Back to Gaylord

Having written yesterday’s essay on my childhood Thanksgivings in Gaylord, my spirit was tugged to drive out to the little town on the plains before all of the holiday festivities got underway.  So I climbed in my vehicle and drove west.

It was a gorgeous day, and memories of years ago came flooding back.  I drove around the town for a while, and parked in front of the home my grandparents built.

Gaylord house.jpg

Gaylord has changed very little.  It’s a small town of 2,200 people, strikingly similar in every way to Lake Wobegon, Minnesota.

The Ford dealership which was originally Ralph Jones Motor Sales (when it was downtown), then East Side Ford, then Wolf Motors is no more.  It’s a bit tragic that the Ford dealership and garage that my grandfather spent his entire adult life building and running is no more.  I thought of how much the world has changed around this small town in the last 60 years, since Ralph bought the dealership, about the globalized economy, and about the present troubles of the Big Three Detroit automakers.


Finally, I drove to the cemetery, south of town, and visited my grandparents’ graves.  Ralph and Florence Jones were salt-of-the-earth people — small town Minnesota people.  I miss them, and I miss what they stood for in my life.  The longer they’re gone, the further away I feel from this beautiful, tragic small farm town.  The one stop light.  The siren that blows and noon and 6pm every weekday to signal time for dinner and supper.  This is a part of my life that my children will never know except through my stories and, even so, will never truly understand.


Thanksgiving in Gaylord

For years, it was always the same.  Around 8:45 in the morning, we’d pile in the station wagon and head over to church, greeted there by a couple high school students dressed as pilgrims and playing snare drums.  Inside, our Congregationalist Meetinghouse was attended to by more pilgrims and a cadre of severe looking clergy in stark, black gowns.

That over with, we’d be on the road again by 10:15, driving west southwest from the Cities.  Within fifteen minutes the leafless suburban trees were behind us, and we were cruising through cornfields, long since plowed under for the winter.  In my memory, the drive to Gaylord is always sunny, a bright, dazzling sun, low in the Minnesota November sky, making me squint as I watched silos and barns whiz by.

Through Victoria, Waconia, Young America, Hamburg, Green Isle, and Arlington, past signs Gaylord water tower.JPGfor Advent lutefisk suppers and the occasional motor lodge and supper club.  After Arlington, Andrew, Ted, and I would peer from the back seat through the front windshield, looking for the first glimpse of Gaylord on the horizon: the red-capped water tower.

Dad slowed the station wagon as we approached town, rolling past the grainery and the train tracks, down Main Avenue, past Ralph Jones Motors, through the lone stop light.  A right turn on 6th Street, a left on Court.  Only two more blocks…

IMG_0250.JPGAs Dad pulled the from the broad, crowned street into the driveway of 8th and Court, the back seat was a flurry of unbuckling.  Mom made us come around to the back of the wagon where she’d hand us some food item or a suitcase to carry in.  Then past the lamppost, up the stairs and into the breezeway.

The suburban ramblers in which I was reared didn’t have breezeways, a strange no-man’s-land between garage and house proper.  Grandma and Grandpa’s breezeway had a high formica counter, several chairs, and a bench, though I don’t recall ever seeing anyone sit out there, since air conditioning arrived before I did.  On Thanksgiving, the breezeway served what seemed to me its most significant annual duty: an extension of the already overstuffed refrigerator.  It was a wonderland of cooling pies (pumpkin, pecan, and sour cream raisin), firming jello molds, and various other goodies.

If the odors of the breezeway were inviting, they were nothing compared to the kitchen, which we entered next.  The smells were turkey, stuffing, potatos, yams (with marshmallows!), and the family’s favorite vegetable dish, the recipe for which is:

One bag, frozen vegetable medley
One jar, Cheez Whiz
One box, small croutons
In casserole, mix vegetables and Cheez Whiz, top with croutons, bake at 350 for 30 minutes

From there, the weekend took on its normal pattern.  We’d hug Grandma and go say hi to Grandpa who was asleep on his Lay-Z-Boy with the newspaper over his face.  Then we’d clamor downstairs to claim our beds and pull out various toys and games from our Dad’s childhood: the little steam engine build in shop class; the electric football game in which little metal players vibrated across a big metal field; the shuffle bowler; the nickel slot machine.

