December 5, 2020

Saturday Ramblings: Dec. 27, 2014

B16267Saturday Ramblings, December 27, 2014

Good morning, iMonks. We have dug out of the piles of wrapping paper, boxes and bows, cleaned up the toys strewn all over the floor, emptied the dishwasher for what seems like the hundredth time, put out the trash, and are now getting ready to do some holiday rambling. Some of our family will be on the road to Music City today — Nashville, TN — to mess up another house or two with holiday cheer.

But of course, if you follow the Church Year Calendar, you realize that this is the third day of Christmas — the third of twelve. It’s not over, the celebration is just beginning, and despite the fact that our Christmas tree is shedding needles at a more alarming rate every day, we’ll keep it up until early January as a reminder that Christmastide is a season, not just one crazy day of giving and receiving presents.

Funny thing is, Mother Nature has bestowed some good gifts on us this year. It has been so nice that your Chaplain may be taking his golf clubs on the trip down I-65. The weather has been delightfully warm and sunny the past few days, very unlike the “bleak midwinter” we’ve come to expect here in the Midwest.

Wherever your holiday rambles may be taking you, it’s good to have you here this morning as we consider some of the more interesting things we’ve read about recently. So, without further ado, let’s ramble!

BEST_OF_2014_2048x1536christmas_2You’re the tops! . . .

This is the season for “best of the year” lists. We’ll have a few here at IM, but let’s kick off the subject today with some from around the web.

The New York Times picked the following books as the ten best of the year:


  • All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
  • Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
  • Euphoria, by Lily King
  • Family Life, by Akhil Sharma
  • Redeployment, by Phil Klay


  • Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, by Roz Chast
  • On Immunity: An Innoculation, by Eula Biss
  • Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, by Hermione Lee
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David, by Lawrence Wright

Christianity Today weighed in with its list of best books from an evangelical Christian perspective. Here are a few of the book awards they presented:

  • Book of the Year: God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America, by Larry Eskridge
  • Biblical Studies: Paul and Union with Christ, by Constantine R. Campbell
  • Christianity and Culture: The World is Not Ours to Save, by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson
  • Spirituality: Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent, by N. D. Wilson
  • Theology/Ethics: The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable, by Steven D. Boyer and Christopher A. Hall

According to Rolling Stone, the best five albums in 2014 were:

  • (5) Platinum, by Miranda Lambert
  • (4) St. Vincent, by St. Vincent
  • (3) Turn Blue, by The Black Keys
  • (2) High Hopes, by Bruce Springsteen
  • (1) Songs of Innocence, by U2

James Poniewozik at TIME gave his list of the ten best TV shows of 2014:

  1. Transparent
  2. The Americans
  3. The Good Wife
  4. Orange Is the New Black
  5. Fargo
  6. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
  7. Broad City
  8. Louie
  9. High Maintenance
  10. Silicon Valley

Now it’s your turn. Chime in on these or any other category you choose. What were some of your favorites of the past year?


christmas_2Boom Town Ministry . . .

When Father Brian Gross moved to Epiphany Catholic Church in 2012, he replaced a predecessor who had been at the church for 24 years. For much of that time, Watford City had been dribbling away, its population falling by one-third from 1980 to 2000, down to about 1,400. The congregation of Epiphany numbered perhaps 90. But something new has been transforming Watford City. It has become a boom town. Within the past decade, the energy industry brought the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to the Bakken oil field of North Dakota, setting off rapid and wholesale change to the region. Samuel G. Freedman of the New York Times describes it:

Eighteen-wheelers roar down divided highways that didn’t exist a few years ago. Patches of hurry-up housing — apartments, suburb-like subdivisions, mobile homes tethered to propane tanks, barracks known as man camps — spread over the former fields of soy or cattle. Where the highest building in town used to be the grain elevator, New York investors have put up the Watford City version of a skyscraper, four stories tall. The volunteer fire company had to buy a ladder truck to be able to reach it.

For generations the remote terrain of Scandinavian and German stock, Watford City now attracts roughnecks and roustabouts, geologists and engineers. There are oil patch pros from East Texas, hopeful and desperate immigrants from Mexico, African-Americans escaping the cratered economy of places like East St. Louis. And with a male-to-female ratio estimated as high as 20 to 1, the vices have followed in step: pornography, prostitution, alcoholism, crystal meth.

In Watford City, Fr. Gross is a solo priest in the lone Catholic church for twenty miles around. Watford City’s population is now above 3,000, and future estimates say there may be up to ten times as many people in years to come. Freedman writes, “Father Gross has his eye on a 20-acre lot a mile or so from Epiphany for an expanded church and a parochial school.”

