Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Too Close to Call

The debate is on about whether the death of Michael Jackson or the fall of Tiger Woods should be the top AP news story of 2009. Michael had it in the bag until November 27 when news broke that Woods had crashed his SUV into a tree and was found lying on the ground bleeding and passed out in front of his home. The accident was the tip of the iceberg for squeaky clean Tiger, as skeltons started jumping from the closet with reports about extra marital affairs, one longer term extra marital relationship, sexy text messages with his girlfriend, his backing out of his own golf tournament, and now his taking a leave of absence from golf, with the loss of some of his major sponsors.

For celebrity obsessed Americans, the literal and figurative deaths of two icons in one year is almost overwhelming. With Michael Jackson, the overdose of the surgical anesthetic Propofol gave overindulgent partygoers a moment of pause, as the search for the "big buzz" cost the King of Pop his life. The subsequent media coverage surrounding his funeral, the paternity of his children, the charges of murder against his doctor who injected him with the drug, and the settlement of his estate have created a frenzy that will have the sharks circling in the water for years to come.

Now, a new A&E reality series featuring the other four members of the Jackson 5 (brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon) is a shining example of how even your own family will turn against you if money is the God they worship. Debuting last night, the show basically proved to all, that Jermaine is an egomaniac, Tito should be named Joe Jackson Junior, and Marlon, who seems to have it the most together, is the one who cracks jokes, seemingly to save his sanity. It's sad that a group who once was the shining star of Motown has allowed themselves to fall to such a low point. Maybe Neil Young was right when he said that it's better to burn out than fade away.

So, who should be the top story? Poor drug addicted Michael Jackson, or poor promiscuous Tiger Woods? Some have said that both stories are an example of how those involved were simply human, and we should forgive them and move on. Others have reminded us that no athlete or musician should be held up as an idol of worship. That position belongs only to God. While both points of view have merit, the main thing that ties the Michael Jackson death scandal to the Tiger Woods scandal is that both men handed their lives over to excess.

For one it was drugs and death,for the other is was women and career suicide, but sadly the ultimate outcome was the same. King Solomon spoke about excess in the Book of Ecclesiastes, summing up a life filled with indulgence as meaningless, if it doesn't include God. When one turns their life over to the insatiable desires of their humanity, too much is never enough, and Michael Jackson and Tiger Woods are both examples of that profound truth. Too many drugs, women, friends, too much money, or anything that our culture urges us to use as a substitute for God leads to destruction which will ultimately lead to a physical or spiritual death. While it's too late for Michael Jackson, hopefully Tiger Woods will learn a lesson from his sin, and will spend his time off getting his life back on track. He's been given a second chance whether he realizes it or not, and hopefully he will be smart enough to take advantage of it.

So top story, best story, worst story, who knows? Is it Michael or Tiger? I suppose we won't know until the dawn of 2010, but one thing is perfectly clear. The stories of Michael Jackson and Tiger Woods are essentially the same, and they tie for the most tragic of 2009.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Surge, Will it Win the War?

Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus -- Sort of.

Reactions are mixed after President Obama announced he would send 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. After taking 92 days to make up his mind, the president made it clear last night that he would begin withdrawing the troops within 18 months.

Today, the Democrats are upset saying the cost of escalating the eight year old war is too expensive as the build up comes with a 30-billion dollar price tag. Republicans are unhappy that the president announced a definite time line for the troop withdrawal.

The Associated Press is reporting that Vice President Joe Biden, who did not support the president's decision said the new surge and exit strategy is aimed more at keeping the Taliban from overrunning Afghanistan while protecting America from another terrorist attack.

Senator John McCain who ran against Obama in last year's election said he supports the decision to send in more troops but did not agree with the announced time line for withdrawal.

"We don't want to sound an uncertain trumpet to our friends in the region," McCain said.

What do you think? A defining moment for the Obama presidency or too little too late?

A couple of things concern me about the president's decision, and the reaction to it.

First, like Senator McCain, I don't think it's ever a good idea to let the enemy know your timeline for withdrawing from any war. Military strategy is about playing your cards close to the vest. By letting the world know that we're going to be done in 18 months, the signal has been sent that winning the war is not our objective. In fact, the president never used the word "win" in his speech last night. That omission alone has to be very demoralizing to the troops who we're sending in to fight. When a country sends troops to reform a region, it's imperative that said country appears to be stable in the way they conduct the business of war. The president has made the American military look anything but stable, which will harm us in the long run.

