Friday, December 28, 2012

When it rains, it pours.

Christmas at the Munday household this year has been marked by tough times and tough decisions.  

Chris and I went to Illinois for Christmas to see our mothers (mine is 92 and in a nursing home).  We noticed that my mother had a bandage on her left foot (apparently the result of an infection) and were told that the staff were watching it carefully.  The next day they told us that the infection had taken a turn for the worse and they were sending her to the hospital.  A surgeon cleaned out the wound and removed some diseased tissue.  

Today, I got a call from the "palliative care nurse" who wanted "to go over our options."  One option consisted of continuing to aggressively treat the infection.  The other option was to "move her to hospice care and keep her comfortable until she passes."  Imagine--letting a 92 year old woman die because of a foot infection!  I think the irritation (not to say anger) must have shown in my voice as I explained that, no, we would not be taking that option, and that they should continue to treat her infection by every appropriate means, including surgery, if necessary.

As we continued to talk, the nurse discovered that she was looking at a page from someone else's file when it came to knowing what insurance coverage my mother had.  When the nurse discovered that my mother had not only Medicare but private health insurance, suddenly it seemed they were more willing to do whatever was necessary.  In the three hours since that call, I have received calls from the admitting physician at the hospital and the surgeon who will intervene surgically if the infection doesn't improve, and it appears we may be faced with a decision in the next few days about amputation of part of my mother's left leg.

I think there are at least two lessons here: (1) As healthcare in America deteriorates, only those who can pay for it are going to get the level of care and compassion that we used to extend to everyone.  And, (2) those of us who are pro-life are going to have to insist on not taking the easy way out when it comes to how we care for the elderly, the young and vulnerable, and ourselves. 

I am still in shock to think that, if I had given a different answer a few hours ago, my mother would, right now, be moved out of the hospital to a place where she would be getting only palliative care until she died. 

Parenthetically, let me say that I know the flip side of this: that you can prolong someone's suffering unnecessarily by using extraordinary means to keep them alive; and that hospitals might be willing to employ extraordinary measures on someone with private insurance or private means in order to take in more money.  I am aware of that, but that is not what we are talking about here. 

I am also pondering what impact it might have had if my mother had signed an "advanced directives" form in years past.  Could it have affected whether we were even presented with options now, or what the options might have been.  If there had been an "advanced directives" form on file, would I have even been consulted? 

Of course, we don't know how this is going to end, and we know that someday my mother, like everyone, will die.  For the immediate future we can expect our anxiety level to rise every time the phone rings.  But we know this: no one we love and care about is going to die simply because it is easier and less costly for us to let things go that way.  In other words, no one we can save through appropriate means is going to die by choice. 

If you think of it, please pray for Kathryn.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Holiday Eating Tips

1.  Avoid carrot sticks, (also celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.)  Anyone who puts raw vegetables on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit.  In fact, if you see any little trays with raw vegetables, leave immediately.  Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2.  Drink as much eggnog as you can.  And quickly.  It's rare...  You cannot find it any other time of year but now--especially the homemade kind.  So drink up!  Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip?  It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something.  It's a treat.  Enjoy it.  Have one for me.  Have two.  It's Christmas!

3.  If something comes with gravy, use it.  That's the whole point of gravy.  Gravy does not stand alone.  Pour it on.  Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes.  Fill it with gravy.  Eat the volcano.  Repeat.

4.  As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk.  If it's skim, pass.  Why bother?  It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5.  Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating.  The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food.  For free.  Lots of it.  Hello?

6.  Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's.  You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.  This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7.  If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge.  Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention.  They're like the person you wish you had asked for a date in high school.  If you miss the opportunity, you'll never see them again.

8.  The same goes for pies.  Apple, Pumpkin, Pecan, Mincemeat.  Have a slice of each.  Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and two pumpkin.  Always have four.  When else do you get to have more than one dessert?  Labor Day?

9.  Did someone mention fruitcake?  Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid fruitcake at all cost.  I mean, after all, you have to have some standards.

10.  One final tip:  If you don't have trouble walking when you get up from the table or leave the party, you haven't been paying attention.  Re-read the above tips; start over.  But hurry, January is just around the corner.

Also, remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand and wine in the other, body totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO!  What a ride!"  At least that's my advice until it comes time to make my New Year's Resolutions.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Liturgics Quiz

Okay, kids, put yout liturgical thinking caps on and tell me:  What's wrong with this picture?

(I'm not going to identify the source of the photo, except to say that it came in an e-mail from a religious institution--where they should have known better.) 

