Monday, August 15, 2011

Major League Adball

I love baseball but I despise anything that takes away from the purity of the game.  Steroids. Gambling. Scandals. Strikes. You name it.

During this past Sunday's afternoon game between the cellar-hugging Houston Astros and the barely surviving Los Angeles Dodgers, I was excited to witness three home runs slugged into the stands by several Dodgers. One of those home run champs was Bellflower native Justin Sellers, whose contract with the Dodgers was just purchased this week. What a joy to witness a young rookie hit his first career home run.  Now that's baseball purity at its finest.

Yet when centerfielder Matt Kemp shot his 28th homer out of Dodger Stadium, I noticed an impurity take place inside the stadium.  Amidst the usual home run fanfare with dazzling lights and loud music, the center field scoreboard started flashing the words, "State Farm."  I was confused.  I thought Matt Kemp hit the ball out of the park not State Farm.

Dodger Stadium 8/14/11 iPhone Photo
Then on the cascade that runs around the stadium below the Loge seats, the following bright letters were flashing alternately to the delight of the fans:  "Home Run - State Farm  Matt Kemp -  State Farm."

I wondered to myself, "Is State Farm on the Dodger roster? Does manager Don Mattingly know this? Who is State Farm?  Why is his name being flashed on the main scoreboard along with Matt Kemp's?

And one other thought. I don't want to be thinking about auto insurance while watching Matt Kemp run around the bases.

The only conclusion I can come to is that State Farm Insurance wants the fans to associate their company with a home run.  Their thinking must be:  "As you enjoy this four bagger hit by a member of your home town team, remember State Farm insurance is the home run of all the insurance companies. Hit one out of the park by calling State Farm as you leave Dodger Stadium today."

I was resentful, and on top of everything . . .  I have State Farm for my car insurance!

Major League Adball is going too far by brazenly ruining memorable baseball moments by pushing products in our faces while we're trying to soak in the game.  Who wants to be bombarded with ads for pistachio nuts or Wetzel's Pretzels after the third baseman makes a diving catch and manages to throw out the runner heading into first base?

My suggestion is to only play the ads in between innings just like they run ads in between segments during TV shows.

I don't want to watch no-hitters or perfect games peppered with commercials for upcoming movies. I'd rather enjoy the tensions associated with with the game of professional baseball.

Sorry to say this, State Farm, if I didn't already own your product, I would intentionally avoid buying it because you ruin home run moments.  I'm just too lazy to switch insurance companies and I happen to like my agent.

As the baseball season is starting to wind down my prediction for the World Series involves  two of the following four teams:  American League: Boston Red Sox or the  New York Yankees. National League:  San Francisco Giants or the Philadelphia Phillies. Regardless of who wins, I surely don't want to see a State Farm ad being flashed on the stadium scoreboard when the World Series team is finally crowned.

Friday, August 12, 2011

McInerney Trial Reveals What's Wrong with America's Culture Part 2

There's a lot wrong with America right now. From the moral failures of politicians, religious leaders, educators to blue collar workers, we are witnessing an unprecedented disintegration of values affecting every aspect of life in the good 'ole USA.

The McInerney trial unfolding in a courtroom in Chatsworth, CA is a prime example of America's moral breakdown.

In my last blog I discussed the failure of O. E. Green Middle School officials to step in and do their job when they witnessed acts of unwanted sexual advances by 14-year-old gay student Larry King towards15-year-old heterosexual male student Brandon McInerney.

Whether or not King's actions led to his fatal shooting by fellow classmate McInerney, we'll never know. King's flamboyant homosexual behavior and  feminine clothing may have nothing to do with his tragic death.  However, we cannot squelch the fact that school officials knew a volatile tension was building in the school between King and other students.  In step with the breakdown of values in this country, the O. E. Green school staff did nothing to intervene.

Fingers are pointing at Assistant Vice Principal Joy Epstein for not doing her job of enforcing the California educational code regarding sexual harassment in the case of Larry King.  Epstein, a lesbian, was more concerned with gay rights than she was in the safety of O. C. Green Middle School student. With Epstein the gay rights agenda took precedence over the greater value of protecting a student who was crossing the line with his display of sexuality. Epstein did nothing to enforce the school dress code in the case of the gay student though King's teacher's complained about the student's outlandish behavior.

