Monthly Archives: October 2012

Danger, Will Robinson!

I saw this sign posted outside of an Office Depot store. I took it as a warning. I thought maybe the store was under quarantine and I should stay away.

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The Gospel Beyond the Evangelical Version

Ed Stetzer, the Southern Baptist researcher from LifeWay Christian Resources, recommended this post by John Blake on CNN’s Belief blog. It’s called “The Gospel According to Obama.” As Stetzer said, “You won’t agree with it all, but I think you will learn something from it.”

I found some fascinating insights, particularly in regard to the American black church. We have caricatured Rev. Wright to death because of a few stupid statements, and shamelessly implied that everything true of Wright is true of Obama. But there is much more to Obama’s faith than these caricatures, and there is much we evangelicals can learn from the black church.

We white evangelicals are pretty insulated and, to be blunt, legalistic. We think the American evangelical experience is the ultimate and only true expression of Christianity. Anything else is non-Orthodox, compromised, and possibly heretical. People outside the United States don’t have a proper understanding of Christianity, so we send missionaries and conduct conferences to show them how to do it right. To enlighten them.

But that is such a shallow, paternalistic view of the faith.

In particular, we reject anything with “social gospel” attached to it. That stems from a 1950s-era backlash–not entirely a bad thing–against the mainstream Protestant church, which had sorely neglected the salvation message. But we have swung too far in the other direction. A good deal of Jesus’ message was social in nature, and we can’t discount it. The black church, to its credit, has never discounted it.

Years ago, I was part of the organizing committee for the first joint convention between the two main religious press organizations, the Evangelical Press Association and its mainstream (“liberal”) counterpart, the Associated Church Press. I don’t think it went particularly well–our two groups were very different. And yet, I learned a lot. I remember when an ACP person gave a prayer, and I thought, “Why don’t we evangelicals pray about those things?” There were other things they emphasized which I found eye-opening, in a good way–issues of justice and compassion that we evangelicals just don’t focus on.

Likewise, in attending a service at an all-black church many years ago, I discovered expressions of the faith that were foreign to me, but which I realized were totally valid.

We evangelicals think we’ve got it all figured out. But there are holes in our gospel.

And so, read John Blake’s article with an open mind–not a partisan mind–and see what God teaches you about aspects of the Christian faith which are missing or unstressed in your evangelical tradition. It’s quite a long article, but puts a lot of religious issues into context. I found it insightful.

A quote near the end says, “What’s interesting is that these values, associated with Obama and the black Protestant tradition, are now also the values of a growing number of white evangelicals.” That is what I’ve seen, and it’s a healthy thing.

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Visiting the Holocaust Museum

Last Thursday, October 25, Pam and I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC. One of our first vacations as a married couple, back in the early 1980s, was to Washington DC. But that was before the Holocaust museum opened. So this was at the top of our list.

I’ve read many books about the Holocaust. It has always fascinated me–how evil, truly evil, ordinary people can become. So obviously, the Holocaust Museum held high interest for me.

Here are a few thoughts.

You can’t help noticing the silence. Hundreds of people all around you, exploring the exhibits…and rarely a word spoken. Even the many schoolchildren, brought to the museum on field trips, were generally respectful.

The museum made great use of video, including so much stuff I had never seen. Including some very disturbing footage. The main videos–maybe 5-10 minutes apiece, perhaps five of them scattered throughout the museum in places with seating–were well worth watching. The first told of anti-semitism through the ages; the next told about the rise of anti-semitism in Germany. But in addition to these mini-features, numerous exhibits were accompanied by a small monitor showing footage. Very well used. And very disturbing…which was the point.

The room with shoes–thousands of shoes left at extermination camps by Jews, each pair worn by an actual person who was murdered–was riveting.

And the room with high, high walls filled with photos of Jews from one town–families, couples, individuals. Photos taken during happy times. Hundreds of them. I couldn’t help looking into the faces in those photos and wondering what those persons were like, what they endured, and how they died.

Perhaps my favorite part came toward the end, with a wall commemorating all the people who had helped rescue Jews. Hundreds of names listed. With some–perhaps 40 persons–they briefly told the person’s story. It reminded me of stories in Eva Fogelman’s book “Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust,” which I read some years ago and still have on my shelf. In fact, I recognized at least one of the stories from the book.

It’s great to know that, amidst such evil, numerous people possess the courage to do what is right, even at the risk of torture and death–which was the fate of some of these rescuers.

