October 23, 2017

Saturday Ramblings: Labor Day Edition, 2014

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Happy Labor Day weekend!

In my heart, mind, and body rhythms, this weekend will always be the end of summer. However, here in Indiana, where we have an abomination called a “balanced school schedule,” we are already a month into fall. In fact, on July 31 my grandson announced to me that he was going to the pool on the next day because it was the (and I quote) “last day of summer.” What are they doing to our children? I’m pretty sure that the opening sequence of the Andy Griffith Show — you know, where Andy and Opie are walking down the road to go fishing — was filmed in summer, maybe even in August. If I take my grandson fishing like that now, we’ll be facing truancy and contributing the delinquency of a minor charges! And if we’re a month into fall already, that means Christmas decorations will be going up any day now, and — worst of all — the airwaves will soon be filled with campaign ads for the elections! This whole thing has made me so crazy, I’m rambling!

Which, by the way, is what we’re supposed to be doing together this morning. C’mon, let’s get away from my rantings . . . and ramble!

settings-iconlabor-day-postcardAccording to this informative Time Magazine article, we owe the date of Labor Day to our nation’s greatest president ☺, Grover Cleveland, who signed it into law in 1896 in recognition of the growing labor movement. The piece notes that International Worker’s Day is actually May 1, but scholars explain that Labor Day is a “government alternative” to IWD because they wanted to avoid linking the holiday with the infamous Haymarket Affair in Chicago, in which many people died when workers marched to demand the 8-hour work day.

Here is one pundit who builds a strong case that on Labor Day we should think about the positive impact unions make in our economy and how we should be concerned about making them strong again. In Robert L. Borasage’s opinion, “This Labor Day, we should do more than celebrate workers — we should understand how vital empowering workers and reviving worker unions is to rebuilding a broad middle class.”

However, in this piece by Morgan O. Reynolds, the author argues that, although one can make a case for other voluntary worker associations that represent the interests of employees, labor unions as we have had them are not good for the economy. Why? Because (1) they “do best in heavily regulated, monopolistic environments,” (2) “gains to union members come at the expense of those who must shift to lower-paying or less desirable jobs or go unemployed,” and (3) “despite considerable rhetoric to the contrary, unions have blocked the economic advance of blacks, women, and other minorities.”

What do you think? Discuss.

settings-iconUS News & World Report has a list of the 100 Best Jobs in the U.S. Here is their ranking of the top 10, based on, “employment opportunity, good salary, manageable work-life balance and job security.”

  1. diverse-medical-career-group-849x565Software developer
  2. Computer systems analyst
  3. Dentist
  4. Nurse practitioner
  5. Pharmacist
  6. Registered nurse
  7. Physical therapist
  8. Physician
  9. Web developer
  10. Dental hygienist

The worlds of technology and medicine dominate the top 50 (medicine alone accounts for 40% of all the jobs), with a nod here and there to engineering, finance, and education. Oh, and #49 — Nail technician.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t find “pastor,” “chaplain,” “blogger” or “baseball fan” anywhere on the list.

settings-iconAll this work has to make a person tired, doesn’t it? Maybe a good “power nap” is just the thing for you. Did you know that drinking some coffee or ingesting some other form of caffeine before shutting your eyes might help that nap be more effective, more refreshing? Say hello to the “coffee nap.” Read about it in the article: Scientists agree: Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone.

settings-iconWhile we’re discussing work, let’s think for a moment about “good works” from a Christian perspective. August 28 was the anniversary of St. Augustine’s death, and Relevant Magazine shared 15 of his most memorable quotes that have helped to shape Christian thought over the centuries. Here’s one of my favorites:

On Serving Those in Need
What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

Here is what St. Augustine said about the relationship of faith and good works. He is commenting on the relationship between Ephesians 2:8-9 (“not of works”) and Ephesians 2:10 (“for good works”).

We are framed, therefore, that is, formed and created, “in the good works which” we have not ourselves prepared, but “God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God; moreover it is given gratuitously, even as that is given gratuitously to which it is given. But that to which it is given is solely and simply grace; this therefore is also that which is given to it, because it is its reward;-grace is for grace, as if remuneration for righteousness; in order that it may be true, because it is true, that God “shall reward every man according to his works.”

settings-iconNightsounds-BillPearceHere is another suggestion for getting a good night’s sleep and having sweet dreams so that you’ll awake refreshed and energized to go to work in the morning. Way back in the 1970’s and 80’s, we used to listen to a late-night radio program out of Moody Radio in Chicago that soothed our souls and made our eyelids heavy. It was called “Nightsounds,” and its host was a man with an incomparably consoling voice named Bill Pearce, who spoke gentle words of encouragement and played peaceful music into the wee hours. Now, not only can you go to the Nightsounds website and listen to these programs, but there is an app for your phone or tablet so you can listen anytime and drift off, thinking the loveliest thoughts . . .

