En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Archive for the ‘dr. mohler’ Category

The Post-Truth Era Strikes Again!

Posted by Scott on March 7, 2008

by Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.

The question of truth has always haunted authors of controversial stories — including both fiction and non-fiction. Nevertheless, non-fiction was understood to represent a claim to be a true, even if highly interpreted, account of reality. Or, at least that has been the understanding until recent times.

Now, in the age of Stephen Colbert’s concept of “truthiness” and what others have called a “post-truth era,” the lines between fiction and non-fiction are becoming more and more blurred. This is true even in the case of some well-known, popular, and influential works.  Does the truth matter anymore?  Do we care if fiction is presented as non-fiction?

In 1992 Guatemalan author Rigoberta Menchu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, largely on the basis of her book, I, Rigoberta Menchu, in which she claimed that she and her family had been subjected to horrible persecution by right-wing Guatemalan forces and the government. While it is likely that this was true, at least in general terms, serious questions have been raised about specifics in her story. Is this not a problem?

In 1976 Asa Earl Carter released another book destined to be a best-seller. Writing under the pseudonym of Forrest Carter the book appeared as The Education of Little Tree. The book was presented as an account of the life of a young Native American boy. It later turned out that the story was not an autobiography at all, but a work of fiction. Nevertheless, the book is still cited as a non-fiction account in many contexts.

President Ronald Reagan had asked historian Edmund Morris to write what many considered the authorized biography covering his life and presidential administrations. Readers were shocked when Morris’s book, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, appeared. The book was not a traditional biography at all. Instead, Morris wove together fictional and historical materials so that the reader is never sure which is which. After controversy ensued, the book’s publisher had the audacity to claim that Morris’s methodology actually represented an improvement or advance in the biographical form.

Two years ago, James Frey was forced to admit that his purported memoir, A Million Little Pieces, was not a truthful account of his struggle with drug addiction.  Then, just last week, the literary world was shaken by the news that Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years by Misha Defonseca is yet another fake.

All this is background to today’s revelation in The New York Times that the book world has been rocked by yet another literary admission.  Truth has been victimized again.

From the story:

In “Love and Consequences,” a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.

The problem is that none of it is true.

Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.

Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore., where she currently lives.

Here is the most interesting section from the paper’s report:

“I’m not saying like I did it right,” Ms. Seltzer said. “I did not do it right. I thought I had an opportunity to make people understand the conditions that people live in and the reasons people make the choices from the choices they don’t have.” Ms. McGrath [editor for Riverbend] said that she had numerous conversations with Ms. Seltzer about being truthful. “She seems to be very, very naïve,” Ms. McGrath said. “There was a way to do this book honestly and have it be just as compelling.”

That is the saddest aspect of this entire controversy.  This statement just about says it all:  “There was a way to do this book honestly and have it be just as compelling.”  The truth would have served just as well — and would have led to none of these embarrassments and humiliations.

We may live in what some would style a “post-truth era,” but the fact remains that the distinction between fiction and non-fiction matters — and far beyond the literary world.  The truth always matters, and only the most deluded may believe that we can live without it.

Still, there is hope in all this.  Every one of these revelations has brought a sense of outrage.  This just might be a sign that an instinct for the necessity of truth survives even yet.

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Masculinity without Manhood?

Posted by Scott on March 7, 2008

by Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.

It does not take great intellectual sophistication to see that we are in a period of widespread gender confusion. As with so many other developments of our times, our evolving language betrays more substantial shifts in the culture.

Writing in The Boston Globe [warning, article includes crude language], Mark Peters argues that the proliferation of “man” terms indicates this confusion over manhood and masculinity.

“Hey guys. Is it time for a manogram? Did you get your manimony check?,” he asks. Then he points to the bigger picture:

If you feel like you’re seeing man words everywhere, you’re not alone. Movies, TV shows, ads, and the Web have been pumping them out. Some are painful puns, some crude slang, and as a genre, they say a great deal about our ever-in-flux gender roles.

Man words come from many man caves. Manimony (alimony paid to fellas) got a boost when it was used on “Cashmere Mafia” this month, just as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” spread manscaping, which encompasses shaving, waxing, plucking, and other deforestation of the male bod. Manny – the word, not the ballplayer – was popularized by stories about Britney Spears’s male nanny, and mancation caught on after Vince Vaughn said it in “The Break-up.” Commercials feature man laws, man food, man suits, and man thongs. US soldiers in Iraq call the traditional Muslim dishdasha a man dress, while a resurgence of traditional manly activities has led some to discuss a menaissance.

So a “manogram” is a prostate exam and a “mankini” is a swim suit popular in Europe — where it should stay. Peters, who is a keen observer of language, understands well that these linguistic innovations indicate confusion.

Here is the most important section of his article:

How to act like a man is a humdinger of an issue if you are one. The late Steven L. Nock, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, said in an e-mail to me last year that it doesn’t take much for women to prove that they’re “real women” in the widely accepted senses, but men are in a more slippery situation, especially with the role of father/protector/provider not considered as necessary or desirable as it once was. “[M]asculinity must be continuously earned and displayed. It is never won,” Nock wrote. Without a traditional role to embrace, being a man requires constantly defining yourself in opposition to all things female: “No wonder things like man-purses attract attention.”

