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My son is a 22 year old Sergeant in the Army Reserve MPs heading to Iraq in early May. So I listened with a Father’s interest to President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy speech delivered Friday, April 20, 2007, in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Our Sergeant is in Ft. Bliss, Texas nearing completion of almost three months of in-country combat and medical training. He enjoys what he’s doing, and he’s pleased to serve his country. Mom and Dad are proud of him. But pride and patriotism don’t bring one’s son home soon.

Sitting in a choice seat in the third row, I already knew what President Bush hoped to accomplish in Iraq and why he thought it was essential. But I wanted to hear how he proposed we get it done and how soon he thought American service personnel might come home. Nothing new in this. Just the yearning of every war-weary American and certainly the desire of nervous parents.

We’re in Iraq, President Bush said, because the primary lesson we learned from 9-11 is that terrorists can and will bring their hate to our shores. “Our enemies make no distinctions based on borders,” so America can no longer afford to be isolationist. “What happens in Baghdad matters in the U.S.”

Beyond a desire to defend ourselves, President Bush believes that all human beings want to be free and the vast majority of people want to live in peace, because “the Almighty” made us that way. If most Iraqis are given a chance, they will not turn to terror or help terrorists. The President refers to Iraq as a “young democracy,” and points to the 12 million Iraqis who voted for freedom three years ago. In his view, most Iraqi people are glad for American intervention, but we’re still fighting because “The U.S. wants to achieve peace and build lives. Insurgents want to achieve terror and take lives.”

President Bush puts great stock in his new strategy of counterinsurgency warfare. Top priority is to help Iraq secure its ability to put leaders in place by training and mentoring Iraqi security forces. We’ve moved American troop bases from the outskirts of Baghdad to neighborhoods we expect to secure. Unfortunately, the President said this new strategy will take some time, will bring higher risks, and will result in higher casualties.

But things are improving. The President said the number of sectarian murders has dropped by half since the latest operation began. But since the developments of peace are not as spectacular as a terrorist bomb, media tend to focus on the worst experiences of war.

Mr. Bush said people want to withdraw despite progress on the ground. “It’s gloomy despair in Washington,” he said, “but cautious optimism in Baghdad.” But withdrawal is not a strategy. It would “plunge the country into chaos,” and “it would encourage enemies like Iran.”

The President says what we do not want to hear, that the fight in Iraq will be long and trying. We are in “a difficult moment in history. But it is a consequential moment. The security of America depends directly on what happens in Iraq.” The danger is real and our troops understand this best. They are “doing what they do so that 9-11 will never happen again.”

The President came alive in the last few minutes of his speech, liberated at last from a prepared text and expressing his core values. He believes in the “power of liberty to overcome an ideology of hate.” For a proof he sites the power of liberty transforming enemies to allies—in particular Japan. Referring to his father’s heroic service against the Japanese in WWII, he wryly noted, “41 fought them. 43 works with them. Japan is now a partner in peace.”

We want our Sergeant home safe and soon, but we understand his role in protecting the freedom hard-won by our fathers. Clear objectives, clear strategies, and coordinated resolve are the safest ways our troops can operate in harms way. The first two essentials are within our grasp. The question remains whether the American people can provide the third—the will to see tough times through to resolution. American troops can succeed, but the rest of us must back them.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

*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 or follow him at

Soulforce pulled a fast one on us today. All 26 of the riders came back to CU and entered our College Chapel this morning.

As far as we know, never before has Soulforce returned to a school once it had moved on and never before has Soulforce gone en masse into a chapel uninvited. I was on the program and we were going to debrief students on yesterday's experience, but Soulforce's actions thwarted us.

Vice President for Student Development Tom Emigh spoke to the chapel audience at about 9:10 am, telling them what was happening and why Soulforce was not permitted to be in chapel. At 9:25 am we cancelled chapel because of Soulforce’s disruption. At about the same time, the Soulforce riders began filing out of their own accord, knowing that they had probably pushed the limit of time available before the Grand Rapids Police Department arrived and possibly arrested all of them. It was a $100 fine yesterday and would have been, I was told, a $500 fine today.

A Soulforce leader said they “just came to worship,” but their actions belie their words:

-- They could have come in street clothes and attempted to blend with our students. Instead most riders arrived in gray Soulforce logo jackets.
-- They sat together for a more visible impact.
-- They had a video camera person staged inside Mol Arena and two still cameras outside.

After exiting the Hansen Athletic Center, all but two Soulforce riders walked off campus to the Leonard Avenue sidewalk. Two riders walked with two or three of our students to the campus bookstore and were stopped by police officers on their way back. Their names were taken and, since they were with our students—making the legal lines hazier—and since they agreed to leave, the police did not arrest them.

I was asked by the press, “Some might say you made your point yesterday when two people were arrested. Why not just let them alone today?”

