Weekly Meanderings

Exceptional, exceptional article about Fred Craddock, one of our best preachers. LaVonne on the revisions in the Catholic mass: “The bishops have spoken, or at least succumbed. This weekend American Catholics began saying new words at mass. Well, perhaps new is incorrect – the aim of the revised liturgy is to bring back older words that are closer to medieval Latin. In a time when the Catholic church has been rocked by scandals of almost Renaissance proportions, this move is supposed to make American parishioners feel more holy. It is also supposed to bring us in line with European-language liturgies, whose translations are closer to the medieval text. Yesterday I went to the 10:30 mass at St. Michael’s Catholic Community. The Bishop of Joliet, resplendent in purple robes and gold miter, processed medievally down the center aisle behind an honor guard of Knights of Columbus wearing feathery hats. When he greeted us with the customary “The Lord be with you,” half of us responded “And also with you” while the other half said, medievally, “And with your spirit.” By the end of mass, we had all caught on and were saying the revised words. I didn’t feel especially holier. I did, however, feel greater kinship with European Catholics, who rarely attend mass.”

Brad Wright, on why folks leave the faith: “A majority (42 out of 50) of the deconverts that we studied did mention frustration with the Christians they knew, but it usually wasn’t misbehavior, per se, rather it was something that I never would have guessed: Frustration with how their fellow Christians reacted to their doubts.”

My friend, Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish feminist New Testament professor at Vanderbilt, was interviewed about the new Jewish Annotated NT in the NYTimes. Roger Olson has a thoughtful set of criteria on how to test experiences claimed to be from the Spirit of God. Do you need a time out? Michael Mercer has a good sketch of repentance in “repent it forward.”

Someone needs to read this today. From Out of Ur: “What do you think of Tony Jones’ premise that evangelical youth ministry created the Emerging Church? I think he’s on to something important here–namely that ecclesiology is taught (explicitly but primarily implicitly) well before adulthood. Kids form their understanding of church very early, and it stays with them into adulthood. This poses a problem for many children and youth ministries that do not have a long view of formation. I think it’s fair to say that many youth ministries are focused on helping students through high school by creating a fun, engaging environment where they might learn about faith in Christ and hopefully connect to relatively safe and healthy peers. But how many youth ministries are aware of forming a student’s ecclesiology or practical theology?”

Five reasons to use a bound Bible in church, instead of the Bible on your smartphone. Some reasons not to observe the church calendar.

Video game violence and violence in life.

Meanderings in the News

Should you turn your electronic devices off on the airplane? [Yes, it’s the law.] But is it theater? James Fallows thinks so: “I have been out of range most of today, for reasons involving the vagaries of small-plane flight. But on opening up the email inbox I see a raft of messages kindly pointing me toward a NYT item asking whether there is any “real” safety reason for the familiar airline insistence that “anything with an Off/On switch” must be turned off for takeoff and landing. My answer is No. Of course not. The rule is pure theater. Or, Yes, A Little Bit, But Not For The Reasons They Say. Why do I think there is no “real” danger that Blackberries, Kindles and nooks, iPhones and iPads, Bose/Sony headsets, handheld GPS devices, or any other “equipment with an off/on switches” will interfere with navigation equipment, safe approaches and landing, and overall welfare? Because: – 100% of the pilots making those landings and approaches have GPS receivers right there next to them in the cockpits, of the kind you would have to turn off if you had one in your lap in seat 38F;

– Every one of the airline pilots I’ve ever asked has kept his or her cell phone turned on in the cockpit, again right next to the “sensitive” equipment. I always had a cell phone with me, turned on, during flights in small planes, and several times I’ve used it in flight. (Once, to contact a control tower when my radio had failed; another time, to get an IFR clearance when there were radio problems.)…” Here is a follow-up post.

Iconic book covers.

Repairs in Bethlehem: “BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Preparations for a long-needed renovation of the 1,500-year-old Church of the Nativity are moving ahead in Bethlehem, the town of Jesus’ birth, in the face of political and religious conflicts that have kept one of Christendom’s holiest sites in a state of decay for centuries. The first and most urgent part of the renovation, initiated by the Palestinian government in the West Bank, is meant to replace the building’s roof. Ancient wooden beams pose a danger to visitors, officials say, and leaks have already ruined many of the church’s priceless mosaics and paintings.”

Possibly good news for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, including other debilitating diseases too: “Prof Lozano says that for now: “a word of caution is appropriate, these are very early days and a very small number of patients are involved.” Starting in April they are aiming to enrol around 50 patients with mild Alzheimer’s. All will be implanted with electrodes, but they will be turned on in only half of them. The researchers will then see if there is any difference in the hippocampus between the two groups. They are specifically looking at patients with mild Alzheimer’s because of the six patients with the condition, it was only the two with the mildest symptoms that improved. One theory they are considering is that after a certain level of damage patients reach a point of no return.”

