Thursday, April 30, 2009


This video clip is amazing. Whatever one's thoughts on the subject, Virginia Foxx has her facts WAY wrong. Ignorance and cruelty are a dreadful mixture, as she demonstrates:

Churchgoers more likely to back torture, survey finds...

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new analysis.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than 6 in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only 4 in 10 of them did.

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.

I hope and pray this is untrue. I cannot fathom how a person who believes in Jesus Christ can justify torture. There is an argument that the ‘end justifies the means.

First, it is very much unproven as to whether, in this instance, the end justified the means. Torture has historically been unreliable.

An interesting side note to President Obama’s speech the other night and his reference to Winston Churchill was this. The British, during World War II, were the absolute masters of intelligence and deception. They had broken “Ultra” the German code and were intercepting and translating German correspondence through much of the war. In a series of clever moves, the British were able to keep updating as the Germans changed codes-----codes the Germans believed to be unbreakable. The British did not torture.

Neither did the United States. Our intelligence services broke the Japanese codes early in the war. This information greatly assisted in the victory at Midway and led to the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto’s plane----we knew where he was going and the route he was using. We didn’t torture.

The Japanese did and learned nothing.

The Germans did extensively and were constantly being deceived. Torture does not have a good track record as to reliability.

It is difficult to make any sort of argument about the end justifying the means when the means is notoriously unreliable.

There is something greater at stake, however. There are times when the end does not justify the means. Torture, at least from a faith perspective, is one of those things. This, to me, is not a political issue, but very much a core ethical issue.

Torture is about dehumanizing another person. It is stripping the humanity from another human being, layer by layer. It dehumanizes both the tortured AND the torturer. In the war crimes trials after World War II most of the torturers were found to be completely dehumanized themselves. They had lost all sensitivity towards other human beings. Their indifference to suffering was incredible. One cannot even say they were sadistic. They had lost all feeling, both good and bad.

I find it tragic that, as a nation, we even ventured down this path. The United States has been and is the greatest country in the world. I greatly believe that. It is, however, easy to lose greatness; greatness is contingent on first being a good people. When we lose that sense of being a good people, we will cease being a great nation.

I fear our use of torture, and our repeated use of torture on some of these people was not about getting information. The repeated water boarding of the same people, over and over again, day after day, cannot have been about getting information. Increasingly it sounds like it had become torture for the sake of torture. Perhaps it was torture that sought retribution or revenge. It is obvious, however, that it had long passed the point of seeking information.

I am mortified that people of faith felt, in any way, that any of this was morally justified. If any document in the history of humanity speaks of loving neighbor and caring for one another, it is the Bible. If any document in the history of humanity speaks against dehumanizing other human beings, it is the Bible. How people can read the Bible, pray, attend Worship, and listen to sermons about God’s love, and come to the conclusion that torture is ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ justified, eludes me.

Recently polling data has been demonstrating that faith is having less and less an impact in people’s lives and in determining ethics. If people of faith are at the forefront of justifying torture this is, sadly, understandable. It demonstrates, at least to me, that people’s political beliefs are impacting their faith more than their faith is impacting their political beliefs. I do have hope, however, that we will see our way out of this and be the good people we always hope to be.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

God in People

Facebook seems to have started for college students but it has evolved into something much more than that. We now had students beginning in high school all the way through adults on Facebook. I never thought I’d like it----it was for kids.

It is great to be wrong on occasion.

I have reconnected with some people from high school.

I have reconnected with people I went to college with. Like my college friends, we have all gotten a bit older. I graduated from college 32 years ago and so I guess this has to be taken into account.

What has been great is that I have reconnected with people I taught in high school in the early 1980's. I was a young adult and they were kids and we are all middle aged now. (No offense to them!!!!) I am struck my how accomplished they are and what incredibly fine human beings they are. They were great kids and even greater adults.

I have reconnected with people, mostly who were kids in my other churches and who are mostly grown and adults. My previous church to here and a church I served in Pennsylvania. Amazing people.

I also have lot of friends, church members, youth, college students, and colleagues on my Facebook ‘Friends’ Page.’

And, of course, my wife and daughters.

I realize, in a very profound way, that I have been a person truly blessed with wonderful people in my life.

One thing has become apparent to me. I studied theology for a lot of years and have read a lot of books about God. I am, what most would consider, theologically literate and, on occasion, astute. But I also know that I have learned more about the presence and goodness of God in life less from books and more in the people I have known. It makes me realize just how fortunate a person I am to have been so blessed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Can You Blame the Guy?

