Wednesday, December 22, 2010

400-408 – What's your best "gift story"?  Maybe a re-gifting nightmare, or a well-intended gift that didn't get the hoped-for response – like getting a scale for someone needing to diet, or a bucket and soap for someone needing to wash a car, or a Kindle for a student needing to do a little better in school?  Or deodorant for your husband, or maybe a trip to the day spa?

(1:19) Kids Say the Darndest Things About Christmas (unknown kids, unknown date)

(:51) Kids Say the Darndest Things About Christmas (unknown kids, unknown date)

(:56) Charlie Brown Christmas. (From the movie: A Charlie Brown Christmas)

413-423 – Larry Marino, in the KKLA Weather Center.  Calls – Your "weather" or "Guardian angel" story?

428-437 – Calls

443-452 – Marcus Green, Executive Director of Faith's Hope Foundation (, talks about three families he was able to help through our 12 Days of Christmas. 

1) Phillip and Genny White, whose life was shattered when their daughter Corbin was killed by a drunk driver in January. 

2) Amanda Scanlon is a single mother with two kids, who survived an abusive marriage and homelessness, to recently graduate from a transitional-living program and is now working two jobs. 

3) Jim Trafford was laid off earlier this year, and has been unable to find work, despite his fervent diligence in searching, to provide for his wife and three kids.

458-508 – Gabe Lyons, co-author of unChristian (2007) with David Kinnaman, is out with his latest entitled The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America.

• Christian Post (10/12/2010) End of Christian America is Good, Says Young Evangelical.

• Kevin Shrum (12/16/2010) Review of Gabe Lyons' Book, 'The Next Christians' – What's Missing from 'The Next Christians: How a New Generation is Restoring the Faith?'

512-523 – Larry Marino, in the KKLA Weather Center.

Gabe Lyons,

528-539 – Gabe Lyons,

544-554 – Gabe Lyons,

558-608 – • Fox News (12/21/2010) Study: Nearly 1 in 4 Students Fails Military Entrance Exam.  And 25% of 2009 high school graduates are ineligible for the military because they're obese, compared to just 5% in 1980.

// The report by The Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?"

The military exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data shows that 75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don't even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills.

// Recruits must score at least a 31 out of 99 on the first stage of the three-hour test to get into the Army. The Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard recruits need higher scores.

// The study shows wide disparities in scores among white and minority students, similar to racial gaps on other standardized tests. Nearly 40 percent of black students and 30 percent of Hispanics don't pass, compared with 16 percent of whites. The average score for blacks is 38 and for Hispanics is 44, compared to whites' average score of 55.

// Tom Loveless, an education expert at the Brookings Institution think tank, said the results echo those on other tests. In 2009, 26 percent of seniors performed below the 'basic' reading level on the National Assessment of Education Progress.

Other tests, like the SAT, look at students who are going to college.

"A lot of people make the charge that in this era of accountability and standardized testing, that we've put too much emphasis on basic skills," Loveless said. "This study really refutes that. We have a lot of kids that graduate from high school who have not mastered basic skills."

The study also found disparities across states, with Wyoming having the lowest ineligibility rate, at 13 percent, and Hawaii having the highest, at 38.3 percent.

// A Department of Defense report notes the military must recruit about 15 percent of youth, but only one-third are eligible. More high school graduates are going to college than in earlier decades, and about one-fourth are obese, making them medically ineligible.

In 1980, by comparison, just 5 percent of youth were obese.

612-623 – Larry Marino, in the KKLA Weather Center.  "God, I want to thank you for..."

628-639 – "God, I want to thank you for..."

644-656 – "God, I want to thank you for..."

• Albert Mohler  (12/22/2010) Must We Believe the Virgin Birth?

• Fox News (12/22/2010) Massachusetts School Issues Permission Slips for Pledge of Allegiance.

• David Graham, Newsweek (12/9/2010) Faces of the Christian Right.  1) Princeton's Robert George, 2) Focus's Jim Daly, 3) National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher, 4) President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships head Melissa Rogers, 5) Christian environmentalists Matthew and Nancy Sleeth, 6) head of the Susan B. Anthony List's Marjorie Dannenfelser, 7) FRC's Tony Perkins, 8) Sojourners' Jim Wallis, and 9) Northland Community Church's Joel Hunter.

David A. Graham, Leaders of a changing movement.  Who speaks for the religious right? That used to be an easy question to answer: on matters of faith and politics, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson were towering figures: opinionated, controversial, and vastly influential. But with Falwell's death in 2007, Robertson's outlandish comments about the 2010 earthquake in China and Hurricane Katrina, and Dobson's gradual retirement, it's harder to pinpoint a similar council for the second generation of the movement, which is more strategically, denominationally, and ideologically diverse. Many of the new leaders don't subscribe to the (figuratively) bomb-throwing tactics their forebears did. Many of the leaders are Catholics, reflecting the success of an effort beginning in the 1980s between Catholics and evangelicals to forge ties over shared priorities, like curtailing abortion rights. And others have different priorities altogether—sometimes so much so that while they may be "religious," they're not traditionally "right." The following list doesn't include all of the most influential conservative Christians—Dobson and Ralph Reed, for example, remain important—but it's a snapshot of a movement that's changing and growing more diffuse, even as it remains a potent force in American politics.

1) Robert George – Dapper, intellectual, and bespectacled, Robert George couldn't be further from the stereotype of a charismatic, tent-revival preacher. But the Princeton professor is a force in both academic and activist circles, and The New York Times Magazine described him as the "country's most influential conservative Christian thinker." The influence comes from a variety of outlets: his lectures and academic publications, tied to a prestigious endowed chair; a rapt audience among a circle of conservative American bishops who count him as both a friend and a chief adviser; and the Witherspoon Institute, a think tank he helped found at Princeton. His biggest coup, however, was co-writing the Manhattan Declaration, a landmark document cementing the political ties between Catholics and evangelicals and pledging civil disobedience in the fight against abortion-rights laws and same-sex marriage. He's been a prominent champion of the idea that marriage should be restricted to heterosexual couples on the basis of procreation. And it's not just priests who are paying attention: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has called him one of the most important conservative scholars working today.

2) Jim DalyJim Daly leads Focus on the Family, the immensely powerful evangelical organization founded by James Dobson that runs magazines and radio programs, serves as a clearinghouse for Christian education, and offers counseling. In addition, Dobson, who remains Focus on the Family's most public face (although he's no longer officially affiliated with the group), offers political endorsements generally seen as extensions of the group. Handpicked by Dobson in 2005 to be the group's third president, Daly is a surprisingly different leader from his firebrand predecessor. Not that he's softened the organization's advocacy on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage—he hasn't. It's the emphasis that's changed. "Focus on the Family has become less and less intentionally political," says Michael Cromartie, vice president at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. "Jim Daly wants the focus to be the family, not politics." (The recalibration hasn't sat well with some hardliners, who see it as capitulation to liberal secularism.) But observers say that with Focus on the Family's bedrock conservative beliefs and massive reach, it will remain a crucial force in politics for the foreseeable future.

3) Maggie Gallagher – Gallagher, who succeeded Robert George as chair of the National Organization for Marriage, is also Catholic. A longtime activist, she's been especially visible recently in her efforts to defeat gay-marriage initiatives, especially in California, where NOM sponsored a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and has been the most vocal opponent of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the amendment. While some religious leaders have shied away from the confrontational style of the old guard, Gallagher is outspokenly political, and controversial. She's been accused of bigotry at worst and insensitivity at best, as in an op-ed she wrote denying any responsibility for gay teens' suicides on a day set aside to mourn them. But in other ways, she illustrates the movement's shift away from being monolithic. "I don't object to the [Christian right] label, but it's not how I think of myself," she tells NEWSWEEK. But her work, which also includes writing for the conservative National Review and others, is informed by her faith, and she's collaborated closely with black preachers whose congregations strongly oppose gay marriage.

4) Matthew and Nancy Sleeth – One example of the diversification of the movement has been the embrace of issues that weren't important to the first generation. Matthew and Nancy Sleeth, for example, are evangelical Christians with a single-minded focus on the environment. Matthew is a former emergency-room doctor who found himself frustrated with the piecemeal work of healing one patient at a time. Together with his wife, Nancy, he turned to religion and ended up creating Blessed Earth, a nonprofit that they say springs from God's mandate to care for the Earth. "We recognize that mountains, trees, oceans and wildlife are our inheritance," they write in their mission statement. Both Sleeths have spent the last few years lecturing, speaking to the press, and writing books to advance a message of Christian environmentalism, while not discussing the more traditional evangelical issues. Although they're clearly not part of the mainstream, Mike Huckabee, the evangelical darling of the 2008 presidential election and a presumed 2012 candidate, has spoken out on his environmental beliefs, arguing that Christians have a duty to fight global warming—although unlike the Sleeths, he does not believe it is a product of human activity.

