Open the Door

This week’s podcast is Open the Door by the group Emmanuel, which lead worship for many years at the youth and leaders conferences put on by the Franciscan (and Charismatic) University of Steubenville.  It’s a nice "invitational" kind of song if you want something different from the ones that always get used.

This post also announces the complete reorganisation of our Emmanuel offerings, with four albums that can be downloaded song-by-song or in one shot.  You can see all of these albums (and some history behind them) here.

Is an Airport a Public Forum for Freedom of Speech and Religious Expression?

The California Supreme Court, which didn’t do much for its reputation in its recent same-sex civil marriage ruling, now must decide if an airport is a forum for free speech:

The California Supreme Court was asked Monday by a federal appeals court to determine whether an airport is a "public forum" under state law.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made the request, saying that the state court’s ruling will help it decide whether the International Society for Krishna Consciousness may solicit donations at the Los Angeles International Airport…

The San Francisco-based appeals court said it specifically wants to know: "Is Los Angeles International Airport a public forum under the Liberty of Speech Clause of the California Constitution?"

Having both the 9th Circuit and the California Supreme Court involved is a frightening situation.  It’s easy, however, for 1970’s style cult watchers to dismiss this because the Hare Krishna’s are involved.  But the most important religious freedom we have in this country is that of freedom of expression of our religious beliefs, after which all others follow.  This is an important case and needs to be followed.

I find it curious that the Federal court kicked it back to the state.  Wouldn’t this case be decided on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment?  Narrowing the permissible venues for freedom of expression–religious and otherwise–is a backdoor way to eviscerate these freedoms, just as it’s possible to zone churches out of various parts of a community.  It’s a decision that’s worth watching and praying about.

Construction Assistance Vehicle (CAV)

Every now and then, with all of the new technology available, it’s good to stop and take a look back at some things made in the past, not only for nostalgia, but also for possible inspiration for the present.

One of those is one that my family business’  West Palm Beach, Florida, facility produced: the Construction Assistance Vehicle (CAV). The purpose of this was to provide an underwater craft to transport personnel and materiel during underwater construction. The CAV was capable of transporting one U.S. Ton (2000 lbs.) at a speed of 2 knots. It was intended to be manufactured using ordinary materials and fabrication techniques.

Vulcan fabricated the hull for the U.S. Navy and loaded it out for shipment 29 November 1969.

Below: on the trailer, ready for transport to California.

An aft view of the CAV.

Once in California, it was fitted out with its propulsion system and prepared for testing. Below, as completed and ready.

The helm and controls of the CAV.

The CAV was tested by the Seebees at the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory (NCEL) in Port Hueneme, CA. Below: an artist’s conception of what the CAV looked like in action.

Two years later the American Iron and Steel Institute presented NCEL, Stephen Halpern, and M. Rosenblatt and Son Inc. with an award for the "Best Engineering, Transportation Equipment" for 1971.

Although the Navy didn’t pursue this craft, in looking at it for today, the recreational possibilities of this–especially with modern materials, controls and propusion systems available–are endless.

Obama, the Slackers Candidate

Spengler has an entertaining explanation as to why Barack Obama has so much support amongst younger voters:

A profound sense of panic appears to have gripped American youth, which might explain why so many of them are seeking a messiah in Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barak Obama. But there isn’t much that Obama or anyone else, for that matter, can do to help the slackers

Americans have to work harder, save more, and defer gratification. Instead of spending four years in a non-stop party at a taxpayer-subsidized state university, the middling American student will work during the day, go to night school, and save for a dozen years to buy his or her first house (at a much lower price than the present owner paid for it). They will stop complaining about boring jobs and oppressive bosses, and feel grateful to have the work. Their parents won’t bail them out; in fact, their parents will postpone retirement and work for an additional 10 or 15 years.

Ben Stein also has some interesting observations along these lines here.

Up to now the U.S. has been able to count on the rising productivity from technology and dollar hegemony to cover a decidedly slouchy culture, both at work and otherwise.  But the dollar hegemony is fading and the technology is spreading.

Christian churches could caplitalise on this outwardly negative trend.  After all, didn’t we used to have the "Protestant work ethic" in this country?  But they’ve been too busy with "name it and claim it" themselves.  I suspect, however, that the ethnic shifts we’re seeing in Christianity will also help to move churches in the right direction here, too.

Robert Kennedy’s Eulogy: Seeing Things as They Are Not

When you consider what great political speeches you have heard–the ones that impact your life–which ones come to mind?  For the Boomers, obvious choices include John Kennedy’s inaugural address, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (his last one in Memphis is also memorable,) and Ronald Reagan’s speech in front of the Berlin Wall.

