Wednesday, October 27, 2010


"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
~Hebrews 10:24

I am absolutely sick unto death of the unloving, uncharitable, unhelpful, and disrespectful manner in which the sexes have come to treat one another of late. 

I haven't the slightest idea where "obviously it's just her time of the month" and "if you want it done right, ask a woman" come from, in the grand scheme of things.  Perhaps Genesis 3.  Is this stuff as old as the hills?  I don't know, but it needs to end.

Single Dad Laughing wrote about this yesterday from the perspective of how men treat women, and what message is communicated.  Check this out:
It is not the impossibly air brushed females on magazine covers who are causing women to hold themselves against a standard of perfection. No, it's not that at all. Holy crap. Why am I just realizing this? Why doesn't anybody seem to realize this?
It is the men that stop and look at those magazines.
It is because of us, guys. It is because we leave them with no other option. We stop. We look. We comment. We joke. We implant those very thoughts into their way of thinking. We make sure they know that we agree with everything the media has brainwashed us to believe beauty to be.
As far as women constantly comparing themselves to other women and feeling worthless, I think he's maybe a little too hard on himself, but it's his confession, so I'll let him have it.  I do want to point out, however, that women can be very, very hard on each other, even when there are no men directly involved. 

Nonetheless, the point I'm making here is about opposite genders.  So, I headed off to a meeting last night just after I'd read the Single Dad Laughing post above, and so maybe it was in my head a bit.  But at the meeting, we got to discussing an entirely different church building that is very poorly designed.  Think about if you had a split level house with the only bathrooms on the bottom level and the only living room-type area on the top level.  It is pretty poorly designed, I'll admit.  But as the group (5 women, 3 men) was lamenting this issue that doesn't even involve any of them, one of the women in the group declared that, "Obviously, it must have been designed by men."  The other women at the table all laughed and agreed (and I'm trying to remember - I think I just sort of awkwardly laughed), and the men shut up, and shut down.  I didn't really evaluate it in the moment; the fact that the whole thing even happened only really hit me after I got home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Like vs. Lust

Tracey over at palepage wrote about this a couple weeks ago, and I still am struggling with this here Modesty Survey.  (To see the data, click a category on the left, then choose a question on the right, then scroll down for the results.)  The upshot of the survey and its results are that no matter how hard women try, our clothing or makeup or jewelry or the way we sit or stand or walk is always going to constitute some sort of "stumbling block" to our brothers in the faith who (it seems) are constantly battling against the sin of lust.

Now.  I don't in any way want to underestimate or make light of the fact that men are very um...visual.  I get that.  I mean, I don't get it, but I understand the principle.  And I think that men or no men, women have a responsibility to dress modestly.  Our bodies have been given to us by God, and we should therefore treat them with respect.  It also (theoretically) helps protect us against being lusted after, and (theoretically) encourages men to get to know our personalities and characters, and not just our bodies.  And the Bible does indeed say:

...make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.  (Romans 14:13)
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  (1 Corinthians 8:9)
It's also true that regardless of what the sin is, as Christians, we should all be seeking to help our brothers and sisters avoid sin. 

If you look under "Open Questions", you'll see that, at least at some level, the guys taking this survey recognize that ultimately it's their job not to lust, and not to treat their sisters-in-Christ with disrespect.  But it seems like the survey language, crafted as it is with an extreme overuse of the term "stumbling block", is meant to suggest that women have an enormous responsbility to dress modestly not because it is a virtue in and of itself, but solely in order to prevent others from sinning.

I'm just not sure what I think about that.  I feel like Paul's admonishment not to place stumbling blocks in the path of the weak is mostly about people who are weak in the faith and have not yet come to enough spiritual maturity to understand proper exercise of Christian freedom.  I think if you can run around demanding that other people not place stumbling blocks in your way, then Paul's not talking about you. 

