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Ethics, like the lack thereof, is not a matter of partisanship or ideology.  Both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, have at times, "had their day in court."

The first president for whom I ever voted, a conservative to moderate Republican, later became the first president to resign from office.  Richard Nixon's Watergate arrogance brought down his presidency, along with a host of many too-loyal staff members around him.  Years later, moderate to liberal Democrat Bill Clinton's Lewinsky arrogance resulted in only the second impeachment in the history of the country.  In Canada, it appears that the Liberal Party will be tossed out of the national leadership it has held for 13 years.  Canadian pundits are predicting a victory for the ascendant Conservative Party.  Meanwhile, in the United States, many conservatives are under more pressure than liberals for untoward entanglements with corrupt, influence-buying lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman said this during a party conference this weekend, "The public trust is more important than party.  Which is why the first solution to the problem is rooting out those who have done wrong, without regard to party or ideology."  He's right, of course, even if it is in his party's interests for him to say it. 

The lesson of these stories is that all political parties, all ideologies, all points of view, all charismatic individual spokesmen or women, no matter the person's demographic characteristics or place of origin, must live under the rule of law and must be held accountable to a moral standard outside themselves and their vested interests.  No political party is or should be "the" Christian party, even if at a given point in history that party's platform seems to best align with biblical principles and the ethics that spring from them.  In politics, as in life, things change.  So the process of critique and evaluation must always continue.

One of the reasons we still honor the lives, memories, and achievements of this nation's founding generation of leaders is that so many (not all) of them based their political expressions and contributions on well grounded understanding of at least natural law if not also the moral will of God.  Men like George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison--in spite of their own human weaknesses--understood human nature and established the new nation accordingly.  They were men with profound political passions, but they attempted to govern those passions with a code of personal and political morality that reached beyond themselves and the issues of the moment.

America seems sorely lacking in these kind of statesmen or stateswomen today.  Motivated more by power, personality, and partisanship than by principle, American politicians don't say or do much that lasts.  I'm more conservative than moderate or liberal, and I vote Republican more often than Democrat, but I reserve the right to think independently.  I wish more American political leaders would surprise us all and do the same.  We'd all be better off.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Starbucks coffee stores are virtually ubiquitous, one on every corner it seems and now one in every major grocery or discount store—certainly one in every airport. The one person we have most to thank for this is Howard Schultz, Starbucks entrepreneur and Chairman.

I just finished reading Schultz’s book written with Dori Jones Yang, called Pour Your Heart Into It:  How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time (1997). It’s a bit dated now, but the principles Schultz shares are not.

I’ve read a lot of corporate leader stories, the “How I became as successful, rich, and cool as I am now” books. Many of these books are just that—arrogant brag-fests. Some of these kinds of books are pretty shallow, quickly produced texts written primarily I think because the CEO wanted his name on a book. Still others are fairly well written and offer interesting and helpful insights. Schultz’s book is like that. I’d rate Schultz’s book with Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.’s, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside the IBM’s Historic Turnaround (2002) as the two best corporate leadership books I have ever read.

Five of Schultz’s principles include:

- “Every company must stand for something.”

- “Vision is what they call it when others can’t see what you see.

- “It’s difficult, if not impossible, to reinvent a company’s culture.”

- “Naysayers never built a great enterprise.”

- “Lead with your heart.”

I could apply all of these principles to Cornerstone University:

- CU stands for biblically Christian worldview in excellent higher education. For fifteen years we’ve worked toward this central goal. In the past five years we’ve added leadership. Christian Worldview, Excellence, Leadership.

- At CU our aspiration, our passion, is to develop a truly Christian University where Christian thinking, teaching, and learning take place and where students are energized to live for Christ in a way that changes lives and culture.

- Reinventing CU’s culture has been challenging to say the least, and the challenge continues. But we are making progress. We are today more thoroughly, biblically Christian, more professional, more excellent than we were ten or fifteen years ago. It is not impossible to reinvent culture, but it does take time.