For me, one other should be added to the list, and it was delivered forty years ago today: Teddy Kennedy’s eulogy for his assassinated brother Robert, given at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York.  It’s especially fitting to recall it today, not only because of Senator Kennedy’s current struggle with brain cancer, but also because another young idealist–Barack Obama–has just clinched the Democrat nomination for the Presidency.  Comparisons of Obama with the Kennedys–both uplifiting and ominous–abound.  So it’s a fitting time to recall this moment.

Robert’s assassination came at one of the lowest points in our Republic’s history.  Opposition to the Vietnam war–a war which his brother Jack had helped to fuel, but which Lyndon Johnson ended up taking the blame for–had ripped apart our political fabric, just as the social upheaval of the era had done the same with our society.  Looking back, Robert Kennedy was in a way the first prominent American casualty in the “war on terror,” as Sirhan Sirhan had killed him in revenge for the Six Day War the previous year.

To his credit, Teddy turned his thoughts and the thoughts of his listeners and viewers upward–toward the idealism that his brother had made the leitmotif of the 1968 campaign.  Part of his purpose was to honour his brother, but another part was to perpetuate that idealism and facilitate its turning into reality in the face of the multiple assassinations that marred the 1960’s.

In the intervening years many on the left have wondered–what happened?  And the usual answer of same left is to blame their political opponents–most prominently Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the current George Bush.  But I’ve learned two things in the intervening two score.

  1. People who blame everything that goes wrong in life on others are, by definition, failures.  And that’s true politically, too.
  2. The last forty years, IMHO, were the left’s to lose, not the right’s to win.  I articulate this in my piece Finishing the Job.  If the largesse doled out couldn’t bond people to their government, what can?  Teddy Kennedy’s own career is emblematic of the problem.  Lionised today by friend and foe alike, had he not had his own scandals to deal with, he could have taken the nomination in 1980 and Ronald Reagan would have never entered the White House.

In exploring this issue, there are two things touching the eulogy itself I’d like to mention.

The first concerns the following statement:

For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education.

That happened with a vengeance.  Once the Boomers picked themselves off of the floor after the explosion they had detonated in the 1960’s, they went after financial success with a vengeance, turning careerism into an obsession rivalling anything the Middle East has to offer.  That in no small measure fuelled the Reagan Revolution, along with, at the other end of society, those whose Christian convictions made them unwilling to acquiesce in a 60’s style radicalisation of society.  The result was the reignition of the American economy, with all of the results that has brought.

The second concerns the end of the eulogy, which is a favourite of mine:

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

“Some men see things as they are and say why.
I dream things that never were and say why not.”

The great enemy of true liberalism is statism.  The lofty idealism which permeates this eulogy and much of liberalism’s rhetoric gets lost in the implementation.  For the simple fact is that the state has only two methods of getting people to do what it wants them to do: bribery, through manifold government programs and tax incentives, and coercion, through the draconian provisions of criminal and civil code alike.  Much of the grandeur of the whole thing evapourates in the midst of bureaucracies and the legal system. Reaction to that also helped to fuel the Reagan Revolution; ignoring that is one the greatest failures of George W. Bush, which is why the left is in the position it’s in today.

Beyond that statism stifles creative thought and action.  We stick with conventional ways when we really need innovative solutions.  Why is enegy policy an “either/or” proposition of production and conservation when it should be a “both/and” issue?  Why can’t we apply ourselves to make our hard-working immigrants Americans in every sense of the word instead of either trying to keep them exotic foreigners with American citizenship tacked on or instituting a mass expulsion?  Why do we continue a state monopoly of schools when so many other countries fund their students to attend state and non-state schools alike?  Why do we fight over same sex civil marriage when we really need to debate whether we need civil marriage at all?  There’s not as much dreaming “of things that never were” as we’d like to think.

Today the Democrats have put forth a candidate who echoes the optimism and idealism of Bobby Kennedy’s day, and who has received a similar reaction.  But the problem now as then is that the left simply has too much baggage–baggage that demands control when freedom is what is called for–to give him the liberty to put that precious word back into liberalism.  (We really don’t know enough about him to say whether he wants to do that or not, but that’s another story…)  Additionally, a party that just came off of a close nominating race still divided by race, gender, education and economics has a long way to go to realise Bobby Kennedy’s dream of a world united by its common humanity.

I guess that’s why I cannot bring myself to buy into this new wave.  It looks too much like the old one that, as Frank Zappa would say, started out as liberation but didn’t quite make it.  Like many, I became a cynic in the post-1960’s crash, and by the middle of the 1970’s was longing in my writings for outside intervention to solve our problems.  (We may get it yet!)  But happily the God that put me here was in charge, and I ended up investing what hope I had in what the ancients called “the peace of the Fish.”

