mideast violence

Violence has erupted in the Arab states.  The violence has come from Muslims and is motivated by their angst against America and Americans.  Friends, let’s be honest; this is tough to talk about.  Muslims — both here in America and abroad — are highly suspicious of America’s intentions in the world, and some Americans see every Muslim as a potential terrorist. There are obviously reasons behind both of these perceptions, but this only means that we must work harder at communicating clearly and not allowing perspective to be blinded by passion.  As is Intramuralist principle, we will distinguish between fact vs. fiction and what we know for sure.  Why are the Islamists protesting?


Initially some made mention of the Muslims being motivated by a YouTube video.  Noting that the violent behavior began on 911 in multiple places — and that the 13 minute trailer was first posted on July 1st — the notion that the mayhem is solely about the movie minimizes the reality.  A summer of 2012 Pew Research poll found that fewer than 1-in-5 Egyptians, Jordanians, Pakistanis, and Turks possess a favorable view of the United States.  Many Muslims dislike America.  Some call it hate.  Why?


Since each of the above governments have significant Islamic leaders — and noting that Muslims have little familiarity with the concept of separation between church and state — we must evaluate the core of Islamic beliefs.  Note that this analysis is similar to the Intramuralist’s previous analysis of Scientology, and it will also be evident in our future dissection of Mormonism (as requested by popular demand).


Often argued is that radical Muslims are no different than radical believers of any religion.  With embassy attacks now in multiple Islamic countries, many confidently proclaim that the problem is not Islam, but the religious belief of any type when taken too seriously.  That claim leads us to the question:  is there something inherent in Islam that makes it more likely to resort to violence than other world religions like Christianity or Buddhism?


While it’s important to admit that all religions have adherents that are willing to use violence to achieve what they believe are justified ends, it doesn’t follow that all religions teach equally the legitimacy of violent means.  People have committed horrible atrocities in the name of Jesus Christ, from the inquisitions to the slaying of abortionists. However, these actions can’t be justified from the actual teachings of Christ.  Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus teach that one should kill for the sake of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, or to defend the honor of Jesus himself.


What about Islam and the actual teachings of Muhammad?  According to The Oxford History of Islam, from the beginning, Muslims “saw their mission as jihad, or militant effort to combat evil and to spread Muhammad’s message of monotheism and righteousness far and wide.”  Although many argue that jihad primarily refers to a struggle or striving for personal righteousness, a significant number of others proclaim that jihad is an armed struggle against “infidels” — the term utilized for unbelievers.


Numerous passages in the Qur’an refer to this violence.  A surah titled “The Spoils of War” states, “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you… they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding.”  Another says, “O ye who believe!  When ye meet the Unbelievers in hostile array, never turn your backs to them…”  It adds that those who do will find themselves in hell, a significant incentive to fight on.


So do all Muslims see jihad in the light of conquest and warfare?  My sense is a strong ‘no,’ although many have been seemingly slow to denounce the current violence.  Similar to others professing faith in varied religions, we at times alter our interpretation of the proclaimed holy words for various motives — perhaps because we deeply disagree or it’s incomprehensible or simply because it’s inconvenient.  Truthfully, sometimes my heart hurts for those who do view Islam as a call for peace — especially for American-born Muslims.  I wonder how they must feel with the deep tension between 2 people groups with which they identify.  I wonder how they feel when they are stared at, scorned upon, or treated poorly in this country.  That is also tough to comprehend.


Friends, this analysis is by no means complete.  There are aspects and tangents that many will pounce upon to passionately prove their perspective.  Many will still shout that “Islam is a religion of peace!”  I would only respectfully add that such an argument is also incomplete.


Hence, I leave you with this…  Nearly every major religion in the world teaches a variation of the Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Islam does not include this.  Instead, it makes very definite distinctions in the way Muslims are to treat believers and unbelievers.  That fact should not cause us to stare at, scorn upon, nor treat poorly any who are different.  It should instead humble us, teaching us to communicate truth more clearly — and not be blinded by passions that are easier to embrace.


Respectfully… always,


free speech… or sensitive?

