Monday, December 31, 2007

Darwin, foreign policy and naivete on the Left

Sharon Schminkle, former a reporter for the Star Tribune and who now covers science and foreign affairs for the liberal online news journal, recently wrote a piece entitled, "Here's hoping....for Charles Darwin's spirit."

In it she writes,
But somehow I wish his open-minded spirit and dogged intellectual honesty could visit our 2008 political arena where the question of how we humans got our origins will, once again, divide America.

Full disclosure: The editors asked me to write about my greatest wish for next year. This isn't my greatest wish, given wars raging around the world and many other reasons to worry about my children's future. But I've wanted to write this piece ever since I had a chance last summer to view Darwin's papers at Cambridge University in England.

Schooled by clerics, Darwin wrestled with faith in an omniscient creator even while he stretched his mental horizons to ponder evidence that mysteries of Earth's intricate life could be explained by a scientific theory.

"I am in an utterly hopeless muddle," Darwin wrote to his friend Asa Gray in November, 1860. "I cannot think that the world, as we see it is the result of chance; & yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design."

That muddle is central to my wish. It isn't easy to open the mind and think creatively about America 2008, its urgent needs and its role in the world. Such thinking requires the humility to drop partisan defenses and listen to the other side. It demands attention to the details of national policy at a time when the overwhelming preferences are entertainment and shopping.

Darwin did it and came up with a theory that gives a common thread to all life on earth — the lives of Christians and Muslims, Hutus and Tutsis, lowly microbes and astrophysicists.

Maybe this is my greatest wish after all. Maybe Darwin's spirit even could make a difference in those wars around the world.

After learning more about what Darwin actually believed and the consequences of his ideas, I take issue with Schminkle's description of him as this heroic figure who was driven by an "open-minded spirit and dogged intellectual honesty" and came up with a theory which "gives a common thread to all life on earth — the lives of Christians and Muslims, Hutus and Tutsis, lowly microbes and astrophysicists."

John West in his new book "Darwin Day in America" digs into Darwin's writings and develops an interesting picture of Darwin's work, beliefs and ideas. I think one could argue that Darwin did tremendous damage to the value of human life, notwithstanding Schminkle's claim that Darwin provided a common thread to all of life, by driving a wedge between faith and science and providing the intellectual/scientific rationale for "scientific materialism" -- the destructive philosophical belief that all of life and the universe is merely the result of a chance, mindless, purposeless process devoid of a Creator. Scientific materialism provided the intellectual basis for communism and the dehumanizing uses of science in the West for such things as eugenics. These ideas have been highly destruction to humanity.

Darwin himself rejected Christianity and theism. West notes in Darwin's first edition of
The Origin of the Species that "[Darwin] claimed that he had probably been a theist because he saw the 'impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including the result of blind chance or necessity.' But that belief too had gradually eroded. 'The old argument of design in nature which formerly seemed to me to so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered.'" And in his Autobiography, Darwin said, "..I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic."

As West writes, "Stephen Jay Gould was right to argue that 'Darwin applied a consistent philosophy of materialism to his interpretation of nature,' and that according to his theory matter was 'the ground of all existence; mind, spirit and God as well, are just words that express the wondrous results of neuronal complexity.' ... Whether or not Darwin wished to call himself a materialist, his theory had the consequence of making a materialist understanding of man and society finally credible." (Again materialism is the belief that all there is is the material. Our minds, ethics, and ideas are merely the result of a godless, chance, random, material process and therefore have no intrinsic meaning or value.)

To then view Darwin as the model for looking at geo-political, foreign policy issues, as Schminkle suggests, is incredibly naive. Certainly, we should listen to various points of view and be humble, but to embrace Darwin and his ideas will only lead to the moral and intellectual confusion so evidenced by the cultural and political Left. The Left rejects notions of transcendent truth, the "fallenness" of man, e.g. that man is sinful and thus does evil, and the need, in the case of the U.S., to aggressively protect its citizens and confront evil acts carried out by individuals and encouraged by particular nations -- all critical elements in addressing the dangerous world we face. To embrace Darwin as the paradigm for deciding what our foreign policy should be is both naive and dangerous.

Friday, December 28, 2007

It looks like Ford Motor Co. is into more than just selling cars -- promoting sex changes

The American Family Association, which has called for a boycott of Ford Motor Co. because of their aggressive advocacy for and support of homosexual causes including redefinition of marriage, has brought to light another of Ford's efforts along these lines -- promoting sex changes.

According to an AFA email action alert,
The December 18 edition of The Advocate, a magazine for homosexuals, featured the transgender issue. A transgender is a person appearing or attempting to be a member of the opposite sex, as a transsexual or habitual cross-dresser. The Advocate article showed numerous pictures of people who had sex operations to change from male to female, and vice-versus (I'll spare you the details).

Ford Motor Company placed a full page ad for its Volvo brand in the publication.

Ford offers medical benefits to help pay expenses of those who choose to undergo sex change operations. Ford pays for mental health counseling, hormone therapy, medical visits, and short-term disability after surgical procedures for employees who desire to change their sex.
These benefits are chronicled by the homosexual advocacy group Human Rights Campaign Fund.

Ford has had enormous trouble financially this past year and it's bizarre that they would aggressively push a radical social agenda inimical to the values of the vast majority of their customers.

If you want to learn more about the Ford boycott and what Ford is up to go to AFA's web page on the boycott.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Is America a Christian nation?

The question: Is America a Christian nation? This question usually makes the Left go apoplectic. But a recent Gallup poll, which found that 82% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, makes that a legitimate question.

Legally, America isn't a Christian nation. It's not written in our Constitution or an act of Congress. You don't have to be a Christian to be an American citizen.

Culturally, that's a different and more interesting question. We speak of nations made up predominantly of Muslims as Muslim nations. So in that sense if America is predominantly made up of Christians that would make us a Christian nation.

Yet just because people identify themselves as Christians yet never darken a church door, don't believe the basic tenets of the Christian faith or live in accordance Christian teaching that doesn't make them Christians. I think that is increasingly the case in America. Barna Group has done research suggesting that around eight percent of the American people subscribe to the historical, orthodox beliefs of the faith.

And of course then there's the question of what is the influence of Christianity in shaping the cultural beliefs and mores of the nation. I think Christian ideas and ideals are still dominant though they've been significantly eroded by secularism and postmodernism. I'd say culturally we are still a Christian nation but that notion has been eroding in the past few generations.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Normandale Community College's "embrace" of Islam. Where's the "respect for diversity"?

Katherine Kersten ran an interesting column earlier this week on Normandale Community College's turning over their "meditation room" to Moslem students who have turned it into a veritable mosque.

The response of the College's dean of students, Ralph Anderson, was your typical PC response:

Normandale's administration is facilitating the room's Islamization. The college's building crew erected the barrier separating men's and women's sections, according to Ralph Anderson, dean of student affairs. College officials also posted signs at the room's entrance asking students to remove shoes -- a Muslim custom before prayers. This was "basically a courtesy to Muslim students," Anderson said.

Despite the room's Islamic atmosphere, Anderson says it "is open to everyone."

Why is the meditation room segregated by sex? "Muslim students prefer that areas be divided into male and female," he said. "Other students don't care."