The End of Boomerism?

John Zogby puts it clearly:

The Clintons are proto-typical Baby Boomers – committed to ideals of peace and justice but overwhelmed with themselves. They (we, because I was born in 1948) are consumed with being the center of attention, the bride and groom at every wedding, so much so, that the ends don’t simply justify the means, they are one and the same. Getting elected is the game, the final goal, the definition of self-worth…

The obsessions and legacy of the Clintons led to what the American voters thought was their antidote – the election of Bush, the boy who woke up and discovered he was President. Of course, they were wrong.

Bush’s exemplification of permanent adolescence could be seen almost immediately. The big new story out of the White House in early 2001 was his penchant to award everyone with childish nicknames, but there were other indications. Then, discussing the threat of Iraq in 2002, Bush said “After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.”

We soon discovered that loyalty and clubbishness trumped experience and judgment, and an inability to admit mistakes destroyed credibility around the globe and three decades of Republican prestige in handling foreign policy. All the credit that the GOP earned through Richard Nixon’s efforts with China and Ronald Reagan’s tactics to successfully unravel the Soviet Union from within has been lost by the inflexible, inward-looking approach in dealing with Iraq and, now, Iran.

After 16 years, Americans have finally declared, state by state, caucus by caucus, primary by primary, that they have had enough of the Boomer generation in the White House.

Is it for real?  We’ll see.  For this election, however, it certainly is, as neither of the candidates are core Boomers.  Now if we could only pull a similar coup in the church world…

The Confederate Flag: Maybe They Wanted to Skip Graduation

There’s more than one way to get a job done, as three Mobile students found out the hard way:

They say they’re just "good ol’ boys" who, like the song goes, were "never meaning no harm." But three Bloomington Kennedy seniors were not allowed to attend their commencement Wednesday night after bringing a Confederate flag to school on Tuesday.

"We’re all big fans of the Dukes of Hazard," said Dan Fredin, who was suspended, along with Joe Snyder and Justin Thompson. "It’s just us showing we have our own style and we aren’t going to conform to whatever anyone else thinks."

Well, they didn’t conform.  Non-conformity of any kind involves a price; you just have to be willing to pay it.  The original Confederacy is the prime object lesson of that, and its sons and daughters continue in the tradition.

As far as missing the graduation ceremonies, if I had had the option of skipping mine from my own liberal prep school (which had its own Confederate flag issues,) I would have.  My mother found the place so distasteful that she didn’t bother to enter my graduation ceremony in her appointment book/diary.

Syria Moves the Goalposts

Syria shifts toward the Arabs, away from Iran and Hezbollah, and plays footsie with Israel:

The strings pulled by Qatar, which helped end the stand-off in Lebanon last May, are now working to orchestrate a rapprochement between Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who meet King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia last weekend in Jeddah, told the Qataris he does not mind mending relations with Damascus, but wants first to see a soothing of tension between the Syrians and Riyadh…

A closer look at Syria’s rapprochement with "moderate" Arab states, that are pro-Western, is seen as a stepping stone for dialogue between Damascus and Washington. It comes after Syria announced in late May that it had started indirect talks with Israel, via Turkish mediation. Depending on how one wants to see it, it is also a step away from Tehran. The Iranians are not pleased at the Syrian-Israeli talks, fearing that if they materialize, they will lead to a break between Syria and Iran on one front, and Syria and Hezbollah on another.

The Syrians have repeatedly stressed that they will not abandon their allies if peace is signed with Israel, but in effect, if peace does materialize, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the Syrians to continue supporting Hezbollah or Hamas.

When you’re in a position of relative weakness, the best way to survive is to play off your opponents (and in the Middle East, that’s just about everyone else) against each other.  The Syrians, for geographical reasons, are in a strong position to do that.  And their Ba’athist, secularist government isn’t ideologically beholden to radicals, Sunni or Shi’ite alike.

This is simple survival.  But for most of the Boomer pseudosophisticates that haunt our halls of power, with their love of set-piece diplomacy and bureaucratic certainty, this is inconceivable.  Syria obviously can make more progress with this with George Bush gone, which will be so shortly.

But will Bush’s successor be any better?  Obama’s idea of a quick withdrawal from Iraq indicates stampede disengagement from the Middle East, duplicating our feat after Vietnam.  That won’t be of much help in this process.  And McCain?  In all honesty he’s so busy being defined by friend and foe alike as "Bush the Sequel" that it’s hard to tell.

