October 22, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 1.5.13

RamblerIt’s a new year at the iMonastery, but we have the same problem as of old. Scraps gather during the week that we are unable to get to, and we tend to be rather lazy around here and let them pile up until the weekend when you arrive. Then we all rush around with our brooms and dust mops to tidy the place up. We call the scraps “ramblings,” and as today is Saturday, we call it … ok, you don’t need me to hold your hand, do you?

Did you hear the one about the priest who used an iPad in the confessional? No, it’s not a joke. Or, if it is, it’s not a very funny one. Peggy Noonan encountered a priest using an iPad in the confessional in order to share some scriptures. And she was ok with that.

Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com’s religion editor, is leaving to take a job with National Geographic. On his way out the door, Gilgoff offers five things he learned while heading Belief Blog. I have found CNN a great source of news, religion and otherwise. For instance, here is a great post about evangelicals and gun control, and another very good story about hearing God speak to you. CNN, on the whole, offers the most fair and balanced reporting of any news source I reference on a regular basis. Your thoughts?

Tomorrow night starts season three of Downton Abbey here in the U.S. Yes, I’m excited. It’s really the only TV show I look forward to watching. Christianity Today wonders why God is absent from the show. Do you?

The Green family of Oklahoma City, founders of the Hobby Lobby chain, finally found a taker for the empty campus in Massachusetts. Now it is up to the National Christian Foundation to find someone who wants the place. I have a suggestion: Whatever school takes over the site ought to name their sports teams the White Elephants.

Today is Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day, a day when you are encouraged to go to Hobby Lobby and spend money to show your support for the craft store’s stand against Obamacare. Look, I try to stay objective as possible here, but who (apart from Mike Huckabee) thinks this is a good idea?

Oops. Seems when this church in Hawaii was starting their building project they accidentally unearthed 600 bodies from a forgotten burial site. I’m sure there is some “surfing zombie” joke in here somewhere, but I’m not going looking for it …

Who steals from a church? That was the question asked by one person when a man offered to sell her a very old-looking Bible. She thought him suspicious, and sure enough, he had stolen the Bible from a church. Read all the way to the end for the happy conclusion.

Remember that granny who tried to help her church by “fixing” the fresco of Jesus on their church wall? Well, now you can have her version painted on your fingernails. Who said religious art is not alive and well?

Look, when I say I can’t make this kind of stuff up, I really mean it. And even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. This one really takes the cake. Even the Synonymous Rambler let out a loud groan over this. Read it if you have the stomach for it. But be forewarned: You might just turn in your evangelical card afterward.

Well, I didn’t make the list of the top Gentiles for 2012, but Chaka Khan did. Chaka Khan? Really? Really. Ok then. And I’m not even listed in the top 100 male baby names. Sigh …

I want to thank everyone who has given so generously to InternetMonk in the past year. Your donations help keep the lights on in the iMonastery. Thank you from all of us here.

This last week was filthy with musician birthdays, including Ray Thomas; Rick Danko; Marianne Faithfull; Michael Nesmith; Davy Jones; Jeff Lynne; Suzy Bogguss; Andy Summers; John Denver; Patti Smith; Burton Cummings; George Thorogood; Country Joe McDonald; Victor Borge; George Martin; Van Dyke Parks; Stephen Stills; and Patty Lovelace.

My oh my. Who to choose for this week’s bonus video from that crop? I came up with two, simply because of the number of other musicians featured in these songs. Could you imagine being in the studio with George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison? (Jeff Lynne is the other Traveling Wilbury.) Or on stage with Ringo, et al? Enjoy.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8s9dmuAKvU’]

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ0E96QlUCA’]


  1. Already watched the current season of Downton Abbey. God gets a few mentions. Watch and see.

    • As religious sentiments wane more and more in the UK it is no wonder that anything religious is avoided. It’s not that they are antagonistic toward faith…they just don’t CARE any more!

    • Peggy Noonan’s story was a delight to read. I’ve been waiting for such accounts to “go public.” On the first Sunday in Advent our priest read the prayers at the lighting of the candle from his IPhone. He did so easily and smoothly to a few delighted snickers..