Arlen Specter as at least honest with why he was bailing out of the Republican Party. He had no chance of winning the Republican Primary in Pennsylvania. By joining the Democrats he'll most probably easily win the general election. Specter has always been a centrist and his party is one that seems to be demanding ideological purity with an allegiance to the Christian Right that this centrist Jewish Senator could no long abide with.

Of course, this ideological purity can be found in such people as Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota. She had a brilliant insight into the swine flu epidemic:

"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

Of course this took place in 1976 when Gerald Ford was the President. Carter was elected in November of 1976 and became President in 1977.


The good part about Michelle Bachmann is that she maintains the ideological purity that the party now seeks.

Arlen Specter sees the Michelle Bachmann's as the leading lights of his party and decides that it might be a good time for a change of scenery. Why can blame the guy?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Editing Can Change Things

Editing can change things.

Ponder a movie review.

"This movie is an extraordinarily incredible film if you're idea of a good time is to be trapped in a hot, crowded room with a pile of rotten cabbage. I stinks that bad."

The next day the movie advertises that the critic said :
"This movie is an extraordinarily incredible film." Did the critic say those words? Yes. Did the advertisement take the critic's words out of context? Yes. Big time.

Shame on Fox News. Or Faux News. In a recent report Faux reporter Wendell Goler showed a video of President Obama stating support for a European health care system. The clip comes from a town hall meeting. This video clip from Faux News shows this.

Unfortunately, it was edited. Obama is actually reading a question when he says the words of support for a European system. He is not saying he supports this particular system, but the clip makes him appear to be doing so. They edited his remarks in order to attack his position----a position he actually doesn't even have.

If we are going to have serious debates in this country on health care, we need to demand our news media at least be honest and allow us to see what our leaders actually ARE saying. Grr.

Monday, April 20, 2009

She Made Something of Herself

Susan Boyle was an unemployed 47 year old woman from a small town on Scotland. She had cared for her parents until their deaths and lived a very quiet life. She is the youngest of nine children whose life in the world was difficult as she progressed through school. She was somewhat eccentric, didn’t do much for glamour, and seemed to be having an ongoing bad hair day. Her mother wanted Susan to do something with her life. After her mom died, Susan mourned for two years and then entered into a contest. She won a spot on an English talent show.

She shuffled out onto the stage in front of an amused audience. One of the judges for the event was the infamous Simon Cowell who is either mean to bluntly honest. Your choice.

People were amused. Susan Boyle was not the attractive young thing one would often expect to see. Her hair....well, she was having a bad hair day. She was clean, and wore clean clothing, and dressed the way she always dressed, very plainly. She was honest. She had never been on a date and had never been kissed.

This very shy woman lived a quiet life, attended Worship on a regular basis, and sang in her church choir. I suspect that while the audience was giggling at Susan Boyle’s appearance, the people in her choir had a smile. They knew something no one else did. They knew about Susan Boyle’s ability to sing.

When Susan Boyle began to sing, so did the world. People sat back in shock----and awe. She sang the song, “I Dreamed a Dreamed,” and brought the world to tears.

Her video on You Tube is the most watched video these days. Everyone is talking about this woman and are in awe of her talent.

Simon Cowell, for his part, loved her. His facial expression during the song was gentle, kind, and incredibly happy.

Her promise to her mother was very much fulfilled. She had made something of herself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Next Time We Whine About Our Lives....

The next time we are inclined to whine about our lives, we ought to watch this video again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


As I write this the news reports are coming in that the French have nailed a pirate ‘mother ship’ and have detained eleven pirates. Good. I’m hoping more navies of the world continue to get involved.

Maybe this is a foolish idea, but have nations thought about using the World War II strategy if doing some traveling by convoys with naval ships of various nations providing an escort service to them? It would take coordination and cooperation, but it might destroy the pirate trade.

I am officially tired of ‘the dog.’ That’s is all I’m going to say and the way this story is going, I’ve already said too much.

Somewhere along the line Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, and Fox News seem to have dreamed up this tea time day to protest taxes. I guess that this is to protest that I now have more take home pay than I did a month ago...

Rush Limbaugh is criticizing conservative commentators who said that Obama did the right thing in authorizing the rescue of the captain. It’s not that Limbaugh is opposed to this tact, it’s just that....Oh, wait, this is Rush Limbaugh and I’m trying to find a coherent thought. Ugh.