4) Melissa Rogers – While the rise of the religious right has won a larger role in public life for faith-based organizations, that victory has raised questions about where and how to draw lines separating church and state. Melissa Rogers, a Baptist and a lawyer, is at the forefront of the push to make a clear map. The Brookings Institution fellow and Wake Forest School of Divinity professor recently finished a term as chair of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, meaning she ended up holding the big black marker. In her White House role, she addressed the tricky issues that arise when religious institutions serve the needy with public money—in particular, deciding that they can display religious icons but must keep religious activities separate from charity work. It's not as sexy as praying with the president, but it's the sort of stuff that fundamentally shapes the relationship between the government and the church for years to come.

5) Marjorie Dannenfelser – Like Gallagher, Marjorie Dannenfelser leads an organization that isn't explicitly religious but draws its support from many conservative Christians. Once a pro-choice, moderate Republican, Dannenfelser about-faced in college, becoming anti-abortion at the same time she left the Episcopal Church to become a Catholic. Today, she heads the Susan B. Anthony List, which she founded out of her house in 1991. The political-action committee, which gives money to pro-life candidates, has quietly become one of the nation's preeminent anti-abortion groups, making it the standard-bearer for one of the religious right's central issues. And she has the ear of evangelical rock star and potential 2012 candidate Sarah Palin, who headlined an SBA List fundraiser in May 2010.

6) Tony Perkins – If there's anyone who represents the old mindset in the new leadership, it's Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. Though at 47, he's still quite young for his influence, Perkins is also an experienced veteran of the movement, with prominent work stretching back decades. He's got a bit of a colorful history: a graduate of Falwell's Liberty University, he's been accused of ties to Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, which he forcefully denies. In 2002 he ran unsuccessfully for a Republican nomination for Senate in Louisiana, and a year later he became the head of FRC. Like Focus on the Family, the D.C. think tank was founded by Dobson, but it's been unrelenting in its political pursuits, especially through the annual Values Voter Summit. The conference features dozens of the leading figures in conservative Christianity and culminates in a straw poll that's seen as a key litmus test for whom the religious right will back in the Republican presidential primary, making the gathering a must for most contenders. Among the presidential hopefuls attending this year's meeting in September: Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Sen. Jim DeMint, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Rep. Mike Pence, who won the straw poll. But Perkins and the FRC most recently made headlines when the Southern Poverty Law Center branded it a hate group for advocating the illegalization of homosexuality.

7) Jim Wallis – If such a thing as the evangelical left exists, Jim Wallis is flying its flag. The evangelical minister, who heads the Christian social justice group Sojourners, argues in his magazine, books, and speeches for liberal policies on matters like social justice, the war in Afghanistan, nuclear-arms reductions, and immigration. That's made him popular with some religious Democrats. But scholars of the evangelical and conservative Christian movements question the depth of Wallis's support, claiming that his true success lies in publicity-seeking, not proselytizing, and that he's essentially a media creation. (The same goes for other liberal and moderate evangelicals like Brian McLaren, a pastor who supports tolerance—if not outright acceptance—of gays, and Richard Cizik, a moderate and former lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who was drummed out of his job after backing gay marriage.) The reality is somewhere in between, argues John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron. "From my perspective, 'liberal' evangelicals really do exist, especially among younger and well-educated evangelicals," he says. "However, they make up only a small portion of the evangelical community as a whole."

8) Joel Hunter – For all the attention given to Jeremiah Wright, the minister who's closest to President Obama these days is probably Joel Hunter, who leads the 12,000-member Northland Community Church in Orlando. He led the closing benediction of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, delivered a blessing before Obama's inauguration, and serves on the president's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. None of this is to say that Hunter is a Wallis-style liberal. After all, his 2008 book was called A New Kind of Conservative, and he remains staunchly anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage. But he's willing to talk, slow to condemn, and is a potential bridge to white evangelicals—which, when combined with an apparent personal bond between Hunter and Obama, endears him to the president. Furthermore, Hunter has taken some intriguing steps toward the Democratic Party, if not the left, saying it could become the pro-life party and renouncing his own membership in the GOP. He's a prime pastor to watch in 2012 and beyond.