Check out the Nightsounds App here.

settings-iconA lot of pastors and ministry leaders are working hard to make their churches grow. But according to this piece by Alexander Griswold, it only takes one simple step to shrink your church. Here is his argument: “Every major American church that has taken steps towards liberalization on sexual issues has seen a steep decline in membership.” He cites the usual suspects to bolster his case: the Episcopal Church, the ELCA, the UCC, the Presbyterian Church USA. On the other hand, he points to growing conservative bodies such as the Assemblies of God, the Roman Catholic Church, the LDS.

So, the question is, is this causation? or correlation? I don’t know; what do you think? Griswold claims that conservative Christians never have to sacrifice the one responsibility of growing their churches to fulfill their other responsibility of upholding what they think is just. Is he right about that? Have mainline churches who have made decisions about broadening their positions on sexuality made a bargain to sacrifice growing their churches to affirm what they think is a justice issue? And have conservative churches, in contrast, faithfully struck the balance of upholding both values? Or have they sacrificed other things?

settings-iconWe end with a guy who is a real “piece of work.” I apologize ahead of time — I just couldn’t help myself. Here is the promo for “pastor” Ed Young’s latest sermon series.

Yes, Ed. That’s exactly how I imagine God. As a drone (I guess that should be Drone) who is constantly spying on my life so he can strike when I get out of line. Get your drone on?!?

Comments

  1. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first, and Steve Martin shall be second — if I hit “Post Comment” quickly enough.

  2. Perhaps they are the “best” according to measurable standards, but I would be absolutely miserable doing most of the jobs on that list.

    I’m surprised to see that high school, middle school, elementary school, and preschool teacher are all listed but college professor is nowhere to be found. This seems counter-intuitive given the trends demonstrated in the rest of the article, since teaching professions that deal with older students are higher on the list than those that deal with younger students.

    • I think that the absence of “college professor” from the list probably has a lot to do with the rise of the adjunct in American academia… Adjuncts make up an ever-increasing portion of the people actually teaching college classes, and they are notoriously abused by their employers: terrible pay, no benefits, no job security, often teaching at multiple colleges just to scrape together the rent, etc.

      But then again, I am one of those overpaid middle school teachers you hear so much about, so maybe that’s just my perspective from living high up on the hog…

      • That makes sense.

        My chosen career path right now is set to take me through up to 9 years of schooling for a doctorate of musical arts; probably the absolute worst choice I could make in my life according to most of these internet career advice gurus. I certainly hope I can get a full-time professorial position out of grad school; if not, it’s probably a long road ahead of multiple jobs, spotty freelance work, and financial troubles.

        But I’d still rather deal with all of that then settle for doing something I don’t enjoy (not diminishing the importance of those fields and those who work in them, of course) for the sake of money or security.

        • Sounds like a pathe along the under-employment road. Right up there with Art History and Gender Studies.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Jacob, take heart.

          My son has been earning most of his pay as a musician since he finished his Master’s in Piano Performance in 2010. He has been an adjunct staff accompanist since then (so I am aware of the issues with that) but was finally able to quit his very part time job at Staples this year (which he kept mostly for dental insurance) with landing a job at a private music school and a spot in a regional orchestra. He’s 28, has applied for PhD programs but hasn’t gotten into one yet. But he’s doing okay, and so will you. His wife is a violinist in the same regional orchestra, teaches privately and does wedding gigs. She has a day job driving a bus, but again makes at least half of her earnings through music.

          Hold on to your dream. Hugs to you.

          Dana

      • Randy Thompson says:

        I think you’re right about Adjuncts. Having done two stints as one, I know from experience how hard it is to make it on a part-timer’s salary. The students were great, though, and I had a lot of fun.

    • As a college professor and administrator now going on 25 years, I would say that it is a most satisfying and rewarding career, and I believe most of my colleagues would agree.

      I can think of two reasons why it did not make the top list:

      1. Getting tenure is an arduous task, not to mention a political treadmill, especially for us faith folk.
      2. The plight of adjunct, or part-time faculty is disgraceful. These faculty teach the same courses we teach but for about half the pay and have no job security. My heart goes out to them.

      On that second point, my wife is an adjunct faculty member; she teaches one sociology class each semester at a local community college. She does it mostly because she enjoys it; the money is not great but it comes in handy (money usually does); regardless, we can manage w/o it. Yesterday she found her belongings (small stuff) and records removed from her desk and stuffed into her mail box. Her cubicle, which she had used for several years, was given to a new full-time hire–no notice, no “would you mind if we move you here…” nothing of the sort. The message is clear, you’re not as valuable as the new guy who makes twice as much as you do per class.

      Now to be fair, being moved to another cubicle is, in one sense, not that big a deal. But to do so w/o notification or explanation speaks volumes about how a person is valued. And this is but one illustration of how part-time faculty are treated. Adjunct faculty, who are at the mercy of administration and often capricious faculty, must scramble each semester to find enough classes to teach in order to make a decent living, often driving across town to teach classes at other institutions.

      And yes, I understand, this is what they chose for their profession. But as a university administrator I can assure you that we can do a better job of treating these good teachers by assigning classes to them on a regular and contractual basis. Things are improving, but for the most part they are the academic version of the migrant farm worker.

