October 25, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 2.9.13

RamblerGreetings, iMonks. Welcome once again to our weekly gathering we like to call Saturday Ramblings. We tiptoe through the TULIP, or through the daisies (for those who are not of the Calvinist bent), trying not to get our feet wet or dirty so we don’t track mud in the iMonastery. I come bearing a gift for you, a gift that will help lift the winter gloom from your soul. It is a gift of words, four simple words to bring you joy unspeakable and full of glory. But before we get to those words, what say we ramble …

First, the big news of the week. Seems Richard III has been found hiding beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. The king was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Then someone went and paved a parking lot on top of him. He once was lost, but now is found. Let the merriment commence.

Meanwhile, a little closer to our era, there seems to be a (link redacted)battle brewing in the UK, circa 1920. Tom Branson wants his daughter to be christened Catholic, while Lord Grantham, the baby’s grandfather, doesn’t want his daughter to become a “left-footer” and insists she be sprinkled by an Anglican minister. There is great tension all around. Oh come on. You watch Downton Abbey like the rest of us, don’t you? If not, you should. Just sayin’…

The new head right-footer has taken office. Seems like a nice guy. Anyone on that side of the pond want to comment?

Evangelical Catholicism is on the offense, not defense, they say. “They” being a new wave of evangelical Catholics. The part of this article that concerns me is where they say, “And so the evangelical Catholicism of the future will be a culture-forming counterculture. It will form its own culture … ” Perhaps they will want to look at how creating their own culture has worked for other evangelicals first.

Free-roving rambler Adrian forwarded this story about how some UK churches are making up for the fact they cannot put together a full choir these days. Interesting. Sad, but interesting.

Did you watch the Superb Owl last Sunday? (Up until the start of Downton Abbey, that is.) Before the game, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said he didn’t think God played a part in who would win. Well, the Ravens won, whether picked by God or not. After the game, Lewis said the Ravens had “finished the race.” And he was seen on the field wearing a t-shirt with Psalms 91 on it. Me? I got home from work in time to watch the last four seconds of the game. Then, thanks to DVR, I watched what I really wanted to watch. Mr. Bates is coming home!

Make sure you give and give well if you attend church in Arkansas. That state’s legislature has made it legal to pack heat in the pew. Worship with one hand raised and one hand on your hip. Meanwhile, violence at churches has increased by 36% in the last year. Is having more people with guns in church the best solution? Argue quietly among yourselves.

iMonk Rev. Randy found this interesting op-ed by Steve Strang, founder of Charisma magazine. With this we can safely say that excessive evangelicalism has collapsed. When Strang says the party is over, it is over.

Remember our top story from last week, the “pastor” who refused to tip her server at Applebee’s, then had the server fired? This has fueled the discussion that maybe Christians shouldn’t go out to eat since they are such lousy tippers.

Sigh … Really? Do we really need a Christian Fashion Week? Really?

Oh yes, that gift of four simple words I promised you? Here they are: Pitchers and catchers report

Finally, a maintenance worker in Tennessee has quit his job because the W2 he received this week was number 666. “If you accept that number, you sell your soul to the devil,” he said. Why would I try to make stuff up when I have these things gift-wrapped for me each week?

Birthday gifts were wrapped this week for my mom, Gloria Dunn; George Halas; Liz Smith; Stan Getz; Tommy Smothers; Graham Nash; Christie Brinkley; Pebbles Flintsone (did she ever marry Bam-Bam? And did he ever learn to say anything other than Bam-Bam?); Norman Rockwell; Joey Bishop; Bob Griese; Charles Lindbergh; Hal Blaine; Hank Aaron; Al Kooper; Chuck Winfield; Babe Ruth; Ronald Reagan; Zsa Zsa Gabor; Rip Torn; Natalie Cole; Laura Ingalls Wilder; Garth Brooks; and James Dean.

No bonus video today. Sorry. WordPress is not behaving, and I have already had my far share of cussing for the day. I suggest you go outside and play. Unless you are enjoying the blizzard of the century. Then I recommend lots of coffee and a deck of cards. Enjoy.



