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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
This weekend, if you rent a movie, try one of these to start your celebration of Independence Day.

1776 A musical account of the events leading up to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. While not exact on some details, remarkably accurate on the debates in Congress. Has some humor also. Adapted from the stage play of the same name.

Yankee Doodle Dandy From 1942, the life of George M. Cohan with all his great music. James Cagney in the title role.

Open Range A classic Western released in 2003. Great American attitudes without cynicism.

Men of Honor
Prejudice overcome by determination and courage.

To Kill a Mockingbird One man with courage makes a majority, though maybe not at that moment.

Tears of the Sun American heart, American courage.

Hester Street
American immigrant experience in New York's Lower East Side.

Field of Dreams America and America's game.

Seabiscuit How can any true American resist rooting for the Underdog?

Rocky In 1976 it was like the morning star of Morning in America.

Cinderalla Man
Root for the underdog.

Barbershop American values in a new setting for some of us.

Drumline Growing up and embracing the values of community (lots of great music as well)

The Legend of Bagger Vance Even those of us who do not play golf can be moved by this film.

Hellboy Character formed by community and by individual decision.

See also our list of movies for Memorial Day
Feel free to add movie suggestions.
History is not always a downhill slide; in the U.S. we have some progress we can take pride in.

A decade ago or so, I agreed to serve as a “room dad” for one of our sons elementary classes. In December we made a field trip to Fort Parker, near Groesbeck, Texas. About the time we finished touring the fort it began to rain. Needing a covered area for lunch, we hopped back aboard our busses and took our sack-lunches a short distance north to the Old Confederate Reunion Grounds near Mexia. For those of you from farther north, for decades after the Civil War Confederate veterans and families would gather for annual celebrations. Eventually many counties in the South built Reunion Grounds that included permanent facilities. The Old Confederate Reunion Grounds near Mexia has a large covered pavilion, perfect for our needs.

We arrived, handed out the lunches, and the kids exploded off the busses, running to the pavilion. White and black and brown, there they were eating together, talking together, running together, under a roof built to shelter partisans of the Lost Cause: descendents of slaves playing with descendents of slave owners and Confederate troops.

Sometimes things do get better. Have a Happy Independence Day.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Drudge links to this article from the Washington Post reporting that the average American is more socially isolated than ever before. The first two paragraphs read

"Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.

A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two."


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Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
Drudge links to this article which states that charitable giving by Americans is near a new high. To my mind a healthy society is one with citizen initiative, as evidenced by charitable giving among other things. An unhealthy society is characterized by citizen passivity while waiting for "somebody" (usually government) to do something. Like France during their last bad heat wave. See my earlier post on Lower Taxes and Voluntary Societies. We are a healthy society, in part, because instead of embracing totally the liberal vision of The People and their Government as the only social realities, we remain a nation of The People, Government, and a plethora of voluntary societies expressing citizen initiative.

Our country has its flaws, but still has a generous heart. So, what are the Saudis doing with their petrodollars?
At the denominational meeting I attended recently, about the last order of business was financial. We had to set "assessments," the per member amount each congregation pays in to the denomination for denominational ministries. The debate was classic: larger-scale programs done by the national denomination versus keeping the money at the level of the local congregations. On the one hand, some programs best can be done denominationally--most congregations cannot develop their own Sunday School materials. But on the other, most effective ministry is done at street level, by local people through local congregations. Set assessments too high and local ministry suffers. Set assessments too low, and denominational efforts dry up.

The debate set me to thinking about taxes and the nature of American society. Liberals seem to think that America is made up of the People and Government. So to meet needs Government needs money, therefore raise taxes. But, this is a false picture of America. We are a nation of the People and Government and a myriad of voluntary societies--churches, Kiwanis, Chambers of Commerce, volunteer fire companies, historical societies, cemetary associations, garden clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Scouting, 4-H, countless auxiliaries for this and that, hospital volunteers, Shriners, neighborhood watch, etc., etc., etc. If Government takes too much money from the People in taxes, the voluntary societies dry up.