  3. Vega Magnus says:

    I’ve just now had an epiphany. I was skimming through Slacktivist and saw this bit by C.S. Lewis quoted:

    “The real test is this. Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, “Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,” or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”

    This person was me. This is evangelicalism’s legacy in regards to me. It made me into a borderline-suicidal misanthrope who was convinced that nearly everything and everyone was “bad” and totally unworthy of attention. I’d say that suicide is a very logical outcome to such thinking. If one has had extreme views of total depravity hammered home for a long time and if one is so deep into gnosticism as to hate most things in the world due to them being “fallen” and imperfect, one will come to see the world as effectively meaningless for anything beyond accepting Christ as one’s Savior. After doing that, life loses purpose. At the time, I viewed life as being like a tutorial for a video game. Once you get down the basic ideas you need to know in order to play the game, (Representing becoming a Christian.) the tutorial has served its purpose and you stop playing it and move on to the real game, which in this analogy is the afterlife.

    Thankfully, while I did consider it numerous times, I did not kill myself, and I eventually got into a place mentally where I was able to function, but I didn’t really fully come to grips with a better way to handle living until I found Christian Monist and iMonk last February. While I am no longer that person anymore, I unfortunately do occasionally slip into that thinking again. I caught myself doing it on Thursday, in fact. You see, another side effect of my past experiences was an inability to identify with people my own age, (I’m twenty, in case you’re wondering.) and as I was walking around my school’s campus, I found myself thinking things that were basically equivalent to something like “ALL THESE PEOPLE ARE AWFUL AWFUL HARD-DRINKING, DRUG-USING, SEX-HAVING SIIIIIIIIINNNNNNERS, UNLIKE THE GLORIOUS WEIRDO THAT IS MEEEEEEEEE! EVERYBODY GONNA BUUUUUUURN IN HEEEEEEEEEELLL! SAD SAD SAD SAD SAD!” Flashing back to the bad old days like that made me very upset with myself, and this is where Lewis’ quote really struck me.

    In my experience around the really moralizing, “tough on sin” types, you end up getting a really smug, superior attitude for one, but beyond that, it is extremely difficult to keep a sane perspective on how to function in the world and not go insane because of all the perceived badness in the world, but most importantly in people. People aren’t NEARLY as bad as some evangelicals make them out to be. Some evangelicals go out of their way to paint people as absolute monsters, but how can you possibly love people if you hold such a dim view of them? Maybe some folks can do the mental gymnastics required for that to work, but I sure couldn’t, and it nearly ruined my life and I still have to deal with some of the issues of such thinking from time to time.

    Well, I’m sure that is a bit disjointed and I’m not gonna bother with proofreading, but I really needed to get that off my chest. In conclusion, I have to say that the outcome posited by C.S. Lewis’ is absolutely true. It happened to me, but it can be undone.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      I was there, too.

      In Orthodoxy we have a refrain that ends a lot of our prayers; “…for you are a good God, who loves mankind.”. It is very succinct in Greek; “ho philanthropos theos ei, the Philanthropic God. That was such a balm for my soul after Calvinism; “..for you are an inscrutable and capricious god, almost entirely Will, who hates most of mankind.” or Pentecostalism; “..for you are a demanding God who requires a lot of mankind.”

      • Funny how different people have such different perspectives on these things.

        I have a Pentecostal friend who found a renewed love for God, greater faith, and deeper spirituality when he first spoke in tongues. For me, the day I realized I was predestined for salvation not through any effort of my own but simply because of God’s love for me from all eternity was the greatest day of my life. My God is not capricious but chose to save a portion of humanity, among whom am I and every other believer who contributes comments to this site.

        As a former Roman Catholic I experienced continual guilt, shame and fear that I could never please God and, if not hell, should expect to placed in a blast furnace for years (hundreds? thousands? millions?) to complete the purification of my soul. In other words, Christ’s blood is not enough to cleanse me from my sins. My own works are not enough, either. No, I must suffer guilt, shame and hear here and even more so in the afterlife to please God.

        The truth is that I cannot please God with any effort on my part but only because He chose me to be made holy by the blood of His Son though I contributed no labor to merit it (faith is not work). Each time I left confession and completed penance I soon realized the temporal nature of my “state of grace.”

        In Evangelicalism and later made more clear in Calvinism I learned that being in a state of grace is not contingent on how I think, what I do or how I feel or on the sacraments but on Christ’s blood alone, by grace alone through faith alone, once for all and for all time.

        And that was/is balm for my soul.

        • My problem with Calvinism is that if God created me to be one of His chosen then it follows that God created most of mankind to burn in hell. The doctrine of election, as it is taught in Calvinism, means that most of mankind have no hope and are destined to perdition because God preordained them for that purpose.

