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Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part Two

11181470_oriIn complete contrast with American Sniper the new film McFarland USA is a Disney movie. It is also based on a true story. It is an against-all-odds story of the 1987 McFarland high school cross country team in an economically challenged community in the central valley of California. Some reviewers think the film is “corny” and hopelessly romanticized. I found it pure, unadulterated inspiration. Kevin Costner plays the lead role as a high school teacher and coach who is stuck in a small town with a largely Hispanic population of poor immigrant farm workers. (The issue of documented or undocumented people never arises in the movie but reality says both kinds of immigrants are in the story!) The story revolves around a family of four moving to this small California farm town of McFarland, which really is the name of the town. (McFarland is about ten miles from where one of my best friends lives, Rev. David Moorhead. David a Reformed Church in America church-planting pastor in Shafter.) Costner’s character takes a job as a science and physical

Two Modern Films That Define Us as Americans, Part One

11180834_oriI have not reviewed a movie here for many months, maybe for a year or more. I am not sure why this is true. I simply lost interest in film reviews I suppose. I’ve also seen some fairly bad movies in the last year. I think the Academy nominees for this year included some of the weakest films and performances in years. But I have not lost my interest in film.

In the first few months of 2015 I have seen several films that I enjoyed. Today I’d like to compare and contrast two films that capture something of the spirit of America. One is being deeply debated, American Sniper. The other film, McFarland USA, is not so well known but should be. (I will give the compare and contrast part of my blog in tomorrow’s post.)

American Sniper is a critically acclaimed movie that is debated left and right. It features Clint Eastwood’s sure-handed direction and has a gripping central performance from Bradley Cooper, who plays the lead role as a sniper in Iraq. It is tense, violent,

FDR's Holocaust Legacy – A Lesson in the Failure of Moral Courage

imagesPresident Franklin D. Roosevelt was, and still is, one of most admired and esteemed presidents in American history. I grew up hearing a lot of good things about FDR. I also heard some bad things from those who felt the “New Deal” created the modern welfare system with all its contested problems. One thing is certain, FDR’s name was esteemed by most scholars and ordinary Americans who lived through the Depression and the Second World War. Rarely could you get a serious taker for a critical debate on FDR’s accomplishments, at least not among those who loved and adored him as a president.

When FDR died on April 12, 1945, Americans grieved deeply as a nation. His picture hung in millions of homes. He was lionized by multitudes and is still considered by a large number of people to be one of our five best presidents. Amazingly, he is the only president to have served three full terms in office. He had just been elected to a fourth term less than six months before he died. (Constitutionally no

Overregulation Cuts Across Both Parties: The Real Danger of Xenophobia

Republicans routinely criticize the Obama administration for overregulation. I believe this criticism is just in many instances. It is interesting to see this administration back away from a whole host of regulations in the present recession because they realize (pragmatically) they cannot defend these and be re-elected in this bad economy.

gopREPUBLICANS But the Republicans are sometimes guilty of the same problem, just in different ways. Consider the immigration issue. Recently the House Republicans have made noise about trying to counter the costs of their own version of restrictive policies. The House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith has routinely fought what he calls “cheap foreign labor.” One of Smith’s pet political projects is to harass American business into becoming the line of defense in keeping immigration laws in force. The Texas congressman recently introduced what is called the Legal Workforce Act, a bill that would require employees to run the names and Social Security numbers of all new hires through E-Verify, a federal database. Employees can use E-Verify voluntarily at

Chicago Events on Immigration and the Church

Dr. Richard Land, head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, will be giving a talk at Wheaton College on the evening of Wednesday, March 2, discussing “A Moral and Just Response to the Immigration Crisis.”  Dr. Land, who leads the public policy arm of the largest evangelical denomination in the U.S., was named by Time as one of the 25 most influential American evangelicals.  An unabashed conservative, Dr. Land does an excellent job of articulating the need for just and compassionate immigration reform to individuals from across the political spectrum.  This free event is open to the public and sponsored by the Wheaton College Republicans, the J. Dennis Hastert Center, the Department of Political Science and International Relations, and World Relief DuPage/Aurora.  For more information, see http://bit.ly/e4Uujp. I plan to attend and hope to see some of you there next week.

On the evening of Friday, March 4 and on Saturday, March 5 in West Chicago (IL), the annual Mission on Your Doorstep conference will be focusing on the issue of immigration.  This year’s conference, “God’s Kingdom without Borders,” will

By |February 22nd, 2011|Categories: Immigration|

Taking a Step Backwards

The debate about Arizona’s law on immigration continues as the decision heads toward a federal appeals ruling in November. I keep looking for balanced and compassionate ways to address this problem that so clearly divides Christians and the nation. (One poll says the majority of Americans favor the Arizona law!) With this in mind I recently read the opinion piece of syndicated writer Ruben Navarrette, a Mexican-American immigrant. Navarrette offers, I believe, a more hopeful perspective in his San Diego Union-Tribune column about Arizona’s changing situation.

Ruben_Nauarette_main Navarrette spoke of taking a trip to Arizona (in August) and how he needed to make sure that he took his passport. For those who have not followed this case closely the state of Arizona is presently appealing U. S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s decision against it’s controversial law on checking people for their proof of citizenship if they are stopped by the police for any reason. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is not scheduled to

Our Immigration Policy Is Broken

I have written a few posts over the last months about immigration. The more I study this issue the more convinced I am that our policy is completely broken. Can anyone seriously doubt this conclusion?

immigration1

The problem is no one has offered a solution that can gain the bipartisan support needed to solve the problem. The White House and Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona are locked in a court battle over the technical issue of whether a state can pass a law that is in “conflict” with federal law. Attorney General Eric Holder believes that when it comes to immigration policies “federal law trumps state law.” In court the White House may win this debate but the political price could be very steep. Christians, from what I can tell, are on both sides of this issue and everywhere in between. This is clearly one of those very big issues that has come along in our nation’s history that will require people to compromise in order

By |August 5th, 2010|Categories: Current Affairs, Immigration|

Welcoming the Stranger : A Church Leaders’ Conversation on Immigration

One of the most complicated issues the church faces today is immigration. Is it legal for your church to minister to immigrants without legal status? And, what is the biblical response to the immigration debate? This thorny issue will be the subject of a wonderful event only three minutes from my home on August 12. This event will feature a panel of local pastors, lunch with immigrant families, and teaching by two wonderful leaders. It begins at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. You are invited to attend and get involved. I hope some of you who live in this area will join me for the day.

Daniel_Carroll Matthew_Soerens The two plenary speakers for this event are Dr. Daniel Carroll (photo left), the distinguished professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and

By |July 25th, 2010|Categories: Immigration|

Loving Your Neighbors or Dividing the Church: The Immigration Issue in a Missional-Ecumenical Context

I have written a good deal about the present immigration debate. I will continue to write about it because it resonates so deeply with faith and Christian mission. I would be willing to argue that no issue, at least one that presently concerns so many American Christians, has more direct bearing on missional-ecumenism than this one. I further believe that the polarization we know in the church regarding this issue is real and it is deeply felt. Some of you have been directly hurt by illegal immigrants in your own personal lives. I respect these painful realities but I also believe that unless we get beyond the political debate, and the anger and deep hurt, we will never get to the question of what it means to “love our neighbors” regardless of whether those neighbors are here legally or illegally.

Dave & Mia 8-08 Pastor David Moorhead serves as the pastor of a new church plant (CRC

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