Agree to Disagree or Agree to Assassinate?

Today, as he continues to drop in the polls, he suggested that Americans wielding firearms take potential President Clinton's life. It wasn't even a funny joke.

The Problem of Donald Trump's Faith

The Donald is at it again. 

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In a swarm of unlikely GOP candidates, Donald Trump caps it off by convincing almost a quarter of likely GOP voters that he's the one to go up against Hillary. There's already talk that if Rick Perry gets his way, Donald will personally fund his own third-party candidacy. This would likely rob Republican votes of a worthwhile GOP candidate and almost guarantee a win for the Democrats in two Novembers time. In a world where Fox News has warned its viewership of the plague of political correctness, it's not surprising that a straight-talking, wildly-rich, anti-political Mr. Fix It is attracting a bunch of regular folks who are fed up with the current Administration

At this point, Trump is almost impenetrable. He denigrated a beloved maverick. He read aloud a private cellphone number of a likable bachelor. He, perhaps most dramatically, racially profiled millions of America's workforce. And somehow each time, no matter how much the press has pushed him, he's managed to weasel his way out only to grow in the polls. It is fascinating.

His bit about John McCain at The Family Leadership Summit was untrue, unwarranted, and wildly stupid and though it received, by far, the most media attention, it wasn't the the most remarkable part of that interview for me. I found myself entranced by his comments about faith. Most significantly, forgiveness.

Bluntly, Trump was asked, "Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?"

Trump answered it as Trump always does, as only he can. "That's a tough question. I don't think in terms of...I'm a religious person, shockingly...I'm Protestant, I'm Presbyterian, I go to church and I love God and I love my church." He continued with a story about "the great" Norman Vincent Peale, a man he reveres and whose sermons made a lasting impression on him. Never, of course, answering the question, "Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?"

I love this next part. The moderator didn't let it go. "But. Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?" The audience laughed. Trump responded, stumped. "I'm not sure I have. I just go and try and do a better job from there. I don't think so."

He likely could not have been more honest. While later he rightly referred to taking the "wine and crackers" at communion as a way of asking for forgiveness, there was a certain attitude of humility and repentance that the moderator was looking for to which Trump, truthfully, could not admit. Maybe it's because Trump can't admit to wrongdoing; that certainly seems likely. Maybe it's because Trump thinks he's the greatest man to walk this earth; that seems possible.

I can't help but point to his own admission: his pastor, to which he immediately made reference and shared exuberantly about his influence, may have shaped--or at least allowed--this mindset of Trump. 

To those familiar with recent American history and theological thought, the name Norman Vincent Peale isn't foreign. A controversial pastor after the release of his book, "The Power of Positive Thinking", Peale's teachings were shunned by both the mental health and theological communities being regarded by some as heretical.

Indeed Peale's writings are problematic for Christians who seek not to find faith in themselves but to find faith in Jesus Christ. Even Amazon's description of Peale's best-selling book says it bluntly:

"With the practical techniques outlined in this book, you can energize your life—and give yourself the initiative needed to carry out your ambitions and hopes. You’ll learn how to:

· Believe in yourself and in everything you do
· Build new power and determination
· Develop the power to reach your goals
· Break the worry habit and achieve a relaxed life
· Improve your personal and professional relationships
· Assume control over your circumstances
· Be kind to yourself" 

Seems an odd set of goals from a Christian pastor, eh? It's a self-help book, sure, but its Christian message, if there even is one, leaves much to be desired.

Wikipedia's entry on Peale quotes John Krumm(the book linked above), Reinhold Niebuhr, and G. Bromley Oxnam on Peale's anti-Christian espousing in his book. Wikipedia's choice of quotes from Liston Pope was my favorite though, "There is nothing humble or pious in the view this cult takes of God. God becomes sort of a master psychiatrist who will help you get out of your difficulties. The formulas and the constanat reiteration of such themes as "You and God can do anything" are very nearly blasphemous." ("The Case against Easy Religion," William Peters. Redbook Magazine, September 1955, pp. 22–23, 92-94). I mean, come on Dr. Pope, tell us how you really feel.

Either Trump needed to name-drop to evade a question about his own brokenness or Norman Vincent Peale made a lasting impact on The Donald through his preaching. The evidence, Trump's refusal to admit to his need for forgiveness, points to the latter. If a preacher preaches that one can overcome the most difficult obstacles and accomplish anything simply by thinking positively about it, how can one be convinced of their own need for redemption and forgiveness?