I wonder if Rush knows about the dog yet...

It is looking like Al Franken has won the election for Minnesota’s Senate seat. Coleman seems to be running out of options other than to delay Franken’s seating.

Mel Gibson and his wife will probably end up splitting close to $1,000,000,000.00. We can only hope that they can survive on this pittance. Maybe one of them can purchase GM.

Chrysler is pinning its hopes on Fiat. Fiat engineers are seeking to do something that I thought was impossible. They are seeking to make Chrysler products even less reliable than they are now. I thought this was impossible but Fiat just might be able to do it.

Sarah Palin is going to speak at some Right to Life Gathering in Evansville, Indiana. Her own party is angry with her because she will be in Indiana during a critical legislative session in Alaska where they have had a major economic downturn that is leading to problems. It’s difficult to imagine that a right to life gathering thinks having a person who is so incredibly pro-death penalty gives them any credibility on life issues. Than again, most of these groups are merely anti-abortion but not really pro-life. They just like to pretend that they are.

I think that “Morning Joe,” on early on MSNBC is one of the best news commentary shows on television. They have very fair and balanced discussions on issues and they do so very respectfully and carefully listen. Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman from Florida is the host of the show and he keeps a very even disposition through things. Just for the record, he’s tired of the dog stories as well.

I finally, the Giants cut Plaxico Burress. To his complete chagrin and surprise, no one else has signed him as of yet. Considering that he’s probably going to spend some time in jail, a fact that seems to be eluding him, might be part of this.

Speaking of football players in jail, I can’t help but wondering what Michael Vick thinks about ‘the dog.’

Monday, April 13, 2009

Being Nude with Others

Okay, that was a dirty trick. I just used that title to get your attention. I really wanted to write about hope. I guess you can hope about nudity and being nude with others, but that’s not the point of what I’m writing today.

Easter season is a time of hope. The story of Easter is the story of Jesus being raised from the dead, and in the process of the resurrection, brings hope to the world.

People hope for lots of things. Whenever there is an election people all hope that their candidate gets elected. After the election people who ‘won’ hope that their candidate does well and the people who ‘lost’ hope that the candidate they did not vote for does not mess things up as badly as they think that person will. People will debate, to varying degrees, on how well each person does. But this isn’t a source of what would be ‘great’ hope.

Some people hope that the world will be a better place. Often people find hope in that some people do not get what they want. Gun control advocates hope that people can’t purchase certain types of weapons. They have a sense that people don’t need AK-47's with armor piercing bullets to go duck hunting. Gun rights people hope that the gun control people don’t get their way. People find hope in hoping that some folks don’t get what they want.

William Willimon, a United Methodist Bishop and prolific author and great preacher used to be the Dean of the Chapel at Duke University. Willimon suggested that he didn’t believe that preachers always preach what people want to hear or that they should give people everything they want as, he generally was preaching to young people who he hoped DIDN’T get what they always wanted.

Hope comes in all sorts of varieties, but great hope has to come from something else, something more. Hope comes in the miracle of Easter.

Often when people are facing the end of their lives they search for hope, and search for a miracle.

On occasion there are ‘healing’ miracles where a person gets cured of their disease. But there are also ‘healing’ miracles that take place when people come to peace with the end of their lives and find their hope and miracle in life after death.

When we have faith there is always that hope for that miracle. The really great miracle comes because Jesus came forth from the tomb teaching us that truly was life after death.

And in that there truly is great hope.

Clothed or not.

The Senseless Crime of being a Pirate


We sometimes get the image of Captain Jack Sparrow and the great ‘Pirate Code’ and how the pirates were opposing the evil British. Pirates have always held a special place in the imagination of people----in fiction.

In real life, pirates rank near the bottom of the criminal charts. They will hijack ships, hold people hostage for long periods of time, murder at will, and do so with little regard for others.

The recent hijacking of an American ship was a ship carrying food and medical supplies to famine stricken areas. These pirates were willing to hijack food and supplies headed to needy people for money. Nothing more than money. The Maersk Alabama was attacked by a group of four Somali pirates for little more than cash.

What happened is something I hope begins to happen to more of these pirates.

Most crews pretty passively have not put up a fight. The crew of the Maersk Alabama was not interested in being captured. The pirates never really got control of the ship. All they ended up with was the captain and a lifeboat. The crew and the pirates negotiated a prisoner exchange; one pirate for the captain. The three pirates got their partner back, but the pirates reneged on the deal. So much for the ‘Pirate Code.’

