Thinking Out Loud

June 2, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Our link list artist this week is David Hayward, better known as Naked Pastor.   He actually gave away the original water color of this  last week, so with blog giveaways like that, you might just want to become a regular reader.

Off to the links we go…

  • Rick Apperson reviews basketball fundraiser Austin Gutwein’s Take Your Best Shot, at the blog Just a Thought, while the whole genre — including some video clips of Austin — is examined at Christian Book Shop Talk.   Like Zach Hunter, Austin, pictured at right, got into the whole international relief thing at a very, very young age.  If I were still in youth ministry, I think I would build a whole evening around the videos describing what Zach and Austin are doing.
  • The whole Charismatic thing got started in the 1970s, right?   Not exactly.   If you’ve got some time to invest, Brazillian-born Leo Di Siqueira links to a lengthy article that blows apart the “cessationist” view that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit died off with the first apostles.  Writer Nigel Scotland documents examples of the “miracle” gifts occurring in the first five centures of the church.   The link is approximately a 15-page .pdf file.
  • Garrison Keillor explains the book publishing industry for all the children in the audience who are too young to remember what a book is on the pages of The New York Times.    (Here’s a related piece I wrote at my book industry blog.)
  • John Freeman at Ligoner Ministries suggests a balanced approach to dealing with the issue of homosexuality specifically and sexual sins in general; meanwhile…
  • …”When Ray Boltz and Azariah Southworth perform in concert at Covenant of the Cross in Nashville on June 17, 2010, they will kick off a national tour as well as an affirmation of their status as openly gay Christian music artists.”   Continue reading that story in Out and About a gay community blog.    But wait, there’s more…
  • …At the blog Monday Morning Insight, Todd Rhoades posts a piece about Boltz’ new album and some sample song lyrics which invite the broader Christian community to embrace greater tolerance.
  • For the time being, Raymond Hosier can wear his rosary beads to school, as reports the Washington Post.  Now the school in question faces a lawsuit.
  • Once-disgraced Colorado Pastor Ted Haggard announced today he is starting a new church and “will be happy if only a few people join.”  Read about St. James Church at NBC’s Denver affiliate.
  • They sold their house and named their RV after the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  This is actually an October, 2009 YouTube clip from Good Morning America, but someone sent it to me, and it is inspiring.
  • By their CD collection you shall know them:  Brett McCracken thinks true “hipsters” would be nostalgic for these contemporary Christian music classics.
  • Many a college or university began life with solid Christian roots which they would sooner forget in the secularized 21st Century; but sometimes, as Mark Roberts points out, the architecture of their older buildings betrays this history.  (My own alma matter, once proudly part of the now liberal United Church of Canada, is emblazoned with, “The Truth Shall Set You Free.”)
  • Trevin Wax had two great links last week:  First, when the Westboro gang decide to picket your church, if you’re in the deep south you serve them food!  Second, a link to Head Heart Hand, which suggests that bloggers are usually either Creators or Curators.
  • Relatively new blog:  Faith and the Law chronicles those times where Christians run afoul of the law in both the U.S. and around the world.
  • Our cartoon this week are from Doug Michael (upper) and Dennis Daniel (lower) at Baptist Press (we’re going to have to put these guys on the payroll…)  What’s with all the first-name last-names at BP?

August 24, 2009

Life Among The Lutherans: Garrison Keillor

“…So our family celebrated [the fourth of July], a day in one group of people split off from another group of people — it seemed like a happy thing to us — and we kept right on splitting off — we believed in the value of a good snit and walking out, slamming the door and never speaking to those people again.  Better yet, never speaking to them in the first place.  We were Sanctified Brethren, we believed that God had bestowed his truth on us and nobody else, and if you number had ever gotten above 12, we’d have found some way to break off with the others and form a new and purer group.  A church of, say, 3 people.  Two to procreate and one to watch and make sure they didn’t do it in an unscriptural way.”

GarrisonKeillorGarrison Keillor is an American humorist, author and the force behind “A Prairie Home Companion,” a permanent fixture of Saturday evenings in many U.S. homes as it broadcasts live, for two hours, on National Public Radio.   The show is a mix of music, poetry and radio drama, culminating with the monologue, which always begins, “It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown.”

“…now even ice fishing, in all its sanity and silence, has been blighted by the curse of this century which is communications.  Never before have we learned so much we didn’t need to know from people we don’t like and can’t get rid of in media that has only one purpose, to sell, sell, sell, and which has been steadily encroaching and circling and crowding out whatever peace and quiet is left in the cosmos…”

Much of his writing has to do with life in middle America.  On the one hand, he laments the passing of simpler times, while on the other hand he highlights the ability of some communities to preserve a sense of that simpler past.

“…Our public reputations depend on the opinions of the uninformed.  Each one of us is a book reviewed by critics who only read the chapter headings and the jacket flap.  We’re all a mystery.  We should all respect each other on that basis.”

Garrison Keillor - LutheransLife Among the Lutherans is a collection of those monologues, going back as far as 1983, and featuring the particular essays that deal with the religious side of life in this fictitious Minnesota town.  When you consider that most of them do contain some mention the equally fictitious Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church, narrowing it down to 28 stories must have represented a rather difficult editing process.  The book is appropriately published by Augsburg, a leading Lutheran publishing house.

“The organ is the enemy of worship, as most Christians know.  Scripture says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’  This is not the organist’s philosophy.  Organists despise stillness.  They’re sitting there with the organ equivalent of a 300 hp Ferrari and they want to put the pedal to the metal and make that baby fly.”

