Monthly Archives: August 2006

University Vs. College

Every year my alma mater prouding announces its placement in the US News ranking of the top colleges in the midwest. This year they placed 16th.

A year ago they changed the name from “Huntington College” to “Huntington University.” The argument was that a number of other schools were adopting the “university” label, and there seemed to be solid data that the “university” tag would increase the school’s stature in people’s minds. And maybe it does. I’m not sure it makes much diff to US News. Only 10 of the top 50 schools, and only 2 of the top 10, have the “university” label. I just found that interesting.

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No More Sexist Trinity

The Presbyterian Church (USA), at its national convention, “received” a policy paper which suggests that the church adopt gender-inclusive language for the Trinity. Referring to the Trinity as “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” is obviously sexist and alienates womyn everywhere. It’s a wonder any female would want to become a Christian, huh?

So here are their alternate ways to refer to the Trinity:

  • Rock, Redeemer, and Friend
  • Mother, Child, and Womb
  • Lover, Beloved, and Love
  • Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier
  • King of Glory, Prince of Peace, and Spirit of Love

So instead of being baptized “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” you could be baptized “in the name of the Rock, Redeemer, and Friend.”

I begin most of my prayers with, “Dear Father,” for whatever reason. Learned it as a kid, I guess, and fell into that rut. Perhaps I should begin prayers with, “Dear Creator,” or “Dear Lover.” Yeah, that would catch Pam’s attention in a public prayer meeting.

Then there’s the familiar Doxology, which ends “…praise father, son, and Holy Ghost.” The delegates sang a version which uses alternate language and avoids male nouns and pronouns for God.

I learned about this on Mark Driscoll’s blog. He referred to “some folks at the Presbyterian Church (USA) who have free time because no one is going to their church.” Oooooh, touche!

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Layperson’s Code of Conduct

We laypersons can be a pain in the butt for pastors. From my perch at our denominational headquarters, I’ve heard gobs of sad stories over the past 27 years of laypersons who deflate churches and wound pastors. There are entrenched patriarchs who refuse to relinquish power and who selfishly veto ideas for moving the church forward. There are laypersons who care deeply about ministry, but voice their concerns and passions in unhealthy ways. There are outright carnal people who push themselves into positions of power and wreak havoc. There are people who just talk too much, scattering petty criticisms throughout the congregation. There are laypersons who micromanage the pastor.

There are good laypersons, too. Whenever a church is growing, it’s not just the pastor’s doing. He has laypersons working alongside him in positive ways. But too often, I hear about the negative kind.

During the 1990s, my denomination held a leadership conference which brought together several hundred United Brethren ministers and laypersons. One morning we divided everyone into 48 different groups–24 groups of laypersons, 24 groups of pastors and wives. We instructed them to develop a ten-point “Code of Conduct” for themselves–one code of conduct for ministers, and one for laypersons. I helped compile and condense the 48 different codes. We ended up with a 15-point Code of Conduct for ministers and a 12-point Code of Conduct for laypersons.

I recently stumbled across these codes, and they still contain a great deal of wisdom. Here is the Code of Conduct for Laypersons. This was a reminder to me of what a jerk I can be (the “cares deeply but acts unhealthily” variety) at times. Read this, and pray for laypersons who will follow it.

  1. I will be open-minded to change, and will not insist that others follow my preferences.
  2. I will focus on the positive in our church and convey that to others.
  3. I will abide in Christ and bear the responsibility of that relationship.
  4. I will demonstrate a servant attitude in carrying out my church responsibilities.
  5. I will continuously evaluate my schedule, balancing family and church time in a way which puts family first.
  6. I will not create conflict, and will lovingly confront those who do.
  7. I will not criticize the pastor or others behind their backs, but will speak to them personally, always offering a solution with any complaints.
  8. I will expand my witness in my corner of God’s world, and will do nothing to jeopardize my witness.
  9. I will recognize that my talents, time, and resources belong to Christ.
  10. I will be consistent and dependable.
  11. I will pray for my church, its leaders, and its ministry.
  12. I will continually remind myself that the ministry of the church is my ministry.
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Vampire Dreams

Last night I dreamed about a master vampire who was tolerating my presence, but from whom I needed to escape. However, it’s not easy escaping from vampires. After all, they can fly.

