Monday, December 31, 2007

Dump the Dude!

I thought we were finished with the term "dude" after the surfing craze in the 60's. Then there was Fast Times at Ridgemont High with Sean Penn. He was also a dude . . . a So Cal dufus. Jeff Bridges was the ultimate "Dude" in one of my favorite films, "The Big Lebowski." The word "dude" seemed to fit all those genres. But now the term "dude" is totally out of control or haven't you noticed?

"Dude" is in vogue as a title for anyone-mostly male but also female . . . .! There are people whom I only know as "dude." Here's the upside:
If I forget a name, I never lose by calling them "dude."

For the sake of common ground and accuracy here's the wikipedia definition of "dude": The term "dude" is an American English slang word used informally to address a male individual. The word may also be used in the same manner for a female as its counterpart, 'Dudette.' "Dude" may also be used alone in a sentence, serving as an exclamation; denoting a feeling of surprise, happiness, disappointment, amazement or other emotions."

My initial response to the term is that it's harmless.

Yet the more I ponder the term, the more I realize "dude" is a dangerous term. It's a home wrecker . . . capable of ruining friendships . . . destroying all gender distinctives and able to rip away at the very fabric of our culture. Check that out, Dude!

So what's the big deal with this word? Why am I so hung up about "dude"? Here are several examples where "dude" has infiltrated our culture and knocked it down a few notches.

Fathers. Men have to make a decision whether they want their kids to love them or like them. In a must see film for fathers, Life as a House, Kevin Kline has a rebellious, drug addicted son who cannot stand the sight of his dad and tells him he doesn't even like him Kline responds, "I don't want you to like me; I want you to love me."

A lot of fathers are fearful of such language. Dads today want to be liked by their son; they are best friends. They are buds.

Guess what! Your son-whether he is 5 of 15 is not your buddy. He's your son. By calling that precious boy your buddy, you are placing yourself on his level as an equal.

Sure, you should be friends with your kids. But the relationship of father and son is not a buddy system. As a Dad you're to guide, nurture, challenge and hold him accountable to obey your directions and expectations. That doesn't happen with your "buddy." Before you know it, your sixteen year old looks at his "buddy Daddy," and tells him to shove off. He has figured it out: like one of his peers, he doesn't need to obey. Dads, as your son's buddy you've reduced yourself from father to fool. Your son is not your equal. You are the father; he's the son; you are an adult; he's a child. By calling each other buddies, you are teaching your child to disrespect you.

I wince when I hear a 7 or 8 year old call his father by his first name, "Hey John, what do you want to do this afternoon? You are not "John" to that boy; you are "Dad." When my twelve year old slips and calls me "Dude", I don't respond to him. I go totally deaf to his requests. I am not "dude". I'm Dad. I'm not one of his friends or one of his dudes. I'm his father and I have been placed by God in a position of authority in that boy's life. "Dude" does not give off the idea of authority. It's more like a hipster dufus.

Women. Why are girls suddenly calling each others "dude"? I even witnessed two females on Gray's Anatomy call each other by that wretched term. I am speaking of two heterosexual women addressing each other as men; can you see 2 guys calling one another "girlfriend"? Are girls trying to look tough or putting themselves on the same plane as men?

Guess what! It's not sexy nor appealing for a woman to be a "dude." At that point a woman who wants to be called "dude" starts spiraling downward into a dud. Women today are so fearful of their femininity that they must take on masculine terms. I say "dump the dude" when it comes to women. I

Children. My twelve year old is into the "dude" culture. Every one of his friends is now "dude." I asked him recently if his friends all have real names. Are they all "dude"? I wanted to know how they tell each other apart. Yes, the word "dude" is replacing first names. Thank you Sean Penn!

I think parents should spare themselves the agony of naming their kids and looking through baby name books. Make it easy and call him "Dude." Eventually, if this culture stays on the same road for the next twenty years, he will be called "dude" anyway. Name him "dude". Name every male "dude." Dude for President! Glad to meet you President Dude.