There were so many items from the Holocaust. Prison uniforms. Medical instruments. Beds from prison camps. Part of the Warsaw Ghetto wall. A train car used to transport Jews to extermination camps. Each telling a piece of a tragedy of epic proportions.

At the end came an exhibit about genocide in modern times–Bosnia, Rwanda, the Sudan. This was by far the weakest part of the museum. I wish they had just focused on the Holocaust. But the big sign out from said “Never Forget,” and that refers to continuing acts of genocide.

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Good Questions for Pro-Choicers

Trevin Wax, who works with Ed Stetzer at LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote a brief blog post titled, “10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate is Never Asked by the Media.” They are fabulous questions, and I would love to hear pro-choice candidates respond to some of these.

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Watching “Jonah” at Sight & Sound

The seaport at Joppa.

On my birthday last week, October 23, Pam and I were in Lancaster, Pa. That afternoon we saw the play “Jonah” at the Sight and Sound theatre.

Last summer, we saw “Noah” at the Sight and Sound theatre in Branson, Mo. It was spectacular. Unfortunately, we had that experience in our heads as we watched “Jonah,” which was still a superb production to a packed house, but paled in comparison.

Nevertheless, I liked “Jonah” a lot. Some of the musical numbers were excellent, the sets were astounding (the walls of Jericho, the fishing village of Joppa), and the story was creative. They ended with a strong presentation of the Gospel (as did “Noah”). Definitely a play I would recommend.

Next summer, perhaps Pam and I will visit Branson again, this time to see “Joseph.”

But I just can’t imagine anything topping “Noah,” particularly that awesome moment at the beginning of the second half when you realize you are inside the Ark.

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What Republicans Have Said About Romney

This is quite enlightening, and troubling–a bunch of Republicans giving their candid criticisms of Mitt Romney.

My biggest problem with Romney is that he doesn’t seem to truly believe in anything. The man has no core. He has changed his views on so many issues, so many times, that–well, how can you NOT consider it deeply troubling?

How can we know what we’re getting as President? Which Romney will take the oath of office?

If his views are so squishy, why wouldn’t he change his views again as President?

Correction: there is one thing Romney believes in steadfastly: Mormonism. On that he has not wavered. So the only thing he’s truly committed to is a false religion.

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Guess Where?

I found this bobblehead of the President in a gift shop. I looked at the bottom, and was amused by the label. Just had to get a photo.

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The Hat Fits, but Not Necessarily

No, I didn’t buy it. However, it fit nicely.

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My Aussie Look

For many years, I’ve wanted an Australian leather hat. I first saw one around Cherokee, NC, probably 15 years ago. I found one that fit perfectly, but I didn’t want to spend that much on a hat. I’ve been looking for a good one ever since.

Today, on my birthday, we found a store with tons and tons of Aussie hats. Lots to choose from. And I fell in love with one in particular.

And bought it. No regrets this time.

It’s kangaroo leather–yes, a kangaroo died to satisfy my capitalistic consumption cravings–and it is very pliable. I wore it much of the day, and felt like I’d been wearing it all my life.

So I have a new friend. And a new look. Perhaps I’ll even adopt a Down Under accent.

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The Lost Art of Giving Change

Here’s something which makes me amused, in a carnal sort of way.

When my order comes to, say, $5.23, and I give the checkout girl (or guy) a ten-dollar bill and a quarter, it freaks her out. She can’t figure how to give me change.

Doing math in your head, like cursive writing, is becoming a lost art.

In high school and college, I worked in a grocery store–Pixley Foodmart in Pixley, Calif. I’ve never seen checkout lines work as fast as ours did. We blazed along–and without scanners!

Our cashier machines told us the total amount, but not how much change to give. We had to do that in our heads.

We looked on a chart to determine the amount of tax. In weighing produce, another chart. A number didn’t magically appear on a screen for everyone to see. Only I, running the cash register, saw the amount I was plugging into the cash register.

One night 15 minutes before closing, I was the last cashier, I had a line of about 20 customers stretching toward the back of the store, and I had no pennies left. And I didn’t want to ask the office for a new roll of pennies. So I improvised.

I went through every customer, making sure the amount ended on a 5 or 0, so I didn’t need to use pennies. I just mentally adjusted the amount of tax I charged, or maybe the amount I used for produce. The final amount that appeared on the cash register was always divisible by nickels.

I did this all so fast that nobody suspected anything.

Let’s see TODAY’s youth pull that off!

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