Sunday, April 25, 2010

DOBSON'S SUCCESOR GIVES MEGA-MINISTRY NEW FOCUS


I stumbled upon the following article this morning featuring Focus on the Family's new leader Jim Daly. Is there a softening of the evangelical right? Are they starting to see the light?

COLORADO SPRINGS (April 24) -- Jim Daly is certain there is "a right way and a wrong way" to live one's life, and it's all about Jesus Christ and a literal reading of the Bible. But the new leader of the evangelical ministry Focus on the Family isn't going to get in your face if you disagree.

At a time when the conservative movement is dominated by raucous tea party demonstrations for lower taxes and smaller government, Daly seems oddly disconnected. "Don't know much about it, to be honest with you," he said, even though a recent poll showed that many tea party supporters are social conservatives like himself.

Instead, he spends more time worrying about so-called "Christian militias" plotting against the government. "The 'Christian' label means a lot to me," he said. "We don't want a theocracy. We want a government informed in moral principle.”

Focus on the Family "will weigh in on the big social issues before us and provide an opinion, but in all of that I want to express respect for everyone, for all human beings," he said. "It's not about being highly confrontational. It's about results."

Daly may be getting them. On a wall in the organization's offices here is a framed editorial from The New York Times, a publication not known for its sympathy toward religious conservatives. It defends Focus on the Family's right to air a TV ad during the Super Bowl featuring Denver Broncos draft pick Tim Tebow and his mother, who ignored doctors' advice that she should abort her fifth child, the future Heisman Trophy winner himself. The Times editorial attacked "would-be censors" and called protests by abortion rights groups against the then-unseen spot "lame."

When the actual commercial turned out to be an understated, feel-good message about motherhood, in fact, it was the group's most ardent supporters on the right who had a problem. "Some on our side criticized us for being too soft," Daly said in an interview with AOL News. "CBS wasn't going to allow, you know, 'DO NOT ABORT YOUR CHILD!' It's ridiculous."

In any event, traffic to the group's website surged after the Super Bowl, and Daly cited surveys saying it prompted millions to reconsider their position on abortion. "That's a game changer," he said.

Don't Say 'Unlike Dobson'

The biggest game changer for Focus on the Family, though, was the departure of its fiery founder, James Dobson. The child psychologist-turned-radio minister started the group in 1977 to help strengthen traditional marriage and give advice on parenting. But in recent years Dobson, 74, had become more involved in politics, and before the 2008 election he gave Sarah Palin a sympathetic platform and published a letter predicting that in "Obama's America" gays would get bonuses for joining the military and pornography would be televised in prime time.

In an era of kinder, gentler evangelical leaders like Rick Warren and Timothy Keller, who appeal to a younger generation of believers, Dobson may already have been an anachronism.

"The hard-edged politics of the original Christian-right leaders is increasingly out of style, partly due to generational change, and partly because evangelicals have been involved in politics for a long time and many have adopted a more pragmatic approach," said John Green, a University of Akron political scientist who studies religion.

Daly certainly has. He joined the ministry in 1989 and ran its international division -- which broadcasts to 130 countries, including Muslim Indonesia -- before becoming president in 2005. In February, he took over the organization after Dobson left to host his own radio show. (Dobson declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Dobson's departure angered some Christian conservatives even as liberal bloggers rejoiced. But Daly, who hates when journalists describe him as "unlike Dobson," says on matters of principle there is no daylight between him and his mentor. In tone and style, though, they are like night and day.

Speaking of the heyday of the religious right in the 1980s, Daly, 48, suggested that the influence of social conservatives like Jerry Falwell and of Dobson himself may have been illusory.

"When you look back from a pro-life perspective, what were the gains there?" he asked, noting President Ronald Reagan's judicial choices. A generation later, "we see a bit of fatigue. We don't see the results for the energy, the money, everything else that's been poured into the political sphere," said Daly, who keeps a desk plate reading "Laugh" in his office overlooking Pike's Peak.

"We as a Christian community need to refocus a bit on what's important in the culture. For us, it's family. That's our mission."

'Not Fearful of Change'

Earlier this month, hundreds turned out for a community discussion on homosexuality in a strip mall movie theater-turned-church in this city known as "the Evangelical Vatican" for its dozens of Christian ministries. Among the six panel members were those comfortable with their homosexual orientation and others who were less so. One of the latter was Focus employee Jeff Johnston, who told of "my journey out of homosexuality."