Peters, citing the late Steven L. Nock, argues that men “are in a more slippery situation” precisely because “the role of father/protector/provider [is] not considered as necessary or desirable as it once was.”

This really does get to the heart of the issue. Men should not expect to be comfortable with an understanding of masculinity that is not based in these roles and responsibilities. When manhood is not defined in these normative terms, confusion necessarily follows — complete with a new and confusing vocabulary.

In a biblical perspective, manhood is defined in these roles and responsibilities.  A man is defined in terms of who he is and what he does in obedience to God.  A society that rejects or sidelines these roles and responsibilities — that does not honor fatherhood and hold it out as expectation — will sow seeds of disastrous confusion.  The damage to our language is among the least of our problems.

While the Bible clearly honors men who forfeit the blessings of wife and children for the sake of the Gospel (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, 32-28), the history of the Christian church indicates that these represent a minority.  The normative expectation is that a young man will mature to take on the role of “father/protector/provider” that Peters correctly sees as “not considered as necessary or desirable as it once was” within the secular culture.  Those men who are faithfully living out these responsibilities are not likely to be too concerned about finding true masculinity.  They are living it.

When this expectation is no longer normative, it should be no surprise that men struggle to define masculinity.  The focus shifts from family to fashion accessories.  Our language betrays our confusion, but the confusion reveals a larger betrayal. 

We lie to ourselves if we believe that we can hold onto a healthy masculinity without honoring true manhood. 

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Boys…diagnosed with ADHD, but are they really? Dr. Mohler Jr.

Posted by Scott on February 27, 2008

OK, So What Kid Doesn’t Fit this Description?

When thinking of signs of our times, consider this advertisement from a Nebraska newspaper. The ad was brought to my attention by a helpful listener to the radio program.

Now, let’s think carefully about this. Can’t sit still? Can’t play quietly? Loses things? Does not seem to listen? Has difficulty paying attention? Is fidgety? Honestly, do you know any 6 to 12-year-old children who do not fit this description?

The number of children — especially boys — diagnosed with ADHD has skyrocketed in recent years. While some boys may well have some kind of genuine problem, the vast majority appear to be diagnosed as, well . . . boys. As physician Leonard Sax, author of Boys Adrift, explains, a diagnosis of ADHD lets everyone off the hook, so to speak. The boy is told he is not responsible for his behavioral problems, the parents are relieved of anxiety over inadequate parenting, teachers and bureaucrats have a new pathological slot into which boys can be filed, and drug companies get to sell pills. Everybody wins.

But, as Dr. Sax argues, the diagnosis and the drugs can have far-reaching consequences for the boy. I am not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a pharmacologist, or a medical professional of any sort. I am a former boy, however, and I know very well that every boy I have ever known would fit the categories described in this advertisement.

I would write more about this, but I just can’t sit still. Now, what were we talking about?

Dr. Albert Mohler Jr. (February 27th, 2008)

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The Awkward Irony of the Atheist Sunday School!

Posted by Scott on November 29, 2007

Dr. Mohler’s Blog

 

Incongruous as it sounds, atheists are now organizing Sunday Schools. TIME magazine reports that many non-believing parents are concerned that their children are not adequately grounded in secular thought and feel left out of experiences like Sunday School that are common among their friends.

Reporter Jeninne Lee-St. John understands that the idea seems a bit strange. “On Sunday mornings, most parents who don’t believe in the Christian God, or any god at all, are probably making brunch or cheering at their kids’ soccer game, or running errands or, with luck, sleeping in. Without religion, there’s no need for church, right?”

Well, not exactly. Lee-St. John explains this new development:

But some nonbelievers are beginning to think they might need something for their children. “When you have kids,” says Julie Willey, a design engineer, “you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on.” So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for atheist Sunday school.

Packing the kids in the minivan for atheist Sunday School is likely to sound more than a little strange to those accustomed to more traditional Sunday Schools (that teach children about God) but it is fascinating that atheists are concerned that their children need secular instruction.

It seems that many atheist parents are concerned that their children should learn at an early age how to deal with the challenge of living among Christian believers. Furthermore, these parents want to ensure that their children and teenagers learn their own secular values.

The report explains that the growing number of atheists and non-believers in the nation are becoming more concerned about their children, and are establishing both Sunday Schools and atheist youth camps in order to inculcate secular beliefs and morality within the next generation.

The magazine offers a very interesting description of what goes on at a model atheist Sunday School:

The Palo Alto Sunday family program uses music, art and discussion to encourage personal expression, intellectual curiosity and collaboration. One Sunday this fall found a dozen children up to age 6 and several parents playing percussion instruments and singing empowering anthems like I’m Unique and Unrepeatable, set to the tune of Ten Little Indians, instead of traditional Sunday-school songs like Jesus Loves Me. Rather than listen to a Bible story, the class read Stone Soup, a secular parable of a traveler who feeds a village by making a stew using one ingredient from each home.