        • I agree my sins are forgiven in the past, present and future. Why we need an ism at the end of that I do not know. Yet Christ would say go and sin no more. Yet I do and it is the source of all my pain in this world. It is the cause of how we treat each other so badly and how I even look at myself at times thanks to an accuser that would have me turn to it. The brightest thing I know is this blood shed for me that is making me right. This comforter who works with me daily convicting me, reassuring me and pouring out a love that is indeed changing me. This alone makes us all worth it. Everyone of us and it is this that all worth comes from. How many times have I sobbed so much I thought my heart would stop. This incredible sadness that would crush me. It started when I was little and I found away to cover it for so many years but still it remains. My joy is the one who says we are worth it even the ones doing the most horrific things like driving spikes into someones flesh then hanging them on a tree to die. Then I realize that was me too and how much I have been given.

        • Although I am not a Calvinist, I have also received much education and edification from the Reformed tradition, which has contributed immensely to my spiritual formation.

          The C.S. Lewis passage Vera Magnus quoted above does implicate sectors of evangelicalism and Calvinism for their law-based, sometimes hateful and fearful preaching and teaching. But it also implicates us when we hate a faith tradition and refuse to recognize its good points along with its faults. Not that any critique of a particular tradition’s doctrine and practice is wrong, but its a trap many (including me) often fall into.

    • VM, I totally identify with that same struggle. I’m constantly coming back to Step 1–Admit that I have a problem;

      “I’m a recovering Pharisee and I’ve been sober about 10 minutes…”

      • That certainly seemed to be the message Jesus wanted to leave us religious folks with during his last week on Earth. “Don’t be a self-righteous religious person!”

        I’ve been sober ever since I wrote that sentence.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This is evangelicalism’s legacy in regards to me. It made me into a borderline-suicidal misanthrope who was convinced that nearly everything and everyone was “bad” and totally unworthy of attention. I’d say that suicide is a very logical outcome to such thinking.

      Many of Jonathan “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Edwards congregation came to the same conclusion. And did.

      At the time, I viewed life as being like a tutorial for a video game. Once you get down the basic ideas you need to know in order to play the game, (Representing becoming a Christian.) the tutorial has served its purpose and you stop playing it and move on to the real game, which in this analogy is the afterlife.

      Where Death is permanent, Death wins (no Resurrection), and you stay a Shade in Hades, i.e. a Soul in Fluffy Cloud Heaven.

  4. senecagriggs yahoo says:

    My intuitive sense is; if you post “WELCOME LGBT community on your church signage, you’ll probably loose more people than you will gain.
    Keep in mind while the media gives them great exposure, their actually numbers are less than 3% of the population.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      You are assuming that welcoming LGBT will cause some existing members to leave. This has undoubtedly been true in the past. It is not clear that it will continue to be true. There is reason to believe that going forward, most non-LGBTs will consider welcoming LGBTs a positive virtue, rather than reason to leave.

      • You are assuming that those in the LGBT “community” will be satisfied with welcoming. But when they find that their status precludes them from some aspects of church life that they will still maintain a positive attitude toward that organization. It has not happened yet.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          The logical connection between this and what I wrote is obscure, but what the heck…

          My church doesn’t preclude LGBT from any aspect of church life, so this isn’t an issue with us. But yes, you are right. People do have this nasty habit of wanting to be treated as full members of society, they do get antsy when others insist on treating them as second class citizens, and they do tend to be unimpressed when those others pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for graciously permitting that second class status. Darn those people!

    • My home Episcopal parish is a large and growing downtown church that is openly welcoming to LGBT, and that has voted, as a parish, to exercise its option to bless same sex marriages. At the same time, much of the liturgical emphasis, and the messages from the pulpit, and the teaching and adult education, is quite traditional, stressing redemption in Jesus Christ, the Trinity, Incarnation, Passion, Ascension, Parousia; in addition, there is a strong social justice ministry, not the least of which involves feeding 200 or so people free breakfast every weekday morning, Monday through Friday, the whole year, holidays included.

      In our parish, the faith is received, struggled with and lived together, even where we opt for a new direction, as in the issue of inclusion of LGBT. But neither traditional Church teaching nor Scripture are ever blithely brushed aside as mere obstructions to be gotten past, and then forgotten and left behind; the faith is experienced and taken seriously as a living reality that makes demands of us individually and corporately, demands that sometimes involve change and turning around, repenting, individually and corporately.

      This balance of respect for the past and openness to the future, is what keeps people coming to our church, and induces new people to become members. It doesn’t mean that everybody always agrees with every decision that is made by the parish. It does mean that frequently even those in serious disagreement with a new direction taken by the parish will not quickly walk away from what they see is a true Christian fellowship, dedicated to following Jesus Christ as best it can, using its best, though fallible, discernment.

      • Robert, would they accept a homosexual couple as lead pastor and “mate”? How about an openly transgendered person? This is where the “rubber meets the road” on this issue.

        • The denomination would accept that, and leaves it up to the individual parishes to decide. But if a parish is willing willing to accept the blessing of same-sex marriages, I think the what you are asking would be answered in affirmatively. I’ve already been at a parish where the rector was openly gay, and his mate was there with him at church every Sunday, and this was before the denomination officially accepted such an arrangement. The rector’s mate, btw, had come from a conservative denomination: LCMS.

        • cermak_rda says:

          The local Episcopal church near me has a female Vicar that is married to a woman. She’s very open about it all, so it seems that yes, some congregations aren’t going to have a problem with this.

