Sunday, February 28, 2010

Just a Thought about the World's Most Important Subject

Thinking about the cross in Lent. I think there are three ways of talking about the cross. 1. being specific about the details of the crucifixion. This is the Passion of the Christ method. The NT doesn't do this because everybody at that time knew what a crucifixion was and how it was performed. So we don't get many details. 2. discussing how it fits in the gospel and redemption narrative. 3. teaching the church what it means. This is what Paul and Peter did, among other epistle writers.

Jesus predicted the cross, taught that it was necessary, went through it, and accomplished our salvation through it. But verse for verse, he didn't talk about it a great deal in the gospels. When he was here, he was announcing that the kingdom--that is, the king--was here. He spent his time "proving," if you will, who he was. In the Acts and the epistles we learn all the implications and ramifications of the cross. We start with "substitutionary atonement," but there was even more than that. And as my SS ladies pointed out today, there's a lot more about the resurrection than we pay attention to.

My point is that if Jesus is not who he said he is, the cross was just another execution. The cross matters because it was Jesus dying, and because he conquered it. It's a package deal, so to speak.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Why the Last Supper

I am teaching the end of the book of Mark tomorrow; we've been in it since first of December. The book of Mark approaches the last supper pretty much in the "just the facts, ma'am" style of the rest of the book, and I don't mean that negatively. I see the book of Mark as what a beginner needs, a seeker, really.

It occurred to me today that perhaps the difference between the gospels and Acts/epistles is that the gospels are there to explain fully who Jesus is. They end with the cross and resurrection, but most of them are about a validation, if you will, of Jesus identity. He is the Messiah, Son of God, Son of Man, so much more. The Acts and epistles explain the meaning of the cross and resurrection more fully and completely. The gospels really don't explain the cross, they mainly narrate it. Occasionally Jesus refers to what the cross is about, but not fully, as Paul or Peter do (such as in Col. 2 or I Corinthians 1). What Jesus does tell us is that we are to live a cross-type life (take up your cross). To me that means many things--one, humility, and suffering, and selflessness, three things I don't see much of in America right now, despite all the whining about the economy. (Not to make fun--people at my work are going to lose their jobs, and I'm really sorry for them because they have been there a long time and the loss of their job has nothing to do with their quality of work.)

But that brings me to why the last supper.
1. It's Passover (a day early, because Jesus had to be the real Passover lamb the next day). Before we discuss anything else, we have to see it as Passover--the last needed one, so to speak, and the first of how it should be celebrated in the new kingdom. My husband, son, and I attended a Seder several years ago, one of the best things we ever did. It helps make a lot of sense out of the scriptures.
2. It's about servanthood--the washing of the feet.
3. It's about revealing the betrayer. Just in case anyone was doubting, Jesus was sovereign and knew what was going on all along.
4. It's about his last words and teaching to the disciples. John is where this is found; the other gospels do not mention it.
5. It's the institution of a memorial feast until the second coming. So sad so many people got it so wrong for so long.
5. It's about fellowship.
6. They were hungry. These last two are important because they validate our humanness. I have no patience for a form of Christianity that denies our humanity, denies the beauty of the world, denies the value of human relationships. That's not in the Bible.
I told my SS class last week this was one time in the Bible where the men did the cooking! (Also on the beach in John 21.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Budget Meeting Blues

We had a meeting this morning at work about budget cuts in higher education in GA. $385 million has to be cut. Bizarre. There goes quality, down the drain.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good and Evil

All the rage on the LOST boards is deciding whether Jacob is good and MIB/Fake Locke/Flocke is evil or vice versa. I don't think either is good; I think they are just two evils. But this opening is a subterfuge; the blog posting is not about LOST, but about the real meaning of good and evil.

I do not understand the idea of disembodied forces called good and evil, symbolized with white and black anything. I really don't understand it, either from a philosophical or literary or political or theological standpoint.

What is evil? Is evil the opposite of good, and then so what is good? Is good the sustenance of life? Is good tied to a code, or just a vague, general principle of positivity. If good is the sustenance of life, is evil always the support or pursuit of death? But doesn't there have to be death sometimes, and isn't death in many cases good or considered good (such as in sacrifice to save another's life), so when is death good and when is it evil? Or when is it just death? Is evil destruction and good construction? Is good love of others and evil love of self to the exclusion of others? That might be closer to the common literary view.

The rich young ruler called Jesus "Good Teacher," and Jesus responded unlike how we would. He didn't say, "I'm not just a teacher, so get that straight first off." He said simply, "There is none good but God." Now we could go in a lot of directions with that, but let's just keep with this topic, good v. evil. Good = God, God = good (only a coincidence of English that the spellings are so close). Good is a characteristic of God, not a disembodied force. It is an adjective, a descriptor, not an entity. We cannot separate goodness from God. Goodness can be seen in God's gifts, grace, mercy, moral purity, righteousness.

So, where does that leave evil? I'm not going to say what most people think, that evil is the opposite and is embodied in the devil. The devil is evil, but he's not the only one--or is he? Are humans evil, or are they just sinners? Now, being a sinner is bad enough, because it means rebellion against God (not just human weakness and mistakes--if Christ just died to reconcile us to God for our eccentricities and foibles and failings and foibles, he went to a lot of trouble for something we don't take too seriously. Christ died for our rebellion and hate toward God, which we don't so readily admit to. We can't have a good idea of a savior unless we have a clear idea of what we are being saved from.) Back from that tangent. As I said, being a sinner is bad enough, but are we evil?

