Monday, October 14, 2013

Now Hiring: Political Courage -- No Experience Needed

Sarah Palin and Senator Ted Cruz recite the Pledge of Allegiance
at a rally in Washington DC. Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
You know, I keep reading where Ted Cruz and his ilk are "bringing down the House," if not the entire country. 

I agree that the irresponsibility of the fringe elements of Congress is beyond comprehension. But the Republican Party is reaping what it has sowed. If the mainstream Republicans had any guts, they would have stepped up and eliminated this nonsense long ago. Last I heard there were 435 members of the House of Representatives, 232 of them being Republican. How is it that one senator who most people had never heard of six months ago seems to be playing the tune to which many are marching? 

The answer, of course, is not that tough to find. Quite a few otherwise reasonable and patriotic representatives sold their souls to the fringe elements of their party in a cynical effort to retain those votes. It started during the 2010 campaign and proved to be an effective political strategy; the Republicans regained control of the House, though not the White one.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

On Seeking and Hiding

Ayla at Play by Herself
The other day I watched my three-year-old granddaughter playing hide and seek by herself.

My initial chuckle quickly gave way to sheer delight as Ayla proceeded without hesitation to do something utterly undoable. I choked back an impulse to point out to the child that this game requires at least two players.

I was gratified that a few minutes earlier I had been dismissed from any further obligation to play. We had just driven an imaginary car to an imaginary park and had swung on some imaginary swings. I thought I had performed admirably, but then she said, "Okay Papa, you can sit down now and I will play." I retreated to a nearby chair and opened my Kindle, peering occasionally over the top cover to watch as she created worlds populated by mermaids, princesses, and an assortment of "not too scary" villains.

Ayla's universe had changed in the past few weeks because her big sister Ashley had headed off to kindergarten. Having Mommy all to herself wasn't hard to take, but she also developed new play patterns shaped around the fact that Ashley was not available for much of the day. So Ayla was learning how to play by herself, including hide and seek.

I began to reflect on all of this and then I got to worrying about her a little bit. What if she went to hide and couldn't find herself? This could be a serious problem. How long would she lay silently in place before yelling at herself, "I'm under the bed, stupid!" (She's not supposed to use that word, but who's to know? She's hidden after all.)

Then there's the difficulty of being the seeker. If you're looking for yourself you'd hide your eyes and, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. "Here I come, ready or not." But you'd already be there, which would tend to take a bit of the fun out of the chase.

Not too much time passed, however, before I knew this little drama was taking on a deeper and more serious significance for me. In my life I know there have been times when I went looking for answers that were already within and did not require searching so much as recognition. And likewise, how often have I hidden in fear or anxiety only to discover that the scary monster, whether green and scaly or the whisper of the wind, was right beside me, counting to ten.

It left me silently humming. (If Ayla can play hide and seek by herself I can hum silently.) The lyrics lifted up from the journey of my life:

         I once was lost, but now am found, / Was blind, but now I see.

These granddaughters are going to be the life of me yet.

And now I think I'll go down to the solitude of my basement and have a vigorous game of ping pong. I beat myself last week and am anxious to get revenge.

Table Tennis for One, Anybody?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Bird Jumped

Little Bird's World
 [This post is an unexpected sequel to a previous piece, Dancing on the Edge of the Nest. It would probably be helpful to read that one before seeing where this one takes you.]

I stepped out onto the porch this morning with coffee and newspaper in hand. As we do each day, I went to check the status of the robin's nest, gently lifting it down from its hanger so as to see inside.

This time, to my horror and near panic, just as I touched the branch nestling the nest, there was a frantic flapping of wings and a no longer tiny bird flew past my hand, went briefly airborne, and then dropped to our porch's concrete floor. There was an understandable cacophony of clacking, chirping, screeching, as at least five birds descended on the scene, perhaps better referred to now as the crime scene.

I knew the old wives tale that once a human has touched a bird its family has nothing more to do with it. But without time to check, I chose intervention. I took the bird into my hand and reached up to try to return it to its nest. The small bird again flapped its wings mightily and again escaped my grasp, which was admittedly very gentle because of my desire not to hurt its fragile body. This time it sailed a bit into the air, wings extended, before landing in the yard in front of the house. [Quick Fact Update: According to Snopes, the common assumption that human touch of a baby bird drives mother bird away is false. See the documentation here.]