Officials. Will we reach a point in our culture where we will call officials by the term "Dude." Can you imagine getting stopped by a police officer and you fail to address him as "officer" but you refer to him as "dude." Are you going to talk Officer Dude out of a traffic ticket? I don't think he's going to buy your story. Sorry Dude!

Bottom line: let's start laying off "dude" and return to names that demonstrate respect like Dad or Father. I want to hear first names drift back into our culture and women show respect for one another. Finally, fearing the "dude revolution" may never stop, I fear the day when kids call their teachers and other respected officials, "dude"

You can guess where this is all heading: Our Dude who art in heaven . . . God forbid!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

People Get Ready . . . There's a Train a Coming

The New Year is almost here. It's time for resolutions, commitments and vows of restoration. 2008 is an opportunity to make new decisions to change our ways and to take off on new ventures

This week I heard a sermon by Alistair Begg that seemed to affirm my thinking about the New Year. Begg said, "God gives you the ticket for the next leg of your journey only after you start the journey."

Alistair used the example of Corrie Ten Boom who, as a young woman, planned to take a trip by train in several months. Corrie told her father about the trip and asked him to purchase the train ticket in advance. He did not seem to be in a rush as his daughter was. So he put off buying the the ticket.

Corrie reminder her Dad about the ticket almost every day. By nagging her father it appeared she did believe he would buy the ticket. She wanted the ticket in her possession before she embarked on the trip.

Finally, the day of the trip arrived. On the day she actually began her expedition, Corrie's father gave her the ticket.

Begg commented, "God only gives you the ticket you need after you started on your journey."

If you want 2008 to be a year of stagnancy, my best advice is to wait. That's right. Do nothing. Just wait and you will enjoy 365 days of inertia. You will spend the new year, looking for a ticket, asking the Lord to give you that ticket in order to make that journey into a new career or to fulfill a dream you've been talking about for almost a decade.

You know what I mean. Each year you hear yourself say, "This is the year, God is going to hand me that ticket. This is the year!"

Let's try something really new this year.

I suggest you spend the year hanging around train stations . . . without a ticket. What do I mean?

If you want to change your career, spend this year researching that new occupation; interview people already in the career you want to enter; arrange some way where you can offer your time volunteering to help in an office where you can see your dream job in action; and live as though you are already in the job and see if it is a good fit.

In other words, begin the journey before you get the ticket.

If God is who He says He is. He will be on time to give you that ticket. However, you have to spend time hanging around the station.

Whatever it is you want from the Lord, do your homework. Become an expert on a town or state you want to move to. Become as smart as a doctor on an illness you want to see God being healing to.

If you're interested in a person for a possible relationship, find out who he or she is. Tear down the walls of illusion and fantasy. Ask around and check this potential mate out through the eyes of others. You might discover you really don't want to embark on any journey with that person. He may turn out to be a total dud!

The same is true for financial decisions or making major purchases such as a house or new car. Do your homework. Don't settle for anything else but the real thing. Don't make a sour deal into a good one just because you really want it.

So, let's agree to not spend the year waiting for a ticket. Begin the journey.

Even if there's no train in the station, it is going to come. Yes, you'll need a ticket. But once the train pulls into the station, be sure this train in headed in the direction that matches the desire of your heart. God will honor your choice to step on the train, knowing you did your research and made a wise choice. He will also honor your decision to not step on that train, knowing you're not operating out of impulsive emotions but out of wisdom and a solid trust in Him.

God does not push people onto trains nor in the path of oncoming trains. You've heard the Christian cliche: if you don't want to go to Africa to be a missionary, then that's the place God wants you to go. What rubbish! So when we speak of God giving us the desires of our heart as in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart," are we to think He really means to say, "He will give you the desires of His own heart and discount your needs?"

Why do we play such games with God? He made us and He knows our talents, skills and passions. He works in accordance with the person He has made us to be. We are not robots or God's puppets. Trust Him that when you step on that train to your next destination, it will be a choice both pleasing to you and to Him.

