The IM Saturday Brunch: June 24, 2017


”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!

• • •


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…

• • •


Salt Lake Tribune – 7/24/11

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.

• • •

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond VA – “Cathedral of the Confederacy”

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.

• • •


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.

• • •

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.

• • •


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.’”

• • •


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.

• • •


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.

• • •


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:

Chagall, David & His Harp

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.

• • •


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:

86 thoughts on “The IM Saturday Brunch: June 24, 2017

  1. Yup, give it two years, and the honeymoon effect will wear out.

    What riles me somewhat is that our culture gives this adultery a pass because it’s two women.

    If it was the husband going off with a woman half his age who he just saw across a room and new she was the “love of his life” it would get the quote marks it deserves…


  2. I haven’t read Melton’s most recent book. But she’s never struck me as particularly sincere or even honest. Cute, and sometimes funny. Not particularly insightful, or interested in Scripture.
    When we start redefining love the way we want to, we make life so painful for others and ultimately for ourselves. Breaking her marriage vow like this – especially after having written this last book – seems to show that Melton is only interested in her own definition. If she can write sentences around it that sound pretty, then she’ll have followers affirming her. Not trying to deny her a supportive community. But I wish she’d have listened to those who warned her away from this path.
    (Not doubting that she loves her new spouse.)
    I wish people would be careful about how they expose their partners to publicity and criticism…even when they have permission to do so, even when it seems perfectly fair and legit. We’re supposed to protect one another in marriage, and honor them above needs and interests of others.
    Easy for me to say all this, having never been married…


  3. Chaplain Mike, I hope you see this. I was away from my computer yesterday.

    The problem you’re having vexed me, too – until I removed those “dik-” words “righteousness” and “judgment” and their cognates from a legal framework, both in Greek and in Hebrew. This took a long time, because it’s baked into our consciousness for lots of reasons.

    Covenantal imagery comes closer to solving it, but such imagery and language doesn’t always get there, at least for me. Our lingering legal framework makes us think that in covenant God is still “legally” required to do something, and this often short-circuits his love, or makes it secondary or negligible.

    Try replacing all those legal framework words with something like, “the ability to be in the proper love relationship with God (which is always initiated by God)”. This definition is one I have come to after lots of study and, several years of paying attention to the words in the Orthodox liturgy and prayers; a very theologically knowledgeable Orthodox priest (who happens to speak 6 different languages) confirmed this when I told him my thoughts.

    So, like this:

    “Seek first the Kingdom of God and the kind of ability God has to be in proper relationship, and all these things will be added to you.”

    “Our own ability to be in the proper love relationship with God is like filthy rags.”

    “Judge me, O Lord, according to the ability (which you gave me) to be in the proper relationship with you and according to the innocence in me.” -Judge me by my non-guiltiness, my non-badness, in the LXX. In Hebrew, “righteousness” and integrity/wholeness are 2 different words, and the LXX reflects that. Same thing in Ps 41. The psalmist presumes, like a good Jew, that he is already in that proper relationship because God has enabled it by his (covenantal) love.

    Et cetera.

    Dikaiosune and tzadekkeh are not about quid-pro-quo legalities. Integrity, both in Hebrew and Greek, presumes a proper relationship, with wholeness – a healthily integrated person – as a major component/result, so that we can DO things that reflect that relationship, such as in modern Hebrew where “the tzadekkeh” means the box you set aside in your home to hold money for the poor; when you put the money in, you are acting from charitable love, from a proper relationship with God, and in concert with your humanity as God meant it to be.

    And always compare the LXX! My understanding is that the Masoretic often is indeed better, but since the LXX is a much older textual tradition and was available in the 1st century, it needs to be seriously considered, particularly with things having to do with character, God’s and ours. And especially when it comes to passages like Jer 17.9: “The heart is deep above all else, and so is man, and who shall understand him?” That’s a lot different – and a lot less smack-down gulit-producing – than “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.”



  4. I’m a bit late to this discussion, but if I were a betting man I’d put money on this marriage not lasting very long. And I can see plenty of reasons why it’s troubled from the start before one even considers the same-sex dimension. Both parties recently ended their previous marriages. One party is still in the early stages of sobriety following years of substance abuse. Other commenters have cited plenty of other valid reasons for this relationship not working out in the long run.

    Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re discussing their breakup during a Saturday brunch in the not-too-distant future. I don’t wish them ill in any way, but I simply don’t see how it will last.


  5. We count syllables differently in Australia too? Maybe
    I will have to be careful about this counting too.

    I have one ready for tomorrow, watch this space.



