Monthly Archives: February 2018

Moral Decline in America:  Blame the Home and Church

Much has been said on the issue of school shootings.  Hopefully more dialogue will follow that will lead to common sense action.  However, a cry that echoes across this country as loud as the cries of outrage against the violence and the counter cries for 2nd Amendment protection is the mournful wail of concern for the moral decline of the nation.  After every shooting, social media erupts with cries of “this is what we get for taking prayer out of our schools.”  There is little disagreement this nation has experienced moral decline, but blaming schools for that decline, especially blame associated with school shootings is ludicrous.  The only role schools have had in school shootings is as a victim of adult apathy.  Schools have had nothing to do with cutting funding for mental health that has allowed sick murderers to roam the streets; schools have had nothing to do with the manufacture of weapons of war that are the weapon of choice by such murderers; and schools have had nothing to do with failure to legislate common sense gun control that would make it difficult for murderers to obtain assault weapons.  Despite what some may think, the presence or absence of prayer in schools has little, if anything, to do with school shootings or the moral decline of the nation.

“But,” the all-knowing seers of social media say, “if there was prayer in schools, we would not have all these shootings and evil problems.”  Contrary to widespread belief, there is prayer in schools.  As a former high school principal, one of the most powerful testaments to faith I ever witnessed was students holding hands and bowing their heads in prayer in the school cafeteria or gathering around the flag pole to pray for our nation.  A school employee cannot coerce, influence, or guide them, but children can and do pray at school.  The beauty is if they have been taught at home, they don’t need an adult to lead them in prayer. They are led by their faith, a faith instilled in them at home and in church, and that is how it should be.

The moral dilemma faced by this country is not the fault of schools.  If there is blame, and of course there is, it must be placed squarely on the shoulders of the home and to some degree, the church.  Those are the institutions established by God to instill moral responsibility into our lives, and if there is moral decay, that is where the root of the problem will be found.  If prayer is absent from the home, it will be absent from schools as well.  If our churches, which are the guiding light, where people gather to learn and practice their faith are half empty on Sunday, those empty pews will be reflected in the discipline and morality found in our schools and nation.  Schools cannot teach or reinforce discipline, morals, or faith that is not first taught and reinforced in the home and the church.

Unfortunately, too many Americans would rather believe in smokescreens than face the truth.  They would rather blame schools, a smokescreen for bigger problems, for issues of morality than call into question the sanctity of the home.  However, unlike times past, few families have time to talk, play, and pray together anymore, and where families once prayed at mealtime and bedtime, such time has been interrupted or replaced by television, ball practice and games, computers, cell phones, Snap Chat, and Facebook.  The acidic attitudes of disrespect, defiance, and anarchy in our society was not nurtured into existence by removal of prayer or the paddle from our schools.  Such attitudes were born out of the absence of prayer and discipline in the home.

The moral decline of our nation began with the removal of responsible adults from the home.   When parents stopped being the adult and became their child’s buddy, a role reversal occurred in the family unit, and the child became the unspoken dominant head of the household.  With parents and children on the same authoritarian level, discipline in the home declined.  Couple that with removal of a spanking by mom or dad, when needed, and you have the making of a little monster who grows to be an adult who respects no one, is accountable to no one, and takes responsibility for nothing.  Schools did not do that; mama and daddy did that.  As a result, the “not my fault” and “you can’t tell me what to do” generation that is choking the life out of the nation was born.

Our churches also have responsibility in the moral decline of the nation.  First, I give churches credit for trying to find ways to reach people.  Churches across the United States have tried valiantly to bring people into the fold.  They have turned to marketing themselves to compete with television, movies, and the Internet, but in the process, they have lost their identity.  Today’s church is an exciting place to be; in many cases, it is the entertainment and social mecca of the community.  Unfortunately, somewhere in all the lights and glitter, something has gone wrong – something is missing.  In a world that feeds on external stimulation, stimulation of the heart and soul has come up lacking.  The modern church is filled with teachings of the love of God, and that is good, but toning down preaching the wrath of God from the pulpit has desensitized congregations to the fear of God, especially younger generations.  Sometimes human beings need the hell scared of them to get their attention.  One of the biggest problems in our society today is few people have a healthy fear of God.  Today, church is about being entertained, socializing, and hearing about the love of God.  Too often, little is made of the consequences for denying or turning from that love.