And voluntary societies are an essential part of the health of America. Voluntary societies are the People responding to need, taking the initiative to make things better, actively bettering community life. If society becomes only the People and Government, the People will be passively dependent, waiting for Government to protect them and take care of them. Tax cuts don't just stimulate the economy; tax cuts stimulate active citizenship.
Category: American Culture
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the June 13 edition of USA Today. The headline above the fold on the first page of section D seems even-handed: God and Gays: Churchgoers stand divided. Even the first sentence of the article shows no bias--"Every Sunday there's an intense struggle in the souls of some believers as one religious denomination after another battles over the rights and roles of homosexuals." But, (cont.)

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NPR's Weekend Edition interviewed Bosque Boys favorite, Bill McClay, on Saturday. The interview with Scott Simon (who struck me as a bit sillier than necessary in this particular segment) explored McClay's essay from a recent issue of In Character, which was dedicated entirely to extolling the virtue of modesty. Listen here to the audio archive.

The article (in full here), "Idol Smashing and Immodesty in the Groves of Academe," offers a study of the meaning of modesty and the lost art of practicing modesty. In the end, McClay indicts the academy for steamrolling modesty in favor of iconoclasm. Here are some highlights (although I encourage you to read the entire essay):

McClay argues that true modesty emanates "from a certain depth of self-knowledge, from an awareness of how far we fall short of what we ought to be. In short, a modesty that arises out of an awareness of precisely who we are, and how much we have to be modest about."

He reminds us: "it is always appropriate to conjoin manners with morals. There is always a philosophy of human nature, however hidden or implicit, lurking behind our manners."

And: "[M]odesty means having a mature perspective on one’s ultimate insignificance and limitations, grounded in a sense of mystery about the vastness and incomprehensibility of the world, and skepticism about the limits of human nature and human capabilities. This is the meaning of the word that ought to attach to the “modest” achievement of even the greatest scholars. Whatever we do is, in the end, pretty puny.

"This is also the kind of modesty that remembers the embarrassing contrast between human aspiration and human frailty."

"It remembers the painful contrast between the youthful Cassius Clay’s arrogant and scornful cry, “I am the greatest!” and the pathetic figure that the elder Muhammad Ali has cut, his mind and body ravaged by his career in boxing and by the steady advance of Parkinson’s disease. It remembers that nearly every human glory and every human boast ends in the same sad and humiliating way."

On the academy and its cottage industry of inconoclasm (which McClay offers as the "polar opposite of modesty"): They "have made the liberation from social convention into a new social convention all its own. Of course, this ideology rests upon a veiled form of class snobbery, since there must always be those unnamed “others,” the suburbanites and functionaries and breeders and Babbitts who are thought to sustain and uphold the conventions from which “we” perpetually need to be liberated. But those “others” are increasingly shadowy and hard to locate. The new convention has been triumphant beyond its wildest dreams, and is now entirely pervasive, suffusing our popular culture and our advertising and assimilated into the mainstream in the most remarkable and incongruous ways."

The article (in full here).
Archbishop George Pell, an intellectual hero of mine, addresses the danger of relativism in this speech. The belief that all "truths" are mere matters of opinion, leads to

"Looked at in this way an education in relativism seems more like a recipe for disenfranchisement and passivity than empowerment. If you want people to move the world it actually helps if you put some ground under their feet. This is one of the things that Christianity does. As Pope Benedict said elsewhere in his pre-conclave homily, 'A faith profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. This friendship opens us to all that is good and gives us the measure to discern between what is true and what is false, between deceit and truth". Having a "measure to discern between what is true and what is false, between deceit and truth", is the source of empowerment, and the lasting basis for concern and compassion for others."

A Waco Farmer is correct that the larger context for same-sex marriage debate is the weakening of the institution of marriage. And, he is correct in pointing out that Christian churches have, in many respects, allowed their own attitudes toward divorce and remarriage to be imported from the larger culture.

For what it may be worth, below is a list of Scriptures concerning marriage, and a pastoral letter I wrote a while back, giving my understanding of divorce and remarriage from a Christian perspective.

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