Weekly Meanderings

Jim Martin provides a question all pastors need to ask. A good one, Jim. And Bill Donahue asks a good question, too. Good one, Bill. And while we’re at it, read this one by Kurt Fredrickson.

Speaking of pastors, this series by Mike Cope is among the finest sets of posts any pastor can read. Thanks Mike. (When a child dies…)

Brad Wright on a world without grace — thanks Brad. Patrick Mitchel on where the world’s headed, and he had a real nice series that complements our Junia is not alone theme.

Tim Dalrymple blogs about blogging about controversies, and offers good suggestions. Speaking of which… Ben Witherington on John Piper: “John Piper is concerned, as are other Reformed writers and thinkers, for instance some in the Gospel Coalition, with what is perceived to be the stripping of male dignity and honor in our culture. He seeks to rub some healing balm in the wounds of men who have been assailed about their male chauvinism and macho approaches to women and life in general, especially in this case, men who are ministers. But as I have mentioned before on this blog, the problem with the church is not strong women, but weak men who can’t handle strong women, much less tolerate women in ministry. So, they have to provide rationales for these views. And to do so requires all sorts of exegetical gymnastics, ignoring of contexts, and even dubious theology and anthropology…  I decided to let this percolate for a while before I reacted. Let me be clear that this sounds like a classic over-reaction to what is perceived to be the malaise of our culture.”

You know you’re a scientist if you… do this!

I’m excited about the potential of this network: the Ancient-Future Faith Network. And I’m glad my friend Fr Rob reviews Lauren Winner’s new book, a book I encourage you to digest.

Dave Strunk on the “confessional” evangelicalism and Al Mohler: “In essence, Mohler’s defense of confessional evangelicalism is indistinct from a more generic yet still orthodox version of evangelicalism. Mohler does an excellent job, as always, of defending evangelicalism against its foes on the left and right. What Mohler fails to do, though, is to offer a compelling apologia for the benefits found in confessional evangelicalism.”

Good set of ideas from Proverbs by JR Briggs.

This is why the Churches of Christ have struggled, and this is what we all need because we are all in one family: “This group, the XCMA (X County Ministerial Alliance), always begins by discussing the week’s lectionary passage (don’t know what a lectionary is? Look it up … and think about getting out of your denominational house once in a while), which this week happened to be from John 17. Jesus’ prayer that “they may all be one.” Each of us got to share a few thoughts about this passage. When it was my turn…I repented. I apologized on behalf of all the members of the Churches of Christ who had been hateful and divisive and exclusive and mean. I upheld these ministers’ identity as believers and Christians and expressed a desire to be unified with them, lest the world not recognize that Jesus was sent from God. And guess what…I got a standing ovation…in fact the only ovation of any kind, along with many handshakes and hugs. Then an older Baptist minister was asked to close us in prayer. He prayed for our group, our churches…and for the “dear brother who has joined us today to take a stand for unity,” and continued to pray for me and the Churches of Christ and since I thought I heard his voice break, I glanced up at him to see tears rolling down his cheeks. He finished and came and embraced me and told me stories of how many times he’d been told that he wasn’t a Christian, how often he’d been excluded and shunned by my brethren. And as a final tear fell from his chin, he thanked me for my simple act of participation. And so I learned that we have done wrong, that we’ve damaged our own reputation, that we’ve failed to earn respect. This IS important…we can’t afford to be arrogant…we just need to be Christians only…not the only Christians.” And this was at the bottom of that very post: “He has since removed the post from that blog. You see, for this and other views deemed too ecumenical, he was relieved of his position and now ministers in sales to support his family. He tells me that he has not preached or written in five years, but is starting to want to again.”

Why do you love U2? (Ireland.)

Meanderings in the News

Bath in Books: “This bath is made entirely out of books which Vanessa cut and fitted together over a metal frame to form a bath of books, which is suspended by four antique bath tub, lion-shaped feet. She intends to later cover it in layers of resin and has already applied proper taps and drain, so that it will be a utilizable, functional bath at all effects. The idea is of immersing oneself in knowledge, books, truths, and ‘cleaning’ or ‘purifying’ one’s mind with from external, every day life bombarding from media, by reading ad reflecting on books,- ‘pure sources’, which is of course, metaphorical, implying we can become polluted by ideas of truths and knowledge, which we can only ‘clean’ by reading our way through to our own ideas and reflections.”

Some cool thank you letters here.

Hilary Rosen‘s telling lines on Whitney Houston: “Like Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Elvis and others before her, that inner voice of doubt that we all feel sometimes just could never keep up with the public adulation. And so the only answer in the moment that makes sense is to drown out the external praise and dull the doubt with drugs and alcohol. By many accounts from those close to her, she understood the dangers even as she was too often powerless to change…. Whitney Houston’s music legacy will be an inspiration to young artists for years to come. Without taking one thing away from her amazing talent and my total and complete admiration for her career, I hope her troubled life in the spotlight will also serve as the right warning as well.”

