Elephant in the room
The young woman had been the murder victim in an angry shooting at a housing project less than two miles from WORLDÕs offices. The local paper put it under the headline of Òdomestic violenceÓ and described the details of how the 22-year-old mother had put her daughter to bed that evening two months ago, only a week before Christmas. ÒA second-shift operator for a digital messaging service, she had the night off. She knew tomorrow would be a big day. She was facing her ex-boyfriend ... in court for hitting and threatening her. But they never made it to the courtroom.Ó Now, in a bit of journalistic analysis, our paperÕs columnist who specializes in family matters was reflecting on how such an awful thing could happen. ÒIs hers a story worth telling? Yes, say domestic violence workers. Because Tanisha Jordan seemed to be doing everything right to get out of a bad relationship.Ó Everything right? I know the columnist meant to be helpful, just as our society at large does when it tries to think constructively about all that has been smashed to smithereens. But to suggest that there was any surprise associated with this young womanÕs murder is also to tell you whatÕs wrong with much of our culture. The danger signals are everywhereÑand we refuse to see them. The murder victimÕs parents, we are told, Òdivorced when she was a toddler, but she recovered well and had a fairly normal childhood.Ó The stepfather making that judgment came into her life when she was about 3, following her mother and fatherÕs divorce. Her father lives in New Mexico now, but the girl has Òstayed close to him over the years.Ó Then comes this startling social pronouncement: ÒSo with two father figures, hers is not the story of a woman so desperate for male companionship and love that she was drawn to any man, even if he was mean to her.Ó Such is the sober judgment of the relatives, the social-service experts, and the newspaper columnist. ÒWeÕve looked it all over pretty carefully,Ó they tell us, Òand everything looks normal to us.Ó Everything looks normal except, of course, for the elephant in the living room. A divorce, a little girl in North Carolina Òstaying closeÓ to her father in New Mexico, and Òtwo father figures.Ó All that, weÕre asked to believe, is so normal that we must look elsewhere to understand what might have gone wrong in this young womanÕs life. Did any more need to go wrong? You can tamper only so much with GodÕs order of things before the whole magnificence of what He has created begins to disintegrate. Just as we discover a delicate balance in the plant and animal environment around us, which we disregard to its and our own terrible hurt, so there is an equilibrium as well in the moral order of things which is bound to collapse when we ignore it. But here is the scary part. For a generation and more, evangelicals in America have generally believed all this about Òother cultures.Ó WeÕve watched, usually from a distance and sometimes with a bit more involvement, as the African-American family structure has been ravaged. WeÕve wrung our hands and talked about how devastating all this must be. And weÕre not surprised to learnÑindeed, weÕve almost come to expectÑthat the story IÕve just related comes from an African-American setting. What weÕre not prepared for, but should be, is the very same devastation soon to be visited upon our white evangelical society. If divorce, long-distance parenting, and the casual acceptance of Òtwo father figuresÓ have all taken a terrifying toll among black families, why should we suppose we are exempt when all those same conditions are more and more accepted as commonplace in predominantly white evangelical settings? It is not just that the juggernaut of destruction is rolling, and almost certainly picking up speed. It is that we have come to suppose that all this is normalÑthat we can fragment our families and pay no price for what we do. We are in denial. Stand at the entryway at your church next Sunday, and see how many people you can count whose families are untouched by divorce and separation. Can you count to 10? Even to five? In most evangelical churches today, divorce is lamented but formally unchallenged. When discipline is exercised, those who are disciplined can easily move across town to another ÒgoodÓ church that is not quite so fussy. And tens of thousands of little boys and girls, having been equitably dealt with in what we call civilized custody proceedings, are being shuttled around our evangelical neighborhoods every single weekend. Not any longer is the elephant in someone elseÕs living room, crying to be noticed by the analysts and detectives. Now his huge carcass is right there in our own house. And what was just a faint odor is beginning to turn into a terrible stench.
