Stop The Soundbite Forecasting!

I stopped paying attention to The Weather Channel several years ago. Why? Because of notifications like the one showed in this image.

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According to the National Weather Service, rainfall in the Atlanta area is 17 inches below normal (National Weather Service, 2016) and local forecasters are predicting anywhere from 1.5 inches to 3 inches or more over the next 48 hours (Hill, 2016).

Three inches of rain does not end a severe drought, especially when we are looking at 17 inches or more. In fact, short term rain may postpone worse conditions, but unless there is a significant change to the weather pattern (Mellish, 2016) our drought is likely to continue for a considerable amount of time.
I understand the need for short messages in mobile notifications, but the Weather Channel began “soundbite forecasting” a long time ago. They do a great disservice when they hype events like this, because they are gravely mistaken if they think the drought is over simply because we will finally see two days of rain after little to no measurable rainfall for the past 42 days…

Sources:

Hill, Jeff. (2016). Rainfall Totals Forecast. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/jeffhillfox5/status/803287709624242178/photo/1

Mellish, Kirk. (2016). Drought in much of Georgia. Retrieved from http://www.wsbradio.com/weblogs/kirk-mellishs-weather-commentary/2016/jun/09/drought-much-georgia/

National Weather Service. (2016). Rainfall Scorecard, Retrieved from http://www.weather.gov/ffc/rainfall_scorecard

My Thought For The Day – Human Dignity & Politics

Being without sin, casting the first stone, and passing judgment on others has nothing to do with the politicization of human dignity.

The dignity of each human being is the foundation of the moral vision for our society and the measure of each individual, and institution, is whether they threaten or enhance the dignity of the human person.

Once we permit ourselves, or our politicians, to erode the basic respect for human dignity, we place other things, and other topics, above the importance of human dignity, above the value of others.

If we do not stand up for the dignity of every individual, and the value of that dignity, who are we as a people?

Honestly, I Have Made My Decision

It is no secret that I do not support either of the main party candidates, and some of you have asked why I would support Gary Johnson, given his libertarian positions… Well, I think his interview with Chris Matthews reveals one of the many reasons why I support Gary Johnson…

“Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.”

Wait. What? He cannot recall the name of a single foreign leader during an interview and THAT supports my own reasons for voting for him? How could that be?

Well, on any given day I could point out that Hillary Clinton is not the best choice for President of the United States because of her past decisions as Secretary of State, her experiences as First Lady, and her own words spoken in the past.

I could also point out that Donald Trump is equally unfit to serve as President of the United States because of his past decisions in business, his experiences as a candidate for this office, and his own words spoken in the past.

The one thing they both have in common, is misleading voters into believing they are fit to serve in this office, and lying to the American people when they are confronted with truths they do not wish to admit. Both of them have done this several times, live, on camera, in front of the American people. This is one commonality that they share equally, and we as responsible voters should not allow them to deny. Hillary Clinton is a liar, her words are on record. Donald Trump is a liar, his words are on record.

Whether you support a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, an independent, or some other candidate, you have to remember that budgets, fiscal policies, foreign policies, national laws, and all the other decisions that come with being President are influenced, controlled, and manipulated by many different people, but honesty is owned by the person sitting in that chair, at that time.

I would prefer to have a President who I can trust. I would prefer to have a President who tells me the truth when I need to hear it. I would prefer a President who would rather look stupid on television because he or she could not remember the name of a foreign leader and rely on his or her Vice-President to help them remember, than one who would prefer to mislead me into believing his or her falsehoods just to make themselves look good on television. In fact, that is why the President of the United States has a Cabinet, advisors, and secretaries. I would prefer a President who is a good leader, and sometimes being a good leader means relying on the suggestions and guidance of those assisting you rather than “saving face” to make you appear more powerful.

If a candidate cannot tell the truth about the simplest of things, why should we expect them to tell us the truth when we need to hear it? And that my friends, is one of the many reasons I still support Gary Johnson for President of the United States.

Interview Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/gary-johnson-has-aleppo-moment-msnbc-town-hall-struggles-name-n656611

Detroit News Endorsement of Gary Johnson: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2016/09/28/endorse-johnson-president/91254412/

Gary Johnson on the Issues: https://www.johnsonweld.com/issues

Through The Mirrored Glass I See…

I have joined several different groups on Facebook, and I enjoy participating in the discussions on many of them. Sometimes, however, I find myself biting my tongue (or sitting on my hands in this case) because someone says something or does something that completely throws me for a loop.

