a community is shocked when John Q. Public seeks to douse the fires of lust as the law of diminishing returns of pornographic stimulation transforms your “normal” neighbor into a neighborly predator.

While not everyone who gets into pornography becomes a kidnapper or pedophile, to my knowledge, EVERY single kidnapper, pedophile, sicko ever caught in the past 20 years has been heavily into pornography! Until and unless pornography is outlawed, your neighborhood’s girls and boys may be your neighbor’s next conquest.

Free Speech is not an inalienable right; it is the privilege of a responsible and moral citizenry. Any legislator, who insists pornography is difficult to define demanding we have to err on the side of free speech, only facilitates the slaying of our children on the altars of lust. Such a person forfeits the right of office.

January 11, 2007

Pat Robertson Puts It In His Mouth--Again

There comes a time in every man’s life when he should hang up the reins and call it a day. Pat Robertson is perhaps one of the best known Christian broadcasters of all time and until the past several years, he had pretty well maintained both his credibility and integrity. Neither is very easy in our day of incessant scrutiny. But starting a few years ago, Robertson began coming out with some off the wall stuff like bogus predictions and asserting that God gave Ariel Sharon his stroke for having ceded land to the Palestinians. Then he made headlines again advocating the assassination of Hugo Chavez.

When President Bush ran for reelection in 2004, this prophet wannabe said God told him that Bush would easily win reelection. We know how that turned out…

Well apparently being wrong and making a mockery of God in the process does nothing to sway guys like this because he’s done it again.

Apparently Robertson said on the 700 Club that at a recent prayer retreat God told him that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in "mass killing" late in 2007. "I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," said Robertson, "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that." Robertson went on to add that it should happen sometime after September.

Why do these guys insist on disparaging the gospel of Christ by making themselves look like idiots not to mention anyone else who claims allegiance to Christ? Do they think the ridicule they receive is “blessed persecution?” Jesus said, you are blessed when men speak evil of you falsely. You’re not blessed when men call a spade, a spade.

So C’mon Pat. Some of us out here in Christendom are trying to convince people of the integrity of the faith and of God’s Word. And it’s really tough when you bozo’s, who have the means to touch millions of people, say dumb things in the name of God.

The prophets of the Bible must have met the challenge of 100% accuracy or they paid for their error with their lives. You don’t go telling people “God told you…” and then when you’re wrong, dismiss it by saying, “Sometimes I miss.” You might, but God doesn’t. So enough Pat. It’s time to call it a day.

Crisis! American Dogs Are FAT!

“Is your hound round? Too much flab on your Lab? Is your husky, well, husky? A new drug may provide some help.”

So begins the a story from the AP about the exciting news that the FDA has approved the first anti-obesity drug—for dogs!

I don’t know about you, but I was a bit surprised to learn that anyone was even working on a drug for obese dogs. I mean come on; is that something we are really concerned about? Let me rephrase that? Is that something we should be concerned about? I don’t think so.

The new drug developed by Pfizer, called Slentrol blocks the metabolism of fat in a dog’s diet. The drug appears to reduce the amount of fat a dog can absorb while triggering a feeling of being full. The FDA cautions that the drug is not intended for use in humans. They have to say things like that lest some knucklehead decides he is starting to resemble his massive Mastiff, and takes the drug for himself.

Now can we get real for Pete’s sake? Dogs don’t have opposable thumbs so it’s not Fido who’s opening the Fritos, and it’s not the Dachshund eating the hot dogs or scraping the plates into his bowl. Dogs are fat because their owners are killing them.

Our beloved Max was not overweight when he died. He could have been easily; we were the knuckleheads giving him table scraps with his dog food thinking we were “loving” him; loving him until he became deathly ill when he was only a few years old. The diagnosis was “cancer probably” with a poor prognosis and the vets wanted to put him down.

I opted for exploratory surgery only to find we had nearly killed the dog we loved. He had developed a pancreatitis from the human food we gave him causing it to necrotize slowly poisoning him to death. The cure was pretty easy—after the $400 surgery that is. Stop feeding him table scraps! And we did and he lived a good long life until he died at age 14.

Ya know what the pharmaceutical companies need to be working on is an anti-stupid pill! But until that happens, if you can’t get a leotard on your Briard, then perhaps Slentrol is for you—I mean your dog that is.

Some Just Don't Like Real Leadership

Leadership is certainly a rare commodity these days, especially in politics and the pastorate.

I saw Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid on camera last week griping, as usual, having just come from a meeting with the President. Their complaint was that President Bush was practicing his speech concerning the new strategy for Iraq. You see they figured that after meeting with the President, he would necessarily see their, always-wise and always- profound wisdom on everything and would accordingly change his strategy and his remarks.