Upstairs, the adults drank coffee and ate pickled herring, cheese and crackers, and pickles.  Then the big dinner, on china and crystal, followed by a nap on the couch (which Grandma and Grandpa inexplicably called a “davenport”), and a long walk through the vacant streets of Gaylord, wide enough to fit six cars across.  Maybe throw the football in the front yard.  Then pie and coffee.  And a turkey sandwich before bed.

On Friday, we’d start the three-day marathon of Christmas cookie baking.  Peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s Kisses; a funny glob of a cookie made with melted almond bark, cashews, and Cap’n Crunch cereal; cut-out sugar cookies in the shapes of Santa and stars and Christmas trees and, strangely, a German Schnauzer; and, the most finicky of all cookies, the spritz, for which the dough needed to be at exactly the right temperature — if not, it wouldn’t squeeze out of the spritz gun correctly.
On Friday night, we’d drive to St. Peter and eat dinner at the Holiday House Supper Club (private).  Grandpa would ring the bell and a man would look through a peep hole to make sure we were members.  He’d welcome us in and take Grandpa’s bottle of Old Fitzgerald to the bar for set-ups.  Every year, some adult would say, “The owner’s daughter married John Denver, and he wrote ‘Annie’s Song’ about her.”  Another huge meal ensued, and I remember the painful drive back to Gaylord, sure that my stomach would explode.

More cookies on Saturday, and more leftovers.  On Saturday night, I’d go with Grandma over to the darkened Congregational church, where she’d arrange flowers on the altar for the next morning’s worship.

After church on Sunday, Grandma would ply us with Tupperwares full of Thursday’s remnants, scores of cookies, and always a box full of jars of homemade pickles and jams (strawberry and raspberry, with a layer of wax under the lid to ensure freshness), enough for the whole winter.

The drive back home, back to the suburbs, was quiet, but for the Vikings game on WCCO radio, and my thoughts turned to Christmas as I watched the rows of snow-dusted corn fields, my eyelids growing heavy with each passing mile.

Comment of the Day

Rev Dave writes,

“Keep rocking the quadrilateral” Ha! +1 tripp!

As a transplanted Methodist, I had a similar thought (and we were just this week teaching the quad to our Confirmation class).

Though I wasn’t brought up in that tradition, it seems to me that
the quadrilateral is the most honest depiction of how we determine our
beliefs. The four exist in tension, and all are needed. As much as some
would like to believe otherwise, it is just not possible to base our
beliefs on scripture alone. We always filter what we read through these
other lenses. Even when we don’t know we’re doing so.

Anyway, I appreciate Tony’s thoughts here on experience. I won’t
bore with extensive details, but my mind and heart were completely
changed by an experience I had (in a seminary classroom no less!). In a
pastoral care class I met several gay men. As they talked about their
faith, one said – and I hope I never forget this – “This is what I know
for sure: I am 100% a man, 100% a Christian, and 100% gay.”

It was, in the ineffable way of such times, a holy moment; an intrusion
of God’s Spirit on my entire being. I gained a new understanding of
what it means to follow Jesus that day, and I’m a completely different
person, a completely different disciple, a completely different pastor,
because of it.

I say it would be inhuman not to include experience in this
discussion. For experience is a valid, important, age-old (you might
even call it traditional!) teacher.

Hitler Is Not Happy about the Changes at Emergent Village!

Twitters of Faith


There’s a new hashtag in the Twitterverse that’s attracting a lot of attention.  It’s called “Twitter of Faith,” the hashtag is #TOF, and the idea is that Tweeters would write out what they believe in 140 characters or less.

If Twitter isn’t on your radar yet, it’s a medium of micro-blogging that’s restricted to 140 characters per post (a.k.a., “Tweet).

Although I’m generally against statements of faith, I really appreciate the beauty and simplicity of TOF.  It’s a bit like NPR’s “This I Believe,” but different.

You can use the widget below to scroll through the most recent entries, or you can follow it directly on Twitter, or, if you’re not a Tweeter yet, join the Facebook group.

My own TOF shows my Moltmannian proclivities.

