If you don’t know who you are, all you have to do these days is read the press or listen to the news. I’ve learned that if I believe life begins at conception, than I am an “extremist” whose views represent the “the radical Right.” And if I happen to also believe in capital punishment for murderers, than I’m worse than an “extremist,” I’m an “inconsistent extremist.”
If I question the wisdom of the Iraq War or how it is being prosecuted than I am apparently “unpatriotic.” If I disagree with Jimmy Carter, I am, at least from his point of view, a “fundamentalist” responsible for undermining the separation of church and state. If I believe the best approach to interpreting the law and the Constitution is judicial restraint and I am, therefore, uncomfortable with an activist judiciary, than I am “anti-women.” How did I become anti-women by supporting judicial restraint? Because by definition I am apparently against the “right to privacy” and therefore the now nearly-sacred “woman’s right to choose.”
If I wonder aloud about the rationale or direction of any of President Bush’s decisions, than I am “disloyal.” If I believe the universe was initiated by Intelligent Design and I question the logic of evolutionary theory, than I am a “creationist in sheep’s clothing.” If I support evolution, I’m an “atheist.” If I like faith-based initiatives I am a “religious fanatic.” If I believe women who choose to be full-time homemakers should be respected, than I am at best a “chauvinist” and at worst a “misogynist.” If I believe parents should largely be responsible for their children’s sex education I am a “Puritan.”
If words could kill we’d all be dead—so much for civilization. Loose rhetoric produces more heat than light, is a sign of poor critical thinking, and is an infection to the body politic. Conservative and Liberal, Republican and Democrat, have all been guilty of intellectually vacuous sound-bites. I’m tired of being called names and of calling others names. I yearn for the reasoned discourse of statesmen and stateswomen based upon principle.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2008
*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.
Beer companies are now pushing organized drinking games for university students. Groups of guzzlers crowd around the ends of tables trying to lob ping pong balls into cups of beer at the other end of the table. One team scores points and the other team downs cup after cup.
It’s called a “beer pong championship,” and it’s usually sponsored by a beer or beer pong table company. Urban Outfitters offers a beer pong kit called “Bombed” as well as boxed sets of rules for other games. In January, 2006, the first World Series of Beer Pong is scheduled in Las Vegas. Earlier this year, Anheuser-Busch began marketing a game called Bud Pong. Official rules state that water, not beer, should be used—which protects the company but fools no one. Miller is also promoting beer pong events.
It is, of course, ludicrous to believe that beer companies are genuinely interested in marketing games that encourage water drinking. This new foray by beer companies into university age binge drinking also calls into question their purported concern for promoting “responsible drinking.” None of this makes any sense.
Beer drinking, often to excess, has been a staple of the university experience for decades if not centuries. Many universities have worked valiantly to warn students away from the negative side effects of excessive drinking, curtailing tailgate parties, prohibiting beer and alcohol in some residence halls, offering seminars or other public service instruction on alcoholism, and more. Some campuses have tried to ban drinking games to limited success, usually because bars nearby provide all the action drinkers want.
Beer or alcohol consumption is not intrinsically evil. There is no explicit biblical prohibition of drinking, though there is a proscription of drunkenness. Many dedicated and sincere Christian people, including some scholars and pastors, have long warned the faithful away from drinking entirely. Generally, they build their case on the biblical teaching enjoining followers of Christ not to do anything that harms their bodies, the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” And, believers are also warned to stay away from beer or alcohol altogether because consuming it can undermine their testimony of faithfulness and tempt them with other sinful practices that tend to associate with drinking.
Whatever your view on these matters, clearly binge drinking by university students—many of whom are under the legal drinking age—is not a healthy activity. Beer companies and others in the industry who indirectly promote binge drinking while maintaining a legally parsed distance in their marketing are disingenuous at best. Binge drinking contributes to student traffic accidents, injury, and fatalities, reduces student inhibitions toward sexual activity, and degrades students’ ability to perform well academically.
