Author Archive


February 16, 2010

Thought it may be rude to break the silence, breaking it with the musical stylings of Grampa Elliott this Fat Tuesday may be excusable.

A Christmas Angel From Nebraska

January 5, 2010

Okay, I know I’m late. Just think of this phenomenal Christmas piece by Garrison Keillor as being very early for Christmas 2010.

Read it HERE.

A Little Help, Please

November 23, 2009

Let me say up front that I haven’t the time to read the 4,700 word document, nor much time to engage in a discussion of it either (which is why I need a little help here). But I’ve noticed in the news that 150 religious leaders have published “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.” A quick skim of an article about it reveals that it urges Christians to engage in acts of civil disobedience in regard to issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Alright, first of all, let me say that I’m a big fan of civil disobedience in general and that it’s not something Christians have been very proficient at over the years. In fact, the best civil disobedience stories out there are times when they were used against Christian opposition (think Gandhi, think King).

But someone will have to help me out here. What are these leaders urging Christians to do? I’m guessing that they already assume anyone that might listen to them would not run out and have an abortion or marry someone of like gender. So how are they urging their listeners to non-violently disobey abortion and same-sex marriage laws?

Again, don’t know that I’ll have much chance to respond. But any help in understanding this will give me one less thing to scratch my head about right now – and with finals approaching, I already have more than enough. 🙂

Using Your Head

October 28, 2009

Well, the World Series is starting. And with all due respect, I really don’t care.

As a sports aficionado, I like to rank things a lot. I’d now say that baseball is my second favorite sport. I love the strategy, the statistics, and the history. It’s a bit slow, but all in all, I appreciate baseball. But the Phillies and the Yankees? I couldn’t care less. I want to be a National League guy, but I grew up disliking the Phillies in the old NL East. And I don’t hate the Yankees as much as the average guy, but I just can’t root for them either. So I am indifferent.

Let’s talk football instead. Over time, football has become my favorite sport. It used to be basketball, but something about both the college and professional game has just lost my interest over the years. At the same time, both the college and professional football game has captured my attention. I love me a good football game.

Football was in the news today. Congress called a hearing about some very real concerns over the game of football. No, not the salaries. And no, not the steroids. Instead, there are some very real studies concerned with brain injuries coming from the game. Commissioner Goodell was taking heat in front of Congress today, doing his best to field the hard questions. You can read about it HERE.

I am interested in seeing what develops in this regard. I’m going to have a hard time loving a game if it gives people brain injuries. And it doesn’t take that many brain cells to wonder if a sport where human skulls violently crash into a variety of things may have a tendency to do so.

I do have a question myself that I haven’t heard addressed just yet, so if all you in Blog Land will tell me if it is ever addressed, I would greatly appreciate it. Well, let’s say I have two questions:

(1) Are helmets flying off football players’ heads much more frequently these days? (They sure seem to be to me. I’m saying a LOT more than ever before. The few friends I’ve asked about this haven’t really considered it before, but once I mention it, they tend to agree.)

(2) If so, what’s up with that?

I am obviously not an expert on much anything, definitely not helmet design. But I do think that the possibility of playing football without your helmet on your head – even in brief intervals – has got to do bunches to increase the possibility of brain injuries.


The Wizard of Os

October 24, 2009

Sometimes I feel like I go out of my way to offend people, but I promise that’s not my goal in life. Well, not most of the time.

Os Guinness spoke at the law school a few days ago, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to listen. He is a brilliant orator, and as he held forth on the dastardly “speed” at which our culture lives, I thought he struck an important chord. He had terrific things to say.

(I also thought that his appearance and his accent combined to make him sort of a mixture between Ted Kennedy and Benny Hill, but that is beside the point.) 🙂

Anyway, this is my attempt at saying that I really enjoyed listening and that I thought his topic, delivery, and message was great. The fact that I’m going to criticize his speech as potentially idolatrous may sound like I didn’t enjoy myself.

As a former preacher, I’m not fond of critiquing another person’s lecture on what they said or didn’t say. No one’s perfect. But I want to use Mr. Guinness’s impressive speech to highlight a larger problem I perceive in this religion called Christianity. Here it is in a nutshell: People are fond of saying stuff about the world taking Christ out of Christmas, but I think “the Church” has already taken Jesus out of his very own religion.

Oh, we like bloody Jesus as someone who paid off our debts. And we have the warm, fuzzy Jesus who looks like Mr. Rogers putting on his sweater. But Jesus as a life teacher–as someone who proposes a way of living life–is MIA. It just isn’t there. And we don’t even miss it.

This was glaringly evident during Mr. Guinness’s talk the other day, but I don’t think many noticed. Here we are at a Christian law school listening to a Christian speaker talk about how to approach the world in a Christian way as Christian lawyers. And Mr. Guinness nailed it. He really did. He honed in like a laser on a massive problem in our world, and he expounded beautifully on how this is a problem and presented ways to live differently.

But he never once pointed to the example of Jesus’s life as a way to approach it. Not once.

And we don’t miss it.

Please listen to me – I’m not criticizing Mr. Guinness. I’m saying that this is normal. We don’t even expect our Christian teachers to point to the “way” Jesus lived to teach us how to live our lives.

Again, Jesus is good for a bloody reminder of sin and that we should play nice with others, but we don’t even comprehend that the way Jesus lived would have any bearing on the size of our house or the busy-ness of our day planner or the amount of food we consume or the amount of time we spend watching television. Or anything else that makes up our “real” life.

I am convinced that this is central to what Jesus had to say. Jesus proposed a “way” of life and had the audacity to propose following his lead. This is critical to following – looking his way to see “how” to live.

