How Iowa celebrates Independence Day 1


Maestro Joseph Giunta

By Tom Quiner

What better way to celebrate this great nation’s independence than with American song and fireworks!

I attended the Yankee Doodle Pops concert at the footsteps of the Iowa Capital on July 1. The weather was perfect.  Our Capitol’s gold dome glistened with pride in the early evening sunlight.  Thousands streamed in with their blankets, folding chairs, and kids in tow.

The music was pure Americana, almost.

Simon Estes

Simon Estes

The event enjoyed added luster with the presence of Iowa’s own Simon Estes.  The 72 year old opera star showed off his timeless baritone voice in a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.”  My group debated whether Irving Berlin’s classic song would make a better national anthem.  My wife and I vote yes.  Our good friend, Rebecca, votes that we stay with “The Star Spangled Banner.”

What do you think?

Here is Kate Smiths version of the song that made her famous.  It demonstrates how a great song connects us:

I think Berlin’s song is much stronger musically than our current national anthem. And it certainly holds its own lyrically:

***

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

***

Having said all that, Tina Haase sang a beautiful version of the Star Spangled Banner to kick off the evening.  Unfortunately, most of us ordinary folks can’t hit the high notes like Ms. Haase can.

Mr. Estes delighted us with “I Got Plenty O Nothin” from Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. Then he thrilled us with the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein Jr. classic, “Ol’ Man River.  His low notes generated cheers.

The one non-American piece was the dynamic 1812 Overture by Russian composer, Peter Tchaikovsky.  It was spectacular as fireworks cascaded the sky from different directions.

For one glorious evening, all was right with the world.  This is a great country.  Our thanks to Maestro Joseph Giunta, Simon Estes, and all the musicians who entertained us with such uplifting music.

Additional thanks are extended to our men and women in the armed forces.  We salute you. Our prayers are with you.

God bless America.

Was Jesus Real? 1


By Tom Quiner

Lee Strobel was an atheist who came to believe in Jesus after spending two years trying to disprove His divinity.

Be sure to watch the video from my previous post where Mr. Strobel, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, talks about his surprising findings about Christ.

C.S. Lewis was another atheist who did not want to believe in Jesus.

His friend, J.R.R. Tolkien of Lord of the Rings fame, presented compelling arguments in defense of Christ that began to persuade Mr. Lewis to reconsider his atheism.  Mr. Lewis was further persuaded to believe in God, and eventually Jesus, after reading “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton.

Lewis’ conversion was a reluctant one:

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

Mr. Lewis was transformed from an atheist into a theist and eventually into the most persuasive Christian apologist of the 20th century.

C.S. Lewis famously framed the debate on Jesus this way:  either he was lord, liar, or a lunatic.  There’s no middle ground.  He spent the rest of his life making the case for Christ.  It is a compelling case.

I put up a video in my previous post by comedienne Janeane Garafalo who dismissed Christianity as a myth.  I have listened to a little of Ms. Garafalo on TV.  I’ve read some C.S. Lewis.  Mr. Lewis comes across as the more intelligent of the two.  (Nothing against Ms. Garafalo, C.S. Lewis is smarter than most people I know!)  In fact, he was in agreement with Ms. Garafolo until he began to truly study and think … and eventually pray … about this Man who walked the earth two-thousand years named Jesus.

So why does a former atheist and crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune now believe Jesus and His claims are real? Because of the evidence.

Why did an atheistic Oxford literary academic change his mind and become one of the most influential Christians of the 20th century?  Because of the evidence.

There are two exciting paths to Jesus:  reason and revelation.  Stubborn men like Lee Strobel and C.S. Lewis were lead to Christ through the path of reason.  The upside of the journey is off the charts!

Is the Bible true? 1


By Tom Quiner

Liberal comedienne, Janeane Garofalo, recently called the Bible a “work of fiction.”  Watch …

I don’t know how much Ms. Garofalo has read, studied, or even contemplated the Bible.  But I mention her quote because she will influence a certain segment of her audience with her dismissive attitude of the most fascinating book ever written.

Is it true, though?

Is the drama of God’s gradual revelation of Himself to man really on the level?

Can we trust that the texts are accurate;  that the four Gospels that talk about Christ aren’t agenda-driven works of fiction?

I believe that the bible is God’s revelation of Himself to man.  I don’t say that casually.  I’ve come to this belief through two paths:  revelation and reason.

