Thinking Out Loud

January 19, 2018

Sermon by Example

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:16 am

We posted this three years ago and I think it’s truer now than it was then. We’ve all been preached to. We long to be shown rather than told. We’re looking to see truth caught rather than taught.

The blog which we sourced this from originally is no longer in service, so I thought we’d help keep this alive by running it here one more time.  According to Wikipedia, Edgar Albert Guest “was a prolific English-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the People’s Poet. His poems often had an inspirational and optimistic view of everyday life.”

 

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.

I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advise you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind
Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.
And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way.

One good man teaches many, men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told.
Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language which to every one is clear.
Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say,
I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.

~Edgar A. Guest

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January 18, 2018

Blogger’s Book Better Late Than Never

Flipping through listings of future publications in the “Religion” category, I was surprised to find a spring listing for a book from Christian blogger Jamie Wright. Though there’s nothing showing on her blog since August of last year, being The Very Worst Blogger would be an appropriate addition to her collection of “worsts.” I wondered if people would remember her after all these years.

Like the blog, the book is titled The Very Worst Missionary and is being distributed by no less than Penguin Random House. With an April 3rd release date — just after Easter — the book will appear under PRH’s Converge Books imprint, a parking place for anything Christian that’s edgy. Yeah, they got that right. Totally candid, brutally honest, and wonderfully transparent.

Earlier today I browsed this blog’s archives for references to Jamie Wright only to find too many indexed to follow up on all of them. But this should give you an idea; a 2013 piece on being the parent of three teenage boys, simply titled Sex.  [Warning: Explicit language.]

…I believed that sex was the best thing I had to offer the world. It was the only thing about me worth loving. And I learned, too young, that I could leverage sex to get what I wanted. My female parts had become my greatest asset.

Then I found my way into the Church, 19 with a baby on my hip, and while I lingered on the outskirts of the Christian bubble, guess what I learned… I learned I was right! Apparently, even God was super concerned with my vagina, and where it had been, and what it had touched. Apparently, my genitals were like a portal that led straight to my soul. I had been muddied – and everybody knows that once you muck up clean water, you can’t unmuck it.

It took me a lot of years and a lot of conversations with God (and with people who know more about God than me) to understand that everything I believed about my own sexuality was built on two huge lies.The first comes from our culture, and it tells us that sex outside of marriage isn’t a big deal.

The second is from the Church, and it tells us that sex outside of marriage is the biggest deal of all the deals ever.

One allowed me to give it away freely, convinced I would carry no burden. The other forced me to carry a spirit crushing load.

Both are complete crap.

Now that we’ve shocked a few of you, for me the real gold to be mined in Jamie’s blog are some pieces she wrote on short-term missions, as seen through the eyes of full-time career missionaries in Costa Rica; like this 2012 piece, Hugs for Jesus:

…We ended up shooting an impromptu interview with this group of college aged youth, who’d come from all over North America and Europe. We asked them simple questions like who they were, what they were doing, and what they hoped to accomplish by giving out hugs on the streets of Costa Rica. I can say they were at least able to tell us their own names with confidence – beyond that, it was obvious that none of them was really sure why they were here or what they were doing. One girl even admitted that she wasn’t even a Christian when she arrived in the field, and that her Mom had signed her up (As a missionary! On a missions trip!!) without her knowledge.

We asked them, “If someone accepted a hug and was so moved by said hug (and subsequently knowing that Jesus loved them) and they wanted more information, what would you do?”

And they weren’t really sure.

So we helped them out with a suggestion, “Would you, y’know, maybe refer them to a local church?”

“Oh, yes! Yes. For sure. We would refer them to a church.”

Cool. Which church?

“Oh. Costa Rica has tons of great churches.”

OK. Do you know what any of them are called? Or where they are?

“Well… No. But, they’re everywhere around here.”

Oookaaay… Do you go to a church here? Like, a church that you could invite people to attend?

“Um…yeah. Hey, you guys? What’s that church we go to? Like, on Sundays. What’s it called again?”

So you don’t even know where YOU go to church?