Least informed statement of the week, in Will Oremus: “The issue resurfaced following the industrial revolution, when the advent of rubber condoms, coupled with urbanization and other social forces, spurred a resurgence of birth control. But as late as the turn of the 20th century, the Catholic Church worried that denouncing contraception would have the unintended consequence of informing people of what it was. Better, the thinking went, to leave them ignorant.”

It’s the economy: “In August 2010, Robin Marantz Henig observed in New York Times Magazine that Generation Y (the Millennials) has pushed back each of the five milestones of adulthood: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a kid. Why won’t Millennials grow up? she wondered.  The biggest reason is they can’t, according to the Pew Research Center’s fantastic new survey “Young, Underemployed, and Optimistic.” It begins with school.  The good news is that more young adults are enrolled in school than ever. The share of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled has increased by 50% since 1990. That’s awesome. Less awesome is that the cost of college is rising, too. Average debt for public college students doubled between 1996 and 2006. It’s less advisable to invest in marriage with $30,000 in student debt as a couple. “More than one-in-five young adults ages 18 to 34 (22%) say they have postponed having a baby because of the bad economy,” Pew reported. “Roughly the same proportion say they have postponed getting married.”

Rebecca J. Rosen: the problem isn’t technology, it is time itself (or its perception): “When we experience time-deepening we don’t merely feel that we are doing more in a day; we feel that time is actually moving faster. Research into how people perceive time suggests that when people are distracted — when their focus is divided or elsewhere — they mis-estimate the passage of time, thinking that less time has passed than actually has — that time has flown. It’s perhaps because of this perception that when Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery described the changes in work-life patterns in a recent issue of Mother Jones, they called them the “great speed-up.” The Digital Sabbath isn’t the only strategy for dealing with this speed up: The related set of “slow” movements — slow food, slow travel, even slow science — have proliferated in recent years.”

What Europeans don’t get about America (USA), by Richard Florida: “Americans at this political moment are significantly more likely to identify as conservative than as liberal: conservatives outnumber liberals by nearly two to one. Forty percent identify as conservative, 36 percent as moderate, and 21 percent liberal.”

Juan Cole lists ten items taught by the RCC Santorum doesn’t support: “The right wing Republican politicians who have been denouncing the requirement that female employees have access to birth control as part of their health benefits as an attack on religious freedom completely ignore the church teachings they don’t agree with. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are both Catholics, and wear their faith on their sleeves, but they are hypocritical in picking and choosing when they wish to listen to the bishops.”

From the Loom: “If not for a virus, none of us would ever be born. In 2000, a team of Boston scientists discovered a peculiar gene in the human genome. It encoded a protein made only by cells in the placenta. They called it syncytin. The cells that made syncytin were located only where the placenta made contact with the uterus. They fuse together to create a single cellular layer, called the syncytiotrophoblast, which is essential to a fetus for drawing nutrients from its mother. The scientists discovered that in order to fuse together, the cells must first make syncytin. What made syncytin peculiar was that it was not a human gene. It bore all the hallmarks of a gene from a virus.”

Meanderings in Sports

Helen Lee, on Jeremy Lin: “Just a little over a week ago, Lin was sleeping on his brother’s couch and wondering if the Knicks were going to keep him on the team. But as injuries whittled down the Knicks’ roster, Lin’s number was called against the New Jersey Nets on February 4th. He scored an improbable 25 points, started in the next four games, and repeated the seemingly impossible by scoring in double digits each time, including 38 points in a prime-time, nationally-televised performance against Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.”

Hope you saw this about Gary Carter: “Even as the world watched the Grade 4 brain cancer wither his body, Gary Carter was still, and is always, Kid. It is a testament to Carter’s passion for the game, and for life, that the nickname that at times was applied derisively by crusty veterans ended up on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Joe Posnanski is right about one thing here: Tiger only cares about winning. First place or no place. I’m not so sure the backhanded putt tells us much.

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  • Jennifer

    Scot – thanks for posting the link to Ancient-Future network. That is one beautiful site. I’m looking forward to diving into this one more.

  • RJS

    Well – not quite. You know you’re a scientist if you change the conditions slightly and ask … Will it happen now?

    Other hand, with gloves, with a pole, … Now we can figure out what is really going on.

  • Jason Lee

    on “It’s the economy” … this relates to something I’ve been thinking about lately. When older generations complain about younger generations (complaints orbit around “laziness”), I can’t help but think it’s mainly about MISPLACED PRIDE. Older generations were able to find livable wages and marry largely because the conditions they lived in helped them do this. Even if there were times when decent jobs were just as hard to come by, the social pressures to find the job were there help support them doing it. Conditions have changed.