I say this because I think there is a lot of silly speculation about good and evil that is mythic but not real, that makes interesting movies but has no relationship to our lives. Humans are both good and evil, righteous and sinful. Cultures differ in their definitions of good and evil; there is only one standard that transcends cultures and it defines good and evil on the basis of one's relationship with or rebellion toward God.

All that being said, I like mythic movies, but Star Wars, the big good-evil opus, at the same time blurs the lines because the evil person moves to the good at the end and the good is capable to becoming evil. One of my favorite short stories is Young Goodman Brown, by Hawthorne. it explores good and evil but I think it comes out with the idea that there is evil within all of us but it is deeply hidden, and if we knew what was really in our hearts, could truly see what we are capable of, we ourselves, who must be the good because we pay the taxes and work the jobs and raise the children, if we knew we really wouldn't be able to cope.

So the question to me is not so much who is evil, but where is evil. Evil is everywhere, but it's not out there, floating around like a ghost. It's within.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From The Raging Hypocrisy Department

I think I should have given up Google for Lent as well as Fox News. Google was the defendant in a trial in Italy involving a video clip that was posted to its Italian website. In the clip, a group of boys is bullying a child with Downs Syndrome. Google left the clip up for over two months and it got a lot of hits. The Italian government was prosecuting Google for its disregard for basic human dignity and rights, and Google was found guilty. Google's spokesman said, and I quote, "This is against the fundamental principles upon which the Internet is based."

See story (and I got this using Yahoo)

OK. This strikes me as both one of the stupidest and one of the most hypocritical things I have heard from a supposedly smart person in a long time. Number one: The Internet is based on no ethical principles other than that of rampant, unfettered capitalism. (neither is Google. This is not a slap at capitalism, but let's be honest: capitalism inherently isn't concerned about ethics, but profit. People are concerned about ethics, and that is when capitalism works). Where is the Bible of the Internet? Where is its constitution? When did they get together and decide on the principles of the Internet, and who were "they?" I sure wish they would post these fundamental principles somewhere. I think the fellow is alluding to some unwritten "we can put anything we want to up on a website without accountability" principle.

Second, I remember a few years back when Google wanted to do business in China and therefore had to submit to China's demands to a. block certain sites and b. give up confidential information, that is, the name of a dissident, who ended up in jail because of their ratting on him. So what happened to the fundamental principles of the Internet (those non-existent ones) then?

So, Google will fight for their right to make money from those who violate human rights, and fight for their right to publish content that deprives another of human dignity. HUMMMM. Let's try BING and YAHOO for a while.

But I can't be too hard on Google. They have only done more publicly and completely what the rest of the U.S. has done, and been encouraged by our government to do: sell our souls to China for money, the opportunity to do business, and buy cheap excuse my French crap. So what do we get? Lost jobs, toxic toys, and the inability to buy the most basic of things without a made-in-China sticker. Yes, I know, free trade, balance of trade, huge, billion-person open markets for our goods, la la la. My argument is not that we should have no goods from China, but that we didn't know when to stop, and now that's all we have. I have read The World is Flat; I'm not uninformed. We have as a country made human rights violation immaterial so that we can pay less for toys and batteries and electronics and household goods.

All that being said, I wish we were all not sinners and that the Internet could be a totally free speech zone. But I foresee a day, not too far in the future, where it will be much more regulated and people will not be able to post just anything they want. I'm sure the technology is there to violate privacy and figure out who actually is posting things (or at least whose IP or computer is being used). Too many people have been irresponsible, but on the other hand, governments in general like control too much and will find an excuse to regulate the Internet, or more correctly, regulate the people who use the Internet.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


OK, I think I have figured out the flash sideways on LOST. These are what would have happened if the plane had landed on September 23, 2004. But if the plane had not crashed, then all the things that happened on the island would not have happened, and they wouldn't have gone back in time and changed things, .... no, wait a minute . . . if they hadn't gone back in time and manipulated the past that was, then everyone's lives would have been different when they landed . . . but they did crash . .. . never mind. I don't have it figured out. Their lives are different but the broad outlines are the same, so something in the past must have shifted.

Is it me or does Kelly Ripa look anorexic?

The purpose of this blog was originally to write about communication, which is what I teach. Unfortunately, everyone who teaches writing does not write well; not everyone who teaches communication or speaking does those well. I like to think I do both well, but sometimes I don't know. Today I was reviewing for the midterm, which I prepare the students for and then let them take in groups. I was trying to encourage them to write engaging introductions. I said I didn't want bland, vanilla introductions; I want rocky road introductions.

Then I told them the story of my grandma, who when she was well into her 80s, was taken to a nice restaurant in Abingdon, Virginia, the Martha Washington Inn, for lunch. My husband and my mom were with her. They ordered her a bowl of vanilla ice cream and she demanded to know why there were little black specks in it. Being the poor mountain woman she was, she'd never seen fancy-schmancy vanilla ice cream. My students laughed at the story. "If you're going to have a vanilla introduction, it better be Haagen-Daz vanilla, $5.00 a pint, with the little black specks, not the Flavorich $1.50 a gallon vanilla. Or better yet, rocky road." The problem is, some of them had no idea what rocky road was!

So, even the best examples are limited, but any example is better than no example. Getting my student to use examples is one of the hardest things I do.

Our librarian is going to have a book festival, and I get to read from my book. I really wish more people would buy it. Or even read it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Why Are We So Concerned about Comfort?

