Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon.

Which science fiction film...

... has the most realistic vision of the future of mankind? Half a hundred academic sorts studied the question, and voted for ....

Well, let Phil from Brandywine Books give you the lead-in and the link.

Biker rallying

So, last night at the opening service for the biker ministry that's in town this weekend, we alternated between singing 'praise songs' and listening to testimony. A man in back of me stood up to testify, and he said that he'd ridden a long way to get here, and he was expecting things to happen this weekend, that there was gonna be some spiritual growth going on, and "If we don't save some souls this weekend, I AM GOING TO BE REALLY TICKED."

This from a fellow who could probably pick me off the ground with his pinky finger.

Other times during the service, if he didn't think people were showing the proper spirit, he'd stand up and say so. As in, 'hey, when the guy said he wanted help handing out flyers promoting tomorrow evening's service, I think more people should have offered to help.' Whereupon he named a name or two to get things going. Whereupon a new call was put out for helpers to promote the event during 'free time'. Whereupon more people volunteered than previously...

I don't want to give the wrong impression here. The 'threats' weren't serious in the sense of anybody being in danger from this fellow if they didn't live up to his expectations (hark! do I hear someone muttering something like 'famous last words'? :). And I don' t think he was begrudging the distance he rode (more than a hundred miles). He just had a strong conviction that there are souls around here that need saving that may not understand or respond to prim and proper advances, so to speak, and we really would be failing miserably if we didn't make a proper effort. So he wasn't settling for less than a proper effort. And good for him.

I know that quite a few folks think that Christianity is only for certain types of people, or that it's the province of pantywaists (if you'll pardon my French). This man being living proof that those silly notions are wrong, I'm sure he feels especially strongly about correcting those misconceptions, not to mention helping round up those strays who (having bought into those misconceptions) don't realize how much God and his people would like to welcome them into the Body of Christ, and how much difference it can make.

Mrs. Judson flunks biker etiquette

The church I attend is hosting a three-day motorcycle ministry program aimed primarily at people living in the biker subculture. This is, in case you don't know me, not one of my areas of expertise (/understatement). But the organizers stressed that it was for more than bikers and they'd appreciate nonbikers showing up, so last night I went to the kick-off dinner and service.

At dinner, I sat across from a grey-haired biker riding herd on a bunch of teens. I'd heard that people had converged from various places in the Pacific Northwest for this event, and so I turned to the girl to my immediate right and asked her where she was from. I didn't care where she was from, you understand. It's just standard small talk, a way of getting one's bearings, of searching for common ground, and also of finding out if you're sitting next to a fellow townsman you haven't met yet, or a kid you don't recognize because you haven't seen her in a while, or somebody who has gone to great lengths (literally) to attend. It's always such a safe, not really personal, question to lead with. Right?


Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The girl flinched and then she cowered, appealing mutely for help from her friends. I sat there utterly clueless as to what I'd done wrong.

The man riding herd on the group got the girl's attention, and said "Hey! Listen to me. When you're in town you live with us, and we live in [name withheld by me for privacy reasons], and that's your home when you're there. It's your home anytime. You're family. You know that, right?"

I don't know which of us was more relieved and grateful for his rescue, the girl or me.

I just wasn't thinking. If I had stopped to think, I like to think it would have occurred to me that a goodly percentage of the people present might not have a particular place to live. Or a place they really come from. Or family. Or that they might have disowned a place or a family. Or that for some of them it might be flat dangerous to name where they come from.

Anyway, I know better now. (And so do you.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blackmailing the universe

This quote is today's entry in The Business of Heaven, which is a book of daily readings of C.S. Lewis quotes. The endnotes say this comes from Great Divorce, chapter 8:

'What some people say on earth is that the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved.'

'Ye see it does not.'

'I feel in a way that it ought to.'

'That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it.'


'The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.'

'I don't know what I want, Sir.'

'Son, son, it must be one way or the other. Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to inflict it: or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves. I know it has a grand sound to say ye'll accept no salvation which leaves even one creature in the dark outside. But watch that sophistry or ye'll make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe.'

The 'future' versus 'dancing'

Most years, I hear a 'horror story' or two from one graduation service or another. The winner so far this year is the one passed along to us from the father of a college graduate at a school where one of the commencement speakers, who was also one of the graduates, got up to speak, said he thought it was boring to listen to talk about 'your futures' and said he was going to solve that. Whereupon he danced a bit. And then spent a full hour (so we're told) talking about the importance of dance (according to him). This despite boos and threats of walk-outs.

