Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saying what you want to hear doesn't make it right...

I'm going to stay on political correctness today because I received several good emails from my last post about it, and I believe there is more to say.

Advocates of political correctness see themselves as the moral elite. Secular saints with the mission to transform a 'sick' America. Advocates question all traditional values in the United States because we've been a racist, sexist, classist, bigoted country engaged in exploiting minorities, women, the poor and Third World nations...and somehow, someway at the root of it all is Christianity. Specifically, white male Christians have made the United States the awful place it is today.

There...I said it. But, I don't get it.

Before I go any further, please let me state I'm absolutely appalled and ashamed at events that have occurred in our country's history. No question. As a Christian, I believe there are no labels attached to God's love and grace. It applies to all, and I am commanded to love all.

But why am I singled out? Why can't I practice my faith and render my opinions without policing from the politically correct? Why I'm I labeled an ignorant, closed-minded bigot because I speak the principles of my faith?

I should be held accountable for things I say...and I am. I'm held accountable by my friends and family, by my peers, and by the court of public opinion. More importantly, I'm held accountable by the God I follow and worship. If I say something stupid and offensive, it should somewhat taint any future statements I make on the subject and be considered a direct reflection of my character. But, that doesn't mean expressing an opposing opinion on any given subject matter has the intent of being offensive or degrading. Political correctness destroys the foundations of debate by placing a burden of guilt (albeit social guilt) on any opinion that doesn't side with a minority group. To me, that's absolutely absurd!

When the minority opinion in a free society obtains leverage over the majority opinion in an effort to coerce change, the fibers of democracy begin to erode. There is no clearer example than the issue of gay marriage. California...CALIFORNIA...voters by a 52.5% majority voted in favor of the California Marriage Protection Act (Proposition 8) which defines marriage as a union between one man and one women. The vote altered the state's constitution. Game over. But wait...

San Fransisco Mayor Gavin Newsome stated in a speech that the same sex marriage " door's wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not." Doesn't majority rule in democracy? Well...maybe just not in California.

Speaking from behind a veil of political correctness, politicians often speak out about the oppression of a minority group, but rarely if their constituents are in the majority opinion. San Fransisco's electorate voted 75.2% against Prop 8...wonder if Mayor Newsome would be so vocal and convicted if the numbers were reversed?

Homosexuals are in a minority group...sure. But gay men and women are not persecuted by the heterosexual majority in our country. They are protected by the same laws and have the same liberties as heterosexual. To the state, marriage is a civil union that warrants protection as a long- standing institution. Who makes up the state? The people...of course.

But I believe there is a distinct difference between minority groups and minority opinions. Minority groups are made up of individuals and each person is protected equally under our Constitution. Minor opinions are made up collectively from individual opinions...also protected by the Constitution...but governed by the rule of majority in a democracy.

Just a short side...the media play a role in the political correctness game too. Often statements are taken out of context and individuals are ruined by a slip of the tongue. In their effort to draw viewership and thus generate commercial revenues (never, ever forget the media is about money/profits first and foremost), news agencies create, even stage, controversies to get that 'A-Ha' moment. Can you believe he said that?

Despite what its critics say, the United States is the world's most open, egalitarian democracy and the most successful of all multiracial and multi-ethnic societies. Perfect? Absolutely not...and a work in progress. But the PC movement with its push for group rights as opposed to individual rights is a direct threat to our Constitution and to the American way of life.

You mean the way of life where everything is controlled by the white male Christian?

Absolutely not. E Pluribus Unum still works...but our National Motto doesn't require political correctness to keep that philosophy in check.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Faith in Flux study...worth a look.

Most mainstream media sources blurbed a sentence or two today about a recent study on religious affiliation in our country conducted by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Naturally, the spin was about large numbers moving away from religious affiliations and the underlying reasons why.

People leaving their faith is not a new trend...despite the Chicken Little approach of the media. The study focuses on people who claimed an affiliation and now consider themselves either unaffiliated or affiliated with another religion. The term religion is used mostly to differentiate sects of Christianity which are broken down into the two major categories of Catholic and Protestant. For those astute readers, I'm betting you already see an exploitable conclusion by the mainstream media who seem to love to hate Christians.

In the 75 page study available at Pew Forum, I was grabbed by these three findings/statements:

Age is another factor. Most people who left their childhood faith did so before turning 24, and a majority joined their current religion before 36.