According to  Brandon's history teacher, Arthur Saenz, the day before King was shot, Brandon displayed a lot of anger and rage in his conversation with his friends. It might have been due to the fact King had asked Brandon to be his valentine, and McInerney's friends were making fun of him.

While McInerney was raging to his friends on the school grounds,  Assistant Principal Epstein surveyed the scene, and according to Saenz, Epstein wagged two fingers at Brandon and said something about "rights." Was she supporting King in his unwanted sexual advances towards McInerney?  Would she have done the same thing if a heterosexual girl was being sexually taunted by one of the boys?  Furthermore, what does sexual harassment by a gay student have to do with "gay rights"? As you can see, Epstein's favoritism towards King is very explosive as well as another example of our moral breakdown.

Saenz was asked in the Chatsworth courtroom if he thought King was sexually harassing Brandon, why did he fail to report it as required by state law.  "I thought Ms. Epstein was handling that. She's an administrator and it is  her job to handle that situation, not mine," said Seanz.

Not all fingers should point at O. C. Green Middle School.  A dark deep shadow is also cast over the McInerney family and their failure to protect Brandon.

According to the August 4th edition of the Ventura County Star, Brandon's half brother James Bing testified that Brandon was sexually abused as a child by a cousin.

Billy McInerney, Brandon' step-father, now deceased, expressed his belief after the shooting that his son shot King because of the abuse.

Unfortunately, the abuse Brandon McInerney experienced did not stop with his cousin taking sexual advantage of the boy. Bing also detailed instances of physical abuse that Billy McInerney would level on his stepsons, including putting Tabasco sauce in their mouths while they slept and beating them with a bar of soap inside a sock.

When Brandon's half brother was asked by Maeve Fox, Ventura County senor deputy district attorney, why nobody ever called police over the sexual abuse, he responded, "He's still family."

The commitment to protect the family unit was more important than protecting Brandon from a sexually perverse relative.  Hence, another example of the breakdown of values in America. but now in the family unit.

Assistant Vice Principal Dawn Epstein and James Bing are guilty of the same failure to protect the innocent in order to support another set of personal priorities - gay rights or family reputation.

On Thursday August 5th Brandon's aunt Megan Csorba, sister of Billy McInerney testified her brother would sit on his son until he couldn't breathe, pull his thumb back until he screamed and punch him in the face.

Brandon's aunt added that the boy's step father would verbally abuse his son, berating him and calling him names. Billy McInerney, according to his sister, was often smoking pot and popping pills.  The abuse of his son would grow worse when he was on drugs. Csorba also testified that Kendra, Brandon's mother smoked crystal methamphetamine when she was pregnant with Brandon.

The real kicker came when when Fox asked Csorba if she ever called the authorities after witnessing the abusive craziness at the house. "No," the aunt commented. "I was going through my own abuse, and I was not going to do that to my brother." Another adult who failed to act in a mature, responsible fashion and report abuse that was happening to a minor.  She'd rather protect the abuser and ignore the victim.

If you put this all together, it's clear that a group of adults were passing the buck, protecting themselves and making decisions out of total self interest.

Teachers failed to report King's overtly gay dress because they were concerned about their tenure and being politically correct about their views on homosexuality.  These teachers had no problems giving special treatment to Larry King because he was gay. The same treatment was not offered to heterosexual students when they broke school dress code rules.

Finally, we witness family members who dropped the ball on reporting both physical and sexual abuse taking place to one of their family members.  Instead, they chose to protect the abuser out of  a need to protect the reputation of a seriously dysfunctional and amoral family.

Is there something wrong with values in America?  If you look hard enough into the details of the McInerney case, you can't help but notice this trial is a microcosm of the loss of values in America.

Friday, August 5, 2011

McInerney Trial Reveals What's Wrong with America's Culture Part 1

Chatsworth Courthouse
I can't stop reading about the McInerney trial currently being tried in Chatsworth, CA. This case is so important as a commentary on our culture of tolerance.

