Monday, July 1, 2013

The Curse of Sports

There a lot of curses in this world and I've decided that organized sports is a main one.  The curse of sports far outweighs the benefits. I'm not talking about the hellish aberrations that are often mentioned, such as the ridiculous amounts paid to professional athletes, or the drunken, destructive insanity that overtakes some fans when their teams win (or lose). I'm not even talking about the disturbing number of thugs that seem to populate too many professional teams.  I'm not talking about our ignorant deification of sports figures, including those thugs. To me, these are all symptoms of the root problem. 

The root problem is what might be called the Misplaced Team Loyalty Syndrome. From our earliest years, we are programmed to believe in and support "our team."  We ride the roller coaster of emotions with "our team."  When they win, we are filled with joy.  When they lose, we despair.  The players may be horrible, the coaching beyond stupid, but, no matter what, we must be faithful to "our team."  (Yes, I'm thinking of you Cubs fans.)  If we are disloyal, we are traitors.  We have been programmed to think this way since we were little children. 

Now as it relates to sports, all of this is may be blindly ignorant, but it's a relatively harmless blind ignorance.  Some dodo may waste his money on a cheesehead hat, but so what?  The problem (and the curse) is that this programmed syndrome doesn't stop with sports. It extends to almost every other area of life, from churches, to labor unions, to political parties, to businesses and on and on. It's the foundation of cults. We are programmed to be part of a team, to believe in our team, to be loyal to our team no matter what.  We NEED our team.  (My country, right or wrong, my country.)  Because we are programmed to blind loyalty, "our team" can do terrible things and we allow those things to continue. To stand against them makes us traitors. I've seen this in churches, in unions, in businesses, etc..  Team loyalty blinds us to the truth. We allow terrible things to continue and destructive people to remain in power because we refuse to accept the reality of what is right in front of us. We lie to ourselves about it.  We become slaves to "Team Think." By the time we do accept the truth, everything has gone to hell and many people have been hurt.

Now, our unwillingness to see and accept the truth is understandable, because there is always a price to be paid for what is considered disloyalty.  We're taught that from grade school. That price can be heavy.  At the very least, it is loneliness. If we are disloyal, we will be rejected by the team and then where will we be?  Alone, without a team. Sheep huddle with other sheep out of fear. Not being a "team player" is the ultimate condemnation in business.   It's almost as loathsome as stealing money. "Unless you start being a 'team player' you will lose your job."  Pure manipulation. At the most dangerous end of the spectrum is Edward Snowden. I'm sure there are many people in the NSA who believe just as he does.  But how many are willing to stand against the rejection of that "team?"  He's a brave man.

What's the ultimate result of the Misplaced Team Loyalty Syndrome?  Destruction of the team.  Those who speak truth that the team doesn't want to hear are isolated and silenced. When truth is rejected a terrible price is paid.  Ultimately, though it may take much time, any team that is founded on lies will cease to exist.  (When the teams get large enough, when they hate each other enough and when they gain resources enough, there is the penultimate team destruction, war.)

What are we to do about all of this?  First, be aware of the programming.  After that, no matter what "team" you have chosen, start questioning its truth claims. Ask the most radical questions and don't be afraid of the answers. Stop believing things just because everybody else does.  If the situation demands it, in the right spirit, in the right venue, at the right time, speak the truth in words of kindness.   And don't be afraid. You'll be surprised at how many people agree with you.  If you are the leader of a team, you'd better start listening to people who are saying things you don't want to hear.  Stop viewing them as traitors and impediments who disrespect you because they disagree and start viewing them as gifts that might just save your sorry butt.  If you reject truth, no matter where it comes from, eventually you will pay an awful price and others will pay it with you. As the leader, you will bear special responsibility for their suffering.    

Now, if you are a follower of Jesus, seeking and standing for truth wherever you find it, ought to be at the heart of your life. As for me, I have asked the toughest questions I could about faith in Jesus, the Messiah. I have tested His truth claims over many years and found them to be rock-solid. Because of Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins on the cross, His death to pay our penalty and make us right with God, we can be citizens of His Kingdom in Heaven forever. All we have to do is ask for His forgiveness to receive it.  The result of His forgiveness is freedom from fear.  That means freedom to be members of many different "teams," yet stand apart from them as well, willing to take the risk of speaking truth and living with their rejection. Whether that rejection comes from Republicans, Democrats, Hollywood, the NSA, a business, a church, no matter. Whether it costs our lives, no matter. God is control and He has a special love for truth and those who stand for it. 

