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At the Michigan funeral of a slain Army Corporal, members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas came to the military funeral to conduct a protest. They claim that American soldiers are being killed as a direct result of God’s judgment upon the United States for tolerating homosexuality.

The protesters stood outside the Grand Ledge Baptist Church holding signs denouncing homosexuality, including one that read “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” Apparently the group has protested at three other military funerals in Michigan in the past week.

Several veterans responded to the soldier’s family’s request to protect them from the protesters. Many of the veterans carried American flags and turned their backs to the protesters, creating a parallel line through which family and friends could enter the church.

While I do not condone homosexuality, I cannot endorse this kind of in-your-face action to protest American culture’s acceptance of this lifestyle. I imagine these protesters claim to be Christians, which makes their behavior even more embarrassing. What purpose does their affront to this soldier’s family really serve? Do they expect people to listen to their point of view when they take such offensive actions? And how do they know that God is judging America by allowing its soldiers to die, much less this particular soldier?

I don’t like terms like “gay bashing” or “homophobic,” but if any bigoted behavior qualifies, this seems to be it. These people are not “speaking the truth in love.” They are simply acting hatefully.

 

© 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.

In the late eighties when I was an academic dean at The King’s College in New York, my office regularly received stacks of postcards from credit card companies requesting that I place these postcards in each student’s mailbox. The postcards were enrollment forms offering credit to college students “for use during emergencies,” “to help build your credit history,” or, more incongruously, “independence.” Instead of student mailboxes I placed these credit card invitations in the academic dean’s waste basket.

In the late eighties credit card companies began targeting college students as a new, growing, and potentially profitable market demographic. Credit card companies offered credit with spending “limits” like $8,000 or even higher, zero or reduced interest for the first year, and acceptability at all kinds of businesses. Of course these companies make money when people carry debt incurred on their cards, a fact that makes college students and easy credit an appealing mix.

Unlike some financial advice gurus, I’m not against credit cards. My wife and I have a few of our own. But if older adults are sometimes tempted to spend-via-credit beyond their means, how much more so younger adults whose financial skills and experience are at best limited?

I know a couple, for example, who spent the first five years of their marriage paying off fairly substantial credit card debt that one of them had incurred during college. They sought help through Christian oriented financial advisors like Dave Ramsey, identified their goals, worked hard and acted with self-sacrifice and discipline, paid off their debt, and celebrated with their friends when they emerged free from the wrong kind of debt. Now they are purchasing their first home. That’s a financially stressful story turned success story. I salute them. Unfortunately, many young adults do not possess the self-discipline to do the same.

Most college students, even if they are working, are not earning sufficient funds to make them attractive consumers. But they still possess two important characteristics that credit card companies require: an economically bright future, and parents who pay off their debts. So the downside for the credit card companies offering easy credit to college students is lowered to an acceptable risk with a potentially big payoff. Credit card companies know that only 20% of college age users pay down their balances each month, while 67% carry a balance from month to month incurring interest charges, and about 11% eventually cannot make their payments. In all these scenarios, the credit card companies win (make money) and the college students lose (pay more for their purchases with added interest than the purchases would cost with cash, or take on more debt and thus more interest).

While I do not necessarily like the idea that credit card issuers target college students, I cannot condemn them for working legally within a free economy, allowing adults—even if young—to make their own decisions. Responsibility for personal financial well-being rests with the person in this case not the corporation or the public.

At Cornerstone University we throw away bulk mailed credit card enrollment pleas that have been sent to any of our offices. Of course we cannot throw away those enrollment cards that are individually addressed to given students, for in this instance the card is a legally protected piece of the United States postal system. But when we can, we toss the stack, for we believe the choice to acquire a credit card is something rightly in the hands of our students, along with possibly their parents.

Now credit cards can be acquired online. Free applications, no annual fee, no transfer fees, “increased buying power,” “a cushion for emergencies,” “ability to shop online,” or “protection for your purchases,” it’s all online, just a click or two away. But the danger of financial difficulty, possible bankruptcy, and financial ruin via too-easy credit is still real.

The moral of this story is, like so often in a capitalistic system, caveat emptor…let the buyer beware. If a college student is going to buy credit, he or she needs to understand the extent of the financial risk involved, needs to demonstrate the maturity to handle credit, needs to be responsible for paying for his or her own debt, and should as a matter of practice avoid using credit cards.

 

© 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.

