Friday, November 30, 2007

Local Artists Do Nativity "Synoptically"

Cincinnati's delightful Rohs Street Cafe, hosted and operated by Cincinnati's delightful University Christian Church, announces a distinctive, collective art show for the nativity season. To us it sounds like an excellent way to enjoy advent/Christmas/the holiday.

We quote the blurb:

SceneTogether: an art nativity scene

We get the story of Jesus’ birth from the Synoptic Gospels. These documents are called “synoptic” because they can be “seen together.” They tell the same story with different voices, adding a richness to the narrative.

In the same way, here in “Scene Together,” eleven artists tell their own versions of the birth narrative, all the more colorful and multi-faceted for the many ways they tell it.

Institutions Invulnerable to Annoying Controversies? And Then There Were None

In our profession, SWNID commonly deals with people who are upset over something that is happening at SWNID's place of wage slavery. Those upsets are caused by matters ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. But they generally fall under the category, Things That Are Endemic to the Human Condition.

Some of our conversation partners in such matters believe that the constant voicing of and responding to such concerns is a special characteristic of Christian organizations. They believe that other organizations, richer and more professionally operated, don't have such problems. Or they believe that Christian organizations, having ideals up to which to live, have them, while secular organizations, with nothing to pursue but self-interest, haven't them.

We note as a counter example to this parochial point of view the amazing controversy, local to Greater Cincinnati but now nationally and internationally famous, about the staging at Lakota East High School of Agatha Christie's classic and twice-renamed play And Then There Were None.

Said controversy has been resolved--at least partially and at least for now--as the play will now be un-canceled and performed under its most recent title, noted above.

We will not opine as to whether the staging of a play that once had a racist term in its title is sufficiently insensitive as to be unconscionable. We will instead empathize with school officials who have found themselves between the Scylla and Charibdis of aggrieved parents on both sides and note that they probably wish that they had used the most recent, least offensive title for the play as soon as it went into rehearsals.

We especially point out to our brothers and sisters the obvious point that such endless arguments are found all over, not just at church and related organizations where people do their arguing in the name of Jesus.

Now, we must end this post to keep an appointment with an aggrieved person. [Note to self: open ears, shut mouth.]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Impressive Speech on Hope for Inner Cities

We profusely thank gentle reader PS/SWNID for directing us to this video enjoining engagement in the lives of children and youths growing up in the impoverished inner city.

This speech is all the more impressive to SWNID because it is delivered by a subject of the UK--David Sharples, who founded Kidz Klub, a Christian mentoring program in the UK--at the Conservative Party Conference of 2007. One doesn't expect to hear about the aggressive engagement of Christians in the UK, let alone hear expect to hear discussion of such things at a major political event. And for those who are unaware, the UK Conservative Party has not had a relationship with the "religious right" (as if such a thing existed in the UK) as has the US Republican Party.

So we take this opportunity to express our profound respect and thanks to all those who read this blog who do the kind of thing that Sharples does. God is taking his world back, including the inner cities, and y'all are his Special Forces in that greatest of endeavors.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stuck on the Bus with Dignified Humans

We thank gentle reader Dan for taking us "To the Source," that is, to a web site entitled "To the Source" for this wide-ranging essay on the development of human stem cells without the destruction of embryos and the larger issue of human dignity.

To say that the piece, by one Robert S. Paul, is wide-ranging is an understatement, but it isn't a ramble. We urge reading of its entirety, but for your enticement offer this quotation:

In the work where I'm involved with impoverished communities, LifeWind International, the principle of Equal Dignity is foundational. It is the coming issue, I believe, in the continuing campaign to find solutions to world poverty. Dignity forces the discussion of poverty beyond economic development, a discourse that too easily slides down the path of condescending pity and lurking superiority. In our secret hearts we are tempted to believe that poverty might be a sign of some intrinsic defect, while wealth is the confirmation of our superior abilities. Noblesse oblige. Here come the rich to rescue the poor. But those on the receiving side of our intended generosity see the truth of what we believe behind our stuffed pocketbooks. If we deny equal dignity, we sow the seeds of long-term resentment. Dignity for the poor and oppressed is not the prize we give them at the end, once we have won the battle, but the starting point for a new way of working together.

When Doing Bad Is Good

Here's a fundraising strategy that we fear more institutions of higher education may now employ:

1. Experience financial misdeeds on the part of senior administrators.
2. Then allow the scoundrel(s) to resign when the problem comes to light.
3. Then accept a big gift from a donor who wants to make everything right again.