          This is also the Vicar who, on the coldest days of winter last year when the public library closed, got herself out of her warm vicarage, and assembled a crew of parishioners to open her Church as a warming center for the area homeless. She’s a good, salt of the Earth Vicar. Does her sexuality matter?

          • Does her sexuality matter?”
            In the performance of good works, not one bit. In living a Christ-like example, not one bit. But when you have to strain at biblical interpretation in order to be inclusive to society’s views, then how can you say that you are for strict adherence to scripture in other matters not sexual such as, say, election, sanctification and salvation, etc.?

            I’m not saying this to condemn the acceptance of LGBT people into the general assembly, but I DO want to discover how denominations are going to parse their own statements of faith in view of this new morality. If one area can be changed then who is to say others cannot be defined differently in view of society’s modern understanding? At what point does welcoming and toleration (I am beginning to HATE that word for what it has come to mean) lead to acceptance and celebration?

            How the “Church” deals with this subject will determine how many will come to view their own commitment to it.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “But when you have to strain at biblical interpretation in order to be inclusive to society’s views…:

            I would argue that this has been going on all along. I am guessing that the passage from Romans is high among those you have in mind. People routinely take various snippets from Paul for the purpose of proof texting, and manage the neat trick of taking what he wrote about the Law and turning it into a slightly revised Law. This reliance on context-free snippets does not merely distort the text. I rejects the idea of the writer having some bigger point. It refuses to allow the writer to construct an argument with a beginning, a middle, and an end, because it insists that any snippet of that argument must fully stand on its own. So in the case of that passage from Romans, Paul is making the point that we are all sinners. People take this and by carefully choosing which pits to snip out and quote, make it into a condemnation of *those* people. A neat trick, that. For bonus points, they then pat themselves on the back for taking scripture “literally,” unlike those lesser Christians (if they be true Christians at all) who also take into account the bits that come before and after the carefully chosen snippets. Not that they are even consistent. This is done only to support their world view. Quote the bits of the Bible that contradict their worldview and watch the blank stare, if not open hostility. Hence the truly impressive trick, for example, of sincerely believing that the Bible is unconcerned about economic justice.

        • oscar, I did not respond to your question. The parish I mentioned that had the openly gay rector and his mate was a not a growing and vital parish; it was moribund, like much of the Episcopal Church. But neither did that church stress traditional Christianity, the Creeds, the Incarnation, etc.

          Nor, would I bet, do many of the Episcopal parishes and dioceses that are losing members. Rather, these parishes tend to take up the current rector’s pet project and perspectives, which change with the next rector, and so on and so on, until it becomes apparent that there is not much to distinguish being a member of the church from not being a member. The question then becomes: What’s the point of getting up early every Sunday morning to play-act being Christian? Eventually, the answer has to be : Not much.

          There is no reason that GLBT inclusiveness and abandonment of the central teaching of the Church need to travel together. I would wager that in churches where traditional teaching about God and Jesus Christ is emphasized at the same time that GLBT inclusiveness is embraced, there is far less loss of members, and possibly even growth, as in my parish. Where Jesus Christ is not kept at the center, the other reasons for continuing to go to a church just evaporate over time.

          This is what the Episcopal Church need to do if it wants to survive: Accept people, and emphasize the historic Christian faith, with Jesus Christ and the Trinity at its center. But I’m afraid that there are just too many deconstructionists in the leadership at this point for that to happen.

          • I guess if they center only on the gospels and skirt around Paul while avoiding the Torah then it could succeed. It is easier to preach the love of Christ, His sacrifice and our redemption than it is parsing Paul’s problematic passages.

          • Paul is a primary witness to the Resurrection, and in that capacity he is central to the Bible and Christianity. My home parish includes Paul’s epistles in the readings, and the priests preach using Pauline texts. But Pauline ethical meditations are not timeless, nor are his ethical proscriptions and prescriptions easy to understand or apply in our time, so they cannot always be accepted at face value.

          • ” What’s the point of getting up early every Sunday morning to play-act being Christian? Eventually, the answer has to be : Not much.”

            Robert, this is a most astute observation. It may be the central question to be addressed in the face of declining congregations left and right. If there are exceptions, it seems it would be important and common sense to ask why.

            I am presently in the process of looking at the liturgical service as indeed a play that is put on every week, and I am finding much grist for the mill in that analogy. I acted as acolyte last Sunday, and it gave me the same anxiety and relief when it was successfully over as being in a high school play sixty years ago. Very little difference in feeling, and that only because the part of the acolyte is much smaller and the audience much more forgiving.

            It’s the same play every week in a liturgical church, tho the script changes with the season and reflects the individuality of pastor and congregation. Every Sunday the same play gets presented worldwide with the same script, more or less, sort of like the New Years celebrations that are presented worldwide, time zone by time zone, thruout the 24 hour day. Yes, the Orthodox can be obstinate, but if not on the same page, they are reading the same script.

            This can be empty and sterile, or an intense connection with Deity, depending much on the attitude and focus of each participant. The same can be said for a free-form, Spirit-led gathering in my experience. It seems to me that we are breaking thru to new understandings, kicking and screaming, as the Kingdom of God plays out in this artificial construct we like to call time. Time could be relatively short.

      • senecagriggs yahoo says:

        Does anybody know if the “Metropolitan Churches” [ churches established a couple of decades ago Specifically for homosexuals in each significant metropolis ] still exist?

        I know our city had one and it got significant press but I haven’t heard anything about them for a long time now. They were, as I understand it, never strong.

      • “My home Episcopal parish is a large and growing downtown church that is openly welcoming to LGBT, and that has voted, as a parish, to exercise its option to bless same sex marriages. At the same time, much of the liturgical emphasis, and the messages from the pulpit, and the teaching and adult education, is quite traditional, stressing redemption in Jesus Christ, the Trinity, Incarnation, Passion, Ascension, Parousia; in addition, there is a strong social justice ministry, not the least of which involves feeding 200 or so people free breakfast every weekday morning, Monday through Friday, the whole year, holidays included.”

        Were I relocating two hours north, I would not only be open to joining, but would be expressly searching for a church that fits this description.

        Our current church, which is also a downtown congregation (but ELCA), is also “traditional” liturgically and on the kinds of issues you list, but “liberal” on this issue. This combination of traits was the biggest factor in our decision to join. (If we were forced to make the choice the louder voices in the “culture wars” insist we must make, between history and the lives of flesh and blood people, we would be at a loss for what to do. I liken the dilemma to the following conundrums: Shall I cut off my right hand or my left? Pray or feed the poor? Love my neighbor or love God? These are bad questions; I offer no response.)

        Are there enough people like me to represent a trend? Well, I don’t know. I can only say that I exist and must not be entirely an outlier. I will also venture that, going forward, it will be helpful to have communities that can manage a “balance of respect for the past and openness to the future.”

    • cermak_rda says:

      As Richard points out, that is assuming that people are still going to leave, I suspect most of the folks that would have left already have.

      The other factor is that it is not just the small percentage of folks that are LGBT, but those who have friends, family, and are simply in solidarity with LGBT people and don’t want to see them marginalized. I suspect that’s a much larger percentage of the population.

  5. senecagriggs yahoo says:

    LOSE, not “loose.”

  6. The red steel contractor would get a BIG fine from OSHA if workers did today what is in the first photo ….

    • Just looking at that photo makes me dizzy. In a way, it exhibits why labor needed many legal protections then, and still does now. Part of protecting labor, and laborers, was and is labor unions.

      Regarding OSHA: they do a good job, when they show up, which is rare, since they are so understaffed and underfunded. They are mostly the government operating as scarecrow, but that still frightens many employer into at least the appearance of compliance, which is better than nothing.

      • Is this photo for real? Or a composite? Something about the background just looks a little too hazy and staged, although it’s probably just my level of discomfort at the risk these workers would obviously be taking for a posed photo that makes me wish that no one would actually ever ask them to do that…

          • So, laborers lives were put in jeopardy by a photographer hired to take publicity photos? This is exactly why OSHA, trade unions and other legal protections for laborers are needed. And the fact that they all volunteered to take the photo has nothing to do with the issue I’m talking about, for all the Ayn Randists/Objectivists out there.

        • High steel workers back in the day looked like guys in this photo.

          There are lots of old movie clips of men walking along steel beams 10s of stories in the air.

          There were even stats used to determine how many deaths were likely based on the number of stories in a new building.

          As for me, I didn’t see Avatar in 3D as I didn’t want to blow out my heart with the adrenal rush from the induced vertigo. A high steel working I’d never be.

      • A big chunk of my paid job involves the OSHA 300 log…..and the minute variations in rules that goes with it!!!

  7. Richard Hershberger says:

    “So, the question is, is this causation? or correlation?”

    In light of the declining numbers of Southern Baptists, I’m not even sure it id correlation.

    “And have conservative churches, in contrast, faithfully struck the balance of upholding both values? Or have they sacrificed other things?”

    Exhibit B: the success of Prosperity Gospel churches.

  8. There are very, very different ways to be a church that is conservative on sexual matters. This means that some conservative churches are in fact losing their LGBT members to OTHER conservative churches.

    The conservative churches I grew up in, baptist and baptist-like evangelical for the most part, talked about sexuality a lot (I came of age in the late 80’s/early 90’s, bad timing for me), and knew very little about the subject. One thing came through quite clearly, though – queer folks could at worst not be christians at all and at best be second class citizens of the church. What they didn’t seem to consider was that 3-8%, depending on how you figure such things, of their own kids would grow up to be queer themselves. I could write a novella on what that experience is like, growing into a zealous christian teen and discovering you are on the “other team”, but it wouldn’t fit in a comment. This isn’t confined to evangelicalism, any local church that approaches things this way will lose the majority of their LGBT folks and hear little from the ones that stay.

    For those of us that decide to remain christian, though, we won’t necessarily be leaving that first kind of conservative church for a liberal one. Being queer does’t stop you from being quite conservative yourself, after all.