I think using an oversized shepherd's crook to haul him off stage, like they used to do in vaudeville, might have been in order...

Back to the drawing board...

A trucker was showing off his new truck to a friend of mine the other day. It's a brand new vehicle from a well-known, well-respected company. It's made for long hauls and comes with a sleeper compartment. The guy really liked his new rig (according to my friend), but...

The trucker said that when he got it, there was only a half-length curtain inside. It gave him privacy when he was in bed, I understand, but left him exposed from the waist down when he went to change clothes.

"I ask you," the trucker is reported to have said, "when it comes to naked, which half of you matters?"

He is far too large a man to wriggle into and out of clothes while laying on the bed. He went out and got full-length curtains.

I am half tempted to write the company and ask them where they expect truckers to change clothes in the cab of this model. All in all, it seems a curious way to set things up.

To be or not to be (connected)

My husband was sick in bed the other day when the phone rang. He answered, and the next thing I knew gales of laughter were streaming from the bedroom. Every once in a while I'd hear "You have to be kidding!" or something like that. I hadn't a clue who it was, but it sounded like a buddy calling up to share some recent misadventures.

Afterwards, he told me it was an acquaintance of ours who is terminally ill. In my younger days, I would have been surprised to hear that, what with all the merriment going on, but I've found since then that some critically ill or injured people turn into some of the laughingest people on the planet. I have some lovely half-baked theories on why that is true, but I won't bother you with those today. At any rate, a dying man called and made my husband laugh so hard he could barely breathe. And if I know those two, my husband returned the favor. These guys love to swap stories, and laugh.

Later, my husband told me that there was no good news from that quarter, unless you count that he's delighted his child has finally graduated from school.

Later still, my husband told me that his buddy said he has taken to diving for the phone every time his wife goes in the shower, because she won't let him talk to people. She shoos visitors away, and jumps on the phone to cut off conversations, always fussing at her husband because 'he ought to be resting.' Right on cue, just after that, she came on the phone and demanded that they hang up, because he needed his rest.


OK, I know the temptation. My husband is crippled and in a lot of pain and about three years ago we had The Great Heart Failure Adventure in which I sat by his bed while he teetered between life and death. Since then, we've learned to live with oxygen tubes and that sort of jazz. I understand the perceived need to fiercely protect someone who is sick, and once or twice or thrice I've given in to it. But I can't understand making it your standard policy. Especially for someone who is thought to be on his last legs, like the man who called. If he wanted solitude, that would be one thing. But he doesn't. He craves contact with others.

I'm at a bit of a loss. I don't think it's my business to interfere in that particular instance, for the same reason I'm bothered by the wife's cutting him off like she is: in short, the man in question 'is a big boy now' and it's up to him to decide how to handle things, as far as I can see.

On the other hand, if, by chance, there is somebody in your family who is seriously ill or disabled, will you please step back and take a look at how much you're 'protecting' them, and whether it makes sense to do so to that extent? I hate it when people get buried (for all intents and purposes) before they're dead.

If it helps any, I wouldn't want to see a tally of the times I've gritted my teeth, bit my tongue, taken a walk, gone to the grocery store when I didn't need to, closed myself in my room and cried and/or prayed, changed the subject entirely, etc., when what I felt like doing was to act like a mother hen.

If it helps any, I rarely have to do that any more. Once you get yourself in a habit of letting your disabled loved one be responsible for himself, it gets easier. Or it did for me, at least. I have some lovely theories on why that's true, too...


I was reading the mystery Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers this week, and in a list drawn up by the sleuths for 'Things to Be Noted' and 'Things to be Done', I kept running into the initials N.B.

Since N.B. always came toward the end of each note, setting off the last thing mentioned in each section, I thought at first that it was a variation on P.S., but after a while I decided that didn't work, so I abandoned the novel and went to my primary dictionary, which informs me that NB (the periods seem to have been dropped over the years) means "note well" and is derived from the Latin nota bene.

Ooh, this could be useful. I wonder why it's not in common use?

P.S. As far as the mystery goes, Have His Carcase is rather more gruesome, complicated, and clever than I wanted. Being by Sayers, it has a great deal of wit and substance, but it is decidedly more graphic in places than you might expect from a British mystery from 1932. Overall it's pretty good, and it places it heads toward brilliant, but it has a high enough "yuck" factor to take it off my "recommend it to everybody" list. If you like codes and ciphers, though, toward the end of the book it has some rather detailed lessons in making and breaking a certain type of cipher.