It doesn't take a political genius to realize that Trump's humility is lacking. I'm convinced, as a Christian minister, that humility and a self-awareness of one's own brokenness is essential to their discipleship. If one claims to be a Christian, as Donald does, one must be convinced of their own need for grace. Without it, there's no point in Jesus.

The problem? GOP voters have already proven in large part that politicians speak louder in their hearts than their pastors do and conservative pastors continually shape the work of their sermons and their reading of Scripture within the political atmosphere. I fear that an influential presidential candidate might renew a sense in America's Christians that one's own humility is not necessary for the gospel.

That is a lie. That is a problem. 


Hey! Lay off Chris Tomlin: A Response

Jonathan Aigner, a UMC music director and worship blogger, took on a reader recently. Quoting his reader, the anonymous "Glenn", Aigner fires back on Glenn's accusation that Aigner often unfairly takes shots at Chris Tomlin, one of America's modern leaders of music in worship.

Aigner often has a lot of smart things to say, particularly about theology in worship. That's convenient because that's literally the URL of his site.

Though I respect much of Aigner's work, I feel as if this time Aigner missed the mark. In what I can only imagine is a defensive work so as to continue his personal vendetta against Tomlin, Aigner inaccurately describes Tomlin's music, blindly points out the speck in Tomlin's eye, and in the process secures his readership in their own personal dislike of the modern worship scene.

Aigner organizes his thoughts by way of several key aspects of Tomlin's music. I'll do the same here.

Tomlin's Music Isn't For Congregational Singing

 I've many times over been led in singing by Chris Tomlin and those he's raised up as new leaders and songwriters. I also consider myself to be a student of the worship artists who are writing new music for the church. I, as a seminary graduate and music leader myself, think often about what I call the "sing-ability" of the music we lead with.

I'd argue that Tomlin's music is often melodically and rhythmically simpler than almost every other mainstream worship writer. My argument might even consider the fact that his music has caught on more than others' precisely because of this.

Aigner doesn't use this argument, though. His assertion centers on the fact that Tomlin's Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) hits a "high G" in its refrain. That's factually inaccurate. Tomlin's refrain, one he tagged onto the beloved hymn, makes use of a high F, a whole step down from the G to which Aigner is referring. Most basses are going to drop the melody down an octave anyway. Most altos are going to sing it in octaval unison with the tenors (Tomlin, for instance) and the sopranos will sing it just as normal. A G above middle C is unattainable for most baritones, relatively high for most tenors and sopranos, and right in line with with altos. An F (the actual pitch Tomlin sings) is a more agreeable pitch simply because it finds itself below most sopranos' and tenors' passaggios, reachable for baritones, and again in line with an alto melody. I'd criticize Tomlin for writing a G too.  But he didn't write a G. He wrote an F.

Aigner also references the problem of the "solo" worship leader. He remarks that Tomlin's vocal stylings do not allow for congregational singing, instead presenting the congregation with the opportunity to merely sing along. It's true that our modern worship culture doesn't see anything wrong with worshipful singing being described as singing along, but to attribute this solely to Tomlin is unfair. To critique this on the basis of Tomlin's musicality alone is worse yet.

Because He Writes Poor Texts

Here, Aigner tackles Tomlin's poetic skills. The lines he chooses to prove his point are these:

  1. And like a flood His mercy rains
  2. He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide…
  3. And if our God is for us, then what could stand against…
  4. I will rise on eagles’ wings / Before my God fall on my knees…

My commentary on each: 

  1. Tomlin's (worth noting that Louie Giglio is also given songwriting attribution here)  obvious intention here is to metaphorically draw the connection between never-ending rain and God's never-ending mercy. Aigner suggests this is a weak metaphor but I've never heard of anyone using a water metaphor for God's mercy before.  I, too, wish Tomlin hadn't used a destructive force of water to describe God's mercy.
  2. Criticize the guy on weak and strange metaphors, sure, but criticize him for quoting the psalmist?  No. This isn't a fair critique at all. Here's a concession critics should make: songwriters are allowed to quote scripture and not be criticized for poor poetic skills.
  3. See above. I've heard the argument before that this line does not properly assign an object to the preposition whereas Paul does in his Romans text.  That might be a fair assumption but, again, Tomlin wouldn't be the first hymn writer to stretch the English language to fit a rhyme scheme or rhythmic structure. 
  4. I can only imagine Aigner's frustration with this line is its imperfect rhyme structure. Ok, sure. Or maybe it's the irony of "rising" by "falling on my knees". At the skin level, the latter critique seems humorous. I think there's something beautiful, though, about drawing the connection between humility before God and rising as Christ was risen. 

