Have you ever felt like life was one big joke, and everyone else was in on it, but you still don't get the punch-line?
I have been reading the newspapers more recently, trying to figure out what the heck is going on in America. I’m not just looking for the “news”; I'm trying to understand the mindset of the American public.
Unfortunately, I am more confused now than when I first began. Here are a few examples to illustrate what I mean:
SARAH PALIN & GLENN BECK Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck were recently hailed as the leading voices of the Christian Right, the political heavyweights of conservative Christianity, the heirs to Rev. Jerry Fallwell’s Moral Majority legacy.
This strikes me as odd because 1) Sarah Palin has no religious creds to speak of (born into a Roman Catholic family, attended Wasilla Assembly of God, then a Pentecostal church, and then Wasilla Bible Church); and 2) Glenn Beck is Mormon.
SARAH PALIN ON DESSERT What’s more, Sarah Palin’s political position seems to be anything that is anti-Obama. On her recent television show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” (are you kidding me?!?), she took cheap shots at the recent bill promoted by Michelle Obama and signed by President Obama addressing the frequently-noted obesity of America’s children.
Despite the fact that 1/3 of America’s children are obese, Palin is opposed to “the government taking away dessert from children”. She says deciding if a child should have dessert or not is the parents’ responsibility, not the government’s… despite the fact that apparently 1/3 of America’s parents are abdicating that responsibility.
ONLINE WINE LAWS The L.A. Times recently pointed out that while wine can only be purchased online in 13 states, pornography, cigarettes and ammunition are legal to purchase online in every state. Even California prohibits the purchase of wine online from out-of-state wineries. Some of this is protectionist, some prohibitionist. But really, is it 1930 again?
HOOTERS UNDER FIRE AOL News reports that the National Organization of Women (NOW) has filed complaints against Hooters Restaurants for catering to children. Yes, it seems Hooters provides bibs (emblazoned with “Future Hooters Girl”), high chairs & booster seats, and a “family-friendly” atmosphere.
Shame on them!
Wait a minute. What’s wrong with that?
Apparently Hooters is registered as an “Adult Entertainment” establishment in San Francisco, San Bruno, Sacramento & Orange County.
From time to time I have had colleagues warn me about the place – that the waitresses are topless, and they “wag their boobies in your face”.
I confess: I frequent my local Hooters restaurant, have done so for many years now. (See my previous blog post here.) If they hadn’t closed the restaurant just ½ mile from the parsonage, my picture would probably be on the wall!
But in all that time, I have never seen nudity nor a wet t-shirt contest there; never been offered a lap dance… nor any other non-menu special for that matter. In fact, the local restaurant stays so busy, most of the time the girls do good just to keep up with food orders!
It's adult entertainment only in the sense that I'm an adult and I like to eat there!
And again, I would argue that one can see more flesh on television, in the malls, and at local beaches than is displayed by the Hooters Girls.
CREATIONISM ON THE RISE Last but not least, the people responsible for the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, are now planning to build an “Ark Encounter” theme park including, yes, a life-size reproduction of Noah’s Ark… “to prove the creation story”.
What got the attention of the media was their request for state tourism-development incentives, by which they could recover as much as 25% of their costs through state taxes. The Governor of KY is said to be supportive, as the Museum has brought in 720,000 visitors in its three year history.
Okay, a friend took her children there recently on vacation because she heard it had a lot of dinosaurs, which her children love.
But seriously, who still buys the six-day creation story?
Apparently a lot of folks! A 1997 Gallup poll showed 44% believe the creation story in Genesis is literally true. In 1999, a Fox News poll found the number to be at 50%. In 2006, a CBS poll found the number up to 55%.
What has happened to critical thinking? When did we collectively turn off our brains and decide to just agree with – no, fervently advocate for – whatever our favorite talking heads tell us to believe? Whatever happened to thinking something through to its logical conclusion? When did the media stop asking the tough questions? And what are our churches teaching these days?
It scares me that the most pressing concern of some of my church members is that the President of the United States is black / might be Muslim / won’t reveal his birth certificate / recently said the motto of the U.S. is “E Pluribus Unum” instead of “In God We Trust”.