But let's look seriously at Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2 - all of which give us some variation of

And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.
All you Bible scholars out there: in light of this passage, is there a difference between deliberately dressing and/or acting to incite lust, and attempting to dress and/or act with a reasonable degree of modesty but still becoming an inadvertant object of lust by others who lack self-control?  Common sense seems to suggest that there is, but this verse in the synoptics paints with a pretty broad brush.  Thoughts?

And finally: There seems to be an implicit suggestion that finding a woman attractive is the same thing as lusting after her.  Maybe someone can clarify this for me, but I don't think they're the same thing.  Maybe this is where male and female responses to visuals part ways, but as a woman, I think it's entirely possible to look at a man and say, "He's really very attractive," and leave it at that.  Vis a vis the survey, I resent the implication that dressing in order to look attractive is automatically dressing to incite lust.  I don't think it's true, I don't think it's how most women think when they're getting dressed, and I think that continuing to push this meme that attractive women are naturally responsible for sins of their brothers-in-Christ can actually be very psychologically harmful. 

Maybe it's just me...

In Which I Become Completely Sold On "Traditional" Worship, Part 3

Where was I?  Oh yes, my supervisor wanted me to evaluate Young Adult Worship.  I got there, and immediately engaged my event-planner side, left over from my days in politics.  I was thinking:
Well, let's start by evaluating how many people are here.  The actual number of people here isn't terrible, but the room is "built" way too big.  It is a gigantic room, with too much space between tables and chairs.  The room is obviously used for different purposes during the rest of the week, the remnants (tables, chairs, etc...) are just laying up against the walls.  The stage is...well, I don't know.  The lighting is strange.  No one is singing...I think because they are sitting at tables.  The PowerPoint is...hey wait a second, where is the cross?  Oh look, there it is!  Stuffed over in a corner with some extra sound equipment.  It feels like a comedy club, not a church.
Ok, so, what do we need to do?  Get rid of about 40 or 50 chairs, and set up some pipe and drape to close off the room a little.  Fix the lighting.  Spotlight the preacher, come up with some sort of lighting plan for when the band is playing.  Get the cross up on the stage, over to the side at an angle is fine so you can still run the PowerPoint against the wall.  Get some music going before the service actually starts.  Etc...
And then it occurred to me:
My goodness, this is supposed to be church, not a political event.  I'm trying to figure out what story the media would write if they had pictures of this, when I should be worshipping the Lord God Almighty.
So here's what I'm thinking: Traditional, liturgical worship, particularly when paired with the Lord's Supper/Eucharist/Communion is necessarily focused on Christ (at least for people who confess the Real Presence).  There is a lot, lot, lot of prep work that can and does and should go into awesome "high church" worship.  But my sense is that most of it is related to the dignity of the service itself.  The preparation is about expecting that the Lord is present in this place, engaging the tradition honorably and worthily, and allowing congregants to participate in that to the fullest extent.

Contrast that with my sense about the prep work of contemporary, low-church worship: I feel like we're trying to create an environment that we can convince people to come to.  We want the lights low and the people crammed together, to amp up the energy.  We need well-designed rooms because it's more professional.  We encourage people to bring in coffee and snacks because it's friendly and supposedly proves that "God can fit into your lifestyle" or something.  Bottom line: we have to create the conditions to make this service succeed.

I want to be clear.  Jesus shows up at contemporary worship.  "Where two or three are gathered," and all that.  "Contemporvant worship" has the capacity to reach people for the Lord, it allows people to encounter God, it creates and encourages faith, it comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.  I would never say that it doesn't.

But when you have the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, when you have the liturgy, brimming with the language of the Bible, language that has stood the test of time, that has steeped millions of people across time and space in the faith, then,  It's going to "work" - He always has.  The rest is easy.  Making sure chairs or pews are arranged well becomes about allowing people to best participate in the encounter, not about convincing them to stay or come back.

