Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CNN's Martin: Man up, young brothers!

(photo: yoel herzberg/flickr)
CNN's Roland Martin has been on this topic for years, and I applaud his voice in the choir. Men are needed to help raise their families!

From his Dec. 11, 2007 commentary:
But you see, when nearly 70 percent of black kids are born to unmarried parents, likely to a too-young mom, that puts tremendous pressure on grandmothers (and some grandfathers), sisters and brothers to take up the slack.

There is just NO SUBSTITUTE for a father in the family. Man up, young brothers!


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's cheaper to keep her!

Associated Press reports that divorce creates more households, and therefore, more consumption. So it's not just painful to break the marriage bond, it's pricey! No news there, but I hope it gives couples at the brink another reason to get back to the counselor's office and try again to work things out.

Love has never been rational, and in most cases, neither is divorce. In fact, marriage has not always been about love. A fair portion of marriage relationships since the beginning of time have been about sharing resources to build a family and build prosperity, if not posterity as well. How unromantic!

But if today's loose-knit marriages are ever to stand a chance of making it to the 20-30-40-50 year mark... if families are ever to build generational wealth... if couples ever hope to build the trust and actually grow in affection toward one another... (rated "R" version - if you ever want to experience the mind-blowing intimacy of long term monogamy...) then as a culture, we couples have to figure out how to "stay in the ring."
Man, I'm challenging you to get a "rocking chair" vision for your relationship. You dig?

Marriage - one long wrestling match - actually, that sounds kind of sexy.

Study: Single households consume lots more

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Black KKK" - Whitlock rails, and he's right!


(photo: Paramount Pictures - "Get Rich or Die Tryin')

The biggest problem facing Black America lies within Black America.

It must be stated loudly, clearly and plainly. We've got some serious work to do on ourselves, and for the most part, White America has nothing to say about it. For solutions, I veer toward family reformation, and more effective spiritual leadership. Too many dads not raising their sons and daughters. Too many churches not connecting the Bible and the Spirit to everyday living.

On the scale of things, the biggest problem facing black America is not the racism of whites (overt or subtle), or even the passive racism of the nation's institutions. Those issues still real, and must be handled separately, but I don't have time for another round of useless "hate crime legislation." Self-hatred is our biggest "hate" issue.

As an aside, this is one of the things that sets black conservatives at odds with liberals - the degree of responsibility one assigns to individuals, or in this case, the degree of blame one places on "others" (i.e. victim identity).

Thanks to Jason Whitlock for a piercing commentary on what is behind the violent deaths of black men like NFL player Sean Taylor. Your "agressive speculation" hits home. Keep the hard truth coming.

"... when shots are fired and a black man hits the pavement, there's every statistical reason to believe another black man pulled the trigger. That's not some negative, unfair stereotype. It's a reality we've been living with, tolerating and rationalizing for far too long."

Whitlock: "Black KKK" claims another victim (FoxSports.com)

The Old School's post on Darrent Williams (May 4, 2007)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

unaired "24" pilot


The writers strike has me a little on edge. The next season of "24" will likely be delayed. Just in time, I ran across this bit o' video funnery on ifilm.com. It originates at collegehumor.com, and I'm sure to discover other guilty pleasures there.

So, in 1994 Jack Bauer's got long hair, and a pager. What a hoot! If the writers and producers don't come to terms soon, we may need a storyline and a few more episodes from these guys.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

When a patriarch dies

(photo by stevacek, flickr)

The following was written for my uncle's funeral last week. He was the last patriarch in my father's line. His passing means the new patriarchs come from my generation. Yikes!! Somebody's getting old.


"Legacy"

“The king is dead. Long live the king.”

England and other monarchies have their succession plans laid out well into the future. They are never without a leader. As soon as the monarch dies, another is in place. The kingdom is never without a king.

Enemies lurk about, waiting for a weakness in leadership, looking for a gap in the wall, ready to take advantage of a sleeping sentry. Today, we give our enemy no opportunity for attack. We are ready to take our place in the line of succession.

As we look around, there are just a few artifacts of such a rich and full life:
A short wave radio,
A Count Basie record,
A sky blue Buick Deluxe,
A thousand books or so,
A painting or a sculpture,
These things hold just a whiff of a man’s impact.

The real souvenirs come in the form of legacy… memories… the things he always said, over and over, as if we would forget them.

His legacy is in his actions:
The jobs he took when no one else was there to do the job,
The tough choices he made when others just looked on like the problem would fix itself,
The words he spoke when others were silent.

For many men, the sweat of his brow resides inside a building that he hammered together, or a building that bears his name in etched concrete. For some men, the sweat of his brow lives on in the students he taught, the scholars he mentored, the family he loved.

We feel his legacy when we remember his touch. We are imprinted by his style. Funny how some things pass so naturally from generation to generation.

Are we more than a picture on a wall? When a child asks, “who is that,” what will we say? Let us be known not just by the deeds on our resume. Let us be known by the things we care about. Let us be remembered by our passion.

Yes, tell the stories, and remember what you hear today. Tell the stories to others, and write them down if you can. The details get kind of sketchy over time. Take pictures today. Put time into building the slide show. Those who are bored by the stories of past trials and triumphs just don’t get it. We’re smarter and richer when we learn from our mothers and fathers.

A fool ignores history. An absolute fool ignores his own family’s history.

We are in a generational battle. We are trying to build our place in this land, and our challenge is to take our parents’ fight to the next level.

Yes, we can vote. Yes, we can eat in any restaurant or sleep in any hotel we can afford. Now what? Can we build businesses? Can we write best sellers? Can we hold on to the faith of our fathers? Can we build strong families?

We take our place, standing on shoulders of the elders. Standing up here, we can see out beyond the horizon.

I bid welcome to the new patriarchs and new matriarchs. Do you feel ready? It doesn’t matter. Jesus asked the Father, “take this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”

We stand because we must. Today, leadership is thrust upon us. And the younger ones look to us, to see how far they can go. Almighty God, help us be wise. Give us strength for the simple and profound task of being a role model.

The king is dead. Long live the king. We’ll never forget you, Uncle John.



# # #

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day 2007


All wars are popular for the first thirty days.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

It is well that war is so terrible; else we would grow too fond of it.
Robert E. Lee, at the battle of Fredericksburg, 1862

Here’s one for the grunts, jarheads and glory hounds, the fly boys and swabbies, SEALs and Green Berets and Rangers and all the others who serve under the Department of Defense.

The founding fellows had just finished a long war of independence (1783), so it appears their priority at the beginning was forming a more perfect Union. The U.S. Constitution doesn’t get to the war stuff until Article 1 (Legislative branch), section 8.

Taking a clue from the preamble of the Constitution, the whole point of military service is ultimately and finally at its core the preservation of the Union, as expressed in the Constitution.

It’s all about the Constitution. It’s in the President’s oath, and every civil servant’s oath. It’s in the military oath. We ask our military to commit entirely to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Not the borders, not the people, not friends and relatives, nor petroleum supplies, nor baseball, nor Hollywood, nor the burger shack, nor our beefy and elegant automobiles, nor any of the romantic things we cherish as most American and most worth defending.

It’s about defending the ideal, even where yet unattained, of the Constitution.

The parades, the fly-bys, the salutes, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the uniforms, the rank, the obstacle courses, the light weapons, the heavy artillery, the planes, boats, and humvees, the nukes…, the GI Bill, the VA home loan, the commissary and PX, the flags at the cemetery, all of it is for one single, solitary purpose: to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

So I salute you. Thanks. It’s a big idea, and a grand notion, and as a nation, we’re not there yet. But it’s worth it, and I’m glad you stepped up.

Happy Veterans Day.

Link to the Constitution. Read it! Use it or lose it!

Link to a few quotes on war from Encarta

Monday, November 5, 2007

It's hard out here for a ... CEO


In the last few days, Wall Street is rocking as its leaders tumble. Last week the nation's largest brokerage house Merrill Lynch saw its CEO Stanley O'Neal step down. This week, it's the nation's largest bank, Citigroup's Charles Prince III resigning.

