October 23, 2017

Saturday Ramblings: April 23, 2016

c59c1a4f2543d75e8f5bfd293f432994

1948 Nash Ambassador Custom Convertible

Spotted this week in and around Indianapolis: a lot of folks driving convertibles with the tops down! Yes, we finally cracked the 80 degree mark and made a move toward summer. How I wish I had one of these impressive Nash Ambassadors to tool around town in! And what a sweet paint job! That is one gorgeous machine.

The wind’s in our hair this week as we ramble…

221785,1283880010,4First, let’s get a few quick greetings and comments out there to some prominent newsmakers:

  • Happy 90th birthday, Queen Elizabeth!
  • R.I.P. Prince.
  • Good riddance, Curt Schilling.
  • Welcome to the $20 bill, Harriet Tubman.
  • Happy 26th anniversary to the Hubble telescope, which celebrated by releasing a picture of the “Bubble Nebula.”
  • Bully for Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who signed an order that will allow 206,000 felons who have completed their sentences the right to vote.
  • R.I.P. Doris Roberts, screen mother who struck loyalty and fear in the hearts of sons everywhere.
  • Kudos to Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta, who threw his second career no-hitter in a 16-0 thrashing of the Cincinnati Reds (sorry, Jeff).

221785,1283880010,4Second, church declares war on sharks.

In recent months, the city of Garland, Texas (pop. 230,000) has lost about 1/3 of its “payday” lenders. According to an article in Christianity Today, a local church had a lot to do with their leaving.

1431386785115Nobody could be more delighted at their demise than Keith Stewart, senior pastor of Springcreek, Garland’s largest church. Springcreek will not tolerate what Stewart calls the “predatory loan business.” Stewart estimates something like a third of his congregation of 1,700 have been put through the wringer after they (or their family members) secured loans with interest rates easily within the range of 200 to 500 percent.

But Stewart says the interest rates are only part of the problem. Loan origination fees and penalty fees for non-payment are among the crippling burdens imposed on borrowers. And if a poor unfortunate really can’t repay, lenders are more than happy to offer new loans with a raft of new fees, forcing clients further and further into a debt trap that quickly proves impossible to escape. As Stewart put it: “They take a desperate person and make them destitute.”

Though the church practiced generosity and helped many people financially and with material goods, the pastor yearned for justice in the system that enslaved people to debt and prospered at the expense of their misfortune. So, when Garland’s city council met to debate an industry-sponsored ordinance that the minister considered ineffective and self-serving, Stewart and people from his church showed up in force to speak against it and to advocate for a much stronger law.

Stewart chuckles at the recollection: “There were nine items on the agenda that evening. There were about two or three people to speak on every agenda item, and we had 50 people from Springcreek walk in. So all of a sudden the city council takes notice.”

When it came time to discuss the lending issue, Springcreek members—one after another—stood up to relate their bruising experiences at the hands of lenders. By the time it came to the vote, the industry-sponsored legislation didn’t stand a chance. Councilors unanimously voted for the much tougher ordinance, known as the Texas Municipal League Model Payday Ordinance.

Pastor Stewart is now speaking to pastors in other cities, urging them to act, and is involved in promoting statewide action.

“The gospel is bigger than personal salvation,” he adds. “God wants transformation of all systems and structures affected by sin.”

221785,1283880010,43564023113_0dbe8d73b6Third, preaching amid protests.

For the life of me, I don’t know why C.J. Mahaney keeps insisting on preaching and why his friends at Together for the Gospel continue to encourage him. After sitting out their biennial conference in 2014 under the shadow of a lawsuit regarding an alleged child sex-abuse cover-up at his former church, Al Mohler introduced him last week at this year’s gathering in Louisville and Mahaney held forth. This despite advocacy groups that publicly protested his appearance.

On Sunday, he defiantly preached and exhorted his congregation (Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville) to “stand by God’s man.”

Preaching from Hebrews 13: 17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account,” Mahaney said one responsibility of church membership is “a joyful disposition to trust and protect the pastoral team.”

“Any slanderous comment about the pastoral team should be challenged, and if necessary resolved,” Mahaney said. “Why? Because the pastors are just sensitive souls, because pastors are so sensitive? No. That protection is needed in order to preserve the trust, in order to protect the unity of this church. That’s why that’s needed ultimately, for the advance of the gospel from this church.”

Mahaney noted that some people feel uncomfortable with language of authority, obedience, and submission, and that it may be related to bad experiences of abuse with authoritarian leaders. [You think?] “I want to make real clear — that isn’t going to happen to you here,” he declared.

I agree with Michael Newnham, the Phoenix Preacher, who wrote a scathing response to Mahaney’s TG4 appearance.

495When Al Mohler introduced C.J. Mahaney at this conference yesterday, he affirmed that even the Reformed have joined the corporate evangelical industrial complex.

That complex is concerned only with the well being of the leadership, and only with the top of that pecking order.

In introducing Mahaney he introduced with approval a man who is implicated in the largest sexual abuse scandal in evangelicalism in our time.

He did so with approval and without a hint of censure.

Mohlers introduction wasn’t just intended to bring Mahaney to the microphone…it sent two other messages.

The first message was to the protestors outside the building and online.

That message was that these leaders do not care about either the protests or the victims they represent.

Period.

Evidently, the “tenth mark of a healthy church” is that the leaders have no conscience.

The second message was to those inside the hall…the 8000 from all over the world who came together under these leaders.

That message was that Mahaney is one of our own and you will accept him as one of your leaders.

They willingly acceded to the tyranny in hopes of being a tyrant one day themselves or lest their current tyranny be exposed and they need powerful friends.

This…is the modern template of what it means to be a “Reformed pastor”.

221785,1283880010,4Fourth, “just” war shot down.

From the National Catholic Reporter:

11849796The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence.

Members of a three-day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi have also strongly called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other “major teaching document,” reorienting the church’s teachings on violence.

“There is no ‘just war,'” the some 80 participants of the conference state in an appeal they released Thursday morning.

“Too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war,” they continue. “Suggesting that a ‘just war’ is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict.”