So, am I anti-contemporary Christian music now?  Am I advocating for an end to all midweek Young Adult Worship that isn't the high-church Divine Service/practically a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated by the pope?  No.  I'm always in favor of everything that God uses to reach people.  Let's keep the music, and let's use it where it's appropriate.  Let's have concerts and clubs and Young Adult Ministry.  But let's stop pretending that the 8:00 "traditional" service and the 10:00 "Contemporvant" service are the same thing, just catering to different preferences.  They aren't. 

**I'm perfectly willing to engage anybody on this topic.  If you think I'm totally off-base, tell me so!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm one of those people who tends to adopt the attitude that birthdays should be celebrated for several days - full of taking care of myself, enjoying life, having fun, and generally being glad to be alive!

So since I had to be in the Big City for Thursday Night Young Adult Worship, and I had an interesting meeting set up for Friday afternoon, I decided to get a nice hotel room Thursday night and just relax.  So, what did I do?  Well, I ordered Italian Cheese Bread at the Little Caesars drive thru - yes, seriously, Little Caesars has a drive-thru here.  Who knew?  Then I partook of the non-sucky internet in the big city and got some emails sent and blogging done.  I took a nice, long, hot bath (with jets!) while reading N.T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of GodI cranked the AC up to simulate actual cold weather, microwaved my rice baby, and then curled up in bed with Jesus of Nazareth and The Imitation of Christ. 

Friday morning I slept in, but got up in time for breakfast at the hotel - waffles with blueberry syrup!  I watched a little Fox News (which I haven't done in ages) to get caught up on the Juan Williams debacle.  Then I went to WalMart to get one of the tires on my car fixed and managed to find 27 Dresses in the $5.00 bin while I was waiting.  I went to the Synod Office to check out a couple videos for the high school youth group, hung out at Starbucks for a while, and then had a very interesting meeting that I hadn't been quite sure how it was going to go, but turned out to be very good.

I went back and spent some more time at Starbucks, just enjoying the chance to read and relax, caught up a little more on some email - including hearing from my fav theology prof evah.  Finally it got to be time to head home, and I needed to run by the grocery store first to pick up some "cold stuff."  As I was driving through the parking lot, thinking about some of the things from my meeting this afternoon, I started talking out loud to myself very passionately about where God's grace can be found, and about people who are very good at talking about God's grace.  And then I stopped.  Because it suddenly occurred to me - right then, as I was turning right into the next aisle to look for a parking space - that not four months ago I had said the exact opposite thing.  As I found myself thinking, "Did I really ever say that?  I can't believe I did!"  there was nothing else to do but laugh, and say, "Ok God, I get it!"

On my way out of town I hit up Taco Bell and cashed in my free birthday drink coupon at Starbucks (venti salted caramel hot chocolate...mmm), and headed for home.  In the car, I talked to an old college friend, who I miss dearly, and desperately needed to catch up with, until I ran out of cell phone service and then I proceeded to rock out to Handel's Messiah the rest of the way home.  At home I unpacked, found the flowers and chocolate that had been delivered courtesy of my sis and her BF, and then crawled into bed with the rice baby and books, blissfully content...

Saturday morning I slept in, and when I awoke, found three marvelous text messages wishing me a happy birthday.  I have no idea what time they arrived, because cell service out here is terrible and sometimes the timestamps get ultra-screwed up, but they were very pleasant wake-up presents.  After laying around in bed reading a while, I finally got up and made orange rolls for brunch, listening to more of Handel's Messiah.  Not sure why I'm in that kind of a mood lately; I just am.  For most of the day I alternated working on my sermon with fielding birthday phone calls from friends and family.

I made a fabulous dinner of angel hair pasta with garlic alfredo sauce, sauteed chicken breast and mushrooms, baked acorn squash, and a tossed salad.  For dessert I had carrot cake, and I also made myself a tequila sunrise with fresh-squeezed orange juice.  I watched my movie that I bought at WalMart Friday morning.  Then I opened my presents from the most awesome Heterosexual Life Partner ever, who knows just what I need in life: books, a DVD, a coffee mug, and of course, dark chocolate. 

