Posted in Uncategorized

The gatekeepers of the book publishing world

We belong to a book club at our church. The club has been around since 2010. We have read quite a few interesting books. Below you will see the full list of ones chosen, and the ones nominated but not chosen.

One of the limiting factors is which books get chosen, besides which ones the group votes as interesting, is availability.  We are currently linked to the library for our copies. If the library doesn’t have it, we won’t be reading it. That means that most indie published works are out. Anything that is more than a couple of years old is probably out. Even seasoned classics may be out.

Which means that a previously published author in persona non grata. An excellent author like Christopher Stasheff will never be read by our book club.

Betsy and I have a passing blog acquaintance with several currently published authors — we might even be able to convince one or two of them to do a teleconference about their book at a book club discussion — but even with such a potential for actual author feedback at our book club, the likelihood of getting their work chosen and on the book club reading list is practically nil. Why? Because they aren’t published by one of the major publishing houses, hence aren’t purchased by the library, hence aren’t available for the book club. Never mind that these authors have sales that are better for some of their works than the ones purchased by the library.

So that is my thought on books, publishing, and gatekeepers.  Now, if anyone is interested, below is what we have read, or have scheduled to read, and many of the books that weren’t chosen.


Title Author Nominated Read
The Shack William P. Young 2/1/2010
A Skeleton in God’s Closet Paul Maier 3/1/2010
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver March 2010 5/20/2010
Three Cups of Tea Greg Mortenson March 2010 6/1/2010
The Red Tent Anita Diamant March 2010 7/31/2010
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer 8/28/2010
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal Christopher Moore 9/25/2010
The Case for Christ: A Journalists’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for jesus Lee Stobel 10/30/2010
The Honor of the Queen David Weber 12/4/2010
The Book Thief Marcus Zusak 1/8/2011
Moloka’i Alan Brennert Sept 2010 2/12/2011
Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths Bruce Feiler Sept 2010 3/12/2011
The Alchemist Paulo Coelho Sept 2010 4/9/2011
The Help Kathryn Stockett Sept 2010 5/14/2011
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston Sept 2010 6/11/2011
Angels and Demons Dan Brown Sept 2010 7/9/2011
The Elephant’s Journey Jose Saramago August 2011 8/13/2011
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot August 2011 10/1/2011
The Imperfectionists Tom Rachman August 2011 11/1/2011
The Autobiography of Santa Claus, by Jeff Guinn Jeff Guinn August 2011 12/10/2011
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid Bill Bryson August 2011 1/14/2012
The Screwtape Letters C. S. Lewis August 2011 2/11/2012
Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse James L. Swanson August 2011 3/10/2012
Nemesis Philip Roth August 2011 4/14/2012
Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian Avi Steinberg August 2011 5/12/2012
Follow the River James Alexander Thom August 2011 6/9/2012
The Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President Candice Millard May 2012 7/14/2012
Caleb’s Crossing Geraldine Brooks May 2012 8/11/2012
The Girl in the Blue Beret Bobbie Ann Mason May 2012 10/13/2012
The Prophet Kahlil Gibran May 2012 11/10/2012
An Amish Christmas: A Novel Cynthia Keller May 2012 12/8/2012
Honolulu Alan Brennert May 2012 1/12/2013
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey Candice Millard May 2012 2/9/2013
Ella Minnow Pea Mark Dunn May 2012 3/9/2013
Extraordinary Ordinary People Condoleezza Rice May 2012 4/13/2013
The Forgotten Garden Kate Morton May 2012 5/11/2013
The Disappearing Spoon : and Other True Tales of Madness,  Love,  and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements Sam Kean May 2012 6/8/2013
Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men who Signed the Declaration of Independence Denise Kiernan April 2013 7/13/2013
The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo Tom Reiss April 2013 8/10/2013
Cronkite Douglas Brinkley April 2013 9/14/2013
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West Stephen E. Ambrose April 2013 10/12/2013
The End of Your Life Book Club Will Schwalbe April 2013 11/9/2013
A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans W. Bruce Cameron April 2013 12/14/2013
Living to Tell the Tale Gabriel Garcia Marquez April 2013 1/11/2014
Life of Pi: a novel Yann Martel April 2013 2/8/2014
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer Tracy Kidder April 2013 3/8/2014
The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls April 2013 4/12/2014
The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars Paul Collins April 2013 5/10/2014
Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Laura Hillenbrand April 2013 6/14/2014
Year  of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague Geraldine Brooks April 2013 7/12/2014
Have a Little Faith: A True Story Mitch Albom March 2010 Not picked
Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust Immaculee Ilibagiza March 2010 Not picked
Redeeming Love Francine Rivers March 2010 Not picked
The Five People You Meet in Heaven Mitch Albom March 2010 Not picked
The Last Lecture Randy Pausch March 2010 Not picked
Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations Alex Harris, Brett Harris, Chuck Norris Sept 2010 Not picked
Every Last One Anna Quindlen Sept 2010 Not picked
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman Sept 2010 Not picked
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India William Dalrymple Sept 2010 Not picked
Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together Ron Hall and Denver Moore Sept 2010 Not picked
Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan Greg Mortenson Sept 2010 Not picked
The Elephant’s Journey Jose Saramago Sept 2010 Not picked
The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz Michelle Cameron Sept 2010 Not picked
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins Sept 2010 Not picked
The Last Centurion John Ringo Sept 2010 Not picked
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett Sept 2010 Not picked
America’s Four Gods: What We Say about God–and What That Says about Us Paul Froese August 2011 Not picked
Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations Alex Harris, Brett Harris, Chuck Norris August 2011 Not picked
Every Last One Anna Quindlen August 2011 Not picked
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman August 2011 Not picked
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet Jamie Ford August 2011 Not picked
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India William Dalrymple August 2011 Not picked
Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout August 2011 Not picked
People of the Book Geraldine Brooks August 2011 Not picked
Skippy Dies Paul Murray August 2011 Not picked
Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest Michael Krasny August 2011 Not picked
The Elegance of the Hedgehog Muriel Barbery August 2011 Not picked
The Great Divorce C. S. Lewis August 2011 Not picked
The Man Who Invented the Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer Jane Smiley August 2011 Not picked
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter Kim Edwards August 2011 Not picked
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett August 2011 Not picked
1632 Eric Flint April 2012 Not picked
Blue Like Jazz Donald Miller April 2012 Not picked
East of Eden John Steinbeck April 2012 Not picked
Ethan of Athos Lois McMaster Bujold April 2012 Not picked
God on the Dock C. S. Lewis April 2012 Not picked
Mudbound Hillary Jordan April 2012 Not picked
The Art of Racing in the Rain Garth Stein April 2012 Not picked
The Discarded Image C.S. Lewis April 2012 Not picked
The Mind of the Maker C.S. Lewis April 2012 Not picked
The Sojourn Andrew Krivak April 2012 Not picked
The Story of Stuff: The Impact of Overconsumption on the Planet, Our Communities, Our Health-And How We Can Make It Better Annie Leonard April 2012 Not picked
Till We Have Faces C. S. Lewis April 2012 Not picked
We the Animals Justin Torres April 2012 Not picked
What it is Like to Go to War Karl Marlantes April 2012 Not picked
Wonderstruck Brian Selznich April 2012 Not picked
Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self Joseph Galliano May 2012 Not picked
How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas Jeff Guinn May 2012 Not picked
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin Erik Larson May 2012 Not picked
My Stroke of Insight Jill Bolte Taylor May 2012 Not picked
Orthodoxy G. K. Chesterton May 2012 Not picked
Searching for God Knows What Donald Miller May 2012 Not picked
State of Wonder Ann Patchett May 2012 Not picked
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain May 2012 Not picked
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity,  Quirk Theory,  and Why Outsiders Thrive after High School Alexandra Robbins May 2012 Not picked
The Good Earth Pearl Buck May 2012 Not picked
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins May 2012 Not picked
The Outliers Malcolm Gladwell May 2012 Not picked
The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes May 2012 Not picked
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee May 2012 Not picked
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Katherine Boo April 2013 Not picked
Calico Joe John Grisham April 2013 Not picked
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter Tom Franklin April 2013 Not picked
Ender’s Game Orson Scott Card April 2013 Not picked
Gone Girl Gillian Flynn April 2013 Not picked
Home Toni Morrison April 2013 Not picked
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore Robin Sloan April 2013 Not picked
The Fault in our Stars John Greene April 2013 Not picked
The Orchardist Amanda Coplin April 2013 Not picked
The Time Keeper Mitch Albom April 2013 Not picked
These is My Words: the Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901: Arizona Territories Nancy Turner April 2013 Not picked
Thieves in High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country and It’s Time to Take it Back Jim Hightower April 2013 Not picked
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Cheryl Strayed April 2013 Not picked
Posted in Uncategorized

