Friday, March 16, 2012
He's shown here during a 2009 visit to the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana, California.
In the last three years I have grown to appreciate more and more the fine qualities of Archbishop Rowan - his kindness, his sharp intellect, his dedication to striving for harmony between peoples, especially within the Christian family, his courage and his friendship.
Hat tip to Nick Thimmesch
Richard Nixon said in his autobiography, "I was born in a house my father built." The whole Western world now lives in a house of peace -- moment by moment -- that Richard and Pat Nixon -- the woman in the "respectable Republican cloth coat" -- built.
"In my father's house there are many mansions," says the carpenter. The most beautiful is the house of peace. God bless Richard and Pat Nixon.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
The Ely, Nevada native had a delightful, down-to-earth sense of humor. When they came to California for a Nixon library event the early 1990s, the Nixons camped at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. His friends and aides were all abuzz because one of his associates had arrived for the event with a woman not his wife. Mrs. Nixon drank in the details, gestured toward the room where Nixon was taking a nap, and said, "If I don't watch out, I might lose the old man in there!" Then she roared with laughter. As if!
Preaching today to the upper elementary school at St. John's, I instructed them to take personal responsibility, as their cohort's cutting edge, for reversing the troubling downward trajectory of our collective conscience. My lesson included the song below, which I wrote to correspond to the Bible verse they had memorized for the week (the fourth graders, deep in California history this trimester, had the week off).
As for the St. Patrick angle, it proved to be a winner. You take 180 kids in the middle of a sleepy afternoon chapel in the springtime and ask who's Irish, and just watch the hands stretch to the heavens. The song is set to a generic folk tune that you would probably say sounds vaguely familiar and you've heard sung better. If you call me up, I'll sing it to you. Please. Pictured here is one of our student chaplains, Katie, and her mother, Susan.
Being Green For St. Patrick
(In More Ways Than One)
When Patrick was a sophomore
Slave traders took him away
They made him work in Ireland
He suffered night and day
When Patrick was a young man
He escaped and made it home
But God said in vision,
“I want Ireland for my own.”
3rd graders'verse: Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory (Ps. 24:10)
Not only greenest Ireland
But every other place
If you want to know who’s running things
It’s God who’s on the case
The rest of us are stewards
Temporarily, for a bit
If we want to keep the Big Shamrock happy
We’d better take care of it [chorus]
4th graders: Off the hook this week
The fourth grade is distracted
By studying Gold Rush days
How’d all these people get to California?
Well that’s just one of the ways
If you dig up your parents’ garden
In search of precious finds
You’d better fill the holes back in
Or get a piece of someone’s mind [chorus]
5th graders' verse: Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
Part of being human
Is thinking we know best
When you feel totally certain
God’s giving you a test
Let’s try not to be greedy
And always get our way
Let’s preserve our emerald creation
For a million St. Patrick’s Days [chorus and out]
Based on two longstanding national surveys of high school seniors and college freshmen, [San Diego State University's Jean] Twenge and her colleagues found a decline, over the last four decades, in young people's trust in others, their interest in government and the time they said they spent thinking about social problems.
Steepest of all was a steady decline in concern about the environment, and taking personal action to save it.
Researchers found that, when surveyed decades ago, about a third of young baby boomers said it was important to become personally involved in programs to clean up the environment. In comparison, only about a quarter of young Gen Xers - and 21 percent of Millennials - said the same.
Meanwhile, 15 percent of Millennials said they had made no effort to help the environment, compared with 8 percent of young Gen Xers and 5 percent of young baby boomers.
Just as he patterned his troop "surge" in Afghanistan on a successful military strategy in Iraq, now Obama is patterning his withdrawal from Afghanistan on the Iraq template as well.The flaw in the pattern is that while George W. Bush's Iraq surge is viewed as a success, the increased U.S. commitment that Obama announced in late 2009 isn't. Gearan:
By the time the U.S. forces switched to the advisory role in Iraq, the back of the Sunni insurgency had been broken. The same cannot be said for the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, which causes most of the U.S. casualties and functions as the main enemy even if Obama's preferred opponent is the al-Qaida terror network the Taliban once harbored.
As a candidate, Obama didn't see the vital U.S. interest in Iraq, and he naturally opposed the Bush surge. In Afghanistan, he did see one, so he surged. A for effort? Only if you agree, as I didn't, that the best solution was more troops for stabilization and nation-building instead of using intelligence, special forces, and other covert means to keep Afghanistan from becoming a laboratory for terrorism again. If we had known Sept. 11 was in the offing, the U.S. almost certainly could have neutralized the Taliban and al-Qaeda just based on what we saw from afar. We'll now be a hundred times more vigilant, and especially so Obama, since he knows that any attack emanating from Afghanistan would be blamed on his decision to withdraw.