When you belong to the fellowship of Christ, to the company of the committed, comfort is not the word that will describe your life.--Mark Galli, Christianity Today

After the Weekend Update

Random news: My cholesterol dropped 70 points, from 272 to 197. Not bad for 23 days of taking the Pravastatin. (I also take 4 garlic tablets, 2 fish oil and 2 flaxseed oil tablets a day and drastically cut meat in my diet, and walked faithfully even when it was 22 degrees outside!).

It is 30 degrees warmer tonight than it was a week ago. That's the weather around here for you.

An interviewee on NPR yesterday (Alford, I think) had done research on aging and wisdom. He studied much older people and what they had learned. He gave five characteristics of wisdom rather than a definition (a method I always prefer; definitions are usually just more words).
reciprocity (do unto others . . .)
discretion (knowing when not to do, not to act)
doubt (not about religious belief, but an absence of certainty about life, an understanding that things don't go as one expects and won't)
detachment (from physical things and from one's plans--man proposes, God disposes)
social consciousness - it's about the bigger picture

I thought that was interesting; most of his subjects were nonbelievers but some were. Some of this resembles biblical wisdom but some seems more world-weariness, which has the scent of God's wisdom but is not the real thing. God's wisdom begins with getting one's position in the universe right (it's called "fearing God"). Detachment is involved, as are discretion, reciprocity, and social consciousness--but those come along only after the "place in the universe" part is straightened out.

I am taking a course at church called "Transforming Discipleship" which is about how to disciple people on a triad, intense, intentional basis. It is challenging, and something I have an interest in but don't know if any one else would. I am convinced we are all way, way too busy for unnecessary reasons.

I spent two days with academics at the conference. It was a good conference and I already used some of the ideas today. Some academics--you just want to slap 'em. The worst are the feminists. In a pretty decent presentation on media realism (the point of which was that the Today Show just trumped up a story from nothing and brought in their "experts" to confirm that this nothing was something), a well-educated, white, middle-class, young woman, about thirty, started up with how we women are oppressed, and that we participate in our own oppression. Oh, please. I sat next to her at dinner and complimented her program, but I knew if I tried to gently challenge her on this oppression nonsense she would think I was from another planet.

Feminists, listen up: if you want to see oppressed women, go to Thailand and see the brothels with ten-year-olds. Go to Congo and see the multiply-raped women hanging on to existence. Go to Haiti and see a woman trying to deal with five kids in a tent on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. Lay off the pretentious drivel about women being oppressed unless you are going to do something about the really oppressed women on the planet, those who are oppressed by lies and sin and war and hunger. I AM NOT OPPRESSED (and I'm not in denial, either).

However, I do believe women sabotage themselves; i.e., they knowingly do really stupid stuff and then whine about it.

My resolution to stay away from Fox News is paying off. I have more time and my attitude is better already. I keep in mind, though, that it is a preparation for the celebration of the cross and resurrection more than anything else. Just giving something up without a goal or replacement is a pretty vague strategy.

I like film noir. I especially like Sunset Boulevard. I know, I know. Nothing particularly noble in it; it's just great filmmaking, and I can appreciate any great art even if I don't like it. I appreciate Faulkner even though I don't much read him. Anyway, Sunset Boulevard cracks me up while it gives me the chills at the same time. That's pretty good.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who is Tiger Woods and Why Should I Care?

Of course, I know who Tiger Woods is. Every since the first day my husband picked up a golf course, golf has consumed our household. My son played from his earliest days he could, and played on the school team six years in middle and high school. I play when I can, and enjoy it although like most things, you have to do it a great deal to play it well. And of course, since we got cable, we have been blessed to watch the Golf Channel. The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championships are as big a deal at our address as the World Series and SuperBowl (but not March Madness. Nothing beats March Madness.)

So, we know Tiger Woods. And we tried to ignore his "apology" but it was not to be. I have been out of town for two days, in Statesboro, GA. I wasn't going to watch his speech. But this morning I was trying to eat breakfast in the little motel I stayed at, and of course it was on the TV. I heard, but didn't watch.

I don't care if he ever plays golf again. He has enough money, and I don't like when the same team or player wins all the time. He has brought the level of play up a great deal, and at any given tournament he will be beat. But he is a great athlete. Just not much of a human being.

The media and Tiger have a sick, codependent relationship, truly. They made him who he is, and they benefited from his success. Now they get to treat him the way they want. Of course, the sport of golf needs him, too, as do the other golfers. He brought the purses up, he brought the money and attention to the sport. So, the media has to go on and on about his "apology" (I don't feel I need an apology, so why should any one else other than his wife and children?). My mom said it was the lead story on the CBS news. You've got to be kidding???!!!! And they make fun of Fox News???

Help us.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Snakes in a Pit Rather Than on a Plane

The movie I watched the other night, which I wrote of a couple of days ago, was "The Snake Pit." It was made in 1948 and stars Olivia deHavilland as a mental patient in what passed for a mental health facility at the time. I thought it was a better portrayal of the situation than One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which is a great movie but I think it takes some copouts. The Snake Pit does, too, in that after her cure, she leaves happily, and of course that is not true. But until she gets there it's a downright scary movie and probably shocked the audiences of the day, although it's tame by the standards of today sado-masochistic stuff Hollywood produces.

