Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rick Warren's Answers to Terry Eastland on His Invitation to Pray at the Inaugural

Terry Eastland's questions (HT: Weekly Standard)

Warren’s answers:

How hard or easy was the decision to accept the president-elect’s invitation?

I am both humbled and honored to have a tiny part of a history-making day, when our country inaugurates our first African- American president. The invitation was completely unexpected. I could name several dozen wonderful pastors, both black and white, who would do a better job.

Do you expect to look at some past inauguration prayers to see what’s been done before?

I’ve always been an avid student of American history, since a Richard Warren was one of the 41 Pilgrim signers of the Mayflower Compact. I already have a collection of many of the important prayers in U.S. history, including a binder of every inaugural prayer. Of course, I’ll reread them all again before Jan. 20th. I own Abraham Lincoln’s handwritten note confirming the need for a national chaplaincy to care [for] wounded soldiers during the Civil War and approving a pastor.

How do you think about the kind of prayer to be given at a (any) public event, given that the audiences at such events usually have various faiths represented?

It doesn’t bother me at all when an Imam prays a Muslim prayer in [a] public arena or when a Rabbi prays a Jewish prayer in public or when anyone expresses their personal faith in public. This is America. We don’t deny our differences but we are respectful of all of them. I’m a Christian pastor so I will pray the only kind of prayer I know how to pray.

By which I mean both what is prayed for and how it is prayed?

Prayers are not to be sermons, speeches, position statements, nor political posturing. That’s the fastest way to kill a prayer. They are humble appeals to God. My hope is that all Americans will pray for the new president.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Civil Libertarians - Take Note

This incident has a ring to it for me.  It has been called the most ridiculous case of on-campus political correctness of 2008 (via Instapundit) HT: Weekly Standard:


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who are We? And What Might We Look Like by 2025?

From NRO:

...Harvard scholar Samuel Huntington, [is likely] the most important political scientist in America. His last book, The Clash of Civilizations, forecast the civilizational tensions that became obvious to everyone in the post-9/11 world. When Huntington writes, people listen — or they should.

Huntington's prodigious credibility makes his warning of the possible end of the United States as we know it in his new book, Who Are We?, all the more alarming.

He writes that "few Americans now anticipate the dissolution of...the United States." But few anticipated the collapse of the Soviet Union either. Huntington warns, "The greatest surprise might be if the United States in 2025 is still the country it was in 2000 rather than a very different country (or countries) with very different conceptions of itself and its identity."

Huntington sees an America gripped in a "crisis of national identity." What is that identity? It is partly based on what Huntington calls "The Creed," our belief in liberty, democracy, individual rights, etc. But The Creed has a particular source: America's Anglo-Protestant culture, which includes "the English language; Christianity; religious commitment; English concepts of the rule of law, the responsibility of rulers, and the rights of individuals; and dissenting Protestant values of individualism, the work ethic, and the belief that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create heaven on earth, a 'city on the hill.'"

The whole thing.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bill Simon's Advice on Where Conservatives May Go from Here: Retool

From a WSJ weekend excerpt:

In the wake of Barack Obama's victory, as conservatives ponder how they will use their time "in the wilderness," they could do worse than to emulate Mr. Simon's example.

While there is no question that Bill Simon would prefer conservatives to be in power, he says there is a "silver lining" to the current situation. He is hoping they will use this period for "retooling." "We certainly lost our way with respect to spending discipline," he says, noting that under the past eight years of Republican control, "the federal government got very fat and happy." Sure, he acknowledges cheerfully, "Obama is riding in here with the wind at his back. But he's got a lot of challenges."

With a boyish grin, Mr. Simon tells me he is always optimistic about the future. On his last trip to New York, he ran the marathon. And when it comes to politics, Mr. Simon thinks in terms of the long race too. "If you have a good idea and you have the courage of your convictions, I think Americans welcome you back." History, Mr. Simon says, "is replete with examples of this, like when Reagan ran for governor of California. Two years before that, in '64, Goldwater got cleaned out. Everyone thought the conservative movement was dead. But then Reagan, a rookie, a neophyte who never ran for public office, got elected governor of California."

But read the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

...with this Christmas season event in Afghanistan from 2007.  We wish you a very Merry Christmas, and the Taliban get something in their stockings too,...(HT: NRO)


OK, Virginia, There's No Santa Claus. But There Is God

An excellent piece from a recent WSJ,...Merry Christmas everyone...


