Sunday, January 31, 2010


Before our family got rid of cable, I used to watch Fox News sometimes. The attitudes of the “journalists” used to annoy me greatly, but like eating my broccoli or going for my morning walk, I thought it was beneficial to hear points of view that were different from mine. It was also helpful to know what folks were talking about when they panned or raved about Fox News.

MSNBC came into existence after we had decided to get rid of cable. I haven’t had much occasion to ever watch it, but I tuned in while I was on my business trip. It wasn’t that impressive. Yes, I must admit it was somewhat pleasing to hear perspectives closer to mine, and to hear “journalists” point out the inaccuracies of things GOP politicians were saying while the cameras were rolling. But at the end of the day, MSNBC seemed too similar to Fox News.

Both news channels start out the day with a group of folks sitting around babbling incessantly about news stories (many of questionable merit)--and about each other. You probably have to be a pretty regular viewer to get some of the teasing that goes on. It is so personality driven that it seems a bit like a soap opera.

The channels’ primetime programming is filled with angry people speaking with great snarkiness and indignation about those on the other side of the aisle. Although each channel sometimes has guests or features “journalists” with a different perspective, for the most part the primetime programming vilifies those who don’t agree with the ideological bent of the channel. This type of programming is polarizing and does not do anything to promote a more civilized form of public debate in this country.

In between these two points in the day, Fox News and MSNBC both just seem to have hours and hours of superficial reporting of the latest news stories. Only the bare bones facts are relayed. And the facts reported are typically just taken from public statements and press releases. There seems to be very little investigative reporting these days. Moreover, if it didn’t happen recently, it doesn’t seem to bear mentioning. No wonder we Americans don’t have much of a memory with regard to politics and world events.

When such news channels—and Comedy Central—are the main sources of news for so many Americans, I truly worry for the future of our republic.

Proverbs 1:22

How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?
And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing
And fools hate knowledge?

Ecclesiastes 7:5

It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise man
Than for one to listen to the song of fools.

Proverbs 13:16

Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool displays folly

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ramblings on a Recent Business Trip

Several weeks ago, I went on a trip for my job. I attended a conference out of state. My family was unable to go with me. It was very demoralizing to me. The conference was wonderful, I was fortunate to go, and I learned so much. Nonetheless, being away from my family for 4 days made me sad. I felt out of sorts. Nothing was all that fun without them. The experience made me even more grateful than I had been before for my husband and children. When I got home I was incredibly thrilled to see them again, and I cherished a little more everything about them. When I think of the importance of family values, that’s what comes to mind—loving your family very dearly, enjoying their company, and not wanting to be apart from them.

This recent trip took place not long after the would-be “underwear bomber” incident. Air travel since 9/11 has been such a pain. I’m always worried I’m going to lose my driver’s license or something else of value as I scramble through security with frustrated TSA workers barking at us to hurry up, get out of the way. And I fret that I’ve inadvertently brought some prohibited item through security. On past trips, I’ve had new bottles of water and travel size bottles of hand sanitizer confiscated, which made traveling more of a health challenge. Our family also had an expensive jumbo size bottle of water-proof children’s sunscreen confiscated on another trip. And then once you get through security, you feel like cattle while in transit. They squish as many people as possible into a confined space. If the person in front of you opts to recline her seat or if your seatmate is large and/or has a lap child, you may feel particularly claustrophobic during the flight. These days the airlines often charge extra for checked luggage, so people fight with each other and the flight attendants to fit too much carry-on luggage into insufficient cabin storage. And then beverages are about all you get on some flights no matter how long they are. You may arrive famished if you didn’t think ahead to bring your own food. Through out all these hassles, people tend to not be on their best behavior. It is human nature to get grumpy and curt when uncomfortable and annoyed for prolonged periods. No wonder many of us prefer to drive to our destinations whenever possible!

When I was at my destination, there was a fairly big flat-screen TV with cable in my hotel room. Because we don’t watch much TV, don’t think very highly of most television programming, and are fairly frugal, we don’t have cable and our old bulky TV is probably now considered small to most people. So I was amazed by the size and clarity of the hotel TV I had. And it was like a moth to a light. It was very hard for me to turn the darned thing off. I had brought some reading to do in the evenings. I got hardly any of it done. But it wasn’t because there was terrific programming. There were a whole lot of channels, but it was essentially just a whole lot of crap in my humble opinion.