And then, a leader came up and tapped her watch and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but we’ve got to go do… a…thing…” And then they split.

Jamie Wright

A little later that year, after quoting Luke 10 where Jesus sends out his version of a missions team, Healthy Short Term Missions? Do it Like Jesus, she noted:

Where Jesus appointed, we take volunteers.

Where Jesus sent pairs, we send herds.

Where Jesus admonished for danger and quiet humility along the road, we opt for vacation destinations and loud self-congratulations.

Where Jesus asks to be bringers of peace, we often bring chaos.

Where Jesus designed an opportunity for a disciple to lean into a new family, learn a new culture, and serve under the head of a household (who best knows his own need), we march in with a plan and the resources to git’er’done – completely missing out on the gift of being “a worker worth his wages”.

What if the original picture of “short-term teams” was meant to show us this valuable step in the process of discipleship, where we can learn dependence on God, love for others, and how to serve

And what if we’ve taken that picture and turned it into a billion dollar industry, creating dependence among the poor – not on God – but on the ourselves, damaging Christ’s image in the world, and missing the point entirely?

That’s the type of thing I’m looking forward to see reach a wider audience this spring. Whether or not I’ll get to review the book here, I don’t know; I have no contacts at Converge Books.

But I’m also looking forward to the first type of writing we quoted first. That’s what Jamie is all about. And that’s why I think she’s the very best missionary.  


Publisher marketing:

…As a quirky Jewish kid and promiscuous punkass teen, Jamie Wright never imagines becoming a Christian, let alone a Christian missionary. She is barely an adult when the trials of motherhood and marriage put her on an unexpected collision course with Jesus. After finding her faith at a suburban megachurch, Jamie trades in the easy life on the cul-de-sac for the green fields of Costa Rica. There, along with her family, she earnestly hopes to serve God and change lives. But faced with a yawning culture gap and persistent shortcomings in herself and her fellow workers, she soon loses confidence in the missionary enterprise and falls into a funk of cynicism and despair.

Nearly paralyzed by depression, yet still wanting to make a difference, she decides to tell the whole, disenchanted truth: Missionaries suck and our work makes no sense at all! From her sofa in Central America, she launches a renegade blog, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and against all odds wins a large and passionate following. Which leads her to see that maybe a “bad” missionary–awkward, doubtful, and vocal—is exactly what the world and the throngs of American do-gooders need.

The Very Worst Missionary is a disarming, ultimately inspiring spiritual memoir for well-intentioned contrarians everywhere…


Sharing the Sriracha bottle left to right: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sarah Bessey and Jamie Wright at a Meatball Bar (whatever that is) in early 2014. I thought the only progressive Christian female writer (at the time) missing was Rachel Held Evans. (It’s amazing what you find in your photo file.)

 

January 17, 2018

Wednesday Link List

Panama Clerical Shirt: What pastors wear on vacation.

These lists are different each week, and this time around, the first few offer some brain-stretching opportunities to think about doctrine and theology. Plus as an extra exercise in equal time, many of these are from Reformed/Calvinists sources. See…we can play nice, sometimes.

Comics: Mary Worth, 2016 (upper), Bizarro, 2018 (lower)

Digging a Little Deeper

From the creator of Thinking Out Loud, check out Christianity 201. Guaranteed distraction-free faith blogging with fresh posts every day. www.Christianity201.wordpress.com

January 16, 2018

Remembering Edwin Hawkins

Filed under: Christianity, music — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:30 am

If it was the musical Godspell that inspired me that contemporary music could be used to present a Christian narrative, then it was the Edwin Hawkins update of the classic hymn, “Oh Happy Day” which convinced me as a young kid that a Christian message in music could have a place on pop radio stations, especially with contemporary Christian radio being non-existent in 1968. With the chorus lyrics intact, this melody and arrangement was quite different than the version we sung at the Sunday evening services of my youth. From that point on, I felt the possibilities were endless.

Edwin Hawkins died yesterday at age 74.