The movie's portrayal of the patients and staff of the institution is touching. At one point the male and female patients are allowed to have a dance, which may strike some as odd but it's fairly common to have such carefully supervised outings. One of the patients gets up with the band and sings "Going Home." There is a double meaning, although the second might be lost on some, but is inherent in the words, given below, which go perfectly with the haunting, unforgettable melody of the song that is based on American folk music but was incorporated into the New World Symphony. First, that the clients may one day be able to go home and re-enter society; this is the hope of the main character, who has a loving husband waiting for her. Second, that there is the hope of a real, eternal home where mental illness and separation from others will play no part.

All of us suffer from some small traces of mental illness because all are fallen; some of us hide it better, some are blessed to have very, very limited amounts of mental or emotional illness, some have learned to cope, some go undiagnosed, and some truly battle it for long periods or all their lives.

The other day a student in my class volunteered, in the context of a discussion of autism and perceptual overload, that he was autistic (and another sort of confessed to it as well). I was surprised and am sure my face showed it; although the student was a little too serious at times, nothing would have said "autism" to me. So I said, "Do you have Asperger's syndrome?" and he said yes, and ADD. Obviously, there is a wide continuum of what is called autism (which I know is not a mental illness per se, but a developmental one, so don't get me wrong on that). And there are lots of lots of people walking around with Asperger's who don't know it.

I told my SS class a few weeks ago, "I'm pretty sure I have ADD, but when I was little, nobody cared." We learned to cope. Some simply can't learn those skills by themselves, and need help. It's up to the rest of us to understand, help, but not excuse.

Going home, going home
I'm just going home
Quiet light, some still day
I'm just going home
It's not far, just close by
Through an open door
Work all done, care laid by
Going to fear no more
Mother's there expecting me
Father's waiting, too
Lots of folk gathered there
All the friends I knew
All the friends I knew
I'm going home
Nothing's lost, all's gain
No more fret nor pain
No more stumbling on the way
No more longing for the day
Going to roam no more
Morning star lights the way
Restless dream all done
Shadows gone, break of day
Real life begun
There's no break, there's no end
Just a living on
Wide awake with a smile
Going on and on
Going home, going home
I'm just going home
It's not far, just close by
Through an open door
I am going home
I'm just going home
Going home, going home

Pride ... and Prejudice

After years of watching film versions of Jane Austen, I am reading the great Pride and Prejudice with massive amounts of pleasure. This morning I ran across this quote, spoken by Lizzy to Jane when they are discussing Charlotte's marriage to Mr. Collins (who is always portrayed as a little twit in the movies but is actually a tall twit in the book).

"You shall not, for the sake of one individual, change the meaning of principle and integrity, nor endeavor to persuade yourself or me, that selfishness is prudence, and insensibility of danger security for happiness."

Ah, there is a world of wisdom in that quote, for all civilization.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Downs Syndrome Debate

Christianity Today has had some articles about some new medical research that is trying to find a method for reversing some of the developmental problems of Down Syndrome patient. So far, it's only done on mice. But the news opened up a discussion of whether the drug should be used on a Downs Syndrome person early in his/her infancy (at this point the discussion is moot or at least hypothetical).

One writer wrote an emotional denial that it should be used. She is the mother of a little Downs Syndrome girl, and argues about the meaning of broken and fallen and normal and that her daughter doesn't need fixing. Another women, who suffers from a pretty serious genetic disease, added to the conversation by saying she wants to be accepted and not seen as less than whole but she wants a cure, too, and isn't willing to just accept the disease.

So, this is the dilemma: if we are trying to cure conditions like Downs Syndrome, does that mean we aren't accepting the people who suffer from them? If we accept the people who suffer, are we somehow then dissuaded from doing all we can to help them?

I have been teaching from Mark, which has a lot of healing stories. Why did Jesus heal people? There is the theological argument that he did it to prove his authority over the natural world and disease and therefore that he was the Messiah. Of course, but that seems to diminish his compassion, which is evident from the fact that he touched and was touched by unclean sickly people. Jesus could have done other types of miracles. He didn't have to heal. I believe the fact that he healed had a lot more significance. One, that healing is a good thing. Second, that illness is not the way it's supposed to be, the apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh notwithstanding (John MacArthur says the thorn was people who opposed him, not a bodily ailment). Third, that we are to be healers where possible. Not in the sense of our becoming medical personnel, but to bring healing in every way.

Personally, as the sister of a developmentally disabled person who also suffers from autism, I would have given anything for my brother to be "normal." (I know, I know, that's a naughty word, but it will have to do). I still would give anything. How much does my brother suffer because of it? How much of life has he missed? How would all of our lives have been different if he had not been disabled? I have to admit I think it's a little odd for a mother to not want her daughter to be freed of Downs Syndrome, even in a hypothetical scenario. I think she's being a little dishonest about the matter.

It is easy to idolize suffering when someone else is doing it.

We like to think that Downs Syndrome persons are more accepted today, and in some circles they are. But let's not forget that 90% of the preborn babies with Downs are aborted. That doesn't sound like acceptance to me. We've got a long way to go until we are a truly tolerant society if we can't accept a disabled child. I don't care how much you support same-sex marriage if you believe a disabled child should be aborted.

So, I understand the dilemma. To want to cure Downs threatens to lessen even the already low status of these folks, but at the same time to deny the desire for freedom from the condition for one's child is disingenuous at best.

I can't help but bring up Sarah Palin, since she is the most prominent mother of a Downs child in the country. The left makes fun of her and her child (big bullying hypocrites) and say she shows him off for sympathy and political points, etc. So is she supposed to deny his existence? However, it is on the very basis of her having a Downs child that I would question her need to become President, if not her qualifications. She has children to raise. Sorry about that, but she does.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Best Pop Songs of All Time

Well, at least I think....