Doesn't sex-segregation present a constitutional problem in a public educational institution? "I don't want to comment on that," he said.

Personally, I think public institutions should accommodate religious expression. Modern attempts to sanitize our public institutions from religious expression or content are clearly wrong headed and undermine the important role religion plays in our society. However, Normandale's response goes far beyond accommodating the religious needs of Islamic students. It actually embraces Islam by allowing the "mediation room" to be turned into a mosque.

The College's response highlights the cultural Left's hypocritical treatment of different religious faiths. Let's say a group of fundamentalist Christian students want to take over the room for their religious services, would the school have stood by and let them do it - much less help them do it? No way. But because Islam isn't Christianity, it doesn't seem to be a problem.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Minnesota Monitor and OutFront Minnesota seek to reinterpret the Bible on homosexual behavior

The liberal news blog Minnesota Monitor in a post last weekend highlights efforts of homosexual activists who want to set the record straight on "The Biblical Roots of GLBT Oppression." The article and the activists say biblical texts addressing homosexual behavior don't really mean what they say and the consistent interpretation of those texts for thousands of years have gotten it all wrong.

This concern with the biblical arguments is inspired by incoming Archbishop Nienstedt's recent public statements of Catholic teaching on homosexual behavior.

Who's pushing this respond to traditional biblical teaching on homosexual behavior? None other than OutFront Minnesota. The author of the story says:
I provide very brief interpretations as presented at a Bible Self-Defense Course organized by OutFront Minnesota; the Faith, Family, Fairness Alliance; and Soulforce, as well as information from progressive religious websites. These are not the only interpretations, and are simply my understanding of the progressive arguments presented.
The material includes the usual revisionist work on the Apostle Paul, Leviticus passage and the Sodom and Gomorrah account.

An excellent resource for the orthodox, biblical view of homosexual behavior is Professor Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Society. His webpage and links provides a treasure trove of information on the topic.

Frankly, I welcome a debate on the biblical views of homosexual behavior. Discussing the topic on the moral, philosophical and theological level will only heighten and deepen the debate. While OutFront Minnesota wants to arm their activists with quick rejoinders to biblical arguments, I think it will only serve to more clearly reveal the fundamental flaws in the arguments and thinking of homosexual activists.

I believe the Bible articulates fundamental truth about human existence, truth, and justice. The more the Bible is discussed the better.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Obsessed with sex.

Social or religious conservatives are usually accused of being obsessed with sex because of their concern about pornography, sex saturated messages in the media, and so forth. I think the ones obsessed with sex are those who have elevated sex to religion in our culture. Those who view sexual expression, nearly any sexual expression at any time, as a form of personal liberation and even salvation.

A case in point is another
Star Tribune editorial last week castigating what they refer to as "abstinence only" sex education. The first two lines of their editorial reveals their obsession.
Abstinence-only sex education is ineffective, unrealistic and can actually do more harm than good. Studies show that the "just say no'' approach to informing teens about sex just doesn't work.
Imagine that, encouraging children to wait until they are married to have sex "can actually do more harm than good."

The historical champion of birth control and laissez faire sex, Margaret Sanger, who is an icon of the contraceptive and birth control movement, voiced similar angry objections to abstinence and its advocates. As Chuck Colson noted in his book How Now Shall We Live:
[Sanger] adamantly opposed "the 'moralists' who preached abstinence, self-denial, and suppression," and described Christian ethics as "the cruel morality of self-denial and 'sin'". She hoped to replace it with her own morality of sexual liberation, promising that the release of sexual energies was "the only method" by which a person could find "inner peace and security and beauty."...

And she resorts again to religious language: "Through sex, mankind may attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, which will light up the only path to an earthly paradise."
The Strib editorial goes on to compare US kids to European kids to make the point that with contraceptives US kids can have their cake - have sex - and eat it too- not give birth.

The problem with this approach to sex is sex isn't just about having a good time and avoiding giving birth. There are of course other health issues like STDs which spread regardless of what form of birth control one uses. And there's the debasing of sex by making it a leisure sport which does untold emotional and moral damage to people who treat it as such. What sex is ultimately about is uniting a man and a woman in a marriage relationship which bears the fruit of children.

Finally, the hypocrisy of the Star Tribune's position is revealed in the last paragraph of the editorial:
The president has based this aspect of his health care policy on ideology and theology rather than what is best for teens. Congress can do better by devoting federal dollars to inclusive, comprehensive sex education.
They accuse their opponents of being driven by ideology and theology when in fact that's exactly what they are driven by.

The question is which side is right? Which position is true? In this case I say look at the fruit of the two views. ("Wisdom is proved right by her actions.") Free love and free sex have never been free as we see from the sexual revolution, e.g. death, disease, despair and emotional damage. As opposed to the fruit of chastity and fidelity to marriage, e.g. faithfulness, children, hope, health, commitment and a future. That's ultimately the choice we face.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why would they vote to recognize Islam but not Christianity?

From FRC

Last night, the House of Representatives voted on a benign resolution, H.R. 847, "recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith." Not surprisingly, the initiative, sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), passed overwhelmingly--despite nine Democrats who voted against it and ten members (nine Democrats and one Republican) who voted "present."

Interestingly, the 17 Democrats who voted either "nay" or "present" weren't motivated by the so-called "separation of church and state," since they were seen formally recognizing Islam back in October. H.R. 635, sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.), recognized the "commencement of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and spiritual renewal, and commended Muslims in the United States and throughout the world for their faith." Perhaps these congressional scrooges took issue with the wording of the Christmas resolution.

Or did they have a bigger problem rejecting "bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide"? Maybe they disagreed with the expression of their "deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world." Whatever their reasoning, these 17 Democrats have some explaining to do.

How can they possibly promote Islam in the same breath that they attack Christianity, the very faith that buoyed our nation at its founding? The following voted "no" on H.R. 847 and "yes" on H.R. 635: Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Diana DeGette (D-Co.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fl.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Fortney Stark (D-Calif.) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.). Those who voted "present" on H.R. 847 and "yes" on H.R. 635 include: Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rhode Island Supreme Court rules state does not have authority to grant divorce to same-sex couple

The Rhode Island State Supreme Court showed uncommon restraint by voting to limit same-sex marriage to Massachusetts. In a 3-2 ruling, the judges said "the state's family court lacks the authority to grant the divorce of a same-sex couple because Rhode Island lawmakers have not defined marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman."

CLICK HERE to read the Associated Press article.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's OK to spank children.

That's what a new report from the American College of Pediatricians says. The modern liberal mindset is any form corporal punishment is a form of children abuse. This new report says otherwise. had this to say about the new report:
ACP carefully reviewed the available research on corporal punishment and concludes, in its position statement on the subject, that disciplinary spanking by parents can be effective when properly used. "It is clear that parents should not solely rely upon disciplinary spanking to accomplish control of their child's behavior," says the just-released position statement. "Evidence suggests that it can be a useful and necessary part of a successful disciplinary plan."

Den Trumbull, MD, FCP, principal author of the statement explained, "When a child defies a parent's instruction, spanking is one of a few options parents can consider to correct the misbehavior." Trumbull added: "Spanking is most appropriate with children 2 to 6 years old, and when milder types of correction have failed."
The story also noted that the Massachusetts legislature is considering legislation that would ban spanking. And UN folks are trying to get nations to ban the practice.

