flying back home

8 01 2007

I have returned home from my trip.  I’ll try to start writing inflammatory ideas, lessons, thoughts, and opinions again soon.





ted haggard and the church

13 11 2006

Since my worthless post on Ted Haggard was so popular, it’s time to at least briefly summarize what I have been thinking about the situation.

Ted Haggard screwed up.  He has admitted he screwed up.  His exact transgressions are unknown to me and even though I want to know, it’s not any of my business.  Ted Haggard let down his family, his church, and Christianity.  Here’s the kicker:  we all have.

Ted Haggard is in a huge spotlight.  He has lived and is still living in a fishbowl.  As the pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church, his actions and words have always been watched.  Unfortunately, Ted Haggard still had a sin nature.

Perhaps he said it best in the letter to his church:

I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve
been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy
victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone
would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that
were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Paul said very close to the same thing in Romans 7.

 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Does this excuse Ted Haggard’s behavior, whatever it was that he did?  No, of course not.  Romans 6 tells us that as Christians we should not continue in our sin.  We’ve died to it and should not remain in it any longer.

Christians sin.  Ted Haggard was in a position that made it very difficult for him to admit to any sin without a huge fallout.  Again, I’m not condoning his actions, I’m only trying to explain to myself and to you the reader why the events transpired as they did.  Haggard is the victim of a church that doesn’t accept sexual sin.  By church, I mean American Christian church, not specifically his church in Colorado Springs.  The only appropriate sexual sin to bring up in church is teenage boys looking at pictures of naked women.  What if Ted Haggard had admitted a few weeks ago that he had a problem with sin and was struggling with something?  I’d like to think that his church would have rallied around him and that he would have been surrounded by men and women who would help him be restored.

Haggard was a man with everything to lose.  He was the pastor of a huge church and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.  He was exalted to a high place and named as one of the most influential Christians in America.  American Christians don’t want sinning leaders.  American Christians want figures who are as perfect as Jesus.  Here on earth, that will never be attained.  It’s unfortunate that we have created an environment where the very men who are calling on us to repent cannot repent without fear of losing their position.  Instead, I think that they feel that they must hide their sin.  The Bible speaks again and again about hidden things coming to the light and that is what happened in this situation.

The unbelieving world needs to see Ted Haggard go through the process of restoration that he spoke of last week.  Ted Haggard’s personal life is no longer personal, which again may be part of the problem.  I don’t know.  Evangelical Christians have an unrealistic of sexuality.  They start with the truth, but they want people to live up to God’s standards.  EC’s are okay with divorce, lying, and perhaps deceit, but nothing sexual.  I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, that homosexuality is a sin, and that pastors who do meth with male prostitutes are out of bounds.  EC’s need to understand though that people are going to sin.  There’s a difference between accepting that someone is going to sin and accepting that sin.

At first, I was angry with Ted Haggard.  I felt that he had made Christians look bad.  I ranted to myself that he was a hypocrite.  I was upset that he couldn’t control his urges and that he would succumb to temptation.  And why wouldn’t he admit his sins before he got to such a place?  But when I began to reflect on my own life, I realized that I’m not much different than Ted Haggard.  I still need grace on a daily basis and I still sin.  I’m still a man in need of a Savior.

You can read Ted Haggard’s statement here and his wife’s statement here.  These are both PDF’s.





a confusing opinion

7 11 2006

The following article was written by Abila Patrick and published in the East African today. If anyone can explain to me whether Uganda should actually become like Botswana or not, please let me know and then explain and defend your position. The article is entitled Lessons Uganda Should Learn From Botswana.

Since independence, Botswana has registered the highest average economic growth rate in the world, averaging about 9 per cent per year between 1966 and 1999. Growth in private sector employment has averaged about 10 per cent per annum in the country’s first 30 years of independence. The government has consistently maintained budget surpluses and has substantial foreign exchange reserves totaling about $6.2 billion to date

The impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, and a cautious foreign policy. It is rated the least corrupt country in Africa, according to the international corruption watchdog, Transparency International.

Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income one with a per capita GDP of $10,000 in 2005. Two major investment services rank Botswana as the best credit risk in Africa. Diamond mining has fuelled much of the expansion and currently accounts for more than one-third of GDP and for 70-80 per cent of export earnings. Tourism, financial services, subsistence farming, and cattle rearing are other key sectors.

FOUR DECADES of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies, and significant capital investment have created one of the most dynamic economies in Africa. In the export area, Botswana has increased its earnings from $250 million in 1976 to $1,733 million in 1994, leading to a massive build-up of foreign reserves. Amazingly, Botswana is one of the rare African countries that lend to the IMF and World Bank, unlike other African nations, which are perennial beggars.

