Friday, December 26, 2014

Significance of Christmas

We just celebrated Christmas, and for many it is a secular holiday. To them it is about family, shopping, good cheer, Santa Claus, and all that warm and fuzzy stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for those of us who are Christians, the day has a much deeper meaning that often gets lost in the busyness of the season. In addition, political correctness – that harsh taskmaster of linguistic control – dictates that we wish people the insipid “happy holidays” lest we offend someone. Since many non-Christians celebrate some form of Christmas, I don’t think too many people – except for die-hard bigots – would be offended by our good wishes.

I invite you to consider the deeper meaning of Christmas alluded to above. That deeper meaning is summarized in Philippians 2:5-8
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross. (Holy Bible, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.)

Read the above passage several times to get the full meaning. Just think of it: Jesus left heaven and came to earth in the form of a man to ultimately suffer and die on our behalf. That’s because of God’s love for us.

We read in John 1:14-15:
And the Word [referring to Jesus] became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. NRSV

Why did Jesus “become flesh and dwell among us?” There are at least two reasons, the first one being by far the most important as we read in that well-known passage John 3:16-17:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. NRSV

The second reason is spelled out in Hebrews 4:15:
For we do not have a high priest [referring to Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. NIV

There’s a lot more to Christmas than this brief overview provides, but I invite Christians to keep in mind what God did for us in sending Jesus into the world. What did God accomplish? As the Charles Wesley hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” tells us:
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

A separation from God exists because of mankind’s sinfulness. Christ’s death on the cross wiped away the stain of sin and reconciled us to God. Those who accept what Jesus did on the cross are back in right relationship with God. We can’t earn our way into that relationship, as we read in Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith [in Jesus and what he did], and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. NRSV

I wish you a blessed (if late) Christmas and all God’s best for you in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Violent Protests against Violence

It’s ironic that those protesting against violence (by police) end up doing violence themselves: looting, burning, hitting cops, setting police cars on fire, etc. You lose credibility when you protest for justice and then commit crimes yourself. I remember back in 1968 at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago how things turned violent very quickly. Things haven’t improved much since then when you consider Ferguson, NYC, and other cities where violent demonstrations have taken place.

It’s sad that out of this anti-police demonstrating a deranged person killed two NYC police officers execution-style while they sat in their car. Weak minded people hear this rhetoric and then go out and punch or shoot a cop. I think the time for demonstrating is over, and now it’s time to heal. Enough is enough.

Yes, our system of justice is not perfect, but it’s all we’ve got and it’s still better than what many countries have. Rioting in the street won’t improve it. Killing cops won’t improve it. But there are some things that can and should be done to improve the safety and quality of life for the general population.

There is one serious flaw in our justice and health systems that really has to change for the good and safety of the people. Did you notice that the guy who killed the two NYC cops had been arrested 19 times and had a history of mental illness? I believe anybody who is arrested so many times becomes more and more of a threat to society as time goes on, and should be locked up for good because he is up to no good. He is a serious crime just waiting to happen. Similarly, people with a serious mental illness that pose a threat to society should be put in institutions where they can get some level of care and will be off the streets. Right now you have mentally ill people roaming the streets, living in cardboard boxes, committing various crimes, and putting people and themselves at risk.

Don’t Americans deserve to be protected from those who are a danger to them? Some say those with mental illnesses also have rights, yet don’t you and I have a reasonable expectation of safety when standing on a subway platform or walking down a street? In a civilized society, dangerous mentally ill people should not be out there posing a threat to themselves and others. They should be cared for and kept off the streets.

One more thing. More gun control isn’t the answer. Yes, we need to tighten gun control by closing loopholes, but the real problem is that gun owners don’t always secure their weapons. Many teens who have shot up schools (such as in Newtown and Columbine) got a parent’s unsecured gun and ammunition. Also, it isn’t just guns that kill, but knives, clubs and other weapons.

The problem of violence in this country goes much deeper than gun control. Sociopaths, the mentally ill, and others who may pose a danger need to be identified and treated before they commit acts of violence. We can’t go on having our schools shot up, malls and stores attacked, and gang violence resulting in innocent bystanders being shot and killed.

If the protesters want a cause, they should demonstrate against gang violence, which often catches innocent people in the cross-fire. Gangs kill a lot more blacks than cops. Children are hit by stray bullets while watching TV in their living room. Something’s wrong with a society that can’t keep its kids safe.

We have enough enemies and dangers from without (terrorism); we don’t need threats from within.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

We Were Warned about Cyber Attacks

The United States (as well as the rest of the world) has been warned by experts for years of our vulnerability to cyber-attacks. As usual, little was done by companies or the government to protect against inevitable attacks. As a result, sophisticated hackers from North Korea, China, Russia and other countries, groups, and individuals are wreaking havoc with Western computer systems. Personal, corporate, and government data have been compromised. Now we’re forced to play catch-up to defend ourselves against these sophisticated hackers whose goal is to cause damage and embarrassment to its victims.

My fear is that hackers/terrorists will be able to take control of all kinds of systems that would bring us to our knees. Think of what it would mean if hackers got control of:
-our air control system;
-various military systems;
-electrical generating plants (especially nuclear ones);
-credit card and other retail systems;
-financial systems;
-aircraft while in flight;
-other transportation and infrastructure systems.

I believe that someone hacked the Malaysia Airlines flight that was lost over the Indian Ocean. It may have been a test run for bigger hacks to come. Scary thought, isn’t it?

We see in all this the evil, the stupidity, and the greed of humans.

We see the evil in that these hackers/terrorists want to bring down companies and countries, wanting millions of people to suffer and possibly die. For what purpose?

We see the stupidity of humans in that they don’t heed warnings and do the right thing. They don’t plan ahead, knowing the risks they face in this dangerous world but ignoring the warnings.

We see the greed in that companies are more interested in profits than in protecting themselves, their employees, and their customers from harm. Look at the hacks of stores such as Target and Home Depot. They have the money to build better defenses but would rather put their customers’ personal data as risk than spend the money and show lower profits.

It’s always been a dangerous world, full of pitfalls, perils, and evildoers. The threats change as society and technology changes, but we’ll always be at risk in some form or another. Let us pray that our governments and our companies will do the right thing and invest the money to build better protections.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Give Thanks in All Circumstances – Part 2

When we retired in the middle of 2013, we decided to downsize and live in an apartment if we could find a suitable one. We were fortunate to find a beautiful apartment in the Rivercrest complex off Brockway Blvd., near Dutchess Stadium. It was relatively new construction, spacious enough for the two of us, had a fireplace, loft, central air, a one-car garage, and a river view. It was ideal for us, and we planned to live there for the foreseeable future.

Things don’t always turn out as planned. The Jehovah’s Witnesses bought the entire apartment complex in November or December 2014, presumably to house their own people. No leases are being renewed and no new leases are being signed. So we have to vacate by no later than April 30, when our lease is up. That means we are back to looking for either an apartment rental or possibly a condo purchase.

What’s annoying about this, aside from the disruption and inconvenience, is the fact that there has been minimal communication from the new owner, ROSM Housing Management (owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses). There are residents who don’t realize their leases aren’t going to be renewed. I just told one of our neighbors and she was shocked – didn’t have a clue. The new owner will give 60 days notice, but that isn’t enough time for some people. This has been handled very poorly.

In addition, there’s been nothing about this in the local media that I’ve seen. This is news that should have been covered.

Once we realized what was going on, we immediately started looking for a new apartment or townhouse. In the midst of all this, I happened to be speaking with a friend and mentioned our housing situation. He suggested my wife and I come over take a look at his townhouse and the development to see what we think. So we went over to his development (still under construction). We were favorably impressed by his unit, and he suggested we talk with the sales office to see what might be available in our timeframe. As it turned out there is a unit becoming available that we really like. So we are going to buy it.

We thank God for keeping us calm during this stressful time, and for directing us to this new house. Trusting that God has a plan for us gives us peace and comfort. Since change is inevitable and often unexpected, “In God We Trust” should be our motto. May God bless you and guide in whatever circumstances you are finding yourself in.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

It seems that every time I watch the news, there are wars, atrocities, terrorism, kidnappings, natural disasters, diseases (such as ebola), violent crimes, riots, and other forms of mayhem. The earthquake, drought, wildfires, and flooding in California in 2014 are reminders of how vulnerable we are to natural disasters. Why do these bad things happen?

The earth is fallen, meaning it is imperfect as a result of the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Likewise, humans are fallen, meaning we have a strong propensity to do wrong. Examples of such evil-doing are:
-ISIS fanatics invading Iraq and killing many innocent people;
-Putin’s land grab from Ukraine;
-Hamas targeting Israeli civilians with ongoing rocket attacks, and using Palestinian civilians as human shields;
-Syria’s Assad’s lack of caring about his own people;
-The repressive North Korean regime.

ISIS is barbaric and should be destroyed, but such barbarism is can be seen throughout history. One would hope we have moved on to a more civilized existence, yet we see terrible acts still occurring. In addition to the list above, just in the 20th Century we’ve seen huge numbers of people killed by Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Mao Zedong, and other dictators. So much for evolution of humanity to ever higher levels.

