East Valley Tribune

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  • Ex-Highland High instructor pleads guilty to sexual conduct with a minor, sentencing in November

    Former Highland High School Junior ROTC instructor Joseph Stephenson faces possible prison time in November for having sex with an underage JROTC member.According to the Maricopa County Superior Court, the 41-year-old Stephenson entered a guilty plea on two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and faces sentencing on Nov. 21. Sexual conduct with a minor is a class-2 felony if the suspect is a victim’s teacher, according to Arizona Revised Statutes.Stephenson is accused of having sex with an unidentified 15-year-old female JROTC member twice at Highland’s ROTC module. According to a police report from the Gilbert Police Department, Stephenson, who began teaching the JROTC course at the start of the 2013-14 school year, engaged in sexual contact with the victim on Dec. 11 and Dec. 13.The report also states Stephenson brought the victim a white-colored bracelet with pink stones for Christmas, attempted to engage in video chats with her and sent a number of text messages. Messages reportedly found on the phone include “OMG you are so beautiful” and “I’m falling for you (name redacted) I know the obstacles, but I’m willing to face them.”The victim’s sister discovered what happened and informed the victim’s foster parents in early January. The Gilbert Police Department investigated the incidents on Jan. 5, and the investigation resulted in allegations that Stephenson told another student he wanted to have sex with her. An ROTC colleague stated Stephenson’s behavior around female students was “odd” and said he had engaged in inappropriate interactions with at least one student.Stephenson was taken into custody on Jan. 6 and was placed on leave by the Gilbert Public Schools district the following day. The district governing board voted unanimously to fire him on May 13.

  • Suspect arrested in connection with Mesa bus driver assault

    A suspect has been arrested in connection with the assault of a bus driver in Mesa from earlier this month, according to the Phoenix Police Department.Officers had been searching for a suspect who repeatedly punched the driver at least 20 times in the head and face on the morning of September 8.The suspect, along with a woman, took the bus after leaving the light rail at the Sycamore station in Mesa, according to police. The suspect asked the driver to move the bus so he could get his bike, but the driver was unable to because the street was flooded.Police said that is when the suspect became angry and attacked the driver, who was in his seat with his seatbelt fastened. The man then fled the area on his bicycle.The driver was hospitalized for his injuries.

  • ASU police plan to return surplus M-16 rifles

    Arizona State University officials say the school plans to return the M-16 assault rifles it acquired under a government surplus weapons program.An ASU spokeswoman says the department is in the process of returning the weapons and replacing with "standard but newer rifles," which could be used in situations such as confronting a shooter.The Arizona Republic reported Monday that ASU has yet to decide which rifles to replace them with yet.The surplus M-16 weapons were distributed to local agencies as part of the Department of Defense Excess Property Program.The M-16s once had the capability of firing more than one round but had been converted to fire once each time the trigger is pulled.

  • QuikTrip launches new full-service format

    QuikTrip stores in the Valley are undergoing a major overhaul, one even the occasional visitor may have noticed already. The company is changing the format of its stores to be more full-service, and the format change seems to be a successful one.“The old days where it’s just a convenience store battling against a convenience store is over,” Mike Thornbrugh, public affairs manager for QuikTrip, said. “We’re competing against everybody.”And he does mean everyone. With the company’s establishment of “QuikTrip Kitchens,” separate locations designed to produce food for the stores, a full deli has been added to many area stores and the company is eyeing the grocery and bakery markets as well.Thornbrugh said the journey started nearly 10 years ago, when the company decided that, in order to increase expansion and maintain viability, it would have to shift from the classic convenience format to compete on higher and more numerous levels.The first indicator in the stores is an abundance of staff, much more than the two to three people commonly seen in a gas-station convenience store. He said the company has added some 2,000 employees in the last year.“It is a tremendous labor cost but, at the same time, we know if we are going to continue to grow … the full-service side of the bus is where we are headed,” Thornbrugh said.