I find it interesting that we hear so little about these rural revivals and the challenge of ministry in areas that are not media centers of attention. Perhaps many of us (myself included) should speak with great caution about “what God is doing” in the world today. The wilderness might well be blossoming like a rose and faithful people like Fr. Gross that most of us will never hear about will be tending it.

On the other hand . . .


christmas_2But you haven’t even given us a chance to miss you . . .

Mark Driscoll is back. With a website that looks just like the old Mars Hill site, the recently disgraced pastor has launched himself back into ministry (what a horrible phrase), making his sermons and teaching materials available again. According to his new site:

This website was built in response to requests from people wanting access to Pastor Mark Driscoll’s past and future Bible teaching. This is the only official resource from Pastor Mark Driscoll, and will soon be the exclusive home for content from Pastor Mark and his family.

Our prayer is that these resources will help non-Christians meet Jesus and help Christians become more like Jesus — because as Pastor Mark says, “It’s all about Jesus!”

That’s funny. Seems to me maybe it’s all about Mark.

In the “About” section of his site, it says, “Pastor Mark Driscoll is a Jesus-following, mission-leading, church-serving, people-loving, Bible-preaching pastor. In 2010, Preaching magazine named him one of the 25 most influential pastors of the past 25 years. He’s grateful to be a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody.” Again, I’m not sure the rhetoric matches the reality. Mr. “Nobody” apparently thinks he’s “somebody” to whom people ought to listen.

The resume he lists identifies him as a celebrity, highlighting his appearances on mainstream media programs as a main feature of his ministry. Mysteriously, he presents himself as a champion for women, proclaiming his “unrelenting compassion for those who are hurting the most—particularly women who are victims of sexual and physical abuse and assault. Of course, nothing is mentioned about the troubles that led to him leaving ministry and the demise of Mars Hill Church.

Seems to me that he is reintroducing himself without any attempt whatsoever to redefine himself as a humbled, repentant, renewed follower of Jesus. Instead there is every indication that he continues to rely upon gifts and talents rather than character, and that he views himself as too important, perhaps indispensable, to the work of the Kingdom to step away for any length of time or consider any other course.

Perhaps he should follow in his father’s footsteps and go work with his hands for awhile. Seek a kind of death to self in obscurity, and let God do the resurrecting if he wills it, rather than some slick PR firm.

But that’s just my opinion.



  1. More Driscoll. Do we ever tire of him? Or is it that we need some bogey man to castigate? Easier than sef examination I guess…

    I struck out on the NY Times book list but DID read “God’s Forever Family”. A pretty fair book, it even had a section on the cult that I was involved with, The Children of God.

    • More Driscoll. Do we ever tire of him? Or is it that we need some bogey man to castigate? Easier than self examination I guess…

      We didn’t exactly demand that he come out of retirement, you know… 😉

    • Marcus Johnson says

      I’m not looking for a boogeyman. However, I have this horrible feeling that Driscoll is about to go on the same path as Rob Bell (lose your pastorship, take it to the web, then social media, then a few redeeming appearances on podcasts and comedian-hosted talk shows, etc.). Five years from now, if Driscoll is hosting a live talk show on Oprah’s network called Going Deep With Driscoll, I will not be surprised.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Something has to pay for those cars and the big house. Do you believe he actually has any marketable skills? [that would pay an equivalent wage]. Religious Sleazeball is the only card he has to play.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Christianity has a pretty short list of celebrities these days, you gotta work with what you have!

    • That Other Jean says

      “Do we ever tire of him?” Yes. Yes, we do. He doesn’t seem to tire of himself, however, or of the spotlight. Too bad about that–he might have learned something if he’d stayed out of it for a bit.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Mark Driscoll is back.

      And as full of himself as ever.

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

      What an odd binary to propose.

    • George Christiansen says

      I have no ‘love’ for Driscoll, but there certainly seems like there are plenty here who love to hate him.

      Quite sad actually.

      • I know, right? Those people are terrible. It’s a good thing we don’t criticize people like that.

      • It’s not personal, George. Driscoll is just a willing cog caught up in a media-driven celebrity system. In my mirror I see another man way too impressed with his own importance. But, by the grace of God alone I’ve never been in a position in which I’ve had the opportunity or the cohones to achieve the spotlight.

      • I don’t hate Mark Driscoll. In fact, I’ve never met the man. However, I’ve read and listened to enough of his writings and teachings, and read or listened to enough testimonies from the victims of his alleged excesses and abuse, to conclude that something is seriously amiss. There’s simply too much bitter fruit to conclude otherwise.

        I’m old enough to remember the televangelist scandals of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. They not only damaged or destroyed the respective ministries; they also inflicted serious damage on the wider church. That’s another concern I have with Mark Driscoll and his refusal to withdraw from public ministry for the time being. I fear another fall on his part, and one that could inflict far-reaching damage on the wider church and its witness.

