And Another Thing…

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Priorities and Preachers

A recent opinion piece by Tamie Ross in the Christian Chronicle gave me pause, primarily because it stirred up some less-than-pleasant memories of my own as well as recollections that have been shared with me by friends who are church-supported ministers.

The article focuses on the way that ministers’ families are often treated by churches.  She relates the feeling that many ministers’ spouses and children have of being constantly held under a spotlight and judged: on their behavior, their appearance, and other details.  Often, the pressure on the minister’s family is greater than the pressure on the minister.  Lest I be accused of exaggeration, I share this story: a friend of mine was once told by a member of the congregation where he preached that he (the member) voted to hire my friend because he (the member) thought that my friend had a hot wife. Sound criteria for selecting a spiritual leader, huh? I don’t know what bothers me more: that a brother could think that way or that he would feel comfortable admitting to it other than as a confession.

As appalling as that story is, I think that it is symptomatic of a much larger problem: the ever-expanding discrepancy between what we do want from our ministers and what we should want from our ministers, and how we treat them as a result. Consider the following:

·        A friend of mine who recently completed a long search for his first preaching job was requested by almost every church where he applied to send a picture of himself and his family along with the usual materials that one would submit for an interview. Certain questions spring to mind: Could a potential employer in any other profession get away with such a request? Why the picture of the family? Did they want to make sure that his kids all looked like him? That nobody in the family was ugly or deformed?  This friend also shared that during one interview he was asked who he voted for in the last presidential election. I will leave it to the reader to contemplate the implications of that question.

·        Two friends who are single (egad!) have shared their stories about trying to find a ministry position without a family as a selling point.  Both of these guys are committed believers, diligent students of the Word, and gifted preachers. Both of them have found over the years that most churches are indifferent to the qualifications listed above because they do not have a ring on the third finger of their left hands.

·        Look at the job listings for ministers from any brotherhood periodical or Christian college website: almost all of them require a wife and children.  What if a preacher or his wife happens to be sterile? Does that mean that they have no favor with God?

·        Another preacher I know had corrective surgery on his jaw (as a result of a childhood birth anomaly). His jaw was to be wired shut for six weeks and of course, preaching during that time was out of the question. The elders’ response? They promised to pray for his recovery and then fired him.

·        Take a look at this excerpt posted on Mike Cope’s blog from an ad in the Chronicle.

I could go on, but I believe that you get the point. 

These stories and others that I have heard and seen leave me convinced that many churches have added to, warped, modified, and knotted up the expectations of ministers to the point where the job descriptions given by most churches bear almost no resemblance to Scripture (see 2 Cor. 5:20, Eph. 4:11, 2 Tim. 4:5, 1 Thes. 3:2, etc.).  We don’t want pastors, we want politicians.  We want them to look like TV newscasters, have a pretty and compliant wife, and kids straight out of a 50s sitcom.  Rather than modeling the power, redemption, joy, renewal, and depth of life in Christ, we want them to model middle-class homogeneity, upward mobility, and comfort.

      I am trying hard not to generalize. Note that not once have I used the words all, every, or always in reference to churches. I know that there are many ministers out there who work for congregations that love them, their families, and sincerely appreciate the work that they do. Praise God for that. However, I believe that the problems described in the preceding paragraphs are common enough to warrant some long-overdue attention. Our priorities on this matter need some serious reshuffling.

What about you, gentle reader? Have you seen or heard about any incidents like what I described above? More importantly, what will it take to instate some genuine and broad changes on this issue?  Comments are encouraged.  (Please be discreet enough to protect the confidentiality of those involved.) Peace.

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Filed under: Faith and Religion, Rants

Couldn’t have said it better myself, so I am not going to try

Jared Dockery, a friend of mine from college, wrote this.  He is now a doctoral student in history at the University of Arkansas. I think what he has written bears consideration from all believers. Jared’s blog can also be viewed on my blogroll.