  • Mesa Community College receives agriculture grant from EPA

    Mesa Community College has received a grant from the EPA totaling just more than $80,000, which it plans to use for stimulating interest and education in a variety of new agriculture techniques best suited to Mesa’s increasingly urban environment.“This environmental education effort will teach employable skills to students and enable them to become environmental stewards,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, in a press release. “The hands-on experience that Mesa Community College students will receive is unparalleled and will serve as a model for similar institutions nationwide.”Peter Conden, director of MCC’s Urban Horticulture Program, said when he took over the program, there was a need to place agricultural studies on the back burner due to a simple lack of general interest in the subject, but the new Innovative Center for Urban Agriculture will bring it back to the front in a big way.“After reviewing the program … it seemed like agriculture was really important, still, but it needed to reflect the community,” Conden said. “People really want to learn how to grow food, now more than ever.”That means that educators need to teach urbanites to grow food anywhere from a community garden to their own backyards. Conden intends to focus on teaching aquaponics, a method of combining traditional agriculture and hydroponics to create a animal/plant system that creates its own nutrients for raising and growing both.“The grant was for the environmental education,” Conden said. “We figure what’s a better way to teach people environmental education than through aquaponics?”

  • Cox working with Mesa Public Schools to offer low-cost computers

    Cox Communications is partnering with Mesa Public Schools to give low-income families 100 refurbished computers at a reduced coast.The computers will be sold for $10 each to Mesa families who qualify and enrolled in Cox’s pre-existing program, Connect2Compete, which offers low-income families Internet services for close to $10 each month.Connect2Compete’s new refurbished-computers program is for Mesa Public Schools families only. Cox will distribute the computers to Mesa families by the end of 2014. Andrea Katsenes, Cox director of media relations, said the company and the school district are still discussing methods for how the computers will be sold and distributed this year.Katsenes said depending on how “widely successful” it is, the program may become available to other Arizona districts in the future.The computers were purchased with a $10,000 grant to Good Tech America, an organization that works to improve the accessibility of affordable technology in necessitous communities and is underwritten by Cox.Katsenes said the company started the program to provide an affordable option for students from low-income families who do not have access to the Internet outside of school. It’s become a national issue for these families, according to Cox, now that more teachers are assigning homework that requires students to go online. A Pew Research report indicated last year that about half of low-income families in the country do not have home Internet access.

  • Win tix to “Vikings from the British Museum” event

    Vikings: the name alone conjures up longboats full of armor-clad warriors, poised to concur entire villages. Thanks to Fathom Events, you can immerse yourself in all things Viking-related on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at AMC Ahwatukee 24, where viewers will enjoy an close-up look at the British Museum's exhibit "Vikings: Life and Legend" - looking at the ships, swords, burials, beliefs, language and legacy of the ancient warriors.The broadcast also explores how we are still connected to the Vikings, through our languages, our poetry, our personal and place names – even our DNA. With practical demonstrations and stunning close-up photography of Viking objects in the exhibition, this program is a reminder of how the Vikings have shaped our modern lives across four continents, including North America.Email GetOutAZ@GetOutAZ.com, subject line VIKINGS, by 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 2, to enter to win a pair of tickets to the event.You can also purchase tickets for the event Fathomevents.com/event/vikings-from-the-british-museum.

  • Quick look: New this week at the movies

    >> This information is provided in community partnership with Harkins Theatres. For showtimes, theater locations and tickets, go to HarkinsTheatres.com.New this weekBird PeopleIn an airport hotel on the outskirts of Paris, a Silicon Valley engineer abruptly chucks his job, breaks things off with his wife, and holes up in his room. As fate draws him and a young French maid together, an audacious second-act surprise suddenly transforms César Award-winning director Pascale Ferran’s dark-tinged fairy tale into something richer, more beguiling, and utterly astonishing. Starring: Anaïs Demoustier, Josh Charles, Roschdy Zem, Camélia Jordana, Taklyt Vongdar, Radha Mitchell, Geoffrey Cantor. Not RatedHector and the Search for HappinessHector is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. As he tells his girlfriend, Clara, he feels like a fraud: he hasn’t really tasted life, and yet he’s offering advice to patients who are just not getting any happier. So Hector decides to break out of his deluded and routine-driven life. Armed with buckets of courage and child-like curiosity, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive secret formula for true happiness. And so begins a larger-than-life adventure with riotously funny results. Starring: Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgård, Jean Reno, Christopher Plummer. R

  • Football Friday Night Out

    As we get deeper into fall, the evenings are getting cooler, but the action on the field is just starting to heat up. To help make sure you are good and warmed up for the game with a good meal and some libations, here are some spots nearby to check out before and/or after yet another glorious evening on the football field.Gilbert at DobsonGilbert has had an up-and-down season thus far, alternating wins and losses on its way to a 2-2 start. Dobson, meanwhile, has rallied back. After a 0-2 start, the Mustangs have won their last two games by a combined score of 108-7 and will look to make it three in a row against the Tigers.Cornish Pasty Co.(480) 838-3586 or CornishPastyCo.com1941 W. Guadalupe Road, Mesa (0.6 mile from Dobson HS)