Sadly, groups have raided or invaded land belonging to other groups on a regular basis as long as humans have been on the earth. Look at the history of Russia. Hoards from the East (Mongols, Tatars, Alans, and other groups) regularly invaded peaceful peasants in what is now Russia and Ukraine. European nations have been either fighting each other or battling outside invaders (such as Huns and Ottomans) for many centuries. It seems that the natural state of humankind is war.

I think history clearly demonstrates the sinful nature of humanity. Those who say humans are intrinsically good and became evil due to a corrupt society are wrong. Humanity has a hereditary flaw: the strong propensity to sin. In Calvinist theology that propensity to sin is called “The Total Depravity of Man.” This “depravity” resulted from The Fall and is passed down from generation to generation. We are saved from that “depravity” only by the grace of God.

What our job should be is to do whatever we can to make the earth a better place in which to live. We can’t prevent these bad things from happening, but we should be helping victims of natural disasters, caring for the needy, and being peacemakers within our own sphere of influence. Don’t give in to temptation but do good rather than evil. Live according to biblical principles.

Until Christ comes again in glory, the hope Christians have is a new earth in the End Times in which evil will no longer have a place for 1,000 years. Now that’s something to look forward to!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

No Accountability for Colleges

With a grandson going to college, I became acquainted with the high cost of higher education. I knew tuition, room, and board were expensive, but I never saw it up close and personal. With the cost of an education at a private university in the neighborhood of $50,000 per year, the student and his or her parents must enter the world of student loans and other types of financial aid. I can’t imagine somebody coming out of college with over $100,000 in debt, but a lot do. I don’t know how they do it!

What annoys me about this whole thing is that the cost of college has gone up much faster than the CPI, a common measure of inflation. I don’t know why the cost has risen 1,120% over the past 30 years, but I think a lot is due to the fact that there’s no accountability. Colleges have a guaranteed customer base (students) because most high school graduates know they need either a college degree or technical training to get a decent job and live the American dream. So colleges can charge what they want – and they do.

I don’t know all the reasons for these obscene increases, but I would recommend that colleges do some serious cost-cutting to bring down the cost to the student. To continue to burden their graduates with such a load of debt just isn’t right, especially since salaries haven’t increased very much in the past 10 years.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Justice for All?

Recently two grand juries in different parts of the country decided not to indict police officers who killed young black men. The first grand jury was concerned with the killing in Ferguson, Missouri, and the second involved the “choke-hold” killing on Staten Island in New York City. Several points:

First, we have a system of justice that isn’t perfect but works reasonably well. We have to accept whatever verdicts or decisions come out of that system, even if we disagree. We can’t take the law into our own hands.

Second, even if a grand jury determines no crime was committed, the officers involved could still face police department discipline (including loss of job) or civil lawsuits. No matter what happens, their lives are changed forever for the worse.

Third, we have to understand how some killings can occur. In some neighborhoods, police are at nearly constant risk of being confronted, injured or killed. Blacks who complain about the police should realize the risks police are taking to protect their neighborhoods.

Fourth, in the case of Michael Brown, he was not quite the good kid the press and protestors make him out to be. He and a buddy had robbed a convenience store earlier, and he may have been high on marijuana. He was walking down the middle of the street when officer Wilson told him to get off the street. Apparently Brown went after officer Wilson and tried to get his gun. Wilson feared for his life because he was struggling with a 280 pound aggressive man. I believe the grand jury concluded that officer Wilson fired in self-defense, which most likely was the right call. Sadly, Brown was killed, not because he was black, but because he struggled with a cop for his gun.

Fifth, physical size may have been a factor with Eric Garner. The cops surrounding Garner may have been intimidated and over-reacted. Officer Pantaleo put him in a choke hold. Almost immediately there were three or four cops all over Garner, pinning him to the ground and trying to handcuff him. Nobody paid attention to Garner’s cries of “I can’t breathe!”

Sixth, I believe officer Pantaleo and the other cops involved were out of line. Garner may have been involved in a petty crime, selling loose cigarettes, and he appeared in the video to be arguing with the cops, claiming he wasn’t doing anything wrong. The reaction of those police officers was excessive given the pettiness of the crime, if there was even a crime to begin with. With all of the crime in New York City, it was ridiculous for these cops to even bother with Garner. Go after the rapists, muggers, gang-bangers, and other criminals.

Seventh, as I mentioned above, there are other remedies available to punish Pantaleo since he can’t be tried in criminal court, and I believe they should be pursued. He used a choke hold against departmental policy and definitely used excessive force. I don’t believe these actions were motivated by race, but rather by over-zealous cops trying to stop a petty crime. Garner’s arguing with them didn’t help, but I also believe his arguing didn’t constitute resisting arrest. The actions of Pantaleo and the other cops on the scene were abuse of power, poor judgment, and bullying more than anything else. Unfortunately these resulted in the death of Garner. For that Pantaleo (and perhaps the other cops involved) should be removed from the force at a minimum.

Moral of the story:

*Whether you’re white or black, don’t do a crime, and you shouldn’t have much to worry about (no guarantees but your odds of having a run-in with the police are diminished);

*Don’t resist arrest, mouth off at the cops, or give them a hard time if confronted (let the justice system do its job to free you if you are innocent);

*Whatever you do, don’t physically struggle with the police (they’ve got the tasers, guns, and skills to restrain you);

*Lastly, how you present yourself affects people’s perception of you, so dress for success.

What do I mean by this? Let me give an example: Let’s say I’m walking down the street of a city and I see three clean-cut teen-age black guys wearing nice clothes approaching me. What’s my reaction? I continue walking, because they are well-dressed and look like good kids so I don’t feel at risk. Now let’s say I’m walking down the street of a city and I see three scruffy teen-age white guys in shabby clothes wearing low-riding pants approaching me. What’s my reaction? I’m nervous because they don’t look like all-American boys but hoodlums. I duck into the nearest store until they pass.

In my example, racism isn’t a factor, but appearance and perception are. Now let’s say those scruffy white guys are carrying Bibles. What happens now? My perception changes, and I assume they are coming from a Bible study. I am now much more comfortable being on the same sidewalk with them.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Thanksgiving is when we pause to think about our many blessings and thank God for them. We shouldn’t just thank God when everything is going well, but we are to be thankful all the time, as we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. NIV

“In all circumstances” can be difficult – we occasionally find ourselves in some circumstances where we might not feel particularly thankful.

My wife and I had the opportunity to put that principle into practice recently. In October we went on a cruise in the Mediterranean. The cruise originated in Lisbon, Portugal, so we flew there from New York.

1. The Bad News

After arriving in Lisbon, we had some free time, so we did a little sight-seeing on our own, walking around a section of the city near our hotel. As we were walking down a cobblestone street I routinely felt for my wallet as I have the habit of doing. This time it wasn’t there! My wallet was gone! I immediately knew what had happened, because many European cities are loaded with pickpockets. What a sinking feeling, knowing you’ve been robbed, and all the contents of your wallet are gone:
money, medical cards
driver’s license, medical information,
credit cards, bank card (for ATM).

Moreover we were in foreign city where we didn’t know the language, feeling very vulnerable as well as violated. Thoughts of identity theft crossed my mind, since my driver’s license and Medicare card were in the wallet. Plus we didn’t know whether the thief was busy buying all kinds of stuff with our credit cards. But in the midst of this God sent us some angels. Right down the street from where we were standing was an open-air café. We walked over and went up to the guy who runs it and I said to him: “Policia. I need the policia!”

2. God-Sent Help

Fortunately the café owner spoke some English, and asked me what happened. A woman working in a shop across the street came out to see what all the commotion was about, and the café owner told her to call the police. When the policia got there, they said we had to go to the special tourist police station and file a report. When we got there, we saw a line of people. After speaking with them, we realized we weren’t the only victims of these thieves.

So while waiting at the police station I called our credit card companies and canceled the cards that were in my wallet. Thankfully there had been no activity on any of our cards, which led me to believe they took the cash and tossed the wallet in a nearby garbage can. We spent over an hour in the police station with the other victims of pick-pockets, sharing our stories as we waited. The policeman was very understanding and didn’t treat us like a number. When we were finished at the police station we were given a copy of the police report (in Portuguese) and went back to the hotel.

3. The Good News

After being robbed in a strange city, you may ask if there was anything for us to be thankful for. Amazingly, there were quite a few things we could be thankful for, despite the robbery and the trauma associated with it.

*We could be thankful for our safety: we weren’t physically hurt.

*We could be thankful they didn’t get as much money as they might have because we split the cash between us, plus kept some cash in our suitcase.

*We could be thankful we split our credit cards between us so that we still had Sue’s cards available to use. Because I had the credit card companies’ telephone numbers on a piece of paper that I keep in a different pocket, I could immediately call and cancel the cards that were stolen.

*We could be thankful they didn’t get our passports, which would have been a nightmare to get replaced.

*We could be thankful this didn’t ruin our vacation.

*We could be thankful God sent us the café owner and shop-keeper who were helpful and sympathetic, angels in disguise.

*We could be thankful God sent the people in line at the police station to comfort us and one another, and trade stories. One of the people in line was a guy from Australia, but originally from Sri Lanka. He put these thefts into an interesting perspective by saying, “Well, at least someone has something to eat tonight.” For the money they took from all of us, they could have a mighty fine meal!