I thought one of the study's conclusions was quite strong in favor of allowing spanking. "An unconditional, legal ban against all physical punishment of children by their parents would be irresponsible and unfounded based on current data."

Though there will be quibbling with some of the reports conclusions, I found it very significant that a national medical group would affirm common sense regarding the appropriate use of spanking. Of course, the appropriate use of spanking was recognized a few millennia ago. Proverbs 13:24 says, "He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Liberal former Star Tribune columnist Steve Berg calls evangelicals intolerant. But who's really intolerant?

Mitt Romney's speech on religion, faith and politics and in particular questions about his Mormon faith has been generally well received on the right and center right side of the political spectrum and even by some on the left. Chris Matthews said it was the best political speech of the year. Of course, many on the left didn't like it because Romney talked about the important role religion plays in our nation's public life and criticised secular efforts to marginalize religion. It's not surprising then that folks like Steve Berg, former liberal writer for the Star Tribune and now columnist of the a liberal blog news page for former Star Tribune writers and others took a less favorable view of the speech. In fact, Berg saw it as an opportunity to take a swipe at evangelicals.

Berg's column was titled, "Mitt Romney's call for tolerance praised, but will it appeal to a traditionally intolerant group?" He then goes on to say, "He gave a speech in which he appealed to Christian evangelicals for tolerance of his Mormon beliefs when, in fact, a good portion of evangelicals define themselves by their intolerance of other religious views..." This is another example of the tired, worn out liberal usage of the word intolerance. Just because a person doesn't agree with the views of another person, whether religious or political, doesn't necessarily mean one's intolerant. I can tolerate the person and his views, but I just don't agree with them. What's wrong with that? Of course, secularists are intolerant of what they view as the intolerance of evangelicals. Of course this doesn't constitute intolerance on their part because they're right and evangelicals are wrong. This intolerance by secularists is accompanied by an air of being "open minded".

Then there's Berg's effort to recast a different understanding of our national religious heritage. Berg said, "
The notion that God is responsible for granting America's political freedom is foreign to many Catholics, liberal Protestants and other believers, and is obviously troubling to secular Americans." Thus the belief that our rights come from God is somehow a foreign and thus "troubling" concept. Well, where does this "troubling" concept come from? None other than Thomas Jefferson. Yes all one has to do is look not to a cabal of evangelicals but to the founders of our nation and in particular Thomas Jefferson who penned our Declaration of Independence. It states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, ad the Pursuit of Happiness."

Secularists have attempted to recast our national understanding of itself for many years, suggesting that we really are a secular polity and religiously motivated sentiments should remain private. The founders would have viewed this idea as a foreign concept. As John Adams said, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." And Adams also said, "It is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. Religion and virtue are the only foundations...of republicanism and of all free governments."

If nothing else, Romney's speech has triggered a healthy discussion over the role of religion in America's public and political life.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Staying married should carry a carbon credit.

Study: Marriage is Good for the Planet

by Devon Williams, associate editor
God’s design for family helps the environment.

A new study out of Michigan State University shows that the growing divorce rate is hurting more than just the families and children — it's also bad for the Earth.

By examining data from 12 countries, Jiangua “Jack” Liu, senior author of the study, and his associate Eunice Yu, found that married households are more efficient with water, energy and land use. On the other hand, divorced couples require an extra 38 million rooms and spend 46 percent more per capita on electricity and 56 percent more on water than married couples.

Liu also found that if divorced households had combined to have the same average household size as married households, there could have been a million fewer households using energy and water.

“People have been talking about how to protect the environment and combat climate change, but divorce is an overlooked factor that needs to be considered,” Liu said in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study reports that, while the proportion of divorced households has rapidly increased around the globe, some countries have implemented plans to combat the problem and help the environment at the same time. Couples who want to get divorced in one Indonesian district must donate 25 tree seedlings, South Africa’s Independent Online reported.

Jenny Tyree, associate marriage analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said marriage may be the most cost-efficient environmental plan available.

“The results of this study support the benefits of marriage, not just for families, but for our environment,” she said. “It makes sense that more households — as a result of family breakdown — would use more resources. We're pleased to see that God's design for family is consistent with good environmental stewardship.”

What to expect from 2008 Minnesota Legislative Session? Haggling and Posturing

What should we be expecting from the 2008 Minnesota legislative session? A lot of haggling and posturing and not a lot of substance. Why? Because there isn't much money to go around. The state is projecting a $373 million budget deficit by the summer of 2009. That's about 1% of the state's general fund budget. It shouldn't be too hard to scale back a bit especially for a 1% reduction over a year and a half time period. Especially in light of the $1.95 billion deficit the state faced in November of 2001. Even with that huge deficit there were no tax increases.

DFLers in the legislature will demand tax increases to cover not only the deficit but provide for other spending projects. Ultimately, Governor Pawlenty holds all the cards, along with the Republican minority in the state House who will be needed to uphold any vetoes of tax increases. If they hold firm there will be no tax increases and therefore no big health care and education initiatives.

The lack of money will act as a bottleneck on all the health care, education and other social spending programs proposed for individual legislators. If there's no money then they won't have a lot to do.

DFL'ers want to close a "corporate tax loophole" for foreign corporations which would bring in about $244 million. Pawlenty said he's supports doing that if the new revenues are used for tax cuts which means there is no net increase in state taxes.

As a result, the 2008 legislative session will see a lot of haggling and posturing but not a lot else. That's not a bad thing if your chief concern is the possibility of state shrinking the family budget by raising taxes.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Religous triangulation

Many have commented on Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s "brilliance" as a pure politician. His morning interview with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough highlighted his lightening wit and ability to triangulate the secular and sacred as well.

The interview started with a shot from above the White House looking down. The bumper music was Jimmy Hendrix' "All along the watchtower."

Joe Scarborough, MSNBC Host:

“Governor, let me start by asking you, now that you are ahead, are you going to lose your sense of humor? Can you still talk to us about Hendrix and cougar hunting and Willie Geist?”

Mike Huckabee, (R) Presidential Candidate:

“Well, I certainly would hope so, Joe. In fact, when I heard the bumper music coming in, "All Along the Watchtower," it occurred to me there is a shot of White House, Hendrix music playing, that's the Huckabee White House. Hendrix music blasting throughout the White House as the president stands all along the watchtower.”

My mouth dropped. In one sentence Huckabee captured the secular and the sacred – all on the fly.

Populist indeed.

Saying that Jimmy Hendrix would be played in a Huckabee White House shattered any myth of a religious fundamentalist preaching against the secular evils of rock-and-roll.

“Hey Doris, 'ja hear that? This Huckabee is just like us. Rock on!”

Yet with the same sentence he captured religious imagery that connected not just with Christians but Jews, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as well.


(I wonder if our biblically ignorant press realized they had been triangulated and the victims of a secret religious code language known only to white, suburban evnagelicals?)

Here are some examples.

From “The Doctrine and Covenants of the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Section 101”
Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, December 16, 1833.

54 "And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer."

For the Jew and Christian:
Ezekiel 33:7-15

"O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me... if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but His blood will I require at thine hand…if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul..."