      Often, when praying before the Blessed Sacrament I’ve wanted to read scripture, prayers, or other readings to myself from my phone or tablet. Out of sensitivity to others I’ve begged off. As printed books begin to take second place to this technology, perhaps this year I will be more bold and others may not be disturbed.

      Separately, I think protesting all of the new healthcare plan to be shortsighted. All pieces of legislation are imperfect in some way. This one is as well. Congress and the American people have been making changes to the original Social Security plan for almost 80 years. This plan will be adjusted for years to come. Organize to correct the parts you don’t like in order to make the whole stronger. That’s what democratic government is all about. Legislation is not an all or nothing exercise. Let’s begin building up rather than tearing down.


      • ” Legislation is not an all or nothing exercise.” Thank you for that profound and true statement, Tom C. Would you mind running for Congress — PLEASE?

        • Oh, I thought for a moment about something I read in MAD magazine once. “You know you’re a bore when…you’re at confession, and the priest asks ‘What is a three-letter word for a European blackbird?'”

      • Richard Hershberger says

        I have mixed feelings about the IPhone as missal. My gut feeling is that it lacks gravitas. On the other hand, so does a photocopied bulletin, though the bulletin can sometimes be discreetly tucked into a book. On the gripping hand, we don’t complain about those printed books not being hand copied onto vellum. (For that matter, the codex format of binding was originally the down-scale informal form. The serious stuff was put on scrolls.) So I don’t think there is an actual principled objection to the IPhone here: just a period of adjustment for old farts like me.

        • ON THE GRIPPING HAND???? Gasp, you mean that you read some of the same science fictions stories as I do, by authors such as Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle?

      • MelissatheRagamuffin says

        I thought Peggy Noonan was a character on Madmen, and I have Biblegateway in my Iphone and use it all the time. Why not a priest?

  2. God in TV shows. I decided after “Touched by an Angel” and “7th Heaven” that TV shows and religion are a bad mix. Wacky theology mixed with social axe grinding of the producers of the show just made for results that could be called silly, heretical, or something in between.

    As to the “I can’t make this kind of stuff up,” that should have been the clue that this was another Ed Young story. Oh, well. The other day I read a new years prediction where it was proposed that he would apply for a permit to sleep or whatever on the runways at DFW.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Griinin’ Ed strikes again. Was this a CELEBRITY name-drop leadup to another Bed-In or Seven Day Sex Challenge?

  3. We got that Fellowship Church advert in the mail (we live about 10 miles from the church) and I almost took a photo of it to post on Facebook as a “Good grief!!” kind of thing, but couldn’t really see doing so fitting in with my desire to keep my FB posts more of the edifying/informative nature, so I decided against it. Besides, I suspect there may be some good points to be heard in the sermon, and mocking Evangelicalism after awhile seems to be either like shooting ducks in a barrel or a way to become even more cynical.

    • ” mocking Evangelicalism after awhile seems to be either like shooting ducks in a barrel or a way to become even more cynical.”


      I guess the lack of hope for change drives people to cynicism. No matter how many times the antics of someone like Young are exposed, he just pops up again with yet another even more bizarre scheme. It makes me admire the reformers even more; however, even they, after turning the world upside-down, really didn’t change the world.

      • One reason I lean toward (partial?) Preterism is because when one looks at the state of the Church(es)/Christendom today, as well as over the centuries – and I’m including Catholic and Orthodox Churches as well, not just Protestant or Protestant Evangelical – ISTM there is no way that what Jesus intended or built His church on is what the ~2,000 year delay in His supposed far-distant-future “second coming” has resulted in.

        • Aidan Clevinger says

          ^I don’t know, I think the apostolic and post-apostolic church had *exactly* the same sort of problems that we do in the church today.

          • But they didn’t have the cheesy “relevant” media-focused and saturated sermons and PowerPoint-projected worship services and high-dollar pastors and shopping mall buildings. Just heretics and liars and thieves and murderers and adulterers.