I do not want to talk about their golden parachutes. (They leave with millions, having lost billions for their companies.)

I just wanted to mention that when O'Neal said his goodbyes, at least one reporter mentioned that he was Merrill Lynch's first black CEO. There was no mention that Charles Prince was another in a long line of white guys at the helm of Citigroup. Do we get it yet?

True equality is when a black guy can get fired for incompetence just like a white guy, and still get a sweet severance package... and then get hired by another financial firm after a short vacation (like the small club of re-treaded coaches in the NFL, or Don Imus).

I think as a country, we're almost there. Not quite, but almost.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

State Dept. whiners



Some U.S. State Department officers don’t want to go to Iraq to help do some nation-building? No surprise there, I guess, but it comes with the territory, doesn’t it? I think we’ve got an “all volunteer” State Department, right?

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice reminded her diplomats of their oath:
"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Dr. Rice puts in some pretty grueling hours and miles herself (one week’s duty this past October: Russia, Israel, Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan). She’s in Turkey today. There’s a garden spot. Follow your leader.

How can we ask less of State than we do of Defense? (We civilians don’t realize how much we need those career diplomats until we’re in a foreign country and “need” something from the embassy.)

Occasionally we hear discussion about what citizens can do while the military is taking heavy fire routing Al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, and trying to fix the mess that is Iraq. I would expect that more departments will be called into service overseas: Agriculture, Commerce, Housing.

How can we ask less of ourselves than we do of our “government?”


(U.S.S. Enterprise/Slagheap/Flickr)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

10,000 men in Philly

(photo: Akira Suwa, Phila. Inquirer)

Things are bad in Philadelphia. Highest murder rate among 10 largest U.S. cities. Highest violent crime rate - up 5.9 percent last year. Property crimes down nationwide, but up in Philly 3.6 percent. (Phila. Inquirer 6/5/07, FBI)

In October, the city's police commissioner Sylvester Johnson called for help with his city's crime epidemic. 10,000 men could help with that - 10,000 men who were committed, trained and organized for the task.

The critics are so predictable. "Vigilantism!" "It's naive." And always, "Who's going to pay for it?"

But there's a powerful tonic at work when society demands something positive from its men. The quotes from the Oct. 21st rally were stirring.

Temple professor Molefi Kete Asante said of the scale of violence in the African-American community:
"Ours is not just a crisis of homicide, this is a crisis of suicide."
He concluded by exhorting the crowd, "Up, up, you mighty men. We can accomplish what we must!"

(Phila. Daily News, Oct. 22, 2007)

I'm a sucker for that kind of rhetoric. The alternatives, mindless rap, petty and dispassionate complaints, and silence, do nothing for me at all.

One editorial at Philly.com called for "10,000 jobs, not 10,000 men." They don't get that society suffers when men check out, or are cut out of the community picture. I say we call for each and every man who is a father to step up and engage with their children. I'd call it "10,000 dads." Regardless, these guys are part of the solution.

Onward, fellas!

Link to the ongoing 10,000 men campaign in Philadelphia.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A New Barbershop

I just found my new favorite radio feature, called “Barbershop: What’s the Buzz.” It comes courtesy of NPR and Michel Martin every Friday on her mid-talk talk show Tell Me More.

There’s nothing like four brothers hanging out at the bastion of masculinity, the barbershop. Let the opinions run. Speak off the top. Say it like you feel it. No reserve no caution, only a atmosphere of respect and fair word play.

The barbershop, where men come for haircuts and shaves. No styles, no curlers - only natural curls (well, for the most part anyway). We’ll do our best to watch our language if ladies or children are present, but the shop is mostly for the men.

Coming up on the election of 1980 I produced a radio story on blacks who didn’t vote. First stop – the barbershop. It was all there. Men who never voted and men who never missed an election. Anger and frustration. Hope and optimism. And total apathy.

Anchored by Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette and a couple of rotating bloggers, these guys tackle topics like Isiah Thomas’ sexual harassment case, Bill Cosby’s book on black responsibility, Bill O’Reilly’s meal at Sylvia’s in Harlem and other newsy fare. It’s a gold mine of new black thought from some strong communicators.

A closing word from Cedric’s character “Eddie” in the 2002 Barbershop:
“There are three things that Black people need to tell the truth about. Number one: Rodney King should've gotten his ass beat for being drunk in a Honda a white part of Los Angeles. Number two: O.J. did it! And number three: Rosa Parks didn't do nuthin' but sit her Black ass down!”

Hey, why do hair professionals have the most jacked up hair? I’m just wonderin’…

Link to “Barbershop: What’s the Buzz" on NPR’s Tell Me More.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14681732

(photo: 2002, Metro Goldwyn Mayer)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stand in the Gap 2007

To paraphrase Duvall's Lt. Col. Kilgore in "Apocalypse Now," "I love the smell of men in the morning. It smells like victory."

On Saturday mornings, thousands of men gather in small groups all over the country. Some take in hard coffee, some slough down burnt pancakes. During the summer, some guys are at Promise Keepers, where the Saturday morning music is red-hot and vertical (upward in complete worship).

On Sat. Oct. 6, 2007, I was with an estimated 20,000 men at the Washington Monument for Stand in the Gap 2007. (Hard to believe it's been 10 years since the huge gathering on Oct. 4, 1997.) The vision was totally unique, from David's Psalm 145:4 "One generation shall commend your works to another. They shall tell of your mighty deeds." They put together a six-hour program with four generations of men participating (Builders, Boomers, Busters, Mosaics). It made sense, surrounded by the Vietnam and WW2 memorials.

Yours truly got to take the stage and represent for the 30 and 40-somethings. Here's the resolution I read, on "Renewal":

1. We renew with conviction our commitment to seek first you and your kingdom, above all else.
2. We renew with passion our resolve to live according to the purposes for which we were created.
3. We renew with courage our calling to stand against sin, disease, poverty, and injustice in our world.
4. We renew with boldness our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and are unashamed to be identified as His followers.
5. We renew with dedication our desire to reject passivity and irresponsibility and to live as godly men who lead others into eternity.
6. We renew with resolve our surrender to the authority of your word and its truth for our lives.
7. We renew with hope our vision of the future because of your presence, promises, and eventual return.

Check out the Stand in the Gap 2007 website for more inspiring words and photos. (http://standinthegap2007.org/)
The D.C. area guys are planning to host a gathering every 10 years, in perpetuity. See you on Sat. Oct. 7, 2017.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Say no to crack - ban sagging pants

First reaction to Atlanta City Councilman C.T. Martin’s proposed legal ban on sagging pants: “Thank God! Finally, a spotlight on a painfully outward symbol of inner sloth.” (see article)

It’s not sexy. It’s not cool. It’s just stupid. It’s not me drinking the “hater-ade.” It’s the brothers who think so lowly of themselves that they can’t see fit to strap it up.

Sagging pants somehow became vogue as ex-cons came out of the joint. Because no belts are allowed in prison, standard-issue pants often sagged. On the outside, a few rappers and sports stars (many who never spent a night in jail) copped the “cool pose” in their public dress and publicity shots. And a fashion trend was born. Even guys with belts wear their trousers low enough to catch this ridiculous style wave. Girls are seen sporting their thong straps for all to see. God help us.

Remember the orange jumpsuits with “Property of County Jail” stenciled on the back? They were a brief fashion hit in Milwaukee until police started detaining kids who thought incarceration was hip. How are the police to know if you’re an escapee or not? Urban America continues to be a leading cultural influencer. Snowboarders are coping the pose, too.

It’s sadly funny to see you straddle-step down the street holding your pants up with one hand. That’s what happens when your belt line is below the hump of your rump. Did you miss the unit on the law of gravity in science class?

I remember the styles I wore in the early 70’s, shocking my parents and outraging the authorities at my school. That was then. This is now.

No one seriously thinks that a city ordinance on indecency will settle the issue of poor fashion choices. Nor will it influence the dreams and aspirations of our youth. I wish it would affirm the notion of modesty for our youth. But it stirs the debate.