Daly was out of town but taped a welcome message. "We're not always going to agree," he said on the video, but added, "I'm not here to tell you what to do."

Bill Oliver, a local gay rights activist who has protested outside the 81-acre Focus campus, said Dobson disparaged gay families, but under Daly, "the rhetoric has definitely been lowered."

One sign: the group's recent decision to stop offering "reparative therapy" for gays and lesbians. Focus officials say the transfer of its Love Won Out program to Exodus International -- which has been attacked by gay rights groups and criticized by mental health professionals -- has to do with getting back to "bread-and-butter" issues and doesn't signal a change in policy.

Yet it's clear Daly, who has met with gay activists, sees diminishing returns in continuing the culture wars.

"I'm not fearful that change will happen in America. It will happen. ... I don't know what will happen with same-sex marriage, but I'm not going to be discouraged if we lose some of those battles," he said, noting that for "98 percent" of people, traditional marriage will remain relevant.

"It's going to be difficult in this culture and the way the demographics are going right now," he went on. "You look at the under-35 age group. I think it's splitting 60-40 support for same-sex marriage. There's a lot of people in the U.S. [who] basically come to the conclusion that this is something between two adults. I will continue to defend traditional marriage, but I'm not going to demean human beings for the process."

As with the Tebow ad, the new approach hasn't always pleased the Focus faithful. Daly sparked an uproar last year after he attended a White House conference on fatherhood and said the president was a good role model for African-American men.

"It caught me by surprise," Daly said of the criticism from conservatives. Like them, Daly finds little political common ground with Barack Obama, but, considering the president is married to his "first wife" and is raising his own biological children, "does anybody doubt that if we had more families like that in America, we wouldn't be better off?" he asked.

Daly told Obama that both know what it's like not to have a father around. In his autobiography, "Finding Home," Daly writes of being abandoned by his alcoholic father, then orphaned at 9 when his mother died and sent to a nightmarish foster home before finding God in high school.

That dysfunctional childhood, in fact, informs Daly's priorities at Focus: Since he took over, Focus has started a program to reduce the number of legal orphans in foster care by recruiting families to adopt hard-to-place children. Wait No More is in five states and has already halved the number of children in foster care in Colorado. The Denver Post called it "a perfect example of how faith-based organizations can partner with government to best utilize the strengths of both."

Faithful to Its Mission

Amid the recent economic decline and falling donations, Focus on the Family has had to scale its ambitions back a bit. The organization's budget has fallen from $151 million in 2008 to $136 million this year. In 2004, there were 1,400 employees; today, there are 830 (many of them working in modern buildings incongruously adorned with seven miles of oak trim donated by a wealthy supporter).

But the group hasn't abandoned its more traditional activities. For instance, it still buys ultrasound machines for pregnancy centers, boasting that has "saved" 80,000 babies whose mothers had considered abortion. And it still rates popular entertainment for its suitability for Christian families -- Daly recently devoted his radio show to an interview with the executive producer of a wholesome made-for-TV movie sponsored by Wal-Mart.

Indeed, despite media stories emphasizing the differences between Dobson's Focus and Daly's, much remains the same. The campus bookstore sells such titles as "The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture" and "What Darwin Didn't Know: A Doctor Dissects the Theory of Evolution." And the latest print edition of the group's Citizen magazine features articles on the "unprecedented wave of anti-life legislation and executive orders" under Obama and, under the headline "What We're Really After Is Cultural Change," how state-level activists can get like-minded candidates elected to public office.

Tom Minnery edits the magazine, and as head of government and public policy for Focus, he lobbies against same-sex marriage and abortion rights. He notes that just 45 Focus employees are involved in policy issues, even if they do get most of the media attention.

That doesn't include the Family Research Council, a separate but closely aligned advocacy group Dobson helped found. Earlier this month, it was almost alone in speaking out against a White House order extending hospital visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians.

Daly may be dialing back his public image, but Minnery's shop is more active than ever. Last year, Focus opened its first Washington office. In February, the group took part for the first time in the annual meeting of CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. Minnery said the group's lobbying arm, which may soon change its name from Focus Action to something less identified with Dobson, plans to speak out soon on immigration. He called current laws "terribly wrong" because they often lead to family separations.

"Whether we're big players or small players or quiet players," Minnery said, "we'll keep playing."

