Sunday, September 28, 2008

Will the Real Sarah Please Stand Up?

The vice-presidential candidates debate is the featured drama on television Thursday evening. A record number of viewers are predicted. News analysts describe the upcoming event as if it were a prizefight: In this corner, the wily veteran Joe Biden, and in that corner the underdog newcomer Sarah Palin. Can Palin survive the bout, or will she fall to a knockout blow from Biden?
Pundits predict disaster for Palin. They say she was floored by questions from two news anchors in warm-up matches. Charlie Gibson glazed her eyes with a quick query about The Bush Doctrine, and Katie Couric shook her up with a left hook about McCain’s record as a reformer. “Saturday Night Live” comedians portray her as a dumb Alaskan housewife who can see Russia from her kitchen window and a witless goofball disturbed by all the foreigners she saw at the United Nations building.
Just three weeks ago Palin entered the national political scene as a breath of fresh air in a smoky, stale, arena of same-old, same-old politicians. Half the population immediately fell in love with her, and the other half, for no rational reason, loathe her.
Thursday evening will be “the moment of truth” for Palin. Is she for real, or just a meteor that flashed across the political sky for a few weeks? Is she an air-head, or is she a woman of uncommon substance and integrity? Is she a product of political hype, or a real human being with depth of character?
None of us really know. Not yet. But we are about to. That is why the Thursday night debate carries such dramatic interest. Palin will of necessity enter the arena by herself, no longer tied to handlers who have coached and instructed and protected. For the first time in this political campaign, Sarah Palin will be relying totally on herself.
What will she do? Will she be the Alaskan Sarah Palin touring the lower forty-eight, or will she try to be a urbane, knows-all-the-answers candidate crafted by political hacks? Are we going to see an honest-to-God real person, or are we to witness just another politician following the same tired old path?
Please, Sarah, answer our prayers and be real. You don’t have to know the name of the president of Georgia, not now. Be honest. Rely on the inner integrity that has brought you to this place in history. Strength of character is the only real qualification for the presidency. Do you have it, or don’t you? We are about to find out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Presidential Experience?

“Who has the experience to be president of the United States?”
The announcement of Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate has heated up the “experience” arguments. Critics of the nomination say that being the mayor of a small town and the governor of a sparsely populated state does not prepare her to be a world leader. Her supporters reply that the experience of a mayor and a governor trumps that of a community organizer and senator.
Let’s look at the question as dispassionately as we can. In the history of this nation, there have been 43 presidents. Which ones were qualified to fill the office, what experience prepared them for that responsibility?
How about the first one, George Washington? His experience consisted of being a farmer and a military officer lacking formal training. As a military officer he lost more battles than he won. He had never been elected to any kind of office prior to becoming president.
We don’t want to go through all 43 presidents, so let’s skip ahead to Abraham Lincoln, considered by many to be the nation’s greatest president. What experience did he have that prepared him for the office? Almost none. His venture into store keeping failed, he was “un-elected” as a captain of volunteers in the Blackhawk War, and he lost a senatorial election. All he was really good at was talking. He was a successful lawyer and story teller. And, even when he won the presidency, he attracted only 39 percent of the popular vote.
How about Harry Truman? Never was there a more invisible man before he became president, and never had a man failed at more enterprises than he. His political success, whether as county commissioner or U.S. Senator, was made possible by the support of the corrupt Pendergast political machine. He was a terrible speaker and had to live with his mother-in-law. Yet he is acknowledged today for his honesty and integrity. John F. Kennedy? Unlike Lincoln or Truman, he had no failures in his resume because he never did anything other than run for political office. He used his reputation as a war hero and his daddy’s money to win election to the Senate and squeezed into the presidency with the help of some murky Chicago politicos. Khrushchev called him “the boy” and moved missiles into Cuba. But Kennedy proved he had the mettle to fill the office.
Ronald Reagan had decades of experience as a movie star. Bill Clinton was unknown outside of Arkansas. George W. Bush was an oil speculator, owned a baseball team and served as a Texas governor. None of them could identify the name of the prime minister of Sri Lanka.
Which presidents were “best prepared,” in terms of experience, for the presidency? Well, uh, let’s see…. John Adams. He helped write the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, served in the Continental Congress, and was ambassador to Great Britain and France. He did not fare well as president. Woodrow Wilson was said to excel as a college professor. Herbert Hoover spent a lifetime in government, distributed aid to refugees of World War I and knew how to catch trout. Yet his name, 80 years after his term, is remembered with disdain.
Do any of the current nominees for president/vice-president have experience that prepares them for the presidency? No. There is really no criteria. So let’s stop arguing about it. Instead, let’s look for intangible qualities that have nothing to do with party affiliation, background or “experience.”

