Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I'm fired.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Sept 13
Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2012
From: Rick Stewart
To: Troy LaPlante

In a perfect world small businesses like mine would not have to worry about
economic pressures. But they do exist and they are real.

I have pushed back as long as I can. I have several major advertisers in the
community who told me "in finality" last week that if I continue to run your
column they will no longer support the paper.

It would be great if I could tell them I don't need their support. But the
truth is The Selma News would have to fold without the support of these

While I don't always agree with what you have written, I have believed in
your right to say it. I've taken a lot of heat for some of your columns and
that's OK.

When advertisers tell me they will pull their advertising, I could tell them
to take a hike, but that would be cutting off my nose to spite my face. The
end result would be no local newspaper. I regret it has come to this. But,
this is where it is and I have to make the hard decision to discontinue your
column for the survival of The Selma News.

You've been a faithful columnist and I think you've brought to light many
topics that otherwise would not have been discussed publicly.

I thank you for your time and effort in crafting your columns each week and
being so faithful to get them in on time.

I wish you well in all that you do.

I also ask you not to make an issue of this in your other media outlets. I
can see that no good would come from that for either of us. While it might
make us both feel better, I think the result would continue to be the same.

I'm fighting for the economic survival of the newspaper in very difficult
times. Getting into a mud-throwing contest with the advertisers would have
the same effect for me as continuing to run your column.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Column for Sept. 6, 2012

Selma has two main claims to fame.  Well, besides being the home of a great newspaper and television commentator (typed while my tongue was firmly pressed in my cheek), we can claim to be the birthplace of Vicks Vaporub, and we can claim to be a railroad town.  I don’t know if the latter can really be considered a reason to be famous, really.  Thousands of towns across the country have railroads running through them.  We just happen to be a high traffic railroad centric town.

As anyone who has traveled through Selma can tell you, freight trains run through town many times a day and Amtrak makes regular stops at Union Station (an original name if I ever heard one).  Amtrak may be making more trips through the area sometime soon.  A newly announced Thruway Motor Coach service will be serving eastern North Carolina through the Wilson train depot.  One route will connect cities like Greenville, New Bern, Havelock and Morehead City to train service on the north/south corridor of New York City to Savannah, and another will run to Goldsboro, Kinston, Jacksonville and Wilmington.

I don’t know how popular the routes will be, but the most likely people to benefit may be college students and military personnel.  The ones who will least benefit are the American taxpayers.  Don’t get me wrong, I have made use of Amtrak service before and I may again.  Unfortunately, my experience has been that traveling by train has been no cheaper than traveling by air or automobile.  

I once took a trip on Amtrak from Selma to New York City.  I appreciated being able to get on a train just a mile from my house and step off the train in Penn Station in Manhattan.  The down side was that I literally paid a little more for the round trip tickets than I would have if I had flown direct from RDU Airport to New York City.  The flight would have taken about ninety minutes whereas the rail trip took nine hours.  I had to put up with expensive onboard food, train staff with bad attitudes, backed up train bathrooms, and nine hours of “buck and sway”.  On the plus side, I didn’t have to travel to RDU, pay to park, go through security, board, deplane, and get transportation into the city once I arrived.

The sad part about Amtrak is that the train system loses billions of dollars.  We taxpayers foot the bill for it.  Every rider’s trip is subsidized by the taxpayer.  I have read the arguments both pro and con about federal and state funding for Amtrak.  I realize that with gas prices staying high, ridership has increased.  I also realize that the US taxpayer can’t afford to keep paying for every service, program, and policy that some bureaucrat thinks is needful.

Personally, I don’t like flying.  I drive most places to which I travel.  Of course with an increasing and young family, I don’t always relish the thought of putting three children in a mini-van and driving fifteen hours to go visit family.  On the other hand, Amtrak doesn’t go everywhere I would like to go and I don’t feel like packing lightly for air travel and hustling a family of five through airports.

I would love to see rail service privatized, but I don’t know if an efficient private service could make it or not, considering the amount of improvements that would need to be made to compete while keeping fares affordable.  I was looking at fares to go see a Carolina Panther’s football game in Charlotte.  With service being indirect to the destination, the train only leaves from Raleigh, and the cost being as much as gasoline, is it worth it?  It’s probably not.