More sirens from the attending birds. I watched as the little thing hopped its way across the yard, accompanied by its entourage, huddling down for a bit and then venturing forward once again. One of the birds flew close in a circle and then landed on the grass within a few feet of the bird. It chirped away as if giving some last minute flight instructions.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Dancing on the Edge of the Nest

My granddaughters have been quite intrigued by the life and death drama playing itself out in the hanging fern on our front porch. They don’t think of it in quite so dire terms, but I’ll bet the two parental robins, squawking their disapproval every time we approach the nest, fear that their very survival is at stake.

And to be honest, the leading indicators aren’t good. The nest was originally populated by three blue eggs, each of them brimming with whatever possibilities any middle class robin born into a good home might hope for. However, the nesting process seemed a bit long and worrisome until one morning we peeked and saw that one of the three eggs was broken, its occupant AWOL. But then we turned our eyes downward and there on the porch lay the first casualty, a crumpled little wisp of a thing resembling a tiny misshapen prune more than a nestling that, once grown, would be seen as the harbinger of spring in all its freshness and hope. I tossed it gently behind the bushes; a full funeral seemed a bit overblown, but I did have a twinge.

The next day a second chance for carrying on the robin family name penetrated its fragile shell and emerged, its beak flapping open and shut and assuming, wrongly, that if we were there it was to bring food. This one seems to understand, unlike its short-lived sibling, that it is best not to dance on the edge of the nest.

Momma Robin, undoubtedly awash in Momma guilt, rained down a hailstorm of squawks whenever danger threatened. I scoffed at her fear of the girls—anyone should know they wouldn’t hurt a flea. More understandable is its suspicion of my brother-in-law, who is living with us on an extended visit while relocating here. He’s harmless too, but he’s a bit restless, wanders out onto the porch in the wee hours, emitting puffs of white papal-like smoke into the fresh morning air, and making unexpected body noises that are much more severe than anything Ashley or Ayla can replicate--thankfully. I’m sure Momma Robin has noticed and is exceedingly cautious as she sneaks worms behind enemy lines.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Breaking News from America's Heartland

Community of Christ Temple
Independence, Missouri, USA
The Examiner is a newspaper that serves Kansas City's eastern suburbs, particularly Independence, Blue Springs, and Grain Valley. There was a day when The Examiner alone satisfied the news appetite of many citizens. Others of us chose to complement it with a subscription to the Kansas City Star.

Today it survives because people like me can't break the habit of receiving its daily fare of cucumber salad recipes, stories about local kids advancing to the state science fair competition, and (yes, I have to admit it) the obituary column.

The Examiner is hanging on, knowing that in the not far distant future the obituary column will likely be reporting its own demise rather than that of its readers. In the meantime we have the opportunity to enjoy some charming disconnects.

On Wednesday, April 24, 2013 the five column banner headline in The Examiner was "Waffle House Getting New Sign." That kind of heart-thumping journalism is not atypical of a good news day for our local paper. But it jarred me, knowing as I did that the international conference of a religious denomination was going on in town. I went to my stack of newspapers, some read and some not, and pulled out the previous day's edition.

On Tuesday, April 23, 2013 the five column banner headline in The Examiner was "Delegates Urge Church to Open Door." The lead paragraph in that article was as follows:
After a weekend of discussion and prayer, national delegates have recommended that the Community of Christ recognize same-sex marriage and ordination regardless of sexual orientation.
At first look it would seem that the action of the national conference of a religious denomination to embrace marriage and ordination of gay and lesbian persons would attract media interest almost anywhere. The fact that the denomination is headquartered in Independence, Missouri would lead one to expect extensive follow-up by the local paper. That it was bumped from the front page, or any page, by the Waffle House sign is perhaps an egregious oversight that speaks to the decline of newspapers around the world.

Or perhaps it means something else altogether, something about faith and culture and social networks and the blurring of all kinds of boundaries in a global society.