Secondly, the Democrats are crying that the surge will be too expensive, yet Congress is spending billions to bale out banks, and the liberal politicians are working non-stop to create a multi-billion dollar healthcare plan that will provide healthcare for illegal citizens, and abortion funding and sex education for our elementary school kids. How bizarre that our national security is not as important to some in our government as a healthcare bill that will keep our children's grandchildren oppressed with massive debt.

Finally, I'm baffled as to how president Obama came up with 30,000 as the final surge number when General McChrystal originally called for 40,000. I understand we have to work with what we've got, but it seems that the president was trying to make some kind of political point when he did not explain why he cut the troop number by 10,000. I sincerely hope I'm wrong when my gut tells me that once again decisions about protecting America have been reduced to nothing more than a pawn in the game of political football. (although I fear I'm exactly on point)

So Virginia, be happy this Christmas, as we are a bit better off than we were yesterday. The president's decision to send more troops after the first of the year, should help calm a region that is rapidly spinning out of control. For the next 18 months you can sleeep a little easier at night. But remember Virginia, life is full of comprimise and you'll never be completely at peace while you walk this earth. July 2011 will be here before you know it my dear, and once again you'll be forced to fear the inevitable when Johnny comes marching home.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are You Naughty or Nice?

The American Family Association has called off its boycott against The Gap and Old Navy after Old Navy (owned by The Gap) aired a commercial featuring the company's "Supermodelquins" singing Merry Christmas. The AFA website reports that thousands of Christians sent e-mails, letters and petitions threatening to boycott both stores if they refused to use the word "Christmas" in their advertising. As a result, parent company The Gap buckled under the pressure, and filled themselves with Christmas cheer. Now, Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods have been added to the AFA's "naughty or nice" list, being deemed as "naughty" for their refusal to use advertising that mentions the word Christmas. A call to boycott those stores is pending.

Ahhhh, the power of the boycott. Two thumbs up to everyone who e-mailed or wrote The Gap and Old Navy, and especially to those who refused to shop there while the boycott was in place. While it's ridiculous that the AFA has to have a "naughty or nice list," the absurdity of our country's obsession with political correctness makes the list necessary and that's just sad. While the argument is old, it's still hard to believe that any retailer would refuse the word Christmas because of it's connection to Jesus. It's even more troubling that in spite of the AFA's making this list every year, some retailers still try to get around the word therefore risking their entire shopping season.

Do atheists, agnostics or any of those belonging to a myriad of other religions really care if the word Christmas is used on or near December 25? If you don't believe the day is a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ, why would you care that others do? Are you really so sensitive that hearing someone say Merry Christmas wrecks your entire day? Remember, you don't believe! You are allowed to say Happy Holidays, Bah Humbug or anything else that you want, and if there truly is no Christ to worship, why are you threatened? Merry and Christmas are just words to you, and the reality is that December 25 is called Christmas whether you like it or not. Look at it this way. The holiday is celebrated with the giving of gifts, which requires shopping, so if you have no religious beliefs or ties to Christianity, just enjoy the materialism that many put ahead of the religious significance of the holiday. Believe me we Christians will get over it, and you can still max out your credit cards at stores who say Merry Christmas. Again, Merry and Christmas ARE JUST WORDS!

With all of the Christmas hoopla, I'm thankful for the AFA's "naughty or nice" list and some of the other anti-Christmas retailers include: Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, CVS, Radio Shack and Staples. The nice list features great stores like Hobby Lobby, JC Penny, K-Mart & Lowes. (updated November 24 and the entire list can be viewed at

So Christians get out there and shop. Keep the Christ in Christmas but reward those stores who are willing to step up and support your religious beliefs and freedoms. The "nice" retailers need you and the economy needs the jumpstart. American Family Association, keep up the good work and thank you for making all of us aware of the Christ friendly stores that we can support this year.

Remember, there's only 24 shopping days until Christmas, and retailers are promising special deals until the big day. In the meantime, let me wish you a Merry Christmas, I'll remind you that Jesus loves you, and I'll hopefully see you at The Gap.