Tuesday, August 23, 2005

When 15 High School Girls in 100 Get Pregnant

Ah, the Sexual Revolution marches on! At Timken High School in Canton Ohio, 65 self-empowered, explorational, open-minded young women have... well, done what "we all know" teenagers do, and gotten themselves pregnant with the willing assistance of the boys of Timken High. Since there are a total of 490 female students at Timken, that's a 15% pregnancy rate--about double the national average. Way to go, Timken! Except for the condom use, you are right there with the zietgeist of the social elites. Explore those bodies! Own your sexual power!

And while you're at it, figure out how exactly you plan on being 14, 15, 16, or 17 year old mommies. But if that seems to daunting, just have a "procedure." Your parents don't need to know. You goofed, it's not your fault.

So in response to the... well, utterly unforseeable consequences of sexual liberation, the adminstration of Timken High proposes a Three Prong Program of "education" to "address pregnancy, prevention and parenting."

My question is, why not shame the girls who got pregnant and even moreso, the boys who got them pregnant? Stand them up in front of the entire student body and denounce them as examples of what not to do when you are in high school and can't possibly cope rationally with the consequences of your decision to have sex. Call that kind of behavior what it is--foolish, selfish, and destructive. Make them to regret their decision, and they will spread the word.

Sound insensitive? Sure it is. But it's the right thing to say at just the time when a lot of those kids need to hear it. Our message to kids about teen sex should be the same as teen drunk driving: do it, and we will damn well make you regret it.

It's time kids feared their parents and teachers again. Worked for me. And millions of others just like me, until the social elites decided they wanted to make friends out of their charges.

Come to think of it, I wouldn't mind standing them up in front of the student body for a good dose of shame while we're at it.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Few Thoughts--Not My Own--On Cindy Sheehan

I listened recently to a podcast of NPR's Left, Right & Center that dealt with the Cindy Sheehan issue. Arianna Huffington lionized Ms. Sheehan, proclaiming that she had a unique moral authority to speak on the war since she had lost her own son in it and denouncing those (meaning conservative columnists and talk radio hosts) who would dare question her motives and beliefs.

On her and her crusade, I have nothing to say. I'll leave the comments to this nation's warriors and the Iraqis they liberated. First, from a Navy SEAL:

I do not know what Casey Sheehan’s reason was for reenlisting, but since he was certain that he would be deploying to Iraq it seems reasonable to assume that the instinct to fight for his Nation was something that Casey felt deeply. That he answered his Nation’s call to service with the sacrifice of his life indicates to me that he is worthy of honor and gratitude from his fellow citizens and especially his family.

For that reason, I believe that his mother’s very public effort to steal his honor is one of the most despicable acts that can be perpetrated by a family member of the fallen. Nothing would bring me greater shame than to know that my own mother was using the willful sacrifice of my very life as an opportunity to garner public attention for the belief that my life was wasted. I am utterly disgusted by a woman, her loss notwithstanding that would allow her son’s enemies and those of the Nation he died to defend to profit from his death. Her self centered actions have created what amounts to a pack of hungry hyenas fighting over the corpse of her fallen son. The honor and respect that Casey is entitled to is being torn apart by the likes of Moveon.org, Michael Moore, Code Pink, the Kossacks, and the MSM anti-war establishment for the whole world to see.

Casey, as a brother warrior, I bid you rest and pray that you have not seen what your mother has wrought. RIP.
And this, from a grateful Iraqi:

You are free to go and leave us alone but what am I going to tell your million sisters in Iraq? Should I ask them to leave Iraq too? Should I leave too? And what about the eight millions who walked through bombs to practice their freedom and vote? Should they leave this land too?
Is it a cursed land that no one should live in? Why is it that we were chosen to live in all this pain, why me, why my people, why you?

But I am not leaving this land because the bad guys are not going to leave us or you to live in peace. They are the same ones who flew the planes to kill your people in New York.
I ask you in the name of God or whatever you believe in; do not waste your son's blood.
We here have decided to avenge humanity, you and all the women who lost their loved ones.
Take a look at our enemy Cindy, look closely at the hooded man holding the sword and if you think he's right then I will back off and support your call.

We live in pain and grief everyday, every hour, every minute; all the horrors of the powers of darkness have been directed at us and I don't know exactly when am I going to feel safe again, maybe in a year, maybe two or even ten; I frankly don't know but I don't want to lose hope and faith.

