A surprising fact about tonight’s debate

Posted by    |    September 26th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Credit: Mary Altaffer, Chuck Burton via APTonight’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is expected to be the most-watched political broadcast in American history. One reason is that the race is so close: a new poll puts Clinton ahead of Trump by two points, 46 percent to 44 percent. This is well within the margin of error. Among registered voters, each candidate has 41 percent support.

But another factor is the huge number of “undecideds” at this late stage of the campaign. Nearly 20 percent of voters say they are undecided or plan not to vote for the Democrat or the Republican. What they do on November 8 will likely determine the election.

Pollster Frank Luntz explains that these voters are undecided because they know a lot about both candidates but don’t like either one. As a result, the surprising truth is that the Americans whose impressions of tonight’s debate matters most are those who are least impressed by their options. Luntz likens them to children living through a bitter divorce: they are “watching with a mixture of fear and disdain as their parents argue, knowing they will soon be forced to choose with whom to live—a decision with no good outcome.”

I think such a view of the election mirrors a larger anxiety in our culture today.

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Broken engagement creates Disney princess

Posted by    |    September 23rd, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Credit: DPark PhotographyBrooke Lowry found herself single three weeks before her engagement pictures were scheduled to be taken. It was too late to cancel the photography session, and her dresses had already been chosen and tailored. So she decided on a solo shoot at Disneyland. Her pictures are amazing. Her attitude is even more remarkable.

She describes the day: “It honestly couldn’t have been a more beautiful experience, and I was filled with the peace and comfort that only comes from above. I’m so glad I decided to go through with the photos, and more importantly, I’m so grateful for the smallest acts of daily kindness that make all the difference in a broken world.”

I’m grateful for Brooke’s gratitude, a gift of encouragement in the midst of challenging days. Perusing this morning’s news: Protests continued last night in Charlotte as the mayor imposed a midnight curfew. Yahoo says hackers stole information from 500 million users. A strong earthquake struck southeast of Tokyo. Another migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean, killing at least forty-three people.

As difficult as the news is, tragedy can be used for good if it turns us to faith in God and service to others.

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Sistine Chapel frescoes are coming to Dallas

Posted by    |    September 22nd, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Credit: Uli Deck via API’ll never forget the first time I saw Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They are more stunning than any movie or photograph can depict. Soon, however, you won’t have to go to Rome to view them. You will be able to see them in Dallas instead.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition makes its first stop in the US at the State Fair of Texas, which opens in Dallas on September 30. The works will be displayed in their original size, reproduced as thirty-four photographs displayed on sixteen-foot panels.

In a way, it’s surprising that Michelangelo’s masterpiece will be displayed at this city-sponsored event. The frescoes are overtly religious, depicting God’s creation of Adam and Eve as well as a variety of biblical prophets and heroes. Given the rising tide against religious freedom, we can envision a day when such depictions will be allowed only inside church buildings.

Consider the frightening US Commission on Civil Rights report making headlines today. It states clearly that if someone alleges discrimination relative to their sexual orientation or gender identity, their claim takes precedence over religious freedom. The Commission’s chairman summarized the report: “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance” (my emphasis).

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Why the Jolie–Pitt divorce? 3 surprising factors

Posted by    |    September 21st, 2016 at 12:30 pm

An earthquake hit Los Angeles yesterday. It came just minutes after news broke that Angelina Jolie was filing for divorce from Brad Pitt. CNN made this tongue-in-cheek announcement: “The two incidents are unrelated.” But not for the couple and their children—they will never be the same.

Why is the couple divorcing? Consider three surprising factors.

One: They are famous. Research shows that celebrity marriages are twice as likely to break up as others. The Marriage Foundation studied couples who married between 2000 and 2010 and were divorced by 2014. The results: 50 percent of star couples were divorced, compared to 26 percent of “normal” marriages.

Two: They are wealthy and attractive. According to The Atlantic, men are 50 percent more likely to divorce if their partner’s looks are important in their decision to get married. Women are 60 percent more likely to divorce if they care about their partner’s wealth. Of course, I don’t know if these factors applied specifically to Jolie and Pitt, but it’s a safe guess that they were not irrelevant to their relationship.

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Terrorist is ‘a guy you would never expect’

Posted by    |    September 20th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki via APAhmad Khan Rahami was arrested yesterday. Wanted in connection with bombings in New York and New Jersey, he has been charged with five counts of attempted murder after a shootout with police.

His family operates First American Fried Chicken in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One of the restaurant’s patrons said of Ahmad, “He’s a very friendly guy, he gave me free chicken. He was always the most friendly man you ever met.” The patron was deeply rattled by news that Rahami has been connected to the bombings. “He’s a guy you would never expect,” he said. “This is sad, terrifying, scary.”

When terrorists strike anywhere, people become alarmed everywhere. For instance, West Point was locked down yesterday after a “concerned citizen” reported seeing a man “who fit the description” of Rahami, according to a spokesman. The man was eventually identified as a West Point resident and the lockdown was lifted.

We can expect more of this. FBI Director James Comey has warned that hundreds of terrorists will fan out to infiltrate western Europe and the US as attacks escalate against the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate in Syria. “At some point there’s going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before,” he warned. Referring to recent attacks in Brussels and Paris, Comey said that future attacks will be “an order of magnitude greater.”

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NY bombing: Up to 5 now in custody

Posted by    |    September 19th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Credit: Mel Evans via APABC News is reporting that as many as five people were taken into FBI custody last night in connection with Saturday’s bombing in Manhattan. In addition, multiple bombs were discovered overnight at a New Jersey train station. A pipe bomb exploded along a racecourse in New Jersey, though no one was injured. And ISIS has claimed responsibility for a stabbing at a Minnesota mall that injured eight.

Life in the age of terrorism seems more fragile than ever.

Our fears are not necessarily based on facts. According to security experts, ninety-four Americans have been killed by jihadists since 9/11, more than half of them in the Orlando nightclub shooting. An additional forty-eight have been killed by other extremists such as the Charleston church shooter. As tragic as these deaths are, more Americans die in car accidents every two days.

However, the fear of terrorism can be debilitating. Experts say that living with such fear can trigger obsessive thinking and alter our mood, temperament, motivation, and personality.

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US religion worth $1.2 trillion

Posted by    |    September 16th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

via goodfreephotosIt’s not often that an academic report changes the conversation about religion in America, but one just did. Georgetown University professors Brian Grim and Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute have unveiled their groundbreaking study: “The Socio-economic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis.” Here’s the summary:

•    Religion in the US contributes $1.2 trillion each year to our economy and society.
•    Despite declining religious affiliation in the American population, religious organizations have tripled the amount of money spent on social programs in the last fifteen years—to $9 billion.
•    Religion’s $1.2 trillion impact is more than the annual revenues of Apple, Amazon, and Google combined.

The study notes that congregations and religiously affiliated charity groups are responsible for:

•    130,000 alcohol and drug abuse recovery programs.
•    94,000 programs to support veterans and their families.
•    26,000 programs to prevent HIV/AIDS and to support those living with the disease.
•    121,000 programs to provide support or skills training for unemployed adults.

While religion contributes $1.2 trillion each year, religious tax-exemptions cost the US $71 billion. In other words, religion contributes seventeen times more to America than it costs.

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