Friday, April 28, 2017

Opinions




Yesterday on one of the Pirate pages on Facebook, someone shared the following article:


Yes, the Captain knows you won’t actually follow the link and read the article.


So, in short, the author dares to say – in print, no less – that he thinks the addition of “Jack Sparrow” figures to the Disney parks “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride is wrong. 


And his reason made good sense.

Prior to the advent of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise – with #5 opening in May – the ride was a generic pirate adventure. There was no storyline, per se. And this was at the request of Walt Disney himself. One could simply use her/his imagination to create one’s own adventure tale.


But after the movies became such a hit, the Disney Company felt the need to add Johnny Depp’s character to the sets, which intentionally creates a mental connection to the storylines of the movies.

Movie tie-ins are always good for business, but bad for the imagination!

Captain's Note: I have nothing against Johnny Depp. I have enjoyed him in several movies. But as Joachim Ronning, the director of the 5th POTC, pointed out recently, the original movie was not about Jack Sparrow. But Depp swallowed up the screen, so much so that the next three movies were about Jack Sparrow. Ronning promises that #5 will return to the original intent of the franchise. One can only hope.


Naturally, some readers were offended.

And one declared about article, “Well, that’s just somebody’s opinion.”

The Captain agreed, but reminded him that his defense of “Jack Sparrow” was also “just somebody’s opinion”.

The expression of opinions seems to be what 90% of social media is about today.

“This Rum tastes aweful!”
“Well, that’s just your opinion.”
“Yes. It is.’

“Back Yard Burgers are better than Five Guys burgers!”
“Well, that’s just your opinion.”
“Yes. It is.”

“The President is an idiot!”
“Well, that’s just… no, you’re right. Sigh.”

Very few topics on Facebook deal in the realm of “fact”, and people seem to be unable to argue “facts” anymore anyway.


It seems that if you're the first one to make the claim - and you say it loud enough - then what you have declared is necessarily the truth.

I passed a billboard today that claimed a local liquor store had "the largest selection in the area!"

Such a claim is not simply a matter of opinion. It can be factually proved or disproved.

Captain's Note: The Captain has been in that store. One can only assume that the "area" the sign is boasting of is confined to the immediate block.

But people today seem more than ready to argue opinions.

The Captain is not one to argue.

Okay, I did push the Jack Sparrow thing a little bit, suggesting that Disney might as well add these pirates to the ride as well:


That would be just as distracting as the Captain finds the insertion of Jack Sparrow into this beloved ride.

Not catching the sarcasm, someone felt the need to point out that “Pirates of the Caribbean” is not a cartoon, and Johnny Depp is not a big green cucumber.

But… that is just somebody’s opinion.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lose-Lose



“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”


The United Methodist Judicial Council is meeting this week and all many eyes are fixed on New Jersey.


For those unfamiliar with the way we do things, the Judicial Council is the denomination’s version of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Foremost on the docket this week is a challenge launched by the South Central Jurisdiction regarding the election of the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto for Bishop by the Western Jurisdiction.


Why is that a problem? Bishop Oliveto is married to a woman.


According to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching”. And this guide book on all things Methodists declares that a “self-professed, practicing homosexual’ shall not be ordained.

Furthermore, only ordained Elders in the church are eligible to be elected Bishop.

Such as your Captain…


In short, there can be no gay bishops.

So how was Bishop Oliveto elected then?

The Book of Discipline authorizes the Annual Conferences (smaller geographical areas) to ordain clergy, after due examination. This is a rigorous process that takes several years, during which a candidate’s spiritual gifts, theology, and physical and mental health are considered.

Oliveto was ordained by an Annual Conference which believed her gifts and potential for ministry outweighed her sexual preference.

She received her MDiv from Pacific School of Religion, and her PhD from Drew University.

Prior to her election, Rev. Dr. Oliveto served eight years as the Senior Pastor of Glide Memorial UMC, a very progressive 12,000-member congregation in San Francisco...


...the 5th largest church in the denomination.

Captain’s Note: My favorite story coming out of Glide Memorial was during the tenure of Rev. Cecil Williams (who led the church from 1963-1999 years). The congregation had intentional ministries for the poor and homeless and drug addicts, which attracted more poor and homeless and drug addicts to the church property. Church members eventually complained about “those people” urinating and defecating in the church parking lot.