  1. “Catholicism of the future will be a culture-forming counterculture. It will form its own culture … ”

    Meet the new evangelical catholicism…same as the old fundagelicalism?

    • We won’t get fooled again …

    • Oh, I don’t know, Catholicism has done a pretty decent job at forming cultures in the past. There was French culture, Italian culture, Irish culture….

      Was Evangelical culture forming bad because it was trying to form a culture, or was it bad because the culture it formed was shallow, pedantic, silly, etc. ?

      • It was wrong for making descending into a ghetto subculture of their own making, then calling it a Utopian model for everyone else. It’s sad to see the Catholic church descend to the ghetto of religious t-shirts. Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” might make good bumper music for this article.

        I never read John Stott’s “Christian Counter-Culture: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount “; perhaps it might have helpful advice on how to be salt and light without barricading the church in a ghetto. Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire are gone. The church is never going to return to former positions of honor and power and had best learn how to be salt and light, being in the world but not of it, perhaps learning the meaning of the “hiddenness” that Luther spoke of regarding the church. I guarantee that restoring an understanding of vocation will be a key part of this, and cultural war a lesser role.


        • Having all sorts of typing struggles this morning…

        • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

          In the early days of the post-Apostolic era of the Church, before Constantine made Christianity the official religion, it seems that there were three main ways the Church lived out its counter-cultural and culture-shaping vocation.

          1) There were folks like Justin Martyr who directly engaged the Powers-that-Be in the Empire. They wrote apologies for Christianity, often using reasoning that would specifically appeal to the ideals of the Empire. E.g., they’d use the Greek philosophers to make their points, or stories from the mythologies to make their points, all while ultimately pointing to Christ.

          2) There was the rise of monasticism, especially “ermitic” or hermit monasticism, that pulled out of the surrounding culture and did the whole John-the-Baptist-Voice-Crying-in-the-Wilderness thing. St. Anthony is the archetypal ermetic monk. Later, the “cenobitic” or community-based monasticism arose, where alternate communities would form within the greater community. But this seems more to have been a response to Christian cultures that had lost their way rather than to pagan cultures, the way that the ermitic monks were.

          3) Regular Christian folks lived regular Christian lives that were counter-cultural for the simple fact that Christianity demands lives that were so different from that of mainstream Roman culture. But (as The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus says), they were the best of citizens, the best of neighbors, etc. so that it served as a visible witness to Christ from within the greater culture.

          I think, we could learn from this. And, frankly, the Catholics have a better advantage than the Evangelicals in this matter because they tend to be more aware of Church history. Much of Evangelicalism acts as if the Church sprang into being circa 1950.

        • I completely agree with your comment about “ghetto subculture” in the evangelical world: I grew up there, I know it well. I spent way too much of my teenage years at lousy christian rock concerts with my youth group to want to go back there…But what is it from Weigel’s article that makes you think that that is what he has in mind? Where does he argue for Catholics to start making goofy t-shirts?

          I guess that’s the thrust of my earlier question. what if a denomination (not just the catholic church, though they’re the group that brought this conversation up) set out to make a really wonderful counter-culture? What if they sent their talented artists and musicians on for serious training under the very best masters, so that they could create incredible works of beauty? What if they sat their up-and-coming writers down and said “please don’t write Christian schlock, please do your utmost to be another Chesterton or CS Lewis”?

          So if Weigel is actually arguing for *that* and not for the rise of a Catholic version of DC Talk CDs and Tim Lahaye books, then…. My question is still, is it wrong for Christians to want to make culture at all, or is it just wrong to make shallow, dumb culture?

          • Hard to say. Part of the problem with evangelical sub-culture is the market-driven aspect. Marketing doesn’t promote quality; it merely targets the largest demographics and profit opportunities.

            I don’t know if it could be like the old days, when churches paid artisans to create works of beauty and meaning. I don’t think beauty can be created for a consumer culture.

      • Dan Crawford says

        And all of them are now so secular as to be atheistic or at best, agnostic.

    • No video? And on Tommy Smothers’ birthday?

