Saturday, April 29, 2006

Unfair Policy toward Homeschoolers

A friend of mine had told me the story of a homeschooler being invited to a prom by his girlfriend but being refused permission by the school to attend merely because he is a homeschooler. HE&OS quotes the original story. The animosity of public schools toward homeschoolers seems overwhelming at times. It just seems so ridiculous and unfair to me.

Friday, April 28, 2006

"Fiscal Wake-Up Tour" Coming to DE

The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan organization devoted to teaching the public about the need for national fiscal responsibility. They have joined with speakers from the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation, the Committee for Economic Development, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to bring the "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour" to the country. The next stop will be Wilmington, Delaware on Monday, May 1, 2006.

Where: Chase Center on the Riverfront
800 South Madison St.
Wilmington, DE 19801

When: 9:30 AM
Monday, May 1, 2006

Cost: free

Contact info: website
phone 302-425-3929 ext.138

A Father's Thoughts on "United 93"

In "United 93: Filmmakers Got It Right", David Beamer discusses the new film "United 93". United 93, as we all recall, was the plane downed in a meadow in Pennsylvania on the morning of 9/11/01. It was the heroism of Todd Beamer and the other men on board that saved American lives even as they gave up theirs. Once they had realized that they were not merely being hijacked but would be used as a weapon to slaughter other Americans, they decided to go out as men and chose their own place of death.

Those who have suffered greatly, refused to wallow in self-pity, and have overcome, always have my ear. Mr. Beamer is one such man. Reading David Beamer's essay, I understand why his son was such a determined man that fateful morning with those other brave souls. According to Mr. Beamer who has seen the film, they have been appropriately remembered in "United 93".

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Let Iraqis Decide

Jonah Goldberg has an interesting idea that if implemented would settle once and for all whether Americans are "occupiers" or guests in Iraq---let the Iraqis decide! A nationwide referendum would make clear to Iraqis, Americans, and all the world whether U. S. presence is desired or if the U.S. is overstaying its welcome. If they vote for continued U.S. presence, we stay and everyone can shut up, and if they vote for the U.S. to leave, we get our troops home and show our dedication to democracy. Is there a downside to this?

Delaware Attractions for Free

On Saturday, May 13, 2006, there will be free admission for Delaware residents to over forty Delaware attractions. Click here and then click on "free to the first state" for more details.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Colleges Accused of Title IX Violations

Perhaps you've heard that Stephanie Monroe, the Assistant Education Secretary for Civil Rights, had announced that her office would launch an investigation into possible Title IX violations in colleges and universities with a disproportionate ratio of male to female students in math and science departments. These are colleges and universities, mind you. Don't students declare what they wish to major in? Aren't departments within their rights (and responsibilities) to accept students who demonstrate high aptitude for and success in those areas of study?

Obviously, there are women who have a God-given aptitude for math and science. I have female friends with their master's degrees in engineering, certainly not a soft science, and it would have been wrong for them to have been denied the opportunity to follow their interests just because they are female.

On the other hand, to demand that colleges have males and females in their science, math and engineering programs in proportion to the gender distribution of their student bodies could cause hardships for our young men who are already outnumbered on many college campuses. Women could be encouraged to major in subjects which are not compatible with their strengths, and men who really belong in those fields could be booted out to make way for women.

Could it be that men and women might actually tend to have interests and aptitudes in different areas? Could we admit this without losing our jobs, fainting, or going to the other extreme and pigeon-holing everyone by sex into designated fields (women in English departments and men in physics)?

Thankfully, Ms. Monroe has backed off for now. Hopefully, no further steps will be taken until long after my son declares a major and is accepted into a program (and hopefully none after that either). He should, after all, have rights, too and should not be penalized for being born male.

Link to Jennifer Roback Morse for further opinions and information on this topic.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dean to the Religious: "Shut Up"?

During an interview with the Christian Science Monitor last Wednesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said, "The religious community has to decide whether they want to be tax exempt or involved in politics."