DALE EARNHARDT: NASCAR SUPERSTAR'S LAST PRAYER LINGERED "A LITTLE LONGER THAN ... NORMAL"
'The ultimate safety'
Dale Earnhardt's death was one of the most-watched tragedies in human history. Nielsen estimated that about 32 million viewers watched the Daytona 500 this year, with an unexpected disaster-the fourth racing death in less than nine months-coming at the last turn. The 49-year-old legend Earnhardt slammed his black Chevrolet into a concrete wall heading into the last turn of the last lap. On TV, it didn't look so bad-at first. Fox's Darrell Waltrip, whose brother Michael won the race, was cheering the victory, then his tone abruptly changed. "I just hope Dale's OK. I guess he's all right, isn't he?" he said. This was Fox's first night of NASCAR coverage under its new contract. Mr. Earnhardt's death was water cooler conversation across America, particularly in the Southeast. Veteran motorsports marketing executive Tom Cotter estimated that the star nicknamed The Intimidator was worth at least $20 million a year in sponsorships, promoting products from Coca-Cola to Chevrolet to Winston. Critics called him brusque, pushy, and arrogant. But fans and other drivers respected and admired him. Those who knew him noted he gave glory to God for his successes. Max Helton, whose ministry has traveled the NASCAR circuit since 1988, remembers one instance when he greeted Mr. Earnhardt in the victory circle: "Man, he grabbed me by the neck and pulled my head in and said, 'Let's pray and thank God for this victory.' He was just that way." The minister, who was with the family at the hospital after Mr. Earnhardt died, recalled the pre-race prayer. He gathered on the track with Mr. Earnhardt's wife, Teresa, and Richard Childress, the car's owner. "We held hands through his window. He says, 'Just pray that I'll be wise in putting the car at the right place at the right time ... and be able to drive with wisdom.' And we did pray about that. And we did pray for safety." When Mr. Earnhardt finished, he squeezed the minister's hand, as he always did. But this time, something was different. "I noticed it at that particular time, that he seemed to squeeze my hand a little longer than he normally does," Mr. Helton told an Associated Press reporter. Mr. Helton said some might think it odd that God would answer Mr. Earnhardt's final prayer for safety with a fatal wreck. But he doesn't see it that way. "If you look at that, I mean, God really watched over him and cared for him, because He took him on. You know, that's the ultimate safety. He'll never hurt again." HANSSEN: BETRAYAL FOR $600,000
A spy in the FBI?
It may have been a typical Sunday afternoon outing for 56-year-old Robert P. Hanssen, but it ended as anything but normal. FBI agents arrested Mr. Hanssen at a park in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C., as he was dropping off a package of highly classified U.S. government information for Russian handlers. A 27-year veteran of the FBI, Mr. Hanssen is charged with espionage and conspiracy to commit espionage, in the latest highly publicized case of spying against the U.S. government. Separately, federal agents recovered $50,000 in cash left at another drop site in Arlington, Va., which the FBI says was intended for Mr. Hanssen. In an affidavit filed in federal court on Feb. 19, the FBI alleges that Mr. Hanssen provided 6,000 pages of classified documents to his Russian counterparts on at least 20 occasions, spanning 15 years, in exchange for diamonds and cash worth more than $600,000. The charges, if proven, carry a possible punishment of life in prison or the death penalty. The detailed affidavit is sure to rattle the U.S. intelligence community, given the length of Mr. Hanssen's espionage activity and his seniority. Intelligence experts in the United States will have to conclude that Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy himself, has endorsed the spy structure that recruited Mr. Hanssen and kept him long after the Cold War had supposedly ended. UNEASY CALM: GAS MASKS AT THE READY, ISRAELIS AWAIT SADDAM'S NEXT MOVE FOLLOWING AIRSTRIKES
When the no-fly zone means no flying
Israelis rushed to service gas masks, buying filters at record speed, as the region prepared for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to retaliate for Feb. 16 bomb attacks by U.S. and British forces. But for now Saddam seems only interested in cranking up the rhetoric, saying in one statement, "We will teach the new American administration and the Zionist entity lessons on jihad and steadfastness." The bombing strikes were carried out by 24 U.S. and British jets to knock out radar stations near Baghdad. The attacks were necessary, according to the U.S. Joint Chiefs spokesman Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, because "Iraqi air defenses had been increasing both their frequency and the sophistication of their operations" against the allied patrols. The patrols include fighter jets from the United States, France, Great Britain, and Saudi Arabia. The sorties enforce a no-fly zone over southern Iraq-agreed to by Saddam and known as Operation Southern Watch-in compliance with United Nations resolutions following the Persian Gulf War. The regional tension following the bombings harked to the Gulf War, when Israelis were issued gas masks after Saddam threatened to use chemical weapons on Israel and did launch Scud missiles. Last week, U.S. forces began joint exercises with Israel, testing the reliability of Patriot "anti-missile missiles" in case that kind of attack is repeated. Saddam has been giving aid and comfort-nearly $1 billion worth-to Palestinians fighting Israel since last September. His representatives gave checks of $12,000 to families of each Palestinian killed in skirmishes with Israeli troops. News reports cast the American-led bombings as an attempt by President Bush to rekindle a conflict fought and won under the first Bush administration 10 years ago. But going up against Iraqi provocations is nearly routine for Southern Watch pilots: They took fire from Iraqi forces using surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery 61 times in January and February of this year; 221 times in 2000. 2008: THE OLYMPICS IN CHINA?