  6. I keep waiting for The Wartburg Watch to post a clarification on its update re. James MacDonald and the Southern Baptist Convention. According to the September, 2015 edition of SBC Life,”Pastor James MacDonald announced at the SBC Pastors’ Conference in Columbus, Ohio, that Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago had made the commitment to become a cooperating church with the SBC.”

    That’s not new. What did happen recently is that Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Center left Calvary Chapel to affiliate with SBC. Same Harvest name, but entirely different organization.


  7. I don’t always follow the strictures. I’m not free verse averse; in my neck of the woods, it’s called nontraditional haiku.


  8. In the way that makes the syllables work out. Lol. er (y)? d?t. Forgive my poetic license. Seriously though, I do appreciate your haiku. Words well written have always been something I’ve enjoyed reading. The particular strictures of haiku require a particular talent to do well. Thanks for continuing to share them along with your insights on the subjects under discussion here. I always appreciate and look forward to reading them.


  9. I’m sincerely sorry that you and your family are having such a hard time, Patrick Kyle. I hope things turn out as well as they possibly can for all of you. I’m not exactly thriving in these United States, myself, nor is my wife. We will never be able to retire, unless some miracle occurs, and we don’t know what the other will do when one of us dies first, how they will survive or where live. We can’t afford to pay into any retirement community, and because we look better on paper than we actually are, we can’t get assistance with expenses. We are very afraid of what the future holds.

    But for many people, the America of fifty years ago was not the world of growing affluence and security that you or I may remember. And nothing we remember can erase their memories, or the memories they’ve passed down to their children, about the ugliness and pain of that America, because the ugliness and pain were real. It’s our turn to share some of the pain and ugliness, like it or not.

    Again, I really do wish you well, and hope for the best for you, as differently as we may see things.


  10. He could also be balled up in the fetal posit6ion in his closet weeping bitterly that the wife of his youth abandoned him and their children for a homosexual fling.


  11. I think your assumption about their financial status may be correct, there’s no reason to think it isn’t. Just pointing out that it is an assumption. On the other hand they may have modest means and may well be counting on their sons exceptional character, development and learning to make their own American dream without any wealth handed over.
    As far as splitting town when things get tough and thinking that it will be greener on the other side, going to Ecuador would not seem to match that category of exploit. I would only anticipate more difficulties in taking an American family to Ecuador. I give them credit.


  12. Don’t have a problem with a Christian woman marrying another woman. Do have a problem with leaving your loving marriage because you see someone across a crowded room and fall in love at first sight.

    Sounds like a classic Mid Life Crisis, “I GOTTA BE MEEEEEEEEEE!!!” sub-type.


  13. I don’t see it as being fundamentally different from the flight of white Americans in the 60s and 70s from cities into suburbia, or the move parents make to “safer neighborhoods” for the sake of their kids.

    Like the Kyle’s Mom segment of the South Park movie’s first aria: “Mountain Town”. (surprisingly SFW)
    From an informant who grew up in rural Northern California (Redding), Kyle’s Mom is drawn from life; Redding was overrun and gentrified/yuppified by well-off parents fleeing the Big Bad City, only to turn it into a rural verson of the Bay Area, attitude, sprawl, and all.


  14. June 24, 2017 at 9:16 am

    “Some churches turn to consultants to help them rebrand.”

    Of course, that’s the answer: hire a branding consultant, they’ll know just how to spice things up and bring that attendance back up.

    Paging Dan Draper…
    Paging Dan Draper…


  15. Imagine being married to someone who wrote a book about your marriage.
    Imagine being married to someone who needs to pump out a BLOG post about your marriage every day.

    Like John of “John & Kate Plus Eight” (remember their J&K+8 Study Bible?), stuck in his wife’s Reality Show stardom.


  16. It does, but I was thinking more of Barfield’s (and Stieiner’s) teaching on the evolution of consciousness. There is some evidence that our many-times-great grandparents didn’t experience the world the way we do. For example, the lack of color words for blue and green in the very oldest texts may indicate an inability to perceive these colors.

    Or it may not.

    Jsyne’s ideas seem to have faded from the current anthropological discourse without having been refuted. It may be that they are basically irrefutable, much as are Immanuel Velikovsky’s romances about the Bronze Age collapse.