- If we stopped moving forward every time the naysayers came out of the wood-work we wouldn’t have done anything. Naysayers sometimes have a point and always must be treated with respect. But you cannot allow them to discourage or distract you, anymore than Nehemiah did when he rebuilt the Jerusalem wall.

- More than anything else, I want students to learn that the Sovereign Creator God of biblical Christianity is truly a “Big” God—that Christian faith is not a list of rules but a vibrant interaction of God’s Word with God’s world—that we are his proactive stewards in this short but meaningful life wherein we are given unbelievable opportunities to serve him.

I highly recommend Schultz’s book to anyone interested in organizational leadership or anyone simply interested in the Starbucks success story. I highly recommend Cornerstone University to anyone wanting to find a university where Christian faith is our empowerment.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

When HBO’s new series, “Big Love,” begins Sunday evening, March 12, American television enters the brave new world of polygamy. In this program, a successful but struggling businessman juggles business, children, and three wives who live in adjacent houses on the same street. HBO says, “’Big Love’ explores the evolving institution of marriage through a typical atypical family.” It’s all quite normal, isn’t it, just another version of desperate housewives.

Multi-partner marriage is nothing new in American history.  Most people know the Mormon Church and in turn the territory of Utah permitted plural marriage until 1890 when polygamy was banned as a condition of statehood.  But that was more than a century ago and, though polygamy has continued to exist in clandestine arrangements since that time (According to a joint report issued by the Utah and Arizona attorney general's offices, July 2005, 'approximately 20,000 to 40,000 or more people currently practice polygamy in the United States.'  Others believe the number is closer to 100,000.), it has not been legal, has not been endorsed by America’s public moral consensus, and has not been considered a viable alternative to monogamous heterosexual marriage.  Now one wonders if the times, they are a changing.

Polygamy describes one husband with multiple wives or, rarely, one wife with multiple husbands. Polyamory is another term you need to learn, because we’re going to hear more about it. Polyamory describes any multi-partner or atypical familial relationship entered voluntarily by consenting adults. Polyamory encompasses polygamous marriages, same-sex marriages, bisexual relationships, and any of a host of other alternative sexualities and non-monogamous relationships. Polyamory isn’t yet a household word, but if liberals and secularists have any say, it will be.

For now, polygamy is the next battleground in the culture wars after same-sex marriage. Some proponents of gay marriage are not all that happy with polygamy’s re-emergence, primarily because they consider it a political threat to the potential success of their own movement to legalize same-sex marriage throughout America. Other proponents of gay marriage welcome polygamists as kindred spirits, people who in their vision just want to be left alone to do whatever they want to do in sex, love, and marriage.

After the Canadian Parliament legalized same-sex marriage the Liberal Party then in power authorized a commission to study polygamy and make recommendations. John Tierney, writing in The New York Times today, argued “Polygamy isn’t necessarily worse than the current American alternative: serial monogamy…If a few consenting adults…still want to practice polygamy, there’s no reason to stop them.” This is certainly not the view of women and children who have been part of polygamous relationships.

Christians sometimes struggle with outright moral condemnation of polygamy because it was alive and well among the Patriarchs of the Old Testament. God seemed to wink at it back then, so why would he care now? But he didn’t wink at it. One man, one woman, lifelong monogamous marriage has been God’s standard since the Garden of Eden. This is God’s moral will for those who remarry after the death of a spouse. This is God’s moral will for those who remarry after experiencing a biblically justifiable divorce. This is certainly God’s will for those getting married in the flower of youth, and it’s God’s will for newly formed older and elderly couples who are veterans of long marriages to a now deceased partner—living together is not a divine option either. Polygamy, polyamory, call it what you will, is not God’s desire for any of the Adams and Eves in the world.

