stepping on the truth box

[Note:  Today is day 5 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

 

I want the truth. But … do I … really? Sometimes I feel just like the recipient of the infamous line from A Few Good Men, who was told, “You can’t handle the truth!”

 

Hearing hard things makes me wilt a bit inside, even when I purposely place myself in a setting where everyone is encouraged to speak the truth. Over five years ago I joined a group of five women who meet every other week to share life stories, encourage one another, and challenge certain bad habit patterns and distorted thinking.

 

I like to call our time together “stepping on the Truth Box.” But we really call it PDP, which stands for Personal Development Plan. The group was formed to teach some assessment tools for life coaching, but as we began to share life stories and get motivating, growth-oriented feedback, our meetings became like dope. By the time the reminder for our next gathering pops up on my calendar, I’m usually emotionally dragging a bit, in need of my PDP fix.

 

Someone always cries. Last time it was me. I was gently challenged to check my victim mentality when it comes to my chronic illness. Initially I found the words tough to hear, but so often I do need another voice spoken into my life to clearly see the truth. That day I needed a leg-up to get on my Truth Box.

 

When communication directed at one of my many vulnerabilities hits the “ouch spot,” I have to examine why the sting. If the words are true, why do they sometimes hurt? Maybe it has to do with a skewed self-image or a false reality. If I maintained a realistic view of myself, knowing I had flaws, dropped stitches, and natural shortcomings, wouldn’t it be easier to hear truth?

 

In order to avoid emotional pain, some might suggest adapting a thicker skin approach to life but perhaps more permeable skin would serve me better. The callousness of thick skin doesn’t allow for the flow of truth and grace. And maybe that’s the missing component, a dose of grace mixed with the truth. I like Webster’s definition, “a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency.” Truth always tastes better delivered with kindness.

 

The other day when I received truth from my PDP sisters, it came with plenty of grace.  🙂

 

Receiving hard stuff takes practice. The steadier the diet of truth, the easier it is to digest. My self-awareness learning curve keeps climbing thanks to caring people in my life willing to say the tough stuff.

 

I like living in the emotional place where I can unabashedly articulate my strengths AND my weaknesses. If you have a criticism of me, it may bruise my ego a bit to hear it, but if I want to move forward in life then, “bring it on.” Just please don’t forget the measure of grace.

 

Respectfully,

Caroline

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  Caroline is wise woman.  I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again; I appreciate both her fondness and knowledge of baseball, the bible, and good beer.]

a little kid with some big beliefs

[Note:  Today is day 4 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

So, I’m pretty much just a kid. I just graduated from high school in May, and now I’m gearing up for college in the fall. I’m buying sheets and a Brita filter and all this grown-up stuff I always took for granted. It’s a weird time. What’s even weirder was when the Intramuralist asked me to be a guest blogger on her blog. She told me she’d had a few thousand hits on her blog, so people would actually be reading it. My first thought was, “oh hey! I’ve had 3,000 views on my blog. That’s not that big of a deal.” Then my second thought: “Oh wait, this week alone you say? Most of mine were probably my mother.” Needless to say, I’m honored to write for the Intramuralist. I’m honored to be included in such an exciting blog with so much discussion (and so many readers… I’m starting to feel stage fright), especially at such a young age. You all have probably had your Brita filters for years.

 

While I may feel like a little kid most of the time, I’ve got passion to make up for it. This passion started 3 years ago while I was writing a research paper my freshman year. My teacher assigned me a paper on a woman named Margaret Sanger. I researched the heck out of that paper. While I did find the topic interesting, I felt drawn to the subject in an unprecedented way. Sanger and her life work, an organization called Planned Parenthood, are interesting. But what caught my attention the most was abortion.

 

Abortion was so much bigger than me. The more I research it, the bigger it seems to get. I started as a 15 year old with no personal connection, and now I’m 18 and starting to understand how abortion has changed my life. Abortion has changed everybody’s life. No matter the side, pro-life or pro-choice, rights are threatened by the opposing side. Either you’re pro-life and you believe abortion is legalized murder, or you’re pro-choice and you believe abortion is a vital step in the emancipation of women. The sides are becoming fierce. You could be called “anti-women,” “anti-women’s health,” or “anti-choice” for opposing abortion. You could be called “pro-death” or “anti-life” for supporting abortion rights. It’s fierce because both sides realize that not only rights, but our very lives are at stake.

 

If what pro-life (or anti-abortion) people say is true, then 1/3 of my generation has been aborted and is thus dead. If what they say about “Post Abortion Syndrome” is true, then 1/3 of my parents’ generation is mourning the death of a child. If what pro-choice people say is true and thousands died obtaining illegal abortions, then reversing abortion laws would kill thousands more. Abortion effects everybody.