In the social services, the country has registered the highest increase in human index of any nation in the world, tying with Malaysia in number one position, according to UNDP. The country has undergone structural change as the percentage of people living in urban areas increased from 5 per cent in 1966 to more than 60 per cent in 2000, the highest rate of urbanization in the world. Where does Uganda stand in this very high standard?

AT INDEPENDENCE, Botswana had only five kilometres of tarred road. Now, virtually all national roads are surfaced and the country boasts of well-equipped hospitals in all major centres. Due to dry weather, the Southern African country had limited options in agriculture except for cattle ranching, so in 1997 it launched a major industrialization drive, based partly on value-added industries in the cattle sector such as meat and hide processing, and the production of cattle and chicken feed.

Botswana, though a land-locked country like Uganda, is now an upper middle-income country with huge foreign exchange reserves and one of the two African countries to have sustained a multiparty system of governance since independence, the other being Mauritius. The country also offers free education from primary to university level and has a free competent healthcare system for all citizens.

On the downside, the government must deal with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Unemployment officially is 23.8 per cent, but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40 per cent in a country with a population of just 1.7 million people. HIV/AIDS infection rates are the second highest in the world, threatening the country’s impressive economic gains, according to The World Fact Book. Life expectancy is also very low at 33.7 years.

FINALLY, BOTSWANA has failed to pursue a successful policy of export diversification, to move from 80 percent reliance on diamonds for its export earnings towards export of manufactured industrial products. However, there is renewed impetus to the country’s industrialization program. The story is much the same in a small but growing number of African countries including Namibia and Senegal.

By the way, the author of this plagiarized the CIA Factbook. The fourth paragraph is word-for-word from the CIA’s Background section on Botswana. I also fixed the spelling errors in the article.





sunday morning coming down

5 11 2006

I walked to Rite Aid this morning. It’s a quiet, gray morning here and I have to admit it, I’m sick. I think this is the longest I have gone into the semester without getting sick before. I don’t know if I have less stress or am getting more sleep, but I was hoping to make it to Christmas without coming down with something. It’s miserable to be sick while living in a dorm. There’s no where to escape to, no kitchen to make tea in, and no porch to sit on to get some fresh air. Instead, I huddle by the window, sucking in clean air, hoping that the germs will be whisked away out of this third story opening.

While I walked this morning, I had some time to think and reflect. Part of the time I thought about Christianity and what it means to me and what affect Grove City College has had on my faith. Campus Crusade has been doing a survey on campus to find out whether the general opinion is that Grove City College has hurt or helped the faith of the students here. I think one of the questions on the survey hit it right on the head. The survey asked about local church involvement here. Personally, I think that’s the one thing that has affected me the most.

I was also thinking about my post on Uganda. One of my friends, David, who is still in Uganda sent me an email after reading the post and I was very happy to read what he wrote to me.  David and I have a relationship that is different than most other relationships that I have.  I have only spent about a week with him in person, yet there was some sort of deep connection that allows me to be open with him.  Here’s what he wrote:

We visited a Doctors without Borders picture exhibit last Saturday at the National Theater. The literature I picked up says:

“Fear of abduction and violence is the initial cause of night commuting, yet today it appears that other factors, directly or indirectly linked to war, lead children to seek refuge in these shelters every night.”

Incidentally, a sign at the exhibit said attendance has dropped from about 20,000 at the peak to about 4,800 this June. Something else that I saw mentioned that the cause of the night commuting now is that a generation of children have never known anything different. That’s why they go, they’ve always gone.

I’m very pleased to see a legitimate organization back up what I feel so strongly about. Unfortunately, university student bloggers don’t hold much clout in the world, but I’m encouraged that Doctors Without Borders is telling the truth: we have a problem, the original cause of that problem is over, we need to respond differently.

So much of me longs to go back to Uganda. I miss it in a way that is different than how I miss anything else in the world. I’d love to return to all sorts of places on earth and there’s a long list of other places that I would love to visit for the first time. Yet Uganda calls in a different way. I think my time in Uganda was a life changing experience that wasn’t done changing me when I left to come back home. I learned so much, but I feel left hanging, waiting for something. I have an idea of what that might be, but I’m not sure how to answer my own questions.





the visible problem with invisible children

2 11 2006

EDIT ON MARCH 7, 2012: This post was originally written in 2006.  As you read and comment, please consider that it has been over 5 years since I wrote my thoughts here.  I personally still have the same concerns about IC that I did when I posted this and have chosen not to contribute to their cause.  However, Uganda continues to hold a very special place in my heart.  When I wrote this article, I supported and I continue to support relief efforts in Uganda through the work of Steve Hoyt at Engineering Ministries International (eMi), an organization with a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator.  If you’d like, you can support Steve’s work in Uganda here: https://emisecure.org/donate.html .  To  learn more about the work that eMi does in Uganda visit http://emiea.org/index.html.