Here are a few quick facts that may be helpful to those unaware of the context of this remarkable story. (At this point I should acknowledge that I served for 33 years on the church's denominational staff, and for over eight years as president of the church, departing from full-time service in 2004. While I had no involvement at all in the 2013 Conference, my perspective is obviously shaped by that leadership experience and by my lifelong love of the movement.)
  • The Community of Christ is a religious denomination of approximately 250,000 members with a presence in around 50 nations; its world headquarters are in Independence, Missouri.
  • The church was birthed in the 1830's as a part of the movement that is commonly known as Mormonism. It shares a 14 year slice of history with that group but separated from it in 1844 and developed an entirely separate identity over time, rejecting many beliefs connected to the Mormon faith, i.e. polygamy, baptism for the dead, secret temple rituals, etc.
  • Beginning in the 1960's the church began to examine the significance of its own global expansion, learning from other cultures and authentically engaging with the issues of its own time--considering the role of women, embracing human diversity, and taking on difficult questions of war and peace.
  • Those explorations over time led to the building of a Temple "dedicated to the pursuit of peace," the changing of its name to Community of Christ, beginning the ordination of women in 1985, adopting progressive positions on capital punishment, gun control, and human diversity, and engaging in interfaith and ecumenical relationships.
Conference Delegates From Around the World Debate Issues in Legislative Sessions
Community of Christ Auditorium, Independence, Missouri, USA
It was a long journey that led a small religious denomination headquartered in the heartland of America to find itself exploring one of the most conflicted issues of our time. As recently as 1982 the official church policy on homosexuality was entitled, "Homosexuality and Other Sexual Perversions." That policy was replaced by one that described homosexuality as an orientation rather than a behavior. As to ordination, the policy provided for ordination of persons with a homosexual orientation but only if the individual agreed to remain celibate. Few accepted the offer.

Over the past decade or so the church engaged in a somewhat more structured dialogue process whereby members were urged to share their personal experiences and viewpoints with the goal of understanding others more than convincing others. That process became even more difficult because of the church's involvement in the developing world. In Haiti, for example, where the church has thousands of members, homosexuality is illegal and churches that accept it are subject to being delicensed by the government.

The recommendations that emerged from the 2013 USA Conference reflected travel down a long path where viewpoints evolved and where part of the agreement was that we will disagree. New ways of deciding and building consensus undoubtedly contributed to unexpectedly high margins of support once the final votes were announced. It was not the vote of a conference. It was the vote of a journey.

The Examiner was there in the 1970's and early 1980's when the struggles over faith and history, politics and justice, were disputed and where protests spilled into the streets of Independence. By 1985, when the first ordinations of women began, thousands of people became inactive or left the church to form independent congregations with fundamentalist theologies and a desire to cling to conservative interpretations of the church's foundational story.

When I was a kid I used to throw newspapers for The Examiner, never imagining the role it would have in chronicling the story of my own church and to some degree my career. Forty years ago the struggles of this faith community were big news to our hometown paper, which also benefited from protestors taking out full-page ads to register their objections to church polity or beliefs. There was drama, intense dialogue, and even coverage on occasion by the New York Times or Newsweek.

But it is a new day. What I have in view at the moment is the remarkable story of a small but global community that chose to look deeply within itself and to follow a path without map or compass but with a faith rooted in story and compelled by a power not its own.

Perhaps it is a story no longer covered in depth by the local newspaper but it was tweeted and facebooked and simulcast via the Internet for all the world to see. I am immensely proud of my church. The journey is not over, but we can pause for a moment and look back with satisfaction over the road we have traveled.

And if you're so inclined, you might want to saunter over to the Waffle House. I hear its location is well-marked.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A Thundering Silence

US Cellular Field, Chicago (aka Comiskey Park)
It's Opening Day for baseball and I, insufferable baseball fan that I am, find myself and son Jeff at Comiskey Park in Chicago awaiting the first pitch in a contest with the Kansas City Royals (a team of destiny--you heard it here first).

Jeff and I are the baseball geeks of the family. He lives in Chicago but has kept his allegiance to his hometown team in Kansas City.
An opening day game in Chicago between the White Sox and the Royals was too hard to resist and, even more importantly, gave Jeff and me a chance to hang out together for a few days. We expect great things from our team this year. The non-geek members of our family hiss derisively at such comments, rudely claiming that they have heard all this before. But it's different this year. It is. They just don't get it. They'll see.

But this post isn't really about baseball, even though my thoughts were prompted by the pre-game ceremonies and nurtured with a sense of being cupped with 39,012 strangers in the opened hands of Comiskey Park. (For the record, the ballpark is officially named US Cellular Field after the sale of naming rights. The park opened for the 1991 season after the White Sox had spent 81 years at the original Comiskey Park. The new park opened with the Comiskey Park name, but became U.S. Cellular Field in 2003. But old habits die hard.)