Brandon McInerney, 17 is charged with murder and a hate crime in connection with the death of gay student Larry King.  Both boys attended O.C. Green Middle School three years ago at the time of the murder.

As the trial unfolds in its fifth week, more data is being disclosed about the McInerney family, the behavior of Larry King and the poor oversight exercised by the E.O. Green Middle School staff.  Most significant is the more we learn about the players in this senseless crime, the more we are faced with the  lack of values in our society and how it has hurt us.

Special Privileges Given to Minority Groups Have Backfired
Larry King, according to Susan Crowley, King's seventh-grade special education teacher, "desperately wanted to be liked, but he didn't have the social skills to get along with his peers."  King showed up to her class wearing a pink scarf. When he was told to remove it, he defiantly came to school the next day wearing jewelry and makeup.

Crowley surmised King's flamboyant clothing was designed "to draw negative attention to himself."  She remarked that former Assistant Principal Joy Epstein was not being truthful when she claimed King's behavior was being adequately addressed by the school staff and  according to Epstein "only a small minority of people were bothered by King's clothing". We find out from additional testimony that Epstein's perspective is sadly skewed.

E. O. Green Middle School is a California public school -  not a place to display or "test case" one's sexual orientation.  Larry King did not come to school for the education but to educate others about gay rights in the way he behaved.

During Monday's trial, Crowley was asked if she thought Assistant Principal Epstein, a lesbian, empowered King.  Crowley answered yes.

Since King's  feminine dress was well known among teacher and administrators, it's evident Epstein ignored the complaints about the disruptive behavior King was causing.  Why?  She provided special privileges to a child that was of her same sexual persuasion.

E. O. Green's Assistant Principal was acting out of self interest as a gay person, She was more concerned with the issue of "gay rights" than performing her job as an educator and administrator.

Another teacher, Shirley Brown, a seventh grade instructor, argued in court Epstein was not addressing the issue of King's behavior and its impact on students.

Epstein put her gay lifestyle first.  How tragic that she could not see King as a human being crying out for help.

To make matters worse, Jill Ekman, King's seventh=grade English teacher tried to get King to not call so much attention to himself. When she saw King wearing makeup in the eight grade, she told him to remove it.

To no avail, King came to class the next day wearing more makeup. King claimed Assistant Principal Epstein had given him permission to wear the makeup.  She told him it was within his constitutional rights to do so.

Face it, Larry King was pushing his homosexual identity in the faces of  his fellow student and a lesbian Assistant Vice Principal was backing him up.

An email was also sent out from the school office instructing teachers that Larry King's attire was allowed. The email directed E. O. Green teachers to instruct their students to become more tolerant. This did not stop King from disrupting other students.

What if a heterosexual girl came to school exposing herself and trying to grab attention. She'd be disciplined.

Gay rights within the context of a school or working environment stop at the door where certain rules are ignored to make one's homosexuality the central focus. This is not homophobic, but an observation of the behavior of Larry King and the failure of the school to treat him like  any other student.

Sexual Harassment Even by A Gay Person is Not to be Tolerated
Larry King took his sexual orientation another step further than just his clothing.

Jill Ekman told the court that the boys in the Middle School were having problems with King.  The boys who had any connection with King were being called gay.  At a time in the life of a young man when masculine identity is important being called gay can be devastating.  Like it or not, this is how it is in Middle School. No amount of taxpayer financed, state supported classes in the public school about homosexuality are going to change that,.Boys will be boys.

In another incident Ekman explained there was a rumor going around the school that King asked McInerney to be his valentine.  She also pointed out boys complained to her that King was chasing them into the bathroom.  King laughed when the teacher warned him that his behavior was inappropriate. Emboldened by the Assistant Vice Principal,  King felt his behavior was acceptable.

Ekman went to Epstein to complain about King's advances towards other boys [aka sexual harassment], but Epstein closed the door on her informing the teacher there was nothing she could do about it.

Regardless of Epstein's personal sexuality, she has a duty to take any reports of sexual harassments or unwanted sexual advances among the students seriously.

This is how far our culture has come with the issue of gay rights. People are afraid to comment when a person's rights turn into privileges that break rules everyone else must adhere to. Even in a case where a gay student is sexually harassing his peers is being ignored.

