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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

And Then It Got Funny

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OK – for the record – H-bombs over the Pacific – NOT FUNNY.  The threat of H-bombs over the Pacific – NOT FUNNY.

But, “mentally deranged US dotard” – FUNNY.  Think about it for just a minute.  The “esteemed” leader of North Korea, upon hearing news of new sanctions, starts to shout and when it comes to an epithet he just gets stuck and sputters.  Being supreme leader, he starts yelling, “How dare you let your supreme leader be without words!” This outburst sets the entire English knowledgeable population of his nation to their Korean/English dictionaries to find the perfect insult – only to have them arrive at one so antiquated that no one that actually speaks the English language has used it in a couple of hundred years.  This is classic stuff.

Trump has won this round of The Dozens before it has even really started.  This is not what one would consider classic statecraft, but it sure is entertaining.  If the stakes were not so high, Trump responding by challenging “Pudgy DO-Boy” (Yes, pun intended) to a “Hell in a Cell” match would have me ROFL.

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Our Decline

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Every now and then you encounter a story that is more than sad or depressing – its a punch to the gut.  This is one of them:

Five Wheaton College football players face felony charges after being accused of a 2016 hazing incident in which a freshman teammate was restrained with duct tape, beaten and left half-naked with two torn shoulders on a baseball field.

Wheaton has been considered the most prominent Evangelical institution of higher learning in the nation for some time.  It was high in the running for places I might attend.  I have countless friends that attended Wheaton – all of them good, solid Christian people.  But most of all, Wheaton’s Football Coach Emeritus was my high school football coach, a man I still call friend and that I admire more than most.  I know J.R. Bishop had nothing whatsoever to do with this, his current state of health, and an issue he has struggled with for some years now, would not permit it.  At any rate, some years ago, his retirement took him several states south.  J.R., more than any other Christian leader in my life, taught me that you can be highly successful in your earthly endeavors and remain deeply committed to your faith.  This news dishonors his legacy which is something that I hold very dear.

But moreover, as a prominent institution of faith, this dishonors Christ and His church.  Of course, Wheaton is distancing themselves as fast as possible, but that is PR.  They are an institution responsible for first screening who they let in their school and then for shaping them into people of God.  They failed in both efforts with these kids and that does not reflect well on any of us that call Jesus Lord.

While this story is personal with me, it is hardly unique…

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When Things Change

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Salena Zito’s latest Rust Belt portrait, in this case of the host’s home territory, is quite poignant. It describes the day the steel plants started closing and the aftermath:

The events of Black Monday forever changed not only the Steel Valley, but her people and eventually American culture and politics. Just last year the reverberations were felt in the presidential election when many hard-core Democrats from this area broke from their party to vote for Donald Trump, a Republican who promised to bring jobs back to the Heartland.

Even today, after the election, the Washington establishment still hasn’t processed or properly dissected its effects. Economic experts predicted that the service industry would be the employment of the future. Steel workers were retrained to fill jobs in that sector, which was expected to sustain the middle class in the same way that manufacturing did.

It did not. According to a study done by the Midwest Center for Research the average salary of a steel worker in the late 1970s was $24,772.80. Today, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor statistics, the medium household income in the Mahoning Valley is $24,133.

There was also a push for Americans to be more mobile. Lose your job in Youngstown? Fine, move to Raleigh or Texas. No one calculated that the tight-knit people of Youngstown didn’t want to leave their town.

They liked Youngstown. To Washington and New York that seemed odd.

When I read this story I had two visceral reactions.  On the one hand I too am from the Rust Belt, though in my case I come from the lovely state of Indiana, not the host’s lesser Ohio.  My first “real, serious” job post-college was at a consumer electronics factory.  When I worked there it employed 2500 people – larger than the town my father grew up in.  At its height in WWII the factory employed nearly 15,000 and built the then super-secret radar sets for the military.  When I worked there we built television sets, and not just any television.  At the time it was the proudest brand name in consumer electronics – RCA. There are now several generations that have never heard of it.  The factory is as long gone as the company.  Less than a mile away the once monstrous Western Electric plant, employing 10,000 even in my day, now sits on the near east side of Indianapolis as a massive presence too big for anybody to use any more and too expensive to demolish.

There was a pride working in such places….

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Finding Freedom

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So Friday morning I open my devotional email and it starts this way:

One of the canonical truths of American culture is that each person has the right to determine what’s best for one’s own life. In fact, we are taught to believe that what we want for ourselves is usually the best course to pursue. Graduation speakers across the land urge those who are commencing their lives to follow their own passions. More to the point, one of the speakers at the 2013 Harvard College graduation (Class Day, to be specific), proclaimed, “Do not listen to other people’s take on the life you should lead. By not listening, you can figure out what your heart is telling you to do.”

Unfortunately, our own intuition about what’s best for our lives often fails us. That’s one of the lessons from an intriguing book by Chip and Dan Heath, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. The Heath brothers, authors of the bestselling Made to Stick, summarize research that demonstrates how many of our firmly held opinions about our choices turn out to be wrong. We’re sure that we’re right, even though we are so often wrong. Our confidence in our own intuition may be enflamed by graduation speeches, but it should be quenched by a big dose of reality.

The first thought that ran through my mind was “Paging Hillary Clinton, Paging Hillary Clinton.”  But if you really think about it, she is just one example of this problem.

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