Filed under: Faith and Religion

Dressing and discretion

They are not something most of us pay any attention to. However, today in the store, while I was looking down at a book in my hands, I couldn’t help but notice a woman walking by wearing flip-flops on the most diseased-looking pair of feet I have ever seen. Her heels were so crusted in dead skin that she looked like she had been walking in shredded coconut. Her toenails were yellowed and jagged-looking; I bet she could have used those things to climb the sheer face of a cliff. What is more, she had maybe a dozen scabs climbing up her ankles. Mercifully, she was wearing pants so I didn’t see how high up the scabs went. I don’t know this lady and I am reluctant to pass judgment on her. Yet, I cannot help but wonder if it is too much to ask that people practice some discretion in what they wear. I wonder if this lady was getting dressed this morning and said, “Hey, I bet everyone I run into wants to see my crusted-up feet!”

Another group I wonder about is people who wear flip-flops to work and to church. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in dressing comfortably for work and worship. 90% of the jobs out there don’t really call for a dress or coat and tie. I also don’t buy into the “wear your best for God” mentality. Worship assemblies are not fashion shows and God is not “located” in a church building. But is it really such a burden to wear real shoes to church or work? You could even wear a decent pair of sandals, but $3 flip-flops? Are shoes so stifling that they interfere with one’s work or ability to worship? Right now I know that somebody is out there saying, “Hey, I bet Jesus wore sandals to temple!” But Jesus and his contemporaries didn’t really have a choice, did they?

Finally, even though I touched on this in my old blog, I have to say once again that I am sick of seeing fat people in skimpy clothing. Yes, I am speaking to my own kind here. There is a good reason that I wear comfort-fit clothes. I am perfectly aware that nobody wants to see my rolls, nooks, and crannies which is why I wear clothes that cover them! Why can’t other heavy people follow suit? Ignore the fashion trends; nobody wants to see the outline of your gut or the wobbly parts of your backside. Don’t believe the hype; there is nothing sexy about rolls of pasty flesh popping out of your high-cut shirt or low-cut pants or short shorts. (An aside to my fellow hairy men: enough with the tank tops! Nobody wants to see your hair vest! If you walk into a zoo like that, somebody is liable to throw a net over you.)

I leave it with you, gentle readers. Am I being ridiculous? Stodgy? Old-fashioned? What are some of the more appalling fashion mis-statements that you have seen? Comments are always welcomed.

Filed under: Rants

What’s in a name? A difficult childhood, for one thing.

My lovely wife sent me this story. Please read it before proceeding.

 

Alright, I think the time has come to declare some of the names that people give to their children to be abusive. “4Real”? What would be this kid’s chances of getting through school without a weekly beating? Not to mention the constant teasing and ridicule he would have to endure. Will his nickname be “4” or “Real”? If the parents win this case, they might as well make his middle name, “No, Really,” because that is what he is going to be saying after he introduces himself for the rest of his life. Can you imagine putting that name on a job application? What is going to happen when he is old enough to date? The scariest part is wondering what they will name the next child.

 The father justifies this choice by saying, “With this name, everyone knows what it means.”  I wonder if he is considering what people will think it means about the child’s parents.

Filed under: Uncategorized

And they say the western is dead…

Here is one that I am looking forward to…

Filed under: Movies, Uncategorized

Nicholas Cage puts viewers through hell in “Ghost Rider”

Recently, I had the opportunity to see Ghost Rider for free, so I took it. I’m glad I did for two reasons: 1) it is entertaining for all of the wrong reasons, and 2) I would have hated to have spent money on it.

