Friday, March 24, 2006

Political Correctness Gone Awry

In 2004, the United Methodist Church passed a resolution forbidding their convention to meet in a city with sports teams that have Native American nicknames because such nicknames are offensive. Until recently, the UMC had been planning to hold their 2012 convention in Richmond, Virginia. That is, until somebody pointed out that the nickname for their minor league baseball team was the Braves.

This is about politics: nothing more and nothing less. When the church (and particularly large demoniations) get sidetracked on political issues such as this, they lose their effectiveness as ministers of the Gospel. Suddenly the church becomes defined by the political stances that they make instead of lives lived according to Scripture.

I'll admit that I am biased since I lived in Richmond for nine years. It's a great city and a tremendous loss in not being able to host the convention. But the greater loss may be for the UMC and other denominations like it that make boneheaded political decisions such as this one. I cannot understand why they chose to focus on this one issue and turn their backs on many more pressing moral issues that have a greater affect on our culture.

In the end, the UMC is not the first large denomination to make a minor political issue a major point of contention. They certainly won't be the last, either. That is truly a shame.

Monday, March 20, 2006

What's Your Theological Worldview?

I don't normally put a whole lot of stock in quizzes, but this quiz seems to do a pretty good job of pegging a person's theological worldview. (Hat tip: sprucegoose)

Just for the record, here are my results:

You scored as Reformed Evangelical. You are a Reformed Evangelical. You take the Bible very seriously because it is God's Word. You most likely hold to TULIP and are sceptical about the possibilities of universal atonement or resistible grace. The most important thing the Church can do is make sure people hear how they can go to heaven when they die.

Reformed Evangelical


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Neo orthodox






Modern Liberal


Roman Catholic


Classical Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Virtual Visitation

Yesterday's New York Times offered an interesting peek in to an evolving trend in the often-heated custody battles: visitation with Dad by computer (Full disclosure: my brother-in-law is profiled in this story:

With work and the school week behind them, Charles A. Mason III and his daughter, Arielle, who live more than 1,500 miles apart, prepared for their scheduled weekend visit. There was no packing involved, no plane tickets, no car rides or drop-offs. All it took was some instant messaging on their home computers and a little fidgeting in front of their respective Webcams, and father and daughter were chatting, playing checkers and practicing multiplication tables.

"It's funner than talking on the phone, because I can see him," said Arielle, 10, who lives with her mother in Longmont, Colo., but has regular "virtual visits" with her father as part of the custody arrangement her parents worked out after her mother moved eight years ago. "It's just like being in front of him, but with games and computer stuff added."

As for Mr. Mason, who lives in Warrenton, Va., the video chats are a vast improvement over telephone calls, during which his daughter — like many children her age — is often monosyllabic and easily distracted.

"I can barely hold her attention on the phone for five minutes," he said. "When we can play checkers and look at one another, I can keep her talking about school and life for an hour or more."

As divorce has remained a constant, custody arrangements have evolved over the last half-century. Increased awareness of the toll divorce can take on children and fathers' increased involvement as parents, combined with the demands of working parents who often have to move in order to get and keep jobs, have made for increasingly creative and sometimes complex custody agreements.

As the legal system begins to acknowledge the potential benefits of technology in bridging the physical and emotional distance caused by divorce and separation, more families are experimenting with computer-assisted custody sharing.

Although any separating couple can opt for virtual visits in their custody agreement, debate surrounding the issue is unfolding on the state level as advocates push to have the option spelled out in state laws in order to broaden awareness of the practice and enable judges to grant such visits where they see fit.

However, some say that virtual visitation is not necessarily a good thing:

But not everyone gives virtual visits a ringing endorsement. In addition to concerns that it may be used to limit in-person visits, some lawyers and noncustodial parents also worry that it may be used to bolster the case for a custodial parent's contested relocation.

In 2001 an appeals court in New Jersey overruled a lower court decision denying a custodial parent's request to move out of state, reasoning that the court did not consider computer-assisted visits as an option for the noncustodial parent who objected to the move.

A Massachusetts court ordered video visits in 2002 in another contested relocation dispute. The father in the case, who argued that video visits were being imposed to replace in-person visits with his children, lost his appeal to stop the move.

"The danger is that it will become a substitute for real time," said David L. Levy, chief executive of the Children's Rights Council, based in Hyattsville, Md., which advocates for children affected by divorce and separation. "Virtual time is not real time. You can't virtually hug your child or walk your child to school. We don't want this to be seen as an excuse to encourage move-aways."

The Utah and Wisconsin regulations specify that virtual visits should be used as a supplement to, not a substitute for, traditional visits. The Wisconsin bill also specifies that virtual visits should not be used to justify a custodial parent's relocation. The laws define "electronic communication" as contact by video conference, e-mail, instant message, telephone or other wired or wireless technology.

"I think that most judges understand that children require physical one-on-one contact with the absent parent," said Cheryl Lynn Hepfer, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Clearly, such technology offers both promise and peril for children of divorced parents. For such visitation arrangements to work effectively there needs to also be in-person visitation. The custodial parent needs to still be involved in the process of allowing their child to be online to ensure their safety. States need have specific requirements in place that do not allow custodial parents to use virtual visits as a reason to relocate far away from from the other parent. But in situations where the child is already living far away from the parent, the new means of communication available through the Internet allow parents to bridge the distance and spend more quality time with their children. That is something children of all ages and life situations need: time with their parents.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Driver's Education for Blind Students?

Chicago students are required to take drivers' education even if they are blind according to the Chicago Tribune (hat tip: Best of the Web):

Mayra Ramirez scored an A in driver's education this year, but sitting through the 10-week class felt like a bad joke to the Curie Metropolitan High School sophomore.