In opposition to the Misplaced Team Loyalty Syndrome are the words of Jesus, the King, to every individual who believes in Him, "Fear not, for I am with you." 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

About Mikey Weinstein, Atheist Who is Attacking Christians in the Military

I've been thinking a lot about Mikey Weinstein, the atheist who is leading the charge against Christians in the military. Let me tell you a story.

In November of 1967 I arrived in Vietnam. I was what was known as a "butter bar," a green second lieutenant, just eight months out of Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA. I was 22 years old. My first two weeks "in country" were spent at a "reception station" where all of us got some additional training and acclimated to the heat and the time change. Finally, my orders came through to go to a specific unit. They came late at night and I had to report immediately to an infantry battalion that was leaving in the morning to back up the 4rth Infantry Division. They were in some deep, deep #%&@ in a place called Dak To in the Central Highlands. Needless to say my stomach was churning just a bit.

So, close to midnight, I arrived in the battalion area. My first duty was to report to the battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel. I was told that he was in the officers club (just a large tent with a makeshift bar) with all the other officers of the unit. I thought that probably they were having a tactical meeting in preparation for the next day's festivities. Not quite. When I entered, I discovered that they were well into their "cups." Yes, they were getting drunk the night before a large combat mission. That was a bit disturbing.

I reported to the battalion commander. He ordered the bartender to get me a beer. That's when the difficulty started. I thanked him, but told him I'd take a Coke instead. (I had grown up in a conservative Christian community and, at the time, didn't drink alcohol of any kind.) The battalion commander stared at me. Then, he ordered me to drink a beer. Can you imagine a more surreal situation? What weird dimension had I entered? As politely as possible, I declined his order. I knew it was illegal, but I really, really didn't want to offend the man. That's not a good way to go into combat.

Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin (I will never forget his name) proceeded to lock my heels, standing me at attention and, for the next hour, in front of all the other officers of the battalion, he berated me for not drinking, for being married (yes, that too) and for being a second lieutenant. Over and over he ordered me to drink and over and over I politely declined. (Let's be honest, at a certain point I would have drunk acid before I drank one of his beers.) Now, I didn't announce that I was a Christian. But that was obvious because back then about the only people who didn't drink were Christians or Mormons. The man was drunk, so after an hour I just wore him out. Finally, he gave up.

A week or two later the chaplain took me aside and told me that he admired me for the stand I had taken against the bully. But neither he nor any other officer stood up for me that night. Strangely, I didn't write to my mommy and daddy, complaining about the harassment that I had received. I didn't complain ten months later either. By that time I was a combat experienced first lieutenant and the executive officer of a rifle company in the same battalion. A captain arrived to take command of the company. He was a West Pointer. When he found out that I was a Christian who had attended the Moody Bible Institute he announced that he was an ex-Christian who had once learned a hundred Bible verses and been involved with a campus ministry. But he could only mock me so far because I had more combat experience than he did. While he could mock my faith, which he did, he couldn't mock me as a man or a combat officer.

What's the point of this? I've read the story of Mikey Weinstein and his son who both complained bitterly that Christians had harassed them at the Air Force Academy. Let me be clear, I don't believe in harassing anyone ever for their religious beliefs or lack of them. (There are plenty of other reasons to harass people that are far more enjoyable.) But Christians have been harassed in the military for almost 2000 years. (Read the story that comes out of ancient Rome called the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste. They were the pride of the Roman army and they died for their faith.) As a Christian, you expect harassment and discrimination. It comes with the territory wherever you are. So suck it up.

I don't think the real issue for Mikey Weinstein is oppression because of his atheism. Neither do I think it's oppression because he and his son are Jews. I've known brave, tough soldiers who were atheists and Jews. They could take anything thrown at them and they have my eternal respect both as men and warriors. I think the real issue for Mikey Weinstein and his son is gutlessness. They are wusses. Mama's boys. I've known boys like this in the army. They couldn't take the heat. While the other men were sucking it up and going through the rough training, they were writing to their Congressman.

The military is a crucible. It brings out the best or the worst in a person. If you are a whiner and a complainer you get no respect and that must haunt you. I suppose it might make you furious enough to spend the rest of your life lashing out at those you blame for your own failure. I'm sure it would be important to convince yourself that, in reality, you aren't a coward, you're really a defender of freedom. I feel sorry for Mikey Weinstein and his son. They should have our pity, not our anger.

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Experience with Dr. C. Everett Koop

C. Everett Koop is dead at age 96.

Back in the mid-90's I had an unusual experience with Dr. Koop.  It happened at Wheaton College in my hometown of Wheaton, Illinois.  A friend of mine, British film director Norman Stone, and I had been asked to be the principle participants at an ethics forum that was held each year on the college campus.  It was an honor to be asked.  The topic for that year was ethics in the entertainment industry.

