Posts tagged Political Correctness

Dear Christian, Be An Informed Citizen

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So there has been presidential debates and a vice presidential debate. There will be an election in a couple weeks so it seems fitting to talk about this.

>We live in a day and place where ignorance is the most costly commodity there is, so to speak.

Start by realizing all media has a bias. As I like to say, if you have a pulse you have a bias. Much to their protesting, that goes for the news media as well. So work at informing yourself. Read multiple sources—the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Watch Fox News and CNN.

>You also need to know the news media as a whole mostly votes for Democrats over 80% of the time–and always has.

I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, actually it’s left (Ha!). I simply think this is important to know when reading the ‘news’ and how facts are reported. There’s often a slant.

Part of the professionalism breaks down in philosophy. Too many journalists view their role as a means to “make a difference” or “report the truth” or “affect change.” I even remember hearing this while working on my Mass Communications degree from other students. The problem is, whose truth? Whose change? And for what difference?

>It’s unavoidable for ideology not to break through.

All these imply agenda and activism, and that is not the role of a responsible journalist. The fundamental role and purpose of a journalist is to report the facts, hence the name reporter. But I guess reporting facts gets boring, so ideology bleeds through. Don’t be offended. Just be aware.

>Be a responsible citizen and be an informed one.

Personally, I read around 100 headlines a day and about 10% of those articles from a variety of sources.

Being ignorant is dangerous. Being informed is effective.

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So What About Gay Marriage?

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Did you know that Chick-Fil-A serves hate-chicken? That’s what some would have you believe since the owner was asked (at the very end of a long interview) about the long-established culture within the company. Here’s what CEO Dan Kathy said:

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives…” [online source]

AAAHHHHHHHH! THE HATE! DIE CHRISTIAN SCUM FROM YOUR FATTY HEART-ATTACK INDUCING FAST FOOD!!!!

Seriously though, have we come to a place that an opinion like this is considered hate-speech? Chick-Fil-A serves anyone who comes through the doors, and even hires homosexuals. If they didn’t that would be bigotry.

It’s gotten to the point where cities want to prevent Chick-Fil-A from opening shop in their city. This week New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn sent a letter to New York University president asking the school to immediately end their contract with the fast food restaurant. She said:

“I write as the Speaker of the NYC Council, and on behalf of my family. NYC is a place where we celebrate diversity.”

Unless, you have a Christian world-view I guess. In response, yesterday was an unofficial “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.” I talked to someone last night who ate there 3 times that day. It was freakin’ HUGE, which, ironically, has gotten basically no media attention. But if 10 stinky hippies protest in front of Chick-Fil-A it makes the news cycle all week. Craziness.

What is happening to us? Can we all discuss controversial issues, like same-sex marriage, without hanging each other on the gallows?

I want to try to. Don’t you?

This weekend while the kids were watching an episode of Good Luck Charlie I decided to see what people were saying. That’s when I saw one of my friends on Facebook post:

Hey Christians, please remind me why gay marriage is”wrong”? And there’s this little thing called “proof” that I expect for each and every one of your claims. : )

The questions didn’t make me mad. It didn’t even make me squeamish. And it was clearly in response to this Chick-Fil-A issue that’s been building.

>I actually think this is a fair question to pose to Christians.

But I also think we must all agree on the starting point for this discussion.

There were, as usual, dozens of comments posted very quickly. It is a discussion I don’t usually get into, but for some reason I posted a response. Why? Did I want to mix it up? Nope. I just think we all need to be able to talk about things–even heated ones.

>Curiously, I have found any time that someone has been discussing this issue, the premise is never established.

A few times I have tried to establish a premise to build this discussion (and issue) on. The interesting thing is that I have NEVER had a response. Not once.

What do I mean? What’s that premise? Well, let me explain by quoting the comment I posted in my friends thread. I simply said:

I accept the challenge. But first, define the term “marriage”.

Immediately, my Facebook friend ‘liked’ my question. And predictably, it has been a week with over 50 comments and no one has answered my question. And I have to wonder why?

>There’s no question that gay marriage is an issue worth discussing no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.

But if I, as a Christian, am going to answer this and get in to this discussion, then we need to establish the starting point. My point is, Christian, you do need to be able to answer this question in a way that is creditable and respectable.

>In fact, no matter what side you are on with regard to this issue, you need to answer it in a way that is creditable and respectful. 

That means for Christians (or any supporters of traditional marriage), we have to say more than, “Well, because the Bible says…”

And if you are a supporter of gay marriage, you’ve have to build on more than an emotional basis.

And it must be said, that just because someone has a different value system than you, doesn’t make them prejudice or a bigot.

>We’ve all got to develop enough strength of character to be able to take challenges to our beliefs and values. Let’s stop being so touchy.

Lastly, I share something that I think you will find very interesting, maybe shocking.

I was in my truck waiting in line to pick up my kids from camp on Monday. I was listening to the radio and decided to see what the dictionary had to say about all this. So I got out my iPhone.

I opened Google Chrome and searched for Dictionary.com.

I clicked on the link and typed in “marriage”.  And here’s what came up first:

Did you see that? The first definition, and don’t ask me why it all came up like this, was the definition for gay marriage. So where is the traditional definition of marriage? You know, the one that most cultures have held to for the past 4,000 years?

The traditional definition of marriage came up 10th. That’s dead last.

Just thought you should know.

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Student Suspended For Wearing Jesus Shirt

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Sometimes you hear of things that you can never imagine happening. Like teachers threatened with fines if they say Merry Christmas and Christmas trees being renamed ‘holiday’ trees because of the religious undertones (except for the fact that the Christmas tree has zero religious significance and is actually a pagan symbol). Anyway, now there is another situation to add to this list.

In the world of the strange a student has been suspended for wearing a Christian t-shirt.

Does it depict people burning in hell like in Dante’s Inferno. Nope. Is it a pro-life shirt with an aborted fetus crying out? Not even close.

It is simply a shirt that states: Life is wasted without Jesus.

AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! THE HORROR!!!

According to this article:

Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, board superintendent, said some students and teachers found the T-shirt offensive. “When one is able or others are able to interpret it as, ‘If you don’t share my belief then your life is wasted,’ that can be interpreted by some as being inappropriate,” she said.

Can you believe a High School student being so freakin’ evil? I know! What a jerk. Doesn’t he know he is not allowed to hurt anyone’s feelings? Dumb kid.

Obviously, I am kidding. This is a ridiculous situation. These officials are ridiculous. You have to wonder if he had worn a shirt that said Satan is my buddy! if officials would have been as upset. Probably not.

Now, the only saving grace in all this is that that this is not happening in America. Right?

Actually, I almost got suspended for nearly the same thing 20 years ago in High School (yes, I am that old and, yes, I wore some stupid Christians shirts every once in a while). Like this kid, I refused to listen to the assistant principal warning me citing ‘separation of church and state.’

So when I was called into the assistant principal’s office for an official reprimand, I asked for her to show me this policy in the student handbook. She couldn’t. And I was free to wear my cheesy religious shirts whenever I wanted.

Just some interesting news I thought you should know about happening up in America’s hat, aye (Canada, that is).

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Leadership is a BFD

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Today I’m talking about current events. So I was minding my own business this weekend reading the news and looking forward to seing the Hunger Games when I stumbled upon something that shocked me.

