World Magazine Blog

November 26, 2003


Here’s a major development in the campaign for a marriage-protecting constitutional amendment. Leaders of pro-family groups have disagreed on whether to push for a constitutional amendment that states “Marriage shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman,” or a second, more extensive version that would also bar same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships. But the highly-influential Dr. James Dobson today sent this to pro-family leaders:

This note is intended to convey a straight-forward message, based on careful deliberation and prayer. We have talked to members of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate about prospects for passing the Federal Marriage Amendment. Every one of these elected officials, most of whom you know, have stated emphatically that there is no chance of passing the more inclusive language which addresses indirectly the issue of civil unions…. We have also been in direct communication with the White House in regard to the same issue, and although the President’s spokesmen are appropriately guarded in what they say, we believe that it is very possible the President will be able to support the original language, but he will have difficulty with the second, more extensive version.
Given these understandings, the issue for us is now settled. We will henceforth be supporting the original language and urge our colleagues to consider doing the same. We know there is sharp disagreement at this point and are respectful of those who see this issue differently. But we are convinced that pro-family leaders should opt for “the politics of the possible,” rather than taking a long-shot on a proposal that seems destined to fail. We are now conveying that position to our friends on the Hill, and to our contacts in the White House.

Dobson’s decision is huge and deserves applause. Before, we had the prospect of social conservatives tearing each other apart. Now, pro-family groups, the White House, the GOP congressional leadership, and some Democrats will work together to send to the states a constitutional amendment — and they have a good shot at success. The decision may also signal a move away from the separatism that still remains among some evangelicals and toward biblical pragmatism: pushing as hard as we can within the circumstances in which God has providentially placed us.

Posted at CST 03:38 PM | Comments (3)

The Middle East Media Research Institute, which translates and analyzes Middle East publication, reports today this complaint from Prof. Khaled Abou Al-Fadl, the only Muslim member of the Commission on International Religious Freedom: “When Bush came to the presidency, there was a revolution in American policy. He brought in religious Christian people. In the field, Bush permitted missionaries into Iraq…”

Posted at CST 01:04 PM | Comments (2)

On my University of Texas office door a few years ago sat a cartoon (until someone ripped it away) depicting two Pilgrims sitting across from two Indians. One of the Indians was saying, “Rumor has it you’re from the religious right.” That cartoon was (might as well acknowledge this) an in-your-face reminder to hostile colleagues who think that Christians who gain a place at a state university should be thankful enough to be silent about God. The cartoon, though, also reminded me of mutuality: Friendly natives showed needy settlers how to grow food for the body, and Christians offered fresh food for the soul.

These days, volunteers at Thanksgiving meals for the homeless often pass out food without really talking with the eaters, but true interaction can often help both sets of individuals: Men and women in the gutter can learn to step heavenwards, and the helpers can see with their own eyes how God changes people. After all, affluent people with changed hearts often remain the same in outward appearance, but it’s a pleasure at Christian missions to see men who used to sit in vomit-soaked stupor now dressing cleanly and seeing hymns. And that’s a reason for deep thanksgiving: all of us were in a stupor at one time, and God has changed the hearts of many of us. May He change many more.

Posted at CST 11:42 AM | Comments (2)

A good note from the Family Research Council: “For 66 days 102 Pilgrims traveled on the Mayflower in a space the size of a volleyball court… they arrived just in time for winter. During that first winter nearly half of the Pilgrims died, 47 of the original 102…. Given that backdrop, why the Thanksgiving celebration? Why not group therapy? Or at least letters of complaint sent back home? Why, because even in the midst of death and privation they saw the hand of God in their situation and they knew that they were a part of His great plan for this New World.”

Posted at CST 10:26 AM | Comments (2)

A New York Times article yesterday morning asked the question that millions were considering: “Assuming the common ancestor of people and chimps had social behavior that was essentially chimplike, how much of that behavior has been inherited by people?” Here’s what the Times wants us to know: “Within a community, there is a male hierarchy that is subject to what primatologists euphemistically call elections. Alpha males can lose elections when other males form alliances against them. Losing an election is a bad idea. The deposed male sometimes ends up with personal pieces torn off him and is left to die of his wounds.” Also, “Males make females defer to them, with violence whenever necessary, and every female is subordinate to every male.”