*Lastly, we could be thankful that God kept us amazingly calm so we could carry on and not become immobilized by anger, resentment, or self-pity. If this had happened when my wife was younger, she would have been crying and very upset. If this had happened in my younger days, I would have been angry, full of self-pity, with a good deal of ranting and raving. Instead both of us were surprisingly calm – only God could do that. I should mention that even though we didn’t immediately say a prayer, our faith in God kept us calm and confident that everything would be all right. But the story doesn’t end there – God had a pleasant surprise in store for us.

4. The Canadians to the Rescue

The next day I got a text message from a Canadian couple telling me they had found the contents of my wallet and were going to mail them to us when they got home. The thief had taken the cash, of course, and the wallet itself, but had neatly placed the contents in that gutter. It’s almost as if the thief wanted the contents to be found and returned.

5. The Urge to Check It Out

When we got home we spoke with the Canadian woman, who told us that she and her husband were walking along a cobblestone street the next day. She was keeping her eyes to the ground so she wouldn’t trip and fall on the uneven surface. As they were walking, she happened to spot something suspicious-looking under a parked car, and she felt a strong urge to check it out. Something told her this was important, so she stopped, got down, and retrieved my wallet’s contents from under the car. Because it had lightly rained, the contents were stuck together, so as far as I can tell, nothing blew away or was washed away. God’s grace, us taking precautions, and a kind Canadian woman who listened to the Spirit’s urging prevented this from ruining our vacation.

6. Another Test of Faith

Our faith was further tested when the envelope from the Canadians wasn’t in our accumulated mail when we returned home. I spoke with the woman and she said it would be mailed in a few days. Ultimately it took two weeks to reach us – all that time we were anxiously wondering what happened – but we kept calm and carried on, trusting God.

7. Lessons from this Experience

So what did we learn from this experience?

*First we learned that we should put our wallets and valuables in a very safe place when we travel, like maybe a money belt.

*We learned it pays to be prepared and equipped to handle possible problems– you never know.

*We learned that God may allow bad things to happen, but also sends help to us in times of distress. Before we even knew it, God was at work in this situation in a number of ways.

*We learned it is better for all concerned to keep calm, which means don’t panic, lose your temper, or go to pieces. The policeman told us some tourists rant and rave at the police when they’ve been robbed, making the situation worse.

*We learned that we must carry on: there are things that need to be done – we must focus on those and not waste time and energy in self-pity or anger.

*Another thing we learned is that God can change a person over time. In particular God has changed me over the years, so that my reaction to a bad thing happening is quite different from what it used to be. I now realize that there’s nothing to be gained by getting angry. God also changed my wife as I mentioned earlier, so she remained calm, didn’t cry or panic as she might have done years earlier.

So when things aren’t going your way, try to keep in mind that God is with you and will help you get through whatever your affliction is.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Religion vs. Relationship Part 2

Continuing from an earlier post, I’d like to provide some additional insight into the “Religion vs. Relationship” aspect of faith. In my earlier post I focused on Christianity and how it is more relationship than religion. We see this aspect of a relationship with God through Jesus in many places in the New Testament. However, the concept of a relationship with God did not originate with Christianity.

We see it in biblical Judaism out of which Christianity came. In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) we also see a relationship between the nation of Israel and God as illustrated by the following two verses.

Deuteronomy 9:29
“For they are the people of your very own possession, whom you brought out by your great power and by your outstretched arm.” NRSV

Ezekiel 36:28
“Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” NRSV

So the relationship between God and the people he chose for his own (the nation of Israel) is clearly evident. God gave the Israelites rules, practices, and observances as reminders of that relationship. The religious practices served other functions as well:
-reminders of God’s deliverance of his people,
-acts of worship, and
-ways of atoning for their sins.

Of course Christianity has its own observances such as Holy Communion, Baptism, and corporate worship. But in Christianity the emphasis is on salvation by grace through faith, and the individual’s relationship with God. Religious practices and observances are secondary, being outward signs of inward convictions as well as means of grace.

If you have the right relationship with God, then at least two things should happen. First, you will become a transformed person, wanting to be in God’s will. Second, your relationships with other people will be significantly better.

I hope this has helped you to understand how relationship is the heart of Christianity.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Religion vs. Relationship Part 1

What makes Christianity different from other faiths and belief systems? Quite a few things, but one major difference is that Christianity is more than just a religion. What do I mean by that? Let me explain.

When you hear the word “religion”, what do you think of? Most people think of a list of do’s and don’ts. Some might think of rules, rituals, dogmas, or good works. Most likely, you’re not going to connect the word “religion” with the word “relationship.” Yet true Christian faith is not “religion.” Instead the Christian faith is first and foremost a relationship with God. Everything else should be secondary to that relationship.

Yes, Christianity has moral codes, liturgies, promotes good works, and has a belief system, all based on the Bible. But all of those flow out of the relationship we have with God. Unfortunately some churches put moral codes, liturgies, traditions, and practices ahead of the relationship, erroneously believing that the only way to God is through these acts. Our main priority in life should be building up that relationship with God through regular worship, Bible study, daily prayer, and service.

Because many of us were brought up in a “religion” we had never been told about the “relationship” aspect of our faith. Sadly many believe that good deeds or being “a good person” will get us into heaven. Wrong! You don’t earn your way to heaven through works or religious practices. The Bible is very clear about that. Of course out of that relationship with God should come better behavior, meaning you will live your life according to biblical principles.

How do we illustrate religion versus relationship for the Christian? “Relationship” is Jesus, reaching down to us with his nail-scarred hands, saying to us: “Look what I have done for you.” “Religion” is us, holding up our pitiful works, saying to Jesus: “Look what I’m doing for you.”

Which would you rather have: religion or relationship?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Police-Community Relations

Back on August 5 I published a post concerning the Eric Garner case, the black man who died as a result of a choke hold put on him by a NYC police officer. In that post I talked about race relations. I’d like to expand upon what I said in that post in light of the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri. I believe the following suggestions are good ideas, but I don’t know how you implement them. That’s for somebody else to figure out.

Resisting Arrest

I believe that one of the main causes of police shootings is resisting arrest. In the course of the struggle that is involved when a person is resisting arrest, the suspect is often perceived by the cops as having a weapon (and often he does). I believe we could make significant progress in police-community relations if a person being stopped by a policeman cooperated, didn’t resist, and kept his hands visible at all times. These should be done even if you believe you are being unfairly stopped. Better to stay calm and cooperate than face the possibility of things turning violent.

If you cooperate and don’t mouth off to the police, they have no basis for mistreating you or harming you. But as soon as you resist, become hostile, or don’t keep your hands visible, then you run the risk of bodily harm and arrest.

Mutual Respect

If the police are treated with respect, they will respond with respect. If the person stopped cooperates and keeps his hands visible, the police will not feel it is necessary to use force. Eventually there will be an atmosphere of mutual respect. Community members may say that it is up to the police to show them respect first, and then they will be respected in turn. I would respond to that by saying respect has to start somewhere, and since the police are putting their lives on the line to keep neighborhoods safe, they should be shown respect immediately. Moreover, they should be respected by virtue of their position as police officers.

Needless to say, dangerous suspects will have to be handled differently because they will most likely resist arrest, are often armed, and pose a danger to police and the community.

Police Emotions

We have to remember that police officers are human like the rest of us, subject to emotions such as fear and anger. They see the worst of the worst every day, and it gets to them. They are putting their lives on the line in many neighborhoods where they patrol, often feeling they have a big target on their back. They are trying to protect and serve, yet are treated with distain by many of the people they are trying to keep safe. So of course emotions are going to come to the surface when a suspect resists arrest or insults them.

Change Community’s Attitudes

Most people living in the community want a police presence because the alternative is chaos and anarchy. The community, especially its leaders, must develop a better attitude towards the police. Parents should teach their children to respect authority, especially the police, and not to resist arrest or give the cops a hard time. If parents don’t teach respect for authority to their children and modify their own behavior, then these problems will just perpetuate for generations. The black community must also respect black policemen and not treat them as turncoats or Oreos.


I believe police departments should invest in cameras which can be mounted on every police officer dealing with the public, and every police cruiser should have a dash cam as well. Having recordings of what happened protects all parties and allows the truth to come out.

Most Crimes by Black Males

In addition to the above suggestions for improving police-community relations, there is a more fundamental problem. The problem is that a significant percent of crimes are committed by young black males. Why is that? It is because many are drop-outs and don’t even have a high school diploma. They either can’t get a job or don’t want a job, and they have entirely too much time on their hands.

In addition, for some young black males their role model is the local drug pusher. He’s got the fancy car, the jewelry, and the pretty girlfriend. He’s the epitome of success in their eyes. On the other hand, you have those kids who have graduated from high school and went to college and now have a decent job. Sadly, they are often viewed as “too white” and are considered Oreos (black on the outside but white on the inside). These attitudes have to change.

Low Education Means Low Expectations

Along with changing the attitudes of young black males is the need to improve education for inner city kids. If a kid drops out of school, he then has very low expectations for himself and will be more likely to join a gang and lead a life of crime. So slow learners should be given help, learning must be made more relevant to life, and more scholarships should be made available for kids going to trade school. We’ve got to have more black males graduate from high school at a minimum, and preferably go on to a trade school or college.