"If people want to see a truly free market at work, they really should look at the U.S. religious marketplace," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Sixteen percent of U.S. adults identified as unaffiliated in the 2007 survey; 7 percent of Americans described being raised unaffiliated, suggesting that many Americans end up leaving their religion for none.

About half of those who have become unaffiliated cited a belief that religious people are hypocritical, judgmental or insincere. Large numbers said they think religious organizations focus too much on rules, or that religious leaders are too focused on money and power.

That last one should break the heart of every Christian. I won't start a sermon here...just read those words over again. Better yet, take a few moments and read the entire study. There is a 9-page synopsis (CliffsNotes style) available at the website also. No spin... just an overview of the findings.

But, I'll encourage you one last time to read the whole study. Whenever you get to a table that shows percentages now unaffiliated with God...try to remember each number in those statistics is made up by real souls...people...young and old. As Christians, we should be more concerned with the souls than the numbers.

I'm not doing enough for my part, and that has got to change... God deserves a better effort.

Friday, April 24, 2009

To be or not to's up to Perez Hilton.

As you know, I've been a bit off kilter this week, so I'm going to back up and catch something I missed Monday morning. I'm a little surprised not to see more blog buzz from my regular reads over Miss California's answer on Sunday night's Miss USA pageant. It was gold. In case you missed it while watching Susan Boyle sing on YouTube for the 103rd time...

She smacked that tater right out of the park! You go girl!

Miss North Carolina eventually won with Miss C taking second. Next day, celebrity judge Perez Hilton, who posed the question, declared Miss California's answer cost her the crown. By the way, who's Perez Hilton and when did just being a flamboyant man... make you a celebrity?

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was asked to answer a question from her personal perspective. She didn't judge the lifestyle gay men or women choose and specifically qualified her answer by saying in HER family and based on HER values. But, the Political Correctness Police crashed the party, 'Don't speak your mind or heart lady. Who do you think you are?'

I commend Miss Prejean...not just because I happen to agree with her...but because she had the fortitude: 1. not to blurt out what she thought people wanted to hear, 2. not to give a safe PC answer, or 3. not to answer 'world peace.' That takes character, and isn't the question/answer phase about character? My wife loves...loves...these events, and I usually watch with her and the teenager (ahem...purely for research matters). I just wish we were watching this year. What a teaching point for young women and men...and what an opportunity to dance around the room just like when Kirk Gibson hit a home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series...oh, sorry. Too many baseball references. Guess I'm a little insecure about this whole beauty pageant subject matter.

I'm sick of political correctness and can't figure for the life of me how the PC Police have become so powerful. The vast majority of people agree with Miss Prejean. Now, that doesn't necessarily make her answer right or wrong, but it sure doesn't make it offensive either.

The very nature of political correctness is fundamentally subjective, therefore creating a paradox surrounding PC that followers either ignore or are too ignorant to see. If the PC believe there are no absolute truths, and all matters of education, law, faith and even morals are dominantly influenced by political interactions and person-centered perspective...doesn't that become the absolute truth of the PC? That's the line the PC take after all.

It's like a bunch of Hamlets running around citing the well known Act II line -'There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.' No absolute truths...only relative truths. What a crock! How...please tell me a society BUILT on a right to free individual speech and protection of individual rights can such a flawed principle as political correctness take root.

The PC are destroying our Constitution...our way of life. If you don't agree with me...all I have to do is proclaim your opinion offensive and watch the PC Police pounce. No wait...I'm a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant and will eventually be a Dead White Guy...that won't work.

The fact alone that I quoted a Dead White European Male would probably be enough to make Perez jump up and down and call me a bigot...sometimes I just feel so alienated living in this country.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You're never too busy for some quality family time...

So, I've been off the grid a few days. God has a way of slowing us down when life gets too hectic. I know in my heart He loves me, and I'm eternally grateful. It's by no means my place to complain...but Lord...did it have to be a stomach virus? And...did it have to hit the whole family?

Yes, we're all recovered now. Mrs. Tony C was hit first this past weekend. Well actually, the toddler hadn't been right on the discharging end of things for a few days prior, so we'll blame her for spreading disease and take the Randy Newman approach that it must be the shortest person in the bunch to blame...which in our family is a close race even with an 18 month old.

Next hit was the teenager. As I stated, we've been very busy for several weeks, maybe months. After school, she's been involved in track and soccer, in addition to practicing for our Easter drama at church. This weekend, a Charlotte soccer tournament. Time of impact...parking lot of TGI Fridays immediately after dinner on Saturday. I'm sure the people sitting on the other side of that window experienced a sudden loss of appetite.