Beach volleyball in Tiananmen Square? Say it isn't so. Chinese hosts wooed members of the International Olympic Committee with that prospect in a bid to stage the 2008 Games in Beijing. Behind planned venues, however, is dirt on the city's clean-up. City authorities bulldozed whole ethnic neighborhoods in anticipation of the February IOC inspection. They also threatened known dissidents, including relatives of two Tiananmen Square organizers who had written to the International Olympic Committee protesting China's human-rights record. Business as usual? Careerist gets UN ambassadorship
Don't rock the boat
President Bush has chosen John Negroponte, a career diplomat, to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Word of the appointment drizzled out in newspaper reports after weeks of speculation over what had become a key post in foreign policymaking. The appointment of Mr. Negroponte, 61, would be in line with a pledge by Secretary of State Colin Powell to nominate career diplomats over politicos and to make the UN ambassadorship a function of the State Department and eliminate its cabinet rank (see WORLD, Feb. 17). Mr. Bush will be the fifth president Mr. Negroponte has served. He was attached to the U.S. embassy in Saigon (then South Vietnam) under President Nixon, was ambassador to Honduras for President Reagan, became ambassador to Mexico under President Bush, and was ambassador to the Philippines under President Clinton. Mr. Clinton also appointed him to oversee U.S. negotiations toward pulling out of Panama. And he served as an assistant to Colin Powell at the National Security Council. MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME
The voice of Voice of the Martyrs
Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs and ministries targeting Eastern Europe in the communist era, died on Feb. 17 at a hospital in southern California following a long illness. He was 91. Of Romanian Jewish background, he became a Lutheran minister and a missionary to Romanian Jews following his conversion to Christianity as a young man. After communists came to power in post-war Romania, he continued his activities "underground," was arrested several times, and spent 14 years in prison. Released in 1964, he and his family were allowed to emigrate (after Norwegian Christians paid a $10,000 ransom). In 1966 he appeared before a Senate panel, where he stripped to the waist in front of TV cameras and displayed 18 torture wounds suffered at the hands of communists. The event marked the beginning of a long and sometimes controversial career of publicizing religious persecution in communist lands and supporting victims of it. MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME
Reconstructionist leader Rushdoony
Rousas John Rushdoony, father of Christian Reconstruction, died in his Vallecito, Calif., home at age 84. The child of Armenian immigrants, he spent much of his career as an Orthodox Presbyterian pastor and missionary. In 1973 his Institutes of Biblical Law was published, arguing that Christian statecraft must be based on the Ten Commandments. Although most evangelicals ignored him, Rev. Rushdoony became a lightning rod for controversy. Some saw him as one of the great developers of the Christian worldview, while others derided him as an anti-pluralist theocrat. Left-wing conspiracy theorists pictured him (along with son-in-law Gary North) as a main mover behind the religious right, even though he was not well-connected in those ranks. Rev. Rushdoony had an opinion on every subject imaginable and he expressed them in a stack of books and articles. He popularized the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til and took up the cause of homeschooling long before it was popular. He leaves behind his wife, five children, 18 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. His Chalcedon Foundation is still intact, with P. Andrew Sandlin as executive vice president and major spokesman. BUILDING OF TAX-EVADING CHURCH SEIZED, A FIRST IN U.S. HISTORY
Collecting Caesar's dues
About 600 people, twice the size of Indianapolis Baptist Temple's usual Sunday morning crowd, gathered at a high-school auditorium on Feb. 18. It was the congregation's first Sunday service following seizure of the church sanctuary and other property five days earlier by federal agents. The service was more like a pep rally than a wake, according to some who attended. "Everybody was in high spirits," said pastor emeritus Greg J. Dixon, who founded the church in 1950. He and his son, Greg A., the current senior pastor, pledged to continue the struggle for what they call complete separation of church and state with petitions and organized protests. The two don't think the government should force a church to withhold payroll taxes and pay half of the Social Security and Medicare taxes of its workers. Their church stopped doing it in the mid-1980s, sparking a feud with the Internal Revenue Service and a long, losing battle in the courts. That most workers had paid the taxes themselves failed to impress judges; the church was an employer and had to obey the laws applying to all employers. The U.S. Supreme Court in January let stand a Nov. 14 order authorizing the IRS to seize the church property to satisfy a lien of about $6 million for taxes and penalties (WORLD, Jan. 27). It fell to U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson to carry out the court order. A lifelong Indianapolis resident and a former deacon in a predominantly black church, Mr. Anderson said he didn't want another Ruby Ridge or Waco. Beginning in November, scores of church members and their supporters from around the country had begun camping at the church. They vowed to resist a takeover. Armed militia types showed up, but the younger Dixon sent them