The St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest

Who says conservative Lutherans don’t like contemporary Christian music in church?  We do.  It’s just that we want the contemporary Christian music to be, you know, hymns, as opposed to pop ditties.  And we do need new hymns.  Towards addressing that need, I am happy to announce that some twenty-somethings in our congregation, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church in Vienna, Virginia, have organized a major hymn-writing competition.  They have raised a $1,000 prize and have arranged for publication.  For details and for just learning about what the big deal is about hymns, check out the website:  St. Ambrose Hymn Writing Contest.

Here are the parameters of the contest:

The Challenge:

Many of the Gospel readings throughout the historic Church Year lack hymns which properly exposit their true sense. It is the purpose of this contest to provide profound and artistic hymns for such unaddressed pericopes (that is, a set of readings given for a certain day). Therefore, the challange of this contest is as follows: to compose a hymn which discerns and declares the meaning of the chosen lectionary texts and properly expresses the congregational response to the work of our Lord in the Word.

The Texts:

The hymn should concern itself with the following texts, with a focus on the gospel reading:

Zephaniah 1:7-16
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

The Prize:

The winner of the contest shall be awarded $1,000. The winning hymn will be publised by Liturgy Solutions, which will be granted first right-of-refusal to the hymn upon acceptance of the prize money.   The author/composer royalty to be paid by Liturgy Solutions will be 50% of all receipts from sales and any other profitable uses of the hymn (public performance for profit, radio broadcast, etc.).”

So the texts the hymn is supposed to elucidate deal with the Day of the Lord, Jesus coming back like a thief in the night, and the Parable of the Talents.

Yes, I have been asked to be one of the judges, but I will show no favoritism to the tunes of Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, or other artists that I can go on and on about on this blog.  (Well, if Bob Dylan enters the contest with a lectionary hymn, he might have an edge with me.)

But, seriously, you can use an existing hymn tune, if you like, or you can compose your own.  The words will be key.  You know those numbers at the bottom of each page in a hymnbook?  7.7.7., 8.6.8.6, 10.10.10.10.  Those are the number of syllables in each line.  That’s important to know in writing words to go with a particular tune.

Anyway, enter!  Try it.  You need not be Lutheran to win.  There is a thousand dollar prize!  The deadline is December 1.  Maybe your hymn too will be sung in future centuries.

The Case for Early Marriage

Christians have been emphasizing abstinence, says University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, whereas they should be emphasizing marriage.  Instead, Christians are buying into the same confused ideas about marriage that the world has been assuming.

Among both Christians and non-Christians, the marriage age has been rising, from an average in 1970 of 21 for women and 23 for men to today’s 26 for women and 28 for men.  “That’s five additional, long years of peak sexual interest and fertility,” he remarks.   The fertility point is often neglected.  “Women’s fertility is more or less fixed, yet Americans are increasingly ignoring it during their 20s, only to beg and pray to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s.”

He also deals with objections to early marriage.  For example, the higher divorce rate among those who marry in their teens.  He isn’t arguing for that.   He sees the optimum age as being in the early 20s.  But he also suggests how Christians are uniquely positioned to make early marriages work.

Read Regnerus’s article, which eludes simple excerpting:   The Case for Early Marriage | Christianity Today.

A summer reading project

About one of my students:

Evan Johnson boarded the Washington, D.C. metro train at 5:15 a.m., surrounded by sleepy, somber commuters. One girl on his left read The Hunger Games on her Kindle, while the girl in front of him read the same novel in paperback.

Ear buds in, rocking with the speeding metro, they were oblivious to the fact that “they were both entering the same fantasy world, while only a few feet apart,” Johnson said. “I often wondered what might happen if people simply looked around at other readers and discussed what they were reading.”

Anyone discussing books with Johnson might feel a little inadequate. When he stepped on that commuter train last year, Johnson, 20, was speeding his way through his 40th book of the summer.

Between May 16 and August 12, 2011, Johnson read one book a day – 94 books and 19,276 pages, an average of 217 pages per day. On some days he finished two books.

As a sophomore at Patrick Henry College, Johnson’s professors constantly gave him reading suggestions. His classmates often rolled their eyes and ignored similar suggestions, too busy with homework and essays to imagine recreational reading. But Johnson began to compile a reading list, jotting down dozens of titles during the semester. He vowed he would read them when he had an opportunity.

That summer, Johnson accepted an internship in Washington and moved to a new apartment in Falls Church, Va. Away from the distractions and requirements of school, he had the time he needed to start working through his list.

After counting the number of books he wanted to read, Johnson realized he would have to finish a book a day in order to make a good dent in the list. He set a goal, and committed his summer to reaching it.

Throughout the summer, the local library provided Johnson with 20 books via inter-library loan. The librarian’s eyes widened with surprise when he returned an 800-page, two-volume set of The Count of Monte Cristo after only three days. Johnson’s titles were rather eclectic, with authors ranging from Chinese Christian Watchman Nee to U.S. Marine David J. Danelo.

Every day, Johnson woke at 4 a.m. He ate a ham and cheese omelet, walked two miles to the metro, and caught the 5:15 a.m. train. He would set his laptop bag across his knees, pull out a book and read.

People at the bus stop often asked Johnson how he had time to read. He wondered how they could spend their commute doing nothing or playing “Angry Birds.”

“Reading taught me just how much time is often wasted everyday,” Johnson said. “People talk about how wasteful Americans are with stuff, water, money, et cetera. I also would add that we are incredibly wasteful with time.”

via The summer of books | World on Campus: news for college students from a Christian perspective..

