Friday, December 09, 2005

Primetime Pornography

People who pay for pornography are stupid. Not because pornography is a moral lapse of judgment. Not because pornography and the pornography industry objectifies women and treats them as means to male satisfaction. Not because pornography encourages lust, fuels infidelity, and equates love and sex with eroticism. No, they are stupid to pay for porn because porn is now free thanks to Victoria's Secret.

Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt ought to be livid that Victoria is sharing her secrets for free. Why would anyone purchase an "adult" magazine when the Victoria's Secret catalog is free? And why would anyone purchase an "adult" video when the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show is broadcast for free on CBS?

Excuse the double tangent here, but isn't CBS the network that was chastised seriously by the FCC for the infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction of 2004? If that was a wardrobe malfunction then what is this Fashion Show? A wardrobe dysfunction? I do not understand the moral calculus: 0.57 seconds of Janet Jackson's exposed breast is somehow more offensive and less acceptable than one hour of women in see-through underwear. Well, I never was good at calculus. And for my other tangent, why are magazines and videos that seem to be very immature and adolescent in content labeled "adult?"

I suppose someone might defend the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show by noting that it is about the clothing. Really? Then why are there not more fashion shows by the Burlington Coat Factory featured on primetime television? I don't keep up with the world of fashion but what was the last fashion show televised in primetime on a major network?

I must congratulate CBS for their cleverness. I suppose the FCC would fine them out of existence if they were to broadcast performances of strippers dancing on a pole, but CBS was clever enough to find out that if you get rid of the pole and call it a fashion show then it is no longer X-rated.

I wonder if this show is targeted at women or men. The product is for women, right? And women are generally more interested in fashion, yes? I expect CBS to apply this ambiguous logic to a Chippendale's Dancers Home Improvement show. I am sure the handymen will tune in for that. Hey, let's just call them all family shows and invite the kids to watch.

And that reminds me. . . Why isn't anyone upset that Victoria's Secret and CBS chose to call this a "holiday" themed show rather than a Christmas themed show? Just more of the continuing war against Christmas I guess.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Hey Microsoft, I Was Just Joking

I was just joking about the class action lawsuit in the last entry. I guess someone finally took me seriously!

It was bound to happen. Read the full story here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Oh Microsoft, How Could You?

There is tragic and disturbing news today. Reports are coming in from frustrated and distraught people that the new XBOX 360 is plagued with glitches. I warn you to read no further if you are easily disturbed by unsettling news. Yet, if you are brave enough to understand the gravity and magnitude of this crisis then I invite you to read on and consider what we can all do to eliminate this potential devastating crisis.

My heart is full of sympathy as I think of all the shoppers and gamers who waited in lines for days to purchase Microsoft's XBOX 360 only to discover that the problems that would prove to ruin their day. I am concerned that these enterprising shoppers may have trampled each other in vain during their mad dash to acquire the long anticipated consoles.

Sad news comes from the discussion forums of a frustrated gamer who put the shooter game Perfect Dark Zero into the new XBOX only to have the flawed machine try to read it as a DVD movie. How could it come to this?

Brian Crecente said his XBOX 360 locked up three times, causing him to lose a couple of hours' worth of progress in a Western-themed action game called Gun. Oh, the humanity!

And what does the Seattle-based corporate stronghold responsible for this crisis have to say to the poor gamers who are losing valuable hours of game progress in their virtual worlds?Microsoft says that it has received only "a few, isolated reports" of machines with problems. That's just the sort of big-business static I would expect to hear from a faceless evil that doesn't understand the fear and outrage that all of us feel.

Isolated reports, huh? Well, I would like for Microsoft to come and personally apologize to poor, unfortunate on-line gamer Kulanose who says that he spent "six and a half hours outside uncontrollably [shivering] for something that doesn't work right . . . they just lost me and a bunch of people I know." Doesn't it just break your heart? Who is going to speak up for the other Kulanose's who fear Bill Gates and his geek army? This will impact these poor souls for the rest of their lives!

I say it is time for the government to act. I know that some will say that the government has more important matters to attend to, but I ask you can we really afford to lose any more hours of progress on Gun and Perfect Dark Zero? Very soon China will surpass us in the all-time high score on Halo 2! We need government intervention to protect those whose trust in Microsoft has just been shattered. I fear that some (*choke*) will never enjoy video entertainment again.

I also think we should seek a class action lawsuit. We should include everyone in that class and not limit it to those who actually bought the XBOX 360. After all, haven't we all experienced just a little pain and suffering as we think of poor gamers shivering uncontrollably because their Quake 4 adventure froze up just as they were about to kill the space aliens?

(*choke*sob*) I'm sorry I just can't write anymore. It is too disturbing. When will somebody do something? Please Oprah, help us!

Monday, November 21, 2005


On the surface, being a prophet seems like a privilege. It seems a special gift to hear God’s voice. But consider poor Hosea. The Lord's first words to Hosea were brutal: “Go marry a prostitute, and some of her children will be born to you from other men.” Why isn't the Lord a little more sociable? There's no “welcome to the life of a prophet" speech. There's no small talk to break the ice, not even a simple "hello."

Why would the Lord ask such a thing? Didn’t he read the Bible? People aren’t supposed to marry fornicators and adulterers. Why would the Lord ask someone to do this? God's explanation is that Hosea is supposed to do this so that his life will become a living illustration of God’s relationship with his people. You see, God’s wife has not been very faithful to him.

So Hosea marries Gomer. Here comes the bride wearing a halter top and high heels with seven colors of eye shadow. She is not having trouble with her fake eyelashes, she is making eyes at the groomsmen. The couple have children and Hosea has to wonder if they are his. Two of his children are named "Not Loved" and "Not Mine." Two innocent children stuck with names that are drenched in sin.

If the story is breaking your heart, then you get the point. God’s heart was breaking because his people were unfaithful to him although he was faithful many times over. Without faithfulness we live in a world of heartache and mistrust. Yet with faithfulness the harshest heartache and the deepest mistrust may be healed with forgiveness and hope.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Cheap Kindness

Bonhoeffer is famous for arguing against cheap grace. He says that cheap grace is the sort of grace that is sold in marketplace with the cheapjacks wares. It is grace that demands nothing at all of those who receive it or give it.

As a part of the Life on the Vine sermon series I have been studying kindness and I think it is time that we argue against cheap kindness and call one another to the sturdier, richer kindness that Scripture describes. What follows is a edition of a post I placed on another blog:

It seems to me that we often accept simple politeness for kindness. In our culture we describe a kind person as someone nice. Being kind is about being nice to someone else. Kindness rooted in the nature of God shows that there is more to kindness than being nice. Taking off on the "Life on the Vine" agricultural metaphor, kindness must be some sort of ground cover vine or grass. It is the raw material that makes up the social fiber. Kindness is at the root of hospitality. I think most of us understand how the concept of hospitality has become reduced in our culture. In ancient times hospitality was more than just being nice. It was required by the gods. Those who did not show proper hospitality were as bad as horse thieves. To deny hospitality was to violate basic covenants of human co-existence. When you think about it, especially in the ancient context, it makes sense.

Self-sufficiency is the alternative to kindness. Take self-sufficiency to its extreme and you have a sort of Mad Max Thunderdome world. I saw glimpses of this world on the streets of London where beggars stole from beggars. Thunderdome is fiction, but the Superdome isn't. One of our newest members at West-Ark was in the Superdome during Katrina. I asked him if it was mob rule and he corrected me. A life-long resident of New Orleans, he told me that gangs are absent in New Orleans, it is instead a city of "every man for himself." There was no kindness among those who attempted to be extremely self-sufficient.

Thinking of kindness and New Orleans, I cannot avoid thinking of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. So often her famous line ("I have always depended on the kindness of strangers") is ripped from its context and used to compliment nice people. The truth is that Blanche is adrift in the world looking for another to show her genuine kindness. Like so many she enters into relationships that are more contractual than covenantal. She gives herself to strange men so that she can get what she needs to survive. The kindness of strangers that Blanche experiences is cheap kindness.

Against the cheap kindness that litters our culture is the kindness of God. David demonstrated this sort of kindness when he showed his devotion to Johnathan's son, Mephibosheth. (2 Sam. 9). When kindness is mentioned in Scripture it is more often equated with love, mercy, goodness rather than simple politeness. I choose to believe that this sort of loving kindness could come to fruition among us.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Chad's reply to the last post reminds me of one of the better attempts to do something about those incessant scam letters.

I recommend the Brad Christensen Exhibit at the Quatloos! website. Perhaps more of us should respond with wit and humor to these desperate con artists the way Brad does. Then again, the scammers have nothing but time on their hands and the rest of us are living our lives.

For the sake of trivia, anyone remember where the term Quatloos! comes from? No peeking at the website!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Junk Mail Blocking the Door

Returning to the Written Without Ink office is a bit scary. The room smells sort of musty and there are cobwebs in the corner. I need to open a window and let some fresh air in.

The door was a bit sticky when I tried to open it. I thought it was just the weather warping the wood but it seems that there's a pile of junk mail comments blocking the way. Looks like a few folks dropped some comments through the slot after I evacuated the WWOI office due to Hurricane Katrina. Let's see now, what do we have here . . .?