I’ve always liked vampire lore, and enjoy watching vampire movies just to get the different take people have on them (where they came from, how they act, etc.). I remember the first vampire movie I saw, back when we lived in Pennslyvania, which put it somewhere in grades 4-7. That movie was set in the Old West, and the vampire was ultimately killed by a silver bullet. I’m sure it was a cheesy movie, which is why I’ve not heard of it since. But I found it interesting.

Later, there was the TV show “Night Stalker,” which I really liked. More recently there was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” two shows that Pam and I watched with great devotion. And many vampire movies have come out in recent years, including one I saw (most of) on a recent Saturday morning, a really really bad vampire movie staring Jon Bon Jovi as the slayer.

So it’s not strange that a vampire should show up in my dreams. In this particular dream, the vampire was distracted upon discovering a barn filled with victims, and that’s when I chose to make my getaway, with the help of someone with a boat. This person, in arranging my getaway, broke into a lengthy Broadway-style song and dance which was quite spectacular. The choreography was superb, and I awoke with the tune and words (they rhymed, too) still in my head.

This part of the dream, no doubt, relates to having watched the musical “Rent” that night. I’d been looking forward to seeing this movie for a long time. However, though it had some very good moments, I was disappointed. Beyond the opening song, nothing struck me as worth listening to a second time (unlike the wonderful “High School Musical”). Plus, there were two homosexual couples and only one heterosexual couple, and I wasn’t all that crazy about that.

Frankly, I think the song my subconscious mind dreamed up was as good as anything in the movie. And I tell people I’m not any good at writing songs!

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Rita Cosby “Reporting”

RitaCosby.jpgLong Blonde Anchorperson: This is an MSNBC Extremely Urgent Special Deluxe Alert. Here is Senior Sensationalism Correspondent Rita Cosby with her very serious and earnest report on something which isn’t all that earth-shattering, but Rita lusts for airtime. Here’s Rita.

Rita Cosby: Thank you. I’m here in Boulder, Colorado, with a late-breaking exclusive that Greta and Paula would die for. Earlier today, it was reported that John Karr, the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder, ate a Red Delicious apple yesterday and, according to sources close to the investigation, admitted that he really likes apples.

MSNBC has now confirmed that on December 26, 1996, the day of JonBenet’ Ramsey’s murder, the grocery store nearest to the Ramsey home, a Safeway, ran a special on apples. Specifically–and this is where the story gets very interesting–the apples on sale were Red and Golden Delicious apples. Newspaper archives from that day show that, indeed, a prominent ad announced this special sale. This seems too bizarre to be mere coincidence.

This information could potentially give John Karr a motive for being in that particular neighborhood on that particular day. No doubt prosecutors will be deposing store cashiers from 10 years ago.

MSNBC will continue covering this and other Extremely Important Breaking News as it breaks, until Hurricane Ernesto strikes the southern US, and I need to go stand in the wind and show my journalistic bravado by exclaiming about the gustiness.

This is Rita Cosby in Boulder, doing what passes for “reporting” nowadays.

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My Disgraceful Garage

My garage is Beirut, circa 1984. A tangled wasteland of cords and bottles and tools and spare parts and other household debris, very little of it organized and, on short notice, findable.

So that was today’s project: clean the garage. I started with the work bench, piled high with, well, just about everything. Forget about finding a tool there. Easier to just go to Lowe’s and get a new one.

Dad helped me build that workbench. Actually, I helped–minimally–him build it. It may be the only thing we’ve ever built together. I should take better care of it. His own work bench–verily, his entire garage–is pristine, everything in its place. I didn’t get that gene. Neither did Stu. Neither did Rick. I guess that gene is still waiting for Child Number Four, which, obviously, ain’t gonna happen apart from Abrahamic circumstances.