Will thousands of people take the train from down east to connect to New York and points north or even just to the Triangle or Charlotte?  I don’t know if they will or not.  

As much as I would like to see rail passenger service be a viable form of transportation, I am having a hard time maintaining support for it when I see the dollar figures for the losses incurred per passenger and for the high fares charged per passenger.  When fares are as much if not more than airfare, the travel times are horrendously longer, and the taxpayer subsidizes the service, I am finding it hard to support the idea of more routes being added to a money pit.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Column for Aug. 30, 2012

This week we sent our now nine-year-old back to elementary school for his fourth grade year.  The one private school in the area closed several years ago, so we never got to send him to that institution.  Our options are down to home schooling, the one county charter school, and our local elementary school.  Since we have neither the time nor the inclination to home school, considering that we have a toddler and a four-month-old in the house, we are going with public school education.  Since I try to be as active a father as I can reasonably be, I went to the back to school orientation night at our local school to meet my son’s new teachers and school staff.

Not being one to shy away from a serious conversation about opinion and common sense, I decided to talk to the two guidance counselors that were there after they offered me a flyer.  “Guidance counselors at an elementary school?  Really?”   That was my expression of frustration at the seeming overkill of staffing.  For several years, I have lamented the existence of a guidance office in an elementary school, seeing it as a huge waste of money.  We then proceeded to have a discussion about how they thought that children needed someone with whom to talk, counsel, and work out their issues.  I retorted that as children, we rode in cars without seatbelts, played with pocket knives and lawn darts, didn’t have counselors in elementary school, and we turned out just fine.  We didn’t have any form of guidance counselors until I was in junior high and high school.  Both were in the same building, so the staff there did a lot of double duty.  The main focus for the guidance counselors was not for making us feel good or to get the free services of a para-psychologist so much as it was to help with planning our academic careers.  I am pretty sure that children in primary school are not yet planning their educational careers.

I am convinced that part of the reason we have the violence we do in society is because we have discipline problems in schools and families.  We caudle children, working to build their self-esteem and the feeling of being equal to everyone else rather than building in them the drive to succeed beyond others or their own perceptions.   What we end up with is a bunch of spoiled, undisciplined brats that feel good about themselves.

John Tedesco, who is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction, asked for online feedback from citizens.  He asked simply, “What would be the first three things you would do to improve schools in NC?”  I read with interest some of the feedback given by others.  Some of it I agreed with, some of it I didn’t.  I am not going to share the words of others, only what I responded.  “1. Return to a focus on the basics. Learn them well and the other subjects can come after a mastery of the basics. 2. Return to as much local control as possible with local funding rather than being beholden to large government bureaucracies for money. 3. Keep staff based upon need and merit, not based upon tenure, available funding, experimentation, concepts such as small class sizes, or programs that just sound good.”

I read an article recently that spoke of how schools are dealing with and still operating after budget shortfalls and staff cuts.  The article also showed how the dire threats by opponents of state education budget cuts were over-stated.  The article had the headline, “After N.C. classroom layoff angst, schools make do”.  Of course they “make do”.  That is what we do.  To quote Clint Eastwood in the 1986 movie, “Heartbreak Ridge”, “You adapt.  You overcome.  You improvise.”  Look, when I was in elementary school, we had ratty old science textbooks that were falling apart and that said something to the effect that “someday, man will walk on the moon.”  The man who just recently died, Neil Armstrong, did that very thing some ten years before I even got that textbook.  Still, the information of pure science didn’t change, nor did the value we got out of those old books.  We didn’t need new ones to learn.  We made do with what we had.

I got what I believe is a decent public school education.  I applied myself and the school faculty challenged me to excel.  And this was in a state that was ranked at the bottom of per capita state education funding yet at the same time had the highest SAT scores in the nation.  We can have that same attitude again in public schools and start producing some well-educated, well-adjusted children rather than under educated brats that feel good about themselves.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Column for August 23, 2012

I am sitting at my desk with a medical bill in front of me from Johnston Health.  I shouldn’t have a bill in front of me, but I do.  2012 will be known in our home as the year of medical bills.  The year is not even two thirds over and we have already spent more on medical bills than in any other year.  Three of us have been to the eye doctor for routine eye exams and new eye glasses.  My son has a birth defect and we have been to UNC Children’s Hospital several times for consultations, an MRI, x-rays, and more consultations.  There are plenty more trips in store for treatments.  I have been to the doctor numerous times for small things, some of which turned out to be larger, pre-op visits, a cardiologist visit, EKGs, and a bunch of other tests.  In addition to that, my third son, Benjamin, was born in April.