And, yes, Lord Peter Wimsey fans, this is one of those books starring that hero and Miss Vane, where he knows he's in love with her, but she isn't sure what she thinks about him.

Update: Hmmm. Now that I know about NB (or N.B.), I suppose it's going to pop up all over the place, and I'll feel silly for not knowing about it already. Exhibit A: see this multi-book book review post, specifically the review for Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good by Wendy Shalit.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Black marks on white paper (otherwise known as a poem)

From Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis:
... For what is required, on all these levels alike, is not merely knowledge but a certain insight; getting the focus right. Those who can see in each of these instances only the lower will always be plausible. One who contended that a poem was nothing but black marks on white paper would be unanswerable if he addressed an audience who couldn't read. Look at it through microscopes, analyse the printer's ink and the paper, study it (in that way) as long as you like; you will never find something over and above all the products of analysis whereof you can say "This is the poem". Those who can read, however, will continue to say the poem exists.

Living Weak

If you can't live strong, you can "live weak," and it has its rewards, says Bill Stuntz (who has occasion to know).

Hat tip: Wittingshire, which got me to Stuntz's blog with this post.

Book note: Reach for the Sky, by Paul Brickhill

I finally noticed the "more books you will enjoy" page in my copy of The Sky Beyond, and one of the touted books is Reach for the Sky by Paul Brickhill. The blurb runs:

The inspiring, magnificent story of Douglas Bader, legless fighter pilot, who led his Spitfire squadrons to victory in the Battle of Britain.

Uhm, says I, a legless fighter pilot?

What they mean, it turns out, is a man with two artificial legs, one for a leg amputated above the knee, the other for a leg amputated below the knee. Which is still pretty amazing, isn't it? At a guess. (What I know about what it takes to fly a military aircraft is not very much, folks. But I'm assuming there are reasons military pilots are notably fit.)

Checking around, I see there is a Douglas Bader Foundation in the UK, which promotes the welfare of amputees and other disabled people. I like their maxim: ‘ A disabled person who fights back is not disabled...but inspired.’

Reach for the Sky was made into a movie in 1956.

When a woman runs for office...

... I wish she'd just run for office and not pretend it's a big deal she's female, or that anybody owes her a vote because she's a woman. I see I have company in this view of things.

This reminds me of a story that made the rounds when the Star Trek series with the woman captain was just getting off the ground. The story was that the production team wanted to make a big deal of the fact that the captain was a woman, but the actress playing the captain said she assumed that by that far into the future it would be commonplace for a woman to be a captain and therefore nobody would think twice about it. And therefore it wouldn't make sense to make a big deal about it in the storylines.

I don't know if that story is true, but it's one of those 'if it's not true, it oughtta be' stories. And it's a good point. Unless we're talking about a job where it would be freakish or insane or otherwise a really bad idea to have a woman doing it, could we please stop acting like it's freakish for a woman to be under consideration for the job?

Since most people have long since outgrown getting excited by women running for office (face it, women have been getting elected for generations in America), aren't the folks making a big deal over a woman running for office embarrassing themselves?

They embarrass me. And, for the record, they don't represent me. I believe all candidates, male or female, should be judged on character, experience, track record, and proposals. Silly me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

'Happy Birthday' from a sorry father

I was over on the Death Roe site, and they had a link: "Click here to see what songs should be on every Death Roe Survivor's play list." So I clicked. And found that my computer didn't want to play them (a technical problem, my end). So I went to YouTube, and found one I wanted to check out: Happy Birthday, by Flipsyde. I'm not generally a fan of hip-hop (and this song's not exactly a ringing endorsement for chastity or the sanctity of marriage) but... Wow. Powerful stuff. Good stuff. My thanks to the artists who put it together.

From the Death Roe site:

This video debuted in April 2006 in the US after the song Happy Birthday made waves overseas hitting the charts at #4 in Germany, #3 in Sweden and was in the top 15 in Austria and Switzerland. In addition, Happy Birthday, was in the Top 10 downloads on ITUNES in Germany, Sweden & Denmark. Piper, the lead singer of Flipsyde wrote and sings this song to the baby he helped abort as a young man. Filled with introspection that only one who has truly realized the ramifications of the decision to abort, Happy Birthday should serve as a warning to young men and women seeking abortion as an answer. The reality of fatherhood lost is felt, as you hear Piper wonder out loud what his baby would look like, act like, and if the child could forgive him for what he has done.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Modern smelling salts

Just down the road, a woman is missing and presumed drowned. The radio news reports have warned people that the chances of stumbling across a corpse are pretty high just now, and also assure us that people with property along the river downriver have been notified personally. It's an awful situation, but so far nobody I've heard of has taken to running around screaming that they shouldn't be expected to deal with something like this, or that they'll never recover from the experience.