Well, it’s 9 pm, and I just finished with the work bench. Didn’t think it would take this long. Everything is organized nicely, and there is actually emtpy space on which, heaven forbid, actual work could be committed in the name of home improvement. The shelf below the work space is cleaned up, too. Didn’t get to the stuff clear on the bottom, on the floor itself amidst multitudinous cobwebs.

The rest of the garage is still a mess. I began the day with ambitions to make the whole place sparkle, but alas, I began and ended with the workbench. Maybe next week. Or next spring. We’ll see.

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Hisbollah’s Worst Nightmare


Hizbollah is scared. The top leaders are scurrying around in a panic, holding meetings to determine if there is any–any–way to successfully face this new threat soon to descend on southern Lebanon.

The French are coming.

The very thought strikes fear, terror, and fashion-consciousness in the minds of warriors everywhere. In its typical shock-and-awe, overwhelming-force manner, France_ArmyKnife.jpgFrance is sending 200 soldiers to southern Lebanon as part of the battle-hardened United Nations contingent. Some of these French soldiers are even trained in the more exotic arts of war, such as loading and, under extreme conditions so long as nobody might get hurt, firing a weapon. And they all carry, in an easily accessible pouch next to their hair gel, the vaunted French Army Knife (right).

Hisbollah’s fighters are quaking in their, uh, whatever they wear. They know that if they fire rockets into Israel or commit other warlike actions, the vigilant French will…watch. With disapproval, mind you. Vigilant disapproval, which they skillfully communicate nonverbally. If such activities continue, the French will escalate to whining. Better wine is now produced in California, but the French remain masters of The Whine.

And if that doesn’t quell Hisbollah’s hostility toward Israel, the French will do what has always, for them, been a matter of very early resort. They will surrender. This is what Hisbollah fears most. Because when the French surrender, it can mean only one thing.

The Americans are coming.

The Americans will first assert their air superiority over Hisbollah by bombing absolutely everything in sight, including Chinese embassies. Then Congress will appropriate billions of dollars to rebuild what they bombed, financing it all by further cutting taxes to the rich, which makes perfect sense to the Bush Administration. The Americans will then arrive en masse and stay for, oh, 15-20 years. And….

Well, actually, that might be kind of fun for Hisbollah.

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Be Quiet, Cut Those Braids, Lose the Pearls

Mary LambertMary Lambert of Watertown, New York, is being discussed all over the web. That’s her on the right. She’s 81, and has taught Sunday school for 54 years at her American Baptist church. But Mary was recently dismissed as a teacher because her church decided to take a literal interpretation of Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

Rev. Timothy LaBouf, who came to the church a full two years ago brimming with principle, explained that outside the church, a woman can hold any job she wants, whether or not it involves teaching or overseeing men. But not in the church. This seems, to my untrained ear, like he’s watering down literalness, but so be it. As a town council member, it’s expedient that he do so. He also clarified that he interpreted this only to refer to “women teaching spiritual matters in a church setting.” So he was working hard to squeeze the Bible into his preferred mold. Kind of like a George Bush signing statement.

As you might guess, I’m not in LaBouf’s camp. I’ve always been a “grace and freedom in Christ” person when it comes to issues where the Bible isn’t firm. So has our denomination. Like many (most?) people, I view Paul’s words as wise instructions for that culture, but not as biblical absolutes for all time. Some folks choose to err on the legalistic side when it comes to what women can and can’t do, but I can’t see Jesus doing that. He constantly did battle with rule-makers. Jesus was about grace and freedom. When he died, the curtain in the temple that separated the men from the women and the Jews from the Gentiles–the thing was torn in two. Hint hint.

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Those Unrepentant Dixie Chicks

I was a big fan of the Dixie Chicks (how can you not love “Goodbye Earl”?) until Natalie Maines spouted off in England about being ashamed that they come from the same state as President Bush. The problem was the context: they were in another country on the eve of war, dissing our President. Had they been in the States, I would have been okay with it. Had those words come from, say, Sean Penn, I would have just chalked them up as the ramblings of a confirmed idiot. The fact that the words came from a women’s trio…I do think the reaction was based on a good degree of sexism, the feeling that pop-culture women shouldn’t be speaking forcefully about politics. Leave that to the menfolk.