And yes, the game could have gone a bit better for this young Royals team, but not a lot better. The ace pitcher acquired during the off-season was outstanding and the game was a nail-biter right down to the last pitch. It ended in a 1-0 loss for the Royals but no hanging heads here. It was a terrific, well-played game, perhaps short of a classic but certainly an Opening Day gem.

A common site at ballparks
But then there was that minute of silence.

It started just like I have experienced hundreds of times before at such events. Ball players with heads bowed and caps over their hearts. People gathering in community centers so as to be with friends and neighbors at a time of tragedy. People coming together across their differences to lift the human spirit. It is common, it is what we do.

But this minute of silence was deafening.

The announcer requested that everyone remove their hats and observe a minute of silence in remembrance of those from the White Sox "family" who had passed during the past year, along with those from the Armed Forces who had died in service of their country. All of this is what occurs many times in untold numbers of events in various venues across the country. But then came something different.

The announcer asked us to remember in that minute of silence the Chicagoans who had died in gun violence in recent months and also the 20 children lost in the tragedy at Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. It was as if the air was sucked out of the ballpark taking with it every sound. There was no crying baby, no drunken yelp, no scoreboard exploding, no vendor selling, no horning traffic, no popcorn popping, no airplanes flying. There was nothing--just a mind-numbing, seems-like-it's-lasting-forever, incessant, oppressive, loud, loud, loud silence.

It was like being on the inside of a balloon, air having filled it to capacity and knowing that in just a moment the air will burst the fragile membrane and it will explode with a huge swish. And then it's done.

Dave Specter and Jimmy "Bar Room Preacher" Johnson
at B.L.U.E.S.on Halsted
The night before, Jeff and I did a little Easter Sunday blues and jazz clubbing in Chicago. There was very  little silence in those places, but neither was the noise a cacophony of disconnected sounds. The dissonance was meaningful, the rhythm burrowed into the soul. The music isn't heard, it is ingested.

The small club called B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted exudes character and history. Legendary blues musicians drop in--their pictures adorn the walls, the frames dusty and often askew. Sometimes they pick up a horn or bang on a drum, sometimes they clamber up onto the stage and play a set.

A troubled aspiring musician lifts his voice and reaches for a microphone, trying to garner a moment of self-promotion. He behaves in strange ways, sometimes alarmingly so, but the locals seem not to notice. He's part of the woodwork. The band plays on and the patrons actively listen, as if drawn into a cocoon, captured for a while, heads bobbing to the beat, life set aside for just this small slice of time.

I found the intimacy of the Blues din and the enormity of the Comiskey silence to be signature pieces in a bigger reality. At the ballpark almost 40,000 souls brought the joy and pain, the hopes and dreams, of their lives to a baseball game. Many had come early and by the opening ceremonies had lubricated themselves at the sports bars or concession stands. Others were keeping their children in tow while gulping down a Chicago dog.

But then in that brief unexpected moment the human family became as one. Whatever troubles we have seen were momentarily the troubles of us all. In a way I will never be able to fully understand or explain I found hope and a sense of peace in both the noise and the quiet.

I love baseball and it is Opening Day. After a long winter it is time to play ball. Never before have I wished that moment wouldn't come. Not just yet. I wanted to linger for a while in the silence. It has so much to teach me. And us.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

The Church as Community: A Young Adult Perspective

This blog is usually reserved for my own thoughts, rants, and pondering and is primarily for my own amusement. Today is an exception that I think you will appreciate. 

Last night I logged on to Facebook and immediately came across a piece written by my 34-year-old son, prompted by some experiences his family (Brian, his wife Lyda, and their two daughters Ashley and Ayla, ages 5 and 2) have had in their local congregation. If you're paying attention, you will have understood that those girls are our grandchildren, so all of this has context for me.

I was surprised by the thoughtful reflections and the powerful recommendations he made, not because I thought him incapable of such reflection, far from it, but because I had no idea he had given this much analysis to issues of church life. That was a learning moment for me.

The Facebook piece got a lot of positive response and it's been reposted a number of times. I thought people who read this blog would enjoy Brian's essay. I wish I had written it myself, but I didn't. So the best I can do is claim he comes from good stock and turn this page over to him. For one day.

