July 2004 Archives

Honors Program

We had the second candidate interview for the Honors Program Director position. So far, the two candidates have both had some good ideas and both are deicated to the job. WE have three more to go, including two tomorrow.

It is interesting that so far many of the same issues have come up in both interviews. What is it we really want our honors program to be? What kind of funding will it get/does it need? And we have also disucssed how to work honors courses in given the IHL Board has mandated an evenutal cap of 124 hours for an undergraduate degree. At a time when the world is becoming more complex, the problems more difficult to define and solve, and the need for education is even greater, the Board decides to cap the hours in a program of study.

Well today I received Presbyterians Today and, as usual, my blood pressure rose a few points. You see, the national leadership of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is liberal, I am not. They see a relatively simple world, one I think envisioned by most Miss America contestants, but I see a more complex world with very few simple solutions. I see connections, they see unrelated events.

This month's edition leads with a very short article on "Israel's Wall of Hostility". Found on page 17 of the August 2004 issue is an article entitled When neighbors become enemies. It is a very short article to deal with a very complex issue. But when you have a simple view of world events, like our church leadership, short articles work well.

According to the in depth, four paragraph treatise, the problem between Israel and Palestine is simply the wall being built by Israel. Apparently hostilities have just now broken out--because of the wall. The problem, according to the left-wing of the church, is Israel. Palestinians blowing themselves up in shopping areas, killing innocent civilians, is not the problem. No, the problem is the wall. We should not be concerned about protecting the lives of Israelis but rather be concerned about the “thousands of Palestinians [separated] from family members, farmlands, hospitals, schools, and places of worship and employment.” Now that we know what is really important, we can find a solution!

Admittedly a better solution than the wall needs to be found, but until one is, the Israelis certainly have the right to defend themselves, protect their sovereignty, and protect their citizens from fanatics who believe the shortest path to life everlasting is through explosives. Negotiations have been attempted and failed. Former President Clinton had a deal worked out that would have given the Palestinians ninety to ninety-five percent of what they wanted, but they refused anything less than one hundred percent. The wall is being built to keep Israeli citizens from being blown up while buying groceries. Of course the Presbyterians Today article calls these people “suicide bombers” when in fact they are homicide bombers. The liberals fail to understand that when Palestinian terrorist blow themselves up, the intent is not to kill themselves (which is called suicide), but rather to kill others (which is called homicide). “Suicide bomber” of course has a much more pleasant ring to it and makes the bad appear good.

In their usual unbiased manner, the article quotes from the Palestinian web site www.stopthewall.org. To save you the trouble of checking for yourselves, the Palestinians are, surprise, opposed to the wall. It makes it harder for the terrorists to blow up people.

I do not know what has happened to my church, but I am saddened by recent events. The General Assembly called for a boycott of Israel. Okay, technically it is a selective boycott, but I’ve not seen what that means. So far it merely provides a way for the church leadership to weasel out of any responsibility and say they did not call for a full boycott. You see, the PC(USA) leadership never really takes a stand on anything. They pass overtures but leave plenty of wiggle room. Pinning them down on anything is tough. But don’t question them too much, such as I did when I called left-wing columnist Vernon Broyles to task for putting politics before religion, or else they will question your Christianity. Apparently the greatest sin is to call a liberal a liberal. Funny, conservatives do not mind being labeled conservatives, but the liberals hate “labels”.

Sadly, our leadership is also not able to see connections between events. Cause and effect escapes them. Elsewhere in the anti-Israel issue of Presbyterians Today is a short news item on declining membership. Since 2002, the PC(USA) has lost 46,658 members leaving a mere 2,405,311 in the denomination. Our fearless stated clerk says that God “wants us to be a growing church”, so we are surely disappointing God more than usual. You think this would give pause to consider why we are losing members but no, the article goes on to spin the story by pointing out that this year we gained more members by professions of faith and baptisms than we lost by deaths or transfers. Looking at those numbers we had a net gain of 47,000! Thankfully Presbyterians Today does go on to give the rest of the story and point out that we still lost 112,624 members who simply left the church. I would label that as “alarming”. On the plus side, such a small membership makes for a very ineffective “selective” boycott of Israel. (This same group is also calling for a boycott of Taco Bell, which is apparently also ineffective.)

Interestingly, in his book the Pentagon's New Map, Thomas P. M. Barnett cites that worldwide there were 9,575 deaths as a result of terrorism during the eight year period of 1987-1994. The next nine years, 1995-2003, saw an outrageous increase to 27,608 casualties from terrorism. (page 44, if you are interested) The wall is a relatively new phenomena and I think it safe to say that it is the result of and not the cause of terrorist activity in the area. The number of deaths terrorism deaths, unlike the membership in the PC(USA), saw a dramatic increase. Could there be a correlation? I doubt it, but given the numerically challenged leaders of my church, I thought it would be interesting to point out to them what an increase looks like.

A thinking person would be quick to ask why; but not our leaders. No, they will never ask that question because the answer may well be found within themselves. They may discover what many of us already know—articles such as those discussed above are simply not in keeping with the majority of Presbyterians today.

Why have I not left? Because I believe change can be best effected from within. I also want to remain here so that I can apologize to my, to our, Jewish friends. I also like my local church. It is, admittedly left-leaning, but the people are nice and are even they are right of the national church leadership. I enjoy having these people as my friends and worshiping with them. I can also engage them in intelligent debate for unlike the national leadership, they are willing to admit to the complexities of the world and acknowledge our declining membership as a concern.

We all want peace between Israel and Palestine but it must not come at the expense of one over the other. Compromise will work but not until the killing on both sides ceases. If the wall helps reduce the killing, then I can not help but believe that it will lead to eventual peace.

Friends Leaving

Today was a gray day in several ways. The weather was gray for one, but the result was cooler weather; proof there is a silver lining in every cloud. Our friedns from Virginia visited for a few days but left to go home today. Given they used to live not far from us and we would see each other on a very regular basis, their moving had a serious impact on our lives. They've been gone for about two years but we still miss them. Theri vistis are always great but their departures are always tearful.

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