Jessica finds my blog informative. Well, of course it is. Where else can you find an article about Jesus' Kung-Fu style. But I must say that this pales compared to Jessica's very interesting website about buying a Citizen Watch with interest free credit. I know you are dying to go check it out. Go ahead, but come back here because we have more mail to go through.

Welcome back. Hey, what do you know . . . Will McDonald says that my blog shows up on a Google of the words "blog debonair." I want to be modest but I must admit that I do strive to have the most debonair blog on the net.

Senson invites me to create my own blog. Real swift there Senson, I have my own blog - and you're posting a comment on it! Wake up!

Will McDonald writes again and says my blog is awesome. Sure it is, especially since it hasn't been updated in two months.

Oh look, here's a message from Me!!!!!! Me!!!!! says, "Search this thing - it is hilarious how people cant even spell right when they are selling something on" Yeah - haha - some people are so stupid! Just like the idiots who leave the apostrophe out of can't. By the way, your link doesn't work.

And speaking of Hurrican Katrina, TheDevilIsInTheDetails says, "Be prepared for the next huricaine katrina picture or find another one that's similar. As the Boy Scouts say: "Be Prepared"!

Whoa! I had better get hurricane picture insurance right away. I would hate to be caught off guard by a picture of a hurricane. The only thing worse is finding one that is similar! (That's funny, I didn't know the devil was a Boy Scout.)

Well then, why don't you folks watch the office here at Written Without Ink while I go call the GEICO agent to get that picture insurance. I will be back soon and I would love to hear from you; especially if you are posting a bona fide comment and not just flattery laden ads for other websites. (Yeah, that's right! I can see through you hucksters!)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Hits Fort Smith

I am very tired, but I do not think I can go to sleep without some writing. I have spent most of Labor Day weekend doing what I can to support the relocation of evacuees to and from Fort Chaffee. I have been writing some every day. It is my means of decompression. I will be posting my log entries once I sort through them.

The stories from Hurricane Katrina continue even though the latest news seems to be that all the people have been moved from Chaffee and no one else will be brought in. I will tell my stories here and the stories of those I have met over the last few days. I am very proud of my brothers and sisters who accompanied me on the trips to Chaffee. Their Christ-like spirit was obvious.

A friend asked me recently if the winds of Hurricane Katrina reached as far as Arkansas. I must tell him that the winds may not have, but the aftermath did.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

E-Salesman With A Foot in My Door

So, I log in to see who left a comment to my last post "St. Elvis." What a surprise! It is my old friend lewissmith6536. Ah the great time I had with old lewissmith6536. (I call him 6536 for short.)

I remember the time that 6536 and I would call up the local store to ask them if they had Prince Albert in a can. 6536 could barely get through the punchline - "You had better let him out before he suffocates!" - without snickering.

Having lunch with 6536 was always a blast. I always knew how to time my jokes just right so that he would laugh while he was drinking his milk. . .

"Hey 65, why did the monkey fall out of the tree?"

He glances my way as he is drinking his milk. Wait for it! Now just as the milk is past the uvula and just in front of the epiglottis . . . .

"Because it was dead!" Oh, the wonderful Vitamin D-enriched blast of milkiness! And out the nose - how it burns!

Yes, we always thought 6536 would go far. The 6536 name was well respected in our community. His father owned the local auto dealership. He would have this huge sale once a year and mark all cars down to $6,536.00 for one weekend. He was well-known for his cheesy antics on those dreadful commercials. Mr. 6536 would be riding a bull or a camel or some other bizarre animal. Beside him was a blonde sweetheart holding a placard with "6536" on it. (It was rumored that she and Mr. 6536 were having an affair, but it was never proven.) At the end of the commercial, Mr. 6536 would shout out, "Come on down to 6536 Auto Sales. And tell them Bob 6536 sent you! That's a name you can take to the bank - or take out of it!"

I really think that my old chum 6536 felt a bit intimidated by his father's local celebrity and salesmanship. He tried his hand at car sales but failed miserably. I heard that he and his father had a sort of falling out. (Some say it was because 6536 and the blonde sweetheart started going out. But that's never been proven.)

I had not heard from lewissmith6536 in years and now along comes his heart-warming comment to my St. Elvis post. I see that he is back in sales. Sadly, I see he hasn't learned anything either. He is reduced to posting unreasonably long ads on my humble little blog.

What are you thinking 65? Do you think any of my readers are really interested in fifteen cent stocks or the future of biometric identity chips. Zzzzzzzzzz! Sorry old friend, that is the sound of all of us falling asleep to your miserable diatribe. And did you really think any of us are interested in that Section 17(b) nonsense? No, don't tell me that you are required to put that mumbo-jumbo in the post because of the STC. You were always a geek for such rules. Did you ever wonder why you could not sell cars like your father? Here is the painful truth old pal: he understood that the public was more interested in corny tag lines, camels, and blonde beauties. Customers were always looking for the door when you started waxing eloquent about the compression ratios and foot-pounds of torque of each model. Do you see why you were the one we dared to eat crayons in third grade?

Thank you lewissmith6536 for what is a rather bittersweet comment. On the one hand it is so good to hear from you and recall the old days; but on the other hand I am sorrowful that you have been reduced to a lonely e-salesman desperate enough to stick your foot in the door.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

St. Elvis

Yesterday was the anniversary of Elvis' death. I was almost ten when he died and I remember it. I remember it because my mother was a fan. When Elvis died in 1977 my mother was barely past thirty. Elvis was only 42. These numbers seem quite small to me now as I am stuck somewhere between them.

My mother was a fan, but I don't recall her weeping or sobbing refusing to be consoled over the news that the King was dead. I don't think she ever had the urge to go to Graceland or light a candle in his memory. I just remember her going about her daily duties that summer day - probably snapping beans, washing dishes, or working out in the garden with my grandmother. I do recall the TV being on and the commentary on Elvis' death. Mom had her own commentary. She thought it a shame that a talented man got hooked on drugs. She remarked that he had needed someone in his life to set him straight. And that was it.

In the pantheon of celebrity gods Elvis is one of the saints. Graceland is a shrine. I have no idea how a celebrity gets canonized into the sainthood. It would seem to have something to do with how many fans mourn and how much merchandise they buy after your death. If one really wants to learn how a celebrity joins the sainthood keep an eye on the rise of Dale Earnhardt. I noticed a T-shirt yesterday that depicted a scene of St. Dale watching over NASCAR from heaven surrounded by his mystical number "3."

My mother was a fan, but she wasn't fanatical. She simply lamented the loss. People like her are lousy customers for the sainthood market.

Monday, August 15, 2005

True Believer

I am not convinced that there are no super-heroes. I have seen them. Just the other day I was mowing the lawn when suddenly from out of nowhere I saw a dash of color blaze across my front yard.

"Look, out on the yard! It's a squirrel! It's a cat! No, it's . . . ." Lightning Man? The Black Bolt? I really didn't recognize which super-hero it was. I have quite a few in my neighborhood. He was wearing a black cape with a purple tunic. A golden lightning bolt was emblazon on his chest. Unlike many super-heroes, he wasn't very tall, in fact he may have been just a kid, but there have been many young super-heroes in the history of heroics.

When I glanced up to see where our young hero had gone I couldn't find him. Just then he peered from behind the tree and placed a finger on his mouth urging me to be quiet. No doubt he was stalking alien wizards from another galaxy. Or perhaps he was protecting us all from the nefarious schemes of General Mayhem. Then again he may have been dodging some nosy girl-reporter trying to discover his secret identity.

In reply to his "carry on good citizen" glance, I gave him my nod of assurance that I would carry on with my mowing and that I felt much better knowing that our fair city was under his protection. Then off he dashed in a blur of motion.

Tonight when my youngest son is concerned about werewolves attacking the house or the invasion of toads from Mars, I will reassure him with the knowledge that our neighborhood is under the protection of a small but brave super-hero. I will tell him that I saw this super-hero while I was mowing the grass. And then I will ask him if he has ever seen this hero.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Series of Fortunate Events

I had the surprise of seeing old friends last night. We met in the middle of I-540 about 300 feet above the ground. No, this wasn't an out of body experience nor was I under the influence of illegal substances. The story goes something like this . . .

Karen and I were on our way to Brentwood to collect our children at my parents' home. Typically we take Interstate 540 to get there and this evening was no exception. I-540 was built within the last ten years and takes advantage of the best technologies in highway construction. Rather than follow the curves and contours of the rolling mountains like Highway 71, which is I-540's scenic counterpart and once the only major route to Northwest Arkansas, I-540 shoots straight across deep valleys and bores through the sides of mountains. Highway 71 attempts to become one with nature, but I-540 lives by the adage that the shortest and fastest distance between two points is a straight line.

We were barreling along on I-540 and were crossing the high bridge over the railroad track just before the Bobby Hopper tunnel. Five or six cars ahead of me I could see something massive obstructing both lanes of traffic. We came to a quick stop. Soon traffic was backing up behind us and we were frozen with other trucks and cars in the middle of the bridge. There are no exits that high up and the shoulder is quite narrow. There was no getting around this accident.