The Croods

Alert: there are possible spoilers here:


The Croods. My kids got this movie out of the library. We have been watching it today.

My first thought watching: Is this going to be one of those dad-bashing movies?

We have the rebellious girl, and the dad trying to keep the family safe. They have to stay in the cave, in the dark, to be safe. Always be afraid.

Girl finds boy, Guy, and wants to follow boy over listening to dad.

Dad doesn’t have any ideas, but he does have his strength.

He shows his family he loves them.

What is the purpose of this? To follow the light.

The dad seems to make the ultimate sacrifice to save them — gets separated from them. Never be afraid, he tells them.

And then thinks they are in trouble — and has his idea to get back to them to save them, and thus saves himself.

“The Croods will make it, because we changed the rules — that kept us in the dark.

“For now on we will stay out here — where we can follow the light.”

Not a bad movie.

Posted in Politics, Reviews, Social Issues

Different Types of Rights


“Poor?” said Cordelia, bewildered. “No electricity? How can it be on the comm network?”

“It’s not, of course,” answered Vorkosigan.

“Then how can anybody get their schooling?”

“They don’t.”

Cordelia stared. “I don’t understand. How do they get their jobs?”

“A few escape to the Service. The rest prey on each other, mostly.” Vorkosigan regarded her face uneasily. “Have you no poverty on Beta Colony?”

“Poverty? Well, some people have more money than others, of course, but . . . no comconsoles?”

Vorkosigan was diverted from his interrogation. “Is not owning a comconsole the lowest standard of living you can imagine?” he said in wonder.

“It’s the first article in the constitution. ‘Access to information shall not be abridged.’ “

— From Cordelia’s Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold

I wrote a blog recently about the misuse of the word “equality” on a billboard I saw downtown. Today I want to discuss the use and abuse of another term: rights.

The lead quote on this blog comes from a book in the Vorkosigan saga by Bujold. Cordelia comes from a very advanced planet, Beta Colony, and has wound up with Vorkosigan on Barrayar, a planet that had gotten cut off from the rest of the galaxy and technologically digressed until being forcefully reacquainted about a century before. As such, her idea of rights vs. Vorkosigan’s are drastically different.

I think her view of rights is like many people’s today. She cannot imagine someone without access to comconsoles — what we might term the internet. People have a right to communication, people have a right to healthcare, people have a right to good housing, people have a right to …. the list can go on and on.

The one thing about all these rights, is that to ensure them, someone has to be able to provide them. They are taxing. Literally. They require taxes. They are also limiting. They take resources from one person and provide them to another. By force, or the threat thereof.

Contrast this to the American Declaration of Independence (as opposed to the Betan Constitution in the quote above).

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is John Locke’s  life, liberty and property, with property replaced with “pursuit of happiness,” but the idea and sentiment is the same.

To guarantee someone’s life, liberty and property merely requires restraint. To leave them alone. Note the pursuit of happiness requires the same thing. In these rights the action comes from the individual who has them. I have my life, my liberty, and I must use it to pursue my own happiness. No one is guaranteed happiness, just the right to seek it.

The center of action is different with these two types of rights. The first set the individual is acted upon. The second the individual takes his own actions.

The first type of rights constrains freedom. The second type of rights increases freedom. The first exchanges freedom, slowly, for wealth and security.