Submit your answer in the comment section.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Out with the old, in with the new. I'm still not happy with the 2011 NIV...

...and I don't think I ever will be.

From the 2011 Christianity Today article:
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, one of the leading critics of the TNIV, promised a full review of the updated NIV after it goes to print.  In November [2010], when online text of the updated NIV became available, the group released a statement saying it could not recommend the new NIV Bible because of "over 3,600 gender-related problems" that were previously in its critique of the TNIV.

In other initial reviews, some evangelicals praised the clarity of the new edition while others were still unconvinced that the gender-related problems of the TNIV were resolved. Statistics compiled by Christian web techies Robert Slowley and John Dryer show that 31 per cent of the TNIV is retained in the updated NIV.

Many reviewers thus far are not fans of the mixing of gender-neutral singulars and plurals like "that person" and "they" in the new text.
Read it all.

You can read the Council's report here (PDF file). 

I also recommend this article: "From the NRSV to the New NIV: Why Gender-Neutral Language Represents an Enforced Agenda Rather than a Natural Evolution," in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  It is a PDF file.  You'll have to scroll down to pages 27-30.

Friday, December 14, 2012

BDSM Comes to Harvard

Last week, national media outlets were titillated by the news that Harvard University had formally recognized a ­student-run BDSM group (short for bondage, domination, and sado­maso­chism).

Newsweek reports:
The idea of buttoned-up Crimson coeds discussing their fondness for fetish challenged the conventional image of the Ivy League university, home to the best, the brightest—and now, the kinkiest.

Joining the Composers Association, the Mathematica Club, and about 400 other student organizations, the Harvard Munch will now get money to host gatherings and guest speakers.  While conservative pundits on Fox roasted the school for giving money to this “marginal” group, the larger BDSM world welcomed the news. “Within the next decade, I think we’ll see a huge number of colleges and universities providing safe spaces for their students to explore alternative sexuality, just as they have done for LGBT groups,” said Mollena Williams, an educator in the kink community.
Read it all.

I am sure if the Arcus Foundation wants to come through with another grant, the Episcopal Church can have a liturgy ready for blessing this by the next General Convention.  But, seriously, once you open the door to sexual relations outside of God's design for monogamous, heterosexual marriage, the trajectory is always in the direction of more permissiveness.  One more thing... then one more thing... then one more thing....  Does anyone doubt that the culture is doing exactly that?  And that the so-called "mainline" churches are following right along?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Islam and Agnosticism Surging in Britain as Christianity Fades

What world has Rowan Williams been living in?  Christianity is not "fading away" in Britain, he says.  Well, actually, yes it is, as the census figures clearly illustrate.

Since the last census in 2001, the number of Britons identifying themselves, however loosely, as Christians is down 13 percentage points to 59 per cent.

The number of respondents who say they have no religious faith is up 10 points to 25 per cent.  Meanwhile, staggeringly, the Muslim population has grown from 1.55 million to 2.7 million, an increase of 1.15 million from 2001 to 2011.

The surge in Islamic belief is entirely a consequence of immigration.  The spread of agnosticism and atheism that is occurring among Britian's youth is largely generational.

As we seek to spread the Gospel, this is the reality we are up against in Britain (and, increasingly, elsewhere): the default position of people born since 1980 is agnosticism or atheism.  Friends of mine in England tell me that, in past generations, people of little or no faith would probably have checked the "CofE" (Church of England) box in the census.  This means that, as current and future generations are being more candid about their unbelief, statistics for the Church of England will probably take the biggest hit in years to come.

Pope Tweets for the First Time

What better day to do it than 12/12/12?

Pope Benedict XVI addressed his more than 838,000 Twitter followers today for the first time, posting five messages in the early morning hours.

"Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter," he wrote in his first message via @Pontifex.  "Thank you for your generous response.  I bless all of you from my heart."

The 85-year-old religious leader officially joined the micro-blogging service early this month, planning to answer questions about faith from those who use the hashtag #AskPontifex.  His Holiness will tweet in eight languages from eight different feeds, including English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Polish, and Arabic.  Hours after the Vatican's Dec. 3 announcement, the Pope already had more than 171,000 followers on his English account alone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I felt safer the week after 9/11/2001 than I do today...

 Perhaps this is the reason:

We had a President who worked to unite us instead of one who is dividing us by class, race, age, and ideology--pitting Americans against each other and taking us from the rule of law and free enterprise in a constitutional republic down the road to socialist tyranny.