Many religious groups are confused or suspicious as to what this means and for whom this statement was intended, and for good reason. In July 2005, Dean spoke at an African Methodist Episcopal Church convention to promote the Democratic party. This was followed by a visit to the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. in September 2005. Interestingly, while campaigning, Howard Dean marketed his signs to churches to be placed on their property, and the Democratic National Committee has a religious communities site on their webpage.

So what does all this mean? Is Howard Dean suggesting that because these religious groups have accepted and supported the Democratic Party and their candidates they should have their tax exempt status revoked? Was he referring to Rev. Jesse Jackson and his organization? Or is he targeting specifically those churches that tend to be more conservative in nature? Thus far, the only rule for churches and organizations with tax-exempt status is that they are not to promote a specific party or candidate (by doing things like putting signs on their property). The federal rules have never said or meant that they were supposed to be muzzled about their opinions on issues of the day.

Regardless of which groups are his target, religious freedom and conscience have been a part of the American tradition since before the Revolutionary War began. Pastors spoke from their pulpits on behalf of the American revolution. Northern pastors and their congregants spoke out against slavery. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a minister and mobilized churches to stand for the civil rights of African-Americans.

Churches are made up of American citizens, and these citizens ought not be told to shut up about their views on issues affecting the U. S. just because those topics might be deemed political, especially in a culture in which virtually everything is considered political. Let's not forget that religious Americans are still Americans and have First Amendment rights, too.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Abortion: No Panacea

There I was a twelve year old girl in the midst of conversation with four boys two to four years older than myself. How we got on the topic of abortion, I cannot remember. It was not many years after Roe v. Wade had been decided.

For some reason, I was fiercely pro-life. I was arguing vehemently about how wrong abortion was. Yet these boys were just as adamant that abortion was perfectly fine, a woman’s right. For years I wondered why they even cared about abortion, why they cared so much for women’s rights. I knew I cared about women’s rights. I was the one who had taken my poor teacher to task in fifth grade because there were so few mentions of women in our text book, and I just couldn’t believe women were not important.

Years later, I discovered one man’s theory as to why many men are pro-abortion. Long ago, if a young man impregnated a young woman, he usually did the honorable thing and married the gal. True, sometimes the muzzle of a gun pointed at him by an angry father helped convince him. Abortion changed all that. No longer did a young man have to take responsibility for his actions. Marriage and fatherhood did not have to be the outcome of young hormones out of control. Why, he could feel positively noble about himself just by offering to pay for an abortion and driving the girl to and fro! It was an epiphany. I knew that was the answer to my questions about that conversation years before.

Since that time, I have tried to comfort three friends still weeping, still grieving over their abortions ten and fifteen years after the fact. Each had been encouraged to have those abortions by a man who did not want to raise the baby for one reason or another. Another, who truly understands grace more than anyone else I know, no longer wept because she was assured of God’s pardon and a future with that child in heaven, but she is most assuredly now pro-life and encourages pregnant women to choose life.

The one whom I have not seen weep or express regrets about her decision is the friend who chose to keep her baby. She’s never had second thoughts despite the incredible hardships she’s faced and has proved an excellent mother. Go figure.

If you know someone suffering from post-abortion emotional turmoil, Focus on the Family will link Christ-based aid to hurting women and men---yes, men too, as Focus recognizes that some men do regret counseling their girlfriends to abort or grieve that their child was aborted against their wishes.

Also, there is an organization, Feminists for Life, which is both pro-woman and pro-life simultaneously. While I do not know them well enough to give an unqualified endorsement, I was impressed with what I saw. Take some time to read some of the stories of post-abortion sufferers, and if your heart doesn’t break, perhaps you should check to see if you actually have one.

Here, here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Green in Support of Nuclear Energy?

Dr. Patrick Moore was a co-founder of Greenpeace. Today, he is the chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. Over the last thirty years, he has changed his views about nuclear energy and its environmental friendliness. He testified before Congress on April 28, 2005 on the viability of nuclear energy as a green strategy and believes that “Nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand."

