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The White House left the word “Christmas” out of its Christmas card text—something it has done since 1993—so some conservatives are interpreting this as one more example of the “war on Christmas.”

The White House card quotes Psalm 28:7 and sends to 1.4 million recipients “best wishes for a holiday season of hope and happiness.” Apparently this isn’t good enough for some members of the Religious Right, including William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative website WorldNetDaily.com. Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, doesn’t like it either, but he thinks it’s more a sign of political correctness run amok than an effort to side-step Christmas.

I noted on December that “Christmas is Back,” because retailers nationally are re-introducing Christmas to their holiday marketing campaigns. Meanwhile, President George W. Bush can’t catch a break from his conservative base. First Harriet Miers and now the wrong Christmas card—it seems the man can’t do anything right.

As I said earlier, it’s possible to over-react, and I think conservatives or Christians or both may be doing it with this latest bit of noise. The truth of Christ and the power of the Gospel as introduced in the Christmas story are not going to be lost if someone happens to omit the words, “Merry Christmas,” on a card.

For years I have made sure that Cornerstone University’s Christmas card includes Scripture, because this makes our cards distinct from most public university cards and clearly sends a message about our Christian mission. I have not worried about whether the card used the term “Christmas.” Is this word really more powerful than the Word?

The other side of this is that President Bush represents all the people, not just Christians and not just conservatives. He is open about his own faith, but he rightly does not force his beliefs upon others. A White House Christmas card with an Old Testament verse and a “Happy Holidays” message strikes me as more respectful of others than disrespectful of Christianity.

I think the Religious Right should spend its time on positive contributions that matter and give its watchdog inclinations a rest.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*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.

First Sirius pays Howard Stern $500 million to take his vulgar, obscene, profane, and pornographic version of entertainment to satellite radio and now cell phone companies are getting into the pornography act. Cingular Wireless, the nation’s largest cell phone provider, is taking steps to match its access devices to Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association content ratings standards, opening the door for mobile porn.

Communications companies are eyeing the $10 billion per year pornography business in the United States, and they want a part of the action. With a move to cell phone video sex the country is taking another step toward a virtual culture of pornography. More than 800 million pornographic videos and DVDs are rented by American consumers each year. Pay-per-view movies in hotel rooms now account for the largest portion of in-room entertainment revenue at major American hotel chains. Pornographic videos on automobile DVD players are becoming more common. Of course Internet pornography is the second largest business in cyberspace, running behind only gambling.

Pornography is one of those things that is difficult to describe, but everyone knows it when we see it. Pornography flourishes under the umbrella of free speech protection. It’s been difficult for some time and becoming increasingly so to make a case for legally restricting another adult’s entertainment choices or “freedom of expression.”

But a society does have a compelling interest in the impact of pornography upon the individuals caught in its web and upon the moral climate of any given community. Insofar as pornographic activities destroy lives and degrade communities, legal restriction seems warranted. The question is, where do we draw the line?

In the end, it’s a matter more of the individual heart than government regulation. Howard Stern may hold forth on satellite radio, but I don’t have to subscribe. Internet pornography exists, but I don’t have to access it. Pornographic DVDs may be available, but I don’t have to rent them. Cell phone pornography may soon be marketed, but I don’t have to buy or view it.

When I was a kid, pornography was only available in a magazine or book you had to purchase in a store in full view of the public. Then, you had to get rid of the evidence before a sister, mother, or some other village adult gave you a comeuppance. Now, pornography is virtually universally available, accessible, affordable (much of it is free) at anytime anywhere in as much privacy as you choose. Now, you’re only two clicks away at any given time.

So pornography is increasingly pervasive, but it’s still personal.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*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.

Theodore Roosevelt personified the word active if not also proactive. From his sickly youth he lived his life to the fullest, as though he wanted to extract from it every ounce of possibility.

At 42, he became and still is the youngest President of the United States ever elected. But he was ready. Coming to power upon the death of the assassinated William McKinley, “T.R.,” as he was called, never looked back. The 26th President strode the world stage by “speaking softly and carrying a big stick” and by stating forthrightly that the United States of America must be a force to be reckoned by any nation with designs on American territory or interests.

Roosevelt placed more acreage in conservatory protection than all other presidents combined. In doing so he initiated the environmental movement at work today. His vision of a water passageway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was realized in the construction of the Panama Canal, which he visited and inspected personally. He fought monopolies, he lived honestly, he lived big, he won re-election, and he made the fatal political mistake of saying he would not seek a second full term, a statement he lived to regret.