  • Outliars Comedy Club opens Chandler location

    Outliars, a comedy club with several venues across the valley, is opening its fifth location in Chandler. The new club kicks off its grand opening at 8 p.m. on both Friday, Sept. 26, and Saturday, Sept. 27.The first act to perform at the new Outliars will be the duo of Paul Brittain and Andy St. Clair. Brittain is best known for his work on “Saturday Night Live” and in the movie “Grown Ups 2.” St. Clair has been featured on “Arrested Development” and worked with famed comedy group Second City. Tickets to see the two comedians will be $20, which will be the price for all special events at the venue. All non-special events will cost $10.Dave Thurston, the founder of Outliars, is looking forward to the improvisation qualities of the first comedic act.“You have the initial characters but it could go anywhere, to any setting, any characters can appear, it can be anything. Whatever it takes to make the audience fall out of their chairs laughing, this show will get there quick and stay there,” he said.Brittain and St. Clair will also perform at Outliars Mesa location at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday and at the Glendale Outliars location 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday. Outliar’s will be transporting the stars from one venue to the next, a new method for the Phoenix area but a popular tradition in Chicago.In addition to the shows, Brittain and St. Clair will be heading improvisation workshops at the Glendale location. The improv classes — at noon and 3 p.m. Saturday — cost $35 and include two free tickets to see a show as well as a $50 voucher for other improvisation classes.

  • Aladdin takes flight with Disney Live: Mickey’s Music Festival

    Disney Live is bringing a new musical performance to US Airways Center on Sept. 27 and 28, where Disney characters will dance and sing in an interactive performance. In addition to the traditional characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, the show will feature characters from “Aladdin,” “Toy Story” and “The Little Mermaid.” Aladdin will be performed by 22-year-old Anthony Gonzales, who said he is excited to play Disney’s street urchin.Q: What’s the best part of playing Aladdin?AG: It’s so cool to play Aladdin because growing it up, it was such a major movie. It’s still my favorite movie and it’s really fun to be able to be your favorite character.Q: What is your favorite performance in the show?AG: My favorite thing to perform is the song “Friend Like Me” with the Genie and Aladdin. It’s such a high-energy performance and it’s remixed with hip-hop, so it’s a lot of fun.Q: Are you enjoying being a part of Disney Live?

  • Solitary or in solidarity, Lofgren continues to shine

    It would be easy to label Nils Lofgren as a sideman for some of the greatest acts of all time, including Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Lou Reed … but the truth is that Lofgren is a star who shines silently in his own right.Diving headfirst into a solo career at 17 years old, Lofgren released more than 20 albums in a career that spans nearly a half-century. With his recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and his new 10-disc retrospective called “Face the Music,” Lofgren is spreading his wings once more and will fly solo for a while.Lofgren, who has lived in Scottsdale for the last 18 years, spoke to GetOut about his induction, life on the road and his upcoming show at Talking Stick Resort, where he will showcase his huge catalog of classics such as “Black Books,” “Valentine” and “I Came to Dance.”Q: Last year you were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. How do you feel about the honor?NL: This month I will have been on the road for 46 years, 30 of them with the E Street Band and of course, it was a beautiful and great honor. It was inevitably bittersweet because I wish it could have taken place while Clarence Clemons (saxophone) and Danny Federici (keyboards, accordion) were still alive. But it was a special day because I was with my wife, Amy, who is a Jersey girl and Bruce and the E Street Band. It was brilliant, beautiful and bittersweet. But that’s rock ’n’ roll man!Q: I was astounded to discover you were just 17 when you met and later recorded with Neil Young (“After The Gold Rush”). Do you think you get better as a musician with age?

Tech Data Doctors Deals

  • Gilbert industrial development authority accepting applications for opening

    Gilbert’s Industrial Development Authority is accepting applications for an open spot.The authority recommends projects the town should endorse for tax-exempt, low-interest bond financing available by federal law for certain construction projects.Applicants must reside in Gilbert and can either apply online or pick up an application at the Municipal Center, located at 50 E. Civic Center Drive, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.Submissions are due by Oct. 12 and more information is available by calling (480) 503-6866.