Compare with this alternative social universe: “An intriguing variation on the chimpanzee social system is that of bonobos, which split from chimps some 1.8 million years ago. With bonobos, who live in Congo south of the Congo River, the female hierarchy is dominant to that of males, and males do not patrol the borders to kill neighbors. Though bonobos are almost as aggressive as chimps, they have developed a potent reconciliation technique — the use of sex on any and all occasions, between all ages and sexes, to abate tension and make nice.” The Times did quote Dr. Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History, saying “We just have to bear in mind that none of this is demonstrable in any highly convincing way.”

Posted at CST 08:21 AM | Comments (3)

November 25, 2003

Here’s a question to ask those who voted for the new Medicare bill: “Would you pick up Manny Ramirez’s contract?” The Boston Red Sox three years ago, angling for the support of fans disappointed that the Sox had lost to the New York Yankees in the bidding for pitcher Mike Mussina, committed the franchise to paying $160 million for eight years of Ramirez’s batting. Ramirez is an excellent hitter, but Boston overpaid, and is now stuck with the contract; when the Red Sox recently said that anyone who wanted to pay Ramirez’s salary for the next five years could have him, the 29 other major league teams all declined. Republicans, bidding for voter support and not wanting to be bashed about prescription drug costs as they were during the last presidential election, have now given us a program that will become grossly expensive in its subsidies of those who don’t truly need governmental help — and no one at that point will save us from our own overspending.

Posted at CST 08:02 PM | Comments (11)

The National Right to Life Committee declared the now-passed Medicare bill a prolife measure. But Tim Lamer argues, “Poorer countries have citizens with shorter life spans, and this bill will, over the long run, make the United States poorer. Therefore, this bill is anti-life.”
Posted at CST 03:11 PM | Comments (2)

The Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at the University of Texas at Austin, where I teach, has been getting lots of national publicity for its watch list of radical professors. The Washington Post quoted fearful statements of listed professors, and you can expect to hear other reports — ABC’s Nightline is on campus today — about the dark night of fascism (or at least “blacklisting”) descending at American universities. The real problem is that alumni, parents, and governmental leaders have had no watch list of any kind, and in the absence of adult supervision leftist professors rule most campuses. Liberal and radical professors have a place on campus, but the problem today is that they dominate academic discourse and “blacklist” all but that handful of conservatives who manage to slip past departmental defenses.

Gutsy students who draw attention to the imbalance should receive thanks from regents and others who have been asleep at the switch — and the number of students willing to speak up seems to be growing. The Post reported, “Since 1999, College Republican chapters have nearly tripled, according to the College Republican National Committee. In just two months this fall, the Campus Leadership Program, a Washington organization that helps right-leaning students organize on campuses, added 45 groups to its membership roster, which now totals 216. The Collegiate Network, which trains conservative student journalists, says there are now at least 80 conservative campus newspapers, more than double the number in 1995.”

Posted at CST 02:25 PM | Comments (1)

Read last night through the several hundred comments that readers have posted so far: A whole lot of good thought going on. Here’s an example from the robust discussion of the Nov. 18 posting about TV’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: Barlow wrote that “the show simply illustrates what we Christians know to be true – that the Queer Eye staff is composed entirely of men created in God’s image and yet rebelling against it in their sexual behavior. Yet, their approach to aesthetics is quite consistent with the God who dresses sparrows fittingly. There is the occasional ridiculous advice such as Carson’s tip about getting a ‘fabulous’ vintage belt buckle, but in general they teach men not to wear baggy clothes but rather to wear clothes that make them look professional.

“Anyway, the pernicious side of this is that it portrays gay men as possessing some kind of technology (due to their gayness) that aesthetically astute heterosexual personal shoppers would not possess. But notice the end of each show – the gay men sit alone in a beautiful room of tasteful modern furniture drinking martinis and watching a fellow human being enjoy his family’s or girlfriend’s or wife’s or mother’s company. They are on the outside looking into what God intended, and it is hard not to feel sad for these men.”
Posted at CST 08:35 AM | Comments (5)

We’re finishing up this week’s issue today to allow time for Thanksgiving celebrations, so Tim Lamer has done his “Quick Takes” page quickly. One of his items concerns a German court that has banned a brothel in the town of Speyer not because a world-famous cathedral is located there, but because the town doesn’t have 50,000 inhabitants. That’s the minimum required to have a house of prostitution.