And of course, you waste time not just watching the subpar programming itself, but you waste so much more because the programming is then constantly interrupted by the barrage of commercials! One of the big drivers in our family’s decision to minimize our exposure to TV is the influence of commercials, over which you have no control unless you go to the added time and expense of using TiVo. (Don’t even get me started!) In the best of situations, commercials are just annoying and they try to sell you things you probably don’t need. But many commercials use sexualized or violent images or messages to make their pitch. Studies have been done on the impact of advertising on children. They are incredibly vulnerable to the messages in commercials. My husband and I just don’t like our kids exposed to such things.

Anyhow, the experience reinforced in my mind our family’s decision to minimize the amount of TV we watch. It is scary what a seductive media television is. If we Americans spent less time watching TV and were less influenced by the toxic programming and commercials, I think many of our society’s ills would be remedied or at least ameliorated.

James 4:14 (New American Standard Bible)

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Penn Jillette’s Take on Proselytizing Christians

Following up on a recent post on attitudes towards proselytizing (in the context of the fallout over Brit Hume’s comments), I thought Penn Jillette’s comments on proselytizing Christians were interesting.

By way of background, Penn Jillette is probably best known as the speaking half of the Penn & Teller illusionist duo. He has also guest starred on sitcoms, co-directed a documentary, and was the primary announcer for Comedy Central for a period. Some will know him from his stint on “Dancing with the Stars.” Apparently, he was booted off pretty quickly.

Penn is something of a renaissance man, and has pursued a number of interests beyond entertainment. He has written a column for a computing magazine. He has invented and patented a hot tub that is specially designed to provide women with sexual pleasure.

Penn has also become known as a man of very strong convictions. He is a libertarian, and a fellow of the Cato Institute. He is also a devout atheist. He is very confident there is no god. He has stated that his atheistic beliefs are central to who he is, and inform all aspects of his life. Nonetheless, he does think Christians should proselytize. In the clip below, he explains his thinking on the matter and describes how moved he was by the genuine concern expressed by a Christ follower after one of Penn & Teller’s Las Vegas shows.

John 13:34 (New American Standard Bible)

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Brit Hume’s Comments on the Tiger Woods Scandal on Fox News (perceptions of religious arrogance)

Beyond Mr. Hume’s violation of the apparently sacred rule to not mention religious faith publicly, the other chief concern that folks like Mr. Shales seem to be raising is Mr. Hume’s expression of his opinion that Christianity is superior to Buddhism. Again, I’m personally sympathetic to any offense towards Buddhism, but I do not really understand the media specific concerns.

Most people who have strong beliefs—on politics, religion or any other topic—believe their beliefs are superior to those of other people. Members of the Green Party undoubtedly think their beliefs are superior to those of Republicans, I’m sure Libertarians believe their beliefs are superior to those of Democrats. If conservatives can voice their beliefs on Fox News that the Democrats in Congress or the Obama White House are misguided on various issues, I don’t quite see how it is all that different to then have a Christian expressing the notion that his religion is superior to another. Mind you, I don’t particularly think this is a prudent approach to have “news” channels spending all their time spouting personal opinions. But if that train has already left the station, what is the difference if the opinions are rooted in politics or religion? Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly say things that are offensive and demeaning to people on the left all the time. Do they need to apologize when they insult the Democrats? I would not think so. If for no other reason, they would spend all their time in apologies. Besides, Democrats know they are going to be insulted if they tune in, so they can decide to avoid Fox News. Similarly, if Fox News is now opting to become known for touting the superiority of Christianity, I suppose it would be wise for non-Christians to avoid the channel. As a result, I am rather baffled by Mr. Shales’ demand that Mr. Hume apologize for his comments. In the current media context, that does not seem necessary.