  • Chandler Chamber Women in Business luncheon scheduled for Oct. 21

    The Chandler Chamber Women in Business has scheduled a luncheon for Oct. 21 featuring steps to become a better leader.The luncheon will include a presentation called “What your mama didn’t tell you about being a leader” by Sue Porter outlining the steps a person needs to take in order to gain the influence of subordinates.The event begins at noon at SoHo 63, located at 63 E. Boston St., and more information and registration are available by visiting chandlerchamber.com.

  • Park Lucero project commences in Gilbert

    A pair of companies recently took the first step toward completing an industrial park in Gilbert.Trammell Crow Company and Artis REIT broke ground on the first phase of Park Lucero, which will encompass three buildings and 210,000 square feet of warehouse and distribution space. The anticipated completion date for the first phase is March 2015, and the Park Lucero project is projected to create more than 1,000 jobs.

  • Avnet starts new solar project in Tempe

    Avnet’s Tempe facility recently turned on a new 1,000 kilowatt solar project that should provide much of the facility’s power.The company placed solar panels on top of the building’s roof and installed panels to serve as canopies for 410 new covered parking spots. The company anticipates the project will supply more than 60-percent of its power and save $130,000 in utility costs in the first year.

  • QuikTrip launches new full-service format

    QuikTrip stores in the Valley are undergoing a major overhaul, one even the occasional visitor may have noticed already. The company is changing the format of its stores to be more full-service, and the format change seems to be a successful one.“The old days where it’s just a convenience store battling against a convenience store is over,” Mike Thornbrugh, public affairs manager for QuikTrip, said. “We’re competing against everybody.”And he does mean everyone. With the company’s establishment of “QuikTrip Kitchens,” separate locations designed to produce food for the stores, a full deli has been added to many area stores and the company is eyeing the grocery and bakery markets as well.Thornbrugh said the journey started nearly 10 years ago, when the company decided that, in order to increase expansion and maintain viability, it would have to shift from the classic convenience format to compete on higher and more numerous levels.The first indicator in the stores is an abundance of staff, much more than the two to three people commonly seen in a gas-station convenience store. He said the company has added some 2,000 employees in the last year.“It is a tremendous labor cost but, at the same time, we know if we are going to continue to grow … the full-service side of the bus is where we are headed,” Thornbrugh said.

  • Cox working with Mesa Public Schools to offer low-cost computers

    Cox Communications is partnering with Mesa Public Schools to give low-income families 100 refurbished computers at a reduced coast.The computers will be sold for $10 each to Mesa families who qualify and enrolled in Cox’s pre-existing program, Connect2Compete, which offers low-income families Internet services for close to $10 each month.Connect2Compete’s new refurbished-computers program is for Mesa Public Schools families only. Cox will distribute the computers to Mesa families by the end of 2014. Andrea Katsenes, Cox director of media relations, said the company and the school district are still discussing methods for how the computers will be sold and distributed this year.Katsenes said depending on how “widely successful” it is, the program may become available to other Arizona districts in the future.The computers were purchased with a $10,000 grant to Good Tech America, an organization that works to improve the accessibility of affordable technology in necessitous communities and is underwritten by Cox.Katsenes said the company started the program to provide an affordable option for students from low-income families who do not have access to the Internet outside of school. It’s become a national issue for these families, according to Cox, now that more teachers are assigning homework that requires students to go online. A Pew Research report indicated last year that about half of low-income families in the country do not have home Internet access.

Pets Food Health TV Travel

  • Engineering for Kids Summer Camp

    Engineering for Kids offering STEM Based Summer Camps at Primavera in Chandler. Announces Summer Camp Open House on May 17thWhat is East Valley Engineering for Kids?Engineering for Kids is an enrichment program that teaches concepts on a variety of engineering fields in classes and camps for kids’ ages 4-14. We want to spark an interest in the kids for science, technology and engineering. The camps are all themes based and require the kids to work in teams to address engineering challenges and problems. All programs meet national education standards for STEM and align with Common Core for math and science. Engineering for Kids has operated since 2009, is in 26 states and 4 countries. When and what is the open house for?The open house on May 17th is an opportunity for parents to come and see the facility, meet the staff from Engineering for Kids, and get their questions answered. The summer camps will be offered at Primavera Blended Learning Center at 2451 N. Arizona Avenue in Chandler. The open house is from 11 am to 3 pm.  From 1-2 pm we’re having our popular robotics workshop where the kids will build, program, test and improve the robots. At the end of the workshop, the kids will compete against each other in a Sumo Bot tournament. An RSVP is highly recommended as seating is limited. Please email your RSVP to eastvalley@engineeringforkids.net. What is Primavera Blended Learning Center?