“We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence,” say the participants, noting that Francis and his four predecessors have all spoken out against war often. “We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence.”

221785,1283880010,4Fifth, no camp for you!

Fifth-graders and parents from Stevens Elementary in Seattle staged a “camp-in” outside their school Friday morning to protest the cancellation of a much-anticipated camping field trip, which was to take place at the end of the school year. But parents recently received a letter saying the trip to Camp Orkila in the San Juan Islands wouldn’t happen because of a paperwork issue.

eb780e44-08ae-11e6-b2f8-49e91e9a711d-1560x1127

The students, who have been looking forward to this trip since kindergarten, were disappointed, and their parents say the cancellation is part of a larger issue at the school. They think teachers are worried about field-trip liability, especially in light of recent issues on some high-school field trips in Seattle and the Highline School District, and the termination of one Garfield High School teacher over violations of district field-trip rules.

“This is a symptom of a larger administrative failure,” said parent Heather Timm as kids chanted, “What do we want? Camp! When do we want it? Now!”

221785,1283880010,4Sixth, in honor of Earth Day

The world’s oldest known living tree — appropriately named “Methuselah” — is 4,847 years old. Methuselah is a bristlecone pine in Central California’s Inyo National Forest, but there are no pictures available of it, nor is its location known, except by the forest service. All they will say is that the ancient tree resides in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest portion of the park.

USA-California-Ancient-Bristlecone-Pine-Forest-wood-rocks-blue-sky_1920x1200

There is apparently no way to know a tree’s age just by looking at it, but researchers look for certain markers to tip them off. Bristlecone pines grow slowly, about one-hundredth of an inch in a good year, that it makes it difficult to accurately determine their age. There is another tree in the forest that some think may be more than 5,000 years old, and researchers are still examining it.

221785,1283880010,4Eric-Organ-2Seventh, today in music

This weekend, we welcome my brother-in-law Eric Wyse, who is leading a Day of Sacred Music tomorrow at the church where my wife directs choir. Eric is an accomplished keyboardist, songwriter, church musician, and record and video producer. Eric has recorded four collections of solo piano music called “Reflections,” which are available at MartingaleMusic.com, along with other music, including The Christian Life Hymnal, which he edited.

Eric wrote an article for us in October 2012, called “A Theology of Music in Worship.” He also participated in an iMonk interview in two parts (Part 1, Part 2).

On Sunday, he will participate in morning worship and then give an afternoon concert, playing solo pieces on the organ and duets with Gail, and accompanying the church choir, who will be singing music he has written and arranged.

Here’s Eric playing “Amazing Grace,” from one of the Reflections albums. Peace be with you.

Comments

  1. Bully for Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who signed a bill that will allow 206,000 felons who have completed their sentences the right to vote.

    Actually, it was an executive order rather than a bill, and Gov. McAuliffe’s intentions appear questionable at best. He is close to the Clintons, and some observers understandably believe the governor’s real motivation was to boost Democrats’ chances of capturing Virginia’s electoral votes in November’s presidential election. One has to wonder if his action will backfire not only on this year’s Democratic presidential nominee, but on whomever Democrats nominate to succeed Gov. McAuliffe in next year’s gubernatorial election.

    • Thanks, Larry. I corrected the text. Regardless of motive, I welcome the enfranchisement of those who have paid their debt.

      • Murderers, rapists, arsonists, child pornographers, armed robbers, etc. They might have paid their debt, but It’s difficult for me to get too excited about them getting their voting rights back, sorry. And how many of them are likely to re-offend? I don’t have any statistics, and maybe I’m being cynical, but how many of these folks are truly “reformed” as opposed to just having served their time and soon to be back at it again?

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Maybe a better solution for me, for my sense of “right”, would be to reinstate voting rights after felons have been a part of society for some period of time, like a year or two or three.

          • James Mac says:

            Sorry, that won’t do. Your government ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

            Article 21:
            1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

            Article 30:
            Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

            There is no carve-out in Article 21 for felons, and Article 30 says the state may not make one.

          • No consideration of balancing rights and responsibilities?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Once the sentence is over, the sentence is over. Prolonging punishment makes for career criminals etc. That is not to deny that the latter doesn’t exist. But you cannot deny so many their fundamental rights based on the actions of a few.

            This attitude of unforgiving, everlasting retribution is so backward. It creates an underclass which is then condemned and targeted for what they are, ostracized and driven to crime.

          • I agree with you Rick. You knew you were going to stir up a bloody hornets nest in this crowd.

          • @James Mac: based on your interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 21, doesn’t that mean that everyone under age 18 should also have the right to vote?

          • I’m not sure I follow you, Rick. How does a person’s criminal history affect their right to engage in the democratic process? Unless we are operating under the assumption that anyone who commits a felony is incapable of rational thought. And I’m not sure how recidivism rate would affect this either. Are you suggesting that they may influence politics to the point that we impose lesser sanctions on things like rape or murder? I’d like to hear you expand a bit on your position.

          • Robert F says:

            I agree, Dr. F. It seems to me that interest in participating in the democratic process indicates that a felon
            who has served his time wants to reintegrate into the larger society, and I think he should be supported in that desire. Unless one doesn’t want them to be reintegrated….but there is a price to pay for keeping people in a place of exclusion as a matter of policy. I think we can all see that.

          • Just remember, criminals don’t go to hell; they go to Washington.

        • It’s complicated, Rick. I teach at a community college, and frequently among my students I have ex-prisoners. I only get the ones who are willing to change, admittedly, and their crimes have generally been either theft or drugs, not violent ones, but still, most of them are good people. I am willing to have them vote. I’m willing to write them job references. And I’m very sorry when I find out, as I did yesterday, that one of them didn’t make it outside and has ended up back in prison.

          My limited experience has no statistical authority. However, it has affirmed what I held as an abstract principle, that withholding voting is not an appropriate punishment in a democracy, especially once people have completed their sentences. There are plenty of rich, powerful people who not only can vote but can and do lobby unethically who do our country a whole lot more harm than ex-offenders do.

