Viewpoints

Ideological debate no longer genuine

Eight years to the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Dow Jones industrial average closed within one-tenth of a point of where it ended on Sept. 10, 2001.

Think of the Rip Van Winkle effect: Imagine a person checking his portfolio Sept. 10, 2001, then falling into a deep coma. Awakening Sept. 11 of this year, he finds the index unchanged. All is well, he surmises, nothing has changed — nothing except the worst attack on the United States in history, strangulating domestic security, two wars and the worst economic recession in seven decades. And all against a backdrop of unlimited greed, pervasive fraud and disappearing wealth.

One of the most notorious changes is how the nation’s system of government and public policy is operating more and more under the “Chicken Little” theme. You remember that fable: A chicken is struck on the head by a falling acorn, assumes the sky is falling, and then incites other animals into mass hysteria, which the fox uses to manipulate them for his own ends.

Today’s new Chicken Littles — talk-show blowhards and Internet bloggers — have their own “sky is falling” response: death panels to dispatch the elderly, potential concentration camps on military posts and rationed health care.

Listen carefully to hear God’s voice clearly

An old man was talking to his neighbor, telling him about the new hearing aid he just got.  

“It cost a fortune, but it was worth it.  It works perfectly.”

“Really,” said the neighbor. “What kind is it?”

“Ten thirty.”

Like the man in this joke, we sometimes need to hear more clearly. 

When we are lonely, worried or confused, we wish we could hear God better. We yearn to hear His voice of comfort, encouragement and guidance.

God wants you to hear His voice. Do you know that? Listen now.

To hear God clearly, first we need to be quiet. Just as Jesus left behind the noisy crowds to hear His Father’s voice in the desert, we must abandon our feverish quest for news, noise and entertainment.  We need to turn off our computers, televisions and cell phones, and enter into the quiet majesty of the cathedral of our souls. 

Harvard researcher proves abstinence works against AIDS

For many years I have been aware of the outcome of the fight against AIDS in Uganda, the African country that has been very successful in lowering the rate of the disease. It’s not surprising that the favorable result is attributed to the promotion and practice of abstinence and to the encouragement of fidelity in marriage.

So it was with great interest a few weeks ago that I discovered Rebecca Buchman’s article in the Aug. 3 issue of Forbes magazine on the subject, “A Jihad on the AIDS Mafia.”

The article described the research of Edward Green, a Harvard-based medical anthropologist, who was sent to Uganda in 1993 to investigate an AIDS prevention program that had, for him, surprising results. It was abstinence and fidelity that had been stressed and that had a significant, positive effect, not condom distribution. This discovery was unexpected as the use of condoms was generally accepted as the best means of prevention.

Green’s basic conclusion, that condoms were not effective in preventing AIDS in populations wherein the disease is principally heterosexually transmitted, was published in his 2003 book, “Rethinking AIDS Prevention.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the so-called politically correct people were not interested in what he discovered. He even found himself shunned at AIDS conferences.

God showed Himself to us after Sept. 11

Sudden pandemonium. First Tower One, and it felt like a dream. Then Tower Two, and it felt real.  The Pentagon got hit, and it appeared the country must be under attack. Finally, a fourth plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field. In a matter of moments a quiet, clear day became one of the most recognizable dates in American history.

More than 3,000 people died that day, people who had done nothing to provoke the aggression that ended their lives. Many more people lost loved ones and were left to live with the terrible grief produced by sudden and unjust loss. 

In those early hours of pain, fear and confusion it appeared a nameless, faceless, heartless enemy had penetrated our defenses. As often occurs in difficult times, some began to wonder, “Where is God in all this?” At some point, tragedy tests faith. Sept. 11, 2001, was such a day.

Remembering to always give thanks

I had breakfast with an old friend recently. Our food arrived piping hot at the table. I happily spread butter on my English muffin and tasted the first forkful of my omelet when my friend quietly asked me if I would feel funny saying grace together in a public place.

Grace? “Yeah, sure,” I managed to garble with a mouthful of food. After the usual Catholic blessing he began eating his meal and I, slightly embarrassed, continued mine.

My parents taught me well, but through the years, to my dismay, I have lost my consistency in saying grace before every meal. At home before family meals we say grace and give thanks, but I do not always remember to do the same when the meal is on the fly.

As a busy mom, I bought my kids plenty of drive-thru, carry-out and curbside-to-go meals. When tossing them a bag of burgers and fries from the front seat of the car, I rarely paused long enough to remind them to say grace. I’ve grabbed a sandwich at the local deli and eaten Chinese standing at my kitchen counter, without any thought of asking God to bless the meal.

We all need to have, and be, good listeners

If human beings came with an instructions manual, somewhere in the first chapter it would read: Find a good listener. 

Everyone needs listeners. We need people who will let us finish our sentences. Good listeners help us sort through our thoughts and feelings. They recognize the fear beneath the anger and the hurt behind the fear.

A good listener can help us sift through the two or three bad ideas to find the good one hiding in the back.   Good listeners help us find the humor in frustration and the silver linings in disappointments. Good listeners help us make good decisions. They help us identify options and their consequences. 

It’s been said that every day we experience at least one meaningful event that has a significant impact on our lives. Good listeners help us recognize the experiences that should not be overlooked.

In that instructions manual it would also read: Be a good listener. Listening will help you contribute, connect, heal and learn.

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