Monday, December 31, 2007

Selling Points

at a local post office near you

"Hi. I'd like to mail this envelope by Priority Mail and these two boxes through the regular mail."

"OK....Are you sure you don't want to send the boxes through Priority?"

"What's the price difference?"

clerk types into her computer

"Priority will be $4.00 extra on the first box and $6.00 extra on the second."

"That's OK. There's no rush on those."

"Are you sure? If you send it parcel post it could sit on a truck for weeks, until they decide to get around to it. Priority will get it there faster."

looking at the clerk doubtfully

"No...that's OK....there's no rush on those boxes." .

"Well, what about insurance and tracking for your boxes? I know one lady had a box missing since November. I had to tell her we couldn't help her because she didn't pay for tracking."

"No....that's OK...everything will be fine."

"No insurance either? Things can get tossed around and broken. I've seen some boxes falling apart."

"That's OK. I packed it really well."

"Is this for family or e-bay?"

starting to get irritated

"It's personal mail...." I hint, wondering why this woman feels the need to probe so deeply into my mailing needs.

"Well....you know some of those e-bayers don't care about how it's mailed. If it's for family I always send it through Priority--that way I know it won't get lost, crushed, or abused."

"That's OK......Please send it parcel post."

"Oh....OK. Hopefully it won't have any problems."

The United States Post Office--marketing their complete incompetence as a selling point for their services.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Couple of Days to Myself

Phew....I'm tired...but in a good, satisfied kind of way.

Between having people for the Holidays and visiting others for the Holidays and all the gift-giving, chatting, driving and recovering from Christmas, I had been feeling irritable and tired in the having-to-follow-other-people's-schedules kind of way.

That drives me nuts.

My mother-in-law had planned on us for a visit beginning on Saturday and going through the New Year. I was actually looking forward to it, but as it grew nearer I realized that by the time we got back from the trip I would only have a couple of days off before returning to work and the daily grind. Even those days were filled with dentist appointments for the kids and myself, and an event the next day that had been planned for some time.

ugh...wall to wall scheduling.

Who had the bright idea to arrange all of this stuff during Christmas Break?! oh yeah...that was me.

At the last minute I talked it over with DH and he agreed to head up to his parents for a couple of days while I got my head in a better place, filled a jewelry order that came in on Christmas, and paint Intuitive Monkey's bedroom--something I had been planning for months, but could never carve out the time to get done. I would join them on New-Year's Eve.

I love my husband. He can be so sweet when he isn't driving me crazy. :-)

So, for the last two days I have cleaned and scrubbed and sorted through closets and dressers, donating things to Goodwill. I have redecorated our bedroom, picked out paint colors for it, and started painting our son's room. I have packaged up all the last minute gifts I bought but didn't get in the mail on time. I made more jewelry. I played music all weekend long and sang obnoxiously loud. I let the dog sleep in bed with me, as a placeholder for my husband's spot. I slept late and wandered through Target and Lowe's at a pace that would drive my family insane if they were with me.

It's good to be alone sometimes.

I realized that it's good that I have my family, otherwise I would be a compulsive workaholic, always finding some sort of project to start or a hobby with which to tinker. I never really thought of myself that way, and I'm not sure why. I always love to accomplish tasks. Whenever the kids are up at their grandmother's, I always clean the carpet or upholstery--washing out the past and resetting a clean slate from which to start. I reorder the house, reordering my thoughts at the same time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Aftermath

Well...The living room looks as if a department store exploded. Items ranging from Spiderman Fruit-of the-Loom underwear--for the kids..not me--, specialty cocoas, a magic set, numerous board games and some remote control toys--meant to annoy and trip unsuspecting adults--litter the floor and hallways of our home; so I guess Christmas has officially come and gone.

Christmas Successes:

1. We were able to complete another observation of advent with the children this year. The previous four Sundays were spent lighting candles, reciting parts of the Christmas Story and singing Christmas carols from an old Baptist hymnal that I inadvertently stole many years ago--purely accidental, I assure you.

2. I bought my dad a memory-foam pillow, and he loves it. Anytime I buy a successful gift for him I equate it with climbing Mt. Everest. The task is equal in scope.

3. I only used my credit card twice during the entire season, for a total of $100. That was a great feat for us this time of year.

