Friday, December 02, 2016

Mockery in the Church

I recently wrote about the decline in discussion thanks to the rise in mockery.  It was in the context of why we have Trump vs. Clinton.  It turns out that Trump won and in large part because the middle of America felt put upon and scorned by the mocking left.  I was not surprised. 

But now I must say that I have long been bothered by the same trend in church.  Mocking is often now the way the church communicates too.  Douglas Wilson is excellent at it with a sharp wit and a sarcastic tongue.  He helped popularize the heresy of Federal Vision with his mockery.  But it has gone from the controversial to the church mainstream in the Babylon Bee.  I see this posted everywhere I go on social media.  
Some of the Bee’s stuff is quite harmless using well-worn jokes as fodder like the need to end a sermon on time.  Others are more satire directed at new evolving ways of communicating on social media.  But more and more are mocking of people directly.  And not always individuals but large groups.  Some were so popular they were fact checked by Snoopes. 

Now mockery in and of itself is not sinful.  We do see it used in the Bible.  Surely Paul is mocking to some degree in Galatians 5:12 where he wishes those who would require circumcision would emasculate themselves.  God participates in a bit of mocking or sarcasm at least in his conversation with Job in Job 38.  God knows where Job was when he set the limits to the waters, and he knows Job cannot hook the Leviathan.  But it was used to make a point.  Job need his sense of importance and power torn down by God, which God did to Job’s spiritual benefit.  But we also see the Bible warn quite a bit about mocking such as Proverbs 3:34 or the incident in 2 Kings 2:23 where the she-bear tears apart some mocking children.  So there is a limit, a time and place, for the use of such communication. 

The problem today is the overuse of mockery.  Jesus and Paul could mock, but that was far from their only weapon.  It had a place and a purpose.  The majority of the conversation was to build up.  They mocked to bring a listener to change by laying bare his folly.  But they never ever left someone there.  Tearing down without building up is not good at all.  It clears out the strong man without filling the house with the Spirit.  Jesus mocked and so did Paul and Elijah and others, but can we find a Scriptural example where the mockery was not done in order to bring about change, but rather to bring about a laugh.  Did the disciples sit around and tell jokes to each other about the Pharisee who was eaten by a wolf on Saturday because he could not exceed the proscribed number of steps for the Sabbath?  Probably not.

And here in lies the rub, for me at least.  Do we believe this mockery is effecting change?  Is this tearing down leading to a building up?  Does anyone really think Joel Osteen is reading this, much less motivated to start using the Bible correctly?  Do we think this helped any followers of Osteen?  Do we think it helped protesters in the streets?  Are modern worship services starting to tone it down after seeing how they are likenight clubs thanks to the Babylonian Bee?  Is the mocking of the anti-gluten diet craze really changing minds?  Of course not.  But is the conservative Reformed crowd being affected by this mockery?  We don’t make these mistakes, but what is the attitude portrayed toward those that have contemporary worship or were so upset by the election they took to the streets?  Is it compassion and love?  Even Jesus loved the Rich Young Ruler when he pointed out his sin and shortcoming.  Does this form of communication, which seems to be just for our entertainment, moving us to help the protesters in the street who need to know from where the only comfort in life and death comes, or does it make us look down our noses at them because they need a participation trophy? 

And let us also hold up the “do onto others” mirror that the Bible desires us to hold up.  Would Adam Ford want to be at the end of his mocking satire?  He has often pointed to his anxiety disorder as part of his journey that was very formative for him.  He takes anxiety medicine and has openlysatirized those who think you should not be taking medication for suchdisorders in some of his comics.  Would Adam think it good and funny satire if someone wrote an article with a title along the lines of “Blood tests confirm levels of sin (just like Diabetes), Jesus pill the answer”.  Would he even allow such as post on his Babylonian Bee?  According to a search on the Bee's sight, the answer is apparently no.  I am not saying that people with anxiety should not take medicine.  What I am saying is that this is a more complicated question than comparing it Diabetes.  Again the more the mockery the less the discussion.  And the other thing I am saying is that if he would not allow such an article, then he is being hypocritical about his support of satire/mocking.  His goal was to mock from a place of love, but if you are doing something to others that you would not be okay with being done back to you, you have failed the biblical test of love. 