That's the continuing saga at Oral Roberts University. After Friday's resignation of allegedly nefarious president Richard Roberts, ORU now announces that it will receive a $70 million gift from Hobby Lobby founder Mart Green.

The gift has strings attached: Green is demanding that the university reform its governance. Already, the boards of ORU and the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association are separating.

SWNID asks Mr. Green, who may or may not be a reader of this blog, please to consider a gift of similar size to Cincinnati Christian University. Or even one of reduced size.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Demography to Cities: Grow with Families

Today's WSJ has a most important opinion piece for those who care about the future of American cities, including people who live in them, like SWNID.

Joel Kotkin of Chapman University notes that while many cities, including the one where we reside, have sought economic growth by appealing to the "creative class" of young singles, cities that have actually experienced economic and numerical growth in recent years have been those that are appealing to married people with children.

We simply say that we wouldn't mind in the least of Our City Fathers took this message to heart. To appeal to companies looking to bring jobs, Cincinnati doesn't need more nightclubs (unless they are jazz venues like the Blue Wisp, whose survival seems relatively secure now). It needs good schools, affordable housing, and social networks that nurture parents and children.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Where to Give Year-End Gifts

SWNID's gentle readers, largely being members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, tend to be extremely wealthy. In this holiday season, they are generally concerned to find ways to shelter their ill-gotten gains from payment of their already-smaller-than-fair share of taxes. (Note: this paragraph contains sarcasm.)

This year, we recommend generous donations and longer-term pledges to Cincinnati Christian University's "Beyond the Walls" campaign, detailed nicely in this piece from Friday's Enquirer.

Signature sarcasm aside, and with due caution for the obvious self-interest* in our mentioning this, we are hard pressed to think of a way that one can use one's dollars, euros, pounds sterling, yen, yuan, pesos, bolivars, rubles or other units of currency more strategically than through gifts that will secure the future ministry of CCU and other institutions that develop the talents and interests of Christians who will lead the church in its global mission to subvert the kingdoms of this world to become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

Other projects may be more trendy or deliver a warmer, fuzzier feeling. But when one scratches and sniffs the people who lead the big stuff that gets done, one discovers a significant number of such folk were shaped by their experiences at CCU and similar institutions of biblical higher education. Investments in such joints are significantly leveraged in their influence.

We hasten to add that we always expect a degree of skepticism about such appeals. We therefore invite gentle readers who want to ask questions or express such skepticism to do so in the comments on this posting, where we will answer as much as this busy season allows, and with as much honesty as our calloused heart can muster.

*SWNID has a rather large personal commitment to the ministry of CCU. We will not receive any financial emolument from donations to the campaign.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rosin Chronicles Golden Compass Transformation

As Christians across the USA gear up for a campaign against the atheism of The Golden Compass, SWNID urges gentle readers first to read the backgrounder on the movie's production by the esteemed journalist of American religion Hannah Rosin in this month's Atlantic (full access requires subscription, well worth the money in our SWNIDish opinion).

Rosin notes that market concerns motivated the movie's producers from the beginning to reduce, modulate and even obliterate the overt anti-theistic themes of the blockbuster fantasy books. Author Philip Pullman, who is unrepentant about his aggressive atheism, cooperated in the corruption in order to get the books to the silver screen (and presumably to get his royalty checks deposited).

The result, says Rosin, is the usual Hollywood religious mish-mosh: a bland, quasi-Buddhism akin to Star Wars that will probably offend few. In fact, Rosin judges that the movie that will mostly anger only those who liked the books' original message but will probably flummox wider audiences who try to understand it beyond its flashy special effects.

More broadly, we scold our Christian siblings for their obsession, positively and negatively, with media messages. For years, we've protested the messages that the media gives our impressionable minds, imagining a better world in which movies and television reinforced positive values and even the Christian good news.

Then we got The Passion of the Christ and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

And massive revival broke out.

No, wait: it didn't.

We therefore opine that media messages, with us or against us, have relatively less impact than we sometimes hope or fear. Not to deny the effect that worldviews embedded in entertainment and news reporting have on the consciousness of many, we nevertheless conclude that the media largely gives people what they insist they want and help them think what they think already.

