Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Denied!

The Indiana cigarette tax has failed. The 52-44 vote against HB 1008, which would have raised the Indiana cigarette tax by a quarter, is simply irresponsible. How can raising the second lowest cigarette tax in the nation by a mere 25 cents not pass in the House? The most frustrating aspect of this Bill’s failure is that only 19 Republicans backed up their Governor. I’m thankful that my State Representative - Amos Thomas - was one of the nineteen. I’m disappointed that my former State Rep - Bob Bischoff - voted against HB 1008.

Why?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why Is This So Hard?

Earlier this year, in his State of the State address Gov. Mitch Daniels introduced an excellent proposal; raise the tax on cigarettes in Indiana by 54.5 cents a pack. The tax increase would serve a dual purpose. First, the increased cost would discourage smoking, especially among teenagers. Second, the added revenue would fund health insurance for the working poor, immunizations for children and anti-smoking programs; all children who are not covered by insurance would be eligible for the program.

Indiana HB 1008 is a much needed piece of legislation. Smokers who want to quit smoking, and most that I know say they do, would have some extra incentive. Many Hoosiers need this incentive. Indiana has the second highest adult smoking rate in the nation; 27.3 percent of adults and 21.9 percent of youth are smokers. Indiana’s current cigarette tax (55.5 cents) is one of the lowest in the nation. Among surrounding states, only Kentucky has a lower cigarette tax. Compare that with other Midwestern states: Michigan’s is $2, Ohio’s is $1.25, and Chicago has $3.66 in combined state, county and city taxes. On top of that, smoking costs the Indiana Medicaid program $487 million each year.

HB 1008 is a no-brainer, right?

As former IU football coach Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!”

While the House Public Health Committee voted 8-0 last week to increase the cigarette tax by 54.5 cents per pack, for a total tax of $1.10, the House Ways and Means Committee recently slashed the increase back to 25 cents a pack. Why? It seems that Gov. Daniels made a remark regarding the Democrats property tax plan that the Dems did not appreciate.

Angered by Gov. Mitch Daniels’ characterization of their property tax initiative as a “whopping big” tax increase, Democrats are about to make a whopping big cut in the proposed cigarette tax increase he is seeking…The House Public Health Committee voted 8-0 last week to increase the cigarette tax by 54.5 cents per pack, for a total tax of $1.10, to pay for health coverage for the uninsured. But today, Democrats in the House Ways and Means Committee are expected to slash the increase back to 25 cents a pack…The governor’s off-the-cuff comment is creating a storm, creating a furor,” said Rep. Charlie Brown, the Gary Democrat who is the author of the health insurance bill, House Bill 1008. “You don’t kick me in my right shin while you ask me to do something for you.”


I thought the idea was to do something for the people of Indiana, not play partisan patty-cake. Are the Dems sticking it to Gov. Daniels, or are they sticking it to Hoosiers? A 54.5-cent increase would raise an estimated $230 million in revenue and cut youth smoking by nearly 10 percent, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national anti-smoking group. In contrast, a 25-cent increase would raise about $115 million and trim youth smoking by an estimated 4.5 percent, according to the group.

This legislation makes sense from every angle, but the politicians behave as if their children on the playground.

Why is this so hard?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

21st century Ministry

The men and women who founded this nation were, for the most part, a church-going people who were influenced by a Biblical worldview; no one can intelligently argue against that point. Indeed, there was a time in this nation’s history when Biblical principles held sway over public opinion. There was a time when churches maintained influence over the national social, moral, political, and intellectual landscape. There was a time when average Americans knew the basics of the Bible; when most everyone attended church on the Lord’s Day, and when pastors were respected and trusted members of the community. Those days are no more. We are now living in post-Christian times, and the church no longer exercises a prevailing influence on the mind and heart of American culture. The men and women of this nation, for the most part, are not a church-going people who are influenced by the Word of God; no one can intelligently argue against this point.