“This wasn’t a consultation,” huffed the Speaker, “this was a notification.” Apparently Pelosi thinks that counsel given equals counsel taken. But real leadership; good leadership, does not operate that way.

I have leaders in our church surrounding me and I receive advice from them frequently. Sometimes the advice is good and helps me reformulate a plan. Sometimes the advice is ill-informed or based on wrong assumptions. I don’t act on such advice. Other times the advice I receive is neither good nor bad in which case it is up to me to integrate that which will improve the mission and ignore that which may not be inherently wrong but will not enhance what we are to be about.

If I simply jumped to everyone’s latest “great idea” I would not be a leader but a people pleaser; a politician who makes decision based on the squeaky wheel or the prevailing direction of the winds of opinion. That’s not good for Washington and it’s not good for the Church.

And maybe that is why so many churches never really go anywhere. Pastoral leadership is, too often, really pastoral followership following the “powerful” the “wealthy” or the chronically cranky of the church. Corporate America has a word for such a leader—unemployed!

When I think of how tough it is sometimes leading people to places they don’t want to go because I know it is right—it’s hard.

President Bush is human to be sure and he can’t possibly know everything and do everything right. But as I said several years ago and several times, this President is a true leader and one of the most extraordinary of our time and perhaps ever. It will be interesting to see how history plays out and remembers George W. Bush. In the meantime, he could use our prayers.

January 09, 2007

More Than Half of Wives Would Not Remarry Thier Husbands

So I’m watching Fox News the other night and one of the big stories with John Gibson is that 56% of wives said they would NOT remarry their husbands. Gibson asked two “Relationship Experts” on screen with him, if this surprised them. It didn’t but my thought was, “I would have thought the figure would be even higher!”

What was interesting was that one of the “experts” said that often times a problem begins when someone makes a pretty innocent remark or comment but suddenly there is a bit of flirtation going on and then there’s a surprising realization that the flirtation feels good; feelings that the person thought were long dead are revived and—let’s be honest--feelings can be compelling.

The innocent flirtation turns into a “friendship” and before you know it, a line has been crossed; a line that feels good to cross initially, but far more often than not, leads to a repeat of pain and heartbreak.

Statistically, while 50% of first marriages end in divorce, more than two thirds of re-marriages end in divorce. Ahh, so much for the greener grass.

Well, I’ve been married thirty three years now and frankly, I can’t imagine being with another woman. My wife is so much a part of who I am, and she me, that the Lord’s utterance way back in Genesis--that the “two shall become one flesh”--is more than a metaphor.

But I would have to again be honest and say that it has taken a life-time of working to that end; a lifetime of being creative in our relationship; a lifetime of overlooking and a lifetime of just plain hard work and not allowing the children to become the center of our universe. They weren’t around when we fell in love and they aren’t around now as we face the “rest of our lives.”

But like I said, we are so much a part of each other that it just wouldn’t work with anyone else.

Now there is one little secret to our success; actually it’s one big secret. The Lord is truly Lord of our lives; He’s not just an add-on when it’s convenient but He is truly Lord and His wisdom for our lives is more than a suggestion. Yes, a good marriage takes work but it’s not rocket science when you’re committed to the Savior your souls!

January 05, 2007

Ford's Pastor Was UN-CERTAIN Of The Truth

Gerald Ford has been laid to rest amid great pomp and circumstance. With the technology of our day, millions upon millions of people all around the world were able to view the funeral of one of our nation’s former leaders.

In attendance at the President’s funeral were many heads of state from many different nations; nations whose official religion--or only allowable religion--is not Christianity. So there was an unbelievable opportunity for a “global missions outreach” as Ford’s former pastor, The Right Reverend Robert Certain, brought his message from John chapter 14.

John 14 is a crucial part of the Gospel story because it lays forth, without, ambiguity Jesus’ own words concerning the true nature of man’s salvation. With our culture of relativism and subjective theology, John 14 is a beacon of light which shows the way of salvation.

The critics can’t complain that these were the words of someone else putting their spin on something Jesus may or may not have said, for the Bible is clear quoting Jesus Himself.

The disciples inquire as to where Jesus is going as He tells them He is going to prepare a place for them. Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life…”the pastor read and abruptly stopped before finishing the sentence.

Those of you listening who know this passage well know that what the pastor chose not to read is Jesus exclaiming, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This was not an oversight; this was a clear dilution, or outright side-stepping, of the truth of Jesus—that He is the unique, the exclusive way to heaven. There is no other—yet the pastor of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church omitted this important part of Jesus’ words. And why?

Well, remember this Summer when the Anglican Church in America appointed Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori? This new leader of the Episcopal church said, "If we insist that we know the one way to God, we've put God in a very small box.”

And so it would seem Pastor Certain is very UN-Certain about the message of salvation. This was more than an opportunity squandered; this was wanton perversion of the Scriptures. I wonder how he sleeps at night?