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“Big Mac” and Compunction

In a televised interview this past week Mark McGuire (Big Mac), one of major league baseball’s greatest home run hitters ever, admitted something he’s never been willing to admit before, even during a United States congressional hearing. He finally conceded that during the time he was setting all his hitting records as a St. Louis Cardinals he was also using steroids—a substance banned by the league and dangerous to any user’s long-term health. Yet his “confession” felt deeply unsatisfying to most people who watched it; the missing ingredient was compunction.

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Is the War in Afghanistan a Just War?

Last week a friend phoned me to describe a bumper sticker she had noticed on a car in the parking lot of a local mall. Playing off a familiar query, it posed this question: “What would Jesus bomb?” It’s a disturbing question because few of us can imagine the Jesus who blessed little children, and chose for himself to absorb violence rather than dish it out, would ever give a thumbs-up to fully armed commandos in camouflage. But it’s also in some ways an irritating question, because it does not seem to acknowledge the complexities of living in a fallen world.

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A Russian View of Sexuality

Last week we set off for a brief vacation up at Yosemite in California’s Sierra mountain range. On the way up, in the wickedly hot central valley around Fresno, we stopped into a Borders bookstore for some light reading material, and I came across what looked like an interesting collection of short stories. Even better, the volume was on sale that day. But I wasn’t prepared for what it contained.

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Navy SEALs and the Taliban

My newest son-in-law, who is military, gave me a book to read for Father’s Day. It’s a best-selling novel entitled Lone Survivor (2007). Given the circumstances I decided to read it right through. Turns out it is the dramatic story of a covert Navy SEAL operation into the mountains of Afghanistan, via a nighttime helicopter drop, to take out a particularly dangerous Taliban leader. More to the point, it’s the story of how the whole thing went horribly bad. The narrative is provided by Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor—his survival itself something of a miracle. There’s a moral to the story.

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Child Casualities of the Good News

A remarkable letter of apology, signed by the chairman of the board of directors of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, was printed in the February 2009 issue of Alliance Life, the denomination’s official magazine. The board acknowledged “its deepest regrets for the significant trauma” experienced by vulnerable children of missionaries, and apologized contritely for decades of failure by Alliance leadership to recognize, acknowledge and stop abuse at the Alliance’s mandatory boarding schools for missionary children. After decades of damage control, and attempts to sweep the scandal under the rug, the new board has courageously (and biblically) come clean.

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The Lost Shepherd

The scandalous Ted Haggard, recently ousted president of the National Association of Evangelicals, has resurfaced. You’ll remember him, no doubt, as the Colorado mega-church pastor whose secret meth-addled trysts with a homosexual prostitute finally came to light a couple of years ago. His devastated church removed him from office, but gave him a full year of severance pay, and asked him to cooperate with a “restoration” process that involved being accountable to some national-level religious leaders like (for awhile, anyway) James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Evidently the process did not go very well, and finally unraveled.

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A Sad Day for Evangelicalism

This is a sad day for the evangelical movement. The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) just tossed Richard Cizik overboard. A more apt metaphor might be that some biggies in the NAE, who had been stalking him for a while, finally nailed their target. Charles Colson responded to the news of Cizik’s departure with this: “I’m not surprised. I’m sorry for him, but I’m not disappointed for the evangelical movement.” I’m not surprised either, but I’m sorrier for evangelicals than I am for Cizik. Richard can hold his head high; I’m not sure we can.

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Baseball Salaries in Moral Perspective

According to ESPN and local sports pundits Trevor Hoffman, the future baseball Hall of Famer and closer for the San Diego Padres since the early 1990s, has been treated shabbily. Despite all he’s done for that organization, the Padres offered him a paltry $4 million for next season. After he pondered this unacceptable proposal for weeks, the organization withdrew it altogether and negotiations ended. Hoffman had dreams of becoming a local hero in perpetuity, like Tony Gwynn. Not anymore, I guess. He’ll finish his career wearing a funny ball cap in someplace like Pittsburgh or Cleveland. This is our latest local soap opera. But wait a minute. Did someone mention four million dollars? Yes, and if you are among those who feel outraged by the cheapness of the Padres’ offer, maybe you need to get a grip.

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The Politics of Intimidation

When the fish die you know there’s something wrong with the water. When the bees disappear, it means the ecosystem is in trouble. When it’s the height of the election season, and there are hardly any signs on neighborhood lawns, you begin to suspect that something may be amiss this time around. The truth is that there aren’t many lawn signs or bumper stickers. My theory is that American citizens no longer feel safe about taking a public stand one way or the other. That’s because we’re witnessing the rise of the politics of intimidation.

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Sarah Palin and Female Submission

Hey, what’s up with this Sarah Palin? If she’s elected VP, won’t she sort of “have authority” over men? Like maybe 150 million of them! Do you think a hockey mom (self-described as a pit bull with lipstick) is practicing appropriate biblical submission? Will her husband Todd still get to be the decider on the domestic front? Will it be sufficient if, while Sarah is sending American troops into Russia or deciding to annex Canada, that Todd can decide whether the family buys or leases a Ford Expedition for moose hunting and diaper-runs to Wal-Mart? Will he still be “the head”?

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