I don’t want to see your boxers. I don’t want to see your crack. Keep your undergarments to yourself. Show some self-respect, man. Strap it up.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Suicidal pop music


My brother called me the other day to ask if I had heard the new song, “Beautiful Girl” by Sean Kingston. The sure-fire hit has been riding high on the charts all summer. The reggae-laced beat and Kingston’s young, smooth and charming vocals give this song its foundation. But the popularity of the song is its infectious hook.

Damn, all these beautiful girls
They only want to do you dirt
They'll have you suicidal, suicidal
When they say it’s over

Teen suicide rates are up, so the mental health community is in an uproar. The politically correct power brokers even got MTV to omit the references to suicide in their video, but I can’t imagine how to track the song without the most famous hook of the season. On NPR, pop/rock producer Don Was said it would be more helpful to focus on families and schools than on pop songs to deal with the problem of youth suicide.

That was exactly my brother’s point. He’s an old-school guy just like yours truly. His children are pre-teens and plugged in to the latest dance hits on the radio. I can just see him and his family driving around singing along when “Beautiful Girl” comes on. “What?” I can here him shout, before he slams the radio off in disgust.

“But daaaaad!” his daughter protests. “Why can’t we listen to that song? I like it.”

“Because it’s not good for you,” he tries to explain in vain. “I don’t like it. I don’t like the words and that’s all there is to it. Now don’t make me stop this car!” Grumbling to himself, he reaches for the CDs, so he can program something more appropriate for his kids.

Other challenges to love-lost young men in today’s culture drift: date rape, gang rape, and other forms of violence against women. But I’ll save that commentary for another blog.

Suicide isn’t the only negative image in the song. “Beautiful Girls” is only somewhat autobiographical. His difficult upbringing included crime and homelessness. His mom is in jail. His first arrest was at age 11. In the song, it’s age 9.

It was back in 99
Watching movies all the time
Oh, when I went away for doing my first crime
And I never thought that we was gonna see each other (see each other)
And then I came out
Mammy moved me down south
Oh, I'm with my girl
Who I thought was my world
It came out to be that she wasn't the girl for me (girl for me)

In the song Sean’s “Mammy” moved him away from the criminal element of his young life. I’m sure my brother suspected as much about the story of this song. He’s an officer in the criminal justice system, working daily with society’s castoffs and the young men who are dealing with the consequences of trying to live outside the boundaries.

It would be irresponsible to give our kids’ ears and minds over to the record producers and radio programmers, who have never had our families’ spiritual or mental health on their agenda. In mental health terms, it would be “crazy” to not be strict with what our kids listen to on radio or watch on TV, or when they get in at night during the summer, or with whom they go out, or where they go, or what they read. Effective parenting, the kind that advances a positive legacy or raises the “generational IQ” of the family, is full contact and hands-on.

I just sent one of my children off to college. Not only is she changing from girl to woman before my very eyes, my role is changing from director to advisor. My rules were designed for her formative years. Today, out from under my roof and hundreds of miles away from home, she makes virtually all her own decisions regarding media and personal behavior.

When she was an infant, we prayed. As a child and adolescent, we set rules and guidelines, enforced discipline, and prayed. Now, we offer advice and we pray. But she has been imprinted by our lifestyle and standards. If there was any consistency in our choices as parents, I expect that Dad’s rules will inform her choices.

I don’t expect much in the way of moral rectitude from the record companies. Their mission is often more money than art. I spend most of my music budget on contemporary gospel anyway (Go Tye Tribbett and G.A.!) I know better than to scream “censorship” every time a song is edited or banished from the airwaves. Smart marketers have turned protests into record sales for years. Media choices are plentiful, and anything that can be said through media is being said.

That said, we will control the family playlists and viewing schedule. Despite what you might think of our conservative parenting style, we will expose our children to a wide range of ideas, and some of those ideas will be unconventional. I expect my children’s schools to help me stretch their minds and test the merits of people’s choices, and moreso as they get older. As Don Was suggests, we will focus on our own family and schools when it comes to the tunes to which we bounce.

But don’t be na├»ve. Music impacts behavior, the same way attitudes impact action. As young people grow, we have to help them see that their thoughts and meditations (including the songs you sing) impact decisions they make. And good instruction gets more graphic and more detailed as they get older. Scared straight!

Note to Sean Kingston: I just read about your pledge to not use curse words in your songs and rap.

“I don't really curse in general, when I am talking to people. I come from a good home. It might slip out sometimes but it's not really that big of a deal. To put it in my music, that's not the message I am trying to send out. That's not the type of artist I am trying to be.”

Read more from the Modesto Bee/Assoc. Press.

Thanks for moving in the right direction.

Any other pop songs that reflect the hardness of life come to mind?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Jefferson's 27 complaints - Happy 4th!



As a nation at war, and with troops conducting military operations around the world, this day of independence from tyranny begs the question, what for?

With voter participation in the last presidential election at about 61% (George Mason University), and all the Rock the Vote, Rap the Vote, Green the Vote efforts, one could ask, what for?

Tax Freedom Day came two days earlier this year over last (April 30, 2007). I looks like I’m working for the Man instead of myself for the first four months of the year. I often ask, what for?

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Celebrating Thomas Jefferson’s “27 Complaints” (catchy title, ya think?) every Fourth of July is always fun. The grilling and ball games and street corner fireworks, even the big “fire in the sky” show downtown, should remind us of something, but what?

Tyranny. Two hundred thirty-one years ago, the conditions were brutal. It was bad enough for the gentried landowners, professionals and other politicians to risk it all on secession.

Jefferson was so right. We’re a laid-back folk. “All experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Things must have been pretty bad, with no end in sight, for them to conclude that it was better to fight. In fact, when it comes to taking up arms, peaceable men will rely on the need to survive, or the calling of duty.

King George III was a tyrant when it came to laws and governance. (Jefferson’s complaints 1 – 6, 8-10, 13, 15, 18-22). His military tactics against the colonists were severe (complaints 11-12, 14, 23-26). He constrained trade and levied unfair taxes (complaints 16,17).

He restricted immigration (complaint #7) and used frontier battles with the Indians as a hedge against colonial expansion. Jefferson’s final complaint (#27) was against King George III’s league with “Indian Savages.” The monarch’s motivations on these counts seemed mostly economic, not primarily ethnic. (Is racism a more recent invention? Brutality is the arm of economic aggression across all cultures.)

For the full response to his tyranny, see the constitutional amendments. Today we celebrate that we are a nation of laws, not of monarchs. Not of men.

Are we willing to defend this American experiment as in the beginning: “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Citizenship Week!


(Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer/ERNEST COLEMAN)

It’s a week of patriotic notions and nationalistic ideals (pretty tough on the globalists/internationalists who wish the whole border – flag thing would just go away).

The oath of citizenship puts the immigration debate into an interesting perspective. Those who deny the land of their birth overtly are rarely called “traitors.” Here in Destination Land, they are "naturalized citizen," or just "Americans." (Hyphenation anyone?) Their native country holds nothing for them, save family, friends and memories of upbringing. They forsook it all to become citizens of the United States of America.

The oath:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;

that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic;

that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law;

that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law;

that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law;

and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

Is it “fair” that those wishing to naturalize take a test to become citizens? Probably, but we should require the same knowledge of our own high school graduates. Take MSNBC's test here.

For all its faults, the old U.S. of A. is still drawing its share of migrants. It’s positive migration rate is estimated at 3.05 per thousand, ranking in the top 30 (higher if you do not include refugee migrations, the Middle East or the Caribbean. (CIA World Factbook)

Still, the U.S. is ensconced as a migrant nation, with nearly 12 percent of people in the U.S. listed as foreign-born. (Some might appreciate that Canada’s 2001 foreign-born rate is more than 18%)

Dallas preacher Tony Evans said, “we may have all come over on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” That’s pretty close to the truth.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Every day - Fathers Day!


So now we've got a year to get ready for next Father's Day. 364 days on - watching, praying, leading by example, correcting and encouraging, hugging and guiding, fighting traffic, bills, competitors, our own flesh, and all those dragons out there.


