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Ann Coulter, Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (2003). Ann Coulter is a highly articulate conservative jackhammer, trying to dismantle the liberals with each paragraph of her book. I’ve read a lot of these kinds of books by both conservatives and liberals, and generally they are pretty surface-level affairs that hit all the current hot buttons in a raging diatribe aimed unrelentingly at the opposition. Coulter’s book is different. Frankly, it’s not what I expected. The flame-thrower language is there, but this is a well researched and well documented book. She catalogs the Senator Joseph McCarthy (R, WI) story from beginning to painful ending, disabusing her readers of a lot of near-mythology that has developed around this man the liberals love to despise (most recently the subject of George Clooney’s movie, Good Night and Good Luck). Not a week after I finished this book I saw one of Coulter’s observations in action—another book author condemning and incorrectly citing Senator McCarthy as the head of the House Un-American Activities Committee—pretty much the way Coulter predicted it. She may not be correct in all of her conclusions, but she demonstrated neatly that liberals are certainly not always correct in theirs.

Ann Coulter, How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) (2004). This is a collection of Coulter’s columns from Human Events and her syndicated column for Universal Press Syndicate.  This series of essays provides you with a lot more breadth but not as much depth as the typical book topic.  She is at her best or worst, depending upon your perspective, once again leveling liberals with a rather cranked vocabulary, to say the least.  Her writing (and I assume speaking) style leaves me a bit cold—I think rants weaken arguments not strengthen them—but her points of view are worth considering and from time to time she gets off a one-liner that is downright funny.

Douglas L. Fagerstrom, The Ministry Staff Member: A Contemporary, Practical Handbook to Equip, Encourage, and Empower (2006). This is an excellent leadership book written in the context of local church ministry. Dr. Fagerstrom’s thirty years in church ministry and leadership make him a perfectly prepared author for this book. The book is loaded with practical wisdom, how to’s, and insights on the personalities and politics of everyday administration. Dr. Fagerstrom is the president of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, which is associated with Cornerstone University. I recommend this book highly not only for church ministry staff members but for anyone in leadership.

Noah Feldman, Divided By God: America’s Church-State Problem—And What We Should Do About It (2005). Feldman teaches law at New York University and has emerged as one of the nation’s leading experts on the relationship of church and state. He argues that the Founding Fathers and the United States Constitution they left us never intended to separate religion and politics or even religion and state via an impermeable “wall of separation.” Rather, they intended what they said in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Feldman believes we need to provide even more freedom for public religious expression—despite the wishes of “legal secularists,”—people who want to fully privatize religion via the law, and with more religious diversity than desired by “values evangelicals”—those who want to legalize their particular view of public morality. Then, Feldman states we should vigorously maintain a financial wall of separation—absolutely no tax generated government funds for any purpose whatsoever. It’s a good argument. God be with you in making it happen.

Kevin Seamus Hasson, The Right To Be Wrong: Enduring the Culture War Over Religion in America (2005). The thesis of this book is quite similar to Noah Feldman’s Divided By God. Hasson describes two groups defined by opposing views of church and state relationships—the “Park Rangers,” who want religion to be exclusively private, and “Pilgrims,” who want to use the state to coerce the religious consciences of those with whom they disagree. He argues that if either the secularists or the religious moralists “win,” culture loses freedom. Hasson says it is wrong to insist upon no religion in culture and wrong to insist upon one religion in culture. Rather, he believes we must grant others freedom without surrendering our own allegiance to truth as we see it. In other words, we must grant them “the right to be wrong.” Hasson is the founder and chairman of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonpartisan, interfaith, public interest law firm that protects the free expression of all religious traditions.

David A. Livermore, Serving With Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions With Cultural Intelligence (2006). If you are interested in missions of any kind, you need to read this book, in part because it challenges the assumptions and the industry known as “short term missions.” For decades Christians have been traveling overseas for short periods of time to build facilities, assist in medical care, Teach English as a Second Language (TESL), bring food or distribute clothing and much more, along with sharing the Gospel and experiencing a spiritual high that we’ve all heard about in bonfire testimonies when the short term mission team returns. Dr. Livermore is not opposed to such humanitarian and spiritual outreach, but he is concerned and at times alarmed at how “Western” or how “American” we go about these trips—with little or no advice from Christian nationals. He believes short term missions is at a crossroads, it needs to be re-visioned and restructured. Dr. Livermore is the Executive Director of the Global Learning Center at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, associated with Cornerstone University.

