April 24, 2014

Saturday Ramblings 9.21.13

RamblerGreetings, iMonks. Do you all have your new iPhones yet? Of course you need to upgrade. Your life is incomplete—nay, it can barely even be called living—should you not have the latest iPhone the day it comes out. What does the new one do that the old one doesn’t? Well, for one, it can tell if you are really you by reading your fingerprint. And it will teach you a new language before lunch. And it will bring peace to the Middle East. All with the white of an egg. See why you must must must get the new iPhone? But before you head out to your local iFruit store, what say we ramble?

Pope Francis granted an interview this week to Antonio Spadaro of America Magazine. And while if you really read the interview you can’t help but come away saying, “This man has a great heart for the Good News,” many are upset the pope said we shouldn’t focus on abortion and homosexuality. Because, you know, Jesus spent so much time talking about abortion and homosexuality. Oh, wait …

If you want a good summary of the interview, Christianity Today provides this for you. I would like to hear from Protestants especially: What do you make of this pope and his message?

A Methodist church in Nashville put up a sign that read, “Jesus had two dads and he turned out just fine.” Guess what that did not refer to? Guess what most people still thought it referred to? Discuss.

The number of unpaid ministers in mainline denominations is on the rise. It is the only thing keeping some churches going. How unAmerican. Survival of the fittest and all that. Don’t these people know that you can’t be a good pastor if you don’t get paid?

Liturgy is on the rise in Baptist churches. No, really. And then there is this Protestant minister who got “busted” at a Catholic mass.

What is not on the rise in Baptist churches? Support for the Boy Scouts. But don’t worry. There is now a new Baptist version of Boy Scouts for those who aren’t gay. It’s called Trail Life. Really. Sigh … Do you think it would do any good to have the Baptists read the interview with Pope Francis? Neither do I.

Please check to see if they are lacing up ice skates in Hades. Moody Bible Institute has dropped their ban of alcohol and tobacco for employees. The explanation actually is very good. Here is to Moody for doing the right thing. Your thoughts?

As of this writing (Friday night), Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, was missing from his Atlanta home. His family was very concerned as Blackaby did not have his diabetes medicine with him. Hopefully by the time you read this, he has been found to be safe.

Finally, wow. Just wow. These pictures really are worth several thousand words.

Happy birthday this last week to our founder Michael Spencer; Robert McCloskey; Walter Koenig; Agatha Christie; Tommy Lee Jones; B.B. King; Peter Falk; Hank Williams; Bud Greenspan; Kerry Livgren; Adam West; and Sophia Loren.

Eighty eight years young and still touring full time. B.B. King just does not let up. Considered one of the top guitarists of all time, here he is sitting in with a young Stevie Ray Vaughn. Enjoy.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-i-tIXxtlY']

Comments

  1. CNN Headline: Conservatives ‘disturbed’ by pope’s remarks
    CNN Story: Liberals happy, liberals angry. Conservatives happy, Conservatives angry.

    I made a rule awhile back to ignore whatever the press says the Pope said and attempt to read it form the source if at all possible (this also goes for most religious readers, but the Pope seems to get it the worst).

    Isn’t the Pope saying “Priorities — don’t get sucked into a place where Gay/Abortion/Contraception is all we talk about” regarding the headline-grabbing issues? As a Protestant, I thought Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson were all over that 15 years ago ;) As for the other things, he sounds like the Godly, humble man we’re been hearing he really is.

    • Well, yesterday (Friday) the Pope made the conservatives “happy” and the progressives not so “happy” by strongly supporting the traditional church teaching on abortion. Seamlessly pissing off conservatives and liberals in the space of a day or two reminds me of Jesus; he must be doing something right.

      He’s forcing me to revise my initially very negative, and I guess unjust, impression of him, and to regret my harsh words.