A great read from the Lancaster (Pa.) Intelligencer Journal, "Dad's day is not spent in church." The writer rounds up the usual suspects, and reminds us of the obvious, the typical, traditional, organized Sunday service is not most men's first choice for Sunday morning activity. The blog activity after the article is great!


What's behind the full scope of men's spirituality is a much better question, and much more complex. Even if churches (or Promise Keepers events) were filled to the brim with men, one would have to look more closely at a man's 24-7 choices and activities to find out what men's passions are, and how we truly interact with God.


Let's keep digging.


"Counsel in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." Proverbs 20:5

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Praying for "Hef"


I recently had the opportunity to pray for a man who has had a huge influence on my life, and on the lives of every American man, Hugh Hefner. Thousands of people pray daily for leaders in the entertainment industry and cultural influencers. Thursday’s prayer target was “Hef.”

It’s risky to share a private conversation I had with God about somebody else. It is bad form to waggle on about another man’s life in public. Of course, that’s just what fills countless gossip columns in newspapers, magazines and blogs. Here at “The Old School,” we try to rise above our baser inclinations. God help us.

OK, back to Hef. What can one say about the leader of the sexual revolution as we know it today? Hefner said, “The major civilizing force in the world is not religion, it is sex.” Is Hefner referring to sexual politics? The high stakes game of “who’s on top?” Is the single motivating factor in the world most responsible for human development merely the drive for procreation or raw pleasure? Somehow, I think not.

In the explosive 1950s, the young Hugh Hefner was bold and comprehensive in his mission. Publishing a magazine was merely an avenue to promote his ethic, his “playboy” lifestyle. America’s cherished freedoms of speech and press, defended over the last century through a civil war and reconstruction, two world wars, prohibition and a depression, were finally and fully exercised in the 1950s, with Hefner at the cultural vanguard. He preceded the birth control pill and Viagra. He preceded Roe v. Wade and Internet porn. He preceded AIDS and the explosion of teen pregnancy rates. Yet his principles were a unifying strand through these developments. His cultural ethos was central to the last half-century of gender relations, and they were central to my formation in the 60s and 70s as a hot-to-trot young man.

Every baby boomer guy I know has a story about the day he found those magazines, and the forbidden secrets they held. It’s too bad most families and the church have little desire to tell the stories of love, lust and sex.

I dug into those stories, as told by Hugh Hefner and his magazine. I bought into Hef’s philosophy as I pursued all that the world of sexual freedom had to offer. I paid cash money for his magazines. I paid a higher price in abusive and broken relationships, and misplaced priorities. Every day I fight (and usually win) the mental battle to respect women, not ogle them. I receive supernatural help daily to honor the fabulously beautiful woman God has given me as wife.

Hugh is beyond his second marriage now. He keeps a harem of seven blondes as “companions.” Hef says, “The interesting thing is how one guy, through living out his own fantasies, is living out the fantasies of so many other people.”

Mr. Hefner needs many prayers. He celebrated his 81st birthday this past April, and will soon meet his final reward. The rest of us will be left behind to clean up after the party.

LINKS
Check out Steve Gallagher’s book, How America lost her innocence – A history of the sexual revolution (Pure Life Ministries)

XXX Church - Helping to bring a different sort of awareness to the pornography debate. Providing Christians with non-judgemental and creative solutions to adult material.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Men suffer more from divorce, study finds

From the Statistics Canada report, we find evidence that men take divorce harder.

It might seem obvious that men have more to lose in the dissolution of a marriage. Others will contend women are less happy to begin with and so the seperation is less of a change. The interpretations are endless. And the comments to this story are insightful!

Old School's bottom line: Brothers - divorce is major trauma, like an amputation in the wilderness, with no helicopter evacuation. If you're married, it's worth the investment of body, soul and spirit to keep it together. And in the words of Canadian prophet Red Green, we're pulling for you.

As reported in The Globe and Mail.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Thug life and new hope for brothers

my mind is in the depths of hell,
but when i'm walking on tha street, kid, my name rings bells
and I never fell, n****r, I stand too tall.
I'm just a thug motherf****r who was born to brawl.
-- deceased rapper Stretch, on Tupac Shakur’s “Street Fame”

New Year’s Day 2007 in Denver was surreal. On January 1 I usually rise early in the morning to a quiet home, review my appointments from the previous year, and meditate on the coming year. This time, the radio announced the death of a young Denver Broncos player, Darrrent Williams, killed in a drive-by shooting as he left a private New Year’s Eve party.

It’s not hard to imagine the hair-trigger tempers that could have led to this shooting. The Denver Post quoted the city’s gang expert, the Rev. Leon Kelly of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives. “In the gang world, respect is a major issue," Kelly said. "Someone may have felt disrespected. The shooting wasn't random."

Another young black man is dead, killed most likely by another young black man. It put the year into perspective. While the broader society presents many challenges to our young men, too often, we are our own worst enemy.

Education, job opportunities, housing, health, crime, the church that’s losing influence – these areas stack up against our young men like giant dominoes leaning over to crush them. But the biggest weight of all, the gravitational push that presses tha brothas into a muddy hopelessness is the breakdown of the family, specifically the loss of the father.

That’s the feeder system for gangs that are ravaging our cities, boys without dads. That’s the motivation for a young man to sacrifice his mother and sisters, and present his body a living (dying) sacrifice for the gang system. He will make a bid for power by submitting to a beating, or beating others. He will abuse women in a twisted attempt to gain self-worth, and call it playin.’ He will fill his lungs with toxic pipe-fulls of mind-erasing drugs, just to find a little peace.

And in a world-class move to justify his crimes against his own family and community, he will promote an insane campaign to “Stop Snitchin,’” painting it as a stand for justice in a corrupt system. (Denver is particulary sensitive on this point, with two witnesses – innocent bystanders - murdered in the past two years.)

Like a time-bomb winding down, our community faces utter desolation (see New Orleans) if we, as individuals do not pull together, and re-build the essential, elemental unit of peace, harmony and prosperity, the family.

Rather than just cursing the darkness in the hearts of my young brothers who are hell-bent on gangsta livin,’ let’s offer some ways to bring light to our young men’s choices. The life and health of our community are in the balance, tipped one way or the other by our men.

1- GET THEM YOUNG. Make a commitment to young boys. The younger they are, the better our chances of righting their course. This includes encouraging boys at an early age toward courage, heroism and responsibility.

2 – PARENT THEM TOGETHER. As parents (together, separated or divorced), both father and mother must commit to hands-on parenting of boys. In John Singleton’s debut film, “Boyz N the Hood,” Tre’s single mom called the father, saying in effect, “He’s 13 now. I can’t handle him. You better come get this boy.”

3 – MENTORING IS A MUST. Yes, even a father “figure” will do quite well. In fact, there are so many fatherless youth, that only an all-out revival of mentorship can save many of our young men from hardship and failure. This is a clear call for every single man to find a boy and invest yourself in his life. The statistics are imposing. There is no way out of the gang mess without every decent, straight young man to build up at least one boy.

LINKS
Originally published in Glory Christian Magazine.

Denver Post reports “gang takedown” Apr. 27, 2007


(photo: Fishburne and Gooding as father and son in "Boyz N the Hood" - Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Prayer – a man’s job?



The cards are stacked and they're not in your favor,
But you've got an ace up your sleeve,
Get on your knees and fight like a man…
-- Christian rock group Petra

Many a man has been brought to his knees by the prayers of a woman. Salute to the praying moms and grandmoms out there who never quit praying for us wayward fellas. But is prayer a manly sort of thing?

First there’s the posture of prayer, usually on one’s knees – not a battle-ready position, and completely vulnerable. We don’t do “vulnerable” well. But the fact is there is one Being before whom we are ultimately vulnerable. Ask the man who clutches his chest in pain, or the man who awakes gasping for his last breath. We are not masters of our ticking heart. Another One is.

Being knighted, a king’s soldier will fall to one knee. (Prayer on both knees is reserved for private, secure devotions before the Almighty alone.)

Before great battles, though, the toughest among us can be seen dropping their heads in a reverent pause to ask for help. That goes for athletes who don’t want to get injured as they chase a ball, and infantrymen who are charged to occupy land and avoid snipers. There are no atheists in foxholes. Some of us are bold enough to pray for nothing less than victory.