Christine Rosen, My Fundamentalist Education: A Memoir of a Divine Girlhood (2005). With remarkable detail and alacrity, Rosen recalls her childhood experiences at St. Petersburg’s Keswick Christian School. Her Mother was and is a Pentecostal believer, divorced from her Father and remarried, so every other weekend Rosen and her sisters bounced from their Father and new Mom’s home to “BioMom’s” with accompanying differences in religious views and practices. The author at times borders on biting the hand that fed her, making fun of her Mother, questioning various aspects of her experience, and in the end rejecting Christian faith. According to her, Rosen is not religious today in any particular way, a choice that is reinforced by her marriage to a non-religious Jew. So she believes she has outgrown what she was taught, and she believes she stands above and outside of it. Yet she acknowledges that she learned, she was loved, she was offered security, spiritually and otherwise, in a faith community, and she recognizes today that her BioMom was not as wacky as she once considered her. This book is slow moving at times and at others is clearly a book written by a woman for women, but it is also a case study in how someone processes her faith-based upbringing from the vantage point of faithless adulthood.

 

© 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.

 

I’ve read more than one column written by an American Christian decrying Middle East Islamic violence in reaction to recent cartoons of Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. I understand their criticism of the violence. It saddens me too, and I agree that it should be condemned by all good thinking people worldwide.

I also understand the Christian writers’ disagreement with certain basic tenets of Islam. My Christian theology doesn’t match Islamic theology either. I understand the writers’ tendency to list differences in Muhammad and Christ, for the differences define the distance between man and God.

I also understand the shake-your-head amazement at what many Americans, of the Christian faith or not, consider the emotional Muslim over-reaction to twelve cartoons. We can’t comprehend it. We’ve weathered The Last Temptation of Christ, The Da Vinci Code, postmodern sacrilegious art, and the ACLU’s latest pique about the Ten Commandments or Nativity scenes on courthouse lawns. It’s not that we don’t care about our faith or its icons. It’s just that we’ve learned a little bit about living in a religiously pluralistic democracy.

But there is one thing I do not understand—smug condemnation. What I must caution, at least for myself, is a too self-righteous response. Sadly, tragically, history offers us way too many examples of people acting just as emotionally, just as violently in the name of Christianity. They’ve tortured, they’ve crusaded, and they’ve killed unjustly. I don’t think this fact besmirches Christian truth or the character of God, but I do think it should cause us to speak with a bit of humility. People are people, Christians included, and those who name the name of Christ have not always acted in a Christ-like manner.

So I am not condoning violent Muslim reaction to cartoons, nor am I saying Christianity is anything less than a faith that focuses upon the Sovereign God of the Bible, the Creator God of the Universe. I’m just saying Christians don’t always act like Christians, me included.

 

© 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.

Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers’ resignation last week is an occasion to reflect upon what people want from a university president.

Summers’ five year combative reign at Harvard featured one battle with the faculty after another. Summers wanted African-American studies star professor Cornell West to actually teach classes. That battle ended when West left for Princeton. So who won the battle, Summers or West?

Summers reintroduced ROTC to Harvard Yard, a sin in the eyes of militant anti-militarists. Summers’ biggest faux pas in the eyes of Harvard’s tenured radicals was his audacity to wonder aloud whether “intrinsic ability” more than sex discrimination explained why there are not more top female engineers and scientists in America’s elite research universities. This politically incorrect indiscretion the Harvard faculty could not abide.

The ironic part of this story is that Summers is not a conservative tilting at liberal windmills. He’s a Clinton Administration liberal, ostensibly one who would fit in with eastern liberal establishment faculty.

Not all people think Summers was ill-suited for his role. What Newsweek magazine called his “missteps” others called “leadership.” Summers was appointed by Harvard’s Corporation with the idea he would “get control of Harvard,” that he would provide focus for a behemoth secure in a $26 billion endowment even as it still attracts $400 million per year in federal grants. He dared to try by questioning “sacred” precepts of academic culture. He made some progress, and students liked him. But his administrative demise suggests he not only didn’t gain control but that members of the Corporation failed to backstop him.

