Saturday, December 26, 2009

The problem is, there are things I want to say. Deep things. And I have a friend who will tease me endlessly about my desperation, about my forthright, candid disclosures. I've tried to remember that anyone can read this, but now I no longer care.

More than anything, I hate the terrifying thought that I'm completely a mystery to every other human being on this planet. Often, I wonder: Is everyone posturing all the time? Do any of us really know each other at all? What if we know images of each other, but never the real thing? God (allegedly) knows everything about us and loves us deeply, most especially His children, who believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Fair enough. But I need some kind of an idea that I'm not entirely alone in the human sense, and/or crazy. These very moments, I feel entirely unique. Different. Strange. I feel very stupid, because I still believe that pure love exists. I'd like to think I've given it, if only for a moment, and inconsistently. I must've received it also, if we're discussing the concept now. But right now, I'm an island. And noone ought to convince me I'm wrong, either. Don't send me e-mails about how much you care, and how you wish I'd tell you when I'm feeling down. If you didn't do it unsolicited, I don't want it now.

What this really is about is how I wish we'd slow down, that somebody would forget about whatever it is they had to do and talk to me. Really talk to me. I don't want to be my persona anymore. I don't want to give advice. I don't want to make people laugh. I'm sick of providing the little-known factoid, the interesting perspective. I don't like my life as an object lesson in humility, or whatever people say.

If you know me, it won't be too hard to figure out what sticks out between us as the obvious difference. But just once, I'd like that not to be what someone sees. It changes everything. Either you're impressed that I'm not wholly unlike you, or, having realized that I'm not, you're forced to admit that the difference bothers the hell out of you. Then you feel guilty. And you should. You might even "admire" me because, inexplicably to you, my uniqueness doesn't bother me like it's bothering you. It may well be true that you find me remarkable and amazing, etc. And I believe you when you say that you have never met someone like me before. But I'm guessing, just guessing that quite a few of you wouldn't like me as a boss, or have my children. Let's focus in on that last thing. I was actually told by a close friend that he knew of people willing to consider me as a partner, if not for "the thing." Why a guy would tell his buddy this, I'm still trying to figure out. But it was one of the worst moments of my life, looking back. Because I swear to you, I never saw myself as different. I still don't. But then, right then, I had to come face-to-face (albeit indirectly) with others' fears and prejudices.

Two summers ago, I spent my last summer in college, living with a good buddy. He's not "normal" either, but we're not exactly in the same boat. Anyway, that summer was finally the death of the fiercest, most pointless one-way affection I have ever felt. (A "crush," if you will, but it was BAD.) Ironically, I lost the girl to my good buddy. That was probably the best thing about it. If you're really tight with one of your boys, then the crass aphorism "bros before h--s" makes perfect sense to you. That's what this was. Anyway, the way she seemed to care, and not be scared of me really led me astray. This truth hit me: She simply treated me like a real person. I mistook this as a rather obvious romantic attachment. And that led to a more frightening truth: I couldn't tell the difference because most people do not treat me as an equal. And I had internalized this as "normal." So when authenticity comes around, I feel as though I've met a potential mate. Thinking back to all the female friends I've had, I'm pretty sure I made this same mistake. Now, I do not know which way is up, and which is down.
One thing is certain: I'm sick of laying it all on the line. I'm sick of feeling, sick of having to wonder whether there's that something extra blocking my love connection. It's a hard enough game to begin with.

I must digress. Have you ever heard these stereotypes about men and women that prevail among Christians? (And still everyone else, for that matter) Men are more visually stimulated, they say. Women dream of white weddings, and princely rescues. Men fear emotion; men are solution-oriented, while women think of personal interactions first. These are but a few examples. I am uncertain overall as to their validity. However, I can say that I think I don't fit my sex stereotypes in some ways. I've said this before. And that reality has hit me again today as well.

I'm not the kind of guy who feels terribly prepared for new things in life. I'm not good at life. "Hopelessly overwhelmed" is an average Monday. Even so, I'm romantically, er, eager. And I made the bad mistake of watching 'Jerry Maguire' tonight. I like romances. I just do. I don't care what you say. Because the reality is, I've been waiting to tell my own story almost from the time I noticed the female half of the species. You know, really noticed. It seems that the people in these stories always know what to say. Love goes the way we're hoping it would when we sat down to watch the movie. (I'm about to get a thousand e-mails about the wisdom of taking romantic cues from Hollywood, and Snobby Webb will send me his new version of "Love Is Different Than You'd Think" to make me feel guilty. Fine.) They give voice to that innate hope that all kinds of love are not in vain. There are too many of our lives good enough to be epic love stories to ignore this genre. In any case, I loved every second of 'JM's final scenes. I wanted something like that for myself. Maybe I am strange. But how can I not identify with love, whether romantic or otherwise? [This was written in 2007.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

5 Thoughts After A Trip To Borders

5. Books are neato.

4. The layout is perplexing.

3. I don't want to read a Christmas story by Glenn Beck. I'd probably agree with most of his politics, but Mormons aren't Christians. Sorry.

2. Some 25 years after his death, Frank Herbert's Dune is still selling, as I bought another copy.

1. What's with vampires, honestly!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thanks first to Keane for the song. But then to Lifehouse, for capturing it so well. "O simple faith, where have you gone? I'm getting old and I need something to rely why don't we go somewhere only we know?" This song still means a lot to me. I hope you can hear its depth and riches, too. If you know the wrestling with God I've been doing, the words have a special resonance. I felt this song in my heart the other day too:

The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; she is his new creation by water and the Word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died. Elect from every nation, yet one o'er all the earth; her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued. Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed, yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, "How long?" And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song. Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war, she waits the consummation of peace forevermore; till, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest, and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest. Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One, and mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won. O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we like them, the meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.
[Me] And with the updated melody, I weep. This is my standing prayer. I hope it's yours too, as we celebrate Our Lord's coming.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

5 Thoughts On The A Cappella Show, "The Sing-Off"

5. I love this show. Real talent.

4. I'm doubtful that Nicole Sherzinger can be legitimately called a vocalist, worthy of judging this show. (No offense.)

3. I was worried that Ben Folds, another judge, didn't know any pop songs.

2. But I was thrilled that Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men is also a judge, virtually guaranteeing that Boyz II Men will be performing (and I was right).

1. I'm somewhat chagrined that the best group on the show so far is called, "The Beelezebubs."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

5 Thoughts On "The People Speak" on The History Channel

5. This format is awesome. How anyone could be bored with history hearing the voices of important figures is anyone's guess.

4. We need to face up to our national history, our failures (especially) with respect to black Americans, women, and Native Americans with a special courage, even if it isn't the whole story.

3. Huge failure of the presentation: No discussion of the means to acquire "justice": whether the advocated means actually achieve those ends, whether the cause (and the means) is always just, and if there is any coherent relation between the demands of the aggrieved, and our mutual continuance in liberty. In other words, is every victim of "oppression" worthy of my support? What are the goods in tension? Do you assume that your earnestness vindicates your political program automatically?

2. This history of the country is every leftist hero that they could find, read by every leftist entertainer they could find. What's going on here? Oh, Howard Zinn produced this; that explains its enjoyable yet annoyingly revisionist character. I wonder if you could suck up to Eugene V. Debs any more? Yes, that Eugene V. Debs.

1. Even though they are worshipped by leftists, I had a hard time disagreeing with Langston Hughes, Sojourner Truth, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X (surprised me) and even John Brown in their pro-liberty/anti-war sentiments.
5 Complimentary Things I Have To Say About Mathison's "The Shape of Sola Scriptura"

5. It's definitely a page-turner, no matter what else we say. [Doesn't that make it sound like a seedy Dan Brown thriller?--ed.] Maybe! Still...

4. It's good enough that it deserves a book-length answer. Some people write book-length retorts when pride is at stake, but this one pushes the conversation forward.

3. Most of the circles I run in immediately recognize and deny "solo Scriptura." ("Me and my Bible")

2. I agree and affirm that Christians should be unapologetically and unflinchingly creedal.

1. I'll fight with anyone willing to dispel historical ignorance.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Spotty internet the last day or so has been mine, so I figure I owe you, me, and everyone a list. Or even two. So without further ado:

5 Lessons Learned From A Somber Day

5. Even NFL stars in the prime of life can die suddenly. RIP Chris Henry.

4. One thing I would do if I had a wife who went missing: cooperate. Cooperate with the police until they were sick of me. And do what I had to do to keep my father-in-law on my side.

3. This economy sucks, and it won't get better until we're not fighting a huge, expensive war on three fronts.

2. If I were the best in my field at something, and I were prevented from doing it for 3.5 years on trumped-up political charges--during the best years--I'd still be angry even after I had returned, earning the respect, apologies, and adulation of everyone.

1. "It's been a long December, and there's reason to believe/Maybe this year will be better than the last."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

5 Random, Disconnected Humor Bites for Today

5. Despite my antipathy for adverbs, (possible rant forthcoming, once I figure out why) I like the word 'consequently.' Is it an adverb? It has the 'ly' ending. I dunno.

4. I don't need to have a movie to eat microwave popcorn.

3. Poor Fredo. Pop obviously gave the family business to Michael because Fredo is stupid. Of course, most stupid people don't think they're stupid. Fredo was in denial. But what's weird is, we get no explanation why he's stupid. We get a scene where little Fredo gets pneumonia as a baby. But he isn't mentally challenged, is he?