Binge drinking and university students are not a healthy mix. Beer companies who ignore this reality are more interested in the mighty dollar than responsible drinking. Universities and parents should lobby the beer companies to adopt a higher standard. No one is saying they should not market their product, just that they need to develop socially “responsible marketing.”
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved
This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with 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.
To the question, “Why is support for President George W. Bush’s performance declining in the polls?” one might reasonably be expected to respond: “Because people disagree with his policies.” And, of course, this answer would be correct. But like the infomercials say, “But wait! There’s more.” President Bush is struggling to maintain the focus and support of the American people in part because of the limited range of his communications skills.
Unlike Ronald Reagan who could make people cry or wave the flag simply by reading the phone book, and unlike Bill Clinton who possesses not only exceptional speaking skills but also the gift of empathy—“I feel your pain”—President Bush just can’t find the right tone, the right cadence, or the right sound-bite. At least in the public forum and in front of crowds and cameras, a turn-of-phrase just does not come easily to him. Add to this his Texas posture and movement that seem to suggest a cocky swagger (In a light moment of self-deprecating defense Bush said, “In Texas we call it walking”). Add to this his grin and his laugh that appear and sound like a smirk, and you have the recipe for a communications-challenged leader.
In some sense the man can’t help it, and I feel his pain. So what that his walk seems like a strut and his words seemed clipped and strained? Why does it matter that his grin/laugh reminds us of the young fraternity party boy at Yale? Because this is the media age. Because the presidency, the “bully pulpit,” demands gravitas. A pulpit needs a preacher, one who shares the good word par excellence. The leader of the free world must be able to speak the King’s English, an American version to be sure, but nevertheless be able to articulate ideas and decisions and the rationale for both.
At this point in his life, Bush cannot change his grin/laugh, and is highly unlikely to change his stance and manner of walking, but he might be able to do a better job of communicating. It’s not like he’s never risen to the occasion. Remember his speech to both Houses of Congress right after 9-11? Masterful.
How does he improve his communication and, thus, his leadership? One, return to the themes closest to his heart, the ideals that took him to the Oval Office, values he has pondered and shared throughout most of his adult life. This step will not only put him on familiar ground, it will reignite his passion for why he does what he does. The War on Terrorism may be defining his presidency, but it should not be all that defines George W. Bush.
Two, change his venues. Stop speaking almost exclusively on military bases with soldiers as a backdrop. He should take his ideas to the American people by connecting with everyday Americans, not just those who are duty bound to say, “Yes sir.” Three, own his mistakes. Somehow, someway, about something, actually assume responsibility and say “I’m sorry.” The American people are amazingly forgiving—except of those who are too arrogant or ignorant to express contrition (Think, Pete Rose). Four, be himself, be human, not just the invincible Commander-in-Chief. Be someone to whom the American people can relate.
President Bush yet has time to re-energize his leadership before he and the First Lady take that last flight on Marine One around the capital before heading home to Crawford as “just a citizen.” His effectiveness as a leader, and his legacy, are directly tied to whether he can learn to communicate better with those he wants to follow.
© 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.com.
What Senator John McCain modestly calls being “physically coerced” is more commonly referred to as torture. Whatever the Senator from Arizona calls it, his credibility is unassailable. He survived five years as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam during some of which he was subjected to what his new anti-torture bill in Congress wants to ban—“cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment. McCain’s bill passed the Senate 90-9 and awaits review by the House, but the Bush Administration is opposed to such limits.
Since 9/11 and the War on Terror against Al Qaeda and similar forces, American agents and military personnel, with the blessings of the Bush Administration, have used so-called “enhanced” interrogation techniques to garner intelligence from detainees. Enhanced interrogation techniques, sometimes called “torture lite,” involve the use of dogs, public nakedness, prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, detainee phobias, “waterboarding,” long term hooding, forced lengthy standing, squatting, or other physically stressful positioning—anything short of “organ failure” or death. The worst case scenario to date is what has been called abuses by rogue soldiers at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
“War is hell,” said General William Tecumseh Sherman in a famous Civil War line that describes all armed conflict. And during the final push ending World War II we discovered just how awful hell can be.