I answered, “I understand the compassion or the desire to be hospitable that lies behind that view, but there’s another principle at stake here. If any organization can at anytime come to our campus and involve itself uninvited in any program or event, than we don’t have control over our own programs or property.  Our liberty is being violated. That’s true for you as a homeowner and its true for every corporation and organization in this town. Soulforce’s actions are ethically and legally questionable.”

I don’t know if they will come back to CU again, but we're about "Soulforced out."  It's time to move on.

Yesterday's coverage and off campus response to what we are doing was and is very favorable.  We are grateful for people's letters, calls, and notes of support and for their sustaining prayers.

Sadly, the texts I had chosen to reference today in chapel were Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6:41-42.  This is the parable warning us not to get carried away judging the "speck" in someone else's eye while we ignore a "plank" in our own eye.  My point was going to be that, "Yes, Soulforce riders have embraced the 'speck' of alternative sexuality and this is immoral, and we should continue to pray for them.  Meanwhile, we must not forget the "plank of sins (other kinds, perhaps, but still sin) in our own eyes." 
We cannot speak for or control others' choices, but we can commit our own to the Lord.

I think this biblical teaching reminds us to beware self-righeousness even as it points us back to fixing our eyes on Jesus.  I wish I could have shared this truth.

Thank you to so many who have prayed and are praying for CU.  We want to glorify him.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

*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 or follow him at

Soulforce made its uninvited visit to the edge of the Cornerstone University campus today. The organization had been repeatedly and kindly informed that its tour bus stop was not welcome and that riders would not be permitted on the campus.

When enough media were present Soulforce sent two of its members onto campus, knowing that Grand Rapids Police officers stood ready to arrest them. They got their photo op, handcuffs and all, which is standard operating procedure for the local police.

Soulforce is an advocacy group that promotes alternative lifestyles (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) in the name of Christianity. The group is supporting two spring bus tours, similar to the one it developed in spring 2006, to targeted Christian colleges and universities—19 last year and 32 this year. The group informs colleges or universities of its desire to come and schools have either responded with a “Yes,” allowing some engagement on campus, or a “No thank you,” allowing no access or on campus engagement. Cornerstone University said “No” for a variety of reasons we’ve listed on our website.

Meanwhile, CU did preclude or even discourage its personnel or students from interacting with Soulforce riders in off campus venues. A few of our people chose to interact with riders; most did not, primarily, I suspect, because it was business as usual at CU with all classes and other typical activities in full swing. I am proud of our students and personnel who in no way displayed anything but respect for the riders. For this I thank them.

As a Christian university, Cornerstone cares about people and their spiritual needs. We attempt to apply a biblical worldview to the entire scope of issues that present themselves in contemporary culture, including sexuality and sexual politics. But we also believe that whatever God calls sin we should call sin. And we believe it’s important to function in a manner that avoids extending legitimacy to a group like Soulforce that, ironically, stands for sin in the name of Jesus.

We do not believe that alternative lifestyles are the “worst” sin or the “unpardonable” sin. In fact, we believe sin is sin and while we are rightly concerned about the “speck” of sin in the form of sexual immorality in one person’s eye, we are also concerned about the “plank” of other kinds of sin in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42). Consequently, we do not hate nor even dislike the Soulforce riders. We believe they are spiritually lost sheep who are being used by an organization with an agenda—we say “used” because it’s the riders who raise money for this tour, take their time to participate, get themselves arrested and develop a record, while other sophisticated leaders and wealthy supporters of Soulforce watch from afar.

We will continue to pray for the riders. While we believe Soulforce has a right to exist in this wonderfully free country in which we live, we respectfully disagree with their values and actions. So while we affirm their right to speak in public venues, we also affirm our right to speak in our private venue. In the end, we want our actions, even and especially saying “No,” to be a form of the Scripture’s command to “speak the truth in love,” for we believe that love without truth is ultimately no love at all.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

*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 or follow him at

The slaughter of innocents at Virginia Tech University is a form of apparently random killing rooted in a rage that most of us, thankfully, cannot understand. More than thirty students dying at the hands of a lone gunman in the otherwise bucolic atmosphere of a small town university is, in former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s words describing the death toll of 9-11, “more than we can bear.”

In the wake of such carnage people have done the human thing. In their understandable grief, anguish, fear, and confusion, they’ve looked for someone to blame. But the real culprit “robbed” us of an opportunity for justice by taking the coward’s way out—suicide.

But we still needed someone to blame, so major news media outlets, some students, some parents, and a host of other Americans tried to lay the horrible ordeal at the feet of the university and its beleaguered administration, particularly the president. While it’s true that any human endeavor can be evaluated on the basis of 20/20 hindsight and that such hindsight can always find ways things could have gone differently, this days-long media frenzy at the expense of V Tech was over the top and unfair.

