THE INTERNET MONK SATURDAY BRUNCH
”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
It is the first weekend of summer, and what fun I’m having here in . . . rainy Indiana. Groan!
Oh, for a seat on one of those colorful beach chairs with a Corona and lime in my hand, floppy hat on my bald head, salt air in my nostrils, and the sound of my grandchildren frolicking in the waves! Ain’t gonna happen for awhile, but a Chaplain can dream can’t he?
Until then, I’ll have to settle for the joy of sharing a little brunch with my friends. Welcome to Saturday!
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WHAT HOW YOU DRAW A CIRCLE SAYS ABOUT YOU…
Check out this article from Quartz and see what you can learn.
In November, Google released an online game called Quick, Draw!, in which users have 20 seconds to draw prompts like “camel” and “washing machine.” It’s fun, but the game’s real aim is to use those sketches to teach algorithms how humans draw. By May this year, the game had collected 50 million unique drawings.
We used the public database from Quick, Draw! to compare how people draw basic shapes around the world. Our analysis suggests that the way you draw a simple circle is linked to geography and cultural upbringing, deep-rooted in hundreds of years of written language, and significant in developmental psychology and trends in education today.
Well, what did the circle game say about you?
Which reminds me…
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THE MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING CHAMPS
It seems that Utah is the number one state in the U.S. for multi-level marketing, and that its Mormon culture is a primary reason why. According to this article from KUTV in Salt Lake City:
There are at least 15 major MLMs in Utah County alone, generating billions in annual revenue and making direct sales the second-biggest industry in Utah behind tourism, according to Loren Israelsen, executive director of the Utah-based United Natural Products Alliance.
Per capita, Utah has more MLMs than any other state.
“It must have something to do with the way LDS culture works in the valley,” said Ann Dalton, CEO of the beauty product direct-seller Perfectly Posh, from her Salt Lake City office.
Connections fostered in LDS communities, said Dalton, create a hotbed for businesses with a social sharing model. The prevalence of national and international missions by young men and women for the LDS church, she speculates, plays a huge role.
“You get a lot of return missionaries who speak every language on the planet, then all of a sudden you have a sales force that’s very well connected,” she said. “They’re connecting with their friends, they know the languages, they’re tech savvy. That’s my untested theory.”
The article goes on to say that Utah’s high percentage of stay-at-home moms contributes to the prevalence of MLM businesses, with some estimates that as many at 75% of Utah women are involved in some kind of direct sales business.
Looks like one distinctively American religion promoting another from my perspective.
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Speaking of a uniquely American kind of religion, CT asks the question, “Should Churches Keep Their Civil War Landmarks?”
The article quotes a piece by Wheaton College communications professor Theon Hill:
The goal of removal efforts is not to erase history, but to recontextualize it. The Confederacy with its vicious legacy of white supremacy should not be honored but lamented. … This debate extends beyond questions of who we were to who we want to be. Commemorating the past elevates it as an example to emulate in the future. David continues to be held in high esteem within the Judeo-Christian tradition because even when he failed, his heart was bent toward what was right. The Confederacy is not an honorable example of imperfect people trying to do the right thing, but a tragic warning of what happens when we pursue our interests at the expense of others’ humanity.
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TAKIN’ MY BALL AND GOIN’ WHERE I CAN SET THE RULES…
Meanwhile, in the evangelical megachurch world in Chicago, Pastor James MacDonald has popped up again, and it ain’t pretty. This is from The Elephant’s Debt, a website that was started to track the former troubles and scandals in MacDonald’s fiefdom. Seems Sir James is in hot water once more.
Two days ago, on the 14th of June 2017, a letter purportedly written by James MacDonald was sent to the approximately 150 senior pastors that comprise the Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF). In that letter, James announced two significant events. First, the local Harvest Bible Chapel of which he is the Senior Pastor would be pulling out of the Harvest Bible Fellowship. Secondly, he, himself, would be “resigning” his role as the President of HBF. Control of the HBF church-planting organization would be given to Interim Executive Director, Brian White and his “governance leaders,” including: Ron Zappia, Bill Borinstein, and Robbie Symons. Sources indicate that in the immediate aftermath of James’ “resignation,” most (possibly all) of the HBF staff were subsequently terminated.
As surprising as this may be to some readers, the language used in the letter distributed to the former HBF churches suggests that this may not be a voluntary “resignation.”
Maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be pretty hard not to be in constant trouble when your role model for leadership is this guy!
If you like this sort of thing, you can read the MacDonald story in all its gory details over at Wartburg Watch, where our vigilant friends have been warning about his “ministry” for years, noting: “Throughout the years, MacDonald has been known for the firing and berating of elders, then apologizing much later, allegedly driving up enormous debt in his organization, living a fabulous lifestyle and indulging in gambling trips to Las Vegas with his other BFF, Jerry Jenkins. We have written extensively about all of this and have provided numerous links at the end of this post for those of you who need to play catch up.
