December 31, 2008
Here’s what we’re looking at today.
“Roland Burris Watered Down Abortion-Infanticide Law Barack Obama Refused to Fix,” Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com (December 30, 2008)
“Most Neb. lawmakers favor abortion ban,” Associated Press (December 30, 2008)
“ACLU Taking Act One to Court,” MSNBC (December 30, 2008)
“Lots of Flawed Arguments About Gay Marriage,” Conor Friedersdorf, Culture11.com (December 31, 2008)
“Abstinence pledges are having an effect!,” Michael Landauer, The Dallas Morning News (December 30, 2008)
December 30, 2008
The Rosenbaum study comparing the sexual behavior of “virginity pledgers and nonpledgers” is a distraction from increasingly effective risk avoidance, or abstinence-centered, health prevention programs. Such programs are not the same as virginity pledge programs, and have stronger foundations in behavioral change than such pledges. The implication that this study should discredit federally funded abstinence programs for youth misses the boat from a behavioral science standpoint.
There are important ways in which abstinence programs are different from “virginity pledge” presentations. In order to accomplish behavior change or have a person successfully practice a specific behavior, precursors affecting that behavior have to be influenced. These include things such as knowledge as well as attitudes and intentions towards the behavior. The theoretical construct viewed as having the strongest effect on practicing a behavior is “self-efficacy.” Self-efficacy is the belief of a person that he or she can actually practice the behavior - the belief that they can actually do it successfully. Abstinence education programs teach skills in communication and refusal and impart additional information to youth for example about healthy relationships, goal setting, disease prevention, and social responsibility. All these elements serve to better equip youth, thus increasing self-efficacy. Collectively they provide a holistic health message helping youth to navigate the practice of sexual abstinence until marriage. Additionally, the longer the duration of the intervention or program, the more the health message, information, and skills imparted are reinforced. Such important program content cannot be adequately summed up and delivered during a short-term or one-time presentation. And if youth do slip on this behavior, the abstinence programs provide a sound foundation for returning to the practice of abstinence, whereas virginity pledges can leave one feeling as though there is utter failure for a return to the behavior.
Scholars are still building an evidence base for this relatively young field of abstinence education health promotion/disease prevention programs. Studying what is most successful within abstinence curricula to determine the best prevention practices would be a better use of research time and funding. Guiding youth away from high-risk behaviors which act to the detriment of both their physical and emotional health needs to be at the forefront of prevention strategies.
December 30, 2008
I remember the scene clearly. It was the first time I’d ever fired a weapon. It was March, 1969, in Cape May, New Jersey. Our Coast Guard recruit company was banging away at the targets. Some of the fellows in Lima 74 were actually in the “butts,” a sheltered trench, where they strained at the lines to haul the heavy padded targets up and down to mark the points where we had hit our marks.
We had been thoroughly trained in range safety by our demanding boot camp company commander. He was Boatswain’s Mate Chief Clarence Ward Hollowell, of Hopewell, Georgia. Chief Hollowell was loud and profane. He would occasionally march into our squad bay in the middle of the night and give us “a white tornado.” That’s when he’d pull all the sheets and pillow cases off our racks, turn over everything, and order us to clean it all up in five minutes.
At first I thought this middle aged man from the Georgia piney woods would be a cartoon version of a southerner. His pot bellow protruded over his Coast Guard belt buckle. He bellowed at us while keeping his coffee mug grasped tightly in his hand. He was always threatening to jack ammonia. Who, I asked my mostly New York and New England bunkmates, was this Jack Ammonia? A Louisiana recruit helped with a translation: “Jack them on you. Demerits, you fool,” he drawled. And if you got too many demerits, you could be kicked out of Chief Hollowell’s Lima 74 company.
