Archive for ‘Questions’

August 31, 2011

What to make of Bill O’Reilly as an Immoral Masthead

by Vince Giordano

This story is thick:

Last summer, Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly came to believe that his wife was romantically involved with another man. Not just any man, but a police detective in the Long Island community they call home. So O’Reilly did what any concerned husband would do: He pulled strings to get the police department’s internal affairs unit to investigate one of their own for messing with the wrong man’s lady.


Roger Ailes—treating his local police department like a private security force and trying to damage one cop’s career for the sin of crossing Bill O’Reilly.

The article goes on with the details from the Nassau County Police Department. Just like Rush Limbaugh and his drug problem as well as Donald Trump and his spoiled treatment on the part of his dad (as he then goes on to question Barack Obama’s education credentials and if he is worthy to be out POTUS), we now have O’Reilly who talks big talk, calls people pin heads, and does his best to be the conservative champ in terms of moral righteousness. I wonder how he will spin this on his show. Victimization possibly?

August 29, 2011

Crazy About Recycling

by Vince Giordano

While there are some who take recycling to an extreme (I myself am on the spectrum), I don’t consider it a religion. I care about the earth, about saving money, and about what kind of earth I am leaving for those after me. After all, “For God so loved the world.”

Any who, does anyone know if using re-usable containers or bags is actually less green (if you factor in resources, money, time, and energy) than just using one-time containers or bags?

August 26, 2011

Faith Questions for the GOP Candidates

by Vince Giordano

Bill Keller asks some good questions. Unfortunately, candidates such as Michele Bachmann may just not answer with a yes or no.

August 26, 2011

Banning Video Cameras = Liberty?

by Vince Giordano

Does it make sense that an Ohio Congressman banned the public from recording his townhall meeting but allowed the press to record it?

July 2, 2011

Is This Immoral?

by Vince Giordano

To be a Rhinestone Christian?

June 24, 2011

Picturing this School Scenario

by Vince Giordano

Imagine what a typical school district would look like with these budget cuts:

—140-plus staff members were furloughed.

—Dozens of staff members are being shuffled around the district to fill holes, which means many students will be meeting new faces.

—Nearly all special education and English Language Learner aides were furloughed, save for those required by law because of a student’s needs. ELL aides help students whose primary language is something other than English.

—The 3-year-old character education program was eliminated. The program’s creator earned national acclaim for her model of mentoring troubled students.

—Elementary guidance counselors, some secondary guidance counselors and an at-risk coordinator who helped students with issues at home were furloughed.

—The athletic teams remain intact, but the athletic budget was cut by $100,000. It is not yet clear how the department will make up for the lost revenue.

—The district’s security team was eliminated. The team helped monitor school activities and provide a buffer between students and police to reduce arrests and keep students safer. It was created two years ago.

—Students won’t have the use of library aides.

—At the elementary level, students won’t have music, physical education or art teachers. Their classroom teacher will be in charge of providing those subjects. The interim Superintendent says that elementary teachers all have certification to cover those areas.

—Students won’t have reading and math coaches around to add more individualized instruction.

—At the secondary level, the performing arts program that offered theater performances was eliminated.

—The high school pool, in dire need of repair, has been closed.

—Class sizes will increase, particularly at the secondary level. Some classes could be above 30-35 students, according to the district.

Now add to the equation that this is regarding the York City school district, a district much in need of smaller classes, classroom aides, extra curricular classes, and English language learning aides. Could these cuts, coupled with a 5% tax increase (that overrode the normal 3% max), happen in a suburban school without a national level uprising?

June 22, 2011

How Free Is Your State?

by Vince Giordano

Reason conducted an interview with Political scientists Jason Sorens (University at Buffalo) and William P Ruger (Texas State). How they measured which states were more or less free was through looking at everything from drug policy to civil union statutes to business regulations and tax rates. Essentially, they ranke each state across multiple dimensions (personal, social, and economic issues). A general sum of what they found:

At the top of the list are a lot of states where almost nobody lives and at the bottom are states where just about everybody lives.

June 16, 2011

Peering Into Our Pol’s Pockets

by Vince Giordano

Congress has a website that allows you to look up any lawmakers’s disclosed financial reports. The Daily Beast reports on some of the hot shots. Are the actions of John Boehner crooked?

