Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown.

The Godfather is dead. Long live the Godfather. And live long James Brown will, through his unending string of bottom-edged rhythms, celebratory horn arrangements, and bass lines that jumped out of whatever sound box you had at the time. James Brown gave life to black music, and his music is the river which feeds the global genres of hip-hop, house, and techno.

His catalogue of yells, screams, moans and shouts were as important to his music as the lyrics, often more so. His range of music spanned the African-American pantheon of gospel, blues, jazz, soul/R & B. His blues had a swing of late 20th Century modernism. His whining and crying ballads were convincing. His party songs are staples of every DJ on the planet. Musically, James Brown is a food group.

James Brown gave the drummer some. He called forth Fred Wesley’s trombone and Maceo Parker’s saxophone. His hair went from processed slick to natural and back to straight again, and so many of us followed him, especially the Rev. Al Sharpton.

James Brown makes you move. His music was activist. No one can listen to James Brown music and sit still. He made “the splits” a trademark piece of every pop dancer’s repertoire. Associated Press writes, “His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others.” To say the least. No James Brown – no Soul Train dancers.

The 1968 black power anthem “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” was so fundamentally cathartic that it carried an entire generation to change its self-image. The background singers were moved to the foreground in the mix. It wasn’t James singing it to us. It was us singing it with him.

As a radio station owner, he set up two microphones in the control room, so that as the announcer moved back and forth, you could hear him move from right to left. I worked at Denver’s soul radio station in the late 70s. When the Godfather came to town (a small show at the Holiday Inn dome, I think), he set up giveaways of one ticket at a time, so you would have to buy another ticket for your friend. Coming from an era when black performers were routinely exploited, he seemed determined to watch his cash closely and get paid. He earned the title “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.”

Without James Brown, there would be no Tower of Power, no George Clinton, no Parliament, no Funkadelic, and therefore, no Prince, no Public Enemy, no Kirk Franklin. His musical progeny are legion. Just stop the party. Without James Brown there would be no soundtrack to every rap song you ever heard. Hip would not hop.

James Brown was in the 1986 inaugural class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame admissions, along with Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. His 1992 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a given. His Kennedy Center honors came in 2003. A seven-foot bronze statue stands on “James Brown Boulevard” in Augusta, Ga. “Papa” is in the NPR 100 (

From the entry in Wikipedia: “At around the time of his legal troubles in the late 1980s, there happened to be a Supreme Court vacancy. Late-night talk-show host Arsenio Hall proposed nominating Brown, because ‘He's black, he's liberal... and he's familiar with the court system!’” (

Abandoned by his parents at age four to relatives and friends, he grew up in Augusta, Ga. He had done three and a half years in reform school by eighth grade, and spent time in the South Carolina system on weapons charges in the late 80s. He pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge in 2004.

He survived prostate cancer. The Godfather was married four times, and fathered six children, including James Jr., born just a few years ago.

James Brown’s life is the stuff of movies and theatrical productions, I hope. The full story could never have been produced while he was living, because he would have had to play himself and control the project. While he was living, no one else had the beat. Give it a few years, Hollywood. We need the memory of the Godfather to grow a little more distant.

Favorite James Brown songs:
It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World
I Got You (I Feel Good)
Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag
Licking Stick – Licking Stick
Cold Sweat
There Was A Time
Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud
Soul Power
The JBs - Doin’ it to Death
The JBs - Pass the Peas
The JBs - Gimme Some More
Give It Up or Turnit A Loose
The Payback
Papa Don’t Take No Mess
Living in America
Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto

James Brown, Soul Brother Number One, Mr. Dynamite, dead on Christmas morning 2006 at age 73.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ted Haggard - tip of the iceberg (article)

(Editor’s note: this article was written in November 2006, right after the Haggard scandal broke. Since then another pastor left a large church in Denver, and one of Haggard’s assistant’s also stepped down in an unrelated sexual misconduct issue. Unfortunately, there’s more to come.)
Envy. Jealousy. Gossip. Glamour. Influence. Fascination with the rich and powerful. America’s obsession with celebrity includes all those elements, and high-profile ministers are not exempt. Throw in the politics of morality and you’ve got a lead story that will last you days.
Ted Haggard’s fall from his perch atop the nation’s loose evangelical hierarchy came just days before Colorado’s vote on the definition of marriage (it passed, “one man and one woman”) and the legal status of domestic partnerships (it failed). Pastor Ted’s accuser, male prostitute Mike Jones, turns out to be telling mostly the truth, and he admits he “outed” Ted Haggard for political reasons.
The Colorado Springs church Haggard founded 26 years ago, New Life Church, a mega-ministry with 14,000 adherents, assembled their board of overseers, who determined that Haggard’s admission of a drug purchase and massage was not all there was to the story. Haggard was fired for sexual misconduct two days after the allegations were made public on a Denver radio talk show. Colorado Springs, home to nearly 100 Christian ministries, has been rocked by this national story of “shame under fire.”
Haggard, whom I once met, was likeable, warm, and personally charismatic. As president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), he was an outstanding spokesman for evangelical Christianity in America. He resigned that post on the day the story broke. Evangelical Christian leaders must look elsewhere for their next figurehead. The NAE should take care, for the personal lives of Christian leaders are at risk, and the moral / political agenda of the Christian Right is in jeopardy as well.
I remember writing just a couple of years ago, “Who’s next?”