In one of those groups, a conversation revolved around the death of Rodney King, and whether or not we, as a society, should celebrate the death of criminals among us. As some argued that his death should be celebrated because he was a criminal, others argued that we should never celebrate the death of another human being.

I am pursuing my degree in Psychology, so I found the entire debate about human dignity (or the lack thereof) quite interesting. I have known some of those participating in the conversation for most of my life, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for them and the others participating in the discussion. I found their positions to be quite insightful, especially given the topic at hand and the fact they are all present and former law enforcement personnel.

20120620-154614.jpgThe conversation quickly devolved into a series of personal disagreements and derogatory statements. The focus of the conversation was no longer about Rodney King or his death, but rather a series of petty attacks and disagreements against each other. I am amazed that a conversation which was revolving around the human dignity for a criminal who died could transform and become an example of the lack of respect and human dignity we have for each other, here in the land of the living. I suppose I had higher expectations because I know most of these people, but it comes as no surprise that someone who cannot respect the human dignity of others around them (and living) would have none for a criminal who has died.

In the e-book, True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Liberty, Cardinal Dolan wrote, “If we are divinized reflections of God, created in His image and likeness, then we ought to treat ourselves and others only with respect, love, honor, and care.” So the question remains, does Rodney King deserve respect and human dignity in death? At what point do we draw the line and determine that someone does not deserve the same basic respect and human dignity as all other human beings? Is it our place to draw that line, let alone cross it?

While some will see this post as sympathy for criminals among us, or imposing my religious beliefs on others, I hope many more will see it as a wake up call. If we do not respect the human dignity of others, why should we expect that respect ourselves? At the end of the day, when we sit back and watch the standards of our society swirl down the drain, maybe we should be looking at ourselves.

Our Own Modern Day Miracle

Three days ago I was nearly in a panic.

I have been taking calls, maintaining a list of recipients, and organizing our frozen food distribution program for three weeks. On the first Thursday of each month, our local Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference distributes frozen food to clients we have assisted and people within our community who have expressed the need for a helping hand. Through an initiative with Kroger grocery stores, the SVdP Conference Support Center in Atlanta is able to help provide frozen foods to the many conferences in our area and we are grateful for the opportunity to assist people within our community.

The response from our community has been nothing short of amazing. People have volunteered to help pick up, sort, and distribute food. Word spread this month and we were scheduled to help 98 people today. In order to help nearly 100 people we would need 10 fifty-pound boxes of frozen food. Our goal is to give each person 5 pounds of food, which should (in theory) provide them with enough food to supplement their diet for a week.

Three days ago, I received word that we would only receive half of the food we had requested for the distribution. My heart sank, my head was spinning, and I began to panic. I spent Monday working the numbers, dividing the pounds of food by the number of people, and the more I thought about it, the more I panicked.

Tuesday morning, during Communion Service, our own Deacon Gary read the Gospel and then spoke about the end of times. He reminded us that the end times could come many, many, many, many, years from now, or possibly tomorrow. He spoke about our wonderful Lord, and how he has been our refuge through every age. Toward the end of his homily he talked about prayer. Heartfelt, honest, sincere prayer.

Throughout the entire service, I could not help but worry about the frozen food initiative. I realized that the only way I was going to stop panicking was to turn it over to God. Deacon Gary’s homilies are one of a kind. No matter what he says or how he presents it, the topic always comes full circle and you find yourself wrapped in the moment, slowly consuming the Word.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells us, “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.” Before I walked up to receive the Eucharist, I said a silent, heartfelt, honest, sincere prayer. “Lord, please help me”.

I asked God for help. I reassured him that I knew He was capable of feeding thousands of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish, but I was a weak human being and needed help figuring out how to feed 98 people with only 5 boxes of food. I prayed that He would guide our frozen food ministry, and show me how to feed our own modern day multitude. The geographic area of our parish is very large. People would be driving many miles to receive this food, and I could not, in good conscience, give them a pittance of food and send them on their way.