But be careful, lest you begin to wax nostalgic for the past. While it is true that a solid and serious grasp of the past will enable you to be wise in the present and in the future, you should be wary of the “in the good ole days” mentality. This wrong-headed thinking leads to closed-minded inactivity marked by pastors who harangue their congregations with sentimental preaching about “the good ole days” instead of faithful proclamation of God’s Word in the present day. It is further marked by Christians who cease to evangelize the lost, but develop anger, even hatred, at this “sinful age” and lament that “in the good ole days” people were not this “way.”

The truth is that people have always been this “way”, at least since the fall, when Eve was deceived and Adam disobeyed. Even in “righteous America”, the nation that declared the self-evident truth that all men are created equal…well, all white men that is. It is true that, in some ways, America was a Christian nation, but in many other ways it has always been a non-Christian nation. This is because the human heart is deceitfully wicked; there are none who are righteous, no, not even one! The modern family is as dysfunctional as was the original family, where a rebellious and jealous older brother murdered his virtuous younger brother, and then lied to God about it. Wistfully looking to the past while lamenting the present will render you irrelevant in the future. Beware of the “good ole days” "sindrome".

But how are we to minister in a culture that views the church as extraneous? Philip Ryken states in his book City on a Hill that these post-Christian days have two prevalent characteristics: relativism and narcissism. Relativism is the rejection of absolutes, particularly the rejection of absolute truth. My favorite Star Wars character provided a great definiton of relativism when he told a confused Luke Skywalker, “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.” Relativism states that truth is not objective but subjective; it all depends on your point of view, your cultural background, etc. This is the basis of postmodern thinking.

Obviously, this type of philosophy flies in the face of Christ’s statement from John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” That type of exclusive statement is intolerable to the relativistic, postmodern mind.

Narcissism is a radical individualism and infatuation with self. To be honest we must admit that American culture has always been tinged by a touch of narcissism. Americans, this one included, tend to think that our nation is superior in every way to every nation, but modern society is permeated with a radical, unbridled love of self. Unfortunately, this type of thinking provides justification for people to do whatever seems to be in their best self-interest. A man says, “I want to be happy, and marriage no longer makes me happy”; so he leaves his wife and kid(s) in order to be happy. How can he justify such behavior? It’s all because he wants to be happy, and he is positive that God wants him to be happy. Today most people will do whatever will make them “happy,” even if their happiness comes at the expense of others.

How does the church influence this culture? How are we to minister? 21st century churches need to pattern themselves after the 1st century churches. This is not traditionalism, irrelevancy, or living in the “good ole days”; it is following the timeless guidelines and precepts which were given by the Head of the church to His churches. Acts 2:42-47 says:
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

To a relativistic world which is skeptical of everything, the church must faithfully proclaim the truth of God’s eternal Word. To a narcissistic culture, alienated by sin and driven by love of self; the church issues an invitation to worship, fellowship, and serve others. What the world needs is exactly what God wants the church to be and to do; churches that stand out as distinctly Christian.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dad Being Dad

As my favorite team, the Cincinnati Reds arrive in Sarasota, FL, the reason behind Ken Griffey, Jr.’s broken hand has finally come to light. He broke his hand playing with the kids. According to MLB.com reporter Mark Sheldon:

Griffey explained that he was wrestling with his two youngest children, Tevin and Taryn, when then-12-year-old son Trey joined in. It was at that point when an awkward fall had the elder Griffey land on his left throwing hand. “He just doesn’t know his own strength yet,” Griffey said of Trey, now 13. “He’s at that age where he’s getting to be a man. A little leverage and a little height helped. I also didn’t want to land on my 4-year-old, too”…Trey took the accident hard, but Griffey was quick to offer his son consolation. “It was one of those things. We were messing around, and he got me,” Griffey said. “I just told him it was an accident. ‘I’m your dad, better me than you.’ It’s going to happen.”

Junior Griffey is one of my favorite baseball players. This has not always been the case. Even though we are both from the tri-state (SE IN; SW OH; No. KY) I was never a big Griffey fan during his Seattle days.

Why?

Because I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan and not a Seattle Mariners fan. Sure, I enjoyed watching him play, and I appreciated his attitude, but I’m a Reds fan; so while I admired his game I could only dream of the Cincinnati native wearing the Reds uniform.

Then the dream came true. As is always the case, however, reality is much different from the dream. Griffey arrived in the Queen City the year after their improbable 99 win season. The 2000 team was basically the same as the ‘99 team, except for the outfield where Dante Bichette replaced Greg Vaughn in left (Jeffrey Hammonds was traded to the Rockies for Bichette and Vaughn became a free agent) and Junior Griffey replaced Mike Cameron in center.

Obviously the Reds are headed to the Series right? I never thought so, but my opinion was in the minority. Everyone, seemed to think that adding Griffey to the team meant an automatic postseason appearance. What few people were willing to realize was the ‘99 team overachieved. Pete Harnisch won 16 games. Steve Parris went 11-4. Scott Williamson won Rookie of the Year (his only solid year too, by the way.) “Trader Jack” McKeon made all the right moves as he platooned Michael Tucker and Jeffrey Hammonds in right, and as he found playing time for Dmitri Young in the outfield and infield corner positions. Sean Casey, Pokey Reese, and Eddie Taubansee all had career years. Barry Larkin had his last Barry Larkin like season. Even Jim Bowden made the right moves. He brought in Greg Vaughn before the season, and Vaughn smacked 45 HR and drove in 118 RBI. Bowden brought in Juan Guzman at mid-season. Guzman went 6-3 and he pitched well enough to have been 9-0.

If the 2000 Reds would have had the identical roster as ‘99 the team still would have hovered around .500. With Griffey hitting third and patrolling CF the sky was supposed to be the limit. Instead, the team finished just above .500 and Junior was blamed for not leading the team to the postseason.

2000 was Griffey’s best year in Cincinnati (145 games; .271, 40 HR, 118 RBI). Every year since has been cut short by injuries. Every year his critics, especially in the Cincinnati area, get louder and more obnoxious. You won’t hear that junk from me. It’s not as if Junior has gotten hurt by being stupid, and even if he’d have averaged 150 games per year you still must have pitching to win. Until last season the Reds had none.

Do I wish Griffey would have been healthy with the Reds? Absolutely! Am I happy that he’s still a Red? Absolutely! Am I bothered that he broke his left hand playing with his kids? Absolutely not!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Cure for Homophobia

It was Oct. 7, 1998. Matthew Shepard woke up that morning to a day he thought would be like any other day. Little did he know that he would be abducted and have his skull crushed by being pistol-whipped with a .357 magnum pistol. Or that his body would be burned and then left tied spread-eagle to a fence out in the country, for somewhere between 12 to 18 hours before somebody just happened to go down that lane and see him there. At first, these passersby thought he was a scarecrow until they got closer and heard the subconscious groaning of Matthew Shepard. Five days later he would die in a hospital. All this because Matthew Shepard was a homosexual.

I don't know about you, but the fact that anyone, even someone who was involved in gross immorality, would be treated in such a way is sickening to me. But it gets worse because Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, led his congregation in picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, carrying signs that said, "God hates fags" & "No tears for queers."

From his pulpit in Kansas, over the Internet, and through his "picketing ministry" Pastor Phelps' preaches hate; that God hates homosexuals; that God hates America. Here is a sampling of this man's "ministry":

The Westboro Baptist Church used to pray for the good of America, knowing that God's blessings are mighty and His hand could be stayed from punishing this wicked nation, just as He stayed His hand from punishing Nineveh. America chose to spit in the face of their Creator, instead of heeding WBC's warnings, and now it is too late to pray for this nation...hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, IEDs, collapsing mines and more -- we pray daily for more outpourings of God's justice and wrath on this evil, hateful nation.
Then he has the audacity on his websites to ask people to turn their hearts to Jesus.

If, like Fred Phelps, you hate the people of this world, then you have a problem with God. If you think Matthew Shepard got what he deserved, you have a problem with and a misunderstanding of God. When I am tempted to view the mission field as the enemy I immediately fly to the book of Jonah; the factual narrative about the amazing grace and love of God for even the worst of people.

When God directed Jonah to go to Nineveh and "cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me" Jonah disobeyed the word of God and fled.

Why?

Jonah 3:10-4:2 tells us why.

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Jonah fled because he knew that God is a gracious and compassionate God, and the Ninevites were a violent, wicked, immoral, pagan people, and enemies of the Jews. Jonah wanted them to be judged, and he knew that if the Ninevites repented God would forgive them. Jonah wanted no part of that.

I must put myself in the prophet's sandals before I shake my head at his callous heart. You see, I don't have a problem with the Ninevites. But what about the homosexuals? Abortionists? Humanists? Terrorists? How about you? Are any one of those groups your Nineveh? Maybe it’s not a group of people, maybe your Nineveh is a person or family.

Do you want to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ? Read through the Gospels, and as you do, you will notice that Jesus has this unusual knack of compassion for even the worst of people. That really bugged the Pharisees. The really religious people, the really good people, could never fathom why this One who came and claimed to be Messiah had a relentless compassion for even the worst of sinners.

I think it's a lesson that we have a hard time learning, because we tend to be quite content with selective or partial obedience. Obedience within our comforts zones is easy. Obedience that makes me look good in public is easy. But to “Love [my] enemies, bless them that curse [me], do good to them that hate [me], and pray for them which despitefully use [me], and persecute [me]”; that's not so easy.

Al Mohler wrote the following:
If we are really a Gospel people; if we really love homosexuals as other sinners; then we must reach out to them with a sincerity that makes that love tangible. We have not even approached that requirement until we are ready to say to homosexuals, "We want you to know the fullness of God's plan for you, to know the forgiveness of sins and the mercy of God, to receive the salvation that comes by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to know the healing God works in sinners saved by grace, and to join us as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, living out our obedience and growing in grace together."
The story of Jonah challenges us to change our attitudes about people; attitudes that run the gamut of bitterness, anger, outright hatred, or uncaring indifference to an attitude of relentless compassion; an unconditional love like that of our Savior. Does your heart reflect Jonah's heart or Jesus' heart? Don't hate what God loves, or be indifferent about that for which His Son died.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Homophobic?

"I hate gay people." That's what former NBA player Tim Hardaway said during a radio interview when asked how he would handle an openly gay teammate. Hardaway wasn't finished:


I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States...And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that's right. And you know I don't think he should be in the locker room while we're in the locker room. I wouldn't even be a part of that.

Hardaway was scheduled to spend this weekend in Las Vegas doing publicity work for the NBA during their All-Star weekend festivities. Not anymore. He has been banished.

Hardaway has now given the obligatory apology.

As an African-American, I know all too well the negative thoughts and feelings hatred and bigotry cause. I regret and apologize for the statements that I made that have certainly caused the same kinds of feelings and reactions.I especially apologize to my fans, friends and family in Miami and Chicago. I am committed to examining my feelings and will recognize, appreciate and respect the differences among people in our society. I regret any embarrassment I have caused the league on the eve of one of their greatest annual events.
Homosexuality in the NBA is currently a topic of discussion because former player John Amaechi has recently come out of the closet. There has been a variety of responses to Amaechi's "outing". Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who is also a Hoosier native and IU alum, praised Amaechi as a "hero".

When you do something that the whole world thinks is difficult and you stand up and just be who you are and take on that difficulty factor, you're an American hero no matter what. That's what the American spirit's all about, going against the grain and standing up for who you are, even if it's not a popular position.
Miami Herald and ESPN the Magazine writer Dan Le Batard praised Amaechi and condemned Hardaway. Columnist LZ Granderson, who is a homosexual and a sportswriter, was not impressed with Amaechi coming out after his playing days were over.