On April 16, 2006, the Washington Post published "Going Nuclear: A Green Makes the Case" which can be viewed from the Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. website. In this article, Dr. Moore makes strong arguments for the safety and desirability of nuclear energy as compared with other energy sources and gives us much food for thought as we consider our energy needs and our future.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Some Good News on Earth Day

There is reason to "breathe easier" today, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, claims the The Wall Street Journal.

In the 1970s, environmentalists claimed that by now we would be seeing mass starvation, overpopulation, and global cooling among all things. Since that time, the starvations we have witnessed have not been widespread and were primarily political in nature brought on by wars and political corruption, the U.N. has become deeply concerned about the depopulation in Europe, and global cooling is no longer a concern, to say the least.

Great progress has been made since 1970. We have cleaner air, cleaner water, and increases in forestland in the Northeast, among other things, according to EPA statistics. Air and water pollution has been greatly reduced despite twice the number of cars on the road and thrice the number of miles driven annually. Unfortunately, environmentalists pay little attention to these numerous successes, perhaps because the first goal of any organization is its own continuance.

Also in the news, Duke University scientists announced on April 20, that "the magnitude of future global warming will likely fall well short of current highest predictions."

On April 21, 2006, the Washington Times reported:

Ms. Hegerl and her four-member team based their conclusions on thermometer
readings over the past century, along with "ancient climate records," including
tree-ring studies and ice-core samples that revealed hot and cold spells and
airborne particulates over a 700-year period. In addition, they created 1,000
computer-based weather simulations for the past 1,000 years.

"Ancient and modern evidence suggest limits to future global warming," the study concluded. It was published in the journal Nature.

According to climatologist and Cato senior fellow Patrick J. Michaels,
"...we can say with considerable confidence that warming will be at the low end
of projections made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change. When the models are adjusted with the observed rate, the warming
for the next 100 years works out to 1.7 degrees Celsius. This low value
would, in a rational world, relegate global warming to the background of
environmental issues."

How's that for some good news for a change?

Friday, April 21, 2006

New Zealand Study on Effects of Abortion on Women

An interesting study on the effects of abortion on women was published last January. Did anyone hear about it? I had noticed it, but I don't recall there being a whole lot of hullabaloo in the media over the research (more the sound of sweeping, as with a broom under a carpet) so I wanted to mention it here just in case you had missed it.

Three pro-abortion researchers in New Zealand, David Fergusson, L. John Horwood, and Elizabeth M. Ridder, followed a group of women who were between the ages of 15-25 years at the beginning of the study for the subsequent 25 years. The goal was to determine if there were any mental health complications for women who chose to abort. The expectation was that there would be none.

Forty-one percent of the women in the study became pregnant before they turned 25. Of those, 14.6% chose to end their pregnancies with an abortion. Even after taking into consideration other factors, there were statistically significant increases in mental health disorders for women who aborted, including suicidal behaviors, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues.

The study, "Abortion in Young Women and Subsequent Mental Health", was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, January 2006, Volume 47, pp. 16-24. While the entire report must be purchased, the abstract can still be viewed.

Confirmation Votes to Come Soon?

According to an aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, two of over a dozen blocked judicial nominees may be scheduled as early as May for a vote. They are Brett Kavanaugh, a White House aide, to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and U. S. District Judge Terrence Boyle to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

These men have both been waiting a long time and deserve a simple up or down vote.

DCBA Welcomes---Me!

Thank you, gentlemen and lady, for accepting and welcoming me into the DCBA. I am honored to be part of this association.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What's Your Political Philosophy?

Try this fun political quiz to discover your political philosophy.

Thanks, AO.

A Show with a Heart

Do you or does anyone you know have a home in desperate need of a makeover?