    The second way to be conservative on sexual matters is simply to quietly be that and accept that you are presenting a harder struggle to some of your members than others, to perhaps even realize we will need more help and support because of it. These churches don’t give the impression that they have second class citizens at all, and joining them is accompanied by a statement like, “We welcome you to struggle with us to follow God.” I found this home in the EO, and both it and the RCC are well set up institutionally to do this well, but any local church that approaches things this way will have good results. From some of Calvincuban’s comments here, I’d bet his church is one of them or at least on it’s way. He asks the right questions, anyway.

    • Tokah, I’m glad you have stated that you are on “the other team”. Now some of your comments have a new context. Please continue to post.

      • Don’t assume you know too much, Oscar.

        • I am just taking the words for what they seem to convey. Whether or not the poster is gay or not is NOT one of the things I am assuming, just that he/she is “on the other team” as was stated.

          • It’s no problem at all. I wasn’t trying to be cagey. Imonk’s community has a disdain for the kind of specific terminology that would be used to describe where I fall on the LGBT spectrum. I suspect trying to explain in a short comment would confuse more than it would inform some folks here. Going into detail would probably be a social faux pas, so mostly I just haven’t said anything.

            Ultimately, the core of my identity is being a follower of Christ. Whatever physical challenges I was born with, my story isn’t about those, it is about trying to be a faithful christian despite it all.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      On Tuesday of Holy Week, there is a service that celebrates the ‘sinful’ woman who washed Christ’s feet with her hair. There is a very moving hymn, the Hymn of Kassini, that is sung on that night. In traditionally Orthodox countries, sex workers will attend that service, even if they attend no other throughout the year.

      I took this up with a priest. As an Evangelical investigating Orthodoxy, I found it unusual that hookers and pimps would have the shamelessness to call themselves any kind of Christian, especially if they were going to head right back into that milieu. The priest crossed himself and said “May the Lord save them, and through their prayers save the rest of us sinners.”

      After that, I felt like crap, and mostly still do.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Mule,

        I recently saw a photo essay of the bedrooms of adult female s#x workers – only the rooms, not the women who occupy them. In one of them there was an icon of a female saint (couldn’t tell which one) displayed quite prominently above the wardrobe, looking down on the bed.

        I still struggle with this, but can say “Amen” to the prayer of that priest.

        Dana

  9. Software developer here. I can confirm – it’s a great career.

  10. “That’s exactly how I imagine God. As a drone…”

    Is this not the ultimate objectification of “God”? This is how our thoughts about “god” themselve can become idols.

    “In learning theology, we can confuse the study of God with God Himself, and begin to worship a manmade creation, rather than the Creator.” – Jeremy Myers.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Drones are currently THE THING to talk about although their utilty outside a very few purposes is very limited – flying consumes too much energy and the cost of failure, even if rare, is too high. But they are THE THING. So I am suprised Rick Warren hasn’t written Your Life As A Purpose Driven Drone book yet.

  11. Keller

    “Idolatry is worshipping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that is meant to be worshipped.” St. Augustine .

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      I again vote that Idolatry is a useless term in the 21st century west. Let it die.

      • I am aware of substitutes for “idolatry”, that is, for any thing which is elevated to “ultimate” other than God. When a symbol ceases to point to ultimate reality, it is considered “demonic”. But this, too, can be confusing. Of course idolatry is no longer bowing down to stone or wood, but many things are elevated to the level of ultimate; particularly in terms of politics and nationalism. It becomes even more difficult to explain how what a religious person, even a “born again, bible-believing” evangelical, elevates as “ultimate” is truly not God.

        If I were a Lutheran, I might reference Luther’s explaination of the first commandment:

        “A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for these two belong together, faith and God. That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god. “

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          None of these arguments make a case for “Idolatry” as a useful term.

          “Of course idolatry is no longer bowing down to stone or wood,” even that imagery would be foreign to 99.44% of the modern western world.

          What is meant by these symbolic uses of “idolatry” is essentially nothing more that “incorrect focus”, “incorrect obsession”, or simple materialism. And it is better to just call it one of those things – “Dude, your priorities are all wrong” vs “Heathen! Cease to be idolatrous or it is the rack for thee!”

          The term is unclear and anachronistic. And worse, it is deliberately anachronistic. It is just a “religious” term for other things more clearly described by other terms.

          “If your faith and trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; ”

          I’ve read that before, long ago being culturally Lutheran where Confirmation was mandatory – then and now it strikes me as near Double Speak.

          • In this context, the word “idolatry” is being used as an equivalent to finding one’s ultimate concerns in false gods, around which one orientates one’s life and actions. It was Tillich we have to thank for the over-usage of this term in contemporary theology, and I think I agree with you, Adam, that it obstructs clear communication at this point.

            For people like Barth and Tillich, labeling the Nazi state as an idol was meaningful precisely because it is a term of judgement. In our own context, using the term falls short even of meaningfully conveying judgment, because it is not taken seriously, and leaves the impression that the one who deploys it is a self-righteous prig.