Jones, whom most local media have taken to euphemistically call “a male escort,” went on the air last Thursday to reveal that the man he serviced and sold the illegal drug methamphetamine to over the past three years was none other than Ted Haggard. Jones says he saw the Rev. Haggard on TV supporting the marriage definition Amendment 43. Appalled by the hypocrisy, Jones went public.
Some of the charges were true, Haggard quickly confessed. He was referred to Jones by the Denver hotel he was staying in, and was “tempted” to buy the drug, but he says he never took it. Jones took a polygraph test at a local media outlet, and showed some signs of deception. But the voicemail recordings hit the airwaves, and the drug customer who called himself “Art” (Haggard’s middle name is Arthur) was obviously the disgraced minister.
The elders at New Life Church must be kicking themselves. Besides the deception involved in living a double life, Haggard’s personal traveling style rejected all the safeguards of accountability that should be standard operating procedure for Christian leaders today.
Independent, non-denominational churches are especially at risk with regard to accountability for their founding pastors.
At Haggard’s level, he should never have traveled alone. How many assistants said, “I’ll go with you to Denver, pastor.”? To which he might have replied, “No, that’s OK. You’re plenty busy here, I’ll be fine. Besides, I don’t like the look of traveling with an entourage.” In hindsight, the board at New Life is probably saying it would have been worth the cost of an extra hotel room and plane ticket.
Men are inclined toward isolation. The men’s ministry Promise Keepers teaches that isolation is a core element of masculine context. Conventional wisdom tells men that “distance equals safety.” We just don’t like getting too close to anybody. The truth is that our natural inclination to walk alone is the far more dangerous path.
On the other hand, I know some national-profile ministers who never travel alone. Either their wife, an assistant, or a friend is always flying with them. Some Christian organizations enforce an arcane company lunch and travel policy “no married men or women together by themselves.” That’s also why offices have windows cut into the doors. For Christian leaders, the “third wheel” is a moral and occupational safety device.
Israel’s King Solomon, who had his own issues with sexuality, even warned about men standing alone in the Book of Proverbs, chapter 18: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment (sound wisdom).”

Unfortunately, not enough Christian leaders are convinced of the relative value of a travel companion. Personal safety and moral security are just part of the benefit of traveling with others.
Over the past 20 years, I have watched some younger Christian leaders rise through the ranks to gain notoriety themselves. But years before taking the big stage, I saw them carrying bags for their mentors. I asked one about that transition from a small pulpit to an arena-sized audience. He told me, “It was relatively easy. By the time I got the invitation, I had already been in the big meetings. I had seen first hand what it was like to function at that level.” Are we training our “Timothy”s?
When it comes to travel, too many Christian leaders have completely abandoned the biblical imperative of traveling in twos. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two (Mark 6:7). Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes (4:9), “Two are better than one.” On the other hand, many pastors and lower-level Christian ministers would love to be able to afford a travel companion. My question to elder boards is: what’s it worth to you?

As a journalist since 1976, I have seen more moral failures than I can count, in business, in politics, and in ministry. Most of these large organizations do have safety checks. Even in surveying the ungraceful White House scandal of the late 1990s, one could note countless opportunities to make the right choice or the wrong choice.
Christians believe in an ever-present Holy Spirit, a Comforter. That “still small Voice” does speak to us when we’re about to “cross the line.” When a simple personal desire or physical appetite overcomes other “higher aims,” we have a way of “shush-ing” that voice. The next time, it’s easier to cross the line. The Voice gets quieter.
No doubt, several caution signs, cone zones and barricades were passed on the way to Rev. Haggard’s current transgression.
The New Testament Letter of James teaches (1:14, 15 Amplified): But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death.

