The secret to eternal youth

14 WorshipThe secret to eternal youth is a lot simpler than we make it. It's not found in some rejuvenating elixir or dietary plan. The only remedy to growing old is to simply stop waking up. Because the fact of the matter is that every time we wake, we are certain to have aged — at least a little.

As I crossed the threshold of a landmark birthday this summer, I found myself surprised at how quickly it actually got here. When I was a young man, I thought by this time in my life I'd be creaking around, sitting in a rocker on the porch randomly yelling at neighborhood kids to get off my lawn. But no. Growing old and aging aren't necessarily the same.
On a recent weekend, I put in some earbuds and headed out to mow the lawn and selected a playlist that caused me to be excited not only for my age, but also for the generations coming behind me. Warning: the rest of this will probably seem decidedly Christian to some, but what do you expect? I run a Christian radio station, which is more an extension of who I am than it is has ever been a job.
The playlist I selected was called, “Praise and Worship Hotlist.” It treated me to dozens of songs ranging from energetic pop to reflective anthems  — all with a focus on inciting a deeper relationship with God in the listener. The experience led me to recall the cliché phrases we hear from those aging around us like, “They call that music?” But that's not how I felt. Instead, I thought it was beautiful to hear such lyrical and poetic thoughts wrapped in musical packages that completely reflected a generation I can only observe from the outside.
The young songwriters and musicians spoke to the realities of their world. And while we hear many people complain about the same things, they offered them to God, and declared he was the one who would strengthen them to endure and eventually change them. All the more poignant, most of the songs were recorded live, and you could hear the echoes of a great crowd around them.
We often hear about the number of young people walking away from the church. We're told they hold nothing about their parents' faith dear. They even call them the “nones.” No preference. No faith. Nothing. What we hear less about is the burgeoning faith and devotion of the same generation who didn't leave. Or the ones whose faith came fully alive as they entered adulthood.  For the former — the nones — perhaps they didn't walk away at all. More likely they only went
through the motions of faith because that's where their parents took them or where  their limited social circle centered.
Genuine Christian faith is not something you walk into and out of. It becomes more an extension of who you are than a place you go or a thing you do. And to those demonstrating that faith: I like your music. Walk on my lawn any time.

Challenges to faith and reason

04 TrumpOver the past week, I received comments from three readers regarding two of my recent columns. They raised questions and challenges that some other readers likely share. Consequently, I will respond in this column.