The song was originally recorded as one of eight songs on an album by Hawkins’ group, The Northern California State Youth Choir. When local radio station KSAN in San Francisco started playing it, the song was picked up by Pavillion Records and distributed by pop music label Buddah — insert reference to the irony here — with the artist designation as “Edwin Hawkins Singers.” The lead vocal is by gospel singer Dorothy Combs Morrison. It’s a song of testimony and both the traditional and modern versions have been used in baptismal services, and for many it served as an introduction to the mass choir genre of gospel music.

An obituary at National Public Radio (NPR) notes, “Throughout his career, Edwin Hawkins won a total of four Grammys, and he was voted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2007.”

He taught me how
To watch and pray
And live rejoicing
Every day…
…Oh happy day…

 

Martin Luther King: The Next Day

I’m finding myself left with the impression that the day in celebration of the life and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr., rather than diminishing with the passing of years, is only growing stronger. Furthermore, there seems to be an embrace of the day by many outside the African-American community. If you missed my reference on Twitter, be sure to check out the excellent message given by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek on Sunday about the life of Dr. King.

Below is about half of a devotional I received yesterday in email. It was the day’s selection from a devotional service I subscribe to, Devotions Daily from Faith Gateway. The quotes were compiled by Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and sourced at a 2014 Zondervan book, King Rules: Ten Truths for You, Your Family, and Our Nation to Prosper.

What Would MLK Tweet? 22 Inspiring Quotes & Prayers from MLK

  • I’m just a symbol of a movement. I stand there because others helped me to stand there, forces of history projected me there.
  • Heavenly Father, thank You for life, health, rewarding vocations, and peaceful living in this turbulent society.
  • God, teach us to use the gift of reason as a blessing, not a curse.
  • God, bring us visions that lift us from carnality and sin into the light of God’s glory.
  • Agape love, repentance, forgiveness, prayer, faith: all are keys to resolving human issues.
  • God, deliver us from the sins of idleness and indifference.
  • Lord, teach me to unselfishly serve humanity.
  • Lord, order our steps and help us order our priorities, keeping You above idols and material possessions, and to rediscover lost values.
  • Lord Jesus, thank You for the peace that passes all understanding that helps us to cope with the tensions of modern living.
  • Creator of life, thank You for holy matrimony, the privilege You grant man and wife as parents to aid You in Your creative activity.
  • Dear Jesus, thank You for Your precious blood, shed for the remission of our sins. By Your stripes we are healed and set free!
  • Dear God, You bless us with vocations and money. Help us to joyfully and obediently return tithes and gifts to You to advance Your Kingdom.
  • Deliver us from self-centeredness and selfish egos. Dear Heavenly Father, help us to rise to the place where our faith in You, our dependency on You, brings new meaning to our lives.
  • God, help us to believe we were created for that which is noble and good; help us to live in the light of Your great calling and destiny.
  • Lord, help me to accept my tools, however dull they are; and then help me to do Your will with those tools. [Paraphrased]
  • Our Father God, above all else save us from succumbing to the tragic temptation of becoming cynical.
  • God, let us win the struggle for dignity and discipline, defeating the urge for retaliatory violence, choosing that grace which redeems.
  • Remove all bitterness from my heart and give me the strength and courage to face any disaster that comes my way.
  • God, thank You for the creative insights of the universe, for the saints and prophets of old, and for our foreparents.
  • God, increase the persons of goodwill and moral sensitivity. Give us renewed confidence in nonviolence and the way of love as Christ taught.
  • Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the ministering, warring, and worshipping angels You send to help keep and protect us in all our ways.
  • We are all one human race, destined for greatness. Let us live together in peace and love in a Beloved Community.
  • Have faith in God. God is Love. Love never fails. It is our prayer that we may be children of light, the kind of people for whose coming and ministry the world is waiting. Amen. 

January 15, 2018

Another Reason the Kids Aren’t at Church

Looks like nearly half of the 15 kids in this class are on their way to a ‘perfect attendance’ award; leading some Children’s Ministry directors to suspect this image is more fantasy than reality in many of our churches.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Sunday School classrooms were adorned with attendance charts with stickers applied for each Sunday kids were present. Today, those charts would be rather spotty as church attendance has suffered greatly over the past 20 years.