Substance abuse is a problem in all communities in the US. Law enforcement needs to be more effective in arresting pushers and interrupting the supply chain so these drugs become almost impossible to get. Cities should establish more community-based rehab centers and support faith-based and other charitable organizations working with inner city youth and adults to get them off drugs.

Crack Down on Criminals

If the law-abiding community members do what I suggest, then the police will be able to concentrate on getting the criminals off the streets. If the community helps the police to identify the bad guys, the community as a whole will benefit. The police can’t do it alone.

The criminal justice system must do its part to keep these career criminals and gang members off the streets for a long time. There are those in the neighborhood who have a long “rap sheet” who should be behind bars for a long time. In sentencing, judges should consider the person’s criminal history and sentence perpetrators to the maximum if he has a long “rap sheet.” Why keep putting these hard-core criminals back on the street where they commit more crimes?

Community members shouldn’t have to live in fear of a stray bullet hitting them, or being the victim of a crime. Their neighborhoods should be safe. But as I said above, the police can’t do it alone. The community must be committed to doing its part as outlined above.

Monday, August 11, 2014

An open letter to Vladimir Putin

Dear Mr. Putin:

What you have been doing in Ukraine moves Russia further away from The West, which will continue to view you as untrustworthy as long as you interfere in a sovereign nation. I know Russia hasn’t trusted The West for centuries, but whether you like it or not, Russia needs The West and The West needs Russia.

This is not the first time Russia has needed us. During the Great Patriotic War (known as World War II in The West), the Soviet Union needed us in order to push the Nazis out of your land. We sent thousands of trucks (made by Studebaker), some tanks, plus food and other supplies. Together we beat the Nazis.

Who or what is our mutual enemy now? Terrorism, of course. Russia has been hit by terrorist attacks. They even attacked a school full of innocent children in Russia. They have gotten into the heart of Moscow, just as they got into the heart of New York on 9/11.

Had we been divided during World War II, it would have taken a lot longer to defeat the Nazis. Working together, Russia and the West can more effectively battle terrorism and work for peaceful resolution of other conflicts around the world. If you stop your military activities in Ukraine, Russia can once again take its place among the leading nations of the world, and you can stand proud for what you will be doing to defeat terrorism. We can’t go back to the days when nations coveted the land and resources of other countries, resulting in terrible wars, death, and destruction.

Russia already has significant trade with The West. That trade can grow and Russia can prosper once the punitive actions are lifted. So I ask you to give up your military activities in Ukraine. We in The West desire your help and cooperation in the battle against terrorism, solving problems in the Middle East, and resolving issues in other areas. Working together there is much we can accomplish.

I know you take your Orthodox faith seriously, so I ask you to put into action the message of peace that Jesus brought to the world. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, NRSV) We know that true peace will only come when Jesus returns. But in the meantime, we are called to be peacemakers and to make the world a better place, to God’s glory.

The Rev. Tony Beck

Friday, August 8, 2014

US Involvement in Iraq

Saddam Hussein was a terrible man, but he was not much of a threat to the US. As a matter of fact, he was a good counter-balance to Iran, both countries keeping each other in check. President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was ill-advised and we will be paying the penalty for that fiasco for a long time.

One thing is for sure: the current invaders of Iraq wouldn’t have gotten very far if Saddam had stayed in power. Sadly, the Iraqi army has not done much to defend the homeland, so these fanatical islamists called ISIS have taken over a good part of the country. Because of what we did to Iraq by our invasion, I believe we owe it to the people of Iraq – and for our own self-interest – to do all we can do to stop and turn back ISIS, short of “boots on the ground.” I include in our actions a vigorous air campaign against ISIS, aggressive intelligence gathering to help the Iraqi army, sending advisors to guide and train the Iraqis, and some black ops against ISIS targets. Once we leave Afghanistan, I believe we should support their government by doing those same things. If we don’t, the Taliban will be back in power before you know it.

If we don’t stop ISIS and push them out of Iraq, they will be able to establish a base of operations in that country, get oil revenue to fund terrorism around the world, disrupt the flow of oil to punish or blackmail the West, and spread their brand of Islam to other countries. They are in the process of establishing a caliphate whereby non-Muslims are forced to either convert or face death.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan were terribly mishandled by the Bush administration. We spend trillions of dollars and lost thousands of American lives, only to make the situation worse and accomplish very little. George W. Bush will go down in history as one of our worst presidents, if not the worst. We should now try to salvage what we can from this mess for our own protection, and for the good of the inhabitants of those countries.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our Border Dilemma – Part 2

This is the second of a two part series of posts having to do with immigration, especially illegal entries into the US.

So what can we do to stop people, including children, from entering the US illegally, given that we can’t take everybody who wants to live in the US? I don’t know what the answer is, but maybe we should look at some of the root causes of our border problems.

A major cause of the violence in Mexico, Columbia, and Central America is the drug trade. What feeds that trade is demand in the US. Illegal drugs account for much of the violence in the US as well, plus a majority of crimes as addicts steal to pay for their habit. If the US could reduce the demand for these drugs, many problems would be diminished, both in the US and countries south of the border.

As we found out during Prohibition in the 1920s, making something illegal doesn’t necessarily decrease demand. Entrepreneurial criminals will find a way to meet that demand. Even the harsh Rockefeller-era drug laws in New York State failed to stem the tide of illegal drugs. There’s just too much money to be made. Yet the social costs of drug trade and use are staggering. Moreover, these substances are highly addictive, so once somebody starts using, they’re hooked. What can we do?

The US must take definitive action to reduce demand and interrupt the supply chain of illegal drugs. Below are a few suggestions:

-Work with the authorities in these countries (including the major heroin producer Afghanistan) to reduce the supply of drugs and the raw materials to make them. This could be done by giving farmers incentives to grow more beneficial crops, defoliate fields still growing the bad stuff, and implement better ways to disrupt the supply of drugs into the US.

-Improve economic conditions in Central America and Colombia, giving some amount of aid (both money and expertise) to disrupt the drug trade, get drug lords in prison, and build up the economy in each country to improve the standard of living.

-To discourage illegals from entering for economic purposes, and we have to crack down on employers who hire illegals. This is easier said than done, but there might be a better way. That better way is to implement a “guest worker” program similar to what Western Europe had in the 1960s and 1970s. It seemed to work well for them, so I would hope we could do something similar.

Keep in mind that our leaders are expected to do what’s best for our country, so the good of the US must always come first when setting policy. Being a compassionate people, Americans try to help others as well. We can only help up to a point, because our resources are finite and our ability to help others is limited by many different factors.

Let’s hope our leaders can come up with some balanced and humane solutions to these problems, both for the sake of the US and for the sake of the immigrants. I can’t imagine what it’s like living under the constant threat of deportation. I also can’t imagine what it’s like living under the constant threat of violence in some of these countries. Something must be done to make life better for these people south of the border, while securing our borders.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Our Border Dilemma – Part 1

This is the first of a two part series of posts having to do with immigration.

Criminals, terrorists, and other bad guys can make life miserable for a population. Hamas, with its agenda of destroying Israel, is hurting its own people by provoking Israel with its daily rocket attacks. The Palestinian population pays the penalty for the actions of a few terrorists. Of course they sympathize with Hamas and its aims, but I don’t think most Palestinians would complain if peace with Israel could be negotiated, rocket attacks would cease, and Palestinians could get jobs in Israel and share in its prosperity.

In Central America, drug criminals have terrorized these countries so such an extent that parents are sending their unaccompanied children on dangerous trips to the US for safety. Can you imagine things being so bad that you’d risk your kids’ lives that way? The US was unprepared for this influx of children, and the government appears to be trying its best to handle these refugees in a humane manner. But what’s the long-term solution?

The US can’t take in every group that is being threatened. We already have millions from countries in close proximity to us: Mexico, Haiti, and Central America. Most of those people came to the US for economic reasons, not because they were in danger. But think of all the other countries where the population, or a segment of the population, is being threatened, attacked, or otherwise under duress: Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Syria, just to name a few. Any immigration discussion must start with the understanding that the US can’t take in everybody who wants to live here. It’s just not possible.

There are three kinds of people entering, trying to enter, or already in the US:

1. Legal immigrants who go through the process.
2. Illegal immigrants, who sneak in and don’t go through the process.
3. Criminals and smugglers, who are often bringing in illegal drugs.

Illegal immigrants (euphemistically called “undocumented workers” by some) could be anybody: unaccompanied children; a family member trying to link up with the rest of the family already in the US; parents of children born in the US who are therefore citizens: and various other combinations. The issue is not with legal immigrants, but with illegals and criminals.

More on this problem in a future post.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Eric Garner Case

We are, by now, all familiar with the case of Eric Garner, who died after being put into a choke hold by a New York City policeman. Using a choke hold is against departmental policy, Garner’s alleged infraction was minor, and he was unarmed. So the police officers used excessive force, in my opinion, and should be removed from the police force at a minimum. Since the ME declared Garner’s death a homicide, the cop who put him in a choke hold may be tried for manslaughter.