The full article at the link (free registration required) gives his book list, an eclectic–that is to say, a liberal arts–assortment of titles on all kinds of topics.  (He even included one by me!)

It’s the likability, stupid

The economy is in the toilet, unemployment is over 8%, our foreign policy is a mess, and President Obama’s approval ratings are dismal.  And yet, polls show him still running neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney, if not a little bit ahead.  How can that be?

You might recall my theory–articulated, for example,  here, in which I predict an Obama victory– that in our postmodern times the majority of the American people vote for a candidate not primarily because of ideology, policy ideas, nor issues of any kind.  Such appeals to objectivity and even to pragmatism are the stuff of modernism.  In a postmodern democracy, the main factor is which candidate voters “like” the best.   That is, the candidate voters consider to have the most pleasant personality.

Consider the winners over the last few decades:  Obama vs. McCain; Bush II vs. Kerry; Bush II vs. Gore; Clinton vs. Dole; Clinton vs. Bush I; Bush I vs. Dukakis; Reagan vs. Mondale; Reagan vs. Carter.  Doesn’t my theory hold?  Now before that, the theory doesn’t apply, since in those modernist days Carter could beat the more likeable Ford, and Nixon could beat the more likable McGovern and Humphrey.  Of course, not everyone agrees in whom they like, but this also explains the antipathies that also are factors in elections:  Lots of people just cannot stand George W. Bush, a visceral feeling that goes far beyond rational assessment, associated with feelings about privileged rich kids, frat-boys, and smug right-wing Texans.   Obama’s cerebral, detached, professorial personality makes some people dislike him while making others like him.

My theory in the past has been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but now there is actually data to support it!  From Karen Tumulty, writing in the Washington Post:

If you believe the polls, it would appear there is one big factor standing in the way of Mitt Romney being elected president: Americans don’t like him as well as they do Barack Obama.

That was confirmed again in a new USA Today-Gallup survey in which respondents gave Romney higher marks on the economic issues, which voters say they care most about this year. But President Obama crushed Romney — 60 percent to 30 percent — on the question of which of the two was more likable.

In April, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found an even larger gap, with 64 percent of those surveyed describing Obama as the friendlier, more likable candidate, and only 26 percent saying that about Romney. . . .

In every presidential election for the past two decades, the candidate viewed as more likable was the one who won.

via Romney’s problem: Americans don’t like him as much as Obama, polls say – The Washington Post.

Romney is just hopeless when it comes to social graces.  He goes to England for the Olympics and instead of the glad-handing pleasantries that are called for on such an occasion insults his hosts by worrying about security and labor problems and wondering if the country is ready to put on the show.  Never mind that the British people have been expressing the same concerns, but this is just a social awkwardness that Romney keeps showing.

It has become campaign dogma that “It’s the economy, stupid,” and there is evidence that economic conditions are the major factor in the elections, above.  I hope that’s the case, that the American people will look to objective considerations of some kind, but I wonder if they will.  Then again, the likability of Obama as compared to Romney might be a close call.

Pro-conservative taxes

Liberals use the tax code as a social-engineering device to shape people’s behavior in order to manipulate society as they see best.  Bruce Walker asks, tongue mostly in cheek, why don’t conservatives do that?

If conservatives simply threatened to tax politically unpopular leftist behavior, that might well be enough to get the left to accept the premise that federal tax law should not be used to punish behavior.

The Supreme Court has determined that abortion is a right, but so is drinking an extra-large soda or smoking a cigar. Abortion, though legal, is not popular, and polls have consistently shown that more Americans think that abortion is immoral than moral. Taxing patients for abortions might not be a popular tax, but what about taxing abortionists? Impose a transaction tax per abortion which is high enough so that few, if any, doctors could make money murdering unborn babies.

If abortion is unpopular, pornography is extraordinarily unpopular with Americans. The Supreme Court has made it very difficult — indeed, almost impossible — to ban pornography, but nothing would prevent a 200% federal sales tax on all films, magazines, or other published materials which involve nudity and appeals to prurient interests. Draining the profit from pornography would make it much less common in society.

Taxes per transactions could also be imposed upon body-piercing, out-of-wedlock births, acts of prostitution, and countless other socially corrosive activities which may be legal (or at least not a federal offense, as in the case of prostitution) but which the rest of society pays for and which ought to be just as subject to taxes intended to discourage bad behavior as taxes on gasoline, cigarettes, and alcohol.

via Articles: Conservative Tax Hikes.

 

The blind Olympics archer

Are you following the exploits of the archer in the Olympics who is legally blind?

South Korean archer Im Dong-hyun sees only blurred colors and lines when he peers toward the target about 76 yards away, arrow at the ready. It doesn’t stop the legally blind Olympian from hitting the grapefruit-sized yellow center – again and again and again.

Im set the first world record of the London Olympics on Friday, breaking his own mark in the 72-arrow event and helping South Korea set a team record in the opening round. He broke the record he set in Turkey in May by three points with a score of 699, hours before the opening ceremony of the 2012 Games.

“This is just the first round, so I will not get too excited by it,” said Im, who has 10 percent vision in his left eye and 20 percent in his right.

He combined with Kim Bub-min and Oh Jin-hyek, breaking the record for 216 arrows with a score of 2,087. That was 18 better than the mark South Korea set in May.

The 26-year-old Im does not wear glasses in competition, saying he relies on distinguishing between the bright colors of the target. He won gold in the team event at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

via News from The Associated Press.


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