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From an UnHeat Fan: The Pacers will Not Upset the Heat

I am not sure if the sports media just has nothing to talk about during the intervening days between the start of the Heat/Pacers series, and maybe it’s fun to speculate about “what if’s” when you have to fill up air time and cyberspace with content, but be rest assured the Pacers will not beat the Heat in this series.

I say this because I believed the underdog Pacers would upset the Heat last year, the Pacers had the Heat where they wanted them, with no Chris Bosh and up 2 games to 1, but then the Pacers lost the next three games by 8, 32, and 12. For anyone, like me, who loves team ball, the underdog, small markets, and anything to do with Indiana basketball, the Pacers are a sucker pick—don’t buy it. The bottom line is the NBA is all about talented, mature grade A individual players surrounding themselves with the right role players.

The problem with the Pacers is that they are a very talented bunch of grade B players, but they do not have any grade A players. They do not have anybody who can consistently take over a game and set the tone offensively and defensively night after night. Don’t mistake the Pacers victory over the Knicks as any more than a victory over an inferior team. I watched the Knicks play the D-League Celtics and struggle. The Knicks have one grade A one-sided star player, but the overall talent drops off precipitously after that.

On the other hand, Miami has one grade overall AAA player in LeBron James who plays not only lights out offense, but lights out defense, and is inherently an unselfish player looking to help others make plays and they also have a grade A player in Dwayne Wade. Chris Bosh is not slouch either. Much like Michael Jordan, LeBron James has started to hit his stride as a great player with that uncanny ability to make the Norris Coles’, the Mario Chalmers’, and Mike Millers’ all look like Grade B players when they are really Grade C or Grade D players on any other team. The Heat like the Pacers have just as much or more team chemistry, but ultimately it’s talent that wins out. Having a player or two who are nearly unstoppable always tips a series to the more talented team, just ask the Denver Nuggets who got beat out by Stephen Curry and the rest of the Golden State Warriors.

God bless the godless…mother Part I: Freedom of Conscience A Christian Tenet

About a month ago or so, a young mother posted a blog titled Why I Raise My Children Without God, and this was report was posted on CNN’s iReport. Since then, this article has received a lot commentary both pro and con. As many did, I too found the article disheartening because I saw a parent outright reject God and deny His influence in her life as well as the lives of her children; and, I equally found it sad to read claims made that I find to be false and outright hostile about God and about how God operates, claims that I find contrary to my personal and public experience with and without God in my life.

Despite this I had to remind myself that it is important to remember how important freedom of thought, or conscience, is to God’s plan, Christianity, and the well-being of this nation. We should not despair but celebrate a country that still values a free market of ideas whether or not we agree with them or how threatening they are to our values. Nevertheless, we should always be on guard and patiently and courageously stand up to systems or systems of ideas that threaten the free market of ideas in the public square.

It is also important to not overact to the present. It is not unusual in the human experience, Christian or not, to doubt God and God’s power or even in a moment or a period in our life to outright reject God. It is more human than we think. It could be that many of us were in a state of casually rejecting God until this article woke us up. Someone’s clearly articulated cynical atheism today could become what leads them to eventually embrace a vigorous Christianity tomorrow. It would not be the first time this has happened and it is important to remember some of the greatest advocates of Christianity both in word and action are those who actively rejected it in their past. This life is a journey and we are all at different points in our earthly pilgrimage.

Universal Lincoln: Beyond Just Emancipation

As important as the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation was to Abraham Lincoln’s legacy, there was something even more important that he left behind for future generations that is rarely recognized in our day. This idea was the motivation behind freeing the slaves in America and was the idea the propelled Abraham Lincoln into the national spotlight and onto the presidency. It was developed during the Lincoln and Douglas debates for the U.S Senate campaign in Illinois in 1858 and it is what set apart Lincoln from Stephen Douglas and all politicians who came after our Founding Fathers to the time of the campaign.

Lincoln believed that democracy needed to be morally accountable. He believed that there was a morality beyond the pale of citizens exercising their rights and that this morality was not to be defined or to be decided by popular majorities. Lincoln opposed Douglas because Senator Douglas promoted the idea of popular sovereignty in the territories when it came to slavery. Or, the idea of that right and wrong were relative, manmade concepts to only be decided by majorities. Lincoln saw the tyranny in such an idea not only as it had been manifested in the Nebraska and Kansas territories over the issue of slavery, but he saw the future despotism of majorities deciding what was “right” when it stood in direct opposition to natural law. As Lincoln poignantly pointed out during the debate at Quincy, Illinois that “if it is a wrong, he [Douglas] cannot say people have a right to do wrong.”

Douglas’s idea, despite what he claimed, was pushing the United States further away from the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution. Lincoln’s ultimate triumph is that he brought America closer to the ideas embodied in those documents and again, like our Founding Fathers, dared to recognize and act on overriding natural law.

I find it both encouraging, yet odd to see Hollywood embracing Abraham Lincoln this season. Considering that Hollywood or the entertainment industry for the most part embraces a morality and polity like the one Stephen Douglas advocated. A universe where no one morality is held up against another as a standard and morality is always trumped by rights as determined by social policy and popular will creating what T.S. Eliot ironically called “systems so perfect that no one will need to be good”.

