Run it like a business?

business-1137397_640President Trump is reported to be understandably frustrated that the government can’t be run like a business.  In his company, Trump could simply given an order and his underlings would do it.  But as president, he gives an order but he has to contend with the courts, Congress, semi-independent agencies such as the Pentagon, a vast bureaucracy, and state governments, each with its own complicated workings.

I’ve listened to a pastor explain how he is trying to run his church like a business.  He is the CEO, he explained.  His members are his employees.  He said he doesn’t do hospital visitations or evangelism calls.  That is the work of his members/employees.

I do think the government and churches can learn some things from businesses.  For example, you need to balance the budget, be efficient, give good service, etc.  But the very nature of these institutions prevents them from being interchangeable in the way they operate.  [Read more…]

The two kinds of romantic love

8096547973_367546a4eb_zOne kind of romantic love leads to life–to marriage, fruitful sexuality, children, family, virtue.  The other kind of romantic love leads to death–to sin, sterile sexuality, abortion, family destruction, ruin.

These two kinds of romantic love are explored in one of the most morally illuminating books of literary criticism I have ever read:  Love in the Western World by the Swiss Christian scholar Denis de Rougement.

A romance novel will often set up a triangle in which a woman has to choose between two suitors:  One is a good guy who cares for her, whom her parents like, and who would make a good husband.  The other is nearly a villain, an “anti-hero” who sometimes mistreats her, is a social outcast from her circles, and who even seems dangerous.  Young adults novels are often built around the same pattern,  with the choice between an all-American popular boy and a troubled, misunderstood, passionate “bad boy.”  Many literary novels have been about a happily married man who is lured away from his angelic wife by an exotic, sensual, forbidden beauty.

Sometimes the characters make the right choice in committing themselves to the good person.  But, more often than not, they choose the one who is bad “in society’s eyes,” but who offers them excitement, passion, and the thrill of transgression.  Romance and young adult novels often stop when the choice is made, imposing a “happily ever after ending.”  But honest works of literature, like Anna Karenina, show what happens next, with the forbidden love resulting in ruin, despair, and even death.

More importantly, the pattern keeps asserting itself in real life.   [Read more…]

An obituary for a contemptible life

Memento_mori_(3690813647) (1)Obituaries summarize the events of the life of the deceased, a way of honoring the dead by looking back on the life they have lived. They often turn into eulogies, praising the character and good deeds of the person who died.  Lutheran funerals try to keep the focus away from the person’s good works as something to comfort the family, instead emphasizing Christ, the Gospel, and the persons’ faith.  The funerals of non-Christians are trickier.  (I’d be curious how you pastors handle those.)

A woman recently wrote an obituary for her father, who, she said, would “be missed only for what he never did; being a loving husband, father and good friend.”  He died at age 74, “which was 29 years longer than expected and much longer than he deserved.”

“At a young age,” the obituary said, he “quickly became a model example of bad parenting combined with mental illness and a complete commitment to drinking, drugs, womanizing and being generally offensive.” “Leslie’s life served no other obvious purpose, he did not contribute to society or serve his community and he possessed no redeeming qualities besides [quick-witted] sarcasm which was amusing during his sober days.”  “Leslie’s passing proves that evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all.”  And that’s not all.  You can read the entire obituary after the jump.

My first impulse was to laugh, then to appreciate the brutal honesty, then to be disturbed.  Is this breaking the Commandment about honoring your father and your mother?  It certainly breaks the taboo against “speaking ill of the dead.”  A news story confirms that the man abused his family, having been arrested several times, including for pouring boiling water on his wife.

But imagine living a life that inspired your family to write an obituary like this. [Read more…]

Pastors have happier marriages, stronger families than usual

Luther_im_Kreise_seiner_Familie_musizierendBarna Research has published a new study on the problems, challenges, and personal life of pastors.  (You can buy the study here.)  Among many other findings is that, on the whole, pastors have much happier marriages and much better relationships with their children than typical Americans.

And yet, despite their strong families, pastors report that their ministries have sometimes put a strain on their marriages and children.

[Read more…]

Gay divorce

divorce-1021280_640We have gay marriage.  Now we are also getting gay divorce.  The New York Times has published an op-ed piece entitled  “I Got Gay Married. I Got Gay Divorced. I Regret Both.”  The author, Meredith Maran, tells with poignant honesty how she crusaded for gay marriage, took the plunge, but then went through a long, costly, and painful divorce.

After the jump, theology professor Denny Burk quotes from the article and comments on the problem:  wanting the rights of marriage without the norms of marriage (fidelity, permanence).

The same could be said of many heterosexual marriages.  But is there anything about gay relationships that makes permanence especially difficult?  What role might bearing children play in making marriage permanent?  But how would you account for marriages with children that break up anyway?  Some people are saying that marriages shouldn’t necessarily be permanent at all, though breakups are still traumatic, even for those who think that way.  Do you have any suggestions for lowering the incidence of divorce, including among heterosexual Christians?
[Read more…]

Debbie Reynolds dies, one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher

Reynolds_-_Fisher_-_1955Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, died last week.  One day later, her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, also died.

Her father, singer Eddie Fisher, abandoned his family to marry Elizabeth Taylor (who would later abandon him to marry Richard Burton).  He died in 2010.

Reynolds was known for playing the wholesome ingenue in scores of classic movies.  She also sang and danced on stage and in musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain.   

Carrie lived a life plagued with mental illness and drug addiction, which she chronicled with sensitivity and wit in a series of memoirs and novels.  She had been estranged from her mother for many years, but they reconciled and became close.  Reynolds was reportedly devastated by her daughter’s death and her emotional devastation brought on her death.

Carrie was a “princess” of Hollywood royalty, and the story of her family is one of both great cruelty and great love.

[Read more…]