    • Josh in FW says

      Eric, I live in the same neck of the woods as you do. I physically live about half way in between Brite Divinity school (very liberal) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In my day to day life I’m surrounded by folks from Dallas Theological Seminary and folks doing online studies at various Reformed Seminaries. It’s great to come here (Imonk) and realize that I’m not the only one that thinks the way I do about the fame seeking pastors. It’s strange to be simultaneously surrounded by so many churches and depravity. I’m a native Texan and love my home, but I’m tired of a culture that embraces the loud and obnoxious.

      • Are you saying that the DTS and Reformed students are seeking Fellowship Church/Ed Young-type ministries?

        FYI – I know the DSS Exhibit at SWBTS is almost over, but I can’t get worked up to drive an hour and pay nearly $30 to see a few fragments when now the bulk of it is online in hi-res images.

        • Josh in FW says

          While I think it would be really cool to see the exhibit, $30 a piece plus a babysitter is too steep for my family at this point in life.

      • FYI – I decided to see the DSS today. Should be there about 12:30-12:45 pm depending on traffic. 🙂

      • Josh in FW says

        I reread my comment and it was clearly not clear to someone not me. 🙂 I’m not so great at expressing myself in this medium. My points were:
        -cool, a fellow north Texas fed up with the circus
        -our area has a lot of circus types like Ed Young and then we have the arrogant egg head types (DTS and the Reformed, particularly the Reformed Baptists)
        -I love Texas, but I’ve tired of the loudness and arrogance
        -seems like most of the your seminary graduates are trying to reinvent the wheel and start the latest greatest new way of doing authentic church rather than submit to the establishment of one of the many existing denominations. The attempts I’ve witnessed are either sad hipster gatherings or some other subculture type.
        -I don’t really have an answer which is why I’m a regular reader here, but I’m just worn out on the number of “look at me” glory hounds that call themselves pastors.

        • So you’re an existing-denomination mainliner, then?

          • Josh in FW says

            No, I’m a hypocrite. I was raised SBC (my grandfather is a pastor). Then in 8th grade my family moved to TN where we ended up in a PCA church. I’m currently a member of an independent Bible Church whose doctrinal statement mirrors that of DTS. It’s a good church with a good staff, a good congregation, and my wife and kids like it there, but I’ve never been very comfortable with the pre-millennial tribulation view and over the past 4 or so years I’ve learned a lot about Church that has affected my theology. I feel myself drawn to the older, more sacramental traditions. The Anglican and/or Lutheran church both seem like they would be a good theological fit, but I’m wary as both of these groups have splintering issues of their own.

            I’m currently reading and loving N.T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope”

  4. Ed Young? Meh.

  5. I’m going to have to chew on the Noonan piece for a bit… I really, honestly, don’t know how I feel about it…

  6. Richard McNeeley says

    Happy Birthday Terry Furlong (Grass Roots), thank you for teaching my 2 youngest to play guitar.

  7. I’m not a Catholic, but I liked the Noonan piece. First, I like the candor of the priest. Second, I stopped carrying a traditional Bible to church since I got my Nook two years ago for Father’s Day. I would think that an iPad would bring a virtual library of inspiring texts into that tiny confessional. The downside would be such technology in the hands of a disinterested priest, regurgitating pennance from a religious equivalent of WebMD; however, that would not be the fault of the technology. How quickly we forget that the traditional Bible text we carry around is the product of a technological revolution – albeit a 500 year old one. The Gutenberg press can be credited with the personal bible or blamed for making Osteen’s “Best Life Now” possible. Gutenberg could also be blamed for making exquisit hand-written/painted bibles a relic of the past.

    I also have to confess that on more than one occassion while listening to a boring sermon that my Nook flipped over from the Bible to “Winnie the Pooh”.

  8. I liked Gilgoff’s five things he learned while heading Belief Blog. I struggle with the first one, regarding answering the always important, “where was God” question. The quote from Lucado regarding pastors retooling their planned sermons for that week struck me odd. Perhaps it shouldn’t. One would expect people to be struggling with the question, but to change a sermon based upon current events seems fleeting. Answering tragedy with theodicy only adds to the tragedy. If the pastor’s goal each Sunday is to be, well, pastoral – bringing forth the gospel and assurance of God’s mercy and grace in spite of circumstances or feelings – then what would need to change in that message in light of current events? It is quite the opposite of what many pastors preached, that the tragedy was the result of divine judgement – the absolutely last thing that broken hearts and spirits need to hear.

