Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween, Culture & Bad Costume Ideas

Photo Credit: &y
"Thinking about donning a kimono to dress like a geisha for Halloween, or a Mexican mariachi suit?

Students from Ohio University have a message for you: "We're a culture, not a costume."

With ethnic and racial stereotypes becoming increasingly popular Halloween costume themes, members of the school's Students Teaching About Racism in Society are launching a campaign to make revelers think twice before reducing a culture to a caricature, the group's president said.

Posters from the campaign are expected to go up on the Athens, Ohio, campus Wednesday. Meanwhile, the images are making the rounds online, raising debate over whether it's ever OK for people to paint their faces black, impersonate a racial stereotype for fun, and where to drawn the line.

It's a seasonal point of controversy, but even after widely publicized controversies such as the "Ghetto Fab" wig at Kohl's and Target's illegal alien jumpsuit, costumes of stereotypes abound. On Google's shopping section, several pages of Mexican costume ideas are available, from gauchos and "Mexican donkey costumes" to sexy serapes and tequila shooter girls.

The ad campaign from Ohio University show students holding photos of different racial and ethnic stereotypes in costume: an Hispanic guy with a picture of the Mexican donkey costume, an Asian girl with an image of a Geisha, a Muslim student with a photo of a white guy wearing a traditional ghutra and iqal over his head, bombs strapped to his chest.

"During Halloween, we see offensive costumes. We don't like it, we don't appreciate it. We wanted to do a campaign about it saying, 'Hey, think about this. It's offensive,'" said senior Sarah Williams, president of STARS.

"The best way to get rid of stereotypes and racism is to have a discussion and raise awareness, which is what we want to do with this campaign," said Williams, who is black and plans on dressing as singer Janelle Monae for Halloween.

The most obvious offense occurs when someone who's not black decides to go blackface, because of the historical context, she said. But the message applies to all races and stereotypes -- and not just during Halloween.

The dean of students fully supported the campaign, calling it a "clean, succinct" way of delivering an important message.

"We've always tried to get a handle on what it means to be thoughtful and appropriate when it comes to talking to students about choosing costumes and making the best decisions for celebrating Halloween," Ryan Lombardi said.

"I think it's a clean way of raising awareness of how the costumes you choose might be offensive. In many cases, students aren't doing it maliciously, but they might not realize the consequences of their actions on others."
If you're thinking about dressing up as someone from another culture for Halloween, please reconsider. It may not be as funny as you think.

To read the complete article please click here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leadership, Humility & Sins of Omission

Photo Credit: The_Warfield
From Patrick Lencioni:
"See, in most organizations, the biggest problems arise not because leaders are actively promoting the wrong behavior, but rather because they’re passively doing so by allowing people to get away with this behavior without impunity.

The most common reason that leaders commit sins of omission is simply because they just don’t feel comfortable confronting people about what they are or are not doing. Instead, they look the other way and hope that the problem goes away. And so, when they see that the problem has spread throughout their organization, they really have no one to blame but themselves. This is a moment of great humility. And a moment of truth.

Great leaders, like great parents, will grit their teeth and accept the painful reality that they are almost always the reason that something is awry in their organizations. They’ll accept the pain of being humbled and set themselves on a course of correction. In the end, their egos may be temporarily bruised but the organizations they lead will improve. Poor leaders, on the other hand, will try to protect their egos by continuing to blame others. Ultimately, their organizations will suffer, and their egos will get much bigger bruises, the kind that last a long time."
To read the complete article please click here.

(h/t to Greg Hersey for the link)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Michael Vick: Can He Ever Be Forgiven?

Photo Credit: warpafx
ESPN: The Magazine took an interesting approach with its NFL preview issue this year by centering the magazine around the resurgence of Michael Vick, his impact on the NFL and our society. Several articles explored Vick's upbringing, his influence on the game of football and his involvement in dog fighting and his subsequent time in prison.