Posted at CST 07:40 AM | Comments (2)

David Reardon, who has written excellent pro-life books, suggests in an e-mail regarding the “gay marriage” issue that we should maintain a firm line against “marriage” or “union,” but allow “easy designation/registration of a person’s chosen ‘next of kin’ to which all rights of visitation, power of attorney, inheritance, etc. attach.” Reardon sees that response as “morally legitimate” because the “‘next of kin’ designation avoids any insinuation that there is a ‘marriage’ or even a publicly recognized ‘union’ of the individuals, but gives [gays] some ‘family’…. They can have little ‘next of kin’ certificates and ‘kinship severed’ (divorce) certificates.”

He argues, “This approach sufficiently addresses some of the legitimate concerns of gays to give formal legal standing to their ‘partners’ to manage their affairs when ill, et cetera. It also addresses a possible concern of the court that the granting of these rights should be simplified and not require a bunch of different legal documents. At the same time, this approach doesn’t even hint at opening the door to gay couples adopting children, nor does it involve an attack on the institution of marriage….This proposal should be put forward, side by side, with a constitutional definition of marriage. It should certainly not replace our efforts to pin down protection of marriage in the law…. It is a proposal that can take some of the steam out of the other side’s arguments.” What do you think?

Posted at CST 07:30 AM | Comments (10)

A recent Delta airlines Sky Mall catalogue featured two pages of attempts to latch onto the Lord of the Rings movies. The “Mines of Moria Goblet” and “Arwen’s Evenstar Pendant” had little appeal, but “The One Ring” in its Solid Gold Edition, which cost only $295 and came with “a certificate of authenticity,” had a pull hard to resist. The notice, however, did not say whether the Dark Lord himself would sign the certificate of authenticity, nor did it explain how the authentic “One Ring” to rule them all could be sold again and again.

Posted at CST 06:43 AM | Comments (3)

November 24, 2003

When National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave a good speech earlier this year to the National Association of Black Journalists, she likened the struggle for freedom in Iraq and elsewhere with the struggle for freedom here in America: “We must never, ever indulge in the condescending voices who allege that some people in Africa or in the Middle East are just not interested in freedom, they’re culturally just not ready for freedom, or they just aren’t ready for freedom’s responsibilities. We’ve heard that argument before, and we, more than any, as a people should be ready to reject it. The view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham, and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East.”

African-American Christians in Birmingham in 1963 were better prepared for freedom than many Muslims in Baghdad today, but Rice’s overall point is nevertheless important. She was castigated, though, by USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham, who said that until Rice made the Birmingham-Baghdad analogy she “appeared to have avoided the verbal pitfall Republicans often stumble into when they talk to black folks. But then, in a closing remark, Rice tumbled headlong into the abyss that swallows up so many Republicans who clumsily try to link themselves or their issues to the civil rights movement.” Maybe so, but how about the clumsy linkage by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court of the marriage rights of whites and blacks with the marriage rights of homosexuals? (See Nov. 22 blog item.)

Posted at CST 08:52 PM | Comments (1)

Tim Lamer, saying “this could be huge,” sent over a story that’s now on the Associated Press wire about an IRS audit of the National Education Association, which has allocated millions of dollars to elect pro-education candidates while reporting on tax forms that it does not spend union dues on politics.

AP noted: “the NEA has said on its tax returns that no union dues were spent on politics despite extensive internal memos laying out numerous union-funded political activities. Hundreds of pages of internal NEA documents reviewed by AP showed the 2.7 million-member union spent millions of dollars… for such things as ‘organizational partnerships with political parties, campaign committees and political organizations.'” The Landmark Legal Foundation gathered the documents; its president, Mark Levin, said “the NEA may finally be called to account for its failure to tell the government – and its members – how much it is spending on politics.”