Jesus First, Policy Second

Yet it's clear his boss may be playing by new rules.

"Policy is important, but Jesus is more important," Daly has said. Which may explain his hesitancy to talk about one of the biggest policy issues of the day.

"Now you're going to get me in hot water," he said when asked his views about health care reform. No, he didn't like the language about abortion and would have preferred a go-slow approach. Mandating health insurance "doesn't come out of our free will," he noted. "Tax collection is not an act of love."

But he also noted that early Christians opened the first hospitals and hospices and that after "gladly" ceding responsibility to the government during the 1960s Great Society era, the church was "muddled" on its role.

"Many people would put their hand up, Christians, and say, 'Well, that's something the church should do.' But the church has failed to step up. That's a big task, to try to insure 30 million people. I don't know that anybody but the government could do something for those people," he said. "As we've focused a lot more on the political issues and trying to defend those things we believe in that arena, I'm concerned we may be forgetting the social issues that we need to be engaged in."


The above article is from AOLNews' Senior Washington Editor Andrea Stone.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

FIRST THEY CAME

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

By Pastor Martin Niemöller

BOYCOTT ARIZONA NOW

BOYCOTT ARIZONA NOW


Today Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed the Republican legislature backed Senate Bill 1070 which makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally. It requires local law enforcement to determine an individuals immigration status if an officer suspects that person is in the country illegally. In other words, they have just passed a law to that allows racial profiling.

Playing to the fears of many, Brewer stated, "I've decided to sign Senate Bill 1070 into law because, though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what's best for Arizona. Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state, to my Administration and to me, as your Governor and as a citizen."

The police of this state have more important things to do then check the immigration papers of every dark skinned person they encounter.

How many more legal, brown skinned U.S. citizens will be unnecessarily stopped and harassed - simply because of the color of their skin, and how will they prove their legal right to be here? I have not been issued my United States ID card.

Today I am ashamed to say I am an Arizonan and believe it is time to call for a boycott of my state. Spend your money in New Mexico or California. Do not support this racist state!


BOYCOTT ARIZONA NOW

Saturday, April 10, 2010

SNACK FOOD PERSONALITY TEST

Along with the horoscope, four temperaments, personality types and psychological tests, those who seek the gnosis of the world can take a very simple test that will reveal secret knowledge about their personalities. This is a very brief, simple test that does not require psychological interpretation. As soon as you take the test, you can turn to the profiles and find out the essence of your personality. Furthermore, you can keep an eye on which snacks your friends choose and thereby have secret knowledge about them, which will naturally help you socialize more effectively.

Furthermore, this test might save Christians lots of time and money, because it may be about as reliable and valid as most other personality tests that mission agencies and other Christian organizations use in evaluating candidates. In fact, this test was administered to 800 volunteers along with other personality tests and the results were comparable.

The only prerequisite for the test is that you must answer the question as if you are not on a diet and as if all the choices are equally beneficial to your body. Now, just pick your favorite snack from the following list:

(1) Potato chips
(2) Tortilla chips
(3) Snack crackers
(4) Pretzels
(5) Cheese curls
(6) Meat snacks

Discover your own Snack Food Personality Profile.

According to Alan Hirsch, MD, a researcher at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, the following are snack food personality profiles:

(1) Potato chips: "Potato chip lovers are successful, high achievers who enjoy the rewards and trimmings of their success—both in business and in family life."

(2) Tortilla chips: "Perfectionists in regards to their own actions and to the community at large, people who crave tortilla chips are humanitarians who are often distressed by the inequities and injustices of society."

(3) Snack crackers: "Contemplative and thoughtful, people who prefer snack crackers base their decisions on logic rather than emotions."

(4) Pretzels: "Lively and energetic, pretzel fans seek novelty and thrive in the world of abstract concepts. They often lose interest in mundane, day-to-day routines."

(5) Cheese curls: "Formal, conscientious and always proper, the cheese curl lover can be described with one word—integrity. They will always maintain moral high ground with their family, work and romantic partners."

(6) Meat snacks: "Gregarious and social, those who reach for a savory bag of pork rinds or crave beef jerky and other meat snacks are often the life of the party. They are loyal and true friends who can always be trusted."

