Archive for February, 2011

The tea partisan goes to Washington

Truth be told, if Dr. Rand Paul had not won his race for the United States Senate against all odds, I probably wouldn’t have read his book or written this column about it.

But he is a leader in one of the most fascinating political dramas of the last decade, and when I saw “The Tea Party Goes to Washington” at Barnes & Noble two weeks ago, I couldn’t resist buying a copy and devouring it.

One has to respect a man who launched a campaign for the greatest deliberative body in the world with little money, name recognition or political experience, and his party’s establishment aligned against him, yet annihilated his primary and general election opponents, both popular state officials.

And he did so while waving a red flag in the faces of the old bulls of his Republican Party and promising that he would “not bring home the bacon.”

As one his Clark County supporters told me at a party last summer, if you think Rand Paul is a regular Republican, you’re “missing the point.”

Two years ago, while running for president, his father, Texas congressman Ron Paul, penned a book called “The Revolution: A Manifesto.”

After reading the younger Paul’s book about his 2010 Senate race, it’s clear that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.
“It is time for a second American revolution,” he boldly declares at the outset.

Indeed, the tea party derives its name and some of its symbolism from the Boston Tea Party and the Revolution of 1776. But unlike that first revolution in which American patriots pledged to one another their lives, fortunes and sacred honor, the 2010 revolution is all about self. In the Pauls’ libertarian philosophy, the only thing that is more highly exalted than individual liberty is the free market.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., discusses his book.

In Rand Paul’s American utopia (or nightmare, depending on your point of view), adapting the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to the current era, saving our largest banks from collapse, spending federal money or lowering interest rates to stimulate a depressed economy, preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, guaranteeing equality in public schools, giving foreign aid to alleviate suffering in places like Haiti, supporting loyal allies like Israel and “making the world safe for democracy” are not responsibilities our national government should assume.

That’s a far cry from the agenda of past Republican standard-bearers like Bob Dole, John McCain and George W. Bush. In fact, Paul dismisses Bush by saying “Any self-described conservative who ‘misses’ the last president and his version of the Republican Party should probably quit subscribing to that label.”

The tea party, he proclaims, will not be co-opted by Congress or the Republican Party, but will “co-opt them.”
“We’ve come to take our government back,” he writes, quoting the most memorable line from his victory night speech last November.

But take it back to what? And from whom? Those are the questions I sought answers to in reading this book.

Next: Rand Paul rewrites American history.

Pledge of Allegiance: Consider students' faith

Nine of 10 Kentuckians support a state legislative proposal to mandate that public schools set aside time each day to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the American  flag.

SB 15, called the Kentucky School Patriot Act, sponsored by Sen. Vernie McGaha, R-Russell Springs, is before the Senate Education Committee. It doesn’t require that students actually say the pledge, but they must stand or sit quietly and “respect the rights of those pupils electing to participate.”

But what about respecting the rights of those students who elect not to participate? Must the schools embarrass them by making it obvious to all that they are not reciting the pledge while everyone else is?

The issue here is respect for children’s religious rights. In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring public school students to recite the pledge violated the First Amendment rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who considered the pledge a form of idolatry. Other rulings since have muddied the issue. But whether or not it is ultimately decided that it’s constitutional, should schools be in the position of shaming children who, because their beliefs are different from mine or yours, don’t want to recite the pledge?
I wish our legislators, if  they want a pledge, would pledge to spend their time on real education issues.

The church as mission: Winchester First UMC

Winchester First United Methodist Church, supposedly modeled on England's Winchester Cathedral, is one of the most beautiful churches in the Bluegrass.

Like many Australians, he was a fan of Kentucky Bluegrass music, and I’ll never forget something he told me when I ran into him at a concert once. He said that Jesus told his disciples they should be in the world but not of it. “The problem with the church today,” he said, “is that we’re of the world but not in it.”

That’s a view that is especially relevant to Methodism, which began as an evangelical revival and social justice movement within the Church of England. John Wesley, a lifelong Anglican priest, never had any intention of starting a new denomination.

He wanted to take the gospel outside the walls of the church and into the highways and byways where the last, the least and the lost lived.

Wesley was also a prophetic voice for justice, following the example of Jesus in proclaiming “the good news to the poor.” Sir Harold Wilson, the former prime minister of Great Britain, once said that British socialism owed more to Methodism than to Marxism in its emphasis on both social and individual responsibility.

One of the things I’m glad to see about Winchester First United Methodist Church is that under the leadership of the Rev. James Williams IV, it seems to be returning to the roots of the Methodist movement with the idea that the church doesn’t just “do mission,” the church is a mission.