Boehner, for instance, has overseen a Republican House that has gone to bat for tax breaks, increased drilling, and less regulation of oil companies as gas prices have risen. His personal investments, estimated at $2 million or more, include such oil giants as Exxon, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Occidental.

Another question: does Boehner really stand for free markets for the sake of businesses thriving or is he just looking out for his own dividends?

June 12, 2011

Our Subjective God

by Vince Giordano

Paula Kirby went from being a devout Christian to an Atheist. She makes some interesting conclusions on God and how the masses have viewed the divine over the ages.

One of the things that had struck me during my Christian years was just how many different Christianities there are.  Not just the vast number of different sects and denominations (over 38,000 by one reckoning), but the huge amount of difference between individual Christians of the same sect or denomination, too.  The beliefs and attitudes of an evangelical, biblical, literalist Christian compared with a liberal Christian are so wildly different that we might almost be dealing with two completely different religions.

No matter what religion you believe in, you have to view God in a subjective lens:

Like every other Christian I have ever known, I had clear ideas about the kind of God I believed in and, on the basis of those ideas, I accepted certain bits of Christian dogma while utterly rejecting others.  Again, let me stress: this is par for the course.  In practice faith is always a pick-and-mix affair: believers emphasise those bits that sit comfortably with them, whilst mostly ignoring those bits that do not, or concocting elaborate interpretations to allow them to pretend they do not mean what they actually say.  So this was the question I faced up to in 2003: What was there to suggest that the version of Christianity I believed in was actually real? Was there any better evidence for the version I accepted than there was for the versions I did not?

The Bible could not help me. Both kinds of Christian – the ultra-conservative and the ultra-liberal – find abundant support for their views in the Bible provided they cherry-pick enough (and, of course, they do just that, filing the bits that don’t suit their case under the convenient headings of “Metaphor” or “Mystery”).

I myself tend to stray away from overemphasizing sin, heaven, and the like when I talk about God, my religious beliefs, and even when I am reading the Bible. Sure, the daily lectionary has me reading portions of the Bible that mention sin and heaven. I try to read up on the Greek and Hebrew, which usually have their original translation as vastness instead of heaven.

This has fostered some inner-thoughts as I have had several discussions with friends lately on the topic of same-sex marriage / homosexuality and how those two are seen or should be treated by the Bible and government. Plethora of verses are mentioned to denounce the two and I have up to this point said that they talk about pederastery, not what we know today as homosexuality. Re-reading these texts has me constantly asking questions. I try to focus on the context of the letters and laws in the Bible and keep them under the umbrellas of love, compassion, and justice. One other important topic that has played into that discussion is defining the role of marriage. Is it meant for pro-creation (child bearing) or as a covenant between two individuals? Attending a wedding can answer that question very clearly. Weddings usually mention nothing about sex or bearing children but forming a lasting relationship with your partner. If these marriage ceremonies are merely man-made, why then are they not changing in form and substance towards emphasizing “what the Bible says” about marriage?

I finish my reflection with this quote from Kirby:

This is why subjective experience cannot tell us anything about God.  Knowing what kind of god someone believes in tells us a great deal about that person – but nothing whatsoever about the truth or otherwise of the existence of any god at all.

Kirby is partially correct. Our experiences of God can tell some but not all of who God is. Looking back over time, we can see the many views of God and the roles the divine has played in people’s lives. They, just like ours, are merely reflections from a mirror, not the full picture.

June 11, 2011

Weekend Question

by Vince Giordano

Email your thoughts, answers, or comments to vgiordano at gmail dot com. Your comments can then be shared here for others to read (your name can be kept anonymous if you like).

I borrowed this from Ezra Klein only after reading this:

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said that after a year-long investigation by a Senate subcommittee, “it’s becoming increasingly clear that our efforts to rein in the narcotics trade in Latin America, especially as it relates to the government’s use of contractors, have largely failed.”

With that said, Klein poses a good question:

What alignment of political forces and events would be needed for America to seriously rethink its drug laws? Would it have to begin in the states? Is it something a law-and-order Republican needs to do?

What do you think?