 

So here comes the big question: Which side is right? Should abortion be legal and on-demand, or should it be criminalized?

 

There is so much to consider when speaking about abortion. Rights of the woman, rights of the man involved, and rights of the zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus. There are privacy rights, conscience rights, right to life, equality between men and women… the lists go on and on. So what is the heart of the issue? Is there one question that goes deeper than the rest, that would determine the rest of the issue?

 

I believe there is, and that question is simply when life begins. The law largely exists to protect life. That’s why we have laws against murder, mugging, and rape. We have traffic laws to prevent car accidents, hospitals to protect life, and firemen to save lives. We have gym memberships and vitamins to take care of ourselves, doctors to help us stay healthy, and we give special honor to people who have saved lives. I’d even say that’s why we all love superhero movies. All that to say, if we can determine when life begins, then we will protect it from that point on.

 

People have different beliefs as to when life begins. Some say conception. Some say fertilization. Some say when the heart or brain or when vital organs begin working. Some say life begins when the baby could survive outside of the womb. Legally, life begins when the mother chooses to keep the baby (which explains why the murder of a pregnant woman is double manslaughter). One of the most common stances is that the beginning of life can’t be determined, so it doesn’t matter. If a person gets thrown from a car in a car accident, the rescue workers will absolutely check the person to see if they are alive. Even if there is little hope for the person to survive, they will do everything to preserve that life. Why cannot we do the same for potential life?

 

Scientifically, the beginning of life has already been determined. Life begins at fertilization, when the sperm fertilizes the egg and creates a new cell with complete DNA that is unique from every other DNA that has ever or will ever exist. There are some objections to this claim. Some say that even a hair has DNA in it, but that doesn’t give it life. However, the incredible process of implantation disables the woman’s immunities so that her body will nurture the baby. This wouldn’t be necessary if the baby was just another part of the woman’s body.

 

The second common objection is that identical twins share DNA because when the fertilized egg begins to split into multiple cells, it divides completely and becomes two separate organisms. However, saying that life begins at fertilization does not say how many lives begin at fertilization; it may be more than one life.

 

A common way of showing that life begins at fertilization is called the SLED argument —size, level of development, environment, and dependency. It compares the differences between a fetus and a human already born. Beginning with size, every organ in an adult human being is already developed and functioning in the fetus just 8 weeks after fertilization. The level of development — just as an adult is more developed than a teenager — a newborn is more developed than a fetus. As for the environment — going down the birth canal does not transform a potential human into a human, just as moving from one country to another does not give humanity. Lastly, the level of dependency — a fetus depends on his or her mother, just as a baby depends on his or her parents. Since when does dependency determine value?

 

People are beginning to agree that life begins early on in pregnancy, but “personhood” begins later on. When it becomes evident that someone is alive but people do not want to give him or her the same rights as themselves, they decide to make a distinction between life and personhood. This means they are claiming the right to take value from some people. The exact same thing happened in the U.S. in 1857 when the Supreme Court ruled that a slave named Dred Scott could not have the rights of a citizen because of his race. While they admitted he was alive, he was not given the same rights, or personhood, as the whites because of his race. The same thing happened in Germany when Hitler created the “Final Solution,” his attempt to exterminate the Jewish race completely. He convinced a nation that the Jews were less human and needed to be killed.

 

Saying that life may begin during pregnancy but personhood begins later is no different than taking away somebody’s rights in order to legally kill them. Most people are horrified by comparing abortion to the holocaust or slavery, because we are horrified by genocides against humanity. I believe everybody does value life to some extent, but our culture is just losing sight of how much value life deserves. What person would not protect themselves when put in harms way? What person would not attempt to save loved ones in danger?

 

So here I am. A little kid with some big beliefs about some big things. I have my little blog, the book I’m writing about abortion for teenagers, and my passion, all for the sake of defending life. Abortion has been said to be the dividing factor of our nation. While it becomes muddled with politics and slogans and rallies, it effects every one of our lives. I believe that one day the “abortion problem” will be faced head-on and resolved. I believe this day is soon, and we need to be ready. We need to think through these questions, research our answers, and act on our conclusions.

 

Respectfully,

Becca

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  More thoughts from Becca and the hope-filled, wise perspective she represents can be found at http://beccafrench.blogspot.com/.  Way to go, girl.  I’m proud of you.  You are brave.]

partaking of fiction

[Note:  Today is day 3 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

Numerous parents over the past two decades have approached me with grave concerns over what their children are reading. Their concerns are wide-ranging and unpredictable.