The first type of rights is only possible in a wealthy society, wealthy enough to give all these goods, all these rights. The irony is, this wealth comes from individuals, who create it. But as more are given, fewer create, until there is nothing left to give, and all are left in poverty — all, that is, except those at the top who managed and arranged the taking and giving in the first place.

For the first type of rights, while claiming egalitarianism, is also the highest form of elitism. For the people granting the rights know what and how much of what people have the right to — a one-size-fits-all approach — which means it fits no one.

In contrast, rights that leave the action to the individual, ensure a perpetual freedom of action, to choose, to live, to create. To choose one’s own wealth or poverty, to choose one’s own generosity or stinginess. To choose one’s own companions and associations.

In his work Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville was amazed by two main things: the strength of our faith, and our ability to combine in voluntary associations to achieve great social goals. For way too long we have allowed the force of government to do what the free association of free men, of free people’s of faith, should be doing in our society. We have traded our freedoms for the bestowed “rights” of government — rights granted and given by force.

Our culture is confused here as it is with the term equality. The word rights is used with different meanings, and we blindly follow, not realizing the different road we are being taken upon than the one we expected. It takes careful linguistics, careful conversations and dialogues to help people understand the difference, to separate the definitions out.  But we must not allow the language to be so used and abused. If we want our freedom, if we want our liberties, if we want our unalienable rights respected and maintained, we must persevere, one conversation, one chat, one blog, one news story at a time.


Posted in Education, Twin Tiers Baptist High School

Journey to a High School Reunion — Sixth Grade



Sixth Grade — By this time we were split between TTBHS and HCS. So our Sixth Grade year we were the top class, the graduating class.


I don’t remember a lot about it, but our old school buildings, which were actually the Horseheads First Baptist Church, underwent a lot of changes once the high school students had moved to Breesport. And the changes have continued over the years.  Been a long time since I have been back, but I don’t think there is much of anything of our school rooms that we would still recognize.


There are two events from the sixth grade year that I do remember.  Actually, this first one may or may not be from the sixth grade year, but I’ll place it there in my memory, since it occurred at the HCS parking lot.

We had been on a field trip, I don’t remember of what, and had returned late to school.  We were waiting around for our parents to arrive to pick us up. We had broken up into small groups, and were standing around talking. The groups were somewhat fluid, and I was talking in a small group of boys. Somehow our conversation intersected with that of some girls.

I cannot remember the conversation leading up to it, but I remember a line Lynne Margeson said to me: “Can’t you ever talk about anything but serious stuff?” Well, the exact word choice might have been different, but the idea was that. Apparently she thought I couldn’t make small talk.

I have remembered that encounter all these years — just not with a lot of details, obviously.


The second event I remember I know was specifically sixth grade.  Mrs. Snyder had given an award the previous year to the music student who improved the most during the year.  I was determined to win that award in Sixth Grade.  I got myself up 15 minutes earlier every morning so I could practice 45 minutes a day instead of 30 to put the extra effort in.

The annual recital that year was in the new church sanctuary. I remember playing my piece from memory (I don’t remember what the piece was). I also remember winning the award, and Mrs. Snyder mentioning the effort I had put in, getting up early to rehearse.


Obviously a lot of other significant things happened in sixth grade. My memory is notoriously sparse on those events.  What do the rest of you HCSers remember from sixth grade?

Posted in Politics, Social Issues

Poor Use of Language: Love is Equality

I saw a billboard downtown that I tried to figure out what is was supposed to be advertising or promoting.  It had a reference to the below url:

When I got home and typed that into my browser, it instantly rolled to a Facebook page:

After reading the billboard, then the Facebook page, I could find no place where it clearly stated what the site or the page was about or promoting. I can deduce with reasonable accuracy what it is promoting, but nowhere does it come out and plainly say it.

Why the lack of clear statement, why the soft use of terms?

I posit they are trying to create acceptance of an idea that they feel would not be accepted by many people if they stated it clearly, ‘in words of one or two syllables” as G.K. Chesterton would say.

Let us leave aside the question of the issue itself. What originally raised my curiosity about the billboard was the use of the word equal, and whether it was a misuse of the word or not.