          • cermak_rd says:

            I visited the home of a co-worker once and got introduced to her house idol. Apparently, the use of idols is a normal, organic part of Hinduism. So unless you exclude American Hindus from the modern western world, I think your percentage is a bit high.

            Because neither religion (my Judaism or her Hinduism) is a religion that requires proselytizing, we got on well. And it was rather humorous when a transfer worker from Finland came to work with us and was afraid that he would be exposed to unrelenting religious harassment day and night (his view of America was very strange!), and he was working with the two of us. He returned to Finland as secular as when he came, but hopefully with a realer view of American religious diversity!

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            “using the term falls short even of meaningfully conveying judgment, because it is not taken seriously, and leaves the impression that the one who deploys it is a self-righteous prig.”

            This.

  12. I’m glad there has been no “Christ would be a union organizer” post.

    • That would be the second worse objectification of God…along with Jesus as a CEO.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        This is a large part of what makes this forum/community interesting and enjoyable – next to nobody here is so without nuance or contextualization. Neither the idea of CEO or Labor Union existed in the 0th/1st century; it would be nothing more than rhetorical to say either of these things.

        • That’s not true. Jesus becomes a symbol for that which people considered truly ultimate, whether socialism or capitalism. It is closely tied to the my earlier comment. This is not merely contextualization, as you put it. Tim Keller I think defines contextualization quite well: ““giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.” Turning Jesus into a union leader or corporate leader is completely contrary to this definition of contextualization.

  13. I have great memories of listening to “Nightsounds” while growing up. I was introduced to it by my dad, who–like Bill Pearce–was a trombonist. I clicked on one of the shows on the website and was instantly transported back to my childhood when I heard the ethereal choral introduction, followed by Bill Pearce’s mellifluous voice. Auditory memories are powerful things.

    • Maybe some of us out there remember Bill when it was still Nightwatch over WMBI. Or even earlier. My Dad wore out the vinyl playing those old Melody Four albums from the only label we were allowed to play at home: Word Records. Bill had great tubes for radio, as they say. And an urban legend among churchies was that Doc Severnson said he was the best trombonist in America. He could let off a riff like it was almost sinful to listen to. He tucked me in all through my college years, when I was still young enough to stay up that late, studying or pretending to. Nightsounds – and that haunting melody…. He had a gift of really connecting – not easy staring into a microphone. He’s one guy I plan to look up in glory

    • Cedric Klein says:

      Nightsounds still gets aired on the SDA Lifetalk Radio Network. I’m not sure but the Moody network may also still air it. The theme Debussy’s Beau Soir is one of the most soothing instrumentals I’ve ever heard.

    • Bill Pearce had a natural “radio voice” that was very pleasant to listen to. He also had a beautiful singing voice and was one of the GREAT trombonists of our time. I had the wonderful privilege of being his piano accompanist for a program at my church many years ago. He was easy to work with.

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    We end with a guy who is a real “piece of work.” I apologize ahead of time — I just couldn’t help myself. Here is the promo for “pastor” Ed Young’s latest sermon series.

    This Grinning Ed Young of “Seven Day Sex Challenge” fame?
    With the Mega, the mansion, and private jet?

    Yes, Ed. That’s exactly how I imagine God. As a drone (I guess that should be Drone) who is constantly spying on my life so he can strike when I get out of line. Get your drone on?!?

    And to be Godly, the Pastor must constantly spy on the sheeples’ lives and strike when they step out of line.

    I had enough of Christ as Big Brother (with the never-ending Room 101) from Jack Chick and the Shepherding Types when I was in-country. Take it from one who’s been there — you can have God’s Hell-gun pressed to the back of your head (one up the spout, hammer back, and safety off) waiting and waiting for you to take one step out-of-line for only so long before you crack up and go crazy.

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    And if we’re a month into fall already, that means Christmas decorations will be going up any day now, and — worst of all — the airwaves will soon be filled with campaign ads for the elections!

    Too late. They’re already here. Local morning radio is starting to fill with Paid Political Announcements and campaign ads.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Good thing I have built up a huge pile of podcasts. About to go into lets-pointlessly-discuss-poll-results-247 season – Yawn.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Ever wonder if the only reason we have elections is to see which poll was right?

  16. Randy Thompson says:

    RE Ed Young.

    Who goes to these churches?!?!

    The video felt like a promo for a Saturday night movie on the Syfy Channel.

    (Hint: These are not good movies.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Might have been better if said church just screened Sharknado or Sharktopus.
      Now those were Gloriously Stupid!

      • Randy Thompson says:

        It’s only a matter of time before someone decides that “Sharknado” prophetically fulfills one of the wilder images in Revelation. A tornado full of hungry sharks is certainly apocalyptic, especially if it’s headed your way!

  17. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

    I think Alexander Griswold totally whiffed this one. The real question, to me, is “what is good right and salutary”? The effect that may or may not have on membership is irrelevant. Of course, the increasing number of articles I have seen like this serve – in a very cynical way – to reinforce the idea that a great deal of religion revolves around money.

    • Yep. It was a bit of triumphalist red herring dragged across an issue that cuts close to the heart of people’s humanity and connection to their communities.

      Fail.