Sexual Contradictions

Last night was the annual (?) Victoria Secrets sexy underway parade on primetime TV. Our “entertainment” world has made many billions of dollars off selling sex, teaching men to see women as sexual objects. Hugh Hefner’s death a bit ago was mourned as if we had lost a beloved celebrity, instead of a sick, twisted porn dealer.

This morning Matt Lauer, a popular TV host, was fired for sexual improprieties, adding his name to a long and growing list of men of power taking advantage of that power.

Just how confused can America get???

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Mississippi’s Flag

Racism in America is an extremely serious problem, exacerbated by those state governments which allow it to be built into the laws of the state. In Mississippi there is a statute which reads, “I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God.

Pride in one’s state is a fine thing, so long as it is not blind. Mississippi seems blind. Its flag includes a prominent replica of the Confederate battle flag. And that’s a serious challenge to everything America stands for. There were two thoroughly intertwined causes for the Civil War: States’ Rights and slavery.  they were a problem faced — and then avoided — by the Constitutional Convention.

Mississippi calls itself a “sovereign” state, which it is not. No state is sovereign because all states are part of the Union, which is the higher authority. Mississippi claims to be proud of its history and achievements, though I can think of little if anything in the history of Mississippi that deserves pride.

Mississippi, a stronghold of racism in America, is confident in its future “under the guidance of Almighty God.” Hmmm, Mississippi is racist; God is love.  How do those two fit together?

America stands for liberty, equality, and justice for all. We’ve never achieved any of those three but at least we’re trying to move forward and closer to them. States like Mississippi hold us back very badly. They’d better not pretend to be heeding the guidance of God. They are moving in a much different direction than he is.

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Republican Gullibility

I’ve noticed for years that conservatives tend to share a very odd trait: gullibility. they will believe and proclaim pretty much anything which supports their strongly held views. Not only is the gullibility a problem in itself but it makes it nearly impossible for them to learn anything new.

I’ve been mulling this morning the strange news that Trump has named an interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Why is that strange? Because he has no authority for doing so. The law is clear that, in the absence of a chairman, the assistant chairman automatically becomes acting director of the bureau. Trump can nominate a permanent director, subject to Senate approval, but has no authority whatsoever to name an interim head.

He announced his decision just hours after the outgoing director named his assistant as interim, which is just what the law prescribes. Will Congress stand by and let Trump make up his own law?

Furthermore, the man Trump named is an outspoken opponent of the CFPB, Mulvaney. That follows a common practice with Trump. When he doesn’t like an agency, he names leaders whose purpose will be to kill that agency.

This whole silliness on Trump’s part is just part of a much, much larger two-part problem. The first part is that, given his deep desire to be a dictator, Trump is the enemy of any part of government which he cannot directly control. And that means nearly every institution in Washington.

The second part of the problem is that the gullible Republicans believe Trump when he says that he, like the party itself, wants to limit the size of government. That’s not what interests Trump at all. His refusal to name people to important posts or, as in this case, his naming of those who are outspoken enemies of their new agencies, comes from his urge to be a Putin or a Hitler or even a Im Jong Un.

Trump has no philosophy of government. He doesn’t even know what a philosophy of anything might be. His “concept” of leadership is nothing more than, “I want to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it.” He is a more serious and dangerous enemy of democracy since Communism had its heyday in America decades ago.

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Thanksgiving Amidst Disease

I have Stage Four cancer. tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Am I supposed to give thanks?

Absolutely! To start with, we’ll have our family together, gathered around the table for laughter and an extra-abundance of food. It does not matter whether I will be here for another Thanksgiving next year — It is this year that counts. Jordan, Beavinn, Sage, Jocelyn: the names of my grand children are more than enough to remind me that life will go on beyond me. Turns out, I’m not the center of the universe!

And I’ve got a rich storehouse of memories. I can’t let myself undervalue a collection of memories which has taken me 75 years to assemble. Some of them are quite small, like the tiny birds who ate bread crumbs from my lips high in the snowy mountains one spring. Some of my memories are monumental, such as the day that I realized God — whose existence I had doubted — had somehow listened to my simple prayer (“God, if you’re up there, please come down and let me see you so I can know”) and transferred me from death to life, from emptiness to an overflowing love. And a few years later, I married a truly remarkable woman: a Registered Nurse from a family of baker’s. How good can it get?

Just as important to me is the future. I know that the grave is nothing more than a stepping stone from this life to the next. The promise found in I John will be fulfilled for me: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Even as I type these words, tears come to my eyes. It is overwhelming to think that I will look Jesus in the eye and be transformed by the experience, transformed to be like him and thereby fulfill the Creator’s original purpose to make us imago dei.

In the light of the past, the present, and the future, cancer (especially at my age) seems pretty trivial And thanksgiving seems so impossible to avoid.

Do I seem to be implying that all my experiences have been and are positive? That’s not the case. I bear the wounds and scars from old hurts, just like anybody else. But, as Catholic priest Henri Nouwen puts it, they have helped me be a “wounded healer,” It’s hard not to have compassion on someone in their suffering when you know exactly how they feel. Though having proven myself unworthy a thousand times over, the Lord has still granted me the incredible privilege and pleasure of being able to help a few people over the years.