Dixie ChicksSo the context really stunk, and Natalie should have been more discrete. But when you have strong opinions about something, and you’re in the public eye and performing regularly in front of thousands of people–well, you’re bound to say some inappropriate things. I certainly excrete plenty of stupid, brash, and ill-conceived nonsense on this blog. The difference between me and the Chicks is: nobody cares what I have to say.

But now, the Dixie Chicks have this new song out, called “Not Ready to Make Nice.” And let me just say: I think it’s a marvelous song. And I admire this threesome’s spunk. Most male musicians, faced with a staggering career setback, would have caved in and uttered an apology, eaten some dirt, groveled, etc. The Chicks didn’t. While regretting perhaps saying those words in that particular context, they haven’t backed off from the sentiments. Good for them! It’s costing them lots of money, but they’re not backing down.

And as for the song: I love it. And the music video is absolutely stunning. I catch it some Saturday mornings. Here are some of the opening lyrics and then the chorus. I think this is superb writing.

Forgive, sounds good.
Forget, I’m not sure I could.
They say time heals everything,
But I’m still waiting

I’m through, with doubt,
There’s nothing left for me to figure out,
I’ve paid a price, and I’ll keep paying

I’m not ready to make nice,
I’m not ready to back down,
I’m still mad as hell
And I don’t have time
To go round and round and round.
It’s too late to make it right,
I probably wouldn’t if I could,
Cause I’m mad as hell,
Can’t bring myself to do what it is
You think I should.

These gals have courage and convictions, and I admire it. And they’re articulate, able to defend themselves without sounding like celebrity airheads. But Natalie–please, think before you spout off again. In the end, your words in England simply weren’t worth it.

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Remembering Terry Anderson

In 1988, I was on the planning committee for the annual convention of the Evangelical Press Association. The convention was being held in Indianapolis, and various Christian magazine editors from Indiana comprised the planning committee. Thus my involvement. We spent a year fleshing out much of what we wanted to do. Then the association’s leaders asked us to turn it into a joint convention with the Associated Church Press, and it was back to Square One.

The EPA is the conservative group, the ACP the liberal group. The ACP includes publications from mainline churches, and even some Jewish and other non-Protestant publications. But we agreed to give it a try. And so, our planning committee doubled in size, as the ACP added representatives. And we pretty much started over, program-wise. We explained what we had already put together, but they vetoed a number of the speakers we had lined up, because they were too evangelical or not sufficiently politically correct or, for some other reason, weren’t properly palatable to their diverse constituencies. But we found some middle ground. Mark Noll of Wheaton College keynoted the opening session marvelously. Sandi Patti (sister-in-law of one of our committee members) gave us a concert to close the convention. I even did a seminar for editors of small-budget publications.

However, the two groups were too distinctly different. I deemed the convention a noble experiment worth trying once, but not repeating. And I don’t think they have tried a joint convention again.

However, I clearly remember a prayer by one of the mainline guys in the opening session, a prayer that had a profound and enduring impact on me, though you’ll consider it trivial when I tell you why. In that prayer, this guy prayed for Terry Anderson, one of the hostages being held in Lebanon at that time. And the way he injected it into his prayer, I knew that his prayers always included Terry Anderson. Meanwhile, I couldn’t remember hearing anyone in evangelical circles (like, my own denomination) pray for Terry Anderson, this man who was suffering unjustly. Why was Terry Anderson not on our minds? And why did this “liberal” guy remember Terry as a routine part of his prayer life?

That prayer awakened me to the fact that some of our “liberal” friends are sensitive to issues that we evangelicals need to be sensitive to. Issues of justice, race, poverty, health, hunger, suffering, and much more. These things are on their radar. They aren’t much on our radar. And they need to be.

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