As I said earlier, I have given up listening to the radio in the car, and it's becoming increasingly hard to do. I listen to a lot of music and sometimes silence. Tonight I listened to the anthem album of women of my age, Carole King's Tapestry. It has two of the best pop songs of all time, if not the best from a woman.

Will you still love me tomorrow is about as poignant as it gets. I cry, because it's the song of millions of women (and maybe men) who make a decision they know they will regret. Or maybe not. The song ends with an indication that she is changing her mind. Here are the words.

Tonight you're mine completely
You give you love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow?

Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment's pleasure?
Can I believe the magic of your sighs?
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I'm the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun?

I'd like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of
So tell me now, and I won't ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Of course, it depends on who is singing it. When Carole King, who wrote it, sings the song, I get the feeling she's truly not sure. I've heard other versions where it's an obligatory question, and others where the singers are mocking the idea that the questions even matter. But I think the original lyricist gets first dibs on the meaning. And lots of singers have sung it, by the way, as this wikipedia link shows:

The other great pop song on the album is "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman." It's not poignant, it's gutsy, real, deep down, bluesy, wild, especially the way she sings it. The best line, "When my soul was in the lost and found, you came along and reclaimed it; I didn't know just what was wrong with me, but your kiss helped me name it." I have my own reasons for liking this song, but like the first one mentioned here, it's been very popular and recorded over and over.

My next post will be about a great movie I saw last night for the first time (and it's old and black and white), but it contains the song, "Going Home" from the Dvorak New World Symphony. The song puts me in tears, and especially did in this movie. But that's for tomorrow. My point is that songs--the right mixture of tune and lyrics--can send us over the emotional edge and stay with us for a long, long time. I do not have a sense of smell, so sound takes its place in emotional memory.

Monday, February 15, 2010

To Embarass My Son

To tenure or not to tenure?

Every college professor in the country has probably been riveted to the story of the biology prof at UA-Huntsville who shot six of her colleagues, killing three. I'm sure a lot of dark humor has been shared, behind closed doors, and will be. It is of course not a laughing matter. If anyone in my presence blames the victim, they will get an earful. Lots of profs are denied tenure every year, and I know some of them; this is the first to my knowledge that killed over it.

Tenure is a mystery to nonacademics. The idea that it means a life-time job is wrong. A tenured professor, at least in Georgia, can still be dismissed for due cause, it's just harder to do. And we have post-tenure review every so many years to make sure we are keeping up professionally. So this idea that a professor gets tenure and becomes a bum is wildly incorrect.

I am sure there is, at most places, more personality and politics in the process than there should be. In my experience at my college, that was not so; everything about the tenure process was fair, and clear, and well-communicated and executed. No complaints here, and I attained it within three years because of all my experience and despite not having a terminal degree (doctorate in most cases). On the other hand, I worked hard for it, even started doctoral work that diminished my health; I did lots of professional development and institutional service as well. On the last pre-tenure committee I was on (and chaired), an "old-timer" was asked if anyone at our college had ever been denied tenure, and he couldn't remember one. I think that's because our college is careful about whom it hires, and anyone who doesn't want to stay there teaching a 5-4 load and doing tons of other jobs will go on to greener pastures after a few years; it often happens with young Ph.D.s.

I doubt all the inside info about Bishop-Anderson at UA-H will ever be known, but I don't doubt that sometime in the future we will have to sit through a workshop on "tenure civility" or some such topic as we have had to do in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy. I'm also sure that there will be sniggery jokes about the pregnant question, "do you want to be on my pre-tenure committee?" All that being said, a killer is a killer is a killer. Even if Bishop-Anderson didn't get a fair hearing, nothing justifies murder. A colleague today said maybe the others were jealous of her because she was a Harvard Ph.D. in neurobiology--definitely nothing to sneeze at. Maybe; it doesn't matter. UA-H is not exactly a highly thought of research institution. It probably just wasn't a good fit and she failed to realize it. Now she won't have to worry about a permanent place at an institution, sadly. And she has left dozens of family members with grief and lifelong problems due to her stupidity and selfishness.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentime's Day

That's not a typo. Someone on facebook asked why people say it that way (she should have added " . . .in Northwest Georgia"). She could have also asked why they say Altimers disease and Walmark.

Valentine's Day should make one cogitate about love. Love is idolized, but most of the talk about love I hear is sentimental and well-intentioned but also a defense of ill-considered or even immoral behavior. We can justify anything by "love" it seems; crimes of passion, abandoning our children, adultery. This is the love of self and feeling and body, not the heart and mind and the spirit. It is the love that makes Hollywood movies where the couple that will be are always with others who have to be cheated on or discarded because of unworthiness.

Most Christians know the eros, phileo, agape distinction; it's a cliche now, but it underscores one of the areas where English is deficient in comparison to other languages, which is rare. Even Spanish makes a distinction between amor and querer.

A contemporary Christian song says, Love is a verb. And that is the most profound thing I can say about love. Love has feeling or emotional byproducts, but the core of it is action done to or for another.

This morning I taught from Mark 13 where it is asked of Jesus, "What is the greatest commandment." Having warm and fuzzy feelings toward God and one's neighbor is clearly not what Jesus meant; working up emotions would really do no one any good, would it? Jesus gave us the commandments but didn't tell us how to operationalize them. "What does loving one's neighbor look like?" is the question, not "what does it feel like?"