          • Supposedly the motivation behind Nixon’s war on drugs was to criminalize minorities.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Yup: That’s why the Bible is so consistently against people in prison, and discourages Christians from aiding them.

          • We’re talking about the privelage of voting. But nice cheap shot.

          • JoelG,
            Except that, under the Constitution, voting is not a privilege, but a right of the people. When convicted felons are prohibited from voting, the nation is excluding them from participating in what would otherwise be their right. I understand there are reasons for and against this exclusion, but voting is not an earned privilege, it’s a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

          • Fair enough. I stand corrected. I think losing the right to vote, at least for a time after release from prison, is a fair consequence of committing a crime. I find it puzzling that those who go out of there way to give the right to vote to ex-criminals could so easily deny rights to the unborn. Could it be a self-serving motive behind this great work of compassion and human rights on the part of Terry McAuliffe? Hmmmm….

        • Michael Z says:

          A few things to keep in mind:

          1. Prior to this, Virginia’s laws for felons voting were much more restrictive than almost every other state.

          2. This only applies to felons who have completed parole / probation, so they’ve been out of jail for some time.

          3. The vast majority of felony convictions are for nonviolent offenses (burglary, drugs, etc.), so saying these people are all “murderers, rapists, arsonists, child pornographers, armed robbers, etc.” is nothing but an attempt to stir up fear and hatred.

          4. In our justice system, black people are 2-3 times more likely than white people to be convicted for the same crime when faced with the same evidence. So, there is an element of racism in the laws that forbid felons from voting, and that is a civil rights issue.

          • Anyone that reads Ricks posts on a regular basis knows he’s not trying to stir up fear and hatred.

          • Blacks are also disproportionately victims of crime as well as perpetrators. So any discussion of racial disparities in criminal justice reform needs to address that fact as well.

          • Oops, I meant to say “reforming the criminal justice system.”

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Michael Z…

            1) Yes, true statement.

            2) ” This only applies to felons who have completed parole / probation, so they’ve been out of jail for some time.”

            Okay, this is a big item for me, and helps in me reconsidering my strong stance against this. When I first heard of the order, I thought the voting rights were restored to felons as soon as they were released. As I suggested in a post further down, I think felons need some time out in society before their rights are restored. Going through parole/probation before the restoration of voting rights makes sense.

            3a) “The vast majority of felony convictions are for nonviolent offenses…”

            Nice arm wave, but totally wrong. Since 1997, the prisoner population (state AND federal) for violent crimes has pretty much flat-lined at 47%. The non-violent 53% is far from “the vast majority.”

            http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004339

            3b) “…saying these people are all ‘murderers, rapists, arsonists, child pornographers, armed robbers, etc.’ is nothing but an attempt to stir up fear and hatred.”

            WTF? I never said “all” were murderers, rapists, etc. I was merely giving a list of those felonies so we don’t sugar-coat who we’re talking about here. No attempt to stir up fear and hatred whatsoever.

            4) Race of the felon never entered my mind. In fact, several of the more recent prominent violent crimes in Washington state have been perpetrated by whites (including women).

      • Previous governors in both parties had taken steps to streamline the restoration process, but restoration was decided on a case-by-case basis. Attempts to amend the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights have been unsuccessful.

        This is one of only several controversial actions by Gov. McAuliffe this month. While some may applaud his actions, others will be grateful that the state constitution forbids incumbent governors from succeeding themselves.

    • Agreed. Not sure “bully for…” Is the right way to look at this. Perhaps former felons deserve to have their voting rights restored, but do they really? And one can’t help but wonder if there’s some other ulterior motive involved, like for what party are felons most likely to vote. Would McAuliffe have signed the executive order if he felt 75% of them would vote Republican?

      • Donalbain says:

        As soon as you start talk about what people “deserve”, you are not talking about rights at all, but privileges.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Exactly

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Committing the felony meant forfeiture of their rights. I guess you could argue they didn’t “deserve” to lose their rights when they committed the felony, but that’s what happens. If you forfeit your right to vote through your own actions, then it seems that you must do something to get them back. I like the idea of not having those restored as soon as a felon is released, but maybe it makes sense after some time back in society.

          • “If you forfeit your right to vote through your own actions, then it seems that you must do something to get them back.”

            Does ‘completing your sentence’ somehow not count?

            “I like the idea of not having those restored as soon as a felon is released, but maybe it makes sense after some time back in society.”

            Why, pray tell, do you like that idea? Isn’t that just extending their sentence? Why is your assumption that incarceration is somehow inadequate, no matter it’s length?

            You do know there are 2 states (Maine and Vermont) that allow out-and-out prisoners currently serving time to vote (there aren’t booths at the prisons, but they can get absentee ballots). Society has yet to collapse in either state.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “We have NO ‘rights’ except To Deserve Eternal HELL!”
          — radio preacher back in the Seventies; when you come at it from that angle…

    • Vinny in Tennessee says:

      Amen, Larry!

  2. So then, if a theory is misused then the theory should be thrown out? Nations should no longer defend themselves and aggressors should be allowed to impose their bloody will on the world? Is THAT what this is about? I respect pacifists for their PERSONAL commitment, but to insist that ALL should hew to their THEORY is the height of paternalistic hubris.

    Nations are not Christians, and nations are not heirs to salvation although they CAN be judged and rewarded for their actions. So to expect nations to adopt a non-violent attitude is to condemn them to dissolution.

    As salt and light, Christians are to influence the society around them, perhaps influencing them to look to alternatives to war, but when war is thrust upon you then there is little or no recourse.

    Can anyone cite an example of a major nation adopting this theory and surviving?

    • Andrew Zook says:

      Didn’t Japan’s constitution have some shades or a form of pacifism written into it? Is it still in effect or has it recently been whittled away?

    • On the one hand, I agree that pacifism is an unattainable ideal in a fallen world.

      On the other hand, pacifism has typically been a position in those Christian groups that have been on the outside of cultural and political power. If the Catholic Church is now inclining towards pacifism, what does that say about its vew of its place in the world?