The timing of these revelations are purely political. Evangelicals will tell you that the moral future of the nation hangs in the balance as we vote on legal definitions of marriage and elect politicians who will write laws on embryonic stem-cell research, individual liberty, taxation, defense, education, criminal justice, the environment, and countless other issues, all with a moral aspect to them.
(Note: ALL laws are legislated morality.)
The political battles before us are not entirely about “evangelicals making the world in our image,” as Tony Campolo complained on a recent local talk show. Although conservatives tend to be a bit more uniform and unified than those on the left end of the spectrum, many spiritual people (both left and right) buttress their political passions with the notion that they are fighting for the “soul of the nation.”
Campolo is right, though, about a needed change in the prevailing evangelical attitude. Brokenness, the kind faced by Ted Haggard and his family today, is shared by lots of families who have to deal with substance abuse and sexually confusion (gay and straight). Brokenness is a human condition. “Holier than thou” is a poor political platform, and it’s a terrible personal platform upon which to build a community.

Christian organizations, including churches, political action committees, parachurch groups, etc., must revisit the things that make us worthwhile in this culture. What we offer is the Gospel – the good news that although we are sinners, there is a Savior, and a better way to live. The abundant life is within our grasp.
Let’s revisit grace, remembering the fallen condition of all of us, but for the intervention of a Divine man, Jesus Christ.
Let’s revisit compassion for the hurting and the lonely. They ought to expect from Christians a listening ear, a sincere concern, and a love that is tough enough to tell the truth, and tough enough to endure with them all the hardships of life.
Let’s revisit how we treat and train our leaders. Christian leaders must not travel alone, in life or on business trips. (An exemption is granted for personal withdrawal for prayer.) Churches boards must get beyond all the pretty and fashionable exteriors, to make sure that their leaders are getting the tangible support they need (including travel budgets, vacations, leaves of absence, confidential counseling), as well as mutual accountability. In fact, all genuine accountability is invited and mutual.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lament for James Kim - desperate dad and hero

Millions tracked the search for the Kim family, missing for 14 days after the Thanksgiving holiday. Like the little girl in the well, or any community search, we were elated when the family was found, and we worried when dad was not with them.

A couple of observations:

  • I'm not sure I would have thought of burning the tires for heat, as they did. James Kim only left when they burned their last tire - the spare tire.

  • Kim walked for 16 miles before succumbing to the damp cold.

  • He may have died the same day his family was rescued, two days after he went for help.
As all the mistakes of the trip (and the regrets of their life) gnawed at them in that stranded Saab station wagon, I can only imagine the tenor of the conversations. Love. Anger. Fear. Faith. Love. And finally, desperation.

A man must take action. It's the hardest thing in the world for us to just sit and wait. Photograpers will tell you to let the "shot" come to you. Football linebackers will "read" or intuit that a play is developing in a certain way, and flow toward the action to make their tackle. But it's the hardest thing in the world to just sit and wait. On Saturday, a week after getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, all other options were gone. James had to make something happen or the unthinkable might occur. It is a move any of us would have made. Set out with flags and banners (clothes), and find help. It is what a man does. Provide, protect, and pursue. I'm so sorry that you lost your life, but it was for a great and noble cause. May your wife and daughters never forget your courage.

As more facts emerge, authorities and outdoorsmen will reflect on missed opportunities and the several mistakes that were made, both by the Kims and those on the search. In the meantime, let's mourn with the Kim family, and take good care of James' widow and orphans. He earned at least that much, and we owe that much as our Christian duty.

(from FOURTEEN DAYS LOST - Mileage
Route of car traveled on logging road BLM 34-8-36: 21.3 miles
James Kim's hike out on road: 11.5 miles
James Kim's hike down Big Windy Creek ravine: 4.7 miles
Total miles walked by James Kim: 16.2 miles
Distance to Black Bar Lodge from car (straight line): 3 miles

San Francisco Chronicle ( coverage:

CNN's coverage:

Monday, December 4, 2006

Women depend on men - can we handle it?

Since this blog presents a male perspective, readers might find its views unbalanced. That's perfectly OK. I'm on much safer ground talking about the responsibilities of men, and leave the woman question to women. (However, just because I don't understand women, that doesn't mean I'm not trying!)

Courtesy of London's Daily Mail, a behavioral psychologist says that no matter how rich, powerful and successful women become, they are most naturally inclined to want to depend upon a strong man for provision and protection. Get this:

When couples meet at speed-dating evenings, typically a man will judge a woman on her looks and youth. His priorities are whether she's healthy, interested in sex and can give him children one day. He doesn't care how much she earns or her social status.
Typically, however, a woman's first question will be: 'What job do you do?' It sounds a friendly overture, but what she really wants to know is his social position and earning capacity. Is he an industrious, hard worker, capable of providing for her and their children?