You are scratching your head over that last statement? I don't blame you. Normal people absorb news like this and deal with it at least after a fashion, normally. They search, they grieve, they make sure the lady's horses and dogs don't starve or die of thirst. They don't expect, or claim, that they'll never get over it.

Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean to give short shrift to the heartache, the grief, or the horror involved, especially for whoever winds up dealing with the remains (assuming the lady is, in fact, drowned). My heart goes out to her family, her neighbors, the search and rescue people, her friends. She was an acquaintance of ours, a bookstore customer, somebody I didn't socialize with but did chat with when our paths crossed. I am, myself, somewhat shocked and sick over the whole situation.

It probably doesn't help any that a week and a half ago we buried one of my favorite people on Earth, and that a couple days after that I found out that a very nice young man in our community is terminally ill. To make it worse, he and his very nice young wife are the very picture of devotion. But I guess that's part of my point. If you live in a community, as opposed to off in your own little world, you run into this sort of heartache all the time. Frequency doesn't make it easy. It doesn't make it seem normal. It is, truly, heartache. Tragic. Difficult. Painful. But it is, for all that, surprisingly common. And it doesn't ruin you for life. It might - perhaps should - stagger you for a bit (would you rather be heartless?), but it doesn't ruin you for life, especially if you have the decency to pitch in to help those staggered more by the calamity than yourself. (It helps to know you've done something, for one thing. And you can draw on the strength of others if you only work beside them. Etc.)

But here's the deal (I am coming to the "modern smelling salts" business, really...). In college, I remember, my friends and I read in the newspaper about someone finding the body of a woman who had been dead a few days, and we sat around claiming to each other that we'd never recover from finding a body that had been dead a few days. Never.

In hindsight, I can see we did that sort of thing rather a lot. We were never going to get over this or that or the other thing. I don't know where the grown-ups were: whether they didn't catch us at this sort of nonsense, or didn't care, or thought it was cute, or considered it harmless. Harmless, my foot. If you practice thinking of yourself as fragile, and breakable, and unable to recover from circumstances, how can you expect to become strong, and steady, and resilient - or reliable, for that matter?

We also used to sit around and feel superior to those delicate damsels of older days who reportedly swooned at the least provocation, expecting someone to fish out the smelling salts and revive them.

We should not have laughed at them, I think. I think, really, that we were more like them than we knew. And in some ways we were their inferiors. The oh-so-refined ladies did, after all, recover from their swoons. We were practicing, on the other hand, to never get over whatever had prompted us to have a case of the vapors. To never forget. To never heal completely.

The oh-so-refined ladies of yesteryear, moreover, weren't asking for more than personal attention. We had an unfortunate tendency to think the world ought to be changed to protect our fragile selves. Not that we considered ourselves fragile. I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar was a big song about then, and we could be caught, now and then, belting out I am strong, I am invincible, etc.

Who were we trying to kid, I wonder? If we had been strong, if we had been confident (never mind 'invincible'), would we have championed abortion? Affirmative action? Punishment for clubs that only admitted men? Would speech codes have even come up as a subject? Hate crime legislation was over the horizon yet; but it's the same sort of thing, isn't it?

I look around, and a lot of what's going on in society, in popular culture, and at the government level seems to me nothing more or less than people (generally people who have practiced modern variations on swooning until it is second nature to them) getting the vapors (right on cue, very often, it seems to me), and somebody rushing to provide them with (mostly harmful) variations on those old smelling salts, whether it be legislation, lawsuits, or optional medical procedures, or what have you. We have 'progressed', you see, from individual swoons, to group ones, whenever possible. Or at least some folks have.

The gentility is lacking, but I still think it's the same thing. Oh, this is too much for little ol' me! the lady exclaims, collapsing in a heap. And somebody rushes to the rescue, playing along, instead of (which might be more sensible, and perhaps better for everyone in the long run) saying, "Oh, for crying out loud, stop being hysterical."

The Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon.