  17. Robert, the quality of life in many areas of the country has greatly decreased in the last 15-20 years. I have live in Southern California for 30 years. In the last 15 years it has become exponentially more crowded. In the last year and a half at trip up the 15 fwy to the 91 fwy has gone from 25 min to 45 min (up from 12 min 9 years ago.) 17,000 new homes are slated for this area in the next 5 to 10 years. The County is 10 years behind on freeway improvements. My neighbor spends two hours in the morning and three hours in the evening commuting to and from his work. This is not uncommon here, with most people driving 2 or 3 hours every day The price of housing, even crappy housing, has gone way up. A local paper published figures showing that families qualified as low income in neighboring making $84,000 a year. For the bay area ‘low income’ is over $100,00 a year. In these areas you qualify for government help at these levels. The cheapest new home developments advertise as starting in the ‘High $200’s to Low $300’s.’ Many of us are house poor. Not wanting to live in gang infested, crumbling neighborhoods with crappy schools, we make huge house payments, leaving little left over for up keep for the house or to maintain cars. I know other areas are suffering the same fate. New England, New York State, Seattle and parts of Washington State, Chicago and elsewhere.

    Socially, things have deteriorated. The number of single parent households is way up. Say what you will, but I am a survivor of my parents’ divorce and can tell you with certainty that it negatively affects the kids. The idea that divorce is usually good for the kids because fighting, loving environment, blah, blah blah, is pure horse shit. Except in cases of physical abuse or rampant substance abuse, a ‘good divorce’ with children involved, is a myth. It’s a lie parents tell themselves to justify their decisions.
    Would you argue that we are better off politically now, or religiously? You have spilled a great deal of electronic ink on this forum arguing otherwise. My grandfather and to a certain degree my father were able to provide for our family with one job and after 30 or 40 years retire with a decent pension. Those days are rapidly fading in the rear view mirror.

    We are selling our house and business and we are moving back home to Montana. Even that place has changed but not as much as other places. It is a much slower pace of life, the politics are still relatively conservative. I will never have to worry about Leftist gun control schemes or masses of illegal aliens stressing the schools and the social safety nets to the point of collapse like they have here. My wife and oldest son have anxiety disorders because of the crowding and the pace of life here. A slower quieter pace up there will serve us well. Maybe things are easier where you live, and it appears that things are getting better. Good for you. From where I stand, there are some dark days ahead and I mourn the country I once knew.


  18. I see you’ve been working on your haiku…. keep working. (Insert Smiley Face emoticon HERE)


  19. “How are we to process the many passages in Psalms where the psalmist appeals to God on the basis of his own integrity?”

    Yes, Jesus seemed to put the kibosh on that with his story of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple. I’m not sure how to get past that parable, supposing that we even want to.

    Maybe sincerity of heart is what “counts.” Can you sincerely thank God for being a totally wonderful person?


  20. ChrisS, My comment is not a criticism of their action, but was only meant to highlight the fact that they were following a thoroughly American script: “Things are going to hell-in-a-hand basket here. Let’s go over there!”

    Regarding their level of affluence: If they’re expecting their sons to relocate and buy-back into American society, as they say they are, they would need some significant wealth to do that. As you point out, it’s easy to cash in and go south and live like a king with a relatively small amount of money, but then if you want to buy back in, or to buy your kids back in, you need a lot more. I’m betting they are pretty well off, by both American and Ecuadorian standards.


  21. The Axial Age theory sounds similar to Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. He places the “break” in consciousness at about 3,000 years ago,


  22. Notice, Tom, I did not criticize their choice (except insofar as it was motivated by the acceptance of the erroneous “America in Decline” mythology). I was just trying to highlight the fact that there in nothing especially Christian about it, though it is thoroughly American. But was it meant to be Christian? I don’t see anything in the linked article to suggest it was. It was merely the American thing to do: Wagon Ho!


  23. Did I miss something? Where in the article did it say that these were people of any particular wealth or privilege? It sounds like a great thing they did that benefited them and their children. If you have what is a paltry retirement savings of 30 or $40,000 in the United States you can move to some South American countries and live an upper middle-class life for decades. Your healthcare may not be up to par and your safety may be in jeopardy but it doesn’t take a lot and that’s why I wanted to comment on that point.


  24. Agree completely.

    > the suburban parents who drive their kids to school

    Yep. This is precisely what is behind the Safe RoutesTo School initiative. People organize to make sure children have a [reasonably – not perfectly] safe route through neighborhoods to school by walking or biking. Getting themselves, even at an early age, to and from school is an essential PART OF THE EDUCATION. And an enormous burden removed from parents; particularly lower income parents. Listening to the peanut gallery criticize the organized families as do-gooder hipsters “whining about their 1st world problems” is … ugh; holy frack can some people miss the point.