May 27, 2011

Questions For Obama

by Vince Giordano

Ezra Klein has a few scathing ones for our POTUS:

1. You have repeatedly lauded the economy of the Clinton years, yet in a time of high and mounting deficits, you want to make most of the Bush tax cuts permanent. Economically speaking, what makes you believe the Clinton-era tax rates are too high?

4. The main differences between your budget and the Simpson-Bowles report is that your budget raises less in taxes and cuts less in defense spending. Why were those decisions made?

5. You’ve talked frequently about the need to “win the future” through new investments and initiatives. But unlike the budgets proposed by the House Progressives or Andy Stern or EPI, Demos and the Century Foundation, there’s nothing in your budget that specifically commits to any such investments, nor any particular funding source dedicated to them. If these investments are so important, why not build them into your budget? Why accept the framework that this discussion should be entirely about cuts?

May 25, 2011

The Rapture and Religious Faith

by Vince Giordano

Andrew Sullivan has some amazing readers. They write to him in legions and include great thoughts. One of his threads gets to the point of asking this: is it nuttier to predict the date of the Rapture or to actually believe it will happen one day? You could even add on to the latter the belief that a man was revived back to life after three days of being dead.

To clarify, there is a difference between the literalist-factual camp of belief and the metaphorical-historical camp. Marcus Borg, a Jesus scholar, would fall in the latter category and his work is worth reading (and is highly accessible) if you want to parse this subject.

I believe that there is far less Biblical support for the Rapture than for Jesus’ resurrection. The multiple gospels speak well of the resurrection while the book of Daniel, Ezekiel, pocket verses from the Epistles, and the book of Revelations are questionable sources for those looking for literal answers.

Also, the prediction of the day when the Rapture will happen has dated back to at least before 1000 A.D. I myself see little point in predicting a date and am similar to Sullivan in that I question if a sudden apocalypse as we’ve come to think of it will really happen.

I am, however, a skeptic of the end-times altogether. Partly because I don’t believe that salvation has such a temporal quality. It is outside of time, as God is. That makes me a heretic in one respect.

Of all people, Harold Camping sums up this point quite well:

Radio evangelist Harold Camping said in a special broadcast Monday night on his radio program Open Forum that his predicted May 21, 2011 Rapture was “an invisible judgment day“ that he has come to understand as a spiritual, rather than physical event. “We had all of our dates correct,” Camping insisted, clarifying that he now understands that Christ’s May 21 arrival was “a spiritual coming” ushering in the last five months before the final judgment and destruction.

If you think about it, how often does Jesus “come again” into our lives? How often does He return, rise again, and bring new life into our beings? We can debate forever on whether the Rapture will happen or the exact date of it. What if we changed gears and got past the back and forth debate and asked: what does this actually means for us today? I would think those living in the early church would have little to take from this subject if they knew the world was going to end on some distant day or if the book of Ezekiel was speaking 2000 years into the future about present day Russia.

God intends to meet us in our lives, here and now, and of course still has some plan for the future. Thinking of the future is fine until it gets out of control and fabricated (Left Behind series).

May 17, 2011

If Your House Burned Down…

by Vince Giordano

What would you take? I came across a tumblr blog that has people write and picture their lists:

May 16, 2011

The Moral Duties of the State

by Vince Giordano

N.T. Wright (New Testament scholar) and some others duke it out over the theological complexities of killing Osama Bin Laden. Follow up with the links – they are worth mulling over.

May 10, 2011

Standardized Testing and Reading Materials

by Vince Giordano

We have the Keystone exams today and tomorrow. It is a better form of testing, at least scheduling wise, than the PSSA’s. With the PSSA’s, I would miss 2 classes a day. That would call me to make two separate lesson plans and could get confusing after a few days. With the Keystones, we meet every day but for a pretty brief period (30 mins.)

I am even blessed with having the bright math kids take their exam in my room. Well, it isn’t as much blessed as lucky, I guess.

Anywho, reading for today:

May 4, 2011

Sexual Orientation as a Gift from God

by Vince Giordano

Is it? Email me your thoughts: vgiordano at gmail dot com.


Testifying at yesterday’s hearing on a proposed same-sex marriage ban, Minnesota state Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-Hopkins/St. Louis Park) asked his colleagues to ponder the possibility that God may just be A-OK with gay people. “How many more gay people does God have to create,” Simon inquired, “before we ask ourselves whether or not God actually wants them around?” 