My New Year's resolution? All aboard!!!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Happy Holiday Season from Joseph, Mary and Jesus

It would be shocking to receive a Christmas card from Joseph and Mary showing the family posing for a group portrait. There's baby Jesus being held by his proud mother showing off her new infant.

In fact, I take it the only family who really have any bragging rights on their child during this time of the year would be the parents of the Messiah of Israel.

Yet during the Christmas rush I receive card after card portraying lovely families with beautiful, happy children. On some cards, if the kids are off to college or married, a photo of husband and wife is satisfactory.

The greeting that accompanies the card usually says: Greetings during this holiday season! Love from the Gutenberg family."

Some cards come with those much anticipated updates on a year's full of antics by the kids. . . their school activities, grade, honors and trophies and extra curricular events such as baseball, soccer and karate. Some newsletters describe Aunt Sally's goiter and Uncle Tom's prostate infections and changing bowel habits. A full-on description of how the family's house is being decorated and how Dad received a promotion . . . Give me a Christmas break!

I often ask, "Do I need to know all this information about your family during Christmas?" Isn't this time of the year when we should really only about one child. . . and one special family.

Most of these family portrait cards say nothing about Jesus or mention any biblical truths drawn out of the early chapters of the Gospels describing the Messiah's birth.

Am I dense? I don't get it. What does a family portrait card have to do with Christmas and this holy time of year?

How about this suggestion? Pass a federal or state law making February 19th or any other date, "Family Day." On this day we send all our friends cards with family portraits with three page newsletters describing how Johnny's front teeth fell out and little Cindy's had her first dance recital. That would be wonderful.

But when it comes to Christmas, I wonder if Jesus is saying, "Hey you, get off my cloud." This time is about Him not your kids or my kids. Why send cards that say nothing when Christians have a greatest message in the world?

What did the angel say to the shepherds? Listen carefully: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11 NIV). Now that's a Christmas card. Joseph and Mary could take a portrait of themselves and print those words from Luke 2 and make that their Christmas greetings.

Now some followers of Messiah are afraid to offend secular people or their family by including in a card any allusion to the New Testament message of the birth of Christ. My response? Don't send a card if you can't be honest about your beliefs. No one is going to discover "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son" by looking at your family all decked out in your front yard wearing reindeer sweaters and Santa hats.

I know . . this year the cards have gone out. It's too late to make a change. But during Christmas '08 let's be sure to send cards that say something about the Lord instead of postcards that say something about us. The name of the holiday is "Christ"-mas not "Family"-mas.

Perhaps if we treated Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Jesus and our observance of the incarnation (God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth), secular people would respect our spiritual choices. How can they believe the good news unless they hear the message?

Thank God the first chapter of Matthew and the first two chapters of Luke's gospel were not presented on a postcard from Bethlehem showing the adoring parents of Jesus admiring their son with the message: Happy holidays and a wonderful New Year from Joseph, Mary and Jesus.

Where would we be if that's the message the parents of Jesus decided to send the world?

Seriously . . . I wish you all a joyous Christmas. Thanks for reading my blog. I desire you all have a Messiah centered celebration of our Risen Lord Yeshua and a wonderful New Year giving honor to and serving Him.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rear Ended by Another Language

I'm driving North on the 101 Ventura Freeway. It's 5:10 pm. It's dark. The traffic is heavy . . . stop and go. A typical Wednesday night drive in overcrowded Los Angeles.

I cross the intersection where the 405 meets the 101. I travel about 1/2 mile and notice an ocean of red stop lights before me. I come to a stop safely behind a vehicle. I look into my rear view mirror, and I see the car behind me is coming full speed right at my car. It doesn't look the vehicle is going to stop. I brace myself for the impact. I place my foot on the brake to see if I can prevent my car from hitting the auto in front of me. At least I can spare myself some frontal damage as my car is about to absorb some heavy impact.

The collision occurs. I am hit hard. Metal crunching metal. I am so upset. I calm down after the impact. I am wearing a seat belt, and I'm in a Volvo. A winning combination for an LA guy from New Jersey.

