One commentator spoke of the staff of the Clinton
presidential campaign as being busy, "rearranging
the deck chairs on the Titanic," as a description of
their efforts to cope with a series of near disasters.
That phrase would seem to be equally applicable to
the challenge facing the staff of Jacques Rogge,
president of the International Olympic Committee.

The traditional trek of the Olympic flame from its
home base in Greece to the site of the next scheduled
site of the games –in this instance, China – has
always been intended as a build-up of international
interest in the games, but more frankly it has now
become an advertising campaign to reawaken flagging
interest in the every-four-years event.

Whatever the purpose, this time around the flame
has experienced a very rough and tumble reception
to date, and the emblem is still a long distance from
Beijing. Violent riots erupted in the major capitol
cities of London and Paris, and were averted in San
Francisco only by giving up the processional run
through the city, and rushing the torch to a plane
and flying it to its next stop in South America. The
cost of providing protection for the torch and its
carriers is running into millions of dollars for the
various countries along the route.

The reason for the protests? China’s sorry record on
human rights and the feeling that this historic
international recognition of goodwill among nations
has been sullied by allowing China to host the games.
Emerging from the strong international ill will is the
growing demand that president Bush not attend the
opening ceremonies. The chief executives of France and
Great Britain will not be present, and there is a growing
conviction that the USA should not give tacit approval to
China’s record by attending those ceremonies. The US
Commission on International Religious Freedom, which
is mandated by Congress to advise the President, State
Department and Congress on ways to address religious
freedom concerns, has urged the President not to attend
the opening ceremonies. To the extent that Americans
still hold to the basic principles of the Declaration of
Independence, it would seem that president Bush should
not represent us at those ceremonies. At the moment he
appears determined to do so, but there is still time for
reason to prevail. It does, occasionally.

There is even some strong feeling that a boycott of the
Olympics should take place, but that seems extremely
unlikely. Charles Moore, in the London Telegraph on
April 12, wrote: "It is too late, of course, to prevent
Beijing playing host to the Games. All one can hope
is that world leaders stay away from all its repulsive
ceremonies and leave the sportsmen to get on with it’"
It may not yet be too late to get back to the historic
purpose of the Olympics, which was ultimately for the
good of mankind.

Clinton and Obama getting religion? To date
neither candidate has demonstrated any particularly
strong religious bent, and even less any Christian
inclination. But Sunday night they were featured
participants in a "Forum on Pressing Moral Issues,"
carried on CNN (naturally). The Forum was sponsored
by the organization "Faith in Public Life," whose
Director of Communications, Katie Barge (formerly
on John Edwards’ campaign staff), expressed their
views as follows: "If you look at the ministries and
the missions that are really attracting attention ...
it’s climate change, it’s poverty, it’s global AIDS ...
I think that’s where the hearts of most Christians are."
No surprise there. The Republican candidate, John
McCain, declined to participate, which says something
for his views on moral issues. The President of "Faith
in Public Life" is Rev. Meg Riley of the Unitarian-
Universalist Association, and formerly Director of the
Washington, DC office of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals.
Other leaders of the organization include Rebecca
Alpert, ordained as a Rabbi in Reconstructionist
Rabbinical College, and Dr. Nazir Khaja, an American
Muslim leader and peace activist. Interesting what
kind of moral issues that group would endorse, if any.

Jimmy Carter is back in the news, and equally
as disturbing as usual. Now he is scheduling a visit
to Khaled Meshall, the head of the terrorist Hamas
party in Palestine. And in asking for the meeting, he
has picked a splendid "neutral" site for the meeting
– Damascus, Syria. Carter has been strongly critical
of Israel, and, of course, Hamas is intent on the
destruction of Israel as a nation. The two groups will
find themselves among people of like mind in Syria.
The Carter Center issued this statement about their
participants: "Our delegation has considerable
experience in the region, and we go there with an
open mind and heart to listen and learn from all
parties." (For "all parties" read Syria and Hamas.)