Some say that their children should only read ethically solid or specifically Christian literature; anything else would be too morally relative, as moral standards in this country continue to digress. In fact, I taught for a year at a Christian school whose curriculum oversight committee refused to allow its students to read anything besides specifically Christian literature. To repeat, I taught there only a year.

Some parents allow their children to read a small selection of secular fiction, but they fret over it. (“Should they really read these books with obviously sinful or ‘ethically-challenged’ characters?”) Others take a very relaxed stance, allowing their children to read whatever their hearts desire, but not helping provide any kind of filter through which to read and understand this literature.

Same goes for movies, only more so. Since it is such a visual medium, movies are more scary to parents, who approach them with fear and caution — and rightly so.

This all begs an important question: What standards can we apply toward viewing/reading fiction?

The obvious answer is biblical: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  Then they look at the work of fiction to see what is lovely, honorable, and just.

This is an excellent standard for a start. Let’s consider adding more to this list of criteria.

First, realize that “whatever is lovely” wants us to dwell on truth and beauty. Also realize that “whatever is true” includes not just beauty but also the whole truth about, well, truth. What’s true and real is that this world is full of sin. It’s ugly, and it warps everything it touches. And evil is evil; it is to be avoided, not desired.

How best to show that evil has consequences? Depict it in all its ugliness, and watch the consequences unfold. Well-written fiction will do just that. However, sugar-coating the truth provides an unrealistic picture of the “real world.” Does this mean that students should read every kind of pulp fiction out there? Absolutely not. Find good fiction that shows the true tension of good versus evil, that shows the repugnance of evil. Take a careful look at what happens when people give in to it.

Some of the dark literature of modernity will provide excellent examples. I want my students to read about the cry of man’s heart: “What do I do with the darkness I have inside me?” In realistically-depicted fiction, we can see what happens when man cries out for a savior and then tries to save himself, or invents his own savior, or destroys himself in pursuit of a better life. Perhaps he creates a whole new society in which everything can be manipulated so that human emotions and attitudes can be tightly controlled. We see how successful that is in Animal Farm, 1984, Brave New World, Hunger Games, Divergent, Anthem, and Atlas Shrugged, to name just a few. And can a student learn something from the failed experiment of the creation of a new society? You bet.

The naked, ugly truth is that deep down, man cries out for a savior. That heart-wrenching agony can be clearly seen in Romans, in which Paul tells the truth of man’s situation: the things I want to do, I don’t do; those things I don’t want to do, I do. Then Paul cries out “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  Isn’t this what every person despairs of, at some point in his life? What kind of sugar-coated, romanticized fiction ever depicts ugly, unbearable truth like that? Rarely does Christian fiction do it well.

However, look at Picture of Dorian Gray, Heart of Darkness, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for example. The futility of trying to overcome one’s weaknesses by creating some sort of hero oneself is portrayed in all of its dark brutality. Did these authors know the one, true God? Some will argue the answer; however, it is clear that these authors realized the futility in their own lives and expressed it clearly.

Can a non-Christian depict the truth in his work of fiction? For an answer, take a look at Les Miserables or A Tale of Two Cities. (Some will argue that Dickens was a Christian; we will not take up that argument here — someone else can. We do know that Hugo was an avowed pagan.) What about revenge and its devastating results in The Count of Monte Cristo? The beauty of reconciliation and repentance is laid out clearly in all these books. Did God use these men? I would argue that yes, he did — and does.

So how do we approach literature with our children? Teach them the truth of the Law and the Gospel. Man is sinful and cannot save himself. He desperately needs a savior and tries to fill the void with his own works and inventions. Dead in his own sins, God reaches in and pulls him up out of the grave and into life. How tragic for those who have not been made alive by God!

Let’s see how this is played out in literature.

(For more reading on how to view literature from a biblical worldview, see Reading Between the Lines by Gene Veith, The Twelve Trademarks of Literature by Jeff Baldwin, and How to Read Slowly by James Sire.)

Respectfully,

Shaunna

[Intramuralist Note:  For more of Shaunna’s wit & wisdom — which she has long, generously shared with me, see www.writingrhetorically.com.  LOVE her emphasis on discerning rhetoric!]

we are Penn State

[Note:  Today is day 2 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

I went to a wedding last weekend where the theme (which had been chosen over a year ago) was “We Are… Getting Married,” based on the familiar Pennsylvania State University’s theme, “We Are…Penn State.”  The wedding was held in… Pennsylvania. My family lives in… Pennsylvania.  And guess what college all my family attended?  Penn State. I planned on going there, but when President Reagan took away student loans to the middle class in 1982, I was quickly redirected to look at a school in Wisconsin, where we lived at the time. But my dream school was Penn State.