I have lots of warm and fuzzy feelings towards lots of warm and fuzzy people, so I'm not knocking feelings. But I can also be a cynic about how we lower the value of love and use it as an excuse. I'll never forget seeing a woman on TV talk about her child she abandoned in a grocery store as a baby--just walked out and left the baby. She was going to be reunited with the baby, now a grown woman, after all those years. Despite what she'd done, she said, "I love my child." I was angered. She meant she had worked up warm feelings toward the prospect of having a child, not that she had sacrificial love toward a particular child she had given birth to and left to let others care for, or not.

I say all this because as I type "Casablanca" is on. Hollywood presents it as the height of sacrificial love, and perhaps it is the best Hollywood could do. But I am reminded of something Theodore Geisel, Dr. Seuss, said about America--"We can do better."

Saturday, February 13, 2010


To continue my list from yesterday . . .
21. Nessum Dorma
22. Snow, occasionally. We don't get it much, and already we've had three snows in the last six weeks, all on Friday. Yesterdays was very pretty, two inches, dry and powdery, but it's pretty much gone now. Further south got more, and further north got none, as I found out today.
23. Hot tea after a cold walk.
24. Coming home. This is especially appropriate today because I drove 150 miles north to see my son at his college, and drove back just in time to miss driving in the dark, which age has made almost an impossibility for me.
25. Seeing my son.

I have given up most media for Lent (yes, folks, I'm serious. I think Lent is a good idea if done rightly). But I still read the paper; no Christian has the right to be ignorant of the world. I am puzzled/frightened/aghast at a story that Pres. Obama is going to use more executive orders to get what he wants done. Of course, left wingers would say, "Hey, your Republican presidents did it," and to some extent they would be right. But that's not an argument. I learned in college that "two wrongs make a right" is a logical fallacy, so saying the other side did the wrong thing also sounds to me like something eight-year-olds in a school yard would say. The Democrats in the Senate are also going to use "reconciliation" to get legislation passed, also. If they are afraid of the Republicans, especially of their winning elections in the fall, their actions look like those of frightened rats before a ship sinks.

Not that I'm a big fan of Republicans right now. I like their platform, but not their politicans; their principles, but not their leaders.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Favorite Things

I've been doing a lot of bloviating and whining on this blog, so tonight less list some of our favorite things. Readers join in. No particular order.

1. Jane Austen
2. Mozart, Bach, Handel
3. Greek Food
4. children's laughter
5. Watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance
6. LOST in all its convoluted messes
7. Taking a Bible passage apart and really digging into it
8. Mountains
9. Julie Andrews' voice
10. Sunsets and sunrises
11. Picking fresh vegetables out of my garden on a summer morning
12. Silent Night at Brainerd Baptist Church on Christmas Eve with all the candles
13. Ansel Adams photographs
14. Rembrandt
15. Museums
16. Weekends
17. Reading
18. Hiking
19. Golf courses
20. The end of a semester and the beginning, too.

I have not listed any people because people aren't things.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And So Here is Number 300

This is my 300th blog post. I started this blog in 2006 as an experiment for a class I was teaching. I didn't start posting seriously until 2008, as the ledger to the side will show, although I think all of them have some merit. Lots of Bible studies, book reviews, commentary on the news, mini-lectures on academic subjects, a short story or two, and some (a lot) of random stuff. One thing I have learned is that it is pointless to have a blog unless you do it every day or so. I have gone to a lot of blogs whose last posting is two years ago.

In keeping with my randomly randomness, here is a great article on a stupid subject, botox. Like most of my reading recommendations, it is affiliated with Christianity Today, the magazine that saved me from fundamentalism or maybe saved me from myself. I was at a period when I thought there had to be thinking Christians somewhere. I found it in CT and have been a loyal reader ever since, although I don't take it in paper form anymore (does anybody?).

Anyway, the article is about botox's relationship to terrorism. Why anybody would put a poison of that magnitude in their face I have no idea; I don't care who says it's safe; there's counterintuitive and then there's just plain stupid. Oil of Olay will have to do for me.

I am observing Lent this year by giving up media, or most of it. Fox News to start with; radio in my car (music might be better for my mental health to and from work). I'd like to give up facebook but I use it for purposes other than posting that I have gas at that particular moment, which seems to be what a lot of people use it for. TMI, anyone? (this is not for those friends of mine who post Scripture and encouragement, of which there is far too little on Facebook).

In fact, I have decided to start calling it Whinebook.

Speaking of whining, this is mine for the day, maybe for the century. I have been in conservative churches my whole Christian life. I have no interest in liberal churches, either in social policy or doctrine; I'm not even sure what the purpose of them is, other than a social service agency. I am doctrinally conservative. I have no problem with the office of senior pastor being reserved for a man; it wouldn't matter if I had a problem with it anyway, because it's in the scriptures.

BUT, and this is a big BUT, that's the limit of men's power over women in the church. I have seen more than my share of chauvinism in the churches I go to. Men seem to appreciate women as long as they do the paperwork, cook the meals, clean up, shut up and don't ask questions.

Harsh, yes. But I'm 54 and not stupid. I'm tired of men thinking I'm less intelligent because of my number of chromosomes and regardless of how hard I work, how long I've studied, and what I've experienced. My one consolation is that the younger generation--those about 30 and below--don't get the chauvinism. Maybe because they were raised by single mothers, maybe because they just read the Bible differently, I don't see the same attitude of "women are good in their place" that I do from men my age.