In the preface, Keillor admits he did not grow up as a Lutheran.   But he understands the people intimately, and he understands the role that the church(es) play in a small town.    We only hear of one other church in town, the Roman Catholic parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility.

“…It’s not easy being a minister and preaching to your own family — sometimes it gives a Lutheran pastor real respect for the rule of celibacy over across town.  Preach on forgiveness and forbearance to a congregation that includes one woman with whom you’ve had some arguments you’d rather not remember, including one that isn’t over yet.”

Truth be told, the book deals in the superficialities of church life.   But that said, once you get past the meandering plots and colorful characterizations, the book is actually rich in deep theology.   People live and breathe and act the way they do because they are acting on certain beliefs and convictions.   Keillor confronts issues and ideas which, in a pluralistic, politically correct, mostly secular society, simply never come up in normal conversation.

“…The people divided over the question ‘will we recognize each other in Heaven or will our spiritual forms not have our earthly features?’  The clergy fought this out for two years, some arguing ‘Yes, of course we’ll know grandma there, and she will know us — the family was meant to be eternal,’ and other people saying ‘No, we will go on to a finer and better life there and if you think your face is anything God would allow in a place of perfect bliss, then you ought to take another look.'”

Garrison Keillor (2)But Keillor doesn’t always celebrate this particular church culture.   Every page consists of material that could represent hours and hours on an analyst’s couch.   In the second to last chapter, there is an outpouring of angst greater than the sum of the previous chapters, wherein Keillor seems to regret a religiously repressive past that made him lack adventure or lack confidence or lack certain kinds of experiences.    However, much of this may simply consist of looking at growing up in the mid-20th century through a 21st century lens.

“The honest truth is that most of these young people marry because they desperately want to have sex and be normal nice people…so two people sense each other’s interest and availability, and powerful forces come into play…and the mothers of the two of them exert their influence.   A candidate is brought in for inspection and goes home, and afterward the mother says, ‘Well, I thought he was nice.’  And the way she says, ‘I thought he was nice’ communicates the fact that the boy is a dolt, about as bright as a mud fence, and none of this has much to do with honesty.   It’s more about sheer hope — that if you love somebody, or try to, and try to do the right thing, somehow it’ll all work out over the long haul.   And you set out down the highway of marriage, trying to ignore the many vehicles you see overturned in the ditch.

Why is that some of the most tormented people seem to produce the most innovative and quirky humor?   With Christmas fast approaching, Life Among The Lutherans is a natural gift idea for someone who, like Keillor, enjoys some sentimental reminiscing.    But it should also be read by a younger generation, if only to see what they escaped.   Unless they happen to currently reside in Lake Wobegon, that is.

“Christmas is a holy day that the early church fathers invented because they were in competition with the Roman religion.  One thing Christianity lacked was a big feast and the Romans had one toward the end of December, Saturnalia, so the Christians established Christmas, sort of like one chain putting up a store right near its competitor.  It doesn’t have so much to do with Jesus as it does with business, and it’s been a big hit;  the number of people celebrating Saturnalia and offering sacrifices to the gods has really diminished.”

August 17, 2009

Currently Reading: Worship Tips and Lutheran Humor

Garrison Keillor - LutheransLife Among The Lutherans
A collection of stories from Garrison Keillor, host of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion, heard Saturday nights from 6-8 PM EST; highlighting the stories which contain references to faith, church and religion, which, in my opinion, includes every Lake Wobegon story he ever tells.  In a transparent preface to the stories, Keillor admits his original take on Lutherans was somewhat condescending, coming from an elitist sect known as the Sanctified Brethren.  Just five chapters (out of 28) in, I think he holds Lutherans in greater respect today.  (Hardcover, Augsburg Books, 2009)

Doerksen - Make Love Make WarMake Love, Make War
No,the title is correct.  Worship music singer and composer Brian Doerksen uses the stories behind many of his popular worship compositions to talk about worship in general.   Just a few chapters in, I see this book as a “must read” for anyone involved in leading worship in their local congregation, as well as anyone whose life has been touched by songs such as “Everlasting,” “Refiner’s Fire,” “Today (As For Me and My House,” “Come, Now is the Time to Worship,” and others.  (Paperback, David C. Cook, 2009)

Watch for full reviews on these books over the next week.

Thinking Out Loud – Matters of Faith, Because Faith Matters

October 6, 2008

Garrison Keillor on Clapping to Music

Filed under: Church, Humor — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:07 am

In an answer to a fan letter on the Prairie Home Companion website, Garrison Keillor offers his view on why we seem to want to clap on the beat.

“It’s an interesting phenomenon for us on stage, my dear, especially if the clapping falls behind the beat and we’re trying to stay with it, sort of like running in soft sand. I do remember audiences clapping on the off-beat — in New York, San Francisco, and I think in L.A. — and found it thrilling, but there is a powerful cultural undertow that pulls us into military march time. I would guess that if you dig into cultural anthropology, you’ll learn that clapping on the off-beat is not American so much as African-American, and though African-Americans have had an enormous influence on American music, they haven’t necessarily changed our rhythmic impulses, which may lie very deep indeed. So you could have a white audience thrilled by rhythm and blues who nonetheless might be culturally tied to the polka and John Philip Sousa. Decades ago in Minnesota we began to see mostly-black high school bands marching in parades and people were wowed by them, the style of them, and the shuffle-time cadence of the drums. It takes time for white folks to pick up that feel. I don’t think an audience is going to jump right into it with both feet. I reckon that I could get them to do it by clapping on the off-beat over my head but I don’t like to bully the audience. And my arms would get tired.”

So what’s it like at your church?   Do people clap on or off the beat?

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