Schools are not perfect and have many faults, but the moral decline of this nation is not one of those faults.  Schools are merely a reflection of the community and world in which they exist.  To counter the moral decline in this nation moms and dads must teach their children to pray, and our churches must continue to find ways to fill the pews while instilling both the love and fear of God into the people.  Anything less is morally wrong, and the results can be seen in the negative news headlines every day.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 26, 2018

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When It Comes to Children, My and Your Second Amendment Rights Don’t Mean Squat

[This is the shortest, but no doubt the most important blog I have written.  Many will not like what I say, but that is okay; it needs to be said. ]

 

The slaughter of innocents continues.  Seventeen lives – three teachers and fourteen children ages 14 to 18 – were killed on Valentine’s Day with an assault rifle in a cold-blooded premeditated massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  For those who say it is a mental health issue, you are correct – only a cowardly sick psycho could do such a thing!  For those who say it is a gun control issue, you are correct – only a society with twisted priorities could allow such a thing to happen over and over again without legislating stricter gun control!

When children are being regularly slaughtered in our nation’s schools, it is against common sense and all that is sane to continue to use the Second Amendment and the asinine excuse high-powered assault rifles are only deadly in the hands of the mentally ill as a defense for the civilian ownership of such weapons.   Tighter gun control is not an attack on the Second Amendment, but even if it was, we should be worried more about the lives of our children than the guns in our closets.  I support the Second Amendment, and I do not advocate repeal of the amendment, but as a gun owner, I am in full support of tighter gun control legislation that will help keep assault rifles out of the hands of everyone but law enforcement and the military.

Of course, as with previous school shootings, such legislation is not likely to happen.  As a nation we cry out in horror against school violence for maybe a week, two at the most, after it happens, and as we have for all the other countless shootings, after about three weeks, we forget it ever happened and return to our nonchalant lives of Facebook and shopping at Walmart.  It is not that we don’t care, most Americans care greatly, but the only solace we have is our prayers and the relief the tragedy did not happen in our community school.  For now that is all we have, our nation’s leaders have left its citizens to shoulder this grave dilemma on our own.  Our leaders at both the state and national levels are either unable or unwilling to tackle this issue; they keep hoping it will simply go away.

However, if we do nothing once again, communities across the nation need to stock their school supply closets with body bags because the school shootings will continue.  School lock down drills and intruder red codes may make us feel better, but they have proven to be of little help in an actual school shooter situation.  God forgive me for saying this, but if the legislatures, both state and national, cannot come together on this issue, then for Heaven’s sake, please arm the teachers and administrators, so schools at least have a fighting chance if confronted with a shooter.  We can’t seem to address this issue with common sense, so why not return to the six-gun toting days of the Old West?  That would at least appease the gun lobbyists, and isn’t that who so many of our state and national leaders would rather appease?

I am not concerned in the least if there are people who disagree with me.  I am concerned – NO, SCARED TO DEATH – the schools my grandchildren attend could be next.  My and your Second Amendment rights don’t mean squat when it comes to the safety of my grandchildren, and I believe most people feel the same as I do.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 17, 2018

First Love

“I remember my first love,” the man said, closed his eyes and sighed deeply.  “She was as sweet as dew at first light.  I have never met another like her.”  He knelt before the altar and worshiped First Love.

For most people, first love is a careless delicious surplus of sugary puffs of nostalgia.  They swoon in memories of white lace, tender moonlight strolls, skin as soft as silk floating on feather down, and a touch so smooth and delicate it speaks of a refreshing summer lemonade or a delicate red wine with floral undertones.  Over time, first love has a way of growing into a whimsical dream-like longing that paints it as more than a simple charity of nature.  For many, it morphs into a cosmic life event colored by all that is innocent, sweet, and righteous in the world – a lavish desert and entitlement of youth.

If man could negotiate time and the universe in a single breath and look upon the original blueprints for his existence, he would find first love was a gift, a charity, orchestrated by gods with nothing better to do.  They were spirits with no motive other than creating a smile and a warm place in the heart, who, to this day, toast one another with each first kiss of starry eyed first loves.  We should also toast first love and fall in love over and over with the honey scented nostalgia that cloaks it.  Yet, unlike those candied memories, we must take care not to place our first love on a wistful pedestal like a trophy.

