Green Bay’s strange way of celebrating

By all accounts, the citizens of Green Bay, Wisconsin, celebrated the Packers’ Super Bowl victory by flooding out of their houses to embrace each other in jubilation.  Also by honking their horns.  And by flocking to Lambeau Field with snow shovels to dig out the stadium in preparation for a big welcome home to the team.

But the fans didn’t overturn cars, set fires, fight each other, or smash store windows.  What’s with that?  Don’t they know how cities are supposed to celebrate?

Packers rule!

It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was exciting.  The Packers won the Super Bowl, beating the Steelrs 31-25.

That means Rich Shipe won our contest with an amazing prediction of 31-24.  (Who could have guessed that the Steelers would go for two?)  He has a great future in Vegas, if the church he is pastoring will give him a leave of absence.  (Rich, how did you get so close?  What was your reasoning?)

So Rich wins 15 minutes of fame.  Think about him today for 15 minutes.  No more than that!

Dennis Peskey was close too, 38-24, but I think Cindy R. would come in second with her guess of 27-24.  (Cindy Ramos is always winning or coming close in my prediction contests!  She’s a former student, so I must have taught her well.  You other former students must not have paid attention.)

Use this space for post-game analysis, commercial critiques, and half-time show complaints.

The 2nd biggest denomination: Nondenominationalism

Russell D. Moore, dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes in the Wall Street Journal about nondenominationalism:

Are we witnessing the death of America’s Christian denominations? Studies conducted by secular and Christian organizations indicate that we are. Fewer and fewer American Christians, especially Protestants, strongly identify with a particular religious communion—Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, etc. According to the Baylor Survey on Religion, nondenominational churches now represent the second largest group of Protestant churches in America, and they are also the fastest growing.

More and more Christians choose a church not on the basis of its denomination, but on the basis of more practical matters. Is the nursery easy to find? Do I like the music? Are there support groups for those grappling with addiction?

This trend is a natural extension of the American evangelical experiment. After all, evangelicalism is about the fundamental message of Christianity—the evangel, the gospel, literally the “good news” of God’s kingdom arriving in Jesus Christ—not about denomination building.

The post-World War II generation of evangelicals was responding to congregations filled with what they considered spiritual deadness. People belonged to a church, but they seemed to have no emotional experience of Christianity inside the building. Revivalists watched as denominational bureaucracies grew larger, and churches shifted from sending missionaries to preach around the world to producing white papers on issues like energy policy.

The revivalists wanted to get back to basics, to recover the centrality of a personal relationship with Jesus. “Being a member of a church doesn’t make you a Christian,” the ubiquitous evangelical pulpit cliché went, “any more than living in a garage makes you a car.” Thus these evangelical ministries tended not to talk about those issues that might divide their congregants. They avoided questions like: Who should be baptized and when? What does the Lord’s Supper mean? Should women be ordained? And so on.

The movement exploded. Before 1955, there were virtually no megachurches (defined as 2,000 people per worship service) in the country. Now there are between 850 and 1,200 such churches and many are nondenominational, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. Evangelicalism wanted to open its doors to all believers and it often lacked roots in the traditions of particular congregations. So many evangelical churches have a generic identity. This has changed the feel of local church life.

Where hymnody once came from the spontaneity of slave spirituals or camp meetings, worship songs are increasingly now focus-grouped by executives in Nashville. The evangelical “Veggie Tales” cartoons—animated Bible stories featuring talking cucumbers and tomatoes—probably shape more children in their view of scripture than any denominational catechism does these days. A church that requires immersion baptism before taking communion, as most Baptist traditions do, will likely get indignant complaints from evangelical visitors who feel like they’ve been denied service at a restaurant.

But there are some signs of a growing church-focused evangelicalism. Many young evangelicals may be poised to reconsider denominational doctrine, if for no other reason than they are showing signs of fatigue with typical evangelical consumerism.

via Russell D. Moore: Where Have All the Presbyterians Gone? – WSJ.com.

I would add to these statistics the churches that actually do belong to a denomination but act as if they didn’t.

Is it not true that a good number of these nondenominational congregations do have an implicit theology and follow an implicit–usually Baptist–tradition? For example, do they baptize infants or not?  Does anyone know of a nondenominational church that does?  Or will if a parent requests it?

What I’m asking–because I don’t know, so please enlighten me somebody–is if a non-denominational congregation still has a distinct theology or are all theologies or most theologies acceptable?  Are there non-denominational Calvinist churches, non-denominational Pentecostal churches, etc.?  Or do non-denominational churches allow members to hold to any of these theologies?  Or is there a distinct set of “non-denominational” teachings that everyone adheres to?