Later in life he also regretted the high view of military glory that he had lived first as a “Rough Rider” hero in the Spanish American War and later in his attitude and philosophy as a father and president. He regretted it because, though he proudly saw his sons adopt his views and go into battle, he and the family suffered the devastating loss of son Quentin who was shot down in Europe during WWI. T.R. did not live to see his eldest son, Theodore, become a brigadier general, land with the troops at Normandy on D-Day, and posthumously receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, but T.R. would have burst with pride. Still, T.R. learned that the glories of war fade quickly in the loss of life closely held. It’s a lesson all Commanders-in-chief should learn.

In addition to his political accomplishments, “Teddy,” this namesake of the Teddy Bear, learned to speak two or three other languages, extensively catalogued birds and other phenomena in his amateur-though-exceptional work as a naturalist, traveled the world hunting big game animals, charted unexplored rivers, and wrote voluminously.

Counting all of his articles and books, T.R. is by far the most published president. Jimmy Carter’s recently published twentieth book is rivaling him, but T.R. still holds the record in total production.

Theodore Roosevelt is still today an excellent model for leadership. He had vision, he communicated it with considerable energy and passion, he liked new ideas and progress, he had a zest for life and people (his favorite, oft-repeated word was, “Delighted!”), his work and exercise ethic were legendary, he openly lived and was faithful to his wife and family, he was a man of integrity, and he was proactive. He got things done.

Roosevelt died too young at age 60. His last words were to ask a care-giver to turn out the light and that night the lights went out on a truly extraordinary life.

Roosevelt and leadership are synonymous. He was always thinking about what he could do next to advance American interests or to advance whatever field of endeavor in which he found himself. His most quoted comment makes this point:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Through March 5, 2006, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan is exhibiting “Theodore Roosevelt: A Singular Life.” The exhibit is not large, but it features a number of interesting artifacts from the man’s life and offers a glimpse of the power of his passion and personality. I visited this exhibit yesterday, so I can say from personal experience that for anyone interested in leadership, politics, or history, the exhibit is well worth your time.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*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.

It appears Christmas is back, or at least the “Christmas tree” is back. After several years of referring to the tree at the United States Capitol as the “Capitol Holiday Tree,” at the request of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R,IL), the tree was renamed this month the “Capitol Christmas Tree.”

In another reprise of the Christmas wars, the noisiest Christmas backlash so far this year took place in Boston, where the Parks and Recreation Department set off a firestorm by calling the city’s annual gift from Nova Scotia a “Holiday Tree.” The logger who donated the spruce said he’d rather feed the tree to a wood chipper than call it a “Holiday Tree.” Christian groups like Liberty Counsel threatened legal action until Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said, “I consider this tree to be a Christmas tree.”

“Christmas” is also back in retail. The word has been curiously missing from the marketing campaigns of major retailers in recent years, even though they, like most retailers, depend upon the Christmas season for a bulk of their revenues. Kroger, Lowe’s, Dell, Target, OfficeMax, Walgreens, Sears, Staples, J.C. Penny, and Macy’s, to name a few, have re-introduced “Christmas” in their seasonal advertising.

The Christmas wars have become all too familiar: “Silent Night” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” at the local middle school “Winter Concert” or “Holiday Concert,” nativity scenes banned from display on courthouse lawns, school teachers not permitted to read Christmas prayers or perhaps even to put the word “Christmas” on bulletin boards, refusing to allow retail clerks to say “Merry Christmas” for fear of being insensitive or disrespectful to those who do not celebrate Christmas, and so it goes.

So the “December Dilemma” of the place of religion in public life visits us once again.

Is it any wonder that Christians who are tired of this dilemma are now reacting, sometimes via legal redress? They feel pushed to the limit by what appears to be an organized attempt to secularize completely this most special of Christian holy days. Christians are tired of political correctness, feel like the recipients of reverse discrimination, and in general believe they must draw a line somewhere or there will be nothing left that looks or sounds like the culture of their youth. For some, this becomes a moral battleground, a place where one must take a stand if one has any convictions at all.

Of course its possible to over-react. If it is un-Christian to dismiss important Christian symbols it is equally un-Christian to act disrespectfully to those who do not share our values or belief systems. Refusing to acknowledge Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, for example, do not win Christians any points for love or compassion.

All this is rooted in the meaning of the First Amendment. Government is to protect the free exercise of religion even as it avoids establishing one religion over others. That’s the rub, and that’s why the Christmas wars are not going to go away anytime soon.

One thing would help, though—if people could learn to distinguish between government-supported activities and all other activities that take place in the public square. If you can make the case for a Menorrha alongside a crèche in the city park, you should also be able to acknowledge the individual right of businesses to use Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa language in their advertising as they deem appropriate. One is publicly owned, the other is simply public. Christmas need not be empowered by government to continue its worldwide influence. It’s the Person and spirit of the season that yet makes the world pause and reflect about all that is good.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*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.