We should realize that most cops use remarkable restraint given what they have to deal with on a daily basis. But occasionally either a cop’s emotions will get the better of him or he’s just a bad apple. Regardless of the motivation in this case, a man needlessly died.

Suspicious Arrest

In a suspicious twist to this case, just the other day the guy who recorded the take-down and death of Garner was arrested on a gun charge. It really makes me wonder if he was set up. I hope his case is thoroughly investigated because it seems mighty suspicious to me.

Treatment of Police

Much of the problem with police confrontations is that people often mouth off at the cops or resist arrest. If you don’t want things to turn nasty, show some respect if stopped by the police, even if you feel you’ve been unfairly stopped, questioned, or told to move on. It’s a lot better than being arrested and hauled off to jail.

Community leaders and others lament the violence in their neighborhoods and rightfully so. They complain the police aren’t doing enough. Yet the police are treated poorly by these very same people, even though they are putting their lives on the line every day. A little respect and cooperation from the neighborhood will go a long way.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Nature of Hamas

I’m not an expert on the Middle East, but I know a lot more about it than most Americans, especially when it comes to the 20th Century history of Palestine. When you know history, then you understand how we got to where we are and perhaps have a good idea of where we might be headed. History helps us to understand the terrorist organization Hamas. Let’s take a look at Hamas and what it really is and stands for.

First of all, we must clearly understand that Hamas is a terrorist organization, not a legitimate country or movement. Even some Islamic countries and organizations view them as a dangerous terrorist organization. Hamas can’t be considered equivalent to Israel, just as Al-Qaeda can’t be considered the equivalent of the United States.

Second, Hamas grew out of the Arab belief that the state of Israel is illegitimate, it is occupying land that rightfully belongs to Arabs, and must be eradicated. Everything Hamas does is with this philosophy in mind.

Third, Hamas is willing to sacrifice the Palestinian people to achieve its goal of eliminating Israel. Humanitarian cease-fires are broken by Hamas, they use human shields, they occupy and hide weapons in UN buildings, schools, and hospitals, and they are willing to have much of Gaza destroyed rather than try for an agreement with Israel.

Fourth, it’s their job. By that, I mean that even if there were to be a negotiated settlement in which Hamas got most of what it wanted, it wouldn’t be satisfied. If the members of Hamas stopped their terrorist activities, what would they do? They’d be out of a job. So reaching an agreement, while desirable, is probably impossible.

Fifth, they hate us too.

So when you listen to news reports on what’s happening between Israel and Hamas, keep in mind what we’re dealing with – a bunch of vicious fanatics dedicated to wiping out a people and a nation.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

More on Racism in America

Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, recently commented that “some” amount of the criticism of the president is due to racism – the fact that he’s black. Holder’s comments are addressed in an earlier post. What I want to do here is share with my white readers where I think Holder was coming from based on my observations and conversations with African-American friends and co-workers over the years.

White people are generally oblivious to subtle signs of prejudice around them because we aren’t on the receiving end of these actions. So we may think there’s very little racism in this country, but black people see signs of it all the time. I’ve heard enough stories that I tend to believe they’re true and not imagined. I’ve witnessed a couple of these myself.

Under the surface most black people are angry. When the subject of their history comes up (slavery in particular), that anger can rise to the surface. Think of some of the public statements Harry Belafonte has made, for example. He is one angry man!

Black people believe their historical mistreatment is worse by far than what other groups have endured, such as American Indians, Irish immigrants, Jews, and other immigrant groups. Of course no other group has been enslaved and mistreated so much.

With these points in mind, you might now be able to see where Eric Holder was coming from when he made his controversial statement. I still believe he could have handled it better, but at least we now have some understanding of his frame of mind.

I recommend to white people that you keep these points in mind when interacting with African-American friends and co-workers. You might be thinking they’re too sensitive, or they should move on and not dwell on their mistreatment. But I ask that you be sensitive to their history and the day-to-day signs of prejudice that they observe that we typically don’t see.

Two Examples

I had gone to the conference office (like a diocesan office) where the bishop’s office is. This office was in a section of a large church complex. As I was waiting for my meeting to start, I was sitting in the lunch room reading the paper. The bishop, who was African-American, walked by, spotted me, and came into the lunch room to say hello. As we were talking, a middle-aged white guy poked his head into the lunch room and asked nobody in particular which way to the nursery school (which was housed in the complex).

The bishop, a tall, distinguished-looking man, wearing clerical garb (his collar), told him it was down the hall and to the right. The guy then looked at me and asked the same question! I gave the exact same answer as the bishop. The guy thanked me and then proceeded down the hall. The bishop and I just looked at each other.

Another time, my wife and I flew over to England to do some touring, and we arrived at our B&B mid-afternoon. We were hoping our room was ready so we could take a nap before dinner to help us deal with jet lag. So I pulled the car into a parking space by the house, and we went up to the door and rang the bell.

After a little bit, the door opened and a black woman appeared. I was slightly surprised, and what do you think I thought she was? You guessed it. The maid, of course! Fortunately, rather than asking for the owner, I asked if our room was ready. By now you must have guessed that this woman was the co-owner with her husband and a gourmet cook. I avoided what could have been an embarrassing situation, addressing her as the maid (although I’m sure it happens often).

But this goes to show how conditioned we are. A black woman opens the door, and we think she’s the maid. We see black kids playing in a neighborhood and we think we are in a less desirable part of town even though the houses are well-kept. So we have to be sensitive ourselves and not let stereotypes dictate how we think or view things.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Criticism of Obama Isn’t Racist

Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, recently commented that “some” of the criticism of President Obama comes because he is African-American. In other words, Holder is claiming that some amount of Right Wing criticism is racist. Holder was very careful in the way he said it, saying only “some” of the criticism is race-based, but how much is “some?”

I know prejudice still exists, and will always exist in the hearts of sinful people (that means all of us, because all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard). Sometimes our prejudice is mild, such as having a low opinion of some group or another (often involving stereotyping). Sometimes it is stronger, often involving subtle but overt actions. For some, it is absolute hatred (think KKK or neo-Nazis). I would like to share some thoughts as I reflect on Holder’s comments.

1. If you want to play in the big leagues, you better be able to take the heat. If a black president (or attorney general) is criticized, they can’t blame it on racism. It’s the way the game is played, like it or not.

2. Obama was elected by a majority, so it’s obvious that many whites voted for him. That’s not bad when you consider what things were like in 1964, the year the civil rights legislation was passed.

3. Certainly there is a small element of the population that dislikes Obama because he’s black, but those aren’t the people in the public eye. What Holder and others are trying to do is paint the Republicans as racist just because they are doing what the opposition party always does: critiques and criticizes the incumbent president. Even for Washington politics, what Holder and others are claiming is pretty sleazy.

Holder could have worded his comments something like this and avoided the controversy:
“The criticism of the president is typical Washington politics, business as usual. I don’t believe race has anything to do with it. However, I wish the tone in Washington would improve and we could relearn the art of compromise rather than continue the dysfunction we see today.”

Unfortunately Holder chose to say something else, and now we have another thing to divide the parties and the races.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hamas Is at Fault

If anybody still believes Israel is the aggressor, they either aren’t listening to the news or are in serious denial. A cease fire agreement was reached recently – guess who broke it. Another cease fire was arranged so humanitarian aid could be brought into Gaza – guess who broke it. What’s wrong with Hamas? They interfere with humanitarian aid to the very people they claim to be fighting for!

The TV news shows interviews with beleaguered hospital staff tending to the wounded, complaining of shortages of supplies and medicines. Yet thousands of dollars’ worth of rockets are being fired into Israel every day. Couldn’t the money (wherever it’s coming from) be better spent in building up a modern community at peace with Israel (including better hospital facilities)?

Hamas and other terrorist organizations are hurting their own people more than the Israelis they are fighting against. I believe the Palestinian people should rise up against these organizations and throw them out of their territories. Hamas, not Israel, is the real enemy of the Palestinian people.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Expectations of Privacy

Now that the dust has settled on the Donald Sterling affair, I’d like to bring out a few points for your consideration.

With security cameras everywhere, the NSA tracking phone calls, companies following your every move, hackers breaking into computers and networks, stores tracking your movements, and all kinds of other surveillance going on, there is little expectation of privacy these days. Yet the Supreme Court, in various decisions over the years, has interpreted the US Constitution to have an implied right to privacy in it. This right is being flagrantly violated by the above mentioned entities. Nevertheless, there are still certain reasonable expectations of privacy: in your own bedroom, and in private conversations in your home, office, car, or on your telephone. The release of Sterling’s private conversation is a gross violation of his right to privacy, and should be punished.

Sterling Set Up

While I’m not defending Donald Sterling’s apparent prejudice, I believe we have to take a look at what he said in context, and see what’s behind all the hoopla. This should give us some insight that we won’t get from the media.

It is obvious he was set up. Somebody wanted to take him down, to ruin his reputation, rob him of his basketball team, publically humiliate and discredit him, and relieve him of $2.5 million. To accomplish all that, he was prompted by a female friend/associate/mistress (or whatever she is to him), setting him up to say some inappropriate things about African-Americans during this illegally recorded conversation. Yet nobody is being investigated concerning this clear violation of his right to privacy and what appears to be a conspiracy to seriously discredit him.