Thanks for continuing to be a part of this important conversation.

James

Original Post:

Invisible Children (IC) swept the university campuses of America last year. The group wanted to mobilize college students to be aware of what happened in Uganda in recent years, the atrocious acts of Joseph Kony and his rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). I heard about Invisible Children for the first time when I was researching Uganda. I was immediately fascinated by their website. It’s very well done, but I noticed one thing. It lacked real information. If you haven’t seen the film or know nothing about their purpose, let me catch you up to speed with my version. Three clueless college kids head to Sudan with no plans and no idea about what they’re going to find. They’re looking for a “story”. They leave Sudan and make their way into Uganda. They find some bad stuff going on there. So they made a MTV-esque DVD about what was happening there. They wanted to draw attention to what they found.

So far, this sounds good. However, there is a major, major problem. I’m going to compare what IC is doing to an analogy that I thought of this past summer when I was Uganda thinking about this issue. Imagine that today you heard about what happened in NYC and Washington DC on September 11, 2001 for the first time. You were shown a video of footage from that day. You saw the planes hit the towers, you heard President Bush’s address, you saw the Pentagon wreckage, you watch in horror as you see people plunge to their death, jumping from the burning towers. Now imagine that you are inspired by this disaster. You want to something to help. What if you went to NYC today, expecting to see piles of rubble to clean up? What if you went, expecting that there would be thousands of people in the streets crying, looking for loved ones? But what would happen when you arrived and discovered that there was none of this, but a whole host of other problems?

And back to Uganda. Uganda is no longer experiencing violence from the LRA. Yes, I said it. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but it is a truth. For about the last year, since before IC hit the scene, Kony and his troops have been pushed into Congo, into the Garamba National Forest there. He’s sick, starving, and on his last legs. For the first time, Uganda is in the middle of real peace talks and the rebels have laid down their arms and are assembling to make peace. Why? This is happening because Joseph Kony was defeated. The Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) has beaten them back and Kony was sitting in Congo starving to death. Since March 2002, the UPDF has been allowed to carry out raids against the LRA into Southern Sudan and has even crossed into Congo, to the distress of most of the African community. Nonetheless, Operation Iron Fist, as this military offensive was called, has freed many child soldiers and sex slaves and brought them back to Uganda. The rebels again became very violent in 2003, but since 2004, the Ugandan government has been repeatedly beating the rebels and weakening them. Uganda is no longer allowed to enter Sudan or Congo to fight the LRA.

Invisible Children was founded in 2004, with the film crew filming in Uganda in 2003. Watching Invisible Children is watching old news. Will watching it alert you to what has occurred in Uganda? Yes, but it will not let you know what is happening there today.

Invisible Children is too late. It has taught us that MTV type media can get university students interested in a world crisis, the problem is it took too much time. Night commuting, outlined as one of the major problems in northern Uganda by the film, is practically non-existent now. Why? Peace is coming to the region. According to UN reports, children who still are commuting at night are not doing it because of safety concerns, but because they want to enjoy the amenities that NGO’s are offering in the towns, like Gulu, Kitgum, and Lira. At the peak of the commuting, there were between 30,000 and 40,000 children commuting. Now, estimates are below 10,000.

The scars of the 20 year conflict are everywhere in northern Uganda. I walked through internally displaced person (IDP) camps. I smelled, I listened, I saw, I touched, I tasted. I experienced Uganda. I saw people whose lives had been radically changed. I placed my hands on a woman whose lips had been cut off by the LRA. I walked with children whose parents had been killed. I sat on the foundation of a hut burned down by the LRA. I talked with people whose relatives had been abducted. I walked over land guarded by the UPDF. The landscape, the people, and the country itself has an immense burden to deal with.

Uganda has problems today. Their government is ridden with corruption. There are people still living in fear in IDP camps, afraid that violence will again return to their land. The education system is inadequate and many do not have the chance to go to school. For those who do work their way through the school system, there is a good chance that there will not be a job for them when they get even a university degree. Why doesn’t anyone want to do something about these problems? Why will thousands of people participate in IC’s Global Night Commute but not take the time to actually find out what is going on in Uganda today?

There have been many inspired to do more than just watch a DVD and sleep downtown for a night. However, that’s where we run into another problem. This summer, IC had a bunch of college students in northern Uganda wasting time and money. There were almost 30 people who were in Uganda this summer connected with IC and even more who were inspired to change the world and fly around it. That also sounds somewhat heart warming. Self centered American kids are flying around the world to change it. The catch is they don’t know what they are doing or where they are going. They are blindly making a problem worse by throwing thousands of dollars at something they don’t understand.