And who calls themselves the Watchtower Society? Jehovah’s Witnesses.

CDC notes that teen pregnancies and out of wedlock birth rates are up in US and Minnesota

The CDC reported today that in Minnesota, the percent of teen births increased from 6.8% in 2005 to 7.0% in 2006 and the out of wedlock birth rate increased from 29.8% in 2005 to 31.7% in 2006. Nationally, the teen pregnancy rate increased from 10.2% to 10.4% and out of wedlock birth rates increased from 36.9% to 38.5% during the same time periods.

I believe the rise in teen pregnancy and out of wedlock birth rates is attributable to the ‘anything goes approach’ to sex we see the teen culture. And now it’s being pushed in schools through unhealthy comprehensive sex education programs which only makes matters worse.

The rise in out of wedlock birth rates is a very troubling development. It’s at all time highs and puts at risk the well-being of all concerned, especially children. Kids raised without the benefit of two parents are 5 to 6 times more likely to be raised in poverty, get in trouble with the law, have problems in school and personal problems.

As I said in a news release, "The sexual revolution of the sixties and its progeny today, as seen in these CDC figures, has been a disaster. It’s left in its wake a trail of broken hearts, disease, sickness, and even death. Our kids and society deserve better."

Excerpts from Mitt Romney's speech on religion

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust."

"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the founders — in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our Constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'"

"My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the selfsame as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency."

"The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed."

"In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ideas have consequences

By John Helmberger

Two stories in the span of one week regarding the tragedy of teen suicide beg for a response. On November 27th, the Mpls Star Tribune reported on Beltrami County’s number 1 ranking in Minnesota for suicides among youth and young adults (Suicides Haunt Beltrami).

Then on December 4th, the Pioneer press ran a story on the plague of teen suicides afflicting Jamestown, ND (Tackling taboos in a town beset by suicide).

Both stories underscored uncertainty about the causes of this anguishing problem. "There is no black box to search for with suicides," said a researcher with the National Institutes of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. "We are still learning, still looking. The problem is that many times, unlike a disaster, we are unable to pinpoint exactly where to look because these stories themselves are so individualized."

The Star Tribune reported that suspected causes include poverty, isolation, chemical abuse and family fragmentation, all of which should be investigated.

But here’s a suggestion for the government and health officials who are trying to get to the bottom of the problem: look in the schools. Try examining the link between what we teach kids in Science about where they came from, and the value they place on their own lives.

With our schools and the media relentlessly indoctrinating kids with the idea that they are no more than an evolutionary accident of nature, should we be surprised when they conclude that their lives have no real meaning and aren’t worth living? Should it come as a shock that kids value themselves and their lives so little that they decide to end it all at alarming rates, sometimes over seemingly trivial problems? Maybe they’re just doing what grows logically out of what we’ve taught them to think.

Ideas have consequences.

It’s time for Darwinian naturalism to start taking responsibility for the hopelessness it feeds in young people.

Pawlenty's appointment of "strict constructionist" to Minnesota Supreme Court upsetts Star Tribune columnist

Liberal Star Tribune Nick Coleman, who seemingly dislikes anything conservative, is not surprisingly upset with Governor Pawlenty's appointment of Chris Dietzen to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Dietzen has served on the Minnesota Court of Appeals for the last several years and was appointed to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Justice Sam Hanson who has gone back to private law practice. That means Pawlenty has appointed three of the seven justices to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Coleman was particularly upset by Pawlenty description of Dietzen as a person who "has proven himself to be a strict constructionist who will follow the rule of law with impartiality," Pawlenty went on to say, "In a time when legislating from the bench has unfortunately become commonplace, Judge Dietzen has continually used judicial restraint and common sense."

Where has the Minnesota Supreme Court been egregiously activist and legislating from the bench? The biggest example is the Court's 1990s decision
Doe v. Gomez which found a constitutional right to abortion funding in the Minnesota Constitution. The result? Minnesota taxpayers paying for thousands of abortions each year.

As with most presidents and governors, their most long lasting legacy is often who they appoint to their respective supreme courts.

Hitchens and D'Souza debate Christianity v. atheism

Atheist Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Souza debated at King's College in New York City the topic, "Is Christianity the Problem?" Hitchens obviously said yes while D'Souza said no. I thought it interesting that Catholic theologian Michael Novak thought D'Souza got the best of it.

You can decide for yourself by viewing or listening to the debate here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

To whom shall he pray?

Not long ago political pundits insisted on writing off religious voters. Today, or at least in the Iowa primary, its all about the religious vote; the outcome of which may affect the national dialogue.

It's no longer whether faith should be a factor - but which faith.

Polls show Iowan's favor Romney and Huckabee, both men who take their faith seriously and take their faith with them whether in church on Sunday or on the stump during the week.

And there is the rub.

It seems that Iowa conservatives want a President who will get on his knees and pray to the maker of the universe before releasing a nuclear warhead. (Hideous that there are those who would cry foul at such a humble act.) Now some are asking themselves "to whom shall he pray?"

Tomorrow, Mr. Romney may answer that question, but with two candidates who take their faith seriously it is certain that Iowan's will be on their knees before the final votes are cast as well.

What is truth? What is compassion and love?

The "What is truth?" line was made famous by Pontius Pilate in his confrontation with Jesus the day before His crucifixion. That continues to be the issue confronting all of us and particularly in present day America.

That comes to mind when I saw the protest by homosexuals against Catholic Co-Adjudicator Archbishop Nienstedt who is being castigated for simply restating the Catholic view of homosexual behavior.

So many in our post-modern society believe we decide what is true when in fact we have no such luxury. It's laughable really. Like saying we can legislate a change in the law of gravity.

The same thing applies to the issue of compassion and love. Nick Coleman doesn't see a lot of compassion in the Archbishop's comments. In fact the exact opposite is true. Compassion involves desiring the best for other people and if people are doing something which will harm them now and for eternity, it's the compassionate, loving thing to warn the people that what they are doing is putting their lives at risk. That's exactly what the Archbishop Nienstedt is doing as he states in his response to Coleman's column.

Here's the Archbishop's response to Coleman's charges:

In a Nov. 28 column, Nick Coleman accuses me of not being compassionate toward friends and relatives of persons with same-sex attractions. I vigorously deny the charge. For 13 years I prepared priesthood candidates for celebrating the Sacrament of Penance by counseling them to welcome persons with warmth, compassion and understanding. Anyone who has celebrated that same sacrament with me knows I follow my own advice.

What Coleman wants is for the church I represent to be accepting and compassionate toward homosexual acts and lifestyles. And that can never be.

Coleman further claims the Catechism of the Catholic Church does not say that homosexual acts are a "grave evil." What it does say is the following: "Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (Genesis 19: 1-29, Romans 1: 24-27, 1 Corinthians 6: 10, 1 Timothy 1:10), tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.' ... Under no circumstances can they be approved."

As a priest and bishop, I have the responsibility before God and in the name of Jesus Christ to call all men and women to conversion, the first step of which is recognizing sinful activity for what it is. Sometimes that is not a comfortable thing to do, but it is always the compassionate thing to do.