Sterling’s Dementia

There are some factors in this affair that should be understood, and which might then put Sterling’s punishment in perspective. One big mitigating factor is Sterling’s mental capacity. His wife said in an interview that he has dementia, and I tend to believe her. Nobody in their right mind and in his position would say such things over the telephone. The same goes for his Magic Johnson comments during a mea culpa interview with Anderson Cooper. It appears to me that his mental capacity is severely diminished. He was led to say some stupid things during a recorded conversation, and then the recording was made public.

Punishment Too Harsh

I don’t know what’s really in his heart, but there certainly has been a rush to judgment. One has to ask, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” Although I haven’t heard the complete conversation, let’s look at a few facts based on what I know:

1. It was a private conversation, not a public statement. The fact that it was a private conversation that was recorded and released to the public should cause the NBA and others to consider whether they became unwittingly part of the conspiracy to take down Sterling.

2. The US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech no matter how unpopular, obnoxious, or hateful that speech is. There’s a lot of “protected speech” that you and I might find appalling, but is constitutionally protected according to the Supreme Court.

3. He didn’t use the “N-word” or similar hateful words or expressions.

4. He didn’t say terrible things about African-Americans that I’m aware of. Mostly he said he didn’t want this woman bringing them with her to basketball games. While that’s not a good thing to say, it certainly falls short of true hate speech as I understand it.

5. Christians, people of faith, conservatives, and others who are not politically correct are demeaned, mocked, and ridiculed all the time by the likes of Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, and other TV personalities. Why aren’t they condemned for vicious hateful speech? It seems we have a double standard, which highlights the hypocrisy of the politically correct crowd.

Thought Police

Lastly, in addition to Sterling’s diminished mental capacity, we should also take into consideration his generation. They are often not politically correct and don’t understand its inconsistencies. For example, I know older people who still refer to a black person as a “colored” person because that has been the accepted term during most of their life. You can say “a person of color” but not a “colored person” in the wacky world of political correctness.

Given my understanding of what happened and what Sterling said, I believe the punishment is too severe for the offense. While I certainly don’t condone the attitude and opinion inherent in his conversation, I believe such severe punishment brings us dangerously close to the “thought police” and the mentality of the novels “1984” and “Brave New World.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Israel’s Right to Exist

As soon as the media starts reporting on Israeli attacks against the Palestinian terrorists, the Palestinian sympathizers are out demonstrating in front of the Israeli embassy or consulate, or the UN. They are demonstrating against Israel despite the Palestinians being the aggressors! That doesn’t make any sense. Israeli civilian neighborhoods are attacked and Israel is the bad guy? Where’s the logic in that?

Their usual response is that Israel is occupying Palestinian land and the Jews should get out. The response to that ridiculous statement is lengthy and will have to be the subject of another post, but let me make a few points about Israel’s right to exist:

1. Israel for the Jews and Jordan for the Arabs were carved out of the British Mandate in 1948. There was no Palestinian state, and there has never been one. In carving up the mandate, the Arabs got a lot more land than the Jews.

2. Israel was legally established in accordance with the United Nations resolutions, and has been recognized by many nations around the world.

3. The only “occupation” of land by Israel is land seized in response to unprovoked attacks by surrounding Arab nations. As a matter of fact, Israel gave back to Egypt the Sinai Peninsula.

What’s the Point?

One has to ask, what’s the point of these Palestinian rocket attacks? It is to induce terror, presumably to drive Israel to the point that the Jews abandon their country and settle elsewhere. After all, it is the stated goal of Hamas and other terrorist organizations to “drive the Jews into the sea.” We must never forget that. Meanwhile, the Jews aren’t going anywhere, so the Palestinians might as well get used to it.

Israel is militarily powerful and able to defend itself from the terrorists. It is the Palestinian people who are paying the penalty and will continue to suffer if these rocket attacks continue. If Hamas really cared about the Palestinian people, they would seek peace with Israel. Rocket launchings would stop, Israeli strikes would stop, and eventually the Palestinians would have a much better quality of life than the squalor many of them endure today. Israel is a modern, prosperous country, and the Palestinians could share in that if they just decided to coexist with Israel.

So I say to the Palestinians, in the words of the famous song, “Give peace a chance.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Middle East Reporting

With the recent escalation of attacks between the Palestinians and Israelis, there’s been more media coverage than usual. Sadly, media reporting is somewhat one-sided in that it subtly favors the Palestinians and tends to make the Israelis look like the bad guys. Let me explain how this favoritism works so you can watch for it.

1. Little Reporting Earlier

Notice that there had been little reporting about this conflict despite the fact that the Palestinians had been shooting rockets into Israeli civilian neighborhoods for a long time. But as soon as Israel retaliates and Palestinians are at risk, the media are all over that story.

2. Israel Portrayed as the Bad Guy

If the Mexicans were shooting rockets from Tijuana into San Diego daily, how long do you think the U.S. would put up with it? In such a situation, any country would take strong measures to stop the attacks. Yet when Israel finally conducts operations against these terrorists, it is portrayed as the bad guy.

3. Surgical Strikes

As far as I know, the Palestinians have not warned an Israeli neighborhood that a rocket attack is imminent and to take shelter. Israel, on the other hand, has warned Palestinian neighborhoods of upcoming attacks and told them to evacuate. Sadly, there are civilian casualties despite the warnings and the “surgical” nature of the Israeli attacks. Collateral damage is always a risk, but compare that to the Palestinians who are actually targeting civilians. The media seems to be missing that key point.

4. Casualties

The media reports duly mention the rocket attacks on Israel, and show Israeli heading for the bomb shelters. Then they immediately cut to scenes of wailing Palestinian women and men carrying the body of a fallen comrade through the streets, the unfortunate victim of an Israeli attack. Again, the effect is to make Israel look like the bad guy, killing all those innocent people.

Let’s not forget that those “innocent people” have been shooting rockets into innocent Israeli neighborhoods for years. As mentioned above, no matter how “surgical” the strikes, there will always be some collateral damage. If the Palestinian terrorists stopped the rockets, Israel would stop its strikes. Nobody dies. It’s as simple as that.

The main reason there haven’t been more Israeli casualties is because Israel has sophisticated defenses and warning systems. The people are warned when a rocket is launched and coming their way, and the Israeli anti-missile defense system shoots down most of the Palestinian rockets before they can do any damage.

5. The Language Used

The reporters usually refer to the Palestinians shooting the rockets as “militants.” That is a euphemism which is inappropriate. Call them what they are: Terrorists. A terrorist induces terror into a population. If you had rockets aimed at your neighborhood, don’t you think you’d be terrified? Call them what they are. Don’t sugarcoat it.

More about Israel and its right to exist in a future post.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Change of Heart

Years ago, when the Affirmative Action law was passed, the company I worked for conducted sensitivity training for employees. This was to prepare us for the anticipated influx of women and minorities. The trainer said to us, “The purpose of this training is not to change your heart, although we hope it happens. We can’t change your heart, but we can change your behavior. And your behavior will change.”

That trainer was right. Only God can change a person’s heart, but the person must be willing to be changed. The failure of worldly ways of changing hearts (and often behavior as well) has been demonstrated in recent events. The most obvious recent event involves Donald Sterling, who, in a private telephone conversation, came across as racist (see future post for more on this). Some celebrities have said demeaning things about women recently, and rap music often degrades women as well.

It seems that no amount of political correctness or cultural pressure can change people’s hearts. This country needs a change of heart that can only be done by God:

1. Most importantly, we need to turn back to God, and take seriously the motto on our money: “In God We Trust.”

2. We then need to return to the values that made this country great – not perfect – but great. Only God can do that.

3. If we’ve done these first two things, then mostly everything else will fall into place that needs to be corrected if those who come to God take their faith seriously and follow the Scriptures.

4. Finally, we need to change our culture from one of crudeness, materialism, self-centeredness and excess to one that reflects good values. We tolerate entirely too much violence, sex, nudity, and the occult in the media and games.

Let’s face it. This country is a mess. We are heavily in debt, we have a dysfunctional Congress that is incapable of action, we have a serious substance abuse problem, our economy is weak, and we have lost status in the world. We continue to turn away from God just at the time we need some divine intervention. Let’s not sit back and let a few militant atheists and misguided judges eliminate God from our nation. Let we the people set the agenda and may it be one of faith, hope, and charity.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Putin's Folly

It has been estimated that Putin supposedly spent over $51 billion to build the Olympic facilities in Sochi to show the world that Russia is a 21st century modern country. Putin, wanting Russia to take its place among the progressive nations of the world, put on quite a show at the winter Olympics. Following the Sochi extravaganza, Putin pulled back the curtain of modernity by his invasion of Ukraine, revealing that Russia is in reality still back in the bad old days in terms of its imperialist thinking. It’s a shame that Russian expansionism appears to be alive and well. As a result, it appears that Russia under Putin is not ready to take its place among the leading nations of the world. Putin just wasted $51 billion of goodwill by his Hitler-like land grabs.