The first two emails addressed my column titled “When the selfish quest for power alienates reason.” One reader countered my positive comments regarding President Trump by contending that no president has been more corrupt and fundamentally evil than Trump. He stated that the president has no interest in religion.  Apparently, in support of that argument, he assesses Trump as publically reading Scripture in a fashion that shows lack of familiarity with the Bible. Then comes the conclusion that Trump’s behavior is abhorrent to all who believe. In light of my being Christian, he then wants to know why I support the president. That question is followed by him accusing me of “unrelenting allegiance” to the Republican Party. On the last statement, I am registered as unaffiliated.
Like the first respondent, the second reads my column frequently and often gives feedback by email. In the case of this column, he reiterated, correctly, that I spend a substantial amount of ink challenging the conduct and policy positions of Democrats. He says I favor Republicans,  and that doing so is unfair and unproductive. This reader also argues that my thinking and policy positions conflict with the will of God and the call of Scripture. My support of Trump troubles him, too.
Then there was an email sent to the Up & Coming Weekly editor by a lady who identified herself as being black and a veteran. The text of that email was addressed to me and commented in response to my column titled “Leonard Pitts, Jr. assigns honorary whiteness.” She opened by stating that she had no idea that there were still black men in America as clueless as me. After commending my call for decision-making through thoughtful assessment of facts, she states that I fail to see the truth when it comes to accurately assessing Trump.
She says these are some of the truths I am missing with regard to Trump: He is only for rich, white, straight men. He does not care about people in America who are any shade of brown. He raped the school lunch healthy eating initiatives for schools (majority black/brown) that have lower-income children. He gives veterans anything they want, and most of them are white. His moral compass is nonexistent, and he encourages and incites hateful acts on people of color.
A bit later, she excoriates me for trusting Dr. Ben Carson’s contention that Trump is not a racist. In closing, the writer says that I am not addressing the issues that affect people, not being a voice for those who need one because Up & Coming Weekly does not allow me to do so. She says they give me the biggest page not to inform people of anything, but to make a fool of me. This writer ends her email by saying she does not want to receive a response from me.
Taken as a whole, these readers challenge the appropriateness of how faith influences my decision-making, question the validity of my substantial criticism of Democratic strategy/tactics/policies and seek to suppress my thinking that does not conform to liberal orthodoxy.
Regarding my being Christian, a person of faith, while supporting Donald Trump, start with my understanding of the gospel and how God deals with humankind. I believe the creation account. The human condition was and is that we have an inclination to sin. That is, sinning is a natural response in human beings. Dr. R.C. Sproul, in an article titled “Jonathan Edwards: We Are Inclined to Sin” confirms this human condition when he writes: “Why can we find no societies in which the prevailing influence is to virtue rather than vice? Why does not society influence us to maintain our natural innocence?”
Sin separates us from God, sours our relationship with him. We reestablish that relationship by believing the gospel and, in response to our believing, having the Holy Spirit come to dwell in us. That presence of the Holy Spirit directs and strengthens us for saying “no” to sin and “yes” to godly living. A key component of this process is God’s forgiveness of sin. In an article titled “What Does the Word ‘Gospel’ Mean in the New Testament?” R.C. Sproul writes this:  “The gospel is about Jesus — what he did, his life of perfect obedience, his atoning death on the cross, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven and his outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church.”
What does this God, gospel, and forgiveness stuff have to do with my support of Donald Trump? Despite his sometimes seeming offensive and attacking words, the charges of marital infidelity and the ardent search by so many for reasons to impeach him, I look at him in light of the offer of God to us in our sinfulness and separation from Him. I find it hard to believe that Trump is able to, with high energy and focus in the midst of all-out efforts to literally destroy him and his family, accomplish all the good he is doing. It has to be that he is on this journey to forgiveness, repentance and a right relationship with God.
Surely, some readers will find all of that hilarious. As you laugh, be reminded of King David from Scripture. First Chronicles 18:14 says, “So David reigned over all Israel; and he administered justice and equity to all his people.”
Now this from a Bible study titled “The Life of King David.”
“Unfortunately, many of David’s problems are self-inflicted. His illicit affair with Bathsheba, the arranged murder of her husband and attempt at covering up his sins cost him grief, dishonor, the life of a child and trouble within his household.
“The sin of taking a census to determine the size of his army, instead of trusting God, cost the lives of more than 70,000 Israelites. His lack of discipline in his own house contributed to his son Absalom rebelling against him and another son Adonijah seeking to inherit the throne instead of Solomon.”
The bottom line is that, time and again, like with King David, God uses imperfect and improbable people to do extraordinary things. It looks to me as though Trump might be one of those cases.
Further, the “love one another” interpretation that is repeatedly presented to me by many who disagree with my thinking on political, social and religious matters, apparently only applies to people who differ with them. Their “love one another” interpretation causes outrage at Trump when he speaks in seemingly harsh terms toward others. However, they are silent when boycotts are called against business owners for supporting Trump or his staff members are harassed in public places or the names of donors are published so that they may be ridiculed and somehow punished. Supporters are verbally attacked and bullied in their workplace while liberal media focuses on Trump’s destruction. Seeing and experiencing this one-sided approach inclines me even more to support Trump. The God I serve abhors hypocrisy and hatred of others.
Then, in this moment, I cannot think of a Trump policy initiative with which I disagree. Sure, there are issues such as climate change and mass shootings that I wish we could, as a nation, address in a nonpolitical and productive fashion. I think Trump is trying to do what is good for America and that he loves this country. Being focused on what is good for and loving the country are getting to be rare qualities in America. Given the rarity of these qualities, I will take my chances with Trump.
As for my frequent opposition to Democratic policies and actions, I confess. I do not have space to give the list, but I believe that just about every policy and action being pursued by Democrats is foolhardy and dramatically jeopardizes the very survival of this nation. I do not say much about Republicans because, especially in Congress and with a few exceptions, I see them as a bunch of wimps who let Democrats bully them into doing nothing. In the meantime, Democrats promise, manipulate voters, and also do nothing of positive consequence. For more on this thinking, see my column titled “U.S. Congress: Far too many bullies and wimps.”
All three of these readers, but especially the third one, challenge my capacity for assembling facts, fairly examining them and reaching supportable conclusions. On this point, I find it interesting that not one of them specifically countered the detailed arguments that I put forth in those columns. Instead, they challenge my faith and my ability to reason. Granted, the female reader wrote off Dr. Ben Carson, but with no support for why, she said his assessment of Trump not being a racist should be disregarded. Couple this lack of specific responses to the points in my column, with her all-out verbal assault on me, along with a refusal to receive a response from me, and you see the primary liberal strategy. I find that strategy repulsive and just more reason to give Trump a fair look.
My thanks to these readers for giving me reason to rethink my support of Donald Trump. No change!
Merritt’s columns mentioned above are available at

