Friday, December 21, 2007

Purpose Driven Care?

Last night Rick and Kay Warren appeared on the Hannity and Colmes show. They were interviewed about their current crusade to help AIDS victims. It’s a laudable goal. However, the way it came to Pastor Rick and Kay’s attention leaves deep questions about the ingrown nature of these Purpose Driven leaders and their movement.

Kay said she originally thought AIDS was just a gay disease and since she didn’t know anyone with that disease it had nothing to do with her. She said she didn't know its wider impact on the rest of society. She first became aware of its significance after reading an article about how AIDS is devastating Africa. She talked to Rick and helped him see the importance of the problem.

Alan Colmes pointed out the first problem: Kay Warren didn’t think that gay-related health issues would be of concern to her. Kay agreed that she was wrong on that and has had a turn around in her views. That’s positive.

But, one wonders what kind of closed view the Warrens had that they would think that a devastating disease for any segment of the population would not be important.

The second problem is the apparent cocoon that the Warrens lived in--maybe still live in. Didn’t they ever read the newspaper or even watch television news? The knowledge of the growing AIDS crisis in Africa has been around since the mid-1980's.
Even more specific to their church leadership role, in all their years at Saddleback Church did they never have a part in sending missionaries to help Africans? Did they not talk to those missionaries about major problems Africans are facing--including AIDS?

The good news is that the Warrens, and hopefully other Purpose Driven leaders, are becoming aware that human need is more central to the Gospel than comfortable worship style. What’s not so encouraging is that this was a recent major discovery as regards AIDS.

One is left to wonder if this is only a small distraction for the Purpose Driven movement from its general direction towards making Christianity simpler, more comfortable and more appealing to middle class America. Is it throwing easy surplus dollars and spare time at a problem and then going back to comfortable everyday life? Or is it the beginning of a call to transformation from a lifestyle of upscale multi-million dollar church campuses and comfortable homes, cars and blingy do-dads to a simpler, sacrificial lifestyle that really cares about pleasing God and helping people in desperate need?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Change of Heart at the Oregonian

Good for the Oregonian in seeing the error of its original position in the case of baby Gabriel Allred.

Steve and Angela Brandt, Gabriel’s parents since he was four months old, want to adopt him. But the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) has ruled that Gabriel should be sent to live with his grandmother in Mexico even though she has had no contact with him and, though she knew of his existence, did not seek contact with him until contacted by DHS officials about the prospect of caring for him and receiving a $400 monthly payment.

Sunday’s editorial cited one of the facts the Oregonian left out of their original editorial: “Caseworkers closest to the situation urged their superiors to let Gabriel remain in the care of the Brandts.”

Professionals who actually had hands on knowledge of the situation and personal knowledge of Gabriel were shunted aside by two professional panels who felt they could make a better decision without knowing anything personal about the little boy.

Some other factors to consider:

1. The panelists gave little thought to the fact that a Meth baby needs special care. Gabriel was getting that as well as love and a secure environment with the Brandts. If Gabriel is sent to Mexico, who will assure that he gets special attention and needed treatment?

2. The panels seemed to give no thought to the fact that Gabriel’s father, whose parental rights were taken away because he was twice convicted of attempted rape of a child, was going back to Mexico. Though Gabriel’s grandmother has said she has asked her son to stay away, while her son was doing drug dealing in the US he was sending $500/month to her. What are the chances that a mother would keep a son from his son--especially a son who had shown his commitment to her and the family by sending substantial monthly sums to her while he was able to do so?

3. The panels thought it worthwhile to inflict on 2 year old Gabriel a horrible trauma that will leave lasting psychological scars in ripping him away from the only family he has ever known and sending him to a family that he not only has had no contact with but which speaks a different language and lives in a different culture.

Not to mention the fact that after Gabriel is sent to Mexico, Oregon DHS will have no way to monitor Gabriel’s health, development or safety in Mexico. The panels, unlike the professionals who actually had oversight of Gabriel's care, valued abstract rules over the real little boy.

There are many good people in DHS, but apparently the people at the top don’t listen to the professionals on the ground, and so they come up with dysfunctional decisions. Unfortunately, this is one in a long string of DHS decisions that have been against the interests of the children DHS is supposed to protect. Some of those decisions have even resulted in the death of children (Ashley Pond and Miranda Gaddis).