Way to go, Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Old media Star Tribune befuddeled by technology based letters to editor

According to Jeff Davis at Minnesota Majority, over 60 letters have been written to the Star Tribune in protest of Nick Colman's attack on Archbishop Nienstedts letter outlining the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality.

Do you think any were printed? "NOT ONE of the over 60 letters critical of Coleman's column submitted through our online letter writing tool were published by the Star Tribune," says Davis.

Seems the editorial department suffers from technophobia, an unnatural fear of letters from conservative readers that use an online letter writing tool.

Think about what that means. The ever shrinking Strib can use any means to bombard the public with its post modern ideology, but, when the public responds using technology, they refuse to print the results.

What is it that de-legitimizes a fast-response, technology based public response? Were the letters any less genuine because they filled in a form?


An elitist oligarchy is a sure sign of a declining newspaper.

Is religion declining or growing in American?

I recently came across an interesting talk by Princeton sociology professor Robert Wunthnow "Myths About American Religion" given at a conference sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, among others.

He discussed what he views as five myths about religion in America.

One, America is in the midst of a religious and spiritual awakening.
Two, There is no secularization [happening in the church].
Third, Politics is driving people from the church.
Fourth, Membership in evangelical denominations is growing.
Fifth, The culture war is over or never happened.
I think he's right in suggesting that general religious sentiment is not necessarily growing in America and his myths are generally on target though I think he broad brushes a couple of things too much. I do think the seeds of a spiritual awakening are present though not on a macro level in society. And his fourth myth, that membership in evangelical denominations is growing is a bit misleading because in that section he says,
None of this is to suggest that conservative Protestantism is declining or is not a vibrant factor in American religious life. It does, however, chal­lenge observers to be more nuanced in their inter­pretations. Evangelicalism is not experiencing the huge growth suggested by figures from stories about megachurches.
What are the reasons for the decline in church attendance and religious practice? The only one he gives is people are delaying getting married and because church attendance is more likely among married folks with children the numbers of people attending church is down.

I think major influence is the ubiquitous nature and influence of materialism. That in our incredible material prosperity many people have bought into the illusion that we really don't need God. That we can "do it quite well on our own thank you". We've lost sight of the fact that our blessings, both material and spiritual, ultimately come from the hand of God.

And of course, there's a philosophical aspect to this materialism or secularism which permeates our educational institutions and the broader media. It's the belief that what's really real is only what we can physically touch and experience. A spiritual realm is merely speculative at best. Religion when discussed is like any other pastime, e.g. sports, music, movies, or personal fitness. It's something people treat as a consumer product rather than addressing the fundamental questions about man's existence, e.g. what is man, why do I exist, what does God expect of me, and where do I go when I die.

Ultimately, a society can't long survive if materialism/secularism is the reigning view. It denies reality. Europe which is on the cutting edge of this materialist/secular road is a culture in decline for many reasons and most obviously evidenced by the fact that it is a culture not reproducing itself. They are a dying society.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Text of Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933 national Thanksgiving Day Proclamation.

More "state endorsement" of thanksgiving to Almighty God.

Thanksgiving Day- 1933
By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do set aside and appoint Thursday, the thirtieth day of November 1933, to be a Day of Thanksgiving for all our people.

May we on that day in our churches and in our homes give humble thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us during the year past by Almighty God.

May we recall the courage of those who settled a wilderness, the vision of those who founded the Nation, the steadfastness of those who in every succeeding generation have fought to keep pure the ideal of equality of opportunity and hold clear the goal of mutual help in time of prosperity as in time of adversity.

May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all people to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in amore unselfish striving for the bettering of mankind.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington this twenty-first day of November, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and thirty-three and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and fifty-eighth.

Franklin D. Roosevelt.
By the President:
William Phillips,
Acting Secretary of State.

(I'm waiting to hear from the revisionist religiophobes.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Founding Father, President George Washington violates separation of church and state with Thanksgiving Proclamation

Hey all you church/state revisionists, we invite you to spin your way out of this historical fact.

This is the text of George Washington's October 3, 1789 national Thanksgiving Proclamation; as printed in The Providence Gazette and Country Journal, on October 17, 1789.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

G. Washington.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ritchie actually said he wanted to depoliticize the Minnesota Secretary of State's office?

The mainstream media has picked up on the story that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie wasn't totally forthright in his denials regarding how his campaign got the list of individuals and organizations gathered through the Secretary of State's office. The list was comprised of organizations and individuals brought together to increase voter turnout. Individuals in attendance ended up getting a political fundraising letter from Ritchie.
Previously, Ritchie had denied knowing how the campaign got the list. He now insists that it solicited contributions only to pay for the newsletter itself. But its text invites recipients to an upcoming campaign fundraiser.
However, it turns out he personally gave the list to the campaign.
Ritchie said Tuesday that he personally provided a copy of the directory to his campaign and requested that those on the list get a copy of his campaign's civic engagement newsletter, which is distributed to about 12,000 individuals and groups whom he described as active in civic life in the state.
It also reminds people that Ritchie said when campaigning he wanted to depoliticize the office of secretary of state.
Ritchie, a DFLer, was elected on a platform of de-politicizing the office, which supervises elections.
Frankly, Ritchie was and is viewed as a highly partisan, liberal activist. He headed up a liberal environmental group prior to running for the secretary of state position.

Embryonic stem cell breakthrough to reshape stem cell debate

A new discovery on the stem cell scene looks like it could well reshape the debate over the use of embryonic stem cell tissue. The new method allows human adult skin cells to be changed to act like embryonic stem cells. This allows people to sidestep the issue of destroying human embryos to harvest their cells.
Researchers in Wisconsin and Japan have turned ordinary human skin cells into what are effectively embryonic stem cells without using embryos or women's eggs -- the two hitherto essential ingredients that have embroiled the medically promising field in a long political and ethical debate.

By activating a few dormant genes, the researchers were able to coax the cells back to a point in embryonic development before they had committed to becoming a particular type of tissue. The reprogrammed cells were able to grow into all the body's main tissue types, including muscle, gut, cartilage, neurons and heart cells.

The discovery provides a clear road map for creating genetically matched replacement cells that could be used to treat patients for a variety of diseases -- the personalized biological repair kits that are the ultimate goal of regenerative medicine.

While this may well dramatically change the overall debate, those ideologically driven to support the destruction of human embryos to harvest their cells will not be persuaded. In another story you can hear ideology driving a proponent of embryonic stem cell legislation.
"I don't think this changes the debate," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a key participant in the House debate. "We still need to encourage all types of research, and we need to put ethical oversight in place."
For those not ideologically driven I think it will change the debate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Some upset with Archbishop Nienstedt for stating the obvious regarding Catholic Church's teaching on homosexual behavior

The Minneapolis/St. Paul Coadjuter Archbishop John C. Nienstedt has generated some controversy with his article in the diocesan newspaper, "The Catholic Spirit", on the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality.

The archbishop was writing a follow up column to an article written by the editor of "The Catholic Spirit", Joe Towalski.

The Archbishop made four points:

First, Catholic churches, colleges and other institutions shouldn't be inviting in speakers who oppose the church's teaching.

Second, those who engage in homosexual behavior and those who promote or encourage such behavior are guilty of a mortal sin and have broken communion with the church.