We are in need for every hand that can offer some help. Please pray for us, I know that God listens to mothers' prayers and I call all the women on earth to pray with you for peace in this world.

Your son sacrificed his life for a very noble cause…No, he sacrificed himself for the most precious value in this existence; that is freedom.

His blood didn't go in vain; your son and our brethren are drawing a great example of selflessness.
God bless his free soul and God bless the souls of his comrades who are fighting evil.
God bless the souls of Iraqis who suffered and died for the sake of freedom.
God bless all the freedom lovers on earth.
And that's all I have to say on the subject of Ms. Sheehan. Now, please read of the heroic circumstances of her son's death:

Casey Sheehan grew up in a devout Catholic home. He served as an altar boy and then as a key member of his church's youth group for years.

When he was old enough, Casey joined the Boy Scouts, becoming the very second Eagle Scout out of his troop.

He enlisted in the Army when he was twenty years old. He decided to be a mechanic. He would undergo Combat Lifesaver training - a class on how to give IVs and treat trauma only second in intense learning to combat medic training. He was also certified to assist with giving communion to soldiers while in the field.

Specialist Sheehan re-enlisted in the Army in 2004 knowing full well that he could be sent into a combat zone.

Casey Sheehan was a Humvee mechanic with the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment.

On April 3rd, 2004, forces loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al'Sadr stormed police stations and government offices in Sadr City (a city of over 2 million). They knew the Americans would come, and they wanted a fight. Muqtada Sadr was working them up into a religious frenzy. And he had his thugs murder anyone who he thought might stand in his way - even other Shi'ite clerics. His forces were known as the Mahdi Army.

American forces quickly surrounded Muqtada al'Sadr's quarters.

On April 4th, 2004, al'Sadr's Mahdi forces blocked roadways and bridges with burning tires, vehicles and trash. Visibility was less than 300 meters anywhere in the city. They began to attack American vehicles on patrol throughout Sadr City - some were protecting Shia worshipers (Holy Arbayeen) while others were escorting city government vehicles.

A battle raged across Sadr City. Insurgents assaulted American troops while looters and mobs formed and stormed through the streets. Word spread quickly across the American FOBs that there was trouble.

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with RPGs and pinned down and dying. While fighting off an attack himself, the Commander of the 2/5th, LTC Volesky, called for help. A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was formed of volunteers - their mission was to go out and rescue the American troops.

Casey Sheehan's Sergeant asked for volunteers. Sheehan had just returned from Mass. After Sheehan volunteered once, the Sergeant asked Sheehan again if he wanted to go on the mission. According to many reports (and according to his own mother), Casey responded, "Where my Chief goes, I go."

The QRF was launched. Not long after entering the Mahdi area, the QRF was channeled onto a dead-end street where the roofs were lined with snipers, RPGs, and even some militia throwing burning tires onto the vehicles. The Mahdi blocked the exit and let loose with everything they had.

Sheehan's vehicle was hit with multiple RPGs and automatic-weapons fire.

Specialist Casey Sheehan and Corporal Forest J. Jostes were killed.

A second QRF was formed - all volunteers - to go rescue the first. Specialist Ahmed Cason was hit in the second QRF - but kept fighting until he bled to death.

Seven men died with Casey Sheehan on Sunday, April 4th, 2004.

They were Spc. Robert R. Arsiaga, Spc. Ahmed Cason, Sgt. Yihjyh L. "Eddie" Chen, Spc. Stephen D. Hiller, Spc. Israel Garza, Cpl. Forest J. Jostes, and Sgt. Michael W. Mitchell.

It was Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday commemorates the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. Back then, the palm frond was a symbol of victory - laid beneath the feet of those of the highest honor and triumph. Some believe it was this honor fit for a king that forced Jesus's enemies to act and crucify him.

In recognition of Casey, the Catholic Chapel at Fort Hood, Texas (where Sheehan was stationed) named the Knights of Columbus chapter the "Casey Austin Sheehan Council".

Casey also received the Bronze Star for his Valor that day.

Palm fronds for the most honored.

Thanks to Blackfive for this post. The story of Casey's bravery should accompany any discussion of the merits of Ms. Sheehan's crusade.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

What is Male?