 

Jerry Sandusky has tarnished the name of Penn State and lots of people are taking aim at the whole University, almost as if they are a bunch of sharks feeding on a school (no pun intended) of fish. Small fish that make up a large school, but small nonetheless. So you may think or say anything to do with Penn State is ugly, awful and tainted. But I ask you this: do you think it is possible to be a Penn Stater and be good? Noble? Nice? Not pro-child molesting?

 

My family… over 50 of them at that wedding, were embarrassed to be associated with Penn State. They feel dirty. Disgusting and ugly.

 

They attended school like so many of us have. And if you haven’t, then place your favorite charity or high school or sport’s team in place of a college. My family is from Pennsylvania and went to a great college. No ifs or buts. Penn State is a good university, and we should not run hiding, shrinking in the shadows from people who feel they must excoriate someone other then the child rapist. My family did not rape kids or endorse the raping of kids. Did they enjoy some football? Some of them. Certainly not my mother, who would go to a game and read a book in the stands. But that is not what made them Penn Staters. They should be proud Nittany Lions because they went to a tough college and graduated with degrees and went on to be good members of society.

 

So if you say to me that I should crawl in a hole for ten years as payment for Jerry Sandusky, I ask you why would you say that? Why is it that when something awful happens, or even something mildly irritating, must we cast about to blame someone and something? It does not seem adequate enough to blame the bad people involved. Some more people have to pay. We feel like it isn’t enough for the bad person to pay, so we say that a shooter who killed 20 people had help from the guns. Guns are bad then.

 

Or we say that a drunk driver killed someone, so the bad bartender caused the fatal accident. Too often we do not set blame at the feet of the one it belongs to, because we want justice. Our type of justice. We are angry and we will set things to rights. Right?

 

Hmmm. That’s where it gets interesting. Who made us judge? Who are we to mete out punishment? Do we have the final say? Any say?

 

The parents of a serial killer… are they to blame? When does this stop and we say the person who did the awful deed is awful? When do we stop attacking other people to make ourselves feel vindicated? When is enough, enough?

 

Will you tell my family they do not need to hide that they are Penn Staters? Or do we really want my 72 year old dad to “wait” out your judgment time? However long that is. My brother has stated he will not attend any of the football games with my dad. This is madness! My dad did not rape the kids. My dad goes to the games for fun, and now that will certainly be a thing of the past. So Jerry Sandusky hurt my dad, my brother, me and my family. He hurt Penn Staters. The Nittany Lions.

 

So while you rage against the lack of decent sanctions against Penn State, because nothing can bring back the innocence of those boys (true), I say please, stop and hold your tongue for a minute. We are hurt. We are hurting. We need mercy. And someday, you might need it, too. What do they say? What goes around, comes around? It does. So when you are down because your company did something illegal, or your kid did something tragically awful, or your spouse did something bad, do you want me to come around and kick you in the teeth? Will it not be enough to say you are suffering too?

 

Mercy plays a part in this society. Certainly we should treat other people the way we would want to be treated in that circumstance. The world needs fewer pointing fingers and more hands extended out to help someone up. We are all in this world together and if you can begin to really look at a situation from another hurting person’s point of view, then you are getting it. You are becoming smarter. Less vicious. You are becoming a better person. And if this dark world needs anything, it is people who are kind, patient, full of compassion and mercy. So please, I beg you, remember to wait a little longer before climbing on the bashing bandwagon. And before you take a certain wild and willing delight at the trials of Penn State and Penn Staters everywhere, remember my family’s wedding. Where the affair felt almost like it wanted to be held in a back closet somewhere. Out of sight. Hidden away.

 

Well, We Are… Hurting.  We Are… Embarrassed.  We Are… Sad.  We Are… Penn State.

 

Respectfully,

D

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  D is a wise and witty stay at home mom, whose never been afraid to tackle the tough subjects.  She also has an innate fondness for Peanut M&M’s.]


a dark night indeed

[Note:  Today is the 1st of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.  Enjoy!  And remember… I’ll be back.]

 

Yet another senseless act of violence.  As most know by now, an armed gunman entered a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during the midnight premier showing of The Dark Knight Rises. The perpetrator, whose name will not be made even slightly more famous by repeating it here, just started shooting people. Initial reports suggest that he called himself “The Joker” and may have been mimicking aspects of the Batman story, such as Bruce Wayne becoming a crime fighter after witnessing his parents being killed leaving a movie theater.

