Asking Candidates About Their Faith (and Extraterrestrial) Beliefs

26 08 2011

“God chose me for that moment!” she thrills . . .

Following up after the GOP debate controversy around asking Rep. Bachmann about the implications of her bible-based wifely submission beliefs should she become President:

This year’s Republican primary season offers us an important opportunity to confront our scruples about the privacy of faith in public life — and to get over them. We have an unusually large number of candidates, including putative front-runners, who belong to churches that are mysterious or suspect to many Americans.

Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons, a faith that many conservative Christians have been taught is a “cult” and that many others think is just weird. (Huntsman says he is not “overly religious.”) Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are both affiliated with fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity — and Rick Santorum comes out of the most conservative wing of Catholicism — which has raised concerns about their respect for the separation of church and state, not to mention the separation of fact and fiction.

And let’s not skip too quickly over Read the rest of this entry »





Symphony of Science: the Poetry of Reality

14 05 2011




Serious T-Shirts, Hats and Saggy Pants All Trumped By My UTERUS!

7 04 2011

Uterus.

Uterus, uterus, uterus!

Uteri aren’t just for Floridians anymore. Did you know half of all Americans carry concealed uteri with us everywhere we go, even [gasp!] in public policy debate?

“Uterus” has a Facebook page, Twitter hashtags and — because it’s politics — pink buttons.

But most important, Democrats looking for a unifying theme amid dour legislative prospects have found it in a single, unlikely word. House Democrats have started wearing pink buttons that say uterus in capital letters.

Saunders, the minority leader, warned members at a Wednesday caucus meeting not to wear the buttons on the House floor.

If I hear one more professional political operative of any Read the rest of this entry »





Spring Comes to Florida Despite Worst Governor Ever

4 03 2011

Young Son's reading tree in full flower as he reads Sherlock Holmes, of course (photo credit - Mom's phone)





What’s the Meaning of the Word “Life”?

4 12 2010

Are you SURE??





What’s in the Word Miracle?

16 10 2010

As the Chilean mine rescue unfolded in real time, coverage in every language suggested we were witnessing a miracle.

So what’s in that word, miracle? Not intelligence and good will. Not good journalism either, not even good theology. So says a man often called a miracle himself:

Roman Catholic theology from the days of Aquinas has tried admirably to build on logical reasoning. . .Such theology is a help is clarifying what we’re really talking about. . .

That is why precision in language is useful. Einstein observed, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with the important matters.”

Good slogan for a real news organization or top-flight journalism college, if there remain any of either.

Immediately post-Watergate when I was an honors journalism undergrad and newspaper intern, the least consequential “fact error” led to the student’s sudden death: an automatic, unappealable zero on the assignment, no matter how well-executed otherwise. Einstein’s trust-the-truth principle was the reason hammered home to us.

(Is unappealable a real word? Hope you get my true meaning from it.)

Real news journalism for that brief and shining moment — a few decades at most? — meant lively, liberally educated minds pursuing and expressing truths with precise yet poetic language meant to convey knowledge in both small and important matters. . .you know, more what America’s Founding Fathers really said and did and meant, less what their words have decayed into.

How much better to describe the rescue as the result of the fortitude of the miners and the skill of the good-willed people on the surface who reached them in what was, after all, a very short time. How much better to say the outcome in Chile was the result of intelligence and good will.

But there seems to be a narrative in these matters that requires the citing of divinity. Newscasters, victims and their families alike praise the powers above. This reassures us — of what?

That everybody knows the script.

That’s below the radar of wrong-doing even. It seems just lazy, intellectually and morally, to settle for safe, well-worn ruts of yesterday’s meaning that can’t go where tomorrow’s thinking needs to be, today.

(What’s the commercial shipping slogan, when it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight? Better not just bank on a miracle!)

We can do better.