Protestantism tends to sort itself out either by doctrines or, perhaps more so, by polity.  Is today’s nondenominationalism also a matter of a seminary or Bible School graduate just going out and starting his own church?  Unfettered by denominational approval,  processes, and supervision?  Is that it?

Some of us are more interested in actual, worked-out, rich, theology.  Also meaningful, non-generic worship.  I guess that sends people to denominations.  For me, when I found Lutheranism, I did not just just find a “denomination,” I found the Church.  Not that Lutherans are the only one true church, but I found a sense of Church as existing through time and eternity that does includes non-Lutheran Christians but this universal but non-generic Church is manifested in our local congregation.

“Denomination” just means, literally, “name.”  Of course churches within a particular tradition need to have more in common than a name.  Unless it is the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Is nondenominationalism the new ecumenism, so that in generic Christianity we are seeing the fulfilment of the dream of Christian unity?  Or not?

Ronald Reagan as actor

Yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan.  In the articles commemorating the day, it is evident that even liberal scholars have come to appreciate the man and his presidency.

The Washington Post published a feature on “Five Myths about Ronald Reagan” by his biographer Edmund Morris.  I got a kick out of this one:

1. He was a bad actor.

Well, yes and no. Most of the movies he made as a Warner Bros. contract player are unwatchable by persons of sound mind. When he was president, it was easy to laugh at them. The spectacle of the leader of the free world, a.k.a. Secret Service agent Brass Bancroft, deploying an enormous ray gun against an airborne armada was especially hilarious in 1983, the year he announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, that vaporizer of foreign nuclear missiles. “All right, Hayden – focus that inertia projector on ‘em and let ‘em have it!”

Even when Reagan believed he was acting well, as in “Kings Row,” he betrayed infallible signs of thespian mediocrity: an unwillingness to listen to other performers and an inability to communicate thoughts. Now that he is dead, however, one feels an odd tenderness for the effort he put into every role – particularly in early movies, when he struggled to control a tendency of his lips to writhe around his too-rapid speech.

Ironically, he was transformed into a superb actor when he took on the roles of governor of California, presidential candidate and president of the United States. Then, as never in his movies, he became authoritative, authentic, irresistible to eye and ear. His two greatest performances, in my opinion, were at the Republican National Convention in 1976, when he effortlessly stole Gerald Ford’s thunder as nominee and made the delegates regret their choice, and at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1985, when he delivered the supreme speech of his presidency.

I asked him once if he had any nostalgia for the years he was nuzzling up to Ann Sheridan and Doris Day on camera. He gestured around the Oval Office. “Why should I? I have the biggest stage in the world, right here!”

via Five myths about Ronald Reagan.

Post your Reagan tributes, critiques, and nuanced evaluations here.

Your forum for the Super Bowl

This is the place for Super Bowl predictions, analysis, and trash talk between Packer and Steeler fans.

I’ll start: We’ve got two storied teams from blue-collar towns that are actually very much alike, especially when it comes to their awesome defenses. Therefore the Packers will smelt the Steelers! 17-14.

Anyone who predicts the correct score will win 15 minutes of fame on this blog.

The views on Egypt

So neoconservatives are supporting the uprising in Egypt as evidence of the universal yearning for democratic values.  Pro-Israel conservatives, though, are hoping Mubarak holds on to power, since a democratic government might turn against Israel and support jihadi terrorists.  Paleo-conservatives are thinking the revolution doesn’t concern us one way or the other.  Most mainstream Republicans are supporting the President, in the name of that once-honored principle of politics stopping at the border and the need to show a united front in international affairs.

And the President is. . . .let’s see.  It’s hard to tell.  He’s supporting the protesters in their desire for freedom, but he is not saying Mubarak must go.  That may be the best course for now, since events really are out of our control.  But it’s hard to see the philosophy behind the policy.

Do Democrats and liberals in general have a foreign policy policy that shapes their position on what is going on in Egypt?  I could find the different conservative takes–confirming what I have often say about how conservatives, far from being a monolithic faction, actually have more ideological diversity in their ranks than liberals do.  But I can’t find a distinct liberal position on this.  Can any liberals in the audience help me?  Or is there the same ambivalence and range of positions that the conservatives have?

In backing change in Egypt, U.S. neoconservatives split with Israeli allies.


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