I'm now curled up back in bed, snuggled up with the rice baby and one of my birthday books, all set for church tomorrow!  Today was a good day...definitely...happy birthday to me!

Friday, October 22, 2010

In Which I Become Completely Sold On "Traditional" Worship, Part 2

So, after the embarrasing confession in Part 1, below, that I started hanging out around contemporary Christian music because I wanted to hang out with a cute boy, I started to actually like the stuff, egads! 

This is, mostly, I think, because I actually started listening to it.  When I left home to move to seminary, I was ridiculously homesick.  I missed Gigantor Church and my friends like crazy.  It was a struggle not to drive home every weekend.  But as I was getting settled into the new city and scanning the tuner on my car radio to find new presets, I stumbled on the "Christian music" station, which seemed to constantly be playing the songs that I heard so frequently back home.  And so even though I didn't love it, I clung to it, because it reminded me of home.

Eventually, the homesickness faded a bit, but I kept the station.  See, it turns out that contemporary music isn't all terrible.  Some of it's pretty good, actually.  Yeah, some of it has some pretty suspect theology, and some of it is too sappy and sentimental, but some of it's good.  I never really got to the point where it was my preference for Sunday morning, but I gained a much better attitude about it.  For example, if I have a friend who doesn't go to church very often (or at all), but will go with me to the contemporary (but not traditional) service, I can handle it.  And I started to enjoy the midweek or even Sunday night services in my new city.  Again, not so much Sunday morning (it's just not "church" for me), but when MercyMe and Tenth Ave. North came and did a concert at Gigantor Church, you can bet I was there!

Around this time I started struggling with the fact that my own personal preferences still leaned strongly toward the "traditional" liturgy, etc...for Sunday morning, but seeing the power of contemporary, non-traditional services as well.  God reaches and heals and brings unto himself thousands of people through Gigantor Church.  How can I deny that it "works", regardless of what I happen to like most?  And then this video came out and went viral:

It's absolutely hysterical, because it's so true, and honestly, I think that's a little bit sad, too.  So still, I pondered.  Worship prep does not necessarily equal manipulation or lack of sincerity or authenticity.  Really, really good "traditional" worship needs lots of prep too - picking good hymns, having readers and choirs practice, getting everything arranged on the altar and in the sanctuary so that it all goes according to plan, etc...And that's "all the same" too.  Different "same" than "contemporvant" worship services are, but same nonetheless.  Right?

But last night at Contemporvant Young Adult Service at Big Church in Big City, it hit me.  My supervisor had asked me to go and tell him how many people were there, how it went, etc...So I was paying lots of attention, engaging my "event planner" side, which I don't always necessarily enjoy, but I can do it when I have to, and honestly, I think I'm pretty good at it. 

But now, for the cliffhanger:  Come back later for Part 3, in which I come down firmly on the side of the liturgy. 

In Which I Become Completely Sold On "Traditional" Worship, Part 1

Tonight I was up at Big Church in Big City, and it was a good thing.  When my supervisor told me that I could have my pick of what ministries I wanted to be a part of, right away I picked Young Adult Worship on Thursday nights.  For one thing, I don't get to do hardly any worship planning at my churches, because I have a rockstar Worship and Music Committee.  And I love them.  But I would also love to be a little more um...involved.  Picking hymns, touching up the liturgy, that sort of thing.  But I can live with the situation as-is.  The other reason I wanted to be part of Young Adult Worship is because I feel like I never get a chance to worship.  I go to work on Sunday mornings, not church anymore.  And I really miss it.  Wednesday night adult worship at my churches is getting to be a good substitute for me, but it's still kind of a substitute.