Change You Can Believe In

“Change you can believe in” is the motto of presidential candidate Barack Obama. Unprecedented numbers of young people and idealists have “bought in” to his campaign promises. The question is, can Obama deliver on his promises? The answer is No, and it has nothing to do with personality or political affiliation. No political candidate, no matter his or her party, is going to “change things in Washington,” “clean out” special interest groups, or accomplish any of the promised reforms cheered by Obama supporters.
All the things considered “wrong” in Washington are in fact merely the magnification of human nature traits common to the experience of everyone. In Washington, these characteristics are highlighted by TV cameras and fingers are pointed at individuals perceived to be practicing deception and dishonesty. “Elect me,” says the finger pointer, “and I will do away with all this bad behavior and do only good things.” The promises sound good, especially to the young and the idealistic who instinctively know that there must be a potentially better world. Older voters, on the other hand, instinctively realize that such “change” is easier said than done. Their experience is likely to be, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
This is the experience of the human nature world, which is a world that does not recognize the spirit of God nor its supreme sovereignty. Man builds his own world, and tells God, in effect, to stay out. Laws are passed to prohibit even the mention of God in public places.
To replace God, man devises what he considers “goodness.” It is good to consider all religions equal, for instance, and thereby eleminate religious conflict; Allah is just another word for God, goes the reasoning; man is evolving and getting better all the time. But as a matter of fact man teeters on the brink of self-extinction through nuclear holocaust, starvation, pollution or myriad other perils such as global warming. The United Nations, formed for the good purpose of creating global peace, is in fact composed mostly of rogue nations ruled by dictators. Every “good” thing in the human nature world sooner or later decays into ugly parodies of what was originally intended.
Accusation, Blame, Criticism, these are the abc’s of the human nature world. Listen to any politician’s spiel, and you will hear accusation, blame and criticism of that guy over there who is responsible for this mess. “Vote for me, I won’t make a mess.” But a mess is the only possible result because whatever is created is built upon accusation, blame and criticism. The process is an endless circle, a serpent chasing its tail.
“Change you can believe in” asks us to believe that a better world can result from policies that employ accusation, blame and criticism. And asks us to believe that a politician who uses these abc’s is somehow above the crowd. He’s not, and we should know better.
“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.”
The only change you can really believe in is the one that occurs inside a person when he opens himself to the holy spirit. Perhaps someday there will be a sufficient number of those to form a government; in the meantime it might be best to rely on cynical practicality in selecting our governmental leaders.

Carbon Dating and the Naked Emperor

Carbon dating is the heavy artillery that the scientific establishment trundles out to blast any arguments against its holy of holies, the Theory of Evolution. Anyone not well schooled in physics and other sciences is likely to be intimidated or to get lost in the explanations of exactly how the dating method works.
It’s really not all that difficult. One needn’t have a science background to see the flaws; one need only remember the fable about the emperor who had no clothes but everyone pretended he did because they were afraid to say he was naked.
In brief, carbon dating involves the cycles of “decay” by which organic materials are returned to an inorganic state. Atoms that comprise a substance known as carbon, over time, are synthesized into other atoms. Dating an old material can be achieved by determining how much of the carbon remains. At least that’s the theory.
Carbon is also a form of latent energy. Coal, for instance, is a carbon that can be easily transmuted into heat through the process of combustion. There is also a thermonuclear aspect involving atomic radiation which accounts for the light and heat provided by the solar sun and other stars.
The laws of physics pertaining to carbon are immutable and the scientific description of how it works is accurate. The question is not with the principle of carbon dating, but rather with the unprincipled manner in which it is often employed to “validate” questionable assumptions.
Carbon dating assumes a premise that time is the only factor impinging on the breakdown of carbon atoms. In other words, it assumes that all other factors have remained unchanged over the past thousands or millions of years. Yet even the most biased defender of the technique will acknowledge that a number of things have changed – drastic changes in world climate, for instance, along with cataclysmic volcano eruptions, earthquakes, great floods, meteor hits, perhaps even near collisions with other planetary bodies. Considerable combustion took place during some of these events, and carbon is a combustible material. It would be fair to say that carbon atoms have been subjected to a good deal more than time over the millenia.
Proponents of the evolutionary theory speak glibly of hundreds of millions of years required for evolution to, ah, evolve. The mathematical odds of atoms accidentially combining to form an amino acid, for instance, is so remote that theorists account for it by tacking on another hundred million years to their estimate of the earth’s history. The fact is that these theorists don’t have a clue as to how, for example, nucleotides, the building blocks of genes, were first formed. Their “answer” is to say that surely, given enough time, hundreds of millions of years perhaps, such an accident could happen. In short, it is all wild theory and not even remotely “scientific.” The vaunted theory of evolution, held in such esteem by “educated” people, is an emperor with no clothes.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” is the name of a song written by Kris Kristofferson and sung by Johnny Cash. It is a hauntingly sad song, seemingly describing the after-effects of a self-indulgent Saturday night. “Hung over” is perhaps the condition of the narrator, but what comes across to the listener is the man’s cry of spiritual desolation, deep anguish, soul-rending despair. He is, in effect, a man with no place to go, no place to be. On a Sunday morning he feels the pain of his isolation, not just from the familiar weekday sounds and sights of the city, but from any sense of connection with the God for whom Sunday is set aside.

Forty years ago Kris Kristofferson was a genius. As a young man newly arrived in Hollywood, he could do no wrong. His songs touched the heart of the nation and dominated the airwaves. Then his talent seemed to dry up and he wrote no more. Now he is a grizzled old man who ekes out a living playing grizzled old men in the movies.

Sunday morning in a Kris Kristofferson world was a dreadful time. The normal activities of the workaday week were suspended. The downtown sidewalks were empty, there was “nothing to do” but mope about and feel the dark despair of a “Sunday morning coming down.” Johnny Cash’s deep baritone voice could make the phrase sound like doomsday.

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” strikes a universal chord in all of us because in our heart of hearts there is a sadness that never goes away, a sadness that never stops hurting because we have never learned how to fully give ourselves to God. We ascribe various reasons as to why we are sad, but the only reason for sadness is our separation from God. We mourn for him as we would a lost loved one. We can’t help it. That’s the way He made us. “Our hearts were made by thee, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in thee.”

Time and narcotics have apparently dulled at least some of Kristofferson’s pain. The rest of us have endured in various ways, and a few wise ones have come to the recognition that sadness can be transmuted into love when we worship God. And we worship God only as we treat every moment of our lives as “Sunday morning,” -- a time set aside for God -- and we rise up to greet our Sunday morning, giving to God our hearts, our feelings, our thoughts, thereby knowing the peace of His presence.