Back then we also were graded on a weekly point system with points applied for:

  • being present
  • being on time
  • bringing your Bible
  • bringing some money for offering
  • knowing the memory verse
  • completing the lesson in the “quarterly” (often done in the car en route to church)1
  • staying for “big church” afterwards

The Christian Education (CE) curricula of those days weren’t perfect, perhaps; but over a 3-4 year cycle we were exposed to the major body of Christian literature. Today I’m grateful to be Biblically literate2 and especially for the verses committed to memory, something harder to accomplish as you get older.

So why aren’t the kids showing up more consistently these days? In past writing and discussion I’ve always isolated two reasons:

  • Sports: Sunday morning and midweek programs for kids and teens is taking a major hit because of scheduling of competitions and practices involving soccer, baseball, swimming, gymnastics and for those of us in Canada, hockey.
  • Shift Work: Families with a single vehicle find it impossible3 to get to church if someone has to work a Sunday morning shift (or is coming off a midnight shift).

However, in a discussion last week with a CE specialist — today sometimes referred to as a KidMin specialist — I realized I was completely overlooking a significant factor.

  • Custody Arrangements: When spending the weekend with one parent, church is part of the package, but the other parent doesn’t attend, so on those weeks the kids don’t get to connect.

I asked this person how many children in her program would be affected by this, and she said, “20 percent; adding, “I have kids for whom I’ll put some extra weeks of material together for them to take home, knowing I may not see them for a few weeks.”

(Related: If you missed our 3-part series on divorce, guest-written by a youth ministry specialist, click this link.)

We don’t have room to get into this here, but statistically, if the male parent takes the kids, there is greater likelihood of the children continuing to attend church as adults.4

Either way, not only do the kids miss the benefits of the lessons presented, but they also miss the more consistent contact with their church friends, often the only Christian friends they have. By the end of my junior year in high school (Grade 11 for my Canadian readers5) my friends were largely church friends, not school or part-time-job friends. If weekend services are missed, but they get to a solid midweek program at the church, much is redeemed, but the same factors (shift work, custody, and especially, sports) play havoc with those as well.

Then there is the issue of blended families. One parent may wish to take his children or her kids to church on Sunday morning, but the other kids weren’t raised with it. Just as water seeks its lowest level, I think you know that this might easily end up with the church-raised kids wanting to opt out for whatever reason.6

With the divorce rate showing no sign of changing, this is going to continue to be a challenge facing the church at large.7 You can’t have teens leaving church who were rarely there to begin with. 

If yours is a traditional family, encourage your kids to build friendships with those whose attendance is sporadic because of any of the three issues mentioned at the top of the article and then offer to pick up these kids and drive them to church yourselves.

 


1 If the church could afford the lesson books for each kid. Our church did for awhile, but we used a 6-point evaluation system, and I’m not sure which one in the list wasn’t included. Today, the cash cow for curriculum developers is VBS, and I suspect that many churches pour a lot of their CE budget there, instead of on weekly lesson workbooks.

2 Somewhat Biblically literate, that is; please don’t challenge me to a Bible trivia contest. For some reason I do not fare well at those.

3 Even if the parents weren’t attending, getting the kids to Sunday School was easier when there was a church bus available. Today, the phrase ‘church bus’ is a bit of an anachronism.

4 Focus on the Family did this research in the 1990s, I think. Extrapoloating from this, I’ve developed a theory that it’s equally important for kids to have memories of the male parent reading. (Related, see this item re. Bill Hybels’ ‘Chair Time’ concept.)

5 The American system of ‘freshman, sophomore, junior, senior’ is now under attack because of the men in freshman. To non-Americans, junior would tend to imply the first year of high school or college.

6 In some middle school and high school communities, it isn’t cool to go to church. But churches such as North Point have created curricula that the kids and teens find to be the highlight of their week. They can’t wait to get there each weekend.

7 For more about the impact of kids being shuttled back and forth between custodial parents, check out the 2008 Abingdon title, The Switching Hour.