4. I managed to turn one year older, reaching the ripe old age of 34. I'm not sure if that qualifies as a success, but considering that not becoming another year older would be a definite failure; I'm willing to place it in this category.

5. I didn't gain the usual 5 lbs. I do almost every year around the Holidays. Major success!

6. I still retained a modicum of sanity....that is if modicum means a very small, tiny, barely noticeable, bit of almost nothing.

Christmas Failures:

1. I was too impatient with my kids in the midst of all the rushing about and planning. Aaargh.....I hate it when I overreact to their childish behavior.

2. This year was probably the most stressful Christmas I have experienced. I'm not sure if it was because I was working and had less time to get things done or enjoy the season for what it is, or if it was having both the kids in school and the added time pressures of homework, school activities, and holiday specials, but I definitely struggled with frustration over the busy schedule and holiday expectations....I guess this led to number 1 on my Christmas Failures list.

Best gifts for me:

1. Lord or Legend? Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma--by Gregory A. Boyd and Paul Rhodes Eddy. A book about the debate over the historicity of Jesus and the general reliability of the Gospels.

2. Next by Michael Crichton. A little light reading.

Worst gifts for me:

ummm....I can't really say, just in case my relatives find my blog!

Things my kids received and love:

1. Terrainiac--a huge, green, remote control vehicle that will work on almost any terrain. Thanks go to their aunt and uncle.

2. Battle Wheels--more remote control gadgets that are intended to battle each other and knock shields, armor and eventually the robotic heads off of each other. One of them has the red battle wheel, the other has the blue one. This came from us.

3. Snap Circuits Jr.--a beginners set of electronic circuits that snap together and make actual, electrical projects that move, light up, or make noise. This has fascinated them for hours. Yay for science gifts!

4. Computer games--too many to list!

Overall, Christmas was good. My dad came over for a while and had a pleasant visit. I talked to my brothers and my mom, who are all out-of-state. The kids had more fun and excitement than should be legally allowed.

Now, we're just trying to work through the after-Christmas hangover caused by too much adrenaline and build-up.

We all need a nap.

I might go take one just about now.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Break For Festivities

I seriously have way more to do than I can possibly achieve in the next several days.

I will be checking out of the blogging habit until after Christmas.

I will return with lots of really cool things to say and profound insights that will change your life.

not really....but hey, I don't want you to forget me! :-)

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Mantra

One week until Christmas.

One week to get all the gifts that I haven't bought or picked out yet.

One week to mail said unbought, unpicked-out gifts out-of-state.

One week to make Christmas cookies to go with the gifts I haven't bought or picked yet that I am mailing out of state.

One week to buy tins, to hold Christmas cookies I haven't made, to go with gifts I haven't bought or picked out, that I am mailing out of state.

One week to get Christmas cards, to go with the tins that are packed with unmade cookies, that are accompanying the unbought gifts that haven't been picked out, that are being mailed out-of state.

One week and one day 'til Christmas is over.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oh yeah...I had my diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.

To quote the Radiologist:

"You're good for another year or 100,000 miles."

I guess that means everything is OK.

:-)

Brain Cramp

Last week I posted about flitting from subject to subject online, listing Karl Barth as one of the people I wanted to know more about.

In usual overachieving fashion I asked DH to reserve about 5 books on Barth, and by Barth, from the library for me to read through.

Wanting to warm up slowly, I read the skinniest one first; How I Changed My Mind, by Karl Barth; Introduction by John Godsey. It's a compilation of three essays Barth wrote over the course of thirty years--1928-1958. It was a good intro to Barth's personality and hinted at some of his views, but left many in sketch form.

I wanted to know more about what "specifically" he believed and taught. The Wiki article is brief and only outlines Barth's theology in the barest terms. Mainly, I was curious about what Barth had to say about the inerrancy of the Bible. I have slowly moved away from strict, literal inerrancy for various reasons, but wanted a more detailed analysis from a theologian to read through and measure my own thoughts by, sifting out problems I hadn't yet thought of. Barth, although not believing in strict inerrancy, firmly believed in Jesus, His Divinity, and position as the Revelation of God to humanity.

Intriguing combination...no?