2. I finished off that bottle of Coke Zero like I had sorrows to drown!

1. I think the Phillies gave up too much in the trade for Roy Halladay. Cliff Lee is almost as good, and younger (though not as much as I thought). But Halladay is "BA" as my brother would say, and yes, his baseball card/stat sheet should actually say this. His nickname is "Doc," but it should be "Complete Game." Just trust me on this; you have to watch this guy pitch every time if you are able. I'm going to the game here in St. Louis when he pitches for the Phillies. Done and done.
5 Thoughts After Reading Hebrews and Romans Today

5. In my opinion, Romans 3 is not speaking of an "alien righteousness" acquired by faith, (alone) but about the more full revelation of God's character in Christ, and his intent to unite the Gentiles to his people by faith in Christ.

4. Romans 1 isn't about "faith alone" either.

3. Hebrews tells us of Christ, the Mediator of a new and better covenant; I need to reflect on how blessed I am, as a Gentile, not to have to wait for something more. Eleventh-hour workers, eh?

2. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is as good a summary of God's work in redemption as you're going to get in the Bible. Also, the faith of the "heroes" is definitely mixed with hope and works, which means love can't be far away. Consequently, I wouldn't be surprised if James was the writer of Hebrews.

1. Both these books use the word "saints" in what could be termed the "Catholic" and "Protestant" senses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

5 Random, Disconnected Thoughts for Today

5. Did my BSF Teaching Leader brush off claims that John 8:1-11 didn't belong in the Bible by saying that a text good enough for the Church Fathers was good enough for him? Yes, in fact, he did.

4. I don't care about the Tiger Woods thing except to say that I hope they stay married.

3. I now officially hate MySpace. You have messed with my live streaming of music, and I will ruin your company by word of mouth for the rest of my days.

2. I would appreciate reading any Black or Latino theologians you might recommend.

1. Tommy Lee Jones brings a skill and charm to all his movies, even a terrible one like "Fire Birds" (AKA Top Gun with helicopters). But, I should add, "Top Gun" rules.

Monday, December 14, 2009

5 Intemperate, Cranky Thoughts on Women Inspired By Tim Butler
5. Time sure flies when she's having fun at your expense.
4. No, I am not at all sad you are single. You probably deserve it.
3. Be honest: You're all just as shallow about looks as any man, and the fact that you go to church changes nothing.
2. No, really, I don't want to be your friend. I have many friends; they're called men.
1. The biggest lie anyone ever told was that women are more mature than men. Enjoy the steady stream of wimps and jerks that logically follow that delusion.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Before we get to the list, let me say that I think Steve Wilkins is really on to something with his version of the Federal Vision, as are most of its advocates. I recall reading a moving description of what worship is like at Auburn Avenue Pres. by my friend John Armstrong of ACT 3 several years ago, and thinking, "Wow, I want to worship there, and meet those people." When a friend of mine in a seminary class we shared defended Wilkins and the other FV advocates quite passionately, I decided to go to Auburn Avenue's website to find out what this was all about. I read the summary statement by its advocates--and Wilkins was one of the signatories--sensing nothing obviously amiss at the time, with respect to Reformed theology as I had lived it, and as one being trained in it to the present day. Many of these men have written or spoken truth into my daily life, helping me to see the act of submission to the Church (and to her life) as one and the same act as submitting to Christ Himself. Further, I found the "I Support Steve Wilkins!" group on Facebook, and began reading the charges against him, as well as a good bunch of his answers to specific questions put to him by his presbytery. I could see no glaring inconsistencies in his answers with respect to the most relevant texts, the warning passages in Hebrews. It may well bring out inherent tensions in Reformed theology in terms of understanding how the biblical texts square with traditional Reformed formulations of salvation, grace, and security, but that's not his fault, nor anyone else's. What the Reformed must decide is whether we/they really believe in "always reforming," and if there can be some objective criteria for determining what Reformed theology is and will be. And with that:

5 Semi-Snarky, Hopefully Useful Comments About Steve Wilkins's Mary Post (and the comments)

5. I think the Protestants and Catholics are talking past each other a bit. The Catholic says that he doesn't necessarily need blatant scriptural warrant for every doctrine in its full flower; the Protestant sees only accretions when those Catholic doctrines are fully articulated, because Tradition is not a valid source of proof.

4. By what means does one judge Catholic distinctives here as unscriptural? How many people are required before my exegesis passes from unreasonable subjectivism to acceptable interpretation? What if I don't read Mark 3 the same way?

3. Whether one judges especially liturgical or devotional practices to be biblical may depend on the use of typology. That is, one's hermeneutic may allow for scores of practices to be biblical that others may view as an appeal to tradition. I attended Dr. Feingold's lecture on the Fathers with respect to Mary as the new Eve, and it was fantastic. I can at least say that I can see why Catholics view Mariology as part of Christology. And Scotus definitely deals with the most pressing problem in a coherent way.

2. Presumptuous of us to assume that any of us are part of the Church, properly speaking, because in this case, the marks of the Church are precisely what is at issue. The Catholic claim is that Protestantism fails on at least 2 of the 4 traditional marks: “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.” Namely, “one” and “apostolic”. Personally, I can’t give myself a good explanation for why ordination is not a sacrament in the non-Catholic world. Even using our own definition, something like, “A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, as a sign and seal of His benefits,” (WCF paraphrase) it’s really hard to see how you come out with only 2. It should be blindingly obvious that the church of the first 5 centuries did not view succession from the apostles as incidental to the preservation of orthodoxy. Thus, it strongly occurs to me that we need a powerful reason to deny ordination as a sacrament, and to deny that succession.

1. I have yet to see how Sola Scriptura as a principle issues forth in anything but subjectivism. The only way around this is to affirm an invisible church with visible manifestations that have no coherent relation to each other. I’ll let Mathison make his case, but that’s a tough one.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

5 Thoughts After Reading the First 83 Pages of Mathison's "The Shape of Sola Scriptura"

5. To "win" this argument, you must prove 2 things re: Tradition; first, that the Roman Catholic use of it is not substantially of the first type, and second, that any instances of the second must be accretions.

4. I definitely want to hear more about the rebellious Franciscans who defined papal infalliability...while disobeying the pope.

3. As I understand it, finding an instance of a church leader who denied a currently defined dogma of the Catholic Church doesn't prove anything; it may have legitimately developed later, or been so defined after that person lived. (Or, of course, they were in error)

2. If you happen to win the Tradition argument, Keith, you also have to prove that your ecclesial community is part of the Church within which the Scriptures may be rightly interpreted. Boy, these Catholic apologists are clever, aren't they?

1. This is a hugely important book that, I can already tell, will be read and discussed for generations.

Monday, December 07, 2009

5 Random, Disconnected Thoughts for Today

5. The English usage of the word "ambulance" is more than a bit unclear, given the origin of the root.

4. Maybe Brett Favre can't win road games anymore.

3. "I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that this Coke is refreshing and delicious...but after nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss." No, actually Coca-Cola is fantastic.

2. I don't actually like a good beer buzz early in the morning, but you're right, Sheryl: Peeling the labels off anything is irresistible.

1. Happy Birthday, Allison Starr Meek.

Friday, December 04, 2009

5 Random, Loosely Connected Thoughts for Today

5. If the Bush administration had been really prepared to make the argument that waterboarding wasn't torture, why did they hide the fact it was being used?

4. In my view, the warantless wiretapping program in use at the time was perfectly legal, within the war-waging authority granted the president under Article II of the Constitution. If that is even possible, why did they claim the Authorization for the Use of Military Force granted after 9/11 as the special case which grants such authority? It looked like a power-grab, and gave President Bush extra unnecessary political headaches.

3. Consequently, I do not think former Attorney General Gonzales is very politically intelligent, and he was possibly corrupt.

2. I believe President Obama is an American citizen. I also believe he's on his way to one term and one term only as president.

1. Yes, I believe waterboarding is torture.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

5 Points of Random Blather for Today (how very Calvinist of me, for once)

5. I saw That One Girl and said, "Hello,"--and didn't die.

4. Everyone should be part of A Triumvirate of Awesomeness at any given time in life; that is, have two friends that with you, bring joy to all three of y'all. In all frankness, this ought to be all-male if you're a dude, as the name implies. A rant on this is forthcoming.

3. She didn't mean to do it, but she is walking heartbreak, dude.

2. Sisqo of Dru Hill can sing a song fo' real. But the "Thong Song" is the end of being taken seriously ever again.

1. Pepsi, I still revile thee, like the platform of Eugene V. Debs.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

5 Random, Disconnected Thoughts for Today

5. The band Say Anything might be offensive and immoral because they, well, say anything, but they know how to make a catchy melody that one is likely to remember.

4. John Henry Cardinal Newman really knew how to write an English sentence.

3. Though I can hear a professor in counseling remind me that adultery isn't always about looks, I think adultery when your wife is a model (or something close) is mind-blowingly nonsensical. It's wrong anyway, of course, regardless.

2. I'm staring at a two-liter bottle of Pepsi on my desk that I was enjoying last night--even though I hate Pepsi--because my beloved Coke was unavailable.