WW reports that MacDonald’s church has now become a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Perfect.
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Speaking of the SBC, Wartburg Watch finds it interesting that the new breed of SBC neo-reformed church planters can’t find it in their vocabulary to say they’re Baptists. An article WW quotes says that the “baggage” associated with the name Baptist is turning people away and churches are dying. One pastor put it this way when asked about his church’s “re-branding” — “It’s a more inclusive name, a consumerist attempt to recast a super conservative image.”
Despite the fact that there are more church plants and more established churches becoming SBC affiliates, baptisms, church attendance, and church membership is down significantly. Ed Stetzer, who analyzes church trends for the SBC, even said in 2016, “Southern Baptists are shrinking faster than United Methodists.”
Our friend Dee at WW ends with this sad reflection:
I, too, am one of those 1 million people who left the SBC. I found a home in a liturgical church and am growing in my faith as I experience the love of the pastors, something lacking in my former SBC church whose pastors always told us that they were soooo overworked.
There are no coffee bars, incredible bands, and hipster presentation that will cause the SBC to grow. It will need to dig deeper and get very, very uncomfortable in order to deal with the difficult problems that face the convention. I am not sure they are ready to do so. When pushing the doctrines of grace, hardball church membership, protectionism of churches which covering up child sex abuse, domestic violence and abusive church discipline takes priority over faith and love, the SBC will continue to decline.
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THE TRANSFORMATION OF A CHRISTIAN “MOMMY-BLOGGER”
Now here’s something completely different. From Elle:
Let’s pretend for a minute that it’s early 2016 and you are Glennon Doyle Melton—wife, mother, spiritual exemplar, sun-bronzed poster girl for a kind of messy, beautiful domestic imperfection that, somehow, makes you even more perfect. You’re the world’s most famous Christian mommy blogger, a heroine and role model to your one million social media followers. Your first memoir, Carry On, Warrior, was a best-seller. Now you’re about to release your second—Love Warrior, a gripping chronicle of how you saved your marriage following your husband Craig’s infidelity. The book ends with you and Craig standing on the beach facing the Gulf of Mexico, renewing your vows and affirming the gritty path of the Warrior: “Love, Pain, Life: I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
And then, right before the book is published, you attend a literary conference and spot a woman across the room. She has spiky, platinum-tipped hair, an impish smile, and calf muscles the size of tree trunks. She is U.S. soccer superstar Abby Wambach. And you know instantly that she is the love of your life. What do you do?
And so, “the world’s most famous Christian mommy blogger,” face and voice of The Momastery and author of the viral post, “Don’t Carpe Diem,” did a full 180◦ turn, despite many warnings. One of her friends wrote, “Think about it … this is brand suicide. It’s just such an extreme pivot. Everyone else who cared about her said, ‘Don’t do this thing. You’re going to sabotage your life. Everything you’ve worked so hard for is going to be destroyed.’ ”
Guess what? Melton lost 4,521 followers, but she gained 6,670. And her book, Love Warrior now has more than 500,000 copies in circulation and been translated into 18 languages.
However, Christianity Today called her transformation a conversion to the “gospel of self-fulfillment” It became one of CT Women’s top 10 articles of 2016. In another scathing article at CT, Lore Wilbert urged her to stop writing so that she could “save her soul,” and to stop pandering to “the altar of personal narrative that readers, writers, and publishers worship at.”
Melton and Wambach were recently married, and Melton made these comments: “When Craig and I sat them down to tell [our children] about Abby I started by saying: ‘In our family, we live and tell the truth about who we are no matter what, and then love each other through it — and I’m about to show you how that’s done.’”
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ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL PARENTING DECISION…
You’ve heard of the Benedict Option? How about the Ecuador Option?
Wendy DeChambeau says she and her husband determined that the only way to save their kids was by moving the family out of the U.S. to a small mountain village in Ecuador. In her opinion, it’s the best parenting decision they’ve ever made.
Some of our friends turned on us, calling us terrible parents, or saying we were unpatriotic. Why would we want to leave the land of the free and the home of the brave? And where was Ecuador, anyway? Somewhere near Mexico? Africa? We were taking our children to a country that most Americans can’t even point to on a map. What were we thinking?
Well, we were thinking a lot of things, and taking a number of factors into consideration. In America, it seemed every third child was taking pharmaceuticals to treat behavioral issues, anxiety, or depression. High school students were unloading automatic weapons into their classmates. Opioid use was reaching all new highs. Bank executives were defrauding their customers and Wall Street was walking an increasingly thin tight rope. It felt like The American Dream as we knew it was all but gone, having transformed into a shadowy unknown. We fretted about what the future would hold for our family. We thought maybe, just maybe, a simpler lifestyle somewhere else was the answer. And so, in 2011, our family walked up to the edge of the unknown, took a deep breath, and jumped.