I've supplied a smattering of reaction from the secular worldview. My next post will cover what the reaction should be from a Christian worldview.

I do want to say this in closing, however. I suspect that a lot of Christians were disgusted with Amaechi's "outing". I'm also sure that the same Christians approvingly nodded at Hardaway's ugly remark. That would be the wrong reaction. If you are a believer and you agree with Tim Hardaway, then let me remind you of this:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-7 (KJV)

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Weeble Wobble

As a child in the late ’70’s I was given a fantastic toy that provided me with hours of innocent enjoyment: weeble wobbles. The weebles even had a catchy little jingle. Surely you remember: “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. As I read the comments of Senator John Edwards (D-NC) this week I couldn’t help but recall those wonderful weeble wobbles. Edwards is one of the leading candidates, along with Senators Clinton and Obama, to be the Democrats’ presidential nominee for ‘08. But as I read Edwards’ comments as quoted in the American Conservative and on the transcript from the 2/4 Meet the Press, I just kept thinking of those little weebles: “Edwards woobles but he won’t come down”. On a decision, that is; he wobbles back and forth without ever coming down, or at least staying down, on one course of action.

The Weeble: In their most recent edition American Conservative quotes Sen. Edwards as he addressed the Herzliya Conference in Israel:

The greatest challenge of our generation [is disarming Iran].

According to Wesley Pruden of the Washington Times Sen. Edwards said the following at the same conference:

Let me be clear…Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons. … Once Iran goes nuclear, other countries in the Middle East will go nuclear, making Israel’s neighborhood much more volatile.

Sounds like a strong position to take. I agree with Sen. Edwards…I think, but I can’t be sure because on Feb. 4, just a little more than two weeks after the Herzliya Conference, Sen. Edwards sounds a little wobbly when asked by Tim Russert: “Would President Edwards allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon?”

The Wobble: Here is Sen. Edwards’ reply:

I—there’s no answer to that question at this moment. I think that it’s a—it’s a—it’s a very bad thing for Iran to get a nuclear weapon.

When Russert said, “But they may get one.” Sen. Edwards wobbled some more:

Yeah. I think—I think the—we don’t know, and you have to make a judgment as you go along, and that’s what I would do as president.

“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

I actually believe that Tim Russert did a magnificent job exposing the Edwards weeble wobble. Whether Russert intended to or not, I don’t know, but let me give you one more example from Edwards’ 2/4 appearance on Meet the Press.

Russert showed a videotape from October 7, 2002. Read what Edwards said on that date. I call it the Weeble:

My position is very clear. The time has come for decisive action to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. I’m a co-sponsor of the bipartisan resolution that is presently under consideration in the Senate. Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave threat to America and our allies. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons today, that he’s used them in the past, and that he’s doing everything he can to build more. Every day he gets closer to his long-term goal of nuclear capability.

Edwards no longer believes that he was correct in referring to Saddam’s regime as a “grave threat to America and our Allies.” Here comes the Wobble:

For the same reason a lot of people were wrong. You know, we—the intelligence information that we got was wrong. I mean, tragically wrong. On top of that I’d—beyond that, I went back to former Clinton administration officials who gave me sort of independent information about what they believed about what was happening with Saddam’s weapon—weapons programs. They were also wrong. And, based on that, I made the wrong judgment. I, I, I want to go another step, though, because I think this is more than just weapons of mass destruction. I mean, I—at the—I remember vividly what I was thinking about at the time. It was, first, I was convinced he had weapons of mass destruction. That’s turned out to be completely wrong and false. I had internal conflict because I was worried about what George Bush would do.

He says that he was wrong, but he was wrong because he received bad information from everybody. As Han Solo said in that classic tale The Empire Strikes Back: “It’s not my fault.” Edwards had bad intel. His information from the previous administration was no good, and, of course, President Bush can’t be trusted.

Are you ready for more?