We’ve already learned from 9-11 that no tragedy will ever again go unreported by its unfortunate participants. Cell phone calls, photos, and videos, IM mailings, and emails were underway before the shooter finished his brutal work. Meanwhile, the university administration—the people ostensibly “in charge,” could not communicate as rapidly as participants because the administration is “the authority” and leaders cannot comment until they triple-check their facts. This takes time.

My point is that no authority figure will ever again be able to outpace the communications capacity of the people experiencing a catastrophe. So it is more than presumptuous for securities experts to go on air the day after the mass killings at Virginia Tech University and pontificate that “If the university had done (thus or so) lives would have been spared.”

First, we really don’t know that lives would have been spared because events didn’t happen according to the expert’s analysis. Second, even if it may be so, the same could be said of the Battle of the Bulge. Leaders lead, generally and most often with their best efforts, and consulting experts who have for the most part never lead anything or anyone are not fair measures of leaders’ effectiveness.

Major news media also tapped psychologists and other students of the mind, trying to make sense of a senseless event. “How could this happen?” “Why did it happen?” In a search for meaning every human being at least viscerally understands, media stars act as our surrogate pastors, providing comfort and solace in the face of uncertainty and loss. But more information doesn’t always meet our need.

The bigger question, generally unasked and unanswered in major media presentations, is “How could or why would a loving God, if one exists, allow this to happen?” Or another way of asking the question, “How can one believe in a loving God, or any God for that matter, and make sense out of this kind of suffering?”

The answers are these. First, we don’t really know. The Omniscient Creator God’s ways are not our ways. He keeps his own counsel and sometimes we cannot discern his purposes. Second, we know the Sovereign God is not surprised, that tragic as the Blacksburg horror is, it is not an “accident” in the sense that God didn’t see it coming. Third, the Just, Loving, and Righteous God is not the source of evil, but he has allowed evil to exist in this world since Lucifer challenged him in eternity past and later tempted Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. Allowing human beings to choose evil also allows them to choose good. Human beings are free moral agents in God’s design for the universe.

Four, a young man full of hate, a lost sheep, apparently marched determinedly toward the fateful day at V Tech. His sinful heart and sinful choices are the blame for this unspeakable tragedy. Five, God is still in charge. His purposes are greater than what we can see or what will likely ever be reported on cable news. Even as the massacre unfolded, God’s grace was at work in others’ hearts in ways we may never fully understand.

For most of us this is another reminder that we live in the Last Days, a time of increasing prevalence of evil, increasing intensity of evil, and more far-reaching harm from evil. But it’s also a time when the love and hope of Christ, the message of a God of second chances, and the value of a biblical moral view shine in bolder relief than ever.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

*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 or follow him at

Politics and character make uncomfortable suite mates these days. It seems like the days of gentlemen (or women) politicians—people who could debate like political warriors during the day and then enjoy a dinner together in the evening—are long gone. Many politicians today have failed to understand the difference between disagreement and dislike, or worse, loathing. Now it’s not enough to critique someone’s point of view on the merits. One must attack the other person’s character, motives, and person. Political adversaries are now enemies. Partnership has given way to partisanship; principle has given way to power.

The passing of President Gerald R. Ford this past week gives us occasion to think about politics and character, for he represented the best of both. Or rather, he was a man who lived out his well grounded character in his politics. He didn’t become something or someone else to curry political favor, and he didn’t check opinion polls or focus groups to figure out what his point of view should be. He was, in a word, a man of integrity. Now he’s being fondly—and accurately and fairly—remembered not just for what he did but even more for the way he did it.

President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill were in some measure men of the old school too. They represented different sides of “the aisle” and opposite ends of the political spectrum, but at the end of the day, they were American leaders who liked one-upping each other telling Irish American jokes. Can you imagine President George W. Bush and Speaker Nancy Pelosi enjoying each others’ company at day’s end? Even more, can you imagine Republicans and Democrats on the Hill doing anything together other than perhaps paying respects to President Ford lying in state in the Capitol?

I’m not suggesting no political leaders in Washington, D.C. demonstrate appropriate character. Far from it. There are men and women on both sides of the aisle who are American patriots doing their best with the talent and understanding given to them. But the overall tone, tenor, or culture of Washington, D.C. politics today is something else again. Principled cooperation isn’t much in evidence.

I’ve said before, “God give us more Jerry Fords.” We need men and women, both Republican and Democrat, who are willing to move to the center, give some in order to get some, go along to get along, build a team, and above all, work together in the best interests of the American people. That’s easier said than done, but I think the American people are listening and looking for the next Gerald R. Ford, someone with political courage grounded in character who stands tall without skeletons in the closet.