    • Basically Francis is another liberal along the lines of John XXIII, and he’s being very careful to stay within the foul lines (although you might need a slo-mo replay to be certain). But I don’t buy for a minute that he is being “misinterpreted” by the press. He’s no dummy. He knows precisely how the press will run with his words. For a lot of years I agreed with what he’s saying now, but frankly I’m getting weary of seeing the church(es) roll over for everything that secular culture demands. “Sure, we’ll cave in on abortion and gay marriage and sharia law, please just leave us a little religious freedom so we can sell books and keep passing the plate.” Say what you like about the Crusaders, hey saved Europe from sharia law and they were willing to die for their faith, whereas all we’re willing to do is buy the next well-toothed encyclical from Joel Osteen.

      • respectfully beg to differ . . . I don’t think Francis is quite like anyone we’ve seen yet.

      • Amen to that Clark.

        I seems to me that slowly the entirety of Christianity is getting Disneyfied, and the leaders of the church are happy as long as they can sell books, pass the plate, and every once in the while get to talk on TV.

        It is sadly enough to make one walk away from the faith.

        and yet I still believe………..

      • Wow, your comment is deeply insensitive and historically inaccurate. How the hell did the Crusades save Europe from sharia law? Also, do you even know what sharia law is? It’s a scholarly legal tradition of Muslim law full of various interpretations. It’s not some monolithic menace. Saying sharia law is dangerous is like saying that constitutionalism is dangerous.

        And FYI, the Crusades failed, horribly. The “Holy Lands” were never truly conquered and the Muslims came eventually and took over Constantinople and continued to attack Europe afterwards.

        Your comment is ridiculous and nonsensical.

    • This good man was found safe, thank God.
      But according to his son, Henry Blackaby will very soon have to undergo serious heart surgery
      and prayers are still being asked for by the family.

  2. “Jesus never spoke about homosexuality, or abortion.”

    So I guess they are alright then.

    Dis he speak about rape or heroin use or money laundering or junk bond trading or welfare fraud or…?

    • This is a good point. However, I don’t believe the Pope is saying that therefore we shouldn’t be against these things. In fact, I believe he is not changing the traditional position on anything, but rather, adjusting the portions of his airtime to better reflect the right theological priorities. It’s one thing to call sin what it is. It’s another to spend all your time calling out a few particular ones. The fact that he’s just gonna give homosexuals and abortionists a break from being ranted enough is received with such welcome it should cause us to consider: Perhaps pummeling them with the law will never change their mind? Perhaps it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance?

    • He spoke about the antidote for all those things. Maybe the Church should, also?

  3. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    first rule of practical journalism, the headline is whatever the section editor or copy editor decided was the best headline, and the article is “probably” what the author actually intended.

  4. I had seen that article of the minister who was ‘busted’ for crashing a Catholic Mass last year, and it brought me to tears. It shows we can all learn from each other. He had seen something that was missing from his own liturgy, and even the most non-liturgical churches have one.

    I have had the same experience, noting something missing when I visited other liturgical churches like the Episcopal church or the ELCA church.

    I am far from the Tiber. The Thames? Maybe. But when I see in my own church that it is basically a one-man show with little or no chance for participation like there are in an Episcopal service, It is something I admire about this pastor (Pentecostal?) who was seeking something more in the Eucharist. I hope he found what he was looking for.

    • Karl Barth once said, to paraphrase, that a Christian service of worship without Holy Communion is like a human trunk without a head.

    • Luther once wrote something to the effect that the church exists wherever the Gospel is rightly preached and the Sacraments are rightly administered, and I always thought this meant that consistently good, Gospel-centered sermons are necessary for the church to be the church.

      This always has seemed to be a big problem to me, because I’ve never heard that kind of preaching consistently being offered from any pulpit, and it made me wonder: does the local church body cease to exist in the absence of good sermons? And if not, if there is a minimum frequency of such preaching that is acceptable and the preacher doesn’t need to meet the standard every time for the local church to remain the church, what is it that minimum level? It seems to put a terrible burden on the poor preacher.