President Obama gave an order to take them out and three Navy Seals each fired one shot and killed the three pirates on the lifeboat and thus having a chance to rescue the captain.

Needless to say, things will be more tense now. Other nations have been warned that the hostages will be treated as the nation treats the pirates. American crews, one would imagine, can expect not to survive. Sadly, the only language (beside money) that these pirates understand is force. There will be, I am sorry to say, a lot of death that takes place in the Indian Ocean in the coming months. I suspect that the United States Navy is going to be on full alert. A team of French commandos recently rescued a family killing the pirates and with the loss of the owner of the boat. The blood of both the innocent and the guilty will, sadly, be shed.

The family of the crew of the Maersk Alabama is rightfully rejoicing and we, as a nation, are glad because the bravery of the crew and their captain, and the great work of the United States Navy was in evidence. There are families, however, in Somalia grieving the deaths of three young men and a fourth pirate will probably spend the rest of his life in an American prison. I keep thinking that a Somali mom, someplace, is weeping today, and many more will join her in the coming months until this piracy ceases. As it happened many years ago, the navies of the world will band together and destroy these pirates.

And more mothers around the world will weep the loss of their children until this senseless criminal behavior and the violence which ensues, will come to an end.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sermon

Now What?
Text: Mark 16:1-8
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
Easter Sunday, 2009

The Call to Worship had just been pronounced, starting the Easter Sunday service in an East Texas church. The choir started its processional, singing "Up from the Grave He Arose" as they marched in perfect step down the center aisle to the front of the church.

The last lady was wearing shoes with very slender heels. Without a thought for her fancy heels, she marched toward the grating that covered that hot air register in the middle of the aisle. Suddenly the heel of one shoe sank into the hole in the register grate. In a flash, she realized her predicament. Not wishing to hold up the whole processional, without missing a step, she slipped her foot out of her shoe and continued marching down the aisle.

There wasn't a hitch. The processional moved with clock-like precision. The first man after her spotted the situation and, without losing a step, reached down and pulled up her shoe; but the entire grate came with it! Surprised, but still singing, the man kept on going down the aisle, holding in his hand the grate with the shoe attached. Everything still moved like clockwork.

Still in tune and still in step, the next man in line stepped into the open register and disappeared from sight. The service took on a special meaning that Sunday, for just as the choir ended with "Alleluia! Christ arose!" a voice was heard under the church shouting, "I hope all of you are out of the way 'cause I'm coming out now!"

The little girl closest to the aisle shouted down the register, "Come on, Jesus! We'll stay out of the way." (Bob Hager,

We’ll stay our of the way.

Interesting words and in lots of ways very fitting for Easter.

We read today from the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the oldest of the four Gospels and his is the first narrative of the resurrection that was written. The other Gospel writers add a great deal more detail and the others speak of the young man as an angel. Mark, however, has a character who runs away naked from the garden on Thursday night, and scholars believe that this is the young man who follows behind ans actually is the first person at the tomb. It is he who makes the pronouncement to the women that Jesus had been raised.

The women, Mark tells is, flee in terror and excitement.

The resurrection of Jesus was truly a ‘now what’ kind of scenario.

We often like to think of the joy of Easter and the joy the disciples had that Jesus had been raised. There was, however, more to the story than just ‘joy.’

Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and death, did not mark a high point in the lives of the apostles in terms of their response. John stayed and was with Jesus until the end. Judas killed himself. Peter had denied Jesus three times and along with the nine other apostles, fled and hid in fear. It appeared that when Jesus needed his friends the most, his friends fled.

It’s amazing how this happens. Years ago I had graduated from seminary and a group of us, mostly clergy, were playing baseball in the back of my friend’s church in Newark, New Jersey. Someone hit the baseball and it broke a neighbor’s window.

When we were children and we hit a ball and it broke a window, we’d all run and hide. We did not have the courage to encounter the person whose window we had broken. As adults, well, we ran and hid and let our friend deal with the angry neighbor----while all of his friends hid behind the church.

Jesus’ resurrection was great news, but it also meant that the ones who fled had to come face to face, again, with Jesus, the one who they had abandoned.

Now what?

There were two things that they had to deal with that are the same things we have to deal with concerning the Easter story.

The first is this. For the apostles, following Jesus was about the joy of discipleship. They were popular and famous.