Friends also tell me that a continued U.S. presence contributes to Pakistan's stability and security. And yet according to the Institute for the Study of War, our policy has been undermined by national security-conscious Pakistani officials who support our enemy the Taliban because they also happen to be Pakistan's anti-India proxies. Who need to be caught in the middle of that chess game?
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Anguish over the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon is understandable. It would be better for Israel, the Middle East and the world if Tehran does not acquire such weapons. The U.S. effort, in collaboration with almost the entire international community, to prevent this from happening and to put tremendous pressure on Tehran, is the right policy. But were Tehran to persist, were its regime to accept the global isolation and crippling costs that would come from its decision, a robust policy of containment and deterrence would work toward Iran as it did against Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Kim Jong Il’s North Korea and the Pakistani military.Zakaria may be right. The world might be able to live with an Iranian bomb. But his viewpoint is unhelpful at the moment, especially if the Iranians get the impression that the Obama administration shares it. Israel and the U.S. should be willing to go to the brink to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power. While it's true that deterrence helped keep the peace during the Cold War, preventing the Soviets from getting the bomb to begin with might have prevented the Cold War -- Korea, Vietnam, certainly the Cuban missile crisis, all of it. The Soviet communist regime, whose legitimacy was bolstered by its 50,000 warheads, would undoubtedly have been driven from the Kremlin much sooner. By the same token, an Iranian bomb would not only be a threat to Israel and the U.S. but would in the best of circumstances solidify a tyrannical regime. Better to make Teheran believe that we'd go to war to stop it from nuclearizing -- and that we'd be incredibly generous in a negotiated settlement if it wisely chose to back down voluntarily.
What made his life so appealing to so many? Among other things, Francis's love for Jesus was so explicit that he was naive enough to believe that Jesus actually meant for us to do the things he taught us. And while such a radical devotion often led him to extremes -- like when he interpreted Jesus' command to "preach the gospel to every creature" and so began to proclaim the good news to the birds -- it also produced in him a commitment to love God through loving others, especially those who lived on the margins of society, such as the poor and the lepers. He managed to draw to his movement both the simpleton and the academic, the lawyer and butcher, because his was a faith of actively imitating Christ.
Francis lived in a time when the church had taken for granted its position in the culture. Often compromised by wealth and political power, the church had lost credibility among the people. Many would worship Jesus at Mass, but few truly followed his teaching or example. Francis became a reformer, not through angry protests and recriminations against the corrupted clergy, but through his life of humble yet fearless obedience to Jesus. In other words, he knew that the best rebuke of the bad was the embodiment of the better.
"Many have told me that I redefined the Christian message. I had to. And it resonated," he said.
"God flourished my ministry and my career of creative thinking, communicating and writing back 50 years. Many advised me to use these materials to amass wealth. I believed the better course was to allow my works to generate revenue for the ministry," Schuller, 85, says in the video posted Saturday, the same day he announced he and his wife, Arvella, were resigning from the cathedral's board of directors."My family and I would never receive royalties on the revenue that my materials brought into the church; materials that were created on our own personal time. Then, when I stepped out of active management of the ministry in 2005, in exchange for continuing to use my materials, the ministry granted my wife and me retirement pay that was intended to provide for us for the rest of our lives," he said.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
[W]hen news breaks – whether it be a salon massacre, a homeless killing spree or the all-too-familiar wildfires, we’ll be better equipped than ever to cover it.Been here, done that. Let's be a little more optimistic.
[T]he odds of a brokered convention rise slightly; Romney remains unable to get any serious momentum; and Santorum keeps winning the vote of those earning under $50k. The evangelical vote against Romney remains solid, unchanging, resilient. The dynamic of the race has not altered; it has complicated marginally in Santorum's direction.
It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual. You must be crazy to choose a way of life that exposes you to a kind of hatred. It's like saying you choose to be black in a race-infected society.Editor's note: Barry Fernelius, who read the BBC article more carefully than The Episconixonian did, notes that it was published in 2007.