My 8-year-old son, Caleb, puts his hand on my shoulder; he wears an expression that shows he wants to have a man-to-man talk. "Dad," he says, "I know there's no Santa Claus." He rattles off his indictments, starting with the pure physics of the enterprise. There's no way one guy can visit every house in a single night. And how does he get into houses with no chimneys? Then there's the matter of zoology -- not a single nature book on our shelves mentions flying reindeer. Perhaps most important for an 8-year-old, there's the weight of public opinion -- none of Caleb's friends believe in Santa any more. He leans close, his voice taking that tone of worldliness that is at once endearing and saddening to a parent. "He isn't real, is he?"

[Santa Claus] Corbis

Perhaps a more responsible parent would confess, but I hesitate. For this I blame G.K. Chesterton, whose treatise "Orthodoxy" had its 100th anniversary this year. One of its themes is the violence that rationalistic modernism has worked on the valuable idea of a "mystical condition," which is to say the mystery inherent in a supernaturally created world. Writing of his path to faith in God, Chesterton says: "I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician."

Magic-talk gets under the skin of many, like renowned scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins. This is doubly so when it is what the Christ-figure Aslan, in C.S. Lewis's "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," calls "the deeper magic," an allusion to divinity. Mr. Dawkins is reportedly writing a book examining the pernicious tendency of fantasy tales to promote "anti-scientific" thinking among children. He suspects that such stories lay the groundwork for religious faith, the inculcation of which, he claims, is a worse form of child abuse than sexual molestation.

I suspect that fairy tales and Santa Claus do prepare us to embrace the ultimate Fairy Tale, the one Lewis believed was ingrained in our being. New research from the Université de Montréal and the University of Ottawa indicates that children aren't overly troubled upon learning that Santa is a myth. But the researchers remained puzzled because while children eventually abandon Santa, they keep believing in God. Lewis would say this is because God is real, but Mr. Dawkins fears it is the lasting damage of fairy tales. While Mr. Dawkins stands ironically alongside Puritans in his readiness to ban fairy tales, Christian apologists like Lewis and Chesterton embraced them, precisely because to embrace Christian dogma is to embrace the extrarational.

Today's Christian apologists, by contrast, seek to reason their way to God by means of archaeological finds, anthropological examinations and scientific argumentation. That's all well and good, but it seems to miss a fundamental point illuminated by Chesterton, which is that, ultimately, belief in God is belief in mystery.

As a parent, I believe (with the older apologists) that it's essential to preserve a small, inviolate space in the heart of a child, a space where he is free to believe impossibilities. The fantasy writer George MacDonald -- author of "The Light Princess" and "The Golden Key" -- whom Lewis esteemed as one of his greatest inspirations, suggested that it is only by gazing through magic-tinted eyes that one can see God: "With his divine alchemy," MacDonald wrote, "he turns not only water into wine, but common things into radiant mysteries." The obfuscating spirit of the "commonplace," meanwhile, is "ever covering the deep and clouding the high."

This sheds light on a seeming paradox in St. Paul's letter to Roman Christians: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. . . ." How does one see "invisible attributes"? Only people raised on fairy tales can make sense of that. It belongs in a terrain where magic glasses can illumine what was heretofore hidden, where rabbit holes open into wonderlands. No wonder some atheists like Mr. Dawkins want to kill Harry Potter.

I know Caleb and his brothers will figure out the Santa secret eventually, but I'm with Chesterton in resisting the elevation of science and reason to the exclusion of magic, of mystery, of faith. That's why I'm not giving up on Santa without a fight. Not everything we believe, I explain to Caleb, can be proved (or disproved) by science. We believe in impossible things, and in unseen things, beginning with our own souls and working outward. It's a delicate thing, preparing him to let go of Santa without simultaneously embracing the notion that only what can be detected by the five senses is real.

This all sounds like madness, I know, to people like Mr. Dawkins. But Chesterton held that believing in impossible things is actually the sanest position. "Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not," he hastened to add, "in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination." The alternatives to embracing man's mystical condition, he argued, are either to go the way of the materialist, who understands everything according to scientific principles, yet for whom "everything does not seem worth understanding," or the madman, who in trying to "get the heavens into his head" shatters his rational (but woefully finite) mind.

Interestingly, the curse leveled by Lewis's White Witch on Narnia -- an endless season of winter absent Christmas -- evokes both: an unholy snow smothering wondrous creation in false uniformity, and at the same time a kind of madness well understood in snowbound regions. It's not surprising that one of the first signs of the Witch's coming demise is that Father Christmas appears: "'I've come at last,'" says Santa. "'She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last.'"