Since we live right here in Johnston County, we would prefer to get our medical care right here, if possible.  Two of my sons were born in the Women’s Pavilion at Johnston Medical.  My son had his tonsils removed at the new Johnston Health Center in Clayton last year.  In general, we have received acceptable care from the Johnston Health system.  We just have not received acceptable “back office” support.

After our son was born earlier this year, we got statements about the costs associated with the delivery.  I have an excellent health care plan through my employer, for which they and I pay a good amount of money.  The benefits package with my employer is one reason I have stayed there almost 18 years now.  In my lifetime, I have gone through periods of not having any health coverage, sometimes for up to seven years at a time, but this was a conscious choice on my part in seeking my career path.  Even after insurance coverage, there were significant bills.  We paid them all.  Within a couple of months, we started getting small bills in the amounts of approximately $120 and $140 from the hospital.  We had no idea why, since we had already paid the post-insurance amounts.  We paid those bills, too.  The amazing thing was that we started getting collection agency calls on those bills not long after we got the bills.  After paying a $140+ bill, we quickly got a refund check for the exact amount we paid.

Just within the past two weeks, I got another bill for just over $170 for the post-insurance balance due from my preoperative screening in April.  I have not paid that bill just yet since we just received it for the first time.  Well, just today I got a nasty automated collection agency call telling me that this bill was past due.  I have not had good success with trying to get information from people who deal with bills in the Johnston Health system.  I have dealt with ignorant (by design) clerks who don’t have access to the billing system but can take money.  I have wrestled with telephone systems that lead me to voicemail jail or to extensions that nobody answers.  Finally I went through different prompts upon calling again and got a customer service representative who was all the way in Chattanooga.  Yup, she was in Tennessee, not anywhere near Johnston County.  Fortunately, the lady with the cute young voice was very helpful, verifying that the billing was done twice, the refund was legitimate, and that the $170 bill was not past due.  Perfect.  Or so I thought.  Later in the day, the friendly neighborhood mailman delivered a bill from Johnston Health for the same $140+ charge that I just had determined was paid in full.

Another newspaper in the county has been fairly critical of the Johnston Health Board of Commissioners for seeking an alliance with other health care systems.  Personally, I am in favor of such a thing and have written so in this very publication.  If a larger, more experienced, and efficient system can bring better health care, better financial management, and especially better billing practices to Johnston Health, I am all for it.  I have a stack of medical bills in front of me from UNC Hospitals and I don’t have these sorts of problems with them at all.

Johnston Health has evolved and come a long way from its inception.  The county is one of the fastest growing in the state and nation, so we will eventually need to keep pace with the growth.  I just hope that better management will lead to better customer service.  I shudder to think what the system will be like when Obamacare is in full swing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Column for August 16, 2012

When considering the role of government and the different levels of government in place, perhaps the most basic, most flexible, and most important is that at the municipal level.  Town and city governments are perhaps the closest to their citizens and can affect the citizens more favorably or adversely than any other.  I once discussed this concept with a representative of the National Rifle Association.  I was informed that the NRA didn’t want to get involved in advocacy at the municipal level because gun rights issues were usually being debated at the national and state government levels.  The irony was that during this period of time, the NRA was relocating their annual convention because of Cincinnati’s (the proposed host city) anti-gun ordinances.  Local governments can affect your roads, garbage removal, property tax rates, your fire protection and insurance rates, where you can locate your business, and a host of other issues.  In our area, towns even affect electricity rates.