I'm with the teenager, a medical enigma in terms of sheer volume when it comes to regurgitation, and feeling really bad for her. She lives for these tournaments and this one is over for her at this point. Mom is home sick with the toddler who is full tilt and not missing a beat, and I feel even worse for her. I'm awake, listening and watching, early Sunday morning each time a new bout of ralphing comes over my little Mia Hamm, when I get that distinct rumbling in the lower stomach/upper bowel...

Why did I have the Cobb salad? Why??!! A 5:30 pm dinner of salad is well past processing in eleven hours...even the bacon bits. Yet, it's still not far enough along in the tract for a more...shall we say...natural departure. It's salad...that's the point. This is not going to be pleasant, as if it ever actually is. I propose a new axiom: Having something available to come back up when your stomach is in revolt is much better than the alternative despite the bad aftertaste.

I'll spare you any additional details (and there are a few rather humiliating ones) to get to the point where we are all home and resting with one superhero wife who is chasing the little Tasmanian Devil. God blessed me with a caring, loving wife who forbade me from using man's all-purpose tool (aka duct tape) to keep the little...excuse me...the twinkle of my one stinking place.

God really does love me, and I thank Him for Mrs. Tony C...and so should the toddler.

One side note of interest (at least for me), while laid up recovering, I watched a few familiar shows with the little one. Typically after work each day, I learn a little Spanish with Dora and Diego and now a little Chinese on Ni Hao, Kai-lan...oh and don't forget sign language on Blue's Clues. She seemed very excited when the show Yo Gabba Gabba came on and started dancing around (duct tape, where's my...) so I watched and was excited it was all in English...and what the...what is that character in the back dancing around?

We are seriously starting to monitor what the toddler watches on TV...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Party success...taking back America begins.

The local Tea Party yesterday was great! For a city under 100K in population, the number of people attending the 1-5 pm event had to be labeled a success by organizers. Several thousand people where in attendance at any given time during the day. Due to a work commitment followed by a church commitment, my time was limited to about 20 minutes, but I would estimate well over 600 people were there at that time.

East Tennessee is predominately Republican, but I spoke with several Democrats attending the event...emphasising the fact this was not a partisan rally. Former congressman David Davis (R) spoke to the crowd about that very subject stating the Tea Parties should have started during the Bush administration when spending started spiraling out of control. "The Republicans spent too much money. But this is not a Republican crowd. This is not a Democrat crowd. This is an American crowd. I think Americans right now are fed up with politicians,” stated Davis.

I was very encouraged by a lot of talk (and signage) about putting God back center stage in our country. Revisionist can cry all they want, but unaltered history shows we were founded a God-fearing is who we are...more on that later.

Media coverage was both fair and good for the event in our area, but national news attention has been skewed. Fox has come under tremendous scrutiny for 'promoting' the events instead of reporting on them objectively. To no surprise, CNN's website has no home page coverage of the event deferring to Susan Boyle, the YouTube singing phenom, and the race to 1 million Twitter followers between the cable news giant and Ashton Kutcher...okay then.

MSNBC pays homage by making fun of the event and referring to it as 'pointless.' Okay... I hate MSNBC and you should too. Actually, most people do because ratings put Fox scores better across the board than CNN and MSNBC...COMBINED! Who's laughing now Olbermann at your lame, snide remarks?

The most disturbing issue to transpire yesterday, however, came from the Department of Homeland Security. State and local police were warned of 'elevated threat levels' from, among several groups, right wing extremist. Does the timing of this warning seem too coincidental? One of the best signs I saw from the rally stated, 'I went to bed a conservative and woke up a threat to national security.' I will be blogging about this later too...but it warranted mention here.

One last note for now, I see a lot of momentum for congressional term limits stemming from the Tea Party. That is a very, very good thing.

Hope you were able to support a Tea Party near you. If so, tell us about it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tea Party time...let's make it count.

I'm both excited and anxious about tomorrow's national Tea Party event. The excitement springs from communities becoming more active concerning our political process. Apathy has draped the nation for many years now on the political front. Government 'of the people' only works when the object of the preposition decides to be involved...that being 'people.'

What I don't hope to see is just an anti-Obama rally. Republicans did as much to put us where we are today during their reign over the White House and Congress...actually more than President Obama. Both parties have become 'spend and tax' machines that show no signs of slowing down. Yes, the Obama budget is outrageous, and he should be called out on it. But please don't polarize the event by making it a 'we/they' with R's and D's pointing fingers at each other. The 'we/they' should by the people versus the elected official...regardless of political party affiliation.