I soon learned that media images of southerners were wrong. Chief Hollowell was certainly rough on our black and Hispanic fellow recruits. And we’d all look around in consternation as he came into the squad bay roaring “Knives! Knives!” None of us had a knife. They’d all been confiscated. Only with some help, again from the rebels, did we realize the Chief was calling for Recruit Nieves, a Puerto Rican. Yes, the Chief was rough on the minority recruits because he was rough on all of us. He was one of the hardest and fairest men I’ve ever known.
Our first day on the range was one of excitement and anticipation. Most of us were city boys and suburban kids. Even though we’d been field stripping our M-1 rifles since our first week in boot camp, we had never fired them, or any rifle.
We were banging away at the targets. Beyond the butts, was the Atlantic Ocean. Any bullets that missed the targets would go out to sea. The area had been well marked off as dangerous. There were red buoys. There were radio announcements broadcast on the channel all boaters monitored in those days. All nautical charts contained “Notice to Mariners” warnings: Live Fire Area: Keep Out.
So, it was surprising when above the din we heard Chief Hollowell bellowing out: “Cease fahr! CEASE FAHR!” When we didn’t respond quickly enough to suit him, he brought his swagger stick down on my neighbor’s rifle with a resounding THWACK! When we had all gone silent, the Chief yelled above the wind and the waves: “When ah say cease fahr, ah mean CEASE FAHR! Are yew peepul idiots?”
He saw how puzzled we all were. (We were out there, after all, in obedience to his orders.) With his swagger stick, he pointed out to sea. “Don’t you peepul see thet?” he demanded.
We strained and saw on the horizon a tiny white triangle. It might have been a sail. It might have been the superstructure of a tanker. It was hardly discernible. It must have been five miles out, far out of range of our rifles.
“We are th’ Yew-nited States Coast Guard, men. We are the life savers. Thet maht be hyoo-man lahf out there. Yew don’t take a chance when hyoo-man lahf is at stake. Yew give it every benefit of the doubt.”
No, Chief Hollowell never took a chance where human life was concerned. We were all E-1s then, Seaman Recruits. Chief Hollowell was an E-7, Chief Petty Officer. And none of us then thought the protection of human life was above our pay grade.
December 30, 2008
Here’s what we’re looking at today.
“For Good Self-Control, Try Getting Religious About It,” John Tierney, New York Times (December 29, 2008)
“Rights of Conscience Live Blog - TODAY!,” Mason Votes (December 30, 2008)
“Arizona Lawmakers Likely to Submit New Abortion Bills With Napolitano Leaving,” Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com (December 29, 2008)
“Fate unclear for Liberals backing anti-abortion cause,” Gloria Galloway, The Globe and Mail (December 30, 2008)
“Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds,” Rob Stein, The Washington Post (December 29,2008)
“Public Schools Change Young Evangelicals’ Values,” Phyllis Schlafly, Townhall.com (December 30, 2008)
“Stem cells aren’t embryonic anymore,” World Magazine (December 27, 2008)
“An honest Messiah,” Andree Seu, World Magazine (December 27, 2008)
“Grace at work,” Wayne Greene, Tulsa World (December 21, 2008)
December 29, 2008
Here’s what we’re looking at today.
“An Evangelical Bridge Too Far,” David R. Stokes, Townhall.com (December 28, 2008)
“The Separation of Church and State - Reloaded,” Christopher Merola, Townhall.com (December 29, 2008)
“Euthanasia Comes to Montana,” Wesley J. Smith, The Weekly Standard (December 29, 2008)
“Obama’s Abortion Spending Spree” David N. Bass, The American Spectator (December 29, 2008)
“New study finds that abstinence pledging teens still have sex,” Michele Johansen and Lexie Tigre, The San Francisco Examiner (December 29, 2008)
“Amateurs are trying genetic engineering at home,”Marcus Wohlsen, Phys.org (December 26,2008)
“The Long-Term Effects Of Abortion - Where Is The Media’s Outrage?,” Monte Harms, Stand For Life (December 27, 2008)
December 29, 2008
F. Scott Fitzgerald is renowned for having written the most famous American novel, The Great Gatsby, which closes with one of literature’s best-known lines, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the boat becomes a man becomes a trope, the story of a human being who is born old and who lives his life in reverse, moving through old age, to maturity, to the prime of life, to adolescence, to childhood, and finally to infancy. Benjamin is literally borne back ceaselessly into what for everyone else would be the past. It’s an extraordinary concept, but does it make an extraordinary film?