After a few minutes the curious nature of the obstruction aroused my curiosity. What was the massive construct stretched across the highway? Did I see a boat in all that mess? I noticed that no emergency vehicles had arrived so in addition to curiosity I was motivated by a concern to give whatever aid I could. I suppressed my concern over what tragedy might lie ahead. I started on my "spacewalk" outside the safety of the mothership and emerged between the two Wal-Mart trucks blocking my view. Ahead of me was a camping trailer on its side effectively blocking both lanes. On one end was a blue truck still attached to the towing equipment. On the other end was a boat trailer attached to the camping trailer but hung up on the concrete barrier that kept it from plummeting down on the Mountainburg field below. Lying alongside the trailer was a keen looking fishing boat that had somehow jumped off its trailer in a vain attempt to escape the accident.

After my initial survey from a distance I met another adventurer returning from the barricade. "Is everyone alright?" I asked.

"Yes, they're all perfectly okay," he replied with a slight hint of amazement in his voice.

Satisfied that there was no human tragedy, I returned to my van. The minutes ticked by and my boredom mounted. The parade of emergency vehicles followed by a news truck stirred my blood but I resisted the urge to be a rubbernecker. Then my intellectual curiosity and scientific inquiry overcame me - "How exactly will they move that colossus?" I thought. I took a breath and launched back out into space.

Closer now I ventured. Closer still. I was upon the small crowd of civilians huddled near the concrete barrier of the bridge. In the rainbow colored lights of the emergency vehicles I watched the skilled engineering maneuver being used to disconnect the truck from the towing bar on the trailer. They were smacking it with an axe.

Just then I noticed a woman speaking on her cell phone. Beside her was a man holding the hand of a small child; he was speaking to a state trooper. I overheard the city police officer tell the trooper that this couple were the owners of the truck/trailer/boat assemblage. The woman finished her phone conversation. We looked at each other with recognition.

"I know you!" she said.

"And I know you!" I replied as I introduced myself.

I knew who they were even as she told me that she was Holly and he was Alex, a couple I knew when I lived in Russellville. This was no time to catch up on old times but to assess the present situation. Did they need anything? Were they okay? No to the first and yes to the second. Good answers! As we looked at the black and gray markings on the stark white concrete barrier, Holly gave thanks to God that their truck did not go over the edge. She told me how she was praying through it all. I could tell that she had been through a terrifying few seconds when the various components of their freight train decided to go their own ways. It was obvious that she was thankful and felt fortunate to be alive with her family. She and Alex were smiling with relief. Finally, she asked me to apologize to everyone stranded behind them.

I returned to the van just as the tow truck was headed down the shoulder of the highway. Alex and Holly shuffled off to speak to the state trooper. I realized that they had quite a story to tell. Quite a testimony to give. I hope they do not mind if I tell my part of it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Morning Show

My first task of the day was to visit the set of the KFSM Morning Show. Saturday is Community Outreach Day and we are publicizing the event.

I enjoy visiting television studios because they deconstruct the reality of television. That is necessary treatment for one such as myself born under the sign of the test pattern. As the Talking Heads sing, "I was born in a house with the television always on." Indeed, in a time when reality television is considered more than reality it is good to go behind the scenes and remember that TV is magnificently unreal.

I notice all of the subtle imperfections that are not visible on the broadcast - the green screen, the rigging in the rafters, the window facade, the placement of the newsdesk and the weather center ("Hey they aren't even looking at each other when they engage in witty banter!") I delight in the backstage view.

I enjoyed my visit to KFSM. They really did a wonderful job helping us to get the word out about Community Outreach Day. I think that Bobbie Miller, Brad Flickinger, their producers and crew are top-notch. I have a certain nostalgic nook in my heart for KFSM. I remember watching the news, weather, and the Santa Show on this old station. I always wanted to be on the Santa Show. That never worked out, but at least I made it on the Morning Show and I got a coffee mug to boot.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Good Old Days of Criminal Adventure Part 2

Now that I have let the irony and sarcasm of my previous post sit on the site for a while, I thought I would follow up with a less satirical voice. I did intend to make a point with my previous post, so here is the meaning of the parable. . .

First, I want to be clear that I am not slamming Sen. Clinton or any of the other senators that are calling for an investigation. I think it is important for people in positions of leadership to raise questions that are in the interest of our children.

Second, I can accept Rockstar Games' claim that the sexual content in the game is the result of unauthorized modifications and isn't part of their original game design.

Which brings me to my main point, the original content of the game is enough to warrant some sort of protest from the public, especially as these games are often popular among children. (I know they are not the intended audience, but that's who usually winds up buying them and playing them.) According to the official site for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the premise of the game is as follows:

Five years ago Carl Johnson escaped from the pressures of life in Los Santos, San Andreas... a city tearing itself apart with gang trouble, drugs and corruption. Where filmstars and millionaires do their best to avoid the dealers and gangbangers.
Now, it's the early 90s. Carl's got to go home. His mother has been murdered, his family has fallen apart and his childhood friends are all heading towards disaster.
On his return to the neighborhood, a couple of corrupt cops frame him for homicide. CJ is forced on a journey that takes him across the entire state of San Andreas, to save his family and to take control of the streets.

For those of you hoping that the game will satisfy your nostalgic urge to revist the early 90's beware. The game is rated M for mature. (Breaking News: Not anymore!) Trying to download a clip from the game at the official website prompts a warning that asks for the age of the viewer. At least the producers of the game recognize that children shouldn't be watching the trailer for the game. (Why they don't assume a 13-year-old would lie about his age escapes me). After watching the trailer I see why they issue a warning. The soundtrack contains profanity, the sreenshots show drug deals in action, shoot-outs, and gangsters executing a drive-by shooting from a motorbike. And that's just the original content.

I wish the Senators well in their efforts to raise public awareness. I hope that Rockstar Games will do even more to convince the public that their game is really for adults and not just limited to being purchased by adults. All of this highlights the fact that responsibility ultimately devolves to people like me - that is, parents and guardians. Pay attention to your children. Help them make choices. Get involved and do not rely solely on the ESRB rating system. Step up and be the parent. And let's all help each other along the way.

[Addendum: I wrote this as part of the previous post but decided to hold off on publishing it. For an explanation as to why, go back and read the third comment on the previous post. It is my reply to Anonymous.]

[Addendum 2: As I write this, it would seem that some good has come from the public debate. Grand Theft Auto will now be rated Adults Only. Also, the company that manufactures the game admits that they are actually responsible for the pornographic content. And to think I was willing to accept that it was the work of drive-by "modders." Why did you lie to me Rockstar Games? Why?!]

The Good Old Days of Criminal Adventure

This news just out from Reuters: "U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton pressed on July 13, 2005 for a government investigation into how simulated sex cropped up in a modified version of the blockbuster criminal adventure video game 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.'"

What is the world coming to when our children cannot play their criminal adventure video games without pornographic content? I remember when boosting a sweet ride and capping pigs with a Mac 10 was more wholesome. Now someone has gone and made something nasty of what used to be nothing but old fashioned fun with one's homies. You kids should really keep your digitized clothes on when you are clocking 120 m.p.h. on the simulated streets of San Andreas in a stolen Mercedes. What's the world coming to these days!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Haste Ye Back

Eighteen years ago I made a momentous trip to Scotland. The before, during, and after phases of this trip have shaped my identity and my faith. The details of these phases would take more room than I have in this single post. These are, as I have said before, stories for another time.

In Scotland they have an expression similar to the Arko-Texan phrase "Ya'll come back now." They say "Haste ye back!" I did haste back in 1991 with my new bride, Karen. Now Scotland, and especially the families of the East Kilbride Church of Christ, have a special place in our hearts.

Yesterday, one of my friends and brothers from East Kilbride, Kerr Thomson, arrived at our house. He is visiting America with his new bride, Susan. The visit with Kerr and Susan rekindled memories of significant moments in my life. We shared stories of the past and news of the moment. I am saddened to hear that the last few months have not been pleasant for the church in East Kilbride. I ask you to pray for these people. They are my family on so many levels. It is always a tragedy when the body of Christ is torn and wounded by conflict. I hurt for them because they are the church and the pain is doubled because I know most of them very well.

If the Lord wills, I want to haste back to Scotland. I would love to be there on June 24, 2014 for the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn. The Battle of Bannockburn is the only conflict in Scotland I care to commemorate. My fondest hope is that when I do haste back I will find the bride of Christ in East Kilbride happy, healthy, and new.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Look At Me

The movie theatres need to consider a better method for determining what previews are shown with which films. I took my six-year-old son to see the Fantastic Four today and just before the film begins we are blasted with a trailer for The Transporter 2. Sure, I know that Fantastic Four is rated PG-13, but there's something different about the comic-book style fighting of an orange rocky giant throwing an automobile at an electricity-wielding metal-hided villian compared to the violence depicted on the trailer for Transporter 2. Call me inconsistent, but when I made the decision to allow my son to watch the Fantastic Four I did not bargain that he would have to sit through a scene of a woman dressed like a Victoria's Secret model firing semi-automatic machine guns in an emergency room. When I checked the family reviews for Fantastic Four there were no warnings about watching the Transporter himself use super-quick martial arts moves to break the necks of assorted hoodlums.

So, I am faced with a crisis and I have little time to act. I covered my son's eyes during the intense moments in Revenge of the Sith but my simple method of censorship didn't seem to work, so this time I followed my instinct and said to my son, "Look at me! Keep your eyes on me." He did. He kept his eyes on me the whole time and I kept my eyes on him until the trailer was over.