1. Thank you, Bobby Bowden.

Monday, November 30, 2009

For your consideration, I am amenable to the Catholic position on justification because:

[The 5 Reasons I Might Agree With the Papists On Justification]

1. Love/Charity. If you asked me, "Could a person be wholly acceptable in the sight of God, welcomed into His presence (justified) knowing truths about God, without love for Him and others?" I'd be like, "Um, no, read 1 Cor 13 and 1 John 4." We all know this. But I can totally imagine someone saying, "Synergism! Works! Papist! Arrghh! Nooooo!" at the thought of it all. :) One might try to do it systematically, but why? Why make your systematics a pretzel, when life so obviously teaches otherwise?

2. History. Noone believed Sola Fide until Luther. And I refuse to believe that the people of God were out of luck and incapable of being saved from AD 95 until 1517.

3. James 2. The Catholic way of harmonizing James with Paul is more convincing than the Protestant "What James Really Meant Was..." Defense, and the New Perspectives On Paul at their best are also known as The Old Catholic Perspective On Paul, it would appear.

4. The "They Don't Act Like Hapless Pagans" Defense. I've officially known too many Christ-loving Catholics to believe that it'll be in spite of Rome that I'll see them in Heaven. Furthermore, while still loving Christ above all things, they maintain that we Protestants, God love us, are utterly completely wrong.

5. The "I Don't Know Philosophy, But I'm Learning Some, And Trent Doesn't Seem Totally Nuts" Defense. Um, if Luther had known fully (been alive, for one) the philosophical categories they had used in their response, might he have stayed, upon reflection? All I can say is, having read their carefully nuanced and articulate treatment of the various causes in justification, I cannot reject Trent out of hand. At a certain point, I may have felt I understood what Trent was saying, but without the philosophical categories, I could not.
5 Reactions To Brett Favre's 60 Minute Torturing of the Chicago Bears

5. Without the penalties, it would have been worse.

4. How many primes does this guy have?

3. Are the receivers great, or does he make them great?

2. 392 yards, and I swear he was holding back.

1. If the season ended today, Favre is your MVP, winning his fourth (surpassing his current record 3) MVP 12 years after his last.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

5 Points of Truth About "The Ugly Truth"

5. Ladies: Gerard Butler's piggish character is a caricature...but barely so. I'd say about 87 percent of what he says men think/do is accurate.

4. I thank God I don't know too many ladies who look like Katherine Heigl. That "I'm completely unattainable to you" vibe really sucks.

3. The man would be more believable as a jerk if he was American. I thought European tools acted like Hugh Grant/Colin Firth or whoever.

2. Butler's "Women only want a resume" speech in an otherwise predictable romantic comedy resonated with me more deeply than I might care to admit.

1. When I was able to tear my gaze away from the living piece of art that is Katherine Heigl, I realized that the girl who played her assistant (Bree Turner) is an understated beauty.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

5 Random, Disconnected Thoughts for Today

5. Happy Birthday, Uncle John.

4. If I'm funny, it's because of my friends.

3. Tacos are our friends.

2. Are tacos therefore funny?

1. The Roman Catholic Church may be the theological equivalent of the Borg Collective. In a good way. I think.
I was cruising the inter-webs again, and a friend posted this: "I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish." -- Lamott

I laughed out loud. And then I reflected on why that was funny to me. That would never happen; Jesus isn't driven to drink like so many of us are. He never needs to "take the edge off"; there's no need to cover up feelings; just feel them in that perfectly holy way. Furthermore, I'd say drinking out of a cat dish is sub-human in the proper sense; I laugh at the thought of Jesus doing it because he is the quintessential human, [philosophical hesitations, ahem] our goal, our path, our means. I'm certain the world itself comes apart at the thought of Jesus doing--or even considering--something sub-human. I probably scared myself because I pictured it and found it funny. And yet again, I thought of a song. And a large part of the answer to the question is, "He is!" But isn't it great to wonder at it: He was never a slob. Jesus sanctified every inch of the ground he walked. The dirt under his fingernails was holy dirt. Even the humblest and mundane things were elevated to supernatural acts. Stew on that next time you go to the loo. And truly, He was home, in one sense. I imagine that if he hadn't been "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief," he'd be the life of the party. He could yell out, "I got nothin' but love for ya, tho" and he'd be the only one telling the truth. I know that Joan Osborne song made life easier for thousands of church leaders, allowing them to blather on (possibly even effectively) about the Incarnation just as I am doing now. But hey, it's one of those songs you didn't know was important at the time. It sure didn't seem provocative to me then as it does now. Isn't that interesting? What do you think about that?
What is it with me and overwrought, sappy, Black vocal pop/soul? I am officially the whitest person ever. I don't even have elite snobby credibilty: I have loved its mainstream since the late 80s. Still do. Well, I was feeling a bit lonely tonight, and thinking about my one and only experience that could be considered a relationship--for the record, I screwed it up--and this tune came to mind. It's not nearly this bad, really; the title is true though; we skipped over that part. And it's kinda weird now. It is to me, anyway. And the singing from 3:20-3:45ish is the part that sucks me in every time: "I'll never, ever, find another love like you, ohhh"--even not being overdramatic, it's true. There's only one first (mutual) love that really costs you something. You know what other song reminds me of this? This one. Our friends Usher and Alicia here are doing their level-best to make sure this musical decade won't totally suck. And our colleagues from the first tune, Deborah and R.L., did the same. Anyway, I hope this won't hurt anyone else who might read this; I just needed to write this out again. And I figured out what my deal is: I'm Darryl Hall's long-lost son! Ha! Speaking of Hall, and his equally awesome hombre Oates, this is a remake that will let you understand just how well-crafted this song is. Music rules. And it's a language that makes sense of things for us.

Monday, November 23, 2009

5 Uncomfortable Thoughts on Protestant Justification

5. Sola Scriptura ("Scripture Alone") is not sufficient to vindicate any one (Protestant) theory of justification over another.

4. "Justification by Faith Alone" in Luther's formulation was entirely novel in Christian history.

3. Penal substitutionary atonement was not believed until the Reformation, either. (Perhaps aspects of each at various points, but never to that extent)

2. "Belief in Christ" implies faith and trust. And experientially at least, trust without Love (charity, agape) seems impossible, and maybe impious. Further, some cooperation in this Love, some synergism, does not affirm semi-Pelagianism or deny grace. AT ALL.

1. If ecclesial hostility led Luther to affirm justification by faith apart from Charity, Christian living in practice seems to teach that he was wrong. (Sorry.) I don't want the faith of the demons in James 2. The debate about works is but the minor one compared to Love, don't you think?

Friday, November 20, 2009

5 Semi-Connected Thoughts for Today

5. "Stokley" Williams, (sp?) I could listen to his singing for many hours.

4. Why do I love this song so much?

3. Yeah, I know he sounds like the lead from Tony! Toni! Tone! .

2. If an immersion in classical music or music education would give me a disdain for most of popular music, then I don't want it.

1. I wrote a song last night.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If you're one of those people for whom the answer to the question, "Why aren't you Catholic?" is, "Because it's indefensible heresy, and I'd fear for my soul and anyone else even considering it," then this upcoming list is NOT for you. For all the rest of us-- from those who named their cats "Benedict" (I know you're out there, stop lying) to those who have a healthy affection for the Catholic Church and its people, but will respectfully take a pass on "coming home,"--I dutifully present: (as if anyone cares/is reading this)

The 5 Reasons I'm Not Catholic (At the Present Time)

5. Justification/Perseverence/Trent Though sola fide has no way of being verified historically, beyond, "Luther said so," it seems ludicrous to believe that our gracious God would make it so easy for those of us who love Christ to foul it up. Experientially: I may sense the separation that my sins create, but I cannot know that they will damn me, sans repentance for each specific (mortal) sin. It seems antithetical to God's gracious nature, His beneficence toward His own. Especially given all the things Rome says constitute mortal sins. Let's also give credit to Protestants of today, even Calvinistic ones, who would not deny that Charity must be present with intellectual assent to the true doctrine of God. In fact, I would say that the Catholic definition of faith as, "intellectual assent to the true faith" is too limited. James 2 is speaking of intellectual assent.

4. Mariology. I can't reject it entirely, but I can't affirm it all in conscience, either. More investigation is required. Note to Protestants: Give due consideration of the fact that most pre-Reformation deniers of Mariology did so with the express purpose of attacking the purpose and work of Christ. At the very least, take the stated Catholic desire to guard doctrines concerning Christ via defining Mary seriously.

3. Eucharistic reservations. I do not believe that observing the Supper as a Protestant is entirely without benefit. (Obviously.) If the invalidity of the Protestant celebration is chiefly caused by invalid Holy Orders, this deserves further investigation.

2. Development of doctrine. While Protestants generally do not have an objective standard by which to judge what are developments and what are accretions, ("What is your objective, consistent standard for accepting certain pre-Reformation doctrines or even councils, and rejecting others?") the Catholic explanation seems, at present, highly convenient. Sounds like, "We, the Catholic Church, are never wrong." While I certainly believe the Holy Spirit does not err or lie, to believe that this promise and those to the church must necessarily work out in the Catholic fashion (with a ton of asserted infalliability) seems intellectually lazy, and lays a much heavier burden on individuals than, "Believe in the one He has sent." In crass terms, too much De Fide, and too little "We don't know." (And freedom!)