Is free speech a right?  Can we say whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want?  While some may impulsively answer affirmatively, allow me to suggest we first pause for a moment.  For example, according to the popular paraphrase of the infamous 1919 Supreme Court decision, “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” is illegal, assuming the claim is dangerous and false.


But I’m wondering if in this seemingly polarizing, digressing day and age, if the right of free speech whenever and wherever we want is based more on the substance of the speech — and the “speaker of the speech” — as opposed to the purported individual liberty.


I think of the desire to squelch some speech — a desire with which I must transparently acknowledge that at times, the Intramuralist will also wrestle…


… such as in Sunday’s post, acknowledging that there are those who passionately wish to silence the name and praise and mere mention of God.  Does free speech exist if it includes reference or — dare I suggest — submission to an omniscient deity?  Certainly not in schools.  In government?  In the prayers before Congress each day?  In the Pledge?  I’m wondering, too, about taking God’s name publicly in vain.  Is that free speech — even in school?


… I think of the Westboro Baptist Church, a little group of loud people hailing from Topeka, Kansas.  Perhaps you’ve heard of them; they like to protest at military funerals and other sensitive places with very strong, disrespectful anti-gay rhetoric; they’ve continued protesting this week.  Now I’ve met many I respect who sensitively believe that homosexuality is inconsistent with God’s ideal, but I’ve met no one who supports the approach and messaging of this cruel, seemingly merciless church.


But back to the dilemma of free speech… is it our right?  … does a cruel, merciless church have the right to say whatever they want, marching outside the memorial of a fallen soldier in front of his or her grief-stricken family?


Truthfully, I have a hard time with that one.  So much of me wells up inside, saying, “How dare they!”  The quandary is what speech do we believe should be free.  Insensitivity has thus far not been a prohibitor of the practice.


… What about 911? … another date that is deeply emotional for all Americans?  Do people have a right to say whatever they want wherever they want on that day?


On Tuesday, in both Egypt and Libya, Islamist groups violently attacked the U.S. embassies.  There are currently unconfirmed reports that the violence was coordinated and intentional.  In Cairo, several scaled the walls, tearing down the American flag, proclaiming “no God but Allah” and alliance with Osama Bin Laden.  In Libya, the American ambassador to the country was tragically killed.


The reported reason for the violence was the Muslims’ anger at a single video being produced in the United States that they feel insults the prophet Mohammed.  So question:  why the protest on that particular day?  Were the protestors somehow unaware that it was the anniversary of the Twin Towers fall?


Nonetheless, very quickly, before an awareness of injury or death, the American embassy in Egypt actually released this statement in regard to the video:


“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”  [emphasis mine]


The U.S. embassy was speaking of the Americans’ abuse of free speech via the video-making, as opposed to addressing the riotous conduct of the protestors.  So again I ask the question:  do we have the right to say whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want?  … and let me add, however we want?


It seems each of our support and sensitivity depends most on the subject… and on who’s speaking.




a time to remember

“Quick!  Turn on the TV!”


Aware that I rarely turn on the television in the morning, a friend called urgently, knowing I’d want to be watching.  An approximate hour later, witnessing the South Tower fall, the concept of “want to be watching” was furthest from my mind.  Each of us remembers what we thought, felt, and did that fateful day.


In anticipation of today’s 11th anniversary, my young son asked me over the weekend if I thought 911 could ever happen again.  “We’ve learned from it, right?”  Great question, he asked.  Some days I wonder what we’ve actually learned.


Besides learning we need to allow for a little more time getting through airports, we’ve learned a few things that seem incredibly monumental…


… like how when push comes to shove, Americans will work together…


(Then again, with push actually coming to shove in each of the succeeding elections, it seems even our leaders only push and shove harder — especially with their language.)


… like how it’s important that we refrain from ramping up the rhetoric and utilizing words of war or terror when the situation is not about war or terror…


(I heard that once after Arizona’s Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot, although with the so-called, ongoing rhetorical “war on women,” we haven’t exactly learned that yet.)


… like how within the radical branches of Islam, there exists a significant people group that desires the destruction of both America and Americans


(Oooh… I used to believe that, although it’s fascinating to me that in the Fort Hood shooting — where the murderer was a 39 year old devout Muslim who shouted “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” — before opening fire — our U.S. Justice Dept. still identifies the incident as “workplace violence” as opposed to “domestic terrorism.”)