  25. Does a 3000 year old ANE tribe’s laws and rules governing their society codified around a belief system have any bearing at all on our lives in the 21st century?

    I would say no.


  26. I did the circle experiment. Dammit! Turns out I’m an average ordinary American. I was sure I was going to turn out to be exceptional. In other news did you hear about the turtle that was attacked by a gang of snails? Cop asked him what happened afterward and he said, “I don’t know, it all happened so fast.”


  27. Glennon Doyle Melton is an example of “Christian hedonism”. No longer is the gospel of Jesus Christ redeeming us from sin and death and for us to live a life that reflects God’s calling to live holy lives but it is now “God wants you to be happy”. We see in the “prosperity gospel”, the embracing of Donald Trump as a Christian leader, and focus on self-fulfillment. We also see the economic philosophy of Ayn Rand of “takers” and “makers” being adopted by many Christian leaders and the move away of mercy and compassion so those who are struggle in life.


  28. “Some churches turn to consultants to help them rebrand.”

    Of course, that’s the answer: hire a branding consultant, they’ll know just how to spice things up and bring that attendance back up. You know, just like the church has throughout its history when things weren’t going well too. After all, God didn’t just give us apostles, pastors, evangelists, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, but image branding consultants too…*facepalm*

    Almost more than anything else, people hate being deceived and lied to. This changing of the name/image movement will eventually catch up with them as people begin to realize that at their core, these churches are still fundamentally Baptist, and they’ll end up resenting the church even more than before.


  29. Where we live and how we live makes a difference in our children’s development. I can understand their action. It’s easier to move than it is to be a transformational force (with marginal or doubtful results) in a rapidly declining neighborhood or culture. We all need/want something of a relatively safe place to live and raise our families–and that isn’t bad.

    However, at the same time…children develop best where they are met with appropriate challenges that they must deal with. Part of the problem as I see it in middle and upper class America is that some of the most basic challenges of life are no longer challenges and parents often preclude their children from dealing with the ones that are left (an example that comes immediately to mind is the suburban parents who drive their kids to school instead of their children having to deal with all the problems of riding the school bus–talk about all the added traffic on streets between 7:30-8 !).

    I’m sure that the kids of the parents that moved to Ecuador faced some basic challenges (language for one) that were developmentally beneficial. At the same time I see Robert’s points…


  30. Kinda late to the table. Has anyone commented on how the Ecuador Option sounds a lot like Mosquito Coast?


  31. +1

    They could have moved to any number of neighborhoods in America which are not populated by privileged white people.


  32. > the loss of the American Dream seems

    Yeah, it is all about that. But said “dream” is **utterly** inseparable from Christianity for many people. Moving to another country is the only way they can separate themselves from the American “Dream” [which is quite nightmarish; it is a demanding master].


  33. > . . . Do have a problem with leaving your loving marriage . . .

    From a purely humane perspective: the [former] husband no longer has to be married to one of “Christianity’s” most famous mommy bloggers! Doesn’t such a situation remind anyone else of the theology of ECT?

    We don’t know the full story. The [former] husband may very well be skipping up and down the back alley, twirling about, singing hallelujah’s.

    Imagine being married to someone who wrote a book about your marriage.
    Imagine being married to someone who needs to pump out a BLOG post about your marriage every day.


  34. I guess that I’d think of it in terms of covenant.

    As I understand it from Tom Wright, EP Sanders explains becoming one of the people of God is by virtue of God’s covenant with Abraham, and staying in it comes by keeping the Law. You can’t get in on your own (you aren’t ever going to be good enough for that) but for maintaining the relationship, the Law is important.


  35. Types of Christ? I’ve heard that in connection with the imprecatory Psalms, but the problem with that supposition when it comes to the imprecatory Psalms is that nowhere do we have the Christ of the Gospels calling for the heads of his enemies’ children to be dashed against the rocks, or his enemies to be defeated and killed or humiliated. Even if we spiritualize it, and say that the imprecatory Psalms are Christ praying against his true enemies, Satan and his fallen angels, nowhere do we see Christ in the Gospels calling for such a defeat and humiliation of fallen angelic beings, even when he is on the cross. The only words Christ issues from the cross are ones of reconciliation and forgiveness.

    I’m more amenable to seeing the Psalmists as types of Christ in the case of their appeal to God on the basis of their own righteousness. But I think that can only be justified from a predetermined theological understanding brought to the texts, and is completely unjustified on the basis of natural literary reading. Personally, I think the Psalmist is just full of himself.


  36. “Are these sentiments just more evidence of human weakness and hyperbolic, emotional language in the psalms, like the imprecations and curses upon enemies?”

    Maybe, but I’m more inclined to the position that the Psalmists are in these instances types of Christ – Christ, Who CAN safely appeal to God based on His righteousness. In any event, I’m certainly not going to appeal to God based on *my* righteousness, being as I am one of those cussed believers in original sin/inherent depravity/etc.


  37. Agreed. This is just selfishness that pursues “self-fulfillment” without concern for the pain of others or promises broken.


  38. I draw circles clockwise, like most Japanese, rather than counterclockwise, like most Americans (according to the linked article). No surprise there. I have always had deep appreciation and resonance with traditional Japanese esthetics, insofar as I know it. Nothing seems more simultaneously spiritual and mundane, or more sublimely revealing of the mysterious depths of the everyday ordinary world, than a good Zen-influenced Japanese landscape painting, or a good haiku.


  39. I believe that the joke was that James McDonald’s behavior more closely resembles the philosophy of Kevin Spacey’s character on the House Of Cards internet show than… you know… Jesus.


  40. Re: the Psalmist’s invocation of his own integrity.

    I don’t think self-reflection was part of the species’ psychic toolkit until after the Axial Age. You can contrast Aeschylus with Euripides, the Vedas with the Upanishads, or the Psalms with Ecclesiastes to see the difference.

    Just a shot in the dark, unless what you are angling for is another rejection of the utility of the Bible in forming ethical opinions in favor of a moderate relativism and skepticism.


  41. That article is deeply creepy. My kids arn’t privledged, they’re just massively wealthier than everyone they meet. Their not short sighted unlike this stereotype I have of kids in a country I don’t live in. Not great


  42. Lordy, but doesn’t James MacDonald look exactly look ke Kevin Spacey!

    I thought first I must be reading an article from The Babylon Bee. Then I clicked on the WW link and saw that the real James MacDonald looks nothing at all like Kevin Spacey. I don’t go to many movies, so what am I missing here? Someone please explain for those of us who are several decades behind the times (translation: not hyper-plugged-in to pop culture). Thanks.


  43. Okay, so this family cut and ran to Ecuador, to escape the American mess and provide their kids with something different than the dog-eat-dogism of American culture. I’m glad it worked out for them. At the same time, I don’t see it as a particularly Christian response to supposed American decline (a myth about the loss of the American Dream seems to be operative in the motivation behind this family’s move).

    Actually, I don’t see it as being fundamentally different from the flight of white Americans in the 60s and 70s from cities into suburbia, or the move parents make to “safer neighborhoods” for the sake of their kids. This family had the financial wherewithal to pick up and move to another country, and plant a successful life there; most do not, so they were exercising an option available only to the privileged few. They believed this was “the only way to save their kids”; is that fundamentally different from Christian parents who believe “the only way to save their kids” is to send them to Christian schools, to allow them only to watch Christian films and go to Christian concerts, to keep them hermetically sealed in a Christian subculture? They plan for their kids to come back to the US for higher education and to make a life, which means that the family is only really exercising the same kind of lifestyle consumerism that other Americans exercise in less dramatic ways. As I said, I don’t see this as a particularly Christian response to the perception of American decline, but I do see it as a very American one.


  44. Second this, actually.

    Even though I have deep misgivings about sexual activity between members of the same sex, even I realize that betrayal and the inability to rise above your unruly passions is far worse.

    Now, the most liberal and the most conservative members of this forum have both objected to this woman’s behavior, and for identical reasons. If that’s not an ethical universal, it’s pretty damn close.


  45. Don’t have a problem with a Christian woman marrying another woman. Do have a problem with leaving your loving marriage because you see someone across a crowded room and fall in love at first sight. I don’t know the particulars of this story, and don’t particularly want to find them out, and no doubt there’s a lot more to this than appears on the surface, but love at first sight, and the idea that you have to spend the rest of your life with someone you just met are not adequate grounds for a divorce, as far as I’m concerned. Marriage is serious business; once you undertake the commitment of marriage, along with kids, “following your bliss” out of the marriage for the sake of another romantic love is a betrayal of that serious commitment. It does not bode well for your new relationship, either.


  46. Perhaps this opinion doesn’t do me any credit but I grew up in the SBC and I was at Southern Seminary with a front row seat at the fundamentalist takeover and saw the cynical, venal way it was accomplished; they have destroyed themselves and are getting exactly what they deserve. Goodbye and good riddance.


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