First love is not an altar to kneel before.  It is not a stuffed panda, or fine wine to share openly as a prize, but a keepsake to fold into your wallet for safe keeping for fear it might sour with overexposure.  Like a mother’s womb, it is not intended as a warm cubby hole to hibernate forever.  Its sole purpose is to prepare for what is to come – to open eyes to the truth that two are better than one.  First love is training wheels on your first bicycle; the first cross you bear; the first callous on your heart.

Sweet as cherry blossoms in spring as it may be, nuzzling the fuzz on that first peach is meant as a personal curio to be placed on a sheltered shelf out of the way when done.  After all, it is charity, a gift, not intended for flaunting.  Unfortunately, human nature does not always allow first love to be treated as such; it will not permit it to be dignified by fading softly until vanquished respectfully and honestly.  No, we dig up the bones, cover them with wisps of Camelot and roses, regurgitate a surreal fleeting experience that never was as we wish to remember it.

Those first palpable pricks of the heart linger in a shadowy recess of the brain reserved for what might have been, what never was, and what we wish, want, and believe to be.  Its memory is the byproduct of an underdeveloped flap of grey tissue that utilizes spotting sparks of corkscrewed energy spitting from a humping brain stem to fabricate superficial intrigue and horny syrupy sweetness for a fleeting delusional moment in our lives.  We hold to that moment with a fondness reserved for high school pranks and fetching our own switch for Mama to tan our backside.  Those good old days and memories we sweeten with saccharin.

That most people are indebted to a name they only speak in moral seriousness is without question.  That they are ensnared deep within a constantly gentrifying lair of sugarcoated indulgence of half-truths is also without question.  In the name of first love, they allow themselves to be imprisoned by plain prose exuding romantic mediocrity blinded by sunlight caught in crystal windows.   Their reason is intermittently waxed incomprehensible; they are blinded or at least enveloped by a fantasy shrouded in essentialist qualities of love – a fantasy inseparable from reality.

A charity of nature designed to unlock hearts and open souls to the beauty of the human bond, first love should be smiled upon and thought of tenderly for its intended good.  It should not be allowed to fester into a gauzy distraction or a model holding all future love accountable.  It was never intended to be idolized or placed on a pedestal that might bring the adoration of future love into question, nor was it ever intended as a gauge for future romantic relationships.  First love is a foyer to a greater room; it is simply the beginning of the grandest adventure of all – love.  It is practice for the real thing to come; it was never intended as a prototype of the real game.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 9, 2018

April 1970: Mississippi Brother and Sister See UFO

What little money I had in my early teens came from picking up golf balls at my uncle’s driving range.  The range was next door to my house, so it was the perfect first paying job.  My younger sister (the older of three) and I were hired by my uncle to pick up golf balls weekdays and Saturdays after the range closed around five o’clock each day.  Each evening, equipped with a golf club handle with a basket welded to the end of the shaft for scooping balls, a small metal bucket, and several large yellow metal baskets to dump the small buckets in when full, the two of us and oftentimes my uncle and his son and daughter took to the fairway to pick up golf balls paying customers hit during the day.  My sister and I were paid sixty cents for each yellow basket we filled with golf balls – approximately a couple of hundred golf balls per basket.  On an average evening we filled as many as five yellow baskets and made a combined $3.00 for our efforts.   I can remember my share being as much as ten dollars a week, and sometimes as much as twelve dollars if Saturday was exceptionally busy.  That was a lot of money for a thirteen and eleven-year-old in 1967.  In 1969, I bought my first motorcycle with the money I earned picking up golf balls.

I remember those days scooping up golf balls vividly, but the evening I recall best was the night my sister and I encountered our first UFO – unidentified flying object.  Some people will say I am fabricating this story, but as God is my witness, this is true.  The encounter was brief, but it was as real as the print on this page.  My sister and I were the only ones on the fairway that April night in 1969, maybe 1970.  The exact year has faded with time, but I know it was a Tuesday because “Hee Haw” was on television that night.