I think that anyone who is serious about his or her faith thinks that his or her religion is superior to others. Perhaps that is not politically correct, but I think that’s being honest. And many Christians (particularly culturally conservative ones) follow a theology that people who do not accept Christ as their personal savior while in this life will be condemned to eternal damnation in the next. (Many are unaware that other Christian denominations—including Catholics and Episcopalians--have a very different theology on this matter.) But for those Christians who are convinced non-believers are doomed to spend eternity in hell, there is often a passion for converting those who are not “saved.” In my experience, such a passion is typically based on a sincere concern for non-believers and an altruistic desire to prevent non-believers from enduring a horrific fate. In my opinion, the hearts of such Christians are in the right place. And I say that even though I do not share the same theology on this point. Nonetheless, I’m very aware of how such zeal is often received by non-believers.

For example, over the years, I’ve had several friends of East Asian, South Asian and Arab heritage who have had very miserable experiences with Christians trying to convert them from Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam. Their own religions mean a great deal to these friends. It gives them a great deal of spiritual comfort and is often the means to fellowship with others who share the same heritage. As a result, it is very hurtful (and quite annoying) when Christians try to proselytize to them. Moreover, often but not always, the proselytizing Christians are Caucasian, and are utterly insensitive to cultural and social issues unique to the heritage of the person they are trying to convert. The end result is simply not positive. The Christian is disappointed to have not converted the person, and the would-be convert ends up thinking all Christians are extremely arrogant, insensitive, and boorish. I’ve actually had several different South Asian and East Asian friends who had such negative encounters with Christians over the years that years later they expressed to me that they were very worried when members of their family decided to marry individuals from families that were (at least nominally) Christian. Their main concern was that the new in-laws would try to proselytize to them and be disrespectful of their own deeply held beliefs.

I suppose my point in all this is simply that I think there is a tremendous amount of misunderstanding, and a lot of resulting feelings of hurt and resentment, because of Christian proselytizing. The flack over Brit Hume’s comments is emblematic of this. I simply wish people on both sides understood a little better the opposite perspective.

Proverbs 15:1 (New King James Version)

A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.

1 Corinthians 4:21

What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Brit Hume’s Comments on the Tiger Woods Scandal on Fox News (double standards and perceptions of persecution)

I personally don’t quite understand the concern about a “journalist” expressing religious beliefs while in his or her role as a journalist. Traditionally, our ideal in the United States has been that the media would objectively report the facts and not express personal opinions. However, in my lifetime, I’m a little hard pressed to come up with real life examples of that ideal. In fact, in recent years, there seems to be an acceleration in the divergence from that ideal. There also has been a concurrent trend to blur the lines between news reporting and entertainment. I rarely watch television news any more, but I turned it on the other morning to see what was going on in the world. The news anchors were interviewing a correspondent for a gossip show who was telling viewers that Heidi Montag had recently had breast augmentation surgery and had appeared in public with a very revealing blouse. I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure who Ms. Montag is, but that did not strike me as a particularly newsworthy story. I immediately went back to NPR.

Indeed, within these trends away from the ideal of objective journalism and towards the melding of news and entertainment, Fox News is often held up as one of the worst offenders. They are considered by many to be at the forefront of these unfortunate trends. Watching Fox News, it is not uncommon for the “journalists” (or perhaps “news personalities” or “media pundits” are more accurate labels?) to explicitly express their own views on the news stories of the day. Indeed, much of the round-the-clock programming on Fox News (and other news channels) involves various individuals sitting around a television studio discussing their own opinions with respect to current events. As a result, I don’t really see how anyone should be so shocked by Mr. Hume’s advice for Mr. Woods. The only difference is that typically the views expressed by the “journalists” are based on their political beliefs, not their religious convictions. In my opinion, the outrage over Mr. Hume seems to have been triggered by his choice to go against an unspoken rule that religious views should never be expressed publicly. I don’t quite understand why it is ok for people on the news channels to give commentary on current events if they are based on political beliefs, but it is prohibited to mention one’s faith. Frankly, I don’t think either should be expressed in news programs. But if one is acceptable, why not the other?

