Anticipation has been growing. The excitement is almost palpable.
Yes, it is true. Back despite absolutely no popular demand, for the fourth time, here is my most recent collection of profundities, oddities, trivialities, and observations. This year, eight of them. So friends and folks, here are the crazy eights.
Belly-up to the buffet and see what looks tasty.
1.) About three years ago, I culled my library by about 70 percent, with the best of what I was off-loading going to schools in the developing world through the fine work of the Theological Book Network. All I have left are books I use or are just too dear to part with. Increasingly I notice my study (and I still try to call it my “study” not an “office”) looks like it belongs to an elementary school teacher, or perhaps an activities director at a summer camp. Chalk. Beach balls. Poster board. Dog bowls. Goofy knick-knacks. Sometimes I am troubled by this. What is it telling me? Then I try to smile and tell myself it is all good.
2.) When I moved to Iowa, I assumed biking would be easy. Flat, flat, flat. I discovered instead that Iowa is often windy, covered with rolling hills, and long, gradual inclines. When I am riding down an ever-so-small slope with an imperceptible tailwind, I can be quite impressed with myself. Who was the oldest person ever to win the Tour de France, I ask myself (Belgian Firmin Lambot, age 36, in 1922). Then I turn around to head for home and have to grind up that slight grade into the light headwind. I am undone. This is the way I think about my own white privilege. I’ve pedaled hard, no doubt. But I never appreciated the incline and breeze in my favor. Not until I’m going in the other direction.
3.) Netflix Notes: (Why do I suspect this may bring the most feedback?) I enjoyed Stranger Things’ third season. It was a fun adventure, gift-wrapped in nostalgia. However, it lacked the intriguing backstories and the depth of family-of-origin issues found in the first two seasons. Meanwhile, When They See Us, the docu-drama about the Central Park 5 and the “wilding” incident in 1989, was deeply distressing. At times I found it so intense I could only watch half an episode in a sitting. Much has been written about the female prosecutors, who in their zeal for a high-profile rape conviction, railroaded the young men of color from Harlem. St. Benedict tells us there is both good zeal and bad zeal. I don’t know. Looking at our world, I sometimes wonder if zeal only brings hubris, mania, mistakes, and pain
4.) Different translations of the Bible are cultural markers. The translation people prefer can tell you a lot about them and their faith. Go into a church sanctuary, look at the Bible in use and it will reveal quite a bit about the congregation. We use the New Revised Standard Version–NRSV. It sends the right signals about our congregational culture, moderate-leaning-mainline, educated. I’ve always been an NRSV guy. It was released when I was young. I knew some of the translators. I trust the scholars who recommended it as the best there was. That’s all a while back now. I’m still a loyalist but increasingly I find the NRSV feeling starchy and pedantic. And it was never known for doing an especially good job on the poetic, lyrical nature of scripture. It’s growing long in the tooth. It is about as aged as the Revised Standard Version (RSV) was when the NRSV was introduced. I heard once there is talk of an updated version. The National Council of Churches was behind the NRSV but I can’t imagine they have the oomph to pull off a new translation these days. Are there other options? What translations would people suggest for worship? Observations, experiences, wisdom to share?
5.) Sometimes it’s not so great to be edjamucated. Most readers of The Twelve know the order of the four Gospels in the New Testament–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Many of you also know that it is commonly believed that Mark was the first written Gospel. Then Matthew and Luke riffed off that. In my head, that makes me think of Mark as “first.” This leads to the problem. I can’t tell you how many times when looking for a passage in my Bible, I’ve mistakenly looked for Mark before Matthew or I’ve been in Mark and then paged backward to find Matthew. Embarrassing professional problem.
6.) I hear lots of chatter and anecdotes about Christians being terrible tippers at restaurants. I’m told it is common knowledge that wait staffs despise the Sunday after-church crowd for their stingy ways. My sister was a waitress so I was trained in the importance of tipping. I remember how steamed she was when a customer left a tract entitled “The Best Tip I Can Give You Is Accept Jesus as Your Savior” but no money. I understand that Christians might be frugal. Nothing wrong with that. But where does generosity come into play? What about our “public witness.” Seems Christians would want to be known as compassionate and concerned people. Come on, Christians, let’s up our tipping game.
7.) The daughter of a friend recently graduated from college and moved to a small-ish Midwestern town for her very first “real job.” She wants to go to church, to be part of a church. She’s looking for a church. Like many (most?) millennials she’s quite progressive. Questions about a place for LGBTQ persons in the church aren’t even a question for her. It’s a yawn. It’s stuff old people argue about. But so far she hasn’t found a church that shares her attitudes in her town of 10,000. Her father said with more than a little annoyance, “The church may complain about millennials abandoning church, but it looks to me like the church has no one to blame but itself!”
8.) Our early morning men’s group can be all over the board. Sometimes fantastic. Sometimes less so. When we met right before the Fourth of July, I read them the beginnings of both the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. One guy (granted, a retired philosophy prof) noted the difference in presuppositions and tone. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wants to present fixed and eternal truths, which may have been only recently uncovered, but nonetheless are timeless. In contrast, Lincoln at Gettysburg talks more about being led into an uncertain future, an experiment, a fragile hope of discovering a better way. I was blown away by this observation. There are, I think, similarities in the way people do theology. I lean Lincoln’s way.
If you just can’t get enough of this sort of stuff, you can read the earlier iterations–Ten Incredibly Profound Thoughts, Profundities, Fun Facts, and Trivia, as well as (Lucky) Thirteen More Profundities.