Sure, Summers bears some of the responsibility for his fall from academic grace. He was arrogant, undiplomatic, and too often allowed his sharp tongue to overpower his sharp mind. Despite his Washington, D.C. experience Summers was not exactly politically savvy. He drove around campus in a stretch limousine, directed the chauffer to park it illegally, and appointed a personal press secretary. None of these actions are all that odd for government officials or CEOs of American corporations—except in academia. All this and more earned him a vote of no confidence by the faculty with another vote scheduled, until he made his resignation announcement. Apparently, he didn’t give the people what they want.

So what do the people want of a university president? It’s easy, really:

--They want unending growth and success without change.

--They want to keep doing the same things with ever different results.

--They want an academic bureaucrat, an “Educrat,” who manages but never leads.

--They want a president who speaks cautiously never courageously.

--They want a president who raises more money but doesn’t ask them to help.

--They want academic excellence without controversy.

--They want someone who wins the Friends of the Student Award, is beloved by Alumni, is a social butterfly, gives scintillating speeches and writes great books, is First Scholar among the Faculty, attends all university athletic, music, academic, and cultural events, never misses church, birthdays, or committee meetings, is always on campus, is always visiting friends of the university in other states, is here, is there, is everywhere.

--They want Everyman who is Superman.

Summers was not all that, nor am I, nor is any university president. But that’s still what people want from a university president.

 

© 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.

American culture is in danger of losing one of its most cherished democratic principles, the ability to disagree with another person’s ideas. Tolerance and “sensitivity” toward others are now considered more important than cogent debates on the merits of the issue at hand.

Watch any public debate and you will see how quickly the focus of the debate shifts from ideas to people. It’s gotten to the point on some occasions that what masquerades as a debate is little more than a mini-civil war of the groups involved

Postmodern culture transposes discussions of ideas into commentaries about people’s ethnic or racial heritage. Blacks only trust other Blacks, regardless of the nature of the discussion. Whites don’t really believe Blacks or Arabs or Jews, unless and until other Whites make similar statements. Worse, when one person disagrees with another he or she is in danger of being labeled a despiser of the other person’s racial or ethnic heritage.

If I say that I do not agree with a speaker’s religious views I am in danger of being called intolerant, a bigot, insensitive, even a racist. For example, if I say that I am a Christian and, thus, I am not a Muslim, I mean that I disagree with Islamic beliefs about God, the world, the person of Christ, and a number of other theological viewpoints.

I disagree with their religious ideas. I am not attacking people. I do not hate or even necessarily dislike any given Muslim individual or Muslims in general. I certainly do not advocate any harm toward them, nor do I want to curtail their religious freedom.

If I say I am against casino expansion, someone plays the race card and says I am anti-Indian. Yet I am not against Native Americans having or enjoying economic opportunity any more than any other Americans. I just don’t think gambling operations are the answer.

Of course I am not suggesting a person’s demographic characteristics or heritage are unimportant. I’m saying that, typically, one’s race, gender, nationality, or ethnicity has nothing to do with the merits of his or her point of view.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say that our human ecology is irrelevant. In fact, it says God determines the times and places of our lives (Acts 17:26). But the Word also says our speech should be characterized by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

American culture will be better served to remember and revive its democratic heritage, which aligned more closely with Scripture than public discourse today. We need to focus upon what is said more than who said it.

 

© 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.

Child pornography has got to be one of the more despicable crimes an individual can commit. Frankly, it makes me sick to write about it. But it’s real.

In an article in the February 19, 2006 issue of Parade magazine, attorney Andrew Vachss, notes that child pornography is one of the fastest growing “businesses” on the Internet. He observes that the production of child pornography is incredibly inexpensive and easy, requiring only the equipment on can purchase in any discount store. Once a picture is taken and posted in cyberspace that picture lives forever. As Vachss says, “Images on the Internet can never be destroyed. The only things ‘used up’ in the child pornography business are its victims.”

Pornography of all kinds is more available, accessible, and affordable than ever before. Literally, anytime you get on the Internet you are just two clicks away from some of the most morally reprehensible material ever produced. Pornography of any kind is about presumed pleasure and profit. But for the victim it’s about exploitation, abuse, enslavement, violation, emotional destruction, and sometimes physical death. Child pornography simply takes all these tragic outcomes to an even deeper level of debasement.

As Vachss puts it, “No child is capable, emotionally or legally, of consenting to being photographed for sexual purposes. Thus, every image of a sexually displayed child—be it a photograph, a tape or a DVD—records both the rape of the child and an act against humanity.” So called Kiddie porn is egregiously named. There’s nothing cute about it.

