Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito-'a servant of the law'

Good news in the political world doesn’t seem to come very often, but it has today. Judge Samuel A. Alito has been confirmed as the 110th Justice of the Supreme Court. It’s nice to hear some good news once in a while.

Bush said in his State of the Union address tonight, "I will continue to nominate men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law and not legislate from the bench."

I hope that Alito will practice judicial restraint, bring back morality, and show respect for the sanctity of life.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

companion post

This is a companion post to the previous "the students strike back." A while back I wrote a column about professors using their classrooms for political indoctrination.

*College name has been omitted for privacy purposes.

Spout politics at me, just not when I’m paying you to teach me something. When I polled 50 college students, I discovered that one in five students said their professors talk politics in class unrelated to the subject matter.

A survey by the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) revealed, “70% of students surveyed say their professors express their political views in class.”

I’ve had three professors who used their classroom as a political soapbox. Two of those professors didn’t stop at the level of inappropriate and unrelated political jokes. They went so far as to imply that Republican views were idiotic and unreasonable.

In one class, the low level of student participation caused me to wonder if students were intimidated. The professor routinely ridiculed the Bush administration and conservatives. In that class, I felt that if I spoke up, the professor would treat me like an imbecile.

In the IWF survey, close to a third of the students, “are uncomfortable expressing their opinions in class if they differ from their professor’s point of view.”

Before I continue, it’s worth mentioning that political debate has a place in some classes. Several students I’ve spoken with said political discussion occurred in history and political science classes.

However, I’m really talking about the difference between an open debate, and a professor who expects the students to quietly listen to their political rant.

Imagine going to the doctor about your headaches, and instead he starts your visit by talking about the best way to grow lavender. After a little while, he starts addressing your headaches, and you get billed for the entire visit.

It’s sad when 1 in 5 college students must pay to hear someone using their classroom as a political pulpit.

I find it interesting to compare two of my history professors. One of them consistently presented quality lectures, and somehow managed to avoid injecting political beliefs into the class.

Another history professor’s lectures consisted of some historical facts, but tended to include sensational tabloid style historical stories and political bias sprouted from every topic. Yes, I still had to pay for the class.

David Horowitz, founder of Students for Academic Freedom and author of the Academic Bill of Rights, wrote, “What they [professors] must not do is jump into the controversy on one side, wielding all the authority of their greater experience and superior knowledge, backed by their grading power. They are not in the classroom to recruit students to their political or religious agendas. They are there to teach them.”

The Academic Bill of Rights includes a crucial section, “Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination.”

Some professors seem to think that they are paid to provide political views on topics of their choice whether the class is Spanish 101 or English 104. Maybe they think that political jokes are a constructive way to teach students about differing points of view.

I doubt I will gain the best understanding of politics from listening to an English professor undermine our country’s leaders.

Soapboxing professors might do well to follow Obi Wan’s advice, “You should go home and rethink your class.”

the students strike back

Looks like somebody in the college world finally got smart.

Burt Prelutsky wrote an article titled “Cracking the Eggheads,” where, “It seems that a young UCLA alum named Andrew Jones came up with the nifty notion of getting students to tape their professors’ lectures. He figured that was the one sure way to discover whether or not the pedants are really just a bunch of leftist windbags using their lecterns as soap boxes, indoctrinating rather than instructing.”

It seems that this upset more than one professor. Let me ask, if you’ve nothing to hide, what are you whining about? Although Prelutsky’s article didn’t elaborate on the results of these tape recordings, I applaud these students for taking action on this issue.

However, I’m not altogether sure I can condone the action itself. Students for Academic Freedom published an article on their site, which expressed the fear that this action (taping lectures without a professor’s consent) “opened itself up to charges of McCarthyism and played right into the hands of its detractors.”

While the students' methods are questionable, I’m impressed by the action behind the complaint. It’s really not a bad idea. If students obtained permission from professors for tape recording and actually followed through, maybe professors wouldn’t be so free with their political commentary.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

quote of the week

" 'If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me.'

It wasn't George Bush who said that. It was George Orwell. "

-Clifford D. May, "AWOL in the War of Ideas"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

40 Ethiopian birr

Today I received my second letter from an Ethiopian girl I’m sponsoring through Compassion International. A while back I sent her money for a birthday gift--$25.

She writes back, “Thank you for your birthday gift. I bought sheep with 130, a pair of shoes with 40 Ethiopian birr. I also used the rest for celebration.”

Sheep. Not one sheep. Sheep plural. Shoes. And a celebration.

I’ve heard people talk about how much impact just $5 can have on a family, but her letter really felt like a taste of reality. Attached to the letter are two photos—one of them with my Ethiopian friend and a goat. One very real girl, who writes in a foreign language, who lives in Ethiopia.