 

Any comment on the incident must first pause in respect to the victims, the 12 people killed and 58 injured. These people were someone’s parent, someone’s spouse, someone’s child. Our prayers are with them and those near to them left without someone important in the lives for no reason whatsoever.

 

A public defender has been appointed to represent the shooter. Depending on one’s view of capital punishment, I’m sure most hope the man is either put away forever or is sentenced to the same fate which he inflicted upon others.

 

But I have a question. Where is the ACLU now? Where are all the people who say we have no right to impose our morals on others?

 

Because I’ll tell you:  this type of radical behavior is the natural consequence of a society that refuses to acknowledge an absolute set of rights and wrongs.

 

Most of you shouldn’t even be bothered by the killing.  According to pollster George Barna, 78% of you believe that moral absolutes do not exist. If you are in that majority, then on what basis would you judge this person’s actions to be wrong? Aren’t you trying to impose your sense of morality on him?

 

Sure, the example is extreme, but the fact is that if you don’t agree to an absolute standard of right and wrong, you simply have no other place to draw the line, no basis for saying here’s where subversive behavior has to stop, beyond which it cannot cross….

 

  • As soon as you say it’s ok to put sex and violence on TV… it’s eventually going to become pornography… and as in Colorado, people are going to start acting these things out.

 

  • As soon as you say it’s ok for a man to marry a man… then someone is going to want to marry their student… or their child… or their pet.

 

  • As soon as you say it’s ok to end a life before it leaves the womb… it’s no stretch at all to start knocking off the elderly once their medical costs start busting the Obamacare budget… or to walk into a theater and start shooting people for entertainment.

 

If you have any sense of horror at the Colorado shooting, and I know virtually all do, then you’ve got to reconsider your position on moral absolutes. Teaching people that they define their own sense of right and wrong invariably leads to behavior at the extremes. I respect your right to believe whatever you wish, but the only way back to sanity is to acknowledge that right and wrong exist.

 

“Destroy a nation’s morality, and it will fall in your lap like ripe fruit from a tree.” – Vladimir Lenin

 

Respectfully,

Mike

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  Mike and I go way back.  Boasting an impressive professional resume — along with a humbled heart to back it up — Mike has always made me think…  still again today…]

guest blogger series…

BEGINNING THURSDAY… AUGUST 2, 2012.

For the 4th consecutive year, the Intramuralist is excited to announce our annual Guest Blogger Series — a time when persons I highly respect take their turn articulating an insight or opinion in a respectful manner.  Fire up!

Let me say that the opinions expressed on these pages the next 3 weeks may or may not be ones with which I agree. That’s not the point; the point is that differing opinion is always acceptable as long as we respectfully communicate.  If we respectfully communicate, we can dialogue; and if we can dialogue, we will grow.

Blessings to all, friends…  I hope you enjoy this series — I know I will…  these guys are good!

Respectfully… of course…

AR

 

lovin’ the gold

Oh, how I love the Olympics.  They remind me of all that is good and pure and right… and so much of what is absent in every day life.  Such a contrast…

 

… in the humility…

 

You rarely hear an Olympic athlete claim, “I am the best.  Most recognize they are part of a team and together represent a nation.  It’s thus refreshing to see an athlete like the NBA’s LeBron James — whose nickname at home is “The King” — omit the regality and public promenades.  He is no part of the host monarchy nor is he seemingly acting like it.

 

… in the individual effort…

 

So much of current culture has recently surrounded this concept of not only shared sacrifice, but also, shared success.  What is the basis for such thinking?  If someone else works hard and succeeds, do you and I deserve a part of that regardless of the lack of any contribution?

 

In the Olympics, 2 kinds of persons tend to earn the greatest gold:  those who are inherently, naturally gifted — and those who work the hardest.  Refreshingly, those who fail to medal recognize they’re not entitled to the reward of another.

 

… in the national pride…

 

National pride has seemed a negative concept in recent years.  It’s almost as if there is no place for a pride absent of arrogance.  But yet, the 2 terms are not synonymous.  Hence, whether you are an athlete of Austrian descent, Iranian descent, or American descent, there is no need for any so-called ‘apology tour. ‘  It’s ok to be proud of your country — regardless of which nation it is.

 

… in commitment…

 

While so much about our younger generations is attractive and contagious, few seem to stay loyal for long… to a job, to a marriage, to a relationship.  I relish the Olympic modeling of commitment.  Authentic commitment.  There is so much wisdom and growth reserved for steadfastness.  And so we watch the Olympic athlete, who has trained for years for essentially one moment in time. The only way this moment exists is due to the individual’s commitment, a commitment to be maintained even on the days with no cameras, no glory, and no medallions strung around the neck.