So here I sit in my study, surrounded by books and a very good stereo system, counting my blessings, thinking of the wonderful family and friends, all the chances to minister to people around the globe. Not be thankful? Impossible. Thank you, Lord . . .

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Women in Western Society — part 2

Sexual harassment of women by men, I argued yesterday, is just an extension of a deeper problem. Men are attracted to and stimulated by prettiness and women have learned over the centuries that they are supposed to make themselves attractive to men.

Today I want to mention two different but related aspects of the broader problem. I believe that men have always been frightened  by the fact that an especially attractive woman can have great power over a man. Think of the Trojan War, fought over Helen. Or Antony surrendering good sense because of Cleopatra. Time and again men have made fools of themselves because they were blinded by their attraction to a woman. We in the West have done a great disservice to ourselves by not putting more thought into the power that women can so often have over men.

The other side of the coin is that, apparently men have thought that if they work hard to exercise power over women they will somehow protect themselves. It seems we men have worked hard to keep women in submission and have not wanted them to assert their God-given rights of freedom and equality.

This is all complicated by the fact that it is often men in positions of power who are the abusers. Their positions complement their inherent desire to maintain power over women. And the women frequently feel helpless because the consequences of reporting abuse because those reports have to be delivered to men, where they are not likely to get fair treatment.

Very often the power of a man’s position is supported by the woman’s trust in him. Trust can feed trustworthiness — as is appropriate — or it can simply give the man an excuse for thinking bad behavior is okay.

These are complex issues, obviously worth more and deeper attention than a mere blog entry. Just keep in mind that power is always a factor here and that it operates at far more levels than we normally assume.



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Women in Western Society

It’s Saturday today. I watched a bit of college football between naps. Among other features of both college and professional football these days is the sideline TV commentator, most often a young and pretty girl. They’ve all done well and have earned their role as part broadcast team. They’ve had to work at it just a bit harder than the men, however. They’ve had to worry about wardrobe and makeup, in addition to being prettier than the men to start with.

Also on the sidelines, of course, are the cheerleaders, nearly all of whom are young and pretty girls.

After the Navy-Notre Dame game, Char and I watched the local news, including the weather segment, featuring a young, pretty girl. A high portion of TV weather reporters are female and they all seem to be pretty.

And then, just to add a bit of complexity to my observations, let’s observe what I’ve just written without thinking: I’ve referred only to “girls,” not women. (Of course, at my age maybe I can be forgiven a bit, since any woman under 60 looks young to me.)

Why am I pointing these things out? Because I believe the current rash of allegations about sexual harassment is just the tip of a very large iceberg. It is very deeply ingrained in males to be drawn toward prettiness, which is to one degree or another sexually stimulating. We’ll never make too much progress on overcoming the harassment issues until we make some very profound cultural — and biological? — changes.

The biology may take a few centuries. In the meantime, expecting men to be respectful and to practice common courtesy may be the best we can hope for in this century. As the men change, I suspect the women will also. They are caught up in the same ancient cycles of women attracting men and men pursuing women.

A few weeks or months ago, Hugh Hefner died. He was publicly celebrated though — in my estimation — he was one of the most harmful men of the whole twentieth century because he furthered the idea that the most important thing for a woman was to be desirable.

We’ve got a long and sometimes very subtle path to tread if our society is ever to outgrow adolescence, eh?

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Are the Clouds Gray or White?

It has been a few days since we’ve seen the sun in our part of Minnesota. I miss it!

Today is another of those cool (37 degrees), dreary days. It is obviously time for my favorite trick, turning the clouds upside down. Try it sometime. You’ll like it!

Here’s how: Remember the last time you were in an airplane on a cloudy day. You take off under the dark clouds, slip a little nervously into the blinding fog, then emerge above a beautiful white expanse of puffy cotton, accented by the deep blue of the sky. When you’re up here it is hard to remember that the hidden earth beneath you is shrouded in blah.

If you’re living under the clouds today, just flip them over. Trade the darkness for the light, the dark gray for the beautiful white.

While I actually do remind myself on days like this that the clouds are beautiful from above, I also recognize that this mental exercise is just kind of enacted parable. It represents something very real about faith. I can choose the usual view that the earth is dark, especially in a day when I see the damage being done to our nation by our president and his political party. Or I can choose to see things from the Lord’s perspective, knowing that the return of the sun — Oh! It’s popping out right now. Perfect timing.

Hmm, where was I? Oh yes, the return of the sun is as sure as the resurrection of Jesus. The conquest of light over darkness is as certain as that justice will ultimately reign in the universe.

My oncologist calls me an optimist. Perhaps I am but it is not a mere personality trait. It is simple faith. Mine is not, I’m sorry to say, a big, strong faith, just my little mustard seed.

The important thing is not my faith but God’s faithfulness. Think about that for awhile. . .

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