Wow! Did you notice that with this test everyone is a winner? That’s because the research for this personality test was "conducted on behalf of the Snack Food Association and the National Potato Promotion Board." To learn about some of the negative aspects of these personality profiles, just take some of the key words of each profile and compare them with some of the more detailed lists given with other descriptions of personality types, such as the four temperaments, the DISC, or the MBTI.

The question remains, however, as to whether "You are what you eat" or "You eat what you are." Can a person change personality types by choosing the snack with the most appealing personality? If this all sounds like nonsense, you are getting the point. However, we must end this nonsense with one more typology: there are two types of people: those who believe this nonsense and those who don’t.


I am a tortilla chip person (for those who wondered).

Friday, April 9, 2010

ONE NIGHT ONLY - BARBRA STREISAND AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD

Below is a preview of Barbra Streisand's September 26, 2009 performance at the Village Vanguard - out on DVD May 4th.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

MYTH OF THE 'GAY LIFESTYLE' JUSTIFIES BIAS

I read the following article on CNN this morning and found I had to post it (as I agree completely). I only took offense to his preferring Madonna to Streisand - but he is like many of my friends.....

(CNN) -- On most mornings, my better half wakes up around 5:30, throws on some sweats and heads to the gym before work.

About a half hour later, I wake up my 13-year-old son, go downstairs to the kitchen to make his breakfast and pack his lunch. Once he's out the door, I brew some coffee and get to work.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the "gay lifestyle" -- run for your heterosexual lives.

I understand opponents of gay rights must highlight differences in order to maintain the "us against them" tension that's paramount to their arguments. But this notion that sexual orientation comes with a different and pre-ordained way of life -- as if we're all ordering the No. 3 at a drive thru -- only highlights how irrational groups such as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association and others like them are in this whole debate.

Pro-marriage organizations try to stop two consenting adults from marrying. Pro-family groups try to stop stable couples wanting children from adopting unloved orphans.

And somehow, me doing something like going to the grocery store threatens the very fabric of society, as Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern spewed. She says "the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation" and "homosexuality is more of a threat than terrorism." I'm not sure what her idea of a gay lifestyle might be, but with a growing teenager, buying and cooking food dominates my day-to-day.

I don't worship Barbra Streisand, I don't watch any TV show with the word "Housewives" in its title and I love fishing, beer and Madonna. But more importantly, I'm just a father trying to keep my son away from drugs, get him into college and have a little money left over for retirement. I'm no sociologist but I'm pretty sure those concerns are not exclusive to gay people.

In one of the most pivotal scenes in the biopic "Milk," Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn, gathers a group of community organizers and activists to come up with strategies to combat a 1978 ballot initiative that sought to ban LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) teachers and their supporters from working in public schools in California. As the small crowd settles down, Milk quickly glances around the room and says ..

"If we're going to convince the 90 percent to give a ---- about us 10 percent, we have to let them know who we are ..."

"What" we are -- be it gay, straight, black, white -- is simply window dressing. "Who" we are is where the substance is, where the person is, where our humanity is.

Too often, discussions about gay people and gay rights focus on sex, as if a person's entire being is defined by his or her Hollywood crush.

This fixation has been the crux behind attempts to link gay men to pedophilia -- from John Briggs, a state legislator from Orange County who introduced the proposed ban on gay teachers in California, to the Catholic League's Bill Donohue, whose recent attempts to excuse the church for its global scandal coverup by seemingly blaming homosexuality, is evil incarnate.

"The vast majority of the victims are post-pubescent," Donohue recently said on "Larry King Live." "That's not pedophilia, buddy. That's homosexuality."

Actually, Bill, sexual predators whose victims are 13- to 17-years-old are called hebephiles -- a la Joey Buttafuoco, Madeleine Martin and Heather Kennedy -- not homosexuals. And that still doesn't explain why the church opted to save face as opposed to, in the words of the infamous anti-gay figurehead Anita Bryant, "Save our children."

Being gay doesn't dictate how people live their lives any more than being straight does. There are gay people who go to church every Sunday and straight people who do not believe in God. There are single gay men who believe in the sanctity of marriage and married straight men who apparently do not -- such as Gov. Mark Sanford, ex-Sen. John Edwards and Sen. John Ensign, to name a few.

The truth is the only thing all gay people have in common -- you know, besides being gay -- is that we face continuous rhetorical, social and legal attacks for simply existing, thus potentially making something as mundane as bringing a date to a work function a fight-or-flee situation.