Posted at CST 07:25 PM | Comments (4)

Just read Andrew Coffin’s reviews of “family movies” for our next issue, and there’s a surprise. The Cat in the Hat’s double entendres (see Nov. 21 blog) make it creepy and unpleasant, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action is mediocre, but Elf (rated PG for some mild rude humor and language) is “genuinely funny, pleasantly reserved, and unexpectedly warmhearted…. the lack of demeaning and rude material here allows the audience to relax and enjoy Elf for what it is: fun, throw-away entertainment. There’s nothing profound in Elf, but there’s also not much that’s offensive either. This holiday season, that alone will go a long way.”

Posted at CST 11:39 AM | Comments (9)

The New York Times columnist David Brooks on Saturday used the Bible in an attempt to win conservative support for gay rights. He wrote,

We’re moral creatures with souls, endowed with the ability to make covenants, such as the one Ruth made with Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn’t just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage…. It’s going to be up to conservatives to make the important, moral case for marriage, including gay marriage. Not making it means drifting further into the culture of contingency, which, when it comes to intimate and sacred relations, is an abomination.
One problem here is that the Bible repeatedly describes homosexuality as an abomination. So is the Bible a house divided, telling us what is wrong and then insisting that what is wrong should be consecrated? Ruth’s covenant with Naomi meant that she was leaving behind the Moabite religion, which included abominable practices, and embracing the God of Israel, including His commandments. The Times would be better off sticking to liberal pro-gay arguments and not twisting Scripture.

Posted at CST 10:24 AM | Comments (3)

Time Magazine’s cover story this week is ostensibly about how half of Americans love and half of Americans hate President Bush and his “forcefulness,” but Time of course inserts some psychobabble: “In scary and uncertain times, this kind of forcefulness is what some people want more than anything else.” Bush-backers, we are told, “support his certitude more than his policies, his self-assurance more than his programs.” In Time’s world, Americans don’t really support conservative policies; in the real world, they do. (See the November 8 issue of WORLD for a column on political hatred.)

Posted at CST 10:21 AM | Comments (3)

Thanking God for small but significant victories: The Denver Post yesterday published a positive review of Thomas Woodward’s Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design (Brazos Press). Editors allowed Denver Seminary professor Douglas Groothuis to note accurately that

ID thinkers are a diverse group united primarily in their belief that Darwinism isn’t beyond the reach of scientific criticism. They claim that the category of intelligent design is a legitimate scientific concept required to explain certain aspects of the natural world, but they say little about the nature of the designer. Chance and necessity alone, they argue, do not provide sufficient scientific categories for explaining the origin of complex living systems, such as DNA and the bacterial flagellum (a microscopic rotary motor). The scientific and philosophical establishment is beginning to interact seriously with ID claims in academic journals and at conferences, although it is still often dismissed as ‘unscientific.’
Posted at CST 08:54 AM | Comments (3)

Reader Glen Millar half-praised a recent column with these words: “Good analysis, right up to your invocation of God…. get over the God business, for it discredits your otherwise sound arguments.” Multiply that by a million and we come to former Clinton advisor Dick Morris’s recent complaint that Christian conservative support “is the kiss of death. It is not that the religious right is wrong. Right or wrong, it gets in the way of so much good that the Republican Party could achieve if it were not in the Christian right’s grasp.” What could the GOP achieve if Christian conservatives backed out? The easy, immediate answer is: minority status. Christian conservatives do more grassroots work with less reward than any other segment of the party. What could Christians achieve if we got over the God business? A better reputation in some circles, yet dishonor where it counts: with God.
Posted at CST 08:45 AM | Comments (25)

Spent an evening reading The DaVinci Code, which has now hit number one on at least four fiction best-seller lists (Publisher’s Weekly, USA Today, American Booksellers Association, Barnes & Noble). What great faith its fans have! What incredible faith to believe that a cover-up of the purported marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene could have been maintained over the centuries, and that a 2,000-year old, goddess-worshipping conspiracy involving ancient clerics, French kings, Sandro Botticelli, Leonard da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and a cast of thousands could still be going! And did you know that Jewish leaders engaged in ritualistic sex with priestesses inside the Temple? You didn’t? Oh, ye of little faith in the nonsense that writers put forward when they play on the credulity of skeptics.