    • Dana Ames says:

      The Orthodox Church has never had a “just war theory.” All war is sinful, and participation in or fomenting war is sinful. This has never prevented Orthodox rulers from going to war or conscripting citizens, or those citizens from fighting enthusiastically “for God and country.”. The Orthodox Church realizes that the Kingdom of God has not yet come in its fullness. In this “time in between” s**t happens and people go to war. When pious soldiers return from battle, they go to confession, and they may be denied Communion for a time, especially if they are actually responsible for someone’s death.

      To my knowledge, there has never been any kind of official pacifist movement in Orthodoxy. However, two of the most beloved Russian saints are the brothers Boris and Gleb, who were 2 of 4 brothers involved in a war of succession. B&G gave up their rights to the throne and refused to lead their people against their other 2 brothers in an effort to forestall so many deaths, because they took Christ’s teachings seriously. Against advice, they did not run away from their other brothers, and were eventually killed by them. Orthodoxy honors the ancient martyrs who both left and remained in the Roman army.

      Life is messy and everyone is culpable. God will ultimately sort everything out; that’s what the Judgment is about.

      Dana

      • Robert F says:

        Life is messy and everyone is culpable. God will ultimately sort everything out; that’s what the Judgment is about.

        There is great truth in that statement, and I know that you, Dana, mean this statement as an expression of that truth. But for many down through history, the step from such an understanding to, “Kill them all; God will know his own”, has been all too easy. The church should be in the business of making that step more difficult, with the goal of moving toward an approximation of the shalom that we were talking about yesterday. Unfortunately, the church, and the churches (including your own), have often been in the business of making that step easier, blessing bombs and civil authorities that wielded and deployed them.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Yes, unfortunately. We are probably even the weakest in action as regards war.

          D.

    • No, no, no. They simply don’t believe in just war. The question is what do they believe should accompany war, if you can’t just have war.

  3. James Mac says:

    One more for your first section: RIP Victoria Wood, British comedian, actor, musician. A remarkably talented woman, but more than that someone very grounded, someone who never needed to be spiteful to be funny.

  4. That protection is needed in order to preserve the trust, in order to protect the unity of this church. That’s why that’s needed ultimately, for the advance of the gospel from this church.

    So the power of the Gospel is not in the message of Christ and His resurrection, but in the trust of the congregation in their leadership and their unity behind them.

    There you have it, folks.

    Also, according to Wartburg Watch, not only did Mohler introduce Mahaney, but he joked about Googling Mahaney’s name just before the speech to see what the latest complaints were. That takes “stony hearts” to a whole new level…

    • Seems that if you care enough to protect your own reputation from being soiled, you don’t need other people to do damage control to protect it for you. Kind of figured that was what those “above reproach” and “good reputation among outsiders” verses were about. I guess it turns out that those were actually references to teams of spin doctors and media relations crews. Good to know.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      That takes “stony hearts” to a whole new level…

      HUMBLY, of course (chuckle chuckle)…

  5. Mahaney…unbelievable…

    Well, then there’s that dude from Seattle…

    • Mahaney’s message was similar to many prosperity teachers when criticized scream “Don’t Touch God’s Anointed! So, they are above the law and accountability. And that’s the message Mohler has sent the world.

      • In fact, there’s little practical difference between the authoritarian church structures promoted by the 9Marks/Acts29/Gospel Coalition crowd and the Shepherding Movement, which inflicted serious damage on the charismatic renewal in the 1970’s and the 1980’s.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          Not to mention the serious damage it inflicted on individuals and families. Ask me how I know.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I ended up in the fringes of The Shepherding Movement (AKA “Control Freak’s Wet Dream”) back in the Seventies. I was only on the fringe, but that was enough. Some of the damage is still there, 40 years later.

      • Nailed it. This is the Reformed equivalent to the Charismatic directive.

    • This…is the modern template of what it means to be a “Reformed pastor”.

      And people wonder why the Southern Baptist Convention, to which both C.J. Mahaney and Albert Mohler belong, has been shrinking for several years. (Yes, Mahaney is now a Southern Baptist in addition to belonging to Sovereign Grace.)

    • “I want to make real clear — that isn’t going to happen to you here,” he declared.

      Quite a few people who formerly attended Covenant Life Church, the Maryland congregation C.J. Mahaney previously pastored, would likely disagree. Two friends of mine who left CLC described it as a cult.

      • Christiane says:

        If you look over at Denny Burk’s blog, some of the commenters sound like they have bought into male-idolatry cult thinking . . . very heavy into ‘submission of women’ in their exaggerated corruption of a ‘complementarian’ role so extreme that I am unable to recognize it as being anything like the Catholic concept of ‘complementary’ cooperation between spouses which seems a lot more wholesome when the wife is respected as an equal partner within the sacramental marriage. I cannot fathom how people like C.J. Mahaney cannot be taken for cult leaders . . . the only thing I do know that might ‘explain’ his acceptance by Al Moehler is that a very great deal of money was involved . . . VERY large amounts over time indeed. (a.k.a. ‘contributions’)

        What price honor? What price? I think whatever the price, it cannot be not worth the dishonor to surely come from it in time. Can anything be done to recover from this kind of disaster?

        • Cult is good word. I also like the phrase “neo-cal industrial complex” because the leadership have created an economy where sycophants are financially rewarded and everyone else is shut out. I think they probably lack any kind of vision or long-term thinking: in 25 years these tactics will lead to the brand markers (including “gospel”, “reformed”, and probably “SBC”) being anathema. Of course, as others point out, this is shepherding cult 2.0, so I expect abusive “pastors” will probably find some other brand to make merchandise of Christianity.

  6. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    I think the “good guy of the week”, If we were to pick one, is pastor Stevens: Going after predatory lenders and this standing up for the poor and vulnerable is an exceptionally worthy cause. Much more worthy than most of that culture war crap that so many others sweat over….

  7. Brianthedad says:

    So refreshing to amble over to the ramblings on a Saturday morning for light hearted banter and some chuckles while I drink my morning coffee. A nice escape from dealing with all the world-weariness during the week…

    • It’s always surprising to me, Brian. I never really know which tidbit or entry is going to spark discussion.