What about feeding the hungry? Clothing the naked? Healing the sick? Visiting those in prison? Why aren't any of these god-fearing Christians talking about that?
I was surfing the web this morning when I ran across this old television wine advertisement. Someone has unloaded cases of them on YouTube. Check it out!
This one features James Mason, the English Actor wtih three Academy Awards Nominations. You might have seen him as Capt. Nemo in Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1954), or wtih Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in "North By Northwest" (1959), or with Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre in "Boys from Brazil" (1978).
In this commercial, Mason is peddling an all-too-familiar wine brand.
(Click on the box to start the video.)
"An unusual flavor", indeed!
And was that a wedge of lemon on the rim of the glass of ice?!?
Nothing says "sophisticated" like a fine wine poured over ice with a squeeze of lemon!
By the way, anyone... is this commerical the basis for the Dos XX ad campaign, "The most interesting man in the world?"
I usually become a real “Humbug” this time of year. No attending Christmas parades. No watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” on television. Not even “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. And I don’t attend children’s Christmas programs.
The Madonna Learning Center presents a wonderful Christmas pageant every year. We have been to it for four years in a row now and it is still a wonderful experience!
Madonna L.C. is a school for children with special needs. One of my favorites kids at church is Sarah, a 13-year-old with Downs Syndrome. She attends the school.
But it would be wrong to say we go to the program just to support her. We go for the blessing.
This year was especially meaningful for two reasons. First, Sarah’s mother died suddenly this summer. It has been an especially difficult year for her and for her family as they grieve and try to establish new routines.
Adding to this, Sister Mary Mark, a Catholic nun and the founder of the school, also died this summer in a tragic car accident. She was the spirit of the school, and its chief fund-raiser!
Prior to the program – which is presented to the public free of charge – the chairman of the Board made no apologies for reminding the crowded room that it takes $1 million per year to keep the school running. There are no corporate donations, no government grants, and student tuition only covers a small percentage of the cost.
“Anything you can give will help.” (The school’s address is included at the bottom of this blog.)
So this year’s program – “A Very Merry Mary Mark Christmas” – was dedicated to the memory of Sister Mary Mark. But in keeping with her spirit, the production was not at all sad or maudlin. The children were joyous and rambunctious throughout. There was a lot more waving to parents from the stage. A lot more mugging for the audience and unscripted bows. And a lot more “air guitar” playing.
I didn’t realize so many guitar players use that “windmill” motion when they play!
But that doesn’t mean there was no need for the packet of Kleenex I had wisely stowed in my coat pocket. In previous years, I frequently found my eyes “leaking” as I watched these beautiful children perform the Christmas program from their heart. This year was no different.
I thought I had dodged the bullet, as they say, until near the end of the show. A pretty young student came on stage and flawlessly signed her way through Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven”. Her graceful movements, along with the bright smile on her face, touched my heart.
But then the dam burst. As another student began signing to Chris Rice’s “Go Light Your World”, the lights went out.
There is a candle in every soul,
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold.
There is a Spirit who brings a fire,
Ignites a candle and makes His home.
Down the center aisle a student carried in a single candle. From the wings of the stage, two more students carried in candles. Tears started streaming down my cheeks as the chorus rang out:
So carry your candle, run to the darkness,
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn;
Hold out your candle for all to see it.
Take your candle, and go light your world,
Take your candle, and go light your world.
I grabbed a Kleenex and started looking for an exit strategy. But the house was packed and the only way out was across the front of the room.
Frustrated brother, see how he's tried to
Light his own candle some other way;
See now your sister, she's been robbed and lied to,
Still holds a candle without a flame.
I decided that since the room was dark, no one would see my tears. But as the chorus came around again, I realized the room was growing brighter as candles were being lit from person to person.
And there I sat – Kleenex in hands, tears streaming – holding my own lit candle.
But, looking around, I don’t think anyone noticed. They, too, were caught up in the moment.
Cause we are a family whose hearts are blazing,
So let's raise our candles and light up the sky;
Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus,
Make us a beacon in darkest times.