Now, way back in the days of my biggest jerkiness as a church-goer and all-around human being, I was staunchly in favor of so-called "traditional" worship.  The liturgy (LBW Setting 2, please), hymns (on a pipe organ), all four readings (OT, Psalm, Epistle, Gospel), candles, crucifer, torch-bearers, the whole deal.  That was how church was supposed to be, gosh-darn-it, and anybody who didn't like it like that just wasn't spiritually mature enough to appreciate it.  Contemporary worship services aren't really worship services, they're just concerts.  Ugh.

Looking back, I think part of my problem was a) I was a jerk, and b) I didn't know most of the contemporary music.  I have absolutely zero musical ability, and when the whole congregation is singing hymns that I have been hearing since I was a baby, accompanied by a booming pipe organ, I can sing along and my crappy voice fades into the background.  (Or so I like to think.  Don't wreck my delusions, ok?)  So, I didn't listen to contemporary Christian music, the Top 40 of which is pretty much what gets played in contemporary services on any given Sunday, a lot of it was too high for me to sing comfortably, and the whole 7-11 thing (7 words repeated 11 times) really gets on my nerves.  Basically, I hated contemporary worship but the reasons I hated it were entirely about me, and not about any practically or theologically substantive argument. 

Then I went through a period where I came to at  In part, because at Gigantor Church at home, 98% of what they do is contemporary music.  If you're willing to show up for church at 8:00 on Sunday morning you can hit the traditional service which has fabulous organ talent, but that's about it.  And the thing of it was, there was a cute boy that I knew at the time who kept asking me to go with him to the Thursday Night Young Adult Service.  Now, I really didn't like this service, at the time.  It was too loud, the room was "built" oddly, I didn't know the music, and the preaching was hit-or-miss.  But darned if lust didn't win out over my taste in music, and I ended up there on more than one occasion.  (For what it's worth, the cute boy is now marrying one of those Perfect Girls, so for all you young kids out there, here's a lesson worth learning: sacrificing musical and theological principles for the sake of sitting next to the "cute boy" or "hot girl" in church is never a good idea, ok?)

Next up: How I came to love contemporary music

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Model of Domesticity

This past weekend was awesome.  A good friend of mine from school drove out to the sticks to visit me, and we had a great time.  We cooked, and read, and hung out, and watched TV, and I wrote my sermon, and we went to the "big city" for dinner and a movie. 

Part of what I loved, though, was the getting-ready for her to come.  On Friday morning (what the heck happened to my week?), I got up and got going.  I did several loads of laundry, cleaned pretty much the whole house, vacuumed, made guacamole, put clean dishes away, took out the garbage, sorted through some mail, etc...

And it felt great.  For a while I was on the phone with my BFF from high school, talking through a rather strange situation I'm in.  But it felt so natural, just cleaning and organizing and making my home look bee-yoo-tif-full, talking about guys and kids and recipes and judge-y mothers who make their own challah bread every week.  It felt natural - in my element, if you will.

I have thought - for a long time - that I could be quite happy staying home with a bunch of kiddos and doing some freelance writing.  Maybe teaching part-time or something. 

Bring on the menfolk and the babies, that's what I have to say. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Thought On Honor

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last." - Jesus
This summer during CPE, a friend referred me on numerous occasions to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) for answers on various doctrinal questions.  One of those questions was on the relationship of non-Catholic Christians to the Roman Catholic Church, and how the RCC viewed non-Catholics, what with salvation not being found outside the church and all...

Looking for this information takes you to Part One, Section Two, Chapter Three, Article Nine, Paragraph Three.  Or just...(thought #??) 838.  It reads as follows:
"The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."  Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."
I bolded the part that I keep coming back to.  At this precise moment, I'm less interested in Rome's ecumenical relations than I am in their use of language here: "the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian."  Stop and think about that for a second.  "...honored by the name of Christian." 

I'm not used to thinking about the name/title/descriptor, whatever you want to call it, "Christian" as being an honor.  An adjective, yes.  Maybe an identity, perhaps.  ("It's not what I am, it's who I am.")  Etc...