The word equality has an almost cultic place in modern language. The more cultic its use and influence, usually the less specific is its definition.

Equality can mean equality of opportunity, equality of outcome, equality before the law, racial equality, gender equality. You could gather 100 people together, and find that all of them believe in equality, but further investigation would show that different sections of them believe in one form of equality listed above, but not others. Blurring the distinction in argument or discourse creates a false sense of agreement, and a false sense of truth to the point being made. You get people thinking they are agreeing to one idea, when they are actually agreeing to another.

My second thought was, where, except in current politics, has anyone ever compared love to equality? If anything it is the inequality of the lovers that is one of loves defining features. It is because they are not equal, because they are different, because they fulfill one another, that there is love.

There may be a lot of good reasons to put forward for supporting “same-sex marriage” but “love is equality” isn’t one of them. If one can build a cogent argument of “same before the law” that people will support is one thing. But the law doesn’t have anything to do with “love”. It needs to be based on other things: on justice, contracts, binding agreements.

No, this billboard, this advertising campaign, is a poor use of the English language. It is obscuring and twisting the meaning of words, leading to less clear ideas and communication. The treatment it gives the language narrows, not broadens, the possibilities of expression. It limits, not expands the horizons of people’s thoughts.

Posted in Fitness

Fitness Update — Workout #2

“We’re not selling exercise here, we’re selling lifestyle. If you want exercise drop down and give me 30 push-ups.” — Tony Petz, owner of the Aerobitorium, from Steele Alive and Kicking


We watched the above episode of Remington Steele this past week. Plot was investigation of the murder of a fitness trainer celebrity. In the course of the investigation they interviewed Tony Petz, a friend of the deceased who was now opening his own fitness center.  The theme of the Aerobitorium was to complete your workout in environmentally themed centers — the jungle, the moon, the beach, etc.

I thought that made a good segue into my report on my second workout session. My gym definitely isn’t the Aerobitorium, and my personal trainer is definitely more of a 30 push-ups type of guy. Actually he is more the  I’ll give you a demonstration once and expect you to know just what I showed you. He does try to explain things, but he explains things in his way.

I try to translate him into me. He should be the one translating.

Last time he gave me exercises for the arms and shoulders. We reviewed them, and I found I had about 75% correct memory of what he gave me the last time. He was ready to move on to lower body workout, but I asked him about exercises for the lats, as they are one of the key muscles for the swimming strokes. So instead he gave me exercises for the lats: Lat pulldown, seated pull, lat flexor and pullups on the pullup assist machine.

I found that I am only good for pulling up about half my weight to get the number of reps I am going for.

I think he underestimates the amount of strength I currently have. My previous trainer helped me find where my 100% point was and pushed me toward it. This trainer I will have to try to push myself.  I know my shortcomings there — which is why I went for a trainer in the first place.  But at least I have a better idea of my max coming in this time, so I’ll push myself further than before.

I’m still training my trainer to get out of him what I need.  We’ll see how much further success I have.


Posted in Education, Gonzaga University, Writing

Riding the Human Wave

Note: This is the academic paper I wrote for my Master’s level writing class. Apologies for it being a bit dry — the professor insisted certain things had to be taken out to make it sound more “academic.”

Riding The Human Wave

Jonathan R. Lightfoot

Gonzaga University




Riding The Human Wave

This paper will posit that anti-human bias in philosophy and politics is the greatest social problem that needs to be addressed. It will discuss this anti-human bias, and one of its primary manifestations — identity politics – by describing and illustrating the problem it creates. Most importantly, it will share information on a grassroots “group” that is facing this problem with its own form of humanistic positivism – The Human Wave.  So let me begin by defining this anti-human bias.

What is Anti-Human Bias?

Anti-human bias is a view of the world that sees humans as the source of all the world’s problems. In the words of novelist  Hoyt:

Our arts, the collective expression of our collective soul – or our culture for lack of a better word – have got stuck in the adolescent whine of “I hate people.”  Which means the “moral” behind just about every novel, painting, story is “Humans are bad and we should all die” (Hoyt, 2012 July).