Rev. Williams’ solution: install porta-potties in the parking lot for them to use instead.

Problem solved.

But how does an openly gay pastor get elected Bishop?

The Book of Discipline gives individual Jurisdictions (larger geographical areas) the authority to elect their own Bishops.

And the Western Jurisdiction, our most controversial progressive Jurisdiction, believed the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto’s gifts and potential for ministry outweighed her sexual preference.

Naturally, the election of Bishop Oliveto spurred an immediate response from the far-less-progressive South Central Jurisdiction, which filed a challenge with the Judicial Council, which brings us to this week’s hearings.

Frankly, the stakes in the Judicial Council decision couldn’t be higher. The decision rendered this week could trigger the long-expected split in the denomination.

Among its deliberations, the Council may be asked to consider:

-Are the statements in the Bible against homosexuality a Divine prohibition for all time, or simply an ancient cultural bias that was codified in Scripture? 

Keep in mind, the idea of a one man-one woman marriage is a fairly recent convention. According to the Bible, marriages used to look like this: 


Also understand that in the New Testament Book of Acts, the Kosher food laws were rescinded because of a vision from God, as was the prejudice against Gentiles.

No more mandatory circumcisions! Yay!

And during the past century, Methodists have come to oppose slavery (which was acceptable in biblical times), and have embraced female leadership in the church (previously forbidden due to a misunderstood passage from the Apostle Paul).

We have also come to accept divorce among our clergy (which Jesus spoke against), and even adultery in some cases.

And tattoos (forbidden in Leviticus 19:28) are becoming almost a requirement among young pastors today. 


All that is to say, we do not follow the Bible in every aspect of modern life, so why single out this particular issue?

-Are gays and lesbians of equal worth in the eyes of God?

Oddly, while condemning homosexuality, the Book of Discipline declares that gay people are “of sacred worth”. The denomination is not opposed to baptizing gays and lesbians. We can welcome them into the membership of the Church. We can hire them as choir directors and organists.

Captain’s Note: This is not just a stereotype. I have known – and employed – several. And they have shared their gifts and served the Church with distinction.

But the line is drawn at ordination. Why?

-Furthermore, the Judicial Council decision will also need to weigh in on the autonomy of Annual Conferences to ordain, and on Jurisdictions to elect and appoint Bishops.

Ironically, it was the churches in the South who insisted on including in the Book of Discipline the autonomy of Jurisdictions. Back then, the issue was about Bishops owning slaves; the South didn’t want the anti-slavery Northerners telling them what to do.

-Another possibility is that after prayerful consideration, the Judicial Council could simply declare that the South Central Jurisdiction has no standing to challenge the election of Bishop Oliveto and the election will stand.

Whatever the Judicial Council decides in the case against Bishop Oliveto, many in the denomination will not be pleased.

Captain’s Note: Most of the caucuses within the denomination are encouraging their adherents to pray for “God’s will” to be done. I suspect that some, however, will not accept the decision that comes as “God’s will”.

In fact, one opposition group has intentionally scheduled a major gathering to coincide with the Judicial Council decision. I would bet the press releases are already written, ready to denounce whatever may come.

Understand, dear readers, that the Judicial Council decision will not change church law. That can only be accomplished at the General Conference, with the next one scheduled for 2020.

However, the Council of Bishops announced today that a date has been set for a Special-Called General Conference in 2019 to solely address the issue of homosexuality – as presented by the current “Commission on a Way Forward”. The Commission was established at the 2016 General Conference to study the issue and make a recommendation to the special session.

A Way Forward.

United Methodists are deeply divided concerning the issue of homosexuality, and the opposing sides are drawing deep lines. Many are predicting that schism is inevitable.

It’s sometimes hard to believe that I’m living in these turbulent times. The Captain is still 10 years away from retirement...


Yet in the midst of this historic event, pastors in our area are being warned to remain silent and uphold the current Book of Discipline.

Having just come off a horrific national election, during which pastors were also told to remain silent – and you see how that worked out! – it’s hard to just sit back and watch.


And how, pray tell, does a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ stay silent in the face of such a huge injustice being perpetrated by the Church against children of God?