Because He Is A Worship Superstar

I'm with the high and mighty idea that those who write music for the church ought to do so for the good of the church and the church alone. Their work is kingdom building work and ought to be seen as such.

But this celebrity-status isn't a new phenomenon. Do you think John Wesley wasn't a big deal? He famously learned to preach to the multitudes of people gathered from George Whitefield. American churches vowed to follow his every instructions(sort of). Isaac Watts trained pastor after pastor at his large church in London. Tomlin may be an overpaid worship superstar but he's certainly not the first and certainly won't be the last Christian celebrity.

And whose fault is it really that Tomlin's presence has the gravitas it does? Tomlin's? Or is he simply trying to make the best music he can for a modern generation? Is it the nature of us, the people, that want to celebritize everything we come into contact with?  Likely.

And before you go on pointing to the "showy" nature of modern worship music as the reason for this, I'd like to point to this, a church organist competition (utilizing the playing of hymns) with a cash prize. So maybe, just maybe, let's step off that high horse for just a second. After all, a quick Google search of Jonathan Aigner's name returns a few professionally-shot-in-a-church promotional head shots. Speck, meet log.


Aigner thinks it right and proper to criticize the work of the church so as to make it better. I'm with him. But these types of critiques of the modern worship world cannot be generalized, must be factually accurate, and ought to be approached with humility. It's only in that moment that we'll actually make any progress as a church and enable ourselves to speak to generations to come. 



Dear ESPN, Please Give Us Back Dickie V

It was announced yesterday (sort of) that Dickie V will not, for the first time in over 35 years, call the Duke/UNC game when the Tarheels make the 10 mile trek from Chapel Hill to Durham tomorrow evening.

Which is outrageous.

I remember the first time I saw Dickie V with my own eyes.  I'd waited all day outside the graduate student entrance of Cameron Indoor in hopes of getting a good-enough spot for my first Duke v. Carolina game.  I already had a ticket, it's the standing space I waited for. And I waited.  And waited. And waited.

I ended up standing next to a few semi-drunken grad students from (probably) the business program and exchanging skin cells with the 5 other people lodged beside me.  But even in the midst of that horrid experience, it was that night that I peered up into the rafters of Cameron Indoor and saw him: the man they say created the college basketball hype.

The next year my friends and I wised up and waited days instead of hours outside the graduate student entrance. The floor--to stand on the floor--was our goal.  When we stood outside Cameron rubbing our hands together just to keep warm, up pulled a jet-black escalade. From its dark interior with media and fan attention to rival Taylor Swift, there he came.  Jovial, outgoing, loud, and hilarious from the very first step out of that vehicle.

 Dickie V wanted to be with the fans, the Crazies, in a way no other tv announcer had done before.  He held our signs, took picture after picture, handed out autograph after autograph, and made sure to make eye contact with every single Crazie who simply wanted to see him.

Me, in my ridiculous Duke outfit, like you do.

Once we entered Cameron on that day, we had hours to wait on the court until the game began.  He came by handing out autographs and taking pictures, making sure we knew that he knew how dedicated this fanbase is. It was that day that he pointed at me, as I was decked out in a Cameron Crazie shirt and my ridiculous Duke hat, smiled and said, "I love your hat." Thumbs up, too. Day. Made.

So yeah, ESPN, you could say I'm bummed that you'd pull him from this broadcast. No matter how good Shulman and Bilas are (and they are good), Dickie V is a lot more than just a broadcaster. Dickie V is a Crazie hero. And he's a Tarheel hero too.  And a Wildcat hero too. He's a college basketball hero.

Dickie V makes college basketball what it is. And, to pull him from a broadcast such as tomorrow night's is not only the end of an era, it's a signal to the student bodies of these remarkable universities that ESPN's relationship with the students isn't as important as they thought it was.

Please, ESPN.  Fly Vitale to Durham.  The Blue Devil Nation will thank you. America will thank you.