 

… and lastly, in the good stories… this one from the “Sporting News”…

 

… Just when it seemed U.S. swimming had lost its marquee value, along came Missy Franklin.  She won the 100-meter backstroke Monday, then reacted like you’d expect a 17-year-old to.  “I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “It exceeded my expectations 100 billion times!”

 

…For all the nice stories about badminton whizzes, a truly grand Olympics must hitch itself to a star. We thought it might be [Michael] Phelps, getting a few more golds before swimming into the sunset.  Then all eyes turned to [Ryan] Lochte after he swamped Phelps in their first race Saturday… Umm, not so fast. A French guy ran him, or swam him, down in the final leg of the 400-meter freestyle relay on Sunday…

 

Enter Missy the Missile.  She’s the second-youngest swimmer on the U.S. team. She’s also the most versatile and probably the most embraceable. She’s down to swim seven events in London, one more than any female in Olympic history. Franklin got a bronze in the 400-meter freestyle relay Saturday. But Monday was the real coming out party for the girl who’s been called the female Phelps.  She caught Australia’s Emily Seebohm in the final strokes to win in 58.33 seconds…  “Incredible,” she said. “I still can’t believe that happened…”

 

She’s from Centennial, Col., outside Denver. She’s an honor student who will enter her senior year of high school in a few weeks. She really wants to swim in college, but London may be messing up those plans.  The NCAA is built on the free labor of “amateur” athletes. If Franklin took endorsement money, she’d be ineligible to swim for good old State U. She’s already turned down nice endorsement offers. But if Monday night is any indication, she could make enough to buy a college and make her own darned rules.  Not that such things were on her mind. Franklin was too busy crying as the national anthem was played. About the only disappointing thing was that there was no “Tebowing” on the medal stand.

 

Oh, how I love the Olympics… love that focus on what is good and pure and right.

 

Respectfully,

AR

eat mor chikin

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a bit of a squabble (good poultry term) over Chic-Fil-A, one of the nation’s top fast food franchises.  The impetus for the squabble lies in the voluntary comments of Dan Cathy, Chic-Fil-A’s chief executive, who said the following in a recent interview:

 

“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit.  We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.  We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

 

Note that there has been zero evidence of discrimination on Chic-Fil-A’s part.  The outrage entirely revolves around the viewpoint expressed by the executive.

 

Each of us has the right to agree or disagree with Cathy’s viewpoint.  In fact, as consumers, we have the prerogative not to shop there.  We can shop wherever we want… just as some African-Americans are known to support African-American owned businesses… just as some veterans are known to support veteran owned businesses.  Shop where you want.  Shop ’til you drop.  Shop for whatever reasons you want.  Feel free not to shop nor drop.

 

But that consumer freedom is for some reason not enough for all – especially politicians seemingly more mindful of populist voting than of constitutional legality.  Specifically, the mayors of Boston and Chicago have now vowed to block the business from future expansion in their cities.  “How dare they,” they infer…  (sorry, an Intramuralist paraphrase). But to quote the mayor of Chicago, in reference to Cathy’s comments, “It’s not what the people of Chicago believe.”  Last I knew, we didn’t all believe the same thing.

 

In fact, how have those mayors – officials who serve in a representative democracydealt with the following viewpoints?

 

“If I was a woman in Russia I would be a lesbian, as the men are very ugly.  There are a few handsome ones, like Naomi Campbell’s boyfriend, but there you see the most beautiful women and the most horrible men.”

 

“They’re like leeches…I’m so tired of it… They start out the most popular person in the world, make a lot of money, big house, cars and everything.  End up penniless.  It is a conspiracy.  The Jews do it on purpose.”

 

“Woman is the Nigger of the World.”

 

And…

 

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.  Now, for me as a Christian – for me – for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union.  God’s in the mix.”

 

Funny… but those cities have been silent about the above words from the mastermind behind popular fashion brands, Chanel and Fendi, the sale of CD’s by Michael Jackson and John Lennon, and the stated stance of then Sen. Barack Obama.  The above quotes are attributed to each.

 

My point is this…

 

Outrage is selective.  Outrage is emotional.  Please feel free to agree or disagree with Dan Cathy’s comments.  That is the beauty of this county.  That is the freedom of this country.

 

When the mayors of Boston and Chicago practice viewpoint discrimination, unfortunately, they are being inconsistent and selective.

 

And let me add one other word:  hypocritical.