The DaVinci Code is nonsensical, but its sales attest to a craving for belief of some kind. The same goes for the #2 fiction best-seller, Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which is about an old man dying and in heaven meeting people whose lives were intertwined with his. Readers who remember the Jonathan Livingston Seagull craze of three decades ago will see the similarities Susan Olasky describes in the next issue of WORLD: Albom, the best-selling author of Tuesdays with Morrie, “has a knack for description, but his ‘fable’ about what happens after death lacks narrative flow and drips with cliches. Its reliance on aphorisms—in Heaven ‘you get to make sense of your yesterdays’—guarantees that those who considered Jonathan Livingston Seagull fine fare will devour this book.”

Posted at CST 08:35 AM | Comments (4)

November 22, 2003

Pulitzer Prize officials announced yesterday that they would not revoke the award given in 1932 to Walter Duranty, a New York Times reporter who was a propagandist for Josef Stalin. While teaching journalism history for a dozen or so years, I used to explain to students that Duranty was the biggest mass murderer in journalism history: He covered up a Communist-forced famine in the Ukraine that killed millions, and attacked those reporters who did tell the truth. Without Duranty’s activity, a furor would likely have arisen in the West, and Stalin might have had to stop confiscating grain from peasants and using it to trade abroad for industrial equipment.

Ukrainian groups had sent a Pulitzer investigative committee more than 15,000 letters and postcards demanding that Duranty’s prize be revoked. Last spring, when a Pulitzer sub-committee announced that it would review Duranty’s work, Michael Sawkiw, Jr. — president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America — referred to the Times reporter this year who falsified and plagiarized dozens of stories, and said, “Exactly like Jayson Blair, the heart of all this is journalistic integrity and ethics.” True, but here’s a big difference: Blair, Janet Cooke, and other notorious liars hurt their publications and themselves, but they didn’t kill anyone. Below is an excerpt from a British newspaper from this past May that explains what Duranty did.
Continue reading “Journalistic mass-murderer”
Posted at CST 06:49 PM | Comments (4)

Just been editing our cover story for next week on reactions to the radical court decision from Massachusetts. Lynn Vincent quotes a couple — husband is black, wife is white — who react strongly against the attempt by the chief justice of Massachusetts to equate “gay marriage” with marriage between blacks and whites. “That,” the wife says, “is a crock.” The story concludes with an examination of the politics of the debate. Bush advisor Karl Rove, intent on preserving the president’s conservative base for next year’s election, is likely to push for a GOP pro-marriage stand that will place an albatross around Democratic necks. Squirm though they might, Democratic presidential candidates will have a hard time reaching out to those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, without alienating their base of anything-goes believers. How this all shakes out may determine the occupant of the White House in 2005, and will certainly affect houses in every American city for decades to come.

Posted at CST 02:27 PM | Comments (52)

Thanks to all of you who are posting comments. Here’s one by Sham Ninah that’s worth bringing to the attention of all: “As we present coherent and convincing arguments for the defense of marriage, let us remember that it really is a matter of the heart. The mind can be persuaded but the heart must be softened by God.”

Posted at CST 10:17 AM | Comments (4)

Three notable deaths on Nov. 22, 1963: John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, C.S. Lewis. The New York Times did well to give Joe Loconte room on its op ed page today to write eloquently about Lewis: “While Oxford agnostics howled, Lewis gave BBC talks on theology that were a national sensation. Even his beloved children’s stories, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ ring with biblical themes of sin and redemption. No one did more to make ‘the repellent doctrines’ of Christianity plausible to modern ears.” Loconte quotes this from Lewis: “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

Posted at CST 09:53 AM | Comments (4)

This month, as many television specials have finally discounted the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, an exceptionally strange one is nestling on the best-seller list and getting huge publicity from ABC and others. “The Da Vinci Code” is one weird novel — but let columnist Brent Bozell tell the story of its publicity coup:

ABC “News” – one has to use quote marks here – devoted an hour-long special to a bizarre conspiracy theory based in a best-selling novel… The novel is “The DaVinci Code,” and the author, Dan Brown, was ABC’s king for a day. His storyline has Jesus married to Mary Magdalene, who had a child and left after the Crucifixion to protect his blood line. A secret society forms to protect this uncomfortable genetic truth… Wouldn’t you think that in the hard-bitten, skeptical environs of the television news business –– where the mottoes boast about “if your mother says she loves you, check it out” –– this entire concept would be laughed right out the window before it started? A “news” special based on a novel? A news special… which at the end of 60 minutes, admits it has really not located any empirical evidence to support itself?… this story is a journalistic atrocity, a complete abandonment of professionalism.
You’ll be hearing more about “The DaVinci Code,” because it’s on its way to the silver screen.