      But I’ve come to understand things differently now: the church truly exists wherever the Sacraments are rightly administered, because the Sacraments, in conjunction with their Scriptural context, preach the Gospel on their own. The preachers can relax and receive the gifts of God along with the rest of the people of God; maybe that lifting of pressure might even help them preach more consistently and soundly than they otherwise would.

      • It’s not about whether the sermon was “good,” but whether it was faithful. Did it proclaim a Savior crucified for the sins of the world? Was it saturated with blood? If yes, the the most boring monologue is acceptable. This is certainly not a difficult task for those who care to try. The problem is, most pulpits are perfectly content with Christless sermons. I would argue that the church is not there. Without Christ, you have no Church. Oddly enough, churches who regularly celebrate the Sacraments and follow the Church’s liturgy with a reading from the Gospels each week are simply far more likely to give Jesus more airtime in the homily. There’s exceptions, of course, but churches that just don’t care to talk about Jesus except as a figurehead for their own agenda also tend to ditch the communion, the liturgy, and regular reading of the Gospels.

        • By “good” I did mean faithful to the Crucified Lord Jesus Christ. It seems odd to me to make the presence of the church contingent on the week-to-week faithfulness of the preacher. On the other hand, where the Sacraments are administered arising out of their Scriptural warrants and contexts, and in addition the Liturgy of the Word presents lections from the Scriptures, the Gospel is being presented every Sunday regardless of the preachers possible omissions, and the church is continuous and contiguous, as any true body is.

  5. I really really like this guy Francis…

  6. Love this;

    “If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

  7. WOW!!! Great video this morning…SRV, Paul Butterfield, Albert AND B.B. King…such a treat for this blues aficionado!

    I cab relate to the article about Communion. Being raised in the RCC I have been struck by the neglect of the Eucharist that I have experienced in the protestant church over the last40+ years. I YEARN for a meaningful celebration, but when I mention its paucity to my pastor he says “What do you mean? We celebrate it all of the time!” Yeah, sure, once a month, if THAT! So much is made of the “Jesus and me” mentality that the corporate celebration and practice is looked on as “high church”, and somehow not evangelical enough. When did “as often as you will’ turn into “as often as you feel like it”?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      When did “as often as you will’ turn into “as often as you feel like it”?

      When the Gospel became all about Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

      When you have Jeesus in your Heart(TM) as Personal LOORD and Savior(TM), why would you need anything more? Like Communion? Or even assembling with other believers?

  8. I’m really liking this new Pope. I think he’s right on the abortion/gay rights issues because honestly, that IS all so many want to discuss. I consider myself Christian and I am tired of hearing about those two issues. Can’t we all just get along and discuss the love of God for ALL people??

    No, i won’t be ascending the pillar of whatever to hang out with the Godly man. I wouldn’t be praying, I’d be screaming.

    Unpaid ministers. Sad,

    • Suzanne,
      I agree with you – I think this pope is very much about moving the dialog (and our actions) to a discussion centering on the love of God for all people. However, it is misguided for any of us to believe that Francis’ dialog concerning the love of God for all people will not include those of us still residing in the womb.

      When we distill Francis’ message to its core, it’s about the sanctity of life – in all its stages. From conception to natural death and all points in between. For conservatives that also includes the homosexual and the death row inmate. For liberals, that includes the fetus and the fundamentalist. He is providing a great and powerful reminder that it’s all sacred and maybe it’s time we started acting this way.

      The one prediction that is holding true about Francis is this – he will piss off just about every constituency before he’s through. And that is good.

  9. Guys, I have multiple messages stuck in the spam filters, some for around 12 hours now. Could someone please “free, free, set them free”?

  10. I loved the “busted” article and “these pictures”.

    • As a rock climber, I can’t get the stylite photos out of my mind. I keep thinking of how the early monks got up there without any of the modern equipment today’s climbers consider essential.

  11. As mind-blowing as the photos of the Neo-Stylites himself were, it was even more wonderful to see, at the base of the natural pillar, a Georgian Orthodox community helping young men in trouble.