  • Keeping the Faith: The pearl of great price

    John Steinbeck was one of America’s most prolific and insightful novelists. Renowned for his prize-winning works that most of us either enjoyed or endured at some point in our education (depending upon our perspective), one of Steinbeck’s lesser known novellas is my personal fa-vorite. It is a penetrating little book called “The Pearl.”Steinbeck’s story begins with a poor Mexican pearl diver named Kino. He happily ekes out a liv-ing for his wife and son with a little canoe and a thatch hut on the beach. When Kino’s child is bitten by a scorpion, the wealthy doctor will not see the child, for Kino has no money. Nor will the priest come to pray for the child, because Kino and his wife aren’t properly married — again, because Kino can’t afford to pay the church for a proper wedding ceremony. But through grace or ill-fated fortune, Kino discovers a pearl as big as his fist: The “Pearl of the World,” the locals call it, the most incredible treasure the village has ever seen.Now Kino will be rich. He and his wife will be properly married. His son will be healed. The family will get new clothes and a larger house. His life will be transformed. But, things don’t work out as well as Kino had hoped.Greed takes over in entire village. Thieves attempt to rob him. The pearl traders refuse to barter with him. His friends grow psychotically jealous. Kino begins to spend all his energies hiding and protecting his treasure. His wife, who sees how the new wealth is destroying their family, tries to get rid of the pearl, only to have Kino viciously attack her.More robbers burn their house down. They are forced to run for their lives while would-be assas-sins mercilessly stalk the family like prey. Yet, Kino cannot let this pearl go. He cries out in des-peration: “What can I do? This pearl has become my soul!”In the end Kino loses everything: His home, his young child, his little canoe by which he made a living, his respectability in the village, and his ability to escape to a better life. He and his wife stand on the Pacific shoreline and heave the evil pearl back into the ocean.

  • Take me Home: Cheerio is a cuddler

    Cheerio, a Norwich terrier mix, is such a handsome and charming little man. This playful pup makes Don Juan look tame: he loves to give kisses and hugs. Cheerio can be shy at first, but once he warms up to you, he loves you. Cheerio likes to sit on your lap, enjoys sleeping in bed with you, loves belly rubs, and is more than OK with you picking him up to give him hugs and kisses.Cheerio’s friendly, easygoing and mellow nature applies to friendly animals, too. When one of his doggy friends wasn’t feeling well, Cheerio rubbed her face and licked her head to make her feel better. Cheerio gets along with all sorts of dogs and has even been caught playing with the resident kitty in his foster home. He has tons of energy and loves to explore, which explains his love of walks and visits to the dog park. Cheerio is good on his leash and rides well in the car. At the dog park, Cheerio loves the freedom of running at full speed off leash and if you join in the fun by “chasing” him, Cheerio eats that up.The dog park is a great place to play with other dogs, play fetch (although sometimes he forgets to bring the ball back), and roll around in the (preferably wet) grass. Once he tires, Cheerio is content to sit in your lap watching ducks and people. One of the reasons Cheerio is fun to have around is because he loves to play. In addition to fetch, he loves rope toys, squeaky toys, and playing chase or engaging in wrestling matches with his doggy friends.He also likes treats, chew sticks and bones.Cheerio is a happy, affectionate, well-behaved little dog whose enthusiasm for life is contagious. If interested in learning more about him, fill out an application for him today at www.azrescue.org.