This month, Winchester First was featured on the website of the Foundation for Evangelism (http://foundationforevangelism.org) as one of the “vibrant churches” in America. The article cites efforts begun in 2006 to start an “off-campus” ministry, First Fire, on the west side of Winchester to reach the “unchurched.”

Part of the reason for starting a second campus in what was the old Dawahare’s building in Winchester Plaza, was the belief that many “unchurched” people are “intimidated by the ornate structure” of the downtown church, which is supposedly a miniature replica of Winchester Cathedral in England.

James Williams and others at Winchester First (I am an associate member) know that I disagree with the idea that some people are “intimidated” by beauty, even if they some are put off by liturgy they don’t understand, suits and ties, pipe organ music and other trappings of traditional worship.

According to an article in Christianity Today, “Keeping Holy Ground Holy” by Nathan Bierma, studies show most people — even the poor and “unchurched” — prefer traditional church architecture to shopping mall storefronts and vinyl-sided metal warehouses. I think the downtown campus could accommodate First Fire and free up thousands of dollars for more mission work. Most large mainstream churches either have a traditional service and a contemporary service in the same church building or “blended” worship and invite people to come in blue jeans or broadcloth, whichever makes them comfortable. I don’t see why Winchester First UMC couldn’t do the same.

Still, there is no denying the fact that First Fire has had a positive impact on the church and the community, and this recognition is well-deserved.

Contact Randy Patrick at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

St. Joseph Catholic Church turns 100

Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Lexington Diocese was the celebrant for a special Mass Feb. 13 commemorating the 100th anniversary of St. Joseph Catholic's church building at the corner of Main Street and Boone Avenue in Winchester.

Last week I was honored to be invited to the centennial celebration of St. Joseph Catholic Church’s beautiful structure at the corner of South Main Street and Boone Avenue.

The red brick church with its towering gold steeple and splendid stained glass windows is just up the street from my apartment building, and when it’s lit up at night, it is glorious to behold.

While attending Mass there on Sunday, Feb. Feb. 13, I had a chance to see how lovely it was inside, as well. In addition to celebrating the parish’s 100 years at that building, the service was also the occasion for the dedication of the new altar and ambo, or pulpit, by the bishop of the diocese, the Rev. Ronald Gainer, who was the celebrant for the Mass.

The bishop anointed the altar with holy oil, parishioners placed inside it a stone with the relics of a saint, and incense was burned, rising from the altar with the prayers and songs of the people.
“It is important, my brothers and sisters, that we understand the meaning of these rituals and symbols,” Bishop Gainer said. “Watch with open eyes and open hearts.”

Rachel Parsons, our community editor, who covered the service, and I had front pew seats, along with other local leaders, to witness the mystery of the Eucharist, although, as Protestants, we couldn’t take part in the Communion. We were grateful, though, to be included in the dedication and to be honored guests for such an important event in the life of our faith community.

Answers to the Presidents Day quiz

Here are the answers to my Presidents Day quiz column published in The Winchester Sun yesterday. The questions are in the previous post: “How Well Do You Know Our Presidents?” Oh, and the president pictured in the previous post? That’s Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge, who was one of Ronald Reagan’s inspirations. Reagan had a portrait of him at the White House.

In one of the ironies of American history, our first African-American president, Barack Obama, is not a descendant of West African slaves, but is a descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Answers:

1. Barack Obama, on his mother’s side.

2. Ronald Reagan. He was married to actress Jane Wyman before marrying Nancy Davis.

3. New York governor Al Smith, by the Democrats.

4. Both were named George: George Washington and George H.W. Bush. George W. Bush is a Methodist.

5. Lyndon Johnson, the architect of the Great Society.

6. Harry S Truman, who was inducted but never active. The Klan threatened to kill him, but he dared them to try.

7. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, in a message to Congress on Dec. 20, 1861.

8. Theodore Roosevelt. After having served as president as a Republican, he ran in 1912 as a Progressive and lost to Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic nominee, but finished far ahead of the Republican, William Howard Taft, and the Socialist Party candidate, Eugene Debs. Roosevelt later returned to the GOP.

9. Theodore Roosevelt, who spent part of 1910 on safari there when it was British East Africa. Barack Obama, whose father was born there, only visited Kenya a short time as an adult to meet his father’s family.

10. There has never been an American Muslim president. Every U.S. president has been a Christian.

11. Jimmy Carter, who was a Navy submarine commander. He entered Annapolis in 1943 and retired as a lieutenant in the naval reserve in 1961.