During times of particular stress, I pray and walk. There is a worn circle in my living room carpet where I pace about, wrestling with some issue or another that I can’t seem to figure out on my own. Privately, I can be loud, and gesture wildly, or be stealthily quiet, listening for direction from on High. (I’ve also been known to pray while walking across the length and breadth of a city, sometimes carrying a 9-foot cross. Wanna join me one of these days?)

Prayer is most commonly seen around the dinner table. Those who honor God will close often their eyes as they say “thanks for the food.” Sometimes this even happens in restaurants. It’s a pleasure to watch believers interrupt the bustle of a public meal to give some respect to the Creator, and ask for a blessing on the food, and upon the people who prepared it, and the people who planted, husbanded and harvested it.

(Is prayer before meals an insurance policy against tainted food? It’s worth considering in an age of Mad Cow Disease, salmonella poisoning, and countless other terrors of the nightly news. Two thousand years ago the Nazarene promised his followers, “if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.”)

In professional ministry settings, prayer precedes most meetings. Sometimes it is heartfelt. Sometimes it is routine.

On this National Day of Prayer, many prayers will be public. Jesus warned about public prayers, just before he taught “The Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter six.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”

That does not disqualify all public prayers, just the ones that are offered for “show.” Political prayers, designed to influence policy or people are misdirected as well. The only, singular Audience for genuine prayer is You-Know-Who. So in the context of public prayer, say whatever you want, but know that the One who is listening already knows you very well. The only question is, are you willing to acknowledge before Him that you see what He sees, and you’re willing to see some changes in YOURSELF.

In short, the most effective prayers are confessional. Do you really want to do that in public?

There is also a school of thought that says you can identify with others and pray with them. This is called Identificational Repentance. John Dawson’s book Healing America’s Wounds has much more to say on that. That’s like taking the blame even though you didn’t do it – although you agreed with the deed, or you may have benefited from the outcome of the misdeed. (Remember the Christian doctrine: “If you did it in your heart (lust, murder), you did it.”)

See the article by Dr. Gary Greig, posted at the International Reconciliation Coalition.

Because I have led many prayer walks (guys like moving while they pray) and I’ve been to many men’s prayer meetings, I am have seen first-hand that men can indeed experience vigorous prayer. Men can, at the same time, be both humble and bold. Guys can pray with compassion, and sometimes tears. They can shake the walls with the volume of their declarations.

But you’ve got to get to know the One to whom you pray. That’s what the Father wants, some quality time with his boys.

Happy National Day of Prayer.

LINKS
Cao’s blog on the prayers of a knight
(artwork: "The Vigil," John Pettie, 1884)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Hokie nation mourns



"A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment." Proverbs 18, verse 1

Lonely men are capable of doing great harm. Will you be "dangerous" for good or dangerous for evil?

URGENT!! You must have other men in your life, for friendship, for accountability, for stress relief, for sharpening, for safety, for laughter, for cover.

Pray. Ask God for a few good men. Own the fact that you will be half a man, or a bad man, without a couple of brothers around you.

It's a matter of life and death.

--------------------------------------------

As the details of the Virginia Tech assasin are uncovered, you will be shocked to read about the troubled life of the Austin shooter from 40 years ago. LINK: Court TV's profile of 1966 Univ. of Texas sniper Charles Whitman

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nappy Headed Talk Show Hosts



Before we get into the nap of talk show host Don Imus’ hair (kind of curly, don’t you think?), let’s try to get some perspective on ethnic and gender humor.

His “joke” about the Rutgers women’s basketball team being “nappy-headed ‘hos” aside, Don Imus is not the biggest problem on the landscape when it comes to misogynistic, bigoted “hate speech.” The most dangerous voices of racism and sexism in the U.S. today are coming not from whites, but from within the black community, especially musicians.

I suggest that in this post-Civil Rights era, the opinions of one’s self carry more influence upon one’s behavior and opportunities than the opinions of one’s adversary (in this case, ignorant comic DJs and their corporate sponsors).

Imus’ chief error was to forget that one can say anything one wants about one’s own kind (whatever the “kind”), but an outsider has no such license. It is ultimately defeating in the struggle against bigotry that pop culture’s widespread use of the words “nigger,” “ho,” “bitch” and worse seduced Imus into thinking he can say anything on the air without consequence.

Imus was just parroting from this week’s top 5 rap songs on the Billboard Hot R & B / Rap charts:
#1 Robin Thicke – “I’m Lost without U”Baby you’re the perfect shape Baby you’re the perfect weight Treat me like my birthday
I want it this way

#3 Mims – “This is why I’m hot”
Another bitch another drop
16 bars, 24 pop
44 songs, nigga gimme what you got

#4 Lloyd – “You”
tha boy got dollars
So women come frequent like flight mileage
… Send a nigga a text message girl

#5 R. Kelly – “I’m a Flirt”
When it come down to these ‘ho’s
I don’t love ‘em …
That’s why these niggas can’t stand em
I’ m a chick mag-a-net
And anything fine - I’m baggin’ it

I realize that any campaign to roll back the crude attitude of today’s pop music stands about the same chances as Britney and Justin getting back together as Mouseketeers. It just won’t happen. But someone somewhere must begin to deal with the impact of this negative self-image in the young African-American vernacular. Lest we be consigned to another generation of fatherless kids, diploma-less students, and cash-less communities.

FOLLOW THE MONEY
MSNBC jumped off the Imus bandwagon first, suspending him for two weeks after a passel of sponsors bailed, including Staples, General Motors, Sprint Nextel, GlaxoSmithKline, Procter & Gamble, PetMed Express, American Express and Bigelow Tea.

Altruistically, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves said he felt the heat from co-workers in the hallways. His concern: “the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society.” Sounds honorable. Will Moonves apply this standard to other CBS enterprises (CBS and The CW television networks, cable’s Showtime and CSTV, local CBS television stations, CBS Paramount Network Television and CBS Television Distribution Group, CBS Outdoor, Simon & Schuster, CBS Interactive, and CBS Consumer Products)? Is America’s corporate media ready to take its responsibility for the shadow it casts across the land? That’s a lot to ask.

But again, advertisers were bolting from “Imus in the Morning.” Under those circumstances, the choice was easy and Trump-like: “You’re fired.” Commercial broadcasting is a business first.

CENSORSHIP
The nation’s leading media voices do a disservice to the word “censorship” when they bring it up in the Imus case. In nations around the world, journalists are disappearing in pursuit of government accountability. Laws repress and control the media in many parts of the planet. But here in the good old U.S. of A., you can pretty much watch, listen to or read anything material you want.

A corporate slap on the wrist, or even a firing from a multi-million dollar glamour job does not come close to censorship.

THE RETURN OF IMUS
No one is shedding any tears for Don Imus. He’s a shock jock with a legacy of racist, sexist, mean, stupid, outrageous quips, sketches, parodies, satire and rants. (He called PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill a “cleaning lady” when she joined the N.Y. Times. He called Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz a “beanie-wearing Jew boy.” On the occasion of Yasser Arafat’s funeral, he broad-brushed Palestinians as “animals.” Imus’ sports announcer called the U.S. women’s soccer team “juiced-up dykes.”) His 1974 comedy album on Bang Records: This Honky’s Nuts.

Media analysts say his interview style and audience attract top newsmakers from politics, media and entertainment. He’s raised millions for charity. Taken together, this is called “good radio.” He was paid a handsome $10 mil a year for his national syndicated radio show and cable TV simulcast.

And can we expect prominent African-American “leaders” to carry this banner and not rest until rappers, comedians and programmers clean up their act and find other words for women and African-Americans? I’m not holding my breath.

Look for Imus on satellite radio or cable TV after a nice two-month vacation.

--------------------------------------------
LINKS
CNN: Imus has a history of offending, surviving
http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/04/10/imus.show/index.html

Friday, April 13, 2007

Easter Stanzas by John Updike

from John Updike's "Seven Stanzas at Easter"

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was His body
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

The rest of the poem is posted at Christianity Today's men's devotional page.
(It's good all year.)

