Monday, December 31, 2007

Ben Stein on Religion in America

My mom recently forwarded me something that Ben Stein wrote about Christmas and religion in our society. Many parts of resonated with me and got me thinking, so I decided to post it. Enjoy. (Incidentally, the reference to Dr. Spock's son is slightly inaccurate - it was his grandson.)


The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday
Morning Commentary.

My confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bo ther me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If
people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away .

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessi ca came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this happen?" (regarding Katrina) Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it lon g and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar
and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspa ce, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards.

Honestly and respectfully,

Ben Stein

Yoga = More Cookies

Now that holiday madness and our trip to my parents' cabin are behind us, it's time to dust off my poor, neglected blog and reestablish contact with the outside world. Until I get back in the groove of things, here's a little holiday food for thought (pun totally intended, I regret to say).

According to Food and Health Communications, in order to burn off two average holiday cookies (140-160 calories), you can . . .

Spend 20 minutes:
Doing low impact aerobics
Vigorously playing with children
Shoveling snow
Ice skating
Walking 4.5 mph
Working out at the gym

Or spend 30 minutes:
Ballroom dancing (or square dancing, if you prefer)
Food shopping
Raking leaves
Walking 3.5 mph
Doing Tai chi
Doing Yoga

I've been meaning to learn more about yoga (exercise + stress relief = good thing), and now I have yet another good reason to study it: I can eat more cookies! What's not to love?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Tale of Daring, Danger, and Lots of Sugar

A week ago, my friend Beth coined the whimsical phrase "yon candied maid," and one of her friends decided to write a poem about it. Do the words "brown sugar beach" and "swarthy knave" intrigue you? Then by all means, read on.

Don't Waste It

George Bernard Shaw once said, "Youth is wasted on the young." Sometimes I certainly feel mine was. As a young single adult, I didn't fully appreciate my freedom and opportunities until they were long gone. For example, during my early college years I often saw fliers for studying abroad, but the challenges of living in an unfamiliar culture outweighed the appeal for me. To put it more succinctly, I was too dang scared to go.

My mission eliminated that fear (once you've survived a year or so in in South America, the rest of the world is a lot less intimidating), but by that point I couldn't think of an excuse to go to Spain, England, Chile, or even Nauvoo, Illinois. My course of study didn't justify a semester in any of those places, and it didn't occur to me to save my pennies and travel there (sometimes I'm too practical for my own good). Now that I'm married and have a baby, we talk about visiting Europe or our Latin American missions, but goodness only knows when we'll actually get there.

Most of the time I don't mind having my roots so firmly in the ground (husband hugs and baby giggles beat a trip to Italy any day), but every now and then a bit of wanderlust makes me heave a loooong, wistful sigh. For example, I recently read in the Humanities at BYU magazine (see pages 6 & 7, and be patient - the page is a bit slow to load) about a teacher and two dozen students who hiked across England and Scotland during Spring Term. They visited historical sites, read essays and poems, discussed literature and life. . . . Yeah - that's about where the "loooong, wistful sigh" kicked in.

So, why am I writing about missed opportunities and trips I'd love to take but can't? I admit it's partly to vent a bit of regret, but the main thought in my mind is that I don't want to let my current stage of life slip past like the last one did. Don't get me wrong, my youth was pretty good, but I could have made far more of it than I did. Looking back, it seems like I spent most of my time just getting through life, rather than exploring the opportunities it offered.

I don't want to look back on my current stage and just see a long sequence of grocery runs and diaper changes, when with a little more thought and effort I could make this a time of sweet, exciting memories for my family and me. The housework and such is needful, but if that's all there is to our lives we're surviving, not living.

Of course, all this is easier said than done. The old "carpe diem" philosophy doesn't come naturally, but by golly I'm going to give it a try.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Apparently Rejection Makes Me Snarky

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, everyone. I'm tempted to guilt-trip you all and say that I've taken to my bed in a swooning depression because my blog has been viewed 83 times this week, and only ONE of those people saw fit to add a joke to the previous post (thanks, STM). But I won't. Cuz the real reason is that between a baby birthday and general holiday madness, I've just been crazy busy.

