Saturday, June 05, 2010

Saturday Odds & Ends

I want to read Randall Balmer's All We Like Sheep.


It seems that people like Rick Warren can't help but speak in grandiose terms. He declares the next decade will be The Decade of Destiny for Saddleback, marked by exponential growth. This is just the routine promotional blather we've all grown used to, decked out in the religious garb of Christian positive thinking. This article quotes him telling his massive congregation,
Let me just be honest with you as somebody who loves you. If you passively just want to sit around in the next 10 years and just waste your life on things that won't last, you probably want to find another church because you're not going to really feel comfortable here. Because if you're in this church, I'm coming after you to be mobilized.
This is just the kind of nonsense that raises the biggest red flag for me. Church leaders create all these programs and "ministry opportunities" and then try to plug everybody into them, suggesting that if you're not so plugged you must be passive, etc. Can I just mention that being a Mom and Dad might be a more fruitful and important place to minister than any of the church's "ministry opportunities"? Things that won't last, indeed.


But there is a better way. Check out Beautiful Descent.


I'm sitting in the library this morning, having just had coffee with my blog-typer friend, Abraham of La Vie Graphite. I'll bring home three or four books, maybe read one of them in the end. I like to go into the stacks, sit down on one of those library stools, and peruse the lower shelves. I look for old books, written back when people wrote with wonder and joy (a rare trait among contemporary scribblers, I find). This morning I picked up William Saroyan's My Name is Aram, written in 1937. Here's the opening page:
One day back there in the good old days when I was nine and the world was full of every imaginable kind of magnificence, and life was still a delightful and mysterious dream, my cousin Mourad, who was considered crazy by everybody who knew him except me, came to my house at four in the morning and woke me up by tapping on the window of my room.

Aram, he said.

I jumped out of bed and looked out the window.

I couldn't believe what I saw.

It wasn't morning yet, but it was summer and with daybreak not many minutes around the corner of the world it was light enough for me to know I wasn't dreaming.

My cousin Mourad was sitting on a beautiful white horse.
Now that's an irresistible opening.


Finally, Nicholas Carr's new book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, sounds very interesting. Here's a snip from the review at SFGate:
Rather than relying on exhortation and appeal to antiquarian love of tradition, Carr has meticulously and elegantly grounded his thesis in the latest cognitive sciences. He begins with underscoring the concept of neuroplasticity, the fancy term for the brain's ability to learn by changing itself. You repeat a task and new neural connections are formed; with repeated usage, these connections are gradually enhanced. Stop using particular neural circuits and synapses will wither and connections will be greatly diminished (use it or lose it). It is this two-way role of neuroplasticity that is the bedrock of Carr's thesis that our brains are adapting to the way that we read online at the expense of previously learned ways of reading off-line.
I think he's right. I sense it happening in me. So I'm going off in a corner to enhance my neuroplasticity with a good book. See you later.


Anonymous said...

the entry into the 1937 written book is a wonderful step.

Anonymous said...

here is a little somethin for your weekend listening (hopefully) pleasure.

Bob said...

Very nice. Brought back some memories. I love those Southern rock bands (or whatever you want to call them).

Ted M. Gossard said...

Bob, Interesting thoughts here. Checking in. Not sure on Rick Warren's statement. I'm not a follower of him. I find good from him, though not a particular fan of his purpose driven writings. I would be uncomfortable with it myself, and agree with your thoughts a bout church programs. I guess I'd want to ask questions and inquire. But we certainly can be driven more by programs than by the mission of God and the work of God. And an important part of that is right in our home, as you say.

Bob said...

Ted, I guess my criticism of Warren sounds harsh, but in fact I do respect the man. Still, this gauntlet-throwing preaching, where the preacher challenges the congregation to get involved in church stuff, is exactly the wrong emphasis. Warren's blanket description of those who are not "mobilized" (those who"passively just want to sit around in the next 10 years and just waste your life on things that won't last"} is just purely self-serving, a straw man if there ever was one, and will only cause guilt-induced church busyness, with such church busyness becomeing the standard of "leadership."

Now, I realize I'm hearing Warren "out of context," not having read or heard the whole sermon, but this quote is representative of a lot of pastoral prodding masquerading as the preaching of the Gospel.

Amy Guerino said...

I found my blog was linked to yours...I was intrigued. As a pastor's kid I grew up hearing the message of gotta volunteer and get involved in all kinds of things. My Dad wasn't the senior pastor but was pushed on staff to be at everything. He isn't really in my memories as a child apart from wonderful, family camping vacations. Thankfully, I didn't get bitter toward the church. Churches that are program driven need a lot of volunteers to make them run. But we need to question why do we have the various programs.

It is a marketing driven mindset that is adopted when churches pump lots of programs! Another book that looks at this is called The Courage to Be Protestant by David F. Wells (a favorite of mine). My husband wrote a book review on it on his blog: Summit Perspective

It may be similar or at a different angle to your All We Like Sheep book.

Thanks for the link! I had a great weekend away soaking in His Presence in a beautiful area of Oregon!

Bob said...

Amy, nice of you to drop by. I read the review and found it quite interesting. I'll certainly be putting the book on my to-read list. Thanks for the recommendation.

I think it's hard for us to imagine something other than this program-driven church blueprint, something more truly deserving of the name "community." But we must try to imagine it, I think.

Thanks again for your contribution to the dialog!