    But I liked the closing quote from Lucado: “If you have a problem with God, shake a fist or two at him. If he’s God, he’s going to answer. And if he’s in control, he’ll find a way to let you know.”

    • I have to disagree a bit, though I understand your concern. Part of being “pastoral” is meeting people where they are.
      After all, Paul’s letter to the Galatians is very different from his letter to the Corinthians – even though his “message” (Christ and him crucified) was the same.

      • You can disagree with me a lot; I often do.

        I guess if a typical Sunday morning sermon is a slave of the zeitgeist in the first place – in the name of cultural relevancy – I would expect a sudden change in cultural attention or a devastating current event would throw that planned message onto the pile of irrelevancy. If the message was based on the gospel, then maybe a few paragraphs might change to address the issue, but the core message should remain. But a pastor should do what is necessary to care for the congregation – just not cultural war sabre-rattling.

  9. Christianity Today’s little know review of the book of Esther

    “Although there is a certain grandeur to this book of the Bible, God is never mentioned. What is wrong with the author?”

  10. I got a kick out of the Peggy Noonan story. I also like it that she was able to do confession the “old fashioned” way, in the sense of the priest being separated from her by a screen, etc. In my local little Catholic church, you and the priest sit facing one another and talk like that. I have only done confession once since that set up.

    • That was the aspect about reconciliation that I liked. Being able to actually dialogue with the priest instead of just offering him a plate of sins for him to inspect and choose to forgive or not depending on how he felt about my contrition. It probably kept me in the Church for just a bit longer, that I could discuss my doubts honestly and have them honestly dealt with by the priest (within reason, there is a time limit on confession, particularly if it’s crowded, it usually wasn’t, so we could take a little more time). I still run into that priest on occasion (he calls me Thomas, for some reason) and while he wasn’t happy that I couldn’t stay in Christianity, he always says he’s glad I didn’t give up on faith altogether.

  11. I don’t particularly see a problem in supporting a business that takes a principled stand, and what Hobby Lobby is doing is certainly of a higher level of cultural and political import than what happened with Chick-fil-A last summer. It’s important to remember that opposition to the demand that employers provide access to known abortifacients or face millions in fines each day (yes, this is not only about “birth control”, even though this is how the media frames it) is not only an “evangelical” issue. Dominos Farms here in MI, run by a devout Catholic, recently won an injunction from a federal court on the same issue. Other lawsuits are out there by Notre Dame University, and others. If a business is facing $1.3M in fines *every day* over this issue, why *not* support them in an organized way? Not that organized support could actually keep a business open in the face of this level of state coercion, but it still might be the right thing to do.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “…opposition to the demand that employers provide access to known abortifacients…”

      This is for a very broad definition of “known”.

      • What do you think the morning after pill does?

        • It appears to work primarily by delaying ovulation. It also thickens the cervical mucus to prevent semen from approaching the egg if ovulation has happened. The theoretical aspect that it causes thinning of the uterine wall such that implantation won’t be successful, is theoretical only. No one has ever observed whether a thinner uterine wall makes implantation more difficult for a fertilized ovum. Women are different from one another and over their lifetimes, their uterine walls are thinner or thicker depending on all manner of things, including diet. Yet women will get pregnant during famine, implying that a thinner uterine wall is not necessarily sufficient to block pregnancy. Also, many fertilized ova simply don’t implant for one reason or other, not necessarily having anything to do with the uterine wall.

        • It delays ovulation.

        • Take it from a doctor- it’s a KNOWN supressor of ovulation and also reduces the chance of fertilization (effect on cervical mucus)

    • A number of years ago, birth control pills were not paid for by most insurance plans. However, insurance companies were paying for drugs like Viagra. It was after that the ruling came down that if your insurance plan covered ED drugs, they must also cover birth control. I wonder if Hobby Lobby, UND, and everyone who is fighting this law will also look at ED drugs in the same way (ultimately)? I realize that some people would say that there is no moral equivalence, however, ED drugs are primarily about sexual function. Will we wind up fighting the same battle that was fought years ago?