The Church as Community: A Young Adult Perspective
by Brian McMurray

I seem to be hearing a lot lately about churches having a concern that the young adult membership isn't as engaged as it used to be. There are several reasons as to why that may be - but the more compelling topic is how to change it. I've thought about this quite a bit and I have a few ideas of what a modern church might do to engage this age group. These are only my own thoughts.


1. Be a community, not a religion. I'll be honest, the "religion" part of church is not why I'm there. It never has been. Sure, that's important (and as I get older it is becoming more important) but I believe that the conversation that takes place AFTER church is more important than what happens during the service. I would make this time something your church focuses on. Focus on your community, not just your worship and you'll attract new members more easily.

2. Sunday school should be an opportunity for supporting each other. We've recently made our Young Adult Sunday school time into a discussion group. One week we'll discuss a current issue in society and then alternate the next week with a discussion of our own lives. This turned Sunday school time into a much needed support group for our young adult families. I now look forward to Sunday school, something I never even used to attend.

3. Be even more accepting of young kids. Sure every church thinks they're accepting of kids but there's a difference between tolerating a child in a service and actually gearing your service or other activities to include young children. The entire service doesn't have to be this way and it doesn't have to be every week - but kid friendly moments (not just story time) during a service make a huge difference in the way I, and frankly my kids, feel about church.

4. Use technology (audio/video/internet) in your church. If you're not at least on the road to modernizing and using technology in your church, you might as well give up now because you'll be obsolete in 5-10 years - tops. If you don't have a young adult helping with this stuff in your church - ask. In my case, this was exactly how I wanted to help in my congregation. I saw this as a way I could contribute to a need the congregation had.

5. When you want me to help with something - make it easy for me to sign up. Don't call me on the phone in the middle of the day and talk for an hour about what you want. Be specific, give me a quick way to sign up to help and I'll let you know if I can (this is actually one of the main reasons we built the product we did recently at Opus).

6. Don't hit me over the head with money or time commitment requests. If you are doing the steps above - creating a community, giving support, being accepting of kids, the money and time commitments will come because you're creating a relationship with me. As me time frees up (basically as my kids grow older and more independent) it will be difficult for me to turn my back on that relationship. Everyone knows they should give some time and money to their church. In fact, most young adults admit to feeling guilty if they aren't. It's ok to ask for help and it's great for everyone to know the budgetary needs of the congregation - but don't make it seem like it's the only reason I'm there or you'll drive me away.

7. Allow casual dress. Sometimes people want to dress up, sometimes they don't. You don't want to have a church that judges others based on what they wear. Let people wear what makes them comfortable, especially if they're not participating in the service. Many will choose to dress formally, some will dress more casually but you'll make people more comfortable and thus, feel more positively toward your church.

8. Stop judging my friends. I grew up with several gay friends - which is not uncommon these days. If my denomination doesn't support my friends' right to love the person they love or marry the person they want to marry - and ESPECIALLY if my denomination won't allow my friend to participate as a minister - then my denomination doesn't accurately represent me and it makes it very difficult for me to support it with my time or money now or in the future. I'm sure people disagree with me (or have the exact opposite opinion) but look at the world around you and ignore this at your own peril. I believe that the churches who focus on acceptance and community over division and requirements will be the most successful in the end.


I'm sure there's plenty to disagree with for some people on my list - and that's fine. This is just my opinion, if you disagree, that's cool. I will say that I'm glad to be a part of a church (Walnut Gardens) that already does all of these things (it's where I got the idea for this post). We have great older membership that really reaches out to include the young adults. It's not unusual for the young adults go to movies with the senior members just because they like hanging out together.

But I realize it's not like this everywhere. From my perspective, these changes are all worth making if you want to re-engage with young adults and see your congregation grow in the future.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Red Carpet Needs Vacuuming

Pretty much everything wrong about American culture is on lurid display when they roll out the red carpet for a breathless procession of celebrity worship prior to the annual Oscars award show. 

I like the movies, thought there were many outstanding films and performances justly recognized for their artistic merit and entertainment value, and I even enjoyed much of the program itself. I confess to losing track of how many bare breasts Seth MacFarlane had seen from among the actresses in attendance--his musical homage to the best mammary performances of the year was perhaps a tad crude. Bob Hope would have done it more subtlety but with a similar naughty chuckle.