      • flatrocker says:

        CM,
        At least you have the decorum, propriety and good manners to not refer to the embarrassing shellacking the Cubs put on my Reds this week. Gonna be a long season.

  8. Over the years I’ve been ambivalent over the place of pacifism in Christian life, and I continue to be so. I live in Amish/Mennonite country. It would be obvious to say that these sects show that it’s possible for Christians to live at peace with their neighbors. But, the fact is, there are over a hundred different Mennonite/Amish sects exactly because they can’t live at peace with their neighbors, and form a new sect whenever there is a disagreement they consider serious enough. This continues to happen today. They run instead of fighting with weapons; they essentially use excommunication and the ban instead of guns and fists. But one has to wonder what they would do if there were nowhere to run to.

    • Or how long they would have survived if not surrounded by non-pacifists who were willing to fight and die to defend the wider society they live in.

      • Robert F says:

        That is a legitimate point, though Christian pacifists like Yoder and Hauerwas claim that it’s not the church’s responsibility or right to tell the world how it should conduct its affairs, that the church cannot answer for the world, only for itself and how it conducts its own affairs. Still, it’s hard to see how this doesn’t tend toward making the church into an insular sect, as it has with many Amish/Mennonite; and how this doesn’t end up putting moral purity, in the form of pacifism, ahead of concern for neighbor, in the form of doing what needs to be done to help ones neighbor in the political and social world even if this involves getting one’s hand dirty.

        It seems to me that once it saw that the Pariousia of Christ might be delayed indefinitely, and once it found itself in the where that delay led to its own access to the halls of power, the church had no choice but to find a way to continue to live in time in a responsible rather than pure way.

        • I was utterly surprised when a rather non-religious friend recently started talking to me about Constantine and his moment of conversion in great detail. Made me think about it some more.

          Maybe the church didn’t really have a say and got subverted. Do we really think a group got together and said “we gotta grab power”? Or did Power convert and grab the church of the people? What’s the best way to stay in charge: get the people on your side.

          • Robert F says:

            The church had to be reconciled to time, given the delay of the Parousia; the problem is that the church, and the churches, allowed power to determine the shape of its response, rather than disciplining power to use in response to the needs of the neighbor. Purity is cheap, and to make keeping one’s hands clean the ultimate goal is to betray or ignore the neighbor; but responsibility shaped by love of neighbor is of the greatest value, the value imbued by grace.

          • Glenn A Bolas says:

            I wonder about this as well. On this topic, it seems most modern Christians look at it as the church succumbing to temptation and seizing worldly power, with the implied solution that the church should keep (or should have kept) to itself and stay far away from the halls of power if it wants to remain pure and Christ-like. But what about if you come at it from the other side- you’re already a king/emperor/leader and then become Christian? How do you keep being a king/emperor/leader in a way that’s consistent with Christianity? What does that look like? I put myself in the position of Hosius of Cordoba, summoned to the side of the newly-converted Constantine, with the responsibilyt to instruct him in this faith and how he should live it out as emperor. What do I say to him?

            I’m curious about this, not least because here in China this is the starting point of Confucius’ moral project . What is a virtuous leader? How does one govern well? What is a virtuous ordering of society, and how can one promote that? The bulk of Confucius’ ethics stems from these kinds of questions. And they’re good questions. So what answers does Christianity offer to them?

            As far as exemplars, our track record is admittedly not great. Constantine delayed baptism till the end, presumably because he wanted to have the freedom to get his hands dirty if necessary. Charlemagne was alright compared to his predecessors (and successors, come to that) but that business with the Saxons is about as far from Jesus-shaped as it’s possible to go.

            Then again, you have people like Alfred, who fights a furious war against invaders, but later refrains from kicking them when they’re down, lets them keep a lot of what they took and makes laws aimed at equalising and minimising tensions between the two races who now have to live side by side. I see grace at work in that. Further afield (and outside the bounds of Christianity) there are people like Ashoka, who found a way to refrain from bloodshed and war without going all in and renouncing the throne to become a monk.

            So is it possible? Are purity and responsibility really incompatible? I want to say no, but how they could be compatible, and examples of those who have combined them effectively, are vanishingly small and, moreover, highly debatable.

          • Christianity overcame pagan Rome by nonviolence.

            But when Christianity became the religion of the Empire, then the stoic and political virtues of the Empire began to supplant the original theological virtues of the first Christians. The heroism of the soldier supplanted the heroism of the martyr—though there was still a consecrated minority, the monks, who kept the ideal of charity and martyrdom in first place.

            The ideal of self-sacrifice was never altogether set aside—on the contrary! But it was transferred to a new sphere. Now the supreme sacrifice was to die fighting under the Christian emperor. The supreme self-immolation was to fall in battle under the standard of the Cross. In the twelfth century even monks took up the sword, and consummated their sacrifice of obedience by dying in battle against infidels, against heretics.

            Unfortunately, they also fought other monks, and this was not necessarily regarded as virtue. But it does show what comes of living by the sword!

            Christian chivalry was the fruit of a union between Chris­tian faith and Roman, Frankish, or Germanic valor. In other words, Christians did here what they also did elsewhere: they adopted certain non-Christian values and “baptized” them, consecrating them to God. Christianity might just as well have turned to the East and “baptized” the nonmilitant, contemplative, detached, and hieratic institutions of the Ori­ent. But by the time Christianity was ready to meet Asia and the New World, the Cross and the sword were so identified with one another that the sword itself was a cross. It was the only kind of cross some conquistadores understood.

            There was no further thought of Christianizing the ideals and institutions of these ancient civilizations: only of destroy­ing them, and bringing their people into subjection to the militant Christianity of Europe. Hence the strange paradox that certain spiritual and largely nonviolent ideologies which were in fact quite close to the Gospel were attacked and coerced in the name of Christ by the Christian soldier who was often no longer a Christian except in name: for he was violent, greedy, self-complacent, and supremely contemptu­ous of anything that was not a perfect reflection of himself.