Through my work at the Sterling Institute of Relationships, I've been actively exploring and experiencing what it means to be fully a man. That sounds new age-y even as I write it, but the fact remains that there are profound differences between men and women and the search for what it means to be a man for men and a woman for women is a vital one. When men become fully male, there is a peace and power that they cannot access if they are playing at trying to be more feminized (by being more 'sensitive', 'nurturing', 'emotionally available', etc.). The Men's Weekend and subsequent Point Team that I joined have been a valuable opportunity for me to play at being more the man that God created me to be. As the purpose of the Men's Weekend reads:

To engage in the process of locating the source of your power and discovering and dissolving the barriers between you and manifesting that power so that you experience total freedom as only a man can and with that freedom be the man you always wanted to be.

The power that the statement refers to is the power that comes from operating within our design specs, to put an engineering spin on it (as opposed to the "higher power" 12-steppers refer to or the "inner power" that sprirtualists refer to. We are made as men, and we can't possibly fulfill our potential if we are trying to be better men by being more feminine. Women nurture, men test and compete. As the Bible says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." You sharpen iron by grinding it, not massaging it. Men support each other by pushing the other man to become more genuine and committed. We experience this with each other on a daily basis in our work in the Point Team.

To some, this work may be threatening. I would just respond by saying that our relationships, our families, workplaces, churches, cultures, and planet can only benefit by men and women being more what they were created to be. Equal, but different in strengths, temperment, purpose, and roles. If we stop fighting how we were created, we will stop fighting each other and our children will win right along with us.

These posts are difficult for me to write, as this entire journey has been so at odds with how I have been playing my life. I had no idea how deeply I had taken on feminine traits and rejected my masculinity, so getting this sorted out is a process. So bear with me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rock Star:INXS: True Rock & Roll Moments

A true rock & roll moment was made last night on Rock Star:INXS when MiG sang Peter Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Way", accompanying himself on piano. As I said before, there is a purity and innocence to this show that somehow manages to capture the highest spirit of rock & roll. Fun yet meaningful, playful and deep, sad and joyous. MiG's performance last night exemplified this, and drew tears and praise from the audience, his fellow performers and Dave Navarro, who delivered a powerful compliment: while listening to the song all he could think about was how much he loved his wife. Amen to that.

Almost as poetic was Deanna's performance of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Such a poignant song, and she delivered it well.

Another true rock & roll moment was revealed the same evening when J.D. broke the rules about having to sing as a group and went solo instead. His performance was above par, and his defying the group and going his own way put him at odds again with the other performers. I'm a fan of J.D., but even I was feeling put off by his looking out for No. 1. But isn't this just part of rock & roll too? The art attracts some big egos along with the big talent, and ultimately it will be up to INXS as to whether they think they can manage J.D.'s ego. He feels like the right choice for the band to me, and it will be fascinating to see to what extent they agree.

Again, if you are not watching this show you are truly missing out.

Single-adult homes now the majority

For the first time in American history, single-adult homes now outnumber two-parent families. Per the Washington Times:

Nuclear-family households -- two married parents and a child -- were the most common as recently as 1990, when there were 25 million such households.
But by 2000, nuclear-family households fell to second place, both because there were almost a half-million fewer of these type of homes and because the number of single-adult households surged past 27 million.
So not only is the number of single-parent householdes rising, but the number of two-parent family homes is falling. Not relative to each other--these are raw numbers. Even as our population grows, the number of two-parent households falls.

I don't see how this can be received as anything other than a bleak statistic for our society. Despite the abundant evidence that single parent households are less happy, less healthy, and poorer than two-parent households this phenomenon is received as unremarkable by the social elites. And it has to be, for no-fault divorce is critical to being able to make the kind of lifestyle choices that modern Americans have come to expect. Listen to most TV and radio pop-psych talk and you would think that no commitment could be more important than personal fulfillment--getting your "needs" met. "But what about me and my needs?" Courageous, committed individuals don't ask that question when it was their own choices that led them into marriage and family. You just make it work. "Feelings" be damned.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

On the iPod: The Gift of Valor

This is the story of Marine Corporal Jason Dunham, who gave his life for his fellow Marines in Iraq in April 2004. It is also the story of his buddies, his comrades and their families. It's the story of the health care workers that cared for Jason as his shattered body made its way from Western Iraq to his final resting place at home in Scio, New York. It's the story of the Marines and how they care for their own. And it's a story of leadership and ultimately love itself: for as the Bible says, "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

The details of the story I'll leave for you to discover, but I want to focus on this man Jason Dunham and the leadership style that he embodied. Some who lead ultimately seek to serve themselves, to widen their domain, to control, to command, to gain power. They pile on rules, break down spirits, cajole, browbeat, lean on authority, push, threaten, and demand. For them rank and position provide all they need to expect obedience.

