Showing posts from July, 2009

Pop Culture Roundup

I read The Shack this week, and I think I've written enough about that already.

I'm back to the Sandman graphic novels now. I'm on Volume 6: Fables and Reflections. There's no overarching story in this one. Instead, most stories involve Morpheus interacting with people at different points in history: a spy during the French Revolution, Augustus Caesar, and so on. There is the introduction of Morpheus' son Orpheus, who gets his own story in this book as well.

This week's Entourage focused a lot on Turtle, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. Past Turtle-heavy episodes have involved him searching high and low for a special pair of sneakers, trying to qualify for medicinal marijuana, and being involved in a bet as to who could have a one night stand the fastest. In fact, Turtle is probably the most representative of this show's frat-boy vibe in all the stereotypical ways (not that there's anything wrong with frat boys). So anyway, it's Turtle…

Boy Goes to Great Lengths to Avoid Church

You gotta give him points for the effort:
PLAIN CITY, Utah - Police in Utah say a 7-year-old boy led officers on a car chase in an effort to avoid going to church.

Dispatchers received reports of a child driving recklessly on Sunday morning. Weber County Sheriff's Capt. Klint Anderson says one witness said the boy drove through a stop sign.

Anderson says two deputies caught up with the boy and tried unsuccessfully to stop the Dodge Intrepid in an area about 45 miles north of Salt Lake City. The car reached 40 mph before the boy stopped in a driveway and ran inside a home.

Anderson says when the boy's father later confronted him, the boy said he didn't want to go to church. The boy is too young to prosecute and no citations were issued, although police did urge the father to make his car keys more inaccessible to children.And the dreams of thousands of children every Sunday are realized in this one little boy's courageous feat.

There's only so much that churches should …

I rip on The Shack a little bit

I never really intended to read The Shack, the latest "it" book for pop Christianity's consumption. It seemed like I wasn't going to have to deal with it in any meaningful way in my particular context, and I'd read enough about it on other blogs that I simply didn't want to bother. This was all before it was passed on to me a few weeks ago by someone singing its praises, so I've been reading it the past few days.

The basic gist is that the main character, Mack, is still dealing with the kidnapping and murder of his daughter a few years after the fact. We are very quickly introduced to him, his family, and the background of his grief. This is done so quickly, in fact, that it very much comes off as a formality observed just to set up what follows. The writing is simplistic besides, but I got the impression that any plot exists only to present the theological ideas in a manner other than a typical polemic.

At any rate, Mack is depressed. We're treat…

Pop Culture Roundup

I'm almost finished with Christianity's Dangerous Idea, and this week have been fascinated by its discussion of Protestantism and the arts. Early Protestant churches and writers were diverse in this area, particularly in music and painting. Plays seemed to be despised universally, and people were ambivalent about poetry. But with paintings, some saw it as breaking the second commandment while others saw it as "too Catholic" (very reasonable, no?) while still others such as Luther saw them as helpful communication tools. Likewise, Luther and some others began to write hymns that weren't just psalms set to music, which were scandalous to many. How dare people bring "worldly" musical styles into the church! And the installation of organs in churches? Awful! This all sounds very familiar...

We watched Tropic Thunder this week, a lampoon of Hollywood set in the jungles of Vietnam as a group of actors shoot a Platoon-style movie. Ben Stiller plays the…


I haven't been much for blogging this week. It's not due to a busy schedule, just a bit of blogger's block. It may not seem like it due to only two days' time elapsing between this post and the last, but it sure seems like it to me.

My thoughts are all over the place this week, especially heading into this weekend.

My thoughts are in anticipation of Sunday worship, with the second part of my mini-series on David and Bathsheba forthcoming. We'll also celebrate an adult baptism, which of course is less common in my tradition. Nevertheless, it will be a joyful moment in this young man's life and I'll be glad to be a part of it.

My thoughts will be in Jamestown, New York on Saturday, when the ashes of my grandparents are finally laid to rest together. I'm unable to go, but it will be a special sacred moment that for some will provide full closure. For me personally, my grandfather's funeral in March provided that closure because there was an air about the…

David and Bathsheba

Due to the lectionary being fairly unimpressive to me for the Sundays in late July, I took the liberty of switching some texts around and have been preaching on the story of David and Bathsheba this past Sunday and next. This has been an interesting text to prepare for, first of all because children are generally with us in worship during the summer months (we have "children's church" the rest of the year). Maybe it wasn't the best decision to pick this text for that reason, but it's too late now. So moving on.

This past Sunday, I preached on 2 Samuel 11:1-15, which was actually designated for this coming Sunday. I was first struck by how genuinely horrifying David's actions are: he sleeps with the wife of one of his soldiers and, after several attempts to cover it up, has a message delivered to his commander Joab to have Uriah killed. And Uriah is the one who delivers it. This after Uriah refuses to go down to his house to be with Bathsheba because it&#…

Quotable Luther

"I do not believe that all the arts should be removed or forbidden on account of the Gospel, as some fanatics suggest. On the contrary, I would gladly see all arts, especially music, in the service of Him Who has given and created them."