HBO’s “Big Love” won’t change the culture by itself, but if its script and screen are well-presented Americans will watch, and the fact that it airs at all says something about the American consumer if not the culture. We’re a long way from “Ozzie and Harriett.”

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

President George W. Bush has used executive orders to steadily increase federal funding to faith-based organizations, this year to the tune of $2.1 billion or about 11% of the $19.7 billion awarded last year to community groups. The Bush Administration’s director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Jim Towney, says “Government can’t fund preaching or proselytizing, but it can fund the good social work being done by religious organizations.”

Federal funding of faith-based programs is problematic. One could argue that such programs are operated by tax paying citizens and in many cases serve other tax paying citizens. Consequently, the people involved “have a right” to access funds they helped to create. Not only this, but one could argue as the Bush Administration does, that federal funding of faith-based programs reduces religious discrimination by allowing faith-based programs to qualify on the merits for federal support. In other words, no faith-based program is declined simply because it is religious.

But one could also argue that any governmental financial support for a religious organization violates the First Amendment’s injunction prohibiting government from establishing any religion. Generally, this is the viewpoint maintained by liberals or others advocating a strict separation of church and state.

But one could also say that federal funding of faith-based programs eventually, nay inevitably, entangles the program in governmental oversight undermining or disallowing the program’s religious character. When this happens, the federal government again violates the First Amendment, this time by preventing the free exercise of religion—paradoxically by supporting it. This is not a viewpoint generally proffered by liberals or strict separationists. This view is more often articulated by conservatives or other religious individuals who fear governmental intrusion in the mission of faith-based organizations.

In 2002, I was invited to a White House session on the Bush Administration’s faith-based initiatives. In the White House Office Building, President Bush spoke to perhaps sixty of us, people considered religious leaders, asking for our support of the initiative. Despite this personal pitch I have never been comfortable with federal funding of faith-based organizations. I would rather encourage more religious influence of public discourse—an easier mix of religion and politics—while reducing direct financial interaction of church and state. I like ideological interaction and institutional separation.

Federal funding of faith-based organizations begins with funding but eventually translates to influence, which in turn can translate to dependency on the part of the religious agency. First it accepts the funds, then it changes religious policy or practice to continue receiving the funds, and then it needs or cannot survive without the funds.

Policy changes to keep the financial gravy train rolling can include alterations of religious-based hiring practices or the suspension of proselytizing. In other words, the fundamental religious mission of the organization can be gradually secularized.

Finally, if federal funding of faith-based organizations continues, who determines which faith-based organizations are appropriate or acceptable? I am no more comfortable with the idea that some religious organizations or programs might be funded by my tax dollars than some of them may be if my religious organization or program is funded by their tax dollars.

This is a judgment call. I’m not criticizing faith-based agencies that accept federal funds, nor am I claiming their religious mission is always tainted. I think this is a decision each of them must carefully make.

I believe President Bush’s heart and motives are in the right place. But I do not think his faith-based funding initiative is good public policy.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

Teen techno-savvy is outpacing their moral, ethical, and intellectual maturity. The kids are online with friends, but they don’t understand what it means to simultaneously be accessible to a worldwide web of strangers.

Chat rooms, social network sites like MySpace and Facebook, blogging sites like Xanga and LiveJournal, and their own websites all give teenagers affordable access. No problem—unless there is a problem.

Teenager online social networking is the topic of the lead article in today’s USA Today, entitled “What You Say Online Could Haunt You.” This article is a good overview of a newly and rapidly emerging cyber phenomenon, the amount to time, the type of content being shared, and the relationships being developed by teenagers online. Much of this article, though, focuses upon how what one posts online might someday threaten one’s professional prospects. That’s a real issue, but to me it’s less important than how teens can become entangled in downward moral spirals.

Just in the past month in West Michigan where I live, a local high school has been embroiled in a blogging and drinking controversy that has pitted parents, students, and school officials against each other. It all started when the teens posted their activities online. From another local high school a young man now faces criminal charges for having taken digital pictures of teen friends having sex and then posting these pictures online. This young man potentially faces years in prison.