The Weeble:

Democracy will not spring up by itself overnight in a multiethnic, complicated society that’s suffered under one repressive regime after another for generations. The Iraqi people deserve and need our help to rebuild their lives and to create a prosperous, thriving, open society. All Iraqis, including Sunnis, Shia and Kurds, deserve to be represented. This is not just a moral imperative. It’s a security imperative. It is in America’s national interest to help build an Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbors, because a democratic, tolerant and accountable Iraq will be a peaceful regional partner, and such an Iraq could serve as a model for the entire Arab world.

That quote is also from October 7, 2002, and if you didn’t know better you might believe that George Bush said those words. Russert asked Sen. Edwards, “Do you think that was naive?” His answer provides us with the Wobble:

No, I think that had, had Saddam, who’s—had the war in Iraq been executed the way that it should have been executed, I think there would be a much greater likelihood of there being a democratic Iraq. I think we would still see at least some symptoms of what we’re seeing raging on the ground in Iraq right now. But no, I think there was some potential for a democracy in Iraq.

I thought the war did not need to be “executed” at all, but now if it had just been done right there would “be a much greater likelihood…of a democratic Iraq.

Sen. Edwards weebles and he wobbles but he does not come down on any position. He blows with the political wind. He was in favor of armed action in 2002 because of the mid-term elections. He has begun denouncing that action in the last year because the Democratic nominee cannot be in favor of the war.

“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.”

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Go Ahead and Discriminate

Please note: The following was originally written three and half years ago. I just wanted to have it posted on the Oxgoad.


The channel change was clumsily yet effectively executed. I ran down the hallway and leapt onto the couch. My right hand snagged the remote from off the end table. My left arm supported me as I rolled onto the floor within four feet of the TV screen, and, with extreme prejudice, I zapped the “Catfight” commercial before my young boys could catch an impressionable eyeful of buxom bimbos battling over beer. My name is Travis; I am a father and I discriminate.

In the soft porn commercial dubbed “Catfight”, Miller Lite has ratcheted up the old “taste’s great, less filling” debate. In years past, aged athletes argued this monumental dilemma in the local tavern, however, the modern version depicts the aforementioned “ladies” ripping off most of one another’s clothes while trading punches in a fountain and then in wet cement. Degrading to women and offensive to most, nonetheless, “Catfight” is reportedly the cat’s meow with its target audience, 21-31 year old beer drinking males. Hannah Storm, pioneer female network sports anchor and current co-host of the Early Show said, while on air, that the commercial offended her, especially because she is a football fan, and with three daughters, she doesn’t want “those kind of images” coming into her house. The brewery defended “Catfight” as no different than most reality TV programs. For whatever it’s worth, and in all fairness to Miller Lite, that is a correct statement.


After seven and a half years of parenting and thirty years of living it has become apparent that discrimination is not strictly a black and white issue. Growing up in a small southeastern Indiana river town, I only occasionally saw people of a different hue. Most of my “knowledge” concerning the different races was derived from TV. I actually believed that most black men dressed and behaved like Huggy Bear from Starsky & Hutch. At that point in my abbreviated life discrimination was simply “us” and “them”, with the “them” being not only blacks but also anyone not “white.”


While in school, the only flesh and blood “non-white” person I knew was a kid who had a white father and a Korean mother, and I didn’t meet him until high school. He wasn’t black, as in African-American, but he wasn’t lily white either, so he endured ugly name-calling. This fellow was my friend, and still is, however, to my ever-lasting shame I must admit that at times I also participated in the inane name-calling. Isn’t it curious that one can exhibit poor discrimination while discriminating?

Is discrimination unfairly and unreasonably judging people or situations without full knowledge or complete examination of the facts? Yes. Is discrimination making a clear distinction and discerning the facts? Yes.

Inequitable racial and gender discrimination has always, and will always, exist in certain sectors of society. That is to mean every society, not just American culture, but all cultures. This is not a radical, unproven statement. Indeed, history has borne this idea out. Discrimination does not equal bigotry; at least, not all discrimination equals bigotry. All people should be discriminating, that is to say, insightful and discerning.