Indeed, this apparent double standard simply plays into the existing defensiveness of culturally conservative Christians—perhaps like the DJ I heard talk about the reaction to Mr. Hume’s comments and many of the listeners of that Christian radio station. Within culturally conservative American Christian circles, I have repeatedly observed a deep-seated belief of a cultural war against religion and those individuals who espouse a religious faith (especially those who are Christians). Most non-Christians seem to be unaware of such beliefs or are disinterested in them. Because of the strength of such beliefs and the growing number of people who share them, I think it is important to be cognizant of this trend.
I have heard countless people with such beliefs express very deeply held, sincere fears that those in power in government and in the news/entertainment media are hostile to religion, and aim to eliminate its practice and expression. Such individuals are concerned that as Christians they are targets for persecution and their beliefs are under attack.

To some extent, I can understand this sort of siege mentality. In mainstream pop culture, Christians are often held up to ridicule and scorn. Christians are often held out as the antagonists or comic relief in movies, television and other media. Often this is subtle, but it is clear (and offensive) to many Christians nonetheless. Think of the rigid preacher who hates dancing in Footloose, goofy Ned Flanders and cynical Reverend Lovejoy in The Simpsons, the corrupt warden in Shawshank Redemption, and Robert DeNiro’s crazed Bible-quoting killer in Cape Fear. In the Jim Crow era, I’m sure African Americans did not exactly feel affirmed by the hate-filled ridicules of minstrel shows. Similarly and more recently, the GLBT community has expressed their sharp disapproval when the few GLBT characters in movies were portrayed as dangerous sociopaths (e.g., Basic Instinct, Silence of the Lambs, JFK). The link below expresses an interesting analysis of the negative portrayals of Christians and Christianity in the mainline media.

I must confess I don’t always understand the feelings of persecution by many culturally conservative Christians. Sure there is a bias by large segments of the entertainment media and probably the news media (to the extent it is separate). But the siege mentality I’ve observed also seems to be grounded in enforcement of First Amendment principles. For example, these fears of religious persecution (or annihilation) seem to arise from enforcement of the Supreme Court’s determination that institutionalized prayer is constitutionally impermissible in the public schools, from efforts to teach Darwinism in public schools, and from removal of religious (particularly Christian or biblical) references in public places by the government (e.g., the White House creche, postings of the Ten Commandments in court houses). I personally feel rather disaffirmed by Hollywood caricatures of Christians, but I suppose I’ll live. However, I don’t feel at all threatened by the government’s attempts to try to appear neutral and not overtly favor one religion over another. That is the disconnect for me. I have struggled but failed thus far to understand it.

Deuteronomy 28:37 (New Century Version)

You will become a hated thing to the nations where the Lord sends you; they will laugh at you and make fun of you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Brit Hume's Comments on the Tiger Woods Scandal on Fox News (Introduction)

I don’t watch much T.V., and frankly I haven’t been following the Tiger Woods scandal too closely. But I was listening to a local Christian radio station one morning a few weeks ago and there was a news item that got my attention.

This particular radio station generally plays contemporary Christian music at that hour. Perhaps a few times per hour between songs, the DJs give very brief updates on news stories of interest to the listening audience. Generally the stories involve mainstream issues such as relief efforts in Haiti or the status of the health care legislation in Congress. Sometimes the news stories are given in a traditional manner that might not be different in style from what NPR is broadcasting a few stops away on the dial. But other times, the news is delivered with a more obviously Christian perspective. For example, in covering the recent earthquake in Haiti, this radio station has encouraged listeners to prayer for the “precious souls” suffering in Haiti and for the rescue and aid workers attempting to get to them. The DJs have also encouraged listeners to contribute money to aid groups helping in the recovery efforts, and directed them to a website with more information.

A few weeks ago, the DJ shared with the audience a news story about Brit Hume’s recent comments on Fox News about Tiger Woods. The DJ said that Mr. Hume had said that to recover from the scandal plaguing him, Mr. Woods should turn to Christ. The DJ’s real focus was not really on Mr. Hume’s words but on the reaction to them. The DJ told the listening audience that predictably Mr. Hume was taking all kinds of heat for proclaiming his faith publicly. It was noted that Tom Shales of the Washington Post had written a scathing condemnation of Mr. Hume’s comments. The DJ gave some commentary of his own and held this reaction out as typical whenever someone dares to stand up for their religious beliefs. The DJ encouraged listeners to be bold and not be intimidated by such attempts to stifle expressions of faith.