 

January 14, 2018

China: Freedom of Religion in Theory, Not in Practice

From The Independent (UK):

Chinese authorities blow up Christian megachurch with dynamite

Chinese authorities have demolished a well-known Christian megachurch, inflaming long-standing tensions between religious groups and the Communist Party.

Witnesses and overseas activists said the paramilitary People’s Armed Police used dynamite and excavators to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, which has a congregation of more than 50,000, in the city of Linfen in Shaanxi province.

ChinaAid, a US-based Christian advocacy group, said local authorities planted explosives in an underground worship hall to demolish the building following, constructed with nearly $2.6m (£1.9m) in contributions from local worshippers in one of China’s poorest regions.

The church had faced “repeated persecution” by the Chinese government, said ChinaAid. Hundreds of police and hired thugs smashed the building and seized Bibles in an earlier crackdown in 2009 that ended with the arrest of church leaders.

Those church leaders were given prison sentences of up to seven years for charges of illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order, according to state media.

There are an estimated 60 million Christians in China, many of whom worship in independent congregations like the Golden Lampstand… But the surging popularity of non-state-approved churches has raised the ire of authorities, wary of any threats to the officially atheist Communist Party’s rigid political and social control.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed under China’s constitution, so local authorities are often seen as using technicalities to attack unregistered churches. Charges of land or building violations and disturbing the peace are among the most common…

“A Christian offered his farmland to a local Christian association and they secretly built a church using the cover of building a warehouse,” a government department official was quoted as saying. Religious groups must register with local religious affairs authorities under Chinese law, the report said, adding the church was illegally constructed nearly a decade ago in violation of building codes…

Read the full story at The Independent

In this image taken from video shot Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, by China Aid and provided to the Associated Press, people watch the demolition of the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen in northern China’s Shanxi province. Witnesses and overseas activists say paramilitary troops known as the People’s Armed Police used excavators and dynamite on Tuesday to destroy the Golden Lampstand Church, a Christian mega-church that clashed with the government.

This was the second of two recent demolitions. The Express (UK) reports,

China demolishes second church as fears of crackdown against Christianity grow

…A Catholic church in the neighbouring province of Shaanxi was also reportedly demolished last month, 20 years after it originally opened.

China guarantees freedom of religion but authorities heavily regulate many aspects of religious practice…

…According to China Aid, a Texas-based Christian human rights organisations, congregation members were beaten by 400 officials during an incident in September 2009 which resulted in church leaders receiving lengthy prison sentences on charges such as assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic and illegally occupying agricultural land.

Bob Fu, founder of China Aid, said: “I think this might be a new pattern against any independent house churches with an existing building or intention to build one.

“It also could be a prelude to enforcing the new regulation on religious affairs that will take effect in February.”

Chinese authorities have taken a harder line against practicing Christianity since 2013.

Officials launched a sweeping crackdown on churches in Zhejiang province that accelerated in 2015, and more than 1,200 crosses have been removed, according to activists…

…A pastor at a nearby church, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals said there were “more police than I could count” preventing a crowd on onlookers and worshipers from approaching the site.

He said: “My heart was sad to see this demolition and now I worry about more churches being demolished, even my own.

“This church was built in 2008, there’s no reason for them to destroy it now.”


Upper Image: Independent (appears elsewhere credited to Andy Wong/Associated Press)
Lower Image: Religion News Service (China Aid via Associated Press)

January 13, 2018

Growing up in Church: A Common Thread for Child Celebrities

If you’ve ever held a hymnbook in your hand, played on the youth group worship team, or sung in a church music production, you are at a distinct musical advantage compared to the other kids in your class. Doing school drama productions, singing in a couple of middle school choir things, and playing in the school orchestra all certainly furthered my musical education, but going to a large and musically diverse church enriched that education tenfold.

Sometimes more is caught than taught, and that was definitely true in my case. I played in the church orchestra and was pianist for the college and career youth group. The church was the first in Canada to broadcast on television, and regularly did major theatrical-style productions ranging from contemporary to operatic. I also learned about sound, lighting, make-up, camera-blocking, stage set-up, mixing paid musicians with volunteers, and learned about the relationship of all these superficial ingredients to the ultimate end: the communication of a message or story.