NPR is no miracle yet in my view it defines intelligent narrative, good will and trustworthy use of language. Today I saw a good f’rinstance: seeking new words to make room for naturally growing thought, instead of allowing the old tightly bound narratives to deform new understanding as Chinese foot-binding once deformed naturally growing girls. So let’s sing its praises! 😉

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet. My question is, does it work the other way around? Does a fuzzy name make fish smell less fishy? Read the rest of this entry »





What’s in the Name Lucifer — Nothing Good

23 09 2010

I learned something interesting today. I don’t worship Lucifer! Whew.

Nance doesn’t either btw, however much she may enjoy pretending or however often she’s accused of same. (Wanna know how I know? Glad you asked!)

Jerome Corsi wants the President of the United States to renounce Lucifer. So I went a-reading in Google Scholar.

This Baptist reverend doctor’s pdf on Lucifer for the UK Bible Society persuades me that Nance and I and the President too, renounce Lucifer every time we manage to do good for someone else rather than merely doing well for ourselves.

The good reverend doctor describes “Lucifer” as nothing more supernaturally evil than the absence of good:

Humans are now imprisoned within a power of darkness of their own making, but beyond their control. It takes actual form in a variety of unpredictable ways: in distortions of people’s mental and spiritual health, in the fracturing of their inner selves, in their imprisonment within addictions and compulsions, in the breakdown of wholesome relations, in institutional systems of power and domination, in the inequities between nations, in dehumanising ideologies and false religion.

The symptoms don’t fit the President. Corsi and his distorted, fractured, dehumanizing and falsely religious ilk OTOH, really might need to be asked whether they’re willing to renounce “the absence of good” in their own lives . . .

I once beat around Lucifer’s bush burning on John McCain’s porch: Read the rest of this entry »





The Season After Summer? Back-to-School, of Course

16 08 2010

“The keeper of my time is my keeper.”

“If love of money is the root of all evil, the taming of time must surely be its minion. . .”

There were always five natural seasons, not four, immutable as day to night to day again:
Spring
Summer
Back to School
Autumn
Winter

So was it written, so shall it be done, amen?
That’s why it seems to me now that this time of year is the most natural time for a Culture Kitchen classic: We the Clockkeepers and Our Tyranny of Time:

Have you noticed Big Government and Big Business have effectively taken over all our time, one way or another? — colluding to Read the rest of this entry »





Only Actual Public Education, Intelligence Can Save Us Now

27 05 2010

Education is Power of Story and our school stories just suck. I offer today a study in contrasts as my argument that public education (not necessarily public school but education of the public, by the public, for the public) matters more than ever to every single one of us as individuals, even those of us who don’t have kids in school or have no children at all.

Below are two individuals from whom we can learn many lessons, if we do our homework and then choose wisely between them.

Which of these two education “exhibits” would you bank on to help turn things around in this third millennium since Christian doctrine captured the minds of men — not just choosing for your own children but for your community, our country, our collective consciousness as human beings facing evermore complex global challenges?

EXHIBIT A
Martin Gardner died the other day. He was the first science-math intellectual (other than those writing fiction like Asimov or Lewis Carroll, I mean) I discovered and read on my own as a puzzle-enamoured young teen, back in the mid-twentieth century.

In an age when science claims to be all-encompassing and skepticism seems corrosive to faith, Gardner was a breath of fresh air. He could “out-skeptic” the harshest of the New Atheists and yet his imagination was so much more robust that he could intuit a world beyond science.

. . .Martin Gardner possessed a unique combination of literary breadth, rigorous logic, mathematical intuition, and lively, engaging writing.

I never met Gardner, but I know him well — and so do the students who take my freshman honors seminar at Eastern Nazarene College, “Contemporary Questions.” Like many great writers, Gardner has put his soul in print, allowing us to peek in and see what a true genius thinks about the great questions of life — free will, God, immortality, evil, prayer, politics, markets.

. . . Gardner was genuinely skeptical about paranormal claims that went against science but, paradoxically, he affirmed and celebrated a world that went beyond science. . .
Gardner’s essays in The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener are a tour de force of mature, honest thinking expressed in golden and often witty prose. In fact, Gardner’s wit is enough to justify reading him. . .