  2. Driscoll.


    So much potential.

    But what does it take to get a narcissist to self-identify and change?

    I’ve never seen it happen. It’s like narcissism is predestined.

    • what does it take to get a narcissist to self-identify and change?

      Typically, it requires a massive shock to their world and their perceived place in it. Sadly, however, even that is not guaranteed to work in all cases…

      • it has been said that there is a lack of ABILITY to self-criticize among evangelicals . . . I don’t know how true this is but ‘hubris’, ‘male superiority’, and ‘assurance of salvation’ do bespeak a kind of world-view that does not offer its participants a way to examine their own consciences before God easily . . . in any case, Driscoll has a family to support and he will not be ‘silent’ as he knows he has a ‘following’ of like-minded men who need his brand of dominant male-submissive female palaver to shore up their own egos . . . easier to keep their own wives under control when they can claim it’s ‘God’s way’, I suppose

        there will always be a place for Driscoll . . . as long as there are men who need him for their own purposes, and yes this is a sad business all around . . . my sympathies are with the women involved and with the children . . . this cult of ‘male-dominance’ has a price, and it is the human dignity of innocent women and children, yes

        • Christiane, perhaps you haven’t noticed, but it is WOMEN who drive most churches, especially TV churches. Don’t think to absolve your gender in this. That would be a mistake requiring self examination.

        • Christiane, don’t be so quick to paint men as the prime culprits here. Women comprise the majority of church attenders and give the most in money and time. You may want to brand this as male coercion, but are women REALLY that weak and powerless?

          • Hi OSCAR,
            I am speaking of the cult-members who have embraced extreme patriarchy and the macho-man image of the dominant-male/ submissive-wife model of marriage . . . these people need their Mark Driscolls. If the women involved are ‘co-operative’ in this, does it make them any less victims? If the men are deluded in their ‘mighty macho’ status, are they not also victimized by those who reinforce this cult behavior?

            Driscoll is/was idolized. Those who idolize(d) him . . . they have needs that have nothing to do with Christianity or a healthy family model. Those needs are for them something that they must come to terms with either by embracing them and clothing them as ‘virtuous’ in the eyes of God;
            or realizing that they are the needs of narcissistic personalities in search of power and control over the lives of others. Hopefully, the exposure of Driscoll has led some of these men to finally examine themselves conscientiously and turn away from what is destructive to the human dignity of men AND women in the Church.

            (and God bless and keep those little old ladies you speak of, who are faithfully carrying the life of the Church until the rest of us wake up and help them in their efforts . . . OSCAR, these women are on the side of the angels, you know)

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > So much potential.


    • David Cornwell says

      “what does it take to get a narcissist to self-identify and change?”

      When I was in the 1st grade, some of our elementary school classes in the village of Barboursville, West Virginia marched to the little movie theater to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. One scene stood out to me, even down to this day. It was the evil queen, that witch, who voiced her concern that she might not be the “fairest of them all.” And so her question to the mirror, each and every day, was “”Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” And she was happy as long as the right answer came back to her. But when the answer changed, her paranoid narcissism drove her trickery and murder.

      Now we have a replacement for the mirror, and it is called Facebook, into which one can stare and demand “like me, like me.”

      The question, however, remains: can a narcissist change?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Now we have a replacement for the mirror, and it is called Facebook, into which one can stare and demand “like me, like me.”

        • David Cornwell says

          Funny, but scary. I kept wondering what it would lead to.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Remember the Santa Barbara Shooter last May?

            He left an extensive Social Media Presence — besides his Manifesto, all Selfie! Selfie! Selfie! Selfie! Selfie! Selfie! Selfie! Selfie! Selfie Selfie Selfie showing off his new top-of-the-line Beemer! Selfie Selfie Selfie aboard a chartered private jet to Europe! Selfie Selfie Selfie at a private rock concert! And his Manifesto announcing how he was going to kill as many good-looking women as possible for revenge because they wouldn’t all throw themselves at his feet.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      But what does it take to get a narcissist to self-identify and change?

      I’ve never seen it happen. It’s like narcissism is predestined.

      Notice how a lot of these NPD Pastor/Dictators seem to be REFORMED(TM)?

  3. Vega Magnus says

    My preliminary top albums of the year list looks something like this:

    1. Soen- Tellurian
    2. Death Penalty- Self-titled (This may top the list by the end of the year. Really great retro metal.)
    3. Earth- Primitive and Deadly
    4. Myrkur- Self-titled EP
    5. Epica- The Quantum Enigma (Great album, but they still suck at writing “deep” lyrics. They need a native English speaker to proofread their stuff for them.)