 

Las Vegas—Sin City—is now betting it can attract major league sports. While professional boxing has been virtually synonymous with Las Vegas for decades and other sports like NASCAR and arena football make their home in the desert gambling capital, until now, “Big Four” major league sports have kept their distance. And with good reason.

Sports wagering is a well over $200 billion per year business. The Super Bowl alone generates an estimated $2.5 billion in legal wagering in a single day. Illegal Super Bowl wagering more than doubles this total. Nevada operates 142 legal sports books, source of the famous “point spreads” or “Las Vegas line,” and now online opportunities are taking sports wagering to stratospheric level. Online sports books last year collected more money on the Super Bowl than all the Las Vegas sports books combined. Gross online sports wagering in 2003 was $63.5 billion and is growing rapidly.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the NCAA have all testified before Congress in the past few years about the dangers inherent in allowing gambling and sports to mix. Only the National Basketball Association seems oblivious. NBA Commissioner David Stern recently selected Las Vegas to host the 2007 All-Star Game, making the city the first non-NBA city to be selected to host the game.

The NCAA’s Sports Wagering Task Force Report of January, 2005 concluded that gambling is a double threat to the integrity of sport and the well-being of student-athletes. Since 1993, gambling scandals have rocked the sports cultures of Arizona State University, Boston College, Bryant College, Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the University of Maryland. Both the NCAA and the NAIA are taking steps to distance gambling and intercollegiate athletics.

Gambling and sports are not a marriage made in heaven. Point shaving scandals, fixing games, Pete Rose, Art Schlicter, Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder, Chet Forte, “the Black Sox” scandal, Cecil Fielder—the list goes on.

Gambling undermines sports’ most beautiful attraction—the joy of fair competition. Allow gambling into the sports arena and the only thing you have left is faux sports. Not real sports, fake sports, big guys pushing each other around for the show and the dough, no physical and mental prowess, no supreme execution of athletic moves or plays, no photo finish, sudden death victories—just pay-per-view sweating.

The bottom line is this: if gambling makes inroads into sports activities real competition disappears. Gambling is a deadly parasite. Let it in, and sports will gradually die.

I know there is more going on in Las Vegas than gambling. I know people live in Las Vegas who don’t gamble. I know it’s theoretically possible to locate a major league sports franchise in Las Vegas and it not be infected by gambling. But come on? Does anyone really believe that this will happen?

If for no other reason than maintaining an important symbolic statement, major league sports should stay out of Las Vegas. Professional sports has enough problems these days with performance enhancing drugs, prima donna athletes, excessive salaries, and just plain mean, offensive players. Do professional sports really need another image-destroying, game-breaking problem?

If major league professional sports move to Las Vegas it will not be long before Pete Rose will be considered more of a prototype than a pariah. Other players, coaches, referees, umpires, and fans will follow him to the nearest bookie.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*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 www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

 

“The Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is everything the critics are saying that it is—a first class work of cinematography. Even more, this film is a wonderfully presented fantasy adventure depicting the individual and world-changing truth of Christ and the Gospel. “Narnia” opens nationally today.

The film, produced by Walt Disney Company and Walden Media, brings to the big screen C. S. Lewis’ beloved “children’s” classic in all its beauty and complexity. Mixing live actors and computer-generated talking animals, dwarfs, witches, and other strange creatures, the film makes the story easy to understand, entertaining, and moving. It’s about children’s make-believe, and it’s about good triumphing over evil. In short, it’s “magical.”

My three grandchildren are under four years of age. If they were five years old and up, I’d take them to this film. I recommend this film to anyone, regardless of age or religious persuasion, and I suggest you see it more than once. You’ll grasp more of the nuances of the story the second time around.

Christians, conservatives, and conservative Christians have all verbally assaulted Hollywood for years, decrying gratuitous sex, language, and violence in films and lamenting movies and television that appeal to baser morality. Whether this “anti” strategy really accomplished much is subject to debate. How much better it would be to praise Hollywood for good productions, and how much better still it would be to place Christian professionals in the industry. Christians “separated” themselves from “Hollywood movies” as they used to be called, and we have paid too great a price.

This is one reason Cornerstone University initiated a new “Media Studies” program this year. This coursework will prepare students to work with emergent media in Hollywood, the theatre, video gaming, story-telling, radio and sound design, high definition video, and more. It’s a way of preparing students to pursue their interests and God’s calling so they can be “salt and light” influencers of the media productions of the future. Pollsters like George Barna say media are the predominant form of cultural influence, while the church is exercising virtually no influence at all. If Barna is even half right, the way to the hearts and minds of Twenty-First Century citizens is clearly through media—consequently, that’s exactly where Christians need to be.

If “Narnia” is successful, and by all accounts it appears it will be, plans are in the works for a sequel each year. C.S. Lewis wrote seven “Narnia” tales. Let’s hope that if the others make it to the big screen they will be as compelling as the first one.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005

*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.