Hat tip to Norris Battin
Praised by McCain aide Steve Schmidt for its accuracy, "Game Change" indeed reminds us that the Trig story had a profound impact on the messaging and trajectory of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I'm not sure Sullivan fully grasps is that the main reason reporters pestered her with questions about Trig's birth was that Sullivan himself had republished lies about it on his highly influential blog without checking the facts first, an irresponsible act for which he's yet to apologize.
A prediction for today's primary? Not hardly. None of the GOP candidates is expected to go quite that high. This is a great new band from Athens, Alabama, performing live on the radio in Seattle a couple of months ago. Hat tip to No Depression.
We live in a political culture that is so polarized that for some people, the worst thing that is said about one’s political opponent is assumed to be true. Being a Muslim shouldn’t automatically disqualify a person from being a president, of course; but for many people who (absurdly) assume that being a person of the Muslim faith and being a jihadist are interchangeable, it is.
Like the birth certificate issue, the claim that Obama is a Muslim [read: terrorist sympathizer] is a pernicious effort by some to discredit and disqualify him. It focuses on make-believe charges at the expense of real policy disagreements. But in some respects it’s even worse than the birth certificate issue, because it attempts to divide us on explicitly religious grounds, something that America at its best has always avoided.
I served a president who was at the center of crazy left-wing conspiracies. Ben Smith, then of Politico, reported: “More than half of Democrats, according to a neutral survey, said they believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 terror attacks.” They asserted this not because there was a shred of evidence to support it but because they wanted to believe the worst they could about a president they had come to hate.Those on the right shouldn’t replicate a similar tactic when it comes to President Obama. The GOP presidential candidates, if and when they’re asked about it, should do everything they reasonably can to discredit this belief which is, in some places at least, widespread. There are right ways and wrong ways to win elections – and Obama should not lose this election, or even a single vote, based on the false claim that he’s a Muslim.
Monday, March 12, 2012
As I revealed in an April 2011 column based on bankruptcy records, Schuller, his extended family and closest aides--all of whom you could fairly call helplessly rich--diverted large sums of church donations to live exceptionally well. Not many American families enjoy vacation homes in Laguna Beach, Big Bear, Hawaii and Colorado--all private retreats that gave the Schullers much needed breaks from counting all those stacks of incoming dinero. The church's top ex-businessman lives behind guards and gates in Newport Coast--Southern California's most exclusive, ocean-view residential neighborhood that has been called home by mega-millionaires Kobe Bryant and Dean Koontz.
The bankruptcy records annihilated the deceitful, cemented facade that Schuller's every waking moment was devoted to helping the needy. For example, at one point when the ministry nabbed donations of more than $14 million, the Schuller clan directly grabbed hundreds of thousands of dollars while it spent just $22 a day to feed the poor.
It's no surprise then that the final straw in Schuller's decision to angrily leave the church board and threaten legal action involves not God, not the poor, not preaching but rather his own finances. Despite the millions and millions of dollars he, his family and closest aides have taken over the years, the reverend wants the faltering church to guarantee him payments of almost five times the local median household income: $320,000 a year.What strikes me about this debacle isn't so much the money that Schuller earned and properties he accumulated in his half-century of ministry but the number of his family members who also ended up on the board and payroll. His break with his son and apparent successor in 2008 appears to have been a watershed. Was it a dispute over theology, or was a charismatic pastor and leader having trouble passing the baton? Instead, his daughter Sheila stepped into the pulpit as senior pastor. Her sister and brother-in-law had executive jobs with the "Hour of Power" broadcast, and her husband, Jim, served as "director of creative services."
Over the last week, as independent board members finally asserted themselves, the family members were fired. Schuller and his wife resigned from the board over the weekend. Next Sunday, Coleman will take what remains of the congregation and worship elsewhere. Within three years, the Crystal Cathedral, whose remaining non-Schuller clergy promise to continue to hold services for the time being, will be the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, which purchased the building for $57 million.
When we differed over management of the Nixon foundation and the need for an independent board, Richard Nixon's son-in-law Ed Cox liked to say, "The family is the legacy." At the Crystal Cathedral, not so much.