The question of men and women is much more complicated than this, I know.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Of Two Minds--Sort of

This is my 299th post on this blog. I'm just sayin' . . .

A subject that fascinates and repels me is that of dualism. The philosophy of dualism controls more of our lives than we realize, but let me be quick to say that the opposite of dualism--is kind of hard to define. Since dualism is the philosophy of opposites, and I reject dualism, then logically I would reject the opposite of dualism, right?

Enough of that nonsense. It's not that I reject all dualism, but I do reject it as a world view, as an interpretation of the universe. So, moving on . . .

Dualism says there are two forces in the world, opposing and equal. They will go on forever that way, opposing each other but of equal strength. Ying/yang; black/white; good/evil; devil/God; flesh/spirit; body/mind. So that's the definition. What's the problem? Well, first of all, it's not really Biblical or in line with traditional Christian (well, Augustinian and Reformed) doctrine. Because there is only one eternal "force" or "power" in the universe, God's, which is good. The evil is not eternal and will be defeated, nor is it equal to the good.

But let's move to the mind/body split, which you can talk about without getting into Christian doctrine, as we can see since it started with Plato and reinvented itself throughout the middle ages and with Descartes. If we are split between mind and body, or between a soul and body or spirit and body, then the body can do what it wants and the spirit doesn't have anything to do with it; the body can sin and the spirit is not affected. But in another iteration of this mind/body split, we have the commercials where eating a brownie is some kind of unpardonable sin; the body ad soul are in such conflict that a brownie is part of the equation.

I see dualism in so many places. Is holism the answer? Not in the strictest sense, because holism can be sort of new age, just like dualism can. There is a need to find a middle way, recognizing that the body is not unconnected totally from the spirit and soul, that the spirit is not necessarily and always in conflict with the body, that the spirit affects the body and the body the spirit, that the body is not evil (flesh in Scripture is not usually referring to the physical body, but the sin nature), that the body is used by the spirit of man and the Holy Spirit of God. We do not need to hate our bodies, and I say this especially to women, and to myself, since we all seem to whine about our bodies. Yes, our bodies are getting old, and they get sick, but they are not useless baggage. It is how we serve the Lord, and it's how he ordained it for serving Him on this earth. When we don't have bodies anymore, our ability to serve on this earth will be gone.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Daily Dailiness

I'm glad to see I'm getting some readers to this blog, and some encouragement. I also get "snipers" or something who post either obscene or advertising (or sometimes both) things. Oh, well. It's easily remedied.

I've always liked and sort of defended Sarah Palin but I am beginning to wonder. "Hopey changey thing?" What's that about? Hardly presidential. And she can't be inconsistent about the "r" word (which amazes me that adults use that to denote anybody, much less as an insult). My mother taught me better. In this 24/7 news cycle, any of these people should know that every word is on the record. At the same time, I know she gets taken out of context.

A student told me today that she loved my book and that she could see it as a Hallmark movie if you took out the political stuff! That floored me. She meant it as a compliment, and if she was referring to some of the old Hallmarks, yes, but some of those on the channel are unbelievably bad.

I am taking a class at church on transforming discipleship. I believe in it--it's just a matter of practicing.

Next time around going to write about dualism, something I feel is a tool of the enemy. Too heady a subject today, the day after the SuperBowl. Oh, Peyton, Peyton, Peyton, Peyton. When I saw that interception in the fourth quarter, I gave up on them. Too bad. I guess the partiers in NOLA needed something to party about.

Seriously, how does Obama get away with saying corpsman (as in corpseman) to a military prayer breakfast. How does he get away with refusing to say "I made a mistake?" How does he get away with throwing everybody under the bus (what an expression)? How does he get away with this overblown promises and pronouncements that have no follow through?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Reading Recommendation

Last night I finished--in one day, really--the book "Jim and Caspar Go to Church." Jim, a Pentecostal who has pastored, run businesses, and studied and written books about evangelism and marketing, hired an atheist, Caspar (his last name) to go to churches with him and critique/discuss what he saw and experienced. He goes to a good mix of megachurches, traditional churches, emerging/emergent churches (two different things, although many people use the words interchangeably), a house church, inner city churches, all-white, all-black, etc. Everything from Mark Driscoll to Joel Osteen (who gets the worst rating, no surprise; I would give him the worst as well). It was fascinating reading, and anybody who does church work should read it.

Not that I agreed with everything in the book, but that's not the point. If you only read books you agree with, why read? It helped me define some issues I've been struggling with for a long time, such as how we do church, why is evangelism or witnessing so hard, and how are we to relate to "outsiders" (there really aren't any nice ways we have to refer to those who do not come to church or believe like we do. Every word we use is a negative, a nullification, or a "non"--unbelievers, nonChristians, unchurched, or worse, pagans. All those words are correct but carry baggage.)

The atheist fellow insists that, in his eyes, what matters is what Christians do, not what they believe or what prayers they make. He also says, frequently, "What does this have to do with Jesus?" I have to ask the same question. On the other hand, Jim's theology is a little amiss at times. He is a marketer, so his concern is what sells, what works, and he doesn't want to get into arguments with Caspar, since he knows Caspar isn't all that open to it. I have to say that what we do in the church is not about whether an atheist likes it or not, but whether it glorifies God. I don't think a lot of what we do in the church glorifies God.

I will be the first to admit I am no good at witnessing. I am ok with stating my faith, making it clear what I believe, living it, and I hope showing I have Christian ethics and lifestyle, but no good at saying to people, especially at work, "Where would you be if you died in the next five minutes?" (a question, by the way, the atheist really, really hated.) I'm no good at saying to people, "your problems would be solved if you accept Jesus as your savior" because I know that's not true.