The problem I have with what goes on today in places like the Babylonian Bee is that mockery is presented for mockery's sake.  The main audience is not even those who it is mocking.  Rather, it is those who already agree.  It is not tearing down for the purpose of building up, it is tearing down so we can all have a good laugh at those fools over there.  

This is a worrisome trend especially in the church.  

Monday, October 03, 2016

Blame Jon Stewart for the 2106 Election

It is hard not to be confused by how the American 2016 presidential election has come down to Clinton and Trump. They are hated by almost everyone and have the highest disapproval numbers ever.  How did this embarrassment happen? 

Obviously the answer is complicated, but let me suggest one reason you might not have considered.  Jon Stewart.  Stewart, the former host of the Daily Show, helped bring America to its knees and has led us to the farcical match up of Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton.  Let me explain.

In 1999, Stewart took over The Daily Show on Comedy Central, a news satire and talk show, turning its focus away from pop culture and toward politics and the national media.  He interviewed political guests such as presidential candidate John Kerry.  As host of this program, Stewart repeatedly criticized Crossfire, a current events debate program airing on CNN.  Eventually in 2004, the hosts of Crossfire invited him to be on their program as a guest.  In that appearance, he stated that Crossfire was hurting America, and he called the hosts “political hacks” and worse.  He rejected the concept of a two part only (liberal-conservative) worldview, and in turn he rejected the political discourse that took place on Crossfire.  Within three months, Crossfire was cancelled by CNN.  A little over a year after Stewart’s appearance, his own Daily Show launched a successful spin-off, The Colbert Report. 

Both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report were comedy shows that garnered their laughs through mockery of politics, politicians, and political beliefs.  Both shows concentrated their jeering on conservatives with very little spent on the liberal/progressive side.  Originally this was explained by Stewart as simply a consequence of the Republicans presenting a bigger target since they were in power; however, when Barak Obama became President, both shows continued to focus their fire on Republicans, conservatives, and conventional values. 

The serious-minded debate show on CNN died, Daily Show ratings went up, especially among young people, and Liberal politicians noticed.  Not only did they all want to appear on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, but this joking-at-the-conservative's-expense began to be imitated by Progressive Liberals.  By the time of the 2016 presidential campaign, Stewart’s method of dealing with political opponents with mockery is the main way politics is done, and it is not a coincidence.     

Bill Maher is another comedian who reflects this trend.  From 1993 until 2002 he hosted a show called Politically Incorrect.  It was not as contentious as Crossfire, usually incorporating guests from various viewpoints speaking together in a light debate style on various topics.  The show was canceled before Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire, but well after The Daily Show was growing in popularity.  Maher then launched his own mocking show called Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. This show has a much more liberal tone and jeers conservatives with jokes such as: “Conservatives don’t believe in facts.”  In 2008 he filmed a “documentary” titled Religulous, designed to make fun of religion and deter people from belief. 

In 2008 the people of Minnesota actually elected a comedian to the Senate, further bolstering this movement away from thoughtful, even-handed debate and toward sarcasm and mockery as a primary means of political expression.  The drive to destroy one’s opponents with ridicule rather than argumentation was well-established on the political Left and is evidenced in the fact that most people believe that Sarah Palin, Republican candidate for Vice President, said that she could see Russia from her backdoor, a statement which in reality came from a Saturday Night Live skit. 

Remember when then-candidate Obama was taking on Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination?  What helped sway the tide for Obama?  There are lots of factors, but one that stands out is Obama’s mocking, patronizing dismissal of Hillary as “You’re likable enough,” during a January 2008 debate.  Hillary’s likability became a regular concern for the rest of that election cycle.  It is a routine part of Obama’s arsenal, and he uses it effectively.  Rather than engaging in dialog and rational discussion with his rivals or even arguing like participants on Crossfire, President Obama ridicules his opponents a la Jon Stewart.