Then there are the Christlike leaders like Corporal Dunham. Christlike not because they are believers; it isn't clear to me that Cpl. Dunham was a believer. But without a doubt he led as Jesus would lead: from behind his men with regard to status and in front of them with regard to danger. Jason Dunham was a sacrificial leader, as all Christians are called to be. Putting the needs of others first, as Jason did with his Marines. And finally paying the ultimate sacrifice, valuing the lives of his comrades above his own as he shielded them from a grenade with his own body.

Jason Dunham's life was tragically cut short by small-minded evil men who want to return their country to the hell that Saddam imposed on them. They don't deserve to breathe the same air of a Jason Dunham, and it's maddening that we would lose men of such high character and strength. But it's the nature of tests like these that only when fully played out can the true mettle of a man like Jason Dunham be revealed.

God bless your soul, your family, and your comrades, Corporal Dunham. May you rest in peace.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Salvation & Sanctification

Just a brief post after a work- and travel-induced quiet period. A thought, really, and it's this: salvation is an event and santification a process. In other words, we are saved in an instant and spend the rest of our lives working out that salvation (hopefully with fear and trembling). The implication this has for you and me is that the event of salvation is not dependent on the success of the working out period. This is how David can be a man "after God's own heart" and yet be an adulterer, liar, disloyal deceiver and murderer. How Abraham can be a cowardly wimp, hiding behind the skirt of his wife. How Jacob can be a wily swindler. Peter, a Christ-denier. Paul, beset with doing the things he knows he shouldn't, and not doing the things he knows he should.

In other words, grace is bigger than we are, and it preserves salvation while we stumble our way through this confusing and imperfect existence. Lord, help us to love and trust that the rest will work itself out.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Rock Star INXS: It's Only Rock & Roll, But I Love It!

When I first read that INXS was launching Rock Star: INXS, a reality show to find a new lead singer to replace Michael Hutchence, I despaired. How could such a reputable and accomplished band sink so low as to pimp themselves off to reality TV?

Then Mrs. Zeke and I sat down to watch it... and I am a transformed man. Watching this show, I realized that the producers, the band, and cohost Dave Navarro had created pure magic. All the best that is Rock & Roll--the pure fun, pageant, power, energy, creativity, drive, community, all of it--has been captured on this little gem of a show. Where American Idol is crassly and unashamedly commercial, Rock Star:INXS is about the love of the art. Where AI cops cheap laughs off of foolish contestants, RS:INXS is warm and respectful to everyone.

When a contestant comes up to perform, everyone--from Dave Navarro, to INXS, to the crowd, to the other contestants--gives into the song. There's a pure innocence to the process that honors the art form in a way that I never would have expected from a reality show. They pump their fists, sway their arms, dance with abandon... what a warm and refreshing experience.

If you miss any more of this spectacular show, you will regret it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

More on Love & Grace

Just a few quick thoughts to expand on yesterday's post on True Love. True love, gracious love, is found in actions taken (as opposed to feelings felt) on behalf of another human being to serve them with no regard for earthly reward or return. When this love is highest and pure, it is without sin. We are in the will of God, as it were. We all know that we are supposed to love each other, but when do we really know that we are giving true love? Reliably, our human failings intrude and corrupt our motives. This is to be expected. I believe that what God wants from us is mindful, purposeful love. That we get up in the morning and actually think about how we can better love our neighbor, and then take action on it. Yes, pray for help for it too. People who want to get into better shape know they have to actually pay attention to what they eat and how much exercise they need to reach their goals. No one simply shrugs their way from flab to firm without a conscious thought. It requires discipline, planning and sacrifice.

Truth is, we are called to put all our heart, mind, and strength into loving our neighbor. True loving our neighbor. Every waking hour of the day, for our entire lives. This is not a call to follow your heart, or listen to your feelings. It is a call to all-consuming commitment.