The main activity was an all day event in which we participated in various seminars and discussion groups.  In attendance were academics, students and other interested people, both from the community and other parts of  the country.   Norman and I enjoyed ourselves immensely.  The evening dinner came and more people arrived.  Among them was Dr. Koop.  I discovered that he was a member of this ethics forum.  Needless to say, I was impressed.  However, shortly after the meal began, I experienced true horror.  While I was eating I was informed that, at the conclusion of the meal, we would be adjourning to an auditorium, where I would be giving a formal address. As was their custom, at the conclusion of my address, none other than Dr. Koop would give a formal response to what I had said.

There was only one problem.  No one had informed me that I was going to be giving a formal address.

Somehow that minor detail had slipped through their organizational cracks. I can tell you that I am a very experienced public speaker.  I majored in speech at Northern Illinois University. I have been speaking before groups of all sizes since I was in junior high.  I have worked on air in radio.  But as I sat there at dinner, none of that mattered. Cold terror swept straight through me. There was no getting out of this.  No excuses. No way to beg off.  If I didn't speak everyone was going to look really, really bad, especially me. Dr. Koop had flown in specifically to give his response to what I was going to say. BUT WHAT WAS I GOING TO SAY? I think for a moment I had an out-of-body experience.  I know I wanted to leave my body and go somewhere far, far away.

This wasn't some twiddling impromptu romp in front of a bunch of friends and colleagues. This was an audience of brilliant people and the former SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES  was going to be listening to my every word AND THEN HE WAS GOING TO TALK ABOUT IT. I could imagine him saying, "Who brought this freaking idiot from California?  No intelligent person could respond to his gibberish, so I'm just going to sit down."

Needless to say for me, all eating stopped.  I didn't want to eat, I wanted to throw up. Instead, I picked up a napkin and a pen and went off by myself praying desperately.  I had precisely 20 minutes to create a "formal address."  Well, for better or worse, I did it.  Thankfully, the subject was one that I knew well...Hollywood and the ethics of the entertainment business.  I don't remember anything I said.  When I was finished Dr. Koop stood up and gave a response, which was thoughtful, gracious and made it sound as though I had actually said something worth considering.

That is how I remember Dr. Koop - kind, thoughtful, gracious, extremely intelligent and a powerful presence.
I'm thankful  that I had the opportunity to meet him. I just wish I had known that I was going to have the opportunity a day or so in advance.

Rest in peace in Jesus, Dr. Koop.  I know that's where you are.

The Silly Game of the Academy Awards

I have never been a member of the Film Academy, but years ago I was a member of the TV Academy.  I quit when I saw how voting was done.  During those years I was a writer and producer on the TV series, The Equalizer.  I think for three years in a row Edward Woodward, the star of our series and a wonderful actor, was nominated for best actor in a dramatic series by the TV Academy. Each year he was beaten by Bruce Willis for his work on Moonlighting.  Now Bruce Willis is a fine actor, but to win the dramatic acting category for his work on a comedy was ludicrous.

It was because of this that I came to some conclusions about the entire awards game in Hollywood.  Why didn't Woodward win?  His dramatic work was outstanding.  Very likely two reasons:  First, he wasn't part of the Hollywood club.  Second (and more importantly), during all the years we were in production, our series was constantly denigrated within the Hollywood community as just a "vigilante show."  I remember when I was first asked to join the staff, a woman writer friend of mine at Universal said, "You're not going to do it, are you?  How could you be part of a show like that?"  I found a way. When a production is not considered politically correct, forget awards.  (Do we hear Zero Dark Thirty?)

In recent years, The Equalizer has garnered much more respect even within Hollywood.  Too bad Woodward didn't get the respect he deserved when the awards were being given out.

The Film Academy Awards are just as much a snide little political game as the Emmys.  Argo was a fine film, I enjoyed it.  But really, did it come close to Lincoln or Life of Pi?  Certainly not. It wasn't as good as Zero Dark Thirty.  So why did it win?  Old Hollywood loves to stroke itself and Argo played straight into the decrepit fantasy of Hollywood heroism.  I have said in the past that Hollywood is just like junior high school in hell.  Remember all the immaturity, the politics, the cliques, the lock-step regimentation, the insecurity of junior high?  Now add billions of dollars into the mix.  Welcome to Hollywood.

What is amazing to me is that anyone takes these awards extravaganzas seriously. People make lists and project potential winners.  How many thought Argo would win best picture?  Only the people who know Hollywood. Of course, always there has to be some semblance that these contests are real and that the Academy voters care about quality over snide political games.  If Daniel Day Lewis hadn't won for his work in Lincoln the jig would be up. The fact that Ben Affleck didn't win best director for Argo spoke volumes.  How do you win best picture and not win best director?  Does that make any sense?