“But apparently they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion,” he said. “At first, they were too scared of the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”

In fact, this was a deliberate strategy of his campaign in 2012.  Ridiculing Mitt Romney became the path to winning.  It was implemented apparently on October 4.  He stopped speaking of lower expectations and began “adding a heavy dose of ridicule”.   Mitt Romney was caught by surprise when, during the second presidential debate on October 16, he was asked about his “binders full of women.”  The phrase was then used by both President Obama and Vice President Biden on the campaign trail to mock Romney. 

Hillary Clinton learned the lesson and now uses ridicule and mockery regularly.  Whether it is her “delete your account” tweet to Donald Trump, the hashtag #Trumpyourself, telling Trump she knows he lives in his own reality, or even her “basket of deplorables” comment, she uses mockery as a campaign tactic.  Secretary Clinton has imbibed deeply at the well of Stewart’s method of ridicule.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  This includes a time to laugh, but when we get confused and laugh at the wrong time, we end up with vanity and confusion. 

Jon Stewart’s rejection of political discourse in favor of sarcasm and ridicule as a means to promote political beliefs is an example of such confusion and vanity.  His behavior had the cover of “comedy” to prevent backlash or thoughtful disagreement.  Unfortunately, this approach has changed our culture so that comedy is now a weapon rather than a release and escape.  Jerry Seinfeld, a satirist in his own right, admits that he no longer performs on college campuses because the college kids don’t understand comedy and are too easily offended.  (And of course he was attacked for stating this.)  The reason, I believe, is that this generation of people in college grew up hearing comedy as a tool and a weapon.  Being the butt of a joke is not funny; it’s an attack.  Comedy’s purpose is now tearing others down, not making people laugh.  A similar incident occurred when comedian Jimmy Fallon interviewed candidate Donald Trump on the Tonight Show and good-naturedly joked with him as he does all his guests.  The progressive world, most notably Samantha Bee, the host of another Daily Show spinoff, attacked Fallon for his “softball” interview.  The next week Candidate Hillary Clinton appeared on the Tonight Show, and she mocked Fallon by giving him a bag full of softballs, but she did not complain when Fallon treated her just as he had treated Trump.  It is now expected that comedians use their comedy to accomplish a political goal.  Comedy is a weapon. 

But how does this give us Trump vs. Clinton?  Progressive liberals have mocked and ridiculed the conservative right for over a decade now.  The progressive left appears to be winning the Culture Wars, and candidates from the right who try to participate in debate are mocked out of the public square.  Enter Donald Trump.  Trump was already rather famous for his insulting treatment of people on his TV show The Apprentice.  The primary campaign began, and one by one, the other Republican candidates fell away before Trump’s onslaught of ridicule.  Some tried to fight back with ridicule and the subsequent Republican debate went down in the books infamously featuring an exchange on the size of the candidates’ hands, which served as a euphemism.  Senator Marco Rubio experienced some of his highest approval numbers after that exchange.  Ridicule wins.  The people on the conservative right are now embracing fighting fire with fire.  Ridicule with ridicule.  Senator Ted Cruz, perhaps the best debater in the group, embodied the final vestige of reasoned debate and policy knowledge.  And he, too, fell.  Trump won the primary using the Stewart method and backed by an electorate that’s tired of being mocked and eager for a candidate who can fight fire with fire.

It should not be surprising that eventually the conservative side pushed back and adopted the same mocking methodology.  Nor should it be surprising that they picked a professional mocker to do it.   The war is on, but it is no longer a war of ideas; it is a war of ridicule. 