… like how evil exists on planet Earth…


(Not sure we’re good at this one; we don’t like to acknowledge evil… except sometimes, in leaders who seem intelligent but who totally disagree with us…)


We’ve learned from it, right?”


I’d like to believe that we have.


I’d like to believe 911 could never happen again.


But I couldn’t look my young son in the eye and answer him as affirmatively as I desired.  I have no wish to damper the hope and confidence of our younger generations going forward.


Yet our challenge is obvious…


The more time that passes after a traumatic event, the more numb we become to the profound learnings.


No wise man wishes for tragedy; but all wise men learn from tragedy.


From 911 we learned about the preciousness of life, the beauty of self-sacrifice, the attractiveness of heroism, and the gift of a nation that loves each other well… in how they act and how they think and how they treat one another.


The challenge is that the learnings don’t always stick.  We forget what we have learned.


“Have we learned from it, son?  Yes.  We have learned much…”


But do we remember what we’ve learned?  That is a far better question.





Last week at the Democrats’ national convention, there was a public stir when the delegates voted to amend their party’s platform.


Originally crafted omitting any reference to God and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, former Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) moved to have the platform changed and the references included.  Strickland said, “As an ordained United Methodist minister, I am here to attest and affirm that our faith and belief in God is central to the American story, and forms the values we’ve expressed in our party’s platform.”


Needing a 2/3 vote, 3 times a vote was taken to include God and Jerusalem.  3 times the majority was audibly ambiguous, with people reacting loudly both ‘for’ and ‘against’ inclusion.  After vote #3, the convention chairman arbitrarily declared the amendment passed, prompting even louder boos in the arena.


Consistent with our culture’s unfortunate polarized, partisan nature, immediately many worked to diminish or pounce on the public relations stir.  First came the campaigns; second came the pundits; and third came people like you and me, conveniently hitting “like” and “dislike” on Facebook.


To diminish the chaos, some of my more liberal friends claimed the boos were in reaction only to the process.  To pounce, some of my more conservative friends cried that the Democrats hate God.  The Intramuralist suggests that both of these perspectives miss the main point.  This isn’t about Republicans nor Democrats.  This isn’t about party platforms nor how political language should be crafted.  This is about all people… and our individual ability to acknowledge God.


Sometimes we have a bit of trouble with that…  acknowledging God’s existence.


For some it is very private acknowledgement.  It is something so near and dear to their heart that they believe it is profoundly personal.  I respect that.


For others it is a very public acknowledgement.  It is something so near and dear to their heart that they believe the joy must be shared.  I respect that, too.


For still others, it is something to never acknowledge.  It is not near nor dear to their heart and thus they believe any reference or reliance on an omniscient, omnipresent Creator by any should be squelched.  That’s more challenging to accept.


Yes, I’m struck by the need to squelch — this need by some to put a potential shroud over the truth.  Ever since the beginning of time, people have been able to take a long and thoughtful look at what God has created.  The basic reality of God is plain enough; people have been able to see what their eyes actually couldn’t.  We can see evidence of some eternal power and the mystery of a divine being.  Exactly how and what that looks like is certainly hard to specifically depict.  Yet the mystery should not motivate us to squelch; the mystery should prompt us to search even more.


The challenge is that to acknowledge God’s existence, we must in response ask what he wants from us; what does he desire from his so-called kids? … from all of creation?  That’s a tough question to answer; there are multiple angles from which to approach.  Let me also affirm that the question is not something we can dictate for one another.  It is something with which we must individually wrestle.


Which is…


… why I have total respect for the private acknowledgers…

… why I have total respect for the public proclaimers…

… and why I have trouble with the private and public squelchers.


Some of us at times pretend to know it all.  We don’t.  None of us do.  Not you, not me, and certainly not the Intramuralist.  But sometimes I think we’re each a little illiterate when it comes to issues regarding life.  Some of us claim to know God, but yet, we refuse to treat him like God.  We refuse to treat his people and creation well.  We also don’t worship him, and then we trivialize his power and presence, for that way, we never have to wrestle with the question of what he may desire.


Yes, we can be an arrogant people.