packing. Meanwhile, a force of 85 federal agents quietly trained, planned, and waited for the right moment. It came at 8:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13. Two dozen vigil keepers, including the younger Dixon, had left the church to get cleaned up and go to work or get kids off to school. The half dozen left inside included the elder Dixon. City police arrived to cordon off streets. Federal agents, pistols strapped to their thighs, entered a side door. Those inside agreed to leave peaceably. Marshal Anderson allowed the elder Dixon to wait until his son returned; the two Dixons then knelt at the altar and prayed. A news photographer and an Indianapolis Star reporter who had overnighted in the church documented the event. New U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft had approved the action, officials said. According to legal experts, it was the first time the government had seized a Christian church building. Agents as a precaution wheeled out the elder Dixon on an ambulance gurney; his son walked at his side. Helicopters were roaring overhead. Armed agents peered from rooftops. TV news crews rushed to interview the Dixons. An agent drove the elder Dixon's car off the church property and to an adjacent Kmart parking lot, then cordially returned the keys to Mr. Dixon. It was over. TOO MUCH POLITICS, NOT ENOUGH CHANNELS: C-SPAN 3 LAUNCHED
A triple play
Can't get enough politics? C-SPAN has quietly launched a third channel of wall-to-wall events will little to no commentary. Instead of carrying the Senate or House, it will carry all sorts of other events that may go uncovered due to time constraints during the congressional session. The new network, C-SPAN 3, launched in late January with no fanfare and is available on only a few cable systems (but with a live 24/7 Internet simulcast). The coalition of cable companies that owns C-SPAN hopes to expand the network's availability. C-SPAN promises lots of educational and history programs as part of its new mix. Critic Aaron Barnhart, who runs the TV Barn website, noted that the new channel costs next to nothing to run. C-SPAN normally has plenty of cameras out covering events, and only part of the film makes it on the air. "C-SPAN 3 is the solution to a longstanding headache at C-SPAN: too much content, too little time," he noted. In the end, this expands the competition for cable news even further. CNN has been hurting due to gains made by the Fox News Channel, which boasts of more balanced coverage. The emergence of C-SPAN 3 helps level the political playing field even more, since it focuses on forums, interviews, and other types of programming. NEXT: SURVIVOR 3
Hogging all the ratings
Will the fad never end? Before the second run of Survivor even finished, CBS announced it was accepting applications for a third edition. Next fall another group of 16 players will run around in the middle of nowhere vying for a $1 million prize. Along the way, they might have to slaughter another pig. Those who want to enter Survivor 3 must send off a videotape by mid-April explaining why they wouldn't get kicked off the island. Of the massive slush pile, about 800 people will be interviewed by producers, who will then select four dozen who will be sent to Los Angeles for final auditions. Then the lucky winners will be shipped off to the Big Secret Location. Survivor: The Australian Outback is almost unstoppable, losing only to NBC's ER in the Nielsen ratings, which estimated that 29 million people tuned in during early February. Animal-rights groups slammed the killing of a wild pig (for food) as gratuitous and cruel. The stabbing itself was not shown, although the show carried a disclaimer about the graphic nature of the slaughter. Michael Skupin of White Lake, Mich., was seen holding the knife. "I feel better about my position now that I've made this kill," he said during the show. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had already complained about the dinner of roasted rat on the first show and now gripes about "escalating" violence. The Humane Society of the United States wants a ban on animal cruelty on reality TV shows. DALE EVANS: REMEMBERING THE QUEEN OF THE WEST
For over five decades, Dale Evans was the Queen of the West. Mrs. Roy Rogers passed away from heart failure at 88. The "Roy and Dale" personas represent a pop-culture style in America that is all but gone. They played honest, straight-shooting heroes of escapist fun that children loved and grown-ups respected. Critics called their stories sappy. (Even an off-camera employee at NBC News made jokes after anchor Brian Williams read an obituary; technicians left his microphone on during a commercial break and he was heard admonishing the joker: "Let them bury the poor woman. They're making Trigger jokes out here." Trigger was Roy Rogers's horse.) But the Rogers' work possesses an All-American sense and moral center that is today nonexistent, if not incomprehensible. Born Frances Octavia Smith in 1912, she took up her stage name while working in radio. She made her first movie with Roy Rogers in 1944 and they married in 1947. She wrote the signature tune "Happy Trails" and the two appeared together until his death in 1996. The family's public optimism and sunny spirit collided with personal tragedy. Daughter Robin, the only child born to Roy and Dale, had Down syndrome and died of complications from the mumps shortly before her second birthday. An adopted daughter, Debbie, died in a church bus crash; adopted son John choked to death while serving with the Army. "In the Bible, it doesn't say you're going to get by without having troubles," Mrs. Rogers once said. Robin's life was discussed in the book Angel Unaware, a bestseller that made Mrs. Evans a celebrity on the Christian bookstore circuit.