I read a series of books by former Chicago Tribune reporter, Lee Strobel, who wrote about his journey from atheism to Christianity.  His first book, called “The Case for Christ,” was written as if he were a reporter.   He wrote the book in an attempt to disprove Christ’s existence and His claims.

Strobel was stunned to discover that there’s a mountain of evidence to support the miraculous underpinnings of Christianity.  Watch his video below to learn more.  Then go pick up your Bible.  Read the Gospel of John to whet your appetite for a message of hope that can change your life.

Promote humanity 1


By Tom Quiner

Abortion dehumanizes society.

Pornography dehumanizes society.

Increasingly, even political discourse is dehumanizing, vicious, and divisive.  It seems to me that the march of civilization should be in the direction of doing and saying things that make this world a more humane place.

Our march is slow.

Is Ann Coulter really advancing the cause of a humane world with rhetoric like this: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to The New York Times building.”  I agree with Ms. Coulter on most political issues.  I’m concerned that her style, her rhetoric does more harm than good.

Did liberals advance the cause of a humane world with signs at Bush rallies that said:  “Save Mother Earth, kill Bush.”

The time has come for civil discourse

Did the late Senator Edward Kennedy advance the cause of a humane world with his speech condemning Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork, with these words: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is—and is often the only—protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy… President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice.”

The answer in each of these cases is no.  Senator Kennedy’s rhetorical excesses, in particular, have poisoned judicial confirmation hearings to this very day.

I know ugliness and profanity are hip these days.  But intelligence is so much more interesting and effective.

Conservatives like me sometimes get fed up with liberals spouting what we feel are incoherent views.  And yet I know people with whom I disagree politically who are in the trenches helping people who need help.  I appreciate that.  I commend them.

Liberals are fond of saying that conservatives don’t care about people.  And yet I know conservatives in the trenches helping people who need help.  They’re not looking for attention, they’re just helping.  I appreciate that.  I commend them.

Abortion and pornography are two obvious dehumanizing poisons to our culture.  But so is our political discourse.

That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree.  It’s all in how we disagree.  When we disagree, let’s remember we’re disagreeing with people, and civility promotes the cause of humanity.

I’m certainly no saint, but I hope this blog makes the case for conservative causes with some intelligence and civility.

A triumph for political correctness 4


By Tom Quiner

The Supreme Court has decided:  Christian college students who wish to form a group sanctioned by Universities are not allowed to require that their members be Christian.  Even more, Christian groups may not require that their members abide by Christian principles.

All of this came about because of the court’s decision in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  Read the background on the case on my earlier post titled “Political correctness vs. common sense” (https://quinersdiner.com/2010/04/).

The liberal block of the court was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy.  They determined that a Christian group acted inappropriately in demanding that their members refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage, and that sexual relations be confined to only heterosexual married couples.  Specifically, the court said that the Christian Legal Society overtly discriminated against prospective members on the basis of religion and sexual orientation.

College students have been denied the right of freedom of association, a ringing triumph for political correctness over common sense.  Here is what Justice Alito, joined by Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas, wrote in dissent:

Justice Alito's dissent

“The proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’ United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U. S. 644, 654–655 (1929) (Holmes, J., dissenting). Today’s decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.

“The Hastings College of the Law, a state institution, permits student organizations to register with the law school and severely burdens speech by unregistered groups. Hastings currently has more than 60 registered groups and, in all its history, has denied registration to exactly one: the Christian Legal Society (CLS).  CLS claims that Hastings refused to register the group because the law school administration disapproves of the group’s viewpoint and thus violated the group’s free speech rights.

“I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that today’s decision is a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country. Our First Amendment reflects a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254, 270 (1964). Even if the United States is the only Nation that shares this commitment to the same extent, I would not change our law to conform to the international norm. I fear that the Court’s decision marks a turn in that direction. Even those who find CLS’s views objectionable should be concerned about the way the group has been treated—by Hastings, the Court of Appeals, and now this Court. I can only hope that this decision will turn out to be an aberration.”

I discussed the issue with a law student enrolled at Duke University.  I told him that my concern was that individuals unfriendly to Christian groups would be emboldened to join those groups just to agitate and disrupt the group’s Christian mission.  He countered that no one would want to subject themselves to such an effort, that no one would want to associate with people with whom they had such profound disagreements.

What do you think?

Are there enough evangelical atheists on college campuses, for example, who would band together to try to hijack a Christian group on a college campus?

Am I being too sensitive?  Or are the forces of political correctness that motivated to disrupt Christian and other conservative groups?