Investing in our future is a no-brainer

02 PubnotesWill Fayetteville get a new North Carolina state-operated North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center? That’s a good question. Basic logic would dictate it’s a no-brainer for a community like ours that is working hard to attract business and industry to Cumberland County. As the General Assembly readies itself to approve $46 million for the Civil War Center, the appropriation hinges on Cumberland County and the city of Fayetteville both supporting the project with financial commitments of $7.5 million each. At this moment, both have tentatively committed their support. Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin is waffling, though, stating that more public input is needed and suggesting there may be more pressing needs to address as Fayetteville rallies to shake its Tier 1 status.
Education and awareness are essential for peace and tranquility. The proposed Civil War Education Center offers both. For those in the city who think the $7.5  million in tax dollars could be spent on more pressing needs, we ask: What can be more important than education and awareness to future generations?  Where is the vision? More importantly, where is the logic?
This is an $80 million-plus state-funded project for which the city and county would both invest $7.5 million.  That’s a 0.094% buy-in after the museum foundation has raised over $10 million in donations and $15 million in pledges. Using community support and donations to evaluate and monitor this mandate, I’d say the Fayetteville community is pretty much in favor of the project. So why the hesitation on the part of the city at this late date? Personal political maneuvering? Mind games? Who knows?  However, if it’s a game, it’s a gamble with stakes so high that a loss here would be so devastating that  the consequences to the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community would be felt for decades. 
Need proof? Look east of Fayetteville about 5 miles, where millions of vehicles travel both north and south along Interstate 95 each day, avoiding our community.  The interstate was predicted to be an economic boom for Cumberland County in the late 70s and early 80s, promising decades of growth and prosperity. Nearly four decades later, only one of the 11 Cumberland  County exits have been developed — exit 49. A bad decision made in the 70s has stifled, and continues to stifle, the progress and development of this community. Why? Because of political self-interest and a lack of vision. We can convene all the public hearings we want. The location of Interstate 95 was the topic of several such public hearings. Public hearings do not substitute for intelligence, logic or leadership. And, in the case of championing the History Center here is a project that would pay big dividends to the Fayetteville community indefinitely.
By the numbers:
1. The Museum is a state-funded operation. In other words, once it’s built, the state maintains it. There is no cost to local residents.
2. The Museum will create hundreds of new jobs.
3. It will have a $20 million annual economic impact on the community.
4. It will attract 100,000+ visitors annually to our community.
5. It will make Fayetteville a statewide destination point.
In closing, I know both our Fayetteville city councilmen and women and our Board of County Commissioners have a sincere and heartfelt passion for doing what is in the best interest of local residents. Escaping the grasp of our Tier 1 designation can only be obtained with honest, objective leadership and vision. We don’t need another Interstate 95 fiasco that has netted us zero over the past four decades. We need to partner with the state of North Carolina, this time, in building a highway to prosperity that leads directly to Fayetteville and  Cumberland County. The  N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center is that master plan.
Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
A History Center will bring millions of dollars to our community and create hundreds of new jobs.

Power speaking truth to power

03 gunAmerican business — big, small and in between — is rarely seen as a force of political liberalism. In fact, business interests are more often than not conservative, as political money given by both business executives and business entities demonstrates. Business helps itself by lobbying for less regulation and lower taxes and often contends these positions help everyone else as well — proverbial trickle-down economics.

That is why last week’s open letter by 145 chief executives of some of our nation’s best-known corporations to leaders of the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate gave whiplash to more than few Americans. The letter directly and urgently asked senators to support expanded background checks for all firearms sales and stronger “red flag” laws aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of individuals considered potentially violent. The House has passed some gun control legislation, and the executives want the Senate to act on that legislation. Their letter suggests that requiring background checks on all gun sales is a “common-sense solution with overwhelming public support.”
What? Captains of industry urging gun-control?
Yes, indeed.

The business leaders, representing companies including Levi Strauss & Co., Lyft, Gap Inc., Royal Caribbean and a financial operation founded by Jared Kushner’s brother, wrote this to senators. “Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable, and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety.”

The letter comes after 31 people were killed last month in about 24 hours in separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Have we reached a tipping point on the issue of gun control?     
Recent polling indicates a high level — perhaps as much as 90% — of public support for increased gun control measures in the wake of last month’s shootings. But we have had such waves of public sentiment before, notably after the Sandy Hook school shootings almost seven years ago and the Las Vegas concert massacre, which took 58 lives two years ago with no congressional action taken. With mass shootings seemingly becoming more frequent and deadlier, are we finally ready to address them as a nation?
While American business interests have become more vocal during the Trump presidency on all sorts of issues including immigration, affordable health insurance, climate change and white supremacy, it is interesting to note which chief executives did not sign the gun control letter to senators. Among the absentees are CEOs of some of our nation’s largest and most influential financial and technology institutions, including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Apple, Google and Facebook. Some companies acknowledge that their leaders discussed the issue internally, and some say they are simply sticking to their business duties, thank you very much.
Senators have been largely close-mouthed about the letter, so Americans of all political persuasions will have to watch and wait for a response — if any. If history is an indicator, the Republican-controlled Senate has been generally responsive to the wishes of business leaders, and business interests have rewarded Republican senators with generous campaign contributions. It has been a cozy and comfortable arrangement when dealing with business issues but less so when social questions arise.
Here again, if history is an indicator, not much is going to move Republican leaders on gun issues. Dead first graders, dead concert-goers, dead high school students and dead Walmart shoppers have not moved them. It remains to be seen if distressed Chief Executive Officers can make any difference.