Mr. Putin: read your Bible. It says we shouldn’t covet (desire, lust after) another’s goods or wife, nor should we steal them. Putin covets part or all of Ukraine and he’s in the process of stealing them. Let us pray for the nation and people of the Ukraine, and also pray that Putin will pull out his troops and won’t make any more land grabs. Also pray that there won’t be any bloodshed. While we’re at it, let’s not forget the people of Syria as well. We pray that the 21st century will be one of peace and tranquility in which nation will no longer rise up against nation.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Right Is in Denial

The Right does not want to recognize reality, and as a result, they are looking like complete fools to the rest of the world. Anything the Left says, even if it’s obviously true, the Right will contradict it. It’s really getting to be ridiculous. One area where the Right is in complete denial has to do with climate change. Now I know it is a controversial issue, particularly regarding its cause. However, there is enough data to clearly demonstrate that some sort of climate change is taking place. I also know that statistics can be manipulated, and that there is a lot of junk science out there as well. Nevertheless, I believe there is enough data showing that something is definitely happening to the planet. Yet the Right consistently denies it.

I don’t think the Right should debate what is occurring, but what are the causes. Since the Industrial Revolution got underway, humans have been spewing all kinds of smoke and pollution into the atmosphere. In the late 20th century, with China and India becoming more industrialized, more and more pollutants ended up in the air. Common sense tells you that there is a human element to climate change by the sheer volume of what’s released into the atmosphere each day. I believe we have overwhelmed the atmosphere’s ability to cleanse itself, and as a result, more pollution stays in the air, causing climate change. There are other causes, such as El Niño, natural atmospheric cycles, and cutting down the rainforests, but it makes sense to attack the one obvious cause: man-made pollution from factories, power plants, and cars and trucks.

We must reduce this pollution if for no other reason than we shouldn’t be breathing it in! Forget about climate change – I don’t want to breathe that stuff in and get lung cancer, COPD, or some other terrible disease. Of course it can’t be just the United States and Western Europe that should invest in pollution controls. Other industrialized nations such as China, India, Russia, Japan, Korea, and Brazil must also do their part in reducing pollution significantly.

So I wish the Right would wake up and not be in denial. They are just making themselves look foolish.

On another topic, the Republicans should not focus on repealing Obamacare, but should strive to make adjustments to improve it. That program is seriously flawed but with some substantial adjustments, I believe it could turn out to be beneficial. The Democrats should take a hard look at Obamacare and realize that improvements must be made for the good of the country. Every government program has unintended consequences, and they should be addressed before too much harm is done. One glaringly necessary adjustment is tort reform. That alone would significantly reduce the cost of medical care in this country.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

De Blasio’s Support for Israel

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio doesn’t appeal to me because he is too far to the Left for my taste. I didn’t like the way he handled the charter schools issue, and his “tale of two cities” rhetoric is somewhat divisive and fosters an “us versus them” mentality. He pretty much marches in lockstep with the Progressive agenda.

But I read recently that the Mayor is not in complete lockstep with Progressive doctrine. He is very much pro-Israel, which runs contrary to mainstream liberal doctrine. As a matter of fact, de Blasio has taken a lot of heat from his fellow progressives on that subject. A lot of ugly things were said about him by his fellow lefties, even though he’s about as far left as you can get. So my opinion of the Mayor has changed somewhat, and I applaud him for acting on his conscience rather than towing the line of his fellow liberals on this important topic.

The harsh criticism of de Blasio by the Left has demonstrated once again what a harsh taskmaster political correctness is. There is little room for matters of conscience or individual thinking in the PC world. We see this oppression on university campuses, which are supposed to be bastions of free speech and exchange of ideas. The fact that the Left is so doctrinaire tells me that the terms Liberal and Progressive are misnomers. Moreover, the key virtue of the Left, Tolerance, is nowhere to be seen. Even within their own, there is very little tolerance of ideas or beliefs that run contrary in every aspect to mainstream political correctness.

I wanted to point out this contradiction so that you don’t get sucked in to political correctness, although it is very hard to avoid these days. I still believe in acting on your conscience and not being told what to think or do. Sometimes I get the feeling we are living the novels “Brave New World” and “1984” with the PC mavens acting as the thought police. In the meantime, let’s give the mayor credit for supporting Israel.

By the way, that doesn’t mean anybody who is pro-Israel agrees with all of the policies of that government. It simply means that we believe Israel has a right to exist. I believe I’ve written one or more posts on Israel in the past, but I think I will write another one soon. Most people are woefully ignorant of the recent history of that nation. Once you know a little something of its 20th century history, you’ll change your attitude towards that tiny nation.

Lest you think I’m picking on just the Left, see a future post for my criticism of the Right.

Monday, April 21, 2014


My wife and I recently watched the movie “Philomena,” and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it highly. The story is about an Irish woman by the name of Philomena, who is now elderly (played by Judi Dench) in the movie. Journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) helps Philomena Lee search for her long-lost son, who was taken from her by nuns in an Irish convent and sold into adoption when she was an unwed teenager. The movie is based on a true story, and it raises some moral and ethical questions that I’d like to address.

On the positive side, the nuns provided a place for these disgraced mothers and their children to live at a time when such pregnancies often resulted in rejection by the girl’s family and the community as a whole.

Unfortunately there are a number of serious negative acts these nuns did. The first negative act had to do with their treatment of these unwed mothers. The nuns took in these girls and their children, but then they treated the girls like slaves. It was like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, but occurring in the mid-20th century. The rationale, according to “Sister Hildegard” in the movie, was that these girls had sinned and therefore deserved harsh treatment as penance for their transgressions.

We should understand that there are a number of problems with that mentality. First of all, the Bible tells us that Jesus died to pay the penalty of our sins. If you believe you have the responsibility to punish people for their sins, then you have a very distorted view of Christianity and what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Of course I’m not talking about civil authorities, whose job it is to keep order and dispense justice.

Such a mentality is dangerous because it then could be used to justify punishing the Jews for Jesus’ death, for example. It also encourages revenge rather than forgiveness, ignoring the teachings of Jesus about forgiveness, loving one another, and the principles expressed in The Beatitudes. You also have to ask these nuns, “Just how long must these girls be punished before their sins are fully atoned for?”

Secondly, Jesus did not establish his Church to be a vehicle for punishing sinners. Rather, one of the roles of the Church is to dispense God’s grace (unmerited favor) through good works. Those nuns did not exhibit grace, only condemnation and cruelty.

Thirdly, the Bible tells us that all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard. So why were these nuns so hard on those who committed one particular sin? These nuns were abusing the weak and vulnerable, judging them rather than ministering to them.

The second negative act these nuns did was to sell these girls’ children. On one hand, it was good that these children usually, I presume, ended up in good adoptive homes. These were often in the U.S., where these children had opportunities available to them that they wouldn’t have had in Ireland in mid-century. On the other hand, to yank away these children from their mothers, usually without warning, and sending them off into the unknown, was cruel and heartless. These young mothers were not given a choice as to whether to keep their children or not. It was assumed they were unfit, and taking away their children was probably considered to be another justifiable form of punishment.

The third negative act on the part of these nuns was to destroy all adoption records to prevent birth mothers from ever reuniting with their children. The nuns even lied to those inquiring about their children. So we can add deceit to the list that includes cruelty and lack of grace.

Steve Coogan, who played Martin, also co-produced the movie, and co-wrote the screenplay. He admits he is not fond of the Roman Catholic Church. Having been raised Catholic, he fell away from Catholicism and now views it (and probably most religions) with some distain. Hence some of the negative comments by “Martin” in the movie. Nevertheless, the basic facts in the movie are true. These nuns did mistreat the unwed mothers and did sell their children. Regardless of your view of the Roman Catholic Church, or Christianity in general, we have to acknowledge the sins of these nuns, and realize that such actions are inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus, whom they claimed to serve.

Despite blatant wrongdoings that have been well-publicized, the Church and its agencies have done many good works in the past 2,000 years: sending missionaries out to help people all over the world; building hospitals and orphanages; providing food and goods to the needy (Salvation Army, Catholic Charities); and it was the “safety net” before government got into the welfare business. On balance, the Church has done more good than harm, something we should remember when we are tempted to view the Church as irrelevant or worse.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Another Book Recommendation

In a recent post I recommended “Sealed with a Kiss.” I now recommend another book, also written by a friend of mine. Below is the summary of the book from

Dr. Ken Ardrey was a hardworking and enthusiastic pastor and family man when his life was suddenly shaken up by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. He battled, and continues to battle, the physical and emotional aftershocks of his illness. However, rather than letting this sickness permanently sow seeds of bitterness and despair, he has developed a faith based plan for dealing with all that life can, and will, throw at you. This book chronicles Ken’s personal journey, and provides the reader with a practical blueprint for living their faith and having courage in the times of need. How will you respond when life shakes you up?

The book is encouraging and inspirational, and also very practical. I highly recommend it whether or not you are dealing with a crisis.

“When Life Shakes You Up” by Ken Ardrey
Paperback, available at Amazon
ISBN-10: 1937602222
ISBN-13: 978-1937602222

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Book Recommendation

I’d like to recommend a book to you, especially if you are a baby boomer. Read the description below from and then I’ll tell you about my role in the book.