Oxford University Press recently announced that it will be dropping words like "dwarf," "elf" and "devil" from its children's dictionary to make room for words like "blog," "Euro," and "biodegradable" -- a blow not just to language but to the imagination. I'm sticking with Santa, however, knowing that my children will gradually exchange the fairy tales of youth for a faith -- I hope -- in mysteries that even diehard Christians seem increasingly embarrassed to admit as such. In our house, at least, there's no shame in believing the impossible.

Puritans and atheists alike may disapprove, but our home is filled with fairy tales and fiction books, in hopes that the magic sprinkled across their pages will linger in the hearts of our children. In this we side with Chesterton, who wrote: "I left the fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible since."

Mr. Woodlief blogs about family and faith at

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Living to Self in the Age of Obama

An excerpt from an excellent editorial in today's WSJ,..

"We are the one's we've been waiting for," "We are the change that we seek," and "Yes we can" -- among his campaign's more memorable catchphrases -- are merely three solipsistic, dimly oracular, weirdly empowering tautologies neatly suited for this Me-We age.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Princess Caroline?

What a monarchist thinks about Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg being added to the US Senate, or for that matter, VP Elect Biden's son.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Don't Bail Out the UAW

It seems to me that the auto company bailout is not bailing out the companies at all. And it's not bailing out the "automobile manufacturing industry", because there are plants elsewhere in the USA that are making foreign brand cars. No, what's really being bailed out are the United Auto Workers.

If the three big fail--go to either chapter 11 or chapter 7 bankruptcy, who loses the most? Obviously stockholders will lose something, but the stock prices are so low now, who would loose much more than they already have? The corporate executives will lose posh jobs, and have to live off the millions they have banked over the years. But Congress historically has not cared for either one of those, especially a Democrat party dominated Congress. If the Big 3 companies go to bankruptcy, and they can’t come out from under it, they would shut down. Those who would have bought a GM, Ford, or Chrysler car will have to buy another. Most likely it will be a foreign brand car built in the USA. Detroit's loss will be Tennessee’s gain. The plants of the companies not affected by the bankruptcies will go to three shifts, maximum production, and might be glad to have those Detroit workers for half the money and benefits.

No, this bailout is for the United Auto Workers, who have pushed their companies over the years to this point. I grew up in a union household, and have seen it at work. The unions push, push, push for the highest possible wages, thinking only of the next twelve months, not the long-term viability of the company they work for. They unions push, push, push for the absolute best benefit package they can get, including retirement benefits. While this has the appearance of being concerned about the long-term, it is really a mentality of "what is the most I can get at this moment?" mentality.

The bailout is being couched in terms of bailing out the companies, but make no mistake: the Democratic dominated Congress cares nothing for those companies. But if the companies fail, the union idiocy will be exposed.

Not that stockholders and the management they hire is much better, always thinking of the next quarter, never considering the projections for the future and the corporate long-term viability. But it’s the union that stands to lose the most. All those current jobs, although I don’t think that is the real issue. It’s the many retirees, now living off their collectively bargained retirement pay. If the companies go under, all those retirees will have to live off Social Security, and the UAW idiocy of pushing for higher salaries and benefits than the long-term market could bear, will be exposed.

This bailout is also the government covering its own sins. Its sins of regulation creep, which each year sees more regulations piled on an industry that has been sinking. Its sins of believing the unions were doing something good for their workers and the nation. Its sins of mishandling banking regulation and deregulation. Both the Executive Branch and the Congress are at fault. If they let the Big Three fail, they will be found partly culpable for the failure. Right alongside the United Auto Workers.

No bailout for unions. No using my tax dollars to hide the government’s sins.

Friday, December 05, 2008

It’s beginning to look like Obama has a good eight years ahead of him, unfortunately.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Let Them Fail

I wish Congress would grow a spine and tell the big three automakers to get lost; that if their business isn't viable as currently structured, go to bankruptcy and restructure. Why should a dime of taxpayer money go to these three mis-managed companies?

What would happen if the big three had to declare bankruptcy? They would immediately have protection against creditors while they worked with a bankruptcy court judge to restructure. Part of that restructuring will be getting rid of the corporate fat; part will be cutting wages; and a big, big part will be cutting benefits to retirees. I think that, more than anything, is what is giving them trouble staying viable. The unions looked out for themselves so much, and used so much muscle against management, that the unions have made the company non-viable. Blame management for caving too easily; blame the unions for taking such a short term approach to salary plus benefits.

Let them fail. I see no consequences of enough significance that tax money would be needed to prevent those consequences from happening.

Again, it seems Americans cannot take economic pain anymore.


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