In the case of The Golden Compass, what many people want is spectacular fantasy, but what only about 14% wants is anti-theism. So Hollywood is giving the former while minimizing the latter. And we expect a religious impact about equivalent to what we got from Lord of the Rings.

For Thanksgiving: Less Violence in Iraq

Sometimes we ignore the obvious on this blog. Today we draw attention to it.

Finally the MSM has caught up with our repeated statement that the surge is working.

We like the Financial Times's (motto: the pink newspaper for people rich enough not to worry about their appearance while reading a pink newspaper) headline that includes the term "phenomenal."

From here, expect three things:

  • Democrats will continue to complain that "there's no political progress" and will consequently call for a timed withdrawal.
  • Various media outlets will report any significant violent incidents and ask whether they indicate that the bad guys have recovered.
  • Various pundits will speculate as to whether the bad guys are saving up for next autumn, when they'll let loose with enough explosions to scare the American electorate into voting for the Democrat.
And, to be frank, those are legitimate concerns. But they don't negate the potency of Petraeus's strategy. They simply urge patience with and further adaptation of a fundamentally sound strategy in a part of the world where it takes centuries to mark significant change. War, as always, is at least heck, and it takes tenacious guts to see it through to a decent conclusion.

This, of course, is not the strategy now endorsed by retired General Ricardo Sanchez, who says that political progress is insufficient to justify continued US progress and so now calls for a withdrawal. We note the obvious: Sanchez commanded in Iraq with a different strategy, one that surely didn't work, and now has a vested personal interest in advocating an outcome in which the current commander's strategy is not allowed to outshine his failure.

Note well that the Democrats are now in the unenviable position that they held during the Civil War: recruiting failed generals to speak for their party's position of abandoning the difficult war effort. With his upcoming radio speech on Saturday, Sanchez becomes the McClellan of our era.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Listening Past Bush Hatred

Rhetorically every Democratic presidential candidate, knowing that Bush hatred is the strongest impulse in the Party of Jefferson, is running against Dubya.

But substantively, two of the leaders are running on what has become known as the Bush Doctrine: that US interests are best served by the expansion of democracy in the Middle East, not just the preservation of "stability."

The NY Sun documents as much today, with statements from the Dem-bate out of the mouths of Senators Obama and Clinton.

If the unthinkable happens in November next, let's hope that this commitment can withstand the pressures of doctrinaire isolationism and pacifism that seem poised to overwhelm the party of Wilson, FDR and Truman.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hagee: Jesus Didn't Come as Messiah

Gentle reader KevinK suggests to us that John Hagee may have surpassed Pat Robertson as World's Most Embarrassing Christian. This video clip may just prove that he has:

Well, we guess that Jesus' saying "I am" to the high priest's question, "Are you the Christ [Messiah]" isn't claiming to be Messiah after all.

Hagee's hyper-idiosyncratic dispensationalism is super-duper embarrassing. We just hope that no one notices.

Longmont's LifeBridge Takes Heat for Real Estate Development

Today's Denver Post contains an intriguing and disturbing article about a real estate venture of the LifeBridge Christian Church of Longmont, Colorado, where friend of SWNID is the well-known and widely respected senior pastor.

What's intriguing is that the church is using the acumen of many of its members to pursue a real-estate development that will, if successful, finance its construction of a new campus.

What's disturbing is that despite the fact that there is no evidence of impropriety, and despite the fact that the church has a superb reputation for its service to the community, plenty of skeptics assume that the church is up to no good. To get a feel for the hysteria, read the comments, not just the article.

Obviously there's recently been enough nefarious real-estate dealing by Christians and Clintons to nurture such suspicions. We just pray that Rusaw and crew can live in such a way as to demonstrate their critics mistaken.

'Nother News Flash: Cohabitation Dangerous for Kids

Ever notice how local news stories about abused children frequently involve the mother's live-in boyfriend as perpetrator? Well, today the AP noticed too.

The esteemed wire service today carries the story by David Crary that children living with unrelated adults are 50 times more likely to be victims of assault than children living with both biological parents.

So it seems that staying together for the children was a better idea than people thought.

News Flash: Executions Deter Murders

In a stunning piece of contrarian journalism, today's Gray Lady publicizes recent studies arguing that the death penalty does indeed deter murders. Statistical links are shaky, of course, since it's a big country and there aren't lots of executions. And cause-effect relationships can't be proved solely on the fact that event Y (fewer murders) happens after event X (an execution).