May 2, 2011

Reflecting on the Murder of Osama Bin Laden

by Vince Giordano

I put off my lesson plans today in school and dedicated all 5 of my classes to discussing this momentous world event, listening to Obama’s speech, and reflecting on our own thoughts and reactions. It produced some interesting thoughts and teachable moments.

I centered much of the discussion surrounding Osama Bin Laden’s (OSB from here on out) death around these questions:

  1. When did you first hear the news? How did you hear it? What was your first reaction?
  2. Do you feel any safer now that OSB is dead?
  3. Should be celebrate the death of OSB or anyone? Should it matter that many Americans have celebrated OSB’s death just as many people from around the globe celebrated on September 11th, 2001? (One caveat: the American military is not bent on killing innocent people – terrorists are. However, drone attacks by the American military kill many innocent people).
  4. Should we of buried OSB in another way instead of at sea? Does it matter to respect his corpse? What message does it send to the Muslim world when we respect (or do not) their customs?
  5. Will OSB’s death impact the war on terror? Will it be the demise of al Qaeda? Will it eventually bring out troops home?

Many of these questions, to me, do not have easy, simple answers, let alone answers at all.

In retrospect, this was one momentous weekend. The royal wedding was Friday, the anniversary of Hitler killing himself (1945) and Saigon falling to the Communists (1975) was Saturday, and OSB’s death was Sunday.

Here are some images from outside the White House as well as a telling quote from presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee on the death of OSB:

Welcome to hell, bin Laden. 

April 20, 2011

Question for the Mid-Week

by Vince Giordano

Which is a more far-fetched conspiracy theory: Barack Obama was not born in America (birtherism) or Sarah Palin’s son, Trig, is not a biological son of Sarah?

Email your thoughts to vgiordano at gmail dot com.

April 18, 2011

Should We Continue the War on Drugs?

by Vince Giordano

Conor Friedersdorf helps put things into perspective:

Let’s look at some numbers. 2,977 people were murdered on September 11, 2001. How many folks died from the Mexican Drug War in 2010?

 More than 12,000.

That suggests another question. Would you rather legalize most drugs… or see the equivalent carnage of four 9/11s happen every year from fighting the black market? That isn’t a hypothetical. It’s a real choice. If you’d rather have a lot of dead Mexicans than risk an uptick in US addiction rates — isn’t that basically the calculation some people are making? — then I’ve got another question. Would you rather legalize drugs… or risk that the sort of violence seen in Mexico will spread into the United States, corrupting our police departments, and ravaging our cities? Perhaps that won’t ever happen. But if you’re confident that it won’t happen I would like to know why.

I’m still not convinced legalizing is the final answer. What would be the reprecussions of such a monumental decision? Would it be a golden bullet answer? I doubt it. Wouldn’t in time the cartels turn to gun sales or another illegal trade?

Don’t get me wrong, though. The numbers presented are crazy. I just am thinking out loud.

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April 2, 2011

Collective Thoughts on Intercessory Prayer

by Vince Giordano

I received some thought provoking and candid responses to this question:

How much of prayer is meant to change us, not necessarily our/the circumstances?

One respondent wrote:

This is the problem with a providential God. For every atrocity there must be an equal or greater Good, which can only occur if this atrocity does. This, in turn, can cause us to (justly) question the goodness/perfection of God (as well as God’s creation.) In short, an anthropocentric providential God who answers some prayers but not others is not a viable theological construct.
Prayer, then, is meant to make us happy. It allows us to feel that we have done something when, in actuality, we have likely done nothing.

I believe Marcus J. Borg has made a point similar to the first one above. Another respondent:

I am just not really sure. I think it is certainly both factors working in concert for the glory of God, but I don’t know in what proportion. Perhaps the proportion varies based on the situation. There is power in prayer to change the circumstance– this is stated as well as demonstrated in the Bible, but it certainly doesn’t work that way all the time. For instance, I doubt God lets people he has more work for die just because not enough people pray hard enough, nor do all people who recieve prayer survive. So on the other hand, scripture also seems to point to the idea that God’s plan is bigger than our temporal circumstances, his purposes are higher, and he is working things out for his kingdom purposes, not for our immediate comfort and ease. So I don’t know.