20120607-234139.jpgThis morning, my oldest son and I drove up to the SVdP Family Support Center in Dallas, Georgia to pick up the food. When the delivery driver arrived, I introduced myself, and asked him if he had five boxes of food for me. He said, “No sir, I don’t.” My heart sank again. I should have known better than to panic. He grinned and told me that he had 10, yes ten!!! I was stunned, to say the least.

Driving back to Carrollton, I could hardly contain myself. I know our God is an awesome God. I know He works miracles every day. I truly believed He would provide the food we needed, whether it was five boxes or ten, and He did! But today’s story does not end there.

20120607-234337.jpgWhen we arrived back at the church, we quickly emptied the boxes, and sorted the foods. It took us 35 minutes to pack 48 bags of food. We would have had 50, but some of the meat packages were small, so I doubled up a couple items to make sure each person received a fair portion.

We counted the bags on the table, we counted the bags when we moved them to the cart, and we counted the bags when we placed them in the freezer. I know it sounds redundant, but the total number of bags determines how many bags we can distribute to each family, in order to provide the most food to the most people.

The distribution was scheduled from 4pm to 6pm, but when we arrived at 3:30pm, there were a dozen people waiting in the parking lot. Most of them were elderly, and the sun was a bit warm today. I quickly organized the distribution point and opened the door. We had 48 bags of food for 98 people, and no room for error, extras, or mistakes.

20120607-234445.jpgFour of the first six people were not on the distribution list. They had not called our hotline, they had not reserved food, but they were standing in front of me, and they needed food. I felt the panic returning. I was going to have to turn these people away because I did not have enough food after all. I felt like a schmuck. Time stood still, but in that one moment I realized what I was supposed to do. I took each person’s name, entered them in my log sheet, and gave each person a bag of food.

After the initial crowd received their food, I decided to count the number of bags still on the shelf so I could re-work the numbers and spread the remaining food as far as I could. We distributed food to four people who were not on our distribution list, so we should have been four bags short. But we weren’t. When we counted (and recounted) the bags, we had exactly the number we needed to provide food to the remaining people on our list.

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, we had more and more people show up that were not on the list. I took their names and gave them food. I did not turn anyone away.

By the end of the day, we had distributed 56 bags of food, assisting 115 people. Eight people did not show up and 12 bags remained on the shelf. Now that was the miracle God was working on this first Thursday of June.

All afternoon I thought the miracle was receiving 10 boxes of food, little did I know that He had something else in mind. A better idea, a greater plan. There is no doubt that we only had 500 pounds of food, in 48 bags, to help 98 people.

“When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.’ So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.” (John 6:12-13)

Something tells me that only God can explain today’s events, but I need no explanation. I am grateful for the miracle that occurred, and I am humbled to have experienced it first hand. God answered my prayer, and I learned through heartfelt, honest, sincere prayer, that silence truly is the first language of God.

Secular Theology:The Effect of Anti-Catholic Media Bias on the Catholic Community

       Newspapers and news magazines have long been a mainstay for information and keeping up to date about the world around us. The Internet has increased accessibility and dramatically changed the way people gather and read their news, but it has not changed the perception of bias within today’s print media. Publishers learned long ago that sex, scandal, and controversy would sell copies, so it is not surprising that Catholics would perceive an anti-Catholic bias within those publications. In an age where abortion, sexual promiscuity, and same-sex marriage are commonplace, faithful Catholics find themselves at odds with many of the morals and values portrayed in today’s media. This anti-Catholic bias, whether it is simply perceived or otherwise, has a negative impact on the Catholic community.

       The perception of anti-Catholic bias does in-fact exist within members of the Church, therefore it is imperative to prove the reasons behind it. Rev. Avery Dulles, S.J., a Jesuit priest, provided an example of this perception when he wrote, “The church seeks to promote unity and reconciliation, minimizing discord and dissent. The news media, however, specialize in disagreement and conflict which evidently arouse greater interest and boost circulation” (Dulles, 1994). At first glance, his statement implied that the media is not merely biased, but was simply attempting to sell copies of their publications by creating an element of disagreement and conflict. Although every publication is in the business of selling copies, it is not logical, nor realistic, to conclude that all media outlets create hype in order to increase their bottom line. Dulles offered another reason for the perception of an anti-Catholic bias by pointing out that, “most newspapers and magazines have no professionally qualified reporters in the field of religion” (Dulles, 1994). Articles summarizing sporting events should be written by someone who knows the sport they are covering, and financial reports would not be credible if the writer did not possess a basic knowledge of our financial system, so the same should be required of those writing about religion. The veracity of information comes into question when the person writing it has little to no training or has limited understanding of the subject.