            For those not in the know, Ghost Rider was a superhero comic published by Marvel Comics back in the 70s.  The film begins by telling us that every generation has a “Ghost Rider” who functions as the devil’s bounty hunter. However, the old west Ghost Rider apparently stole a contract for 1000 souls (The contract of San Venganza) and disappeared with them. Then the story picks up with Johnny Blaze, a teenager who along with his dad does motorcycle stunts in a carnival. Dear old Dad develops cancer and Satan (here known as “Mephistopheles”), having possessed Peter Fonda (Mephistofonda…get it?), comes along and offers to cure Dad’s cancer in exchange for Johnny’s soul. Johnny signs the contract (in blood, no less) and the next morning Dad is fine. Unfortunately, Mephistofonda did not make Johnny’s dad a better stunt rider and Dad buys the farm in his next stunt. Needless to say, Johnny is both surprised and upset at getting hosed by the Evil One but Mephistofonda will not let him out of the deal. He warns Johnny that he will return someday to collect.  Anyway, Johnny takes off on his bike, leaving behind his girlfriend Roxanne, who doesn’t have to sell her body to the night.

            Next thing we know, its 20 or so years later and Johnny has suffered part of the curse by turning into Nicholas Cage. Johnny is now a world-famous stunt rider known for his death-defying leaps and apparent disregard for his own life. Blackheart, Mephistofonda’s equally demonic son, arrives on Earth in the form the pot-dealing kid from American Beauty. However, Blackheart isn’t too mellow as he goes about killing people looking for the contract of San Venganza. We know Blackheart is bad because he is pale and dresses like he is from New York City. For some unexplained reason, the contract of San Venganza will give the possessor enough power to be the new king of hell, and Evil ONe, Jr. wants to depose his dad.  Mephistofonda decides it’s time for Johnny to pay up by stopping Blackheart. This is bad timing as Johnny has recently re-kindled his romance with Roxanne (now played by the hot but seriously lethargic Eva Mendes). Despite Johnny’s protests Mephistofonda insists, so Johnny’s motorcycle catches fire, his skins burns off (along with Cage’s no doubt expensive hair piece) and now Johnny is the Ghost Rider. What follows is a series of action set pieces powered by CGI, really lame acting, and some of the hokiest pseudo-Biblical dialogue to ever cross the silver screen. Also, Sam Elliot shows up and stretches himself by playing a grizzled, drawling, cowboy type known as Caretaker, who works in a cemetery and mentors Johnny.  Some of the biggest howlers in the dialogue include Johnny saying of Mephistofonda, “He may have my soul, but he doesn’t have my spirit.” What? And then Caretaker explains that even though Johnny sold his soul, he did it for the right reason, so God is on his side. I am going to go out on a limb and call that bad theology.  The movie violates its own rules and contradicts itself. At one point, Caretaker warns Johnny to stay in the cemetery because the demons can’t step on hallowed ground. About 20 minutes later, we see them in a Catholic church looking for the contract.

            Cage plays Johnny with a credible southern accent, but every time he opened his mouth all I could think of was him playing “Tiny Elvis” on Saturday Night Live or H.I. in Raising Arizona. I kept waiting for him to say, “Look at those demons, they’re huge!” It would have really helped the movie if Holly Hunter had shown up and told him to get her a baby or John Goodman had popped up from the ground screaming, “!@%$&!, you never leave a man behind!”

            Unfortunately, we get no such delights and have to settle for the so-bad-it’s-good spectacle.  What is just bad is the closing music, which is a synth-heavy club remix of “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”  And it is just as bowel-lubricating as it sounds.

Filed under: Movies, , , , , , , ,

When a picture really is worth a 1000 words…

political-promises.jpg

Filed under: Politics

Because nobody demanded it

That’s right kids, I am back in the game and ready to party. After spending a year working full-time, going to school part-time, interning two days a week, teaching a class at church, buying and moving in to a new home, and preparing for a wedding, I find that I suddenly have time on my hands again. The internship is over (I passed), the moving is done, and the wedding has come and gone (it went great and we couldn’t be happier).  I will spend this summer working and enjoying the married life…and blogging of course. I am trying to hold myself to a commitment to blog at least once per week. I don’t see the point of having a blog if you don’t use it at least semi-regularly. So drop by once in a while for the latest and for a helping of my mental by-products. Peace.

Filed under: Uncategorized

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