I pull over to the shoulder of the road, hoping the other car will follow suit and not take off. It's LA . . . remember. The other vehicle, a Mercury van crosses the lanes to the right hand side of the road. I get out of my car and four Hispanic women exit the other vehicle.

None of them speak English. I've been rear ended by another language. This is one of those times when it would really help if we all spoke the same language. . . specifically the tongue of America . . . English . . . as a first language.

I knew I needed to get insurance information, the driver's California driver's license number, her phone number and license plate number. But for them not knowing English, this was going to be interesting and very frustrating.

I asked for the basics. Instead of responding to me, they spoke to each other trying to figure out what I was requesting. So I took over. I asked for the woman's purse and copied her driver's license info. She could not understand my request for her insurance company's name and policy number. The car's license plate was a no brainer.

But the experience was frustrating. For those in California who feel Hispanics do not need to learn English, here is a prime example of a situation where the lack of communication was a hindrance. When I spoke to the claims adjuster at Allstate the next day he asked me all kinds of questions I could not answer because I could not ask any of these women due to the language barrier.

Thank God her husband knew some English. While at the scene of the accident, she called him on her cell phone and we spoke. I was able to retrieve some more information despite his partially English accent.

He was also a very honest individual who called me the next day and gave me the rest of the information I needed.

So do people from other countries who come into the USA, need to learn English? Should a grasp of the English language be a requirement to become a U.S. citizen?

My response is predictable. My Jewish ancestors who came to America from Eastern Europe to escape whoever was persecuting them, thought learning English was a the greatest privilege. To these immigrants, the ability to speak the language of America was a cause for pride. For the one who spoke English could truly boast with pride, "I'm an American now!"

We've lost this sense of American dignity in the name of sensitivity and political correctness towards Latinos. Why are they getting a free pass? Why do English speaking people need to sidestep the reality that it is frustrating to have to communicate important information to people who can't understand a word we're saying.

English is the language of the United States. Spanish is the language of Mexico. If you are going to be a citizen of either country, one should be required to learn the native tongue.

if not, the next time you or I are rear ended, you might need some vital information that cannot be gained. What if the driver was hurt, needed medical attention and was allergic to some medications? Are the paramedics going to be required to speak Spanish to gain important medical data? Will they have to take an interpreter with them? What if there is a Hebrew speaking person who is injured or a Chinese individual? Will we need to bring an ambulance full of U.N. interpreters to accompany the paramedics every time they answer a 911 call?

Let's stop the political correctness rhetoric and not allow ourselves to be rear ended by another language.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christians Forgiving Muslims. What's Next?

According to Dhimmi Watch Christian leaders recently signed a document in response to an open letter from 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals affirming the common ground between the two faiths. The Christian response to this letter was to ask Muslims to forgive Christians for their past and present transgressions against the followers of Muhammed.

The Christian document started off saying, "We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the “war on terror”) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors."

According to the description of the Muslim letter contained in this article, the Islamic authorities spoke of the common ground between Christians and those of the Islamic faith. The Christian letter goes on to say, "We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians worldwide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbours."

It all sounds wonderful and warm and thoughtful. In fact, the signers on the document range from Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church to a Vineyard pastor. Jim Wallis of the left leaning Sojourners is included along with Robert Schuller and a host of other evangelical and liberal Protestant types. Most distressing is to see the names of evangelical greats like Bill Hybels noted pastor of Willow Creek Church, theologian John Stott of All Souls Church and the President of Fuller Theological Seminary, Richard Mouw.

I find this to be quite amusing since the Crusades did not happen under the auspices of the Protestant Church but the Roman Catholic Church. It was in 1095 Pope Urban II who preached the First Crusade and inspired the Crusaders to capture Jerusalem in 1099 from the Islamic Turks. Shouldn't the Pope be the one who is apologizing to the Muslims on behalf of the Roman Catholic militants who attacked Jerusalem?