But what would happen if we actually treated "the name of Christian" as an honor?  Instead of arrogantly claiming it for ourselves so that we can beat over the head with threats of hellfire and damnation those who don't have it?  Or instead of waving it over the heads of others like a giant banner in a stadium while we cuss out the referees?  Or wearing it like a fish symbol on our car even though we drive like jerks?

What if we stopped for a moment and contemplated the idea that the name of Christian is an honor that has been bestowed upon us by virtue of our baptism and the gift of faith given by the Holy Spirit?  Would it change how we related to God?  to others?  Would it change how we did evangelism? 

I have two images in my head when I think about this.  The first is of someone receiving an honorary Ph.D. - they didn't do the work, they didn't write the dissertation or pass the exams or teach the undergrads.  The university simply decided to confer the degree.  Similarly, we don't earn the name of Christian.  It is God who baptizes, God who gives faith, God who redeems.  You did not choose me, but I chose you...

...and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last.  The other image in my mind is of knighthood, that moment when you kneel before the king, and he places the blade of the sword on your shoulders, and says, "I now dub thee ___________, a Knight of the Round Table."  In the middle ages, knighthood required oaths of loyalty and service to both God and the king.  During the ceremony, the knight would be presented with many gifts, including the shield and sword, and sometimes the full set of armor.  At the end of the ceremony the king would say, "Arise, Sir Knight." 

What if we had an image in our heads of us the baptismal font, the communion rail, the confessional...and being tapped on the shoulders with the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," and hearing, "I now dub thee Elizabeth, a Knight of Christ.  Arise, Christian." ???  What if we really believed we had sworn an oath of loyalty and service to God?  That we now wear the full armor of God, and that we have been "knighted" for the purpose of going to bear fruit?

Something to wonder about, that's all...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My New Favorite Song

I ♥ this.

Apparently it was released like a year ago, but I just heard it for the first time last night.  It's cute, and it's proof that popular music need not be skanky.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose...

I's feelin' near as faded as my jeans...

Another good song...mmm...

Or, probably better, John 8:36: "He whom the Son sets free, is free indeed."

I've been feeling last few days, and it's all good.  Awesome-huge-o-Church-at-Home has been preaching on dreams and passions, and what we've been "made for."  They keep asking the question, "What is your dream?  What are you passionate about?"  And for a while, I've been having to answer, "I don't know.  I don't have any dreams.  I'm not passionate about anything.  I'm fine.  With whatever."

But I didn't really like that feeling (I was feeling a little left-out, what with all my friends at home getting to have all these big dreams and I'm stuck out here on the prairie feeling...fine), so I started praying about it.  God, give me a dream.  God, show me something I'm passionate about. 

Why am I always so surprised when God comes through for me?  His mercies are new every morning, indeed.  I mean, you'd think over time I'd start to remember and trust that He's got my back.  Or maybe that "forgetfulness" increases the joy level, and keeps me from demanding God's action, keeps the relationship loving rather than contractual.  I don't know.

Anyway...the point is...last week was the first week of our midweek worship services at this little country church.  It's flippin' amazing that a church this size manages to pull off midweek worship year 'round (not just Advent and Lent), and I ♥ it.  There's a little bit of contemporary worship music (guitar and piano type stuff, with some of the younger members of the congregation leading), then I get to teach for a few minutes (10-ish), adults break into groups and discuss while the kids mostly just run around and have fun, and then we close with more music.  It's fabulous.  And so last week, as I was there watching the adults have some great discussions with each other - spouses, friends, relatives - and even engage the kids some, I was just loving it.  It was incredible watching them learn and grow and think and ponder.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

All Hallow's (?) Eve

Where does the apostrophe go?

Anywho...I'm really not a Halloween fan.  Like, not at all.  It's cool, I guess, kind of, when you're a kid.  But I was always a pretty serious child (even before I got sick), and so the dressing up thing never really did it for me. 

Perhaps it will be more fun this year with a) not working, b) not living in a dorm, c) having actual front steps to sit on and give candy to cute little kids from my church.