[And the last underlies them all]

1. Ecclesiological. By what means does an individual know that the Roman Catholic Church is the one Christ founded? Even a sweep of the whole 2000+ years of Christian history (in which the practice of Christianity looks a whole lot more culturally Catholic than Protestant, I must say) doesn't settle it. Also, Catholics admit that other Christians can be saved. They are even far more generous toward other religions, (especially as compared to Protestants) provided that remaining in one is out of invincible ignorance. Protestant theologies may have more holes than the PGA Tour; Catholicism might even be more consistent and intellectually satisfying, especially with respect to certain questions which Protestant converts always ask. It seems to better fit the history of Christianity, on the whole. But the most important consideration is, "Is God trying to tell me/us that Rome is His Church?" I want to hear God's voice. And if that cannot be determined, or God doesn't want to answer that question, it'd be stupid to go anywhere. I can still imagine preaching the gospel in some kind of Protestant church, teaching people to love, respect, and try to understand Catholics and Orthodox as best as they can.

In the next few days, I'm going to write what I think are the 5 biggest problems/questions Protestantism faces (in terms of theology and organization, not ethics per se, in case that wasn't clear). Should be fun.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What A Video Game Taught Me About Aging, Frailty, and the Fear of Death

I’m OK with the fact that probably, I play too many video games, and watch too many sports. I’m not that important, and no one is relying on me for survival as of yet. But I learned something the other day from a game I was playing. Indulge me, for this requires some explanation.
My favorite game is MVP Baseball 2005, from EA Sports. For one, I love baseball, and secondly, EA is justly well-known for making semi-realistic, fun sports games. The year corresponds to the upcoming season, so as far as this game is concerned, the last completed season was 2004, which featured a freakishly talented Cardinals team—winners of 105 of 162 games that season—and the surprising Red Sox, who climbed out of a three games to zero hole in the American League Championship Series against the Yankees to win in seven games. If that weren’t enough, they won the World Series in four games over the Cardinals. Even were I not a St. Louis native, I’d play with these Cardinals. In any case, the fad in sports games for the last decade or so has been “franchise mode,” where one can not only play with a team, but guide its day-to-day operations, budget, and personnel decisions. Choosing this mode, (called ‘Dynasty Mode’ in this game) I patiently played through an entire season, all 162 games, over the spring and summer, usually after midnight when the day’s tasks were done. I made fair trades and stayed within the budget. Finishing 155-7, my imaginary Cardinals waltzed through the playoffs to a World Series title. I was looking forward to drafting players, re-signing players, and not re-signing others who made too much money. And then, the dreaded feature of these games came into view: “Player Progression.” After each season, the attributes of players change. Some will improve; others decline, and sharply in some cases. I knew that a decent chunk of the core group of my Cardinals team was in their mid-to-late thirties. It’d catch up to me, as it did to several members of that actual 2004 Cardinals team.
I didn’t want to continue, and I haven’t. I couldn’t stand to see the skills of my favorite players—though they are video game facsimiles of them—in decline. Why do men watch and play sports? It is innate in humanity to seek a glory that is bodily. We see a glimpse of what we were made for as people run, jump, and throw. When an elite athlete declines, we remember his highest excellence even as we watch his struggles. By this we are reminded that we will all become frail, succumbing to death in due time. For others, the heights of the intellect become the depths of the forgotten, the lost, the unknown. Unless we hope in the one whose own resurrection from the dead declared the inauguration of the Kingdom of God and the beginning of a new heavens and a new earth—Jesus Christ, the firstfruits—we will be chained to the cruelest of idols. We will not be strong and vital as we once were, and will not remember the glory of it, either. What is life, if not eternal? What is love, if not perfected? You tell me there is no evidence for belief, no proof of His handiwork. At best, it is a comforting notion for weak-minded people; at worst, a tool for oppression. I can only say in reply that the world is alight with beauty, with laughter; deep joys mix with deep sorrows. Every day, we see heroes and villains, we see a world that is good and a world waiting for something, for someone, to set things right.
We can’t just live in the past. But that past tells us that we ought not be resigned to cynicism. Every second, every breath, screams at us if we listen: This means something. I’m parking on the couch to watch Jim Edmonds highlights; someone pass me a beer and a Bible.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

As one who's received his share of unlucky breaks in the game of love (it's a pity party, and you're invited) I thought the list for today might reflect that. So without further ado, I give you:

5 Amazing Brokenhearted Songs

5. "When Can I See You," Babyface. The legend. Recognize.

4. "Brokenhearted," (Soul Power Remix) Brandy. With a hand from Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men.

3. "The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)," Dru Hill. This is a remake, but Sisqo really makes you feel it.

2. "Missing You," John Waite. Is there anyone on Earth who dislikes this song?

1. "Nobody Knows," The Tony Rich Project. Yeah, it sounds like Babyface. But it isn't. For the last time, it's not him!

Monday, November 09, 2009

5 Random, Disconnected Thoughts For Today

5. What have I done with my copy of the Westminster Standards?

4. Peter Falk is The Man.

3. My neck is still not right.

2. This one's gonna sting a little.

1. The more I read the Bible, the less perspicuous and sufficient it seems.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

5 Thoughts On the Curiously High Profile Elections Last Night

5. I'll bet The Boss was mad about "Born to Run" being used as a victory song by the Republican governor-elect, Chris Christie.

4. At least Corzine, the current governor of New Jersey, used his own money. I respect that.

3. Don't be fooled: The Democrats and President Obama are justly alarmed by the VA governor's race and others (which they lost). This state had been trending toward them in national elections for several cycles.

2. Newly elected House representative Bill Owens (D-NY) will not be able to hold this seat in 2010.

1. This portends a 1994-like shift in the House of Representatives in 2010.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

5 Natural Responses To Coming Upon Weingreen's Hebrew Grammar, Lesson 65 (Weak Verbs)

5. "Our Father, who art in Heaven...."

4. "What? Where? Who? What's going on here?!

3. "These verbs are seriously weak, dude."

2. "No, comparing it to the strong verb doesn't help."

1. "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to. You would cry too, if it happened to youuuuu!"

Sunday, November 01, 2009

5 Signs You Have An Irrational Sports Hatred of Ryan Howard

5. You refer to him as Ryan "Strikeout" Howard.

4. You know that he went to Lafayette High School in St. Louis, while you attended nearby Eureka, and you hate that, though you were not especially attached to EHS at the time.

3. You improperly credit Albert Pujols with the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player award on purpose.

2. You say things like, "Ryan Howard, what a stupid name!" And, "I bet you lived on Stupid Street when you were a kid!"

1. You are rooting for the Yankees in this World Series.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

5 Thoughts While Listening To A Babyface Tune

5. This cat probably writes #1 songs while humming in the shower.

4. If only I could write a song 1/10 as good as the worst he's written...

3. He looks good for 50.

2. You make it sound so easy.

1. DO NOT commit adultery, but especially not against a great singer-songwriter.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

5 Possible Activites After the Most Brutal Hebrew Exam in the History of American Protestant Seminary Education

5. Read Dune.

4. Read The Andromeda Strain.

3. Read the Westminster Confession of Faith (specifically, the sections on Perseverence!).

2. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

1. Sob uncontrollably.

I just realized I could some up the first part of the list as, "Read dystopic, misanthropic, sci-fi novels." Bitter much?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I have a friend who's leaving St. Louis in a couple of months who mentioned that one of the things she'd like to do before she left is karaoke. Now, if you don't know, I am in the business of shameless self-promotion, so I will do karaoke at the drop of a hat. Sounds like list grist to me! Without further ado:

5 Songs I'd Sing Without Provocation, Or Wish I Had Written

5. "Faithfully" by Journey

4. "Cherish" by Kool & the Gang

3. "What Might Have Been" by Little Texas

2. "Breathe Again" by Toni Braxton

1. "Take A Bow" by Madonna

Outstanding. Yes, I am a big sap.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why I Am Choosing 'Let's Wait Awhile' for Re-Writing (and not some other more sophisticated song in a different genre)
There are several reasons why I am doing this. First, I appreciate much of what is there, but I have a stubborn committment to the idea that romantic songs should at least make a modicum of sense. They might me wildly effusive, over-the-top, and unrealistic, but people who understand the feeling don't mind that. Second, I love a lot of music from this period and genre. Third, I really appreciate Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They gave us Mint Condition, who are obscenely underrated, even now. Fourth, popular music that lasts even 20 years has successfully straddled the boundary between accessibility and excellence, and this song could even better do that if it made sense, and reflected a meaningful moral dilemma. Fifth, this song is one of just a few by Ms. Jackson that doesn't make me want to injure someone (and still deeply flawed). Fifth, I love keyboards. I love them. I never was ashamed of the '80s, and I think it's plain snobby arrogance to dismiss electronic instruments as something less than 'real.' Some are inclined to do this, and I'm not going to let them! Sixth, simple songs reach not only simple people, but most other people, too. Seventh and finally, I said so, so there!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pursuant to the last post, you can read Ignatius' seven epistles by clicking on the links in sequence here. I suppose you could save yourself time by reading Bryan's selected quotations, but I'd rather read him for myself, so I did. Boy, if the Church fell into error with the establishment of the hierarchy, it happened quick. This cat died in 107. He knew John the Apostle, heard him teach. What we Protestants must explain (and our individual variations must also) is, "What is the criteria for judging truth and error?" We have to begin to see that our theological differences as Protestants are actually judgments of the Church's supposed error from distinctly different angles and emphases, (free will, sacraments, government, et al) so our actual unity consists of only one thing: anti-Catholicism, or at best, non-Catholicism. What I'm bothered by is that we presume our own ecclesiological legitimacy, wherever we are, and then, we each make arbitrary decisions about which Protestant tribes are closest to us. Talk to a different person, get a different set of "acceptable" associations. The point is this: We can't all be right. But that's the funny thing: aren't we using the same source of final authority, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments? What's the problem? You can go two routes to explain all this away--and I'm going to sum up roughly--1. Ignore the problem, reasoning that "just loving Jesus" is enough (though who is doing that and not doctrinally is itself arbitrary) and that God doesn't care; or 2) insist ever more strongly that you/your tradition is correct, rejecting all others, and embracing a naive positivism ("I'm right, and if you'd just read the Bible plainly, you'd see it, too.") I'm not willing to become Catholic on the strength of the conundrum itself; however, we have some explaining (and some uniting) to do.
(BTW, "just loving Jesus" is enough, in a certain sense, and that should be what is driving us to unity: recognizing Christ in others.)
5 Thoughts When Reading the 7 Letters of St. Ignatius