Shaking your head, daunted at the task? Aware that you haven't even come close to that standard? Welcome to the domain of the sinner. Everybody else is here too. Let's just be mindful and do better by each other.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Zeke Tells it Like it is: The Meaning of True Love

"What is true love, and how do you know when you have found it?" asks Christiananswers.net, which offers up "biblical answers to contemporary questions for all ages and nationalities" in tens of thousands of files. In this case, the answer to the question is given by pointing to 1 Cor 13:4-8:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
Fair enough. Who am I to quibble with the Bible? But if you want to know what true love really is when the rubber meets the road, what kind of love keeps divorce at bay, what kind of love sustains you when the crap of the world hits the fan of your life, what kind of love changes screwed up lives, redeems lost souls, what kind of love has the power to change the very makeup of a man, it's this:

Unconditional acceptance.

Unconditional acceptance, as in when another human being has seen the worst of you, the very blackest parts, your sickest fantasies, darkest dreams, most humiliating failures, every bodily blemish, every swell, wrinkle and pucker, every shitty mood, every drunken stupor, every moral failing, when that other human being has taken in the worst that you have to offer life and chooses to see the good in you despite all of it. When that other human being casts away your failings like yesterday's rubbish and gets on with the business of loving you today. My God, what power there is in that love! Nothing compares. Not a thing in this troubled life can exceed it, and the wealth of princes and kings can't buy it. Few of us in this life are blessed to receive this kind of love, and even fewer give it.

When this kind of love comes from God, it's called grace. Amazing grace. The best thing in life. Unconditional acceptance from the Creator. True love from heaven.

A wise man once told me that when you have the true love of a woman, "you will wake up believing that you might just be a better man that you really think you are." This certainly characterizes my wife. Mrs. Zeke, you are amazing. Gracious, loving, and amazing.

Thank you for your true love.

Pastor Personals: Friends Wanted

A friend mentioned to me that some time ago, a former pastor of his church (who I also knew) confessed to my friend his loneliness and depression, and how few people he counted as his personal friends. Given that this man had decades of ministry under his belt and was widely respected, I thought that was particularly poignant. Certainly it wasn't because of any lack of friendliness; he is one of the most thoughtful and outgoing men I've met, one who truly cares about other people. It got me thinking, before I knew this was a common problem for pastors, just why a man in his high pastoral position would have a problem finding friends. If anything, I would think that he would have longer and deeper friendships than the rest of us, holding as he does the wisdom and experience of years of dealing closely with other human beings.

Sadly, it is an all too common problem. Kathy Callahan-Howell writes in Christianity Today of her own problems finding friends, especially within her own congregation. Her attempts to win one friend who was both neighbor and fellow churchmember went like this:

Missing Ben and Cheryl, I wondered, Do we look to our congregation for friends? One early attempt was with Anna.

When Anna and her husband, Kent, moved to our neighborhood, I rejoiced at the prospect of a friend. We shared a similar stage in life and began to spend time together. But soon, I felt we were struggling in our relationship. I asked Anna if we could talk about it.

"Anna," I confessed, "you're my best friend." I felt vulnerable baring my heart.

"Kathy, I don't know if I can be friends with a pastor," Anna admitted. "I feel intimidated, like I can't measure up." Yet as we talked, Anna also criticized me for some faults I had been honest enough to reveal. She said I was "too good" to be friends with, yet I didn't measure up to what she thought a pastor should be. (emph)

I think that's telling. At least one person in her congregation believed that because Kathy was a pastor, she was "too good" to be friends with, and because of that perception there was no room for Kathy to be merely human. Well, hello. I think that's pretty significant, and I'm sure that the propensity of people like Anna to put pastors on a pedestal is not lost on pastors. Steve Chastain of Stupid Church People has talked about the "game face" that he would put on whenever in front of his congregation, one that he felt obligated to wear whatever he was feeling on the inside.

And let's be honest: we all do it. Pastors are just pros at it. We know it, and that's why we don't trust them enough to be friends with them. I have a whole category of behavior that I would never do in front of a pastor. When I was a smoker, I never confessed it at church and always looked around when in public to make sure no one from my congregation was watching. One time I think I got caught by some of my closest church friends outside of a McDonald's. I can imagine the shock: "He's a smoker?!". It still gives me the willies to think about, a decade later. I got caught. Not smoking, but being a coward. Pretty shameful, but let me go out on a limb here: If you have been a regular churchgoer for at least a few years now, can you relate to this story?

If we live in fear of each other finding us out, discovering that despite the presence of Jesus in our lives that we are still normal, struggling sinners like the unchurched, how must our pastors fear us? Welcome to churchianity, the ugly underside of our walk with Jesus. It's obviously not His fault; look what he has to work with. I just know that He wants better for us and from us.