As if that weren't enough, Dr. Nick Neave adds, "As American statesman Henry Kissinger put it: 'Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.'" The good doctor must be cruising for a bruising. If this research is taken seriously, he could set back sexual politics for decades. Or, if he is correct, the sexual revolution did not change men's and women's core motivations after all.

Consider this: if a woman wants a career, success and professional fulfillment, that still will not satisfy her expectations of a "real man." If a man wants to sow his wild oats with every "Fergielicious" babe he can score, that will not secure his legacy.

There's no school like the old school.

Read the article:

Beware the dormant blog - 'tis utter death

The notion of publishing one's own thoughts for the world to see was once the domain of magnates, barons of industry, captains of communication. You know, Charles Foster Kane types. Thanks to the blogosphere, however, any old schmo can spout off at the keyboard, with nary a brain cell engaged.

But all is lost if you don't keep that blog poppin'! Let two weeks pass (like I just did), and you have to start all over, getting people to visit, and hopefully, tell their friends about what they read.

Since I'm still in beta-mode, I'll survive, I think. And this posting will be several items down in the chain before I really crank up the publicity. I'm warning you, though. Don't start one of these blog things if you're not ready to toss and turn all night, sweating out the missed day, or missed issue.


(By the way, I'm seriously stuck on a technical coding matter. How can I effectively post a "teaser" paragraph, then give you, the reader, a way to read more, if you so desire? I'm writing longer form articles that will generate some good discussion, but I can't post them until I get this beta-blogger system figured out. So far, all the chatter on the forums has been fruitless.
Signed, Code Challenged in Colorado)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

CT on men's ministry: a 50 year priority

Don't miss the probing and future-oriented cover story from Christianity Today's October 2006 issue, which included a paragraph on ministry to men (they noticed!). The entire article is valuable, so I hope you'll follow the link and ponder where the U.S. evangelical Church is headed. Here's the graph:

"Few pastors mention gender, but Robert Lewis of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle both see ministry to men as the future's key challenge. Lewis considers men 'the lost gender,' while Driscoll highlights a crying need for proclaiming a manly Jesus, lest 'increasingly impotent churches [become] filled with mere handfuls of nice church boys standing around drinking decaf while the world goes to hell.'"

Christianity Today, "What's Next? 114 leaders on evangelical priorities for the next 50 years"

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ed Bradley obit

Thanks for setting such a high bar, Mr. Bradley. Now, over to you, Deborah Mathis for your salute, posted on, "Remembering the Old School Cool of Ed Bradley."
Also, see the very nice page of journalism remembrance on the CBS News memorial page, including Wynton Marsalis video!

Ministers and scientists in the same room?!

The hallway outside the banquet room was bustling as 200 ministers checked in for their “free breakfast,” sponsored by a local Christian radio station. It was part of October’s “Clergy Appreciation Month.” If you only knew what our beleaguered ministers have to go through for the privilege of “shepherding the flock.” One free breakfast (and a bag of freebies) is a step in the right direction.

In the adjoining meeting room was the “Scientific Society for the Study of the Origin of the Universe” (or something like that). Cool! What if somebody (mischievous me) switched the placards halfway through the reception period. We could end up with a room half full of ministers who profess to know the creator of the universe, and half full of scientists who are working up theories and details on exactly how the whole inter-galactic stew got cooked up.

The scientific and the spiritual. The physical and the metaphysical. Faith and works. Are they really that far apart? Now that would be some interesting table conversation.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A shot from early in the Iraq war

(Romeo Gacad, AFP)

Remember the troops in your prayers daily. Let's pray them home (in addition to all our other agitations)!

The Old School Blog first post ever

The Old School Blog (subtitled "Chivalry, Courage, Fear, Faith, and other random thoughts on men and manhood in news and culture") is a gathering spot for ideas about what makes a man. As you may infer from the name of the blog, I’m leaning toward a simpler time, when men were men and didn’t need to get in touch with their feelings. Men felt and they acted. Now enlightened, men ponder and opine, but too often hesitate and remain silent.

The world is dying for men who would speak and act from their best self, their true self. “Red bandana” men (you’ll read about them later, if you haven’t already received the 9/11 e-mail). Titanic men and boys (you’ll hear about them later – throwbacks to the days of chivalry). Mad dads. Valiant sons. Wise mentors and grand-dads.

Here’s to the “old school” brothers, and the women and society dying for them to remember themselves and start acting like it.