Jon Stewart helped introduce us to this age where ridicule is reason and comedy is policy.  Now, no matter who wins, we are going to have a clown in the White House. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

More Hyde on the 4th Commandment

Hyde makes the claim that there is no way around the fact that the Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath.  And the article and a good portion of the podcast are discussing the pronouncement of Dort concerning the Sabbath.  Rev. Hyde claims that this shows agreement with the Puritan position, and I disagree.  Now Dort is probably a bit closer than the Heidelberg to the Puritans and closer than the Second Helvetic Confession, and close to in-line with Jan Laski, but not in agreement with the Puritans. 

First let us remember that this is not the Synod of Dort that was all the Reformed from across the Continent.  This was the same synod, but the foreign delegates had left by this point.  It is what is called the ‘post-acta’ portion of the Synod.  So this is only the Netherlands.  A Netherlands that was in the midst of being highly influenced by the Puritans from England.  William Ames was currently ministering in the Netherlands and was serving as a help to the Synod President, and the Dutch had a church in London as well.  Thus the Dutch had internal divisions on this subject.  Gomarus was against the Puritan view and Voetius was for it.  Both at the Synod. 

Dort has six points regarding the 4thCommandment.  The first point speaks of having a ceremonial and moral aspect.  The ceremonial nature of the commandment that includes the “rest on the seventh day” and the “strict” manner of observance according to point 2.  Hyde states the ceremonial aspects as the “day on which the Sabbath fell” and the “strictness” (Regulae. pg.171 see article link above).  But that is not what the text seems to say.  The word “rest” is included.  Hyde’s formulation assumes the Sabbath will continue, but that is actually what is being debated.  The moral portion, according to point 3, is one day a week needs to use for worship and all that gets in the way of that should be rested from or stopped.  So note that there is no equation of the seventh day with the first day.  Just one day a week is required.  The fourth point is the Sabbath of the Jews is abolished, and Sunday is to be hallowed.  This is a follow up on the ceremonial points, this is all abolished.  Strict observance is abolished.  The Sabbath is abolished.  No mention of a new Christian Sabbath.  The word Sabbath is used only here to say it is abolished.  Point 4 does seem to be saying that Sunday is the day appointed to worship, but it is not the same as saying it is the Sabbath.  The fifth point now references the long standing tradition of worshipping on Sunday.   It is saying that it is now a well-established tradition.  That should have weight.  Point 6 then speaks of consecrating the day to worship by resting from servile labor and all recreation that gets in the way of worship.  It is not a call to rest form all work, nor from all recreation.  So this is clearly less than the Westminster.  Still, it does go further than the Heidelberg.

Just in case anyone thinks I am crazy, Douma comments on Dort and the fourth commandment saying “the Synod did not come up with a strictly Puritan pronouncement” (The Ten Commandments pg.144).  He too argues it is a compromise statement. 

It is not a Puritan interpretation because the Puritans make rest on the day as well as worship part of the continuing moral force of the commandment.  The Heidelberg does not.  This pronouncement from Dort does not.  It says you have to rest from stuff in order to worship, but that is not the same as what the Puritans are arguing for.  They want all work on the day to cease (including recreation).  Rest itself is part of the moral force not simply as an aide to worship, but rest for rest’s sake. 

It should be noted that Dort, as well as the Westminster, downplay the everyday portion of the 4th commandment.  The Heidelberg and earlier Reformers emphasized resting from your evil works all the days of your life.  It is not found in this pronouncement by Dort (although perhaps outside of its intention), nor is it mentioned in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Rev. Hyde and the Sabbath

One cannot click around for more than a few seconds before running across someone slobbering all over the Puritans and talking of their greatness.  Everyone wants to be part of Puritanism now and show how Puritanism is Reformation theology down the line.  Rather than admitting that Reformed theology has some breadth to it, many desire to simply make everyone into a Puritan.  No example is better than the idea of saying there is no difference between the Continental and Puritan view of the Sabbath or 4th Commandment. 