  • Jernigan: Active stillness

    I grew up during the era of the video game. I had the good fortune to be a kid at the time Nintendo hit the market. This was long before the Xbox and PlayStation. This was when controllers were rectangles and buttons were few. My experience was unique to what my parents had growing up. Most games were shockingly simple, especially by today’s standards. But one game in particular stands out to me all these years later.There was a Nintendo game designed after a popular movie in the ’80s: “Top Gun.” For the ladies reading, that may bring you back to that dreamy volleyball scene from the movie. But stay with me for a second. In the game the player flies planes around as you’d expect. However, there was one level in particular I could never beat. In this part of the game, you had to refuel with another plane midair. It took just the right precision and matching speed and was ridiculously hard to figure out. I have memories of my little-kid rage in which I felt my nerves implode each time the words “game over” flashed across the screen. There had to be a way to figure this out.Yet here’s the craziest part: they do this in real life! Two planes sync up together in perfect harmony matching speed and location. It’s an unbelievable image. And it’s a great analogy for us to make sense out of Jesus’ insight to us from John Chapter 15. That’s the chapter where Jesus refers to Himself as a vine and to us as the branches. He instructs us that “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (15:5). That’s a great image. And it’s a daunting challenge to live by.How do we remain in Him when we go a million miles an hour every day? Who has the time to stop and remain? We don’t want to slow down but we don’t want to be out on our own either. It is in this tension we often feel paralyzed. Yet this doesn’t need to be the case.It’s time to rethink what it means to remain in Christ. I’ve heard it described as “active stillness.” I love that phrase. It brings me back to my elementary school days playing “Top Gun” on my Nintendo. Remaining doesn’t mean we wait around for God to show up. It means we actively pursue Him and then allow ourselves to be still in His presence. It’s two planes syncing up midair. He has the fuel and He sets the speed. Then He invites us to live connected to Him. Yet in this version of the analogy we need never break away from the plane providing us the fuel. In fact, when we really understand the life He’s offering us, why would we ever want to?If your life feels a little low on spiritual fruit, it’s likely because you are trying to make it happen on your own. You are flying without fuel. Instead, choose to be actively still in the presence of Jesus. He alone is the source of life. And He’s waiting to give it to you. Fly on.

  • Organization collecting presents for impoverished children worldwide

    Alex Nsengimana wasn’t familiar with many of the contents in the shoebox delivered to his Rwandan orphanage, so he pulled out the candy cane and bit into it — wrapper and all. He received his first Christmas present from Operation Christmas Child — an organization that packs shoeboxes with presents and delivers them to impoverished children across the world.“As a 7-year-old, it was so surprising that we could call the gift our own,” he said in an email.The gift reached the 7-year-old Nsengimana in 1995, a year after violence claimed up to a million lives in the infamous Rwandan genocide. He was already an orphan living with his grandmother when people of the Hutu ethnic group began slaughtering the Tutsi people. Nsengimana, who is Tutsi, fled with his siblings after watching militants murder his grandmother.“Many of us had lost most of our families during the genocide,” he said. “Receiving the shoebox gift was a glimpse that we were not forgotten.”He returned to Rwanda in 2013, delivered shoeboxes to his old orphanage and met with the man who killed his uncle.“My journey has been to share that love with the people I meet, but also with the people who have caused me most pain in my life,” he said. “The gift was one of the tools that God used to share his love for me.”

  • Keeping the Faith: The opiate option

    I am sometimes suspicious of how we employ our faith. Don’t get me wrong, faith is important to me, and I have given my life to it. But sometimes I treat my faith like it is a medicine cabinet or a pharmaceutical, going to it only when something is wrong, or if I am looking for a quick remedy.“My head hurts,” so I go to the medicine cabinet looking for a pain reliever. “I have a stomach ache,” so I reach in for a spiritual antacid. “I feel so uncertain,” so I explore my therapeutic options. “I’m feeling a bit anxious,” so I look for something that will serve as divine Prozac.Certainly I am not the only one who does this — it is a common practice — and I’m not the only one to make this observation. Strangely enough (strange because rarely goes a Christian writer reference this man), it was Karl Marx who popularized this view, and this analogy would be incomplete without referring to his legendary quote.Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the people,” and it appears he understood the medicinal, tranquilizing effects of religious faith fairly well. Now, before you write that letter to the editor or attempt to get your pound of flesh from this simple columnist, understand that I am no Marxist — not even close — I detest anything that smacks of coercion. But that doesn’t mean that some of Marx’s observations about religion were incorrect, even if his means of modification were suspect. Marx felt that religious faith did very little to actually help people. Rather than drilling down to the source of a person’s trouble, he claimed that religion only treated that person’s symptoms. It was a barbiturate that had a numbing influence, instead of resulting in empowerment.Faith in God, according to Marx, keeps the believer trapped in his or her current state, incapacitated, and prevents him or her from experiencing real, personal, substantial change. In short, Marx criticized the false relief that faith can bring — false because nothing ever really changes — and I find it difficult to argue with his conclusion.The faith that is peddled by many pulpits today is little more than a sedative. It helps people to forget their pain and suffering, helps them sleep at night, and keeps them hanging on for next week’s dose of tranquility; but it does very little to move people to a place of growing, spiritual health.

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