One article, "The Dog in the Room: A lot of people will never forgive Michael Vick. A lot of people wonder why, too." by David Fleming, particularly interested me as it examined our culture's view of pets, especially dogs, and why Vick is so vilified in some pockets of our society.

Fleming writes:
"In the fight for sole possession of the moral high ground, the fierceness of Vick's supporters and foes often leads to a complete dismissal of the opposition's valid points. For some African-Americans, a suspicion that somewhere along the way this increased devotion to animals directly correlates to a decreased respect for humans has hardened into excusing Vick of any wrongdoing altogether. There are cries of racism when perhaps speciesism may be more accurate. At the same time, animal rights activists can seem to be indulging their misanthropic side. Pets are easy to love -- humans, not so much.

This blurring of boundaries between the welfare of humans and animals is at the heart of Vick's pariah status. In this country, almost 40 million dog owners consider their pets to be a part of the family. A 2001 survey of pet owners revealed that 83 percent referred to themselves as their animals' "mommy" or "daddy." That's one reason that when Vick pleaded guilty to managing a dogfighting ring, people responded as if he had serially murdered children. "Vick should never ever, be publicly supported again -- ever," said Simon Cowell of American Idol fame. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a public letter to the NFL titled "Is Michael Vick a Clinically Diagnosable Psychopath?" White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle admitted in an interview with to openly rooting for Vick to get hurt. "Some things are considered sacred in our culture, and they tend to cluster around the defense of the innocent such as animals and children," says veterinarian and USA Today columnist Patty Khuly. "There are a lot of pitfalls in directly comparing animals and babies, but the need to defend them comes from the same place."

In December of last year, just as Vick was making a run for MVP (he lost to Tom Brady), pundit Tucker Carlson appeared on Fox News and declared that the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year "should have been executed" for his crimes. The outrageous statement was denounced so quickly (even by Carlson) that it denied us the chance to examine the hypocrisy and moral paradoxes behind Carlson's -- and our own -- viewpoints on animal cruelty. For starters: Did Carlson also believe his stepmom should be put to death? She is, after all, the heir of Carl A. Swanson, founder of Swanson frozen foods -- a company that in its heyday slaughtered hundreds of millions of chickens. "People should look at what they're eating and what they're spending their dollars on and what kind of animal abuse they themselves are supporting," says Singer. "And if they haven't taken a good look at that, I don't think they have much right to criticize Vick."

The same night Carlson went after Vick, the TV was awash with Old Spice deodorant commercials starring Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. "Women want me, men want to be me," said Lewis. Surreal, considering that less than 10 years ago the pitchman stood in an Atlanta courtroom and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a double stabbing murder following Super Bowl XXXIV. The reason Vick's crimes continue to stay in the spotlight while Lewis' history or Ben Roethlisberger's alleged acts of sexual misconduct don't is that there are at least 40 times as many animal lovers as there are NFL season-ticket holders. And their pets have become the antidotes to something Mother Teresa described as the most terrible poverty of human existence: loneliness. "I don't know if dogs are sacred. But so many people have these personal relationships with them," says Singer. "They are very loyal animals, very uncritical animals. Because of that people can't imagine doing to them the kinds of things that Vick did."
Vick's case has raised all sorts of issues about which animals should be protected and which shouldn't. For example, would we feel the same about him if he had done the things he did to chickens or cows? Some people have questioned whether a person like Vick can be truly rehabilitated. Can he?

Since I'm a firm believer that those that have done horrible things to people can be forgiven then I have to believe that Michael Vick can be forgiven. He has admitted what he did was wrong. He has done his time. He's seeking to help educate others of the horrors of animal cruelty. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and trust that his remorse is sincere. What Vick did was inexcusable but I wonder why some of us are more troubled by what he did than the crimes that are committed towards our fellow humans that don't affect us as deeply. It's something to think about it...

To read the complete ESPN article please click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Money Can't Buy You Love

Photo Credit: brandon king
"I'll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too/
I may not have a lot to give but what I got I'll give to you/
I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love
" ~ The Beatles

Can money buy you love? Apparently not. Money may enable you to get more stuff but it won't necessarily help your relationship. From USA Today:
"Researchers have found that focusing on money and possessions can take a toll on couples' happiness and stability.

In conducting the study, investigators from Brigham Young University analyzed relationship evaluations completed by more than 1,700 married couples across the United States. The participants were asked how much value they placed on "having money and lots of things."

The study, published in the Oct. 13 issue of the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, found that couples who believe that money is not important scored up to 15 percent higher on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than materialistic couples.

"Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at," lead author, Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life, said in a university news release. "There is a pervasive pattern in the data of eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other."
To read the complete article please click here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Can Reading The Bible Reguarly Make You More Liberal?

Photo Credit: knowhimonline
"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." ~ Hebrews 4:12

According to recent research, regularly reading of the Bible can influence how one views certain subjects like how the government should respond to criminals, caring for the poor and being good stewards of the environment.

Christianity Today weighs in:
"Frequent Bible reading has some predictable effects on the reader. It increases opposition to abortion as well as homosexual marriage and unions. It boosts a belief that science helps reveal God's glory. It diminishes hopes that science will eventually solve humanity's problems. But unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues. This is true even when accounting for factors such as political beliefs, education level, income level, gender, race, and religious measures (like which religious tradition one affiliates with, and one's views of biblical literalism)."
Personally, I see these findings as fascinating when considering my own spiritual journey. As a church-going young person that rarely (if ever) read the Bible myself, I held quite rigid political views. After coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as a sophomore in college, I began to read the Bible regularly for the first time in my life.

Over time, my personal Bible reading went from "regular" to daily. I've read through the complete Bible a dozen times in my adult life and, over the years, my political persuasions have become much more liberal in nature than what they were previously. I do not hold a liberal stance on all matters (for example, I am conservative as they come on abortion) but am much more left-leaning on a variety of issues than my more conservative, evangelical friends.

For example, I once did an in-depth study of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and focused on three specific areas: 1) How did Jesus view money?; 2) How did Jesus view the poor; and 3) How did Jesus view the religious leaders of his time? I came away from this personal study with a much different view on each of those areas than I initially carried with me. Why is that?

CT's Aaron B. Franzen offers a compelling reason:
"The discussion becomes even more interesting when we consider who is most likely to read the Bible frequently. It's evangelicals and biblical literalists, those who tend to be more conservative on these topics. In other words, those who read the Bible most often are more conservative, but the more they read the Bible, the more likely it is that their views will change, at least on these topics.

Why does this happen? One possible explanation is that readers tend to have expectations of a text prior to reading it. Given the Bible's prominence in our society, it's little wonder that many people think they know what's in it before they open it up. But once they start reading it on their own, they are bound to be surprised by something, and this surprising new content is then integrated and grafted on to the familiar. Beliefs do change with the addition of new information.

But it doesn't have to be unfamiliar content to surprise the reader. It just has to be personally relevant. Frequent Bible readers may have different views of biblical authority, but they tend to read it devotionally, looking for ways in which Scripture is speaking directly to them. They will read until struck by something that sticks out in the text. Even if the reader thinks the Bible has some error or needs a lot of interpretation, this thunderbolt moment can take on tremendous personal significance.

But frequent Bible readers don't just see the Bible as personal. They also see it as authoritative, written by an author who had a specific context and intent, and they want to conform to its message. After all, why read the Bible with no desire to embrace what it teaches?

In short, sometimes reading the Bible can change views and attitudes because readers are surprised by what's in it. Other times, it's just a matter of discipleship."
When I look at my own life, I found that the more I studied the Bible personally and didn't just listen to others talk about it, I discovered much in there that surprised me. Many of my assumptions and personal biases were challenged and, as a result, I have become a much different person with a different view on the world. The point here is not that everyone that understands the Bible well will naturally become more politically liberal.  It could be that a person that initially falls more liberal on the politically spectrum might become more conservative after engrossing themselves in the Bible.