But the American soldier has always been different, so much so that noted historian Stephen E. Ambrose observed that German, Polish, and Russian troops fighting for the Nazi Army would at times eagerly surrender, knowing that Americans would treat them well and thus their chances of surviving the war were greatly increased.
The record of the American soldier is the G.I. with candy, the citizen soldier that just wanted to get the job done as soon as possible and go home. He or she hated war and might learn in combat to hate the enemy’s tactics but generally did not hate the people. Americans didn’t want territory; they wanted justice.
McCain wants to preserve this record. He doesn’t want troops from this nation to act like the enemy. He believes the U.S. military and intelligence agencies need rules, limits beyond which an officer cannot go in an attempt to extract information from a helpless prisoner. He believes mistreatment of enemy prisoners will ultimately place American prisoners of war at greater risk because the enemy will retaliate in kind. McCain argues that torture techniques really don’t provide that much actionable intelligence anyway. The point is, Americans have been and should continue to be different.
America should listen to John McCain. America needs to take the long view. It stands for values too precious to be muddied or lost in the storms of current conflict, however severe the test may be. Respect for life, individual dignity, and the inestimable value of the human being are Christian values that have, thankfully, become American values. Torture terribly sullies this picture.
Torture is an affront not only to human sensibility but to our very souls. The Word of God clearly draws a line at animal cruelty let alone abusive treatment to those made in the image of God. There are other ways to gain intelligence.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2005
This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part but with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers, President, Cornerstone University, or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.
The beauty of Thanksgiving Day is that it is a time of reflection. It allows us to ponder what God has done in and through our lives and what he may yet wish to do.
I’m thankful God has allowed me to work since 1974, almost continuously, in Christian education and in particular since 1982 in Christian higher education. That was the year I earned my doctorate in Political Science with concentrations in Public Administration and Survey Research. I defended my dissertation on Friday the 13th in July of that year and began working as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at my alma mater, Cedarville University (OH), in September. Six years at Cedarville, then 3 years at The King’s College near New York City, and now almost 15 years at Cornerstone University have gone by quickly but fruitfully.
When people ask me what I do I generally answer, “I’m a Christian educator.” If they press me for more specifics, than I tell them about the presidency. Working as an educator in a Christian institution of higher learning is not a “better” calling than others, but it has always been an interesting one.
I like the eclectic nature of the task referred to as administrative leadership. One hour you focus on new building plans, the next on an academic issue, and the next on a visiting supporter of one of the school’s programs. And so it goes. I tell people that I used to “teach politics,” but now as a university president I practice it every day.
A key part of the role is to be gone, to be off campus, out of town, or out of state, visiting with people who support the university. It’s called “Advancement,” and it’s a matter of sharing the university’s mission with those whom God has moved to participate spiritually and financially. The best days in my point of view are the busiest days, the days you almost run from one appointment to the next. That’s a “President’s day.”
In today’s so-called postmodern culture—one in which the primary motivating idea is that there is no such thing as absolute moral truth—the Christian university occupies an important and potentially strategic platform. We believe in truth, what Francis A. Schaeffer used to call “True Truth” in order to make his point unmistakable. We believe in the One and the Way, we are not afraid to research, to question, or to learn because indeed “all truth is God’s truth.”
The Christian university faithful to its mission can be instrumental in developing students capable of influencing culture, today and tomorrow. That’s a lofty statement and a loftier goal. But the God of a biblically Christian university is a “Big” God. He and his purposes are lofty by definition. And on this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful that God has allowed me to play a small part in this lofty mission.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005
This blog may be reproduce 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.
Today is my Mother's 74th birthday. I am truly thankful on this Thanksgiving Day for a loving, caring, Christian mother. I could not have had a better one. Praise God for his gracious blessing.
© 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.