            (From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton, pg. 101, 1966, Doubleday)

      • Robert F says:

        Not being committed to absolute pacifism doesn’t mean the church shouldn’t look to promoting just peace instead of just war, nor that it shouldn’t mean the church doesn’t repent of all the ways it has colluded in promoting policies of brute coercion in both war and “peacetime”, and seek to avoid such collusion in the present and future. This requires the kind of self-knowledge about our own history(ies) as church(es) that has often been refused and neglected in the name of glorifying our own past(s) instead.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      You DO know the word “just” has two different meanings in English, depending on the pronunciation of the vowel “u”:
      “Just War is just War.”

  9. Re: Welcome to the $20 bill, Harriet Tubman – – this news story has now given rise to the meme:

    “Slave-owning founder of the Democrat party replaced on $20 bill by gun-toting Republican.”

    (She kept a gun to instill order on the Underground Railroad.)

  10. On point #3, I’m curious what the solution is to keeping pastors who start out having a genuine care for people from turning into celebrities who like shiny things. I don’t know that Maheny, or Mohler ever started out in that category, but some do who get corrupted. We all know power almost always corrupts, but it doesn’t seem to me like any particular denomination is set up to handle the flaws in human nature. Maybe if all pastors had to be completely transparent about every single penny they earn from books, housing allowances etc. that might help. I don’t know though, seems like the most loving thing we can do is keep pastors accountable in some way. I have some friends in a SBC church that we left that love this new message that if they give 10% to the church God is going to do good things for them. They are sort of in the special club room like at the airport. This works well for them because I’m guessing they make over 150k a year. I don’t think it works super well for single moms making $30k. Also, I wonder how much is too much for a pastor to make? Extremely uncomfortable question, but shouldn’t there be some reasonable limit?

    • This is more humorous than anything, but I recently found it interesting that the passage on compensating elders comes right on the heels of a lengthy passage on caring for widows. When it says that elders who rule well are worthy of double honor… perhaps they should get twice as much as the church alots to caring for each widow.

      • Only twice as much!?

        • Well you know it’s a “double” honor. 🙂

        • Slightly more seriously, I haven’t done in depth research on it, but I have gotten a general feeling in the past that we should make sure that those who labor for the gospel are cared for, not so much that there is a salary involved, but that their needs are met. In much the same way that a “true” widow has no monetary support outside of the church, there are those who forsake a more conventional career for the work of ministry, and are dependant on the body for support.

          I’d be curious what the history is on the approach to pastoral compensation.

          • I am curious as well. Clearly the problem is much higher with underpaid pastors. I am just thinking about the draw to conferences like TG4. Those 10,000 guys all want to be the big dog some day making the big bucks flying around in private jets. So if there was some common understood limit, let’s say double a well paid engineer in my area, $250k, maybe the draw to be a christian celebrity would go away.

          • Ruth makes a good point. The pastoral ministry is highly bifurcated. Most pastors I know live on povery wages or at least “will never be able to retire” wages. And then there are those embarrassingly lavish Chosen Few whose lifestyles are a disgrace (*cough*T4G*cough*). Perhaps things would be different if ministers were appointed organically and provided for as part of the community as opposed to being professional. Maybe there isn’t a good answer.

          • The pastors who have extravagant lifestyles may grab a lot of publicity, but they’re actually a minority. Most pastors I’ve known over the years received modest compensation at best; some were bi-vocational, working a regular job in addition to performing their pastoral duties.

            One of my uncles was a pastor, and he had to take a second job for a while so that he could feed his growing family. Nor was he compensated adequately when he had to take early retirement due to poor health. Thankfully, his sons helped him out the remaining years of his life.

    • Danielle says:

      I should know the answer to this question, but I don’t:

      Don’t major denominations have recommended pay scales for pastors? This is often too high for small churches to pay, but not a higher mark than a decent salary and benefits package in one of the professions.

      I’m sure individual congregations are offering pay and benefits package lower and higher than the guideline. But you’d think the guideline would send a cue – good middle class salary, no private jets.

  11. Danielle says:

    It’s a beautiful day! The sun is shining! The birds are chirping! Clearly it’s time for a good rant over summer beer.

    Why, why, oh why:

    “Preaching from Hebrews 13: 17, ‘Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account,’ Mahaney said one responsibility of church membership is “a joyful disposition to trust and protect the pastoral team.

    “’Any slanderous comment about the pastoral team should be challenged, and if necessary resolved,’ Mahaney said. ‘Why? Because the pastors are just sensitive souls, because pastors are so sensitive? No. That protection is needed in order to preserve the trust, in order to protect the unity of this church. That’s why that’s needed ultimately, for the advance of the gospel from this church.'”

    (1) This is so, so manipulative.

    (2) A main purpose of church membership is to joyfully defend the pastoral team? It wasn’t to — oh, I dunno — worship, celebrate the sacraments, join together with the congregation in doing good works? Build community? Reach out the hurting? Why on earth would ‘defending the pastoral team’ even make the list? And to be clear — defend them from *what*?

    (3) And I need to defend the pastor joyfully? Well, maybe: this depends on the details of the case. But even if warranted, on what planet is defending people from scandal pleasant? And thanks for script: I’ll be sure to be really joyful whenever ordered to be so. I mean, it’s not like I own my person or anything.

    (3) If you take on responsibility associated with standing in front of a bunch of people and claiming to be “God’s anointed man” (barf) then you are automatically the person with the least privilege to an automatic defense. The person who ought to be getting the first defense is that person sitting in the back row, looking at the floor.

    (4) If I don’t do as instructed, I’m hurting the advancement of the gospel. Right. Because the gospel only advances when a people is moving information behind their leader, eyes on the prize. Who cares what or who is underfoot?

    (5) The “don’t speak against God’s anointed” schitck is exactly what keeps victims of pastors or churches silent or not believed. We can’t stop repeating this message soon enough.

    Sorry to so emphatic, but this system of thinking is a deal-breaker — were it to be heard tomorrow from every pulpit I’d be a “done.” There is no way I’ll catachize my son into this kind of an institutional ethos where victims are so easily turned aside and leaders go unquestioned. What if he becomes a victim. Even worse: what if he becomes a leader?