No one will ever know how much the special treatment afforded to Larry King was a contributing factor leading to his tragic shooting.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How are Christians Living in the Palestinian Territories Treated?

What about the fate of Christians living under the rule of the Palestinian Authority?

At a 2009 Vineyard National Leadership Conference in Galveston, Texas, Palestinian Christian Sami Awad, founder of the Holy Land Trust told his evangelical audience the Christian population in the Palestinian territories is shrinking. 

In the area governed by the PA, 27,000 Christians live among 3 million Muslims. Mitchell Bard in his book Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, agrees with Sami Awad that the "proportion of Christians in the Palestinian territories has dropped from 15 percent of the Arab population in 1950 to less than 1 percent today."

Sami Awad, in his Vineyard speech did not qualify why the Palestinian Christian population is dwindling.  He leaves his hearers with the implication the Israeli soldiers bear the brunt of the blame.

Sami seems to forget that when Muslim authorities have control in whatever Arab country they reside, Christians do not always fair well. So tell me, Sami, how is it the Christian population in Israel proper is growing if the "Israelis are to blame for the shrinking Palestinian Christian population?" 

The Christian population declined 29 percent in the West Bank and 20 percent in the Gaza Strip from 1997. Does it have anything to do with the fact Christians are generally unwelcome in Arab countries dominated by Muslims.  Even today Islamic extremists are burning Coptic churches in Egypt as a sign of their disgust towards Christianity.

2004 NY Times article reported how Palestinian Christians were leaving Bethlehem and other historically Christian towns in the West Bank. Unsurprisingly, the article pinned the blame for the Christian exodus on the Israelis:
Four years of violence, an economic free fall and the Israeli separation barrier have all contributed to the hardships facing Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem, one of the largest concentrations of Christians in the region.
The Times piece failed to give the real reason for the Christian migration - official and unofficial Muslim discrimination against Arab Christians, amid a rising tide of Islamism in the Palestinian territories. Sure, it's possible the economic problems in the West Bank and the Israeli security wall  have contributed to Christians leaving the Palestinian territories. Yet it must be noted the Christian population is dwindling in the rest of the  Islamic world as well.

Like Sami Awad the NY Times article did not mention the Christian population within Israel's borders is growing. In the period 1995 – 2003 Israel’s Arab Christian population grew from 101,400 to 115,700, a growth rate of 14.1 percent.  Today there are 145,000 followers of Christ living in Israel!

Sticking out like a sore thumb Palestinian Christians like Sami Awad do not want to treat is the fact Palestinian Christians are the victims of Islamic violence in the PA.  A 2002 Boston Globe article underscored the fact Christians in the Palestinian territories are not safe:
... details were emerging of a rampage of Palestinian Muslims against Christian shops and churches in Ramallah after a road-rage slaying last Thursday. 
... police made no attempt to stop the mob, which besieged and damaged a widely respected youth center associated with the Boy Scouts of America after torching the Christian properties. Palestinian police and security agencies finally stepped in when the rioters moved on local churches. 
... "The truth is this is a problem between Christians and Muslims," said one Christian businessman. "There is no security for us. Everyone is taking the law in his own hands. 
... "This [accused] man's brother, they burned his house, his shops, his cars, and the police of Ramallah stood by and watched. This is the democracy of Palestine?" .. "The chief of security at Kalandia was in charge of this rampage," said a Muslim shopkeeper. "The mayor of Ramallah came, saw what was happening, and withdrew. I am a Muslim, but I condemn this. These are savage people." 
"We do not have democracy; we do not have security," he said. "The fault is with our leaders and our society. We need to clean up our society."
Additional information on how Palestiniann Christians are treated in Palestinian controlled areas is found in a report compiled by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs written by David Raab entitled The Beleaguered Christians of Palestine Controlled Areas.

Sami Awad must be asleep when he points his finger at Israelis for causing the migration of Palestinian Christians from the territories. Awad has a lot of explaining to do when he trashes the Israeli military for treating his people so poorly when Palestinian Muslim vigilantes are taking the law into their own hands and heaping havoc on the Christians.  Sami would rather make the IDF the culprit for their problems since they are an easier target.  Do you blame him?