Somehow on Tuesday there was something electric in the usually almost stifling air in Whittier. And now I know. An Irish gypsy who radiates all that is happy and beautiful was there. She left behind her a note addressed to a struggling barrister who looks from a window and dreams. And in that note he found sunshine and flowers, and a great spirit which only great ladies can inspire. Someday let me see you again? In September? Maybe?At the end of their first date, Mr. Nixon proclaimed to Miss Ryan that he intended to marry her. She wasn't quite as sure. The letters he used to help close the deal go on display this week at the Nixon library, where longtime curator Olivia Anastasiadis (below), couldn't be prouder, according to the AP:
These letters are fabulous. It's a totally different person from the Watergate tapes that people know. President Nixon started out as an idealistic young man ready to conquer the world and with Pat Ryan he knew he could do it. There's a lot of hope, there's a lot of tenderness and it's very poetic. He loved her, he was absolutely enthralled by her and that's all he thought about.Those alleging that 37's tender feelings for his bride didn't survive the rigors of their public lives should have heard what his last chief of staff, Kathy O'Connor, who knew both Nixons as well as any of his aides, said in an October 2008 talk at the Nixon library to women serving in government:
The President and Mrs. Nixon enjoyed nothing better than the opportunity to make each other laugh. Since he had spent so much of his working life on the road, the delight that he took at home with his First Lady and their four grandchildren is impossible to overstate.He didn't, but that's okay. Kathy (shown here with Nixon in Shanghai in 1993) remembers.
One day in the late 1980s, I followed the President home from the office because I had forgotten to give him a file he has asked me for before he left to go home for lunch with Mrs. Nixon, which was his daily practice.
I raced into the kitchen, which had a one-way glass wall looking out over the deck where he and Mrs. Nixon would eat lunch when the weather was good.
Just as I arrived in the kitchen, the President was walking across the deck toward Mrs. Nixon, who was waiting to greet him with a smile and hug. He pulled out her chair and helped her take her seat. She smiled at something he said. I’m pretty sure she blushed.
When the Nixons’ critics say, as they sometimes do, that their relationship lacked affection and intimacy, I always smile, remembering that precious, private moment. I even told director Ron Howard about it when he visited the Library last year. We’ll have to see if he includes the scene in his upcoming movie, “Frost/Nixon”!
As I told a Republican friend the other night, moderates in his party will have a wonderful opportunity to shape its restructuring if they lose in November. Conservatives would still be a critical part of the GOP but I dare to dream that folks who oppose contraception, for instance, would have less voice.Then, in 2016, we could have a good, old-fashioned election that, of course, I would still want Democrats to win.
I really don’t have any idea why there appears to be so much more openly sexist behavior now than there was 20 or 30 years ago. The internet allows many people to be extremely nasty anonymously, with impunity — that’s certainly part of it. Pop culture has become more vulgar, and porn has become more widely available, and thus more influential, I think. The proliferation of everything from home video to cell phone cameras to the internet has caused us to become a more visual culture, which partly explains why women today are judged much more harshly on the basis of their looks. We’ve become a much more conservative country, politically, and the Christian right, which is explicitly anti-feminist, has become more powerful. But that can’t be the whole thing.
Sometimes I think the new misogyny is actually a sign of feminism’s success, and that most of the sexism is perpetrated by old white guys bitter about using the patriarchal power they once had, yet refuse to go gentle into that good night. But plenty of young men engage in this kind of behavior as well.... Perhaps the horrible economy and the increasingly stressful lives and economic insecurity of the 99% have made people in general a lot meaner, and specifically made men more likely to scapegoat women for the problems in their lives, financial and otherwise.
Hat tip to Rick Perlstein
The U.S. has two vital interests in Afghanistan: Preventing its use as a base for terrorist attacks and forestalling the destabilization of Pakistan, a nuclear power that could could provoke a catastrophic war with India. No one should think that there are easy answers for the Obama administration. These monthly PR disasters, culminating in this weekend's despicable, inexplicable attack, suggest that our forces are increasingly wearied by Afghanistan's historic implacable resistance to change and control imposed from without. The incidents have further strengthened and emboldened the Taliban and other regressive forces eager to get back into power and reassert their spirit-killing, women-hating medievalist policies.
Even before the shootings, anti-Americanism was already boiling in Afghanistan over U.S. troops burning Muslim holy books, including Qurans, last month on an American base. The burnings came to light soon after a video purporting to show four Marines urinating on Taliban corpses was posted on the Internet in January.
Now, another wave of anti-foreigner hatred could threaten the entire future of the U.S.-led coalition's mission in Afghanistan. The recent events have not only infuriated Afghanistan's people and leaders, but have also raised doubts among U.S. political figures that the long and costly war is worth the sacrifice in lives and money.