Comment of the Day 2

I’m adding another one today since I found what BudCath had to say interesting:

Thanks for your comments. I would love for America to be guided by
golden rule, but it is not and never has been. Indians, slavery, jim
crow, terrible injustice toward our fellow human beings. But we can be
better. I do not support abortion, captial punishment, homosexuality or
gay marriage personally. That is a religious and moral stance. But, I
know gay people and they are not horrible folks and should be treated
as the golden rule says. I don’t understand why they are the way they
are, but their fate is in God’s hands. But to me the important thing
about the separation of church and state, is that if we lose that,
someday, Judaeo-Christians might not be in the majority and we would
have to succumb to authoritarian rule by some other religion (the most
likely would be Islam the way they are growing in numbers around the
world). They take be fruitful and multiply seriously and I believe for
them abortion is also a sin. The world is changing fast my friend, and
is getting so complicated.

Comment of the Day

Sean gets right to the point — a point that Rod and I will explore much more in coming weeks.

Nine biblical citations are customarily invoked as relating to
homosexuality. Four (Deuteronomy 23:17, 1 Kings 14:24, I Kings 22:46
and II Kings 23:7) simply forbid prostitution by men and women.

Two others (Leviticus 18:19-23 and Leviticus 20:10-16) are part of
what biblical scholars call the Holiness Code. The code explicitly bans
homosexual acts. But it also prohibits eating raw meat, planting two
different kinds of seed in the same field and wearing garments with two
different kinds of yarn. Tattoos, adultery and sexual intercourse
during a woman’s menstrual period are similarly outlawed.

There is no mention of homosexuality in the four Gospels of the New
Testament. The moral teachings of Jesus are not concerned with the

Three references from St. Paul are frequently cited (Romans
1:26-2:1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and I Timothy 1:10). But St. Paul was
concerned with homosexuality only because in Greco-Roman culture it
represented a secular sensuality that was contrary to his Jewish-
Christian spiritual idealism. He was against lust and sensuality in
anyone, including heterosexuals. To say that homosexuality is bad
because homosexuals are tempted to do morally doubtful things is to say
that heterosexuality is bad because heterosexuals are likewise tempted.
For St. Paul, anyone who puts his or her interest ahead of God’s is
condemned, a verdict that falls equally upon everyone.

And lest we forget Sodom and Gomorrah, recall that the story is not
about sexual perversion and homosexual practice. It is about
inhospitality, according to Luke 10:10-13, and failure to care for the
poor, according to Ezekiel 16:19ยท50: “Behold, this was the iniquity of
thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread and abundance of idleness
was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of
the poor and needy.” To suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah is about
homosexual sex is an analysis of about as much worth as
suggesting that the story of Jonah and the whale is a treatise on

He then points us to Peter Gomes’s post on the subject.

Comment of the Day

I’m going to start a new feature here at The New Christians.  Every day — well, almost every day — I’ll post what I consider to be a thoughtful comment that truly adds to the conversation, or a witty comment, or something that strikes my fancy.

Today’s comment o’ the day comes from Jimil:

For our constitutional scholar, there is no right of sodomy, nor is
there a right to sit at a lunch counter, nor is there a right of self
defense. In the United States we have a living constitution that
affirms fundamental liberties. Most recently, Justice Scalia found a
new right of self defense in the Second Amendment and thus protected
the rights of individuals to own handguns for self defense. Similarly,
rights of privacy have been found. It is good that our Supreme Court
protects us from government intrusion in private matters.

For our Bible says so crowd, I suspect you know your argument is
completely flawed. I suspect you know dozens of behaviors condoned by
the Bible that you do not accept (slavery & polygamy) and
restriction you reject (women speaking in church & wearing clothing
of mixed threads). I’m not sure why you would bother posting something
so dishonest. You did not open the Bible and discover a revelation that
homosexuality was wrong.

This, is a serious point, “The person who hates homosexuals will say
‘go ahead, there’s nothing wrong with it’. But true love warns of
dangers.” I believe in my heart that those who suggest the love of gays
& lesbians is equivalent to smoking are harming gays and lesbians.
I think it is evil and missing the lesson of Jesus Christ that it is
Love and not Tradition that acts as our guide. That said, I recognize
the concern, and I take you at your word.

The world is evolving out of this prejudice. Soon, we will look back
at this as we know looked back on prohibitions against interracial
marriage. Then, as now, people called the relationships unnatural and
worried about the children. Then, as know, there were many hateful
bigots attacking people with wickedness in their hearts. But, then, as
now, there were people genuinely concerned and worried for the fellow
humans. I disagree strongly, but I respect the position.

