Thursday, December 07, 2006

Name Recognition or God's Image.

HI! It's good to be back. I have been off pursuing my new hobby again .

The Barna Group published a new survey while I was gone. This one compared name recognition of several movie stars, political figures, and Christian leaders. The conclusion was that many American Christian Leaders are widely unknown, even among Christians. Evangelicals included in the list included T.D. Jakes, Tim LaHaye, James Dobson, and Rick Warren. All of them fared poorly. Perhaps Christians were more interested in Cultural literacy than in Biblical literacy, the study noted.

As always this was an interesting study. I do have some questions about methodology, however. The Barna Group serves primarily Evangelical and Born Again Christians. Nevertheless, doing a name recognition survey of Christian religious leaders that does not include the Pope, is pushing "validity" awfully hard!

Further, all the highly rated individuals are known more for their work than for their personalities. A notable exception was Britney Spears whose personal life has been rather a mess and who rated poorly. It seems to be the case that when public figures become well known for themselves it is usually because they have been washing their dirty linen in public. Most Christians I know would just as soon not see any more of that.
"For actors and artists, awareness facilitates potential sales. For ministers, awareness fosters influence on lives. A favorable image provides access to people’s minds and hearts more readily." So, concludes the survey.

This worries me. For one thing it is contrary to the plain word of Scripture which says "By their Fruits you will know them," not by their image. For another, name recognition is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. Why do we put our Pastors' names on the bulletin boards outside our Churches?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Orlando Sentinel misses the point

The Orlando Sentinel published last Sunday a column by David Steinmetz, a professor of History of Christianity at Duke. He began by saying "Anglican problems began in 2003 when the Episcopal Church decided to consecrate an openly gay man as bishop...." He concluded with a nice little lecture on why Anglicans really ought to get along better. The whole article had the tone of a wise father seeking to calm a squad of quarrelling children. The problem in that he was wrong at both ends of the column.

Steinmetz is wrong about when Anglican problems began - 1974, when the unlawful ordination of women took place might better be described as a starting point as far as the Episcopal Church is concerned. Anglican theological disputes began with the Reformation continued under Bloody Mary and Elizabeth. These disputes were at the root of Cromwell's rule, and have continued to this day.

Steinmetz has missed the crucial point: Mrs. Jefferts-Schori does not believe the same creed as other Anglicans do. She made that clear in her first address to the assembled General Convention, citing God our mother and Jesus our sister. In the midst of this battle, homosexuality will probably prove to be only a skirmish.

Steinmetz is hardly qualified to lecture Anglicans on how they ought to behave. He is a Professor, someone who studies the Church life as an academic discipline. He does not appear to identify himself as a believer - Anglican, or even Christian. The learned professor who studies the earthworm has absolutely no idea what it means to actually be one.

The key underpinning of Anglican Theology is found in Article 6 of the 39 Articles of Religion:

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

The problems of the Episcopal and Canadian Anglican churches today stem from the simple fact that three generations of clergy, beginning in the 1950's have been taught about Scripture rather than to read, mark, learn, and digest Scripture. This has been the academic approach. It is no wonder the Anglican Communion has problems. Anglicans can survive squabbling. What the communion may not be able to survive is substituting academic perceptions for the Faith once delivered to the Saints.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rosie and Relevance

The folks at the Barma Organization have me thinking again. For one thing they help me to realize that I miss a lot of stuff. Apparently, sometime in September Rosie O'Donnell made a comment that radical Christianity was just as dangerous as radical Islam in a country like ours. Apparently this caused some up roar among the brethren. All this, you understand, is hearsay as far as I am concerned. Rosie and her opinions are far out beyond Pluto on my list of concerns. In a very quick Google search I was able to find a couple of reference to the incident. One was a one of those "radical" Christians expressing his displeasure and the other a Republican site expressing displeasure at Rosie's contributions to the Democrats.

All of this seems to confirm Barma's findings that most Christians, like me, missed the whole thing and the rest really didn't much care.

Having said that, it is worth noting that there is something in Rosie's remarks worth chewing on. Radical Islam and Extreme Right Wing Christianity do have some things in common. Both these movements support the imposition of their moral values by law and enforcement of them by severe civil penalties. More centrist thinkers in both groups recognize that the regulations the radicals would impose are neither scriptural nor particularly consistent with the principles of scripture. Instead they are cultural values drawn out of the failure of the radicals to live successfully in a world which rejects them.

For Christians the battlefield of this issue stretches through centuries. The accounts of the early councils disclose a strikingly un-Christian approach to conflict resolution. The battle continued through the middle ages, the Inquisition, the Reformation, The Council of Trent, The Klan and right into this present day. It is strewn with the bodies of saints who didn't think or act the way others thought they ought to!