What was it?

I came upon this official Obama/Biden campaign shirt with cussing. And not just cussing. The king of cuss words:

Can you believe it?

Now, I’m not a prude. I’m not afraid of controversy (I mean, look at the title of my book). I appreciate the humor of the shirt. I appreciate them not running from the Joe Biden gaff this obviously refers to. I would be fine with it coming from third party company or independent campaign organization. I’d laugh and retweet it.

>But this is completely inappropriate coming from such a prominent leadership position–coming from the preeminent leadership postion in the world, even. 

This office of president is something that should be handled with dignity, class, and the highest degree of character. It’s not a place to be crass, petulant, or petty.

I would be equally disturbed if the GOP came up with a shirt that said: Obama, WTF?!

This is just shameful and embarrassing. The office of president is something to look up to, something that should set the example, something I should be able to tell my kids about and how there is nothing higher or important to aspire to.

>Leadership is not a place to act like some trendy teenager chasing cool.

Does our culture need to grow up a little? Leadership is a big deal. We should treat it as such. It deserves a higher standard, especially when we claim to be a Christian (like both the president and vice-president do). No?

Just a thought.

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10 Things I Still Hate About New Year’s Resolutions

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*This is a tongue-in-cheek article I wrote with regard to our new year and new goals–and how difficult they are to accomplish.

It’s time. The beginning of the New Year is off and running. Will we start it with new perspectives and accomplishments? 2 years ago I finished my first book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. I set a goal to finish it by March. I did. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be March 2008! I was a year late. I don’t have to say it was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I loved and hated the entire process. But at least I finished it, right? I guess I am glutton for punishment, because I am setting a goal to finish another book this year. UGH!

It’s true, I have a long list of failed accomplishments. So I wanted to update some fundamental lessons I’ve learned about making resolutions and accomplishing goals. That’s why I am gleaning from both my successes and failures. Put in no particular order, I hope these lessons can help you with your resolutions and make this one of the best years of your life…maybe even the best year ever!

GOALS: Like Santa, resolutions are a list of personal goals that you’ll need to check at least twice. I’m the type of person that does fine with a short list. But once my to-do list has over ten things on it, I can’t get anything done. That’s why I think it’s best to assemble two different lists. One list is the BIG-ticket items, like writing a book, loosing 20 pounds (I’ve already done this, but I need to lose another 20), or finding a new job. The other list will be the small-ticket items, like reading a book a month, learning to play the piano, or organizing and labeling the family photos. The process can get overwhelming. That’s why you’ve got to get out of your regular environment to do it right. Go away for a few days to a conference, golf trip, or antiquing quest. If you can, minimize the distractions of normal life so you can think about new ideas. Reduce the clutter in order to clear the path. This is where creative brain waves thrive. Don’t forget to bring a pad and pencil wherever you go and write everything down as you look for that rare colored vinyl album of your favorite band. Write from your heart first, and then sift with your mind later and decide what list the resolutions belong on.

MOMENTUM: Having no momentum is a resolution killer. You need momentum bad. It is the make-or-break thing. That’s why it is so dangerous to miss a couple days of exercise or not eat right for a few days. That’s how the fatty makes his way back into the mirror. I have found two critical ingredients that make up momentum: 1) support and 2) validation. Without those you will stall. Support is your wife liking the idea of your book (speaking in context of myself, of course) and letting you pursue it. Validation is someone actually buying your book, for example. Since it takes so long to accomplish a goal like this (or losing weight, saving money, etc.), you’ll very often have to figure out how to be your own source of momentum. Not to mention, if one of your major life-goals doesn’t have measurable impact. Will you pursue a goal like this again? Legend has it that Thomas Edison failed 5,000 times before he got a light bulb to work right. He was his own source of momentum all along the way without any validation. Keep it up!

DOUBT: There is no doubt, you will doubt. Doubt is your biggest enemy. Besides the negativity from other people, you can easily second guess yourself to death or beat yourself up over and over. It’s not that people mean to be negative. It’s just that no one will be as excited about your resolutions as you, especially with the BIG ones. Nothing will cause a state of stagnancy in your progress like an overwhelming cloud of doubt. In fact, there will be more doubts than anything else. Once you decide to put together a list of goals, it’s like someone builds a doubt factory next door to flood the air you breath. Whether you believe in God or not, you need to fight doubt by believing and having faith in the success of your resolutions.

MONEY: Now is the time to take stock of your income and outflow. The economy is hanging on a thread, people are still losing jobs, and most likely your home isn’t going to be worth what you paid for it for quite some time. The problem? Many resolutions cost money, money, and more money especially something like writing book or remodeling your kitchen. I’m not saying don’t do those things you want to do. I’m just saying take stock of what you have coming in, create safe margins, and spend accordingly. Don’t just start spending yourself into financial oblivion. That ruins lives. But you know what improves lives? Accomplishing resolutions that are important to you. Nothing is healthier for your attitude, outlook, and potential hopes and dreams. Find ways to save money and do it better. In regard to one of my goals, it’s important to know that by the time a book hits stores (or Amazon.com), there’s been about $20K invested in the project. There is editing, rewriting, more editing, design, layout, website, marketing, and printing costs. If you can’t afford to do this all yourself, then you’ll have to put all your efforts into getting published. This is largely based on whom you know or who you are these days. So if you are not rich, famous, or powerful (or related to someone who is), you have quite a mission and challenge ahead of you. You’ll need to convince someone to put their money into your goal. So start thinking how this applies to your own resolutions.

DOERS DO: Like everything else in life, it’s all about follow-through. That’s why we have to make resolutions in the first place: we don’t get them done. You may have noticed, but follow-through is not a common character trait today. You’ll never get anything done if you don’t actually do anything. I told people for a long time about the book I was writing. Unfortunately, nothing was really getting done. I felt like some longhaired kid wearing sandals and a tie-dyed t-shirt smoking-out and driving around the country in a Volkswagen bus telling people I was going to change the world. So I started a handyman business in order to finish my book. It was the only way to create any flexibility in my schedule to finish. It was, and still is, a big risk, but it was the only way. Dreamers dream. And doers do. So go and do.

TIME: You need time, but it is not on your side. Like money, once you spend this you can never get it back. All the regrets and apologies can never replace the time you’ve wasted away. If you don’t figure out a way to balance your job, school, love-interest, marriage, kids etc, you’ll never accomplish your resolutions. One-by-one, you’ll give up on goal after goal. Sound hard? It is. That’s why the most important resolutions we make can also be called labors of love. In the real world, a passion will drain your time. Just try to find a healthy balance that you can live with and won’t ruin your life, job, or family. Keep in mind, taking time for one thing means taking it from another. You can’t give everything your best efforts, so divvy time where it counts the most. You might have to cut out watching American Idol (that’s easy for me since Simon is gone) this year—or something else that wastes valuable time. You’ll have to make time for your priorities if you’re going to resolve to get stuff done.