The symbolism of my parental instruction has stuck with me all afternoon. "Keep your eyes on me, son." Instead of just distracting him from what he shouldn't see, I suppose I need to give him something worthwhile to watch. Not on TV or the movie screen, but in my life of course. Isn't that what being a father is all about?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Putting the Hurt on Evil

During my research for the sermon on Mark 3, I discovered this image from the Getty Museum. It comes from the page of a 13th century manuscript. The scene is obviously inspired by Revelation as it depicts unclean spirits issuing from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet.

What is Christ doing in the illustration? It has been a few years since I studied art history. I had almost enough hours in art history to minor in the subject. I know that certain poses and gestures are artistic conventions that are visual shorthand for theological concepts. For example, when Jesus is shown in some paintings holding up two fingers he isn't giving the sign for peace; rather he is flashing the sign that says that he is one with the Father.

Well and good, but what is this odd gesture above? If any of you out there know perhaps you might illumine me. In the meanwhile I will share my theory with you: I think Jesus is taking up his "wax on" kung fu stance and he is about to put some ginormous theological hurt on evil. Hey I like that! You will have to have some serious art history credentials to convince me I am wrong.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tablets of Stone, Tablets of the Heart

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh." - Ezekiel 11:19

On Monday the Supreme Court made its wonderfully circumstantial and ambiguous ruling on the display of the Ten Commandments. What I am able to decipher from the arcane documents with their unusually wide margins is that the court ruled the display of the Ten Commandments is not an endorsement of religion if the display is historical. Yet, if the display is a statement of faith then state religion is being endorsed. It will be interesting to see how this is interpreted in the future as opponents argue "historical" versus "not historical." Much will likely depend on how large a chunk of granite the Ten Commandments have been carved into.

I am less interested in the display of the Ten Commandments and more interested in its application. Regardless of whether they made proper notation and citation, the Supreme Court applied the Ten Commandments during this session. In the case of MGM vs. Grokster, (I know, it sounds like a Godzilla movie) the court said that the providers of software that would infringe copyrights of copyrighted material were still responsible for the infringement. In other words, "thou shalt not steal." How many other supreme court decisions can be reduced to one of the Ten Commandments? How many decisions assume the simple truth and logic of the Ten Commandments? Whether it is considered historical or religious, the spirit of the Commandments is in use.

On the same day in another court, Dennis Rader confessed to ten counts of first degree murder. Rader is better known as the BTK Killer. Rader regards the victims of his crimes as projects. He bound, tortured, and killed them to fulfill his sexual urges. Rader broke nearly all the Ten Commandments, yet one cannot say that Rader was unfamiliar with the commandments. At one time in his life Rader was president of his church council. He was a boy scout leader. He was a code enforcement officer, so he knows something about rules that are written in stone. Certainly Rader must have been exposed to a display of the Ten Commandments at some point. It is regrettable for all of us, especially his victims and their families, that the commandments were never written on his heart.

"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." - 2 Cor. 3:3

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Hearing the Message in the Song

Who says that children don't pay attention in worship? On the Sunday before last we were worshipping with Karen's parents at their home congregation. Our youngest son was a bit more fidgetty than usual. He is sort of traditional and prefers a church house with pews rather than new-fangled chairs. I felt bad for the worship leader and the preacher because all their hard work was lost on my six-year-old son. He is just too set in his ways. Yet I was amazed when he perked up during one song. The message reached him and he responded with all his heart. The song was the old spiritual "Get Right Church" and as we sang the line "Get right church and let's go home" my son turns to his mother and says "Yes, let's go home!"

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Battle of Bannockburn

It was 691 years ago from today that nearly 5,000 Scots from all walks of life and all social classes were camped out on a hill near a river in central Scotland. Advancing on their position was the English military numbering over 20,000. Included in their force were longbow archers and armored cavalry knights. Most of the Scots were fortunate to have a garden tool for a weapon. What should have been a massacre and simple victory for the English on the field of Bannockburn became the decisive moment in Scotland's battle for independence in the 14th century.

The Battle of Bannockburn and the triumph of the Scots over a force that outnumbered them four to one reminds me of the significance of unity. Scotland had allowed the English to subdue them because they were at odds with one another. They were a house divided and they could not stand. William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce united the Scots, which enabled them to win a battle that by all rights they should have lost.

Six years after the victory at Bannockburn, the Scots declared their independence in a letter to the Pope known as the Declaration of Arbroath. They affirmed their unity and the purpose of their fight in the most famous line from the declaration: It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Homeward Bound

For many years now I have clutched on to a belief that a place really feels like home only when you leave it for a time and return to it. I do not fully understand this sensation. My guess is that when "home" becomes your destination you feel "at home" when you arrive. After all the effort to vacate our house so that we could go on vacation, we finally reversed our energy by packing up, loading the van, driving for hours and passing slow-moving traffic just to get home.

I am sure there is some rich, theological significance to this effort to feel at home. Yet, I am tired and just happy to be home right now. I leave you with the following scripture and ask, as I often do, what do you think?

"For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." - Hebrews 13:14.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Pod Racing on Lake Hamilton

Our family is enjoying vacation this week. Yesterday, we went out to Lake Hamilton to cruise around on a party barge. I still wince when I think about calling this pontoon boat a party barge. A party barge connotes scantily clad co-eds, drunken rednecks, and the inevitable visit from the lake patrol to turn down the music. It makes me grin when I think that my wonderfully mild-mannered in-laws own a party barge.

Of course with the addition of my family and my sister's family, which means bringing aboard a quintet of children under the age of eleven, the party atmosphere manifests. It is not the "party barge" party atmosphere, rather a "Chuck E. Cheese on the lake" sort of party. Again, the nomenclature "party barge" does not fit and I think it better to rename the vessel a play barge or a fun barge. Perhaps I should just settle for calling it a boat.

The children have no problem naming the grand ship. In fact they recreate it in their imaginations many times over. I noticed this when we were towing the giant racing-striped intertube behind us. My oldest son was the first to ride and I was impressed by how excited he was. Having been towed around in an intertube myself I am mystified by the attraction. You bounce around getting water splashed in your face and breathe in gas fumes. Why is this fun? Maintaining a parental watch on my son as he bobbed around on the waves at 12 m.p.h., I noticed that he was moving his hands back and forth on the intertube handles as if he were driving a tank. Every so often he would glance behind him. Putting it all together, I realized that he was podracing. Podracing is the sport featured on Star Wars: Episode I. The podracers are driven by funny aliens and a podracer looks like . . . well it looks a little intertube being towed by a huge pontoon boat.

I sat in the back of the party barge and watched as my son won the podrace on Lake Hamilton. I was amazed to think that a whole world was being imagined out there in that inflatable pod skimming across the water. I remembered the adventures that I created in my own youthful mind when I would swing off a rope swing at the river or paddle across the pond in a leaky boat. These material forms became whatever I wanted them to be. I could name them as I chose. Today when we head out to the lake once again, I will pass up the ride on the party barge. I have an invitation to go cruising on Gasgano's Super-Fueled Podracer.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Speaking of Faith

During the past decade, there has been an explosion of films and television programs containing religious and spiritual themes. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was only the tip of the iceberg. As new generations of Americans work out their spiritual and religious questions, they are increasingly turning to fantasy.

These are the opening words of an issue of Krista Tippett's radio program "Speaking of Faith." I recommend the program to anyone who enjoys reflecting on matters of spirituality and faith. Obviously some topics will be more appealing than others. I receive the broadcast from the Internet. The advantage with the streaming audio broadcast is the additional information found on the website. You can investigate it for yourself at this here.

The show I mentioned above reminds me why I started the Magic Lantern Show. The imagination is a neglected dimension of faith and spirituality in Western culture. We tend to regard it as untrue. Hence, our inability to understand Revelation. Every printing of the Bible should come with a heading before Revelation emblazened with the legend "WARNING: Keep Out of Reach of Engineers." (My apologies to those of you who are engineers. Many of my best friends are engineers.)

Forgive the pitiful humor, but we have favored reason to the point that our ability to discern truth through imagination has atrophied. Reason certainly is important, and I regret that its neglect may soon be upon us, but our spiritual senses require both if we are to be whole. These two capactities of discernment are no more exclusive of one another than sight is exclusive of hearing. So let us hone both our intellect and our imagination. In the peaceable kingdom that is to come artists, philosophers, scientists, and engineers shall dwell together in harmony.

So, let's all go to movies - but take your faith with you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Prayer Lab

One of my favorite activities in Peak of the Week is the Prayer Lab. The name Prayer Lab was inspired by college lab classes. Think about college classes: during the week one sits in science classes taking notes and listening to lectures, but at least once a week there is a chance to put all the theory to work in a lab. So in Prayer Lab we put all of our faith and belief to work in a set of "prayer projects."

It is inspiring to see the people in Peak get up and move into small prayer groups or gather around the tables to write cards of encouragement to those on our prayer list. To see the church busy with the work of prayer reminds me of Oswald Chambers' comment that "Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work."