Third, a good explanation of the church's teaching on homosexuality is found in a document entitled, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care."

Fourth, there are efforts and opportunities already in existence to help persons who struggle with same sex attractions to not act on them.

Those offended by the Archbishop's comments of course have an issue with not just the Archbishop but the Catholic Church's position which has been around for quite a while. (Nearly two millennium.)

I think the news here is the willingness of the new Archbishop Nienstedt to boldly, straightforwardly state the Church's position on one of the more contentious social issues of our day.

Frankly, there is a crisis of truth in our society and culture. I'm excited to see the Archbishop speak out. Ultimately, speaking the truth is an act of love. Just look at the life of the person who embodied love and the conflict His words and life generated -- Jesus Christ. Of course, we must speak the truth in a spirit of love and concern for those we're addressing. But to assume there's a problem merely because conflict or controversy are generated is the wrong conclusion to draw.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Can't we all just get along? The Star Tribune and civil unions

That's the tone of a Star Tribune op/ed piece on the front page of the Opinion page in the Sunday Star Tribune entitled, "Civil unions offer solution to a vexing question."

The writer, Mary Catherine Preus, in the piece prominently featured top of the fold on the front page of the Sunday opinion page, suggests civil unions is the compromise necessary to resolve the debate over same sex marriage.

She's wrong on all points. For one, civil unions are simply marriage by another name. It affords homosexual unions the legal status and public endorsement they desire except for the eight letter label: marriage. And, as so many homosexual activists point out, civil unions are only a down payment for eventual same sex marriage recognition. In Connecticut, I believe, immediately after the state enacted civil union legislation, a homosexual activist said it was merely a down payment for marriage recognition. And in New Jersey, a homosexual activist heads up a task force reviewing "problems" with their civil union law. Civil unions are merely a step on the way to marriage recognition. Soften up public opinion, as they say, so they can eventually get homosexual marriage recognition.

Preus tells opponents of same sex marriage that civil unions is really a simple concession to the many activities we dislike but are here to stay. It provides a "legal accommodation" like so many other activities we disapprove of, e.g. liquor, artificial insemination, divorce, surrogate mothers and so forth. That begs the question: Is the underlying activity something we want to encourage which is what civil unions will do? Do we want to encourage and promote the idea that deliberately denying a child a mom and a dad is a good thing? Officially recognizing same sex unions will only serve to further de-legitimize the notion that having children raised without a mother and a father is a bad thing. In fact, it will afford societal benefits and a societal stamp of approval to familial arrangements which, by definition, deny the presence of a mother or a father.

It's interesting how Preus seeks to subtly marginalize the "moral or religious reasons" which motivate people who oppose certain behaviors, while even evoking Jesus Christ. That's the old secularist tactic that seeks to place people with religious convictions on the margins of the public debate so secularists will have a freer rein in the public debate. The fact is the secularist position is a worldview as much as the theistic perspective is, and shouldn't be given a special standing in the public square.

Preus tries to short circuit the criticism that same sex marriage will see a push for polygamy. She says civil unions aren't giving marital status to same sex couples and therefore will provide no basis for recognizing polygamous marriages. Applying her logic to polygamy, once civil unions are granted to homosexual couples, some alternative legal status will no doubt be sought by polygamous folks seeking recognition of their "committed" polygamous relationships.

The bottom line is civil unions are merely part of an incremental strategy for obtaining homosexual marriage recognition.

The problems with cohabitation and lack of biological parents in their kids' lives

There's an interesting AP story on the problems children experience when their living arrangements aren't comprised of their biological parents which is usually the case in cohabitation situations.

Cohabitation is a growing problem with people cohabiting in record numbers. Not only are there greater problems for the adults who cohabit but also for the children living in these cohabiting households.

I think a key factor is the self-centered focus of these relationships. Cohabiting provides many with what they view as an escape hatch. It's the "Things may change" or "I'll have to see how it works out" approach. The lack of commitment means less stable relationships and when children are present they can easily be viewed as an irritant to getting what "I want" which means the likelihood of child abuse increases.

As one person noted:

"I've seen many cases of physical and sexual abuse that come up with boyfriends, stepparents," said Eliana Gil, clinical director for the national abuse-prevention group Childhelp.

"It comes down to the fact they don't have a relationship established with these kids," she said. "Their primary interest is really the adult partner, and they may find themselves more irritated when there's a problem with the children."

Ultimately, many of the sexuality and reproductive issues, e.g. surrogacy, egg selling, type of sex education taught, marriage definition, etc., tie into the problems children are having in unstable family arrangements. The ideal is a child raised by both biological children in a lifelong relationship, e.g. marriage. Any policies which encourage deviation from the ideal shouldn't be promoted.

Of course, some will say "But that's not reality. " "We can't roll back the clock." That doesn't make sense. Of course we can't roll back the clock but we also don't have to accept the status quo if the status quo isn't good. What are the strategies for insuring more children are raised by their biological parents in a marriage relationship is the question we need to be asking.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chlamydia cases up, must be due to abstinence education, condom advocates will no doubt say

"More than 1 million cases of chlamydia were reported in the United States last year, the most ever for a sexually transmitted disease, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said." was the first line from a news story earlier this week in the Seattle Times.

I can already hear what the condom and contraceptive proponents will say, "It's due to abstinence education! Kids need more condoms!"

That may sound over the top but I doubt it. Every time there's more bad news about teen pregnancy and STDs, the comprehensive sex ed crowd says it's due to abstinence education. It shows how desperate they're getting and how they are utterly driven by ideology.

I recollect that chlamydia is also spread through non-intercourse sexual activity which only reaffirms "abstinence until marriage" as the right sex education message for teenagers.

Bill Bennett and Chuck Colson discuss Giuliani, and Christians and Politics, among other things

This past week there was an interesting discussion between Bill Bennett, host of a conservative radio show, and Chuck Colson founder of Prison Fellowship, a ministry to prisoners, and former Nixon White House aide known for his no holds barred approach to politics. This approach landed him in prison and his subsequent conversion led to his starting Prison Fellowship and his work on Christian, cultural apologetics.

During their discussion, Colson discussed whether pro-life Christians could vote for Giuliani, some of the trends in our culture, and the relationship between the Christian and politics. I've always felt Colson has a very balanced perspective on Christian political involvement. He's avoided the two extremes: politics is everything or politics is irrelevant.

For those interested in developing a better understanding of the relationship of the Christian to politics, I highly recommend his book, "God and Government."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Clinton v. Giuliani?

Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are both currently ahead in their races for the presidential nominations of their respective parties. A lot can and no doubt will happen between now and their nominating conventions. There are some who say there's no way Giuliani can win the Republican nomination because he's too liberal on social and other issues. That may well be the case but if the other four major candidates -- McCain, Huckabee, Romney and Thompson -- all stay in the race despite poor performances I think there's a scenario where they carve up the social and economic conservative voters and Giuliani wins the endorsement with 35 to 40% of the vote.

Clinton still has a good lead on the Democrat side and is still the odds on favorite to win the Democrat nomination.