Anyway, to prove that I still love you, I invite you to have a laugh (or at least an empathetic sigh) over a stressed-out mom's "letter" to Santa, courtesy of my cousin's blog.

And hopefully inspiration and free time will coincide in my life soon (hey, I can dream), so I can post something of my own before another week goes by.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Joking Around

A while back, a fellow blogger asked her readers to share a favorite joke or two, and the result was a pretty entertaining comment section. I had so much fun reading it that I decided to try something similar here. I'll share a few favorites myself, then I welcome your contributions, be they long, short, or anywhere in between. I only stipulate that they must be clean - this is a G-rated site, folks. :)

Short Joke (no, not you, Siobhan):
Two men walked into a bar. The third one ducked.

Medium-Sized Joke:
A woman walked into a podiatrist's office and said, "Doctor, I think I'm a moth."

"A moth?! Ma'am, you need a psychiatrist, not a foot doctor. What on earth are you doing here?"

"Well, the light was on, so I came inside."

Long Joke:
An engineer died and found himself at the pearly gates. When he tried to go inside, St. Peter looked in his book and said, "I'm sorry - I don't see your name on my list. I'm afraid you'll have to go Downstairs."

Well, the engineer hadn't been in Hades very long before he decided he didn't like it much. It was hot and stuffy, and there was nothing to do. So, being an enterprising, mechanical type, he built an air-conditioner, a great sound system, and a flat screen TV that received about 3,000 channels (hey, he had limited resources). Pretty soon, the Inferno was a pretty happenin' place.

One day the Devil got a call from St. Peter. "There's obviously been some mistake - you're not supposed to have any engineers down there. You'd better send him Upstairs immediately."

The Devil snorted. "Are you kidding? I love this guy. There's no way I'm letting him leave."

St. Peter replied, "If you're not willing to observe the law, I'm afraid we'll have to take you to court."

"Yeah, right. And where do YOU expect to find a lawyer?"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Romney on Faith

I heard on the radio yesterday that Mitt Romney planned to give a speech addressing questions about his faith and his candidacy. I assumed he planned to set straight what Mormons believe, and how it compares with other Christian faiths. As it turned out he did no such thing, but I think what he did say had much more bearing on the situation.

Romney pointed out that he was running as an American, not as a member of any particular faith. Furthermore, he declared that listing off doctrinal details would be tantamount to a religious test for candidacy, which the Founding Fathers sought to prevent.

As for Romney's personal beliefs, he did firmly state his conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world, and he mentioned many of his values that he believes most Americans share. He assured his audience that he would not favor one particular religion as president, but he declared that we should acknowledge our Creator and our duty to him in government and public affairs - basically we are a nation under God, and we need all the reminders we can get that "in God we trust."

The one (minor) issue I have with the speech is his statement that when he takes the oath of office (notice "when" not "if" - ever the optimist, eh?), "that oath becomes [his] highest promise to God." As important as that oath is, it doesn't outweigh the commitments to follow Christ's example and to be the best spouse and parent one can be. I'm not saying a president should skip a summit because his daughter has a soccer game, but when anyone is balancing their numerous important roles in life, we should keep in mind that decisions affecting our character and family will have more eternal impact than anything else we might do, even as president.

If you want to know more about the speech, CNN wrote a good breakdown of it, or you can listen to it at Mitt's website (about 3 minutes of the 10 is an intro by Bush Sr - apparently he's hosting candidates from both sides at his presidential library). There are also excerpts by CNN or on YouTube, each totaling about five minutes. Interesting that CNN focuses more on the political and historical aspects of the speech, while the version I found on YouTube includes Romney's list of values Mormons share with most other Americans.

Frankly, I think the latter is what most people are concerned about when they say they won't vote for a Mormon. Since they consider Mormonism mysterious and different from their own faith, I think they worry that a Mormon president would not demonstrate the same values when making major decisions. I suspect Romney's biggest hurdle will be convincing those people that deep down he values the same basic things they do, and will act accordingly as president.