5. He certainly throws in "blood" at interesting times.

4. Is this guy nuts? The man talks as if he wants to die, as if he'll be let down if he lives.

3. It takes some brass to ask your brothers and sisters to pray that you die for Christ.

2. Ignatius sure sounds Catholic to me.

1. Why don't they call him "St. Bishop"? :) I feel like asking the Bishop for permission to write this post. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

1 Cor 11, and Its Obvious Implications, Often Overlooked
I noticed the last time I celebrated the Lord's Supper that, in my best estimation, we had entirely missed the point. That is, if I had taken the pastor's words as representative of all of us, his words as a summary of what we were confessing by taking and eating, then (respectfully) we were quite far afield of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. And that was quite alarming, given that he attempted to quote the text.
[As an aside, I am sidestepping the Catholic critiques of the Protestant eucharist for the moment, despite whatever sympathies I may have toward that view.]
Leaving aside the fact that, at the very least, the text here should be read or memorized and spoken liturgically at some point, apart from any interpretive comments, I was bothered first by this: "Each time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we remember the Lord's death until He comes." Following this was a fairly lengthy pronouncement that our faith in Christ has rendered us soteriologically bulletproof; that is, we are eternally secure, and this is what we are commemorating. Had I not covenanted beforehand with God that I would take this in faith to receive whatever He had for me, (and had the elements in my hand before this craziness was spoken) I would have refused it. It doesn't matter where I was; you don't need to know. It doesn't matter who spoke the words, either. I'd have asked him about it before I told you. The point is, the relevant word in v. 26 there is 'kataggellete' in the Greek, 2nd person plural, meaning 'you proclaim' or 'you are proclaiming.' In other words, in the very act of celebrating, we are preaching the gospel! It's not about our individual salvations, though that's nothing to sneeze at. We are assembled to look back at Christ's death for us, but also forward. Why do I say that? It's right in verse 26 at the end, "until He comes." Therefore, aside from preaching the cross to ourselves and whomever else, it's a meal suffused with eschatological hope. Add in the seemingly crazy words from John 6:51-60, and it's about receiving grace(s) from Christ (and Christ Himself, in some sense) to make it to the end. Not that we have already received it, as Scripture says, but we press on, fed by Christ! Where was that?
I can say for a certainty that Paul did not care about Reformed atonement theology (or anyone else's, for that matter) when he wrote 1 Corinthians 11. And I'm sure that thinking about whatever assurance or confidence we receive from the death of Christ while taking the bread and the cup would really make him mad. He'd want us thinking about Christ, not the finer points of systematics at such a crucial time.
Have you ever wondered why Paul puts these words of institution right there in 1 Corinthians? And in that chapter, why does he think reminding them of this will address their sins against each other? The only thing I can figure is that Christ is actually there when you eat and drink. You wouldn't or shouldn't do wickedness right in front of Christ. [You do it all the time.--ed.] I know. I should remember, God sees everything. But the point is, sin can't abide here, because Christ is here, offering His gift of ultimate Love. (Again, here today, but once for all...hold on, I'm perplexed!) I'm just wondering why we spend time explaining why other Christians are celebrating wrongly, and exalting our theology, when we should be simply receiving Him and letting Him preach to those who've yet to receive Him. [That still sounds oddly Catholic.--ed.] Well, sue me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Prompted by, I don't know, warm reflection, I thought of the movie, The Passion of the Christ. I remember thinking that it actually did sanctify me; I was glad to have watched it with a good chunk of my fellow church members. I'm sure reasonable criticisms could be made of it along many lines, but I don't blame my fellow committed Christians for praising it as they did, and being open to how God might teach them through it. I remember having several interesting thoughts at the time which I may have spoken, but never wrote down. Sounds like good material for a list o' five! And so:

5 Thoughts I Had While Watching The Passion of the Christ

5. "If this is Catholicism, sign me up." [Deeply ironic, now, perhaps.]

4. "These cut scenes to the Lord's teaching are the only thing saving me from weeping in this movie theater."

3. "I was relieved when He finally got to the cross, and I'm not sure that's how I should feel."

2. "My favorite scene is/was watching Mary watch her Son as He carried his cross. I'm not Catholic, but that's worth thinking about."

1. "I'm looking for the antisemitism, and I just don't see it."

I've only seen it that one time when it premiered. We walked out in dead silence. It could have been a Good Friday service. You might say that there wasn't enough hope in His resurrection, and that's fair, except that the movie deliberately focused on His sufferings. Maybe it's time again, or maybe I'll wait until Good Friday.

Monday, October 12, 2009

5 Signs You Are Not A Calvinist

5. If you use the word, "choice," ever, at any time.

4. If you have seen Minority Report, and thought it was a good summary of the conundrum of free will vs. sovereignty. That is, that there is a conundrum.

3. If you have ever used the word, "mystery," ever, at any time. [Note however, that a Calvinist will use the word when confronted with the philosophical determinism of Calvinism, thusly: "It's a mystery!"]

2. If you have ever complimented John Wesley on anything ever, without qualification. [Calvinist example: "That's a great hymn by John Wesley...too bad he was an Arminian."]

1. If your reaction to Calvin's 500th birthday did not border on the veneration of a saint.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

5 Random, Disconnected Thoughts For Today

5. I've never been this excited for a Tuesday ever, though voting for Governor Bush as president was close.

4. Even if Frank Dux is a fraud, I think Bloodsport is one of the coolest movies ever, and I'm glad to be a man, to appreciate it.

3. If you miss the eschatological thrust at the heart of the eucharistic celebration, you might as well go home.

2. I'll let you know when I figure out what a "solid evangelical church" is.

1. Go Twins!

Friday, October 02, 2009

5 Thoughts On Letterman's Confession/Legal Battle/Monologue Last Night:

5. Guess that "tower of Midwestern, Lutheran guilt" didn't kick in too fast.

4. The movie will get made.

3. Little blackmails occur every day which aren't crimes.

2. Even if Sarah Palin did cut McCain's meat/food during the campaign, there's no shame in that, and it's not funny.

1. You forgot to add "who were not my wife" onto, "I've had sex with people who work on this show."

Geez, harsh-sounding, judgmental list today. What am I, the Church Lady?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Sports Guy, Taylor Swift, and A New Song
Some weeks ago, I was reading ESPN's "The Sports Guy," Bill Simmons, that hilariously insightful commentator on all things sports. He is especially good to read on New England/Boston sports (though I hate Boston) and his intimate fan's perspective is equal parts frank and loyal. Anyway, he took a break from sports to tell us about his 4oth birthday party trip to Las Vegas. In between funny takes on blackjack and casino etiquette, the fantasy football draft with his buddies punctuated by porn and drunkenness (two things I strongly discourage) he mentioned Kings of Leon's song, "Use Somebody." He said that they played it so many times that he'd physically injure the Kings for composing it. At that time, I hadn't heard it. For the sake of science, I just listened to it. My reaction is: I like it. Or, I should say, I like the balance of it--most of it--and the part I dislike is the pacing of the background instruments. The thing artists like to do in a certain popular style is play the instruments at one pace, and sing over the top of them at a slower pace. For example, we can name Coldplay, and their inspiration, U2. Since I revile Coldplay, the thing that saves this song is the singer. He carries a beautiful, soulful voice into his work. If I had to name the one thing that determined 'good' music from 'bad' music for me, it'd be vocal ability. Some lead singers aren't terribly talented, but they have unique voices. The is not to what I am referring. What I mean is a person talented or trained enough to be skilled at music outside their preference. A little soul solves everything.
I hate to admit it, but Taylor Swift is winning me over. Based on her weak voice, (ironic, given what I just said) and teen audience, I figured we wouldn't hear much from her. But her songwriting is fantastic. I have noticed that it's one or two lines that grab you, and this song won't let you remain uninterested. You said the way my blue eyes shine/Put those Georgia stars to shame that night/I said that's a lie. Or, that gorgeous pre-chorus from "Love Story" with its grabby line: And my daddy said, "Stay away from Juliet!" sucks you in. If you hate Taylor Swift, buckle up, because you'll never be rid of her.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