If this is the line up for 2008 I think there will be very disenchanted people in both parties. Giuliani, for obvious reasons, among social conservatives and other conservatives. And Hillary because she does not excite many Democrats. I spoke with one DFL elected official who rolled his eyes when I asked him if he supported Hillary. He thought she would be a disaster. For one, she has extremely high negatives among voters in general. And second, there's the sense she'll say or do anything to get elected. A recent example is her trying to play both sides of the issue on giving driver licenses to illegal aliens. And columnist David Broder raises another issue; the idea that Bill Clinton would maintain a very influential position if she did become president and the concerns people have with that. I think there was Clinton fatigue after eight years of his presidency which was marked by personal scandal and a sense of opportunism and lack of principle.

The 2008 presidential election winner maybe a case of who people dislike the least.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Star Tribune spikes real story - Superintendent Westerhaus resigns after voters affirm message of abstinence

As usual, the ever-shrinking Star Tribune refused to print the whole story regarding the election of Chris Lind to the Prior Lake/Savage school board last week.

In a slick bit of spin the Star Tribune shaded the story by reporting that the “district told [Lind] him he could not talk to students off-campus about religion.”

The truth is that District Human Resource Director Tony Massaros told Lind that he could not talk about sexual abstinence with students during or after school, on or off campus, during or after school hours.

See notarized testimony by Jim Fry.

Massaros also told Lind he could not talk about abstinence in a bible study in his own home, “in youth groups at church or in small group study off campus.” Massaros allegedly censored Lind from discussing abstinence with anyone who had ever attended the district.

Why are the Star Tribune and the Prior Lake/Savage school board working so hard to color the story?

Perhaps it’s because comprehensive sex education is a colossal failure.

Fox News just reported more than 1 million cases of Chlamydia in the U.S. last year – the most ever reported for a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Never has it been more dangerous for youth to be sexually active.

Clearly, schools should be telling students that abstinence is the healthiest choice.

But instead of protecting our youth, the Star Tribune ideologues chose to shade the story, and Sup. Westerhaus resigned.

Atheists and atheism on the defensive

Recent debates by atheist Christopher Hitchens with defenders of God and Christianity, author Dinesh D'Souza and Oxford scholar Alister McGrath highlights the changing intellectual climate regarding debates on the existence of God and the Christian God in particular. In a nutshell, atheists and their defenders are on the defensive. This is pointed out in an interesting article in World magazine written by Marvin Olasky.

Back in the days of the Scopes trial and even before that, Theists and Christians tended to be on the defensive. Today, the roles are reversed. Advances in science pointing to design and an Intelligent Designer and the utter devastation wrought by atheistic ideologies like Marxism and Nazism have changed the terms of the debate and provided powerful evidence for the theistic, Christian position.

In the debate between between D'Souza and Hitchens, you can sense it even in the tone of taken by the debaters. D'Souza said in essence, I'll debate you on your own terms, using science and reason while Hitchens reverted to name calling, generalities, and accusations. The latter usually occurs when the side you're defending is weak and lacks evidentiary support.

I saw this a few years ago when a state Senate committee took up the proposed science standards and the topic of evolution came up. Those who oppose the materialist foundations of evolution simply argued that new scientific evidence, drawing into question evolution and other scientific theories, be included in the discussion. The atheistic representative and other supporters of evolution saw a grand religious conspiracy at play and made broad, generalized accusations. Defenders of including new evidence simply made scientific arguments. It struck me that this mini-debate was a microcosm of Scopes in reverse. That same dynamic is being played out in many other venues on the broader topic of God v. no god and design in nature v. Darwinian materialism. As always, I believe the truth will ultimately win out.

Evangelicals for Romney?

I recently came across an interesting endorsement of Mitt Romney for president by Wayne Grudem. Grudem, a respected, conservative, evangelical professor of theology, has written many theological books, including a massive treatise called Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. I've never seen him weigh in on past presidential candidates though that's not to say he hasn't.

With different evangelical leaders lining up behind other Republican candidates and giving various reasons for doing so, I think Grudem has written a thoughtful piece laying out his rationale for supporting a particular candidate, in this case Romney. He also tackles head on the Mormon issue, where there are extremely significant theological differences with evangelicals.

How it will all shake out is anybody's guess. If nothing else Grudem has supplied a well written defense of Romney and why he as an evangelical supports Romney for the presidency. I'm sure Romney will use Grudem's article in his efforts to persuade other evangelicals to support his candidacy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Teachers' unions give only "lip service to caring for kids"

A union's primary purpose for existing is to promote job security and higher pay and benefits for its members. That is certainly true of the teachers' unions even though they give a lot of lip service to caring for kids. In fact, there is evidence which suggests to me that they could care less about kids.

A case in point was the recently defeated school voucher proposal passed by the Utah legislature. It passed the Utah legislature but was placed on the ballot in the recent November election. It would have given low income students a voucher worth between $500 to $3,000 dollars to attend a private school of their choice, much less than the $7,500 it costs Utah taxpayers to educate a public school child. George Will reported prior to the vote that millions of dollars was being spent by teachers' unions across the country to defeat the Utah referendum. He noted reports that the NEA approved expenditures of up to $3 million to defeat the proposal and state teachers' unions in Maine, Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming were also contributing to the campaign to defeat the new law.

While I prefer the use of tax credits and tax incentives for private scholarship funds rather than vouchers, the unions certainly didn't argue that they preferred other ways of empowering parents. Their fear is if low income parents have a choice they will leave their public schools. That's reminiscent of the Berlin Wall mentality. The wall was built to keep people from leaving the communist regime not keep people out. In the same way, the unions oppose anything which threatens their monopoly of power over public education. The result is the education of kids, the primary goal of public education, is lost in their drive for power and money.

I believe truth and right ultimately prevail in life though it often times takes much longer than I would prefer. I think the same will be true with meeting the education needs of parents and kids rather than the power and money desires of the teachers' unions.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our schools are creating a generation of dysfunctional religiophobes

Last holiday season my wife and I shared a pair of recordings with our children; circa 1972 when we were members of the Highland Park Sr. High Choir. Although we had a great time reminiscing and comparing intergenerational musical abilities, we were struck with a sadness that went beyond the wistful melancholia of days gone by. We realized that these albums were a testament to an era when tolerance could be accomplished by sharing expressions of faith via the medium of music — all in a public school.

One album was a traditional collection of works performed by the high school choir. However, it contained secular and religious works sung in Latin, English, and Hebrew. The tracks flowed innocently from "Chichester Psalms" sung in Hebrew, to "Mass in G" sung in Latin. The second was a Hebrew Service containing the original works of a Highland graduate and sung by our choir. The composer, a Jewish woman, recorded the album as “a new experience in worship that emphasizes through song the importance of community involvement in worship. It enables those who are willing to join together as a community in contemporary songs of prayer.” (Emphasis in the original.)

As we listened to the scratchy recordings, we realized the lasting effect of these experiences. I recall being taught to speak Hebrew (some of which I still remember) by one of my Jewish classmates and performing the service in Temple on a Friday evening. Later, these public school experiences enabled me to be open to attending a Seder. I have heard the Shofar and tasted bitter herbs. As an Evangelical Christian, I have had numerous opportunities to share these experiences with my children and members of my congregation. I once played a track called “Sh’ Ma” (sung in Hebrew) to an Evangelical pastor and watched him weep. “Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is One.”