Think back to the original Tea Party in Boston circa 1773 that practically gave birth to our nation. The colonist weren't mad about tea, they were mad about the British government overstepping taxation boundaries that were already established in law. Sound familiar?

I urge you to attend a Tea Party tomorrow near you. (click here for link)

Government spending is completely out of control. The very irresponsible, personal behavior that got us into the financial mess we're in today is being carried out at the government level. The madness has got to stop! Politicians in Washington must know they will be held accountable to the voters if the tax and spend craziness continues.

The absolute worst approach to take is to do nothing. Get involved. If not by going to Tea Party...write YOUR congressman and express your concerns...and I hope you have some. This event could be a turning point in our history, don't sit it out on the sidelines.

Hope to see you there tomorrow! I'll be the guy with the sign...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The one with the cute little umbrella straw please...

I'm not a coffee drinker...

Wait, let me start by saying that I've laid off political and religious subjects this week in respect to Easter. It seemed like the WWJD thing to do. So...

I'm not a coffee drinker. Never have been. But, I live with two females that love the stuff. We could debate if a 13 (soon to be 14) year old should be drinking coffee...but I won't go there. I accept the argument that a cup of coffee can't be any worse than a bottle of soda. Moving on...

So from time to time, I find myself at the local Starbucks, which might as well be eastern Slovenia for me. It's like a completely different world...a make-believe world where people speak a pseudo-foreign language and pretend to be high society...or hip...or something I'm apparently not. Now, I understand the Italian connection with the origin of many coffee drinks coming from Italy, and the implied chicness of the whole fiasco called Starbucks, but what I don't get is the absolutely ridiculous sounding process for ordering.

I'm not Italian illiterate either. Aside for the Learn A Language While You Drive cassette series I played for months before an Italy trip that fell apart the day prior to departure, the Sopranos were a weekly ritual at my house. I know Italian...well...some Italian. I know latte is Italian for milk, I know grande means large. What I don't understand is why a grande iced vanilla latte at Starbucks isn't a large cup of milk with vanilla flavor. What gives?

So, this morning I find myself alone in the drive-thru at Starbucks filled with anxiety. Since I love my wife more than any earthly thing, I'm doing this for her. For me... it's virgin territory. I refuse to order when we all go together, making my wife or the teenager do the honors...and..always making fun of the process. I want a frappa mocha latte venti or some other ridiculously sounding fictional concoction. But here I am...ready to order.

Speaker: Welcome to Starbucks. Would you like to try one of our fancy smancy new sandwiches?

I'm frozen. What did she say she wanted?

Just a minute please.

Speaker: Take your time and order when you're ready.

I'm sure the seven hundred and twenty cars behind me want just to take my time. I glance over the menu board looking for some type of trigger word...but it's all so...foreign.

Uh, uh mocha, latte, venti, frappachino, cappachino...before I even realized, I say...out loud...

Frappa mocha latte...uh

Speaker: Excuse me sir?

Nothing would do my heart more good than to break into a speaker rant over why Starbucks had to stop selling the black and white's all I ever liked there! But I have loved ones waiting in the balance on me performing this simple task.

Text message! Thank you Jesus! She sent what she wanted in a text message! A few quick clicks...

I'll take a iced vanilla latte venti please.
Not a perfect delivery...wrong indefinite article grammatically...but hey...I'm a rookie.

Speaker: That will be $4.33. Thank you pull forward.

$4.33! For a cup of coffee! I'm I picking this up IN Italy? That's an entire #1 Value Breakfast Meal WITH a large iced tea at Mickie D's.

As I'm pulling forward, I notice the 'Coexist' bumper sticker on the BMW in front of me...nice...this is now the company I keep...very nice.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring...don't plant flowers until the Hoot Owl hoots.

Snow on the blooming redbud tree is not that uncommon in the Southeast.

The air was filled with the sounds of yard work this weekend in my neighborhood. I even noticed one of the neighbors planting annuals around her mailbox...a task she most assuredly will repeat next month. Like many others this weekend, she fell victim to the Calender Spring/Actual Spring trick bag. What? That's right...the Calender Spring/Actual Spring trick bag. Trust me, it got me one year too.

The calender tells people the vernal equinox (aka Spring) happens most years on March 20, as it did this year. Days and nights are of relatively equal length as the sun travels around our planet's equator. Despite the mystical sooth sayings of a certain pudgy rodent in upstate Pennsylvania six weeks earlier, the exit of cold weather is much more orderly, predictable. Everyone in the South knows cold weather hasn't officially ceased until each of the 'mini-winters' have run course because there is a big difference between the season called Winter ending and cold weather ending.

