Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "The Road to Damascus," Sept. 21, 2002

Establishment of yoga

Colorado's Aspen Elementary School faces an unusual church-state controversy. School officials are reacting to a national yoga craze by proposing to teach yoga to students. But Baptist minister Steve Woodrow raised concerns about the program, which was developed for children by the Aspen Center for New Medicine. "You can't separate the religious and spiritual aspects of yoga from the physical aspects," he told the Scripps Howard News Service. "I don't want my children to do that. This is scary." Reporter Deborah Frazier notes that Rev. Woodrow's comments disrupted the serenity of yoga enthusiasts.

Utilitarian religion

U.S. daily newspapers in recent years haven't shown much appreciation of biblical belief, but since Sept. 11, 2001, more reporters have praised the utility of religion generally. The Austin American-Statesman's Sept. 8, 2002, front-page headline was typical: "When a nation needed comfort, religion was there." (And when a nation needs comfort food, meatloaf is there.)
Here's more from this typical summary of the past year: "Many instinctively called upon religious faith. Others found traditional religion lacking and sought alternative means of comfort through yoga, meditation, or acts of charity." Such comments show that many reporters equate "religion" with the pursuit of comfort rather than the pursuit of truth. Marxism has faltered around the world, but Marx's depiction of religion as "the opiate of the masses" has sunk deep journalistic roots.
Journalists did differentiate for readers good guys and bad guys. Good guys believe that Islam is a peace-loving religion (and we should fight anyone who says otherwise). Good guys guide others to meditation centers that help them "find solace simply by breathing together, releasing the soul through laughter, tears, or chants." (Some folks find solace in bars or crack houses, but the article inexplicably left out those houses of worship.)
Bad guys, according to the American-Statesman, are zealous, for "religious zealotry ... fueled the terrorists' deadly hatred." (What about those zealous Mother Teresa types who set up hospices for AIDS sufferers or shelters for the poor?) Bad guys also emphasize religious doctrine, even though experience of the past year has shown that a "people could seek peace without the heavy-handedness of dogma."
Neither this article nor many others had any recognition that Christianity does bring comfort but stands or falls on the issue of truth-for, as Paul told the Corinthians, if Christianity is not true "we are of all people most to be pitied."

Fix me up, doc

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New York psychotherapist Frederick Levenson thinks he can play Cupid for his clients, but other therapists say that he may be delusional.
Associated Press writer David Crary reports that Dr. Levenson plans to create a dating service, called "TheraDate," in which therapists match up clients based on their psychological problems. Charter members pay $800; latecomers will have to pay $2,000. "Statistically, 'opposites attract' is a myth," Dr. Levenson said. "Similarity of psychodynamics is what makes for good chemistry, and other dating services have no way of getting at it."
However, some therapists have raised ethical concerns about TheraDate, while others question whether therapists are qualified to make dating judgments for their clients. "Maybe it's good to match an obsessive with an obsessive," said California State-Fullerton psychologist Stanley Woll, "but that doesn't seem obvious to me."

Schumer's shackles

A new bankruptcy reform bill contains language that could be used against pro-lifers. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) amended the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act so that huge court judgments against pro-life protesters could not be discharged.
Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) argues in The Washington Times that the amendment increases the "particularly harsh punishment" handed out to pro-life protesters who practice civil disobedience, including up to $1 million.
"The current bankruptcy bill would force peaceful, otherwise law-abiding pro-life protesters to unique punishment and financial ruin," he argues. "Some would spend the rest of their lives sending a check each month to the very clinics they want to see shut down."
Mr. Pitts compares the pro-life movement to the civil-rights movement. "These protesters stand outside abortion clinics with signs and leaflets, frequently encouraging women to think twice before they enter," he writes. "Grouping them with violent pro-life protesters (of whom there are very few) is like grouping the followers of Martin Luther King with the Black Panthers. A person who is pro-life is by definition opposed to any threat to another's life. These are not violent people."

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