Sometimes each of us — without the public watching — even “boo.”




we will decide

Last I knew, neither the devil incarnate nor the Messiah was running for president.  Last I listened to the people on TV — on both sides of the proverbial partisan aisle — I couldn’t tell.


Tonight, Pres. Obama (note:  not devil nor Messiah, despite what some opposers and supporters believe) will officially accept his party’s nomination.  He will again articulate why he believes he deserves to be president, albeit in 61 days, the voting public will be the deciders of exactly how deserving.


Unlike Gov. Romney — only because Romney has never been president (although it sure seems like he’s been running a long time) — there is no need for Obama to “define” himself in regard to who he is and how he would govern.  Obama’s record now “defines” him.


Has Obama done everything he’s promised?  No.  Has he done some things he’s promised?  Yes.  Have the Republicans sometimes stood in his way?  Yes.  Have the Republicans always stood in his way?  No.  My keen sense is that any other perception of promise-keeping equates to being seduced by rhetorical spin.


Thus, in 2008, what exactly did Obama promise?


(One more note, friends:  this is a non-emotional representation; too many of us allow emotion to disproportionately sway our opinion; hence, truth often becomes distorted in our own minds.)


Just as senior class presidents are tempted to promise “free Coke in every pop machine,” most candidates promise much, as promises are perceived as a victorious path.  Candidates therefore tend to promise what’s expected to generate the most votes.


For example…


  • Then Sen. Obama promised to “invest in early childhood education.”  Promise kept.  Through the stimulus, billions of dollars were given to 2 federal programs, Head Start and Early Head Start.


  • Obama promised that “if you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums.”  Promise broken.  Thus far, health insurance premiums have increased.


  • Obama promised that he would “end this war in Iraq responsibly.”  The Intramuralist cannot assess responsibleness; however, the promise was kept in that August of 2010 marked the end of combat operations in Iraq.


  • Obama promised that “now is the time to protect Social Security for future generations.”  Promise broken.  In the last 4 years, nothing has been done to stabilize this deficit-running entitlement.


  • Obama promised that “we will kill Bin Laden.”  Promise kept.  The terrorist leader was killed in May of 2011.


  • Regarding the healthcare debate, Obama promised to “have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.”  Promise broken.  Meetings were held behind closed doors.


(FYI:  Promise records tabulated via CNN Money, FactCheck, and PolitiFact.)


Obviously, there are multiple other promises we could assess; there have been promises about cutting the deficit, lowering unemployment, eliminating oil and gas tax loopholes, extending child credits, increasing minority access to capital, requiring automatic enrollment in IRA plans, immigration, labor issues, social issues, economic issues, etc. etc.  Some have been kept; some have been broken; and some may or may not still be in progress.


The challenge every voter faces is discerning why a promise is broken or kept.  Was the President obstructed?  Was he insincere?  Did he have other priorities?  Or was it simply the “free-Coke-in-the-pop-machine” attempt to get elected?


Did I mention that the voting public will decide?




‘nutty’ unity

Tomorrow everything changes.


Some may believe that everything changes after the November election, but dare I suggest:  tomorrow everything changes more.  And perhaps even more noticeable, the change will last for quite some time… for days, weeks, months… at least until winter is well upon us.


Tomorrow, no less, is the day, when many reasonably intelligent people begin to justifiably act a little, incredibly nutty…


Beginning with a little town in northeast Wisconsin, folks will care less about the zillions of dollars spent on the recent divisiveness of state politics.  They will instead quickly unite behind a powerful meat-Packing team, riding on the arm of Aaron Rodgers and his beloved, Green Bay football cohorts.


Out will also come the Lions and Tigers and Bears…  oh, wait, Tigers play baseball… but out will come the Lions and Bears… and while my keen sense is the teams don’t like each other all that much, within their people group, they are united indeed.


I notice the unity elsewhere…


… in the Patriotic type, for example, a people group that always seems so solid and sound regardless of the partisans in Washington; their massive defense budget never seems up for debate.


… and let’s not forget those united, yellow towel-wavers from the Steel City.  Some call them “terrible.”  I doubt that.  After all, the Steelers seem to win more than most.  The rest of the sporting world just isn’t quite as polite when their opponents are doing most of the winning.