There are three distinct phases, generally speaking, that precedes the departure of cold weather in the Southeast. Granted, this isn't new stuff...Farmers' Almanac has been printing it since 1818 with far more accuracy than that witchcrafty groundhog in PA...and farmers use the phases to determine when certain crops should be planted. The indicator for the arrival of each phase is the blooming of certain plants.

We are currently experiencing Redbud winter here. Although it was a nice toasty 74 degrees on Saturday, the blooming of the Eastern Redbud tree has brought with it a cold snap that calls for a chance of snow just a mere 4 days removed from warmer temperatures. After another brief warming spell, dogwood trees will bloom and with that another cold snap usually around 3 or 4 days long. Last to arrive will be blackberry winter...somewhere around the first of May. The distinct brier can be seen blooming all along Southeastern roadways with promises of fruit for cobblers and pies by July 4th...making the last of the cold spells a little more bearable.

Now when I was but a young lad in the times before central air conditioning (at least at our house), I knew when I heard the hoot of the Hoot Owl outside my window after sunset it would soon be time to raise the windows at night and take off the white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt during the day. Of course, I now know that scientifically speaking there are no Hoot Owls, just the native Barred and Common Barn Owls, and the louder hoots are timed to their mating cycles. Still, even though Spring officially started March 20, for me cold weather isn't truly gone until the owls have made their presence known...a happier time for us all.

So for this boy from the Southeast, forget the lessons in horticulture related weather...warm temperatures and hooters go hand in hand to me.

Take it for what it's worth.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Coexist can be a dangerous word for Christians.

I'm sure you've all seen one of these bumper stickers. On the surface, the message proposed is both positive and benign. The promotion of respect and tolerance was exercised by Jesus, as recorded in the Book of John (4:7-27), when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. During this period of time, Jews held deep disdain for Samaritans, and a Jewish man speaking to a non-Jewish woman was an unheard occurrence.

As Christians, should we be less quick to ridicule or denounce religious views outside our own? A fair enough question. Paul states in his letters to Christians in Corinth, Greece to give none offense, neither Jew, Gentile, or the church of God. His reason is two fold: 1. Being offensive doesn't bring glory to God, and 2. it inhibits the ability to convey the message of salvation....our Great Commission as followers of Christ.

I personally fail in this area on a regular basis, and asking for tolerance (as well as humility) is in my daily prayers. The catalyst for this post is an article I read yesterday on titled Episcopal minister defrocked after becoming a Muslim.

How does this happen? I repeated to myself over and over while reading about an ordained minister who actually thought she could be a Christian and a Muslim at the same time. While she embraces the beauty of Islam, she clings to her faith in Christ. How does this happen? How can people become so confused? Just look around brother. People are confusing the word tolerance with the word acceptance on a regular basis these days.

Yes, Jesus initiated conversation despite traditions with the Samaritan woman at the well, but He did so in order to deliver His message that He was the Living Water. Paul instructs Christians not to be offensive to other's beliefs, so we might deliver the message of Christ to a more receptive audience. The Word clearly states that the only way to the Father is through His Son.

During my 'dark years' of searching for Truth, I studied a number of theologies in detail. I understand that Jesus is mentioned by name in the Ko'ran more times than Mohammad; however, I also understand that Muslims do not recognize Christ as God. He was a prophet of great importance, but not God. That doesn't work for a true follower of Christ. Hinduism and Buddhism both acknowledge the importance of Jesus within the context of their beliefs, but not as the Son of God. The Savior of all men.

Here comes my swing at New Age...everyone can't be right. According to most New Age philosophy (and Oprah), there are many paths to God. Live a good life by helping others, don't worry about religious beliefs not your own, and we will all meet in Heaven someday. But that's not what the Bible says, and the Bible is the foundation of my faith as a Christian.

So, there is a huge difference between coexist with tolerance and coexist with acceptance. If you are a Muslim and I accept your belief in the Ko'ran, I am accepting the teachings of the Ko'ran and will no longer make effort to convey the message of the Bible. By doing so, I am denying the Muslim a chance to know the true path to God through Christ...and thus, I have failed my Savior.

I'll close with a short video from Lee Strobel who does an excellent job conveying the conflict of acceptance but the love in tolerance between Christians and Muslims, the worlds two largest faiths: