You can suffer from marriage burnout and parent burnout and pandemic burnout partly because, although burnout is supposed to be mainly about working too much, people now talk about all sorts of things that aren’t work as if they were: you have to work on your marriage, work in your garden, work out, work harder raising your kids, work on your relationship with God (‘Are You at Risk for Christian Burnout?’ One Web site asks. You’ll know you are if you’re driving yourself too hard to become an ‘an excellent Christian.’) Even getting a massage is ‘bodywork’.Jill Lepore, It’s Just Too Much, The New Yorker, 5/24/21
From David Brooks, moderate Republican, “Trump Ignites a War Within the Church“.*
“The split we are seeing is not theological or philosophical. It’s a division between those who have become detached from reality and those who, however right wing, are still in the real world.
Hence, it’s not an argument. You can’t argue with people who have their own separate made-up set of facts. You can’t have an argument with people who are deranged by the euphoric rage of what Erich Fromm called group narcissism — the thoughtless roar of those who believe their superior group is being polluted by alien groups.”
My new mantra, “You can’t argue with people who have their own separate made-up set of facts.”
*A reminder, you don’t have to subscribe to The New York Times to read my NYT links, but you do have to register.
Luo contrasts the early Christians’ courageous and inspiring collective witness during pandemics with the contemporary Church’s Covid-19 response.
“For years, the church in America has been in retreat, in cultural influence and in numbers. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, in 2019, sixty-five per cent of Americans identified as Christians, down twelve per cent from the previous decade; meanwhile, the numbers of the religiously unaffiliated have grown to twenty-six per cent. The co-opting of white evangelicalism by Republican politics helps to explain the confrontational attitude of conservative Christians, but so does the fear of many believers that they are losing their place in a secularizing America. A pluralistic society needs to insure that people of faith, as well as those without any faith, have a role in the public square. But the defiance of the church during the pandemic has come with a cost. The pandemic in 2020 has held a mirror to Christianity, just as the epidemics of antiquity did, but today’s reflection carries the potential to repulse rather than attract. Once the vaccine is widely distributed next year, the church, along with the rest of society, will begin to move on. Yet the world will not be as it was. Churches will have to reckon not only with whether their congregants will return in person, but with how much their collective witness––the term Christians use to describe their ability to point to Jesus in their lives––may have been diminished.”
The Rev. Melanie Wallschlaeger, Director for Evangelical Mission for the Southwestern Washington Synod.
“We all have fears of some kind. We can also have these fears in our lives as congregations. . . . We can have fears about the future, fear that our congregation will die, or not be relevant. Do we fear what our congregations might look like if they become more welcoming to our neighbors? Do we fear what our congregations will look like after the pandemic? Do we fear what our congregations might look like if others come and join us and help make decisions, and bring their gifts?
When we think about our congregational ministry, when we think about worship, will an openness to gifts of diversity in our congregations change what I feel is most precious? Will it mean we sing songs I don’t know or like? Does it mean I will lose what I know and hold most dear or value? Will I lose my place of privilege if we welcome others? Am I afraid of the future at this moment because it’s largely unknown?”
My sense of our congregation is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Major props to Wallschlaeger for asking the exact right questions.
Related. Last night on NextDoor (please remind me, why am I still a member?) someone reported on a Black Lives Matter protest. Since NextDoor has no journalistic standards, a certain hysteria quickly set in. Some of the numerous commenters said they regularly check the online County police scanner to learn what bad things are happening before leaving their home.
Let that sink in.
One of two things is true. A mostly unfounded epidemic of fear has descended upon the land or I’m dangerously naive of the many risks to life and limb.
You don’t care that higher education is hemorrhaging jobs. You don’t care that you may end up living in a van down by the river. You’re determined to get a Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology or Sociology. But you’re in need of a dissertation topic.
I’m here to help.
Wikipedia describes Nextdoor this way:
“Nextdoor is a social networking service for neighborhoods. Based in San Francisco, California, the company was founded in 2008 and launched in the United States in October 2011, and is currently available in 11 countries. Users of Nextdoor submit their real names and addresses to the website. Posts made to the website are available only to other Nextdoor members living in the same neighborhood.”
I’ve been a member for a few years and have concluded it’s a solid source for analyzing human nature and theorizing about it. For example, a recent post in my Nextdoor feed began thusly:
“To the fool driving the grey Lexus mini SUV today, tailgating me down Boston Harbor Rd. Can’t you see clearly that the roads are TREACHEROUS and icy today!?? Melting snow, causing severe ice, on roads that clearly have not been treated. You may have all wheel drive and feel safe. . . ”
The author, whose intro reads “I’ve been working in the Creative arts, music, video and ministry related field the past 18 years”, and lists “Westwood Baptist Director” as one of his titles, goes on to say he hopes the tailgater totals his car.
Leading to quite the kerfuffle. Keyboard warriors rushing into battle, angrily slinging words like arrows in The Game of Thrones.
A doctoral candidate in the social sciences could use textual analysis on Nextdoor messages to theorize about our modern state of affairs.
One would most likely draw an overarching conclusion from such an analysis. People do not know how to get along with one another. Interpersonal conflict is the new normal. People who enjoy harmonious relationships with others are outliers.
Invective, defined as “insulting, abusive, or highly critical language,” is the defining feature of Nextdoor communications. So much so, the only reason I’m still a member is I have a fear of missing out on the next “your horse is loose in our yard” or “your pig just ran into our barn” message that my urban self finds endlessly entertaining.
I’m not going to write the title for you, but here’s some words and phrases to help you get started.
- An Examination of A Social Networking Site For Neighborhoods
- Interpersonal Conflict As The New Normal
2. Who do the Duke and Duchess of Sussex think they are? Afua Hirsch explains.
“If the media paid more attention to Britain’s communities of color, perhaps it would find the announcement far less surprising. With a new prime minister whose track record includes overtly racist statements, some of which would make even Donald Trump blush, a Brexit project linked to native nationalism and a desire to rid Britain of large numbers of immigrants, and an ever thickening loom of imperial nostalgia, many of us are also thinking about moving.
From the very first headline about her being “(almost) straight outta Compton” and having “exotic” DNA, the racist treatment of Meghan has been impossible to ignore. Princess Michael of Kent wore an overtly racist brooch in the duchess’s company. A BBC host compared the couple’s newborn baby to a chimpanzee. Then there was the sublimely ludicrous suggestion that Meghan’s avocado consumption is responsible for mass murder, while her charity cookbook was portrayed as somehow helping terrorists.
Those who claim frequent attacks against the duchess have nothing to do with her race have a hard time explaining these attempts to link her with particularly racialized forms of crime — terrorism and gang activity — as well as the fact that she has been most venomously attacked for acts that attracted praise when other royals did them. Her decision to guest-edit British Vogue, for example, was roundly condemned by large parts of the British media, in stark contrast to Prince Charles’s two-time guest editorship of Country Life magazine, Prince Harry’s of a BBC program and Kate Middleton’s at Huffington Post, all of which were quietly praised at the time.
Her treatment has proved what many of us have always known: No matter how beautiful you are, whom you marry, what palaces you occupy, charities you support, how faithful you are, how much money you accumulate or what good deeds you perform, in this society racism will still follow you.”
3. Trump takes credit for decline in cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society says he’s wrong. How long until their funding is cut further?
“The President has a history of proposing to cut funding from the National Institutes of Health’s budget, which includes funding for the National Cancer Institute, an agency that leads, conducts and supports cancer research. The final budgets that Congress approved ended up being more generous than Trump’s proposals.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote on Twitter, in response to Trump, that ‘cancer rates dropped before you took office. Hopefully they keep dropping because Congress rejected your cruel research budgets, which sought billions in CUTS to @NIH and the National Cancer Institute. This is good news despite you – not because of you.'”
And so it goes, in these (dis)United States of America.
“How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? . . . What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?”
Dig this beautiful essay on selfishness, selflessness, and love titled “Nobody Tells You How Long a Marriage Is” by Lauren Doyle Owens.
At the end, she writes:
“Nobody tells you how long marriage is. When you fall in love, when you have fun with somebody, when you enjoy the way they see the world, nobody ever says, “This person will change. And so you will be married to two, three, four, five or 10 people throughout the course of your life, as you live out your vows.” Nobody warns you.”
Same as when I married three decades ago, I have no interest in military history, plant nomenclature, or jazz; now though, I am interested in lots of new things like cooking, food, endurance athletics, North Korea, and Stoicism. When I married I was a pauper public school teacher who was oblivious to the stock market. Now I identify in part as an investor. When I married, I was a conventional Christian, today I am more open to and interested in other religious traditions and forms of spirituality. When I married, I used a lot of product in my (amazing) hair; now, not so much.
When I married I was agnostic about the natural world; today, my well-being depends upon it. When I married I was a son; now, I am not. When I married, I was Lauren’s husband, preferring the suburbs; now I’m Lauren, preferring anywhere else.
Life is fragile and mysterious, meaning best case scenario, the Good Wife and I are in the middle of our life together, meaning she’s been married to four or five Rons* with maybe another four or five to go. Here’s hoping she continues adjusting to my continuing evolution.
*As a result of this recent Janos tweet, I’ve decided my Witness Protection name is going to be Rondo not LeRon. What, you don’t get to pick your WP name?!
Written while the Celts were losing their last game, “we are need rondos. I am say all day all night for lots time but is no rondos. i am frustrate.”
Mark Bauerlein asks “What’s the Point of a Professor?” Kevin Gannon lets loose on Bauerlein in “I Will Not Be Lectured To. I’m Too Busy Teaching.” Which prompts Adam Copeland to ask “What’s the Point of a Pastor?“* Copeland’s insights prompt thinking about the Pew Research Center’s new Religious Landscape Study.
Among other findings, Pew concluded:
• Christians are declining, both as a share of the U.S. population and in total number. In 2007, 78.4% of U.S. adults identified with Christian groups, such as Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and others; seven years later, that percentage has fallen to 70.6%. Accounting for overall population growth in that period, that means there are roughly 173 million Christian adults in the U.S. today, down from about 178 million in 2007.
• Within Christianity, the biggest declines have been in the mainline Protestant tradition and among Catholics. Mainline Protestants represented 14.7% of U.S. adults in 2014, down from 18.1% in 2007, while the Catholic share of the population fell to 20.8% from 23.9% over the same period. By comparison, evangelical Protestants have been more stable, declining only about 1 percentage point between 2007 and 2014 (from 26.3% to 25.4%).
Why is Christianity in decline in the United States in 2015? Copeland implies it’s because pastors don’t challenge people nearly enough. More specifically, here’s what he
wants needs from his pastor:
• A reframing of community that moves away from me and my wants as central
• A constant reminder that my money, my possessions, and my very life belong not to myself, but to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
• Someone to name the true, ugly, beautiful, painful reality of life together, and to cast a new vision of what the Kingdom of God looks like
• A wise, honest soul who looks me in the eye and says, “You are a jerk and God forgives you anyway. Go and sin no more.”
• A hope-filled, justice-seeking, cross-bearing, advocate for those on the margins
• Consistent Spirit-filled testimony that my identity and accomplishments are not of my own creation, but are only made possible through God’s grace and faithful provision
If every pastor/priest took Copeland’s prescriptions to heart starting today would it slow Christianity’s decline? Reverse it altogether? Why or why not?
* thanks to Pastor SMW for the Copeland link
Tampa to Charlotte. 6B is reading a book about how Christians can pick apart scientists’ arguments and successfully evangelize the masses.
My age, fighting Father Time with the help of a toupee. I can’t help but think how different our lives have probably been. We make small talk, and then in a temporary lapse of sanity I say, “Good book?” And he was off to the races.
He was surprised I knew what apologetics was and quickly informed me that he was supposed to be in First Class with his 83 year old dad who is the “World’s Greatest Living Christian Apologist”. Damn, I didn’t know that was a competition. Where, I wondered, could I find the complete rankings. I have close friends in the ministry, are they in the Top 20 I wondered? And how do the competing apologists keep track of total souls saved? Do you self-report and just trust your competitors aren’t inflating their numbers?
He didn’t know what to make of me. “Are there many other people like you in your church?” In other words. You’re one of those social justice whack jobs I’ve read about. I’ll pray for you.