Nonetheless, there is one good fabulous thing about Halloween.

I give thee,

Halloween Oreos!!

For the last year or two, I hadn't been able to find these at the store, and I was sorely disappointed.  The other day, though, I had to travel into the city to visit a parishoner in the hospital, and I took the opportunity to make a quick WalMart run, where my cart came to a screeching halt when I encountered this:
Yes, friends, it is now officially fall. 

(Side note: I don't even care that much about regular Oreos - whatevs, they're fine.  But Halloween Oreos...they're worth the whole twisting apart and slow-dissection-to-savor-every-bit!  Yum...amazing!)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Let's Do It This Way, Shall We?

Yes, please:
I was confronted by the Baptist minister of the campus church, Warren Carr. He was smarter, tougher, funnier, and more theologically astute than any of the professors on the Wake Forest faculty. He had put his life on the line during the civil rights crisis of the 1960s. His house was bombed and his church defaced in Durham, North Carolina. Yet Carr always made clear that his courageous stance on racial justice was an expression and not a substitute for the Gospel.
Emphasis mine.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Things I Think I Think II

As Smith argues, the Bible is emphatic in condemning divorce. For this reason, you would expect to find evangelical Christians demanding the inclusion of divorce on a list of central concerns and aims. But this seldom happened. Evangelical Christians rightly demanded laws that would defend the sanctity of human life. Not so for marriage. Smith explains that the inclusion of divorce on the agenda of the Christian right would have risked a massive alienation of members. In summary, evangelicals allowed culture to trump Scripture.
           See also:
But divorce harms many more lives than will be touched by homosexual marriage. Children are left without fathers, wives without husbands, and homes are forever broken. Fathers are separated from their children, and marriage is irreparably undermined as divorce becomes routine and accepted. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin, but it is sin, and it is a sin that is condemned in no uncertain terms.
  • Catholic or no, I think Elizabeth Scalia makes a fabulous point in this article. 
Intellectual rigor and loyalty are not mutually exclusive, as some progressives are prone to insist. What Newman models is, perhaps, a willingness to apply one’s own intellect to any question with enough openness as to leave room to be surprised at one’s own conclusions.
Sometimes, the commingling of faith and reason is a neat and natty thing. More often it is a bit messy, but once our intellects have thrashed a matter to its frayed ends, we realize that we have stumbled into mystery and then, if we are open, we (very reasonably) throw our hands up to heaven and submit to it, because we know mystery for a good adventure, and we are loyal to it.
I'm always intrigued by people who say things like, "I could never be Catholic because I don't want anyone to make me believe all those things."  It's always said with kind of a sneer, as though it's obvious that there is no one who does in fact believe all those things, and that all those unthinking Catholics have clearly signed the Catechism at gunpoint (or something) and are to be viewed with disdain.  As though thinking about what you believe, reasoning it out, talking about it, all within a general framework of loyalty is impossible, or totally not allowed in the Catholic Church.  It also makes me ask the question: do other churches - Lutherans, Anglicans, and other less uh... historically tethered protestants - not have lists of "things you have to believe"?  Like, you know, the Creeds or something? 

  • I think I am frustrated here by the general sense I get that not being married or having children completely disqualifies me from having anything to say about marriage or children/children's ministry.  Parents who disagree with me don't say, "Hmm...well, I see your point, but I still think..."  No, they say, "Well, as a parent, I can tell you that..."  At the wedding I was at last week, that I didn't even officiate at, the father of the groom looked quite obviously at my left hand, and then proceeded to say in all seriousness, "Well, you're not married, so of course, you don't know anything about any of this."  Thanks.  Because I don't already feel like a failure at life for being 29 and unmarried, I need you all to point it out and start removing my pastoral authority, all at the same time.  Awesome.  