How Coke Is Made

Each can originated in a small town of 4,000 people on the Murray River in Western Australia called Pinjarra. Pinjarra is the site of the world’s largest bauxite mine. Bauxite is surface mined — basically scraped and dug from the top of the ground. The bauxite is crushed and washed with hot sodium hydroxide, which separates it into aluminum hydroxide and waste material called red mud. The aluminum hydroxide is cooled, then heated to over a thousand degrees celsius in a kiln, where it becomes aluminum oxide, or alumina.


I didn't understand a single word of this. 

BREAKING NEWS: Houston Astros Fan Lets Go of the Ball Too Late!

Funny video of an Astros fan who evidently doesn't have a lot of throwing experience.

Heard someone remark yesterday, "If you've never thrown a baseball before, why would you agree to throw out the first pitch?!"  What's hard to realize and remember is that even if you have confidence in throwing a baseball, throwing one on a downward slope from the pitcher's mound is another thing entirely.

This girl looks like she didn't have experience with either of those.

Mark Driscoll Briefly Steps Aside to Process, Heal, and Grow

The lead pastor of Seattle megachurch, Mars Hill, provided an emotional statement to his congregation this morning. See the entire nearly-18-minute clip below:


I thought the statement was humble, sincere, and emotional. These are all words I would have never associated with Mark before today.

Only time will tell if the six weeks he's chosen to step aside for will be long enough to accomplish his goals. The Mars Hill elders will need time to work through all of the accusations (there are bunches) against him in an appropriate way and a heavy dose of prayer will need to go with it. 

I'm encouraged by his statement, his sincerity, and his use of this space to share this with the world. I had been hopeful that he'd address the controversy earlier than this, and it's likely that the direct accusations against him brought this to a very public head, but all things come sooner or later.

No matter your opinions toward Mark and his ministry, I encourage you to share with me in prayer for this community. Mark and I disagree theologically and socially on most details, but I find it authentic when he and his church preach about the goodness of Jesus and the necessity of pointing the world toward him. This Mars Hill community is one that loves Jesus and does something about it and for that, and their healing, I remain in prayer.


Driscoll Being Asked to Leave

If those who appreciated his brash nature for their own transformation see the troubles his behavior caused, it might mean that his behavior was far too brash to begin with. 

But even some of Mr. Driscoll’s admirers have doubts about his ability to continue. Robbie Leib, who joined an embryonic Mars Hill in 1996, when he was 19, said Mr. Driscoll rescued him. “I was that classic guy he felt called to serve — video games, porn, screwing around, not ready to contribute,” he said. “I was the guy he was built to rebuke. I was ready to grow up, and he was there to spank me.”

Mr. Leib said he worked on the church’s staff for a time, and never saw any abuse or culture of fear. But, he said, he knows many of those who say they were mistreated by Mr. Driscoll, and is concerned by their allegations. “I love this church,” he said. “But Mark might need to step down for a year, or forever.”

I wish Mars Hill the best  but think it's time that their pastor take a little time away from the stress and spotlight. A little soul searching might be good for Mark.

Matt Chandler Takes On White Privilege

"What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias." Chandler said. A privileged person's heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege."

My guess is that those sorts of sentiments aren't too popular among Matt Chandler's constituents.

Mind-Blowing Physics


A tachyonic antitelephone is a hypothetical device in theoretical physics that could be used to send signals into one's own past. Albert Einstein in 1907 presented a thought experiment of how faster-than-light signals can lead to a paradox of causality, which was described by Einstein and Arnold Sommerfeld in 1910 as a means "to telegraph into the past".

How I Tried to Watch "Divergent": A Rant

iTunes Digital movie redemption is great. You open the app, navigate to the store, click on "Redeem" and redeem your legally purchased digital copy of your new favorite flick.

One problem: all iTunes movies are digitally protected so that they will not play on an external monitor (including a home projector or secondary display) that is not connected via HDMI. There's no way for them to check the copyright. Thanks, Hollywood.

No worries, though! My purchased BluRay comes with an UltraViolet redemption too! So, I log in with Flixster, my chosen UltraViolet redemption service. That's a whole thing because you actually have two logins: one for UltraViolet and one for Flixster. Nevertheless, I get logged in and attempt to redeem the code.

It starts downloading. Great! It'll play on an external display. Great!

Problem: it's downloading in SD quality. Less than 720p. At the same quality as a DVD. This is beneficial but on a home HD projector, it looks, well, bad.

