On Faith: Reaching Heaven

You'll need a boat.
If you want to cross the ocean, you’ll need a boat.

I’ve never considered myself to be a religious person, but I’ve always considered myself a staunch believer in Christ Jesus as God. The pomp & circumstance of church never appealed to me but I still consider myself a Christian.

As it so happens, when people know that I’m a Christian but they themselves are not believers, the conversation tends to go like this: “I believe in something, but I don’t know what.  I’m not an atheist but I’m a good person.”

What is this good person stuff about? It never made any sense to me why non-believers, 100% of the time, use this as a clarifier when describing their own religious inclinations to me.

I had a conversation in which a friend said, “I don’t believe Jesus is the only way to get into Heaven because I really can’t believe that a serial killer can get into Heaven just because he believes that Jesus is God and that all the Jews are going to Hell, even the ones that do good things.”

Like I said, I consider myself to be a Christian, so the idea that being a good person has anything to do with salvation is foreign to me, but I can explain why I believe the way that I do.

Imagine you’re on the shore of Massachusetts. You look east across the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. You want to make your way across the Atlantic Ocean to France. Lucky for you, you’ve trained as a swimmer your entire life. To up the ante, let’s just say you’re Michael Phelps and you’re wanting to swim across the Atlantic Ocean.

No matter how much you’ve trained, you’re not going to make it across the Atlantic Ocean by yourself. No matter how good of a swimmer you are, no matter how much you’ve trained or how dedicated and focused you are on accomplishing your goal, you will die in the ocean.

Unless you have a boat to save you, you will die. You will miss your mark and you will never make it to France.

You (as Michael Phelps) say, “This isn’t fair. I’m a great swimmer. I’m better than everybody else. In fact I have more gold medals in swimming so I’m the best in the world. I will make it to France because I’m a good swimmer.”

Never mind the fact that you’d die of fatigue, the elements, animal attack or hunger, and generally couldn’t accurately map a course while swimming across the ocean, you dive in and start swimming. Eventually, you succumb to one of the many obstacles and die in the ocean.

On the flip side, Benoît Lecomte jumps in and starts swimming. He has the same goal, to swim across the Atlantic. He wants to make it to the other side, but he knows that no matter how good of a swimmer he is, he can’t do it on his own. Lecomte decides that he’s bringing a boat. This boat is where he rests between swims, has food aboard and protects him from elements and animals. In 1998 Lecomte did just that – he swam across the Atlantic in 73 days and made it to the other side. He could never have accomplished his goal without the aid of a boat.

Now some may argue, “Hey, that’s not fair. Anybody could charter a boat and swim a couple hours a day until they ultimately reach the other side. Heck, they could do zero swimming and still reach the other side of the Atlantic with a boat. That’s not fair! You should have to be a good swimmer to be able to reach the other side. People who have trained all their life to swim and really care about this goal should be able to reach the other side, not just anybody who gets on a boat.”

When it comes down to it, your ability to swim or how hard and dedicated you were to swimming is not the deciding factor as to whether or not you will accomplish your goal. The only deciding factor is – Do You Have A Boat?

Just like in swimming, in life, how good you are according to your own personal, arbitrary standard is not the deciding factor as to whether or not you’re getting into Heaven. If Jesus is the only way to God, which I believe it is, He is your boat. If you want to make it to the other side, you have to get on the boat.

Media stays mum on police brutality.

It’s hard to overlook the fact that Americans are losing more of their personal freedoms each and every day. While the loss of freedom is most evident while going through our airports – unreasonable search and seizure, inappropriate body scans and disgustingly abrasive body searches, the police state is growing with little coverage from the media.

This past May, in Justice, Illinois, a woman waiting for a cab was approached by Officer Carmen Scardine and was forced to get into his squad car and give him oral sex.

http://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/Recently%20File%20cases/12cv9213.pdf

While this officer is clearly an exception, the media has a duty to report such gross misuse of power and trust if this behavior is ever going to be quelled.

UNLV’s top priority is faculty pay – so says NV Chancellor

Nevada Chancellor Dan Klaich agrees with UNLV President Neal Smastrek – restoring faculty pay back to the pre-5% cut level is the top priority of UNLV. 

     Forget the four-year graduation rates hovering around 15%, ignore the fact that staff are utilizing the food pantry to make ends meet and disregard that UNLV’s student government, CSUN, has received a record number of scholarship applications, including those for the Emergency Aid Scholarship, with more students applying this semester than have applied in every previous year since its inception. To Klaich, all of those issues take a back seat to restoring faculty pay to the pre cut levels.

     When asked why he agreed with President Smastrek and didn’t consider the aforementioned items more disconcerting, Klaich responded that well-paid faculty is the “backbone” of a “nationally competitive” university.

     Klaich was told of the record number of students applying for emergency aid scholarships and then asked, “If UNLV needs more money for faculty pay, what should be cut so that the tuition burden on students isn’t increased?” Klaich said that he’s “not for raising fees to pay faculty salaries” but said, “A part of the burden will be borne by student fees.” He reassured the students in the journalism class that he was speaking to that the students that will pay for faculty will be future students, not current ones.

     Although students have had tuition raised time and time again, Klaich said that he believes the tuition increases are fair and that all students should share the burden.

     When students in the journalism class asked what he thought about students who drop out of UNLV to accept high paying, low skill jobs on the Las Vegas Strip, Klaich quipped, “It’s great if you (students) want nowhere to go” in their careers.