  • I think that being asked to preside at funerals, particularly the graveside portion of the service, is perhaps the greatest honor I have ever had.  I complain a lot about all of the funerals there have been, and I think that they can really take a toll on a solo pastor.  And while I'm really enjoying my time here, I'm not sure that I'm sold on "I really really wanna be a pastor here for the rest of my life."  But I will miss the funerals.  There's a very real, almost tangible, intersection of life, death, God, humans, love, loss, natural, and supernatural all at once.  I want to say that it's "cool", but that does no justice it to whatsoever.  There just is not the right word. 

  • I think that there are a lot of grocery items where one can get by with using the inexpensive Wal-Mart brand.  Like canned vegetables, or shredded parmesan cheese, or hot cocoa mix.  Ranch dressing is not in this category. 

  • I think that it is way too late in the year for the high temperatures to be in the 70s.  I know that it needs to snow on or before my birthday. 

  • I think that I would move back to Europe, especially Germany, in a heartbeat.  With a good job offer, and hopefully a couple pre-fab friends in the area (connected to a job, or school, or just an expat community), I'd pack my bags and go right now. 

Monday, October 4, 2010


I really struggled with the lectionary text last week, Luke 17:5-10:

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea', and it would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
Part of why I struggled with it is because it didn't seem to fit with where the text had come from or where it was going.  I apppreciate a flow to the narrative, and this whole section titled "sayings of Jesus" just really doesn't seem to go with the preceding parables, or even the story about the ten lepers that follows.  I was smelling an argument for Q, and I hate Q.  I don't believe in Q. To put it bluntly, I think that Q is, as a professor of mine once said, "a figment of the scholarly imagination."  I tend to believe that people wrote what they said they wrote.

And besides: Luke seems to be a fairly smart dude.  Even if he stumbled across some document that had a bunch of random "sayings of Jesus", are we to believe that he just randomly crammed them in somewhere that made no sense whatsoever, because he didn't have a better idea of what to do with them?  Like he or anyone else didn't give the final draft a once-over before shipping it off to Theophilus?  I think not.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Life In A Northern Town

Ah-heya ma ma ma, into the night-ahh
Hey ma ma ma, hey-ay-ay-ay, ah

Ahem.  Anyway...

Today was the local town festival celebrating our Scandinavian heritage, complete with lefse, scalloped potatoes, lefse, brats, lefse, tacos (??), lefse, rommegrot, and oh yes, lefse.  Apparently I am a natural at lefse-rolling, so I was recruited to help with this task as a part of the live lefse-making demonstration.  The advantage of this, of course, is that when the demonstration is done for the day, who are still there helping get to eat what's leftover.  And it's amazing. 

(If you don't know what lefse is, think about dough roughly the consistency of sugar cookie dough, only made with potatoes.  Roll it into a ball...mmm...slightly bigger than a golf ball, but nowhere near the size of a tennis ball or baseball.  Now, with a rolling pin, on a very heavily floured surface, roll it out into a circle 14" in diameter.  Then fry it up on a griddle - careful, that thin it goes really fast! - then spread butter on it, sprinkle with sugar, and fold it in half, then half again, then one more time so it ends up being kind of cone-shaped.  Enjoy.)

Now for the rommegrot: you know how there are signs at amusement park rides saying things like, "Pregnant women or people with heart conditions should stay off this ride."?  Yeah, there should be a sign like that at the rommegrot booth: "People being treated for high cholesterol or who have any desire to not die from a heart attack in the next hour should not eat this."  It's basically heavy cream, whole milk, butter, sugar, and enough flour to hold the whole thing together in kind of a warm, soupy, pudding-like consistency.  Spoon it out into a bowl, pour melted butter over it (no, for real), and then cover it in cinnamon sugar.  Lord, have mercy.  It's good, but the experience is sort of ruined by the fact that you have no option but to contemplate your own mortality whilst eating.  I suppose if you live in Scandinavia near the Arctic Circle and need a ridiculously high caloric intake just to stay alive during the winter, then perhaps it serves a purpose.