In Smithfield, the local town council seems to have forgotten about their recent history of personnel and administrative issues.  That elected body is standing by the decision by their town manager, Paul Sabiston, to hire Tim Kerigan of Gulf County, Florida as their new Human Resources Director.  Apparently, Misters Sabiston and Kerigan knew each other while working in Florida.  Though I can appreciate hiring someone you know, I have seen that concept go horribly awry before.  When I worked for the state, I saw a dean at NCSU hire a police chief with whom he used to work at a much smaller college.  I served on the committee to screen and interview candidates for police chief, and the new chief selected by that dean was at the bottom of the committee’s preference list.  That was a horrible hiring decision that ended in misuse of state funds, careers being adversely affected, and a lot of negative publicity.  I watched the news stories on television about the utter shame and scandal in that department years after I left.

One would think that the last thing that Smithfield would want is negative publicity.  However, I have read plenty of it over the hiring of Tim Kerigan.  After so many scandals in Smithfield Town Hall over pay raises, abuse of town policies, and misuse of town funds, you would think that the town leaders would not allow the hire of a man who was fired from his last government job for misuse of county funding and inappropriately funneling government business to his brother’s company.  To top it off, he has never held a job as a human resources director before.  Other applicants were turned down for having only private industry HR experience whereas Mr. Kerigan has none.  Importing a “good ol’ boy” with a record of financial misdealings and ethical problems into a town government that has been plagued with financial misdealings and ethical problems does not seem like a good idea to me.

On to a different town we go.  One of the reasons I decided not to seek another term on the Selma Planning Board was that I believed more in freedom and property rights than the town council did.  Often my vote was contrary to their decisions and those of my fellow board members.  In Selma, the town is considering placing restrictions on daycare businesses in the downtown area.  Apparently, two businesses have applied to operate daycare centers in the downtown business district and have been denied.  This is ostensibly for reasons of safety and traffic.

Let’s be honest.  The only traffic jams we have in Selma is when a train is coming through town.  Downtown Selma is not exactly a major metropolitan center.  We don’t have a problem with an overabundance of vehicles at any time.  I can’t really buy the concept of safety being the issue.  It seems to be more of an issue of control than one of safety to me.

I understand systematic citywide planning.  Heck, it was part of one of my college courses and as I said, I was on the town’s planning board.  However, when we have ordinances that hinder rather than encourage business, we are not necessarily helping the town.  Zoning laws can easily become just as much a form of a soft tyranny as federal regulations in the name of safety, environmental protection, or public health.  If the town keeps getting harder to deal with for business, we won’t see the town expanding; it will continue to shrink.

Municipal governments can be a great boon to its citizens.  Unfortunately, it can also be a source of scandal, control, and frustration.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Column for August 9, 2012

NOTE: There was a mix up in which this column was actually published on 7/26/12 and the column I listed here for 7/26 actually ran on 8/9/12.


There have been public indecency laws on the books across the nation for a few centuries now.  As time goes by, many things once considered indecent are now societal norms.  For instance, it was once considered indecent for a woman to have a bathing suit with exposed knees and arms.  Nowadays we can find more cotton inside an aspirin bottle than in some bikini tops.  Laws have evolved over time, but the concept that there are some things that are just plain contrary to societal acceptance and tolerance is not.

In one Harnett County town, there is a new ordinance that has been proposed that would ban saggy pants and exposed underwear and fine repeat offenders.  I am not talking about the inadvertent “plumber’s crack”, I am talking about the purposeful wearing of pants very low and boxer shorts high.  What began as a signal to fellow prison inmates that one was ready to be sodomized has now become a public symbol of defiance and disrespect.  Dunn Mayor Pro Tem Carnell Robinson has had enough of the public display of disrespect and has proposed the ordinance that will be up for consideration in August.  Robinson was quoted as saying, “I believe this form of dress is totally disrespectful.  (This is) just a simple matter of the community re-establishing some standards."  He claims that the wearing of sagging britches “is part of a culture that breeds drug sales, drug addictions, crime, and murder.  That is not what I want for our community.”

Normally I am very libertarian in my beliefs about personal behavior and choice.  However, I rather side with Carnell Robinson on this issue.  I try to teach my children modesty and decency.  One of the things I love about my bride and attracted me to her is her propensity for modesty in her apparel.  I wish to instill that into my three boys.  However, I already have one boy who attempts to emulate the trashy dress of exposed undergarments and certain style apparel because he sees it modeled before him in school and on the street. 