FAILURE: You will fail. I know that’s not warm and fuzzy, but it’s true. I’m not trying to be negative as I warned about earlier. Remember Thomas Edison? The fact is, most successful endeavors are built on a long succession of lesson-learning failures. That’s really the point. Just learn from it. Talk to a successful person and I’m willing to bet they’ll back me up on this. I can’t tell you how many bad decisions I have made. As much as it pains me, I try to prepare myself (as much as I can) for the fact that my books may not be all that successful. In fact, (statistically speaking) they probably won’t. That’s life. Will I learn from failing? I sure hope so. It’s the only solution if these goals are as important to me as I think. I just can’t let failure make me into a quitter.

TEACHABLE: Speaking in regard to my most important resolution this year, you know why people can’t stand most artists and writers? They know everything about everything. They’re not teachable. People who aren’t teachable don’t take any advice from anyone. It’s always a temptation to cut corners or compromise on a project when it gets hard. But that decreases the integrity of what we are doing, and, even worse, gets us back to our old ways and business as usual. Someone else’s perspective is important. That’s one of the best ways to get out with old and in with the new. You always need an outside opinion, good or bad. On your most important resolutions, you’ll need to learn to ask for input and be able to take it. Just try to know the difference between negative criticism and constructive input. How will you know? You’ll have to decide that one for yourself. And don’t think someone has to be an artist (or whatever is in line with your particular goal) to have helpful input. Listen to the two cents of nobodies, somebodies, and anybodies. The best goals are accomplished with the help that comes from standing on the shoulders of others.

REVIVE: I know it’s a religious term, but revival is real. That is to say, your resolution will die. There’s no way around it. As much as you try not to, you will inevitably lose momentum. No one will care about what you have accomplished and it will probably hurt. Life will interfere or get really stressful. Even worse, you may not be progressing as well as you want or the results won’t be all that great. You may even start to hate your idea and get sick of it. You will change as a person. The core ideas that your most important resolutions are built upon will likely need to evolve many times over. I rewrote my first book several times. It’s 60K words, but there is easily another 60K that ended up on the cutting room floor. Like Frankenstein, do whatever you have to do to revive your goals back to life every time it dies. Stay focused. Keep believing. Make adjustments. Reshape it. Roll with the punches. Just bring it back to life! You will never get any resolutions done if you don’t.

VISION: Yes, building a vision is different than setting a goals. Setting goals is the end of one point, while building a vision is the beginning of another. It’s as if vision is built on a series of goals accomplished. It is a long-term, big-picture look at what you want to happen in the end. So if you want to lose 20 pounds, remodel the kitchen, buy a new car, read more, or write a book, brand that vision of your future in your mind. You have to think beyond your resolutions a little. Once you have a tentative vision of what you want the future to look like, then just fill in the steps. Seeing is believing, after all. Those are your resolutions. Those are how you get to your vision of what can be. The vision will change drastically as time goes on. That’s fine. But the vision gives a framework and avenue for the goals and resolutions to flourish and evolve. It keeps you moving. Building a vision is not easy. It is one of the hardest things for me. Most artistic people aren’t strong in administrative tasks, which building a vision is. But you have to do it in order to accomplish your New Year’s Resolutions.

There you have it. Achieving goals is an ongoing process throughout life. These are many of the things I’ve wrestled through while writing, releasing, and promoting my first book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. Sure, I got that book done a year later than I wanted. But if I had never set the goal, it probably would have taken even longer.

As I keep my eyes on the future, these ideas keep me focused. This is why I hope these lessons can be a catalyst for achieving your own goals as you turn your dreams into reality many times over.

Oh yes, and Happy New Year!

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10 Things I Still Hate About The Holidays

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*This is a tongue-in-cheek article I wrote and like to repost every year. It is inspired my my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity and hopefully I will add some levity and focus to this time of year.

The holidays are upon us. I’ve been through enough of them now to know come January 1st I will have a list of things swimming around in my mind. And it’s not a “resolution” kind of list. It’s a “Where did all the fun that I was supposed to have go this holiday?” kind of list. It’s a “I have bunch of regrets mixed in with my fond memories” kind of list.

To preempt the regrets in order to create a reservoir of overwhelmingly positive memories, I have decided to make a list of all the things I hate about the holidays to bring out what is (or should be) most important to me. And I think we can all see ourselves somewhere in this list. So I hope it helps with your holiday celebration whatever it may be—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, or Festivus (for the rest of us). Plus, I hope it might add a little levity and bring some focus to this busy time. Sometimes it helps to have a sense of humor.

10. Decorating. I hate all the time it takes to decorate. Now, let me be clear, I love decorations and things being decorated. I just don’t like doing it! The untangling of lights, finding hooks for each ornament, finding the one bulb in a string of 50 that is keeping the whole string dead, and pretending like I am having so much fun for the kids sake is all very frustrating. A few years ago, we even resorted to having an artificial Christmas tree. As much as I hate it and vowed to NEVER sink to such a low, it’s so much better (and easier)— less mess, less money, no maintenance. I even keep it stored, fully assembled in the basement. So I literally have the tree up in ten minutes when it’s time to get started. We also light a pine tree scented candle so our visitors think it’s real. But the kids like all the hoopla and that’s enough for me. Plus, I do love putting the train around the tree. That’s pretty awesome, although our 9 month old seems to be deathly afraid of it. Not sure what to do about that one.

9. Shopping. UGH! I’m not a good gift giver or receiver. My wife, Lisa, does the shopping for the gifts for the kids. That is VERY good! I do love that. Sure, we talk about what to get, but she does all the work in the end. The problem is, I always wait until the last minute when shopping for her. Yes, I know it’s a man-cliché. It’s just how it happens. Thank God stores are open Christmas Eve! For me, there is nothing worse than going to the mall during the holidays. You just can’t get everything on-line. Some people get recharged emotionally shopping at the mall (like my wife). I just get suicidal. I’m also not good at telling others what I want. That doesn’t make it easy for others to shop for me. It’s not that I don’t want stuff. I just hate telling people what I want. Plus, everything has a dollar value to me nowadays, so I think about how much we’re spending constantly. Besides, I like life simple. I like relaxing, going to the movies, and eating. It’s not like you can put a rib-eye in the stocking, right? Plus, the things I really do want are just too much money (a remodeled house, new truck, 1,000,000 copies of my book to be sold etc. are some things that come to mind). I even had someone email me their total after Christmas shopping. It was $666.66. They had to tell me. Hilarious! That’ll make you think your Christmas shopping isn’t quite right.

8. Fighting. Don’t lie, we all have several snippy moments during the most wonderful time of the year. And yes, some of us even argue. We might even yell at the kids a little. It’s hard, stressful, and tense trying to have so much fun and make something so special. We want it all to be so perfect and that can set us off quite easily. Tempers flare during what is supposed to be a very satisfying and relaxing season with the family. You may also be tense from the traveling to visit family. Now throw all the other things on my list in and you have a recipe for disaster.

7. Fat. Not you, but me. We all gain a little around the holidays and it’s not usually character, patience, or anything useful like that. It’s weight. Overeat? That doesn’t mean anything to me this time of year. Full? What does that have to do with anything? Eating is a state-of-mind for me. You have to be disciplined and really apply yourself if you want to do it properly. Portion and rationing are the smart thing to do. But since when is smart fun when it comes to food? Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, honey-baked ham, rib-roast, sweet potatoes, apple pie. Yes please! Anyone hungry yet?