 

Understand, friends, this post says nothing about the legitimacy nor purity of gay marriage.  We can choose how to react.  We can choose what to believe.  If any of us are ever puppeteered or coerced into what we must believe, then we are being intolerant and not adhering to the constitutional U.S. of A.  The problem with the Boston and Chicago mayors is that they are extracting our freedom of choice; they’re taking away our freedom to believe.  They are thus attacking the legitimacy of opposing viewpoint, and that, frighteningly, is inconsistent with tolerance, democracy, and individual liberty.

 

Hence, I say once more – “how dare they…”

 

Respectfully,

AR

someone is responsible

Wow, we are good at blaming other people.

 

Witness…

 

Celebrity news outlet, TMZ, is reporting that the first lawsuit is being crafted in the Aurora movie massacre.  It is being filed by Torrence Brown, a man who was in the theater but was not physically hurt, although a good friend was shot and killed. Brown now claims to suffer from extreme trauma.

 

So given his situation, he’s suing James Holmes, the shooter, correct?

 

Of course not.

 

According to TMZ and Brown’s attorney, Donald Karpel, Brown is targeting the following 3 entities or people:

 

  1. The theater.  Karpel claims it was negligent for the theater to have an emergency door in the front that was not alarmed or guarded.  It’s widely believed Holmes entered the theater with a ticket, propped the emergency door open from inside, went to his car and returned with guns.
  2. Holmes’ doctors.  Karpel says it appears Holmes was on several medications — prescribed by one or more doctors — at the time of the shooting, and he believes the docs did not properly monitor Holmes.
  3. Warner Bros.  Karpel says “Dark Knight Rises” was particularly violent and Holmes mimicked some of the action.  The attorney says theater goers were helpless because they thought the shooter was part of the movie.  Karpel tells TMZ, “Somebody has to be responsible for the rampant violence that is shown today.”

 

“Somebody has to be responsible…”

 

I can’t shake that line.  While “someone is responsible,” that person’s name is James Holmes.  Granted, James Holmes doesn’t possess near the bank accounts of the theater, doctors, and Warner Bros.  While certainly the question of what each could have done differently would be prudent, holding them responsible seems financially expedient.  They are easy to blame.

 

Also, last week we witnessed Penn State receive sanctions for the sexual abuse scandal involving assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky.  Sandusky was found guilty of 45 charges of child abuse over a 15 year span.  In an independent report, members of the university’s administration and athletic department were found to be negligent; they were not involved in the abuse, but the tough questions are what did they know and what then, did they do with that information.

 

“Somebody has to be responsible…”

 

Penn State certainly should have reported what they knew when they knew it to law enforcement authorities.  There should exist a harsh consequence for that negligience.  Yet one of the penalties levied against the Penn State football program is the decision to vacate 112 of the team’s wins over the past 14 years.  In other words, all the victories on the grid iron during the time something should have been reported no longer exist.  Also, vacating those wins means extracting them from not only head coach, Joe Paterno, but also from the 85 other innocent collegians who potentially played their hearts out that day.

 

Again, “someone is responsible”; that person’s name is Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky’s perverse activity gave Penn State no competitive advantage on the football field.  What he did was horrific, but it didn’t influence the outcome of the game.  However…

 

“Somebody has to be responsible…”

 

We tend to place blame where it’s easiest…

 

… on those who can’t defend themselves…

… on those who are financially expedient…

… on those who’ve gone before us…

 

If we can hold someone responsible — regardless as to if they are the person responsible — sometimes it makes us feel better; sometimes is also adds to the foolishness involved.

 

Respectfully,

AR

miracles

What happened in Aurora, Colorado last week was evil and horrific.  I can’t imagine the depth of the pain for the families who lost loved ones or who were innocently in that theater that night.  The following [slightly edited] perspective from a Denver blogger, however, caused me to pause.  In fact, my planned post was actually scrapped, as we humbly attempt to focus on finding some kind of good and pure and right…

 

At Columbine, I have seen this before. But not up close.  As a church pastor in Denver, I have worked as a chaplain with several police and fire departments. I was privileged to counsel parents just hours after the Littleton Columbine shootings. However, in this new tragedy at the Aurora Theater Dark Night shooting, one of the victims was a 22 year old woman from my church, Petra Anderson (pronounced Pay-tra). Petra went to the movies with two young friends who are biking across America.  You and I have been inundated with news about what happened next. A joyful movie turned into bloody, unbelievable chaos. Petra was hit four times with a shot-gun blast, three shots into her arm and one bullet which entered her brain. This a bit of Petra’s miracle story.