    • +1

    • Yeah, but poor Maxime. All he wanted was a little solitude on his 140-foot column of stone and now he’s the subject of a Huffington Post article, a documentary film, and now he’s been outed by one of the world’s most frequented Christian blog sites, too. To remain obscure he would have been well advised to just start an internet radio station. :)

      • Which conjures up the interesting image of a stylite on a radio tower instead. Two birds with one stone.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Yeah, but poor Maxime. All he wanted was a little solitude on his 140-foot column of stone and now he’s the subject of a Huffington Post article, a documentary film, and now he’s been outed by one of the world’s most frequented Christian blog sites, too.

        Which is about what happened to the original St Simeon Stylites, long before mass media. His column of stone got mobbed by groupies and looky-loos, too.

  12. I took the opportunity and time to read the full interview and this man of God gets it, whether he is the Catholic or Protestant–He Gets It. To quote the Pope, “If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him.” We live in a society that seems to think we know all the answers–no, we must keep searching for God as he points out in the interview.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      To quote the Pope, “If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him.”

      Why am I reminded of the Neo-Calvinist circus with their Perfectly Parsed, Truly Reformed Theology? Airtight and all-encompassing as the Koran and Hadiths combined?

  13. “..I’D like to hear from you protestants” that’s likme kcchiefs 3-0 strange, but good

  14. “What is not on the rise in Baptist churches? Support for the Boy Scouts.”

    I’m well aware of that. Our church made front page last week with the headline “Church Boots Boy Scouts”. And yes, we’re baptist. We have been housing and sponsoring the local troupe for several years, and last winter when the national BSA planned to announce that they might overturn their ban on homosexuality our diaconate had a lengthy discussion about what to do. The BSA reversed itself, and then recently went ahead anyway, forcing the hand of our pastor, who was firm about not sanctioning this decision.

    Unfortunately, even though the local troupe has had no incidents about this, it’s on a national level and, because the church is the sponsoring organization, the current diaconate and pastor gave the boot, regretfully, as an automatic response. I’m not currently on the board, but it may have gone down that way regardless, from a technical point of view. Too bad the kids get caught in the middle of all of these politics, but they’ll move to the American Legion hall and won’t know the difference, except they’ll be aware that the baptists kicked them out.

    Our pastor sent a letter to the editor in response (he was quoted in the article, quite accurately though) and I can’t wait to read the other letters to the editor that’ll be there indignantly. I already had a close friend and fellow believer ask me, “What’s this about First Baptist booting the Boy Scouts???”

    • Unfortunately, it’s another terrible witness to those kids who aren’t growing up in the faith. “Hey, I remember when the church kicked my boy scout troop out. Why would any Christian have anything to say worth listening to?”

    • Ted, it’s not a Boy Scout troupe, it’s a Boy Scout troop.

      Big difference.

      • Right–a bunch of prancing ballerinas is precisely what the old rules were designed to prevent. That’s why the BSA is basically run like a militia.

      • As Chaucer would say, “God save this troop! That’s all I have to say!”

        Or was that “troupe”?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Are they switching to Trail Life instead?

      “Just the the Boy Scouts, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

      • No, Troop89 will remain Boy Scouts but will be sponsored and housed by the American Legion. First time in years they haven’t been sponsored by a church, either First Baptist or the Congregational church.

        No huge fallout in this week’s local paper after all. The pastor’s letter was printed as an op-ed piece and no indignant letters from others.

  15. “A Methodist church in Nashville put up a sign that read, “Jesus had two dads and he turned out just fine.” Guess what that did not refer to? Guess what most people still thought it referred to? Discuss.”
    Oh come on… I can’t believe this pastor was surprised at the response he got from his sign.

    • Yes, it was a wee bit disingenuous of him. Still, it made me smile.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      1) After years of coming up with a new Twitter-length church sign every week, you get kind of punchy.

      2) Or you develop a WEIRD sense of humor.

      • Voice of experience?