I soon found out why the Wiki didn't have much about Barth, and also why I had never heard many people quote him in theological conversations, or been taught his premises:

Reading Karl Barth is extremely difficult.

After the first book, I plunged into On Religion: The Revelation of God as the Sublimation of Religion, by Barth. It came with a 29 page intro by Garrett Green which laid out some of Barth's points, explained the reasons for this new translation from Barth's German to English, and defined some of the terms. It was obviously an academic work, but I completely understood it.

Then....I actually started Barth's On Religion. Can I just say that my brain is still reordering itself? It has been interesting going, but I have found myself having to read and re-read paragraphs, and sometimes single sentences, just to make sure that I understood what was written. It's not so much that the writing is incomprehensible, so much as it is incredibly dense with information and the assumed knowledge of the reader--knowledge I only partially have.

That Barth character. He's intense. A single page will refer to ten different philosophers and theologians over the course of 300 years, mentioning movements, particular theses, and anything else relevant to Barth's big picture.

I feel totally pegged by a quote from Barth which came from the first book:

"Certainly we are all sorry that we could not make understanding and choice easier for our contemporaries, and especially for our American contemporaries who are always anxious to get the most simple and rapid courses of instruction!" pg 42 [emphasis mine]

This from a man who wrote 13 volumes--over 10,000 pages--of his theological masterwork, Church Dogmatics.

Guilty as charged. C'mon Karl, give me a break. You might call it simple-mindedness; I call it efficiency of mind!

I am determined to continue to try and decipher Barth, because I sense something larger in his work that I feel will be useful to me. However, I am realizing that to understand Barth's work it will be necessary to take a comprehensive approach to understanding the context of his arguments. That means a lot of digging around for me.

Maybe it will be my new hobby for a couple of months.

I'll let you know if my brain overheats and melts into a steaming pile of goo.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Criticism

Have you ever been criticized at a completely unexpected, spontaneous moment from an unlikely source and been cut to the bone, even if the criticism was minor?

It happened to me this week.

I was completely taken aback and hurt on a level that was out of proportion for the criticism, but it totally ruined my day and made me feel like an utter failure. ugh.

Logically, I knew it wasn't a big deal; the criticism had a nugget of truth to it but was somewhat skewed--from my perspective anyway--yet, inwardly I was crushed and felt anger towards the person offering it. This was a person to which I had been very sympathetic, and had even planned on anonymously helping out this Christmas. I was flabbergasted.

My initial, internal reaction was something like, "Hhmmph....see if I do anything nice for you now!" Yes...I know....not very mature. I felt like the kid who takes all their toys, runs home, and says,"You're not my friend anymore."

Upon the heels of my initial reaction, came a gentle nudge in my direction from on high. "Really? So, when people stop treating you the way that you want them to, you're not willing to help them? Your concern is only for those who affirm your sense of yourself?"

uh....uh.....gee.....ummmm....Yeah, I guess so.

"So, your "love" is conditional? Your concern is based on the likability of a person, not the need of the person?"


uh....uhmmmm....looking down in embarrassment and whispering,"I guess so."

Feeling upset was OK. Feeling hurt was OK. Struggling with it was OK. Deciding not to help someone who needs it because of those feelings was NOT OK.

I still plan on giving my anonymous gift, even if it isn't given with the enthusiasm I initially intended. I know it's the right thing to do.

Perhaps more frustrating than my bout with criticism, is the thinly veiled immaturity that lurks just beneath the surface in me. Although outwardly I did not react to the criticism in a bad manner, inwardly I was a seething mess for at least a couple of hours.

It's never pleasant to realize how childish you can be.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

another thought

My previous post just sparked a remembrance.

As I was thinking about how adults communicate right and wrong, good and evil, good choices and bad choices to children, I remembered an incident that happened during my job.

I am part of group that does a presentation for 4th grade students about bullying, stereotyping, and prejudice. It's a puppet show performance that I introduce and then help perform. There is also a third grade program about physical and sexual abuse.

The students I see each day have almost always seen the previous year's performance, and sometimes have a question about it or related to it. They usually don't ask those kinds of questions until after the performance, while they are getting up and informally chatting with us. If a question or comment seems to indicate that there might be some issue going on at home or in the child's life, we take their name and speak to the school counselor to make them aware of it. Our boss follows up to make sure that happens.