Yes, tomorrow everything changes…


With the Dallas Cowboys at the New York Giants, the NFL begins their 2012-13 season.


It’s a little odd; I mean, there’s a newfound fascination with the backup quarterback in Jet land, and Peyton Manning is wearing orange.  (Not sure it looks good on him.)


Also, like the recent divisiveness in Wisconsin, there is a labor dispute within the nation.  No, not with the players or teachers of the game; this dispute is with the union referees.


(…some days, don’t you just wish people could get along?)


All this change and nutty enthusiasm that accompanies the NFL season reminds me of both the unity and divisiveness that currently marks our land.


The divisiveness is obvious.  Too often, too much, we focus on what divides us; instead of accepting self circumstances and celebrating others’ blessedness and success, we too often compare ourselves with those around us, thinking, “That should have been me.”  There is simply too much me.


The beauty, therefore, of the NFL season is that the teams that are most successful and arrive at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans in February of 2013, will be the teams that are most united in purpose and performance.  They are unlikely to have a coach who operates from a perspective of “too much me.”  They are also unlikely to be led by a quarterback who thinks he is God’s gift to his team, state, or country.  No, the teams in the Super Bowl will be marked by an excellence that comes only via unity and hard work — knowing their purpose, accepting and embracing the need to work together…


… and of course, accepting and appreciating those nutty fans.


Watch for the unity in Pittsburgh and Green Bay.  It can be nutty…  but attractive and kind of contagious, too.




16 trillion dollars


Sixteen trillion dollars.  16 trillion dollars, friends.


Let me be clear:  this is not a partisan post.  This post will be factual and objective.  It will also be sobering.  The outstanding public debt of the United States of America is now almost the 14 digit $16,000,000,000,000.


Now for those of you who equate any accounting with an obscure foreign language, allow me to first simply explain the difference between our deficit and our debt.  The deficit is the fiscal year difference between how much the government takes in verses how much it spends.  The debt is the accumulation of these deficits.  In other words, to amass a debt of sixteen trillion dollars, the United States government has been spending beyond its means for years.  It is our pattern.  (Warning:  this next sentence will be opinion…)  This pattern of spending beyond our means for years is incredibly foolish.


(Now back to facts.)


When we objectively ask what has contributed to this massive, almost unfathomable number (and avoid analysis via any partisan filter), we must evaluate the annual deficits under each administration.  In order to compare apples to apples, so-to-speak, the deficit is expressed as a percentage of our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Again for my foreign language avoidant friends, GDP is the total value of all the goods and services produced in a country in a given year.


So comparing our past presidents’ deficits (since dollar amounts would be an inaccurate comparison), going back to 1968, U.S. presidents have amassed the following annual deficits as a percentage of GDP:  (the more negative the percentage, the larger the deficit)


Richard Nixon -1.6%

Gerald Ford -3.5%

Jimmy Carter -2.4%

Ronald Reagan -4.3%

George H.W. Bush -4.3%

Bill Clinton -0.1%

George W. Bush -3.2%

Barack Obama -8.3%


(Source:  Office of Management and Budget)


Now each president gives us their justification for why the deficit has to be so large; some presidents like to give us that justification over and over… and over.  For Pres. Bush 43, it was the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For Pres. Obama, it is the “worst recession since the Great Depression.”


The Intramuralist has 3 concluding opinions:  One, I’m tired of the justifications.  Two, many fairly loud critics should be much more thankful for one William Jefferson Clinton.


And three…


For the last 3 years, we have not made any progress in lessening the deficit and lowering our debt.  I remember VP Biden’s public address where he said we have to “spend more money to keep from going bankrupt.”  With all due respect to Joe Biden, we have spent more money for far too long, and if we continue this pattern, we will go bankrupt.


This is not a partisan question; it is a serious, sobering, nonpartisan question.  Who has a plan to pay down the debt?  Who will do so aggressively?  Who will not get caught in partisan politics and political power plays?  Who will recognize that this is most important?


As Condoleezza Rice exhorted last Wednesday night, “When the world looks at us today, they see an American government that cannot live within its means. They see a government that continues to borrow money, mortgaging the future of generations to come. The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny. That is not the America that has inspired others to follow our lead.”