5 Natural Questions, Following the Admission That One's Night Was Ruined By Homer Bailey

5. What is this, 'Dirty Jobs'?

4. Are you Homer's date?

3. Is that Kanye's alias?

2. Is that a horse you bet on?

1. Why didn't you re-grout the bathtub yourself?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oddball Side Project (and a rant about the thin veneer of morality in culture)
I have written approvingly of Terry Lewis and his pal James Harris, III (AKA Jimmy Jam) as two of the architects of R&B and neo-soul's crossover to whites in the '80s and '90s, and that is well-deserved. They worked much of their magic with the princess of a pop dynasty, Janet Jackson. One of the best-known (and loved) songs from her 1986 release Control is a song titled, "Let's Wait Awhile," about two young people who delay their first sexual encounter. This song has one of the prettiest melodies in a pop song I've ever heard. Part of the reason that R&B gained in stature during this period (other than Michael Jackson) is that producers and songwriters saw that electronics could be used not only in the service of upbeat dance rhythms, but ballads also, in layering lush vocals with well-mixed keyboards to till the emotional and auditory ground before lyrics are even sung. Some of this is so pretty that one hopes the lyrics aren't too ridiculous. Here's the song. Complete nonsense. How long is "awhile"? If there's no mention of marriage, nor of its fuller purpose, why wait? Why wasn't it quite right on the very first night? Care to explore why this made you uncomfortable? A day is too soon, but two weeks is OK? Some people see right through all this and decide to fornicate immediately and often. I won't call that good, but at least they're being honest. The silliest thing is that I know this song was widely praised for its morality. People really do think that following arduous, semi-pointless rules means something to God. But unless we stand in his grace, using his gifts for his glory, our deeds mean nothing, supernaturally speaking.
Why do I bring this up? It's just pop music, music that comes from the uncaring corporate Leviathan, who's come to put you in shackles, man. Please, shut up.--ed. Well, I've always liked this song, in spite of itself. And so I want to re-write this song; I'll use the same tune, with different lyrics. Jimmy and Terry can have most of the credit they've already earned. Here's another stupid song I love (sorry, Kenny). All that is to say, if I wanted to manipulate a bunch of people, I'd do it with a song. Music is that powerful.
Christ Our King: 10 Years
I wish I had words to express what this church, these people, mean to me. If I am walking in the light now, I walk because of them. If I have loved at all, it's because of them. If I know anything, they taught it to me. I told them that I will be walking down the street, and I'll hear our hymns in my head, and in my heart. I see their faces. There are some who are gone, but I see them, too. I wish Tim Durrett would read me some Scripture in that beautiful accent of his; I wish we were going to Marc and Debbie's after worship. I wish Martha was here to say something wise. I wish certain things were whole again. I keep hoping to see T-dog sitting in the back next to the piano. We got a letter from folks I had nearly forgotten about, until I remembered that in more certain days, I called the patriarch "Liberal Ed." I promise, not long ago, he was the only one. The Tamerius kids used to take turns holding the hymnal for me while I sang. That's good for Micah; he often needs something to do. I bet Anna still knows all the words. I wonder if, though she is older, Lizzie still takes one little mouse-sized bite out of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and leaves the rest! I remember Tommy's deep-fried turkey on Thanksgiving. Had it maybe once since, but not as good as Tommy's. I remember once a month college supper club at the Kleins'. I remember thinking Peter's political views were nuts, coming to similar views...and realizing they're still nuts. I recall when my wheelchair nearly killed Peter and me. Scott Matz was always good at distracting me from the sermon. And Mrs. Matz would shush us both, like I had anything to do with it. I love that the liturgy is so engrossing that I hardly notice the pretty girls. Hardly. I appreciate the fact that I've never heard anything exclusively Presbyterian or Reformed in 8 years. I love that Pastor Travis's ordination sermon was given by John Armstrong, and that the whole matter was punctuated by Jeff Meyers and the loudest singing I have yet to hear. I loved the debut of the white robes. I remember talking about Afghanistan with Pastor Thom 7 years ago in our very first meeting. And baptism. He was wrong, and he knows that now! (smile)
Whatever may happen, I'm the luckiest person on Earth, to have lived life with these people.
5 Thoughts From The 10th Anniversary Celebration/Vespers at Christ Our King Church

5. I think I owe Evan some money.

4. I think I owe Pastor Travis money.

3. I didn't know this cost money.

2. I wasted half a beer.

1. Be a man for once, and tell the story without crying.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The GOP Nominee in 2012 Ought To Be...
Let me preface this with the note that I am considering geography and battlegrounds only; that is, not necessarily the record of the person in question. With that said, the only logical choice for the 2012 GOP nomination for president is...Tim Pawlenty. The GOP must do everything in its power to avoid classification as a regional, Southern, party. In addition, to defeat Obama, they need someone with no real ties to former President G. W. Bush. It'd be moronic for the president to blame 12 years on 'W,' but he'll try if you let him. They need to put the Midwest in play while holding the South. They need someone who doesn't have a history of angering the base. A person who is relatively young will take away perhaps Obama's biggest unacknowledged advantage from 2008, age. Pawlenty is the governor of Minnesota, and this executive experience will likely contrast favorably with Obama, who is already vulnerable on this point and overall. And the only logical pick for VP is...Michael Steele. The former Lt. Gov. of Maryland, and now the GOP national party chairman, Steele puts Virginia back in GOP hands, and perhaps even makes Obama spend resources holding Maryland. Steele is also black, and this fact alone can neutralize certain attacks from Obama. Steele may not add black votes, but he does plant the idea in the minds of voters that the GOP understands the meaning of Obama's election, and the prospect of Steele as a future president will allay any concerns that this progress is less than real. Let's see if they take my advice.

Friday, September 25, 2009

5 Ways To Tell You Are A Vainglorious Extrovert

5. You have a burning urge to be a Wikipedia editor.

4. Does the word 'karaoke' mean anything to you?

3. Trivial Pursuit. Full volume. No mercy.

2. You would totally pull a 'Commodores'--start a band and write songs to impress girls.

1. You own a blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

5 Thoughts When Realizing One Has an E-mail From Dr. Bill Frist, MD

5. "Are you gonna watch the 'Grey's Anatomy' premiere tonight?"

4. "I'm not really prepared to go to Africa right now, sir."

3. "No 'nuclear option'? No votes for you, come back, 4 years!"

2. "How did you get this e-mail? What does the GOP know, and when did they know it?"

1. "Do you listen to 'Please Come To Boston' like a thousand times a day?"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

5 Random, Perhaps Disconnected Thoughts for Today

5. There are a lot of good teams in the National League this year, most of whom (grammar error?) will be playing golf in about a week and a half.

4. The creators of "Grey's Anatomy" must have thought, "Hey, let's do a serious version of 'Scrubs'!" And it works.

3. So glad to find out that small, yet significant piece of information. Will I do anything about it?

2. I doubt catching the garter means anything, but if it does, I'm not complaining.

1. Someone should make a movie of John 13-17. It makes me cry like a baby.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Political Rant

I see far too many Christians over-simplifying the moral imperatives of the gospel of Jesus as they attempt to apply it to the political process. They are still operating as though the stereotypes presented by political actors (especially by opponents of those various actors) are valid. Frankly, to be specific, I see too many Christians defaulting to a kind of socialism, (or at least a statism) because A) some 'progressives' make a big fuss about caring for the poor (and their myriad opponents don't, for various reasons), B) they ignore, or fail to see that state-directed 'compassion' involves coercion which, by its very nature, denies individuals their God-given status as free moral agents, or C) they are just plain ignorant. Under (C), a certain sanctified stupidity prevails, whereby intent is the only measure of a policy's desirability. Most forms of Protestant soteriology actually encourage this. Because of "the finished work of Christ," [this means you, Francis S.] we need not actually be perfect; we need only be in union with the One who is perfect. He doesn't see us, it goes, he sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ. It seems to me very difficult--but not impossible--to pursue excellence in any matter, whether political, personal, or otherwise, when the moral value--or usefulness-- of any act is predetermined good by benevolent intent at the outset. The philosophical word for this escapes me, but it should be evident after a moment's reflection that intent cannot be the only measure. Thomas Sowell wrote a book called The Vision of the Anointed making this basic point: that entire generations of leaders have attempted social engineering on a massive scale to combat every problem one can imagine without being called to account when those initiatives fail. Furthermore, he says, skeptics of such initiatives are not granted the assumption of benevolent intent. I may be tempted to dismiss this as conservative complaining couched in five-dollar words but for the fact that we do seem to be truncating many policy debates along the lines of intent. And that's why asking "Why?", "To What End?" and "What is/was the result?" is more important than the "What." If skeptics say that the healthcare plan under consideration, for example, will force private health insurers out of the market, limit free choice, and be too costly, its proponents ought to prove why those objections aren't correct or pertinent. The style of politics in fashion (today and forever, apparently) is: 1. Assert the unproven, and 2. Impugn the opposition. If you "Bork" somebody today, when you die, the newspapers and such will call you a "liberal lion" or a "conservative icon." It's been a long time since I read anything like, "He wasn't much of a partisan, but he consistently asked important questions, and raised the level of debate, while disputing with charity and grace." When Christians don't understand politics, and don't want to try, they issue a bland, "Pox on both your houses!" kind of statement, or declare themselves 'apolitical.' The first says, "I don't want to think too hard about this." The second says, "I blindly trust the people with power over my day-to-day living." I've found that if you are too intellectual or too ideological, others automatically wonder about your spiritual priorities. Just because Jesus doesn't take sides doesn't mean the disputes and the process of their resolution is unimportant.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