It doesn’t take me very long to make $25, but it can have such an impact on someone like this girl and her family. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like tithing means much, because I don’t hear back or see any impact.

But in Ethiopia, just a small amount of money helped a great deal. I hope and pray that I will feel even more encouraged to give with my hands open, knowing that even if I can’t see the impact, it’s there.

“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”-1 John 3:17

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Alito confirmation questions-is he musical?

I read an article this morning titled “U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says no to Alito” by Nathaniel Hernandez. Not a bad article in general, but the fourth paragraph really struck me.

“He [Sen. Dick Durban] also criticized Alito for being guarded at his
confirmation hearings, noting that the New Jersey native would not even clearly
say whether he is a Bruce Springsteen fan.”
This is listed as one of the reasons that Sen. Durban will be voting against Alito’s confirmation.

I can just imagine Durban’s note pad. He writes a big headline at the top: Alito Confirmation Notes. Then under it various things he has noticed. Seems like a Bushie…actually values unborn babies...didn’t reveal music preferences.

I would love to ask Durban what music preferences have to do with the Supreme Court.

I don't blame Alito for not saying whether he was a Bruce Springsteen fan. Imagine if Alito said he wasn’t a Springsteen fan. The democrats might have a field day with that and decide it indicates that Alito hates liberals.

Who knows, maybe Durban is right and musical questions are important in the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice. In that case, if Durban were running for Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be surprised if his favorite album was “You Just Don’t Get It.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

quote of the week

I'm going to be implementing a new tradition: quote of the week.

This week's quote:

“Forget that. I’m not here to propose a therapeutic plan to help poor little Saddamy-wammy.”

-Jennifer Roback Morse, What emotionally disturbed children taught me about world politics: Part II, what to do?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

confronting ideas from a worldly literature class

This morning’s literature class discussion of The Awakening (Kate Chopin) lured me out of my shell and into the deeper waters of a semi-intelligent discussion.

A multifaceted story, The Awakening focuses primarily on the ‘sexual awakening’ of Edna, who is married. Chopin makes it obvious that Edna’s marriage is stagnant, and although her husband is good by society’s definition (i.e. he supports her and makes enough money), Edna is dissatisfied and unfulfilled.

Edna ‘awakens’ when she kisses another man, who is not her husband, describing it as “It was the first kiss of her life to which her nature had really responded.” Edna hopes to find fulfillment in extramarital affairs.

Our class discussion involved two main ideas. First, whether Edna’s husband had fulfilled his duties and acted as a husband ought, and second, Edna’s ‘awakening’ in the story and how her suicide plays into that.

Most of the class agreed that Edna’s husband treated Edna like a piece of property as opposed to a wife, but a couple males in the room thought that Edna’s husband was really a good husband. This struck me as interesting because it made me wonder if some men think that all they need to do in a marriage is provide. I completely disagree with this, because I believe husband should be loving providers, not just providers.

The second and more disturbing part of the discussion regarded Edna. The gist of her story is: Edna is dissatisfied, she seeks fulfillment in her various sexual affairs, and when fails to fulfill her, Edna commits suicide by drowning herself in the sea.

Some people in my class said that Edna had no choice, she was forced to seek fulfillment else, ostensibly because her husband did not provide it. Others said that today divorce would have solved that problem, but back then, Edna was ‘trapped’.

My professor even went so far as to say that Edna’s suicide achieved fulfillment (her final defiance and freedom from her marriage), and he said he would be very disappointed if that wasn’t the way the author had meant it.

When I examine Edna’s actions, and her fatal demise, I would tend toward the conclusion that Chopin has punished her heroine (or antiheroine) for her actions.

First, to confront what my classmates said. They claimed that Edna had no choice, yet we know that all human beings have choices. She was not trapped in an abusive marriage, but rather a stagnant one.

I would conclude that Edna felt dissatisfied with her life, and decided to take matters into her own hands and seek fulfillment through immoral affairs. I agree, her life wasn’t all roses, but it wasn’t so horrible that she had no choice but to follow an immoral life.

The divorce dilemma is just another result of a society steeped in wayward morals, in that they think divorce is an acceptable escape to any problem.

The idea I would like to highlight here, is the idea that humans of victims of their environment. It shapes you, it forces you to do things. My classmates believe that Edna is a victim of circumstance—her husband is a loser. They believe that these circumstances permit a divorce.

My professor’s conclusion seems that of a hopeful literary admirer. He hopes to justify Edna in her immoral actions, and justify a selfish suicide. Really, he hopes that it is not Edna’s fault after all. Edna doesn’t deserve the bad things that have happened to her, or the despondency that has ‘forced’ her to commit suicide.

Here I see the idea that man is really good, and doesn’t deserve to have bad things happen to him. Certainly, man does not deserve to be punished.