What Role Experience? Same Sex Marriage Blogalogue

blogalogue_bar.jpgRod, thanks for your last post; actually I agree with you: our government does legislate morality.  In fact, that’s why I think that it’s imperative that we seriously consider the moral implications of denying same sex couples the right to marry.  In doing so, we are missing an opportunity to decrease STDs, HIV, and promiscuity in general, not to mention stabilizing the home life of the many same sex couples who are already adopting and birthing children.  So, I guess I’m arguing that it’s immoral to do nothing to encourage monogamy among same sex couples.

But today I’d like to dig a little deeper into what separates our perspectives.

Many of my commenters have expressed frustration over my initial post in which I narrated my story on this issue.  It seems that for many of our readers, my own experience of life and my friendship with and compassion for gay and lesbian persons should play no role in the formation of my opinion regarding their rights.  Many of these commenters, for instance, feel that posting a Bible verse, or telling me that God never changes is sufficient to show how faulty is my thinking.  (If it’s okay with you, Rod, I’d like to finish up with government action this week, get into issues philosophical next week, and then tackle the theological/biblical messages after that.  (Not to tip my hand, but I will be asking why they are so impressed with Leviticus 18:22 but not 19:27 or 20:9, 10, and 18!))

Back to our different starting points regarding how experience bears on the same sex marriage debate.  I watched an interesting TED talk today in which Jonathan Haidt addressed the real difference between liberals and conservatives.  His thesis is that liberals are open to letting their experiences affect their reasoning, while conservatives are not.  That made me think not only of my earlier post, but of your response to that post in which you wrote of your own journey regarding same sex relations, and you wrote an honest line that jumped out at me: “I am temperamentally inclined to be conservative, and suspicious of innovation.”

I’ve heard other conservatives tell me, “I’d like to be pro-gay rights or pro-gay marriage — in fact it would be easier — but I just can’t because of _________.”  (Maybe the Bible or natural law or some other firmly held conviction.)  What’s interesting to me is that when I repeat a line like that to persons more liberal on this issue — as I did tonight at dinner to a straight woman and a gay man — they almost shout back at me, “Well if they want to be for it, then they should be for it!!!”

I’m not writing any of this to place one of our views above the other, but simply to get your opinion on Haidt’s thesis.  Do you think this is a valid way to differentiate conservative reasoning from liberal reasoning?

And I in no way want to dismiss history and tradition — in fact, I’ve written several books on ancient Christian practices and, like you, pray the Jesus Prayer on a daily basis.  I’m just looking for a way of reasoning that is faithful to the past but also receptive to experience.  I’m admitting, as I did in that earlier post, that my personal interactions with gay and lesbian persons has influenced my opinion, though I don’t think it has clouded my judgment.

Further, I read Ross Douthat’s essay at the end of your post, and I know what he’s saying.  In fact, his critique of liberalism is one of the reasons that I don’t apply that label to myself.  But I do wonder if there’s a way to progress in the granting of individual rights but still have those rights chastened by Christian faith.  Then we would not think that we “shall be as gods,” but we might in fact do a little something that aims us in God’s direction.  Am I utopian to believe that reason and experience — rooted in scripture and tradition, with faith in the guidance of the Holy Spirit — might act as our guides in these matters?

In the end, I guess I agree with Andrew Sullivan in his response to your Culture 11 piece: The dream of modernity has died, and we need to be realistic and pragmatic as we plow into the future.  I guess I just find it strange that Douthat refers to liberals as utopians when I often find conservatives to be the uptopians — it’s just that conservatives are longing for a utopia of the past.

Blogalogue Round-Up


As we begin the week, here’s a round-up of the blogalogue entries so far:

Tony’s Pre-Blogalogue Posts:

Taking the Offline Online

It’s Not about Me

The Limits of Blogging

Is It Inevitable?


The Blogalogue Proper

Tony: How I Went from There to Here

Rod: Tony and Rod Discuss SSM

Tony: Tony and Rod Discuss the Issue

Tony: A Lighter Moment

Tony: The Government’s Business

Tony Jones and Rod Dreher.jpg