During the intro to our performance at a particular school, a girl raised her hand as high as possible and for as long as possible. I don't normally take questions in the intro, but was confident enough in my ability to improvise and redirect things that I figured I would see what she was so excited about.

I pointed to her and said,"Yes...did you have something you'd like to ask?"

"Um yeah. If someone is a sex offender...does that mean they're a bad person?"

I gulped and took a moment before responding. I realized that she wouldn't be asking that question unless there was someone in her life who was a sex offender, and with whom she was unsure about what to feel towards them.

"Well....sometimes people make bad choices, but that doesn't mean that they always will, " I said, trying to find a way to reassure her and yet not endorse a sex offense.

"My mom's a sex offender. She did something bad."

OK...mental note. No more questions before the performance.

"You know, we have to start the show now, but I think that when we're done you should ask the counselor more about what you're thinking. I think he could really help you and would be happy to answer your questions. Will you go over to him when the show's over....as soon as we're done?" He was sitting in on the performance.

"Yeah."

"Great. I know counselors love to answer questions and talk to students."

I extricated myself from the situation and started the show. Oh...and she did speak to the counselor right afterward.

That moment popped into my mind as I mulled over what to tell children about views, choices and beliefs.

We can try and explain things in an even-handed fashion, but children don't usually see things in such a light. That girl felt she had to decide whether her mother was "good" or "bad". In her mind there was no middle ground. If I said sex offenders were "bad" that would have created conflict within her about how to relate to a "bad" person in her family.

And yet...don't we all have to do that. We all have people in our lives who we have difficulty with because it is hard to label them simply as "bad", because they aren't always bad. They can also be loving, funny, kind....and still have poor judgement, or addictions, or a never-ending need to cause drama.

As we get older, we learn how to hold those competing concepts of a person in our minds, separating out a person's choices from the actual person....but it's still hard and confusing.

So....explaining how God loves sinners...or how people can simultaneously be "bad" and "good" isn't a problem exclusive to childhood.

I'm still learning it myself.

Pop Quiz

On my blog I refer to my youngest son as Intuitive Monkey. Monkey...because he never stops moving and is quite silly. Intuitive because he has a grasp on abstract ideas and the consequences of them in a way that The Rationalist does not.

Both of my boys are incredibly smart for their ages, but in completely different ways.

The Rationalist is black and white all the time, without fail, inexhaustibly so. Rules and facts are hard and fast, never flexible. If someone is wrong, they need to be corrected. If something's unfair, it needs to be remedied. It's tough living with such a concrete person all of the time. Everything is always up for debate.

Monkey also absorbs facts and will correct others if he thinks he's right, but not nearly with the same passion and vehemence. Where The Rationalist never keeps a thought to himself, but opens his mouth and lets it all pour out, Intuitive Monkey is much more guarded and will actually say that he doesn't want to tell us something that he's thinking. As a result, when his thoughts do break out into speech, they often amaze us with their poignancy and insight. I always catch myself thinking, "Wow, there's a lot going on in there."

Sitting with him while he's learning is a wondrous experience. During a viewing of the Nova special about the colony collapse of honeybees, he would stop every few seconds and ask me to clarify a word or term. He had to be sure he completely understood what was happening.

Narration about the theories for the decline in bee population.

Intuitive Monkey:"...ep-i-dem-ic.......Mom..what's an epidemic?"

Me: "It's when sickness spreads quickly through most of a group , like people....or bees, and is hard to stop."

IM: "OK"

more narration

IM: "D...N....A......Mom....what's DNA?"

Me: "DNA are the instructions in our body that tell it how to work the right way."

IM: "Oh...OK"

and it goes on and on until he is satisfied that he understands.

A couple of days ago, in the midst of conversation about his upcoming Kindergarten Holiday Special, he plunged into another set of questions.

IM:"What's Hanukkah?"

Me: "It's a holiday that some people celebrate. They believe that, a long time ago, God made a day's worth of oil last for eight days in His Temple."

IM: "Why don't we celebrate Hanukkah?"

Me: "Well...usually only Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah."

IM: "Jewish...what's jewish?"

Me: "Jewish people are people who have different religious beliefs than we do."