      OK, here’s a double-duty comment:

      Tommy: “Know anything about Catholics?”
      Dickie: “No.”
      Tommy: “They’ll getcha.”

      On the Ed Sullivan Show, 1966: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pirpx6j4xdw

    • Be there done that and use the T-shirt now as my gardening shirt. Started mid seventies, rising out of the charismatic renewal in the RCC and very heavily influenced by Pentecostalism and taking on board its good, bad and ugly parts. I even used the term evangelical catholics back then before I had ever heard of it (should have trademarked it then – shoot!).

      For better or worse this is why I relate to much to this website and (as I have expressed previously) has been one of the main reasons I am still a Jesus follower – Michael Spencer’s wisdom and openness and the legacy continued by Chaplin Mike and Jeff.

      I am concerned by some of what I see as yes ‘…the same as the old fundagelicalism’ and let me tell you, Catholics can leave fundagelicalism is the shade when it comes to some of this. Not saying that there cannot grow good things out of this – but I pray it is managed well. My scars may have healed but you can still some of the marks when I take off the t-shirt after a hard day in the garden

    • Bad idea. When you’re already making plans to huddle in your own little ghetto of the like-minded, you’ve admitted you expect to lose the fight.

      We don’t need any more counter-cultures; we need to be the culture the way yeast is the culture in bread, and not in the way of the leaven of the Pharisees.

      • “we need to be the culture the way yeast is the culture in bread”

        Words of wisdom.

      • Dan Crawford says

        Perhaps they will want to look at how creating their own culture has worked for other evangelicals first.

        They created their own counterculture before Vatican II and some are busily trying to re-create it in all of its worst aspects. Perhaps the most noticeable feature of the counterculture continues to this day in the machinations and cover-ups by the Catholic hierarchy to deal with “scandal”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Bad idea. When you’re already making plans to huddle in your own little ghetto of the like-minded, you’ve admitted you expect to lose the fight.

        And since we Papists are Amil, we can’t even use the Dispy justification of Ye Ende Is Nighye and hunker down in the bunker waiting for the Rapture (any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…)

  2. Jeff, my wife and I just finished watching our first episode of Downton Abbey on her laptop a few minutes ago. We can’t get PBS very often with the new digital broadcasting, so we’re behind. Started with episode 1 of this season, and the series does look like a winner. I’ve been a big fan of Upstairs Downstairs since high school, and this follows in that tradition.

    Wind really picking up here on the coast of Maine. Stay where you are. No idea why we still have electricity.

    • conanthepunctual says

      I just started with the first episode on my Roku this week. So, if you would maybe not drop too many more spoilers?

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

        Lol I just watched the first season on Netflix this week. Got the 2nd season discs in my DVD queue 🙂

  3. Richard McNeeley says

    Pitchers and Catchers are reporting and Cubs fans are already saying wait till next year

  4. There is no doubt that Roman Catholicism has far greater intellectual and cultural resources at hand to go toward developing counter-culture than Evangelicalism, as a Johnny-come-lately, has ever had; in addition, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that, at least in earlier centuries, Roman Catholicism was a kind of civilization. But there are two problems with self-consciously setting out to create countercultures: 1) you end up with a subculture rather than a counterculture, meaning that your newly developed culture does not escape the primary cultural values that it was ostensibly developed to counteract or 2) you end up undertaking a project in social-engineering, like the ones politically and militarily undertaken in the former Soviet Union and the Third Reich, that will ultimately require the exercise of state coercion and violence to remake the larger culture according to the template of your ideal. In both cases, you are engaging in a huge project of working against the grain of the more-or-less organic development that formed the culture to begin with; this is a Promethean task that is impossible to design and execute without resulting in unlooked for and unwanted results as things inevitably spin out of control. Everything after that becomes public relations.

  5. The Richard III Found under a parking lot. Reminds of the Joni Mitchell song paved Paradise put up a parking lot

  6. The concept of “forming a culture” is hubris. It’s like trying to form an ecosystem. Both cultures and ecosystems are so complex that they can’t be created by a single group or generation of people. Below are some definitions of culture from the anthropological point of view. Good luck to the evangelical Catholics with recreating this by next month.