  • Susan N.

    Thanks, Scot and Kris. Very edifying collection of links, as always.

    re: Jim Martin’s ‘One Question Every Church Leader Should Ask’ — To empathize “with” and have compassion “toward” anyone, it is necessary to come close and seek first to listen, know, and understand. I think that must be a really hard thing for most pastors, especially ones leading large(r) congregations. Being approachable and available to anyone who is struggling and *wants* pastoral care is helpful. In any given sermon and worship service, what is heard/received as healing/helpful to one may have the exact opposite effect on another.

    Everyone who is “in Christ” and about being His presence in the world has a calling to “see” others, walk with them an extra mile, be a caring/healing presence, *empathize* in order to serve real and felt needs compassionately. Is this a special gifting, or a universal trait that identifies a Christ-one?

    The Craig’s List “graceless” exchange — reminds me of the movie ‘Shallow Hal.’ There are “Shallow Hallies” in the world, too. Lord, have mercy!

    U2 — I love them because both their rockin’ music and their lyrics got SOUL. No matter how old I get (or Bono and the band), I never grow tired or less enthusiastic about U2 and their music. 🙂

  • Krista Mournet

    That Ben Witherington quote made my day. Thank you!

  • Susan N.

    One more thought, on Whitney Houston’s death. My heart really aches especially for those in Whitney’s family and among her closest friends. Because, due to the nature of her struggle with addiction and its implications in her sudden, tragic death, those closest to her must not only be grieving the loss of a beloved daughter, mother, and friend, but also their own inability to help her overcome the demon(s) that held her in bondage to drug/alcohol addiction. From what I have heard/read about the mother-daughter relationship between Whitney and Bobbi Kristina, my heart is breaking for the daughter, who must be like a little girl lost at this devastating moment. May we at Jesus Creed pray for Whitney’s family to be surrounded by love and compassionate care, and the felt presence of Christ, for the duration of their grieving process? These are the times that seem most appropriate for full body turning / fasting in response to / in solidarity with the bereaved.

    The lesson to be taken is not just “don’t do drugs,” but how can we learn to care and understand the hurt of others, in order to be a compassionate community of faith? Opportunities to learn and care are always presenting themselves, in a hurting world.

  • Phil Atley

    The Cole article is utterly wrongheaded. Each item he lists is a matter of prudential judgment on which Catholics may legitimately disagree in good faith. And most of the prudential judgments are from the USCCB staff in matters of specific legislation. The bishops, in Catholic teaching, are supposed to teach principles, not endorse specific legislation. (Creating the USCCB as a lobbeying wing and listening uncritically to that staff has led to a lot of problems.)

    It is up to lay Catholicv legislators to apply principles to specific circumstances. Except for capital punishment, all of the issues here are second-order, specific issues, not matters of direct principle. Notice that Coles does not mention truely first order issues: abortion, contraception.

    Contrast this with Pelosi and Biden etc. who disagree on abortion and contraception where there is NO room for prudential disagreement as far as Catholic teaching is concerned.

    Regarding the Iraq war: the pope explicitly said, repeatedly, that he maintained the principle of just war. He believed, prudentially, that that particular war was imprudent. In my view he was prudentially correct. But a GOOD CATHOLIC may legitimately disagree in that prudential judgment, even on a war. Santorum may properly be faulted but not as departing from church teaching. And those who prudentially disagreed with the pope on that war or any war have to answer for their prudential choices, as we all do in all our prudential choices.

    On capital punishment, the principle is that only defense of the innocent justifies capital punishment. Prudentially, John Paul II went on to assert that there’s nearly always another way to protect the innocent. He may be right about that, but it is a prudential assessment. (He could, in a principled manner, say that there OUGHT to be nearly always an effective alternative. But to say that there in fact is nearly always an alternative is a prudential assessment.)

    The Church has never dogmatically taken a position on whether only one justification for CP exists or whether retributive justice also justifies CP. John Paul, speaking as pope, taught that only one exists. That’s a principle but one that constitutes a significant development in teaching. So far there has been little theological debate over John Paul’s development in teaching. It is not inconceivable that it may be walked back somewhat someday. It is inconceivable that there will some day be a walkback on contraception. (Liberal Catholics insist that it’s only a matter time before that’s walked back. They are whistling past the graveyard on that one. A strong case can be made that Paul VI taught irreformably in 1968.)

    John Paul did not put the single-justification for CP forward as irreformable. Yet in the same encyclical he did put forward three infalllible/irreformable teachings. So his development on CP was clearly stated at a lower level of authority. He meant it, really meant it, but he did not put it forward as irreformable.

    Later it was incorporated into the Catechism and thus enjoys considerable weight, but not of the same level as contraception or abortion.

    Furthermore, taking a position one way or the other on whether alternative means to protect the innocent “nearly always” exist is at least in part a prudential matter.