God have mercy, and God please save our nation!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Months before graduation, West Point cadet quits, citing culture of overt religion

The following story makes me sad for a couple of reasons:  First, it is another example of militant atheism trying to drive any expression of religion out of public life.  (See my previous post.)  But secondly, I am sad because the cadet in question, Blake Page, is obviously hurting and doesn't see the possible connection between his anti-religious (and specifically anti-Christian) feelings and the depression and anxiety he is experiencing, which could be directly related to his feelings of hostility toward his environment. 

My sympathy goes out to Mr. Page over the suicide of his father last year.  But this, too, possibly says something about the pathology of the family system that could have been helped by faith in Christ.

Two final observations about this story: (1) While Page resigned and was honorably discharged, the fact remains that he had been medically disqualified from receiving a commission in the Army as a second lieutenant — like his classmates will receive in May — because of clinical depression and anxiety.  It is almost unheard of for someone to graduate from the Academy without receiving a commission, and there is a stigma that goes along with that.  He had, in a sense, failed in relation to other West Point graduates, so he might as well have resigned.  In other words, it was already determined that he was going to end up in a different place from his classmates, so now he gets to resign and begin a career as an anti-religious activist with regard to the military.  He indicated that "he plans to remain an activist on the role of religion in the military" and is quoted as saying, "I'd really love to be able to do this for the rest of my life."  This sounds cynical but, given his ambition, it was a smart career move for him to resign at this point.

And (2):  Is it just me, or do some of his statements, especially about  "criminals" in the military, sound a little over the top?  To put it another way, if I were a soldier in combat, pinned down by enemy fire, this isn't the kind of guy I would want next to me.  Live or die, I would want someone next to me who, at the very least, had a little more faith in his country and its institutions--the kind of soldier described in these verses from an old poem:

There are soldiers today as brave as those
Who gathered by Concord's stream,
Or fought with Warren on Charlestown Heights,
When Freedom was but a dream.

There are sailors today who would die at their guns 
As the tars of the Cumberland died,
Or with Somers sail through the jaws of Death 
On Tripoli's fatal tide.

For buried deep in each loyal breast,
The undying embers still glow,
Of the fires which set the world ablaze 
A hundred years ago!

Thrones have crumbled and fallen since then,
And Empires have melted away;
But Freedom still reigns! and oppression's waves 
Shall beat harmless against her sway.

And the Flag that has weathered a century's storms,
Triumphant on ocean and sod,
Will not be dishonored by Liberty's sons
Nor abandoned by Liberty's God.*  
I pray that Blake Page's time living with his grandparents becomes a turning point in his life and that someone close to him can introduce him to Christ.

Here's the story:

A cadet quitting West Point less than six months before graduation says he could no longer be part of a culture that promotes prayers and religious activities and disrespects nonreligious cadets.

Blake Page announced his decision to quit the U.S. Military Academy this week, telling The Associated Press that he could not become an officer because of clinical depression played a role in his public protest against what he calls the unconstitutional prevalence of religion in the military.

'I don't want to be a part of West Point knowing that the leadership here is OK with just shrugging off and shirking off respect and good order and discipline and obeying the law and defending the Constitution and doing their job' - Blake Page
"I've been trying since I found that out: What can I do? What can I possibly do to initiate the change that I want to see and so many other people want to see?" Page, 24, said. "I realized that this is one way I can make that change happen."

West Point officials on Wednesday disputed those assertions. Spokeswoman Theresa Brinkerhoff said prayer is voluntary at events where invocations and benedictions are conducted and noted the academy has a Secular Student Alliance club, where Page served as president.

Maj. Nicholas Utzig, the faculty adviser to the secular club, said he doesn't doubt some of the moments Pagedescribed, but he doesn't believe there is systematic discrimination against nonreligious cadets.

"I think it represents his own personal experience and perhaps it might not be as universal as he suggests," said Utzig, who teaches English literature.

Page criticized a culture where cadets stand silently for prayers, where nonreligious cadets were jokingly called "heathens" by instructors at basic training and where one officer told him he'd never be a leader until he filled the hole in his heart. In announcing his resignation this week on The Huffington Post, he denounced "criminals" in the military who violate the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution.

"I don't want to be a part of West Point knowing that the leadership here is OK with just shrugging off and shirking off respect and good order and discipline and obeying the law and defending the Constitution and doing their job," he told the AP.

One of Page's secularist classmates called his characterization of West Point unfair.
"I think it's true that the majority of West Point cadets are of a very conservative, Christian orientation," said senior cadet Andrew Houchin. "I don't think that's unique to West Point. But more broadly, I've never had that even be a problem with those of us who are secular."

There have been complaints over the years that the wall between church and state is not always observed in the military. The Air Force Academy in Colorado in particular has been scrutinized for years over allegations from non-Christian students that they faced intolerance. A retired four-star general was asked last year to conduct an independent review of the overall religious climate at the academy.

There also has been a growing willingness in recent years by some service members to publicly identify themselves as atheists, agnostics or humanists and to seek the same recognition granted to Christians, Jews and other believers. Earlier this year, there was an event at Fort Bragg that was the first known event in U.S. military history to cater to nonbelievers.

Page said he hears about the plight of other nonreligious cadets in part through his involvement with the West Point affiliate of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The founder and president of that advocacy group said Page's action is a milestone in the fight against "fanatical religiosity" in the military.

"This is an extraordinary act of courage that I do compare directly to what Rosa Parks did," said Mikey Weinstein.

Page, who is from Stockbridge, Ga., and who was accepted into West Point after serving in the Army, said he was notified Tuesday of his honorable discharge. He faces no military commitment and will not have to reimburse the cost of his education.

West Point confirmed that it approved his resignation and that Page had been meeting the academic standards and was not undergoing any disciplinary actions. Page said he had been medically disqualified this semester from receiving a commission in the Army as a second lieutenant — like his classmates will receive in May — because of clinical depression and anxiety. He said his condition has gotten worse since his father killed himself last year.

It's not unusual for cadets to drop out of West Point, an institution known for its rigorous academic and physical demands. But the window for dropping out without the potential for a penalty is in the first two years. Dropouts are rare after that point.

Page expects to leave for his grandparents' home in Wright County, Minn., in the coming days. He plans to remain an activist on the role of religion in the military.

"I'd really love to be able to do this for the rest of my life," he said.
Read it all.

* (From "Centennial Musings, July 4, 1876," in Sights and Shadows of Our Cruise, edited by George R. Willis, published by the crew of the U.S. Frigate "Tennessee," Flagship of the Asiatic Fleet 1875-1878.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

'Merry Christmas Charlie Brown' Performance Canceled Following Atheist Complaints

Well, it must be getting close to Christmas again, because the annual round of "Whiny Atheists Threatening Lawsuits in order to Kill Christmas" has officially begun.  Witness the following news item from Arkansas.

It seems a church that was putting on a production of the play, Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! had scheduled a Friday afternoon performance that school students could attend as part of an optional field trip.  Notice I said "optional"—as in, a field trip that students didn't have to go on but could if they had their parents permission.   So if a student didn't want to go or the student's parents thought this was something they didn't want their child to attend, the child could skip it.

Let me say parenthetically that, when I was in elementary school, public schools actually put on their own productions of Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!  You didn't have to go to a church to see it or smuggle the video home in a plain brown wrapper.

Incidentally, the ABC network just aired Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!, last Friday, and I have to say that I am always pleasantly surprised that the normally less-than-friendly-to-Christians, Disney-owned, ABC network continues to show it—unedited—with Charles Schultz' wonderful 'real meaning of Christmas' conclusion uncut.  (See video above.)  It is the clearest explanation of the message of Christmas you'll find on commercial television.

Anyway, back to Arkansas:  One parent decided to complain because, although the field trip was optional, "the woman planned to allow her daughter to attend the production out of fear she would be singled-out by her classmates."

Gee, Mom, if you think your daughter's classmates would have singled her out for not going on the field trip, how do you think they're feeling now that you killed the field trip for everybody?

Also, Mom, do you think that maybe, if your daughter is going to grow up in a society that has been profoundly influenced by Christianity, it might be a good learning experience, at least once in her life, to hear from Christians, first hand, the essence of the Christmas story?   You'd let your daughter listen to Hindus and Muslims first hand to hear what they believe, wouldn't you?   I mean, it's the tolerant and multicultural thing to be exposed to the ideas of others, even those with whom we disagree, isn't it?  But I digress.

The upset mother also contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), the organization that complained to the Little Rock School District on her behalf.   (As one who lived just across the river from Arkansas, in Memphis, for many years, that name—Arkansas Society of Freethinkers—is generating so many jokes in my mind right now, I am about to explode.)   But, again, I digress.

To their credit, the school's Principal and legal counsel concluded that the optional field trip didn't violate anyone's rights and were prepared to go ahead with it.  But—the church's pastor decided to pull the plug and cancel the Friday performance rather than put the school district in a difficult spot.