And I believe that ends do not justify the means. We are supposed to focus on the means, obedience to Scripture, not the end, lots of so-called conversions (which often aren't.) So we have it backward most of the time. Businesses are end-driven, yes; the church is obedience and glorifying God-driven. Atheists will never like what we do; it is an offense to them. But it is valuable to see what we do from a different perspective.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

2/4/2010 Postings--Try to find a theme

It's raining here, but I went for my walk any wayand am enjoying old movies and the warmth of hot tea and a quilt after a long day of reluctant students and administrative minutia.

I was handpicked to help with the QEP for SACS. Only academics will know or care what that means. The Quality Enhancement Plan for the Southern Association of College and Schools. Accredition guff. Every seven to ten years we get to play this game in higher education. I'm the editor for the QEP, which I guess means it's my responsibility to be sure there are no typos in it.

Of course, after making a big deal of LOST I should post something. It's as entertaining as ever, and as frustrating, but there won't be new mysteries or characters, thankfully. I imagine it is silly for a 54-year-old woman to be "into" a popular show like this, but good writing and storytelling is good writing and storytelling. I liked Avatar but not the subtext. Anyway, the spiritual good-evil quasi-Biblical themes are abounding (how can you tell an epic story without going back to those themes?) Smoke Monster is Fake Locke; Jacob is dead but not really. There are two alternate time-line realities. Oh, my. An interesting study in LOST would be of its self-references (times when the characters talk about the plot itself) and the books that the characters read.

Here's a great story about a common problem--the overwiredness of young people.

So what is the theme? It's Thursday night, no classes tomorrow, I have a doctor's appointment and lots of time to read. That's the unifier here.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Don't Ask ...

As much as I surprise myself even to say this, I am having a hard time getting exercised (or is it exorcised) about the Don't Ask, Don't Tell thing; oddly enough, I can't get excited about it on either side. On the con side:
1. I don't think gays are this great mistreated group in America.
2. I imagine a lot of gays want to be in the military for the benefits (but so do non-gays)and if they are allowed to "marry" (God forbid)that will make benefits to "spouses" possible.
3. The military's purpose is not to perform social experiments.

On the pro-side (or non-con side):
1. The military needs them, if they are good soldiers, and apparently they are
2. If the military doesn't have a problem with it, I'm not sure we non-military folks really have any business interfering.
3. The social experiment argument may have been relevant 20 years ago, but as much as I hate to say it, gays are more accepted and in general people don't get as astonished by the presence of gays as they did back then.

However, it's a federal law and Congress will have to change the law, and from what the news reports say, the votes and support aren't there. It's one of those issues I can't get myself to feel strongly about either way, and if it happens, it happens. My only fear is that it would make gay marriage acceptable even faster, and that's where I have to draw the line.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I rarely watch network TV (except for LOST, which is on tonight!!!), but I did watch 20/20 the other night on ABC. I caught the interview of Andrew Young and his wife. Of course, when I hear the name Andrew Young I always think of the civil rights leader, but this Andrew Young is no leader. At least neither he nor his wife defended what they did, which was pretty despicable.

What did they do? Cover for that sleazy John Edwards. Lied and said Andrew was the father of her baby. Keep the nut job Edwards was having an affair with under wraps (like she didn't plan on all this happening!) The interviewer (it's the gentleman who experienced so much brain injury in Iraq, and I'm glad to see he's back and working and sorry I can't think of his name) showed clip after clip of Edwards lying about the affair and the baby. Edwards convinced the Youngs to do this because (a) his wife was dying (supposedly) and (b) he was going to be president or vice president. Why did they want such a sleaze bag to be president in the first place.

As I've said many times before, the human ability to self-deceive knows no bounds. In discussing the book "Game Change" an NPR commentator stated that being president requires an almost (almost?) pathological ambition combined with zealous vision. But that and another related story got me also wondering if there is anybody in leadership who is trustworthy, Christian world included. The Bible implies that anyone wanting leadership probably doesn't need it (although it also says that to desire the office of a bishop is to desire a good thing, it doesn't say the person desiring it is necessarily a good person).

Right now what I'm reading: The College Fear Factor by Rebecca Cox; Jim and Caspar Go to Church; Calvin's Institutes (that one will take me a while). I recently finished a book edited by Mark Noll on the history of religion in the U.S., which was quite good from an academic perspective.

Monday, February 01, 2010

So Glad It's February

1. The days are appreciably and noticeably longer. I can come home from work and still have time to go for a walk only partially in the dark!
2. I have many wonderful activities planned for this month, including several Teaching and Learning Center programs, a trip to South Georgia that will allow me to see an old friend, getting doctor's appointments out of the weigh (yuch), and starting a discipleship class.
3. LOST comes back on tomorrow night!!!
4. It's a short month and we have spring break at the end of it.
5. I have a lot of great books to read and I feel like writing again.
6. The SuperBowl will be over (and Peyton Manning will win it, ha, ha).
7. January was a hard month. Cold, for one; I had to face my age and start taking cholesterol meds; my son went back to college (well, that's not all bad); tragedies like Haiti, and a slight feeling of malaise. Yes, I'm glad it's February, even if the little rodent does see his shadow tomorrow. I don't want spring yet!

Public Speaking Online: Part III

This is a continuation of articles below on speaking for webinars, etc.  Experts give a few other preparation tips...