Have you seen this? The top ten countries when it comes to persecution of Christians: “Some think Christianity’s flawed past and modern emphasis on grace and forgiveness make it an easy (perhaps deserving) target for criticism and even reverse discrimination. Scathing rhetoric is part of any healthy debate, but should it go so far as to turn a blind eye? Christianity may have become one of the world’s predominant religions, but there are still many places where Christians are persecuted, dispossessed, tortured, and even killed for their faith. Often this occurs as part of governmental or religious policy. Western media frequently under-report these incidents, fearing to offend cultural sensibilities. As a result, much of this news must be culled from secular human rights publications and religious watchdog groups. Submitted for your approval are the Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries for Christians, as ranked by the Open Doors World Watch List.”

Yawning: “Yawning isn’t triggered because you’re bored, tired or need oxygen. Rather, yawning helps regulate the brain’s temperature, according to Gary Hack, of the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, and Andrew Gallup, ofPrinceton University. “The brain is exquisitely sensitive to temperature changes and therefore must be protected from overheating,” they said in a University of Maryland news release. “Brains, like computers, operate best when they are cool.” During yawning, the walls of the maxillary sinuses (located in the cheeks on each side of the nose) flex like bellows and help with brain cooling, according to the researchers.”

The world’s oldest tuna fishers? “Tuna has been on the menu for a lot longer than we thought. Even 42,000 years ago, the deep-sea dweller wasn’t safe from fishing tackle according to new finds in southeast Asia.”

How did Anthony Trollope write so much? “Every day for years, Trollope reported in his “Autobiography,” he woke in darkness and wrote from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., with his watch in front of him. He required of himself two hundred and fifty words every quarter of an hour. If he finished one novel before eight-thirty, he took out a fresh piece of paper and started the next. The writing session was followed, for a long stretch of time, by a day job with the postal service. Plus, he said, he always hunted at least twice a week. Under this regimen, he produced forty-nine novels in thirty-five years. Having prospered so well, he urged his method on all writers: “Let their work be to them as is his common work to the common laborer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving,—as men have sat, or said that they have sat.”

Jürgen Habermas opines on the European ideal.

Fr Bob Barron on the new Roman missal: “In just a few days, Catholics in this country will notice a rather significant change when they come to Mass. Commencing the first Sunday of Advent, the Church will be using a new translation of the Roman Missal. I would like to emphasize, at the outset, that this in no way represents a return to “the old Mass,” for the Latin texts that provide the basis for the new translation were all approved after Vatican II. So why the change? What had come increasingly to bother a number of bishops, priests, and liturgists over the years was that the translation of the liturgical texts, which was made in some haste in the late 60s of the last century, was not sufficiently faithful to the Latin and was, at least in some instances, informed by questionable theological assumptions. And so, over the course of many years, two groups in particular—ICEL (the International Commission on English in the Liturgy) and Vox Clara (a committee of bishops, liturgical experts, and linguists from around the English-speaking world)—labored over a new translation. This work was approved by the United States Bishops’ Conference and finally by the Vatican, and Advent 2011 was determined to be the time to begin use of the new Missal. What marks these new texts? They are, I would argue, more courtly, more theologically rich, and more Scripturally poetic than the current prayers—and this is all to the good. An unmistakable feature of the Latin liturgical texts is their nobility and stately seriousness.”

A meandering-book-notice: Mark Twain’s Nook Farm/Hartford home. (HT: JF)

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  • DSO

    Interesting theory on yawning. While brain temperature control might be relevant, I find I hardly ever yawn when I’m hot. Rather, I yawn a lot when I’m tired. I wonder if yawning has more to do with somehow physically preparing our brain for sleep and all the mental & emotional activity that takes place.

    Do you yawn more when you’re tired or when you’re hot?

  • Thanks for the note (“Five Reasons to Use a Bound Bible in Church”)!

  • RJS

    Your “Someone needs to read this today” link is troubling. The message seems to be that those in the pews are to simply go along and follow … anything else illustrates a sinful hardness of heart. After all, we are all free to sever long-term connections and find a new place to worship if we don’t like the changes.

    (And – I am particularly sensitive to the “too loud” issue because I suffer from tinnitus, can only tolerate a “loud” service by wearing good earplugs (thanks to a commenter on a post a while ago for recommending them) and still find that it often impacts the entire rest of the day giving me a headache.)

  • I don’t find the 5 reason to use a bound bible all that convincing. I have not used a paper bible for any purpose in years. So just bringing one to church seems odd. I also think that these are mostly short term cultural. Pastors will assume people are on scripture, or will stop worrying about it because the majority of people read that way. I also don’t buy the contextual stuff. It is just a matter of size, the larger reading space. So if you have an ipad or even kindle and are reading, you have about the same amount of reading space as a small bible, maybe more.

    As to being seen by children, just have them sit next to you and share the screen. No different. They know you are reading the bible and the same thing gets communicated.

  • Scot McKnight

    RJS, knowing the situation, I would say your perception is not what he is saying. He’s dealing with recalcitrants who have no interest in mission but only in protection of turf.

  • RJS


    Protecting turf is an “interesting” issue (where “interesting” means very thorny and complicated). We all seem to try to do this to some extent. And of course I have no information on the specific situation here beyond the post.

    Sometimes protecting turf is a result of a controlling nature and a hardness of heart. We all know people like this (or if not … perhaps we are one of them).