        Is that how you got your sense of humor? :-)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          No, just have seen a LOT of church signs, both before and after the Net.

          Plus, my regular writing partner is a preacher-man at a rural church with a Twitter-length sign, and he’s done a few real groaners himself.

    • if he knew what he was doing putting up that sign, he should get a prize for the double-entendre of the decade

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        He’d have a run for his money with Jerry “Buck” Jenkins, “Greatest Christian Author of All Time (GCAAT)”. Jenkins currently holds the crown for “Unintentional Canonical Slashfic Setups”, beating out even Ray Comfort’s magic banana video.

  16. I liked the “busted” article, too. The problem is not first about communion. It’s about the entire focus of worship. Many evangelical churches treat worship as what we do for or to God: we sing really loud and enthusiastically; we offer sacrifices of praises and finances. In the case of faith-prosperity, we tell God what he is going to do for us. It is inherently man-centered, exalting worshipers to a God-like status, able to move, manipulate, and apease God. Human natured doesn’t crave forgiveness, means of grace, nor the condescension of God; rather, it wants to become like God, following Adam and Eve in the original sin. Worship where the participants receive from God is oddly anti-seeker-sensitive. Give the people what they want: not forgiveness but deity.

    I know of non-sacramental evangelical churches where this is not the case, and sacramental churches where the pragmatic, self-exalting worship rules. So, again I would caution against viewing this strictly in terms of differing views on communion.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      In the case of faith-prosperity, we tell God what he is going to do for us.

      In which case, I hope they have the Summoning Circle properly inscribed and the Incantations down word-for-word. Because that sounds so much like a sorcerer Summoning, Binding, and Commanding a supernatural being. In Magick the mortal Sorcerer is the one giving the orders, not the supernatural being/force.

  17. A non-Catholic can participate in mass: go forward to the priest with your arms crossed across your chest, and the priest will touch you and pronounce a blessing over you. It’s a powerful experience and still better than going to an evangelical church to get yelled at for not being good enough or for not doing enough to make God happy.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      That’s what I did at my grandma’s funeral. Much family drama from a pious uncle over his Protestant sisters taking communion.

      Some very traditional priests don’t like to do that either, though. I think the practice originated in Protestant circles, ironically. We do that at my Anglican parish for those who have not been baptized.

      • The frustration is understandable. The benefits of the sacraments are for those in communion with the church. It reminds me of conversations with Eastern Orthodox Christians, who explained that in essence the church is the ark through which God saves. The sacraments without the church are meaningless. It’s not the answer most me-and-Jesus evangelicals want to here.

    • Dan Crawford says:

      I frequently attend Mass with my RC wife and her parish priest has always blessed me. One Sunday, however, an elderly priest from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh substituted for the pastor and when I approached him with my arms crossed. he told me to “Go away”. Another priest in the diocese groused in the diocesan paper that blessing non-Catholics and children who had not made their First Communion tended to disrupt the smooth flow in the communion line. Be careful – the priest you approach may have a Tridentine view of the Church. Or worse,

  18. Here’s another Protestant who has formed a very favorable initial impression of the current Pope, for whatever it’s worth. To offer some context, I’ve always been a Catholic-admiring Protestant, a little like the Mass-frequenting pastor in the other article, so my liking a Pope is not a shocking turn of events. That said, I don’t remember responding as warmly to the previous two Pontiffs, or really responding to either of them much at all.

    I second the observations above that Francis reminds one both of Jesus (in terms of confounding members of a variety of factions) and of John XXIII (in terms of being a certain sort of liberal, though I don’t share the other poster’s follow-up sentiments – I like that sort of liberal).

  19. I love how the mainline leaders take such an optimistic view of the proliferation of volunteer clergy. It’s like, “yeah, this is gonna be a more flexible way to do things, it’s more like the early church, yada yada yada…” I think they’re just trying to justify their own denial that their church bodies are for the most part dying off. There’s just not enough people there to supply a salary, but there used to be. Wake up and face the music!