BelieberIn the competitive entertain market, such training would put someoune at a distinct advantage. So it’s no surprise that Justin Bieber and Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne and so many others all grew up in church.

Sadly, while they learned a lot about music, they didn’t always fare so well when it came to being prepared to “handle the darts of the enemy.” (Ephesians 6:16) However, I don’t want that remark to appear judgmental. Kids that grow up too fast in the music, TV or film industry face all manner of temptations. Many hit fame too young to have really taken ownership of their faith, let alone grasped the dynamics of spiritual warfare. UK Classical singer Charlotte Church — raised Roman Catholic — said that young female artists were “coerced into sexually demonstrative behaviour in order to hold on to their careers” 1

So the same faith heritage that helps them make it to the head of the class of aspiring singers — perhaps even plants the seed of that desire somehow — isn’t fully developed enough to help withstand the pressures and the success. They got to hone their craft musically, but missed a lot of the warnings, admonitions and proverbial (literally) advice about life in the real world, in fact their careers led to a season of skipping church entirely.

There’s another dynamic to all this also, and that is the what happens when the kids in question have already made a public confession of their faith, or have identified with a church. That was the case originally with Miley Cyrus, but you look at her career in general — and some music videos in particular — the first thing you think about is not the Fruit of the Spirit. When people reach that point, their denominational affiliation becomes more of an embarrassment to the church or pastor than anything.

Next, there is the issue of what happens to the Christian kids who are simply fans; the teens who buy in mostly because of the common faith link they think they have with the actor or musician in question, only to have that belief in that pop star dashed when they crash, as they seem to almost always do. While I’m too old to be star-struck, I always had a personal admiration for how Cliff Richard carried is faith and his fame, but later on, elements of his personal life have forced me to temper that support.

Finally, all this is also a parenting issue. Many of today’s superstars that grew up in church went there because their parents took them. Avril was raised in a Christian school environment about an hour east of where I’m writing this. Justin’s mom has been interviewed on Christian talk shows and had a biography published with Baker Book Group; what did she think as she watched his 2012 arrest reports on television?

So in conclusion? I don’t have one. Each time a new kid on the block scores a number one hit song or a box office smash, we all simply cringe waiting for the inevitable train wreck to happen. There are exceptions, like when child star Angus. T. Jones in the TV hit Two and a Half Men went so far as to stand up to the TV industry and tell viewers to stop watching2, but those exceptions seem few and far between.

I guess we pray.

And if we have kids of our own, we make Justin’s career a teachable moment. Yes, he’s making a much stronger faith identification, but just like the tattoos that don’t come off, or the compromising pictures which will always be on the internet, some damage has been done. 

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be rock stars.

1AdTV
2This blog Nov 27/12

January 12, 2018

Theological Comparisons: What Type of Church Do You Attend?

I’ve been amazed recently at people who attend a church which has a denominational affiliation, but they don’t know what it is. Visiting? Maybe. You’re just passing through. Attending frequently? I would have thought it was a basic question. When it comes to actual doctrines, overarching theology, spiritual values, church culture and core beliefs1 I would think people would want to know where their church fits in across various spectra2 but apparently if the worship is good, the children’s ministry is high quality, and the sermons are engaging, people are happy not knowing whose name is on the door.

A few days ago we asked the question, “What is a Charismatic.” It seems to me that a diligent blogger could start a series on this, “What is a Baptist?” and “What is an Episcopalian?”3 being next in line. Unfortunately I am not that writer. However…

We started the work week on Monday with Michael Patton, so it seemed like a good place to end the work week. First of all, for those of you who are subscribers, I need to clarify something that we updated a few hours after the piece appeared, and that is that Michael’s blog Parchment and Pen migrated to CreedoHouse.org. The specific article, What Does it Mean to Be Charismatic which we quoted, is available in full at this link.