John F. Kennedy, who devoured newspapers as president and cultivated friendships with reporters and editors such as Benjamin C. Bradlee of The Washington Post, was once a reporter himself. He covered the United Nations, the Potsdam Conference and the 1945 British elections, among other assignments.

12. John F. Kennedy. After he retired from the Navy at the end of World War II, Kennedy worked for a newspaper for several months writing about the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, the Potsdam Conference and the British elections of 1945. His future wife, Jacqueline Bouvier, also worked for a newspaper, as a lifestyles photographer.

13. Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy.

14. There were four: Andrew Jackson in 1824, Samuel Tilden in 1876, Grover Cleveland in 1888 and Al Gore in 2000 (who won by more than half a million votes, but lost Florida’s electoral vote by 537 voters). Jackson and Cleveland ran again and were elected, Cleveland twice.

15. George W. Bush, who owned a share of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1998.

16. Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. In 1976, President Ford asked Reagan to be his running mate, but Reagan refused and ran against Ford for the Republican nomination. Ford chose Sen. Bob Dole as his running mate instead. In 1980, when Reagan won the GOP nomination, he asked the former president to be his running mate, but Ford refused and Reagan chose George H.W. Bush instead.

17. Henry Clay, who was speaker of the House of Representatives, senator and secretary of state, but never president. Lincoln called him his “beau ideal” of a statesman.

18. Richard Nixon, in Oliver Stone’s “Nixon.”

19. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had been the supreme Allied commander in World War II.

20. Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge.

How well do you know our presidents?

Monday is Presidents Day, and being an American history enthusiast (and having too much free time on my hands this afternoon), I thought of the following presidential trivia questions. Let’s see how many you can get right.

I’ll post the answers Monday after we print them in The Winchester Sun, but feel free to include your guesses in the comments below.

Who was this man of few words who was president?

Questions:

1. Which president is a direct descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis?

2. Who was the only president who was ever divorced? He also signed a no-fault divorce law as governor.

3. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic to become president, but who was the first Catholic to be nominated for the presidency by either the Democrats or Republicans?

4. There have been 11 Episcopalian presidents, more than any other denomination. Who were the first and last ones?

5. Bill Clinton was the last president to leave office with a balanced budget or surplus. Who was the last one before him to have a surplus?

6. Who is the only president ever to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan?

7. What president said: “Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration”?

8. Who is the only president who was ever a member of the Progressive Party?

9. Which president was in Kenya for a considerable amount of time?

10. Who is the only American Muslim president?

11. Since Dwight D. Eisenhower, which president has had the longest military service?

12. What 20th Century American president was a journalist?

13. Which presidents were assassinated while in office?

14. Which presidential candidates won the popular vote but lost the election?

15. What president once owned a Major League baseball team?

16. Each of these presidential candidates asked the other to be his vice presidential running mate. Who were they?

17. What great 19th Century statesman from Kentucky ran four times for the presidency and lost? He is known for saying, “I would rather be right than president.”

18. Which president was portrayed by British actor Sir Anthony Hopkins in a 1995 bio pic?

19. What president and former general warned of the “military industrial complex”?

20. What taciturn president, when allegedly told by Dorothy Parker at a dinner party that she had bet against a fellow who told her she couldn’t get him to say more than two words, replied: “You lose”?

Reporters often pay a heavy price

CBS News reporter Lara Logan

While I have the utmost respect for America’s soldiers, one thing that bothers me is when I hear politicians (it’s almost always politicians, not soldiers, who know better) say that our veterans fought and died to protect our rights —  including the right of the press to report.

It is, of course, untrue. We fight wars to make our nation and our allies safe from the threat of terrorism, to end humanitarian crises, to restore democracy, protect economic interests and many other laudable goals. But to believe that our soldiers fight for reporters’ rights, one would have to believe that another country could defeat and conquer us, take over our government, suspend the Constitution, including the First Amendment, and shut down the presses. If you actually take a minute to think about it, not since 1812 has there been even the remotest possibility that could happen. Even during World War II, when we faced a grave threat from Germany and Japan, no one thought the Axis could conquer and rule the United States.

Journalists, on the other hand, fight battles every day for your right to be informed, and sometimes they pay a high price. If you want to know what life is like to be a reporter on the front lines of battle, read my friend Charles Bracelen Flood’s book about Vietnam, “The War of the Innocents.” While some reporters attended the “Five o’ Clock Follies” press conferences to hear officers’ daily disinformation, there were other reporters like Flood, David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan who saw the fighting for themselves, talked to the men in the field, and reported the truth.