Friday, April 6, 2007

The "Wonderful" Cross



Ours is a paradoxical faith, celebrating life, but fully dependent upon a bloody, brutal death. Jesus Christ Himself taught, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve..."
Christianity's leader is renown as a man of peace, yet he is expected to return as a conquering king, a roaring lion. Paradoxes.

The symbol of this ancient faith is the execution stake. The method and means of this tortous, state-sponsored oppression was a slow, agonizingly painful demise. It is from this Roman practice we get the term "excruciating."

The show trial of Jesus Christ is the stuff of legal legend. I want to discuss a different trial, yours.

Imagine you're in a courtroom, just found guilty of the terrible, capital crime. It's a good verdict. You did the deed. You got caught. The evidence was clear and legally obtained. No loophole can get you out of the decision. The judge is about to pronounce the sentence upon you, and from the back of the courtroom, a famous man, known as the most virtuous in the community rises and says, "your honor, I wish to take the punishment for this man's crime."

The gallery erupts in gasps and shouts. Bedlam ensues. The judge has to hammer his gavel and shout, "Order in the court" to be heard. Things settle down and the judge calls the good, innocent man forward.

"You understand that this man is guilty of a capital crime? The punishment is death. The community cannot abide such crimes in our midst. Do you still offer to stand for him?"

"Yes, your honor. Yes, your honor," said the stand in.

"The law allows it. The sentence is death. This court is satisfied." In this hypothetical system, there is no automatic appeal. There are no delays. In a few hours the sentence was carried out, and you're a free man.

If justice has been served, what, then, do you owe the good citizen who took your punishment?
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.
(Isaac Watts, 1707)

Christianity offers life, thanks to the death of one Man.
(P.S. It's Friday, but Sunday's coming...)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bracket anything!

One March evening a few years ago, I was in the Indianapolis airport restaurant. About to reach for my NCAA college basketball tournament predictions, I noticed at EVERY table businessmen and other travelers all working their brackets. This week, at a men's meeting at a Denver church, the leading conversation over dinner was, of course, brackets. "March Madness" is far beyond a TV promotion. The tournament has become a national pastime.

Now, finally, a perfect parlor sport for those not into college basketball, but feeling left out at all the bracketeering going on around you during this month... The Enlightened Bracketologist.

Slate Magazine's article on this new phenomenon (and a book, by the way) is a worthy entry into the contemporary obsession with ranking EVERYTHING. It's no longer good enough to merely argue opinions about great movies, books, actors, sports teams, boxers, tennis players, golfers, NASCAR drivers, country music stars, rock drummers, wonders of the world, frequent flier plans, fondue flavors... or anything else. Now you can put up all the leading candidates into a bracket, and watch them spar against each other to ultimate victory or defeat.

Their samples include: Where Were You When Moments bracket, Film Deaths bracket, Marital Arguments bracket, Ad Slogans bracket.

Great for parties! Leave the affair knowing which contestant is the dominant, consensus WINNER! America loves winners.

It's only a matter of time before university presidents, corporate bowl game boosters and other football gods finally succumb to a definitive national playoff tournament. You don't have to wait that long.

Personally, I enjoy the debate (over college football, movies, fondue) more than the "definitive" outcome. But, in the spirit of bracketology, I'm on board.

Play, and let me know how it goes. And for the record, "Casablanca" was the greatest movie of all time.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Bono wins NAACP Award, a prophetic moment


The 98-year old civil rights institution, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), took a giant step forward at last night’s 38th Image Awards ceremony. Surprisingly, it was U2’s lead singer and activist Bono who may have set the agenda for the second hundred years of the venerable organization.

Bono was given the Chairman’s Award by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and supermodel/TV host/media mogul Tyra Banks. Below, the transcript of Bono’s remarks, followed by links to related websites. Heed the call, y’all!

Wow, gee, Tyra Banks , you are gorgeous. I was a finalist in Ireland’s “Next Top Model.” I look up to you, literally. You’re beautiful.

(To Bond) You’re beautiful too. I, of course, am so truly humbled to share the stage with the great Julian Bond. Wow. Cool customer.

You know, when people talk about the greatness of America, I just think of the NAACP. That’s what I think of. It genuinely comes to my head. I’m also honored to be on the same stage as the other honorees, Soledad (O’Brien), Bill Cosby, Prince. Ahh. So cool. So cool.

See, I grew up in Ireland, and when I grew up, Ireland was divided along religious lines, sectarian lines. Young people like me were parched for the vision that poured out of pulpits of black America, and the vision of a black reverend from Atlanta, a man who refused to hate because he knew love would do a better job.

These ideas travel, you know, and they reach me clear as any tune, lodged in my brain like a song. I couldn’t shake that. This is Ireland in the 70s growing up. People like me looked across the ocean to the NAACP. And I’m here tonight and it feels good. It feels very, very good.

Well today, the world looks again to the NAACP. We need the community that taught the world about civil rights to teach us something about human rights. I’m talking about the right to live like a human, the right to live, period. Those are the stakes in Africa right now.

Five and a half thousand Africans dying every day of AIDS, a preventable, treatable disease. Nearly a million Africans, most of them children, dying every year from malaria. Death by mosquito bite. This is not about charity, as you know here in this room. This is about justice. It’s about justice and equality.

Now I know that America hasn’t solved all of its problems, and I know AIDS is still killing people right here in America. I know the hardest hit are African-Americans, many of them young women.

Today at a church in Oakland, I went to see such extraordinary people with this lioness here, Barbara Lee took me around with her pastor J. Alfred Smith. And may I say that it was the poetry and the righteous anger of the black church that was such an inspiration to me, a very white, almost pink Irish man growing up in Dublin.

This is true religion. True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. Love thy neighbor is not a piece of advice. It’s a command, and that means a lot. That means a lot. That means in our global village we’re going to have to start loving a whole lot more people. That’s what that means. His truth is marching on.

Two million Americans have signed up to the ONE Campaign to make poverty history. Tonight the NAACP is signing up to work with us, and so can you. His truth is marching on, because where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.

And to those in the church who still sit in judgment on the AIDS emergency, let me climb into the pulpit for just one moment, because whatever thoughts we have about God, who He is, or even if God exists, most would agree that God has a special place for the poor. The poor are where God lives.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house.
God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered.
God is with the mother who has infected her child with a virus that will take both of their lives.
God is under the rubble in the cries we hear during wartime.
God, my friends, is with the poor, and God is with us if we are with them!

This is not a burden, this is an adventure. Don’t let anyone tell you it cannot be done. We can be the generation that ends extreme poverty.


Thank you.



Product (Red) Campaign (stuff to buy to help fight AIDS in Africa)

The Roots did a hip-hop and rough but rock-worthy version of “Pride (in the name of love),” interjecting the chorus from Edwin Starr’s “War” (what is it good for, absolutely nothing). A couple more rehearsals would have helped, but high fives to rapper Black Thought and guitarist Capt. Kirk. Rock on!

Coverage of Bono’s trip to Oakland earlier in the day (San Francisco Chronicle)
"We're at the epicenter here in East Oakland of a new rise of the AIDS epidemic in the United States," said Bono. "But I'd also say we're also at the epicenter of the resistance to that epidemic."

Chris Tucker credits a trip to Africa with Bono for spurring him to get involved. His foundation's website is under construction.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Amazing Grace - uncommon courage for the ages

William Wilberforce's uncommon courage is finally profiled for modern audiences in the major theatrical film production of "Amazing Grace." (official site) Named for the hymn written by repentant slave ship captain John Newton, this cinema-history offers a dramatic critique on politics and morality. Think modern day slavery, and the "life" issues of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, etc.

This year Britain marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave shipping. It took decades more for all the vestiges of the human slave trade to be removed His Majesty's Kingdom, and Wilberforce was doggedly faithful to his life's missions: to end slavery and to reform society for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ioan Gruffudd stars as Wilberforce (Fantastic Four's Reed Richards), and that may bring sufficient star power to this biopic. It is hard for historical period pieces to draw audiences without shooting and fighting ("Master and Commander") or a romantic subtext. Maybe this is a date movie for history majors and other university types??