The link below contains the clip of Mr. Hume's comments. They are actually quite brief. The reference to Christianity is towards the end of a short roundtable response to the Tiger Woods scandal. Mr. Hume seemed to me to be sincerely concerned for Mr. Woods’ well-being—his ruptured family life and his personal problems. One may disagree with Mr. Humes’ comments about Buddhism, but in my opinion Mr. Hume appeared to be expressing compassion for Mr. Woods.

Tom Shales is a celebrated T.V. critic for the Washington Post. I grew up in the D.C. area reading that newspaper every day. I must confess I did not always delve into the hard news of the day. In my adolescence, I focused on the Style section of the newspaper and read Mr. Shales’ articles all the time. As I recall, I also think that Mr. Shales came to my high school on a few occasions to support budding writers at various events we had. I may be mistaken, but I believe he had a daughter who attended our school. The bottom line of all this is that I have had a great deal of respect for Mr. Shales for decades.

The text of Mr. Shales’ article on Mr. Humes’ comments is available at the link below.

Mr. Shales is not the only one who has publicly expressed disapproval of Mr. Hume's comments. Mr. Shales and others seem to be expressing two main concerns. First, there seems to be a general concern that a journalist would express religious beliefs on air in his role as journalist. Second, there seems to be a more specific concern that Mr. Humes’ comments expressed his opinion that Christianity is superior to Buddhism. I’ll reflect on each of these concerns in turn in the next two posts.

John 11:33

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. King’s Birthday

Unfortunately, when we establish a federal holiday, the underlying reason is often forgotten. Most Americans get very few vacation days during the year, so I suppose it is not surprising that we become more concerned with football games, sales at the malls, and getting to sleep in. I just wanted to take a little time today on this blog to remember Dr. King. There is much that could be said, but I simply want to share two quotes of his:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

The first quote is based on Jesus’s teachings. It means a lot to me and touches me deeply.

The second quote has perhaps more universal appeal. I like it because frankly every one of us lives in times of challenge and controversy. The concepts of “challenge” and “controversy” are relative. We may not all be threatened by the governmental authorities with guns, barking German shepherds and fire hoses. But we may have friends or bosses who want us to do things that go against our values. We may have customers or co-workers who commit demeaning or hostile acts against us. We may encounter crazy motorists who nearly run us off the road. Dr. King reminds us that it is in those times—not in the comfortable ones when we’re resting in a safe, cozy bed—that our truest selves are evident. It is a humbling thought, and one worth remembering as we go about our lives.

Happy birthday, Dr. King!

Luke 6:27-36

"But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who are cruel to you. If anyone slaps you on one cheek, offer him the other cheek, too. If someone takes your coat, do not stop him from taking your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and when someone takes something that is yours, don't ask for it back. Do to others what you would want them to do to you. If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get? Even sinners love the people who love them. If you do good only to those who do good to you, what praise should you get? Even sinners do that! If you lend things to people, always hoping to get something back, what praise should you get? Even sinners lend to other sinners so that they can get back the same amount! But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back. Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin. Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Reaction to the Earthquake in Haiti

My brother in Christ, Pat Robertson, has made some comments about the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The comments have caught the attention of the media.

These comments concern me for several reasons. I do not think they do anything to help the victims of this tragedy. They also do nothing to help the world understand and be encouraged by God's love. If quoted correctly, these views do not represent the beliefs of the vast majority of Christ followers. A contributor to Sojourners had a response to the comments, which is available at the link below.

To be clear, I do not condemn Mr. Robertson. Clearly, the quoted comments do not reflect the love and compassion of our Lord. But each of us falls short of that on a daily basis. Every morning I pray that I would be "light" to those around me, but I am very aware that I frequently fail to do this. I would hate for my own many failings to be held up to ridicule on the 24/7 cable and internet newscycle.

Indeed, it is sad to me that the media would pounce on and publicize these comments, instead of showing the Christians who are working hard on the ground and in their home countries to help the people impacted by this tragedy.

This type of publicity again distorts the public's view of Christianity, and makes non-Christians more cynical about those who purport to be Christ followers. It also prompts many Christians--particularly those who are culturally conservative--to be suspicious of the secular media and a possible anti-Christian agenda within the press.