I was encouraged to be a part of that greater work tonight; not as the leader, facilitator, organizer, or sponsor, but simply as a co-worker. I gathered in a circle of eight men. I noticed how diverse we were but also what we had in common. I sensed the activity all around me. This is the greater work. How wonderful that God listens and his spirit envelops us as we pray together. I look forward to the outcome of our experiments in our prayer lab.

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." - Matt. 18:20

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Our new house is rather old. Instead of a new fangled breaker box, we have a quaint and old-fashioned fuse box. We bought a set of three-pronged adapters for those appliances that have a ground plug, because all of our outlets only have two slots.

None of this helps with our clothes dryer however. It demands the rare gargantuan breed of outlet known as the 220 outlet. For those of you haven't watched a home improvement channel lately, the 220 outlet is the big one that seems to be the boss of all the little outlets. It is the outlet chieftain of the electrical tribe. It is the 110 outlet on steroids. Our house did not have the Schwarzenegger of outlets - until today!

Like a good hunter-gatherer I went on a quest for fire for my family. I would bring them the strange energy so that we may enjoy the blessings of warm fluffy towels. With the help of my reliable wise man (my father-in-law), I braved the perils of jagged steel, high temperatures, and voltage to bring my family fire! Behold what I have wrought! Now dear family I give you the gift of 220 voltage - or maybe it is 240, I really don't understand.

Today I am Prometheus. Pray I do not become too prideful because I don't want to end up chained to a rock with birds pecking on my liver.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Writing Again

I am ready to write again. The last week and a half has been a very moving experience for my family. We live in the same city but we have a new house. The experience of moving has been tiring, but it has been a profound experience of Christian community. We have met God's people at every stage of our move. Everyone has been gracious, generous, and considerate.

One of the features of our new house is an Internet connection as well as the convenience of a wireless connection. So, I am no longer limited to posting at the office or Sweet Bay Coffee Co. Now I can post during the wee hours of the night as I wait for a rather blustery storm to move through town.

There's more to come. Stay in touch and keep reading.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mentors, Friends, and Brothers

Dr. Fred Craddock is minister of Cherry Log Christian Church in Cherry Log Georgia. He is also professor of Preaching and New Testament in the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. His books on preaching are the first books on preaching I can remember reading. I have listened to his recorded sermons on various occasions. The messages of those sermons still live within me. I often follow Dr. Craddock's instruction to preachers because it is so plain and sensible. I agree entirely with one comment declaring that Dr. Craddock "speaks the folk idiom with prophetic authenticity."

Dr. Craddock was speaking at the Rochester College Sermon Seminar this week. It was the third time that I attended the Sermon Seminar. The director of the seminar is David Fleer, professor at Rochester College. He too has taught me to preach. David understands that such a seminar should not be limited to technical discussions of biblical texts or communication technique. We are handling the word of God, so worship and fellowship are essential. David is gifted with the ability to encourage community. When the assignments are passed out in the Great Beyond, I hope that David will be given the role of greeter at the gates or emcee at the banquet. His welcome and introduction of speakers is as significant as the key lectures.

I could tell that David was also excited that Fred Craddock was speaking this year. Of course, David already knows Dr. Craddock and has heard him speak in person. For me, this was the first time to meet in person the man that nearly all of us there consider a mentor in preaching. I agree with David that it was a blessing to simply have Fred Craddock talk to us.

The entire seminar experience was a blessing. As always, it is a chance to meet up with my comrades in preaching. Seven of us were staying at the Concorde Inn in Rochester Hills. I have been to preaching and ministry gatherings in the past that seem to be more about professional placement and advancement. This has never been the case for my colleagues and me at the Sermon Seminar. When we speak of our churches and ministry it is as if old friends are talking about the news. Mostly we talk about our families, sports, politics, books we have read, movies we have seen, and we tell jokes. Some may say that this mundane talk is idleness unworthy of a ministry seminar. I strongly disagree. I say it represents the sort of authenticity that emerges from spiritual concord. I say it is the sort truthful community and encouragement we need for evangelism and the long journey.

The seminar closed with worship and David Fleer's wonderful summary and blessing. I wait expectantly for next year. The good fellowship was not over yet, however. My friend, John Knox, and I had the honor of driving Fred Craddock to the airport. Now I had the added blessing to spend downtime with a very special mentor who had been for me only a disembodied voice and the author of a few books. Can you imagine what we talked about on the hour drive to Detroit? We talked about our families, sports, books we have read, and of course we told jokes. And yes, Fred's jokes were the best.


There were no less than seven of my cohort of preachers and professors on the flight to DFW. Because of delays at DFW I spent even more time with my friends. I even had the chance to talk about matters with another mentor, Dr. Charles Siburt. He too taught me to minister and preach. I said farewell to these friends and boarded a flight ready to depart at 6:45 p.m. It was an earlier flight that had been delayed and I would have arrived home earlier than originally scheduled. Unfortunately, all standby passengers were forced to get off the plane because the maintenance crew had overfueled the aircraft and now it was too heavy to take additional passengers.

I disembarked the plane aware that my friends from Abilene had already departed. I found a seat in the airport to wait out the next two hours. Usually I don't mind the loneliness in the midst of a crowd that comes with air travel. This time, however, my cell phone and laptop were both without power as I had neglected to charge them. I began to read a rather uninspiring magazine article when I saw Larry Roper walk in front of me. I am thankful for the blessed surprise of meeting one of my brothers from the West-Ark congregation. It was a nice transition back to Fort Smith. Larry and I spent the next three hours talking about our families, the books we have read, and the movies we have seen. Due to the delays we even took the same flight. Along the way I anticipated the spiritual concord I have with my brothers and sisters at the West-Ark congregation and I gave thanks for the truthful, spiritual authenticity for the journey ahead.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Hungry for the Great Simplicities

My family and I are enjoying a few days in Branson, Missouri. I can recall my trips to Branson as a child, so this trip is always a nostalgic for me. Of course, in those days we weren't interested in Branson at all. It was just a suburb to the greater and infinitely more interesting metropolis known as Silver Dollar City. My sister and I used to talk about growing up and living in Silver Dollar City. What work would we do? Where would we live? And who wouldn't want to live in a town with a steam train and a rollercoaster?

Silver Dollar City has changed since then. There are new attractions and some old ones are no more (anyone remember the Diving Bell?) Then of course, there is the inevitable sell-out to popular culture. It is not as bad as some theme parks. I am thankful that we don't have to confronted with the Nickelodeon culture at every turn. I don't want to see the Hatfield's and the McCoy's flashing gang signs to their boyz and capping each other in the SD Hood over nothing but bling-bling. I am not a fan of clogging, but I don't want to watch a 6th grade dance class version of Brittney's latest video. (I know, Brittney probably isn't even the "in-star" these days. She is so 15 minutes ago).

I like indulging in nostalgia and I like immersing my children in it even though they have no clue. I am also aware that nostalgia is nothing new. In the hotel room is the latest copy of the Ozark Mountaineer. It is a sort of "remember when" hillbilly-living magazine. It contains an article about May Kennedy McCord, a singer-storyteller once known as the Queen of the Hillbillies. The magazine features a reproduction of a 1942 newspaper advertisement of May Kennedy McCord's radio show. The images and captions hint at the "remember when" nature of the show. The main caption says "The World is Still Hungry for the Great Simplicities." I imagine that would have been a very accurate statement during the height of World War 2. I also am struck by the fact that during an age that many remember as a simpler time, the 1940's and 1950's, they were also longing for a simpler age. Is it possible that our desire to return to the Golden Age is really a misunderstood longing for a simpler, more hopeful future?

Let's think about that. You can tell me what you think. In the meantime, I am going back to Silver Dollar City and take in that distinct aroma of stone ground flour, homemade taffy, smokehouse smoke and hot asphalt that is just how remember it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

How's Your Garden?

This is the time of year when it is common to hear someone greeted with the phrase, "How's your garden?" I love it that people who work in a hospital, a bank, a school, or an office building can gather up the produce from their backyard farm and give it away in boxes and plastic bags. Amateur fruits and vegetables are the best.

I am looking forward to the summer. The height of the goodness will be, as always, the tomatoes. If I had never read the Bible or visited a church but had eaten a tomato, I would believe in God. A real bona fide garden-grown tomato is surely what God had in mind when he said "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." I guess all the vegetation could have come up at once, but if it didn't then the tomato is either the first or the last seed-bearing plant made. If it was the first, then it was the standard for all the others and there's nothing to compare to the original. If it was the last, then it was the final product perfected after testing designs with all the others. First or last, but you cannot convince me it was made somewhere in the middle.

So, how's your garden?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Time of Your Life

Contrary to a popular misconception, I was not a Winslow Squirrel. I have never been a Winslow Squirrel and no one in my family has ever been a Winslow Squirrel. I was a Greenland Pirate.

For those of you outside of Northwest Arkansas, Winslow is a town very close to my family homestead. I was baptized at the Winslow Church of Christ on Highway 71. I preached my first sermon there. It has been suggested therefore that I am a Winslow Squirrel because, believe it or not, Winslow High School's mascot is the Squirrel. Although there was a period of time in which they were known as the "Killer Squirrels" and they sported a painting of a rabid, fang-toothed squirrel on their gym wall. This was never an official mascot and besides the point is moot because I was a Greenland Pirate.

I graduated from Greenland High School at some point in the 1980's. It was after my cousins and before my sister. There were forty in my graduating class. I knew all of the students in my class and most of those in the classes before me and after. It has been nearly twenty years since I returned to Greenland and unfortunately I missed my ten year reunion. Yesterday was significant because I returned to the alma mater. I was invited to speak to the 5th - 8th grade classes on the occasion of the 8th grader's transition from middle school to high school. The experience has left me feeling just so very mortal.

I arrived early, so I walked down the hall and looked at the familiar class portraits of every graduating class since 1948. When I was a student at GHS, I used to look at these photos often. Occasionally I would look for some adult that I knew to see what they looked like at age 17. It was also good for a smile to notice the goofy hairdos, glasses, formal wear and make-up from the past and to follow how they changed over time. The pictures were just as I remembered them. As I paced along the decades I saw old familiar faces that I knew only as photos of the past. The only difference this time is that one of the faces I saw was mine. There in that cloud of Pirate witnesses saying "Carpe Diem" was Chris Benjamin in the silver cloud tuxedo loaned by the photographer. I had become a face from the past with my own goofy hairdo and tuxedo.

I was especially blessed to see some of my old classmates. No pun intended, but yes they are older. The truth is that they are younger than me and they look great, but they are not the 15, 16 and 17-year-olds I remember. I suppose when you grow old with someone you watch the changes happen gradually. The last time I saw these old friends was about 20 years ago so I had to decode the changes in appearance and voice immediately. It was like the before and after images on a make-over show - "Hey, that's you!" Don't get me wrong, these people look great and they really are young. The "before-and-after shock" I felt was more of an awareness of how different I must look to people who last saw me 20 years ago. It just makes you feel "mortal."

Perhaps strangely to some, I feel pretty good about it all. Perhaps the day will come that I feel bad about growing old and I may even develop contempt toward the younger generation. I really hope not. I do not want to be a generational or demographic stereotype. I tried not to be one when I was 18 and I do not want to conform when I am 81. Also, I have never been able to put my finger on one particular period of my life and say, "There! Those were the good days."

The 8th-graders chose Green Day's "The Time of Your Life" as their theme song. It sounds like a sentimental title, but I cannot help but wonder if they are being slightly subversive and saying "Good Riddance," which is the actual title of the song. That's the sort of thing I would have done in 8th grade. I really hope they chose the song for shallow reasons. I hope it was because they thought the music is sort of sweet or because they heard it played on Smallville and all the girls think Tom Welling is cute. I hope that because 8th grade is just way to early a time in someone's life to say that that was the time of one's life. After all, they have four more years until they get to add their goofy photos to the GHS "Walk of Fame." Carpe Diem!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Magic Lantern's Light

It looks like it is going to be a tough week over at The Magic Latern Show. I have enjoyed two weeks worth of new release movies. First I saw Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Last week I saw Kingdom of Heaven. Great movies! Good start to the summer.

However, there are no releases for this Friday (yes, I know it is Friday the 13th) that really interest me. The big release this week will probably be Kicking and Screaming, the latest Will Ferrell comedy. This is the one where he is a TV anchorman married to a witch, right? No wait he's a cheerleader raised by elves. Does it really matter?

What about Mindhunters? It is about the FBI. I used to work for the FBI. Seriously, I was a contracted sketch artist. They still didn't let me in on their greatest secret: What does the J in LL Cool J stand for? Perhaps this film will give the answer. Perhaps this film is one big question mark.

Maybe we could all go see Monster-In-Law. It stars Jane Fonda and J-Lo. J-Lo is going to marry Ben Affleck, but Jennifer Garner shows up with her boyfriend from Alias and then J-Lo falls in love with Vaughn from Alias and Jennifer Gardner (J-Gar?) falls in love with Ben and they are forever known as Bennifer. Wait, which Jennifer make Ben a Bennifer? Could it be that Jane Fonda is there to sort all this out? No wonder she is a monster. Maybe we shouldn't go to this one, it's too silly.

Well, unless one of those art films comes to town there's Unleashed. Now here is an enigma of a film. It looks like a Jet Li action movie but it also stars Bob Hoskins and Morgan Freeman. Isn't that like Jimmy Stewart showing up on an episode of Gilligan's Island? Man, Jet's going to have to carry this film.

Since I hope to be in Branson this weekend I may just take in a live show and review it. Just kidding - then again the Baldknobbers are looking pretty classy compared to Will Ferrell.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Divorce Culture

Preaching is not easy. Not because of the study or the public speaking. It is not easy because you are required to speak plainly and truthfully about subjects that are sometimes uncomfortable.

The sermon today, from Malachi 2, was one of those difficult sermons. Once the words leave my mouth, I know that I have no control over what is heard. My prayer during my study has been that God's grace and love would be evident in every sentence even as I declared the unbridled truth that God hates divorce. Perhaps what has made the task of preaching such a text and subject so difficult is the tradition of hellfire and brimstone, toe-stomping preaching. My aim in preaching is not to "sweat the sinners" or give the guilt-ridden a half-hour of catharsis. My vision for preaching is to do what Paul describes in Colossians: "To proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ."

Combine the tradition of condemnatory preaching with the fact that so many divorced people have, quite regrettably, felt alienated by or "kicked out of" the church and perhaps my trepidation at preaching the text of Malachi 2 is clear. I should mention that I was helped by a reliable and astute conversation partner: Barbara Dafoe Whitehead's book, The Divorce Culture. I found her work to be unique. Instead of building an argument against divorce, she brilliantly surveys the ideological foundations of what she calls our culture of divorce. We are all stakeholders in the institution of marriage and divorce impacts all of us. Her survey speaks for itself and her closing chapter recommends that we begin to reframe our concepts of social institutions, such as marriage, with the ethics of virtue and community rather than the ethics of individual expression.

After reading the book I began to see that Malachi 2:10-16 is implicating a culture of divorce in Israel. They had exchanged the ethic of covenant with an ethic of faithlessness. Perhaps in rediscovering covenant we can begin to heal the brokenness of our American culture. So, what do you think?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Magic Lantern Show

Here at Written Without Ink I am proud to unveil my second blog titled The Magic Lantern Show. The purpose of The Magic Lantern Show will be a journal and discussion site for engaging our faith with films. I have been thinking about this project for quite some time and looking ahead at the movies scheduled for release this summer I decided now was the time to begin.

My hope is that The Magic Lantern Show will be a true b'logue, which is a term I coined for a web dialogue. So please visit the site and post your comments. Let us know what movies you have seen.

The opening of The Magic Lantern Show does not mean the end of Written Without Ink. I will continue my journaling here and its purpose remains the same. To get you started on your way to the Magic Lantern Show, here's a preview of an upcoming entry . . .

I have always enjoyed the movies. For most of my life I thought they were just a diversion. I went to the movies to waste time, enjoy a laugh, or thrill at adventure. Then I began to notice how some films are discussions of serious subjects. I discovered that some films made me think. At times, they even disturbed me. The more I started to notice this, the more I realized that more was going on at the movies than entertainment.

Come to The Magic Lantern Show! Opening Friday at a web browser near you.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

CBS News: The Threat of Scattering

Genesis 11
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

I just finished reading Michael Crichton’s latest novel, State of Fear. The best part of the book is the author’s commentary and notes in the appendix. He makes the astute observation that we have become a society preoccupied with safety and precaution. Our fear is no longer generated by the Red Menace or the threat of nuclear holocaust. Now we are afraid of the environment, global warming, disease, and a host of other unknown dangers.

I do not recommend the book to just anyone. The story contains crude language and situations. (For a better review of Crichton's book that mine, read what my friend Jeff Richardson has to say at his website .) I do appreciate Crichton's insights about the increasing level of anxiety in our culture. Really, all one has to do is tune in to a TV network morning talk show. They will be ready to update you on what invisible force threatens to kill you suddenly and silently today. Just listen for the sound bite phrases: “Should you be worried?” or “How can you protect yourself?” We are not running into bomb shelters like those “Chicken Little’s” of the 1950’s who feared the A-Bomb. No, we are much more sophisticated than that; after all we know that the annihilation of the human species will be from a huge meteor due to strike the earth in the next twenty-five years.

The Genesis story of the Tower of Babel convinces me that "States of Fear" are common to the human race. The anxiety and stress of our current age of transition have some novel nuances, but we have always been afraid of being scattered. Translation (this is Babel after all): We are afraid of losing control so we rush headlong into desperate efforts to save ourselves.

Can you imagine one of our morning talk show reporting a story on the efforts to build the tower? Imagine that they aired the story on CBS, the Canaanite Broadcasting Service . . .

"This morning we have the head of Shinar Construction with us to warn us about the problem of scattering and what you can do about it. Good morning sir, is scattering a real problem or just an urban myth?"

"Scattering is definitely a problem. Last year alone an independent report showed that 55,000 people, 30% of them children, were scattered in Shinar alone. "

"That’s terrible, but what can be done about it?"

"We at Shinar propose building a city which will help us make a name for ourselves. Studies show that . . ."

"I hate to interrupt, but a city? This has been tried before hasn't it? And the efforts never seem to quite work. A government report suggests that collapsing towers have caused a 72% decrease in the confidence of city life. People seem to be really scared that this will happen to them. What do you say to that?"

"Well, that may have been the case in the old cities, but new technology has changed that. With the invention of the brick we are certain that we will be able to build a tower that should be 48.6% higher that the average mud hill and at Shinar we have introduced a tar adhesive that will safeguard against collapse to an even greater degree. It is in the experimental stage right now, and once the adhesive is cleared by our scientists and legal advisors we expect construction of a tower at Babel in the next year. We think this is a major achievement in the war against scattering."

"Mr. Shinar of Shinar Construction, thank you so much for joining us this morning and we wish you all the best. Sounds like it could be hope for all of us against the dangers of scattering. Up next, environmental experts warn there could be yet another flood like the big one and, get this, it could come in the next hour. Are you prepared? You may not be as safe as you think! We will tell you what you can do to safeguard your family -- but first these messages."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

In Transit

If someone were to write a theme song for my life as I know it right now it would be called “Transition!” The lyrics would be set, ironically, to the song “Tradition!” from Fiddler on the Roof. I can hear Topol singing in my imagination:

Who, day and night, must scramble for a flight,
Kiss his wife and children, pay his daily bills?
And who has the plight, because of downsizing at the plant,
To get relocated and look for a new home?

The Papa, the Papa! Transition!

Have you noticed how the word transition has the word transit in it? Since I am currently travelling, I cannot help but notice that the structures that make up our society and culture are devoted to transit. I am surrounded by them today.

I am in a hotel room that is similar to most hotel rooms I have stayed in. It has a little coffee maker and a little refrigerator. I have a little bottle of shampoo and a little bar of soap. They are little because I will not be here for very long. I am in transit.

I have a wireless internet connection and I can stay in touch with my people far away on my portable laptop computer. Computers once filled a room and now I carry one on my belt. My computer, which is faster than a million speeding Univacs, is portable and I connect to the Internet super-highway without a wire or cable because I do not stay in one place for very long. I am in transit.

I am driving a car that is rented. There are nearly a dozen companies devoted to supplying me and other sojourners with a vehicle of transit. At DFW they have a huge complex about it, literally! Once you get off your plane you leave the airport and get on a bus that takes you on a ten minute trip to a large complex devoted only to renting cars. I fly. I ride. I drive. I am in transit.

When I was renting the car the desk clerk asked me if I wanted Sirius radio. I said, "How serious is it?" (Okay, I didn’t really say that). It was only $3.00 so of course I got it. Am I a sucker or what? I paid for something that is free – radio! However, Sirius radio is different. It is radio for people in transit. I can leave Dallas and listen to the same station all the way to Abilene. I can hear that same station in Fort Smith, Boston, Chicago, or Muleshoe. The signal is always there. Local broadcasting is so 20th century. Now we are Sirius about our radio and I can listen anywhere and I will because I am in transit!

This is the reality we live in dear readers. It is appropriate to lament, celebrate, explore, be nostalgic, be concerned, and be hopeful. What is not appropriate is to do just one of these to the exclusion of the others. We are surrounded by structures that strive to accommodate us and comfort us in our transition. And yet so few of these comofrts and accomodations really soothe our growing anxiety. What if we had in the midst of our transits and transitions a sense of the presence of the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever? Could we have the courage and hope to get up and leave the land we know and trust in the structures that only He can build? Let’s talk about this. Why don't you check in from time to time during your transits and sign the questbook – I mean, guestbook.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Nostalgic Refugee

I have always felt that you don’t really live somewhere until you take a trip away and return to it. At that point you are trying to get home. It becomes the place you know and love. It becomes the bookend setting in your there-and-back-again excursions.

Fort Smith became that place for me quite some time ago. In fact I could describe the last fifteen years of life as a multi-volume there-and-back-again story. I left my homeland all those years ago and now I have returned to it changed and wizened by my astounding experiences and amazing adventures in far away places with strange sounding names like Clyde and Clute.

I am on a little quest right now. It is a quest for knowledge and insight. I am in Abilene, Texas for the 2005 Ministry Summit. Alan Roxburgh has been lecturing on the changes taking place in our culture and world and what it means for church leaders. As a culture, we are all on a journey and we have left the land we know. The bad news is we can’t go back to what we knew. It isn’t there anymore. The good news is that God has a future for us if we are willing to trust in him to guide us through the wilderness of transition.

I become something of a nostalgic refugee when I am away from home. Absence, my absence, makes my heart grow fonder I suppose. I learn not to take my family and my community for granted. On my journey, I listen to the tales of others pilgrims, some I know and some I do not know, and the stories always draw me back to my family and my congregation and how much I love and appreciate them. Yesterday, I had dinner with a friend who is a gifted preacher and church leader. I told him that I thought of him just the day before and asked him if he remembered how eleven years ago from the day he and another friend were bored undergraduate students playing around on the elevators at Hendricks hospital while my wife was in labor. He did. I am just a nostalgic refugee and the topic always seems to come back to the world I know and the people I love.

I have many more reflections and comments on change and transition, dear reader. So come back to Written Without Ink and join the discussion. I welcome your comments and encourage you to change my blog into a b’logue — that’s short for web-dialogue. You read the word here first, dear reader!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Random Chance or Work of Art

One of this day's blessings was a phone call from a friend, Ben Siburt. Ben and his wife are preparing for the arrival of their first child and he chronicles the sojourn on his website His reflections reminded me of an article that I wrote after the birth of my second son. So, in honor of Ben, his wife, and child I want to spin this old classic from the fall of 1998 . . .!

I have often thought it would be a real kick to approach the parents of a newborn, look at their baby and say, “Wow, that’s the cutest random assemblage of molecules I've ever seen. A baby like that can only come from the hard work of protein slime, amoebae, walking fish, and primates over millions of years. You must be proud.” At that point the parents would likely call the police.

Of course, I am being ridiculous. No, I have never thought about doing that. But do you see the point I am trying to make? Perhaps I am biased or I have developed the eyes of faith, but seeing a newborn hardly elicits thoughts of random generation. Rather, I am drawn to thoughts of the creative genius of God. Every new life and every birth calls us to consider the miracle of human existence. The very fact that we are here is some proof of the existence of God.

Are we here by random chance? Human life doesn't seem all that random to me. A friend reminded me recently of the Christ of the Ozarks statue in Eureka Springs and the silliest question ever asked about the statue: “Is that a natural formation?” If it seems so ridiculous to ask that about an obvious work of art, then why would we assume that the masterpiece in God’s gallery is just a “natural formation?”

If life is random chance then I have won the lottery twice with the birth of both my sons. But I don’t have that sort of luck. Maybe that’s because I don’t believe in luck. I do however believe in fine art.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.Romans 1:20

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.Psalm 138:13-14

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Putting the Saint Back in Saint Patrick's Day

It is unfortunate that St. Patrick's Day is widely known for nothing more than wearing green, pinching, leprechauns, and inebriation. I say that because the story of Maewyn Succat, who later took the name Patrick, is one of the more inspiring stories from Christian history.

Many of us have heard the legends about Patrick chasing the snakes from Ireland, but the events in his life and the decisions that Patrick made that enabled him to bring the Christian faith to an entire nation are better than legends.

One of the most impressive prayers recorded in history is "The Breastplate of Patrick," a prayer for daily strength, protection, and encouragement. I post part of it here as my small way of bringing some faith back into another wayward holiday . . .

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:

God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

Christ to shield me today . . .

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

(Attributed to St. Patrick, 5th century A. D.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Treasures Old and New

The West-Ark congregation is blessed to have Tom Chapin conduct his seminar, “The Heart of Worship.” Tom does not preference a particular style of worship but invites us to appreciate the core dynamic of worship that is our response to the majesty and mystery of God. I value greatly his reflections on his worship heritage and his own pilgrimage back to the heart of worship. His stories kindled some reflections and recollections of my own.

For instance, I recall how a dear sister from Arkansas would occasionally fuss just a bit about new fangled songs and then pine away for the old hymns. I enjoyed our conversations, but I never was certain what she meant by the old hymns. I am never sure exactly what any of us mean when we speak of new songs or old hymns as the terms are so relative. How old does a song have to be to qualify as one of the old hymns? When dealing with 2000 years of Christianity and at least 1000 years of church music how old is old? How new does a song have to be to be contemporary Christian music? Some of the so-called new songs would qualify for the play list on a “Christian oldies” station.

As a test, see if you can guess which song is the older of the pair: Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary or Teach Me Lord To Wait? If you guessed Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary then you are right — but only by one year! Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary was written in 1952 and Teach Me Lord to Wait (a song I didn’t learn until the1980’s) was written in 1953. Once again, which is the older of the pair: Our God, He Is Alive or Where No One Stands Alone? If you guessed Our God, He Is Alive then you are wrong. Where No One Stands Alone was written in the 1950’s, and you may be as surprised as I was to learn that Our God, He Is Alive was written in 1966 by Aaron W. Dicus. That means that this song, which is so well known that it is often referred to by its "Songs of the Church" hymn number of 728b, is only a year older than I am! How can this song that is so familiar that it is sometimes called “the Church of Christ anthem” be less than 40 years old? Surely I am not as old as the old hymns!