Humans are the source of many problems: war, poverty, environmental disaster. The Human Wave isn’t denying that, only the conclusion being drawn in culture:

But seeing yourself – or your species – as unredeemable is as blinkered, as pathetic, as seeing your species – or yourself – as angel-like, with no flaws.  Neither of them have reality and frankly both of them lack internal tension.  Both of them are therefore just plain bad art (Hoyt, 2012 July).

An interesting manifestation of this bias is the rise of the new tribalism, also called identity politics.

Manifestation in Identity Politics

At first look, identity politics doesn’t seem to be anti-human. It emphasizes positive traits of various groups. Identity politics is cultural politics, where identity itself becomes a focus of political work. It politicizes areas of our lives that weren’t previously considered political (Bernstein, 49). Identity politics is divisive. It prevents a universal vision of society, replacing it with claims for group-based benefits. Identity politics sets one group against another. People are viewed as parts of these tribes instead of individuals, as humans. In the “Perils of Identity Politics,” Finkielkraut credits identity politics with making “the idea that citizenship demands a common language across the nation” disappear from political life. This leads, as co-author Gauchet notes, to “the point where fellow citizens … literally cannot speak to one another.” (Gauchet, Manent, Finkielkraut, Seaton, Mahoney, 2004).

Identity politics creates an atmosphere that dehumanizes the other groups as “the other” or “the oppressor” instead of part of the same body politic. So if identity politics, politics by groups, isn’t the true human wave, what is? Let’s look at individualism.

Individualism – the True Human Wave

Freedom and responsibility are the hallmarks of true individualism.  We replace the tribal or collective self with the responsible self, one that says “I am responsible for finding a way to contribute to society.” As Christopher Chantrill says:

The day you say “I am responsible” you become free, free to decide how to contribute to society, free to learn, free to love, and free to make mistakes. Thus Heinlein: “I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do” (Chantrill, 2014).

It is a paradox: The group-oriented theory of identity politics is anti-human while the theory of individualism is the one that is truly universal and humanist. When we see people only as members of groups, we deny elements of their humanity. When we see people as individuals, we see them as humans, diverse, unique, and full of potential and worth.

So how do we get from our culture’s anti-human bias to one of true humanism? Let’s try riding the Human Wave.

Manifesto: The Human Wave

My wife, a fiction writer, referred me to the blog of science fiction author Hoyt. She is one of a group of writers who have been working from the trenches against this cultural dictum.  In their writing, they have formed a loose alliance of ideas to promote positive views of humans  as flawed but redeemable Consider the start of Hoyt’s “manifesto”:

The purpose of this is to create a new “idea” in science fiction, a new way to look at the genre.  Properly observed (and I’ve observed it) I think the genre should be a way to play with possible futures, with possible outcomes, with possible ideas.  The wonder of science fiction lays in the open possibility.

Because we are rebelling against enforced conformity of style and opinion, of belief and ideology, this list is not “though shalt nots” but “You’re allowed to.”  It is also, in the nature of my nature … to know that this job is not completed.  Heck, it’s not even really started.  There will be discussion of this list at both According To Hoyt and Mad Genius Club.  Come and be heard, and let the discussion begin (Hoyt, 2012 March).

Thus the way to ride the wave is to see both the flaws and potentials of humans as humans, as individuals, and to write stories that see and encourage that potential in our culture, in all its freedom, responsibility and diversity.


While not as flashy a problem as those featured on the evening news, the anti-human bias of our culture is our greatest social problem. The denying of the humanity of others, as in the case of identity politics, leads to an anti-humanism that is the root of other social issues.

The cure for this is The Human Wave, a cultural appeal to responsible individualism  that asks individuals to frame stories that encourage the potential of flawed humans through freedom and responsibility. This is diversity that works from the bottom up, not uniformity enforced from the top down.





Bernstein, M. (2005). Identity Politics. Annual Review of Sociology. Vol. 31 pp . 47-74.