Amen, Condi.


Let me add one more opinion:  if we cannot solve this fiscal crisis, cliff, or whatever any pundit desires to call it — just like any financial entity or household — we will cease to exist.  No entitlement will matter.  No social issue will matter.  If we don’t exist, no issue matters.  Pick your passion…  abortion, gay marriage, gun control, this rhetorical war on women, healthcare, defense spending, social security, you-name-it.  With all due respect — regardless of the position of your passion — none of these will matter if  we don’t get our fiscal house in order first.





Tonight all eyes will be on Gov. Mitt Romney.  Ok, perhaps not all eyes… I read rumors and rants from people who say something along the lines of “I just can’t stand the sight of him” — a reaction many politicians elicit regardless of affiliation.  Truthfully, that reaction bothers me a bit.  How can we know who someone is, what they believe, what they stand for, if we only listen to critical analysis via partisan filters?


But lest we digress…


Just as then Sen. Barack Obama did 4 years ago, tonight Mitt Romney will attempt to “define” himself to the American people.  As the incumbent, Pres. Obama is already “defined” in regard to what kind of president he would be.


And so sometime shortly after 10 p.m. EST, the former Governor of Massachusetts will share with the viewing public who he is and how he intends to govern.


Friends, this post is not about Mitt Romney.  It’s not about Barack Obama.  It’s not an endorsement nor favoring of either candidate; in fact, next week at the Democrats’ convention at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, we could reprint much of this post’s same points, simply by changing the order of the names.  Today’s main point, no less, speaks directly to the attempt by the candidates to “define” themselves…  and the game that is played to obstruct the truthfulness of the process…


“Oh, the games people play now 

Every night and every day now 

Never meaning what they say now 

Never saying what they mean…”


Note the impurity of the American political process, acknowledged by Democrat strategist, Joe Trippi, yesterday morn, saying, “We’re fighting over the definition of Mitt Romney right now.”  The fight?


Best this current events observer can discern — noting descriptions actually articulated by Romney and his campaign — Mitt Romney will attempt to “define” himself Thursday night as the following:


  • A Cub Scout
  • Family man
  • A husband of “unwavering care and devotion”
  • Not a career politician”
  • Comprehender of the private sector
  • An economic expert
  • “Outstanding public servant”
  • Salvager of the Olympic games
  • Friend of small & new business
  • “A superb manager”
  • “An exceptional man with unique qualifications to lead our country through perilous times”


Simultaneously, best this current events observer can discern — noting descriptions actually articulated by Obama and his campaign — Obama will attempt to “define” Romney as the following:


  • “Extreme”
  • A candidate who has a “lack of willingness to take responsibility for what this job entails”
  • “Not ready for primetime”
  • A person having a “penchant for secrecy”
  • Possessing a business record that is “not a qualification for president”
  • An “extreme candidate”  (… did I say ‘extreme’ yet?)


In other words, Romney will attempt to “define” himself in the best possible light; Obama will attempt to “define” Romney in the worst possible light.  Next week the roles will be reversed, and Obama will remind us of his “definition” as the family man, while Romney’s camp will find some description undoubtedly synonymous with “extreme.”


So here’s the zillion dollar question:  what is true?  … what is accurate?  … and wiser yet… does it matter?


“… Talkin’ ‘bout you and me 

And the games people play…”




teach your children well

As has become our annual ritual, yesterday once more was the first day of school… the day I bundle up my boys and watch them march off on that big yellow bus.  Actually, my youngest guy’s bus truly isn’t all that big — but he feels like it’s huge; sometimes feelings make all the difference in the world.


I was thinking about sending them off, what they will learn this year, how they will grow.  I was thinking of the friends they would make that would last throughout the years, just like those dear to me who have been close for seemingly forever.  I was thinking of who would teach them…  and then I realized… we are their primary teachers…


While teachers make a vital contribution to the maturing of our children, it is we — their families — who are responsible for growing up our kids…


It is we…


… who must teach them that Facebook rants and Twitter tweets will never usurp the goodness and benefit of authentic conversation.