    Also of note: Kobra and the Lotus- High Priestess, Septicflesh- Titan, Opeth- Pale Communion, Sabaton- Heroes, Purson- In the Meantime EP, and Ne Obliviscaris- Citadel.

    It was kind of a weak year for metal in my opinion, but I’ll admit that I didn’t get as much new stuff as I would have liked. I did get some older stuff that was new to me though, so I’ll rank my top albums that were new to me but not new releases this year as well.

    1. Accept- Blood of the Nations
    2. Jex Thoth- Blood Moon Rise
    3. Sabaton- Primo Victoria
    4. Castle- Blacklands
    5. Pallbearer- Sorrow and Extinction
    6. Sabaton- Metalizer
    7. Orchid- The Mouths of Madness
    8. Blut Aus Nord- 777 The Desanctification
    9. Deafheaven- Sunbather

    And here is a link to my song of the year, The Words by Soen off their new album Tellurian.

    And while we are on the subject of music, I’ll finish this post by imploring everyone to go check out an old favorite band of mine known as Virgin Black. They were an Australian symphonic doom metal band that made some truly great music, but what makes them quite notable to me is that their lyrics, especially on their second full-length album “Elegant… and Dying,” are very post-evangelical. I highly recommend purchasing “Elegant… and Dying” or their third album “Requiem: Mezzo Forte” or at the very least heading over to and reading their lyrics. Really powerful stuff. They are on indefinite hiatus and I don’t think they’ll ever make another album, but what they did produce is very impressive.

    • One of the benefits of being hearing impaired is that lyrics to songs can often be indistinguishable. In the case of metal, even WITH hearing, they are indistinguishable!

      • Oscar, I did not realize you shared my auditory challenge! I am fine in one ear, but blew out the other eardrum four years ago, and the rebuilt replacement only gets me up to 60-70 decibels in that ear (Ironically, half of what I do as an Occupational Health nurse is testing hearing…………) You???

        • For me its genetic, but I usually attribute my loss as a result of fourth row seating in front of Peter Townsend’s guitar amp and too much Led in my “diet” 🙂 It makes for great conversation.

          Seriously though, my employer paid for my hearing aids because customers referred to me as “the guy who can’t hear”. I guess that a 37 year employee is a valuable investment.

          • I was pretty far back when I saw the Who, but I’m still wondering about the longterm effects of being in a bar with the Ramones. One outgrows these things, I find; my kids were tolerantly amused, bless them, when I wore earplugs and crocheted through the Irish thrash bands at Indy’s annual Irish fest. We all had fun.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Yep. Also hearing impared. I was born six weeks premature in 1972, not good odds at the time, but very little damage other than hearing damaged by chronic infection.

        It is really disappointing sometimes to actually see the lyrics to a song that seemed cool, only to think: oh, that is kinda lame.

    • Never mind The Words, here’s my choice for Song of the Year:

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

      Death Penalty is fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I drove into Minot from the west late last summer, then headed south. Totally blown away by the development. Most amazing because of size and disturbing were the “man camps”. Reminds me of one of Robert Heinlien’s scifi about asteroid mining….

  5. I would really like to know what’s going on in Mark’s wife’s head. Is she as unscrewed as he is?

  6. Richard Hershberger says

    “despite the fact that our Christmas tree is shedding needles at a more alarming rate every day, we’ll keep it up until early January”

    This, children, is why we don’t put the tree up until Christmas Eve. OK, I compromised this year. We went to the farm on Advent IV Sunday to cut down the tree, and went ahead and put it up in the living room right away. The thing is, if you hear “Christmas season” and you think of some vaguely-defined long period culminating on December 25, and you put up the tree early accordingly, then by Christmas Day you are sick of the blasted thing cluttering up your living room. If you hear “Christmas season” and you think of twelve days beginning December 25 and put up the tree at the last minute accordingly, then you can enjoy it right up to Epiphany, as ordained by God and through the prophets. (I’m pretty sure it is somewhere in Numbers.)

    “Funny thing is, Mother Nature has bestowed some good gifts on us this year. It has been so nice that your Chaplain may be taking his golf clubs on the trip down I-65. The weather has been delightfully warm and sunny the past few days, very unlike the “bleak midwinter” we’ve come to expect here in the Midwest.”

    Last year, as we were in the grip of the polar vortex, I routinely heard people offering it up as proof that global climate change is a fraud. Odd how I haven’t heard any reassessments of that based on this year’s weather.

    “Now it’s your turn. Chime in on these or any other category you choose. What were some of your favorites of the past year?”