       Catholic journalist Amy Welborn acknowledges, “Reporting on the Catholic Church is quite a challenge, given the historical depth and complexity of the subject matter” (Flynn, 2008). Given the complexity of the subject matter, it is no surprise that many reports contain inaccuracies. In a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, one-third of Catholics surveyed could not name the four Gospels, and 45% did not know that the Church teaches the bread and wine used in Holy Communion actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ (Pew Research Center, 2010). Welborn also offered her own recommendation for her fellow journalists in the print media, “Deepening their knowledge of the Church would be a step forward for journalists covering Catholicism… This does not mean losing objectivity, but reporting on events in their proper context” (Flynn, 2008). Her recommendation supports the position that anti-Catholic bias exists because of misunderstanding and ignorance rather than an intentional bias against the Church.

       The Los Angeles Times has a history of providing editorial space to those who appear to write from an anti-Catholic prospective. For example, Tim Rutten wrote, “Many Catholics worry about a Vatican that fires an Australian bishop for speaking in favor of ordaining women and married men, but declines to act against a Belgian prelate who unapologetically admits to molesting young boys” (Rutten, 2011). His statement appears to be a valid argument against Church hypocrisy, but Rutten purposely misled readers by failing to mention that the Vatican suspended the Belgian prelate immediately, while the Australian bishop was allowed to remain in his position for five years before his removal (Wooden, 2011). In this example, Tim Rutten was clearly attempting to sway readers into being sympathetic for relaxing the rules of the Church by claiming that the Church itself was not enforcing its own standards.

       While sex scandals involving priests are definitely newsworthy, some news outlets go out of their way to make reference to those scandals while covering a wide variety of other topics within the Catholic Church. For example, during his homily at the funeral for Cardinal John Patrick Foley of Philadelphia, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City said, “any diocese that can turn out such a noble, gentle man is a church which can endure and come out even stronger” (O’Reilly, 2011). The author of the article, David O’Reilly, attributed Archbishop Dolan’s comments as “an apparent reference to the difficulties the archdiocese will face next year – a sex abuse trial, school closings, decisions on 27 priests under internal investigation for possible misconduct with children” (O’Reilly, 2011), when the Archbishop could have simply been referencing the endurance of the Philadelphia community and the effect the loss of their beloved Cardinal Foley will have on them over time. Other news outlets simply quote the most radical thinkers as if they are an example of the Catholic faithful (Seiler, 1999) and some make an intentional effort to undermine Church teaching. Although there are examples of intentional anti-Catholic bias within some segments of the media, the majority of the bias is not intentional, but rather a misunderstanding and ignorance of the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

       Tim Mattingly, director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges commented on the “amazing ignorance by some of the reporters that cover religion” (Flynn, 2008). His comments support the claims made by Dulles and Welborn, in stating that many covering religious topics should be trained and educated in the field they are reporting. This lack of knowledge and training has resulted in an anti-Catholic bias perpetuated by misunderstandings and ignorance, rather than the intentional exclusion of facts.

       The sex abuse scandal within the Church has long been a topic of discourse. While the response from the Church was nothing short of controversial to some, the reaction by the media caused a backlash of unprecedented proportions. In his book, The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, author Philip Jenkins wrote, “the sex abuse scandal in the United States has resulted in a public outpouring of anti-Church and anti-Catholic vituperation on a scale not witnessed since the 1920s” (Anonymous, 2003). Allegations of abuse were widespread within the Catholic Church creating an illusion that the entire Church was to blame for the violations. While the investigation of criminal activity and misconduct on the part of Church authorities was completely justified, Jenkins wrote that many reports of abuse, “segued effortlessly into grotesque attacks on the Catholic Church as an institution” (Anonymous, 2003).