For Islam there was an early period of war followed by a long and glorious period of cultural, intellectual and artistic growth and progress. Gradually the more conservative prevailed and the overall cultural development of Islam slowed and virtually stopped. Only where a secular Islamic culture developed did progress take place.

This, of course, is exactly what has happened to us also. Because we are in the midst of it we don't see it as clearly as we do when looking half way around the world. Out society has become increasing secular, and that secular society is responsible for the progress. The Barma Organization has done some interesting research about what Christians really think and believe.

The radicals in both Christianity and Islam denounce secularization. Their concern that it turns people away from God is very real and very valid. The truth that neither group seems to have grasped is that you really can't force people to turn to God. You can kill them, but you can't force them to be good!

No one really knows how many Christians are Right Wing, Centrist, or Liberal. I think it is fair to say that both left and right are real minorities. None of them are truly radical Christians. The really radical Christians are those who wake up some morning; take a look at their lives; and realize, "Hey, this stuff really works!" Then, they go on with their daily lives seeking to know and do God's will; trusting Him to make all things right; and finding that it continues to work.

God, Grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I can not change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference,
that, Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Seeking to know and do your will;
Taking this world as it is, not as I would have it;
and trusting you to make all things right;
So, I may rejoice to serve in your Kingdom,
and in Life everlasting,
through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen

Monday, November 13, 2006

Apologies and Thanks.

I have spent the past week in Doctor land; not as a resident but as one stranded in an airport over night. Occasionally my hobby gets out of hand.

In any case, my sincere apologies to any who have come to read and found only emptiness, and my most sincere thanks to all those who ministered to me and who supported me with their prayers.

God bless and keep you in the hollow of his hand.

Voices crying in the Wilderness

Voices crying in the wilderness.

Throughout this world of ours there are a number of folks trying to tell us something important.. They are like voices crying in the wilderness. Some are shouting "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."Others are somewhat less strident, more of the "You better watch out; you better not cry," variety. A few of us are just grumpy old men and women griping and complaining. All of us are trying to direct your attention to some idea we believe is important for all of us in this society.

It is probably fair, however, to say that most of the Voices Crying in the Wilderness are doing so because we believe it is God's will for us to do so. It is , so to speak, our job. Your job is to listen and to discern what God is saying to you through us. Our prayer is that you may not finiish before we do!

After all those cautionary remarks let me introduce my friend and Father in God, Bishop Philip Weeks, whose blog is now underway at
Over the years he has had many good things to say to me and I commend him as a voice in the wilderness worth listening to.

Remember too, that some of the things we most need to hear are said by those who consider us their enemies. For example, many have cringed when they have heard the mega church movement attacked. Apart from those condemning the movement, there have also been voices questioning whether the whole concept accords with God's will. Anyone who enjoyed the opportunity to worship and be part of one of these communities unually dismissed any and all criticism. And then we have a Haggard flaming burnout. Academics are now wisely stroking their beards and pronouncing the likely (or unlikely) demise of mega churches.

Now we listen, but what we hear is mostly gossip, a lot of it erudite, academic gossip, but gossip none the less. Ought we not to have listened better to the Voices Crying in the Wilderness?

He who has ears to hear, let him listen.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Getting the Vote Out - Getting the Vote Right

The elections are at hand. Can you put aside all the negative advertising? Try. It is all designed to distract from the candidates and issues. Remember, this sort of thing is a Red Herring.

Early voting is available in Florida where I live. I will probably vote this week and avoid the lines on election day.

Probably the most effective thing we can do in an election is pray for guidance in our candidate choice and decision making. God probably won't wake you in the middle of the night to tell you how to vote, but prayer will clarify your thinking, and the guidance will be there.

If you have gone over your sample ballot and scratched out the scoundrels and incompetents; if you have set aside the Red Herrings they are trying to feed you; and, if you have focused on the character of the persons running for office, now you are ready for decision making. Now take a look at the real issues and make up your mind about them. Then vote!

The Hermeneutic of Voting

1. Pray for guidance.
2. Throw the Scoundrels out.
3. Identify and eliminate the Incompetents.
4. Choose the Party or the Person
5. Beware of the Red Herrings
6. Decide the issues
7. Pray for guidance.

God bless and keep these United States of America.

Early Voting

I voted today, using our early voting opportunities. It was an interesting experience. After being identified I was taken to one of the new electronic voting machines. The poll worker entered my precinct and id number and showed me how it worked. I found the machine easy to use. On the way out another poll worker explained how the paper trail worked and how the voting machines were electronically protected.

Of course, this is only Orange County. I don't know what machines are used elsewhere. All of this still requires faith, but it does seem to be an improvement over 2000, 2004, and the vote early and often tactics of my days in Chicago.

Vote - your vote matters!