The doctor will see you now

04 PlagueDoctorIt’s the most wonderful time of the year — the presidential election of 2020 has arrived full-blown, even before the pre-Halloween Christmas decorations show up at Walmart. As Frank Costanza once said, the presidential election campaign has risen like a Phoenix from Arizona into full mushroom-cloud status. Political ads are now looming everywhere above the fruited plains like a hangover from overconsumption of Mad Dog 20/20 Electric Melon wine. 

One of the hot topics in the coming election will be the future of health care in America. There is a wide variety of options from Democrats from the plan to outlaw private insurance and have Medicare for all to Biden’s improved Obamacare. On the right, the Republicans want to abolish Obamacare to bring back pre-existing conditions. They have a Double Secret Plan for as-yet-undescribed medical Vapor Care. Thinking about health care got me pondering the good old days when doctors made house calls. That thought drove me back to medieval times when doctors wore scary bird mask outfits to cure the Black Death. Precious memories. How they linger. 

As the Republicans haven’t proposed their replacement for Obamacare, allow me to suggest they resume making medical care great again with Vapor Care. Vapor Care sounds perfect in the abstract when Dear Leader tweets. Vagueness counts. Mix together some warm, fuzzy words like “lower premiums and deductibles,” “far less expensive and far better,” and “block grants” and pretty soon you have the basis for Dear Leader’s replacement for Obamacare — new, improved Republican Vapor Care. 

In returning to Medicine’s Golden Days of Yesteryear, what better place to start than to require medical providers of Vapor Care to wear the Plague Doctors’ bird-head black costume? Take a walk down Memory Lane to consider how these costumes will make medicine great again. When the Black Death was stalking Europe, no one knew what to do about it. The Plague Doctors’ Bird of Death costume was a humdinger. Plague Doctors’ — PD for short — jobs included treating and curing victims of the plague and burying them when the cure didn’t take. Being a PD meant you had to be around plague patients and the plague cooties that the patients gave off. The PD’s uniform was designed to keep the doc safe as he practiced Vapor Care. A dude named Charles de l’Orme is credited with inventing the Plague Doctor bird outfit in about 1619. Chuck was the Dr. Phil celebrity doc of his day, including three French kings and the Medici family in Italy as his patients.

The PD wore a black leather cowboy hat. Beneath that, he wore the well-known bird mask. There was some belief that the plague was spread by birds, so the giant bird mask might scare away the disease-carrying birds. The beak of the mask was stuffed with flowers and sweet-smelling herbs because another theory was that the plague was spread by bad air. With the PD breathing the sweet smell of excess in his beak, the bad air cooties could be warded off. This left the PD to heal the sick unafraid of getting the Black Death himself. The PD wore a long, black overcoat from his head to his feet to protect his skin from the plague demons. To keep the demons from sticking to the overcoat, the PD would slime the overcoat with animal fat. 

 Greasing up the overcoat was done for several possible conflicting reasons — the grease would keep the plague cooties away from the PD, or it might draw the plague gremlins away from the patient and onto the overcoat. If any yucky plague secretions oozed off the body of the patient, the gruesome juices would slide off the grease-covered coat, thereby protecting the PD. One can imagine the healing effect of a giant bird figure covered in smelly grease on a hot day in Italy on a patient suffering bubonic plague. If the patient lived, he would remember that event forever. To complete the outfit, the PD carried a wooden cane to be used for poking the patient during examination or defending the PD from the patient if the patient became freaked out by the appearance of a giant smelly bird messing with him during his death throes. 

The advantage of dressing people in Plague Doctor Bird Suits to apply Vapor Care is that the PD doesn’t need a medical degree. Just a bird suit. No expensive medical doctors need apply. No medical malpractice cases will exist because the patients will all die, and the PD can’t be identified because of the Bird Suit. This all keeps down the costs of medical care. 

 The late, great singer Warren Zevon predicted Vapor Care with his immortal lyrics in his song “Life’ll Kill You.”

“From the president of the United States/ To the lowliest rock and roll star/ The doctor is in and he’ll see you now/ He don’t care who you are/ Some get the awful, awful diseases/ Some get the knife, some get the gun/ Some get to die in their sleep/ At the age of a hundred and one/ Life’ll kill ya/ That’s what I said/ Life’ll kill you/ Then you’ll be dead.” 

Remember to vote early and often. The life you save may be your own.

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