    • Robert F says:

      Thank God for modernity, and for the advent of modern individuals who are able stand against authoritarian nonsense, in the church and in the world, and expose it for the pathetic and dangerous play for power that it is.

      • Thank God for the freedom to leave those authoritarian conclaves when exposing and proclaiming against it have proven to be ineffective. Leave and let them shrivel up and die.

        #nones #dones #dontwasteyourlife

        • Robert F says:

          Yes, the ability to freely leave is also one of the blessings of modernity.

          • Danielle says:

            Even if not exercised, the possibility of flight gives the resistance from inside or close quarters “teeth.”

            And when necessary or advantageous, its a safety valve. I doubt I can un-remember my formative experiences. I may always hear addresses like this as an insider does. But it’s possible that my son, having been plopped down in a different place by the husband and I, may find it exotic and strange.

            Then again there’s no shortage of authoritarians and they are not limited to one clan. But one can hope.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Thank God for the freedom to leave those authoritarian conclaves when exposing and proclaiming against it have proven to be ineffective.

          Which is why “those authoritarian conclaves” are also after political power under the term “Dominionism”, “Seven Mountains Mandate”, etc. So they have the Power of the State to make sure nobody can proclaim against/blaspheme them.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “Some would say that what we do is illegal. Before that can happen, make sure that we are the ones who say what is legal and what is not.”
            — L Ron Hubbard

    • Christiane says:

      what is truly ‘good’ needs no defense . . . I think what the neo-Cal leaders desire is for people to defend their shenanigans and look the other way when victims are punished further . . .

      ‘joyfully’ serving Great Leader is not in line with any ‘Good News’, not when any neo-Cal ‘Great Leader’ has harbored perversion and intimidated victims

      • Yeah, it really is pretty blatant propaganda. I mean, it isn’t even Christian, let alone expositional. But there is definitely a market for it.

        • Danielle says:

          “Leader … pastoral team …. pastoral team … pastor … pastor …. pastor … unity … That’s why that’s needed ultimately, for the advance of the gospel from this church.’”

          Theoretically “Jesus” is hidden somewhere under the buzzword “gospel,” but you never can be sure.

          • I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. They use the word “gospel” as a tribal boundary marker, but it isn’t a shibboleth. Anyone know if there is a formal term for this rhetoric? They use the word as a way of saying “we are for the gospel, so if you are against us, you are against the gospel.” What is this called?

  12. “The gospel is bigger than personal salvation,” he adds. “God wants transformation of all systems and structures affected by sin.”

    Amen!

    “But that sounds like universalism and social gospel, so not really truly Christian.” shut up voices in my head from my childhood, lol

    Couple of things.

    Minneapolis has been wild the last few days since the passing of Prince. Utterly stunning seeing the celebration of his legacy. Bowie had a bigger impact on me, but Prince touched many people’s lives. Vox has a great article on how Prince led the way for young black men to be something other than what their community expected them to be. His legacy should be celebrated and remembered.

    Just an observation, but has anyone else noticed that a lot of the people in opposition to the Target policy change and anything/all things transgendered and bathrooms…a lot of people in opposition are basically confessing that they would be sexually deviant predators if they could be? It’s the whole “the only thing holding me back from being a murdering adultering drug fiend is the Bible” mentality. I don’t understand it. So many arguments just turn on “men will sexually spy on 10 year old girls by just claiming to be a woman (because that’s what I would do)”. Um. WTF.

    J Frank Norris and Landmarkism came up in a conversation today. Apparently a lot of people view him as a joke, but there’s always a good 10-20% of most Baptist congregations that secretly agree with him. That bothers me.

    What is the proper response to protection and also minimizing of protected minorities? Argument again goes back to the transgendered, but today I heard it in response to the KKK. Why should we protect one special interest over another? There’s a lot of a difference between saying something and actually doing something, etc, blah blah. I don’t quite know how to respond to that anymore.

    Never let perfect be the enemy of good. This is in response to Oscar’s comment above, without me tagging along it. Why is peace not something we should be striving towards? I’m reading a good book right now called The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, and the author points out that eschatology makes such a huge impact. If you believe the world is getting better, you will work towards that and be hopeful. If you believe the world will just keep getting worse and it’s all gonna burn, you won’t care about it at and will be looking for an escape. Why shouldn’t we be striving towards pacifism and peace? Why should Just War be acceptable?

    …It’s the difference between “plan for tomorrow”, and “plan for the day after tomorrow”. Some don’t believe there will be a day after tomorrow. I call them defeatists, Just War, it’s all gonna burn types. Progressives, humanists, those who strive for peace and thy Kingdom come…they believe the “day after tomorrow” will be here, and let’s start now to make it a good one.

    Amen.

    • Christiane says:

      ““The gospel is bigger than personal salvation,” he adds. “God wants transformation of all systems and structures affected by sin.”
      Amen!”

      God wants it and He shall have it . . . ” “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)

      And His Creation awaits its renewal: “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (from Romans 8)

      it sounds ‘Catholic’ to me as from the beginning of the Church, we have worshiped Christ as the Alpha and the Omega, and we have embraced Him as the Good News, and then I remember the word ‘catholic’ does mean ‘universal’, so yes, it IS universal all right . . . ‘Lord of the Cosmos’ is not just another fancy title in the Church

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “The gospel is bigger than personal salvation,” he adds. “God wants transformation of all systems and structures affected by sin.”

      We have all seen what happens when you narrow the gospel to Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation. Wretched Urgency, Magic Words, Chick Tracts, It’s All Gonna Burn so Why Bother.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It’s the whole “the only thing holding me back from being a murdering adultering drug fiend is the Bible” mentality. I don’t understand it. So many arguments just turn on “men will sexually spy on 10 year old girls by just claiming to be a woman (because that’s what I would do)”.

      Another Freudian peek into the MenaGAWD’s own sexual fantasies?

  13. Robert F says:

    Strident woodpecker
    first thing in the morning,
    noise control be damned.

