Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Teaching at a Christian high school in suburban Atlanta provides blogger fodder daily.

Sometimes I wonder why I do it.

Driving twenty-plus miles through Atlanta on I-285 and I-85 twice a day seems stressful to such a soft suburbanite. Then after fighting all that traffic, I spend day after day with these mostly affluent 15 to 18 years olds in all their adolescent glory--plugged into iPods, driving SUVs, and hoping for the Ivy Leagues.

Sometimes I wonder why I do it.

Then there are days like December 1, 2004, World Aids Day.

Courtesy of
World Vision, I showed a video to the student body giving a glimpse into the effects of the HIV/Aids pandemic. The response—palpable. The stress we experienced in traffic or in looking at PSAT scores subsided. Helpless in the face of such a crisis, there rose a collective sigh. We briefly discussed a broad array of responses to this enormous problem. For the moment, we decided we could do one small thing. We could do what we all seem to do well—SHOP. Within hours students began taking steps to contact World Vision to shop their “Gift Catalog”.

That’s why I teach at Greater Atlanta Christian School.

These young ones headed to the Ivy Leagues or other great institutions of higher learning will someday lead in business, in medicine, in law, in the arts, and in education. But no matter what field they chose for their careers, they have a vocation. A calling.

They will all be ministers. They will all be priests. And they will serve.

The next day in chapel two boys from the junior class asked students to help them start a campus chapter of the International Justice Mission.

Spring break 2005 over 200 students plan to travel across the globe on mission trips including a group headed to an orphanage in Namibia.

That’s why I teach at Greater Atlanta Christian School.

To such tender hearts, fertile minds, and willing spirits we can talk about, plan for and work openly toward the kind of leadership to which Jesus calls. It’s a short time in their life and a such a window of opportunity to share the challenge to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Doughnuts >Dioxin

The President may regret the doughnuts.

Some of you may regret the President.

But all of us regret Yushchenko's diet of dioxin.

Sad things, frustrating things happen here. But we have to marvel that George W. Bush of the United States joined the ranks of 43 presidencies ascending to power sans violence. Even Election 2000, annoying, disconcerting, and somewhat disillusioning for some, doesn't touch the Ukraine's sad tale of dioxin.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Bush, Dowdy, and the Doughnut

Finally, I have found something George Bush and I have in common. We both gained about 6 pounds during the presidential campaign. We both found this out at the doctor’s office this week, and we both think it may be from eating doughnuts.

NPR did not report what kind of doughnuts Air Force One serves, if their kitchen window boasts an orange neon “HOT NOW” sign, or how the President slipped into this indulgence. However, both the President and I endured a long stressful campaign season. He on Air Force One; me on Taurus Three.

Now the commonality breaks down a bit. For me, budgetary concerns factored in. Add to that a mild sense of entitlement. I drive 20 miles across Atlanta traffic to work. I should be able to buy a good cup of coffee on the way. So attempting to indulge my sense entitlement with my budgetary concerns compelled me to stop going to Starbucks and opt for Dunkin’ Donuts instead. In some sort of voodoo economics I figured I would save money by driving thru Dunkin Donuts.

Okay, I admit, sometimes I thought myself worthy of coffee and a chocolate frosted doughnut.

Okay, I admit, sometimes I thought myself worthy of coffee and two chocolate frosted doughnuts.

Okay, I admit that adding doughnuts to the price of the coffee pretty much negated the budgetary advantage.

So do George and I have some commonality in the overriding themes in doughnut eating? Budgetary concerns? Entitlements? Such weighty issues divide us, I fear.

Maybe stress caused us to turn to the doughnut. For Bush--bearing the weight of the Presidency and the pressure of electoral politics. The trigger for me, I think—I am sure--was seeing John Kerry in camouflage carrying a shotgun and dead birds.

At any rate, George and I are committed to dropping this six and quick.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Don't DeLay--Morality's on the way?
Recently an African-American student asked me why the Republican kids at our Christian high school in suburban Atlanta treat her like she is immoral for speaking up for the Democrats. At times it's awkward being a black person in a red community. What would you tell her?

For example, take the recent rules change in the House. In 1993 the House Republicans wanted to show their moral superiority to the Democrats by saying that House leaders under federal indictment would not be allowed to keep their posts. But when Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader, and his friends were under investigation--the time came to change the rule. Certainly there was some spurious language in the accusations of DelLy's accuser, but the ethics problems for which he was reprimanded were not vacated. Juliet Eilperin's commentary The Trouble With Unity published in Sunday's Washington Post shows the manner in which House Republicans paved the high road. Check out this recent Washington Post editorial: On Rewriting Ethics History .

Back to my student. I told her that the there is a perception that the Republicans are more moral because their platform has a pro-life plank. Plus, the Republicans put an anti-gay marriage amendment up for a vote this summer. It’s always a quandary to know how to discuss such issues in class, because it is very important to be fair, sensitive, and honest. I think about the many sincere folks casting their votes for Bush with the phrases like “culture of life” ringing in their ears.

Here's what I believe: President Bush sincerely cares about abortion and is truly concerned about the social and moral issues related to homosexual marriage.The President will likely use his bully pulpit to continue the culture of life talk and the man and women make a marriage rhetoric for four more years. But the Republican Party? I do not believe we need have an African American shrinking violet in the classroom because her family perceives politics differently than her classmates. I believe this primarily because, in spite of Mr. Bush's personal proclivity for overturning Roe v. Wade and an anti-gay marriage amendment, no one should expect the Republican Party to establish the moral climate for which Christians pine. Because political parties are not about morality. Parties purvey political power. They are about winning elections and governing to continue winning elections.

This article by Dick Morris, political consultant and commentator on Fox News, from The Hill a newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress says to me that the pro-life vote for Bush may be illusionary.

“Thoughts on a Second Term”

Filibusters and judicial nominations. Beware of what happened to FDR in 1937 when, fresh from the most resounding reelection victory since the early days of the Republic, he became filled with hubris and proposed to pack the Supreme Court.

Despite overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, the public backlash not only killed the plan but doomed his entire second-term agenda to disaster and defeat. The imperial overreach of FDR’s second term is well-explained by Kenneth Davis in his book Into the Storm.

This election was not won over abortion. It was won over the war on terror primarily and gay marriage secondarily. If the right attempts to twist its meaning to suit its purposes and use it to defang the checks-and-balances system, it will be guilty of its own form of imperial overreach. A three-percentage-point win will not sustain such an overturning of the system on which people of both parties rely to assure moderation.

After giving no hint of so radical a step during the campaign — indeed after keeping it well-hidden — for President Bush to spring it now would be seen as an act of treachery by the many pro-choice voters who backed him because of his international leadership, confident that the filibuster would prevent him from going to extremes in his appointments.

Filibusters, obnoxious as they are to democracy, have acquired an accepted place in our democracy. Just as senators no longer feel obliged to vote against cloture, as they once did out of courtesy to one another, so the public no longer feels that the necessity to attract 60 votes for judicial nominations is too onerous.

If Bush jams through a ban on filibusters on nominations and then jams through Clarence Thomas as chief justice (by itself this would be OK) and then pushes a Thomas or Antonin Scalia clone for the open spot on the court, he will squander a huge segment of the political capital on which he is relying for more important tasks ahead.
If you find that impressive: read this more recent post by Morris: Evangelicals Support Comes at High Price

Back to my student--Her family sees racial healing and healthcare as high moral priorities. Shall I tell her the Republicans are more moral because they have higher standards on ethics? Or shall I say they will avoid treachery by using their political capital on the important tasks like cutting taxes and waging war? I could say it's the pro-life prank.

What would you say?