Art thieves (of a sort)

Regarding suicide, from a Christian point of view, isn't it to some degree something like a curator taking a beautiful and priceless painting out of a museum and tossing it in the trash because he's tired of it or has come to think it's ugly (or is tired of guarding it, or of dusting it, or whatever)? In both cases, something precious and unique is destroyed. In both cases, untold numbers of people ('the public' in the one case, 'the communion of saints living and dead' in the other) are deprived of something that would have blessed them had it been left where it was supposed to be.

Disclaimer: As with all such things on this blog, if the illustration doesn't help you, please ignore it. I hardly speak for Christianity around here. I'm just a standard issue middle-aged lady with a computer and an internet connection. (And the sort of mind that pops out questions like this...)

Fashionable = ?

Does it ever surprise you how many people seem to confuse faddish with fashionable, fashionable with sophisticated, sophisticated with savvy, and savvy with more than it is?

Just asking.

Whoever heard of heat stroke in May...

... around here? Yinga. It wasn't just that yesterday was in the 90s, and seemed humid for around here, it was that it was that hot so suddenly after establishing a norm of 60s and 70s for a high.

Despite using several of my usual hot weather coping strategies, I still spent part of yesterday being flat on my back sick, simply from the heat. But by evening, I was back outside (albeit playing with the cats instead of doing yard work) and then was able to go on to normal chores and activities.

Just to add a comic note to the proceedings, last night just before I went to bed I decided to do a load of laundry, in part so I wouldn't feel the day had been quite as much of a washout. I have a washer but not a dryer. To make room for the next load, I had to unload the dried laundry from the drying rack: the dried laundry was flannel sheets. The load of laundry I put into the washer, and then hung on the drying rack, included winter weight nightgowns, a turtleneck top, and a pair of longjohns. Did I mention that the jump to high temps was mighty abrupt?

I see from the forecast that today is supposed to be horridly hot again, but that it's supposed to back off a bit in the days to come. Excuse me while I go shut windows and turn on the air conditioner...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Saturday Review of Books...

... is up and growing at Semicolon.

Crimson River update

Crimson River Quartet has added quite a few more videos to their channel recently, including footage from the 15th Anniversary concert.

Riding/walking to school

I'm getting this second hand, but a friend of mine was talking to a teacher the other day, who said that she was so concerned about kids not getting enough exercise that she set up a program that lets kids get off the school bus at a park nearly a mile from school and walk the rest of the way in the morning, and which sets in-town kids down at central locations and lets them walk home from there instead of receiving door to door service.

I had an inkling about the releasing kids at a central location part of the plan, since several busloads of kids get set loose about two blocks from here every school day afternoon. Silly me, I thought it was a sign that the schools got smart about taxpayer money and were cutting down on wear and tear on the buses, fuel costs, and driver hours. And here the program was started to encourage kids to get some walking in every day... Or that's what I hear...

If your schools (or your family, or whatever) have come up with ways to encourage kids to get more fresh air and/or exercise, feel free to let us know about it in the comments section. Thanks.

The 20 weeks campaign

In the UK:

On 6 May Nadine Dorries MP launched the official parliamentary campaign to reduce the upper limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. The matter will come to the vote when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is debated in the Commons later this month...
Visit the 20 weeks campaign website for more information. For those of you in the UK, there's a petition to sign, if you'd like.

hat tip: Anglican Mainstream

Good news out of Mississippi

Mississippi now has one of the fastest growing economies of the 50 United States. (...We will now pause for the stunned people who fell off their chairs to rejoin us....)

One of the big reasons for this astonishing turnaround appears to be massive tort reform.

Planting delayed by cold weather

Dave Wilkins of Capital Press reports that Idaho crops are behind schedule, in large part because April's temperatures were well below normal (averaging 4 degrees below normal in the Boise area, for instance).

A special home run

Three cheers!

hat tip: David, via Kim Komando

Friday, May 09, 2008

Melanie Phillips on recent UK elections (and a green skeptic mayor)

Melanie Phillips is not happy with government in the UK. (You may file that under "Understatement".) But she does let us know that the electorate in London has pulled off a bit of a revolt. From Brown crumbles; but do the Tories get it? (Daily Mail, 5 May 2008):

Not surprisingly, the Tories are ecstatic at the local election results. And they are to be congratulated on running a smooth, disciplined and shrewdly judged campaign, not least in London where their strategy of getting out the anti-Ken vote paid dividends in the election of Boris Johnson as Mayor.