Posted at CST 09:09 AM | Comments (7)

Judge Scott Brister, who was unsuccessfully sued for posting the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, received appointment yesterday to the Texas Supreme Court. He noted that the “vast majority” of jurors appreciated the display, and said “to some degree, our society has become too worried about things like that.” Here’s what is crucial: Before becoming a judge Brister offered free legal representation to pro-life leaders, and the Texas Right to Life Committee gave him its strong endorsement. Brister said he would not need to recuse himself from abortion cases; that makes sense since his job is to apply laws, not make them. New legislation in Texas requiring a waiting period prior to abortions is clear, but it is still likely to become the subject of litigation.

Posted at CST 08:35 AM | Comments (1)

Received an email yesterday from William Lane Craig, a professor at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology, who noted that President Bush in London on Thursday once again equated the Muslim God and the Christian God, and neglected to mention either crucial differences or the aggressive nature of Islam. Craig noted, “Of course our public officials dare not say such things. They dare not risk alienating moderate Muslim states whose help we need in the war against terrorism.” But President Bush is not a theologian, and Craig suggests accurately that W, when asked a no-win question about Islam, would do better to smile and say, ‘I’ll leave that question to the theologians!’”

Posted at CST 07:48 AM | Comments (12)

Mindy Belz sent over this excellent big-picture analysis of the terrorism in Turkey; author is Walid Phares, a reasonable Middle East Studies professor. In particular, he notes that “If you are al-Qaida, and its Turkish affiliates, you would want to create chaos from within. You would attack the Turkish Jews and leave the country to deal with it. You would expect the military to move on the religious and the latter mobilize against the secular. You would hope relations with Israel deteriorate, the US presence in Turkey reconsidered, and a Jihad crisis to begin. Whatever are the consequences, al-Qaida, its allies and partners would be winning.”

Walid writes of both history — Jews have been in Istanbul since the 15th century, when the Muslim Caliphate gave them protection from Christian persecution — and the current interest that Syria and Iran, like al Qaeda, have in a destabilized Turkey. Mindy concludes, “President Bush planned on regional upheaval, and this is what it looks like in the short term. All the high stakes make even more striking the poured-cement solidity of George Bush and Tony Blair.” (Those two are on the cover of the current issue of World.)

Posted at CST 12:08 AM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2003

Here’s a more precise formulation of the two-part explanation offered yesterday as to why marriage should be between a man and a woman: 1) because God says so and has ordained consequences for disobedience, and 2) because history has shown the Bible to be accurate in its assessment of what happens to individuals and societies when they abandon God’s plan for marriage and sexuality. The key battleground, as with abortion, will be for the hearts of the “mushy middle”: individuals who know that abortion is wrong and that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but are afraid to say so because the media and academic elite tell them they’re nitwits if they do. It took the prolife movement twenty years before it began emphasizing bigtime the compassion-first strategy that now has pro-aborts on the defensive; we need to be quicker than that in developing moderate-winning, #2 defenses of marriage. When those arguments have impact, we always need to be prepared to explain the #1 point, that God created not only the law of gravity but laws of social gravity that are equally real.