 

Cornerstone University is giving Howard Stern a nudge on Sirius Satellite Radio. The university’s radio ministry, Mission Network News, is now aired on Sirius 159 at 7:05 am and 9:00 am. So this new technology is no longer just a tool for the Devil but a tool for the Lord. It makes me smile.

 

© 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.

 

 

Sports wagering is a major threat to the integrity of athletic competition. It’s what one experienced gambler called “seasonal losing.” Sports wagering is a more than $200 billion business in the United States with the NFL Super Bowl the biggest betting day of the year. Some 25% of Americans say they bet on at least one sports event each year, and Nevada’s 142 sports books, source of the famous “point spread” or “Las Vegas line,” take in over $2 billion per year.

Sports wagering is still a key entry point to more gambling by adolescents and college students. The NCAA’s “March Madness,” a month long intercollegiate basketball tournament, is now in the running to displace the Super Bowl as America’s number one sports wagering venue. Betting interest of fans, coaches, assistants, referees, and players change the dynamic of the game, introducing the very real potential for greed and corruption. The NCAA has strongly positioned itself against all forms of sports wagering because it threatens the well-being of student athletes and the fair play of intercollegiate athletic competition.

I serve as the chairman of an National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Council of Presidents Task Force on Sports Wagering that is currently developing a sports wagering policy recommendation for the NAIA. The focus of the recommendation will be to protect the well-being of student-athletes, to protect the integrity of competitive sports, and to protect the mission of the NAIA as an organization committed to developing “Champions of Character.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the fastest growing addiction among high school and college age young people is problem gambling with as much as 7 percent or 1.3 million teens addicted to gambling. Dr. Durand Jacobs, a pioneer in treating problem gambling, believes the rate of problem gambling among teens is at least 15 percent. Teens are nearly two and one-half times as likely to become compulsive gamblers as adults. Suicide rates are twice as high among teenagers with gambling problems.

Durand Jacobs believes “there’s not a high school in the country where kids are not making book on sports events.” Arne Wexler, a New Jersey anti-gambling expert, noted that “for every college kid who derives nothing but entertainment from his betting, there is another who cons his parents to get money to cover his gambling losses, another who becomes so consumed with betting that he tosses away an education and another who plunges into gambling addiction. It is far from harmless recreation.”

Jeff Pash, executive vice president of the NFL, told a congressional committee that “Sports gambling breeds corruption and undermines the values our games represent. We do not want our games or our players used as gambling bait…College students…have for a decade been the fastest growing segment of the gambling population even without the help of the Internet.”

Sports wagering not only threatens the social health of those who participate in it, sports wagering can also be a direct hit on the very idea of competitive athletics and fair play. If athletes, coaches, or referees are influenced by their gambling interests or the pressures of others involved in betting large sums on the outcome of athletic events, they may be induced to throw the game. Point shaving, “taking a fall” in a boxing ring, swinging wildly or dropping the ball in baseball games, intentionally shooting offline on the basketball court, the opportunities to cheat for a dishonest athlete are endless. If this happens, competitive sports based on talented athletes, skilled execution, and “heart”—all the things that make people love sports—disappear. All that’s left is some form of schlock entertainment like televised professional wrestling.

Gambling is not a sport, but youth often think that it is. It’s a “game” that turns into a moral and financial vampire. Youth don’t always know that you can’t serve God and money, and adults are not doing much to teach them.

Gambling in all its forms, including sports wagering, turns tried and true values upside down. Gambling undermines a positive work ethic and the productivity that comes from it. Gambling also undercuts a person’s ability and desire to defer gratification in order to accomplish a goal. Individual enterprise, thrift, effort, and self-denial are set aside for chance gain, immediate satisfaction, and self-indulgence.

Sports wagering is a growing youth problem and therefore a growing national problem.

 

© 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.

Barry Bonds is on track to surpass Babe Ruth’s all-time homerun record of 715 four-baggers. Just a few more at bats, just a few more blasts and Bonds will have gone where no one but Hank Aaron has ever gone before. But does anyone really care?

Barry Bonds is just a human being like the rest of us, but he was blessed with major athletic talent. Sadly, for him, for professional baseball, and for us, he squandered it on steroids, human growth hormones, and a host of other chemical muscle enhancers. In other words, he cheated. Then he lied about it—repeatedly.

Bonds will never be heralded as a sports hero, and he has no one to blame but himself. He’d do well to take a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people. Bonds is an irascible, unpleasant personality, angry at a world that gave him so much opportunity.

Pete Rose was the major league baseball disappointment of my youth. Barry Bonds is the disappointment of my middle 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.

 

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.