Sometimes reporters’ careers suffer (John F. Kennedy tried to get Halberstam of The New York Times sent home). Or they are jailed. Sometimes reporters die in battle. Last year, according to Reporters Without Borders, 57 journalists died in the line of duty — and that number was lower than in previous years. Reporters are murdered — seven were killed in Colombia last year, and the beheading of Daniel Pearl of The Wall Street Journal in Pakistan is one of the tragic stories of the war on terror.

Often, like soldiers, many reporters survive but suffer painful physical or emotional scars.

On the last night of the recent 18-day revolt in Egypt, Lara Logan, a television correspondent for CBS News, was severely beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Fortunately, she was rescued by some Egyptian women and soldiers, and today was released from the hospital. But the pain of such an ordeal never completely goes away.

The tough South African reporter whose career took off when she went to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 to report for a British TV morning show, Logan routinely covers dangerous assignments. One of the most memorable was her reporting from Haifa Street in Baghdad, where the fighting was so intense that CBS News at first refused to show it, but later aired it on “60 Minutes.”

It’s ironic that she was assaulted not during war, but during a victory celebration following an uprising. But it is typical of the growing risks journalists face.

“Journalists are seen less and less as outside observers,” stated Reporters Without Borders in its “Freedom of Press Report 2010.” “Their neutrality and the nature of their work are no longer respected.”

They do, however, have my respect for the sacrifices they make to provide accurate, unbiased information that is essential to democracy.

It is a sacrifice we should all remember the next time we hear some blowhard use an event honoring soldiers as an opportunity to slander reporters who tell those soldiers’ stories.

(To learn more about efforts to safeguard journalists, visit the Committee to Protect Reporters’ website, http://www.cpj.org/)

'Thirteen Tears' two years later

Rachel Joy Scott was the first victim of the Columbine shooting in 1999. My blog post for the 10th anniversary of the tragedy was based in part on her parents' books about her Christian faith, which in turn were based on her diaries.

If you had asked me two  years ago, when I had been writing this blog for only a short time, what would get the most attention, I would not have thought it would be a post about a national tragedy. But “Thirteen Tears: A Columbine Legacy,” about Rachel Scott, one of the victims of the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, has touched people’s hearts.

This morning, I received my 48th reader comment (not counting spam comments) on that story, and wanted to share it because I thought it was especially thoughtful. However, it must be noted that Rachel Scott did try to befriend Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. And I think the commenter too lightly dismisses the spiritual warfare taking place in the world.  Certainly, Klebold and Harris were alienated, and probably mentally ill. Yet I think the Enemy uses these weaknesses to cause tragedy. That is not to say that “ZZ” isn’t right about the fact that Christians shouldn’t reach out to those who are alienated or troubled. Our mission is to storm the gates of hell to rescue the last, the least and the lost. I think that is what this diminutive young martyr was doing in the last days of her life.

Here’s the latest comment from “ZZ”:

If Harris and Klebold did specifically target Christians, then the worst possible response we could have is to portray ourselves as helpless victims of Satan or some anti-Christian conspiracy.

Rather, we should ask what we, as Christians, do every day that might provoke such an action. Do we exclude those who dress or speak differently from us? Do we fail to show outcasts the proper compassion? Do we stay so wrapped up in our personal lives that we fail to notice those outside our circle at all?

There is every indication that Harris and Klebold’s rampage was partly due to years of alienation and petty abuse at the hands of their classmates. This does not excuse it, but explains it to a certain extent. One can only wonder if their actions could have been averted if they’d been shown some compassion by the Christians of their community.
You can see all comments on this post here:
http://kyvoice.com/winchestersun/newerworld/?p=418#comments

The Nation on 'Stealing the Constitution'

Having failed to undo popular reforms such as environmental regulations, federal aid to schools and Social Security through the legislative process, the far right is now trying to change the rules of the game.

In The Nation’s cover story this week, Garrett Epps analyzes the far right’s obsession with the Constitution’s “original intent,” and shows that the tea party’s understanding of the document’s purposes is muddy and based more on fundamentalist theology than constitutional scholarship.

“Conservative lawmakers increasingly claim that the “original intent” of the Constitution’s framers and the views of the right wing of the Republican Party are one and the same,” and that anyone who doesn’t support their myth is unpatriotic, or worse, a traitor. But one purpose of the Constitution was to strengthen, not limit, the federal government, because the old Articles of Confederation were fatally weak. The Constitution contains no mention of the idea that states are “sovereign” and that the federal government was created by the states, he points out. [In fact, that "states' rights" interpretation of the Constitution, which is ascribed to John C. Calhoun and other advocates of "nullification" in the mid-19th century, was exactly the opposite of the early Republican interpretation that the colonies created the federal government, and that it in turn created the states.]