IM: "Religious beliefs........what's religious beliefs?"

Me: "Religious beliefs are things that people believe about God."

IM: "Oh....so they believe different things about Jesus?"

pause

Me:"Well....they don't really believe in Jesus."

IM: "They don't?"

Me: "Uh...no."

IM: "Oh...so that means they must be bad people."

choking on my water

Me: "What?!...No...that's not what it means...." I backpedaled for a moment as I tried to figure out how to explain a complicated theology to a five-year-old boy.

"Remember how we talked about how God loves everybody, and how nobody's perfect...everyone's made mistakes?"

IM: "Uh huh."

Me: "Well, just because people don't believe the same thing we do doesn't make them bad people, or any different than us. We believe that God wants people to know about Jesus, so we tell people about Him who don't know about Him, but we always remember that God loves them. Do you understand?" I asked, unsure if I even fully understood what I was saying.

IM:"yeah....Hey...can we eat out tonight?"

end of theological conversation.

Trying to encapsulate the finer points of theology and culture into language a Kindergartner can comprehend has proved challenging. It makes me rethink the things I say and how I communicate them.

It wouldn't be so bad if I had some kind of warning, but these conversations crop up spontaneously, spurred on by the inner goings-on of a private thinker. It's like constantly being 30 seconds away from a Pop Quiz and you don't even know what the subject will be.

These kids definitely keep my brain cells hopping.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

I picked up one of those energy-efficient bulbs from Target the other day.


I only got one because I wanted to try it out, see how it worked, and how long it lasted in a particular light fixture that tends to burn through bulbs quickly.

Pleased with my "green" purchase, I began to open the package and immediately noticed this warning:


LAMP CONTAINS MERCURY
Manage in Accord with Disposal Laws
Mercury--a pollutant
I can reduce the energy I consume, contributing to fewer greenhouse gases, by buying bulbs with trace amounts of Mercury in them. Mercury must be disposed of carefully in order to prevent its release into the air and water. In many states it's illegal to dispose of products with mercury in normal trash pick-up. All those fluorescent bulbs aren't supposed to go in the landfill.
We threw two long, tubular, fluorescent bulbs in the trash just last week. We didn't know at the time that we were contributing to mercury pollution--the same pollution that poisons wildlife and builds up in the tissue of fish like salmon and tuna.
The problem then arises of what to do with the bulbs when they are used up. They need to be recycled, and they need to stay intact. Breaking the bulbs can cause the mercury to leak out, creating the chance for pollution or poisoning. Let's face it most people are too lazy to purposely store and recycle used bulbs. It requires forethought and time to find out where they can be taken and how to keep them safe until they are recycled.
So, is it better to risk the contamination of broken bulbs in landfills and trash cans, or should we stick to incandescent lighting? This article , from NPR, gives a more thorough look at the problem and indicates that it still might be better to buy the energy-efficient bulbs.
Personally, I may forgo the whole thing and start buying candles.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Important Tip

When visiting a store, filled with Holiday shoppers, try not to inadvertently dress like the employees.

While at Target, DH was approached several times by people with questions, looking for help.

He was wearing a red polo shirt and khaki shorts.

The last incident involved an actual employee--a young girl with a Target shirt--telling him she had put things in the back and would be in later. She finished her speech and left, unaware that she had just told a customer things her boss will probably want to know.

hehe..

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Unabated Curiosity

In my childhood home, staunchly standing in the living room, were two cherry-stained, Ethan Allen bookshelves. A mish-mash of books co-habitated on the shelves, except for two sections of chocolate-brown, leather-bound World Book Encyclopedias with gold lettering, which resided in their own shelves, high and lofty in the shelf hierarchy.

I would sit down and leaf through the volumes one letter at a time, learning all kinds of interesting things. I learned what the state capitals, trees and birds were. I taught myself the alphabet in sign language. I read up on astrology, learning that I was a Capricorn, my older brother was a Sagittarius, my mom was a Leo, and my younger brother a Gemini. OK...so not everything I learned was of the utmost importance, but I still was fascinated by everything I could read about.

Here I am, soon to be 34, and I am no different. I can chase down intellectual rabbit trails for hours, getting lost in Wikipedia, science blogs, and history articles as I cross reference terms I don't know and thinkers whose names appear together, trying to see the connections and understand how concepts take root.