    My favorite new-to-me album (actually released in 2013) is this, by Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova:

    I heard part of it on my usual radio station as I was drifting off to sleep and it literally made me sit up and take note (the note being to check the playlist the following morning to find out what that was). She is a distinctly modern “classical” composer, but not at all of the “assault on the senses” school nor of the “lush and vapid” school: serious music that is gorgeous.

    “Father Gross has his eye on a 20-acre lot a mile or so from Epiphany for an expanded church and a parochial school.”

    I would think twice about that. The thing about boom towns is that they boom quick and they unboom just as quick. The companies that are bringing in all those jobs aren’t there to stay. Invest as if they were and you will end up with an expensive white elephant.

    “Mark Driscoll is back.”

    At least this time around everyone has been warned. Anyone who follows him at this point has no excuse for being surprised at how it turns out.

    • Re: Father Gross and the Twenty Acre Lot: I think it’s important, as you point out Richard, to ask the question: What happens after the gold-rush? Boom town goes to bust quickly.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “The thing about boom towns is that they boom quick and they unboom just as quick.”

      Yep. However anyone feels about fracking aside, this is going to be a mess afterwards.

      Blight – Great Plains Style. All the little companies that sprung up to milk the boom will fold up, scurry under bankruptcy protection, and leave their mess behind. Where once the Catholic Church was in the middle of the small town it will now be out of the way, away from the center of the surviving town [assuming there is one], surrounded by collapsing Walmart-quality buildings. He should stay put; but we never seem to learn this.

      • Great point Adam.

        On our honeymoon, my wife and I rambled through the Midwest. We made it a point to find ghost towns. We thought we’d find lots of old falling apart buildings. What was usually left of these formerly booming coal towns were maybe a few visible rail road tracks and nothing else.

    • Thank you thank you thank you for the link to Tabakova, Richard! I know what I’m doing with my gift card, now.

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Happy to be of service. This sort of thing nine out of ten people who follow it through will shrug and wonder what the excitement is all about (which is fine: de gustibus and all that) while one will go “Wow!” and start fumbling for his wallet to buy more.

        For you nine out of ten, by the way, the snippets on Amazon don’t do it justice. You can find some full pieces on Youtube.

  7. “This, children, is why we don’t put the tree up until Christmas Eve.”

    I usually put mine up the second Saturday BEFORE Christmas, and take it down on New Years Day.

    “I would think twice about that. The thing about boom towns is that they boom quick and they unboom just as quick.”

    With an increase in population comes an increase in the excesses of man’s idea of evangelization. In THIS case, the “Edifice Complex”!

  8. Why are my favorite TV shows never on anyone else’s list? ‘Major Crimes’, ‘Call the Midwife’ and ‘Forever’ seem to be outliers!

    • Patty, we’re talking NYT here. Right Coast elitist critics.

      As for “Transparent”, I watched one episode and decided that I had enough dysfunction in my life and didn’t need to add THIS execrable series to my agenda. Such a melange on selfishness!

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Yes, we agree on that. NYT people have unique tastes of their own. Having read the descriptions of these shows I’ve never watched a single episode. And I don’t have [won’t pay for] HBO, so I don’t have the option to see many of these anyway. Apparently everyone in NY has HBO?

        As one of the 80 million households in the United States without HBO – I looked it up – ‘the media’ frequently talks as though I am the minority. All the while HBO’s subscribership continues to slowly fall. There is clearly a reality distortion effect regarding viewership.

        • From your responses, Adam, I often wonder where you are located. Southeastern U.S.?

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Western Michigan, city of Grand Rapids, 1.7 miles (as the crow flys) NE of the RAPID transit center, a few blocks north of Highland Park.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Patty, we’re talking NYT here. Right Coast elitist critics.

        The type who gush over Seinfeld like Harley Quinn over The Joker because “It’s SO True To Life, Especially This ‘Seinfeld’ Character — HE’S JUST LIKE MEEEEEEE!”

  9. The NY times got some good ones “All the Light We Cannot See” is fantastic. Although my favorite book this year was “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell genre bending and engaging. I also liked “The Winter People” by Jennifer McMahon and” A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. Anyway just some random book recommendations. Happy New Year.

  10. Driscoll’s website proclaims his “unrelenting compassion for those who are hurting the most—particularly women who are victims of sexual and physical abuse and assault.”

    OK, having got Driscoll out of the way, let’s talk about Jeri Massi over at Blog on the Way:

    Jeri has been one of the true champions of victims of sexual and physical abuse, and for many years. Her blog is subtitled “Information and resources to assist victims of church abuse in Christian Fundamentalism.” Her books and her blog have been incredibly useful.

    Unfortunately, Jeri has been suffering health problems, and recently was laid off from her job. Friends have started a GoFundMe site to help out. If you’re a fan (even if you’re not; check out her blog and you may become one) consider a contribution.