It goes to show that age has nothing to do with familiarity or acceptance. For instance, do you know any of these old hymns - Phos Hilaron or Dies Irae? Probably not what most of us would consider "the old hymns" as they sound more like chants, but they are old and they were once the hymns of the church. Looking at this issue from the other side, we may ask what makes a song new or contemporary? Some of our so-called new songs are just a few years away from Medicare eligibility. Many of the songs considered contemporary or new were written in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Do we assume that a song is new simply because it is nothing more than printed lyrics on a Xeroxed page bound by a single staple with a title like "Our Songs" written on the front with a magic marker? When does a “new song” become an “old hymn?” Does it become official and legitimate when it gets arranged with a musical score and added to a hardbound book with a ribbon bookmark and an impressive, stately, and authoritative title like "Sacred Hymns Preferably Selected?" When does a song become a hymn? I see a real opportunity here for a Schoolhouse Rock-type cartoon. Can you imagine a little rolled up piece of paper with typed lyrics chanting to the tune of I’m Just a Bill . . .?

I’m just a song, yes I’m only a song,
and I hope I won’t be waiting too long.
Well, it’s a long, long wait from composer to arranger,
a long, long time ‘till the church folk think I’m ancient.
And then they’ll print me as a hymn!
Oh I hope and pray it’s not long, but today I am still just a song!

There is something to be said for familiar songs. The songs and hymns that we have grown up with and are commonly known have a communal power. They are affirming and reassuring. They are an artifact of our cloud of witnesses. I will never forget the story a friend told me of walking into a worship service in Los Angeles in the 1940’s where he was stationed for Marine training. He felt like a stranger until they started singing his mother’s favorite hymn. The power to create that sort of bond is something to be cherished. Likewise, there is something to be said for encountering the unfamiliar song and learning it. I recall worshipping with the church in Mexico and Honduras and singing the song Bienvenidos. It is a song that the church sings to welcome one another and it is sung with joyous vigor and hearty hugs. This song is not a part of my natural worship heritage, but I was graciously allowed to own it as an outsider and I was, as the song implies, welcomed into a fellowship despite the fact that I was a foreigner.

Old and new are relative terms. Familiar and unfamiliar are relative terms. Sometimes we are the strangers and sometimes we are the insiders. I hope that we can all sing a few old hymns along the way and maybe learn a few new songs. That would be nice, because I fully believe that the good-natured conversation I had with my dear sister from Arkansas will happen again. Not between her and me, rather a day in the future, perhaps some seventy years from now, when a woman who is today about 15 but will then be in her 80’s will be politely fretting to some younger minister about all the unfamiliar new songs. She’ll be pining away for the songs that remind her of camp and youth rallies and her favorite CD’s and contemporary Christian artists who are dead and gone. She will be pining away for the old hymns.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Yesterday we said goodbye to our friend, Aubrey Walden. In the year and a half that I knew Aubrey I knew him as “the man who is almost 100-years-old.” He died Sunday at the age of 99.

When we told our oldest son, age 11, that Mr. Aubrey had passed away he expressed his feeling of loss by saying, “I really thought he would make it to 100! He was really looking forward to that.” We were all looking forward to that. You can say what you like about the appropriateness of recognizing birthdays during Sunday worship, but Aubrey’s birthday was one that demanded to be recognized not merely for his longevity but also because his many years became his way of expressing the goodness of God. Aubrey was an evangelist simply by being himself. I too had hoped for the Sunday closest to November 16 when we would all cheer and applaud because Aubrey had celebrated his 100th birthday. I had hoped to see the children gawk at one another as they pondered such an astronomical age and then boast that they knew a real honest-to-goodness centenarian – which I am sure they would pronounce as “hunnert’yurolman.”

Yesterday at the funeral, Dale Brown spoke so well about Aubrey and urged us to let the memories of our 99-year-old friend flow. It is a blessing to experience this wave of memory. Brad Pistole sent out an email sharing some of Aubrey’s reflections on life. Our crowd in Peak of the Week shared stories on how Aubrey brought kindness and joy to their lives. In Dale’s eulogy and in all the stories and reflections there is one theme I have noticed: Aubrey took an interest in other people. He was complimentary and caring. I experienced that myself. On more than one occasion, Aubrey praised me for my preaching. He said much more than “good sermon, young man.” His words recognized that the talent to preach is a gift of God. I do not think I can write what he said to me because I wouldn’t do justice to the sacred blessing he shared. I can tell you that when Aubrey gave me such a “compliment” I did not get an ego boost, rather I felt a sacred charge and holy responsibility to preach the word of the Lord.

Aubrey Walden was indeed caring and complimentary and I think he modeled a characteristic that we would all do well to imitate. For the entire time that many of us knew Aubrey, he was a senior citizen. (In fact, when men first walked on the moon, Aubrey was a senior citizen). Perhaps because of his age, any of us would have forgiven him for being curmudgeonly, worried, anxious, or self-absorbed. Yet, he was not. He often thought of us. He didn’t demand “respect for one’s elders,” but he gained respect that was based on more than the fact that he was our oldest member.

I take some consolation in the fact that this was Aubrey’s 100th year. The fact that he did not make it to his 100th birthday only means that some of his plans changed. Aubrey worked at Golden Corral until very recently. He once told me that he planned to work until he was 100, retire for two years, and then come back to work. I had every reason to believe that he would do just that. His plans may have changed, but the eternal life that we witnessed in our 99-year-old friend continues.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A Compromised Sense of Humor

Chris Rock's selection as host is a sign of the Academy Awards Ceremony's dilemma. The producers of the show want it to be controversial enough to draw viewers but not so controversial that it offends them. The producers realize that the single memorable moment which could never be scripted or rehearsed is what people will be discussing around the water coolers, replaying on the morning shows, and writing about on blogs. Although they know they cannot artificially manufacture this memorable moment, they are eager to establish the proper atmospheric conditions that will yield the freak occurrence that promises to lure people back next year to watch another celebrity train wreck. Rock, the edgy and over-the-top comedian, seems to have just the right resume.

Don't misunderstand me; I have no criticism of Rock as host. In fact, he did just what was needed. He punctured the bloated pretentiousness of Hollywood with his skewering comedy. Rock was a sort of "people's host" who poked a little fun at the celebrities for all of us fine folk in "fly-over land" (Hollywood's derogatory term for everything between New York City and Los Angeles). Rock took aim with his man-on-the-street interviews, his "Who is Jude Law?" bit, and his pre-show advice for self-important actors and their acceptance speeches ("Don't thank God," Rock said. "God's busy working on the tsunami, so leave him alone.")

Rock, like the best comedians, says what the people are thinking even if no one else will say it. For the last few years the celebrities have been cajoling and chastising the rest of the nation and the world. Now Chris Rock is turning some of that back on the stars. For a comedian known for being crude and over-the-top he showed remarkable wisdom. As he said in one post-show interview, he did not take an unfair swipe at anyone who was down. ("It's just a joke. Jude Law probably made a scillion dollars this year. I would never hit a person that's down. Jude Law's fine. I'll go and see another Jude Law movie; maybe he'll put me in one of his movies.")

I hope all the celebrities have the grace to laugh at themselves. Whether we work in Hollywood or Holyoke, not taking ourselves too seriously is a sign of maturity. It keeps us from being too easily offended which often leads to other problems for everyone. It also gives us perspective so that we understand what is really important and deserving of reverence. Unfortunately, there are some, like Sean Penn, who seem to have a compromised sense of humor.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

It's Good To Be the King

I don't know about you, but I have been losing sleep at night worried! I have been biting my nails and pulling out my hair over the outcome of the Prince of Wales' relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles! I am glad that the media is finally getting past their tasteless obsession with the Michael Jackson trial and moving on to news that really affects our lives and the future of nations!

Okay seriously, I do not think I could ever summon a quantum of the anxiety that the network morning show hosts seem to display. (With the exception of Lester Holt whom I watched about a week ago. Mr. Holt couldn't have appeared less interested. I applaud you, sir!) Why is it that we in America give such attention to the British royals? What about King Harald of Norway or the Grand Dukes of Luxembourg? We just do not hear enough about them. Surely we who are so concerned with equal time ought to be giving a little attention to these other nobles. There is no reason to limit our "royal watching" to Europe either; King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand has been king since 1946. Furthermore, he was born in the United States so we certainly have something in common with His Majesty.

Perhaps I should give this royal affair greater attention. Even if it does not directly influence our culture it certainly seems to reflect it. Also, there are also some rather intricate and puzzling little problems that can set one's mind to pondering for quite some time. For instance, if Charles' marriage is not completely legitimate according to the teaching of the Church of England (because, as I am told, Camilla is divorced) then how can Charles become the Supreme Governor of the Church of England (which, as I am told, is sort of a perk that goes with being king)? It is good to be the king, but it certainly does create headaches for all of us commoners, eh wot?

I suppose I should attempt to decipher the spiritual and cultural implications of this most newsworthy development coming out of Buckingham Palace. However, I think these two images and their rather coincidental juxtaposition on the MSNBC website speak volumes:

First, there was this rather typical scene of the Duke and soon-to-be-Duchess of Cornwall which served as a banner to the article titled Now You Ask Me? . . . .

Then, just next to that image, was a most serendipitous image that served as a link to an article about the Supreme Governor of another prominent religious organisation. . . .

Probably the best comment I have heard on the whole matter.