The latest example of this is Rev. Daniel Hyde.  He is a guest on the Christ the Center Podcast Episode 450 (congrats on that number by the way) and has an article being republished in the Confessional Presbyterian arguing that everything was always Puritan Sabbatarianism.  Rev. Hyde and the hosts make this claim at about the 5 minute mark.  They go on to talk about how sometimes the application is different, but the principle is the same.  And proof is offered in that the URC is very strict on the Sabbath and a lot of Presbyterians are not.  And it must be said this is true; however, it is because the URC holds the Puritan view of the Sabbath not because there is no such thing as a Continental view.  From this point on in the podcast they talk of the “myth” of the Continental view or the “so-called” Continental view. 

Rev. Hyde does attempt to prove this from the Heidelberg Catechism Q.103.  At the 18:31 mark and again at the 20:30 mark, Rev. Hyde quotes from the HC and reads the answer as “and that I especially on the Sabbath, that is the day of rest, . . .”  He makes a big deal about the inclusion of the word Sabbath.  The problem is the word Sabbath is not in the answer.  Now it is my understanding that while the URC has adopted the Three Forms they did not adopt specific wording or versions until this past Synod (which I do not have access to), so it might be in whatever version Rev. Hyde is using.  However, Ursinus’s commentary on the catechism does not include Sabbath, nor does any RCUS version of it, nor does the Christian Reformed Church, or really any version I can find.  The Heidelberg avoids the word Sabbath.  Hyde concludes at the 21:20 mark by saying “There is no way around it, The Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath.” 

I disagree.  Rev. Hyde has told us the Dutch are real strict about Sunday’s but he has not shown us that it comes from the Confessions nor has he dealt with the ample proof that the Lord’s Day is not the Christian Sabbath.  Remember this quote from the Second Helvetic Confession Chapter 24 “Besides we do celebrate and keep the Lord’s Day, and not the Sabbath, and that with a free observation.”  The Second Helvetic makes a distinction between Lord’s Day and Sabbath.  Not an equation.  And remember the Second Helvetic is the single most widely adopted Confession of the Reformation.  Calvin’s 1545 Catechism is similarly focused on saying that “the observance of rest is part of the ceremonies of the ancient law, which was abolished at the coming of Jesus Christ” (Q168).  The Lord’s Day is not the Christian Sabbath, and if I read Calvin right, not even required to be Sunday.  Add to that Ursinus’s Major and Minor Catechisms, which speak of honoring the ministry and removing hindrances, but fail to call the Lord’s Day the Sabbath and specifically says the time and place is set by the church.  Also the Larger Emden Catechism, which gets closer to what Hyde wants, states the external Sabbath is maintained “when the church of God is honored in its office and ministry” (q.41) and goes on to state this time is set by the church (43). 

In the end, Hyde’s claim that the Lord’s Day is the Christian Sabbath is the heart of the dispute.  That is what makes one a Puritan Sabbatarian.  If you believe the Lord’s Day, Sunday, is the Sabbath on a new Christianified day, then you hold to the Puritan view.  If you believe the fourth commandment is really about resting from your evil works all the days of your life and a helpful pattern to aid our weakness in calling us together to worship once a week, then you hold to the Continental view.  If you believe cessation of labor is the obedient response to a holy day instituted by God then you hold to the Puritan view, if you believe cessation of labor and physical rest is not really the point of the commandment then you hold to the Continental view of the Sabbath.  They are different and they have existed since the Reformation.  People have to stop denying it.  If you think one is right, then argue for it, but don’t pretend everyone has always held to that view.  It is okay to say you think Calvin was wrong or that Bullinger was wrong.  It is not okay to say that they really meant the same things as the Westminster.

I will deal with Hyde’s discussion of Dort in another post.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Activism vs. Action

The Gospel Coalition has a blog up trying to figure out why the videos showing Planned Parenthood selling baby parts did not have any affect on anything.  They have five main reasons including over estimating the pro-life mood of the country, focusing on illegality vs. immorality, not coordinating with other pro-life groups, not anticipating the attacks, and not having a marketing strategy. 