If so, you might want to submit an application to ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition show. Surely, one of us knows a family in need in our area, so submit an application for yourself or someone that you know who owns their own home but has fallen upon hard times. There's no guarantee that that family will be chosen as there are thousands of applicants. But it is guaranteed that someone you know and love will not be chosen if no application is submitted.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This Day in History

"Don't fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war let it begin here."

—Captain John Parker at the Battle of Lexington
April 19, 1775

And thus occurred the shot heard round the world.

If you've never read 1776 by David McCullough, you don't know what you're missing. Factual and well-researched, but reads like a novel, and it's short enough that you don't need to schedule your life around it.

Thanks for the reminder, Duffy.

The Faith of Washington

The new May 2006 edition of The American Enterprise has a fantastic article on George Washington entitled "Washington's Faith and the Birth of America" by Michael and Jana Novak.

In recent years there has been an unconscionable revision of American history. Virtually all traces of the deep and rich faith of most of the early settlers, especially in the northern and middle colonies, and of our Founding Fathers has been suppressed. In fact, many historians have labeled Washington a Deist. The Novaks, however, spent a year sifting through the evidence and have come to very different conclusions.

In this article based upon their research for their new book Washington's God: Religion, Liberty and the Father of our Country, the Novaks share a brief overview of his life with examples of his true faith interspersed. Three cheers for the Novaks. I can't wait to read their book.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An Anna Venger Exclusive: DE's TSHS Science Olympiad Team

For many years of Delaware's involvement in Science Olympiad, H.B. Dupont Middle School has been a consistent first place winner. Last spring, the Wilmington News Journal did a very positive feature story on the H.B. team before their trip to Illinois for competition on the National level. They've worked hard and developed a winning program there.

Another Delaware team, however, was also invited to compete at the National level last May. That team was Tri-State Home School. They had won third place, and since the National rules stipulate that a state cannot send more than one team from a single school to Nationals, H.B. Dupont did not send their second place team; Tri-State sent their homeschool students to Illinois where they competed admirably for a first time experience. Two of the homeschooled students received a third place medal for a joint event, and another received a sixth place medal in an event he competed in individually. H.B. also won two medals at Nationals last year.

This year was "like deja vu all over again", as Yogi Berra would say. On the afternoon of Saturday, March 25, 2006, a packed auditorium at Delaware State University heard the announcer say, "The third place team will be going to Nationals with the first place team again, and that team is Tri-State Home School."

Tri-State Home School has been fielding a middle school Science Olympiad team in Delaware for about six or seven years of Delaware's twenty plus year history of involvement with this organization. Tri-State has been steadily climbing in their standing, placing ninth place in 2004, third place in 2005, and third place again in 2006.

Wondering how a group of homeschooled students could pull off such a feat, I tracked down a member of this year's team, and one from last year's, who agreed to speak with me, confidentially.

Tri-State Home School's Science Olympiad teams (this year they had two for the first time) are comprised of a loose collection of homeschooled students belonging to theTri-State Home School Network (TSHSN). Students ranged in grade from sixth through ninth with fifteen students on one team and twelve on the other. One team had five returning ninth graders which is permitted by Science Olympiad rules.

How does a group of loosely connected kids prepare for a state and national competition without their own building? Parents treat Science Olympiad like any other school subject and seek out resources to enable their children to study for or to build for their events. While TSHSN has accumulated some supplies and resources which can be shared amongst the different members of the team, like a balance, metric weights, and some study guides, for the most part parents are left to themselves to figure out the rules and do what they do best--- teach their own kids and ferret out resources. Public libraries are a great help to these curious and determined families. Unlike many typical public or private school teams that have developed programs, accumulated supplies, and maintained relationships with professionals willing to help, for Tri-State, efforts are primarily of the grass roots sort.

There is one informational team meeting in the fall, another pre-competition meeting, and this year there will be another meeting before Nationals. Other than that, the homeschoolers are left on their own to set up meetings with partners and to study for or to build for their events. Additionally, students are encouraged to attend the help sessions that some teachers and event supervisors offer to all the teams close to competition day.