    *Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.

    *Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behavior through social learning.

    *A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

    *Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.

    *Culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation.

  7. Well, great. Downtown Abbey is incorporating religious themes into its plot. Is everyone happy now? Of course NOT! (gasp!) Who could have seen that coming! 🙄

    I don’t know where I fall on the whole religious vs. spiritual debate, but when religion in art and media is viewed as rituals and church membership and attendance and nothing to do with the ground of being, religion becomes a farce-like parody of its true self. The trappings, the aidaphora if you will, of religion are nice, but it is not its core. There are many rabbit holes in which to fall that lead to the religious ghetto.

  8. But dumb ox, doesn’t such an understanding reduce the physical reality of the Body of Christ gathering together to worship into a sort of epiphenomenon that can be dispensed with as long as the heart (which is another physical metaphor in any case) is properly oriented (also an extension of the physical metaphor)? Don’t we then end up with the Sheilaism of our current culture?

    • Wonderful question! I’ll do my best to answer.

      I see the pitfall to which you allude, and I think religion has been there before – such as pietism descending into the enlightenment’s “inner light”. In that sense, yes, religion became just a part of the existing zeitgeist. Even worse, the concept of “inner light” was adopted by religion, the reality replaced by the parody.

      But there must be a precedence on the inner truth of religion as the starting point, and its rituals an expression of that truth. That may be the danger of sacramentalism, because it can lead one to believe that the rituals ARE the reality.

      I’m not a Downtown Abbey fan, so I can’t point to a relevant plot from the series. One episode I did see was set in a WW I battlefield, where a character in the series is killed. That scene dealt with death, the temporality of life, and the absurdity of this world where the flowers of youth are crushed in the meaningless of a war like that. All of that is the subject of religion, even though no priests nor steeples, nor rituals were pictured in the scene.

      I think the external trappings of religion are more in danger of being absorbed into the culture. A perfect example of this is in Japan, where western-style weddings are more popular than Shinto ceremonies, but the meaning and symbolism of a western wedding ceremony have no meaning.

      I think of Jesus with the disciples as they marvel over the temple, to which Jesus informs them that not one of those stones would be left upon another. Ultimate truth came to earth in the incarnation of Jesus, but was rejected in favor of stones-upon-stones and religious traditions. I don’t want a religion which is confined to church walls or rituals but one which is present in all aspects of life.

      The external aspects of religion are important. Without them, we become Manichean. But even indispensable does not equate to essential, i.e. the essence of what religion is.

      • I think I understand your answer, and I go along part of the way with you; the outer manifestations of religious truth can easily be co-opted by the wider culture, and, as you point out, it has happened and continues to happen. Where you lose me is when you make a sharp distinction between the reality and the symbol, and where you focus on inner truth as being the first thing and primary thing. Since we are using the terminology of Tillich (if I remember correctly you are something of an admirer of his), isn’t it true that he asserted that certain symbols actually participate in the reality to which they point, that they are not simply symbols after a certain point because the reality they indicate actually becomes embodied in them? I think certain aspects of our cultic Christian practices actually participate in the reality to which they also refer, so they are not dispensable, or easily replaceable, as the public place where our personal religious experience feeds into the wider body of Christian experience, the communion of saints. And that leads into my second point: I don’t believe the inner truth, although possibly the primary one chronologically, is the primary religious truth. There is a term that Buddhists use in referring to their idea of the nature of the self in relation to other selves: they say that our selves our the result of interbeing.. We do not exist apart from the society of being in its entirety, because our being is drawn from the resource of total being. The self is composed of non-self components, they say. While I don’t go all the way with them in regard to their definition of self, I want to steal their idea and apply it to the nature of religious truth, and specifically Christian truth. The Kingdom of God is among us, not within us, because it is a social reality that is not complete as merely individual religious experience; in fact, the inner experience is the symbol of the social reality that points us to the social reality. Much of this way of looking at it dovetails with the concept of the Trinity as Divine society.