The evening was cool as we hurried to fill our last yellow basket.  After a late start, we were out after dark with the only light, a full moon, reflecting dimly off the few remaining white golf balls on the fairway and the balls in the yellow baskets.  Our normal routine was to divide the fairway into sections and sweep through one section picking up balls before moving to the next section.  By nightfall, we were scrambling to finish the last section.  On days when we found ourselves out after dark, we left the full yellow baskets on the fairway where my uncle picked them up in his truck the following morning.  We knew he would not be happy if he arrived for the baskets and there were still golf balls on the ground, so we were doing our best to hunt down every ball before we called it quits for the evening.

We were rounding up the last few balls when the light from the full moon suddenly dimmed.  I remember looking up and freezing.  The moon was covered by a perfect dark blue sphere the size of two full moons.  I called out to my sister who looked up and dropped the small basket of balls she was holding.  “Wow,” she said, “I’ve never seen a blue moon before.”

“It’s not the moon,” I said.

“Then what is it?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said watching the blue object floating over our heads, but it was not floating, it hung motionless painted on a black canvas.

The air or space around the blue ball seemed to ripple and two additional spheres slowly materialized on either side of it – one red and the other green.  The three spheres hung in the night sky over us – no movement no sound.  I had never seen, nor have I since anything like what I saw that night.  “Go get daddy!” I yelled to my sister.  She ran faster than I have ever seen her run, dove and slid under the barbed wire fence between our yard and the driving range fairway disappearing in the dark of our backyard.  I had an eerie feeling I was not the only one watching her, but at the same time I felt no fear for her or myself.

I continued to watch the three objects, hoping my sister and father would hurry.  There was no doubt in my mind I was being watched.  The objects did not pulse, flash, sway in the slightest, or make a sound; they hung against the black sky like brightly lit blue, green, and red Christmas balls on a black tree or background.  The air was still.  The usual chirping of crickets, katydids, and cicadas as well as frogs croaking from the nearby pastures and woods were silent.  The only light illuminated from the watchers over my head.  I had heard and read stories of unexplained phenomenon in the skies, but until that night, such things were questionable stories from far exotic places or from the lips of suspect characters.

I had read stories of Roswell, New Mexico, reports by United States Air Force pilots of mysterious flying machines, and accounts of people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, but until that April night, I considered such accounts as mysteries with rational explanations not yet discovered, or stories fabricated for publicity.  A door slammed in the direction of my house, and I heard voices.  My sister excitedly urged our father to hurry.  I remember thinking, please hurry dad, you have got to see this.  He never did.  As their voices approached from the dark, the three objects began to dim as if someone turned a wall dimmer.  They did not float, fly, or vanish in a flash of light; they slowly faded into the night leaving a larger brighter yellow ball that had been concealed behind them hanging between me and the moon.  My sister’s voice cut through the black from the fence line, “We’re coming!  We’re coming!”  The yellow globe looked down on me.  A voice in my head said, “Be calm,” and the globe faded into the moon.

Only the moon hung in the sky by the time my father and sister reached me.  “Where is it?” my sister asked.  “Gone,” I said.  My sister and I did our best to convince our father what we saw was real, but he scoffed at our story and scolded us for interrupting his favorite television show, “Hee Haw.”  A night or two later, WDAM news reported the station had received calls about similar sightings as ours, but the local news anchor claimed the reports had been confirmed by authorities as nothing more than weather balloons.  My father looked at me and said, “Flying saucers, huh.”  The voice in my head said, “Be Calm.”  We never spoke of flying saucers or mysterious lights in the sky again.

I never bought the weather balloon story.  Things made by the hands of man can’t hang in the sky unsupported without the slightest sway, bobbing, or movement.  Air planes must move or fall from the sky, helicopters can’t hover without some degree of sway, and balloons can’t float without gently rocking even in the most tranquil sky.  I am convinced what my sister and I saw that night was not of this world, and I will likely never believe otherwise.  Why would two insignificant teenagers come under the scrutiny of beings not of this world?  I don’t know, but I don’t dwell on it.  I am afraid I might unlock some deep seeded secret to that night; a secret I am not sure I want to know.  The voice is enough.  Sometimes on nights with full moons, it is as clear as it was nearly forty-eight years ago – “Be calm,” it says.  I am.  I wait calmly and patiently.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 23, 2018