It is we…


… who must teach them that authentic conversation is a privilege and opportunity for wisdom and growth.


It is we…


… who must teach them that intentional attempts to divide us — based on income, race, demographics, and even NFL sports teams — are grounded in foolishness and self-focus.


It is we…


… who must teach that self-focus is foolish.


It is we…


… who must teach that pride and humility do not have to cancel out one another; we can be proud of our accomplishments without falling prey to thinking we are bigger or greater than we truly are.


It is we…


… who must teach our children that no political party is ordained by God.


It is we…


… who must teach our children about God.


It is we…


… who must teach our children to be responsible with their gifts, abilities, and finances.


It is we…


… who must teach our children to be generous with their gifts, finances, and commitment to service.


It is we…


… who must teach our children how to talk — how to build others up instead of allowing cursing and praise to attempt to come out of the same mouth.


It is we…


… who must model what a loving, self-sacrificing family looks like.


It is we…


… who must practice what we preach — perhaps the greatest teacher — in responsibility, accountability, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.


It is we.


No education — regardless of school format — public school, parochial school, homeschool, or some kind of vouchers — is more important than “we.”


We… must teach them well.




big “if’s”

In the words of one famous (for, uh, not necessarily always good reasons) ex-California governor/actor, “I’m back!”  It’s been a special 3 weeks.


First and foremost, many thanks to our guest bloggers, who over recent weeks have creatively encouraged, inspired, informed and made us think; they were vocal about the shooting in Colorado, the heartache at Penn State, the partaking of fiction, moving, accountability, abortion, respectful dialogue, faith, fear, and the inability of government to create jobs.  We heard from men and women, liberal and conservative, of various faith and demographic backgrounds.  We even heard from one self-identified “little kid with some big beliefs.”  (Way to go, Becca… way to go…)


So question:  why do we do it?


Why on the Intramuralist do we even entertain the concept of a Guest Blogger Series?


Great question.  Granted, the series always provides this semi-humble blogger an opportunity to refresh, renew, and “recharge my batteries,” so-to-speak, thinking of what next we should discuss.  I am thankful for the time to intentionally reflect, attempting to discern whether or not the Intramuralist is staying consistent with our purpose in both content and expression.


What is our purpose?

To model respectful dialogue.  We do not have to each possess the same opinions; in fact, as a society, we are fairly incapable of that.  But if we are to be a mature, wise people group, we must grow.  I believe we grow through respectful dialogue.


Respectful dialogue, however, is not something to be assumed.  Some may argue, no less, that it is even rare…


While away, for example, as several of you noticed, a bit of a societal stir took place when one congressman suggested there existed a difference between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” rape.  Last this current events observer knew, rape is rape, as articulated by both current presidential candidates.  However, in one discussion I witnessed, a gentleman used the controversy to verbally attack VP candidate, Paul Ryan; the gentleman (although the “gentle” is debatable) referred to Ryan and his Republican colleagues as persons who “keep trying to make it legal for husbands to rape their wives.”


Excuse me, friends, but that is not respectful dialogue.  That does nothing to advance healthy conversation.  It is also not a helpful articulation that encourages us to discern truth, develop solution, and individually grow.


The primary reason we host our annual Guest Blogger Series is because it gives you, the reader, an opportunity to hear from someone different than me.  While I appreciate your sincere interest and commitment to the Intramuralist, I also wish to uphold our blog’s primary principles:


1.  We value humility.

2.  None of us have life all figured out.  And,

3.  We each need to listen better, often, and more.


The Guest Blogger Series allows us to model each of the above.  Agree or disagree with the perspectives expressed, the varied opinions by others have the potential to prompt growth…


if we listen…  if we intentionally humble ourselves.


True, those can be big “if’s,” but they are necessary indeed.


And so I return to you, refreshed, recharged, and ready to go.  Friends, we have things to discuss!  So join with me in the dialogue.  Contemplate.  Consider.  Comment.  Agree or disagree.  Add perspective.  Add an ‘amen.’  You may even add a ‘what-were-you-thinking?’  But most of all, let us humble ourselves and listen to one another.  Let’s discuss.  Let’s grow.


A special thanks to our special bloggers… can’t wait until next year!  You spur us on.


Respectfully… always…