    • That Other Jean says

      Yes, please. Jeri is in need of surgery and medical care, in addition to being jobless, and could really use some help. Please contribute if you can.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Have any of the MenaGAWD she’s been opposing claimed credit for her health problems and layoff?

      As in “Touch Not Mine Anointed!” and/or striking her down with their Imprecatory Prayer?

    • Thank you for the kind words and the commendation! I appreciate the effort to make my current circumstances known. things are definitely tough right now, but the kindness of so many people has been incredibly, **incredibly** encouraging. To answer H.U.G., I have received some of the “God is punishing you” type of messages, but not as many as I thought I would. Maybe they are still to come, as surgery gets closer. I just delete any such message if I do get one.

      You can follow my health updates at my blog, as Ted mentioned:

      And if you want to explore the work I’ve done on behalf of victims of Fundamentalism, I invite you to tune in to one of the documentaries that I produced:

      The GoFundMe campaign is a great help, and I appreciate it. I still don’t now how long the recovery from surgery will be, but it is possible that I will not be able to return to work until early March, so it could be a long time of unemployment, in one of the worst unemployment states in the country.

  11. This is the year that I finally managed to get out of the loop. That picture of the Ramblers above does not look out of place in this county where I moved this past summer, this township, the nearby village. If anything, it looks a bit too new and and shiny and modern. Out of all the top ten lists, I recognize the book on the Jesus People and the book on Paul and Unity, which are on my Amazon wish list. The rest of it is pretty much meaningless to me. I’m not entirely off the grid, but my Amish neighbors balance that out. This is the year I got off TV and went back to church in meat space.

    The Monastery continues as a main connection to the outside world, or perhaps the inside world, close to being vital while it lasts. I found a new connection recently in radio station KUVO out of Denver which plays jazz and blues and such, endangered species. Would be much surprised to find anyone else here listening. If I were fifty years old instead of seventy-five, I might have headed to the North Dakota oil fields instead of where I’m at. I keep on going my own way and life is good here and now. Mark Driscoll doesn’t bother me a whit, would be glad to invite him in for beer and conversation if he showed up at my door. Same goes for all you folks except the beer or wine is optional with coffee, tea, or juice, and if Mark is here you have to be civil.

    • Like you, Charles, I’m not in the loop this year; but then, I haven’t been for many years now.

      I hope that Mark Driscoll would remember to be civil, too.

  12. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

    Well, I don’t have a TV, but I watch some shows online, and I have some real questions about the NYT list. What about Turn or Crossbones?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Crossbones was fun; but I read Woodward’s non-fiction writing, so I am biased.

      Never heard of Turn.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        Its about the revolution and spies. I like historical fiction.

        • All the newspaper reviews of Turn were based on an extremely restricted preview – one eisode i think. Makes it hard to assess, let alone include on a 10 best list.

  13. Robert, I’m guessing that Mark thinks more in terms of restraint now, than civility, and that works about the same. What I don’t like are personal attacks, and we here tend to indulge ourselves a bit from time to time. Mark is certainly strongly opinionated. I have not followed him closely, but don’t have the impression that he deals in personal attack. Probably his strongest opinion is that he has got the upper hand on Truth, and he may not be entirely alone in that.

  14. I think we all anticipated the Driscoll make-over. No surprise here.

    What does surprise and disappoint me is discovering that Jim Bakker, after his tell-all book, “I Was Wrong”, following the demise of PTL and his stint in prision, is now peddling survivalist food packets. These guys only know how to do one thing: hustle. No one should be surprised they keep coming back. The question is, why is there always an audience waiting for their return? The problem is with us: why is Jesus so unattractive that we chase after these abusive, manipulative opportunists instead?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      “why is Jesus so unattractive that we chase after these abusive, manipulative opportunists instead?”

      The solutions they provide are simple, straightforward. And, generally, they let “us” off the hook, the mess is someone else’s fault, the Them.

      On the other side, often in the name of “civility”, legitimate powers and thinkers refrain from naming a fraud, plainly, as a fraud. Thus giving them at least a marginal appearance of legitiamacy.

    • “I think we all anticipated the Driscoll make-over. No surprise here.”

      Is it even a makeover?

      You’d think he’d at least have the grace to go to ground for a year.

      What I find troubling is that his teaching is just so in demand, so indispensable, that of course he MUST, out of the goodness of his heart, lay himself down and put all his teaching back up on the internet.

      Nobody is this special.