In the interest of getting it right this time, while I couldn’t find the image below at the new site, a full explanation of it appears at this link.

My motivation in all this is often very perfunctory. As regular readers know, I spend at least two days per week serving customers in a Christian retail store. So when the above chart first appeared, I introduced it as follows:

Sometimes, I have to admit, I need to be able to put people into a box.

It’s not that they will necessarily fit into the box comfortably, but frankly it saves time; it lets me know what set of terminology to use; it indicates to me what schools of doctrinal thought are off limits; it helps me find common ground with authors or worship styles or even Bible translation preferences.

This is not good.

However, sometimes it does cut to the chase. Give me some indicators and let me make assumptions. Is that the ESV Study Bible you’re holding? Here’s a new book from John Piper you might enjoy. You attend the Revival Center? You might enjoy the new Jesus Culture album.

Stereotyping, as we once called it; today it’s called profiling.

The same day as that ran, I also ran another chart, this one from Matt Stone. His blog has also migrated, but at the risk of making the same mistake twice, I did more research this time, and the chart can now be located at this link. The new website is called Curious Christian (and he’s still very much into visuals.)


I hope this helps somehow! I realize the title of today’s piece asks a question and only gives you a minimalist framework to formulate an answer, but such as the two graphic images are, they help us get back the superficial (see cartoon above) and think about things in more important terms.


1 This phrase is all about the cadence and rhythm of the sentence. Some of the words themselves are redundant. Speaking of words, it’s interesting that the modern dichotomy of Calvinism and Arminianism is nowhere to be seen in the two graphics.
2 Spectra, as in plural of spectrum. Usually churches can be measured in terms of where they land on the spectrum for three or four major discriminators. Instead of a double-axis graph, picture something that looks more like an asterisk.
3 Or, if you prefer Anglican; but although based in Canada, I’m writing for a dominantly U.S. audience, so Episcopal it is! Some would argue that only those within a particular movement can accurately describe it or write about it. What do you think?

January 11, 2018

Random Thoughts from Lorne: Cultural Differences

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:36 am

After a lifetime in Canada, as of October my friend Lorne has moved to Germany. Despite globalization, the world is not one homogeneous place. There are differences — both subtle and overt — and he’s been blogging them. This link takes you to a precis of all the articles so far.

Windows and Mosquitoes:

…In Canada if a window opens it has a screen. The idea is to allow the air to flow in and keep insects out. Simple really. In Europe, wherever we went there were no screens. Private residence, youth hostel, hotel, bed and breakfast, it made no difference. If we were staying in a 400-year-old chateau I could understand, but some of the places we stayed in were recently renovated. There is no reason the windows couldn’t have been fitted with screens when the renovations were done. Europe has mosquitoes too; I saw them (and felt them). Not to mention the other flying creatures that took advantage of the barrier-free access to check out our room.

I can only assume that European mosquitoes, and whatever the continental equivalent of the black fly is, are much less a nuisance than their Canadian counterparts, so people would rather put up with a little inconvenience rather than going to the trouble of installing window screens. No malaria worries either I presume. But I sense a great business opportunity here, or would if I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body. I suspect someone could make a fortune installing screens to keep the bugs out. All it would take is a few early adopters and you could make enough money to retire…

Gas Stations:

…I already knew gas was cost more than twice what I was used to. It was about two dollars Canadian a liter, call it six American dollars a US gallon.

All these things I knew in advance. What I hadn’t thought about was the payment options. There weren’t any. I don’t mean that there wasn’t the option of cash, debit or credit card. But you had to go into the gas station to pay. No payment at the pump.

In our busy world paying at the pump has become the norm. No time “wasted” going inside and having a human interaction…

Corn Off the Cob:

…I’ve looked in stores from four different grocery chains, and none of them stock frozen corn. There is, to be truthful, canned corn, but I can’t see myself getting that desperate. Canned corn brings back memories from my youth of mushy flavorless yellow things.

It’s not that there is no corn being grown here. Quite the opposite. My unscientific observations would place corn second to grapes as a crop. Maybe that’s why I can’t buy any – you can’t buy local grapes in the grocery store either. Well, you can, but in bottles. The local grapes are all turned into wine; the ones you eat are imported.