For years I have lamented the obnoxious behavior of purposely exposed underwear.  It is just plain rude and disrespectful.  That sort of attitude is prevalent in a particular cultural paradigm and is not necessarily inherent to a particular ethnic group.  I do realize, however, that predominantly this behavior is exhibited by young males in the Black community.   I am sure that there would be a great outcry in Harnett County if the town ordinance was proposed by a White guy.  Carnell Robinson, however, is not Caucasian.  He is an articulate, older, Black gentleman who is exercising common sense.  If we both support the idea of a standard of public decency and the wearing of exposed underwear is mostly done by young Blacks, does this make us racists, or does it simply mean that we both believe in appropriate public conduct?  Robinson and I are probably very opposite in many opinions.  I am a big White guy who is extremely conservative.  He is chair of the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus, and I am looking at him posing for a picture with President Barack Obama posted on the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus web site right now.  Still, we agree on the concept of public decency as pertaining to high riding boxer shorts and low riding denim.

At one time, a local convenience store had a sign posted on their door saying that people with exposed undergarments were not allowed in their store.  Last week I wrote about businesses that can attract or drive away patrons by their stances on certain issues.  This is one business that I applauded for this stance and I patronize them on a regular basis as a result.  Granted, I usually use their gas pumps and car wash, so I don’t know if that sign is still on their door, but they have gotten thousands of dollars of my business over the years as a result.

Considering that there are long standing public indecency laws across the country dealing with such things as public sexual behavior, nudity, and even dress codes, I have no problem with a local community deciding its own standards of reasonable public behavior.  However, this particular one is more than just a dress code; it is about showing a little respect for one’s self and the rest of society.  I wish that more communities would care about disrespectful and indecent behavior and consider the adoption of similar standards.  Until that happens, I have this simple plea.  Pull up your pants!  You look doggone stupid and show your disdain for everyone around you and the community.  The only saving grace to your wearing your pants dragging the ground is that it will be hard to run from the police when your pants are around your ankles.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Aug 2, 2012

For some reason, no column ran in the newspaper for Aug. 2, 2012.  The column was submitted but nothing ran.  Oh, well.  Look for it next week, instead.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Column for July 26, 2012

Private businesses can do things that either endear themselves to you or drive you away from them.  I personally have a boycott on several local businesses because of their customer service, their political decisions, or the way they have treated me as a customer.  Recently, I found one business that just may get my business the next time I am in the market for a new automobile.

One large media outlet (that has a television broadcast channel position somewhere in between 4 and 6) thought that it would be a good idea to publish on their web site, a list of every concealed weapons permit holder in their viewing area.  Specifically, the permit holders are from “Chatham, Cumberland, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Nash, Northampton, Person, Sampson, Vance, Warren, Wayne, Wilson and Wake counties.”  For instance, I can tell you that there are four concealed carry weapon permit (CCW) holders on the street on which I live and 435 of them in my home town of Selma.

Keep in mind that the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado just happened within the last week, so this data publication was worked and planned for a long time.  It was not just thrown together in response to the shooting as a call for gun control.  It was a well thought out project.  Grass Roots North Carolina, a state wide gun rights group took notice of this and alerted the thousands of North Carolina residents on their email list of the data release.  I saw this information from several sources, so I went and checked out the information.  In many cases, the data lists only the number of permit owners on a particular street.  In other instances, street addresses are actually given.

What does this mean to the public?  Although this is public information, this television station’s web site aggregates this data into one place for the entire area.  There are two ways of looking at it.  Either this list gives criminals a list of addresses at which they can potentially steal weapons, or it gives them a list of places to avoid since there is the potential of getting shot while breaking into a home.  Either way, it is, in my opinion, a breach of public trust and privacy for the purpose of attempting to push an anti-gun agenda.