As usual, Christianity Today's Wilberforce page is exhaustive and well done.

Chuck Colson's radio commentary "Breakpoint" shares the mic with Prison Fellowship CEO Mark Earley and points to Wilberforce's enduring heroic qualities, and lessons for today's people of moral conviction.

Os Guinness found this quote from Wilberforce, lauding the benefits of Christian unity:
"Though I am an Episcopalian by birth, I yet feel such a oneness and sympathy with the cause of God at large, that nothing would be more delightful than communing once a year with every church that holds the Head, even Christ."
Other reading... One of the best collection of stories of political heroism to be John Kennedy's Pulitzer-winning Profiles in Courage.
There is a price to pay for pushing against any popular tide. Being "right" in history's judgment is small comfort during the lonely days of standing up in the company of cowards and conformists.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Wrong Stuff - fallen heroes


That's the title most bloggers are going with around the recent mental breakdown of astronaut Lisa Nowak. Since I've listed Philip Kaufman's 1983 "The Right Stuff" as one of my all time favorite films, maybe I'm more legit...

We make heroes because we need them so badly. Mired in our own myriad struggles, humankind is always looking upward for a leader, a prototype, a standard-bearer. That's legitimate (or at least "normal") societal behavior. Our celebrity-driven media is on a hyper-steroid dose of that drug.

We break heroes too, mostly because of the unrealistic expectations to which we held them in the first place. Among history's greatest of heroes, Israel's King David was a superstar of his time, and his scandal of adultery, conspiracy and murder (and kids who didn't all turn out just right) was epic.

Dr. Sanity's blog offers her analysis of the pressures of "spac-e-men:"
I'm sure it is shocking to find out that they have unhappy marriages; engage in affairs; have problems with their kids; act out in all sorts of inappropriate ways. Why, they even get depressed at times. Of course, you don't hear about this side of things too much. Nor should astronauts private lives be the subject of Hollywood gossip columns.Nevertheless, if you treat astronauts like Hollywood superstars; promote them to the public as if they were God's gift to humanity; cater to their narcissistic fantasies; and indulge them in all sorts of special ways, it is not too hard to predict that they will behave just like any other entitled superstar (or politician) whose ridiculous exploits the public follows with obsessive interest.

Perhaps NASA held on to its own 1960's self-image too long, or believed its own PR.

Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log scans the blogosphere for other commentary.

We need heroes, but don't make the pedestals too high. You could break your neck falling from up there.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Blogging the Bible from Slate.com

A "faith" entry...
I first heard of this blog on NPR's "Weekend Edition" with Scott Simon. The author of this blog is David Plotz, who is Jewish, but does not consider himself even an "observant" Jew. What Mr. Plotz and I share is an almost giddy excitement for the sacred texts within the Bible. He comes at scripture ravenously, with a fresh appeal to the stories - get this - as if they actually happened. He covers only the Old Testament.

I have come to believe that the closer Christians get to the Scriptures and to the person of Jesus, the more "Jewish" they become (or at least, they understand more of Judaism). This blog helps in that migration/spiritual journey. Enjoy Blogging the Bible, on Slate.com, now linked permanently from this blog.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Dangerous Man Day 2007 - notes (abridged)

I just got back from the "Dangerous Man" conference at a church in the South Denver area. Some 200 men, stone-faced and ready for a fight, gathered to explore what it means to be "dangerous for good." The conference was inspired by Al Larson's book The Making of a Dangerous Man. His website is www.dangerousman.org.

As written elsewhere, I love the smell of men in the morning. It smells like victory (bad paraphrase from "Apocalypse Now").

If you'd like my notes and sources from the workshop on "Fathering Teens: Game On," send an e-mail to oldschooleditor@hotmail.com. For your benefit, an abridged version is below.

Remember, dads of teens, you have what it takes!

DANGEROUS MAN CONFERENCE - CENTENNIAL, COLORADO - SAT. FEB. 3, 2007
“FATHERING TEENS: GAME ON” -- WORKSHOP NOTES AND SOURCES (abridged)

Among sources quoted from today:
Dr. Lafayette Scales, Rhema Christian Center, Columbus, Ohio

Craig Hill (Family Foundations, Littleton, CO, http://www.familyfi.org/)

THE BIG PICTURE: I Cor. 4:15 – 20
15 - For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
16 – Therefore I urge you, imitate me.
17 – For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.
18 – Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.
19 – But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power.
20 – For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.


Kirk Franklin, Hero

THE CALLING:
The purpose of marriage (Malachi 2:14 – 15)
(the prophet Malachi is speaking God’s words on the “treachery of infidelity.”)
14 - Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, whith whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant.
15 – But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.

Offspring as weapons

Psalm 127: 3-5
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

James Ryle, “The making of an arrow,” http://www.truthworks.org/

Children’s children are the crown of old men, but the glory of children is their fathers. (Prov. 17:6)


THE BATTLE ZONES
What teens believe and how they act

National Study on Youth and Religion (Dr. Christian Smith, Univ. of N. Carolina – Chapel Hill, 2005, www.youthandreligion.org)

Sexual abstinence before marriage – 67% of Protestant teens agree, only 38% of unaffiliated teens agree (p. 56)

Sexual Intercourse – Almost 1/5 of Protestant teens reporting having sexual intercourse in the last year. (p. 57)

Close parent-child relationship improved the youth's ability to select prosocial friends, which was directly related to decreased involvement with violence.
Smith P, Flay BR, Bell CC, Weissberg RP.Department of Family and Consumer Studies, The University of Utah, Salt Lake City 84112, USA. Paula.Smith@fcs.utah.edu
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=11822526&dopt=Abstract


More than 80% of teens ages 14 to 17 think highly of their mothers, and a similar percentage think highly of their fathers
Moore KA, Guzman L, Hair E, Lippman L, Garrett S (2004). Parent-Teen Relationships and Interactions: Far More Positive Than Not. Child Trends Research Brief, Publication #2004-25. Washington, DC: Child Trends. Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/Files/Parent_TeenRB.pdf.


OTHER BATTLE ZONES:

Fatigue

Prov. 24:10 – “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”

RAISING SONS:
Soul
– self control, mental exercises

Asking questions (inquire, dig deep, Prov. 20:5-6)
“Counsel in the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Ken Canfield, founder of the Natl. Center for Fathering suggests we get past men’s classic yes-no answers… which begins when we are boys…
A better approach might sound like this: “What’s one thing at school that went well today?”

Keep a photocopy of your child’s class schedule in your desk or even tucked in your planner. A generic question usually gets a generic answer. But if you get specific, they’re much more likely to open up.
http://www.fathers.com/articles/articles.asp?id=477&cat=4


RAISING DAUGHTERS:
Soul
- "Dating" your daughter – setting a high standard

Glamour Magazine profiles "Purity Ball" for dads and daughters
It’s like a wedding but with a twist: Young women exchange rings, take vows and enjoy a first dance…with their dads. “Purity balls” are the next big thing in the save-it-till-marriage movement. Smart or scary? By Jennifer Baumgardner
http://www.glamour.com/news/articles/2007/01/purityballs07feb?currentPage=1

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Resources for Dangerous Dads of Teens

Rites of Passage
Chuck Stecker’s ministry is called A Chosen Generation
http://achosengeneration.org/

National Center for Fathering
Articles, weekly e-mail, tips, techniques, and TONS MORE!!
http://www.fathers.com/

Focus on the Family – Plugged In Magazine
Culture reviews (movies, TV, music, video games, miscellaneous media)
http://www.pluggedinonline.com/

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

CT's most redeeming films of '06


A valuable resource here for those that enjoy films that feed the soul and the eye. (I'll blog about "eye-candy" movies another time.)


Christianity Today, the magazine founded in the 1950s by Billy Graham, has dug deeply into modern culture, and with none of the finger-wagging that is associated with TV stereotype evangelicals. That's why I love their annual "Most Redeeming Films" list.