If we can't do any more good, then it's time to bring most of our brave volunteers home. But it's vital to remember that Afghanistan isn't the same as Iraq, the war Barack Obama opposed. It began in near-unanimous national consensus. Afghanistan's leaders harbored and encouraged the Sept. 11 murderers. Even Bruce Springsteen supported President Bush's decision to depose them. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, Afghanistan is neither Bush nor Obama's war; it's America's war. Obama is ultimately responsible for the actions of the troops under his command, a burden he no doubt felt acutely when he got the news from Kandahar on Sunday. But as he well knows, he'll also be held responsible for what may happen after we leave, because whenever and however our exit occurs, those two vital U.S. interests will remain.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Abraham Meulenberg, a Saddleback pastor in charge of interfaith outreach, and Jihad Turk, director of religious affairs at a mosque in Los Angeles, introduced King's Way as "a path to end the 1,400 years of misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians."The Register follows up today:
The men presented a document they co-authored outlining points of agreement between Islam and Christianity. The document affirms that Christians and Muslims believe in "one God" and share two central commandments: "love of God" and "love of neighbor." The document also commits both faiths to three goals: Making friends with one another, building peace and working on shared social service projects. The document quotes side-by-side verses from the Bible and the Koran to illustrate its claims."We agreed we wouldn't try to evangelize each other," said Turk. "We'd witness to each other but it would be out of 'Love Thy Neighbor,' not focused on conversion."
An outreach effort to Muslims initiated by Saddleback Church in Lake Forest has sparked a national uproar among evangelical Christians, with some accusing the Rev. Rick Warren, Saddleback's pastor, of betraying core Christian principles and Warren responding that his beliefs and intentions have been misrepresented.
Since an Orange County Register article published Feb. 26 detailed the outreach effort, evangelicals across the country have taken to blogs, social media and Christian news outlets to debate whether and how Christians should forge relationships with people of other faiths.
Longtime critics of Warren have published lengthy online accusations that the influential pastor, who delivered the invocation at President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, has gone too far in seeking theological common ground with Muslims.
Warren's critics accuse him of sending cunning coded messages to Muslims in his inaugural prayer and of being more interested in feeding people, preventing HIV-AIDS infections, and promoting justice than bringing souls to Christ. It's an age-old, tiresome attack on faithful Christians who happen to be called to make life better for all those whom God loves.
Warren does dispute the assertion in the original Register article that he believed Christians and Muslims worshiped the same God. “We worship Jesus as God. Muslims don't,” he writes. “Our God is Jesus, not Allah." This is also a wearisome debate. If we insist, as Warren's critics do, that Muslims worship a different God, aren't we making the fantastic claim that there are more than one? It's a commonplace of interfaith dialogue that the Abrahamic faiths share historical and theological antecedents, especially the monotheistic God of Abraham, Issac, and Ishmael. Islam's critics are really saying that Muslims worship God the wrong way. Whenever tempted to think that may be true, I remind myself that I'd take a different view if I'd been born in Jordan to Muslim parents rather than in Detroit to a mother who happened to write the newsletter for the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. I proclaim Christ crucified and risen, but humbly enough, I hope, to allow for the diversity of God's infinite mind.
The breast-cancer mutation 185delAG entered the gene pool of Jews some 2,500 years ago, around the time they were exiled to Babylon. Random and unbidden, the mutation appeared on the chromosome of a single person, who is known as the founder. In the same sense that Abraham is said to have founded the Jewish people, scientists call the person at the top of a genetic pyramid a founder. This particular founder was born missing the letters A (for adenine) and G (guanine) from the DNA chain at the 185 site on one copy of his or her BRCA1 gene. BRCA1 is a tumor-suppressor gene; the deletion of the two letters disabled its protective function. But the mutation wasn’t immediately harmful to the founder because he or she had another copy of the gene that worked.
Researchers have no idea who the founder was, but they can deduce from historical evidence when he or she lived. When Jews were permitted to return to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon, not all the exiles went home. The ones who stayed behind are the ancestors of Iraqi Jews, whose numbers are today much reduced but who for centuries constituted a venerable center of the faith. In addition to the Jews living in Mesopotamia and Jerusalem, satellite immigrant communities sprang up elsewhere in the Middle East. A decentralization of the gene pool had begun, and the distances between groups acted as barriers to the exchange of DNA, barriers that have persisted into the modern day. When scientists in Israel tested BRCA1 carriers from the dispersed Jewish populations, they discovered that all shared the same basic spelling in the genetic region of 185delAG. But some of the matches between Jewish groups were off by a letter or two, which indicated minor changes since the groups had split. Rolling back the demographic clock, the scientists inferred that its founder must have lived before the groups divided—that is, prior to the Babylonian watershed.