I agree with some of those and not with others, but I don't think this is why they failed to change any laws or politicians on the matter.  And the reason is simple.  Today people have replaced action with activism.  Success is not measured in change, but in hashtags created. 

Let me explain.  I think if you were to have asked people in congress and many they would think that they did an all out assault on Planned Parenthood, and they would be surprised so many think nothing happened.  Even the article admits that dozens of investigations were launched, media attention garnered, and even congressional investigations.  This is activism.  But since nothing changed, there was no action.  Congress did not put forth any new law.  The FBI did not prosecute.  The laws were not changed.  Funding was not cut.  No action. 

This is the world we live in.  Think for a moment about all the stunningly awful things that have happened.  Email scandal - no action.  Benghazi - no action.  IRS scandal - no action.  Lots of talk about all of it,  No action. 

But let us leave the realm of politics.  And we can see the same behavior.  Boko Haram kidnaps girls and forces them into slavery.  No action.  A hashtag was created and sad faced pictures posted.  So activism was done.  Now we can all move on.  Terrorist attack in Boston.  Hey we can now all buy Boston Strong t-shirts, but no real action to fight terrorism happened.  We can change our FB profile to make our pic covered with a French flag, or we can "pray for Nice", but we will do nothing else.  Action is not the goal.  Activism is. 

Today it is enough to be seen to be caring.  It is about looking good and being on the right side of history.  It is not about participating in history, or writing history or doing anything at all.  For sometime one's intentions have been the measure of whether something was good or bad.  Outcomes were unimportant.  That social program was meant to help the poor.  It does not really matter if it does or not, the intention was good.  The intention of putting the bands in the church is to be evangelistic, so it is good.  It doesn't matter whether we ought to put bands in churches, the intentions make it good.  This is simply the next logical step.  I just need you to see my intentions, I don't need to do anything.

So why did the Center for Medical Progress expose on the evil of Planned Parenthood fail?  Because we live in a "look at me" combined with a "do nothing" culture. 

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Taylor is not Trump

Recently Politico began a stream of thought that the Republicans could be the Whigs because Trump is like Zachary Taylor.  Sadly, it is an article that understands little of history and in fact are just making stuff up.

The Whig Party did dissolve not long after winning the Presidency, but it was not Zachary Taylor’s fault.  In fact, the Politico article skims past the actual reasons.  Taylor was close to the perfect Whig candidate, a candidate who stood for next to nothing.  The problem with the Whig party was that it was always a party that simply opposed Andrew Jackson and his principles.  They were not united by any real set of beliefs.  Thus, the quotes calling the nomination of Taylor a betrayal of Whig principles are laughable because there were no Whig principles.  Even the article notes it was a “strained” coalition of Northern and Southerners who were against Jackson.  The quotes from abolitionists like Greeley are not universal for the Whigs because they had a large group of Southerners.  Taylor was chosen because he could stop the party from splitting by not having a real position on slavery.  This was always the Whig way.  Clay stands as the perfect example.  He owned slaves, but was not really for slavery, but not really an abolitionist either.  Clay is the picture of the Whig Party, and it slowly became an impossible place to be.  That is hardly Taylor’s fault. 

It is also not exactly fair to claim Taylor an outsider.  Yes, he had never held office, but he was a general, and that had always been a path to the Presidency.  Washington, Jackson, and Harrison had all be war heroes.  And every one of them had been opposed by people for not having the right background to be President.  Yet, we can see from the way James K. Polk managed that war that he very much understood the war hero who comes out of the Mexican American war will be a candidate for President.  And in fact, both major generals, Scott and Taylor, stood for nomination.  Being a general during war was at this time in American history, an acceptable path to the Presidency. 