Politicians without character are a menace to society. Politics without character demeans society. Politics and character are well worth pondering. Our children’s future depends upon it.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

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President Gerald R. Ford’s funeral took place at Grace Episcopal Church in Grand Rapids yesterday afternoon. My wife, Sarah, and I were among about 400 individuals who were privileged to attend the service, one I consider both an historic and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We arrived at a nearby gated and guarded church parking lot about forty-five minutes before the first shuttle bus to Grace Episcopal was schedule at 11:30 am. Eventually we were taken along with other passengers in the first bus to travel to the church, where we walked to a downstairs room used as a staging area for funeral service attendees. With other guests we enjoyed coffee, tea, or water, and assorted cookies in what amounted to a two hour reception before we were directed upstairs to our seats.

Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, former Michigan Governor John Engler and incumbent Governor Jennifer Granholm and their spouses, Michigan Secretary of State Terri Land and her husband, and many other political, civic, and corporate leaders were among the guests awaiting seating. Through the church basement windows we glimpsed military personnel forming an honor guard and a military band.

The staging area proved to be a very well-considered part of the plan, for it allowed people to pass the time in conversation, to sit, stand, or walk about, to access nearby restrooms, or to enjoy refreshments. None of this would have been possible if guests had been seated immediately upon arrival for what turned out to be a long wait and a late service start.

The Grace Episcopal Church auditorium is graced with a pipe organ behind the pulpit area in the front of the church and several beautiful stained glass windows illustrating various Christian symbols and biblical stories. The funeral service was administered by the Rector from St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church and School, Palm Desert, California, The Reverend Dr. Robert G. Certain, along with former Grace Episcopal Rector and current Rector, Christ Church, Staten Island, NY, The Reverend Charles H. Howell, Interim Rector at Grace Episcopal, The Reverend Dr. J. Nixon McMillan, and Deacon, Grace Episcopal, The Reverend Katherine Brower.

President Ford’s casket was escorted in and out by a full military honor guard, and the funeral featured a church choir of local voices, singing the prelude, and the United States Army Chorus. Scripture readers included President Ford’s sons, Michael (Psalm 23) and Steven (Romans 8:14-19, 34-35, 37-39) with grandchildren, Sarah Ford Goodfellow, Tyne Vance Berlanga, and Christian Gerald Ford serving as Intercessors.

Proverbs 3:5-6, one of the President’s favorite scripture passages, was printed in the program and was referenced during the service. Hymns included, among others, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” “On Eagle’s Wings,” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The congregation was led in a unison reading of The Apostles’ Creed.

Tributes were offered by former Secretary of Defense, The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld, former President Jimmy Carter, and former director of the Ford Museum and current director of the Abraham Lincoln Museum, Richard Norton Smith. Dr. Certain offered the Homily. Also in attendance were Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynn, along with Mrs. Rosalyn Carter.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s comments were interesting and pithy, particularly his observation that President Ford “reminded Americans of who they were.” Mr. Smith’s comments were brilliantly conceived and written and very well presented. As a presidential scholar, he put President Ford’s service in historical perspective, saying the president evidenced “an utter lack of pretense” and that he “was better at statesmanship than salesmanship.” He noted the president’s own self-deprecating joke that he was “charismatically challenged” but then observed that “whatever he lacked in charisma he more than made up for in character.”

In my estimation, President Carter’s presentation was the most moving and engaging part of the service. President Carter’s longtime friendship with President Ford worked to make Mr. Carter’s comments personal, emotional, and spiritually informed. President Carter said that he and Mr. Ford had a lot in common: both served in the Navy, both married “good looking, smart, and very independent women,” and both had three sons, “And then God answered our prayers (pause to laughter). He gave us daughters (more laughter).”

President Carter also said that he and President Ford shared a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Twice and slowly for emphasis President Carter said, “We are saved by our faith in God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He also observed that President Ford was a man devoted to God, family, and country and that President Ford’s faith had sustained him in the White House. President Carter began and ended his comments by repeating “my first words as President of the United States.” Referring to President Ford in the first sentence of his inaugural address, President Carter said, “For myself and our nation, I want to thank my predecessor for all he did to heal our land.”

The funeral started late and ended late. But no one cared. I think everyone there, from Honorary Pallbearers like Ambassador Peter Secchia, Amway Co-founder Richard DeVos, retail leader Fred Meijer, and golfing great Jack Nicklaus to the last person to leave, all felt privileged to have played some small part in honoring a gentleman politician at his homecoming to Grand Rapids and his homegoing to heaven.

Sarah and I were grateful for the opportunity to attend Mr. Ford’s funeral, and we rejoice in the national media’s focus upon character and principle, for this is not only accurate and fair to the man, Gerald R. Ford, but is a good and appropriate reflection upon Grand Rapids, Michigan. God give us more Jerry Fords.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2007

*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 or follow him at