Nonetheless, I personally do not care to dwell much on these reported comments. I just don't think that is productive. The situation in Haiti is horrific. God's children are suffering. The scope of the disaster is mind-boggling. But it is encouraging to hear how many governments, aid groups and individuals are trying to respond to help.

Mia Farrow wrote an eloquent, heartfelt commentary about the situation for CNN, highlighting the acute impact on the children of Haiti.

Even comedian David Letterman took time the other night from making fun of Jay Leno to ask for donations to help the earthquake victims.

John 9:1-4 (The Message)

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

Like many around the world, my heart absolutely breaks for those in Haiti who are dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake yesterday. The scope of the destruction and suffering is overwhelming. Haiti's history of man-made and natural disasters of course makes the situation even more overwhelming. I cannot imagine the pain and terror of those affected by this earthquake. The pain and terror of the children particularly break my heart.

The people of Haiti are in my family's prayers. We particularly prays for comfort and calm for the victims, and strength and wisdom for those coming to help. Obviously, many around the world are lifting up similar prays for the people of Haiti. And I think more prayers are needed still. Sojourner's daily devotional had a very eloquent prayer this morning:

Lord, our hearts cry out for the people of Haiti: for the millions affected, for lost loved ones, lost homes, and lost livelihoods. Lord, have mercy. Draw us together as your people to help in whatever ways we can, and we ask your grace on the emergency rescue and aid workers. Lord, have mercy. Bring relief, bring restoration, bring rescue. In Jesus' name, amen.

The facilities of the aid organization, Save the Children, were damaged in the earthquake, but the group is trying to respond to the needs of the people in Haiti. Below there is a link with more information.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Janet Parshall’s America

Our family does not watch a lot of television, but our radios are turned on frequently. We tend to stick to the left side of the dial, alternating between NPR and Christian radio stations. Last month, I attended a CLE on the other side of town, and listened to a local Christian radio station during the long drive home. The CLE had ended at mid-day, and on weekdays that tends to be a busy time for me. Generally I’m not in the car then and don’t have time for the radio. As a result, I happened upon a program called “Janet Parshall’s America” for the very first time. I almost could not believe what I was hearing. When I tuned in, Ms. Parshall was extremely angry and was venting about President Obama’s anti-Christian bias. In that our president is a professed Christian who was baptized several decades ago, I found this frustration perplexing to say the least.

While I was in the car and listening to the program, Ms. Parshall talked about a luncheon of past White House social secretaries before Obama took office. They were meeting with Desiree Rogers (the in-coming social secretary) to welcome her and support her in her new role. According to Ms. Parshall, Ms. Rogers had shocked the group by indicating at the luncheon that the Obamas were considering not displaying a creche that had been displayed in a public room of the White House (not in the private family quarters) by many past presidents. Apparently, the Obamas had concerns about offending people of other faiths. Ms. Parshall indicated that the creche was eventually displayed in the Obama White House, but seemed to dismiss it as simply bowing to public pressure (by indignant Christians?).

Ms. Parshall also talked with great anger about the president’s preferences for Muslims, who were given priority in getting H1N1 vaccinations before leaving for the Hajj. She also mentioned President Obama had issued proclamations to Muslims during some religious holiday. Ms. Parshall equated these preferences and the hesitancy over the creche as evidence of anti-Christian hostility.

Frankly, I was not aware of the White House creche. I do not follow White House decorations and celebrations. I missed that Oprah special. It does not really matter to me one way or the other, but certainly I would appreciate concerns about offending non-Christian Americans with a creche in a public room of a building that is owned by our country’s taxpayers. If the United States one day has a Buddhist or Muslim majority, I don’t think I’d be thrilled by prominent displays of those religions in public buildings.

Moreover, it seems like a basic public health policy to give Americans traveling on the Hajj priority for a vaccine against a highly transmittable virus that they could bring back to our country. It also seems like very basic political common sense to issue proclamations to any sizeable demographic on days of importance to those groups. I’d be surprised if President George W. Bush and his predecessors did not issue similar celebratory proclamations to Muslims as well.