Literature is a gray area, and is interpreted hundreds of different ways. However, in light of how the story is written, the time period the author wrote this story (1899), and Chopin’s religious leanings, I think it is a logical conclusion that Edna is being punished for her actions.

Edna has sought happiness along a path that God has not sanctioned. Therefore, it is logical that Chopin would have decided that Edna’s pursuit of this evil would cause her great unhappiness. Disobeying God’s law causes unhappiness. Edna’s suicide is simply thought put into action. By the time she has committed all this evil, rejected all that was good, pure, and simple in her life, forsaken her family, her soul is rotten. She cannot abide herself, and suicide seems a relief from this living hell.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

irresistible grace

Go check out this most excellent post about irresistible grace.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

the joy of eternal life

The search for eternal life is a common factor in almost all religions, in that they believe in some form of an afterlife.

Eternal life is also a keystone of the Christian faith. Why? Because those who do seriously consider their purpose in life realize the futility of life outside of an afterlife.

It’s such a disappointing thought to imagine that this is it. You have 100 years if you’re lucky, more likely less. After that? The end. Caput. Nothing. Nothingness.

The Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” What if He hadn’t created them? What if He were the only One existing? I think about how sad that would be, and yet, I wouldn’t be alive to think it was sad. Nothing would be without God. The thought is staggering, and my brain can barely grasp even a thread of this truth. Life exists because God caused it to exist.

I cannot express in words what life would be like had humans never been created. Emptiness. Great emptiness. I am grateful to God simply for existing. If He didn’t exist, life would be horrible. There would be no life! It is wonderful to simply exist.

We have such a great God. I am very grateful that I have been given the opportunity to live! I don’t understand people who don’t care about where they’re going after this life. No wonder people fear death so, because that is the end in their minds.

I have so much to look forward to, and I know that death will truly be the beginning of the real story. It’s hard to imagine, especially with the cutesy images we often have of heaven: harps, golden streets, and endless singing.

C.S. Lewis’s book The Last Battle, spoke of heaven as being like earth, but 100 times better. When you ran, you could run without getting tired. When you plunged into cold water, it was deliciously cold without freezing you. When you ate a fruit, it was the best fruit you had ever tasted. I like to imagine heaven in this way, with a whole wonderful adventure to anticipate with joy.

We must not forget the greatest joy of all: being in the presence of God. I haven’t always thought this would be the most wonderful thing in the world, until I realized that Jesus is my best friend.

Imagine being in the presence of the best friend in the world, and once you’ve been eternally brought into His presence, you never do or say the wrong thing. Jesus knows everything about you, knows how to make you laugh, knows what things you enjoy doing. Jesus loves you the most. Think about a time when you truly felt loved. Imagine feeling that way all the time.

Truly, we have a loving God, who loves us so much, that He’s willing to share eternal bliss with us.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2006-A Brand New Year

2005 was quite a year. So much happened in 2005, and I learned so much. I change so much each year I wonder what kind of person I’ll be in thirty years.

The most important change I experienced in 2005 was becoming closer to Jesus Christ. I hit crunch time and realized I needed to "work out my salvation with fear and trembling." I believe my soul is better for it.

As I reviewed everything that happened in 2005, I came up with six resolutions for 2006.

One: don’t be afraid to be friendly. At times I’ve felt rejected by people I made an effort to get to know. In response, I tend to keep to myself and not try to be friendly. I admire those who go out of their way to be friendly. What I learned last year, is that most people are a lot like me: nervous about getting to know people.

Two: get to know people before you judge them. Everyone fits into some type of stereotype: cheerleader, jock, preppy, weird, religious, quirky and others. I met so many new people last year, and in my head made sweeping assumptions that I later discovered were absolutely false. You miss out on new friends if you judge people before you even have a chance to get to know them.

Third: seek and conquer challenging things. Sometimes I find myself with what seems to be an insurmountable problem. It seems that I’ll never be able to conquer it and I’ll have to admit defeat. For example, I recently was confronted with learning a new computer program. No one else was familiar with it, so I had to answer all my own questions. I didn’t think I could do it. However, after considerable struggling (i.e. 2 weeks), I have conquered my problem. How does that make me feel? Great. Don’t buy into the ‘I’m not good enough’ lie.

Fourth: keep your own council. The Bible talks about the wisdom of keeping silent and not gossiping. I have committed this sin so many times I have reaped the ill consequences. Therefore, this year I resolve to learn when to be silent. I don’t always need to ‘spill the beans’.

Fifth: keep the peace. I am guilty of giving a ‘harsh answer’ which ‘stirs up anger’ all to often. I need to be willing to give up what I want in order to make things work. I need to learn to let go all over again.

Sixth: maintain a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. I cannot live without His Word. It teaches me, encourages me, and keeps me from straying away.