When I traveled into Southern Sudan, you could sense something was different there. There is a greedy spirit there that you can feel. Foreign aid had ruined South Sudan. People do not want to work, they want handouts. An entire generation has been cared for by the UN and other NGO’s. They are fed, clothed, protected, and sent to school without having to do anything. I walked through the market there and saw UNICEF tarps and blankets for sale. I could also buy Samaritan’s Purse shoe-boxes, filled with all sorts of American goodies. I thought back how I thought it was a good idea for me to send a shoebox filled with soap, toothpaste, bouncy balls, and a washcloth to a faraway land. What I realize now is that sending things, whether money, objects, or people to a place that I have no information on is a bad idea.

The problems that Uganda faces today cannot be fixed by hundreds of uneducated Westerners going there to “help”. As you read this article, think about how much you really know about the political situations in Uganda and throughout Africa that contribute to long lasting problems.

Africa as a whole needs to break free from foreign aid. Almost half of Uganda’s yearly budget is made up of foreign aid. I think that many of Uganda’s problems stem from its reliance on foreign support. If you want to read more on that, check out a Ugandan journalist named Andrew Mwenda. The aid to African nations is increasing the corruption there and encouraging these nations to continue this dependence on foreign nations and it does not encourage them to become totally self sufficient. When asked what rich nations should do to help Africa, Mwenda said,

So what is the solution? I’ve now written the first negative article I can find about Invisible Children. I also have suggested that we should think about cutting foreign aid and debt relief to African nations.

If you’ve seen the old news that Uganda has to offer and are disturbed, I encourage you to do some research and find out what is really going on in Uganda. I spent months before I went to Uganda researching the country. I talked to many people on the phone or with Skype, I emailed countless others, I read books, I monitored the news. If you want to find out what the situation is really like, find out. Don’t blindly fly yourself to a developing country like a Western idiot. I would also suggest finding out more about organizations that you support that work in foreign countries. Find out what their relationships are like with the local people and find out how they are grooming local people to take over their group. No aid organization should plan to be somewhere forever. If they do, they are not focused on solving the problem they are there to address.

Do not be fooled by slick video editing. Sleeping outside in downtown Pittsburgh will not help anyone who is still night commuting in northern Uganda. Perhaps you are now aware that there is a problem, perhaps you know that there is more to this world than just your country, your state, and your little hometown. What you may not know is that the US government is not going to get involved if it doesn’t benefit the American people. Remember Rwanda? It is up to you to figure out how to deal with this knowledge and the knowledge that your warm and fuzzy thoughts are not going to be the solution to this.

As of today, Uganda is still in a tedious peace process with the LRA, with both sides accusing each other of violating peace agreements. The good news is that they are still in the peace process and they’re doing it without the help of a foreign country that will attempt to benefit from the talks. Instead, using Rick Machar and South Sudan is helping to build ties with all those in that region. The LRA and the UPDF have now signed a second peace accord and hopefully this one will result in successful peace.

As I have written this over the past couple of months, I’m disappointed that I cannot offer a real solution to this problem. I wish that I had the answers for Uganda and those of you who are interested in doing something to help the people there. Unfortunately, I feel that I have done little more than to highlight problems there and then problems with our response to their problems. I learned so much while I was there, but I still have a lot that I can learn.





beer pong and taxes

27 10 2006

Lynn Swann plays beer pong. I don’t know about you, but if I was voting in Pennsylvania, that would be enough for me. Vote for Lynn Swann.

In other election news, the Drudge Report broke a story about the George Allen & Jim Webb race in Virginia. Webb has written some very graphic novels in the past. You can read the rest of the book quotes over at Drudge’s site.

Taxes are always a key part of anyone’s political career. Raise them or lower them, they’re there. Someone needs to run on the inclusive tax ticket. It would make it a law to include the tax in the price of an item. No longer would there be tax added on the end of the bill. Instead, tax would be included in the price. An item would no longer cost $1.07 when originally marked at $1.00. Instead, a $1.00 item would cost $1.00. This new law would help eliminate the need for pennies and would one day remove the need for change altogether, turning coins into a collector’s item and helping to boost the economy by their sale to collectors.

::update::

Jim Webb now responds to the criticism by saying it does not describe a sexual act. Gosh, that’s interesting.





facebook responds to the kick in the face

8 09 2006

To the cheers of its throngs of users, Mark Zuckerberg has issued another blog entry that apologizes for the way news feeds were introduced and the privacy issues that arose.

This is proof that if approximately 750,000 people unite in a about three days, change can occur. How can this be harnessed into changing something more important? Is there a way to get people to do more than to join an online group? Or is there a way to use that group as a mandate to take action?








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