But there is a distinct risk that the Conservatives will misinterpret their great victory. Already, there are claims that it has vindicated the Cameroons’ strategy of tacking to fashionable Left-wing thinking in order to head off any charge that they are just the ’same old Tories’.

This is to misunderstand what happened in London. For Boris’s appeal was not as a representative of the new look, politically correct Conservative party. On the contrary — his appeal was to be the gloriously politically incorrect, anti-politics candidate. As one voter told canvassers: ‘I’m not voting for you Tories; I’m voting for Boris instead.’

It is the very things that get Boris into such trouble — his shambolic manner, his inability to be diplomatic, his grandstanding instinct to do anything to get a laugh — that make people adore him. Even though party minders zipped up his mouth during the campaign, his appeal is that of someone who will never be corralled by any political machine.

And Boris was running against the quintessential machine politician.

Ironically, Ken’s original appeal eight years ago lay in his image as the Labour anti-Labour candidate. A vote for him was a kick in the teeth for the out-of-touch political elite. But then Ken himself turned into a key member of that elite — and what a distasteful, corrupt and arrogant spectacle it was.

A vote for anti-politician Boris therefore does not necessarily mean a vote for the Tories. Boris himself grasped this immediately when, in his acceptance speech, he said people shouldn’t think for a minute that London was now a Tory city.

For those of you tired of global warming hysteria, take heart. From later in the same article:

The triumphant Cameroons are in danger of missing the point that what happened last week was a mighty vote against Labour rather than an endorsement of the Conservatives. Indeed, such an endorsement would make little sense since, among the issues that most cheese off the electorate, there’s precious little to choose between the parties.

There’s no more delicious example of this than global warming. For the Cameroons, green policies are their totemic proof that the party has moved with the times. But Boris is actually a green sceptic who has called environmentalism a religious phenomenon and mocked green policies as ‘pagan yammering for sacrifice’.

And on this, he is far more in tune with the public who, sceptical of global warming hysteria, are deeply unimpressed by the prospect of green taxes. Indeed, Mr Brown is reported to be about to ditch the proposed rise in fuel duty in a panicky attempt to assuage public fury. So where does that leave the Cameroon carbon crusaders?

Read the whole article here.

Making your world flat

If you get too much input from a computer monitor or TV screen, and too little from taste and smell and heft and texture, what does it do to your brain? A neurobiologist says it's not good.

Fighting for pastors’ First Amendment rights

From ADF announces new initiative to reclaim pastors’ First Amendment rights:

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Alliance Defense Fund announced a new initiative Friday that will challenge the tactics of groups that use the Internal Revenue Service to intimidate churches and pastors into silence on important issues of the day.

"Pastors have a right to speak about biblical values from the pulpit without fear of punishment. No one should be able to use the government to intimidate pastors into giving up their constitutional rights," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. "The government can’t demand that a church give up its right to tax-exempt status simply because the pastor exercises his First Amendment rights in the pulpit. Groups like Americans United intentionally trigger IRS investigations that will silence churches through fear, intimidation, and disinformation.

"The new initiative will equip, protect, and defend pastors who wish to exercise their First Amendment right to openly discuss the positions of political candidates and other moral and social issues from the pulpit. Participating pastors across the country will deliver a sermon along these lines in their own churches Sept. 28.

Prior to 1954, churches were free to evaluate the positions of political candidates on moral issues without fear of the Internal Revenue Service revoking their tax-exempt status. That year, then-Senator Lyndon Johnson amended the tax code to add the threat of IRS action against churches if their pastors mentioned the positions of specific candidates from the pulpit. Citing that rule, groups like AU have repeatedly threatened to report churches to the IRS if they speak out on such issues.

Many tax-exempt organizations are permitted to evaluate candidates’ positions based on the values important to those groups. Organizations which are tax-exempt but do not have the same speech restrictions the IRS places on churches include civic leagues; labor, agricultural, or horticultural associations; business leagues; chambers of commerce; real estate boards; boards of trade; professional football leagues; clubs organized for pleasure, recreation, and other nonprofit purposes; fraternal beneficiary societies; and cemeteries.

"The intimidation of churches by leftist groups using the IRS has grown to a point that ADF has no choice but to respond," said Stanley. "The number of threats being reported to ADF is growing because of the aggressive campaign to unlawfully silence the church. IRS rules don’t trump the Constitution, and the First Amendment certainly trumps the Johnson amendment.

