Category Archives: Culture

Hail, the Conquering Hero!

Boris2I am thankful for Joe Boris, a history/sociology teacher at State College Area High School. He is retiring this year, after 40 years at State High. The number of students he’s touched is in the tens of thousands and there isn’t one who knows Joe at all that doesn’t love him. Or at least will admit to it.

He was one of the most popular teachers back in my day (I graduated in ’80) and his reputation with students and colleagues alike has only grown stronger over the years. He has always put the students first…OK, maybe second after his wife.

His “trick” for connecting, motivating, challenging, and changing students’ lives? Trust. You knew you could talk to  him about anything and he’d listen. He’d give you wisdom if you wanted it…or  needed it. He’d help plan out a prank; he’d figuratively hold your hand if you pushed the envelope too far and needed to face the music.

He is a man of faith. Faith in God. Faith in his colleagues. Faith in himself. Faith in his students–and be sure to know that if you went to State High, you were his student, whether or not you actually took any of his classes.

I can easily say that my life is richer for having known him.

We’ll miss ya, Joe! Enjoy the garden!
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And now, for something completely different…

I am thankful that I live in the community I do. It’s not everyday or everywhere you see messages like this sent from the local middle school:

CC: PFMS- Please be Advised

Dear Parents and Guardians,
This afternoon we were informed that a bear and her three cubs were spotted in
the Park Forest area. We have spoken to the Patton Township police and also to
the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Both authorities are fully aware of the
situation and tracking the animals. They feel our students walking home will
not be in harm ways  and have reassured us to continue with the instructional
day and dismissal as we typically would.
PFMS Administration

Actually, we’ve seen this sow and different sets of cubs for nearly a decade now. The only time we got at all worried was one year that was particularly dry, so they came wandering in looking for food and water. We were concerned that the dogs would be in danger, trying to chase them out of their territory and the sow getting riled up protecting her cubs. Fortunately, they managed to wander back into the nearby game lands. And more fortunately, the dry spell ended so they weren’t tempted to come into town. That year anyway.

 

(not a picture of “our” bears…public domain shot from http://www.ncrs.fs.fed.us/epubs/ht66.html).

Cars

I am thankful for automobiles. Cars. The ability to get me & my stuff from point A to point B in a modicum of comfort, safety, and economy.

My first ride was…not pictured at left. It was a Super Beetle.

 

This is what I wanted for quite a long while…the Aptera. Might as well dream big when dreaming, no?

In that bizarre place we call reality, I might not ever buy another vehicle, although that decision will put very specific limitations on where I live. Mass transit and all that, you know. It is sad that the US has developed such a love affair with the car and has neglected its mass transportation systems. Once upon a time, we had cutting edge railways and street car/tram systems all over the country. I’m pretty sure we’ll have something like that again. Eventually. The question is whether I’ll live long enough to see it.

Maybe I’ll move to Seoul…i hear there’s excellent mass transit there…

Even so, I am still thankful that I didn’t “have” to walk all that far today.

Musical Monday: Memorial Day 2013 Freedom isn’t free

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-Xrlf3taEo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.                                                                                                                                        John 15:13 ESV

Sunday’s Spiritual Spin: The Fallen

Gold Star Service Banner

Gold Star Service Banner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

sunday’s Spiritual Spin

I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in arms who have fallen in the line of duty. Memorial Day is the day on which we honor those who gave their lives in defense of our country. It is no surprise that nearly all Americans recognize this honor, regardless of their viewpoints on religion, politics, etc. It is because we understand that freedom is never free, that “the tree of liberty is watered by the blood of patriots.”

To those who survive, my heartfelt thanks. Word cannot express my gratitude nor comfort your sorrow. I therefore ask the Lord Who is Comfort to do it for me.

 

 

While those of us who served, or are currently serving, appreciate the gratitude expressed to us on Memorial Day, we (if I may be so bold as to speak for everyone else) would greatly prefer that gratitude be focused toward those who have joined the ranks of the rarest of honors: Families of the Gold Star.

Veterans are most appropriately thanked on Veteran’s Day. Those currently serving, on Armed Forces Day.

But you know what? It’s better do express the gratitude while we’re all still around to hear it, so while I do have a bit of a…particular view…in the matter, don’t let my hobby-horse get in the way.

Thoughtful Thursdays: BSA Membership Decision

I am thankful for the Boy Scouts of America. I started my adventures in Scouting in April of 1970, when I became a Bobcat (Cub) Scout. I have thoroughly enjoyed Scouting.

PLEASE BE ADVISED: I usually put in at least a little bit of thought into my posts and try very diligently not to post anything I’d be embarrassed by anytime later. I’m likely to be doing a bit thinking out loud here, and while that’s frequently what blogs are about, I am very conscious of my interweb presence.

I am an Eagle Scout (Class of ’79) and Wood Badge trained (Beaver Patrol). I have held numerous adult positions (Scoutmaster, Asst. Scoutmaster, Committee Member, Chaplain, Religious Emblems Coordinator). And the only reason I mention any of this is to point out my connections with this most excellent organization.

The decision of the National Council to lift the ban on gay youth is, to say the least, controversial.

And I find that I have a number of thoughts about this issue and have been thinking on it for some time, although I still might not have my thoughts very well organized. We’ll see how this turns out.