In fact, the election of Taylor and his resulting Presidency (and that of Fillmore who followed after Taylor’s death) was probably the high point of the Whig movement.  It is during this time that the Whig party controls congress as well as the Presidency.  It is during this time that Clay pushes through the Compromise of 1850, with the help of Stephen Douglas.  This adds California to the rolls as a free state.  No minor feat.  It kept America together during that struggle, and that is exactly what the Whig platform had always been.  Together.  This led to them ignoring and compromising over and over.  Their greatest member, Henry Clay, is known as the Great Compromiser.  Their death came when the public no longer wanted compromise, but a more permanent solution.  The Whigs failed to see this and died.

In the end the Whig Party died not because of the lack of success that Taylor had as President.  In fact, he did not even make it out of his first term before dying.  Taylor had little impact on the Whig Party’s ultimate doom.  The election of Taylor does show the seeds of the ultimate doom of the Whig’s but not because of Taylor, but because of the presence and success on the ballot of Martin Van Buren.  Van Buren the former Democrat President ran as a Free Soil candidate and garnered lots of votes.  Not enough to win anything, but enough that he changed the election.  And it was enough that people should have seen that this issue was too important to ignore.  But both parties did just that.  They ignored it.  Thus, by 1852 the party has been badly wounded by a refusal to take sides on the slavery issue as evidenced by the Compromise of 1850.  And it is at that convention, when Southerners prevent Millard Fillmore from running for another term, and get General Winfield Scott as the nominee, that the first meetings of what would become the Republican Party emerge.  Scott is a beautiful example of the Whig Party.  Scott himself was anti-slavery, but ran on the platform that accepted the Fugitive Slave Law.  His personal stance killed him in the South, and the party’s stance killed him in the North.  He was crushed in the election.  And by 1856, the Republicans have fielded a candidate of their own.  And by1858 the Republican Party dominated the North.  Republicans had a clear message and stance.  “Free soil, free silver, and free men”.  This addressed the issue of the day decisively.  Southern Whigs turned to the Know Nothing Party, and even the Democrat Party as they feared the rise of anti-slavery parties, like the Republican and Free Soil parties, in the north.  Although one can argue the 1860 Constitution Union Party was what was left of the Whig Party.  Again, its main platform.  Together.  Unity.  Avoid the issues. 

If there is a lesson for the Republican Party it is that taking a stand is important as is keeping up with what is important to the people.  I do not believe Trump will be the death of the Republican Party.  Without a third party to siphon off voters, there will be no death for the GOP.  If the Libertarians gain a massive increase, then maybe, it is the beginning of the end.  But the Libertarians do not run candidates well for other offices. 

Sadly, this comparing Trump to Taylor is very unfair to Taylor, misses the real message of the Whigs, and is just bad history.  I know people want to think this is the end, but it is probably not.  And that message is the one that really ought to scare us. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Celebrity Pastor and Seminaries

You read a lot today about the Celebrity Pastor and the problem and even how to fix it.  Opinions vary on the causes and solutions.  Sometimes it is an overhaul that includes no multisite churches, or the Evangelical Industrial Complex, or calls to humility and proper ambition, or even just simple accountability.  But I wonder if there is another factor . . . seminaries.

Today the vast majority of seminaries use “celebrity” professors as a way to lure you to their seminary.  These seminaries almost always have at least one well-liked, well published professor.  The better the finances of the seminary the more publishing by more professors, usually also equals more students.  You don’t need me to name the big names at each seminary you probably know them off the top of your head.  Besides the problem here is not in professors who write good books, but in the attraction students have to them. 

Modern seminaries also love distinctions.  You need something that sets your seminary apart.  What makes Westminster in Escondido, CA different than the rest?  What makes Mid America distinct so that you should go there?  Yes, this is promoted and encouraged.  And it is hard to blame the seminaries for doing it.  It is what businesses are supposed to do.  Carve out your place and grow that place.  And independent seminaries are no different. 

So perhaps part of the “celebrity pastor” begins with seminary.  We want future ministers to go to the seminaries with big names, but then when they get into the pastorate we don’t want them to pursuing having a big name or follow other pastors with big names. 

If we really want to fight against the cult of celebrity, we have to fight it everywhere, including in our seminaries.