The End of Personal Evangelism is the End of England

This from (and note the source!) Investors Business Daily:

British media are reporting that Arthur Cunningham and Joseph Abraham, American evangelical ministers who’ve been living in Great Britain for years, were told by a police community support officer to "stop handing out gospel leaflets in a predominantly Muslim area of Birmingham."

Cunningham said the officer told him and Abraham in February that they "were in a Muslim area and were not allowed to spread our Christian message. He said we were committing a hate crime by telling the youths to leave Islam and said that he was going to take us to the police station."

The men also said the officer told them that if they returned, they would "get beaten up." It’s not clear from media reports who would administer the beatings, the Muslims or the police.

Does it really make a difference who gets to beat them up?

But note the conclusion:

Either way, this is another disturbing example of a great nation ceding its culture because its elites are too invested in political correctness. They’re so intent on establishing themselves as models of tolerance and moral defenders of diversity that they’re willing to be cowed by the radical elements of Islam that are eating away at their civilization…

As it is, England has become a revolving door of migration, the rotation of which is putting a new face on an old nation. Britons are leaving in large numbers and are being replaced in larger numbers by outsiders.

While many of the foreigners relocating in Britain are skilled workers who are necessary to the health of the economy, the country is experiencing a brain drain, the worst in 50 years, the media say. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development says no other nation is losing qualified people so fast.

Personally, I’m not sold on the idea of handing out tracts in a Muslim area as a winning game plan for personal evangelism.  Evangelising Muslims is generally involves a process of relationship building.  But considering that Muslim communities in the UK tend to be isolationistic (evidenced by the "no-go" zones they’ve carved out for themselves) this may be the only way to get one’s foot in the door.  That’s between them and God, not the police.

It’s interesting to note that, while secularists in the UK (and here for that matter) whine about how retrograde Evangelical Christianity is, they blithely permit the kind of emigration and brain drain that the UK is experiencing.  I’ve discussed all of these issues here before, but linking two guys handing out tracts with the long-term viability of a nation–coming from the source it does–is quite a statement.

Obama Calls It Quits at the UCC

Barack Obama’s decision to call it quits at Trinity UCC in Chicago is one that will certainly relieve his campaign handlers.  The spectacles of Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger having their rants rebroadcast in an endless loop is certainly one that Obama and the campaign will find easier to deal with now that he has cut formal ties with his church.

There is one major lesson in this episode–one that certainly hasn’t played out to the fullest extent–that needs to be kept in mind.

As of now, just about any church agenda in the U.S. has political overtones, implications and the ability to create enemies.  In the past, most of our politicians have come from Main Line churches (the Southern Baptists and Mormons being the most visible exceptions, and they could be characterised as regional strongholds) with a leavening of Freemasons amongst that group.  Most of these had a "middle of the road" message and service style, and that to some extent was to minimise any controversy in the image the members conveyed to society.

Until the 1960’s the biggest trout in the milk was Roman Catholicism.  Being Catholic was further complicated by the fact that you couldn’t be a Mason and a Roman Catholic, a major handicap from a political standpoint in itself.  It could cut both ways.  It’s true that Al Smith lost in 1928 because the Southern states couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a Roman Catholic.  Jack Kennedy had to deal with this in the 1960 campaign.  On the other hand, James G. Blaine lost to Grover Cleveland in part because one Protestant pastor characterised the Democrat party as the party of "rum, Romanism and rebellion."

Since the 1960’s, the polarisation that has rent American society in general has certainly affected churches.  The mild middle of Main Line Protestantism has largely evaporated as the denominations that made it up have watched their memberships decline.  That event was in no small measure because they opted to jettison whatever faith they had and exchange it for a radical social message, and Obama’s debacle is the logical conclusion to that.  On the other side the activities of the "religious right" are well known, and McCain is experiencing some of the effects of that.

That leaves one question: if most Christian churches find themselves identified with one side of the political spectrum or another, how long will it be before the government, at last unified under one side or the other, decides to delegitimise one type of church or another?  Are we looking at the long-term creation of a two-tiered system of churches, one that can operate freely and the other under disabilities because its idea is out of favour?  And what will that say for our much-vaunted religious freedom in this country?

And finally, where will Barack Obama go to church now?  That’s not a stupid question.  So many have balled and squalled about him being a Muslim.  Will he be tempted to go that route, in secret if not openly, after this fiasco?  Pastors know all too well that people, faced with situations at churches, do strange things.  It’s time to pray, irrespective of the outcome of the election, because his eternity is very important too.  After all, Jesus Christ came to die on the cross for Barack Obama as much as you and me.