When Jesus died on the cross there was no joy. They saw only the cost of discipleship.

Upon Jesus’ resurrection the apostles and the disciples and all of us come to grips with the cost and joy of discipleship. It is not just about joy and delight; but it is also about paying a price; but it is more than paying a price; it is a sense of joy and enthusiasm.

Discipleship is easy when it’s only about joy. Discipleship is easy about things all going our way. Discipleship is much more challenging when we have to contemplate ‘cost.’ Jesus’ death taught the disciples that there was a real cost to discipleship; his resurrection taught that there is a real joy to discipleship. Embracing it all reminds us that there is a cost and joy of discipleship.

The second thing is dealing with God and things beyond human understanding.

I knew a person who said that there was something she liked about church and something she didn’t like about church.

When she came to church and we talked about Jesus’ teachings, and such, that was great. When it came to miracles, and stories of Christmas of the angel appearing to Mary and Easter when Jesus comes forth from the tomb, she was uncomfortable. For her, it was all great until the, as she said it, “God thing” showed up.

She was okay with a concept of God philosophically, but didn’t want to come face to face with the divine, things beyond human comprehension.

Sometimes I wish Easter was not in the Spring. We often draw parallels to the blossoms of Spring and the resurrection of Jesus. We point the flowers, the green grass, and the sunshine and relate it to the resurrection. If we’re really clever we can talk about all sorts of great stuff and never get around to talking about Jesus being raised.

It helps us because it makes us not feel that we have to totally buy into the power beyond our comprehension, the “God thing.” It helps us not engage that which is beyond our understanding.

But Easter is about embracing something beyond our understand. Easter is about coming to grips with the ‘God-thing’ and realizing that there are things we cannot fully know and understand.

For those who witnessed the Risen Christ there was something of a ‘now what’ kind of experience. Encountering the resurrected Lord forced them to confront the true cost and joy of discipleship, and to encounter the power of God as God is.

That challenge exists for us this very day as we too encounter the Risen Savior and ask, ‘now what?’

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Dining Out Annoyances

I enjoy eating out but I often find myself annoyed. I figured that it might be therapeutic to share by annoyances.

I find drive-thru windows to be very convenient but I often find myself behind someone who cannot determine what they want or have to specially revise everything on the menu. So I sit and wait as they deliberate and then change their mind 1001 times. I keep thinking that they need to have two lines at the drive-thru. One for the clueless people and one for everyone else. Then I'd get in line for the clueless people because they'd be too clueless to determine that line was for them.

I love going to a restaurant and asking the server what the 'soup of the day' is, and they respond, "I don't know, would you like me to check?"

The "I don't know" is either the fault of a poor server or a poor training process with a bad manager. How a place as a 'soup of the day' and not inform the servers and the servers not find out boggles my mind. One would think that if you have a 'soup of the day' someone might order it and they might like to know what they are getting before ordering it. If one is feeling especially flatulent one day, bean soup might not be a great option. Or, if the chef is very inventive, I might not be interested in learning what fish head and brussel sprouts chowder tastes like.

The other part of the response is a classic. "Would you like me to check?" As a point of reference, generally someone who asks a question would like to know the answer. Amazing.

Another pet peeve is around the issue of soft drinks. Usually the only not sugared items are, besides water, iced tea and Diet Coke/Pepsi, all of which have caffeine. I wish something was available without caffeine and sugar.

Other pet peeves:

Steak. Why is it that it is a rare occasion that I get my steak cooked as I asked?

Pasta. Overcooked pasta is, frankly, detestable. I am always amazed how many places overcook pasta----and this is especially unforgiveable when the place specializes in Italian food.

Servers that tell me that I'll really like the scallops. I won't. I do not like scallops and, no, they do not taste like chicken.

McDonalds. Bad food, their way. At least at some other chains I can get bad food my way.

Undetermined fish. I enjoy some fish but I've had the experience of asking what kind of fish was on the 'fish special' tonight and being told, "fish, just fish." When I point out that they have varied meat options, they look at my like I have two heads. One server finally said, "You know, the square kind of fish." I think I had chicken that night.

Margarine served with bread instead of butter. Or margarine for your pancakes. I guess anyplace that thinks that margarine takes the place of butter.

Places that offer "New York style" and don't. New York style pizza is advertised a great deal but most of the advertising is false advertising. There are remarkably few places that offer anything close to a New York style pizza. Just because the pizza is found and the crust is hand tossed does not make it New York style.