  14. Robert F says:

    How is it known that Methuselah is the oldest living tree on the planet? Have all contenders been examined and assessed for age? Wouldn’t that be hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of trees? Has such a feat been performed?

    Ah, I see: having read the linked article, I see that it is the world’s oldest known living tree. Now that I can understand.

  15. “That complex is concerned only with the well being of the leadership, and only with the top of that pecking order.”

    Of course! What part of patriarchalism does he not understand?

  16. Local article –

    http://www.salon.com/2016/04/22/conservatives_gang_up_on_a_child_anti_trans_bullying_of_5_year_old_in_minnesota_shows_adults_not_kids_are_the_problem/

    Key part near the end:

    Conservatives pushing this anti-trans hysteria sweeping the country always posture about how it’s not about bigotry, but about safety, claiming they just want to keep men from putting dresses and sneaking into the women’s room under the guise of being trans. The right loves their fig leaves, but this particular one is so silly that it’s self-evident that it’s just a cover story for the real urge, which is gender policing.

    But this St. Paul situation makes it clear that the anti-trans freak-out is not about safety, but about bullying and harassing people for not fitting into the narrowly defined gender roles that conservatives prefer.

    “I think the unstated worry – kids coming to see gender fluid people as “normal” – makes more sense than the “child molester loophole” stuff.”

    So. How best should believers and the church respond? What does it mean to love God and love others in this situation?

    • It’s remarkable that this isn’t even about sex, the activity, but about sex, the gender identity. A 5 year old transitioning is not having any sexual activity with anyone else. So even a virgin here is ‘wrong’. Because why? Bizarre.

    • Donalbain says:

      Except, the logical conclusion of this is that children are more likely to realise that transgender people exist. They are going to see a man using the women’s toilet and ask questions. Before, they might never encounter any such thing.
      I think this is more about messaging than any actual policy. They list the fight to stop gay people marrying, so this is just a new way to kick someone at the bottom of the social heap. “Pay no attention to the crumbling schools you send your kids to, or the stagnant wages you earn while we are passing tax cuts for millionaires. Just look how happy we are to kick those queers in the face, that proves we are on your side. After all, you are not a queer, are you?’

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Pay no attention to the crumbling schools you send your kids to, or the stagnant wages you earn while we are passing tax cuts for millionaires. Just look how happy we are to kick those queers in the face, that proves we are on your side. After all, you are not a queer, are you?’

        Just like the Planters in their (surviving) Plantations after the War Between the States.

        “If Ah ain’t better than a N*gg*r, then who do Ah got to be better than?”
        — trailer trash Ku Kluxer interviewed in the Fifties; only thing he had to brag about was his color

        There is nobody as vicious towards those on the bottom as those second-from-the-bottom.

    • Robert F says:

      I do wonder how this works, not with regard to public restrooms, but locker-rooms and shower facilities. My understanding is that what applies to restrooms would also apply to locker-rooms/showers, so that a person who has a penis, presumably because they have not yet undergone surgical modification, but identifies as female has the right to use female locker-rooms/showers, including those in schools.

      There is actually a case in one of the southern states of such a high school student who participates in girls sports, but had been prevented from using the girls locker-room; the school set up a separate facility for the student to change/shower. The student sued the school for equal access, and the federal government ultimately told the school district that if it didn’t allow the student to use the girls locker-room, it would lose federal funding. I last heard of that case a year ago, and don’t know what the outcome was; it may be that the current controversy regarding states in the south writing exclusionary laws is related to this case; I don’t know.

      I do wonder, though, if I had a daughter of high school or grade school age, whether I would be okay with her showering in a school locker-room with someone who had a penis, particularly if she was uncomfortable with that, as I think many might be. Is my concern and ambivalence about this the result of mere bigotry?

      • Robert F says:

        Btw, by calling it “mere bigotry” I don’t mean to minimize the severity of bigotry; I’m just wondering if my concern is based only on bigotry, or if there is a legitimate aspect to it. I’m asking a serious question.

      • Is a penis in and itself a sexual object? At what age do children start learning basic biological differences between typical males and females? If a female with a penis is in the women’s locker room showering, does she get aroused by other women, or by men?

        I confess I don’t see what the issue is if your daughter saw a penis in the locker room. I guarantee, especially nowadays, she’s seen many already. The physical location of that penis, or the owner of that penis in that physical location…should not matter. That’s starting to get uncomfortably close to “she was dressed that way, so I had to rape her” logic. When the actual body part itself is sexualized, and has nothing to do with the person it’s attached to.

        Frankly, with all this transgender stuff…it’s white men that scare me the worst.

        • Robert F says:

          I’m not talking about sexual assault. I guess I’m talking about how this issue necessarily will change the definition and regulation of public and semi-public nudity, by making it normal in certain situations for members of both sexes to be exposed to sex-specific organs that were formerly not allowed public mixed-sex exposure (except under very circumscribed circumstances, mostly in private settings) ; and how that might impact a place like a grade or high-school locker-room/shower facility. Nowhere did I mean to imply that anyone would be driven by the sight of certain organs to commit sexual crimes; I don’t know where you got that from my previous comment. I’m talking about how people, particularly minors, would feel in the wake of this sea-change in the way semi-public nudity plays out in certain environments. You seem to feel that all teenagers, and preteens, would be blase about it; I’m not so sure, about either girls or boys. I remember as a teen-aged and preteen boy having a real struggle dealing with the male-specific semi-public nudity of the school locker-room/shower. But perhaps I’m a freak in regard to this; I am, after all, a white man, who started out as a white boy, and I see from your comment how you feel about those.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I am, after all, a white man, who started out as a white boy, and I see from your comment how you feel about those.

            AKA “oldthinkers unbellyfeel INGSOC”?

  17. April 23rd is also Shakespeare’s birthday (as generally recognized among scholars), as well as the anniversary of his death. And this year, it’s the 400th anniversary of his death.

  18. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    This weekend, we welcome my brother-in-law Eric Wyse…

    You know, if you change the spelling of the last name, you get the original/real name of another performing artist: Eric Weiss, AKA Harry Houdini.