Since these Protestant dignitaries feel the need to ask forgiveness of a religious faith (Islam) that attacked Western Christendom for centuries, how about these Christians ask forgiveness on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the way they mistreated and killed Jewish people during the Crusades? Synagogues were burned to the ground with Jewish worshippers inside while Crusaders sang Christian hymns. Rick Warren, Robert Schuiller, Jim Wallis, are you ready to ask forgiveness on behalf of the Catholic Church for their butchering of Jews during the Crusades?

Do these men have any idea of what they are doing? Have we now reached a place in evangelical Christianity that all we need to do is to say the word "forgiveness," and we have a willing crowd ready to sign on the dotted line? As a US citizen should I apologize to a Brit for the American revolutionaries rebelling against King George? I remember attending a Promise Keeper event where Christians were asked to stand and ask God to forgive us for the way we as Americans treated Native American Indians. I was bewildered. My Jewish ancestors didn't do a thing to Native Americans. I refused to stand.

If one reads Christian history, it is painfully obvious that Muslims need to apologize to the Christians for sacking Jerusalem over and over until it fell to Islamic rule. In essence it is the Islamic leaders who need to apologize for destroying all of Christendom in North Africa and the Middle East and Spain. It is the Muslim leaders who need to ask forgiveness for forcibly converting everyone in their path, from Berber pagans to Afghani Buddhists. For those who would not convert to the Islamic offer of an All-Merciful Allah, the alternative was death.

For the record it was in 807 that Caliph Harun al—Rashid orders the destruction of non—Muslim prayer houses and of the church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem. Has any one heard any Muslim apology for the destruction of a Christian house of worship. God to Jihad Watch and read the list of Muslim aggression against Byzantine Christianity that went on for centuries until the Christian Crusades rose up in response.

If anyone should apologize, it should be these evangelical leaders for putting forth such a preposterous offer of pardon to a bloodthirsty religion that has done far worse than Middle Age Christianity has ever done. At least present day Christianity has reformed itself and no longer seeks the threat of death as an evangelistic tool!

Don't forget that these Christian men also extended forgiveness for the "excesses of the “war on terror”". I want to fall over faint when I read that absurdity. Yes, there have been excesses at Abu Grahib and Guantanamo. But it was aimed against political prisoners and suspected terrorist not newspaper journalists like Daniel Perl. Where are the apologies for the televised Islamic inspired beheadings? Where is the outcry from Islamic clerics for the repeated car bombings against Iraqi civilians and persecutions against Christians in Iraq?

My Christian brothers like Rick Warren and Jim Wallis need a history lesson on what took place in the holy city of Jerusalem after the Romans razed the city. Where is the apology from the Italians to the Jews for destroying Jerusalem?

Why are Christians so ready to offer forgiveness when there is no repentance? Jesus said in Luke 17:3-4, "If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The key motivation for forgiveness in these verses is repentance. Have I missed out on an Islamic request for pardon with a full on repentance for all its atrocities?

Also, I am waiting for an Protestant Christian offer of forgiveness to the Jewish people for the Catholic led Inquisitions during the Middle Ages which included forced conversions and baptisms, torture and massacres aimed at the Jewish inhabitants of Europe. Did I miss that too?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don Imus is Not the Problem

Eight months after the controversy that made Don Imus a national lightning rod for accusations of being a racist, the radio personality has returned to the air.

Imus, according to news reports, was contrite and spoke of his error as "reprehensible" in using a racist and sexist slur in referring to the Rutgers University women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos." Back in April when he made his thoughtless comments, Imus met with the female athletes for four hours. He vowed after that encounter to "never say anything in my life that will make those young woman . . . feel foolish that they forgave me." Despite his contriteness, Imus' comments led to his quick dismissal after just one week.

Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters for America, said to the Washington Post of Imus, "Don Imus has an opportunity to show the American people that he has learned from his experience -- that the bigoted insults he once leveled on a regular basis have no place on the public's airwaves." Assuming Imus makes regular ethnic slurs on the airwaves, he cannot be excused.

