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The Coffee is Better Black and White – My Experience with Racial Profiling

*I wrote this in 2010 after an upsetting experience in a Rockford coffee shop. In light of the Trayvon Martin death and subsequent discussion nationally I’m sharing it here. Continue reading


90 Minutes in Heaven?

I don’t have time to write a review, but questions about this book (which I’ve read) have been brought up, so here’s my assessment: I don’t believe it.

Now, if you want a better review, here are some good links:

90 Minutes in Heaven

Book Review: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Tim Chailles

“We’re changing. We’re not changing.” Northland’s Statement

Les Ollila

In my opinion, round two from Northland’s public relations attempt is much more clarifying and helpful. The second letter comes from Les Ollila (Chancellor) and is a follow-up to Matt Olson’s (President) open letter which I felt to be unsuccessful at best. In Is Northland Changing? A Chancellor’s Perspective Les Ollila responds with a solid no and yes.

As I said in my previous post, I think that change can be good and, in the case of what I see at NIU, these particular changes are commendable. I claimed that Northland was in a quaqmire because they were trying to say that they were changing while insisting that they weren’t changing. It appears to be political and disingenuous because representing the truth of the situation is very hard. The fact is that they are changing, but they haven’t changed. I argued in my last post that they should just admit it. I am not so deluded as to think that my posts have any kind of influence, but they have certainly listened to some good criticism, because round two gets much closer to the mark.

I would like to make some broad generalizations about ministerial philosophy and specific analysis of the Olson/Ollila letters. There are some people that always read me negatively no matter how I say it, but I hope that most will read this as an attempt to help the discussion going on in these circles.

Proposition #1. Change is not always bad. Sometimes change is good. Continue reading

Maturing Downward: Christians in Vanity Fair

Remember: the soon-to-be billion dollar actress of the Hannah Montana character is Christian. (I wrote about her only a few weeks ago in a post entitled A Dad Ponders the Hannah Montana Cult.) And so are her parents. This week Miley Ray Cyrus is in the news for a semi-nude portrait of her that is making the front cover of Vanity Fair.At first the word from the fifteen-year-old was that she had no idea the portrait was that provocative. Then the photographer rebutted saying that both she and her parents approved of all the shots. The parents are now saying they had already left the scene when the controversial pose was struck.


I am actually among the not-so-offended crowd, but I have nothing to be offended by. I haven’t let my daughter idolize the poor girl. And I don’t mean poor girl sarcastically. The child is, in my mind, the victim of parents who have decided to live in Bunyan’s Vanity Fair. How ironic that the first major flap of their multi-millionaire child would be about their child’s portrait on a magazine that shares the name of Bunyan’s metaphor for the world.

Poor Miley Ray Cyrus. She was quoted in Christianity Today not so long ago for saying that everything that she does is for Jesus. Everything. I wonder if that includes being on the front cover for Vanity Fair.

She is just a child. One shouldn’t be too harsh on her. But what about her parents? Are they going to write a book on parenting just as Lynn Spears, mother of Britney has done? It’s been delayed. Even for Christians in Vanity Fair it seems a bit odd to publish a book on parenting when one daughter is flinging her life away to booze and drugs and the other is pregnant at sixteen. But the delay is only indefinite. I’m sure parents everywhere are eager to get some tips. Thomas Nelson once again provides great reading for Christians in Vanity Fair.

Now, I personally think the flap was a bit over the top. It’s all about money. Disney is upset, of course. Disney thinks Vanity Fair manipulated a fifteen year old child. Disney may sense that the media’s shark-like frenzy about this story is more motivated by the base human pleasure of seeing people topple; in this case, not just Disney’s money-making machine, but an popular icon with “clean.” The Christian Cyrus family should be encouraged that they have support from Rosie O’Donnell. Rosie thinks that Disney is making her apologize. And Rosie is probably right. (Rosie also thinks that the pictures are beautiful. And, well, if you know Rosie, that is creepy.) But Rosie may be right to imply that Disney is manipulating an apology out of the child.

Vanity Fair (Bunyan’s and the Mag) both mature its victims downward. And Miley Cyrus is a victim. Her parents have built a home right on main street Vanity Fair and now they’re scratching their heads wondering how in the world it ever happened that as soon as they walked away from the photo-shoot their daughter got tricked into a semi-nude pose. John Bunyan wrote of French Row, and British Row, and Italian Row when he described the streets of Vanity Fair. He didn’t know anything about Hollywood Row. That’s where the Cyrus family lives.

But at some point tough questions have to be asked. If Bunyan is right that every pilgrim on his way to the Celestial City has to pass through Vanity Fair, is he not also right that true pilgrims are easily identifiable?

Now these pilgrims, as I said, must needs go through this fair. Well, so they did: but, behold, even as they entered into the fair, all the people in the fair were moved, and the town itself as it were in a hubbub about them; and that for several reasons: for–

First, The pilgrims were clothed with such kind of raiment as was diverse from the raiment of any that traded in that fair. The people, therefore, of the fair, made a great gazing upon them: some said they were fools, some they were bedlams, and some they are outlandish men.

Secondly, And as they wondered at their apparel, so they did likewise at their speech; for few could understand what they said; they naturally spoke the language of Canaan, but they that kept the fair were the men of this world; so that, from one end of the fair to the other, they seemed barbarians each to the other.

Thirdly, But that which did not a little amuse the merchandisers was, that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares; they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven.

By posing for Vanity Fair the mag one wonders if the Christian Cyrus family is like the Bunyan Christians. They don’t seem to “set lightly by all [the] wares” of Vanity Fair and Hollywood Row. And their child gets played; by Disney, Vanity Fair the mag, and, worst of all, Bunyan’s Vanity Fair.

One more reason why I don’t want my daughter flocking after child stars. I don’t want to contribute to the ruin of the child star.

Hannah Montana is maturing. If she stays in (or on) Vanity Fair she’ll mature downward. That’s what Vanity Fair does to everybody.