The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: February 2, 2019
The cold grows colder, even as the days
grow longer, February’s mercury vapor light
buffing but not defrosting the bone-white
ground, crusty and treacherous underfoot.
This is the time of year that’s apt to put
a hammerlock on a healthy appetite,
old anxieties back into the night,
insomnia and nightmares into play;
when things in need of doing go undone
and things that can’t be undone come to call,
muttering recriminations at the door,
and buried ambitions rise up through the floor
and pin your wriggling shoulders to the wall;
and hope’s a reptile waiting for the sun.
• • •
NOW THIS GUY IS COUNTER-CULTURAL…
I enjoyed the discussion-worthy article at Crosswalk about the pastor who refuses to have a cell phone. Not just a smart phone, mind you, but a cell phone of any kind. Tim Suttle interviews him, and I find his perspective refreshing and insightful.
Here are a few excerpts:
GL: I do not suffer from technophobia. Truthfully I like the idea of a portable handheld computer. It is the phone that I find objectionable. My reasons have multiplied through the years but there are basically three.
First, I don’t think that level of connection is healthy for me, and possibly not for anyone. I fear a cell phone would place me on a tether which stretches out to hundreds of people who are making dozens of rash decisions a day. If only a fraction of those rash decisions involve expressing momentary negativity or asking for my immediate assistance with a crisis, I could be exposed to a hail of need/hate bullets for which I lack the emotional Kevlar….
…Second, by observation I now find that people with cell phones are present everywhere on the planet, except in the place where they actually are. People now talk to me (sort of) while carrying on a second (text) conversation with someone else, somewhere else.
…TS: What do you see in cell phone users that we can’t see in ourselves?
GL: You are part of a massive cultural phenomenon that has grown so much faster than any sort of good etiquette to regulate it. You are present to everyone in the world except for the people who are right there with you. You are on a leash. If the cell phone rings you feel guilty for not picking it up immediately. If not guilty, you are at least anxious until you can get somewhere and look at that screen and see what it is you have missed. It’s been months since you did only one thing at a time in your own home. You are experiencing so much more anxiety.
…TS: In your estimation, has this had a net positive effect on your life? What is the net effect?
GL: The effect on my life has been overwhelmingly positive. Before cell phones I was not considered a focused or warm and fuzzy person. But now the bar for what is considered focused has dropped so low that I am considered nearly super human in what I can accomplish. The recouped time I have to spend on family and friendships also makes me appear to be relational and attentive by stark contrast to the surrounding culture.
• • •
“MOBBING” AMONG THE LUTHERANS?…
Jesse Bogan at the St. Louis Dispatch reports on purported institutional shenanigans known as “mobbing” in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS).
A controversial academic paper published online by a Lutheran scholar last week has the spirit of a Cold War spy novel. There’s intrigue, subterfuge and blackmail — except the accusations are leveled at the Kirkwood-based Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which has about 2 million baptized members in North America.
The Rev. Edward A. Engelbrecht, a former editor in St. Louis who leads an LCMS-affiliated church in Columbus, Ohio, claims sabotage and other tactics are part of an “institutional mobbing” strategy used by some church members to antagonize pastors within the large but shrinking denomination until they quit.
Engelbrecht cites Steven R. Vensel, who did a study of “mobbing” in American Protestant churches, for a definition:
Mobbing is defined as the prolonged malicious harassment of a coworker by a group of other members of an organization to secure the removal from the organization of the person who is targeted. . . . [It] results in the humiliation, devaluation, discrediting, degradation, loss of reputation and removal of the target through termination, extended medical leave, or quitting.
Tactics used include: withholding support from the Synod office, threatening false lawsuits, blacklisting, covertly gathering information and blackmailing, provoking outrage by intentionally teaching false things or mishandling sacraments in order to upset the target, using the call process to reward/punish, breeching confidentiality, corrupting congregational or denominational processes, stirring up gossip, and hacking electronic data.
Bogan also reports the LCMS response:
LCMS headquarters described Engelbrecht’s article “as misguided and melancholy musings,” “sadly bizarre” and “disconcerting because it attacks an entire church with no factual basis to do so.”
“The only potential truth we see in the article is that apparently Rev. Engelbrecht feels he has been the target of some type of personal bullying,” according to the statement. “What is put forth in this article concerning the Synod is simply false. There is no ‘machine,’ no ‘Main Nag,’ and no other fantastical evil conspirators within the church.
“We are a church body made up of sinners, every one of us, and we certainly have disagreements and differing views, as one would find in any organization. We know that all too often our sins cause pain and hurt in congregations, districts and the Synod. The only remedy is Jesus and His blood-bought forgiveness. That being said, the kind of widespread state of affairs described in this article is patently false.”
• • •
VEAL’S ICE TREE…
Not far from where we live, some folks whose family members we know have kept up a long tradition each winter. Since 1961 they have created a base “tree,” sometimes out of old Christmas trees, sometimes out of wood, brush, and twine. Then, when the weather brings five consecutive days of sub-30 degree temperatures, day and night, they position multiple hoses, fed by an irrigation pump from the pond, around the base. Ice forms on the foundation, limbs and brush are added, ice forms and then they repeat the process. Voila, their “ice tree” is formed and grows.
The tallest tree reached 80 feet in the winter of 2013-14.
HERE is the story about Veal’s Ice Tree, a 58 year tradition around here, from the Indianapolis Star.
• • •
THE GREAT MOOSE BATTLE OF 2019…
From BBC News:
Since 1984, residents of Moose Jaw have had one big thing about which they could boast: Mac the Moose.
The Canadian city was long the proud owner of the world’s tallest moose statue, a 9.75m (32-foot) steel-framed creature, covered with metal mesh and cement.
But a few years ago, a slightly taller moose statue was erected in Norway, beating Mac’s record by some 30cm.
Now, Moose Jaw has launched a campaign to reclaim the crown.
“We’re considered to be very mannerly and respectful, but there are things you just don’t do to Canadians,” Fraser Tolmie, mayor of the prairie town, told the BBC.
“You don’t mess with Mac the Moose.”
Norway’s Storelgen, or “Big Moose”, stands on a highway partway between Norway’s capital of Oslo and the city of Trondheim.
It was built in 2015 by artist Linda Bakke in partnership with the Norwegian Public Roads Administration in an effort to reduce traffic accidents.
According to an article that appeared in the Daily Scandinavian, Ms Bakke felt it was “important that the elk was made higher than Mac the Moose”.
Mr Tolmie was recently alerted to the loss of the crown by Saskatchewan YouTubers Justin and Greg, who posted a video in January urging the city to add 31cm to Mac or to rename the city simply “Jaw”.
The mayor said the city has since fielded a number of suggestions from residents on how to add to Mac’s height.
“There’s even been a suggestion about stilettos,” he said, but noted the most popular suggestion so far has been to “give Mac a bigger rack” of antlers.
• • •
PICS FROM AROUND THE MIDWEST DURING THE POLAR VORTEX…
Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.
• William Blake
• • •
WHAT CAME FIRST — THE BEAR OR THE BELLY BUTTON?
There is finally an answer to a mystery that captivated Canadians this week.
CBC News successfully contacted the artist behind the snow bear that appeared this week on Montreal’s Lachine Canal, and asked her the question everyone is wondering about: How did the snow bear get its belly button?
The bear was wide — at about 12 feet — making the jump from the bear’s outline to its belly button almost impossible.
Hundreds of Canadians have sent in theories as to how the bear got its navel — and very few of them guessed the truth.
It was five snowballs, lobbed successfully into the middle of the bear.
A photo of the bear went viral this past week, leading to any number of theories as to how the belly button could possibly have been made. Amanda Arnold comments:
Hundreds of enthralled Canadians were quick to make their best guesses in the comments section and on social media, many of which journalist Kate McKenna judged based on credibility. A popular theory was that the creator made a very long leap, which McKenna thought was unlikely, as few “would be able to execute a jump so flawlessly without leaving any other marks in the snow.” Others guessed that the snow artist used a tool to make the indent — snowballs, a hockey stick, a broom, a drone, a fishing pole — though those hypotheses had their faults, too. One person even used some sort of weird computer app to prove their theory that a bird had made the belly button, which is my personal favorite, despite being completely bonkers.
Unfortunately, not only is the mystery over, but the bear has disappeared. It was destroyed by the wind about 24 hours later.
Then, adding a curmudgeonly postscript, a spokesperson for the Lachine Canal reminded Montrealers that walking on the canal is illegal in the winter because of safety concerns.
• • •
As part of an article looking at trends regarding pastoral compensation, Matthew Bloom from Notre Dame’s “Wellbeing at Work” initiative said the following about clergy wellbeing. I thought it might be a good item for us to discuss around the Brunch table today. What do you think?
Being a pastor is much more difficult than it used to be. The ecosystem is not as conducive to flourishing: the demands are higher, the support systems are not as strong. As churches have seen their membership rolls drop, they have responded in ways that have sometimes been very detrimental to the well-being of clergy.
• • •
THIS WEEK IN MUSIC…
This is the time of year when I catch up on some of the best music of the previous year while I’m awaiting anticipated new releases. By The Way, I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile was one of 2018’s standout albums. It is up for a Grammy for album of the year, and the song we present today — “The Joke” — is a nominee for song of the year. It’s an anthemic tribute to the dignity and worth of each person, calling us all to endure to the “end of the movie,” when all will be revealed.