"Pastors who want to learn more or who wish to be considered for participation in Pulpit Freedom Sunday Sept. 28 can visit

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Green before green was hip (and lost its bearings)

Sheila Wray Gregoire writes about living 'green' without being a green fanatic. If only the fanatics would listen, I think a lot of people could be spared a whole lot of grief, up to and including needless starvation.

hat tip: SFO Mom

Monday, May 05, 2008

Traditional families taken out of children's programming

Author John R. Erickson found out the hard way that television can be hostile to the values he holds dear.

Book note: The Sky Beyond, by Sir Gordon Taylor

One of our bookstore customers asked us to find him a copy of The Sky Beyond, by Sir Gordon Taylor. It was his favorite book, he said, and he'd lost his. It took some time to find an affordable copy, this being an out of print book in short supply and high demand. Anyway, my husband finally found a copy - just as our customer found one on his own and bought it, just in time for a friend of his to sheepishly return the copy he'd borrowed and forgotten to give back.

Favorite book or no, three copies is too many, so we said not to worry, that we'd just read this one and then sell it.

Wrong. We're reading it, and will keep it. I have a fondness for tales of the early days of aviation anyway, and this one is a good read, besides. (At least it is up through Chapter 6, which is as far as I've gotten.) Taylor, an Australian, was one of the big pioneers of flight. Among other things he was instrumental in developing workable navigation systems for aircraft. He was also a keen observer of men and machines.

Here's a taste, from Chapter 3:

To carry the experiments on to the next phase I bought a de Havilland Moth twin-float seaplane. I had never flown a seaplane but had heard that the take-off was only for special beings called seaplane pilots; that only by some sort of involved technique denied to ordinary mortals could a waterborne airplane be persuaded to become successfully airborne.

Firmly believing this to be true, I made various inquiries of people who at some time or other had flown seaplanes, and with natural caution checked the advice of each expert against the others. All differed in some important respect. The only point upon which agreement was unanimous was that without this special knowledge of how to take off from the water, disaster was certain.

I was so confused by all this that I took the seaplane out on a good open stretch of water and, ignoring all conflicting advice on the subject, steadily pressed the throttle forward and went with the airplane, which I believed knew more about it than I did. It ran a reasonable distance and with light backward pressure on the control column became airborne quite smoothly and definitely. There were, I later discovered, some refinements to this procedure, to meet different sea conditions and the demands of different airplanes to them; but on the whole the thing turned out to be governed by the normal laws of behavior of a flying machine.

The operations of this seaplane had to be made to pay, to cover the economic facts of life: so I flew it to remote lakes and harbors where there were enough people to provide some traffic for passenger flights. I did the maintenance myself and, to economize on personal expenses and to live as I liked, I camped with my dog on the edge of accessible but, as far as possible, uninhabited lakes. A large Alsatian, he was the most good-tempered fellow, with traditionally good manners, but his formidable appearance was a strong deterrent to anybody with ideas of interfering with the airplane if I happened to be away fishing.

He loved the flying and, like all dogs in a car, liked to put his head out the side into the wind from the front seat, in which he traveled; but finally he would get disgusted with the force of the airstream and would just curl down in the seat and go to sleep. The only trouble I had was to teach him to jump out of the cockpit onto the plywood walkway alongside the fuselage and not to put his feet through the fabric of the wing when we came to anchor...

The Sky Beyond has a copyright date of 1963. My copy is a Ballantine Books paperback, published by arrangement with Houghton Mifflin Company, first printing August 1970. I understand that it was later published by Bantam as part of its Air and Space series. For all that, though, it's awfully hard to find a copy (and we've just taken another out of circulation). May I suggest that somebody reprint it?

Mental and emotional whiplash

I was saying goodbye to a friend at church a couple weeks ago when a man walked up and asked to be introduced to "the young lady." I had to laugh. I'm in my fifties. I'm usually mistaken for younger than that, probably because I'm a naturally joyous person and so don't have many frown marks. But I have enough wrinkles that it's purely in fun when somebody calls me a young lady. Anyway, we chatted for a while, but I finally had to excuse myself, saying that my husband was having a particularly bad day and I wanted to get home to see how things were going.

It wasn't the sort of thing that should have popped out of my mouth when I was in a hurry, because of course the new friend wondered what was up, and so I explained that my husband has MS or something like it (the doctors around here seem to have a binding resolution never to agree on a diagnosis), and whatever it is, it causes severe face pain and other problems.

