Thursday, October 30, 2008

1st Pick

My youngest had to go to a new elementary school this year. Never mind his old school is 1/10th of a mile away & his "new" school is 2 miles away. Not important.

But what is important is what something means to a 10 year old. And this is a Biggie.

His first day of "new" school. Didn't know a soul. Recess. Boys play football. He was the =last= pick. That is a killer. Dead last pick. The kid with narcolepsy & 12 lb cowboys boots holding up a 175 lb frame, who barely runs the 40 yard dash in 4.4. hours =&= had the flu was picked ahead of my son. First day. Knows no one. Last pick for playground football. Devastating. Heartbreaking.

After week two of "new" school, he comes home beaming. Grinning from ear to ear. What does he say? Well, a different tune.

Dad, guess what?

What, son?

You ain't gonna believe this!

What is it, son?

At recess I'm now 1st pick every day in football, soccer, kickball =&= in PE class dodge ball.


Yep. I'm the 1st Pick in the 1st Round in every sport. It's kinda like winning the Heisman every day.

I guess looking at things through a kid's eyes puts life in a whole new perspective. Not a big deal to me or you or to anyone else in the world. It won't change the economy or make life better for anyone, anywhere on the planet. But for one 10 year old kid at "new" school, he thinks he's won the Heisman.

And that's a big deal.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Edmond, OK & the Jesus Statue

Edmond, OK --- a city with a history of church/state legal woes (click here for article) --- yesterday authorized taxpayer money to purchase a statue of Christ to be placed downtown.

That was yesterday.

Many supporters claimed the statue wasn't religious at all saying it was generic & could be anything/anyone, not necessarily Jesus. The statue is of a man with kids around & arms outstretched, & looks conspicuously like the Americanized version of what Jesus would look like. Oh, yeah, & there is a Bible verse on it that says "Come Unto Me." Don't forget the statue is being placed in front of a Catholic Gift Shop. Sure looks like $3900 of tax payer money was supporting a certain religion. Somebody please tell me if the pic doesn't look amazingly like the All American Jesus we promulgate here in the US of A?

Amazing, really.

[AU's Barry] Lynn said using public funds on the project is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.

"You cannot promote what is obviously a very specific religious image using tax dollars," Lynn said. "The city lawyers should have stopped this. This isn't even close to the line. This is way over it."

Edmond's city attorney, Stephen Murdock, said, "I think there are differences of opinions regarding that issue." He declined to say what his recommendations were to the commission.

A few years ago, the city faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees after losing a case involving a cross in the government seal, according to the AP report quoted above. Oddly enough, the same stunt was almost done a few years ago when public outcry finally halted a $17,500 taxpayer outlay of a statue of Moses.

But, today, cooler heads have prevailed. The mayor has decided (click here for article) that the tax payer shouldn't be on the hook for anyone's religious iconography. Of course, I'm sure the lawyers had something to do with this --- painfully obvious that a lawsuit would be an expensive loss.

Here's the American's United blog by Sandhya Bathija on the subject.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How Should the Christian Vote?

I don't agree with Chuck Colson too often but, aside from a few hint-hint comments here & there, he wrote a great article for Christianity Today.

Colson said that it is morally & Biblically wrong to simply vote for the most "Christian" candidate, or for the party. Instead, Colson argues we should vote for the candidate who is most honest & just, & is the most qualified for the job. And Colson reminds us we should honor that candidate who seeks to do the right thing for the poor, the hungry, the unborn, the handicapped, the prisoner—those with the least access to political power.

I do find it incongruous that many "Values Voters" forget the Biblical command to do justly & act mercifully towards the poor, the minorities, the prisoner, the whatever-group-it-is-that-costs-us-money. Yes, that is something we have to weigh, isn't it?

Here is an excerpt:

That's why not voting or rejecting candidates because they are not perfect on some biblical or political score sheet is a dereliction of our trust.