    This is the only one of the ten where Santorum is actually disagreeing with a quasi-doctrinal matter, but even there his disagreement is primarily prudential. John Paul would say, “fix your prison system and parole system so that criminals don’t get out and threaten the innocent.” Santorum is saying, in effect, until we get that system fixed, prudentially, CP is justified more often.

    I disagree with him, but doing so means that I’m prepared for innocent people to die because our culture adamantly refuses to do something about lax judges and parole systems and overcrowding and a host of other problems in our penal system.

  • Phillip

    The article on Churches of Christ, my church, is painful for me. Many of us recognize the problems of our sectarianism. But i hope no one will take such incidents as desribed in the post to broad brush us.

    My experience is that we are not unique. A Southern Baptist friend told me that growing up he was taught that the people in his denomination were the only ones going to heaven. A Lutheran seminary professor told me, a member of Disciples of Christ, and a member of Independent Christian Churches (all historically connected in the Stone-Campbell movement) that our churches were not Christian because we were not creedal.

  • Pushed back a little on Timothy’s assertion that I’ve built my writing career on sexism controversies. The truth is a lot less glamorous: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog-controversy-double-traffic

    (By the way, Scot’s blog was one of four or five that I studied rigorously to arrive at my own rules for blogging.)

  • Oh, but RJS… not before n = 2.

  • EricG

    Susan N’s comment (#4) is so very important, and applies not just to pastors, when she says “re: Jim Martin’s ‘One Question Every Church Leader Should Ask’ — To empathize ‘with’ and have compassion ‘toward’ anyone, it is necessary to come close and seek first to listen, know, and understand.” I’ve seen this first hand — the people who are most helpful are those that get involved in someone’s life who is going through difficulty; too often people prefer to just offer prayers from a distance, not entering the problem.

    And the story of the pastor in Jim Martin’s post reminds me of what my pastor said when he learned I had cancer — he said he could relate, because of a sports injury he had that really frustrated him. Jim’s suggestions as to how pastors can try to better relate to people are great.

  • RJS


    In this case though I think I would let someone else go for n=2. (Perhaps this is why professors team with graduate students.)

  • RJS

    We’re praying for you EricG.

  • AHH

    I pretty much did the thing in the scientist cartoon about 12 years ago. My neighbor botched something in a remodel that caused my shower to be electrified. After the first mild shock, I had to try again and then check a few permutations (what if I touch the showerhead instead of the faucet? what if my foot is in the water but not touching the metal drain?) before I got out.

  • Scot, you put your finger on a real problem in the quote you posted regarding Churches of Christ (my tribe). While many of us have moved on from a sectarian posture, the painful memories remain.

    For some, it is the pain of having been sectarian at one point in life or ministry and now realizing how wrong it is. For others, it is the pain that someone has experienced the brutal club of sectarianism firsthand.

    May God have mercy on us all.

  • DRT

    Ah, the scientist. In the 80’s I had a Honda V65 Magna, which at the time was the fastest production motorcycle made. I took it to the drag strip to race and in my first time down the track all went well until I let off the throttle, the bike went into a crazy case of the shimmies at 120 mph almost ripping the handlebars out of my hands. It settled down again at about 80 mph. Quite scary.

    I figured it had something to do with the relative stiffness of the front and rear suspension. So over the course of the next 10 runs I made adjustments to the suspension hoping to change the dynamics….each time realizing that it is not until I let off the throttle that they showed up,…and wondering if each pass would be my last.

    Man, I would never do that now….I think.

    But I did get it worked out and did not crash.

    I am a scientist.

  • Susan N.

    EricG (#11) – It is disappointing when those in ministry to whom we turn in times of great need don’t have the words or caring action that are so needed. Sometimes, words spoken in an instant of real-time interaction lack the benefit of time in careful, prayerful eloquence. In this “third place” of virtual blog community, one of the advantages is the ability to more slowly form a healing, helping word/thought-response.

    With my nursing home friends, their prayers often express a need for renewal and uplifting of their weary and discouraged spirits. My elderly friends suffer from all kinds of debilitating disease, chronic pain, memory loss, etc. They confess to being short-tempered with fellow residents and lacking in faith. My response is that our Great High Priest is not unsympathetic to all our weaknesses. He knows the weight of our burdens, and He invites us to the throne of grace where we receive mercy. So knowing that, I encourage them to give themselves grace. I pray for God to renew and refresh you body and spirit, Eric. Also, may God please? send you an angel of mercy (or an army of them) to minister to you and your family in this hard-pressed time.

    I remember you in my prayers too now, EricG. I am thankful for your presence here at the Jesus Creed blog.

  • DRT

    Following up to my post, I dug this video out. Ya!


  • DRT

    While I am having fun, here I am on that thing about 25 years ago 🙂