One business has officially taken a stand on this television station’s action.  A large automotive dealership chain in the Triangle area has decided to exercise a boycott of its own.  Chris Leith has placed an official statement on the dealership’s public web site.  This is only a partial quote.  As you may be aware WRAL published an article that upset many of our customers and members of our community.  The people affected were those like me; strong believers in our US Constitution and our 2nd amendment rights…As for me and my company, I’m a concerned citizen and strong believer in our constitutional rights.  I have made contact with WRAL and I have instructed them to remove anything that bears the Chris Leith name.  At this point they have chosen not to pull the article and therefore I have severed ties with them.  I really hate that this situation has occurred and I hope my actions will speak louder than words. [sic]” 

Now that takes guts.  Normally I find some liberal weenie severing ties with and pulling advertising from a conservative media outlet or some talk show host over an off-handed comment.  However, this is a business decision to sever ties with a media outlet that has chosen to “out” gun owners, and specifically those who (like me) possess a concealed carry weapons permit.  Chris Leith has taken a stand that an attempt to expose gun ownership and specifically CCW permit holders is an unacceptable assault on both privacy and gun rights.  He has taken what is in my opinion, a courageous stand.  I appreciate that and will most likely reward him by shopping there first when I am looking for a new automobile.

For the record, it is my official opinion that nobody should not need to have a CCW permit to carry a handgun.  What part of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is so difficult to comprehend?  As famous author Robert Heinlein said, “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”

Monday, July 23, 2012

Six years

This week's "LaPlante's Rants" newspaper column marks 6 full years of writing my weekly commentary for "The Selma News".  This week's column will be published here once it has been published in print.  All previous columns have been published right here on this blog.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Column for July 19, 2012

If you are like me, you look around you, watch the news, and wonder why you even bother with some things.  Quite honestly, I have been trying not to be so cynical lately.  Since I only have one column per week in which to express my opinions, I don’t want to take that one opportunity and rail on the same things time after time.  Sure, there are some core messages and values to which I do and always will adhere.  However, I don’t want to make every column about how Obama, Congress, the Supreme Court, our Governor, government, high taxes, and socialism all stink and how far from the vision of the Founding Fathers we have strayed as a nation.

Sometimes, I want to withdraw from my passions about politics and religion.  I would rather not care about church doctrine, good government, and the direction in which our nation is heading.  I would rather spend the time that I invest into writing this column and doing my television show into doing some stock trading, taking a college class, or holding my three-month-old.  My infant son has quite a personality at three months.  He smiles and laughs constantly, is fascinated by the world around him, and even gives me looks with his eyes while he is suckling on a baby bottle that reflect the joy he is already showing at that early age.  I would rather be watching a toddler TV show with my three-year-old, who asks me all the time, “Daddy, will you lay down and watch Caillou with me?”  He loves to lie on my bed and watch his favorite PBS cartoon on my television.  I would even rather be watching some chick flick or TV show with my bride.  As I write this, she is watching “The Bachelorette” without me.  When I am stuck in a hotel room for work on a Monday night and it is Bachelor or Bachelorette season, I even watch the show in my hotel room just so I can talk to my sweetie and feel connected to her.   I don’t mean to exclude my nine-year-old, but he is usually in bed by the time I sit down to compose my rants. 

I would rather have no concerns about my town, my county, my state, or my country.  I would rather not ponder the dangers of capitulating to radical Islam, treaties that have no real benefit to America but rather usurp the Constitution, the sprint current towards socialism, the upcoming election, or useless laws that only serve to leave a legacy or restrict freedom.  I still have concerns about things other than politics and religion, though.  Actually, I was thankful today for the beating the economy has taken.  I just got a great interest rate for a mortgage refinance that is going to knock at least five years off the length of my loan and keep my monthly payment the same or lower than it has been for ten years.  If President Obama and a liberal Congress had not run our economy into the ground, I would not have been able to get such a low interest rate.  Still, I would rather have a booming economy, since it is better for the country as a whole.

I would rather count down the days until I take my family on a vacation to Great Wolf Lodge than read the news about how Governor Beverly Perdue just signed another thirty-eight bills into law and yet vetoed the state budget recently.  There are another twenty bills on her desk on which she must take a decision.  Fifty-eight pieces of legislation passed along to the Governor?  As I looked over the 38 already signed, I see a lot of stiffening this penalty, making that crime carry a harsher sentence, blah, blah, blah. 