But why? Why wouldn't I have an HD copy? My physical copy is in 1080p. Certain studios, it seems, only authorize standard definition downloads for all redemptions, regardless of the quality physical media that is purchased.

Piracy of digital media (mainly movies and television shows) may have been curbed *slightly* by the existence of digital redemption codes, but it hasn't come close to eradicating it. Nowhere close.

What would have been an easier way to watch the film? Find it on an online streaming site, load it in the cache, and click "Full Screen". I didn't do that because I've begun to have a conscience about such things. I paid the price as I attempted to watch a film I paid for on an external display that I owned in my own dwelling. And why? All because my display used a different connection.

If I buy an iTunes music file on Apple's service, there are no longer any digital restrictions on what I can do with the file. With it, and the existence of cheap legal streaming options, music piracy has been severely curbed. We're moving that way in film but it's taking far too long.

Some say that film and music are different arts. This is true. Steve Jobs once famously said that no one wanted to rent music, they'd rather own it. Because you might want to watch a movie once or twice in your life, but you may want to listen to a song thousands of times. The music and movie industry are different business models and different arts. But their distribution methods are much much the same.

Some say that the intention is to curb the unlawful presentation of films to large audiences. This isn't true. If I had an HDMI display, I could have played it easy peasy. Or, if I had chosen to play the physical media instead of the file-based media, I wouldn't have had a problem either. But, WHY WOULD I PUT A PHYSICAL DISK INTO A MACHINE? Yuck. What is this, 2005?

Movies, and the consumption of them, is moving to a sans-physical distribution method. It needs to move quicker and reward those who purchase legal material. To do so, the business structure may need to change. It may change the prices we pay.

But until then we'll fight. And cry. And be forced to watch our newly purchased film on an internet-connected television device. But we don't want that. Consumers want to watch what we want, when we want, and how we want.

Sell that to consumers in a non-proprietary way, and you just might sell more films.


Dave Blocked Me, Part Two: Some Clarifications

My post regarding Dave Ramsey's dismissiveness to me and the poor has blown up. I never expected such a response. I've had a welcome amount of agreement along with a surprising amount of "I've been there". It seems to me as if Dave and his team make a habit out of closing off disagree-ers by blocking them on social media platforms. As you can imagine, this is both comforting and frustrating for me.

I've also had a fair amount of criticism.  That's fair because when I put something in the public sphere, I don't expect everyone to agree with me. The criticism can be separated into three categories as best I see it. Rather than responding to each and every comment or thread, I thought this post might help. The main critiques are:

  1. I shouldn't have put such a thing on social media to begin with (either the blog or the original tweet).
  2. Dave Ramsey is immensely generous because of his wealth and most churches turn to rich people first in order to accomplish their calling in helping the poor.
  3. Capitalism is not bad and has been proven to be far more successful than socialism in this world. 

I'll attempt to briefly address each critique.  I think these critiques suffer from some presumptions that are American in nature and not, in my view, Christian in nature.

I shouldn't have put such an argument on social media. This isn't the first time I've heard such and argument. That's ok. I think the world is still experimenting with what is appropriate in a social forum like the internet and those lines have been both defined and blurred throughout time. For all who say that this conversation is inappropriate to have on the internet, I've got a ton of people who say they appreciate reading this stuff via the same medium. It's both a win win and lose lose situation and as long as I'm willing to put up with the consequences, I'm ok riding that line.

Anyone familiar with Dave Ramsey should be familiar with the amount of money he makes. He makes it clear within Financial Peace University that he's a multimillionaire and that he advocates giving as a part of being a financially peaceful. I'll go as far as to commend him for a line he often tells callers on his radio show: giving isn't about percentages or anything else, giving is about giving with a giving heart. Dave advocates giving, especially when you've developed wealth.

But this is a fundamentally American view of wealth. After all, if there were no rich, who would support our moralistic endeavors? This is American in nature because it presumes free market capitalism and few Christian virtues. Funny enough, Dave presents this theory under the guise of scriptural authority in FPU. He quotes Proverbs 21 saying that wise people store up food and oil, fools gulp theirs down. You can only be of help to the world if you have money saved up.