So is voting for a candidate simply because he is a Christian—startling as this may sound. Rather than checking on the candidates' denomination, we should look for the ablest candidate. Martin Luther famously said he would rather be ruled by a competent Turk—that is, a Muslim—than an incompetent Christian.

In casting a vote, judgment should ultimately be guided by what we perceive to be the common good, a term not often heard in today's special interest–charged political debates. .. But if we look at politics from God's perspective, we see that he has a deep and abiding interest in all people being treated fairly. If God favors any "special interest group," it is the poor, the hungry, the unborn, the handicapped, the prisoner—those with the least access to political power.

This is why we Christians should never allow ourselves to be, as the press has often characterized us, just another special interest group pleading for our agendas only. But if we were a special interest group, we would be lobbying for the dignity of all, especially those who can't always speak for themselves.

So maybe a particular candidate isn't going to cut your taxes or vote for your favorite program, but the real question is, will he serve all the people, or only the loudest?

To me, the Christian vote is a matter of principles, not politics. On one hand the ethic of Jesus demands I value people ahead of money; justice ahead of greed;
compassion ahead of doubt. But the other side of that ethical stewardship reminds me that the US is not a money tree to do anything & everything for everyone.

And there is the problem.

I used to follow
Colson & the rest of the Religious Right like a Lemming after three Mtn. Dews. I spouted the line; captured the mantra; cited the "Biblical Principles" that were nothing more than political talking points designed to manipulate my faith to garner my vote. No more. I now think.

I'm undecided how I will vote but I know I will --- not missed a vote since 1982. Even local elections. What I do know is there are certain principles that are non-
negotiables with me & neither candidate adheres to all those non-negotiables. My oldest said that he plans on writing my name in for several local office seats. Of course, he laughed about it but he is serious.

Don't doubt him for a minute.

Me thinks I may write his name in as a Presidential candidate. He is a fine
young man of whom I am very proud. Third year at Berry College. Top grades. Great soccer player. Faithful. Ethical. Honest. A man of character.

Whatever happens, equating faith & politics is a dangerous game. Voting is about choosing the most qualified candidate, regardless of faith. Keep faith & politics separate. They both become
unbearable when melded together.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Airbag Fraud

If you've bought a used car, you need to do some checking. According to this NPR article, many folks around the nation have been ripped off by unscrupulous auto dealers/mechanics with air bags that are not functional.

Several instances have been reported where a vehicle had been in an accident, but the air bag was never repaired. In some cases paper, cans, packing peanuts & even garbage bags were stuffed back into the airbag compartment. Oftentimes, the old airbag was just stuff back in the compartment. The result is an inoperable safety component.

Some deaths have been reported where air bags were simply not reinstalled.

But in January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report that reviewed 1,446 fatal crashes and found that in 255 of those cases, the air bags had not been replaced after a previous accident. An agency spokesman said that although NHTSA didn't look into why they were missing, officials believe that at least some of those cases involved air bag fraud.

"We have a life-and-death scam on our hands ... just waiting to be discovered," says Jim Quiggle, director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a nonprofit alliance of insurance companies and consumer groups. He is frustrated because it is so hard to pin down the number of air bag fraud cases.

"Unfortunately, until the dat a bubble to the surface and give us a quantitative sense of what this is about, it's always going to be the hidden, silent killer," Quiggle says.

This sort of stuff shouldn't surprise us: there have been cheaters & liars since Genesis chapter 4 --- people willing to kill someone over jealousy, money, power, or whatever else you wanna name. Just check out your vehicle. Better to be safe than sorry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

James Dobson's Flip Flop

Back in the Spring when the GOP primaries where running strong, James Dobson said that McCain is a Liberal & a potty mouth. Then Dobson went so far as to say that he would not vote for McCain & would just stay home on election day (click here for Frank Lockwood's link).

That's right. Dobson's statement is that he cannot, in good conscience, vote for McCain. Here's the YouTube link to listen to the statement being read.