Gauchet, M. Manent, P. Finkielkraut, A. Seaton, P. Mahoney, D. (2004). The Perils of Identity Politics. Journal of Democracy, Vol. 15 Number 3 July 2004 pp 152-165. DOI: 10.1353/jod.2004.0044

Hoyt, S. (2012, July 31). People Who Hate  People [Web Log Post] Retrieved from

Hoyt, S. (2012, March 21). What is Human Wave Science Fiction [Web Log Post] Retrieved From

Chantrill, C. (2014, February 25). After the Great Disappointment (Web Log Post) Retrieved from


Posted in Politics

Tragedy Points Out Need for City Action

A tragedy came to our section of Kansas City North on Saturday.

There are links to the news stories below. To summarize, two kids were riding on a skateboard in the street when a car came over the hill and wasn’t able to stop before hitting them.

The eldest, 9-year-old Jordan Hale, died at the scene. The younger, 6-year-old Jesus Gonzales, was taken to Children’s Mercy Hospital with broken limbs and is in serious condition.

See news links:

Though we live a couple blocks away, we were unaware of the incident until seeing it in the news, since we were homebodies that evening. Based on the timing in the news reports, we must have gone through the intersection just minutes before it occurred, yet we didn’t hear anything of emergency sirens.

The news stories are unclear exactly where along the two-block stretch of Winn Road that the incident occurred. But people are forming a memorial on the northwest corner of the intersection of NE Winn Road and N Bellefontaine Ave. — signs, messages, cards, stuffed animals, hearts — all for the memory of Jordan.

Since I didn’t know either of the kids or their families, I won’t dwell on things that I don’t know, except to express my condolences to them, along with my prayers. My prayers are also for the innocent and unfortunate woman driving the van.

The accident highlights an issue we have had in the neighborhood for years. There is no place for kids to play on their skateboards, so the entire neighborhood becomes a place to play. They use local parking lots and streets. The front steps of Avondale United Methodist Church are often used, until they break the nearby bushes and scrape the paint off the handrails.

The suggestion of a skateboard park in nearby Cooley Park was suggested in church Sunday morning. That may or may not have prevented the accident Saturday. Even if there had been a park, the kids would have no way besides the streets to get there — the area has no sidewalks. That was also mentioned in church.  Surveyors came through a year or two ago, saying they were surveying for sidewalks. Yet we have heard nothing about when or where the sidewalks are supposed to be going in.

A sidewalk from the apartment complex to the corner store and Cooley Park might have prevented the accident. There is a lot of traffic there, and people walking in the street all times of the day and night.

We are certainly going to expect the city to pay more attention to our section of the city. The delays in things like sidewalks are doubtless due to the financing required for these projects, but those things can be figured out when the need becomes apparent, as Saturday’s tragedy makes evident.

Posted in Church, Family

The Prophetic Utterance

Yesterday was a fun day with the morning at the Church cleanup, and then the afternoon going over to Zona Rosa. We got the kids polarized sunglasses (no prescription needed, but we wanted the protection for their eyes) at LensCrafters, and then went over to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream.

We hadn’t been to Cold Stone Creamery for years. I’d actually thought of it when going through pictures from my mother’s visit in 2005. So when we got as close as LensCrafters, I took the family on a walk. Nathan chose the ice cream flavor, and the rest of us chose an add-in, just like we had years before (Chocolate cake ice cream, with gummy bears, white chocolate chips and Butterfingers).

But it was then that the day took its unusual turn. Someone came over that we hadn’t seen in years, to say hello. Said he didn’t recognize us at first with the red hair. Just said hello, and then went to sit down at a nearby table with a woman and young child.

Thing is, the woman and child weren’t the wife and children we knew as his.

Betsy’s curiosity was even more aroused than mine. We had hardly arrived home when she had inquired on Facebook, found him, and learned that his status had changed within the last year. After she said that, I found a video where he mentioned his divorce.

Now, this was a person we had had no desire to see again. Let’s just say he’d used authority in the church to our detriment instead of service, and our only recourse had been to wash our hands of him, since we had no way to seek either justice or reconciliation.