The Oscars show and awards have been analyzed and critiqued from top to bottom and I have nothing to add, or mercifully choose not to do so. But I am in a bit of a toot about the red carpet and the appalling opulence, ignorance, and superficiality it represents in an era of unemployment, gun violence, sequesters, and threats to the very preservation of the species--global warming, renegade asteroids, nuclear bombs, unmanned drones, and Honey Boo Boo.

We are experiencing a serious erosion of the character of America and it is not just a domestic matter. Its consequences are being felt in our homes and neighborhoods but its impact is global. It is felt in many ways.

We have a broken governmental system that is reaping the scorn of the American people. We have acquiesced to a culture of incivility that demonstrates a shocking acceptance of racial slurs, childhood bullying, political intolerance, and a total lack of respect for diversity in ethnicity, personal lifestyles, and the marketplace of ideas.

And despite a system that arguably led to the worst economic crash in 70 years we continue to accept an ever-expanding gap between the rich and the middle class (let alone the poor), rewarding CEO's, money managers, athletes, entertainers, and a select few with obscene wealth while unions get busted and teachers, industrial workers, public safety employees and others limp along hoping they won't lose their jobs or succumb to the fear du jour--that they might get sequestered, whatever that means.

NBA Bad Boy Player Dennis Rodman meets with
North Korean Big Boy Dictator Kim Jung Un.
Probably discussing nuclear proliferation.
In the midst of this primal disorder our society still seems willing to embrace this culture of celebrity that celebrates the worst of us. It ranges from rented jewelry to eye-popping dresses leading to red carpet questions like, "You must tell me, darling. Who are you wearing tonight?" Oh please! My favorite answer came from a minor actress enjoying midlife, "Oh, I just pulled something out of the closet at the last minute." [Grant applauds]

And then came the biggest mistakes of the night. They actually let some of these starlets talk into the microphone. Oh Sweet Jesus, why? Surely somebody got fired. A boyfriend with a big neck and chin stubble looks around as Bambi explains how she had been born to act. I'm looking at that boyfriend checking out a redhead over by the palm tree and I'm thinking I'll bet I know where she practices her acting.

I'm sorry. See what this nonsense does to one?

But you know what? This really isn't very funny. For example, this week Dennis Rodman, former NBA basketball player who was at the center of countless debacles throughout his career, became the first American to formally meet with the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jung Un, who apparently loves basketball. Just turned 30, he is the youngest leader of any nation in the world and his country is one of nine nations with some form of nuclear capability. When asked what he thought of Kim, Rodman said he was an "awesome kid."

When Honey Boo Boo points the way
how can her adoring fans not follow?
And then cometh a seven-year-old child beauty pageant winner who has managed to parlay rudeness into cuteness and precocity into authority, landing her entire dysfunctional family a reality television show. It is reported that the family is paid $50,000 per episode and the child has accumulated a personal worth of $300,000.

Critics were largely appalled by the seeming exploitation of a rural Georgia family, most of whom were chubby, had atrocious eating habits, and got into a thin mint scandal with the Girl Scouts. In fairness, she has supporters as well, including celebrities who embrace her star quality and point to her as a role model for children who have to deal with weight problems.

Apart from her serving as an icon of American decadence and frivolity, I've got no issue with Honey Boo Boo; I had never even heard of her until she began appearing in the headlines alongside coverage of John Kerry's first international tour as Secretary of State. As Kerry was adroitly moving from one hot spot to another, trying to deal sensitively with such issues as the searing violence in Syria, it kept feeling like that story was partnered by this little kid vying for attention and her parents vying for you know what.

What must the world be thinking of us, I kept wondering?

And that is the nub of my little rant against the celebrity culture. Those who know me will surely agree that I am more than willing to look at the lighter side; much of what I write and speak is delivered with a twinkle in my eye. Seriousness of purpose does not negate humorous reflection.

But laughing at funny is not the same as laughing at stupid. We are awash in celebrities without talent, wealth without merit, and causes without virtue. When matched with national and global distress and with increasing public anger we are at risk of a dangerous upheaval in our society. There are incredibly deep and significant questions arising from our very foundations, and Bambi, Dennis Rodman, and Honey Boo Boo are not the answers.

I will concede this. I didn't see them, but I'm sure Meryl Streep and Daniel Day Lewis walked that red carpet as well. It is not just that they have enormous talent, but when it came time to speak they were gracious, eloquent, humorous, and had something to say. In other words, they are stars. I can live with that, and even celebrate it.