There are those that also read the Bible every day and come to much different conclusions than I do politically.  It is not always how we view certain policies that is paramount, but the manner in which we express our opinions and disagreements that indicate whether the Bible has taken root in our heart.  Because even if I'm right about a certain topic but others experience me as a prideful, arrogant jerk, then I haven't quite yet understood the message of the Holy Scriptures.

In my opinion, there are some things that conservatives get right and some things that liberals get right. But neither have the corner on truth. If I want to get timeless truth, I need go no further than my Bible. Politicians and political pundits may have good insights, but they can never speak for God in ways that God does not speak for Himself.  If you have not read the Bible much on your own, I encourage you to do so. It will provide direction for your life and lead you to the one that is the Way, the Truth and the Life -- Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Walking Into The Future

Photo Credit: _guu_
From Phil Cooke:
"So many people are locked into old ways of thinking, tired methods, and useless techniques, that it’s almost impossible to get them to see the possibilities of the new. I’m often brought into an organization facing serious challenges, only to be limited by their frustrating desire to continue old ways of thinking. The truth is, if the old way of thinking worked, why would they need me? And yet they persist in doing the same thing(s) in the same way(s) but wanting different results.

It’s ultimately about insecurity, and I could write an entire book on that issue alone. I’ve discovered that when faced with the possibility of change or a new way of doing things, people react in two different ways. Secure people react with excitement and anticipation. But insecure people react with fear and hesitation. Insecure people are the ones who drag their feet, “forget” to do things they’ve been asked to do, subvert meetings, and figure out a million other ways to sabotage the process.

Perhaps you were told that you’d never make it, you don’t have what it takes, or you’d never amount to anything. Whoever told you that had no idea of all your capabilities, because no one can know the full potential or the full range of possibilities in another human being, and no one can tell for certain where your limits are or how far you can reach."
To read the complete post please click here.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Detroit's Sports Teams Bring Healing

My family at Comerica Park, 2011
Photo Credit: Sandy Gresko
Detroit's sports teams are on a roll. The Tigers just advanced to the American League Championship Series. The Lions are 4-0 and preparing for a rare Monday Night Football appearance. The Michigan Wolverines are 5-0 and looking like they are ready to restore the program to its former glory. It's a good time to be a sports fan from Michigan.

So even as our teams are succeeding, the thoughts of Michiganders near and far never stray for too long from the challenges faced by our beloved Motown.

Detroit writer and radio host Pat Caputo writes of the ability of the city's sports teams to bring healing. From
"History has shown that when the city's sports teams start doing well, it's a sign of healing in Detroit. In 1968, when the Tigers won the World Series, it brought a racially divided region together after race riots. In 1984, the local economy rebounded from the recession at the same time the Tigers again won the World Series.

What makes 2011 different? The Tigers' magical summer is being followed by a surprisingly solid performance from the usually underperforming Lions, behind a triple threat of quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

It's not just that the Lions are winning but how they're doing it. They were down 20 points against the Minnesota Vikings on the road September 25 and then, the following Sunday, down 24 points against the Cowboys on the road.

The Lions won both games, representing the city's come-from-behind spirit and fight to win in the midst of adversity.

This tenacity is not lost on [Jim] Schwartz, the [Lions'] coach, who has seen the Lions at their worst and now their best.

"When I became the Lions coach, it didn't take me long to understand what the team means to the people here," Schwartz said. "No matter how bad it has been, they have never stopped caring. They are vocal but never apathetic. It's like a lawn that has been dormant. It just takes one good watering, and it's back."

Eminem's tag line in January's Chrysler ad -- "that's who we are. That's our story" -- sums up the motivation for these teams who know that the wins are helping Detroit's image and giving residents a sense of hope and pride that's been missing.

It seems that Detroit is back -- for now."
 To read Caputo's full article please click here.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Civil Rights Pioneer, Passes Away

Photo Credit: waynetaylor
The death of Apple, Inc. visionary Steve Jobs has dominated the news cycle over the past day but another great influencer of American society has also passed away. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a contemporary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and an icon of the American Civil Rights movement, entered into eternity yesterday at the age of 89.

Although not nearly as widely known by most Americans as Dr. King, Rev. Shuttlesworth was a key figure in helping to secure basic rights for African Americans during the civil rights struggle of the second half of the 20th century. tells some of his story:
"When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against segregated busing in Montgomery, Alabama, Shuttlesworth rallied the membership of a group he established in May 1956 -- the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights -- to challenge the practice of segregated busing in Birmingham.

Shuttlesworth also helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with King and other civil rights leaders.

Shuttlesworth's efforts weren't without a price: his home was bombed on Christmas Day in 1956, but he and his family were not injured.

He was, however, hurt in 1957 when he was beaten with chains and whips as he sought to integrate an all-white public school.

That same year, Shuttlesworth helped King organize the SCLC, serving as the organization's first secretary from 1958 to 1970. He later served briefly as its president in 2004.

In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded Shuttlesworth a Presidential Citizens Medal -- the nation's second-highest civilian award -- for his leadership in the "non-violent civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, leading efforts to integrate Birmingham, Alabama's schools, buses and recreational facilities" and helping found the SCLC.

Shuttlesworth also protested segregated lunch counters and helped lead sit-ins at the eateries in 1960.

He participated in organizing the Freedom Rides against segregated interstate buses in the South when he joined forces with the Congress On Racial Equality.

In 1963, he was injured again when a fire hose was turned on him during a protest against segregation in Birmingham. The blast of water, directed against demonstrators by order of Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor, slammed Shuttlesworth against a wall. He was hospitalized but recovered.

He was also a principal in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, which he helped organize."
To read Rev. Shuttlesworth's obituary on please click here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Hank Williams, Jr. & Playing The Hitler Card

Photo Credit: jcrawford3505
Hank Williams, Jr. is a country music singer that is perhaps best known to my generation for the "Monday Night Football" intro that he's been doing for the past two decades. But Williams has now become known to millions more for his recent comments about President Barack Obama.

While being interviewed on Fox News recently, Williams made a comparison between President Obama and Adolf Hitler. When asked by the interviewer to clarify his remarks, Williams held firm in what he said. gives the background:
"This week, in an appearance on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" on Monday morning, Williams referred to a June golf game with Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on the same team, against Vice President Joe Biden and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, as "one of the biggest political mistakes ever."

Asked what he didn't like about it, Williams said, "Come on, come on. That'd be like (Adolf) Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu. Okay. Not hardly."

When one of the Fox News interviewers later pointed out that Williams invoked "one of the most hated people in all of the world to describe ... the president," Williams responded: "That is true, but I'm telling you like it is, you know. That just wasn't a good thing. It just didn't fly. So anyway, like Fred Thompson said, you don't want to ask me a question because I'm going to give you too straight of an answer. So talk about something else."
After his remarks became a hot topic, ESPN decided to pull Hank, Jr.'s MNF intro this week. He then issued the following statements on his website:
"Some of us have strong opinions and are often misunderstood. My analogy was extreme – but it was to make a point. I was simply trying to explain how stupid it seemed to me - how ludicrous that pairing was. They’re polar opposites and it made no sense. They don’t see eye-to-eye and never will. I have always respected the office of the President.  Every time the media brings up the tea party it’s painted as racist and extremists – but there’s never a backlash – no outrage to those comparisons… Working class people are hurting – and it doesn’t seem like anybody cares. When both sides are high-fiving it on the ninth hole when everybody else is without a job – it makes a whole lot of us angry. Something has to change. The policies have to change.”

“I have always been very passionate about Politics and Sports and this time it got the Best or Worst of me. The thought of the Leaders of both Parties Jukin and High Fiven on a Golf course, while so many Families are Struggling to get by simply made me Boil over and make a Dumb statement and I am very Sorry if it Offended anyone. I would like to Thank all my supporters. This was Not written by some Publicist.”
In his attempt at a mea culpa, Williams commits the classic error that so many of us are guilty of these days. It is the "non-apology" apology. The reason why we are apologizing in the first place is because we hurt or offended others. But the language that Williams uses of "I am very sorry if it offended anyone" simply isn't sincere. If Williams said what is truly in his heart, then he should stick to his convictions and deal with the consquences.  If he feels like his statements don't accurately reflect his true sentiments, then he should offer a more sincere clarification and apology.

Based on his "non-apology" apology, it appears that Williams meant exactly what he said in his original comments and I doubt he's sorry at all. Because we live in the United States of America, he has the freedom to say what he'd like. But the rest of us also have the freedom to call him on it when he makes a ridiculous comparison of a democratically elected president to an evil dictator that was directly responsible for the loss of millions of lives.

Part of Williams' political frustrations is that members of the Tea Party, who he sympathizes with, are often unjustly characterized as extremist or racist and there is no resulting media outcry. And he may have a point there. But if he doesn't want to be painted as an extremist, why would he make an absurd comparison between President Obama and Hitler? Standing up for hard-working Americans is noble but Hitler analogies are just a bad idea.

Monday, October 03, 2011

What Is Sin?

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
From R.C. Sproul:
"The question, “What is sin?” is raised in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The answer provided to this catechetical question is simply this: “Sin is any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God.”

Let us examine some of the elements of this catechetical response. In the first instance, sin is identified as some kind of want or lack. In the middle ages, Christian theologians tried to define evil or sin in terms of privation (privatio) or negation (negatio). In these terms, evil or sin was defined by its lack of conformity to goodness. The negative terminology associated with sin may be seen in biblical words such as disobedience, godlessness, or immorality. In all of these terms, we see the negative being stressed. Further illustrations would include words such as dishonor, antichrist, and others.

However, to gain a complete view of sin, we have to see that it involves more than a negation of the good, or more than a simple lack of virtue. We may be inclined to think that sin, if defined exclusively in negative terms, is merely an illusion. But the ravages of sin point dramatically to the reality of its power, which reality can never be explained away by appeals to illusion. The reformers added to the idea of privatio the notion of actuality or activity, so that evil is therefore seen in the phrase, “privatio actuosa.” This stresses the active character of sin. In the catechism, sin is defined not only as a want of conformity but an act of transgression, an action that involves an overstepping or violation of a standard."
To read the complete post entitled, "Sin Is Cosmic Treason", please click here.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Helping More Hispanics Receive A College Degree

Photo Credit: wyoguard
From The Orlando Sentinel:
"Although recent reports show that more Hispanics are going to college, they're the least likely demographic group to graduate.

With President Barack Obama having set a goal of leading the world in college graduation by 2020, educators have focused on Hispanics — the nation's fastest-growing student demographic group — as a way to make progress.

Nationwide, about 19 percent of Hispanics ages 25-34 had earned an associate degree or higher as of 2009, compared to 49 percent of white students and 29 percent of black students, according to the College Board.

Florida is generally seen as a national leader in college completion among Hispanics. Almost 29 percent of Florida Hispanics ages 25-34 had at least a two-year degree in 2009.

At this morning's gathering of education leaders, the College Board released a report offering 10 recommendations for how the country can help more Hispanics graduate.

Many of the ideas, however, are ones that have been discussed for years: improving guidance counseling in the middle schools and high schools, simplifying the college admissions process and offering more need-based financial aid."
To read the complete Sentinel article please click here.