So carry your candle, run to the darkness,
Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor;
Hold out your candle for all to see it,
Take your candle, and go light your world.
It was the best Christmas pageant ever.
Okay, I say that every year!
And it’s true.
The Madonna Learning Center’s Christmas program will be presented again on Thursday and Friday night of this week at 7:15 p.m. If you’re going, get there at least an hour early to get a seat.
The Madonna Learning Center is located at 7007 Poplar Avenue, Germantown, TN.
There was an interesting article in USAToday last week concerning the “Baby Boom” generation. That includes approximately 77 million Americans – those born between 1946 and 1964.
That generational designation just barely includes your beloved writer.
That is NOT me in the bathtub however!
The “Baby Boomers” are so designated due to a period of unusually high birth rate. Prior to 1946, the birthrate in the U.S. was less than 3 million per year. In 1946, it went to 3.4 million, then on to a high of 4.3 million in 1957. It dropped to 3.8 million in 1965, thus ending the “baby boom”.
The author of the newspaper article, Haya El Nasser, points out that with a generation that spans 19 years, there are significant differences of experiences among this group.
Indeed. Several years ago, Karen and I attended a church-growth workshop – I think the last one she ever attended with me!
At the workshop, we began discussing the identified generations. I think at that time we had only identified up to “Generation X”, those born from roughly 1965 to 1981. At one point, the leader asked for all the “Baby Boomers” to stand. I stood up.
I do what I’m told.
Karen, however, looked around the room at all the “gray hairs” and said, “That’s not my generation!” Ignoring the chronological divide, she opted to stand with the “Gen Xers”.
At the time, I thought that was odd. While we are only 10 months apart in age, I identified more with the “Boomers”, she with “Gen X”.
But as time goes on, I’m beginning to think she was right.
Not long ago I visited an area church known for its “contemporary” worship style. I listened to their rock-n-roll style music, noted the age of the congregation, and smiled at the preacher’s long, graying ponytail. The service did nothing for me; it was a show. I realized that what they were calling “contemporary” was really Baby Boomers trying to keep their “good ol’ days” alive.
And while my own congregation is made up largely of the “Silent Generation” (those born between 1925-1945), this booming congregation of Boomers was missing just as many young people.
So where do I fit in?
Those born at the beginning of the baby boom remember watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. They remember the Cold War and most likely participated in the “Duck and Cover” drills at school. They vividly remember the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy.
Yet, those events, along with “the Summer of Love” and most of the Vietnam War, are merely the subject of history text books for those of us born at the end of the era.
Another significant marker of the generation was the military draft, which ended in 1973. I was 10. I never got to march in protest, never got to chain myself to a courthouse door, never got to shout, “Hell no, we won’t go!” Protesting the war and the draft were unifying experiences… for those who went before me.
Now, I have spent a great deal of time studying the 60’s and 70’s. I love the music – from the Beach Boys to The Doors. I know all about Woodstock and who played there. I know all about “Wavy Gravy” and Abby Hoffman, Patty Hearst and Charles Manson. I have researched the 1970 massacre at Kent State. I’m pretty sure I would have voted for JFK and I definitely would have supported MLK Jr.
And I have watched the tribal love-rock musical “Hair” several times.
But all that happened “before my time” – not necessarily before I was born, but before I was “aware”.
And while I loved the ultimate baby-boomer television drama, “30-Something” (aired on ABC from 1987-1991), I was only 20-something and never understood what all the angst was about.
So, should I be asked again, I think I would feel out of place identifying myself as a “Baby Boomer”.
Besides, I’m still at least 20 years away from retirement!
But I don’t really find my place with the 46 million “Gen Xers” either. Yes, I had just graduated from high school when MTV was launched (“Video Killed the Radio Star”). I saw the Berlin Wall come down (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”). I got my first personal computer more than 20 years ago (a second-hand Kay-Pro). And I know who Nirvana and Pearl Jam are.
But I don’t like their music.
So I find myself standing in the gap – a man without a generation.
But perhaps this is a good thing. This way I can enjoy the best of the Baby Boom and the best of Gen X without being stereotyped.
Because we “Gappers” don’t like to be stereotyped!