There was some disappointment that I didn’t know his dad, but hell, he didn’t know mine, and mine was the World’s Greatest Wearer of Plaid Pants. Apparently, his dad built two seminaries and they travel the world debating atheists and others about Christianity. My dad was far too smart to ever hire me.
A Dallas Seminarian who believes in biblical inerrancy, he lectured me about the three different kinds of Christian apologetics and shared some of his strategies for convincing others to think just like him.
I told him about my Nigerian friend who was the most fervent Christian I had ever met and that if he was born 100 miles north of where he was he probably would’ve been an influential Muslim Iman. And that very, very few Christian parents in North America introduce their children to different faith traditions. That when it comes to one’s faith, the time, place, and family in which you’re born is probably even more influential than the Holy Spirit.
But turns out, he’s the exception. He’s talks with his 6, 8, and 10 year old (“started my family much later”) about other faiths all the time and encourages them to ask questions. And I’m SURE if one of them commits to a different faith in the future he’ll be completely understanding.
Lord, please temper my cynicism and grant 6B some humility.
[Remember, eavesdropping is perfectly okay. You just have to expect and accept returns of serve. “I noticed what you were reading,” 6B said with furrowed brow. The Ethicist essay in the New York Times Magazine titled, “Do You Tell a Friend That His Daughter is Having Sex?” Bahahaha!
Whenever personal debt counselor/media giant Dave Ramsey is criticized, he says something to the effect of “I help more people in an hour than they’ll help in their lifetime.” Ego aside, he’s right. When he sticks to what he does best, inspire people to reign in their spending and eliminate their personal debt, he’s golden. But when he uses his media pulpit to preach his conservative politics and personal theology, he’s completely full of shit.
Last Thursday night, on the commute home, I caught the second half of a call from a wealthy person who wanted Dave to tell him it was alright to buy a $65,000 sport car. Dave said of course it was because $65,000 was a small proportion of his total net worth. Then he launched into a ten minute long harangue about the one problem that may “very likely be the downfall of the United States.” Not health care inflation, not a disappearing middle class or reduced food stamps for those living in poverty, not the achievement gap in public schooling, and not global warming. Our greatest threat is too many people are envious of the rich.
“What’s too wealthy?” he kept asking, only to add, “YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE! YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE! YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE!” Obviously, Dave needs his own counselor. I’ve listened to him long enough to know his schtick. He reads the Old Testament book of Proverbs selectively, always highlighting the specific ones that seemingly endorse wealth. Meanwhile, I’ve never heard him mention Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
As a multimillionaire Christian, Dave appears utterly unwilling to grapple with Jesus’s words or example in the New Testament. I’m certain he could explain Matthew 19:24 in ways you and I don’t understand. The same with Luke 6:20, “Looking at his disciples, Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Dave would probably tell me I’m taking those verses far too literally.
Here’s a Proverb I haven’t heard Dave cite, Chapter 14, verse 31, “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” In his diatribe, Dave discounted the entire Operation Wall Street movement as just another example of class envy run amok.
Hey Dave, don’t take democratic critiques of free market capitalism so personally. What the Operation Wall Streeters wanted is what most Americans want, for us to keep closing the gap between the stated egalitarian ideals in our founding documents and our day-to-day economics and politics. Simply put, people want a more level playing field. Right now Dave, whether you’re willing to acknowledge it or not, the field tilts towards Wall Street bankers, you, me, and other people driving $65,000 sports cars.
It’s not that Dave thinks differently than me, extreme wealth and Christian faith is a topic that reasonable people can and do disagree about, it’s that he doesn’t think at all. He refuses to consider whether great wealth complicates faith. He is utterly unwilling to consider questions that might lead to insights into the relationship between faith and wealth. Questions like, how much is too much? Why is it easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God? Or why is there a tendency to oppress the poor? Or why did Jesus identify with the poor?
I suspect he’s unwilling to ask those types of questions because he doesn’t want to consider lifestyle changes. Dave digs his luxury cars, his boats, his lake home, all the trappings of his considerable success.
While unlikely, imagine Dave were to read this. “If Jesus of Nazareth doesn’t get to decide what’s too wealthy,” he’d roar, “Ron of Olympia definitely doesn’t!”