R&B At A Crossroads
One thing even a casual music fan could note about the times after what I might call the "LaFace Era"--so named after the co-founders of LaFace Records, Antonio "LA" Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds from about 1988-2000--is the seeming omnipresence of hip-hop/rap as the face (pardon the pun) of Black music. I recall anecdotally that rap, R&B, and even soul could be distinguished. If you wanted rap, you consumed radio that provided it. If you wanted soul, you got soul, and that alone. "R&B" (which used to stand for 'rhythm and blues') was and is an ambiguous term, because it denotes both the fast and the slow, percussive and vocal. It isn't that hip-hop and soul are inherently hostile and opposed, but it seemed until very recently that the forms respected the distinct but occasionally overlapping audiences.
I think certainly what we see today is hip-hop entirely subsuming R&B and soul. The crossover to White audiences en masse probably began with Michael Jackson, and Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, (in no small part via Janet Jackson) Reid and Edmonds carried it all the way to the end of the century. But the shift is real. What has caused it? I see two reasons:
1. The critical mass of the music-buying public is getting younger. I can't back this up yet, but I began buying music at 13. Some of it had adolescent themes, but much of it wears well 15+ years later. It consciously reflected not only where I was, but where I thought I would be in the future. So, at the risk of sounding like an old fogey, the mature sexual themes in some R&B music were understood as something belonging to the future, not necessarily to the present. And this leads to the second point:
2. The premature sexualization of kids and teenagers. If surveys and recent studies are even partly accurate, today's young people are experimenting in ways and at times that even my generation (I'm 29) would have found alarming. As a result, there is no permanence reflected in the songs about these mature subjects. Let me ask: When is the last time you heard a post-2000[non-Babyface, haha] soul/R&B song and thought, "That'd be a great song for a wedding/anniversary?" Maybe some artists are stepping in to fill the void (Robin Thicke, Usher--at times). But I'm not the only one thinking, "What happened to the romantic songs?" A generation has grown up believing it's all about sex, and the music reflects that.
I can't blame this on rap/hip-hop itself; but whoever the gatekeepers are, what they are allowing to cross over to the mass audience is BAD hip-hop. It does rap more specifically a disservice too. It may have been raw, but it used to be about things. Social, political, etc. Leftish things, but real nonetheless. The whole Top 40 radio format is dominated by people who frankly are using "phat beats" to cover the fact that they cannot sing. Since they can't rhyme either, we get this bizzare Frankenstein-combo thing.
Have you also noticed that singer-songwriters are back in fashion? (I view this generally as a good thing, but let's acknowledge their debt to black artists and groups of the 1990s.) John Mayer, Colbie Caillat, Jason Mraz, and others are filling a void left by black vocal groups and solo artists who (I guess) fell out of fashion. [Notice: If you move people and are white, you're a singer-songwriter; if you are black, you are a "soul singer," apparently. It's very sad that I, as a white male, am noticing this.]
Oh, it's a rant. Maybe I'm just tired of bad quasi-rap and emo-whine. I just wish all my favorite songs weren't from the last decade or before. And that the music will mean something again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Top 5 Rejected Presbyterian Slogans

5. "We're Predestined To Look Down on You."

4. "We're Like Politicians; It's All About Election."

3. "We Love Everyone--In A General, Non-Efficacious Sense."

2. "Form A Committee With Us Today!"

1. "Dry Theology--In A Good Martini Sort Of Way."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Decorum is Decorum
The unfortunately named Rep. Joe Wilson, R-SC (you'll recall a famous liar by that name a few years back) yelled, "You lie!" at President Obama during his speech to the joint session last week. I say it was a most unpatriotic and disruptive action, worthy of a severe reprimand by the House of Representatives. I am unmoved by the recall of the abuse heaped on President Bush; when we are discussing the dignity of our institutions, and of the occasions of their use, we have no place for this kind of thing. The only ground we have to stand on in our moral outrage is simply, We wouldn't do that if the roles were reversed.
It saddens me that this guy is some conservative hero now. Is the only thing left in our politics a hatred for the opposition? In my America, you don't put an unpatriotic cad's words on a T-shirt, celebrating like you "stuck it to The Man." I didn't watch the speech, and I don't support the president's health care plan (as I understand it). But this country's functioning rests squarely on legitimacy, and we do damage to that legitimacy when we break decorum in this way. President Obama could help out a little by not accusing skeptics of bad faith; either way, we all have work to do.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I was brushing my teeth. 10:15 Central Time. The bathroom closest to the front desk in my university residence hall. Some guy ran in. This is (approximately) what followed:

"Dude, someone attacked the World Trade Center. They think 50,000 people might be dead."

"C'mon, man, that's not funny."

"No, I'm serious. I wouldn't joke about that."

I finished brushing, and went to the desk. We had a whiteboard that had all the day's news, sports, and weather. Understandably on this day, it had only one item. In a big box underneath everything was a message: "In spite of everything that has happened, we are not going to judge anyone by his or her skin color, religion, or national origin." Or something like that. I have never been so glad to see such a statement ever before. I guess I'm supposed to hate such spasms of political correctness. But there is nothing more conservative than holding individuals (and them alone) responsible for their actions.
I didn't have time to watch the news. I was fairly certain I had a class. I saw my friend Liz Stover (now Garber) on the street, and we discussed what we knew. I made it to class. The only thing I remember was a Syrian guy in my politics class say that we had it coming. What a country, I thought, where this jerk can say this out loud in perfect freedom, even as a guest.
I came back home to the hall later, and President Bush was speaking. I can only remember him saying that we're gonna find out who did this. It seemed like he spoke several times that day, and I was glad. I still remember from when I was a kid: "The President is the president of all the people." Frankly, on that day, I only felt two feelings: shock, and pride. We were acting like we were in a war, and rightly so. Sometimes you fight with your siblings, but if somebody messes with your siblings, they'll pay. I actually wondered how soon we'd take military action, in my gut feeling that I'd support whatever our leaders decided. Bin Laden's name came up the next day, and I wondered how they knew it was him. I forgot about the embassy bombings, but the Cole bombing I recalled. And I think I remembered the first attack on the World Trade Center.
I remember being relieved when the projected death toll was far less than 50,000.
I think it was three days later, when President Bush went to Ground Zero. All I remember is this: "In the past few days, we've heard from police, firefighters, and other heroic rescuers...The people who did this will hear from all of us soon." Jeep. Check. Bullhorn. Check. President who was a fighter pilot. Check. I thought, I'm living Independence Day. What followed was the most uncomfortable 2 minutes I've felt in a long time. The workers started chanting "USA! USA! USA!" and I thought, "That went on far too long." Besides, you chant "USA!" at sporting events, not when you've been attacked.
I got choked up several times in the next weeks, watching President Bush's speech to a joint session of Congress, seeing the footage of people jumping out the windows, hearing about Flight 93. I do remember not arguing politics for at least six weeks. And I knew I was living history. We only hope we're worthy of being called Americans, like the generations before us.
Later, I recall being of the opinion that there was no way President Bush would lose the next election. It just seemed like he was so good at being our voice then that he'd earned the extra 4 years right there. I seriously doubted that we'd be so miffed about the economy to forget this. Or the kicking a-- and taking names that was sure to follow. The niceties of diplomacy weren't on my mind, either.
We got back to fighting about politics, but it wasn't the same. It still isn't. One thing about it: we all got in a few shots at President Bush for all sorts of reasons. But it wasn't just a formality to say, "Thanks for what you did after 9/11." I think most people really hated to criticize him later on, and he really didn't lose that benefit of the doubt for about 5 years. That's good and bad, I guess.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

5 Curious Facts/Opinions About the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals

5. Their NL Central division lead hasn't decreased since July 30.

4. If the Cardinals lost every game for the rest of the season, they would finish with the same number of wins as their 2006 World Championship team.

3. The Cardinals thought that Kyle Lohse would be the team's third-best starting pitcher, (and paid him accordingly) but it has actually been Joel Pineiro.

2. Things are good when your team's fourth-best starter is future Hall of Fame member John Smoltz.

1. The NL Cy Young Award winner will not be a Cardinal, because Chris Carpenter (16-3, 2.16 ERA) will split the vote with his teammate Adam Wainwright (17-7, 2.68 ERA).

Sunday, September 06, 2009

5 Things To Do On Labor Day, 2009

5. Count the hours to the Cards-Brewers matchup, lamenting the soul-crushing loss in Pittsburgh yesterday.

4. Wonder what whitewashed, commie-free version of Labor Day the History Channel will present.

3. Paranoidly wonder what collectivist inanity the government is planning.

2. Recall amusedly that the collectivist plots will likely be undone by Joe Biden's big mouth.

1. Trust in Jesus, whose labor gives my labor meaning on this, and every, day.
5 Ways To Tell You Are, Or Have Been, A Calvinist:
5. You have two know the rest.
4. Your favorite word is "decree."
3. You refer to your backyard as "New Geneva."
2. During your last fight with a family member, you felt the most guilty for screaming, "You Arminian!" in the heat of it.
1. While not knowing exactly how your free will was involved, you KNOW you were predestined to read this post.

Monday, August 31, 2009

5 More Ways to Tell You Are Jason Kettinger
5. Your theology is one long, extended baseball metaphor.
4. You like Babyface's music more than Babyface does.
3. Your first celebrity crush was Barbara Hershey.
2. You mix your mother's birthday up with the Kennedy assassination.
1. You know "The Cutting Edge" is the greatest chick-flick of all time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Five Brett Favre Questions:

5. Can he hack it still? This is the same man who threw 2 TD and 9 INT in the final 5 games for the Jets, who were 1-4 in those games and missed the playoffs.