“There’s no sign of the libertarian fairyland many on the far right have invented. Rather, the Constitution allowed for a government adequate to the challenges facing a modern nation,”  Epps wrote.

This article is worth a read. Go to http://www.thenation.com/article/157904/stealing-constitution

Reagan, Leary and Lennon: the 1970 campaign in California

Ronald Reagan as a candidate for governor in California.

Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller

— The Beatles

In all the books and magazine articles I’ve read about Ronald Reagan, I had never come across this weird tale until I found it in Michael Schaller’s brief biography of the former president, published late last year.

The late 1960s were a strange time in America, but especially in California, where the counterculture was in full bloom. Thousands of young people from all over the country were leaving home to make a pilgrimage to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury (listen to Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco”) district to “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Dr. Timothy Leary was a brilliant scientist before he became a leader of the drug culture.

One of the gurus of the psychedelic movement was Dr. Timothy Leary, the Harvard professor and psychiatrist who coined that phrase and was known for his research on lysergic  acid diethylamide, or LSD, an extremely powerful hallucinogenic substance that the military and the CIA were interested in using as a mind control drug.

It’s hard to imagine now, but LSD, also known by its street name, “acid,” was legal until October of 1968.

Leary, who was interested in LSD for its possible therapeutic, emotional and spiritual benefits, encouraged people to use it, and it became the crown jewel of the psychedelic drug culture. The Grateful Dead played at free concerts in San Francisco, where members of the audience would ingest the drug and “trip” for hours. Psychedelic culture also entered American literature through Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” a book about novelist Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters.

Leary was immortalized in the Moody Blues’ dreamy tribute called “Legend of a Mind” (listen).

Despite his urging others to “drop out,” Leary got involved in politics. He had been convicted of possession of marijuana in 1965, but the conviction was thrown out in 1969 when the California Supreme Court ruled the Marihuana Tax Act was unconstitutional. The day of the court ruling, Leary announced his candidacy for governor of California, against the incumbent, Reagan.

John Lennon of The Beatles.

Reagan, a Hollywood actor who was a liberal in his youth and a Democrat until he was 50, had become an icon of conservative politics in America. He had defeated his predecessor, Gov. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Sr., a friend of John F. Kennedy, in 1966, and was seeking a second term in 1970. As governor, he had denounced hippies and anti-war activists, and sent in the National Guard to quell student demonstrations at Berkeley.

“Reagan and his supporters probably smiled when LSD advocate Timothy Leary declared his intention to run for governor in 1970,” Schaller wrote in “Ronald Reagan” (Oxford University Press 2010).

Leary’s candidacy was short-lived, though. He was arrested — again on drug charges — and had to pull out of the race. But not before he had persuaded Beatle John Lennon to write his campaign theme song.

The song wasn’t wasted. It was released as “Come Together” (listen) on the album “Abbey Road.”

Timothy Leary would have made the governor’s race more interesting, but the Democratic nominee that year turned out to be Jesse Unruh, an old-school politician remembered for his observation that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

Leary was jailed following the 1969 arrest, but escaped and, with the help of his wife, Rosemary Woodruff, the Weathermen, and other supporters, fled to Algeria. He then traveled to Switzerland, Austria, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom, where he was  refused political asylum. He returned to the United States in 1973, and was sent to Folsom Prison.

In 1976, Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr., Reagan’s successor and son of his predecessor, pardoned Leary.

Brown, something of a countercultural type himself (a former Jesuit seminarian, he practiced Zen, lived in a sparsely furnished sleeping room instead of the governor’s mansion and drove himself to work in an old Plymouth), was at that time was a Democratic candidate for president. Despite his late entry into the race, did well and won some primaries. He lost the nomination, however, to Gov. Jimmy Carter of Georgia. Four years later, he challenged President Carter for the party’s nomination, then ran for president again in 1992, when he was defeated by Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas.

Last year, Brown was elected governor of California for the third time, after having served as mayor of Oakland and attorney general following his first two terms.

John Lennon was murdered in 1980 in New York City.

Timothy Leary died of cancer in 1996, and had arranged to have his ashes “buried” in space along with those of other celebrities, including Gene Roddenberry, creator of “Star Trek.” That same year, a bizarre movie about him was released, titled “Timothy Leary’s Dead.”

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