A sad Democrat votes: Why I cast my first vote for a GOP president (2000)

Copyright © WORLD Magazine, November 2000

The Gen-X blond standing behind the Democratic Party placards gave me a tired smile election morning as I headed into my polling place a few miles from the D.C. Beltway.

Vote for the Democratic Party, said the signs.

Not this time, sister.

I smiled back, sort of. It was a sad smile. I'm a Democrat and have been all my life. That used to be a normal thing for people who grew up in middle-class Bible Belt homes. But I cast my first vote today for a Republican candidate for president.

Why? Because Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania is dead and I can't write in his name anymore, that's why. He's the old-guard Catholic Democrat who was banned from the 1992 Democratic National Convention floor, the man who told his party's platform hearings: "The national Democratic Party has embraced abortion on demand. I believe this position is wrong in principle and out of the mainstream of our party's historic commitment to protecting the powerless.... Abortion is the ultimate violence. Abortion on demand has, in my judgment, contributed significantly to an environment in our country in which life has become very cheap."

Powerful words, coming just a few years before Columbine High School and so, so much more.

The Mercy Of Confession (2000)

Published in Again Magazine and a shorter version at WWW.Beliefnet.com

When I was a teen-ager, it took forever to get my hair right.There was this one place that was really bad, behind my right ear. My hair wanted to flip out. I wanted it to flip under. The longer I grew my hair out, the better, or the worse, this particular thicket would become.

It was incredibly important -- almost a life-and-death matter -- to have long-ish hair when you were a Southern Baptist preacher's kid in the late 1960s.

But there was no way, given the social and theological realities of the circumstances, for me to take the plunge and grow my hair out so far that gravity would take care of the tell-tale flip, turning it into a mere wave in a shoulder-length mane. What I needed was hair that was long enough to satisfy me and my friends, yet hair that wasn't longer than the hair on most of the heads of the sons of the deacons at the Proctor Street Baptist Church in Port Arthur, Texas. In many ways, it must have been easier to be a hippie than a Baptist.

The liturgy of mass media (2000)

Published in Again Magazine, an Orthodox magazine emphasizing missions and evangelism 

I have no idea how many times I have heard church leaders quote the following statement by Bob Pittman, one of the key executives in the development of MTV: "At MTV, we don't shoot for the 14-year-olds, we own them."

It's easy to understand why conservatives keep doing this. This is precisely the kind of laugh-to- keep-from-crying line sound bite that cuts deep with Christian audiences. I've used it myself and, truth is, I just used it again.

Pittman was being serious and his boast is fair game, when it comes to sparking discussions of many cultural and moral issues linked to young people in America and, increasingly, around the world. However, I'm getting worried about the frequent use of this quotation, and many other punchy references to MTV and youth culture. Frankly, I worry that adults would rather moan about the sins of the young, and those who cater to them, than focus on the role that entertainment plays in all of our lives.

During the past two decades, I have had many conversations with leaders in churches, denominations, parachurch groups and even seminaries about media trends. Most in most of these interviews, we cover a wide range of issues. But there almost always comes a time when the other person says something like: "You know, we really need to do something about our young people. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff they are exposed to these days. You know, I heard somewhere that the head of MTV once said. ..."

Yes, I know: "At MTV, we don't shoot for the 14-year-olds, we own them."

Don't get me wrong. I'm worried about the role that music videos, movies, computers, personal stereos, television and other forms of mass media play in the lives of young people. I agree with the statement, made by Dr. Quentin Schultze and a circle of media researchers at Calvin College in their classic book "Dancing In The Dark": "Usually adults simply ignore youth-oriented popular art and accept only their own views as legitimate. By ignoring youth art, however, adults ignore the children in their care."