As Allen C. Guelzo pointed in his book Lincoln and Douglas, “…at the deepest level, what Lincoln defended in the debates was the possibility that there could be a moral core to a democracy…For him, politics was not about helping people exercise rights apart from doing what was right.”

Beyond the Comparisons: What Makes America Great Part I

Large government programs, huge amounts of wealth, or even being a superpower are not what make America great. America was great before it ever was wealthy, powerful, or had instituted large social welfare programs. America does not rise above other nations because of what she accomplishes collectively.

America distinguishes itself because it is the only nation to believe, and to still believe just barely, that the individual is more important than society or the government that rules over a society. The Founding Fathers saw that the best government was one that served the individual and not the other way around where the individual exist for the benefit of the government. The United States is based on faith and hope in the transcendent ideas of individual freedom, individual compassion and virtue, and the right of each person to pursue happiness, compassion, mercy and truth through belief and action. From these ideas come the two most important individual rights: the freedom of religion (thought or conscience) and the freedom of speech. These two rights put the “human” into humanity and fuel the torchlight of what America symbolizes to the rest of the world craving the light of individual freedom.

America’s greatness and compassion cannot be measured by making comparisons to other nations because it comes about by providing hope to individuals and by providing opportunity for individuals to maximize their potential. That is the genius of the American experiment. Greatness and genius, however, do not equate to perfection. Much like the myriad ways that individuals can be imperfect, the nation as whole does reflect that and as its many angry critics point out does fall short. However, it must be said an imperfect America striving to fulfill lofty and transcendent ideas is head and shoulders preferable to all other flawed and fallible nations ruled by more conventional and human ideas of governing and power.

Mormons and Negative Media: An Alternative Peaceful Response

I like to follow the news, but I try to not to get too caught up in it and become a prisoner of the moment. But this week, I can’t help but comment on the recent crisis in the Middle East over the film made here in America with depictions of Mohammed, the man Muslims claim to be their founder and their prophet.

First of all, it’s never a good idea to mock or profane what others hold sacred even if you are free to do so. Growing up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) my whole life, or as Mormon, I know that the Mormon Church has been subject to anti-Mormon literature and media since its inception. These attacks have not just come from secularist but oftentimes and sometimes more virulently from people of other faiths.

I understand what it feels like to have people denigrate what you value most as an individual and not only denigrate your belief system but outright lie about it. In fact, the Mormon Church is now the subject of maybe one of the most successful Broadway plays ever, an obscene-laden parody produced by no less than the creators of South Park. The movie, the Innocence of Muslims, as far as scale goes and success pales in comparison to the Broadway play, Book of Mormon. Heck, the play won nine Tony awards. However, the Mormon Churches response was the following:

“The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

The Mormon Church did not issue any decree for boycotts or protest or call for any violence towards others or destruction of the property. I’ve heard that they even took advantage of the play’s popularity and bought advertising space in the programs with the above press release.

In a commentary , called Publicity Dilemma, released on March 9, 2009, the Mormon Church commented on the recent heightened publicity and portrayals on TV, film and on Broadway stating that some were accurate, some blatantly false, and other were done in “appalling bad taste”. The commentary went on to state that:

“…there is no evidence that extreme misrepresentations in the media that appeal only to a narrow audience have any long-term negative effect on the Church”, and further stated, “that with a global membership of thirteen and a half million there is no need to feel defensive when the Church is moving forward so rapidly.”

These statements demonstrate the Mormon Church’s confidence in what it is but also demonstrates its confidence in its mission and purpose, and an understanding of what its collective energy and resources should be focused on. But what is not so apparent in these statements is the Mormon Church understanding of freedom and how much the Church values freedom, not only as a political concept, but as a key concept to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Freedom is essentially the power and the ability to choose for oneself the course one will follow in all fields of activity. In the book, Mormon Doctrine, it states that “freedom of conscience…is the greatest freedom of all.” Only the greatest good for the individual and society can happen in a society that has the utmost respect for freedom of conscience. The Mormon Church has prospered under this freedom and understands that freedom is one of the most important parts of the Gospel taught by Jesus Christ. Christ understood that without freedom the individual, hence society, cannot prosper and grow and that the individual cannot truly come unto Him wholeheartedly. It also should be understood conversely that one of the greatest evils is to force people to do good or force them to make correct decisions.

Unfortunately, freedom without an equal portion of virtue, compassion, mercy and responsibility can produce some incredibly heinous evils. However, it should be noted that many of the governments without or who have limited political and religious freedom have been able to produce some of the greatest evils mankind has ever witnessed.

I believe, however, based on my experience that any religion or belief system can survive negative media portrayals, especially obscure ones, without resorting to violence and intimidation. A religion does not demonstrate its power through war, violence, murder, and the destruction of property, but by the change in heart and the good it produces in people’s lives.

Even though I know no Muslims, I can’t believe that every Muslim acts like those portrayed on the news. Like any group, I am sure there are many individuals who defy the group stereotypes we have in the West of Muslims or defy the violent images we see on the news. I am sure there are many Muslims who are trying to build up strong families, seek truth and hold to universal values of freedom, honestly, peace, and unselfishness.

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