After the inevitable culture shock and questions about whether they had been wise in emigrating, DeChambeau says that they began to see changes in six months. “But within six months, our plan began to work. Our kids were soon chatting away in Spanish to their new friends and started showing interest in learning other languages. Some of Latin America’s best features were rubbing off on us, like the emphasis on family time and community involvement, which I loved.”
She notes that their kids have no “privileged first-world” lens through which they view the world. The spirit of materialism and consumerism have largely bypassed them. In a land where “instant gratification” is a joke, they’ve learned to wait for things to happen. In a world devoid of man-made attractions, they’ve learned to appreciate the wonders of the real world around them.
Today I have two teenagers who I truly love spending time with. They’re well adjusted, curious, and mature for their age. Maybe I just got lucky with genetically programmed great kids. Maybe things would have turned out just as well if we had stayed put. But I’m confident that life in Ecuador has molded them — more than I ever could — into the promising young men they’ve become.
Eventually my boys will return to the U.S. to attend college and build their adult lives. When they do, they’ll have a leg up. In a world where the up-and-coming generation is castigated for their feelings of entitlement and inability to handle disappointment, my sons have no notions of being owed a thing.
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PICTURES OF THE WEEK
What Saturday would be complete without some magnificent animal pictures?
Here are a few of the winners in the Dog Photographer of the Year Contest, an annual event organized by the UK-based animal welfare organization the Kennel Club. See more at Digg.
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[THE ONLY] QUESTION OF THE WEEK
At Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight asks a question I’ve always wanted to ask soterian gospel folks. Now, it’s a rather serious question, perhaps better suited for another day, but it’s been bugging me ever since I read Scot’s post, and so I thought I’d bring it as the one and only question to the table for this Saturday’s brunch. There’s nothing that says we can’t have a hearty theological discussion over our eggs and sausage, is there?
How are we to process the many passages in Psalms where the psalmist appeals to God on the basis of his own integrity?
These texts have always confused me. I understand the deadly sin of self-righteousness; indeed, I consider it the most poisonous disposition anyone can harbor and I think every person, not just every religious person, is subject to its deceptive infiltration of our hearts and minds. I know that I and all human beings constantly try and justify ourselves and cover up what we are terrified of revealing in the depths of our souls, boasting in our own innocence and advocating for our own status and advancement. And self-righteousness is not only evil in and of itself, but it gives birth to a host of other hateful attitudes, such as prejudice, inhospitality, and cruelty of all sorts.
I have been taught, as an evangelical Christian, that I should never appeal to God on the basis of God’s justice, for if I were to truly receive justice for what I deserve, I would be cast away. My only appeal is on the basis of the mercy and grace of God revealed to me in Christ. And yet this is what the psalmists do, time and time again. In addition to the passage that Scot is dealing with in his post, take these for examples:
The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. (7:8)
Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. (26:1)
But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever. (41:12)
Are these sentiments just more evidence of human weakness and hyperbolic, emotional language in the psalms, like the imprecations and curses upon enemies? Do these appeals represent the honest but mistaken perceptions of the pray-ers? Are these claims that the psalmists have walked before God in righteousness and integrity shams of self-deception?
Or is something else at work here?
Go. Pass me some more eggs and I’ll listen while you discuss this.
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MUSIC OF THE WEEK
One of the blessings my family has experienced has been to have a connection to Canadian singer Anne Murray. My sister-in-law was her hair and make-up specialist, traveling with Anne for years, and my daughter got to spend a summer on the bus with the band. We’ve enjoyed great seats at several of her concerts.
If you want to know her story, look no further. CBC Music has a nice tribute article to Anne, called, “Anne Murray: 40 years of hustle and the making of a Canadian icon.”
Yes, that Anne Murray. She was Canada’s original country, pop, adult-contemporary crossover who baffled publications, critics and music programmers with her refusal to be bound by genre. She was also the first Canadian female solo singer to score a No. 1 hit in the U.S. with her 1970 breakthrough, “Snowbird.” Twenty-plus years before [Shania] Twain’s fly-trap-sticky choruses became the karaoke anthems that bridged generational, gendered and geographical divides, Murray — a Springhill, N.S., gym teacher-turned-award-winning vocalist — was the country’s gold-standard superstar.
…A woman who’s sold more than 55 million albums, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, who used to roll in circles that led to this photo of her, John Lennon, Alice Cooper, Micky Dolenz and Harry Nilsson, and who never shied away from her ambitions — professional or personal. She vocalized a clear, focused pursuit of a career throughout her interviews in the ’70s and ’80s. Interviews that Twain, Céline Dion, k.d. lang and countless other aspiring musicians — all influenced by Murray — would have grown up watching and reading.
Murray was also a one-woman hit machine for 40-plus years, shouldering the expectations of fans, media and the music industry alike. She won Grammys, a record number of Junos and amassed more than 70 singles to her credit. Between 1968 and 1988 alone, she churned out at least a record a year (and sometimes two or three).
Thanks Anne. Lots of great memories and tender moments with your music as the soundtrack.
Here’s my favorite Anne Murray song, from a performance with the Boston Pops: