Monday, August 22, 2011

Book Review "Broken Words" Understanding the grip Neo-Cons have on evangelicals

As the author of a blog I get occasional emails asking me to review a book or promote a particular cause.  In most cases I decline, and I've never agreed to review a book before...until now.

The book I was asked to review is entitled 'Broken Words' its subtitled 'The Abuse of Science and Faith In American Politics'   and is written by Jonathan Dudley.  I quickly agreed because this is a topic I find extremely compelling, and equally vexing.  I was raised with the Christian faith, and I still consider myself an adherent, so it is with some consternation that I witness the strong level of support the U.S Republican party and Canada's Conservatives garner from people who identify themselves as Christian. 

My Christianity is about tolerance, forgiveness and helping those in need...and these are not the values I see on the right hand side of the political landscape, be it in Canada or the U.S.  

I'll dispense with traditional form and give you my recommendation up front.  I consider this an important work and very much worth reading for those interested in understanding the dichotomy between American style evangelicals and the neo-conservative right wing element of the political spectrum. 

Before reading a book as contentious as this its important to understand an author's frame of reference and his bona fides.  Mr. Dudley takes on what he calls 'The Big Four' issues:  Abortion, Homosexuality, Evolution and Environmentalism from the perspective of a person raised in the fundamentalist, evangelical Christian tradition.  Along with that perspective he brings a BS in biology from Calvin College and a MA in religion from Yale University.   

The author doesn't attack these issues, he dissects them while carefully avoiding the usual venom and hyperbole which typically dominates the debate on these issues.  With respect to abortion he often references Exodus 21 v 21-25 wherein it clearly states that a pregnant woman's life is more valuable and superior to that of an unborn child or fetus.  While many of the religious right engage in arguments that are nothing short of literary contortion in efforts to support their 'abortion is murder' view, Dudley will have none of it.  If you're going to take the Bible literally you can't pick and choose only the parts that support your agenda.

And that is his springborad to the other big issues.  Its fascinating reading to see how these issues (the other three are homosexuality, evolution and environmentalism) have been used to wed the fundamentalist/evangelical Christian community to the GOP in the United States...and as a Canadian I see distinct similarities with our Conservative Party. 

If you're looking to order this book its available on - LINK -

Whether you're a born again Christian looking for answers to these questions or someone like myself interested in better understanding the dynamic between Christians and Neo-Cons, then this rates as a must read in my opinion. 

FYI full disclosure.  I received zero compensation for this review aside from the book itself and I am not associated with amazon.  If you order the book here or elsewhere it doesn't matter to me one way or another. 

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Jack Layton's passing, let's leave the analysis for another day....

So what does the passing of NDP leader Jack Layton mean? 

Let's forget about that for now and just take a bit of time to admire the man for his energy, his convictions and passion.  They say a candle burns brightest before it goes out, and that is a fitting description of how Jack Layton captivated a significant portion of the electorate and vaulted the NDP to never before seen heights for Canada's socialist party in our most recent election.

I was as shocked as anyone at how gaunt and aged Jack looked during the news conference when he announced he was taking time off to battle cancer, but I'll relegate that image to the back of the photo library and instead remember the vibrant campaigner who exuded energy, even while using a cane.

Rest well and be at peace Jack Layton.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stock Markets Collapse - Time to panic or a buying oppourtunity?

Ah the stock market, where everyone knows the mantra buy low and sell high.  There's just one problem, if some investors are buying low there needs to be others willing to sell low. 

Nothing like some panic, this time brought on by the debt crisis in the U.S. and subsequent downgrading of the rating for the world's biggest economy.  Scary stuff, scary scary scary.  For rookies playing the market for the first time, this is new ground.  From the spring of 2009 until now the market has been very bullish, and bull markets can make even the most challenged investor believe he or she is the next Warren Buffet. 

Recent history has shown that the big winners over the past 10+ years have been those who bought into the market when all around them were running for cover.

Perhaps today's rally is evidence of that mindset, but personally I think there's more pain to come in the broader markets.  Capitulation is a word often bandied about, and we're no where near that point yet.  When Joe Sixpack and Sally Housecoat can't take it and bail on their holdings, that's when markets typically rebound. 

Look at a chart for the past 12 years or so as we've gone from bull to bear markets in the wake of: the meltdown, the toxic debt recession of 2008 and now the latest fears about US debt levels.  In the stock market history is constantly repeating itself, and I don't see any reason to see this time being any different. 

For those who have cash when the market bottoms out, history says they'll win big. 

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tim Hudak - Too wishy washy to lead Ontario?

Tim Hudak wants to be the next Premier of Ontario, desperately so by all appearances.  Canada is caught up in something of a Conservative wave right now, and Hudak looks eager as hell to cash in and grab the mantle of power at Queens Park.

But on important issues such as wind power Hudak needs to provide some clarity and do better than wavering weak rhetoric.  Polls show Ontarians are overwhelmingly supportive of green energy programs like wind power...but with that being said its fair game to oppose wind farms. 

The question is, with Ontario being a leader in the manufacture of wind turbines...How do the Tories propose to replace all the jobs being created given their campaing pledge to axe the program?  We in this province are at the forefront of a burgeoning industry, something I thought Conservatives would be supportive of.

It definitely has this voter thinking twice about Hudak, and I'm a voter who has voted for Ontario's Conservatives in the past.  

And the flip flopping wishy washiness doesn't stop there.  On abortion the PC leader says he favours the status quo, this despite signing a petition just a couple years back to withdraw public funding.  Then there's the Ontario Human Rights Commission, one day he's all for abolishing it, now he says he just wants to fix it.  

Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals haven't done a perfect job, no government ever does.  But if you want to replace them you have to do more than alter the campaign script every time your audience changes.  These are challenging time and leadership matters.  

Turbines need to move with the direction of the wind, but politicians doing the same end up looking weak and indecisive. 

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Feeling a bit depressed and needing a lift, Church revived my spirit

Its been an eventful couple of past weeks for this blogger readers, since I last updated my little corner of cyber space I celebrated yet another birthday, my 45th. But that's not the reason for my recent funk, at least not directly.

I'm currently situated in Kingston Ontario, and travel back to the Toronto area most weekends to see my father, my kids and my girlfriend. The past two weeks however provided me with a much appreciated break as the course I'm on shut down for a fortnight.

Wanting to give my kids a super holiday I rented a place here in the Limestone City and had them with me for seven full days, ending this past Friday. My girlfriend spent most of the week here as well, and on Sunday almost the whole clan came down for a get together. The Princess Raspberry and I even baked a cake, with a little help from a guy named Duncan.

Old Fort Henry, swimming almost every day, playing some hoops with Buddy basketball star, hikes to the lake, catching fireflies. What reason would I have to be depressed? None, well not until this past Friday at least. After having breakfast my ex came to pick up the kids, which is super of her, I'm glad we're getting along well.

But then, I was alone, and that's when a bit of depression set in. Being a divorced father is tough, especially when you're away from your kids. Friday night I was back in my room, no Honey Bunny to read 'The Secret Garden' to before tucking her into bed. No games of cribbage with the big guy before hitting the sack, just me and my thoughts.

Saturday to keep busy I took a long walk downtown , about 3 hours in total just shuffling around. Kingston has a number of beautiful old churches, and that's when I decided that a little worship time might just be what the doctor ordered.

Now, dedicated readers of this blog will likely be aware that I'm not big on religion. But with that being said I think my writings do give evidence to a strong spiritual side every now and again. Those of the fundamentalist persuasion will view me as something of a heretic given that I don't consider the Bible to be the irrefutable and undeniable word of God. As a matter of fact I don't even believe in the Trinity or in as Jesus as Lord. What I do believe in is a Higher Power, and calling that power God is acceptable to me given the limitations of human language.

So how does a heathen such as myself find peace and comfort in a Christian church service? I'll tell you.

One of the scripture readings yesterday was from Mathew, it was the story about the loaves of bread and the fishes. Readers of the Bible will know it well, thousands had gathered to hear Jesus teach and to be healed. Later Jesus' disciples came to their teacher and said the crowd was hungry, and Jesus instructed them to bring what food they had to him. It totalled five loaves of bread and two fishes, (or the other way around, it doesn't really matter though). The food was distributed to the multitude and all were fed with and abundance left over.

A miracle? Maybe, but personally I don't believe it, something doesn't need to be miraculous to have meaning. Probably some exaggeration from where I sit, that or a hidden cache of extra food. But miracle or not, the story still has spiritual meaning.

What this passage says to me, and the point the pastor drove home with his sermon, is that God provides. God, the Higher Power, (chose your own definition) is both a part of us and all around us.

Life throws things at us we don't expect, in my case divorce, for others it might be a death, job can be stressful. As stressful as trying to feed thousands with only enough for food for two or three.

The peace I walked away with Sunday morning was the peace that comes from knowing I'm not alone, that I'm part of something much bigger. Instead of being depressed about being alone, I rejoiced in the time I had with my kids, with more plans for the future.

Those of us who identify ourselves as progressive and liberal also tend toward being very humanistic and secular a lot of the time. That's all well and good, but sometimes religion can provide a much needed boost and a tonic for a depressed spirit.

It beats Prozac.

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