I love it. I really should have been a researcher of some sort. Maybe in my next phase of life.

Last night I spent at least an hour and half following a trail from an article about crows, to an 18th century British philosopher, to an environmental belief/policy, and finally to a theologian. I guess all questions eventually wind up at God's feet.

Here's my stream of consciousness web track:

First I was here reading about crows and their life spans in the city compared to crows in the wild. I came across the term Malthusian Earth, which I didn't know, leading to the Google Altar of Knowledge. Not finding an exact reference to it, I clicked on a link to Thomas Malthus, confident that he probably had something to do with it.

Reading through that article made me realize that Darwin's concept of evolution had been greatly influenced and formed by Malthus, who was his senior by 43 years. Malthus proposed that the humans had to necessarily be wiped out by famine, war, and disease in order to have a balanced population and not overpopulate the land. He fought against poor laws in England as a way to reduce poverty. If poor people can't feed themselves and perish, then there is no poverty.

I know...it makes me wince to even think about it.

While reading through the article, a familiar thought occurred to me about the number of British thinkers, philosophers, and scientific atheists there are . What is it about Britain that produces these types of thinkers? Wondering if it was all in my head, I searched for the term "British rationalists" hoping to come across an article or news story.

I encountered this site, which didn't really address my point, but gave a list of important philosophers and movements. I spied the name Karl Barth and remembered that I had meant to look up more information about him based on a comment I had encountered a while back. I was off on another tangent.

Reading about Barth, and appreciating where he was coming from, led me to follow the links to neo-Orthodoxy and Soren Kierkegaard so that I could more fully understand the issues raised in the article.

I finally realized that it was late and I had to get to bed.

I was tired, but satisfied.

Now I want to buy a set of encyclopedias for the boys in the hopes that they'll satisfy their curiosity in the same way I always did.

Of course, once I visited World Book's site and realized that a set costs about $750, that hope was somewhat diminished.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mistranslating Judas

Via Language Log

Apparently, there are problems with the gnostic Gospel of Judas which was unveiled to the public this past year. Several key terms seem to have been mistranslated, resulting in a completely different meaning of the tale. As presented in the news, the Gospel depicted Judas as a hero and friend to Jesus, not the evil betrayer the traditional gospels portray.

Not so fast, says April DeConick.

She deals with the problems surrounding the translation here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Heroes

One of my pet peeves about serial action/sci-fi shows is that in the search for compelling storylines and driving the series toward an exciting finale, they make the characters behave in ways that don't fit with how they have presented the character thus far in the show.

Last night's example of Hiro burying Adam Monroe alive in a casket is a good case of just such a thing. How can they take sweet Hiro and make him do something so awful? Killing Adam I would have believed, torturing him...not so much--but, they really wanted that shot of Adam in the coffin.

These kinds of shows, like Lost, Alias, and Heroes, constantly try to flip the characters back and forth between good and evil in an effort to show their human sides, but then get carried away and leave the viewer uncertain about what the characters are actually like. In an effort to reveal an unexpected twist during the season finale, the writers undermine the show, sacrificing long-term consistency and character development for short-term thrills.

And when can Ando become a sidekick again? I want to seem him bopping around with Hiro, playing out the "normal human" hero part.

grrrr....those writers better straighten this out when they get back from their strike or I'll send Syler after them!

Christmas Tree Version 2.007

Sunday afternoon, we purchased our Christmas tree and brought it home on the roof of the Corolla. DH had picked out one that was much taller than we usually get, which caused me us to debate whether it was too tall or supposed to be priced differently than what the tag said. After going back and forth, between a perfectly shaped smaller tree and the larger one that might have been mislabeled, I relented and said "OK...whatever...it doesn't matter."

We got it home and soon realized it was much larger than the ones we usually have, but that it looked great. I begrudgingly admitted that DH had been right and I was glad we went with his choice.

He nearly died of shock to hear me say such a thing.

So, here it is. We keep debating whether it's crooked or if it just grew that way! :-)

Monday, December 03, 2007

George Will and Insinuation

One of the first pages I read in a newspaper is the editorial page. I like to see what the average Joe thinks is worth expending energy and ink on in order to send a letter to the editor. I read a few columns, but none with regularity.