Ramirez is blind. She knows she's never going to drive. She can think of a lot of things she'd rather be studying than rules of the road, but she didn't have a choice.

Chicago Public Schools requires all sophomores to take the class and pass a written road-rules exam--a graduation requirement that affects about 30 blind and visually impaired students in specialized programs at Curie and Payton College Preparatory High.

"In other classes, you don't really feel different because you can do the work other people do," said Ramirez, 16. "But in driver's ed, it does give us the feeling we're different. In a way, it brought me down, because it reminds me of something I can't do."

State law requires that all districts offer driver's education, but does not mandate it as a graduation requirement. For the hundreds of high schools that do, there should be some exemption option for disabled students who cannot drive, a state education official said.

"It defies logic to require blind students to take this course ... and waste their academic time," said Meta Minton, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education.

Chicago's public schools have no such exemption. That is something the Curie and Payton students are pushing to change, through an advocacy program at the Blind Service Association.

Another fine example of taxpayer dollars at work in government schools. Perhaps this should be added to list of 101 reasons to homeschool your kids.

Welcome Home, Daddy

When my kids were younger (and I worked outside of our home) they would nearly tackle me as I came in the front door at the end of their day. Their enthusiasm was often overwhelming. They genuinely missed me and were glad to have me home.

That feeling is a little harder to capture these days since I'm at home all the time. I work from home and so there is not the same joyful homecoming that there used to be when I worked outside the house. My kids still remind me how much they miss me by coming in to my office at the end of the day (they know exactly what time I should be finished with work). The bottom line is they want my undivided attention at the end of the day. They want to be able to tell me about what they learned or what they did or read about or saw on TV or whatever was important to them. If I've had a particularly difficult day I have trouble switching gears and focusing on what they want to share with me. Sometimes I have to ask them to give me a few minutes to regroup and then I'm reading to hear all about what they've been up to all day.

There are many days when the stress of work can be totally exhausting and overwhelming. It can sometimes be a little too much to be assaulted at the front door with shouts of "welcome home, Daddy". But those times are also really precious. I've also found they are some of the most important times I can spend with my kids. Those end of the day chats are their opportunity to allow me into their world and to see what's happening in their hearts. Those are also sometimes the most teachable moments: times when they really want or need Daddy's advice.

If you find homecomings to be a less than sweet times for you, ask yourself if there are things from your job that you are bringing home with you that might be best left behind. I did this by using the time during my commute home (regardless of how long or short it was) to consciously shift gears and be prepared to hear from my kids all about their day.

We have only a short amount of time as Dads to have an influence on our children. What better time to teach them than when they are ready to be taught? What better time to show them love than when they need to be loved? These moments are precious. We should treasure them while we can.

Hall of Fame Snub Inexcusable

One name is missing from this year's class of Negro League players and executives that will be admitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. One sportswriter believes this is inexcusable:

Buck O'Neil belongs in the Hall of Fame because he is the living history of Negro leagues baseball -- a decent enough player, five times a pennant-winning manager for the leagues' greatest franchise, the first African American coach in the major leagues and, for the past 50 years, a tireless, charismatic, endearing advocate reminding us that whatever differences of race exist, baseball brings us together.

When the first 18 men from the Negro leagues were elected to the Hall of Fame by baseball writers and the Veterans Committee, no one argued that O'Neil belonged alongside Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston and Cool Papa Bell. But now a select committee, charged with identifying Negro leagues Hall of Famers, has elected a group of 16 men and a woman -- five executives among them -- without electing Buck O'Neil.

That is an outrage.

It cannot stand uncontested.

O'Neil, who first became a national figure as a result of his appearance in Ken Burns' documentary Baseball has worked tirelessly to promote baseball and especially bringing attention to the rich history of the long-neglected Negro Leagues. The fact that the Hall of Fame is admitting these 18 individuals this year has a lot to do with O'Neil's efforts.

There's still time to correct this mistake. The Hall of Fame should admit O'Neil especially while he's still around to enjoy the honor. They should do it for the good of the game. They should do it because it's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Random Thoughts

Blogging has been light here of late as I have been snowed under with work and dealing with lots of different stuff going on at home. We're slowing beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully posting can become more frequent in the next few weeks. I haven't had much time to follow a lot of what's happening in the news or in the blogosphere but here are a few things that have piqued my interest:

Tim Ellsworth has a post on an upcoming book on Barry Bonds that will detail his steroid use. If the story is as well documented as it appears then there's no doubt that Bonds' records should be wiped out. Bold prediction: Bonds doesn't make it through the season and Hank Aaron's career home run record remains intact.

More baseball: I was saddened by the sudden passing of Kirby Puckett. Although it broke my family's heart to see the Twins beat the Braves in the 1991 World Series (my wife and late father-in-law were Braves fans), we always enjoyed watching Kirby play. He was a class act.

Political correctness gone too far: read this story and see if you don't agree. (Full disclosure: I lived in Richmond for nine years and it's still a great city)

One more reason to shop at Target: Vienna Beef Hot Dogs on sale in the snack bar.

Bold prediction: Duke will not win the ACC tournament which gets underway tomorrrow. I'm picking UNC to win it all (and not just because it's my alma mater. Led by ACC Rookie of the Year Tyler Hansbrough (also the first freshman to be a unanimous All-ACC team member) and ACC Coach of the Year Roy Williams, this will be the team to watch in the tournament.

Movie Pick: Last weekend we went to see Nanny McPhee and it was an absolute delight. This was a well-cast and well-acted movie and fun for the entire family. I highly recommend it.