But at least a few brave economists, some not fans of the death penalty, have argued that statistics coupled with the economic postulate that people choose against things that are costly make the conclusion secure.

We'll anticipate an objection by some noble and gentle reader: so if executions deter murders, maybe we should execute people for other crimes, like auto theft. Well, let's recall that deterrence is only one issue in punishing crimes. Retribution is another, and it demands that the punishment fit the crime. A life for a car isn't just. A life for a life is another matter.

This debate isn't over. But we're still not exactly sure that the NY Times is still the paper we thought it was when it puts articles like this in its fabled Sunday edition.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Play-by-Play on Dem-bate

We interrupt blogging silence to do the obvious: take note of what really went on in last night's Democratic candidate debate. Our reference point is this CNN article.

Hillary said: "The American people know where I've stood for 35 years."

SWNID explains: Yes. You were rainmaker for the Rose Law Firm. You did real estate deals in Whitewater. You managed bimbo eruptions for your philandering husband. You didn't hold public office until you moved to New York to run for a safe Senate seat. You've mouthed the objectives of the left and far left while manipulating the fringes of free enterprise to make the money that your husband couldn't make as a career politician.

Hillary said: "This is going to be one of the most important elections we've ever had in our country's history, and it is important that we have a candidate who is tested as a president who is ready to lead from day one."

SWNID asks: As important as 1788, 1860, 1864, 1916, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948, 1952, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972? Tested how?

Hillary said: "I don't mind taking hits on my record on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it's both accurate and right out of the Republican playbook. . . . For [Edwards] to be throwing this mud and making these charges I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here tonight. We need to put forth a positive agenda for America."

SWNID asks: Um, how is it personal and not about issues to say that you voted to authorize the war or to say that you work in Washington? And, um, is not the characterization of mudslinging as distinctly Republican itself a form of mudslinging?

Bill Richardson said: "It seems that John wants to start a class war. It seems that Barack wants to start a generational war. It seems that Sen. Clinton, with all due respect on her plan on Iraq, doesn't end the war. All I want to do is give peace a chance."

SWNID translates: Attention, nostalgic baby boomers who long for 1968: I pander to you! Attention, Hillary: I am totally nice to you and totally saying what the Angry Left wants to hear. And don't forget that I'm a Hispanic governor of a purple state and that I have the actual experience that you claim. I am your running mate!

Others: [various comments]

SWNID translates: Please, someone notice me!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Much Awaited: SWNID on Robertson and Giuliani

Busy but begged, we offer our SWNIDish judgment on the incredible event of Pat Robertson's endorsement of Our Man Rudy.

On what this says about the World's Most Embarrassing Christian now that he has chosen rightly in Our Man, we simply offer the ancient aphorism that even a blind pig finds the occasional acorn.

On wider matters, our ever-optimistic heart beats faster with the thought that this event may give Our Man enough social conservative support to win the nomination while at the same time destroying Embarrassing Pat's credibility with his constituency and so eliminating his public influence and visibility.

It is too much to hope for both, but hope we will.

Reformation Polka

We interrupt our blogging silence to share this brilliant video, sent to us by gentle historian Rick C.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Telegraph's Top 100s

With all the objectivity of British journalists looking at America, the Telegraph offers lists of Top 100 Most Influential Conservatives in America and Top 100 Most Influential Liberals in America.

Number one on the lib list is Bill Clinton. That's indisputable.

Number one on the conservative list is Rudy. That's disputable, but we like it nevertheless.

A couple of observations:
  • Hitchens is listed as a conservative.
  • Schwartzenegger is listed as liberal.
  • Lieberman is on both lists.
  • Pundits appear but are generally low. We'd rank them higher, but our political activity is more reading than doing real stuff.

Our sources at the Telegraph tell us that SWNID was ranked 101 on the conservative list, just missing the cut.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

And Now the Real News: Economy Booming

Lawrence Kudlow today performs the public service of noting that GDP is way up, inflation is down, incomes are up, energy use per unit of GDP is down, and loads of other positive economic news.

You won't hear this from the MSM, who focus on sectors like housing or finance to suggest that things are awful economically. We aren't so paranoid as to think that the lefty journalists are trying to gin up discontent leading to the 08 elections. We just think that they need a story, don't really care about the bigger picture, and know that good news is no news at all.

Of course, you won't hear the Ds talk about this at all.