6. Montezuma’s Revenge. If you don’t get that reference, it doesn’t mean you won’t get it from eating so much food. Tums and Pepto-Bismal will help. That’s right, I said it. Fried this and saturated that starts to catch up. For me, there’s no way around it because I refuse to eat responsibly during the holidays. That just wouldn’t be any fun now would it! As a matter of fact, I am a handyman by day and I’ve even put Tums in the first-aid kit for just such an emergency.

5. Holiday Blues. I hate the fact that the holiday mindset doesn’t set in until it is all nearly over. I think if I could take off work from Halloween until News Years Day, it might get me in the right holiday mindset sooner and keep me there longer. Sounds good, right? You’d have time to get the stressful ‘to-do’ items done, relax, and know there is even enough time to recoup. But mostly we’re working and shopping right until the last minute, so the holiday feeling doesn’t set in because we haven’t been still or relaxed enough to ‘detox’ from the regular routine of life. I usually hit the ground running during holidays. What’s worse is, once I realize the relaxing euphoria has finally set in, it is followed by the thought that the holiday season will be over in a day or two.

4. Political Correctness. This is a relatively recent development. Over the past five or so years there have been some ridiculous things happening surrounding the holidays. From public school teachers being threatened with formal reprimands for saying Merry Christmas, to Christmas trees being removed from public grounds because they have a religious meaning. And if the trees aren’t removed, they are simply called ‘Holiday Trees’ in order to be more inclusive. The funny thing is, Christmas trees are actually a pagan practice that Christians adopted. That’s the problem with political correctness gone wild. You forget who you are and what it’s really about. So Happy Ramanahanakwanzmas? NO! Merry Christmas! I wish you all the best. But that’s how we role around here.

3. Spenders Remorse. In order for it to feel like a holiday, I spend freely. This is because in our everyday lives we have to be budget conscious. I hate the feeling like I am spending too much, but at the same time, I ignore it so it will still feel like a holiday. This only compounds the issue. We always go over budget. Not sure how not to do that one.

2. Santa. I don’t hate Santa, but hate the issue of Santa within our family. Why? Because most of us who’ve grown-up in America were told there’s Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, God, and Jesus. We teach kids they’re all real, but they’re not all real. Eventually our kids will be okay with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy being cute little white lies, while accepting Jesus and God as completely legit—right? Not really. At least I don’t think so, and it’s something I talk about in my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. This is something that my wife and I have spoken about in depth. Will we tell our kids about Santa? Will Santa be the one who gives them their gifts? It’s funny how many atheists(and some agnostics) have railed me over the years for teaching my kids about Jesus and God—something that can’t be proven. You know, they want to wait to introduce ideas of faith and religion when their kids are old enough to decide for themselves. Sounds so intellectual and enlightened, right? But these people have had no problem telling their kids about a fat guy sliding down the chimney with a sack full of gifts and eating the cookies and milk, his elves, flying reindeer, and somehow doing this at midnight in every home all around the world. What’s with that? Do I have a problem with the story of Santa? Not at all. We’re not Grinches. We tell our kids the story of the real Saint Nicholas. But we’ve decided that’s where it stops. Sorry Santa. No cookies for you at the Berggren home.

1. Forgetting. I suppose #2 really leads to this one. I don’t know what it is all about for you (the holidays, that is). But for me it’s supposed to be about the birth of Jesus— you know, the most influential person in history. I hate that all of the above stuff on my list tends to get in the way of what these times are supposed to be about. I have to tell myself more than once during the holidays, “It’s all about Jesus, stupid!” I don’t want to forget to remember what my priorities are supposed to be. Whatever you believe in, I hope you’ll add value to yourself and those around you by relaxing, spending time with loved ones, and celebrating. That’s the #1 thing. It’s what the holidays are supposed to be all about. And I love that.

Lastly…MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Judge Rules Yodeling Must Stop Since It Offends Muslims

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Today we enter the world of the absurd. Let’s pretend you have a neighbor. Now that neighbor likes to mow the lawn and…yodel.

It starst to get annoying, so what do you do? Do you: 1) ignore it 2) ask him to stop or 3) report his yodeling to the authorities.

In the world of the strange, you report him to the authorities. That’s what happened in the country of Austria:

An Austrian court has recently fined a citizen for yodeling while mowing his lawn, according to a report in The Kronen Zeitung newspaper. The citizen, 63-year-old Helmut G., was told by the court that his yodeling offended his next-door Muslim neighbors, who accused him of tryingto mock and imitate the call of the Muezzin…Unfortunately for Helmut G., his neighbors were in the middle of a prayer when he started to yodel. The Kronen Zeitung reported that he was fined 800 Euros after judges ruled that he could have tried to offend his neighbors and ridicule their belief. Helmut G. clarified that “It was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood.”

This seems ridiculous. But I suppose in a world where diversity and political correctness reigns supreme, we must be sure no one is offended or has their feelings hurt.

In any event, my neighbors dogs always seem to be barking when we go to bed. I wonder if I should call the police.

Have a YO-DE-LE-HE-HOO of a day!

[CLICK HERE TO HEAR SOME YODELING]

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VIDEO: The Israeli Palestinian Conflict In Five Minutes

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I usually post something funny on Fridays. Today, I’m doing it different since I highlighted this child Pentecostal preacher.

Often in the news, is the Israeli Palestinian conflict. As a Christian, it is something I follow for obvious reasons. In contrast to what the communist professor Noam Chompsky says, I am not pro-Israel because I am actually anti-semitic. Israelis are accused of being imperialists and occupiers, while Palestinians are accused of terrorism and anti-semitism. In fact, a vote in the UN is supposed to come up this month on creating a Palestinian state. Sounds great, right? Not so much.

The Palestinine Liberation Organization (PLO) ambassador to the US, Maen Areikat, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the Palestinian state his regime is trying to gain recognition for at the UN next week should be free of Jews.

>So how is peace achieved?

Here is a great video that explains the Israeli Palestinian conflict in about five minutes, believe it or not. I highly encourag you watch it.

Shalom!

Remembering Never, Again

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I didn’t want to do this for several reasons. Mainly, because I thought everyone else would. But then I realized they probably wouldn’t. When something big, emotional, and traumatic crosses our paths, sometimes it’s easier to forget about it. But sometimes there is value in remembering the thing you want to forget forever. It can clarify what’s important to you. In a sense, by remembering the hard things you refresh your list of priorities.

I remember it like it was yesterday…

I was living with my wife in our first house in Ft. Lauderdale. I had taken a job at an insurance repair business as a supervisor of a small crew. We repaired water and fire damage, mainly. My wife and I were also deep in the process of helping start a church in Miami, FL.

This particular day I was working alone. My job was to go to south Miami(Kendall, I think) to do some punch-out on an apartment building that the company had the contract on. I have always been a news junky, so I had the radio on in my work van while driving.

Just as I had arrived there was a new flash about a small commuter plane that had accidentally flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings. Of course, in a short time I would learn that both those details were quite wrong.

At that point, I had no reason to be overly concerned or worried. I thought it was awful, but I had no idea. So I gathered my tools and went into the apartment building to work.

I set up and went to work. I put on my little portable radio and started painting a door jam. While I was working and listening a second plane suddenly hit the other World Trade Center building. That’s when I knew it wasn’t an accident.

From there, the news was patchy. I was lacking focus and momentum, because I was a little afraid by this time. I continued working. I was dragging, but what else could I do?

And then the first building collapsed.

The news wasn’t clear on this at first. That’s because it was so unbelievable. Eventually, the truth was clear: The building was gone. I was in shock and sick.

And then…

The other one fell.

By this time, I couldn’t work. I decided to take an early lunch. Mind you, I had only been working some 30 or so minutes. So I took my lunch in the van and listened to the radio. And listened. And listened.

Finally, I decided I couldn’t work. I was just so distraught. So I packed up, went home, and watched the TV coverage all day and late into the night. I couldn’t watch and couldn’t stop, all at the same time.

I went to work the next day. I also continued to watch the news coverage at night. But by the weekend, I couldn’t anymore. It was just too much. And that is the main approach I’ve taken since then.

I remember only when necessary.

Several years ago, I flew up to Connecticut to help my Dad move. He lived in the south west portion of the state, which functioned as a suburb of New York City.

Through the course of the day, neighbors would stop by to wish my Dad well (we were pushing out the next day). One neighbor got to talking. We all sat on the grass in the spring sun. They had a beer and I had a Coke (since I hate beer, and all).

He got to talking about his big brother. Stories of childhood, being best friends, best men at each others weddings, etc. ensued. So I asked if his brother lived in the area.

That’s when he told me all about September 11th. And I remembered it all over again. His brother worked in one of the buildings.

He proceeded to recount the events of the day—from his perspective. He cried all the while. This was a big dude. He was a construction worker, big and burly. So it had quite an impact on me. I looked at the situation totally different. I’m glad he shared his story. In that moment, it brought clarity and does just as strongly every time I remember.

Remembering the things we never want to remember is hard. But sometimes it is good to. It helps us think on what is most important to us.

What were you doing that day?

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*Remembering Never is something I repost each year, since there’s no better way for me to say all this.

Weird Zone Christianity

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There are a few elements of Christianity that often get avoided. For obvious reasons, we don’t like talking about some strange areas and elements of our faith. Perhaps, rightly so. I mean who wants to talk about sin, Hell, or the Devil? No one.

If you don’t know, I attend North Point Community Church. Yesterday (Sunday), my church ventured into the weird zone of Christianity and talked about Hell in the series Shocking Statements of Jesus. Of course, it was done very tactfully. I’ve been attending there 6 years and listening to their messages for 9 years, and I can’t remember this subject ever being breached so clearly. I’m probably wrong, but at the moment that’s what I seem to remember.

Now, I understand why. Weird Zone Christianity doesn’t help a church grow, make friends, or make for good marketing. But it needs to be talked about. Why? Because it brings the gut-level perspective we so often need.

I’m not saying we need to talk and learn about that stuff all the time. But if we don’t ever talk about these things, it gives the impression that we have to apologize for God or be ashamed of what He says? We have to be familiar with and be willing to talk about the full council of God (as I call it). That includes the harder issues (like hell even), but apologize, hide, avoid, or feel ashamed? No. It’s all part of the territory. Otherwise it also gives the impression that those areas of Scripture aren’t all that valid or worth defending.

We need to keep in mind what’s really going on here, because it can even affect our day-to-day. For example, perhaps a fellow Christian has a habit or personality trait that drives you nuts, maybe you even think it’s a negative trait that needs to change. No one’s perfect, after all. As time goes on, you never talk about this trait with them and eventually decide to end the relationship because you deem it ‘unhealthy’. Sure, you pray about it and for them, of course. That’s the spiritual thing to do, right? Not really. You’ve lost perspective of the big picture and what’s really going on here.

The spiritual thing to do is to talk to your fellow Christian right away as is modeled in Matthew 18:15. Go to him or her, because there is a real enemy here–and it’s not that so-and-so is too sarcastic or talks too much. The real enemy wants to get a foothold via some stupid trait and ruin your relationship and ruin all the peripheral relationships as well.

When something as simple as a personality trait never gets talked about it can lead to gossip (as you’re likely talk to other people about this problem, but never talk to the actual person you have a grievance toward), pride (as you become oblivious to your own flaws), and religiosity (since you’re ‘praying’ for and about this, but never actually doing what the Bible says and go to the person). And by the way, ‘going’ to the person does not include dropping a bomb on them and listing all the things wrong with them as reasons for ending the relationship. That’s mean and cowardly–and not spiritual. And the enemy wins here as pain and destruction rain down on these relationships.

If we don’t talk about sin, Hell, and the Devil then we don’t really understand the good stuff of forgiveness, Heaven, and God. And we won’t understand reconciliation and how important it is to handle relationships correctly.

So I am trying to learn to talk about the weird zone of Christianity tactfully in order to keep the big picture in perspective.

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Death Blow

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WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW

Okay, today is going to be serious. This week some pictures came out that will turn your stomach. I have included them below for your benefit. Why will you benefit from these?

Because you should know that the FDA has mandated that the following images appear on every single box of cigarettes sold or every ad that cigarette makers run as a warning.

Now, I hate smoking, but I think this is ridiculous. I have some thoughts on this. But before I say what I think, take a look at the photos:

I find this outrageous. Why? Because it makes no sense.

Here’s are my questions:

Will the government mandate pictures like this for the states that are legalizing marijuana?

The effects of pot are far more destructive than smoking cigs. The carcinogens are much higher. In fact, they are up to 70% higher than cigarettes. And the peripheral affects on personal behavior via addiction and mental health are much much worse.

My guess is no, the FDA won’t do that for pot.

Why doesn’t the government mandate woman who are considering abortions view pictures of the different stages of growth of a fetus? Or even pictures of an aborted fetus? (Here are some pics if you’d like to see them. I just couldn’t bear to actually post them.) Or perhaps even of what it looks like when it is happening? Or pictures of the effects of depression that so often follow an abortion?

Not bloody likely. This would be ‘offensive’ and ‘insensitive’, right? Not to mention, it would be politically incorrect because it would be a statement about the morality of the decision and the laws protecting it…and we’re not a ‘theocracy’ after all.

But don’t smoke darn it!

What a warped sense of morality the government tries to legislate. That’s why I say GOVT- MYOB!

Just a thought.

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Andy Stanley, Bitches, And Whores

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Did that get your attention? It should. It is a powerful statement. Let me clarify…

First, if you don’t know, Andy Stanley is one of the most influential pastors, church leaders, and communicators in America today. He founded a church called North Point Community Church, which is one the biggest churches in America today. It’s also the church I have been going to for the last 6 years.

Anyway, back to the bitches and whores thing.

He is currently teaching a series called Love, Sex, & Dating. It is very good. He’s been saying some very serious and politically incorrect things that need to be said.

Yesterday (Sunday) he was talking about how woman are treated. This was part 2 of the series that was directed to men.

He made the point that women are often treated like a commodity in our culture today. In other words, they are something to be acquired, something we can do with as we please (use them), and then done away with. And then, it’s on to the next one.

Obviously, this is wrong–and that was Andy’s point.

He emphasized that Jesus elevated the status of woman with his words and how he treated them in his day. In fact, he spoke to women at a time when they were treated far worse than a commodity. They were second class citizens at best. They were property, and many were slaves. The point is, they were treated in an inhuman way. But Jesus set a course that began changing that perception, which is one of the reasons Christianity caught on. And that is to be our model today.

At one point, he got very direct. He said something to the effect of:

If you have any music in your iPod that refers to woman as bitches and whores, you need to get rid of it.

Anything, even a song or entertainment, that devalues woman and relegates them to that inhuman place again needs to go. He also went on to say how terrible pornography is and actually dulls a man’s appetite for a real woman and sincere relationship. It’s destructive, creates dysfunction, and has to go too.

Pretty powerful stuff. So I guess my early Beastie Boys songs must go. Oh well. It’s worth it. And it’s the right thing to do.

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Easter Eggs Renamed Easter Spheres Because Of Religious Implications

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What do you see in the picture? A basket full of Easter eggs? Nope.

Call them Spring Spheres-or else!

That’s what happened to 16-yr-old Jessica who volunteering in a third grade class in her local public school. At the end of the week of her service project she decided she wanted to bring some treats in for the kids. This article reports:

“At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that,” Jessica said.

“I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay,” Jessica explained. “She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat ‘spring spheres.’ I couldn’t call them Easter eggs.”

This is quite ridiculous. Is this what our civilization has come to? Besides, that teacher is clearly an idiot of an educator. Eggs are not spheres. They are ovoids. Get it right!

They should be called Spring Ovoids then. Nice ring, huh? Let me tell you something else, besides a principled stance against such stupid political correctness, I would never bring my kids to a Spring Ovoid Hunt. It just sounds dirty.

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Judge Okays I Heart Boobies Bracelet For High Schoolers

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Yesterday, I mentioned a High School student who got suspended for bringing a Bible to Public School with him because it allegedly violated the “separation of church and state.” Today there is a story on the opposite end of the spectrum. The article states:

“I Heart Boobies” bracelets are sold across the nation and have been banned in many U.S schools… U.S. District Judge Mary McLaughlin sided with students Tuesday in a free-speech test case filed in Pennsylvania by the American Civil Liberties Union. She issued a temporary injunction that bars the Easton Area School District from enforcing its ban… School officials argue the slogan suggests a sexual double meaning and leads to in-school distractions… A few weeks ago, a student at Mountain Empire High School wore a bracelet to school. School administrators say the bracelet led to a “big” disruption in class and that’s why it was banned.

This is an interesting contrast to the story about the kid with the Bible. A “boobies” bracelet with a double entendre meaning in order to attract attention and awareness to the cause of breast cancer is okay, while the a religious symbol is not? It’s just ridiculous.

The bracelet doesn’t particularly bother me, although my kids won’t wear it.  It’s just the contradictions that do bother me. I have to wonder if it would be okay to wear bracelets that say “I Heart Butts” to create awareness for colon cancer or “I Heart Weiners” to promote prostate cancer awareness or “I Heart Vajayjays” to promote cervical cancer awareness? Would that be appropriate? Or how about if a teacher whore any of these, would parents, the principal, or a judge be okay with it?

I’m just sayin’.

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Boy Suspended For Bringing Bible To School

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Here’s an interesting story about a about a High School student in El Cajon, CA who got suspended for bring a Bible to school. It also invokes the memory of something similar that happened to me in High School. The article reports:

According to the suit, in January 2010, a teacher told Dominguez he should not talk about his faith at school because of the “separation of church and state.” After Dominguez continued to share his Christian beliefs with other students, he was then ordered not to bring his Bible to school. Two days later, the teacher confiscated his Bible and Dominguez was suspended for two days, according to the suit.

“He didn’t give any sermons or yell or scream… just sharing his faith with other students. That was it,” said Brad Dacus, Dominguez’s attorney.

A school representative says “there’s a lot more to the story.” I’m sure there is, but I thought it is an interesting situation to follow.

I became a Christian when I was in High School. Yes, I was also a bit obnoxious (even more than today!). One of things I did was wear loud shirts (and other gear) professing my faith. I wanted to start conversations.

At one point, it got the attention of one of the Assistant Principles. I was taken aside and instructed on the issue of “separation of church and state”. I was also told, for that reason, I couldn’t wear any clothes that spoke of my faith.

So what did I do? I resisted. Surprised? Probably not.

Something didn’t seem right. I said I was going to research the matter in the Student Handbook and get back to her. And I did.

Know what I found? Nothing.

I brought that to the principle, who conceded my point. And off I was–free to wear all the annoying Christian gear I wanted.

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Town Renames Easter Because Of Religious Implications

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Spring Egg Hunt. Nice ring, huh? NO! Here is a news segment of a town that has taken the ‘Easter’ of its annual egg hunt? Because it is a city sponsored event and officials think there should be a “separation of church and state.” Watch for yourself and roll you eyes with me at the lunacy.

Michelle Obama Invaded My Church

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First Lady Michelle Obama is invading my church (North Point Community Church) today. Okay, that was a bit of an overstatement (and it sounds like I am trying to stir up controversy). Today is the 1-year anniversary of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and she asked if she could come talk about it and celebrate the program at our church. From their own website it is: America’s Move To Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. Of course, our church said yes. I probably shouldn’t comment on this, but, well, you know me…

Am I going? No.

And it’s not because I have to work today. I am home doing stuff getting ready to welcome our new son (#4) on Friday. And it’s not because I am a fatty or that I feel guilty about raising fat kids (I’m not, by the way. Raising fat kids, that is. But I am a bit of a fatty myself). I could go. So that no is an emphatic one.

I’m not going because I am very uncomfortable with the decision. Now, I love my church. My family has been serving and giving there for 6 years. And we are not going anywhere (ie. not leaving because of this). So this is not a detrimental decision. I am not going to talk trash. I support my church in all their decisions and trust them. It’s probably the right decision, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some cautionary thoughts or opinions of my own. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever said anything like this because I love “all things North Point”.

I just don’t like the idea of government officials or representatives coming into churches, especially those with a philosophy of big, centralized government. It creates too many contradictions, too much hypocrisy, breeds corruption (since power attracts the corrupt and the corrupt seek more power), leads to blatant opportunism (since it seeks to sustain it’s control/power) and often not principled (which is built on core values, and if opportunism and control is your desire there is no room for core values).

For example, you know what’s really unhealthy for children? Abortion. That kills kids 100% of the time. In fact, it kills about 1.4 million children every year and has killed about 43 million since it became legal in 1973. I’m just sayin’. [source: whitehouse.gov]

I also don’t like government officials or representatives coming into churches who come from a philosophy that is constantly trying to secularize and sanitize religion from the public square or sector (unless it is politically beneficial, of course).

For example, I wrote about a person in my small group (community group, Bible study, discussion group, or whatever you want to call it) that teaches at a public school up the street. During the holidays the school had to take the decorations off of the Christmas tree because a parent complained. I don’t really get that one (being that Christmas trees are actually pagan and not Christian, or leaving it up bare being an amicable solution). And then there are the anecdotal stories of public school teachers warned not to hand out Christmas cards or say “Merry Christmas”.

So let me get this right, we can’t say Merry Christmas in the public sector more and more, but Michelle can come into churches and say Merry Government? Woo-hoo!

Beyond that, there is often criticism of religious groups trying to affect public policy (like with abortion)–you know, allegedly trying to create a ‘theocracy’. For some reason, faith is an illegitimate source for values. But there is no problem with government coming into churches to influence public policy? Let’s be honest, that’s what this is. I guess government is a legitimate source for values?

You might be thinking, “Jason, you’re so judgmental and jaded. Isn’t this neutral ground? You’re making a big deal out of nothing. We can all agree on making our kids healthier, can’t we?”

Sure, then let’s meet on truly neutral ground–like an event center or something (there are plenty in Atlanta). Then Washington could ask local churches to partner and support the agenda. That way we have a real choice. I mean, how much of a choice do you have when the President’s wife asks to speak at your church? You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

There’s really nothing neutral when it comes to politics. And that’s the point: Politicians use political power to promise policies that will benefit certain people in order to harvest votes. Make no mistake, this initiative is about increasing government regulations and spending. As it is, speculations are that there will be more sin taxes on certain foods, salt limits in food production, and portion control for restaruants. Either way, the government is set to spend over half a BILLION dollars EVERY year on this initiative (and related ones). Read that again…$$$HALF A BILLION DOLLARS EVERY YEAR$$$

In general, this is not a legitimate use of tax-payer dollars (which is in reality being borrowed from China, by the way, so it is not even payed for), especially when we are all broke. It’s not the government’s job to tell us what to eat or what to do. I’m sorry there are so many fat kids sitting around and eating Doritos while playing X-Box. If we’re going to spend money on kids, let’s spend it something useful–like literacy, English, science, math, technical programs, marriage and family classes, etc.

I can’t help but also think that Michelle is trying to indirectly muster support for her husband with one base that is not supporting him all that much right now. Who’s that? White evangelicals. I’m just being honest, because that’s the main demographic at my church. It seems manipulative. Make no mistake, the election cycle has begun.

Our church is now officially on the radar of the government. That makes me uncomfortable. It should make everyone uncomfortable, both the religious and irreligious. This all begs the question, what will my church say when President Barack Obama calls and asks to speak when he is campaigning for president again? It probably won’t happen. But if it does, what do you say? Again, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Plus, I can’t help but worry if this is a jump-the-shark moment for my church with regard to political influences. It’s hard to resist the exposure, for sure.

And this tension is really what the First Amendment was all about:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It was meant to protect the religious citizens from government, not to sanitize the government of religion or religious citizens.

Just some thoughts from a ‘religious’ fatty.

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Quote of the Week on Children

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“We live in a society today where these children can be wanted children. Even if you don’t want to keep this child after you’ve had it, there’s plenty of young couples out there, that want children.”

-I know it’s Friday, but I thought this quote was appropriate considering my post earlier this week “Is Pro-Choice Ever Pro-Death?” These are words from Norma McCorvey. She once used the alias Jane Roe in the landmark court case Roe v. Wade, regarding abortion. She has since had many regrets. I know it’s an uncomfortable subject, but it is worth thinking about considering some recent statistics from the New York City Health Department.

Is Pro-Choice Ever Pro-Death?

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I’m about to get serious. I’m not sure if you’re pro-choice or pro-life, but what I do know is that bringing it up makes some people angry instantly. Some recent statistics came out that SHOULD SHOCK you no matter what your position is.

This issue is always a conflict to me. Certainly I don’t want to tell people how to live their lives. Then again, there is a certain ‘social contract’ that we develop as a society in order to maintain a civilized and orderly culture–so everything doesn’t become relative and we no longer value important virtues necessary to sustain a society.

I must admit that I have a high value on life. And although abortion is often defended in the context of reducing poverty, reducing unwanted pregnancies (and abuse by default), protecting the health of the mother, protecting the rights of society in general by ensuring the rights of the individual, not objectifying women but, instead, liberating them, the truth is, over the last 30 years, none of these ‘selling’ points have proven to be true. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

A few weeks ago a tragic statistic came out. It revealed that 41% of all pregnancies in New York City end in abortion (here is the Department of Health Report). Did you hear that? Let me repeat it:

41% of all pregnancies in New York City end in abortion!

You don’t have to be religious or pro-life to understand that statistic is horrifying, disgusting, and even foreboding. And when this breaks down by ethnic group it gets even worse. It doesn’t count abortion with all the other death-rate statistics. That’s because it would affect the overall death-rates to such a degree that people might really start paying attention and wondering about the practice. That would bring attention to the issue that would demand some changes. At least that’s how I see it.

This all begs some thought provoking questions:

Is this what it means to be a civilized society? And is this really liberating to women?  How can we as a society say we value rights and ‘the law’ when we don’t value life?

I just don’t think that works in the long run. It breaks everything down because it’s as if every value starts and builds from there. It’s kind of an unwritten mantra that is playing out in our society.

If we don’t value life in the beginning stages…we certainly won’t value life in the end stages.

If we don’t value life in the beginning stages…we won’t value it when it comes to considering going to war.

If we don’t value life in the beginning stages…we won’t value making relationships work.

If we don’t value life in the beginning stages…we won’t value making marriages work.

If we don’t value life in the beginning stages…we won’t value honoring the relationships built in business on contracts and ethics (which are built on values).

If we don’t value life in the beginning stages…we don’t really value life.

We aren’t really all that civilized, are we? We aren’t really so enlightened as a society after all. It’s sad. Bummer.

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So What Do You Hate About Accomplishing Goals and New Resolutions?

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*Following is a tongue-in-cheek article I wrote with regard to our new year and new goals–and how difficult they are to accomplish.

It’s time. The beginning of the New Year is off and running. Will we start it with new perspectives and accomplishments? A year and a half ago I finished my first book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. I set a goal to finish it by March. I did. Unfortunately, it was supposed to be March 2008! I was a year late. I don’t have to say it was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I loved and hated the entire process. But at least I finished it, right? I guess I am glutton for punishment, because I am setting a goal to finish another book this year. UGH!

It’s true, I have a long list of failed accomplishments. So I wanted to update some fundamental lessons I’ve learned about making resolutions and accomplishing goals. That’s why I am gleaning from both my successes and failures. Put in no particular order, I hope these lessons can help you with your resolutions and make this one of the best years of your life…maybe even the best year ever!

GOALS: Like Santa, resolutions are a list of personal goals that you’ll need to check at least twice. I’m the type of person that does fine with a short list. But once my to-do list has over ten things on it, I can’t get anything done. That’s why I think it’s best to assemble two different lists. One list is the BIG-ticket items, like writing a book, loosing 20 pounds, or finding a new job. The other list will be the small-ticket items, like reading a book a month, learning to play the piano, or organizing and labeling the family photos. The process can get overwhelming. That’s why you’ve got to get out of your regular environment to do it right. Go away for a few days to a conference, golf trip, or antiquing quest. If you can, minimize the distractions of normal life so you can think about new ideas. Reduce the clutter in order to clear the path. This is where creative brain waves thrive. Don’t forget to bring a pad and pencil wherever you go and write everything down as you look for that rare colored vinyl album of your favorite band. Write from your heart first, and then sift with your mind later and decide what list the resolutions belong on.

MOMENTUM: Having no momentum is a resolution killer. You need momentum bad. It is the make-or-break thing. That’s why it is so dangerous to miss a couple days of exercise or not eat right for a few days. That’s how the fatty makes his way back into the mirror. I have found two critical ingredients that make up momentum: 1) support and 2) validation. Without those you will stall. Support is your wife liking the idea of your book (speaking in context of myself, of course) and letting you pursue it. Validation is someone actually buying your book, for example. Since it takes so long to accomplish a goal like this (or losing weight, saving money, etc.), you’ll very often have to figure out how to be your own source of momentum. Not to mention, if one of your major life-goals doesn’t have measurable impact. Will you pursue a goal like this again? Legend has it that Thomas Edison failed 5,000 times before he got a light bulb to work right. He was his own source of momentum all along the way without any validation. Keep it up!

DOUBT: There is no doubt, you will doubt. Doubt is your biggest enemy. Besides the negativity from other people, you can easily second guess yourself to death or beat yourself up over and over. It’s not that people mean to be negative. It’s just that no one will be as excited about your resolutions as you, especially with the BIG ones. Nothing will cause a state of stagnancy in your progress like an overwhelming cloud of doubt. In fact, there will be more doubts than anything else. Once you decide to put together a list of goals, it’s like someone builds a doubt factory next door to flood the air you breath. Whether you believe in God or not, you need to fight doubt by believing and having faith in the success of your resolutions.

MONEY: Now is the time to take stock of your income and outflow. The economy is hanging on a thread, people are still losing jobs, and most likely your home isn’t going to be worth what you paid for it for quite some time. The problem? Many resolutions cost money, money, and more money especially something like writing book or remodeling your kitchen. I’m not saying don’t do those things you want to do. I’m just saying take stock of what you have coming in, create safe margins, and spend accordingly. Don’t just start spending yourself into financial oblivion. That ruins lives. But you know what improves lives? Accomplishing resolutions that are important to you. Nothing is healthier for your attitude, outlook, and potential hopes and dreams. Find ways to save money and do it better. In regard to one of my goals, it’s important to know that by the time a book hits stores (or Amazon.com), there’s been about $20K invested in the project. There is editing, rewriting, more editing, design, layout, website, marketing, and printing costs. If you can’t afford to do this all yourself, then you’ll have to put all your efforts into getting published. This is largely based on whom you know or who you are these days. So if you are not rich, famous, or powerful (or related to someone who is), you have quite a mission and challenge ahead of you. You’ll need to convince someone to put their money into your goal. So start thinking how this applies to your own resolutions.

DOERS DO: Like everything else in life, it’s all about follow-through. That’s why we have to make resolutions in the first place: we don’t get them done. You may have noticed, but follow-through is not a common character trait today. You’ll never get anything done if you don’t actually do anything. I told people for a long time about the book I was writing. Unfortunately, nothing was really getting done. I felt like some longhaired kid wearing sandals and a tie-dyed t-shirt smoking-out and driving around the country in a Volkswagen bus telling people I was going to change the world. So I started a handyman business in order to finish my book. It was the only way to create any flexibility in my schedule to finish. It was, and still is, a big risk, but it was the only way. Dreamers dream. And doers do.

Go and do.

TIME: You need time, but it is not on your side. Like money, once you spend this you can never get it back. All the regrets and apologies can never replace the time you’ve wasted away. If you don’t figure out a way to balance your job, school, love-interest, marriage, kids etc, you’ll never accomplish your resolutions. One-by-one, you’ll give up on goal after goal. Sound hard? It is. That’s why the most important resolutions we make can also be called labors of love. In the real world, a passion will drain your time. Just try to find a healthy balance that you can live with and won’t ruin your life, job, or family. Keep in mind, taking time for one thing means taking it from another. You can’t give everything your best efforts, so divvy time where it counts the most. You might have to cut out watching American Idol this year—or something else that wastes valuable time. You’ll have to make time for your priorities if you’re going to resolve to get stuff done.

FAILURE: You will fail. I know that’s not warm and fuzzy, but it’s true. I’m not trying to be negative as I warned about earlier. Remember Thomas Edison? The fact is, most successful endeavors are built on a long succession of lesson-learning failures. That’s really the point. Just learn from it. Talk to a successful person and I’m willing to bet they’ll back me up on this. I can’t tell you how many bad decisions I have made. As much as it pains me, I try to prepare myself (as much as I can) for the fact that my books may not be all that successful. In fact, (statistically speaking) they probably won’t. That’s life. Will I learn from failing? I sure hope so. It’s the only solution if these goals are as important to me as I think. I just can’t let failure make me into a quitter.

TEACHABLE: Speaking in regard to my most important resolution this year, you know why people can’t stand most artists and writers? They know everything about everything. They’re not teachable. People who aren’t teachable don’t take any advice from anyone. It’s always a temptation to cut corners or compromise on a project when it gets hard. But that decreases the integrity of what we are doing, and, even worse, gets us back to our old ways and business as usual. Someone else’s perspective is important. That’s one of the best ways to get out with old and in with the new. You always need an outside opinion, good or bad. On your most important resolutions, you’ll need to learn to ask for input and be able to take it. Just try to know the difference between negative criticism and constructive input. How will you know? You’ll have to decide that one for yourself. And don’t think someone has to be an artist (or whatever is in line with your particular goal) to have helpful input. Listen to the two cents of nobodies, somebodies, and anybodies. The best goals are accomplished with the help that comes from standing on the shoulders of others.

REVIVE: I know it’s a religious term, but revival is real. That is to say, your resolution will die. There’s no way around it. As much as you try not to, you will inevitably lose momentum. No one will care about what you have accomplished and it will probably hurt. Life will interfere or get really stressful. Even worse, you may not be progressing as well as you want or the results won’t be all that great. You may even start to hate your idea and get sick of it. You will change as a person. The core ideas that your most important resolutions are built upon will likely need to evolve many times over. I rewrote my first book several times. It’s 60K words, but there is easily another 60K that ended up on the cutting room floor. Like Frankenstein, do whatever you have to do to revive your goals back to life every time it dies. Stay focused. Keep believing. Make adjustments. Reshape it. Roll with the punches. Just bring it back to life! You will never get any resolutions done if you don’t.

VISION: Yes, building a vision is different than setting a goals. Setting goals is the end of one point, while building a vision is the beginning of another. It’s as if vision is built on a series of goals accomplished. It is a long-term, big-picture look at what you want to happen in the end. So if you want to lose 20 pounds, remodel the kitchen, buy a new car, read more, or write a book, brand that vision of your future in your mind. You have to think beyond your resolutions a little. Once you have a tentative vision of what you want the future to look like, then just fill in the stepsseeing is believing, after all. Those are your resolutions. Those are how you get to your vision of what can be. The vision will change drastically as time goes on. That’s fine. But the vision gives a framework and avenue for the goals and resolutions to flourish and evolve. It keeps you moving. Building a vision is not easy. It is one of the hardest things for me. Most artistic people aren’t strong in administrative tasks, which building a vision is. But you have to do it in order to accomplish your New Year’s Resolutions.

There you have it. Achieving goals is an ongoing process throughout life. These are many of the things I’ve wrestled through while writing, releasing, and promoting my first book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. Sure, I got that book done a year later than I wanted. But if I had never set the goal, it probably would have taken even longer.

As I keep my eyes on the future, these ideas keep me focused. This is why I hope these lessons can be a catalyst for achieving your own goals as you turn your dreams into reality many times over.

Oh yes, and Happy New Year!

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