Every day you must choose to discriminate. When you cross the road it is either you or the bus, not both of you. When choosing a school, a major, a vocation, a system of beliefs, one must discriminate; which is simply judging the best of available options. As a parent of three small children I regularly, and unapologetically, discriminate between the TV shows and movies my children are allowed to view. I loved the movie, and the book, We Were Soldiers; however, my three sons will not be allowed to enjoy that movie with me until they are mature enough. Nor will they, or myself for that matter, view commercials like “Catfight” or any new Coors Light commercial. (Whatever happened to Peter Coors, somewhere near Golden, Colorado, silhouetted by majestic mountain peaks and icy cold babbling brooks?)

“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world,” the traditional Sunday school ditty says. My kids regularly sing those words at church every week, but the song is not new and millions of kids have grown up singing that song only to later don a white hood of prejudice, either figuratively or literally or both. Why? Because of poor discrimination that leads to racial discrimination. To judge someone based solely on his or her gender or skin tone reveals a lack of discrimination.

I am a father and I have the awesome privilege of molding three male lives which are just bursting with potential. I must teach them, mostly by example, to not discriminate while at the same time teaching them to be discriminatory.



Friday, February 2, 2007

SACKED!!


The Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis, IN wanted to have a "Super Bowl Bash" this Sunday evening. But the NFL has sacked those plans citing copyright law infringement. Now churches all over the nation are scrambling to adjust their plans for this Sunday.

Here are the comments of Fall Creek Baptist's Pastor John Newland, copied from the home page of Fall Creek's website.

Fall Creek Baptist Church Family...

We regret to inform you that we have had to cancel our bash to view the Colts game this Sunday in a family friendly environment due to the fact that the NFL believes we would be in violation of the Copyright Act, because we had planned to show the game on a screen bigger than a 55 inch diagonal. We have appealed to their legal counsel and exhausted all options without success. We have been informed that the only exceptions to view the game are given to sports bars and restaurants. While we have argued that we only intend to provide a family oriented environment that will make no profit from the showing, the NFL claims that our event cannot proceed by law. Therefore, we have no choice but to challenge this in court or cancel the event. We choose to cancel the event. We deeply regret that we have been prohibited by the NFL from providing a family friendly environment for celebrating the Colts great season.

Pastor John

The World blog has posted about this topic as well.
First of all, I think it's silly that the NFL is making an issue of this, even though they have every legal right to keep churches from showing the game. Second, I think it's silly for churches to show the game. The idea of preempting a worship service to watch a football game just doesn't sit well with me; even if it is the Super Bowl, even if it is the Colts. I'd much rather gather in the Lord's house on the Lord's day and worship the Lord. I feel that a church is capitulating to the culture by arranging their Sunday evening service around an entertainment event. Super Bowl parties should take place after the regular Sunday evening service.

I know that not everyone agrees with my position. In fact, the youth pastor of Fall Creek Baptist Church is a good friend of mine. Obviously, we have differing views on this subject. That is fine; people can disagree and still be friends. Those in favor of Super Bowl bashes would argue that since most people would either skip church for the game or want to skip church for the game, why not offer them a "family friendly" viewing experience. This way, instead of watching Prince at half-time they are exposed to a devotion or skit.

I understand the motivation behind these type of events. I understand that some positive benefits could result. I still don't like it. I think it sets a bad precedent. I think it's a not so subtle indictment against Sunday evening services. "Hey, these things are so boring, let's watch the big game instead!"

The last sentence in Pastor Newland's written statement to his church made me cringe just a little; :
We deeply regret that we have been prohibited by the NFL from providing a family friendly environment for celebrating the Colts great season.

My problem is this, a church service is for celebrating Christ not the Colts.

I'm a huge sports fan, and even though I am from Bengals country, I have always followed the Colts; since 1984 anyway. I am going to be cheering like a madman for the Colts to win this game. My cheering just won't begin until after the church service has ended.