I have been in delis that said they were New York style. When you see a corned beef or pastrami sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, it is not New York style. It's also a tell tale sign to not order their corned beef or pastrami.

Stale burger buns. What were they thinking?

Patrons who think that servers do not deserve a decent tip. A good server should receive at least a 20-25% gratuity. If you go less than 15%, shame on you---unless your service was exceptionally bad----and even then it might not have been your server's fault.

I am actually not all that choosey and most of the places I frequent I enjoy and most of the servers who wait on tables work hard and do a great job. But now that I have shared my annoyances, I feel so much better!

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Cutler Trade

Jay Cutler got is wish and was traded away from the Broncos. Now he is a Bear.

He is moving from a team that has a legendarily effective offense with great receivers, a great line, and solid running. The quarterback of the Broncos usually has plenty of time to throw, a chance to establish a running game, and receivers who can get to the ball and make plays after they make the catch----and they usually always do make the catch.

Kyle Orton will now inherit all of this.

Cutler is moving to a team with a porous offensive line, decent running, and, to be kind, a suspect receiving core. Devin Hester is seen as their best receiver----and he's a defensive back. Hester is fast and elusive and runs well after he catches the ball. The problem is that he has suspect hands and he is a poor route runner.

Cutler will spend time running for his life and throwing to receivers who are probably not going to be where he is expecting them.

The Bears love defense and their money and their resources have gone into their defense.

The Broncos love their offense and their resources have gone into their offense.

The Bears received a talented quarterback who whines a lot. Now that he has plenty to whine about, we'll see. In fairness, he is a really talented guy who is an upgrade from what they had.

The Broncos received a decent quarterback who will be in an awesome system. They also will benefit from great draft picks.

I will not be surprised if Orton has a really good season next year and Cutler whines a lot.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Some Salary Value Issues

The Commonwealth of Kentucky is in major financial trouble. Cities are having to cut staff and services. The educational system is underfunded and the state universities are having to cut programs and raise tuition and fees to remain afloat.

The University of Kentucky just hired John Calipari as their basketball coach and he arrives with the most lucrative contract in the college game – an eight-year deal totaling $31.65 million which works out to 3.95 million a year.

To put some things into perspective, the average Medical School salaries in a 2008 report done by the AAMC said this.

The average salary for Medical School department chairs was $230,000.00.
The average salary for professors was $146,700.00
Associate professors was $96,500.00
Assistant professors, $76,300.00
Instructors, $51,400.00

These are for full time salaries and I do not have any data on any of these people and if they receive extra compensation for private practice beyond their teaching. These are average salaries. Professors in private institutions tend to be paid a little higher than those in public institutions.

Medical school professors do get paid, on average, more than other professors. The average salary of most university professors is a bit under $75,000.00 per year. There are, again, lots of variables in this depending on private and public schools, length of service, and the subjects taught. Medical school faculty seem, however, on average, to be paid more than most of the professors and considering that many of them need to receive significantly more years of training in specific expertise, this does not sound unreasonable.

I have been thinking about this a great deal. Every time we visit our doctors we are putting our lives into their hands. We seek their guidance, their wisdom, and their care. Our physicians earn our respect and admiration by their caring, by their wisdom, and by their ability to treat us when we are sick and keep us as healthy as we allow them to keep us. When things go horribly wrong, as they eventually do for every one of us, they care for and comfort us. I have, in my life, been blessed by having wonderful physicians who I have both liked and respected and who, I always felt, cared for my well being.

They are educated and trained by people who, on average, are going to make 27 times LESS than the new basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. If we put our money not only where are mouths are, but where our priorities are than this would seem to mean that we value watching basketball over not only our own health and well being, but that of our loved ones.

John Calipari might be a great guy and a great coach, but this story seems to be a reminder that as a society our priorities seem to be very bizarre indeed.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Rise of Unbelief

I found this essay on the website ‘Serious Times’ written by James Emery White, the Senior Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The column is entitled ‘A Land of Swedes’ and reflects on the fact that a growing number of people in the United States are unbelievers. His column attempts to reflect on why this is:

White has some interesting things to say and there is, quite obviously, a great amount of thought that he has placed in this column. I also take issue with them.

He asks three questions.

The first is ‘What is happening?’