  15. David Cornwell says

    Last winter I read a variety of theologians, mostly of the postliberal (narrative) kind. I did this in an attempt to re-educate myself from the narrow range of conservatism that I’d been exposed to in the past, and the opposite liberal rationalism that in many ways is a different kind of fundamentalism. I’m not going to list those books. It was, however, a very rewarding study. If I were a young Methodist, choosing a seminary, it would be Duke.

    Since then some of the reading I’ve covered are the following:
    A revisit to John Steinbeck, reading “East of Eden.”
    Marilynne Robinson’s “Home” a companion to “Gilead” and leading up to “Lila,” her most recent addition to the series.

    In non-fiction:
    Christopher Clark’s “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.”
    Marlynne Robinson’s “When Was a Child I Read Books,” a collection of essays on various cultural and Christian topics. I’m toward the end of this book, and will end it today.

    There have been others also, but these came to mind quickly. My plans for 1915: More fiction, both classics and contemporary.

    Forgot one of the best: Stephen King’s, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” This is not new, but if you are interested in any kind of writing, don’t skip it. And it caused me to revisit the movie “Carrie.” A good one for late evening, just at dark.

    • I read Gilead several years back, didn’t realize Robinson had written two addtional books until this year. So I re-read Gilead (LOVED it the second time, much more so than first time through), liked Home (well-written, but almost a bit too somber for me), and LOVED Lila. What a fascinating character Robinson created in Lila!

      • David Cornwell says

        Home is indeed somber. And I read it right after reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is a pretty good theologian in some ways.

        • After you read Lila, post your opinion somewhere. I found it one of the most fascinating reads in a long, long time. I really enjoyed it.

    • David, you have convinced me to put King’s book On Writing on my list of books to read this year, thanks. Also in the search came across Naked, Drunk, and Writing, which I’m guessing is not by a Methodist writer.

      • David Cornwell says

        King is a recovering alcoholic and much of his early stuff was under the influence. He wasn’t at all sure he could write sober.

    • I’ve also just finished my second pass though “When I Was a Child I Read Books.” I really enjoyed it – particularly Robinson’s ability to take aim at the way some current prejudices and tendencies toward reductionism imperil our view of reality, and our vision of community.

      “Gilead” is next on my list.

      • David Cornwell says

        One thing that impresses me about Robinson, is that she seems to remain relatively hopeful about American democracy. She is an interesting mix of a person, being a self identified Calvinist, Congregationalist, liberal in the best sense of the term politically, and very protective about the text of scripture against the likes of Bishop Spong and the Jesus Seminar.

        • Yes. I like her stubborn insistence on hope. For her, it is not an assertion of empty idealism but an allegiance to ourselves and neighbors that deserves reflection and defense. Ultimately it is grounded in a larger and more charitable anthropology than what she sees being trotted out on both left and right. The stubborn reductionism of contemporary ideologies is, in her view, gnawing away at a wider and more charitable picture of what people are, what we are capable of, and what we ought to treasure in a community.

      • I’ll share my “Gilead” experience, Danielle. I read it a few years ago, STRUGGLED through it, actually. Not much action and many “where is this going” moments. But when I reached the end of it, I immediately wanted to re-read it. It sort of worked under my skin in a most curious way. The characters are so dang “real,” I’m amazed they’re fictional.

        I didn’t re-read it then, though, as I had several other books lined up, but when I heard Robinson had two follow-on books, I picked those up and re-read Gilead. I LOVED it the second time around.

        So if you find yourself struggling, bear with it. Patience is rewarded.

        • I find her essay and commentary work to be more rewarding, but that is just me, not a comment on her fiction. For an insightful 25 mins of great conversation with Ms Robinson, go to the Bill Moyers and Company website on PBS and locate the Oct 17 2014 program. Link not provided so as not to gum up your search.

  16. Sigh. Driscoll’s new web site reads like he wrote it himself… I agree with Chap. Mike – he needs to go get a job, preferably something with lots of physical labor involved. ‘Twould be interesting indeed if he had a female supervisor…

    I really enjoyed and wrestled with “The Greek East and the Latin West” by Philip Sherrard. The wrestling was because I do not have a lot of real philosophical training, and the things S. discusses were important for me to get my brain wrapped around. He is a clear writer, and I was able to manage. This book explains so much about why we are where we are in our intellectual and cultural history/formation. If this kind of thing appeals to anyone, I can’t recommend this book enough. My daughters gave me “Planet Narnia” and “The Celtic Monk: Rules and Writings of Early Irish Monks” for Christmas, and I’ve already started reading them. After 2 years of me hounding my book group, they all finally agreed to read “On the Incarnation” with me (my 4th time), and I’m excited about that! I’m hoping to tackle some Dostoyevsky this year; read “Karamazov” a very long time ago, but was way too young for it to do me much good.