     Klaich said that the university needs more students graduating, yet he couldn’t explain why UNLV doesn’t recruit students who take the ACT or SAT to attend the university. Instead, Klaich stressed a need to get rid of the high school proficiency exam in Nevada and that “we (UNLV) have to reach down to middle schools as to why college is important.”

     Students at UNLV face uncertainty with tuition increases that outpace the rate of inflation, courses that have fewer classes available and more grad students teaching courses. To add to the red tape of the university, UNLV doesn’t accept the same CLEP credit as the University of Nevada at Reno or certain classes at CSN, posing more headaches for transfer students.

     When asked why UNLV doesn’t accept CLEP credit for general education classes that UNR accepts, Chancellor Klaich stood up for students, saying, “We should do whatever we can do to get rid of that nonsense. There’s no excuse for that.”  

With so many groups vying for preferential treatment from the Board of Regents and the Chancellor, time will tell if students’ educations and their financial burden will be a factor in the upcoming funding formula meeting.

Societal pressure may be to blame for UNLV’s low graduation rates

With one in four students dropping out of high school, miles of foreclosed homes and scarce job prospects, the city of Las Vegas has a full plate of problems to combat. For those students who make it past high school graduation and go on to UNLV, there are more challenges to face.

Currently, the four-year graduation rate at UNLV sits at a mere 14%. Compared to the national average of a 64% six-year graduation rate, UNLV’s six-year graduation rate doesn’t measure up at 39%.

Mark Riggins, a business and accounting teacher at the East Career and Technical Academy within the Clark County School District who also serves as the Director of the Educational Taskforce for the Clark County Republican Party, believes that societal pressure to go to college may be to blame for UNLV’s low graduation rates. “The idea that everyone should go to college is a disservice [to society] because we’re telling kids that you’re not important if you don’t go to a university.”

UNLV College Libertarians president, Lou Pombo mirrored Riggins sentiments, saying, that societies have many facets, “Everything can’t be an intellectual class, that’s impossible.” According to the Executive Director for the Nevada Youth Coalition, J.T. Creedon, “I never wanted to go to college. I wanted to be a musician. That’s not a typical university major and it’s better suited for a technical school. There’s definitely a stigma attached to some private technical schools, such as University of Phoenix, which may not be accepted by an employer or might not be accredited.”

Others argue that Las Vegas’ chief industry, the service industry, has more than a little to do with UNLV’s low graduation rates. Andria Coleman, a senator for the College of Liberal Arts at UNLV said, “It’s the reality of this town that you can make $90,000 [a year] parking cars or $3,000 a week stripping… even though this is a college town, you can make a whole lot more money without a degree.” Pombo agreed, saying, “You need some type of working-class and [students] realize that in this town, they can make more money being in the working class than with a degree.”

While some students skip college altogether, others are showing up for a year and leaving as evidenced by UNLV’s first-year retention rate of 76%. This is just slightly below the US average of 77% and much lower than the 84% that Nevada’s western neighbor, California, boasts.  Creedon explained, “There needs to be an emphasis on steering people in the right direction. Students just go to college and have no idea what they want to do with their life because everybody tells them that college is the way they should go.” “It’s a mistake to think every kid has to go to college… not everyone is cut out for it,” lamented Riggins.

Creedon was concerned about university staff not steering undecided students in the right direction. According to Creedon, “the advisors don’t help [incoming freshman] adequately with finding out which path to take. We need more front-end work to help these incoming students if we want them to stick around.”

UNLV Justice, Lance Arberry said that it’s important for UNLV to work to raise their graduation rates, saying, “Obviously, 14% is really bad for our university. It needs to change.” Creedon wants people to remember that while 14% is low and that a 100% graduation rate would be the ultimate goal, there are other factors to consider. “There are still a lot of people who want acting lessons or use pro tools but don’t enroll in a degree program but they reached their professional goal which wouldn’t be reflected in the graduation rate.”

Students look to author for answers for the future

As students filed in to the classroom, you could see the eagerness on their faces. They would soon ask the man at the front of the classroom the magic question; what should they do to make their careers take off?

With job prospects scarce and a culture of people that no longer work at a job or two for a lifetime, students look to anybody for advice.  That Thursday afternoon, somebody was here to tell them about the industry and how he went from a student to a published author. Students were on the edges of their seats.

Kurt Divich, a former UNLV communications major from the class of ’95 spoke of how he began his journalism career. “I was a comm major and at the time, you didn’t have to specialize. I used to tell employers that I specialized in whatever they were looking for at that particular job.”  Students snickered and smiled at the idea as they furiously took notes.

Although Divich know works as a financial journalist, he didn’t begin his career in that field. After a stint at Applebee’s restaurant, he went into the public sector. He told the students that he, along with his wife and mother of his four children, feel strongly about gay marriage and that they lobby for gay rights. “I started out working in the Parks and Recs department, and then I worked for the Democratic Party.” He counseled students to do various jobs, including those in politics, and then use that experience to hone their journalistic craft.

After a 20-minute speech, Divich went around the room and asked each student what they were planning to do after college.  Students sat wide-eyed and clung to every word that came out of Divich’s mouth as if it were gospel truth. He advised each student for their chosen path, telling the group that “what you want to do and what you would be good for isn’t always the same thing. Look for your strengths and specialize in that area.”

As the period came to an end, students looked as if they had some direction in their life. With bags packed, they awkwardly approached Divich to ask a few last minute questions. When they left class, they went out into the world as if they had hope for the future and a mission to “make it” in the field of journalism.