Welcome to junior high school in hell.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dagon's Illusion Kindle

It is out and available.

A supernatural thriller about the dark forces that brought hurricane Katrina to New Orleans.  As the storm approaches, one man knows the truth about its source.  He is Robert Arthur Dagon, the leading mentalist/magician of his generation and owner of the hottest magic nightclub in the city.  His club, called Dagon's Illusion, is in a huge old Garden District mansion once known as Maron House, a place listed for generations as one of the most haunted buildings in America. But Maron  House is much more than this.  It is a place where the past and present crash together and where dimensional doors will open. Time is speeding up.  The War of Eons is rushing toward the Final Conflict and a man who believes only in himself is about to face Dark Thrones.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fundamentalist Chaplains Part Eight

1      Richard T. Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2001), 2.

2      For example, National Association of Evangelicals, World Evangelical Alliance, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

3      Defining Evangelicalism, linked from Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals Home Page, (accessed February 27, 2011).

4      Nancy T. Ammerman, “Re-awakening a Sleeping Giant: Christian Fundamentalists in Late Twentieth-Century US Society,” in The Freedom to Do Gods Will: Religious Fundamentalism and Social Change, eds. Gerrie ter Haar and James J. Busuttil (London: Routledge, 2003), 96-97.

5      Antoun, Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements, 56.

6      Evangelism,” Webster's New World College Dictionary, linked from YourDictionary, (accessed 1/16/11).

7      Anne C. Loveland, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military 1942-1993 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996), 5.

8      Ibid., 7.

9      Ibid., 72.

10    Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle, “Instruments of Accommodation: The Military Chaplaincy and the Constitution”, West Virginia Law Review, (February 2008) 90-91.

11    Israel Drazin and Cecil B. Currey, For God and Country: The History of a Constitutional Challenge to the Army Chaplaincy (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 1995), 45.

12    U.S. Constitution, amend. 1.

13    Drazin and Currey, For God and Country: The History of a Constitutional Challenge to the Army Chaplaincy, 43.

14    U.S. Department of the Army, Religious Support, 1-1.

15    Drazin and Currey, For God and Country: The History of a Constitutional Challenge to the Army Chaplaincy, 198.

28 Ibid., 115-116.

29    Pluralism, as defined by Merriam-Webster in their online dictionary, isa state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization, see “pluralism,” in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2008, (accessed February 27, 2011).

30    Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act of 1998 defines an inherently governmental function asa function so intimately related to the public interest as to require performance by Federal Government employees, see John R. Luckey and Kate M. Manuel, “Inherently Governmental Functions and Department of Defense Operations: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, no. 7-5700 (February 1, 2010): 7.

31    U.S. Department of Defense, Policy and Procedures for Determining Workforce Mix, Department of Defense Instruction 1100.22 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense, April 12, 2010), 21.

32    Examples include Veitch v. England in which a chaplain who was relieved from duty for publicly denigrating other religions and refusing to work collegially with his peers claimed religions discrimination, and Goldman v. Weinberger, where the court ruled that the military, under certain circumstances, had the right to deny a soldier his or her request for religious accommodation. See Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle, Instruments of Accommodation: The Military Chaplaincy and the Constitution”, West Virginia Law Review, (February 2008) 100, 135.

33    Lupu and Tuttle, Instruments of Accommodation: The Military Chaplaincy and the Constitution, 90.

34    Ibid., 165.

35 Ibid., 123-124.

36    Ibid., 163.

37    Ibid., 165.

38    Loveland, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military 1942-1993, 310-311.

39    Army field manual FM 16-1, which later was renamed as FM 1-05, states that “A chaplains call, ministry, message, ecclesiastical authority, and responsibility come from the religious organization that the chaplain represents, see U.S. Department of the Army, Religious Support, Army Field Manual 1-05 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Army, April 2003), 1-4.

40    National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, The Covenant and The Code of Ethics for Chaplains of the Armed Forces, linked from National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces Home Page, policies/codeofethics.htm (accessed JAN 27, 2011).

41    Religious tolerance and Inter-religious dialogue are two of the topics currently taught at the U.S. Army Chaplain School in their block of instruction on pluralism.

42    Loveland, American Evangelicals and the U.S. Military 1942-1993, 304.

43    Ibid., 314.

44    Ibid., 315.

45    Susanne Kappler, Chaplain recalls path to making history, June 12, 2009, linked from The United States Army Home Page, recalls-path-to-making-history/ (accessed October 6, 2010).