I do not excuse Imus' irresponsible comments made eight months ago. Philip Nobile, a freelance moralist, noted that "Imus needs to apologize for a lifetime of bigotry." Yes, Imus has an issue. A serious issue.

But he is not the issue.

The real and deeper issue is the consistent usage of these racist comments by African American rap singers.

When the Imus storm broke, Oprah invited to her show the Rutgers Women Basketball team plus several music industry moguls and a "clean" rap star. The take away from the show was a promise made by the music industry crowd to host meetings to discuss the usage of offensive language in rap songs.

On a recent Hannity and Colmes show, Sean Hannity asks some of his guests whether any rap stars were fired in the past eight months because of racially offensive language in their songs. The guests evaded any answer.

So what we do conclude from this white/black interchange of racial comments? Are African American rap singers held to a lower standard of intolerance than whites? Listen to the lyrics of the rap star 50 Cent in his song ,"That Ain't Gangsta" (please excuse the repeated references to the "N" word):

How you gonna take this? like a Man or a bitch?
you gon' get it on nigga or you gon' snitch?
I represent niggas in the hood gettin' rich
man, I stack chips and I unload clips
after 3 Summers in the joint I thought life was hard
some niggas started fightin', some niggas found God
you know me, started sellin' leek in the yard

Offensive enough? He makes Don Imus look like a pussycat. Why is 50 Cent allowed to use the "N" word? Just because he's black? That doesn't matter. It's a racist ugly term whether it comes from the mouth of an African American or a Caucasian. Unfortunately, the term has become commonplace among blacks and used as a greeting. I grew up in Newark, NJ in the sixties. Unfortunately, I speak as an eyewitnesss.

As a Jew I would be highly offended if a fellow Jewish person said hello to me using the "K" word or any other antisemitic term. I have a lot of Italian friends and the only time I have ever heard an ugly word used to describedanother Italian is when they are angry at that person or the other individual did something despicable. I've never heard an Italian refer to another Italian using a racial slur in a commonplace manner.

The problem is not Don Imus. The problem is a lack of respect among African Americans in how they speak to one another and how the rap artists sing to each other.

I could never imagine Martin Luther King referring to his staff using the "N" word. Listen to the speeches of Bill Cosby asking blacks to stop using the "N" word.

The only thing wrong about Imus' comment is that it came out of a white mouth. If he was Black, that would not have been a problem . . . so it appears.

How do I know? Listen to the lyrics of Soulja Body in their recent 2007 song Crank That Soulja Boy:
Soulja Boy Off In This Hoe
Watch Me Crank It
Watch Me Roll
Watch Me Crank Dat Soulja Boy
Then Super Man Dat Hoe
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)
Now Watch Me Do
(Crank Dat Soulja Boy)

Do you see the "H" word? Isn't this word a put down on African American women, calling them "hos"? Why does Soulja Boy get a free pass referring to Black women with a term that got a white man fired from his job? Something is wrong with this picture. . . terribly wrong. I call it "injustice."

Meetings among music industry gangsta rap executives will not change a thing. As bold as WABC was in firing Imus, there needs to be more courageous firings in the music media.

Martin Luther King use to warn of the ideology of gradualism, the idea that eventually and gradually using meetings and speeches, civil rights for Blacks with eventually change. Dr. King rejected that idea and called for immediate action. When I hear African American record executives speak of dealing with racially offensive language in rap songs by having meetings, it's gradualism all over again.

Want to make gradualism go away? Stop buying rap artist's CDs until something changes. I am speaking to white suburban types who purchase this music. I am speaking to the African American community and their need to rise up with the likes of Bill Cosby and say, "Enough is enough. Clean it up. No more "N" words in your music. Stop accusing whites like Don Imus for using racial slurs while you use them yourself." It's an issue of self-respect and the Black community has accomplished quite a lot to be proud of and has produced some incredible leaders and intellects to create a deep sense of pride.

As a white man . . . a Jewish white man . . I say "Stamp out the 'N' word from Rap music." The time is now.