Knowing this information, we see how bad Palestinian Christians look when they attempt to pin all the blame for their problems on the Israelis. They are even willing to buy into the thinking that says the Palestinians are victims of the Jewish state "much like Jesus Himself."
 Even PLO leader Yasser Arafat tried to do a makeover on the historical Jesus to transform Him into the first radical Palestinian armed freedom fighter or fedayeen.

Today Bethlehem Bible College is calling their 2012 conference Christ at the Checkpoint: Hope in the Midst of Conflict. The name of the conference Christ at the Checkpoint depicts the Jewish Jesus as a Palestinian under scrutiny at an Israeli IDF checkpoint.  How absurd! Jesus was never scrutinized by military authorities in his day for carrying weapons or having a bomb strapped to His back. What a slap in the face to Christianity and the biblical significance of Christ.

Don't forget the official religion of the PA is Islam.  The PA has not stopped Islamic clerics giving speeches in mosques in the Palestinian territory in which they brand Christians (and Jews) as infidels. What comfort does a Palestinian Christian have listening to the violent military Islamic rhetoric and actions of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbolleh?

I doubt if Sami Awad would go around to pastors conferences in the U.S. complaining about the Muslim's treatment of Palestinian Christians for fear of retaliation.  Mum is the word for Sami when it comes to the harassment Palestinian Christians experience from the Isalmic thugs who plunder the property of Christians under the watchful eye of the PA (Maariv, 12/24/01). 

Sami failed to tell his gullible Christian audience that when the Palestinian War started in 2000 Palestinian Muslims attacked Palestinian Christians in Gaza. Many Muslims at that time viewed the Palestinian Christians as a fifth column for Israel.  Christians are not treated so great in Palestine - a fact Sami Awad does not want to speak of lest he stir American Christian animosity towards Muslims.  

Why didn't Awad speak of the anti-Christian graffiti found in Bethlehem claiming, "First the Saturday people (the Jews) then the Sunday people (Christians)." Christian cemeteries have been defaced, monasteries have had their phone lines cut and break-ins at convents have occurred in the PA territories. Palestinians Christians live under pressure from Islamic extremists to swear loyalty to the PA and to support the attacks against Israel.  

Awad preaches to the Vineyard crowd that as a Christian he is to "love his enemies", the Israeli soldiers.  He never actually tells how he shows love to Israeli soldiers patrolling in the Palestinian territories.  In light of the injustices shown by Muslims towards Christians, Sami and the non-violent evangelicals need to show the love to the radicals in his own Islamic backyard of three million Palestinian Muslims. 

Perhaps the reason why Sami Awad does not speak out against mistreatment committed by Islamic activists against Christians is that he does not possess the freedom to do so? Sami and his Palestinian Christian brothers do not enjoy the freedom enjoyed by Christians who live in Israel and therein lies the great contradiction fostered by those like Lynne Hybels, Dr. Gary Burge, Colin Chapman, Don Wagner and so many other evangelicals who foster theological hostility towards Israel.  


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Is Israel At Fault for the Shrinking Palestinian Christian Population?

At the 2009 National Vineyard Leadership Conference in Galveston, Texas, Rich Nathan, Senior Pastor of  the Vineyard Church of Columbus in Ohio, gave a talk on Learning to Love Your Enemies in the Middle East.

Nathan, a Jewish follower of Jesus, has made a dramatic change in his life by rejecting his Zionist prophetic interpretation of the Bible in "pursuit of Jesus' kingdom ministry." What this means is that Nathan has embraced a theology that is hostile towards Israel in the name of advancing the kingdom of God.

During his seminar Rich invited Palestinian Christian Sami Awad, who is working with Palestinians and Israelis to bring healing to the Middle East conflict. Awad, raised under the violence connected to the disputed Palestinian territories, is now leading a movement that encourages Palestinians Christians to  love the Israelis soldiers in order to bring about reconciliation.