4. Is he trustworthy? He didn’t tell the Jets he was hurt. Eric Mangini was fired because of Favre.

3. Is he healthy? He’s no use to the Vikings hurt.

2. Why did he lie? He could have told us all on July 30 that he’d return. No problem there. I’m not mad like most people that we get constant Favre “Will he retire/come back?” coverage. I love Brett Favre. I’m just saying.

1. Will I watch every second possible of the Vikings this season? Absolutely.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Top 5 Things To Do While Your Internet Is Down:

5. Catch up on your Tom Clancy.

4. Whine like you are 3 years old.

3. Blame Joe Biden.

2. Blame Obama.

1. Say you will write posts for later, while not writing a thing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

5 Reactions To Last Night's All-Star Game in St. Louis:

5. The National League apparently sucks. They haven't won since the summer of the Atlanta Olympic Games. Carl Lewis won gold there. Yes, it was a long time ago.

4. If Sara Evans can sing that well, I want to ask her why she mailed it in on the night of her guest appearance on Nashville Star.

3. Geez, Albert Pujols is good. He didn't even get a hit, and he was still memorable.

2. Ichiro Suzuki might have been the most talented guy in the park that night, a park that contained Musial, Brock, Smith, Gibson, and Schoendienst.

1. Don't quit your day job, President Obama. That was a terrible first pitch.
Mindless Musical Blather of the Day
I have this playlist of 180 songs, eclectic enough to make me look open-minded, and mainstream enough to make critics and snobs throw up. Anyway, I'm listening to Ashlee Simpson's song "Pieces Of Me," a guilty pleasure to be sure, and trying to figure out why I like it so much. I figured it out: she reminds me of Anna Nalick. Ms. Nalick had a couple radio hits awhile back, if you recall. In any case, my list took me next to Bryan White, which, if you don't know Bryan White, you should. If people were imprisoned for having too much talent, White would be sharing a cell in the Pop Music Wing (all genres) with Glen Campbell and Michael Jackson. I heard a country music legend (can't remember which one) say he couldn't believe all that talent was contained in one person, that of Campbell, and a critic described White as a "90s Glen Campbell." [Side Rant: If you refuse to consider country music real music, I don't care what music you like, or what your opinion is. You don't even have to prefer it, but a priori rejection of it is plain stupid.] Personally, I don't understand how White didn't get even more huge than he is/was. His voice is incredible.
Anybody remember that Little Big Town hit, "Bring It On Home"? A friend was saying the other day that trying to be the savior in a marriage is bound to fail, which I noted well for future reference as a single man. Well, you can't help but note the tragic irony that the man singing the lead vocals for Little Big Town on that hit was divorced soon after. I don't know if that means love is way different than how love songs portray it, or if people are just too small to hold on to it. Probably both. In any case, I rejoice that even though I may not be a singing sensation, my time will come.
I still refuse to be cynical about love or love songs. They are the easiest to write. Just ask Babyface. Or Lionel Richie. And scores of others.
Bad internet has kept me from posting, but it's that time again! Oh, yes. A snarky top 5 list! And so:

Still Five More Ways To Tell You've Spent Too Much Time at Christ Our King in Columbia, MO:

5. You think Israel was formed into the twelve tribes somewhere in West Virginia.

4. You wear a clerical robe while grilling hamburgers.

3. "This IS your grandmother's church!" and you are happy about that.

2. You hear a story about the nightlife of Copenhagen, Denmark...and it's not a joke.

1. You sing the three-fold Amen after changing the oil on your car. (Thanks, Jamie.)
A Protestant Reflection On The Catholic Eucharist

I molest him not
Whose pious senses
Incline him to destroy
The skeptic’s errand-boy,

And no more just occasion
For this noble refutation
Doth time and grace afford
Than at the Table,
The Table of the Lord.

Ah, noble Mystery
The fulcrum of History
Finished there
Present here
“Proclaim!” doth it declare.

A danger it is not
A snare it is not.
Though such Faith, not all queries
Doth it deflect,
To receive Our Lord, who can object?

Friday, July 10, 2009

I have a confession to make. You know that show on the Catholic network (EWTN) called The Journey Home? I often watch it. I like it. I have for quite some time. Somewhat more scandalously, I've wanted to be a guest on the show. It's a show about former Protestants (I think also wayward "cradle Catholics") who come back to the Catholic Church. Even were I not considering such a move--which I cannot deny--it would be enjoyable for two reasons: 1. If you want to see passionate, Christ-like Catholics, watch this show. 2. If you've ever suspected that your Protestant church's theology is a bunch of convenient, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist nonsense, watch this show. [Sidebar rant: If you equate "fundamentalist" with voting Republican and/or being a moral traditionalist, I am NOT on your side.] The subtitle of the show could be "Pesky, Inconvenient Truths From Sane Christian People." In defense of non-loony Protestantism, many of these people could have saved themselves lots of trouble being conservative Anglicans, Presbyterians, or Lutherans. These converts do tend to be from the oddball wing of non-denominational Christianity. Easy pickings. On the other hand, this show would surely disabuse you of the notion that Catholics don't read, care about, or know Scripture. I'm just telling you straight up: Catholics who disdain/disobey/ignore Scripture are bad Catholics; they are not representative. That's also what I love about this show: I once thought Protestant=zealous for Christ, Catholic=lukewarm nominalism. Lies! All lies! Glory be!
All that is to say, while I remain skeptical of certain Catholic distinctives, (Mary, papacy/succession, Eucharist?) it is foolish for me to believe that a fully-orbed Catholic faith keeps one from Christ. The opposite is rather the case.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

For your enjoyment, a poker haiku, more specifically, one devoted to the popular game Texas Hold 'Em:

You Cracked My Aces

You cracked my Aces
With a river spade flush King
You lucky donkey.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Five More Ways To Tell You’ve Spent Too Much Time At Christ Our King In Columbia, MO

5. You think pie-eating is a sacrament.

4. The words, “beer,” “hot tub,” and “politics” sound like a good idea for a men’s retreat.

3. Drinking beer and talking theology is a given, not a cutting-edge ministry outreach. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

2. You are convinced that Mark Twain is a saint (in the Catholic sense).

1. You say, “Thanks be to God” after reading a passage of Scripture in your personal devotions.
5 Ways To Tell You’ve Spent Too Much Time At Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Columbia, MO

5. At dinner, you mistakenly recite the Words of Institution upon touching a piece of bread.

4. You intentionally try to pronounce words like “sit” and “being” with that Hannibal accent to sound cooler.

3. It is probable that you know the exact hymn number of at least 35 hymns in the PCA’s Trinity Hymnal.

2. You call up the radio station to request the Gloria Patri, hymn #732.

1. You’ve heard the phrase “large and startling figures” in a sermon at least 15 times. (And still haven’t read the book.)

I just realized I could do three more lists like this easy, and I probably will.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I'm angry today. Have you seen these Scientology commercials? "You're not your fears, you're not your failures..." Or something like, "Everyone feels that void they can't explain...and it can only be filled by one thing: the truth." Do you know why I'm angry? Two reasons:

1. They're effective; and

2. They use "evangelical-speak."

Watch one; you'll see that it's hard to disagree with any of the sentiments in them. Of course, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) so that's infuriating. This all says to me that we evangelicals need to stop evangelizing in the manner where feelings are the primary measurement of spiritual need. Or spiritual anything. Because if the language of feelings can be so easily co-opted as we see here, we might convince someone [Crap, it's on again!] of his need, but we won't persuade anyone in terms of the objective Kingdom reality wrought by God in Jesus Christ. I suppose it's somewhat of a fine line; if you don't connect at all subjectively, noone will trust you.
But it brings home the reality of the need for first principles, natural law, and reason. All Christians want to insist that we don't do "church" so that we simply have the means to make it through life. But that's what all this therapeutic, feelings-based preaching has done. Do we know that we have made scores of people vulnerable to appeals like what Scientology is making, because our presentations of "the gospel" are either entirely composed of subjective practical appeals, or spiritualized appeals to feelings, which yields the same result. One doesn't realize it's a Scientology commercial until the end, when it gives the web address. Suppose you didn't know Scientology was a weird, New Age-y cult. For all you know, "" is the website for the megachurch down the street! It may be a rant for another day, but apparently, "outreach" is so important that we're too cool to put "Jesus Christ" in the name of our church. We wouldn't want to scare the "seekers" away, after all! Quick, someone make sure that guy gets a latte before he goes in the sanctuary! (Now, if the Lord leads you to serve coffee for people at your church, I'm not against it per se.) Forget it, it's a top 5 list:

5 Reasons I Hate Being An American Evangelical

5. We come into worship talking about a mighty, holy God, but we try to make the whole experience as comfortable and normal as possible.

4. Jesus offended people for their sake, but we can't do that. I mean, what if they leave?!

3. Sure, worship is about God, but if the dude on piano or guitar does a killer amazing job, we have to applaud, right?! It'd be too hard to encourage him after we're done worshipping. See "Children in Worship" also.

2. Other Christians are misguided brothers with wrong theology, never mind that 85 percent of us don't know our church's theology. Catholics of course are Pharisees and idolaters. Right?!

1. We wouldn't want to do the sacraments, er, I mean ordinances, too often. We wouldn't want people getting totally lost in worshipping Christ or anything. After all, everyone with half a brain knows they're just symbols, right? Right?!