As a more general matter, I just don’t understand the apparently continuing furor against President Obama and the suspicion of his faith by some conservative Christians. Mr. Obama was baptized as a Christian in 1988, well before he entered politics. He was an active member of Trinity United Church of Christ for about twenty years. If that was all a facade to woo Christian voters, it was quite an elaborate hoax and it apparently did not work too well. Why would anyone would fail to accept someone’s profession of faith at their word? I have always accepted President Bush’s assertion that he is a Christian. Why wouldn’t others accept President Obama’s? I don’t understand what is going on.

I also don’t understand how the White House creche “issue” can be cited as evidence of hostility to Christianity and not just sensitivity to non-Christians in a pluralistic democracy. The American people elected Barack Obama to be our president, not our head pastor. He was elected to govern all of us, not just the Christians.

To me, the most concerning aspect of Ms. Parshall’s program that day last month was that it seemed to be a desperate, even silly attempt to come up with some reason to dislike and oppose President Obama. I’ve perused Ms. Parshall’s website, a link to which is provided below.

The website is quite interesting. Ms. Parshall’s radio program is labeled a “ministry” but conservative politics are pervasive. In listening, her radio program was very reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh. She certainly had the angry tone down pat. Beyond gender, the main difference between Mr. Limbaugh and Ms. Parshall was Ms. Parshall’s quoting of Scripture and references to prayer. I have actually listened to Mr. Limbaugh on numerous occasions and don’t recall him ever quoting Scripture or talking about prayer. Maybe I just missed those broadcasts.

From her website, I take it that Ms. Parshall’s show is not always as political as it was the day I happened upon it. Looking at her past program topics, some do not appear to be political at all. Indeed, I caught a little of her program earlier this month, and she seemed much less angry as she spoke with former Redskins coach, Jim Gibbs.

It is interesting because when I was looking at Ms. Parshall’s website, the summary of the show on December 11, 2009 (the day I first caught her radio program) mentions nothing of President Obama’s anti-Christian hostility, the White House creche or the president’s Muslim bias. The show is apparently a three hour program, and I listened to about half an hour of it, all of which focused on such concerns. I’m not sure why the program summary does not mention that part of the program.

Ephesians 4:31 (New American Standard Bible)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

1Peter 2:13-15

Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,
or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.
For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Amy Grant’s "Grown Up Christmas List" & "Mary’s Song"

The Christmas season does not technically end until Epiphany is over. (It is celebrated on January 6th.) So, I think there is still a little time to recommend some good Christmas music. Two of my favorite modern Christmas songs are by Amy Grant, for whom I've long had a lot of admiration. Others have recorded these songs, too, but Ms. Grant’s versions continue to be my favorites.

The songs are available at the links below. Enjoy!

Luke 1:38 (New International Version)

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”

John 14:27 (New American Standard Bible)

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Saturday, January 2, 2010

“Christmas with a Capital C”

The other day I was in my car listening to one of the local Christian radio stations that I have pre-programmed. I heard a song called “Christmas with a Capital C.” Typically, the music on that radio station is loving praise and worship style music. But this particular song was so ugly in tone that it really shocked me. I’m not sure why any Christian radio station would air it.

Inter-spliced with the music were excerpts from a stand-up comedian’s rant on the tendency of people (particularly in retail settings) to wish others “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas.” The comedian talks initially about how Christmas was a cultural phenomenon that we all used to participate in together regardless of our own specific religious beliefs because it was good for the country. There is then a sarcastic reference to “Mr. Lowenstein,” which to me seems to be a hostile anti-Semitic remark, but perhaps others might interpret the reference in a more benign way. The comedian later talks about Christmas being part of the religious heritage of our country.

It is offensive and hurtful to me when people try to dilute the Christian faith into a cultural phenomenon. The Super Bowl is a cultural phenomenon. The blood sport of American political discourse is a cultural phenomenon. The Disney mega-franchise is a cultural phenomenon. There is not anything wrong with cultural phenomena. But to me, Christianity is much more. As a result, I continue to be baffled as to why any Christ follower would want to dilute the religious significance to impose Christian holidays like Christmas on non-believers to make such holidays a part of the mainstream, secular culture.

Ephesians 4:1-3

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.