For Fitzgerald, the futility of holding on to romance, to beauty, to life itself is implicit in every word and gesture. Moments of exquisite beauty fade instantly as they occur and their fatal aura only sharpens the impressions they leave upon the senses. Southern light lends itself to such uses and the decadent — that is, decaying - atmosphere of New Orleans in the 1920s and ‘30s is overripe for such a story (Fitzgerald’s original was published in 1921, and the film bears little relation to it other than the title). Cinematically, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button captures that evanescent beauty in almost every scene; it is a visually sensual movie that recreates its time in nearly every frame.
For all of that beauty, however, the film is an empty vessel, and Benjamin himself is the reason why. Were it not for the fantastic trajectory of his existence, it is altogether unclear why we should care about his life and not altogether clear that he cares about it either. His very being is the work of an artist’s imagination, but he himself seems to lack an imaginative core. He not only experiences life in reverse, he experiences it passively, whether it is piano lessons, his first sexual experience, his first job as a tugboat hand, the second world war, his first real love, fatherhood, and finally, as an infant, death itself.
The film’s recurring phrase, “You never know what is coming for you,” is apt in a manner the movie may not intend. Things happen to Benjamin, but he is not one to go out to meet them. He passes the lives of others in the night, heading the other way. There is occasional poignancy in this passageway, but it is seldom truly evocative. The performances by the leads, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, contribute to this quality. Blanchett’s porcelain features and royal bearing reinforce a coolness that contrasts starkly with the vibrancy of the film’s black characters, who alone seem real. Benjamin’s own coolness at the death of his adoptive mother, Queenie, played with power by Taraji Henson, seems merely odd. He behaves like a visitor at her funeral, not like a son.
The narrative flashback form used in the film has been done elsewhere, and better, most notably in another tall tale filled with picaresque Southern elegance, Tim Burton’s Big Fish. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’s framing story, like that of Big Fish, features parent-child tension and death-bed revelations, but the stakes in Burton’s film seem far higher and relate integrally to the movie’s meaning. Peter Finch’s character in Big Fish makes his experiences larger-than-life and those experiences mystically grow to assume the size of his telling; Benjamin Button renders his larger-than-life experiences in a way that seems to diminish them, and he follows them into shrinking significance as the film flows on, like Heraclitus’s river.
Take Burton and its genuine romance, over Button and its curious ennui.
December 25, 2008
This week, almost all of us will join with our families for Christmas Eve services. We will gather in our family circles on Christmas Day to exchange gifts, to sing carols of joy for the newborn King, and to share Christmas dinners at over-laden tables. This is a good thing to do. And while we are mindful of those who are alone at this time of year, the vast majority of us will be surrounded by our loved ones. We will hopefully be able to put aside the cares of the day, of the preceding weeks. Little thought will be given, or even should be given to the bad economic news of recent months, to political woes, or even to wars and rumors of war.
This precious freedom was not a cheap gift. In this country, the freedom to worship, to speak, freedom from want, and freedom from fear were bought dearly. And that challenge was taken up again and again throughout our history. It is being met today in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the skies, and beneath the seas.
We’re often told that it is too bad we do not have more people engaged in the fight to defend faith, family, and freedom in this country. Far too many, we understand, take for granted all the freedoms we were purchased at a high price.
We could always use more volunteers, more generous supporters, more Christian friends praying that we will make wise use of our resources. We, too, pray that we will make a strong case for the independence and integrity of the church and the family when we are confronted in the public square.
Tonight, though, we should thank you, the few who read this message, who pray, and who lead in your churches and communities. We should have more, but we should always be grateful to the Lord for what we have.