I’ve been thinking a bit about this, and the best I can manage is that prayer is what God wants it to be. Our perception of it is an expression of our free will, but attempting to quantify or classify prayer’s effect is a humanly impossible task. It would seem that prayer is more about maintaining a relationship with God than changing circumstances, but at the same time there are plenty of examples where both the circumstance and the individual involved underwent a change of some sort.


Prayer is a vehicle for change to occur. The minute we pray about something, the beginning stages of change within ourselves has already occurred (i.e. – we’ve stopped relying on ourselves to ‘fix’ things and involved someone much greater). This breeds more change in us (i.e. – hope, patience, endurance, persistence, adjustments in viewpoints/attitudes, etc. – conversely anger, bitterness, contempt, etc. if we feel our cries have been unheard.)

As soon as the initial prayer takes place, change in the circumstance takes form – seen or unseen. (i.e – it goes away, it becomes easier/harder to deal with, becomes worse/better, peace with the circumstance sets in, etc etc.)

That’s the whole piece of sprituality coming into play. We only see what is happening on the tip of the iceberg but don’t/can’t ever fully grasp what a seemingly subtle change to the tip (like prayer) does beneath the surface of the iceberg (like our circumstances).

This is why we should pray without ceasing – to take everything to God’s throne for the change to start there and move through Him first – change in us, and in our circumstances.


If i come to God with ONLY the desire for my circumstances of my life to change, and finish “my prayer” there, i doubt that i have changed (for the good at least) nor my circumstances. Unless you think God actually listens to prayers like the one i attached.

I have no idea what the ratio would be, but i do believe we will be surprised at the end of our life at just how much our prayers were more meant to change us and not so much just our circumstances. Why? I believe changed people change things. In Matthew 14 there’s a bunch of hungry people (like, thousands) and the disciples want to usher them away so that the recently saddened and overworked Jesus can slip away. In the conversation between Jesus and the disciples, look at where the transformation is:

v 15 let’s slip away, let them buy themselves food

v 16 Jesus tells his disciples, “they don’t need to leave, YOU feed them.”

v 17 the disciples again look only to their circumstances: “We only have a little food.

Then the miracle takes place. And though we don’t know explicitly what happened in the disciples’ hearts, you gotta imagine that they joined Jesus in having compassion (see v. 14) and even thankfulness (see v. 19) despite having little food. Jesus shows that compassion and thankfulness alter circumstances, not the other way around.

He wants us to come to Him not with need, but with compassion. And prayer, i believe is for us to become more like Him so that as we become more like Him, He and we are more able to change circumstances but more importantly properly view our circumstances.

One final respondent:

I don’t know ‘how much’ but do see how it does change a person….I think of two things immediately
A – a friend who’s alcoholic mother had neglected him then abandoned him as a child. He had discovered an amazing relationship with God in college and his life changed, still though he had an anger towards his mother – a mentor encouraged him to pray for her. Reluctantly at first he did and amazing changes happened, but not to her, to him. His anger dissipated – slowly but it did. He was able to love his mother in her pain and her behaviors that resulted from that pain and the choices she made. He became a more loving and understanding man. He credits this to God – God softening his heart as he held up his mother in prayer with more and more compassion and fervor each day.
B – I think of Phillippians 4: 4-7 ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ – I think of it because the Lord brings me to it constantly – if I decide to Rejoice in any and all situations wow, what a life and what a statement to those around me about the Lord and his Glory and Goodness and Love. I think of Prayer and Rejoicing and Worship in similar ways – in everything rejoice, in everything worship, in everything take it to the Lord in Prayer… matter what, no matter if it changes the situation because it changes you.
Moses was changed by the presence and power of the Lord – Moses came to God and said some version of ‘Look I know you may be settled on this but here are the reasons you shouldn’t do what you are planning on doing’ – did I get that right? hahah…I mean prayer is being in the presence of the Lord…it is! It is spending time with Him – his presence changes us, opens us.

I believe this is something worth thinking about and questioning, especially in the mix of “I’m praying for you” texts and Facebook status comments. Does prayer really do anything for the circumstances or mainly affect the one praying? Of course, how can we even begin or try to gage this?