      Another point, more and more health insurance like vacation time, sick time are considered part of a compensation package. If Hobby Lobby wins this lawsuit will they start to look at your pay (compensation) and what you do with it? This may not be as far fetched as you might think. Breaks and minimum wage would also be subject to judicial review since they are mandated by the state and the feds. Ultimately, Hobby Lobby is stating that they don’t want to compensate their workers for something that they morally disagree with. Could they tell an employee not to buy a beer on their own time? Just food for thought.

      • Hobby Lobby isn’t telling its employees they can’t buy birth control, it’s objecting to having to buy it for them with it’s own money. It’s a huge distinction under the law. It is far fetched.

        • Health insurance like salary is part of compensation legally speaking. It’s not a huge a distinction as you might think. There have been debates about taxing health insurance the same as pay.

        • Tim VanHaitsma says

          What about a Jehovah’s Witness employer that refuses to cover any blood transfusions due to their firmly held beliefs?

          • Presumably if the employer were Christian Scientist they’d be opposed to any modern healthcare. I hope the Evil State wouldn’t try and force them to go against their convictions and enable their employees to see a doctor?

  12. Richard Hershberger says

    $500 to $1000 for a 19th century Bible? Maybe, but I doubt it. Old Bibles (and Books of Common Prayer) are worth less that you would think, because there were so many printed and people hung onto them. There needs to be something special about it for real value: an edition of particular interest, interesting provenance, spectacularly good condition (clearly not the case here, based on the photo in the article), and so forth.

    This isn’t to say that this Bible doesn’t have special significance to this church, in the same way that your own family’s Bible is more significant to you than to some random book collector.

    My church has piles of old family Bibles, mostly the Luther translation. We are the old German church in the area. When people are downsizing, they look at this massive thing in the language of their ancestors and decide it has to go. I suspect that many research its value and are disappointed. Others simply feel that it deserves an appropriate repository. So they call up the church office. We sigh inwardly, and accept it. Because we too feel they deserve an appropriate repository, and apparently we are it. And they do hold genealogical interest, as family Bibles were where people recorded vital records, back in the day.

  13. The problem I have with the use of many newer technologies in spiritual practices is that I have the sense that it tends to privatize the individual’s practice, cutting off from openness with the larger community and the common experience of faith. Of course, there is community involved in the use of certain technologies, as on this blog, but it is usually a community of the those who are alike, and tends to engage certain demographic definitions; and within this context, we know each other as disembodied voices, which has some advantages, but has disadvantages as well. It tends to reinforce the zeitgeist that what is most important about us is our opinions sometimes, and our bodies other times, but rarely the two simultaneously and in the same forum. Anyway, this old Luddite had to put in his two cents.

  14. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    I have an old family Bible that dates back to 1800.

  15. Vinnie from Tennessee says

    Jeff – Always look forward to “Saturday Ramblings.” One of my favorite parts of the week. Since you say you like CNN because they’re fair and balanced, I have a question for you. Did you happen to receive a Christmas “package” from either Washington State or Colorado recently? Just wondering… 🙂

  16. Actually, just last November, a new priest was installed at a parish in a nearby city. I was present as one of the assisting clergymen. At one point, the bishop led some of the prayers from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom from an iPad. Now, please imagine a bearded Eastern Orthodox bishop in his 80’s, with the episcopal crown on his head, rich Eastern vestments, and the glow of an iPad as he led some of the prayers.

    I have used my smartphone more than once. One time, the choir forgot the seasonal hymn, I quickly opened it on my Android smartphone, and chanted it. Yes, some in the congregation snickered, but that smartphone has been of real help more than once.

    • Our parish came within moments once of having to pray the Akathist of Glory to God for All Things off of my mp3-player/tablet.

