What does it mean?
A few things I’ve read or heard this week that made me sad, made me laugh, made me want to be a better man:
“This is it. This is when it all went away. The Anglican Communion is not going to make it.”
Diana Butler Bass on Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s “fighting words” tossed toward the Archbishop of Canterbury and the wider Anglican world.
“Wow!! This is AWESOME!! You are the high king of the church and you get to run the slides!?”
Wyatt, trying to understand what it means for his dad to be a pastor (and confusing it with a certain Chronicles of Narnia character) but actually far more plussed about the revelation that his dad was tapped to run slides for an Evensong gathering at All Souls (our church).
“Dad, I’ve been thinking about it – and when we get to heaven, I think you’ll be able to drink and drive.”
For once, this wasn’t one of our boys (could have been though). After a discussion the night before on the dangers of alcohol, one of Wyatt and Seth’s friends said this (loudly, and among a large crowd of other parents) to his dad when he was picking him up from an event.
//want to be a better man//
“The truth’s not foolish.”
Colum McCann’s character Claire in Let the Great World Spin
“I gave them all the truth and none of the honesty.”
Colum McCann’s character Gloria in Let the Great World Spin
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned football here – or any sport topic for that matter. But a little bit of Winn-trivia: I’m a big college football fan. I’m Texan, what can I say? All this chatter about the demise of the Big XII brings back nightmarish memories of when the Southwest Conference crumbled. And if you know nothing of this dark day, simply let me say – those were days when giants walked the land.
The most probable endgame scenarios I’ve read leave Baylor and their Golden Wave Marching Band out in the cold. The one kid completely left behind. It’s a sad tale for the little university that could. Baylor is in Waco, Texas, my hometown. I spent many a Saturday at Floyd Casey Stadium hoping against hope for the Bears. I spent many a Saturday dejected and disappointed. Many.
Baylor is a Baptist university. It’s relatively small. It has a cuddly Bear for a mascot. The administration didn’t allow students to dance there until 1996. They’ve always had a couple strikes against them.
A few articles and favorite lines:
On whether Baylor’s Baptist affiliation will hurt them finding a new conference:
“The last time we checked, the Baptists still scored six points when the ball crossed the goal line,” said Lori Fogelman, a spokeswoman for Baylor.
//Yes, six points are the same. Only, no touchdown jigs that shake anything below the waist.//
“Pac-10 always has been allergic to Brigham Young, another church-based school,” one sports writer said. “A Baptist friend of mine says Baylor actually is quite liberal in Baptist eyes, but I don’t think that’s a concept Berkeley recognizes, liberal Baptist.”
//Yeah, probably not.//
And then a piece from Joe Posnanski on how the football conferences are built for ratings and dollars, end of story. Greed, says Posanski, birthed the Big XII and will end up killing it.
The conference was built for television sets. And Texas had the most television sets.
//All fine and good – so long as we all are clear that Texas has the most.//
Because I love Billy Collins. Because I failed to herald April as National Poetry Month. And because writers and preachers also need to think about language that is just overdone.
Oh – and also because I like to share a laugh. And this, my friend, is a doozie.
I didn’t know it was coming today, but I knew it would soon. Each year, about this time, I receive a large box of goodies, a cornucopia of marketing kitsch, from a high octane Christian ministry conference. I can appreciate novelty as much as the next guy, but I have to tell you that this annual overload has begun to annoy me.
In past years, we received slinkys and rubix cubes and playing cards and the “world’s largest conference brochure,” just to name a few of the many curios. And all of this arrives via the United States Postal Service in a rather large box, with impressive, slick packaging. The cardboard alone will make a sizable dent in our recycle container, not to mention all the wrappers and paper inserts and mounds of packing peanuts (which would actually be quite nifty if they were real peanuts and provided a snack) and assorted plastic toys.
Irony: this package arrives on Earth Day, of all days. Today, our local paper (in rural South Carolina, mind you) unveils it’s slimmed down, environmentally friendly format, a nod to sustainability, while my Christian friends send me trinkets by the pound.
The materials, the postage, the glitz. I’m no sourpuss, truly. But, somehow, I just find myself opening up their hefty package intended to entice me to register for their event and asking myself, really?
Now what would snag my attention is if one year they sent me a well-designed info packet (and they could even throw in a (one) comic book or a (one) pair of X-ray glasses if they wanted) and told me that the $5 per box they were saving would be spent on HIV meds in Africa or elementary school books in El Salvador or even to pay the way for other pastors to join the fun. Then – I might consider registering. That might be a conference that would speak to the questions I’m asking. That might be a conference where I would think I might find encouragement for the life I sense God urging me toward: simplicity.
All that said, these people are very smart and care ever bit as much as me (probably more) about truth and the gospel and have obviously fielded these sniping questions a million times (sorry). Certainly, I am not implying that they don’t care about issues of justice – quite the opposite, this conference has a fantastic reputation for leveraging its influence for such causes. And, of course, I contribute to excess myself in a thousand ways, all the time. Any charge of hypocrisy could be easily supported, I’m sure. I’m certainly not arguing for squelching creativity or arguing against lavish expressions of grace and faith. I guess I’m just reflecting on how this particular campaign strikes me (it is my blog after all) – and I’m hoping at least that in their marketing brainstorming sessions, they are asking more (better?) questions than:  Can we afford it?  Does it work?
Anything done in the name of Jesus deserves better questions than that.
Other good questions might be: What is actually communicated through this medium of marketing? What tone does this set for the way we envision the gospel when we gather for our conference? What kind of aesthetic does this build?
You know, I assume they have asked more (better) questions, I really do. Maybe they have simply arrived at different conclusion than I would have. Good enough for me. This is simply my opportunity to ask the questions myself. In my writing and my loving, in the way I promote my art and in the way I talk about God’s kingdom, what am I communicating in the way I approach it? what tone am I setting for how I envision the gospel? how does my action join God’s intent to make his world beautiful?
Excuse me, now, I’m going to make another run with the slinky down the stairs – it’s quite a kick.