  9. I just don’t watch TV. Even the Bible coming up on the History Channel has the wise men at the manger with the shepherds, so I know not even THAT is going to be worth watching. (Music by Cee Lo, ya gotta wonder.)

    I have 57 fewer years to goof off than I used to have, so there’s no time for TV.

  10. Chris Skiles says

    Jeff, I am a Finance Manager for a car dealership and have what can often be a very stressful job. I read Saturday Morning Ramblings every week while having my morning coffee. Thanks for the column. I love it.

  11. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

    Not that I think the pastor at Applebee’s was in any way doing the right thing, but I thought she DID leave the tip (after all, it was already billed due to a large party). She added a snarky note TO the tip. And the waitress got fired by Applebee’s because she posted the note on Reddit and the story was spreading in the media. The pastor didn’t get her fired. If someone “got her fired,” it would be the media making such a big deal out of the story. Or rather, she got her self fired by airing dirty laundry on the Internet.

    Don’t get me wrong, the pastor’s note was in HORRIBLE taste, and the fact that Christians are stereotypically such bad tippers is a major shame. But, she paid the dang tip!

    Good Lord, I hate this passive-aggressive crap. Why don’t people deal with each other face-to-face? Two passive-aggressive BS maneuvers (the pastor’s note, and the waitresses’s online post) lead to the pastor’s public shame, the waitress losing her job, and Jesus’ folks looking bad all around.

    • Actually she didn’t leave a tip – the receipt showed that she crossed out the pre-billed (?) tip and wrote in $0. The waitress did get fired by the pastor’s “outraged complaining” as the waitress supposedly didn’t give out any of the pastor’s or restaurants info and thus didn’t violate any Applebee’s codes of conduct or whatever… although the Reddit antagonism may have pushed the pastor’s ire further.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

        Hmmm… conflicting info, it seems. I know that the interview I heard with her on the radio she said she paid it. Oh, well.

  12. Strang’s op-ed piece on the problems of the charismatic movement makes some good points. He’s on target with his demand that leaders be better trained than they often are. (I was unaware than Hinn was a Nonatarian.) Of course, this all could have been said 35 years ago when I was a boy.

    But while all churches — all institutions of any sort — of course need good leaders, why, O why, this perpetual focus on the magnum mysterium known as “leadership”? After all, it’s really hard to encourage people to be good disciples (i.e., followers) when everyone keeps going on and on about the importance of leadership.

    • Great question, I’m totally with you. At the last “church” I attended, there were probably 3 people in “leadership” for every “regular” person. LOL. It reminds me of a line from the movie The Incredibles, that I will alter just a bit for this purpose: When everyone is a leader, no one is a leader.

  13. Strange to read that people think that gun-control is the same as disarming everyone.

    Do what would it take to get people realize that their are limits to Constitutional Rights?

    For example, the 1st Amendment “gives” us freedom of religion, but one cannot violate restrictions on drugs even one belongs to a church/religion that sees certain drugs as “sacrament”. We don’t allow parents to beat their children… to death in the name of religion

    Free Speech? One cannot lie under oath in court, commit slander or libel, or falsely yell “fire!” in a crowded public place.

    There are limits on almost all our rights. And that is all anyone on the “gun control” is asking for, not the elimination of rights,

  14. Bam-Bam did say more than bam-bam in the episodes in which he and Pebbles were teenagers. However, I am not sure what happened to his super-strength. It seemed to have disappeared.

    • The only other thing I remember Pebbles or Bam-Bam saying is “Woo-woo-gey-goo” (baby talk for “Welch’s Grape Juice” in a TV commercial they starred in. But that may have been Pebbles.

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Sigh … Really? Do we really need a Christian Fashion Week? Really?

    Well, except for denim jumpers and 1950s-width neckties, I’ve never heard of a “Just like the fashion industry, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!” Apparently it’s missing from the cradle-to-grave Christianese Culture bubble. Can’t be a closed system if anything’s missing…

    Wonder if to everyone outside the Christianese Culture Bubble, it’ll wind up like This?

  16. I guess that on Richard III, we could say that, “they paved Paradise and put up a parkin lot …”