Pop Culture Roundup

I've been continuing on through Christianity's Dangerous Idea this week. I'm to the part in the book where McGrath analyzes how Protestantism tends to think about issues such as the Bible, the sacraments, and the church. He emphasizes "tends," as he repeatedly points out that Protestantism was not and is not a monolithic entity, as much as critics make it so for handy purposes of debate. I've appreciated McGrath's discussion of sola scriptura in particular: he notes that this principle was meant to establish the Bible as the primary authority above human institutions such as popes and councils. Of course, the question then becomes, "Whose or which interpretation?" McGrath notes two ways Protestants tend to answer this question: 1) in light of inherited tradition such as the creeds, or 2) in light of the contemporary community's discernment together. The book is long, but it's been informative.

I saw the second Transformers movie thi…

Small Sips: The Cranky Church

Selling your soul: The Naked Pastor offers some advice for candidates entering the ministry:
1. Stop thinking independently and keep your own thoughts to yourself!
2. Memorize whatever it is you are supposed to believe. Regurgitate! Regurgitate! Regurgitate!
3. Agree with everybody and disagree with nobody. Keep your job is job one.
4. Plan on never changing your mind or having a crisis of faith or morals.
5. Read a room and totally conform to it. Never rock a boat, even a bad one.
6. Meet expectations without resentment. You are the composite of everyone’s religious fantasies.
7. Keep about 20 years behind the times.
8. Criticize everything and everyone who is different from the most popular religious status quo.
9. If you have a personality, lose it!
10. If you want out, break any of the above.Yeah, it's cynical and sarcastic. But it also highlights the hard work that pastors have to do and the courage that they need to do it. Of course, it also speaks to the resistance that they'll…

On Appropriate Use of Righteous Anger

I'm still thinking about General Synod. I'm still thinking about the episode that played out during the Tuesday morning plenary, but I'm also thinking about some other events.

I'm thinking about a report made by the national youth staff, particularly of a national effort to meet with and survey youth and young adults from all over the UCC, during which a condensed version of this video was shown:

And then I think about the person who stepped to a microphone afterwards and complained that there were no minorities included in the video and, as I recall, no minority youth included in the survey. There were plainly minority youth included in the video, and Thomas Chu, the head of this effort, waited very patiently at a mic before sharing that he had, in fact, met with multiple groups of minority youth throughout the UCC.

And I'm also thinking about the nominations for Executive Council, when the youth from Ohio (not that there's anything wrong with that) stepping to…

Pop Culture Roundup

I finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle this week. Since it's loosely based on Hamlet, I kind of saw what was coming. I just didn't know how Wroblewski would do it. The final section of the book has a certain anxious quality to it, featuring short chapters switching between different characters' perspectives as the climax mounts. The story is of Edgar Sawtelle, but it's also about the legacy to which he contributes. That part isn't necessarily clear until the end, but then the reader can look back and see all the points at which this piece was being developed. It was an excellent novel, and its 500+ pages are worth it.

So now it's onto another lengthy book, Christianity's Dangerous Idea by noted Christian historian Alister McGrath. McGrath explores the legacy of the Reformation - both the larger context in which it began and the lasting ideas that have carried down through the centuries. McGrath explores aspects of the context that we often should hav…

An Empty Lot

Here is an empty lot.

It is not our empty lot. Our empty lot hasn't even been mowed, let alone turned into a flat bare patch of dirt.

But it should have been by now. Our basement should have been put in yesterday. But it has not. There's some kind of hang-up with the engineering permit. So the original stated goal for us to be in by early October is now "hopefully before Halloween."

It's a little frustrating. It's not really in our hands, but we're certainly starting to raise a stink. Not a huge stink at this point, just enough for, like, people to wrinkle their noses and say, "Aw man, that's irritating. We should open a window." Except there's no basement, let alone a window. So the people smelling the stink have to live with it until they build the basement so eventually they can build the house with a window that they can open to get rid of the stink.

As you can see, it's a very complicated process.

The other thing that I hav…

Clotheshorse Meme

Courtesy of the RevGals:

1. Are you a hoarder, or are you good at sorting and clearing? I try to sort and clear as much as possible. Every so often, I make it a point to go through my closet and my dresser and fill a bag full of stuff that I know I'll never wear again. Some of it tends to consist of t-shirts from a conference or some other event that I'd only really wear around the people I experienced it with, but...why? That, and I don't kid myself about looks that I was once into but now don't like or am embarrassed by.

2. What is the oddest garment you possess and why? I have a Wal-Mart vest from my short-lived stint in the wonderful world of retail. I was most certainly supposed to give it back, but I never did.

3. Do you have a favourite look/ colour? While packing for Synod, I was struck by how much black I own. Look-wise, take jeans and add either a polo in the summer or an untucked dress shirt and jacket in the winter.

4. Thrift/ Charity shops, love them o…

Synod Final Thoughts

When I wrote on Monday that this General Synod seemed to be the most laid-back that I'd attended so far, I had no way to foresee what would happen on Tuesday morning.

During Tuesday morning's plenary, we discussed the proposed resolutions on the national setting adopting a single governance model to replace its current multi-board structure (they were submitted later, and thus weren't mentioned during my review of the other resolutions). I have mentioned this topic in general before, but a Synod resolution, if passed, would press the issue in a significant way.

There were nine resolutions submitted on this issue: most for, but also a few against. It was surely to be the most hotly contested issue this year, and plenary played that out, though not in the way one would expect.

The committee presented their report which, predictably, offered one compiled resolution from the many with which they were entrusted. There were amendments to the language discussed, which took up quite …

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