As gambling is driven by compulsive gamblers, yet it sucks money from many casual gamblers as well, so child pornography is driven by pedophiles, yet it entices the curious and the emotionally crippled too. Certainly it attracts the corrupt—those who demand the product and those who profit from it. Men are primarily responsible, of course, but women are also participating as purchasers and purveyors, sometimes using their feminine personas to attract and reassure the victims.

Other than pedophiles, probably no one but the most extreme libertarian or maybe no more than a very few members of the American Civil Liberties Union would defend child pornography. It is a heinous crime.

Resources are available for those wanting to help. The National Association to PROTECT Children is one such nonprofit agency.  This organization offers assistance to victims of childhood sexual abuse as well as knowledge and contacts for those wishing to work the political process on behalf of children.

This is admittedly a very ugly subject, but it seems to me that Christians ought to be talking more about it, perhaps even leading the charge for appropriate legal, social, and ministerial response. Obviously we care about child victims. We can also demonstrate care for pedophiles as human beings tragically in the grip of horrendous sin.

I don’t think it is self-contradictory to push for more stringent laws and consistently applied criminal justice for child porn perpetrators even as we work spiritually to reach their hearts. Accountability and forgiveness are twin themes in Scripture from which I and every other believer have benefited. So it can be for those who seem the worst among us.

 

© 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.

 

The defining characteristic of a Christian university is its Christian personnel—faculty and staff members who know Jesus Christ as Savior, who live dedicated Christian lives, who hold biblical doctrines in common, who have learned and can articulate a biblical worldview, and who can apply that biblical worldview to academic disciplines and professional activities.

Without this individual day by day commitment, no doctrinal statement, no set of policies or handbooks, no covenants or lifestyle statements, no rules or standards, no denominational affiliation, no historic affirmations can guarantee that a Christian university will remain truly Christian. What matters is people.

Cornerstone University is blessed with 285 people who fit this definition. I am proud of them and proud to be associated with them. They are intellectually energetic, hard working, dedicated, friendly, and professional. They are careful and critical thinkers. They love the Lord, love their disciplines and professions, love scholarship, love higher education, and love their students—or radio listeners as the case may be.

After nearly 15 years at CU, I know these people well. They are an outstanding body of people. That’s why I sometimes get a little testy when people periodically impugn our faculty and staff members’ integrity or their spiritual maturity or their dedication or their Christian commitment or their academic capability. None of these imputations are fair or accurate.

This outstanding body of people is also why I revel in their accolades. No part of my job is more fun than recognizing the accomplishments of our personnel. Presidents typically get more blame and more kudos than they deserve. I’d rather talk about what our people are achieving, for it’s a great story. God has blessed us with real Christians doing real work for him.

These faculty and staff members join me in affirming these Plumb Line Principles, our university core values:

Biblically Christian – An educational ministry committed to the principles of biblical Christianity, nothing more, and nothing less.

Theologically Conservative – A belief that the Bible is the Word of God in its entirety – inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

Christian Worldview – A Christian philosophy of life and learning forming the basis of the university’s approach to the world, history, and culture.

Intentional Spiritual Formation – A vigorous student spiritual formation program encouraging students to develop their understanding of the biblical faith and their desire to serve God.

Committed Christian Personnel – We want to attract, retain, and develop personnel who are Christians of character, credentials, competence, commitment, and creativity. We want people who look upon and perform their calling with the highest possible professional standards. We expect a Biblical work ethic, and we believe that our people’s talent is God’s greatest blessing upon Cornerstone University.

Quality – We believe that we serve a holy and perfect Creator God Who expects quality as our reasonable service unto Him. We therefore work to create quality in everything we do.

Stewardship – We wish to administer resources, financial, human, and physical, with the clearest expression of integrity, accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness. We believe that our decisions are a sacred trust before God, our students and parents, our personnel, our friends, and the public.

Higher Education – In the university we work to challenge, stimulate, stretch, inform, and motivate our students to serve. We consider teaching and learning a two-way street, with professors and students responsible for their academic work as a form of worship unto God.

Leadership – Christian leadership is not an option but an opportunity. Leaders with character can provide godly direction in a declining culture with no moral vision for its future.

(c) Cornerstone University 2001

Each Cornerstone University faculty and staff members is a born again believer in Jesus Christ, each one annually affirms the university’s doctrinal statement, The Cornerstone Confession, and each one is faithfully involved in an evangelical and biblical church.

 

© 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.