What type of scriptural authority is it though, if it ignores perhaps the most famous exchange about riches in Scripture? The gospel writers tell us that when a rich man was asking the very question of salvation (inheriting the Kingdom of God), Jesus quoted off some laws he must follow. When the man said that he had followed all those laws, Jesus introduced him to one more idea: sell everything you have and give the money to the poor.  After that, he said, come follow me. I don't think Jesus is strictly saying here that you can't have money and be a Christian, but I do think he's making a point: you can't love your possessions more than following Jesus. Christianity does not function under the assumption that we need rich people. Christianity functions under a devotion to the lordship of Jesus Christ and nothing else. This is a fundamental difference between American views of wealth and Christian views of discipleship. 

My argument against capitalism isn't that it's unsuccessful. Financially speaking, capitalism makes more rich people. My argument is that socialism helps us equally value each and every member of society based on their worth as a human, not only off their work ethic or success in business. I don't think the United States could ever move to a socialistic form of government or economics (and I don't think Obama is moving in that direction--I think that's largely rhetoric), but as a Christian I can see how socialism mirrors the way God looks at all God's children. I can at least see the holiness in it. The US could not move to to socialistic values for precisely that reason: it values things Christianity does not.

I greatly appreciate everyone's interest in my original post. I reiterate that I find Dave's general principles helpful but that his outlook and general despise for socialism for no other reason than love of money hurts his Christian witness.



Dave Ramsey Blocked Me On Twitter

A little background info: A few months back Allison and I took Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University" course at First United Methodist Church in Lakeland, FL.  We were greatly entertained by his video presentations, we had a wonderful group leader and group members, and we came away from the experience with a new, fresh set of eyes to the world.  Since the class we have treated money in a very different way, being unbelievably careful in our budgeting.  I strongly recommend the course for anyone with money woes as it appears to me to be the best thing going for getting out of debt, saving for retirement, and becoming financially peaceful instead of financially and persistently worried.

But having said that, a story.

I spent the last three years of my life studying Scripture, homiletics, liturgics, exegesis, evangelism, and more at what major portions of the Christian world might call a "liberal" seminary: Duke Divinity School.  Duke's seminary is far from overtly liberal, but that's a story for another day.

There is, however, a persistent and common theme among many of Duke seminarians' worldviews.  Many who attend Duke's Divinity School (not all, just many) see significant problems with the economic status of this country. Without entering into my best impression of Michael Moore, I'll suffice it to say that Capitalism, as it is practiced in the United States, seems contrary to much of Jesus's teachings about caring for the poor. Capitalism seems antithetical to our command to care for the poor. Capitalism, as they and I see it, exemplifies and glorifies the successful ones making generalizations about the less successful, generally resulting in a lower quality of life for the less successful. Capitalism is economic survival of the fittest and fundamentally less compassionate than other systems.

Due to poor judgment (I guess) and a genuine interest in the financial woes of this country, I make a regular habit out of listening to Dave Ramsey's podcast.  For the most part, The Dave Ramsey Show consists of callers who call in and either 1) need advice on a business or how to get them or a friend out of debt or 2) a family or individual celebrating their new debt-free life with a "debt-free scream".  (I'll admit to getting teary-eyed on more than one occasion at the debt-free scream after hearing the story.)

Every once in awhile though, The Dave Ramsey Show features a belligerent and angry Dave Ramsey who counters any new measure President Obama has made. Or, if he's feeling greedy, any movement of the Left.  Dave takes it upon himself to show his listeners how "stupid" (yes, he uses the word frequently) Obama's "socialistic" ideas are. To Dave, socialism has no virtues.  Spreading the wealth has no business with he hard-earned money.

Dave started into a rant one day about how people asking for higher wages in minimum wage jobs don't deserve a higher pay--their economic value isn't high enough.  He drew a distinction between a person's inherent and economic value.  While the human has value, the market dictates someone's economic value (and therefore their paid wage).  It's free market, capitalistic jargon at its best.

I struggled here.

Someone's economic value is completely separate from their value as a human? The two are not related or interact at all? Is the proper response to the poor a lesson on their economic value? Is that how Jesus responded?

So I posted this tweet when I got out of the shower (I listen to his show in the shower):

I literally didn't even get dried off completely before Dave responded.

I was caught off guard here as I didn't expect Dave to respond. I wondered if Dave and I were referring to the same "Word."  I was imagining he meant the Word Became Flesh. Intrigued, I pressed on.