       Any attack on the Catholic Church is dangerous because many Catholics today are ill informed about the faith they profess. The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey, from the Pew Research Center, showed that Catholics answered just 14.7 out of 32 questions (46%) correctly (Pew Research Center, 2010). The results of this survey are not hard to believe, given the influence of today’s media. Rev. Dulles wrote, “It must be recognized that many Catholics learn about what is happening in their Church primarily, or in great part, from the secular media” (Dulles, 1994). As Catholics glean more information from the media than their Church, the influence of that media permeates their lives and begins to distort the teachings of the Church. Jenkins concluded that anti-Catholic bias, “has become so ingrained that reporters do not even recognize their own anti-Catholic attitudes” (Anonymous, 2003). Catholics do not always know their own faith, so we cannot expect them to recognize this anti-Catholic attitude either. Gerald P. Fogarty, S.J. writes, “anti-Catholicism in America today is far more subtle and perhaps even insidious in a culture where religion is too often merely a matter of private opinion” (Fogarty, 2003). Although the result was unintentional, we must realize that the media unknowingly exacerbated the problem of anti-Catholic bias in our society as they continued to report the sex abuse scandal.

       The best recourse for the Church, at this point, is to fight fire with fire. For too long, the Church has ignored the words of Pope Paul VI, who declared in 1975, “The church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means of communication that human skill is daily rendering more perfect” (Dulles, 1994). By utilizing the media to combat inaccurate information, the Catholic Church can establish a new pattern of effective communication and proper context that would contrast the existing media bias and balance the negative messages currently being delivered. The leaders of the Church must learn to use the media as a tool to support their message, rather than to control it. Any attempt to control the message would be seen as censorship and rejected by some of their own members, let alone those working as journalists in the secular media (Dulles, 1994).

       As subtle forms of anti-Catholicism become more prevalent in our society, many people see the Catholic Church as “authoritarian and opposed to freedom of thought” (Fogarty, 2003). This message is deliberately misleading and completely unfounded, yet the Church has done little to dissuade the message from pervading society. “The Church is not without blame in this farrago of vilification. Bishops obfuscate, cardinals equivocate, and Church spokesmen prevaricate as the tide of media condemnation surges around them” (Anonymous, 2003), which is why the leaders of the Catholic Church must embrace new media if they hope to relieve tension and communicate a message that combats anti-Catholic bias in the media.

       As people continue to rely on newspapers and news magazines to keep informed, those sources of media are unintentionally perpetuating an atmosphere of anti-Catholic bias. Publishers of print media focus on stories that will sell copies, often filled with sex, scandal, and controversy and they fail to hire qualified personnel to cover the topic of religion. The consequences of their actions result in misunderstandings about the Catholic Church and ignorance of the Catholic faith itself. The Church must take a pro-active approach and begin participating in the message rather than responding to criticisms after the fact. Until they do so, anti-Catholic bias will continue to create discord and Catholics will become more secular because of that influence. While the existence of anti-Catholic bias in the media may be unintentional, it poses a threat that has a negative impact on the entire Catholic community as well as society as a whole.

References

Anonymous. (2003). Church rounds on anti-Catholic bias by Media. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=2171705581&sid=1&Fmt=3&client
Id=74379&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Dulles, A. (1994). Religion and the News Media: A Theologian Reflects. America 171, no. 9, pp 6-9. Retrieved from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/media/me0005.html

Flynn, J. (2008). The Media and Misreporting Religion. Retrieved from http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=31225

Fogarty, G. (2003). Reflections on Contemporary Anti-Catholicism, U.S. Catholic Historian , Vol. 21, No. 4, Anti-Catholicism (Fall, 2003), pp. 37-44. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25154876

O’Reilly, D. (2011). Funeral for Cardinal Foley draws church dignitaries. Retrieved from http://www.kansascity.com/2011/12/16/3324188/funeral-for-cardinal-foley-draws.html

Pew Research Center (2010). U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. Retrieved from http://pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx

Rutten, T. (2011). Tim Rutten: Is Pope John Paul II fit for sainthood? Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-0504-rutten-20110504,0,963466.column

Seiler, J. (1993). Pope’s visit unleashes anti-Catholic media. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=145475401&sid=1&Fmt=3&clientId=74379&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Wooden, C. (2011). Church unity motivated papal action against bishop, Australians say. Retrieved from http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1104169.htm