This wasn’t the first time I had experienced such abuse of church authority. In the church where I grew up someone had taken a disliking to my father, and couldn’t get at him, so used me for the lever. Through an irregularity in election procedures I was elected to the board, but they miscounted, and when they corrected it, I was properly named to the board. But one member convinced the others, to have me removed, and met for the vote without my father, who was also on the board. The pastor and other three board members went along with him to “maintain peace”.

So we left, and I made a prophecy that I feared for the men who did it, to reap what they sowed.

Within the year, the man that led the charge lost his reputation at work, another who assisted him had a heart attack, and the final two were in a serious accident. The pastor soon left the church.

I’ve been careful what I have said since that time. Not that I feel that my words have any special power, but because I know the danger of pride in myself.

In the latest incident, involving the man we ran into yesterday, I was not nearly so perfect and upright (Job 1:8) in the events leading up to it as I was in the at the church where I grew up, yet I also wasn’t the one abusing power — and God takes that sort of abuse seriously. I was shocked, but not surprised, to see the way judgment had worked its way out. But I am mostly saddened, in that I do not think he has yet learned the most important lessons from his fall, and there will yet be many to suffer because of it.

Posted in Avondale United Methodist Church, Church

Beautiful Day to Beautify the Church


This morning it was a brisk 32 degrees, sunny and calm, when men, boys, and even one girl from Avondale United Methodist Church started cleaning up the grounds of the church.

The annual event began at 9 a.m. with the pickup of leaves, brush and the various items of trash that accumulate around the church. Under the direction of David Garrett the attendees dispersed around the church from the back entrance to begin raking.


I was in attendance with my son Nathan and daughter Carly (the one girl working). Rakes were there in plenteous abundance, and people were accumulating piles of leaves, so the three of us took on the assignment of bagging the leaves piled up by others, and carrying them over to the dumpster rented by the church for the occasion.

The church has a lot of window wells, some of them quite deep. David Garrett, one of the tallest among us, was the one to use a ladder to climb down into them, bag up the leaves, and then come back out.DSC04560One of the big annual projects is raking up the leaves on the Bellefontaine Ave. slope of the church. I don’t know which group of people raked them all up into piles, but Luke and Scott were the first to start picking the leaves up, raking them onto a tarp and then carrying them up to the dumpster.  Nathan and I saw them doing this on one of our trips to the dumpster and decided to join in and help. So on the next trip the 4 of us hauled the tarp up to the dumpster, which I believe was a lot easier.

Then David Garrett noticed and suggested he bring his truck over. So the rest of the leaves were carried up by loading the tarp with leaves, loading the tarp onto the truck, and then taking the truck up to the dumpster where the tarp was unloaded.  That was even easier. But it still was plenty of work raking the leaves into piles and then onto the tarp.


Another significant project is trimming the trees and brush on the east side of the lot, which includes the drainage ditch behind the “Little House”. That ditch is often used as a trash dumping spot. That ditch also leads to a pipe underneath the parking lot that can cause a lot of problems if it gets clogged, so we pay special attention to keeping it clean and the brush out of the way. This year the trash was minimal, and the brush wasn’t heavy either.

But that still left a lot of bushes all around the church, and the shrubs and plants along the main entrance walkway. Most of that got taken care of by the diligent crew before the ladies of the kitchen crew (who are always HIGHLY appreciated) put together the feast that they called lunch and called everyone in to eat. Hot dogs, sloppy joes, cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, chips, and a smorgasboard of desserts greeted us from their creators’ industry.


A meal like that deserved to be followed by a very appreciative nap. But there was more work to be done. I didn’t see what that work was — I headed into the organ to do some more rehearsal and prep work for Sunday (substitute organist this weekend) — but I know they needed to finish up the cleanup, and then spread the new mulch around the trees, shrubs and flowerbeds.

We were all concerned coming up to the weekend about whether the weather would cooperate. And by the forecast it seemed like it would be a little cold. On the contrary, that 32 degrees we started at, calm, no wind, was ideal to work in — the work and sunshine kept you warm, and the temperature rose modestly during the day until various coats were able to be worn unzipped with comfort. Once again an ideal time to work. Especially since I just got an alert from my weatherbug that there might be scattered snow falling throughout the area around 9 p.m. tonight.