 

… A bullet had entered Petra’s face through her nose, and then traveled up through her brain until stopping at the back of her skull. The doctors prior to surgery were concerned, because so much of the brain had been traversed by the bullet. Many areas of brain function were involved. They were hoping to keep her alive long enough to get her into surgery. The prognosis was uncertain—if she lived, Petra might struggle with speech, movement, and thinking due to considerable brain damage. With Kim, Petra’s mother (who is in the final stages of terminal cancer), we simply cried, hugged, and prayed…

 

If you have lived any of your days in a hospital waiting room, you know how long the enduring process is. It has a woeful pattern to it. Sit. Walk. Grab a drink. Sit. Walk. Answer a phone call. Sit. Walk. Hug someone. Sit. Talk to the FBI. Sit. Pick at the food. Sit. Walk. Go down the hall, but not too far because you’re afraid to miss something. Back. Hug. Pray. Sit. Sit. A picture of a five year old waiting for next Christmas from January 1st comes to my mind. FOREVER. Only this feels worse: a heavy forever, with no promise of presents, Santa, or good news at the end.

 

After the waiting drags for over five hours, tired doctors and nurses spill back into the room, one or two at a time… The doctors update us: “It went well, and she’s recovering now. We found very little damage to the brain, and got the bullet out cleanly. It went better than we hoped for… Something might still go wrong. We just need to wait and see if she makes it for the next 48 hours.”

 

Tears and thank you’s abound. We are so thankful for these men and women. We hug. Everyone hugs. Then, round two. Sit. Wait. Pray. Fully dressed people cuddle into small snails and try to sleep on the floor. Some are shuttled to a room donated by the Holiday Inn across the street. Thank you, Lord, for every little thing. We sit. We pray. “We’ll understand better tomorrow.”

 

Petra is moved back to ICU. She looks, surprisingly, wonderful. With a small hole in her nose, and her arm wrapped, she almost looks uninjured. She is medicated and sleeping when I come to visit her on Saturday. I sit, talk, and pray quietly with Kim amid the darkened room, lit by glowing medical screens and power switches. Nurses, like quiet soldiers posted on guard, come in, march attentively through the machines, and go out.  These men and women really care. Finally, one of the surgeons comes in to check on Petra. He has had some sleep, and looks more like a movie star this time. As Petra sleeps, he retells the story of the surgery, and we ask questions.  The doctor reads the perfect script, as if he is on Hallmark Hall of Fame. He fills us in on the miracle. Honestly, he doesn’t call it that, he just uses words like “happily” and “wonderfully” and “in a very fortunate way” and “luckily” and “we were really surprised by that.”  Kim and I know a miracle when we see it.

 

It seems as if the bullet traveled through Petra’s brain without hitting any significant brain areas. The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small “defect” in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear.  Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it.

 

But in Petra’s case, the shotgun buck shot, maybe even the size used for deer hunting, enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet from Petra’s nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain. And in the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain. In many ways, it almost misses the brain itself.  Like a giant BB though a straw created in Petra’s brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect. It is channeled in the least harmful way. A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed.  The brain is destroyed. Evil wins a round.

 

As he shares, the doctor seems taken aback. It is an odd thing to have a surgeon show a bit of wonder. Professionally, these guys own the universe, it seems, and take everything in stride. He is obviously gifted as a surgeon, and is kind in his manner. “It couldn’t have gone better. If it were my daughter,” he says quietly, glancing around to see if any of his colleagues might be watching him, “I’d be ecstatic. I’d be dancing a jig.” He smiles. I can’t keep my smile back, or the tears of joy. In Christianity we call it prevenient grace: God working ahead of time for a particular event in the future. It’s just like the God I follow to plan the route of a bullet through a brain long before Batman ever rises. Twenty-two years before.

 

While we’re talking, Petra awakes. She opens her eyes, and sits up, “Mom.” Movie-star doctor spins to grab her, to protect her from falling. The nurse assures him she’s been doing this for a while. He talks to her, and she talks back. He asks questions, and Petra has the right answers. “Where do you hurt, Petra?” “All over.” Amazed, but professional, he smiles and leaves the set shaking his head. I am so thankful for this man.

 

Petra is groggy and beat up, but she is herself. Honestly, I look worse before my morning coffee. “I’m thirsty,” she proclaims. “You want an ice cube, honey?” Kim replies, “Please.”  Wow. She lays down, back to sleep, a living miracle who doesn’t even know it yet. Good flowering out of the refuse pile of a truly dark night. “Thank you, Jesus,” I whisper.

 

Petra, you are amazing. Kim, you, too, are amazing. I am so proud of you both. But God, you are in a league of your own. (Duh.)

 

Respectfully — and in quiet awe…

AR

 

[Reprinted from “Celtic Straits” by Brad Strait]