I had always had some vague impression that George Will was a conservative columnist, but can't really pin down why I thought that, other than supposing that I had read one of his columns and come to that conclusion.

His column today focused on the inscrutable opinions and actions of politicians who often contradict themselves and their earlier opinions. He uses direct quotes from Hillary and Bill Clinton, regarding war and health care, more quotes from John Edwards regarding his health care push and lists Edwards' reversals from his previous Congressional record.

So far, so good. I get where he's going: Politicians are vague, opportunistic and say a lot of things that don't make sense and reveal nothing too truthful as a means of appealing to as many as people as possible.

The column takes a sharp turn and then devolves into a bashing of Mike Huckabee and evangelical Christians. That wouldn't be so bad if Will had any direct quotes from Huckabee and evangelicals; but he doesn't.

In trying to outline Huckabee's "muddied waters", Will writes in what is supposed to be Huckabee's voice:

I am a Christian, therefore I am a conservative, therefore whatever I have done or propose to do with "compassionate," meaning enlarged, government is conservatism. And by the way, anything I denote as a "moral" issue is beyond debate other than by the uncaring forces of greed.

Any quote from Huckabee? Nope....just Will's mind-reading ability for us to rely upon.

Then he writes:
Many Iowans think it would be wise to nominate a candidate who, when the Republicans were asked during a debate to raise their hands if they do not believe in evolution, raised his. But, then, Huckabee believes America can be energy independent in 10 years, so he has peculiar views about more than paleontology.
This is the second time I have heard this point raised about Huckabee, as if it is some damning accusation that has the power to humiliate and decimate a candidate. Guess what...many Americans don't believe in evolution; that doesn't mean that they are all Young-Earth Creationists who disdain and disrespect science. Evolution has become an insidious litmus test designed to ferret out any belief in a creative, personal God. If you believe that humans were designed for some purpose, are unique in some way, and insist on attributing it to God, then you must be seriously loony and unfit for anything. You might even need someone to tie your shoelaces for you.

And how is this relevant to governing? It isn't, except in the minds of those who equate belief in God with everything they dislike in current American politics. Oh...and still no direct quote from Huckabee here.

Although Huckabee is considered affable, two subliminal but clear enough premises of his Iowa attack on Mitt Romney are unpleasant: The almost 6 million American Mormons who consider themselves Christians are mistaken about that. And -- 55 million non-Christian Americans should take note -- America must have a Christian president.

Attack on Romney? The only quote I could find about Huckabee on Romney in Iowa is this:

"When he was pro-abortion, I was still pro-life and always have been," Huckabee told CNN. "When he was for gun control, I was against it. When he was against the Bush tax cuts, I was for them. When he was against Ronald Reagan's legacy and said he wasn't part of that Bush-Reagan thing, I was a part of that Bush-Reagan thing."

He makes no mention of religion, America's need for a Christian president, or Romney's Mormonism. Maybe Will is using those great powers of ESP again.

And one last gem from Will:

If Huckabee succeeds in derailing Romney's campaign by raising a religious test for presidential eligibility, that will be clarifying: In one particular, America was more enlightened a century ago.


First of all, Huckabee is not raising a religious test for the presidency. He has made clear his belief in God, but so has just about every other candidate, Democrat or Republican. They all pander to the right in an effort to win them over. The only difference is that Huckabee actually believes the things he says.

Secondly, it is Will--and those like him--who are raising religious tests for the presidency, or perhaps non-religious tests, by mocking and calling into question a candidate's character and ability to lead based on an informal hand-raising about evolution. Such open, unwarranted hostility seems extreme in contrast to the lack of any attempt by Huckabee to make this an election based on religion.

If Will really believes these sinister, subliminal messages exist, why doesn't he have at least one good quote from Huckabee to back up his charges? Politicians are talking all the time. Surely there is at least one good sound bite that could have been gleaned for Will to prove his many points.

Huckabee is the candidate that evangelicals have always wanted; someone who believes what he professes, is flexible in his approach to government and likable enough to maybe get somewhere. Maybe that's scary to the George Wills out there, but it shouldn't be.

Contrary to popular belief, evangelicals don't bite.