The current policy hasn’t exactly protected boys 100%, even though the establishment of the Youth Protection Program has been a tremendous step toward that lofty goal. The fact of the matter is, predators will still find ways to attack their victims, just as it is impossible to absolutely guarantee that your valuables are 100% theft proof, If someone wants “the goodies” bad enough, they’ll do whatever it takes to get them. That being said, all of our theft deterrents  are exactly that: deterrents, intended and designed to make the(perceived) risk of getting caught higher than the (perceived) potential rewards. That’s what Youth Protection & 2 Deep Leadership, etc are all about. But even then, all that is targeting inappropriate adult/youth contact. The BSA itself estimates that 70% of the inappropriate contact that happens is youth/youth. A poster on one of the LinkedIn Eagle groups had this excellent suggestion: that youth tent with same age kids, i.e. middle schoolers with middle schoolers, high schoolers with high schoolers. Yet another step to make abuse (essentially a “power trip”*1) more challenging to enact, for the sad fact of the matter is that there is no way to stop boys from…how to put this delicately…experimenting, if they are truly determined to do so.

There’s a part of me that’s thinking, “OK, since the BSA has lifted the ban, at least folks would ‘know who to watch.'” And that’s scary too, since it’s automatically reinforcing the witch hunt mentality that’s already out there. Hey, I’m all for protecting youth. But what are the unintended consequences of promoting paranoia, especially in the guise of watchfulness.*2

Frankly, when I first tuned into this issue, the resolution hadn’t reached it’s final form and was going to include wording to the effect that the BSA would have no formal stance one way or another and that the local units or council would be making that call. The libertarian in me was kind of excited about that option. The traditionalist in me wasn’t quite so elated because I immediately saw that leading to a potential split into two organizations, similar to that of the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) and the American Heritage Girls (AHG), who split over theology.

So I looked up the resolution as it passed and there are a couple of points I noticed right away:

AND WHEREAS, Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting; and

I’m thinking…Yea! Verily! Yea!

Then they go on to say:

WHEREAS, the Boy Scouts of America does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation, and resolving this complex issue is not the role of the organization, nor may any member use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda; and

Except for the tiny, easily overlooked fact that this very statement and the resolution in which it is said, does exactly that.

There are other things too, but this link will take you to an open letter (pdf) from OnMyHonor.net that very clearly makes those points.

While all the “Whereas”es (sic) are all very fine sounding, they really don’t mean diddly. What is important is the actual resolution itself:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

The following membership standard for youth members of the Boy Scouts of America is hereby adopted and approved, effective Jan. 1, 2014:

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

I’m all down with it, right up to the last sentence. This forces ALL Scouting units to accept openly gay boys. What is the BSA saying to the 70 some percent of the units that are chartered by religious organizations who oppose this? What happens to said gay youth, who may have been “out and proud”–right until he turns 18, becomes an adult by BSA definition, and is kicked out? Can you say “law suit?” Sure you can.

And this is in spite of the BSA’s own admissions that the majority of the councils and units oppose this change–you’ll actually have to read & do a bit of math here, but the data I found was here.

Another page on the Scouting.org website (National Council website) also states:

 “The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter. …

I beg to differ. The sacrifice has been made and the organization consumed. And, in  my VERY humble opinion, this will be revisited. Just like the “Great Urbanization” Scouting tried in the 70’s–a massive change to try to make Scouting more appealing to urban youth. Two words: Utter Disaster. Scouting took a huge blow in numbers,both membership and finances, until that decision was rescinded and the “Scouting is Outing” campaign put the program back into the woods where it works. I am praying that a similar…change of heart, will happen on this stance. Sadly, someone may take that campaign slogan and reuse it for this issue.

There will be those who leave Scouting because they cannot, in good conscience, support the organization any more. There will be those who join specifically due to this “more inclusive” move on the part of Scouting. There will be those who disagree with the policy and will work diligently to change it back.

Bottom line for me: it’s a very sad day for an organization of which I have been a proud member for decades. What am I going to do? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m currently leaning toward “work to change it back” position while simultaneously checking out whether there might be a GSUSA/AHG kind of alternative. 

Are Scouting’s values truly timeless? Time will tell.

 

I’ll close with this from a fellow Eagle Scout:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P_ulzAedns

*1–Sexual abuse is about power. Thinking it’s about sex is like thinking alcoholism is about thirst. I spent almost 20 years as a mental health therapist, nearly 7 years of which were focused on helping boys who had been physically and sexually abused. So, yeah, not only do I have an opinion, it’s educated.
*2–I say this in light of the fact that I have seen the “guilty until proven innocent” manifestation of this policy, which, like most policies of large organizations, is really built on this question: “Can we afford to be wrong?” In our society, where the lawsuit is the most popular indoor sport, no you can’t. Sadly, many outstanding leaders have been “thrown under the bus”. It’s one hell of a choice to make: who is worth more–the youth who might potentially be harmed, or the adult, unjustly accused, whose reputation is completely and permanently ruined, not only in the Scouting community but in the larger community?  I’m not talking about those who have been convicted of crimes in a court of law by a jury of their peers. I’m talking about leaders who have been thrown out of the organization on mere suspicion. All it takes is one accusation. Actual evidence isn’t required. Happens all too frequently. The BSA is a private organization and they have the right to enforce their rules & policies as they see fit. And protecting youth IS top priority. I’ve seen and dealt with the ramifications of both sides of that question. The system stinks; no doubt about that. But so far, it’s done a pretty good job of protecting youth from predatory adults. And until I can come up with a better way of doing things that protects the kids AND innocent adults, I’m just gonna have to vote for the kids. /rant

Sunday Spin: Fellowship V

sunday’s Spiritual Spin

I am thankful for Fellowship. What is called the Communion of the Saints in many of Creeds. You may have noticed that.

What you may not know is that most Believers spell Fellowship this way: F O O D*

With a potluck lunch after service today, what can I say?

Om, nom, nom, nom…

*And for good cause. For those so inclined, try doing a bible study of all the things God does around food or the table. From eating the Fruit in Genesis, to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Revelation, God says a lot when there’s food around…just sayin. Almost like He invented the idea…