General George Washington could certainly have used twice or three times as many troops when he entered the boats on that ice-choked Delaware River on Christmas Night, 1776. He had with him only 2,400 men. They were freezing. They were wet. Many were sick. Many marched with bleeding feet wrapped in rags, leaving bloody footprints in the snow.
If America had had a military draft in 1776, we could have raised a Continental Army truly worth of the name. We would have seen 300,000 young men called to the colors.
But General Washington crossed the Delaware with less than one percent of that number. Yet, his prayers were answered. With that little band, he bought America’s freedom, he saved a continent.
So to you, our little band of friends and supporters, God bless you. We thank each one of you for your steadfastness, for your generous backing, for your availing prayers. We could achieve nothing without God’s favor and your help. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
December 23, 2008
What’s in store for the Obama administration? FRC has been keeping track of the president-elect’s nominees with detailed backgrounders. Here’s the list to date:
There will be more backgrounders to come after the new year. Stay tuned to this spot for more additions.
December 23, 2008
It was not too many years ago that all milk in this country came from dairy farmers who milked their cows by hand. To go into a dairy barn in winter was to enter a place of peace and warmth. I remember how my Uncle Bill stripped off his coat, even his shirt, to milk the cows on his Connecticut farm.
I thought of that scene in the dairy barn when my wife and I visited Versailles in France. Queen Marie Antoinette liked to play the role of milkmaid. King Louis XIV built that palace as a monument to his own greatness. He may have styled himself the Sun King, but his palace was freezing. In all their portraits the kings and queens of France are draped in magnificent furs. Fur was the foundation of France’s colonial empire in North America. Rich beaver, mink, and, especially, snow-white ermine pelts were brought back to France from Canada. Those furs in the elaborate portraits were not just for show. Surrounded as those royals were by gold, marble, and fine crystal, they nonetheless lived in a frigid atmosphere. As much as it delights the eye, all that gold was cold.
At this time of year, we celebrate the birth of the King of Kings. But our Lord Jesus was born in no great palace. However exalted such a birthplace might have been, such palaces were death traps. Many of those little princes of France died of pneumonia. No. our Lord was born in a lowly stable. And we believe that baby Jesus was surrounded at his birth by oxen, donkeys, and other farm animals. His birthplace must have been warm and secure.
Our Heavenly Father knows what we need. He knew where to place His only begotten Son that He might be kept warm and safe. There, in that rude stable, nurtured by His loving Mother, with faithful Joseph the Carpenter standing watch, the Christ Child came into our world.
Jesus’ birth is the most important thing that ever happened in this world. God’s Word became Flesh. Jesus came to conquer sin and death. He came to give us forgiveness of our sins that we might live with Him forever. Compared with this incomparable Truth, what is the significance of princes of finance or commanders of armies, of kings and queens, of presidents and prime ministers? Jesus is Lord. That is the Good News we need. It is the Good News we have received.
December 23, 2008
Here’s what we’re looking at today:
“Quality teachers are key to reform, state report says,” Amy K. Stewart, Deseret News (December 23, 2008)
“Biden’s ‘Working Families’ Task Force is Misnomer, Conservative Leader Charges,” Pete Winn, CNSNews.com (December 23, 2008)
“A Gamble for Obama… And a Risk for Rick Warren, Too,” E.J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post (December 23, 2008)
“‘Use of abortion pill on the rise’,” Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, The Jerusalem Post (December 22, 2008)
“Healthcare Conscience Rule Could Stir Legal Backlash,” Deborah Kotz, U.S. News & World Report (December 22, 2008)
“Planned Parenthood Requests $4.6 Billion from Obama Administration,” Pro-Life News (December 23, 2008)
“Dept. of Bah Humbug!,” Paul Greenberg, Townhall.com(December 22, 2008)
“Abortion as a Test of Conscience and of Campaign Commitment,” Paul Weyrich, Townhall.com (December 23, 2008)