If I die an old man and accomplish nothing else in life than getting a few folks to start noticing that Christian teachers aren’t offering this, then my life may have been worth the trouble.

Race & Respect

October 14, 2009

We covered the famous Plessy v. Ferguson (”separate but equal”) and Brown v. Board of Education (school desegregation) cases in Constitutional Law yesterday. That, combined with a beautiful conversation with a good friend in the atrium after class, leads me to write today.

I spent a couple of years implementing an In-School Suspension program in a public school that desperately needed one. My job was to be a bad guy, and it was a bit scary to discover that I had it in me. I made a point to each unfortunate student that came my way that there was an important difference between “having respect” and “showing respect.” I was pretty sure they wouldn’t like me in the ISS room (i.e. probably wouldn’t have much respect for me at the time), but I was darn sure they were going to show me respect while there.

Stay with me.

In Plessy, the Court said straight up that prejudices cannot be overcome by legislation and that forced integration cannot secure equal rights. It said, “If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits, and a voluntary consent of individuals.”

The Court was flat wrong in one respect. And flat right in another. And it all has to do in my opinion with understanding the difference between “showing respect” and “having respect.”

In Brown, the Court corrected the flat wrong part of Plessy. Legislation CAN be useful in procuring equal treatment under the law. In other words, legislation can secure equal rights in forcing people to “show” respect to others regardless of one’s personal feelings on race – just as much as I could force those poor ISS students to show respect to someone they didn’t much like, too (namely, me). This is what law can do.

But part of Plessy rings true when one considers the idea of “having respect” for another. This is what law cannot do. And for those who recall the 1960s South will know that Brown is living proof.

Which leads me to talk of racism today. I hear some folks say that racism should be considered a thing of the past. That people who talk about racism are just out of touch with reality and should just get over it. That all this talk about institutional racism and the like is just silliness – it is just lack of responsibility on the part of black folks and psychological guilt on the part of white folks.

What I hear are people who don’t get the distinction between showing respect and having respect.

It may well be (though I’m admittedly skeptical) that the combination of legislation and judicial review have succeeded in bringing about a world where showing respect in regard to race is a matter of understood law. If that is the case, I stand and applaud.

But what about having respect? This is most definitely NOT a problem of the past. The lack of respect for other human beings based on color of skin remains a deeply-rooted problem in contemporary America, and as long as it exists the evil of discrimination will continue to be alive and well.

You see it the color of the faces on Skid Row. You see it in the color of faces on Death Row. You see it in the blinding whiteness in Corporate Boardrooms. None of these are illegalities, but they are indicators that Race & Respect remains an issue. One that is not nearly overcome.

Any progress that has been made in American history is but a drop in the bucket toward the “natural affinities” that Plessy (of all places) correctly identified as the end goal. Those who deny the long road that remains need to take a long, hard look inside their own hearts, and with all due respect, get out of the freaking way.

On the Theory That Laughter is the Best Medicine

September 25, 2009

It is hard to believe this much funny is crammed into one solitary news story.

Citizens Arrest(ed)

August 9, 2009

One of my summer colleagues from Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles passed along THIS LINK from a NY Times article on homelessness. Thought it was worth a read.

I especially appreciated the final paragraph:

Maybe we can’t afford the measures that would begin to alleviate America’s growing poverty — affordable housing, good schools, reliable public transportation and so forth. I would argue otherwise, but for now I’d be content with a consensus that, if we can’t afford to truly help the poor, neither can we afford to go on tormenting them.

It was tragic to learn about the criminalization of the poor this summer. It was heartening, however, to be able to spend a day at Homeless Court where outstanding tickets and warrants magically disappeared and gave some people a chance to get their life on track. It will be interesting to see which movement wins out in the end – arresting the poor, or setting them free.

Just Call Him Mike

July 10, 2009

Mike Farrell, better known as B.J. Hunnicutt from the mega-hit television show, M*A*S*H, came to Public Counsel today, and I had the chance to shake his hand, hear him speak, get a picture with him, AND get an autographed hardcover copy of his book, Just Call Me Mike. Way cool.

Mike Farrell

It was such an honor to have such an intimate audience with Mr. Farrell. Since his television star days, he has become known as an activist, particularly in his efforts to have the death penalty abolished. He is known as an activist, but as his book title says, he prefers you just call him Mike.

It was fascinating to hear him talk of his father, describing him as a “volcanic” alcoholic of which he was terrified as a child. In fact, Mike went into acting (only after his father died because he would have been too scared to do such a thing otherwise) because he knew actors received attention, and that’s what he thought he wanted in life. Positive attention. Later, he learned that what he was really looking for was love.

In fact, that drives Mr. Farrell (um, I mean “Mike”)’s activism – the realization that what the invisible people of our society (the homeless, the aged, the incarcerated, et al) really need is to be valued as a human being.

He had good news to share in that he believes the death penalty will eventually be abolished in America. The only question is when. Unfortunately, much of this progress is because people are realizing that the death penalty is a huge waste of money instead of learning to value human life. Still, we’ll take it.

He told a fabulous (and at the same time, horrible) story about a woman who was rescued from her death sentence with just two days to spare. “Granny” had experienced horrible, horrible abuse in her life, and had killed on two different occasions in response to her victimization. After being rescued from death, she has used her life sentence to complete a college education and encourage many of her younger fellow inmates (who call her Granny) to pursue an education and create a brighter future.

I’m so glad we didn’t kill her first.

Well, it was a neat afternoon. Not a bad way to end a week of work.

The Hippie Kitchen

June 11, 2009

Alright, boys and girls, you have to block out nine minutes of your life to watch this, but make sure you do it. I got to visit The Hippie Kitchen today, and I’m in love.