Posted at CST 08:12 PM | Comments (5)

Washington Post writer Dana Milbank makes catty fun of President Bush in this traditionally-European critique of American uncouth:

Wednesday night’s state dinner alone presented numerous quandaries for Bush. As did the 168 other guests, Bush had seven different 50-year-old crystal wine glasses before him — and he doesn’t even drink. Then there were his three forks, three knives and two spoons, not counting the two itty-bitty spoons for the mustard and the salt… When the queen finished, the president raised his glass, but Her Majesty did not return the gesture, instead waiting for the American national anthem to begin. Hearing the music, Bush put down his glass and placed his hand on his heart, then took it off, then put it on again. “The Star-Spangled Banner” over, he clinked glasses with the queen, then turned to clink glasses with Princess Anne, who was already sipping from hers.
Note: When Milbank wanted to interview me in Austin several years ago I took him to dinner at one of the University of Texas dorms. He had no trouble choosing the right silverware and glasses there.

Posted at CST 12:46 PM | Comments (2)

The Jerusalem newspaper Haaretz reports that the Chief Rabbi of France, Joseph Sitruk, is asking that French Jews wear baseball caps instead of skullcaps when not in their homes so that they won’t be “attacked in the street.” Three days after a Jewish school on the outskirts of Paris was the subject of an anti-Semitic arson attack, Rabbi Sitruk said on a radio program, “I do not want young people traveling alone on trains or the Metro to become easy targets for attackers.” (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan, who reported this on his blog.)

Posted at CST 11:28 AM | Comments (4)

The Daily Telegraph, an influential London paper, is impressed with what President Bush has said this week. Its editorial noted that his anti-appeasement stance, combined with his view that Muslim countries can become democratic, is one “that any serious British progressive – and even some protesters – might support. So far, however, he has not persuaded many of them to change their minds. It confirms our belief that the anti-Westernism of many Left-wingers trumps all other values in which they profess to believe. No matter: if he continues on this course, Mr Bush should create new realities on the ground among the ‘wretched of the earth’ as assuredly as Ronald Reagan did when he asserted his belief that the peoples of eastern Europe need not be consigned to despotism for ever.”

Posted at CST 11:18 AM | Comments (7)

For once, gunfire in Baghdad was good news: Last Saturday, when Iraq’s soccer team beat North Korea 4-1, celebratory shots rang out throughout the city. The score was meaningful not only because the team of a former axis-of-evil country was defeating the team of a continuing member, but because the victory showed how, in the words of one coach, “the fall of the regime has lifted a weight from the players’ minds.” As the Christian Science Monitor noted, the late Uday Hussein, son of Saddam, had “kept a jail and torture center at the national sport headquarters and often beat and humiliated athletes who performed poorly.”

Posted at CST 11:08 AM | Comments (1)

Andrew Coffin reports from Hollywood that The Cat in the Hat, the new Dr. Seuss adaptation, “does more than expand the relatively short children’s book into a 90 minute movie.” The holiday movie is aimed at kids, but “surprisingly raunchy moments in the film include references to pornography, erections, and prostitution.” Producer Brian Grazer said that modern children expect and/or demand such fare. We’ll have more in the next issue about new films marketed as family-friendly.

Posted at CST 10:21 AM | Comments (18)

The District of Columbia is on the verge of having a federally-funded school voucher program, according to the Washington Post. The five-year pilot program will provide vouchers worth up to $7,500 to 1,700 lower income students from low-performing schools. Democratic senator Diane Feinstein went against her party and supported the pilot program, calling it a “worthy project.” Dem. Mary Landrieu, on the other hand, called it “a sin.”
Posted at CST 08:24 AM | Comments (2)

Cab-driving can be a ticket out of poverty for folks without much education who are willing to drive well and work long hours. Some city councils, though, restrict competition: They refuse to give permits to individual drivers and allow only a limited number of permits to two or three favored companies. The Austin City Council socked the poor that way yesterday, voting 5-2 against giving permits to what the Austin American-Statesman called “a group of disgruntled cabbies.”

Posted at CST 08:15 AM | Comments (2)

November 20, 2003

Something deeply troubling about this AP report: A journalist interviews several Iraqi insurgents responsible for attacks on American soldiers. He agrees not to use names in order to protect the Iraqis from American reprisals, and then he confirms whether the insurgents are telling the truth by waiting to see if operations they describe actually come to pass:

Their claims to be active in guerrilla operations could not be independently confirmed, but there was some indirect evidence that supported their accounts. Without providing details on a site or timing, the engineer said a bomb had been planted on a nearby railway in preparation for attacking a train; three days later, on Saturday, an explosion derailed a train causing damage but no injuries.
Another Iraqi, who “specializes in setting off roadside bombs,” told the reporter he couldn’t talk long “because he was on his to way to ambush an American convoy on the Samara-Tikrit highway.” At an interview the next day, the engineer said he and eight other men in three cars used machine guns to shoot at the tires of a truck in a convoy carrying food for U.S. troops. He said the driver, a foreign civilian, unhooked the cab and drove off. The other trucks also got away, and nobody was hurt, he said.