I’m told I wouldn’t want to eat the local corn, that it isn’t like Canadian corn. It is grown for animal, not human, consumption and cows have less discriminating palates.

Retail Employee Identification:

…In North America it is common for retail salespeople to wear name tags. Turns out they do in Germany too, but there’s a big difference…

…The name tag humanizes the employee. Angry customers are less likely to scream at Donna or John than at someone whose name they don’t know. That’s my theory anyway; no-one has ever disagreed with me.

The name tag worn by clerks in Germany don’t tell me that I have been served by Hans or Jutta. They inform me that I am being served by Herr Schmidt or Frau Muller. Apparently, things are much more formal here…

Metric, But Unfamiliar:

…Canada switched to the metric system in 1975, so I wasn’t anticipating any problems in the kitchen – I know how metric measurements work. I figured I could read the numbers on the packaging…

…Turns out that in Germany you don’t use amounts when you are cooking, no teaspoons or tablespoons or fractions thereof. Everything is done by weight…

Everything But Including The Kitchen Sink:

…In Germany, when you move, you take everything with you. That includes the kitchen sink and the light fixtures. I was grateful the previous tenants left me the light switches and the smoke detectors (though they took the batteries out).

How do you buy a kitchen? I hadn’t a clue where to start, but I was told to go to IKEA…

…I still can’t get my mind wrapped around this massive kitchen industry. In Canada (and the US) we take what is there when we rent an apartment. If you don’t like the kitchen, you rent somewhere else. Much less fuss and hassle. Here kitchen making is a whole industry. When you move you take your kitchen with you. I presume that you only rent a place that you know you can fit your kitchen into…

More Baking Challenges:

…I’m used to working in metric; it is no big deal.

Except they don’t use milliliters here to measure dry goods. They use grams. Every German kitchen has a scale to weigh things like sugar and flour. You can’t buy a measuring cup or measuring spoons. I know, I looked everywhere…

I did have one measuring cup, the only one I could find. It holds a liter. That’s more than an American quart. And it has different markings on the side; the quantity apparently is different whether you are using flour or sugar. I never worried about that at home; a half-cup is a half-cup, liquid or solid. Never had any problems.

The measuring cup has no marking for powdered sugar, which I was using for the cookies. The sugar box said it held 250 grams. If a gram and a millilitre are more or less the same, which is how I bake in Canada, the box was the perfect amount. Except, when I poured it into the measuring cup to make sure, it showed as 400 milliliters…

…Vanilla is powdered here, not a liquid. Food colouring comes not as a liquid in a jar but a type of paste in a tube. Makes it tougher to figure out if you are low on the stuff. There are multiple different types of flour, identified by number. I haven’t tried to figure those out, I just went with the one that seemed the most popular, figuring that was the equivalent of Canadian “all-purpose” flour. Baking powder comes in little envelopes, just like vanilla.

A Holiday Epiphany:

I knew Saturday was January 6. I knew in the church calendar that is Epiphany, the dated celebrated for the arrival of the Magi. But I’m from Canada; it never occurred to me that the date was important enough to be a holiday.

I had planed on grocery shopping Saturday, picking up some staples like flour and sugar that were depleted during the Christmas baking season. So much for that plan. I would also have bought a liter or two of milk, and perhaps some butter, because we go through a lot of both and the stores aren’t open Sundays. That wasn’t going to happen either…

…Turns out Epiphany isn’t a holiday everywhere in Germany, but it is in this state…supposedly because of a large Roman Catholic population. Turns out Epiphany isn’t the only holiday I am going to have to watch out for.

I knew Labor Day was in May here, not September like it is in Canada. But Ascension Day? Pentecost (and that one the holiday is the Monday since Pentecost is always on Sunday, like Easter). Corpus Christi Day? I definitely see a religious theme to the holidays or maybe I should use the old English, holy days

You can connect to all these pieces in Lorne’s Cultural Differences series using a single link.

 

 

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