On the back of the album is a picture of our choir in the recording studio. As I looked at our faces I saw black and white; man and women. But the photo, not unlike our contemporary classrooms, could only reflect race and gender. It failed to convey the rich diversity of our thought life and core beliefs. Only when I listened to the religious music was I able to realize the complexity of Christian, Jew, and atheist – all singing in an atmosphere of tolerance. It’s shameful to admit that this experience would be questionable in today’s hyper-sensitive environment.

We are living in denial. It’s doubtful we can learn to embrace diversity when we prohibit any exposure to our most fundamental differences. In fact, banning all reference to our religious heritage creates even greater ignorance and fear. Our schools are creating a generation of dysfunctional “religiophobes.” What ever happened to “critical thinking”?
There is a vast difference between learning about faith and teaching faith. Learning about the diversity of faith in the public square is no more an endorsement of religion than learning about Hitler’s “Final Solution” is an endorsement of the Holocaust. It is a dubious argument that postulates that the reading of "Mien Kampf" is not a state endorsement, yet the reading of the book of "Exodus" or the "Gospel of St. John" is.

I encourage people of all faiths — who take their faith seriously — to reclaim the lost ground of the last 50 years of secularism. The purging of diverse expressions of faith in our public schools and institutions gags our attempts to reach tolerance, and forces us to communicate with photographs depicting little more than sex, gender, and race.

Was there really a time when the arts, faith, and government coexisted in a peaceful environment? Were we too ignorant to know we were doing something “unconstitutional” — or were we simply too tolerant to care?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

"The train to Huxley's dehumanized Brave New World has already left the station."

The above is a line from Leon Kass' talk to the Manhattan Institute on the impact of scientific materialism or as he calls it "soul-less scientism" on efforts to reconstruct life using such technologies as “The Pill. In vitro fertilization. Surrogate wombs. Cloning. Genetic engineering. Organ swapping. Mechanical spare parts. Performance--enhancing drugs. Computer implants into brains. Ritalin for the young, Viagra for the old, Prozac for everyone. Virtually unnoticed, the train to Huxley's dehumanized Brave New World has already left the station."

The inroads by scientific materialism as embodied in Darwinian evolution is washing into every sphere of society, e.g. education, law, politics, science, ethics and, as Kass points out, issues of life and what it means to be human. The problem is materialism brings with it no moral, ethical framework for considering these issues.

I expect a few of these issues to come up in the next Minnesota legislative session -- cloning, surrogate wombs and egg selling.

At it's core it's a worldview conflict. On the materialist side is the belief that we're merely the result of a mindless, purposeless, chance process with no transcendent meaning or purpose. On the other side is the belief there is a God who designed and imbued creation with meaning and purpose. These two worldviews and their local extensions are currently wrestling for the hearts and minds of people throughout the world. The outcome will decide whether we slide into a new barbarism/Dark Ages or a period of human flourishing and hope.

ENDA passes U. S. House of Representatives

Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives voted 235-184 to pass a bill (H.R. 3685) which, if signed into law, will give homosexuals and bisexuals special rights in the workplace and threaten the religious liberties of business owners and a whole range of private organizations.

Every business or organization with more than fifteen employees will be prohibited from refusing to hire a person because of the person's “actual or perceived” sexual orientation. This means sexual orientation, which includes homosexuality and bisexuality, will be given the same status as race, sex, and age in our federal civil rights laws.

It would force Christian business owners, Boy Scouts, youth organizations, youth mentoring groups, universities and day care centers to violate their deeply held religious or moral beliefs regarding hiring persons engaged in homosexual or bisexual behavior.

While the bill exempts “religious organizations” the definition is vague enough to put at risk of legal attack organizations run on Christian principles. This list includes Christian bookstores and businesses, children’s homes, community centers, youth organizations, day care centers, schools and other non-profits.

It would prohibit employers from using marriage as employment criteria, e.g. marriage counseling ministries couldn’t require their marriage counselors to be legally married.

In conclusion, ENDA will enshrine "sexual orientation" in federal law, providing activist judges with the legal ammunition to move toward the legalization of gay marriage. (Previous court cases recognizing same-sex marriage have referenced the existence of sexual orientation in other areas of the law to justify their decisions in favor of same-sex marriage.)

The Minnesota Congressional Delegation voted 6-2 in favor of this bill. Republican US Representatives Kline and Bachmann voted against ENDA while all Democrat US Representatives Ellison, McCollum, Peterson, Oberstar, and Walz and Republican Ramstad voted in favor of ENDA.

Below are their phone and email addresses to express your appreciation for a vote against ENDA and disappointment if he or she voted for it.

Once again, ENDA is an attack on religious liberties and will expose business owners, schools and youth organizations like the Boy Scouts to legal attacks for seeking to uphold moral principles in their organizations and businesses.

Please call or email your US Representative at the following numbers. Email can be conducted through his or her webpage

Rep. Michele Bachmann 202.225.2331 or 651.731.5400

Rep. Keith Ellison - 202.225.4755 or 612.522.1212

Rep. John Kline - 202.225.2271 or 952.808.1213

Rep. Betty McCollum - 202.225.6631 or 651.224.9191

Rep. James L. Oberstar (D - 08) - 202-225-6211 or 218.727.8270

Rep. Collin Peterson - 202.225.2165 or 218.253.4356 or 320.235.1061

Rep. Jim Ramstad - 202.225.6351 or 952.738.8200

Rep. Tim Walz - 202.225.3433 or 507.206.0650

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The judges opinion on lesbian parents denied discrimination complaint: good outcome, wrong headed editorial comments by judge

A lesbian couple, denied a family membership to the Rochester Athletic Club because they weren't married, lost their discrimination lawsuit. The judge correctly pointed out that there was no sexual orientation discrimination because cohabiting heterosexual couples are also denied family memberships. Judge Kevin A. Lund wrote, "It is for the Legislature, not the courts, to determine whether nonmarital relationships such as that involved in this case deserve the statutory protection afforded the sanctity of the marriage union." Good decision evidencing judicial restraint.

In his editorial comments though Judge Lund was off base in calling the health club's definition of family
"unrealistically narrow" and "fails to recognize the underlying stability and commitment of the Monsons' relationship.' He also wrote, "Other, arguably more enlightened organizations, such as the Rochester Area Family Y, have chosen not to reduce the definition of family in such an anachronistic fashion,'' he said.

He calls the policy less than enlightened but that simply begs the questions, is the present effort to redefine the family and marriage good for society. Let's see. Family breakdown is at unprecedented levels. Cohabitation, divorce rates are far too high and marriage rates are dropping. Kids do much worse in unmarried headed households. Past family redefinition experiments like subsidizing single parent headed households have been an utter failure. Now there's an effort afoot to re-define marriage to be a "loving relationship." Yet homosexual relationships are more unstable than heterosexual relationships and by definition deliberately deny a child the benefit of a mother or a father.

Marriage sounds like the best policy for strong families. But of course Judge Lund who seems to have absorbed much of the "spirit of our age" fails to see beyond the politically correct view of family. How bad will things have to get before he and others realize that common sense, modern research and millennia of experience affirm the ancient truth -- man and woman were created for a purpose.