And yet, even in the face of that discrimination, LGBT people all handle it differently.
Some of us live in the closet, some of us do drag every Wednesday night, some of us are Republicans hoping to be change agents within a conservative sect and some of us are apathetic Democrats too dumb to carry on a conversation about anything other than Lady Gaga.

In other words, we're just as diverse, intolerant, upstanding and tragic as our straight counterparts and unless there is an annual meeting I don't know about, the only item on the much talked-about gay agenda is an abbreviated passage from the Declaration of Independence -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

In 29 states, people can be fired simply for being gay regardless of their education, experience or job performance; servicemen and women can be dismissed from the military regardless of their qualifications, dedication and courage; and partners are unable to see their better halves in the hospital regardless of the love, commitment and life they share.
Wanting to be judged by the content of one's character isn't a special right, it's a constitutional one guaranteed by the 14th and 15th amendments.

And yet, 145 years since the abolition of slavery, 90 years since women were allowed to vote and 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act, we're still involved in McCarthy-like investigations, holding Briggs-like elections and taking opinion polls based solely upon "what" someone is as opposed to "who" they are.

It's sad. We're such a great nation, still full of great hope and promise and yet we keep being tripped up by ignorance, which leads to fear and then eventually hate. Being gay isn't a choice, but being a bigot certainly is.

Editor's note: LZ Granderson is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, and has contributed to ESPN's Sports Center, Outside the Lines and First Take. He is a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) award for online journalism as well as the 2008 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) winner for column writing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

EASTER 2010

For the past three weeks Fettit has taken the time to grow real grass in Noelle and Christopher's Easter baskets. Last year he wanted to do this for the kids but time slipped through his fingers and before he knew it, it was too late; however, this year he has gone out and tended to their Easter baskets like a mother hen to an un-hatched egg.



After 26 years, few things Fettit does surprise me, but occasionaly (actually rarely) his love for the traditional, in this case our grandchildren's Easter baskets, stuns me!

REPUBLICANS ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY

The following article appeared on "The Huffington Post" this past week:

Last week, the Republicans took a big gamble and lost by lining up on the wrong side of history with their battle against health care reform. After the bill passed in Congress, all we heard from Republicans on the 24 hour news channels was, how can Congress pass a bill without even one Republican vote? The answer is...the same way President Clinton passed his Budget Reconciliation Act in 1993. He had to rely solely on Democrats to win passage after not one Republican voted for either his stimulus plan or his budget. Clinton's economic initiatives ultimately brought us the greatest period of prosperity for our country in modern times by creating 23 million new jobs and projecting a federal budget surplus for the first time since 1969.

Conversely, during the time when Republicans held control of the House, Senate and Presidency, they used their power to pass economic policies that led to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. Despite this fact, Republicans continue to revise history, accuse Democrats of fiscal irresponsibility and vote in lockstep against President Obama's most important policy initiatives, in their effort to have him fail.

Just this last week, the Senate Banking Committee moved to approve financial reform legislation. Not surprisingly, the panel passed the overhaul bill on a 13-10 vote, without support from one member of the Republican Party. Given that the world economy nearly caved to its knees under Republican stewardship and millions of Americans are still suffering, one would think that at least on this issue, partisanship would not trump good policy.

Health care reform, financial regulation, the economic stimulus, energy policy....the GOP has continually stonewalled legislation to move our country forward. The only victory the GOP can claim after the successful passage of health care legislation is that they stuck together in solidarity to do nothing. The GOP's obsession with seeing the President fail and their refusal to work with the Democrats to better the lives of the American people will come back to haunt them.

The American people are starting to resent the "politics of no" and the Republicans are quickly devolving into the "party of no tolerance." Recently, leading intellectual and former Bush White House aide, David Frum, was fired from his fellowship at the conservative-leaning think tank, American Enterprise Institute, after he was critical of the Republican strategy against President Obama's health-care overhaul. Bruce Bartlett, who was also fired by a right wing think tank in 2005 for writing a book critical of George W. Bush's policies, commented that "rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed."

Republicans need to understand that elections matter -- even when they don't win them. America voted overwhelming for Barack Obama because they wanted big change, and now they are getting it. The President deserves a chance to realize his agenda, and I hope that by the November mid-term election, Americans will see that Democrats are the only ones working to put forth policy initiatives to move our country forward.


Author: Barbra Streisand