Drawn from an extraordinary collection of over four hundred perfectly preserved personal letters, “Sealed with a Kiss” is a coming-of-age story, a romance, and a glimpse of an America poised on the brink of change. Anyone who remembers having a pen pal, scribbling envelopes with codes like S.W.A.K, or even just falling in love will recognize themselves in its story--and savor its vision of not just a unique moment in time, but also a timeless love.

In 1957, Bob Zielsdorf is thirteen and living an ordinary middle-class suburban existence in York, Pennsylvania. On a trip to Massachusetts to visit a friend, he meets fourteen-year-old Fran Jordan. Though they spend less than an hour together (admittedly, an hour that includes some kissing, thanks to a local variation on Spin the Bottle), they agree to write. Remarkably, they do, beginning a correspondence that will last for eight years, encompass hundreds of letters, and end with an enduring marriage.

As Bob and Fran move from middle school into high school and college, they never live in the same town or even the same state. Long distance calls are still too expensive to be a relationship staple. Instead, the teenagers' bond, which begins as friendship and only later deepens into love, is forged through writing. Describing high school and college, family and friends, home and travel, frustrations and dreams, practical jokes and serious car accidents, companionship and “chemistry,” the letters paint a vivid and unselfconscious picture of two lives in transition from childhood innocence to adult choice.

The “friend” Bob was visiting in Massachusetts was me, and I appear in several places in the first third of the book. If you grew up in the 1950s and 1960s you’ll appreciate the descriptions of life back in the day. The book is an easy read, and it’ll take you down memory lane, especially if you were a teen-ager during that time.

“Sealed with a Kiss” by Bob Zielsdorf, ISBN-10: 0991317408, Publisher is Two Shores Books, Vero Beach, Florida. Available through Amazon. Paperback

Muddled Thinking

There was a news item recently concerning a new, more powerful, pain killing drug that is about to be introduced to the market. However, this new drug has produced some controversy because there are some who fear it will be abused and more people will die as a result. Those opposed to the drug would rather have people in severe pain suffer so that drug abusers may live. What’s wrong with this picture?

Should we get rid of all cars because some people drive recklessly and kill themselves and others? That’s the kind of muddled thinking we are seeing. I believe it is better to provide as much relief as possible to those who are suffering excruciating pain, such as burn victims and cancer patients. I know the human toll resulting from substance abuse, and I include alcohol, is staggering, but we as a society should be working to eliminate the causes of abuse, not denying beneficial drugs to those who need them.

Another example of muddled thinking is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to remove three charter schools from public school buildings. Again we have mixed up priorities, penalizing those kids fortunate enough to get into a charter school for a dubious purpose. Moreover, he reneged on commitments made by former Mayor Bloomberg, and these schools have already begun hiring teachers and administrators. I think New York is going to regret electing de Blasio if he continues this way.

This is a reminder that we should pray for our leaders, that they do the right thing for the people. We should include in our prayers our representatives in Washington and Albany plus the President, Governor and Supreme Court.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Pray for Rain in California

I’m very concerned about the water situation in California. I don’t know if you’ve been following the news, but there’s been very little rain in that state for the past several years. As a result, the water situation is getting desperate. Reservoirs are practically empty and agriculture is beginning to suffer. Some areas are going to literally run out of water. What do you do when that happens?

This is shaping up to be a crisis of major proportions, not just for the residents of California but the whole nation. So please pray for rain (and a lot of snow in the Sierras). Let me explain why this could be a crisis of biblical proportions:

(1) I can envision a reverse Okie migration. During the Dust Bowl (no, it’s not a football game) of the 1930s, thousands of people from Oklahoma (Okies) and neighboring states fled their homes and migrated to the Land of Promise, sunny California. In a worst case scenario, I could see millions of people (not just farmers) leaving California because life became intolerable or even impossible due to the lack of water and the fires.

(2) California, our most populous state, has a large economy. I believe it is something like the fifth largest economy in the world. A large part of that economy is agriculture. That state grows everything from avocados to lettuce, from grapes to oranges. If California agricultural production is shut down due to a lack of water, it will affect the rest of the country’s supply of food. Prices of many food items will skyrocket, so that certain items will be nearly impossible to buy because of either price or supply. Think of the millions of gallons of wine produced by that state. Supply would be met by other sources but at a much higher price than we’re used to paying.

(3) California’s large economy also consists of manufacturing, high tech, and tourism. If California’s industry is hindered by lack of water, there will be massive unemployment and possibly shortages of certain goods in the rest of the country.

(4) With all this dryness comes fires. Not only will there be more wildfires than usual (which is already happening), but some fires in cities won’t be able to be extinguished because of a lack of water pressure or constraints on its use.

(5) Based on what could happen as described above, there is the possibility of lawlessness, mayhem, and violence. You could have large numbers of unemployed people roaming the streets, robbing and possibly killing.

I hate to paint such a bleak and disturbing picture, but I think we have to be made aware of both the seriousness of this drought and the impact it could have on the rest of the country. The frustrating thing is that there’s nothing we can do to bring about rain. Or is there?

Yes, there is something we can do, and that is we can pray to the God who controls the weather. Remember how Jesus calmed the storm? Remember the words from the hymn “Here I Am, Lord”, which say, “I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry.”

God will hear your cry as well. As you pray to God, also keep in mind these two passages:

Thinking of our nation and California in particular, pray this verse back to God:
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord…”
Jeremiah 29:11-14a, NRSV

Thinking of our nation and California in particular, pray this verse several times a day, emphasizing “seek my face” and “forgive their sin and heal their land.”
“[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV

I’m not saying this drought is God’s punishment for our turning away from him – although it could be – but what I’m saying is that we as a nation need to be cleansed with the life-giving spiritual water from God even more than we need rain.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Memories of Pete Seeger

It was December 1967, and I was in army basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. The Vietnam War was raging and wasn’t anywhere close to ending. Young men were dying and more were to follow.

We had been out in the field doing something or other – I can’t remember what. It started to snow heavily, so we marched over to a nearby building for shelter. They called for several deuce-and-a-half trucks to come and pick us up. While we waited, the Company Commander, a First Lieutenant, suggested we sing some songs to pass the time until our transportation arrived.

He suggested we start off with a popular song of the day, a song written by Pete Seeger called “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” I don’t know whether he realized that it was an anti-war song, but the irony of it all was not lost on me. Here we were, spending eight weeks learning how to kill and maim, and yet here we were, singing an anti-war song. Most of us would be sent halfway around the world to fight in a questionable war, and in the song we were asking “Where have all the young men gone?” We know where they had gone, and where even more were going. It was a surreal moment.

Pete Seeger and others have demonstrated to us how powerful music can be. It can be effective in bringing awareness of injustices. It can help bring about societal change through powerful lyrics. It is a major way we worship God – that’s why we sing hymns and praise songs in worship. Music can express some emotions much more effectively than prose. Even after we’ve lost most of our faculties, music often remains with us.

Like anything, music can also be abused. It can put down women, as we hear in the lyrics of some rap songs in which women are referred to as “ho’s” and ‘bitches.” Music can promote drugs, promiscuity, and a host of other bad behaviors. Fortunately Pete and others have used their music to promote social justice and peace. Pete also used his fame and influence to clean up the Hudson River. If he had done nothing else, being instrumental in cleaning up our beautiful river would have made him a hero.

I didn’t know Pete and Toshi very well, but I had the opportunity to talk with them on several occasions. I had some interesting conversations with them, which I treasure.

After basic training, I went on to advanced training in the field I had enlisted for. Miraculously, I did not go to Vietnam, which I thank God for. Why I was spared and so many weren’t I can’t answer. It is one of those mysteries that we just won’t understand in this life. But I’m grateful I received orders for German language school, and then was sent to Germany where my new wife and I spent one and a half enjoyable years.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Your Reputation Is Everything

When I worked for a company, I had to let an employee go. To get back at me, she called my boss and accused me of verbally abusing her by using “the f word” and yelling at her. So my boss called me into his office and asked me what happened. I told him that first of all, I had my office door open the whole time, so he should feel free to ask any of the employees whose desks are close to my office if they heard me yelling and cursing. I then explained what happened, and said the allegations were totally false. He said to me that he didn’t believe her because he knew that’s not the way I operate, but he had to investigate.

Right now the story the media is obsessing on has to do with the Chris Christie issues, primarily the George Washington Bridge fiasco and accusations by the Mayor of Hoboken of bullying. What might have been a local story has blossomed into a national one for three reasons:

1. The governor is a national figure because he is potentially a candidate for the presidency.

2. He is a popular Republican and the media love to go after wayward Republicans and try to bring them down. Sadly there are too many wayward politicians in both parties.

3. Because of Christie’s tough guy persona, people are ready to believe the accusations against him.

That’s where reputation comes in. You can have a reputation as tough, but not a street fighter or thug. Christie, who I think has been a good governor, especially in times of crisis such as Hurricane Sandy, comes across as somebody who could be vindictive and manipulative. While Christie claims he “is who he is” and isn’t going to change, I think that’s the wrong attitude. What might have worked in local New Jersey politics probably isn’t going to work in national politics. If you are going to run for President, you had better start acting presidential – he actually should have started years ago.

People perceive you based, in large part, on your reputation. A good reputation can’t be bought – it has to be earned. Think about your reputation. It is the kind that will help you in future endeavors or hurt you?