I was lost now.  There was no way he and I were reading the same Bible.  The Bible I read points to a God who came in the form of a man, in the form of broken humanity, to redeem humanity in new life through death and resurrection, to teach God's children how they were to be, and to present a Kingdom that was unlike any other. Jesus's ministry on earth dealt largely with compassion toward the poor and healing of their often sick and diseased bodies. Never once did Jesus say, "You know, you're poor.  And you're poor because your economic value isn't high enough." This just wasn't clicking for me.

I responded:

Note:  I threw in the bit about giving because I thought we could find common ground.  Dave's class encourages students to build extravagant wealth and then GIVE like no one else. Dave's class encourages his students to cut down their lifestyle to an affordable level, he says, "Live like no one else so that later you can live and GIVE like no one else."  I was attempting to throw him a good and helpful bone.

He responded:

For what it's worth, I believe the Parable of the Talents to be about discipleship in growth of the kingdom, not a study in economics (though he's not the first person I've seen point to it as an economic lesson and I doubt he will be the last).  

And that was that.  Dave, I'm assuming, added me to his increasingly popular "blocked" list. I can no longer follow him and I assume that any @reply to Dave's account will go unseen when coming from my account.  One short seemingly harmless conversation in which a student of Dave's decided that he didn't quite agree with Dave and Dave decided that he never wanted to hear from that student again.  A relationship ended over a disagreement and nothing more.

I learned two things:

  1. If you disagree with Dave, you're no longer a friend of Dave.
  2. Dave doesn't even believe what he says he believes.

Regarding #2, to close.  Every single time a caller calls in to Dave's radio show and asks how Dave is doing, his go-to response is the same: "Better than I deserve".  If Dave is really doing better than he deserves, how can he be so territorial with his own money? He's unwilling to live in a society where the poor can be helped by society at large.

The gospel writers put it this way when they quoted Jesus, "You can't serve two masters...You cannot serve both God and Money."  Dave is attempting to do both.  But in the process, he's devoting to one and disposing of the other.  Just as Jesus predicted.



UPDATE: Due to overwhelming and unforeseen interest in this post, I've been fortunate to receive some copy editing from a good friend, Mat Hotho.  If you're rereading this article and things seem smoother, thank him. Thanks to all who have been interested;  I greatly appreciate your support and critiques.

SeaWorld's Letter: From our Zoological Team

SeaWorld, with a partial response to some of the fact-shifting done in production of "Blackfish." Most significantly, in my opinion, this point:

SeaWorld is a world leader in animal rescue. The millions of people who visit our parks each year make possible SeaWorld’s world-renowned work in rescue, rehabilitation and release. We are constantly innovating when it comes to this care: Our veterinarians have created nursing bottles to hand-feed orphaned whales, prosthetics to save sea turtles, and a wetsuit to help injured manatees stay afloat during rehabilitation. Whether it’s the result of natural or man-made disasters, SeaWorld is always on call and often the first to be contacted. We have rescued more than 23,000 animals with the goal of treating and returning them to the wild.

I've always supported SeaWorld, before I even knew of their quality work in conservation and rescue. I, the average non scientist Joe Scmoe, know more about marine life and have developed an affinity for such creatures because of SeaWorld's work. This, in my mind, is only one of SeaWorld's many successes. 

Bishop Carcaño’s Invitation to Rev. Frank Schaefer

This just got interesting. 

I acknowledge that I do not have the authority to restore the ministerial credentials that Frank Schaefer has lost. Only a board of ordained ministry can recommend such a reinstatement of credentials, and only the ordained clergy of an annual conference can determine whether a person will be credentialed for ordained ministry. What I can do, however, is invite and welcome others to love and serve Christ Jesus among us, accompany those who choose to be faithful, and exhort us all to be biblically obedient. This I will do for as long as God gives me breath.

Again, if you don't see a serious upheaval in either the way the UMC understands its own polity or the way in which it is structured, you're not paying attention.   

"That's Why I Ran For This Office"

Today President Obama gave his final press conference of the 2013 year.

"If you're measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot through the course of my career," Obama said. "If I was interested in polling, I wouldn't have run for president."
Instead, the President cited continuing economic growth after the recession he inherited when he took office in January 2009 and other progress such as what he said was more than 1 million people signing up for health insurance under the controversial reforms he championed.
"That is a big deal. That's why I ran for this office," Obama said.

Keep your eyes on the prize, America.  Believe it or not, people are saving money on health insurance.