Down the hall in the kitchen, older kids engaged in a Socratic conversation with class leader Bishop about the role persuasion plays in decision-making. He tried to get them to see that people who are coerced into renouncing their beliefs might not actually change their minds but could be acting out of self-preservation–an important lesson for young atheists who may feel pressure to say they believe in God.

My guess is that these atheist Sunday Schools will not be as successful as these parents hope. “I’m Unique and Unrepeatable” just can’t really compete with “Jesus Loves Me.” Children have not yet developed cynicism and, in general, are quite eager to believe in God. Children taught from the Bible in Sunday School learn that they were made by a loving God who cares for them — and then move on to learn much more about what the Bible teaches. No “secular parable” can compete with that.

In a strange way, the rise of atheist Sunday Schools illustrates the central dilemma of atheism itself. Try as they may, atheists cannot avoid talking about God — even if only to insist that they do not believe in Him. Now, atheist parents are organizing Sunday Schools as a parallel to the Christian practice. In effect, atheists are organizing themselves in a way similar to a local church. At least some of them must sense the awkward irony in that.

By Dr. Mohler Jr.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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Amazing Awakenings!

Posted by Scott on November 9, 2007

Amazing Awakenings — Will the Nation’s Conscience be Awakened Too?

As Wesley J. Smith explains, “the reigning cultural paradigm” holds that “a life with profound cognitive dysfunction is not worth living.” The dominant assessment is that a person with a diagnosis of permanent unconsciousness should be allowed to die by withdrawal of food and hydration.

But, as Smith reports in The Weekly Standard, this “reigning cultural paradigm” is colliding with medical reality.

Consider this case:

On October 19, only months after being nearly dehydrated to death when his feeding tube was removed, Jesse Ramirez walked out of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix on his own two legs. Ramirez is lucky to be alive. Early last June, a mere one week after a serious auto accident left him unconscious, his wife Rebecca and doctors decided he would never recover and pulled his feeding tube. He went without food and water for five long days. But then his mother, Theresa, represented by lawyers from the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, successfully took Rebecca to court demanding a change of guardianship on the grounds that Rebecca and Jesse’s allegedly rocky marriage disqualified her for the role.

The case of Jesse Ramirez should shock Americans into understanding that those diagnosed as profoundly cognitively impaired — and thus considered candidates for death by starvation and dehydration — sometimes recover.

Ramirez is not alone. Consider the case of 12-year old Haleigh Poutre

Haleigh barely survived terrible child abuse and then was nearly done in by the very people charged with protecting her. Only eight days after she was hospitalized in the wake of a beating, the Massachusetts Department of Public Social Services, acting on doctors’ solemn assurances that she was “virtually brain dead,” requested permission to remove her respirator and feeding tube. This request was approved by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

But the doctors, social workers, and judges were wrong about Haleigh’s prospects. Just before her life support was withdrawn, she began to exhibit signs of awareness–she picked up a stuffed duck when requested–leading to a last-minute reprieve. Today, while Haleigh’s exact condition is not public information, reports in the media indicate she is awake and aware and able to eat some foods.

Add to these reports what The Washington Post reported on September 8, 2006:

Without any hint that she might have a sense of what was happening, the researchers put the woman in a scanner that detects brain activity and told her that in a few minutes they would say the word “tennis,” signaling her to imagine she was serving, volleying and chasing down balls. When they did, the neurologists were shocked to see her brain “light up” exactly as an uninjured person’s would. It happened again and again. And the doctors got the same result when they repeatedly cued her to picture herself wandering, room to room, through her own home.

That’s right — a woman thought to be without conscious function was found by researchers to be playing tennis in her brain, stimulated by a person saying the word in her presence. She was able to hear and understand the word, and to imagine herself playing the game.

Ironically, Smith reports that researchers have found that the drug Ambien — usually prescribed to assist a person to sleep — has been found to assist some patients to recover brain activity and consciousness.

Smith is profoundly correct in pointing back to the tragedy of Terri Schiavo and suggesting that the nation should have a guilty conscience.

He concludes:

A serious cultural consequence of the Terri Schiavo drama has been the devaluation of the weakest among us into a disposable and exploitable caste. But it is not too late to reverse the tide. Jesse Ramirez, Haleigh Poutre, and the groundbreaking research into the treatment of serious brain injury are powerful reminders that where there is life, there is hope. Those who understand that all persons, regardless of capacity, deserve to be treated as beloved members of the human family have good reason to shake off the Schiavo rout and return to the fray.

Where there is life, there is hope. That is a helpful formula for ethical decision-making in these cases. The fact that Jesse Ramirez is recovering, Haleigh Poutre is alive, and a patient was found to be playing tennis in her head should be enough to shock this nation and to awaken its conscience. If not, what will it take?

by Dr. Albert Mohler Jr.

-Scott Bailey 2007

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