Posted at CST 09:18 AM | Comments (13)

Whenever exasperation with the GOP leads pro-life folks to see whether Democrats have anything to offer, sad reality quickly bites. At a news conference yesterday put on by six Democratic members of the Texas House, Rep. Garnet Coleman complained that rules passed this year by the Republican-majority legislature — a 24-hour waiting period for abortion and the handing to women of a state-published informational booklet — amount to “state-sponsored terrorism.”

Posted at CST 08:41 AM | Comments (9)

Christians should be ready with two sets of arguments as to why “gay marriage” should not receive civil blessing. One is that “God says so”: We should say that with the realization that some Americans will accept such a statement but others will consider it irrelevant or nonsensical. For those in the second camp we should be prepared with the second set of arguments: marriage between a man and a woman is a social good and thus deserves social encouragement. Put these two arguments together and we have biblical pragmatism, which is as different from conventional pragmatism as biblical objectivity is from conventional journalistic objectivity.

Conventional pragmatism and conventional journalism are both amoral. Biblical pragmatism and biblical journalism start from the premise that God knows our frames and wants us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. Since forever begins right now, when we follow the pattern of marriage (and everything else) that God lays down in the Bible we honor God and also gain the greatest long-term happiness. The Family Research Council’s explanation of why the Massachusetts ruling is wrong is a good example of biblical pragmatism: “A large and growing body of social science research has shown that husbands and wives and their children are happier, healthier and more prosperous than adults or children in any other living arrangement…. Other research has shown that same-sex relationships lack permanance and fidelity.” There’s much more at FRC’s website .

Posted at CST 08:10 AM | Comments (12)

Here’s an excellent, detailed article from The Boston Globe about the marketing and literary goldmine that The Lord of the Rings has become. The films are big even in Turkey, and book sales are accelerating. Frodo action figures are not to everyone’s taste, but it’s terrific that tales with a sense of God’s sovereignty and providence built into them are being told throughout the world.

Posted at CST 07:37 AM | Comments (7)

“Sitting in the catbird seat.” The catbird seeks an excellent vantage point, and that’s how baseball announcer Red Barber described his booth high behind home plate. My catbird seat for watching political and cultural sports is a home office on the top floor of a tall house in Austin, perched at the edge of the Texas hill country.

The office is wired with high speed Internet access and news channels, but it’s windowed so the television talkers are dwarfed by God’s brilliant sunset paintings each evening as well as His majestic thunderstorms. My third window on the world comes through WORLD’s staff members, who throughout the day send e-mail notes.

Biblical perspective on news flashes and lightning flashes: join me in the catbird seat and we’ll try to learn from both.

Marvin Olasky
Editor-in-chief, WORLD

November 2003
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November 2003
Recent Entries
Bringing in Christians
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Cast of Contributors
Posts are by Marvin Olasky. Some of the posts will include quotations from the following WORLD staff members:

Joel Belz, publisher
Nick Eicher, editor
Tim Lamer, managing editor
Bob Jones, national editor
Mindy Belz, international editor
Ed Veith, cultural editor
Lynn Vincent, features editor
Susan Olasky, senior writer (books)
Ed Plowman, senior writer (religion)
Andrew Coffin, correspondent (film)

Here are some links (listed by ideology and specialty) that are useful for gathering different perspectives.

Best of the Web
The Corner
Midwest Conservative Journal


Andrew Sullivan
Virginia Postrel
Hit and Run
Josh Claybourn
Glenn Reynolds

Mickey Kaus
Gregg Easterbrook

Joshua Micah Marshall

Joanne Jacobs
Number 2 Pencil

Maggie Gallagher

Jim Romenesko

Baseball Musings

Healing Iraq
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