The Oregonian summed up the essence of this case:

The alternative, the one chosen by two state panels that considered his case, was to send Gabriel to a country he has never known, to live with relatives who speak a language he has hardly ever heard, to be ripped from the only functioning family, and the only abiding love, he ever has known.

This decision, which we once applauded, no longer seems to us the best for Gabriel. Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Department of Health Services Director Bruce Goldberg have been doing much hand-wringing of late. They are stalling, waiting on Bryan Johnston, the new interim head of Oregon's child welfare system, to make the final call. Johnston now has the authority to overturn the earlier decision to send Gabriel to Mexico. He should do exactly that.

(emphasis mine)

The Oregonian is right. The best thing for Gabriel’s welfare is to overturn DHS’s dysfunctional decision made over the objections of the DHS professionals who actually worked with Gabriel. This would also follow the recommendation of Gabriel’s court appointed advocate.

Lars Larson deserves a lot of credit for bringing out significant facts in this case that Portland print and television media (though not the Newport News-Times) have failed to mention.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

MHCC - Fun Night of Music

Wednesday night Mt. Hood Community College showed off its Symphonic Band, Orchestra and Choir.

You can see the symphonic band's performance of Thomas Allen's Whip and Spur Galop directed by Susie Jones here and the Symphonic Choir and Orchestra's Chorale: Gloria Sei Dir Gesungen from Bach's Cantata 140 directed by Marshall Tuttle here.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Picking Up an Easy $1 Million

From last Saturday's Oregonian editorial, No letup in the Swift-boating of Kerry:

In a half-baked book and a sleazy series of TV ads, a group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accused Kerry of lying about his military service. Though many of the allegations were quickly proved to be false by fellow veterans and newspaper investigations, the rickety charges grew like a fungus in the anti-Kerry swamp of talk radio and right-wing punditry.

In a blunder that likely cost him the election, Kerry refused to run ads responding to the vicious attacks. Worse, he muted his own response, not wanting to legitimize what he correctly saw as the dirtiest of politics.
. . .

Now Kerry, who is up for re-election, is fighting the Swift-boaters again. One of the challengers for his Senate seat is already taking aim at Kerry's military record, and Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who helped finance the 2004 mud-slinging, offered this month to pay $1 million to anyone who can disprove even a single charge of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

This time Kerry responded the way he should have in 2004. He personally accepted Pickens' brash offer and offered to travel to Dallas to meet with him in a public forum or invite him to come to Massachusetts.

There is an obvious problem with the Oregonian’s assertion that “many of the allegations were quickly proved to be false by fellow veterans and newspaper investigations.” If that were true, the allegations might live on (as theories of the destruction of the Twin Towers being an inside job will undoubtedly live on), but they wouldn’t be politically potent.

Apparently this is a potent issue with current Massachusetts voters. Strange because Massachusetts is not known to be widely swayed by “talk radio and right-wing punditry.”

So, what is the real problem? The Dan Rather smear on Pres. Bush’s national guard service did become a non-issue in the 2004 election precisely because the key evidence was quickly proved false. But, the Swift Boat issue was not similarly put to rest. It’s still here in 2008.

The difference in the two cases is that the people who made the Swift Boat allegations were fellow veterans who served in the same battle zone as Kerry. When you pit testimony from actual participants against each other, especially when the larger group is on the anti-Kerry side, it’s not that easy to prove a charge false--especially if what is at issue is the truthfulness of the official reports.

Talk with WWII vets, or any war vets, and you will hear lots of stories about official incompetence and records that didn’t reflect what really happened.

Sen. Kerry responded in 2004 as Pres. Bush responded--basically with silence.

It worked for Pres. Bush because the evidence truly was “rickety” and easily disproved. Poor Dan Rather lost his career over it.

It didn’t work for Sen. Kerry because his witnesses were fewer in number than opposing witnesses.

When witness accounts of an event vary, it becomes he said/she said (or in this case, he said/he said). When the witnesses on both sides are decorated veterans who have risked their lives to serve their country, you either take it as a wash, or you take the view that best fits your own preferences.

The editors at the Oregonian have their preferences. But, those preferences are not the same as proven facts. That’s why the $1 million isn’t such an easy snatch for Sen. Kerry--or even an enterprising Oregonian editor.