The list includes Tommy Lee Jones' "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (rated R), and "Sophie Scholl" (unrated, German, with subtitles), just two examples of the off-the-beaten-path filmography so rare in most Christian circles. (Perhaps it's my own anti-Christian media prejudice?) Also on the list, the family hit "Akeelah and the Bee," "Charlotte's Web" and "The Nativity Story."


So visit the '06 Most Redeeming Films list, and discover some well-told stories that will stir your inner man.

Crying kids, whining parents: hooray for AirTran


By now, most of what needs to be said about the incident on board a recent AirTran flight (crying, unruly toddler, frazzled parents, impatient passengers... DEPLANING) has been said.

The traveling public has given a resounding thumbs up to the airline (92% of e-mails to AirTran were supportive of the crew's eviction of the family). One blogger declared that AirTran is his airline of choice from now on. One can almost hear the passengers cheering when the toddler was put off the plane.

My two cents: the parents are in for a trifecta of embarrassment. Shame #1 - the child was out of control in public. Few things are more awkward. Those who practice the fine art of corporal punishment look for a restroom or return to the parking lot for a clear, decisive, non-abusive swat. Where to go on a plane? If you don't use "the rod," what do you do for a "time out" on a tightly scheduled airliner?

Embarrassment #2 - the threat of a lawsuit. Even the couple said they were humiliated by being put off the plane. What a misplaced sentiment! The whining of adults (threat of lawsuit) is plainly read by all (now 22,000 + hits on Google!) as nothing more than a tantrum.

Embarrassment #3 - the rejection of that suit. The airline was more than generous by picking up the cost of their tickets, and an offering three more free round trip tickets. (AirTran passengers are thankful the couple refused, vowing never to fly AirTran again.) Should this couple have the chutzpah to actually file, I hope the legal system puts them off that "plane" as well.

Brothers in Massachusetts, rally around your friend, Gerry Kulesza, and help him build some loving discipline in his home. Of course, discipline is up to both parents. But dude. Seriously. Step up and help those beautiful ladies in your house understand the essential nature of discipline. By God's grace, they can live down this episode of parental immaturity.
By the way, I actually enjoy sitting next to children on flights. I interact with them, play with them, distract them, and otherwise try to give their parents some rest and encouragement. And if they're uncomfortable or agitated, or just bad, I enjoy it all the more, because I look at them with the "eye," and they know that I know the game. They usually simmer down, and I tell the parents, "Keep up the good work. Be strong. You can win at raising these children." Those are important words for parents in a society that gives little support to strong disciplinarians, but always appreciates the peaceful result.
I am forever indebted to Dr. James Dobson's first major book, Dare to Discipline (1982). When I read it as a young parent in the 80's, his was a rare voice in parenting. He laid out the nature of children, and the terms and conditions for discipline, corporal and otherwise, in the context of LOVE. Brilliant, and still valid. Kids haven't changed.

MSN posted an article on its Men's channel, "No" by Kristopher Kaiyala.

Another good article from MSN Travel: "No Babies on Board"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meet LaShawn Barber

"The Blogosphere. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Old School. Its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new, lively discussions, and new intepretations of civilization, to boldly go where no man has gone before."

I made a great discovery while researching the notion of "black-on-black crime," the blogger LaShawn Barber. Her blog is getting strong reviews, and she is a credible, thoughtful voice on national affairs. I share with her some non-conventional views about race relations, politics, culture, faith, etc. Some of her views are outrageous, and for me, disagreeable.

"I want to share my faith and my opinions and encourage others to be bold in everything they do," she writes. Her boldness is unsettling, enraging... in other words, perfect for the wild frontier of the blogosphere. I'm adding her to my recommended blog list, and I hope you'll visit her often.

LaShawn Barber

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Muslim TV show in Canada


Check out this review of the new Canadian TV sitcom, "Little Mosque on the Prairie." Interesting and important questions, including, "can Muslims laugh at themselves?"

The future of Islam in the West is largely up to Muslims themselves. It is because there are so many competing forces in play over this issue.

Humor is foremost for easy-going, pleasure-loving Westerners. If they can break through at the sitcom level, other walls will fall quickly.

The violent, radical mindset must be marginalized within Islamic communities themselves. CNN's Christiane Amanpour profiles radicals in England this weekend, and that suggests that even moderates and liberals are prepared to deal more honestly with the issue.

Conservatives in the U.S. are going to have to give more time, attention and clout to moderate Muslims. Rather than the relentless campaign to marginalize Islam as "dangerous" and solely "violent," American media moguls (and especially conservative ones like Rush and Laura Ingraham) will have to pay attention to the Muslim in the check out line.

Why should the first thought be suspicion? The American way is to show what you're made of. I expect to see Muslim girls playing high school basketball with their head coverings. I expect to see more Muslims in Congress. I expect to see more Muslims in the business world and at the PTA, participating in the fabric of American life.

It's up to you, my Muslim friend. Show us what you've got. Lest the bad guys define Islam.

Terrorism and "24"

I'm seriously hooked on the Fox show "24." I missed the first 2 seasons, while I was into "Alias," then went back and watched them on DVD. Stayed up late - nights in a row - because I couldn't get enough of Jack Bauer's body count and edge-of-the-seat action. Been watching ever since - won't miss an episode.

Media critic Elvis Mitchell pointed out on NPR's "Weekend Edition" today that "24" is pilloried by some as a "right wing fantasy." I know where he's coming from, because TV is fantasy - almost entirely - and because there are few pop culture references to the entire notion of terrorism inside these shores. (Friday's NBC hit "Law and Order" did cover the matter.) Such an acknowledgement of the reality of terrorism is considered by some as "right wing."

Muslims and Arab-Americans (not the same thing) are also concerned about the stereotypes and racism that "24" might foster. While Islamic terrorists were villians in past seasons, bad guys were also depicted as "Americans, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, ... and the fictional president of the United States."
http://www.breitbart.com/news/2007/01/19/070119145317.ee1pl51z.html

But the "Season/Day 6" premiere puts some other questions in play, and from a range of political perspectives:
--How hawks at the elbow of the president could care less about civil liberties. For them, martial law is always a viable option.
--How there is a struggle within Arab politics and Islam between terrorism and violence on one hand, and negotiation and diplomacy. Yikes! Jack's right hand man in the field Curtis bought the farm because he could not fathom that a former terrorist would change his spots and work for peace.
--And critical to modern day terrorism - how regular American citizens will do anything to save their loved ones and preserve personal safety, believing... hoping against hope that this terrorist guy holding my family hostage will let them go if I just do what they say. (It was said by one observer that Americans love life, while terrorists love death. That will always give the evil among us an edge in negotiations.)

The turning point in American aviation after 9/11 is the fact that no American passengers will allow a plane to be hijacked again (in the foreseeable future). With the heroism of United Flight 93 fresh in our minds, rank and file US airline passengers will force the plane down before we let some crazy person take over our flight. That's why no one is successfully hijacking planes any more. One might suggest that the TSA is almost entirely needless because citizens are once again willing to preserve and secure the peace on board aircraft. (Of course, we do need to screen passengers just to keep the most flagrant offenders from skating on board too easily...)

Each succeeding season of "24" offers a smorgasbord of possible non-Muslim terrorist threats. Consider:
-Tax protestors.
-African-American nationalists (holdovers from the revolutionary days of the 70s.)
-Eco-terrorists serious about ending US dependence on oil "by any means necessary."
-More of the McVeigh/Nichols type, uber-patriots willing to accept some "collateral" damage as part of the "price of liberty."
-Narco-terrorists coming to the US in earnest, packing serious heat in their effort to "crack" the US dope market wide open.
-Eager Latin dictators working on some "payback" for the Bay of Pigs. This could be timely as the demise of Cuba's Castro is near, and the vision of global socialism is nearly extinguished. These south-of-the-border militarists could seek to put "America in its place" by creating fear and instability. (That is terrorism's only real weapon - fear.)
The possible story lines are endless.

Yes. Citizens are occasionally required to be heroes. In a dangerous time with bad guys always seeking to take it out on the innocent, there is a little Jack Bauer in all of us.