One obvious question was whether homeschoolers focused on Science Olympiad to the exclusion of all other subjects or if they tended to keep full loads. While neither source could speak definitively for all families, both sources averred that the latter was the case for them. One family said they continued their full physics science program along with all other subjects. Both families insisted that their children needed to have a well-rounded education and that a focus only on Science Olympiad for months on end would not have accomplished that goal. Standardized tests scores for these families would tend to bear witness to their well-roundedness. These kids work primarily in the evenings or on weekends with their partners, beginning in January or even in mid-December, if possible. It seems to be a way of life. In fact, this year's family has deferred their spring break until May because they will be missing instructional time when they drive to Indiana University Bloomington for the National Science Olympiad competition.

All funding for the TSHS team is donated by private sources, and parents bear the burden of financing their events themselves. Anyone wishing to contribute to the team can send a check to Delaware Home Educators Association at 11 Bristol Knoll Road, Newark, DE 19711-2122. All donations are tax deductible 501(c)3, and checks can be made out to DHEA. Please indicate that the donation is for the TSHS S.O. fund.

Good luck, Tri-State Home School.

Ever for all that's right and good in the world and always in the underdog's corner,

Anna Venger

Monday, April 17, 2006

Glorious Tax Day

Here are some quotes in honor of this most joyous of days, our revered and glorious Tax Day.

The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.
Albert Einstein- German-born, U.S. physicist (1879-1955)

The current tax code is a daily mugging.
President Ronald Reagan, 9/2/85, in Missouri

"Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
Benjamin Franklin 11/13/1789

"Charity is reaching into one's own pockets to assist his fellow man in need. Reaching into someone else's pocket to assist one's fellow man hardly qualifies as charity. When done privately, we deem it theft, and the individual risks jail time."
Walter Williams

"...we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute."
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 (Paine is best known as the author of Common Sense)
(from The Founders' Almanac edited by Matthew Spalding. Heritage Foundation. Washington, DC. 2002.

Happy Tax Day.

Oh, joy.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

He is Risen!

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Happy Easter.

For anyone interested, La Shawn Barber has a good Easter blog.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Human Trafficking Continues

Currently, the USS George Washington is in the Caribbean for naval exercises. While it is there, the military will be focusing on problems in human trafficking in the region.

The continuance of slavery and especially sexual trafficking first came to my attention about a decade ago. I met a woman who had gone to Thailand to do Christian-based humanitarian efforts. Her mission was to buy back young girls in sexual slavery, give them a safe place to live and grow, and educate them so they would never have to go back to that industry for lack of skills. Hearing of little girls being used as sex toys for men, when they should have been enjoying their childhood in innocence, shocked me, and the knowledge still haunts me.

According to The History of Slavery, there are currently over 200 million slaves in the world, despite a UN Declaration in 1948 outlawing slavery. Most of these are supposedly free, but because of terms in their contracts which they were forced or tricked into signing, they are not free in actuality. The State Department estimates that approximately 500,000 children are forced into slave labor or prostitution annually. Also according to World magazine, 600,000 to 800,000 people are forced into sexual or non-sexual slavery each year, the vast majority of them female.

For years, human rights advocates begged the Clinton administration to take action, but it seemed uninterested. Then at the very end of Clinton's second term, legislation reached his desk, and he signed it.

President Bush is taking this human tragedy seriously, and under his leadership, the U.S. is seeking means to be a positive force in the world against this evil perpetrated on the weakest among us.

Sources, acknowledgements, and additional reading:

Sexual slavery as practiced in the U.S. today- World, "The Abolitionist", March 1, 2003.

Mynym- thanks for the article on the USS George Washington.

The History of Slavery by Norman L. Macht and Mary Hull from the World History Series, Lucent Books, San Diego, 1997. (I read this book with my children; it's about high school level. It follows the history of slavery throughout the world from the beginnings of civilization until 1997.)