    But perhaps protecting turf is sometimes better characterized as a deep-felt need for a place to belong … changes are perceived to convey a message that one no longer belongs or matters. To what extent is a church a place that should foster belonging?

  • RJS

    Moving on to another topic – Brad Wright’s post is excellent again. I am looking forward to the next installment.

  • RJS

    And … the article on Fred Craddock is exceptional, one of the best pieces you’ve ever linked to on Weekly Meanderings.

  • Susan N.

    Brad Wright’s (Why Do Christians Leave the Faith – Part 3) concluding analysis gets to the heart of the matter, re: disillusionment with God and/or church. “Pat” (trite) Christianese in response to struggles and doubts — I had to chuckle at the image of the old SNL character, Pat!

    Maybe if we, as Christians, evangelicals, “churched” people followed the Golden Rule when responding to expressions of doubt and spiritual struggles, authenticity and trust would flourish in relationships among the church/community? Does anyone really think that “Pat” answers are helpful in such a time; would the person spouting “Pat” answers really feel loved to receive such a response to their own soul-baring expression of doubt?

    When I have been treated to a “Pat” response, I always felt as though the person were trying to brush me off, shut down the conversation, and invalidate my thoughts/feelings. Not conducive to a flourishing relationship! And, at a deeper level, I wondered if the individual were for real. A more healing response to my angst would have been, “I have been in a similar place. (Maybe I am even in that place right now!) One time, this is now God worked to bring me through such time (insert personal story here.) You are not alone. I care about you and our friendship.” (Note: Equal or greater weight on horizontal affairs vs. strictly vertical, “right” standing with God.) I also think that it is helpful to be encouraged to look back at a time when God was faithful to me through a doubting, difficult time. I sort of do that on my own, but am mindful of that in conversation with others who are struggling. When you’re down in a dark valley, it’s easy to get disoriented and lose perspective.

    That’s all I know about that 😉

  • JohnM

    The most important article posted here today is Jay Carlson’s on the Top Ten.

    What can we do? Not a rhetorical question, does anyone know an answer beyond (and yes, along with) prayer? Is there perhaps not such a thing as being too passive and conciliatory? Is there anything effective we can do – anyone?

  • RJS

    Scot is quite correct in his assessment of what I intended to convey, and I am sorry that the post was not well-enough written to more adequately convey it.

    One item of note is that this particular individual frequently tells people he does not support the church, and spends much of his time berating staff and lay leader alike. He has been confronted, but these instances continue. My focus is the attitude in the church, and how some things aren’t worth the “damn” argument.

  • RJS


    Thanks, that changes the focus quite a bit.

    This is one of the problems with blogs and other “impersonal” media at times. It is often difficult to understand the context and there is no body language. (And then, of course, others come from other contexts – which only exacerbate the problem.)

  • DRT

    Yawning, that’s great, but one of the things that naturally happens as part of our sleep cycle is that we lower our body temperature. So there can be a chicken and egg thing there.

    ISTM that Calvinism does not pass Olson’s five tests.

    … and I love my time outs.

  • Fred

    “Yawning isn’t triggered because you’re bored, tired or need oxygen. Rather, yawning helps regulate the brain’s temperature,”

    Good. Tell that to my pastor.

  • Nathan

    Great to see you feature AJ Levine.

    She was my NT prof at Vandy. She knows her stuff. More people should read her.

  • Rick

    I am surprised you did not make reference to the Licona/Geisler/Mohler situation. It is dividing much of evangelicalism on the issues that you and RJS discuss frequently.

    C. Michael Patton has a great post on it:


  • Scot McKnight

    Rick, I did link to this in the CT article a few weeks back … it’s all rather noisome to me. We worked through issues like that with Bob Gundry in the 80s, and I was hoping we learned our lessons. Mohler’s about 30 years late to the party.

  • RJS

    Mohler may be 30 years late to the party, but he is certainly working to keep the status quo far into the future.

    And Scot expands my vocabulary constantly. I thought I knew what that word meant, but no … and it is exactly right.

    In the words of Walt Kelly … We have met the enemy and he is us.

  • DRT

    That’s funny, I already went to the dictionary before I read RJS comment.

    What happened to rjs, RJS??

  • RJS


    When we moved to patheos the behind-the-scenes wizard put my initials in lowercase setting up the account – and I never changed them (not sure I could). When the system was updated to the new platform the behind-the-scenes wizard put me into the system with uppercase once again. (This time I do know where I could change them … but why bother?)

  • Steve Cuss

    re: Tony Jones/Out of Ur link…

    I bet Tony wishes Schleiermacher and Schweitzer were alive today so he could blame them for EC’s theology 🙂

    I don’t think most people’s beef with EC is ecclesial or missional, I think it is theological. After a decade of deconstruction, what has EC constructed? Early 20th century liberalism as far as I can tell, with a postmodern spin and an overdose of verbosity.

    or perhaps more accurately: “early 20th century liberalism, and yet not. Perhaps, I could nuance these thoughts a little more…”

  • Keith

    I loved the article on Fred Craddock. Thank you for including it. There are a lot of current preachers who could learn about true preaching from Dr. Craddock.