46    This information is from a personal conversation between the author and a chaplain serving at Ft. Bragg in 1994.

47    Some conservative Christian groups have, in the past, called the Latter Day Saints (LDS) a “cult. Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention removed the “cult tag, but they still maintain it is not Christian, see David Van Biema, What Is Mormonism? A Baptist Answer, TIME, October 24, 2007,,8599,1675308,00.html, (accessed
January 29, 2011)

48    Wiccans of the Sacred Well Congregation, one of the larger organizations of Wiccan followers in the United States, describe its practice and followers in this way: Wicca, as practiced today, is a reconstruction of ancient Pagan religions of Northern and Western Europe, with no reservations about drawing on source material of other times and other cultures. Modern Wicca or "Witchcraft" can be directly traced back to the writings of Margaret Murray, a cultural anthropologist, see History, Development, and Philosophy of Traditional Craft Wicca (TCW),” linked from Sacred Well Congregation Home Page, (accessed February 26, 2011).

49    An open circle is a public meeting of Wiccan followers, open to persons of any belief system who wish to attend.

50    Charles S. Clifton, “Fort Hoods Wiccans and the Problem of Pacifism, November 20, 2000, paper presented to the American Academy of Religion meeting, Nashville, Tennessee, (accessed January 29, 2011)

51    Clifton, “Fort Hoods Wiccans and the Problem of Pacifism.

52    Alan Cooperman, “A Wiccan Army Chaplain? The Brass Wouldn't Buy it,” The Washington Post, February 19, 2007, reprinted at nationworld/2003586870_wiccan24.html (accessed October 6, 2010).

53    Personal observations of the author, who was serving in Balad at the time.

54    Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. I Cor. 14:34-35 (New Revised Standard Version).

55, “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 1 Tim. 2:11-12 (NRSV).

56    Southern Baptist Convention, Resolution On Ordination And The Role Of Women In Ministry, June 1984,, (accessed January 29, 2011).

57    U.S. Army Chaplaincy, Strength Report (Washington, DC: U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Chaplains, December 31, 2010).

58    Conversation with a Chaplain-Basic Officer Leader Course Instructor from the United States Army Chaplain Center and School, December 2, 2010.

59    National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, The Covenant and The Code of Ethics for Chaplains of the Armed Forces.

60    Ibid.

61    The content for the applicant statement was copied from a sample letter provided to the author on October 28, 2010 by Chaplain Karen Meeker, the Accessions Officer for the Department of the Army, Chief of Chaplains Office.

62    A copy of an actual shell for an applicant interview memo was provided to the author by Chaplain (Colonel) Charles D. Reese on March 1, 2011.

63    Paul Jaedicke, Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course (CH-BOLC) Course Design Matrix / Syllabus (Ft. Jackson, SC: U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, October FY 2010).

64    Courses considered by the author to have relevance to ministry in a pluralistic environment include: worship traditions, ethics, religious support planning, supervision of Distinctive Faith Group Leaders (DFGLs), privileged communication, religious accommodation, and world religions and culture.

65    Chaplains provide technical supervision to and serve in the rating chain of subordinate Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants, see U.S. Department of the Army, Army Chaplain Corps Activities, Army Regulation 165-1 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Army, December 3, 2009), 11.

66    Ibid., 10.

67    U.S. Department of Defense, Guidance for the Appointment of Chaplains for the Military Departments, Department of Defense Instruction 1304.28 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense, August 7, 2007), 1.

68    Ibid., 3.

69    The AFCB is the Department of Defense advisory board which makes recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on issues of religious, moral, and ethical matters related to the Military Services. Among its responsibilities are making policy recommendations regarding
protection of the free exercise of religion according to Amendment I to the Constitution of the
United States” and procurement, professional standards, requirements, training, and assignment of military chaplains.” See U.S. Department of Defense, Armed Forces Chaplains Board, Department of Defense Instruction 5120.08 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense, August 20, 2007), 2.

70    Lane J. Creamer, Chaplain Captain Career Course (C4) Course Design Matrix (Ft. Jackson, SC: U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, November 1, 2010); Kenneth W. Bush, Brigade Functional Area Qualification Course (Major) Course Design Matrix (Ft. Jackson, SC:
U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, April 15, 2010).

71    National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces, The Covenant and The Code of Ethics for Chaplains of the Armed Forces.

72    U.S. Department of Defense, Armed Forces Chaplains Board, DoDI 5120.08, 2.

73    Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, ACPE Standards & Manuals: 2010 Standards
(Decatur, GA: Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc., 2010) 2.