    Don’t have HBO. Don’t want HBO. Mostly we only watch TV in the evenings. We have several local PBS channels and watch them all. I so wish there was a way I could get the local channels plus, oh, the 15 or so other other channels we watch regularly, using just one service. Netflix won’t give us the local channels, cable and satellite come with a profusion of junk TV. There is a crying need for a service with true choice.

    My musical favorites are mostly Classical. I do need to get the newest Iona CD. Two weeks ago husband and I went to a choral concert of Renaissance Christmas music, mostly arrangements of German Reformation and Counter-Reformation hymns, with the choir accompanied by period instruments – awesome! Very worth driving the +1 hour to get there!

    And, thanks be to God, so far our rainfall is normal for the year. Even if it continues normal for the rest of the season, it will take another 3 normal years to replenish what we have lost in the drought. Hopefully that will come to pass.


    • Richard Hershberger says

      ” I so wish there was a way I could get the local channels plus, oh, the 15 or so other other channels we watch regularly, using just one service. Netflix won’t give us the local channels,…”

      If they truly are local, then go old school: an antenna. Except that it isn’t as old school as that. They went digital a couple of years back. You need a modern TV and a modern antenna. They can be had for something in the $200-$300 range, if you don’t go crazy on the size of the TV.

      • “Local” for us is SF Bay area, 100 miles away, so antenna won’t work. Don’t think I haven’t thought of that!


      • modern TV yes, but the antenna can still be old school. All the digital channels still broadcast over the VHF and UHF frequency bands.

    • Dana, thanks for the push on Greek East and Latin West. It has been on my wish list for months and I have been dithering. Moving it higher up the list.

      As to the TV antenna, if you haven’t asked all around if anyone is able to get SF where you are, might be worth a try. There are a lot of new and better antennas and systems out with more and more people going local. Depends how high you are and what’s in between. On the other hand I finally got local where I am with one of those amplified flat antennas, checked out all the channels, turned it off, and left it off. If the world ends this year, I might turn it back on to watch.

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    That’s funny. Seems to me maybe it’s all about Mark.

    It’s one long Selfie.
    He uploaded a SELFIE!

  18. Sadly, or perhaps happily, I’m too tired and worn out by Mark Driscoll to comment on and read about him.

  19. There seems to be a cottage industry that has developed around Mark Driscoll. Every move he makes, etc. Anyone with common sense would not go to his church or read his blog. All this rising up in outrage just draws attention to him, which he wants. I am not criticizing this blog as he is rarely mentioned here, except in newsy way. And that is good. I don’t watch network shows, can’t keep track, but I do watch on OnDemand, and stuff on my laptop. I adore British mysteries and shows like Doc Martin on PBS, am just finishing The 2nd season of “The Bletchley Circle.” “Borgen” is a great political show set in Denmark. “George Gently” is a favorite. Occasionally I stumble across “Modern Family” on Fox, which is hilarious. My all time favorite comedy I still watch and hope they never stop showing it, is “Keeping Up Appearances” with Hyacinth Bucket (pounced Bouquet of course). Am surprised Jane Smiley’s new book not on NYT list, got good reviews. 2 books on Christian lists I plan to read, one is the Jesus People book. Forgot the other title, lol, but read about it here several days ago. Happy reading and viewing to all the delightful people on this list, especially the wonderful Mike.

    • Jane Smiley’s ‘The Greenlanders’ is a great favorite of mine. She’s a powerful writer.

    • senecagriggs yahoo says

      Hanni, I love Inspector Lewis but have watched and enjoyed the others you mentioned.

      • The “Endeavour” series was also good.

        • Yes! To all of those, Insp Lewis, Endeavour. Do try “The Last Detective” with the actor who played the younger brother in “All Creatures Great and Small,”. Why can’t we do these kind of programs with authentic type people? Money, I guess

  20. Books:
    “Lila” by Marilynne Robinson. Third in the “Gilead” series, a fascinating read.

    “Lost in the Dream” by The War on Drugs. This group sounds like a wonderful mix of Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits/Tom Petty/Bob Dylan/Bruce Springsteen.
    “24 Karat Gold” – Stevie Nicks. A great throw-back sound. She wrote most of these songs way back when and just now decided to record them. A few duds on the album, but some real winners, too. Highly enjoyable.
    “Playland” by Johnny Marr. I really enjoy this guitar-driven Brit rock/pop album.

  21. James the Mad says

    Mark Driscoll is going to have a heck of a time returning if he gets hit with a RICO suit. And per Warren Throckmorton just such a suit is being considered, in large part because the “leadership” of Mars Hill Church seems to be totally disinterested in mediation, or in any way, shape or form dealing with the “pile of bodies” left behind the Mars Hill bus by “pastor” Driscoll.