  17. Re: the Gilgoff article.

    It has been popular since Sandy Hook to say that “violent video games” need to be regulated, banned, whatever. Why are “violent movies” and “violent television series” never mentioned? There are certainly plenty of those. I think they are probably so much a part of our culture that people cannot see the forest for the trees. So let’s pick on video games since they are marketed mostly to the young, but let’s not upset any adults in the community (especially the producers of the stuff) by pointing at other entertainment choices.

    We wouldn’t want to quit preaching and go to meddling.

  18. I suspect the reason that video games are targeted is because they involve you in a way in which movies and television series do not. In a video game, you have to make a decision of the will to press a button that will attack your opponent. Your body, by way of your motor skills, is involved in a way in which it is not in a movie or television show.

    In both movies and television shows you are a passive participant. After the movie or show is over, your body and mind relax and you leave or stop watching. In a video game, particularly the more realistic ones, you are an active participant. Should you try to stop too soon, it is your character that will die. Should you survive, it is your hand that has pulled the trigger or swung the sword, etc. Both your mind and your muscle memory become involved in a game in a way in which they do not in a movie or television show.

    Having said that, there does need to be more of an outcry about violent movies and television shows. Particularly some of them are “snuff porn” and “torture porn” that is every bit as damaging as sexual porn.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I think it’s because Church Ladies and Elders and Pastors watch movies and TV and those young kids play video games. It’s always the OTHER guys’ Sin that God really hates.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      I suspect the reason that video games are targeted, and the reason why violent movies and television can occasionally be a target, is because we need easy scapegoats. We could recognize these forms of media as symptoms of problems, and the outcry against them as distractions from the real problems (i.e., how American society sets unrealistic expectations of masculinity, encourages individualism to the point of isolation, and on and on), but that’s a lot of serious work.

  19. Perhaps Ed Young might want to preach a sermon on what Jesus would say to megachurch pastors who own their own private jets and live in mansions.

  20. Jeff: Are you the “Jeff Dunn” who Ex-Korn guitarist Brian “Head” Welch thanks at the end of his autobiography SAVE ME FROM MYSELF?

  21. It’s troubling how little people liberal Christians care about religious freedom. Nobody sees a problem with a law that bars people from owing a business if they refuse to buy abortion drugs for their employees? And its an abuse of science to say morning after pill isn’t an abortifacient.

    • First, I don’t see it as a religious freedom issue. Hobby Lobby owners are trying to sit in two worlds at the same time. They own a secular business. Presumably, they will hire any qualified employee, regardless of faith, ethnicity, or gender. They don’t require their employees to sign a statement of faith or creed. Hobby Lobby doesn’t cater to an exclusively Christian market. Their product line is most notably secular. Yes, there are a few inspirational items in the store, however, by and large their product line is secular. By all intents, they operate within the secular world. I am told that they operate their business with “Christian Standards” without any elaboration what so ever. Being closed on Sunday alone doesn’t qualify as being “Christian”.

      Hobby Lobby owners want a religious exemption not unlike a church or a religious organization. But they are not running a religious organization, they are running a secular business. There are many tings that I have moral issues with that I pay for directly through my taxes. I do not have a right to withhold my money because I disagree with some policies. It’s part of living in a society.

      Are Hobby Lobby owner’s religious freedoms really being denied? They are still free to worship and even speak out against the law. They are not being thrown in jail, nor are they being persecuted for their beliefs. They may be penalized for not following the law, but that doesn’t qualify as persecution.

      I cannot comment on your view that the morning after pill is a defacto abortifacient. I know that within medical circles there is a discussion going on about whether or not this is true.

      • Tim VanHaitsma says

        Another point against them would be rank hypocrisy. They stand firm on principle for those in their employ yet the vast majority of their product for sale comes from a country that actually does. Do forced abortions( china).

      • We need to be careful condemning companies like Hobby Lobby for standing up for the sake of their conscience and religious convictions. I am also wary when Christians repeatedly support the use of laws and governments in the coercion of individuals and private companies, and blindly support government demanded ‘forced giving.’

  22. Someone above spoke about the glow from the iPad or smart phone. It would be kind of cool if someone had a regular paper Bible that glowed up onto the person’s face as they read it!