During the course of Nathan's interview, Sami strongly blamed the diminishing population of Palestinian Christians due to the Israeli presence ever since 1848. Awad shared that the biggest loss he has experienced while living under "Israeli occupation,"  is a hope for the future. His options are now limited due to the presence of the Israelis. The only option in occupation, says Awad, is to leave. Therefor, since the Palestinian Christians are living in a state controlled by Israelis, they have no other choices other than to leave the country. The Palestinian Christians are victims of the situation.

Is Awad telling the entire truth when he speaks to American evangelicals, the majority of whom have little knowledge of the history of the Israeli/Palestinians conflict?

Let me try to iron out some of the wrinkles in Awad's thinking and anti-Israel propaganda he's spoon- feeding to evangelicals.

Prior to 1948 before the War of Independence, the percentage of Palestinian Christians living in the Palestinian territories was 30% but now the percentage is less than 1.5%. Today 1.2 percent of the population in the Palestinian territories is Christian.

Nathan claims this diminishing of Palestinian Christians is due to Israeli policies mostly supported by the United States especially Christians. Nathan wrongly claimed, "We as Americans supporting Israel displaced an entire population of Christians."

I'm not trying to ignore the shrinking population of Christians in the territories, but Awad uses this fact as a means to make Israel appear intolerant of Christians. This is so typical of writers, speakers and others who have an anti-Israel stance. They are quick to point out Israel's alleged faults, but fail to mention the fact Christians are extremely unwelcome in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia. The practice of Christianity in Saudi Arabia is illegal!

Yes, Christians are a minority in Israel, but it is the only Middle Eastern country where the Christian population has grown in last 60 years!

In 1948 there were 34,000 Christians in Israel and now there are 145,000 followers of Christ in the Holy Land.  Could it be because Christians find more freedom to practice their faith in the Jewish state than in any other Islamic state?

If Sami Awad wants to bash Israel for the shrinking Christian population in the disputed Palestinian territories, then he should also acknowledge and applaud the growing population of Christian believers in the Israeli state. This is my biggest problem with Palestinian Christians. It's not what they state about Israel; it's what they leave out in their attempts to demonize Israel.

This week at church  I was handed a prayer list of  suggested prayers Christians should pray for Muslims during their Ramadan fast.  One of the prayers stated, "Pray that Muslims as well as Christians will show due respect for the 'holy places' of other religions." I thought it was an odd prayer since it assumed Christians and Jews are not showing respect for Muslim places of worship in the Middle East. Recent history tells us that Israelis and Christians have shown the most respect towards one another's sacred sites.

In the holy city of Jerusalem Christians churches have maintained custody of the Christian holy places ever since the Ottoman Empire. These rights known as the "status quo arrangement for the Christian holy places in Jerusalem" still remain in tact today.
If my memory of history serves me well, it was the Palestinian terrorists during the Palestinian War 2000-2005 that took over Christian holy places as locations to launch their armed attacks against Israeli soldiers. One example took place when Palestinians fighters hijacked the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem causing a tense standoff.  These radical Islamics staged their attack on Israeli soldiers from one of the holiest locations for traditional Christians. Where was the outcry from evangelicals and mainline denominations back then?

Also, let it not be forgotten that it was during Jordan's control of the Old City from 1948 to 1967 that Christian rights were violated.  Israeli Christians were barred from visiting their holy places by the Jordanians. Jewish worshippers were also prevented from visiting the sacred Western Wall, the only remaining section of the Herod's temple in Jerusalem.

When the Israelis defeated the Jordanians and released their grip on Jerusalem's holy sites, both Christians and Jews had access to their respected places of worship. During the 1948-1967 period the Christian population declined from 25,000 to 12,646. Since 1967 the Christian population has grown exponentially thanks to the Israeli forces. I wonder why?

Critics of Israel will point to the security fence has hurt Christians living in East Jerusalem.  At the same time these critics fail to mention that the fence was constructed in order to protect Christians. When Palestinian terrorists attack, their bombs show no discrimination between Christians and Israelis. The security fence was never meant to be a tool to persecute Christians but to save their lives.

Sami Awad and supporters of the Holy Land Trust have a long way to go to prove Israel is responsible for the shrinking population of Palestinian Christians.  Tomorrow's blog asks, "How are Christian Living in the Palestinian Territories Treated?"