EXHIBIT B
One of Pretend Pimp James O’Keefe‘s co-conspirators pleading guilty and being sentenced yesterday, was “a former assistant director of a program at Trinity Washington University that taught students about careers in intelligence. . . part of a national effort following the Sept. 11 attacks to interest students at liberal arts colleges in careers as spies. He was also active in the conservative newspaper and other organizations at George Washington University.”

So — during the war-driven Bush administration, federal education dollars went to this private southern protestant university ( “private” except over 80% of all students get financial aid to learn whatever they’re being taught there) to pay an extremely young extremist to administer a U.S. spy recruitment program? Read the rest of this entry »





“Identity More Fluid” as Schooled Kids “Come Together in New Ways”

12 05 2010

What do you think, hope or horror?

Teenagers today have a dramatically different perspective on race and ethnicity than their parents did. Their views are driven by pop culture, by their moment in history and by virtue of having grown up in culturally diverse schools. . .

“It’s not to say that racism has gone away or disappeared,” said Milagros Peña, a sociology professor at the University of Florida. “It’s that kids have different ideas about race and diversity, and are coming together in new ways.”

. . .“Identity is a lot more fluid for this generation,” [Harvard doctoral student Anthony] Jack said.





Who Cares About Haiti?

16 01 2010

I am pleased to have been the recipient of the Ordre d’Honneur et de Merite, Haiti, 1934 —
JJ’s great-uncle, Henry D Barker, born more than 100 years ago in America, recounting his impoverished boyhood and subsequent career

In the here and now, JJ has a mom-friend who cares enough about Haiti that she carried the Christian gospel to children there last year, and is suffering with the Haitian people in the earthquake’s aftermath.

She is the mom of Favorite Daughter’s traveling companion to Europe last summer. The November before that, this devout conservative evangelical (but also well-educated medical professional and feminist, for a southerner at least) did a little traveling of her own and took the church mission trip to Haiti.

Here is her FaceBook status update today:

Presidents Team up for Haiti.
Wow, that is the spirit that makes America the great country that it is. It makes me proud to be a naturalized American and to be part of Americans helping Haiti.

So it seems to me we surely share American values and see truth, beauty and goodness much the same way, despite not sharing the same family, politics, religion or profession.

As for me and Haiti, I’d personally still look to education rather than religion to save it. My family history is all about the transformative power of hard work and sacrifice channeled through education, not prayer. My great-uncle D went on his Haitian education mission trip of sorts after growing up dirt-poor subsistence farming in the Blue Ridge Mountains, partly homeschooling in fact, then studying agriculture and textiles at Clemson back when it was an agricultural college and Air Force academy.

From other universities he later earned his master’s of science in agronomy and his Ph.D. — first in our family! — and I was raised on stories from my mother’s mother (Uncle D’s enormously proud little sister) about him and Aunt Pauline living in Haiti for years in what sounded like a tropical paradise, helping to change the world with his education.

In 1928 he wrote a book about it: Éléments du Botanique Général par Henry D. Barker, Ph.D., Chef du Department de Bontanique Service Technique.

In French.

Published in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Stamped right on the front cover.

I am holding that book in my hand right now because by default I am now the family’s historical repository as was my father before me — both of us also academic doctors, admired throughout the extended family as continuing generational examples of the importance of education, not just to enrich the individual or contribute to the family’s collective well-being but also for all of humanity, because learning and then using it for good is what we are meant to do. . .

Inside his book, it’s inscribed in his feathery old-fashioned fountain pen script:
“To my mother from The Author.”

And I also have here beside me Uncle D’s self-published memoir of his boyhood, inscribed in that same hand, to me! —
“to Jennifer whose grandparents Alice and Ira were born and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Henry D Barker”

Here is what he wrote about Haiti in the epilogue: Read the rest of this entry »





New Year’s Eve Blue Moon on a Perfect Crisp Night

1 01 2010

This is the official HuffPo moon shot, but it looked pretty great from our north Florida porch, too.