Pastor, if Christians are going to abandon the field every time they are challenged by secularists and atheists, then I hope you like the idea of Christians meeting in secret in basements and catacombs, because that's where it's going to end.

Anyway, here's the story.  What do you think should have happened?
From here:

A church in Little Rock, Ark., canceled one performance of "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" after an atheist organization complained and said students should not be exposed to a show with Christian themes as part of a school field trip.

Happy Caldwell, pastor of Agape Church, issued a statement on the church's website on Wednesday, stating that while he believes the school was within its constitutional rights to bring students to the production, the church has nevertheless decided to cancel a Friday showing for students. 
[Yes, the pastor's first name really is "Happy."  I can't help wondering if he had brothers named, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey, Sleepy, Bashful, and Doc.  But, from what I hear, he is actually a prominent and well-respected pastor in Little Rock.]

"It is not our desire to put hard working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm's way," wrote Caldwell.  "What we want said is that we love our city, our schools, parents and families.  People are at the heart of the matter to us."

He also said Principal Sandra Register of Terry Elementary School took a "courageous stand" when she decided not to cancel the trip after learning that someone had complained about it.

The controversy began when a parent became upset at the school's offer to take students to the church to watch the play, which is based on the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" cartoon and contains some Christian themes.  Although the field trip was optional, the woman planned to allow her daughter to attend the production out of fear she would be singled-out by her classmates.  The upset mother also contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), the organization that complained to the Little Rock School District on her behalf.

LeeWood Thomas, a board member and spokesperson for ASF, told The Christian Post it was never his organization's goal to stop the play's production, though they did not think the school should have made it into a class field trip.

"The church has every right to hold a Christmas play for the community and invite everybody there.  It's just that invite through the public school system is where we saw the violation of the separation of church and state," said Thomas.

Thomas also hopes the school has changed its mind about taking similar trips in the future.

"One of the things that I'm hoping comes out of this is that the school, in knowing that the Friday field trip play is being canceled, I still hope that they recognize that what they were doing would have been illegal," he said.

Mathew Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, previously told CP that it would have been constitutional for the school to take its students to the production, "especially" when parents were given the opportunity to keep their children from attending.  A spokesperson for the school district also told Fox News that the district's legal team had determined the trip was acceptable.

Though students will not be able to attend as part of a class trip, Caldwell and his church have invited parents and children to attend public performances on Dec. 15 and 16.

"To quote Bible verses and song lyrics that apply, they reflect our heart toward the Little Rock School District and everyone involved – Peace on Earth, Good will toward men," wrote Caldwell (emphasis his).
Read it all.

People in Little Rock have had their First Amendment "free exercise of religion" curtailed by threats from militant atheists, and a lot of impressionable young minds have been taught that their school district was doing a bad thing in exposing them to what Christians believe.  But, by all means, Pastor, let's keep thinking peaceful (dare I say, "Happy"?) thoughts.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

As Americans face a fiscal cliff, the Obamas make do with 54 Christmas trees

Why does the phrase, “Let them eat cake” come to mind?

From here:
Amazing how a reelection can reshape an incumbent's thinking about many things.  Now safely ensconced in the White House for 49 more months, the Obamas have decorated the place with 54 Christmas trees this year.

Even allowing for the usual Washington excesses with taxpayer money, that's a whole grove of Christmas trees. 

"We have 54 trees in the White House," an excited Michelle Obama proudly told visitors the other day.   "54!  That’s a lot of trees."

In fact, the Obamas' 54 trees this year are almost 50% more Christmas trees than last year.  That was during the campaign before Obama whispered a reminder to the Russians that he had to be careful until Nov. 6, when a victory would give him more "flexibility."

Now, how much carbon do you suppose those 54 trees could be sequestering had they not been chopped by this green president?
Read it all.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Former rector of nation’s largest Episcopal church becomes a Roman Catholic

From Religion News Service:
The former rector of the nation's largest Episcopal church has become a Roman Catholic.

The Rev. Larry Gipson was dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham from 1982-94.  Gipson retired in 2008 from the 8,000-member St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston, where his parishioners included former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.

Last month, Gipson was accepted as a Catholic into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a structure set up by Pope Benedict XVI to accept former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

"The nature of authority in the Catholic Church is what attracted me to it," Gipson said. "After I retired, I was concerned and had been for many years about the Episcopal Church's authority structure."
Read it all.