"Oh! You don't want it to be MS!" the new friend exclaimed, as he launched into a story about someone in his extended family who dropped to the floor at the age of 31 and hasn't been able to move since. My new friend was puzzled how what my husband has and what his relative has could both be MS, so I tried to explain about nerve coverings and how it makes a big difference on which nerves are corroded, etc., but he wasn't having any. MS to him is a mother collapsing at age 31, and being helpless from there on out. He was exuding worry for my sake.

I assured him that our situation isn't as bad as that. We've been thrown to the mat fairly often over the past thirteen years, but we keep going. But some stretches are decidedly worse than others, and we were in a bad patch, so I needed to be off. We parted with mutual good wishes.

Well, we're still in the bad patch. But still kicking.

Like usual, I've run into just all sorts of situations that help me keep things in perspective.

Last week, for instance, I ran into a former neighbor who'd moved across the state years ago. She was standing by a car with a "Just Married" sign filling the back window. The car was behind a moving van. I popped over to say hello, to find myself being introduced to a total stranger. "Meet Carl, my new husband. We were married yesterday." (I'll say that's a new husband.) They'd swung into town to say hello and goodbye to friends and relatives, and to pick up some stuff and a cat she'd left behind when she moved away. They were off to the East Coast to live. It was a beautiful sight, two gray-haired people as happy as puppies, setting off for a new life together. But it was bittersweet, too. There isn't much chance I'll ever see her again.

A few hours after that, we got a call from relatives celebrating the birth of their first great-grandchild.

A few hours after that, I heard that a friend's newborn niece was fighting for her life, and without a miracle she was going to die. The story he got is that she seemed to have trouble getting enough oxygen, and when they went to look they found her lungs looked good on the outside but some of the lining was missing. Upon further investigation, it looked like whoever went to 'aspirate' her stuck a tube in too deep and sucked too hard and suctioned part of her lung away. At least, that's what he understood.

Go ahead. Scream if you want to. I opted for collapsing in a puddle, but I'm sure screaming is appropriate under the circumstances. Bear in mind that I got my info via a distraught friend who got it from a distraught uncle who got his info long distance from other distraught relatives, so I can't vouch for the details related above. But the bottom line is that a family was watching a newborn fighting for her life and, worse yet, it seemed to be from a botched medical procedure. Totally avoidable, in other words. God have mercy.

It made my problems seem small, I tell you.

I was still reeling from that when I went to the bank in time to see one of the tellers gushing to a customer that they'd seen the ultrasounds of her new grandbaby and "IT'S A GIRL!" The teller tossed back her head and yelled "I FINALLY GET TO CROCHET SOMETHING IN PINK!" There was dancing and jubilation all around. Now, gentlemen, don't be offended. This lady has grandsons and adores them, and would have adored the coming grandbaby if it had been another boy, but she has had nothing but grandsons (for that matter, I'm not quite sure she had anything but sons), and she quite obviously harbors a deep craving to shower girly things on a girl.

I was still basking in the glow of that much excitement about a baby not yet born when I ran into a dear, spry, cheerful old man who always acts like seeing me is the high point of his day. That he does that with practically everybody doesn't diminish the fun of it. He told me that his 90th birthday was coming up in just a few days, and he was just marveling at it. "I never expected to live this long," he said. He told me that he'd been down with pneumonia recently, and never left the house for five weeks. But, he said, neighbors brought him food and took care of things. "Yay, neighbors!" I said. "Oh," he said, "I have wonderful neighbors."

This from a man who rescued me once, by giving me a ride when I was stranded, and never thought twice about the trouble.

So, I was basking in his joy at being alive, and feeling good about living in a town where there were so many good neighbors, when I got word that the mill layoffs that have been devastating our community have been extended, and are now indefinite. And that another business had folded, and more friends are out of work.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg...

In the good news department, Spring has sprung. We're still getting the rare snow flurry, and yesterday we had a hailstorm, but between storms it's almost unbelievably refreshing and wonderful outside. I know I say that every year, but I never get used to the transition out of winter. It knocks my socks off every time.

And this weekend there was a prom in town. I'd been too busy with other stuff to know one was coming up, but I happened to be out on a grocery store run as many of them were walking downtown. The boys this year were in tuxedo mode, and the girls were going for glamorous. More to the point, most of the couples I saw were crazy happy, the boys smiling and proud, the girls radiant. They lit up the place something wonderful.

So, anyway, I'm still here. I just haven't taken much time for the internet lately, as it happens.