Organizations like WiredSafety are dedicated to educating parents and teens about safe practices online. This is a good start but not enough. The real key to teen protection is increased parental online responsibility and sophistication. It’s past time for some parents to learn how to access the Internet, how to surf the net, and what’s harmless, helpful, or harmful within it.

Universities know the problem of college age youth “cocooning” in their rooms, locked away from relationships with professors and peers only to focus on escapist relationships with unkowns in cyberspace. Some of these late teens are playing computer games for unwise and unhealthy amounts of time, some fall into pornography, and some develop human connections over the wire that are not generally productive, spiritually or otherwise. Everyone needs a little space sometimes, but cocooning is not typically something we want to encourage.

Pornography is a major and growing problem among teenagers. So much of it is free online that lack of credit card funds is no obstacle, and pornography—always a male problem—is now a female problem too. Perverts, predators, pedophiles, pornographers, thieves, con men, rapists, all of this evil is online, available to and at times seeking teenagers.

Parents need to talk with their teens about online use, not only what websites they visit but how much time they spend online. Schools can help, but they’re typically limited by legal boundaries protecting individuals’ privacy. Parents rightly enjoy greater entrée to their children’s lives and should employ it.

Parents must educate themselves technologically and educate their teens spiritually. This is a challenge of our age.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

South Dakota’s new law banning abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother appeals to my theology and my philosophy even if my instinct for realpolitik questions the strategy. Governor Mike Rounds signed the bill earlier this week, setting up a showdown with Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion organizations that may take the pitched battle all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

According to a FOX news poll this week, 83% of Americans defend abortion rights if a pregnancy places the mother’s life at risk. Some 62% still think abortion should be a legal choice if the mother’s mental health is at risk (How does one define mental health?). The poll revealed that about 49% of Americans say they are pro-choice and 41% say they are pro-life.

So, given the tenuousness of American outlook on the subject, while my pro-life perspective applauds South Dakota’s new law, I wonder whether this all or nothing approach is the best way to chip away at abortion “rights.” Going for the political juggler may appeal to the idealists and ideologues among us, but it may not get us the result we ultimately want. I especially don’t want a re-energized pro-choice movement.

Recently I’ve been a little encouraged, primarily because the pro-choice movement is discouraged. In an article entitled “Reality Check for ‘Roe,’” in its March 6, 2006 issue, Newsweek reported that about two out of three Americans favor some kind of restrictions on abortion. And the same article written by Martha Brant and Evan Thomas actually stated that, lo and behold, “anecdotal evidence is growing that women have moral qualms about any abortion, even if they feel compelled to have one.”

In a nod to the morally clueless, Brant and Thomas quote abortion clinic operator Peg Johnston for noting that her patients were using words like “killing” and “babies.” Johnston said, “I started really tuning in to my patients and I realized, ‘She really feels that way.” Did you get that? Johnston is actually perplexed maybe amazed that a mother believes she is carrying a baby and that abortion is killing. Johnston needs to catch up with the times. Even Hillary Clinton is now calling abortion a “tragic choice,” so the pro-abortion movement is on a bit of a defensive.

Abortion is a tragic choice. It’s tragic because it does not have to happen and because a human life is snuffed out. It’s a choice because individuals are making a conscious decision to do something their moral center tells them is wrong.

Our culture has tried euphemisms—it’s a fetus. We’ve tried straw woman arguments—it must be legalized so we can stop back alley coat hanger abortions. We’ve argued abortion is about privacy and a woman’s right to choose—it’s about men and women not owning their moral responsibilities to abstain from sex that leads to pregnancy, or to take appropriate birth control steps to prevent pregnancy, or to assume parental obligations their actions have produced—or should I say reproduced?

So, yes, my pro-life wishes are encouraged, and I salute the South Dakota pols who had the political will to do what they did. I hope it works.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.