Carter had intended to take with him Nelson Mandela
and Kofi Annan, but those members of a group called
"The Elders" decided not to go along. The Carter
delegation includes the ex-president’s wife, Rosalynn
Carter and ex-Congressman Stephen Solarz, who was
head of the Central Asian-American Enterprise Fund
under appointment by Bill Clinton after his re-election
bid to return to Congress failed in 1992. The US State
Department has advised against the visit, but to no
avail. Even Barack Obama has expressed disagreement
with Mr. Carter on this issue. One hopes this visit will
be as unproductive and useless as his previous efforts
have been, and that the terrorists will not be aided in
the accomplishment their goal to destroy Israel.

And that Dutch film critical of Islam – it turns
out that Indonesia, with the 4th largest population in
the world, and as the largest Muslim nation, did
persevere in blocking the film "Fitna" in that country,
and ""You Tube" has removed the film from its sites.
But with one of the lowest Internet penetrations
among all other nations in the world, more people
in Indonesia have tried to access the film via the
Internet than in any other country. It appears that
while the ruling Muslims may not like the film, the
people want to see it. Meanwhile, a Dutch court has
upheld Geert Wilders’’ right to express his opinion of
Islam’s violent tendencies. Here and there in our world
the right of free expression occasionally asserts itself.

The Annual Conference on Preaching – its 19th
session, took place last week in Washington, DC, with
the theme,"Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?" From
among all the usual participants, mostly active pastors,
a non-clergyman, Chuck Colson, seemed to attract the
most acclaim for his sermon "Preaching and the Public
Square." This quote says why: "Of course we care about
the world. Of course we care about everything happening
in society, including politics, but we better get our own
house in order ... I think that is at the heart of the problem
of the church – we replaced truth with therapy." Colson’s
message was a rebuke to the prevailing trend, even among
"Evangelicals," to focus on relief, global climate, disease
and poverty, and neglect the real message of the Gospel.

We have expressed concern about Congress, and
apparently our Founding Fathers had similar concerns:
"If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how
can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send
150 lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything,
yield nothing, & talk by the hour? That 150 lawyers
should do business together ought not to be expected."
-- Thomas Jefferson (Autobiography) 1821

Afterthoughts . . .

We have called this "The Age of the Polls" --
and while we may feel that political polls are just
about totally meaningless, there are some survey
results which are interesting and informative. For
example, a Harris Interactive poll in March reported
on "America’s Top 10 Favorite Books." They are:

1. The Bible
2. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
3l Lord of the Rings (the series) – J.R. R. Tolkien
4. Harry Potter (the series) J.K. Rowling
5. The Stand – Stephen King
6. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
7. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
8. Angels and Demons – Dan Brown
9. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
10. Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

And another Harris Poll, just released last week,
reported on Americans’ views of the Bible -- the 10
favorite verses, and the 10 favorite books. The verses are
(if they don’t immediately come to mind, look them up):

1. John 3:16
2. John 1:1
3. John 14:6
4. Matthew 28:19
5. Romans 3:23
6. Ephesians 2:8
7. Genesis 1:1
8. Acts 1:8
9. II Timothy 3:16
10. Romans 10:9

And the 10 favorite books of the Bible are:

1. Ephesians
2. James
3. Titus
4. I. John
5. II Peter
6. John
7. Philippians
8. Colossians
9. Romans
10. I Peter

A powerful closing thought: "Good or bad, America
is what we make of her ... America is one people united
on one set of foundational principles, or it is nothing at
all. May God bless those true patriots still willing to
risk life itself in the preservation of the greatest founding
principles ever known to man." – J.B. Williams, popular
Columnist and Commentator

A WORD OF APOLOGY: In last week’s issue, we erred in
referring to Pope Benedict XVI as Pope Gregory XVI. We do
extensive research and attempt always to be absolutely
accurate in our comments. We regret the error, and apologize
to all of our readers, particularly our Roman Catholic friends.

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