His reflection is that the problem of disbelief is not something being inflicted on the Christian Church but something that is actually self-inflicted. It reflects what Christianity is doing to itself. He may be right about that, but I would take issue with the core problem.

His argument is that Christianity has tried too hard to adapt itself to the modern world and has tried to adapt religious beliefs to socioeconomic changes, to new moral standards, and issues with science. He seems to argue that Christianity is selling God short and not standing up for the traditional foundations of the faith.

The problem with his thesis, from my perspective, is that the most public face and voice of Christianity does no such thing. Frankly, the public face and voice of Christianity is quite the opposite.

Think about this one for a moment. Recently Pope Benedict made a journey to Africa and proclaimed that condom usage was not really helpful in the fight against AIDS. AIDS, in Africa, is an epidemic that has swept through and devastated large portions of the continent. Cultural issues, poverty, lack of employment, and such, has factored into some of the issues facing sexual behavior and the spread of AIDS. Condoms have been given to large segments of the population to, hopefully, stop the spread of the HIV virus.

The Pope’s premise was based on abstinence outside of marriage and complete monogamy. It was also based on a long held Roman Catholic discipline of the disallowance of contraception. Under this guidance, if a couple gets married and does not have intercourse before marriage, but the husband has the HIV virus from a previous relationship, he cannot use a condom to project this wife. It is intrinsically evil to use any form of contraception according to Roman Catholic discipline.

Sorry if this offends you, but this is ludicrous as has been this Roman Catholic discipline. When Humanae Vitae was released in 1968 it was seen as archaic and it used Medieval theology science to make its arguments. The arguments were poor in 1968 and have grown worse with the passage of time. Considering that much of the world has a crisis of over population, this discipline becomes not only bad theology but morally irresponsible. Pope Benedict, however, is a public face for much of Christianity.

But it goes further than this. If one reads anything coming out of Christianity these days the topic of conversation is usually about sexual mores. One would get the impression that Jesus spent most of his ministry teaching and preaching about sex. He didn’t. He spoke against adultery and this pretty much covers it. Most of what St. Paul had to say has been taken so out of context that it has made this brilliant writer seem petty and trivial----which is certainly not the case. Christianity is obsessed with sex.

Issues of science and faith also make the news and it constantly appears that much of Christianity rejects much of science. Perhaps, however, it is best stated, that what people see as the public face of Christianity rejects much of science. Much of Christianity has no real issue with science and has synched theology and science together very nicely on many issues. This, however, is rarely the public face.

White’s perception on what is happening, I think, is that he sees a rejection of Christianity because Christianity has been too lax, whereas I see the rejection of faith because Christianity has had a public face of holding fast to things that delve more into superstition that classic Christian doctrine.

What does this mean?

It means that unbelief is on the rise and we are seeing more and more literature coming out pointing out what people see to be absurdities of faith. Bill Maher made a movie "Religulous" in which he mocks religious faith. Maher, of course, uses ‘person on the street’ interviews to ‘prove’ his point. Like most people trying to make a point in one direction, he uses people who prove’ his’ point rather than trying to have a broad view of the opinions of many religious people.

Christopher Hitchens has written a great deal of unbeliever type things and much of what he uses is difficult to argue with. Again, however, he uses what is often what most of the public sees as the ‘face’ of Christianity. Christians are seen as superstitious, anti-intellectual, and often hateful and mean.

What it all means is quite simple. If what most people see as the face of Christianity, remains the face of Christianity, unbelief will grow. For people who equate faith as being superstitious, anti-intellectual, and often hateful and mean, there appears to be little choice unless they see other options.

What can be done?

White does something here that is most disturbing. Most of us ‘preacher types’ will tell you that there are standard stories that have been told by countless preachers over the decades. There is the flood story with the man who resists help, there is the turkey cut in half story told at Thanksgiving, there is the preacher delivering the pork chops story, and there is the guy on the plus sign story. The usage of this as a ‘real’ illustration in this article is dishonest.

But there is a cogent point in all of this. He observes that the United States is a large mission field. Of that, he is correct.

To me the challenge is becoming more and more personal. There is a ‘public’ face that claims to speak for Christianity. I am seeing a need, more and more, for people to stand up and say that there is another point of view on this with Christianity.

Sadly, I understand why unbelief is growing in the United States. Much of what is presented as Christianity is little more than superstition, anti-intellectualism, and mean-spirited. If people see that kind of faith as their only option, they will choose believing in nothing first.

We have to be willing to present a different face and more effective at it.