Well, it looks like Dobson either doesn't have a conscience; misread his conscience; has a new conscience; or maybe he just looked around & saw that political power is more important than his conscience. It is well nigh possible he was bearing false witness in light of Dobson's statement a few days ago (click here to listen to Dobson's statement.)

Either way, it's official. James Dobson has officially flip flopped. Perhaps Dobson & John Kerry will be able to pal around, fish a bit, & discuss what it feels like to say anything & everything for the sake of political gain & the money that comes along with it.

Dobson said his rational is his "Biblical World View" but somehow his "Biblical World View" doesn't include "yea meaning yea" & his "no meaning no."

Using verbal gymnastics, Dobson attempted to argue that he’s not really endorsing the Arizona senator: “While I will not endorse either candidate this year… I can say I’m now supportive of Sen. John McCain in his bid for the presidency.” Then Dobson goes on to rehash the talking points of the GOP. Dobson can spilt hairs all day long but it is painfully obvious that his statement was an endorsement of McCain. It shows once again how top leaders of the Religious Right long ago became a collection of partisan operatives who make the necessary political compromises to keep their hold on power.

Dobson's group acts in the capacity of a tax exempt organization, i.e., church/religious/charity. Speaking to the issues is fine, yes, even encouraged. But endorsing a candidate makes Focus on the Family another political action committee --- one that is run by a guy who will say anything since conscience takes a back seat to politics.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Politics of a Good Samaritan

I hope no one takes this as a political statement for it is not. It is just a neat story --- a Good Samaritan story --- that happens to be relevant because it involves a political candidate. It is just neat to read about things like this regardless of the politics.

Here's the link to Leisha's Blog.

Mary lacked money to fly home to Norway – he saved her love

ÅSGÅRDSTRAND (VG): Mary was a newlywed and ready to move to Norway, but was stopped at the airport because she didn’t have enough money for the trip. Then a stranger turned up and paid for her.

Mary Menth Andersen was 31 years old at the time and had just married Norwegian Dag Andersen. She was looking forward to starting a new life in Åsgårdstrand in Vestfold with him. But first she had to get all of her belongings across to Norway. The date was November 2nd, 1988.
At the airport in Miami things were hectic as usual, with long lines at the check-in counters. When it was finally Mary’s turn and she had placed her luggage on the baggage line, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.
-You’ll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway, the man behind the counter said.
Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call.
-I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions, says Mary.

Although she explained the situation to the man behind the counter, he showed no signs of mercy.
-I started to cry, tears were pouring down my face and I had no idea what to do. Then I heard a gentle and friendly voice behind me saying, That’s OK, I’ll pay for her.
Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before.
-He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?
Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man.
-He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants, says Mary.
She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.

The piece of paper said ‘Barack Obama’ and his address in Kansas, which is the state where his mother comes from. Mary carried the slip of paper around in her wallet for years, before it was thrown out.
-He was my knight in shining armor, says Mary, smiling.
She paid the 103 dollars back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker* in Chicago, and had started his law studies at prestigious Harvard university.
In the spring of 2006 Mary’s parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.
In a letter to Mary’s parents dated May 4th, 2006 and stamped ‘United States Senate, Washington DC’, Barack Obama writes**:
‘I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I’m happy I could help back then, and I’m delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States senator’.
The parents sent the letter on to Mary.

This week VG met her and her husband in the café that she runs with her friend Lisbeth Tollefsrud in Åsgårdstrand.
-It’s amazing to think that the man who helped me 20 years ago may now become the next US president, says Mary delightedly.
She has already voted for Obama. She recently donated 100 dollars to his campaign.
She often tells the story from Miami airport, both when race issues are raised and when the conversation turns to the presidential elections.
-I sincerely hope the Americans will see reason and understand that Obama means change, says Mary.

*Not at all sure about this part of the translation. The Norwegian word used is 'miljøarbeider', I don't know what the exact English word for that is or even if there is one, and I don't know enough about Obama to say what job of his they're talking about.
**This is my translation of the reporter's translation of the letter. From English to Norwegian and back to English. So obviously it is not correct word for word.