Important works of legislation will probably be better worked and passed in 2013, after the next election.  For instance, I can’t comprehend the US House of Representatives attempting to repeal Obamacare recently.  It is a foregone conclusion that such a bill, even though passed by the House, will never make it through the Senate, much less through President Obama.  Such serious legislation needs to be passed with a conservative Congress and President.  Well, the same applies to the State of North Carolina when it comes to voter ID laws, dealing with illegal immigration, and spending.

I suppose that I could rail on how President Obama just bypassed legislation concerning welfare requirements with an illegal executive order after hypocritically threatening the Supreme Court over the possibility of overturning legislation that was duly passed into law.  Then again, this type of stuff is really getting old, and hopefully, short lived.

Sure, things such as these cheese me off no end.  I truly wish that I could just ignore them, go about my merry way, and be blissfully oblivious to it all.  But if I did that, I would be ignoring who I am and was created to be.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Column for July 12, 2012

Sometimes I wonder why some people stay in their local churches.  Usually, I write more on political and public affairs topics, but this week I am perplexed as to why some people don’t just look around and say, “Why am I still here?”  Over the years, I have had to take decisions about the direction I was going in my own spiritual walk.  Those decisions have taken me away from some congregations and people and towards others.  As you grow in maturity as both a Christian and as an individual, at times you have to decide whether to stay or go.  When I have seen the values being promoted by individual congregations, I have had to decide whether or not the values were solid and palatable.  When they were found to be at odds with my convictions and knowledge, I have had to walk away, and invariably, I do so with a clean conscience.

I am perplexed by some church leadership nowadays.  When I look back over church history and even American history, I read of men of great conviction with a keen sense of righteousness.  I also run across spineless jellyfish.  I have met many of the latter but far fewer of the former.  Though I prefer men who stand erect rather than limp-wristed weaklings, not every minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is going to be a firebrand.  I get that.  I don’t expect every minister to lead people into revival or even political convictions, but I do expect them to point to virtuous living, traditional values, and commonly understood matters of righteousness; in other words, orthodoxy.

I read yet another article the other day about the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America going astray from their roots.  Historically, Presbyterians have counted men like John Knox, Billy Sunday, Mr. Rogers, and numerous US Presidents and Vice-Presidents amongst their ranks.  The Presbyterian Church USA has been theologically liberal for a long time, which has led to church splits over the years and new denominations forming as off-shoots.  Basically, people stood up, separated themselves from bad doctrine, and decided to go with their convictions.

The latest liberal unorthodox position by the PCUSA is that corporal punishment should not be allowed, meaning you should not spank your children as a form of discipline.  Over the years, I have read the materials put out by organizations opposed to spanking.  Some have been secular; a few have been supposedly Christian.  Usually the Christian groups are only one or two people who put together a web site on the internet.  Usually these people claim that they have the most accurate knowledge and everyone else has been wrong about their understanding of Biblical principles for several thousand years.

About a year ago, the Presbyterian Church USA decided to change their constitution to allow openly homosexual people to become ordained ministers, elders, and deacons.  The problem is that this flatly contradicts thousands of years of orthodoxy.  Again, supporters claim that those that cling to the orthodox position are just bigots that don’t understand their allegedly superior knowledge of God and His truth.  The billions of people who came before them and the millions that are their contemporaries must be wrong and they must be correct.  I didn’t write the Bible, I just read it and came to terms with it.

The one correct recent decision that the Presbyterian Church USA took was to keep from redefining marriage as a union between any two people rather than being specifically between one man and one woman.  Then again, just three years ago, they decided to disallow homosexuals to be ordained in their denomination.  That position was reversed within two years.

There are many good, wholesome members of the Presbyterian Church USA that I know and love.  Some are friends, some are family.  For the life of me, I can’t understand their tolerance of decisions such as these.  I realize that this is not going to go over well with them and maybe even other fellow believers.  However, I also believe that it is because so many people became complacent with their convictions that we have the state of affairs that we have in this country, both spiritually and politically.

Forget the particular denomination mentioned.  If your congregation or association plays loose with issues of morality, righteousness, and truth, I implore you to do some soul searching, regardless of the group.  When I see large organizations and/or denominations going apostate and becoming one with the world from whom they were called to be separated, I weep for them.