U.S. Department of State- "Trafficking in Persons Report"

Friday, April 14, 2006

Easter Season

Since this is Good Friday, I wanted very much to write about this important day in history. But I was up all night with a sick kid (who is feeling much better today, thankfully). Needless to say, I don't feel I'd do justice to the season with my wits impaired by sleep deprivation over the last several days. Therefore, I'm including links to three recent articles for anyone interested in some decent apologetics.

Secrets, lies, and the resurrection: Demonstrating the truth of Easter, Apr 14, 2006 by Chuck Colson

Resurrection Day 2006: Hidden liberty, Apr 13, 2006 by Mark Alexander

Testing our faith, Apr 14, 2006 by Tony Snow

Happy reading and Happy Easter.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Review of Anne Rice's Latest Book

Anne Rice, of supernatural thriller fame, has written an imaginative story about the boyhood experiences of Jesus Christ. This work is entitled, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. While Ms. Rice makes no attempt to label her story anything other than fiction, she has put an incredible amount of research into that historical period, years actually, making her story painlessly educational as well as entertaining.

The story begins with a seven year old Jesus living with his extended family in Alexandria, Egypt. After a series of incidents, Joseph feels compelled to return with his family to Israel. As the family returns to their homeland, they are frequently in danger because of the uprisings and unrest in the area. Nevertheless, they reestablish themselves in Nazareth and make a living there. During the passage of these few years, Jesus is coming to terms with who He really is.

On the one hand, there were several very Catholic theological assumptions over which I could not help but to raise a very Protestant eyebrow. But my Catholic friends would be right at home with the assumptions, and I appreciated seeing some of these points illustrated in such a way that they seem more reasonable to me now.

On the other hand, she got hold of some of the Apocrypha. I don't want to spoil the story at all, but the gospel of John makes it clear that the first miracle was at the wedding in Cana of Galilee after his baptism by John the Baptist. Also, Jesus said that he always did the will of the Father. I'll leave it at that.

In her author's notes, however, she acknowledges that these additions are apocryphal and that she used them because she was enamored with these stories that were popular even through the Middle Ages. Basically, they're just fun.

If you pick up this story, be sure to read the author's notes at the end. Her personal journey is worth reading about as is her explanation of her research. I think the Easter season is a great time to dive into this tale, if you have the time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Garibaldi, Hardships, and Us

I do not promise you ease. I do not promise you comfort. But I do promise you
these: hardship, weariness, and suffering. And with them, I promise you victory.

I so admire these words uttered by Giuseppe Garibaldi, father of the Italian unification in 1860. (I especially admire honest leaders who tell what is true rather than what people want to hear.) So often in recent years, I have wondered and doubted if our nation still produced men (and women) with such courage as those who willingly followed Garibaldi into hardship because of a greater potential prize.

I am glad to have been wrong. Regardless of one's opinion of the war itself, I think all can agree that the young men and women, part of an all volunteer army in Iraq, have shown again and again that we still have guts and virtue. I think especially of the heroism of the young man who saw a young girl playing near a mine and, concluding that she was about to die, cast her aside and threw himself on the mine in her place. The words of Jesus ring in my ears, "No greater love has a man than this than to lay down his life for his friends." That little girl may not have known she was his friend, but surely there is no doubt in her mind now. Yes, there are still young people willing to endure hardship, weariness, and suffering for a higher good.

But this is not about the war in Iraq. It's about acknowledging and facing hardships and suffering in our own lives and not shying away from them but forging on to victory (or at least to an honorable defeat).

Hardship, weariness, and suffering. Nothing to look forward to. But nothing worth anything comes cheaply.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

True Success

In a materialistic culture driven by the motto, "He who dies with the most toys wins," we sometimes lose sight of true and eternal values. I think Ralph Waldo Emerson had a much better attitude toward success:

To laugh often and much.

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children.

To leave the world a better place.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

As a Christian, I would add a spiritual dimension to that list, too,- To worship Christ in even our smallest chores. Beyond that I just can't improve upon his expression of sentiments.