Yes, the Captain believes gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, and queers are all children of God and have much to offer the Church and the world as we strive toward the Kingdom of God on earth.

Addendum: In related news, it was announced yesterday that Rev. Ken Adkins, pastor of the Greater Dimensions Church in Brunswick, Florida, was found guilty on 11 counts of child molestation and sentenced to 35 years in prison. That is relevant to this discussion because Rev. Adkins was also a “political consultant” who was an outspoken critic of homosexuality; he worked to oppose a Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville that would extend protection to the LGBTQ community. In fact, after the Pulse Night Club massacre last year in Orlando, Rev. Adkins declared the victims “got what they deserved”.

And now Rev. Adkins has got what he deserves.

Actually, the Captain thinks he deserves much worse… 11 counts of child molestation, folks!


Sadly, such hypocrisy is not unusual among many Christian leaders (preachers and politicians) who so virulently oppose homosexuality:
-Rev. Ted Haggard (Founding pastor, New Life Church, Colorado Springs)
-Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho)
-Congressman Mark Foley (R-Florida’s 16th District)
-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois’ 15th District)
-Rev. George Rekers (Southern Baptist, psychologist, founder of the Family Research Council)

Just to name a few…

In the words of Jesus, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”



Friday, April 21, 2017

Eat, Drink, and be Merry!



Captain’s Note: This is the Captain’s third post this week! Must be a hangover from all the Easter candy. Anyway, if you are one of those readers who only checks in occasionally, you might want to go back and catch up.

Apparently Newsweek, that bastion of conservative journalism, is looking for a fight.


Did they challenge any of the inane statements that came from our President this week? No.

How about when Attorney General Sessions called Hawaii “some little island in the Pacific”? Nope.

Anything about Bill O’Reilly? Nah.

What was apparently really important in the News Room this week was the announcement by Starbucks of a new drink: the Unicorn Frappuccino!


And since Starbucks is a successful business for reasons no one can quite fathom, Newsweek sent ace curmudgeon reporter Chris Riotta to criticize try it out.


And he hated it!

Which surprised the Captain. One would think that anyone who could wear a shirt like that would be a little more whimsical!

The Captain could tell where Riotta was headed from the very beginning of the review:

“There's something particularly disconcerting about your everyday coffee shop advertising that one of its beverages is made with "rainbows" instead of informing customers about its truly dangerous ingredients.”

Captain’s Note: I once preached a sermon filled with rainbows and fairy dust! Just sayin’…

“No, the blended beverage is not created by sprinkling sunshine and sprinkles over the blessed juices of rainbows and unicorns. It's 16 ounces of fat, chemicals and sugar.”

He sounds disappointed!

To be fair, other critics of Starbucks have expressed the same faux outrage. BuzzFeed even compared the Unicorn Frappuccino’s 59 grams of sugar – 1 ½ times the daily recommended allowance – with the sugar content of a 12 oz. Coke (39 grams of sugar), a Hershey Bar (24 grams of sugar), and a bowl of Frosted Flakes (10 grams of sugar).


But if you are really concerned about your health and what you put in your body, you shouldn’t be supporting Starbucks anyway.

Let’s do a side-by-side comparison with another Starbucks offering – a more “mature” drink: A Mocha Frappuccino. No rainbows, no fairy dust.


Well look at that! The Mocha Frappuccino has more of all that bad stuff (except fat) than the Unicorn Frappuccino. And no caffeine! And yet, where was the outrage when Starbucks launched the Mocha Frapp?

Again, the Captain suspects a corporate bias against the wildly successful chain of coffee shops. In fact, Riotta pretty much says so as he describes an encounter with a teenager at the coffee shop, who took a picture of his drink and posted it on her social network. Riotta railed about how the teen was only playing into “Starbucks’ marketing ploy”.

Ironically, Riotta’s review of the drink in Newsweek serves the same purpose.

Is the Unicorn Frappuccino really “the worst drink I have ever purchased in my life”? To drive home his point, he quotes a colleague’s description: “This is Pepto Bismol disguised as happiness.”

But couldn’t we all use a little happiness in our lives?


Unlike Chris Riotta, the Captain’s motto is, “Live and let live.”


Mates, don't let others tell you what you like or don't like. Make your own decisions. If you enjoy a Unicorn Frappuccino, then by all means treat yourself!