I believe that when we approach death's door, we won't care if we drove a Mercedes or a Ford. We won't care if our clothes bore designer labels. We won't even care how many degrees we earned or accolades we received. I think we will care about how we treated our loved ones and the other people in our lives and if we lived with integrity. And if we know that we loved and lived honestly and are prepared to meet God, finally, face to face, then we will have achieved true success.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Life Lessons from the Holt Affair

Much has been said about the Rachel Holt affair. Bloggers have been having a field day, as have their commenters. I myself entered the fray on a couple of occasions when I felt I had something pertinent to say. What more is there?

While it goes without saying that I feel bad for the boy and his family (and I've said so in comments elsewhere), it occurs to me that there are other people who have been greatly hurt by this crime, namely, Rachel Holt's family.

Rachel Holt has a mother and father. These are people who poured their lives into her. They paid for her to get a private education out of love. They helped support her through college and graduate school at Wilmington College out of love. They paid for a wedding for their daughter out of love. No doubt they felt that natural sense of pride that parents feel as their daughter achieved good grades and other successes.

But last week, as the news broke of her involvement in a crime, especially with such very publicly known details and coarse comments, I'm sure their hearts were rent in two. How can a parent process such a revelation, that their beloved daughter had behaved so despicably? To have to see your beloved child behind bars and to know that she is going away for a long, long time...well, I cannot even think of word to describe such anguish.

All of which leads me to my point. Whenever we choose to go our own way (sin), we are behaving selfishly. I get so tired of hearing that "my behavior is my business". We're connected, and when we act, our actions affect others. None of us lives in a vacuum. Ms. Holt is an extreme example of this principle, but I think that if we thought more about the impact that our choices have upon others instead of focusing on our own pleasures and immediate needs, there would be a lot less pain in the world.

Another concept which I think has been fleshed out in the Holt affair is that we can choose our attitudes and our behaviors, but not our consequences. Ms. Holt at some point decided to see her students as her peers. She also at some point began to feel sexual attraction to at least one of her students and to entertain such notions. The time to have taken charge of the situation was in this attitudinal phase. None of us can completely control the ideas that pop unannounced into our heads, but we don't need to invite those thoughts to sit down and visit awhile. Maybe they seem like friendly, entertaining, harmless sorts at first, but thoughts can be insidious things. Before we know it, they have planted themselves in our lives and begun to wreak havoc. They push us toward behaviors that we never would have chosen if we had not befriended them in the first place.

Still, it's not too late. While conscience has been muffled during the seductive phase of the thought process, it still endeavors to get our attention. "No, no!" it shouts. While it may be difficult to hear it clearly, we would do well to un-gag it and listen to its pleadings. Unfortunately, by this time, many of us have become so enchanted by our attitudes that we refuse to listen. And then we act. Ah, "the pleasures of sin for a season". For Ms. Holt, that week of passion must have seemed quite fulfilling at the time. And for many of us, this season can continue for quite a while, bringing pleasure, with consequences no where in sight.

But eventually, pay we must. Ms. Holt never would have chosen the consequences she has and is about to receive- public humiliation of herself and her family, years behind bars, loss of career and prestige. She probably wouldn't even have wanted to cause psychological damage to her victim or pain to his family. Nevertheless, the consequences are not hers to choose. She has no say. If she had chosen differently in the attitudinal phase and recognized those thoughts for the deceivers they were, she would not be in the position in which she finds herself today. If she had even sought help when she felt driven to act on her attitudes, just before the behavioral phase, she would not be where she is today. It would have been far more difficult, once passions had been aroused, but with help, it might have been doable. But she chose attitudes, and she chose behavior, and now she must accept consequences.

We would do well, I believe, to let Ms. Holt serve as a horrible warning to us. Guard your heart and your mind. Attitudes lead to behavior which leads to consequences. And since we don't live in a vacuum, our behaviors may have deleterious effects not only for ourselves, but for innocent bystanders and our loved ones. Don't let this happen to you.