What they are inadvertantly selling

November 29, 2007

Alright, alright, I admit, they are just commercials.   But among the various objectives of advertising, one is to incite action on the part of potential customers.   In the last week or so, a Toyota campaign has been airing in our market.  The Toyotathon Phenomenon!  In each commercial, the owner of a vehicle sets about, literally, to destroy his/her own car.  In one commercial, a man operating a crane “accidentally” drops a huge steel “I” beam on his truck.  In another, a man on a ferry ties a line attached to the dock to the hitch on his truck.  As the ferry leaves the dock, the truck, which is parked on the stern of the ferry, is yanked into the water and sinks.  In the third commercial, a family pushes a boulder off a cliff, which subsequently crushes their SUV parked below.  In each of these commercials, the owners, sheepishly look to see if their efforts have been successful and then they look around to see if they have been detected.  Here is a fourth in the series that has been playing in another part of the US (where they understand snow plows).

I will grant you that the commercials are clever.  The voice over announcer suggests something to the effect that “now is the time to buy that Toyota you always wanted,… or NEEDED.”  I am not intimating in any way that Toyota is expressly advocating people undertake acts of insurance fraud in an effort to get a new car.  And if you listen carefully, you can hear the denials coming from Toyota HQ and that humor was the only intent of the ads…humor sells!  Okay, I’ll agree with the humor angle.  However,  even if veiled in humor, fraud is precisely what the ads are inadvertently communicating.  And while its not fraud foisted upon an insurance carrier, it is fraud in the form of self-deception.  In other words, fraudulently exchanging the want of a new car into a need.  

Don’t we do the same thing with regard to disobedience?  We rationalize behavior, and by self-deception call it something else.  But disobedient conduct is nothing more than sinful self-indulgence.  And there is nothing funny about that!

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They still don’t get it!

November 28, 2007

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is in the midst of a serious makeover.  For almost 2 decades, the denomination has continued to wrestle with issues of ordination standards as it relates to homosexuality.  Many of the most conservative and evangelical congregations have grouped together as the New Wineskins group and have left the denomination all together, joining a new presbytery formed by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  Many of these congregations left at great cost, paying the PCUSA for the privilege of keeping their church property. 

Now there is a new collaboration of reform minded “conservative” congregations.  They recently met under the banner of “Gathering X.”  These congregations cling to a hope that the PCUSA can be turned around from its decline into apostasy.  They talk a good game and I am certain that many of its leaders have good intentions and hopeful motivations.  However, if they are serious about renewal, I would suggest that they still don’t get it!  By “get it”, I mean, taking seriously the steps necessary to correct some of the institutional problems that still plague the denomination.

At the “Gathering X” meeting in Houston in August, Rev. Mary Naegeli, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Concord, CA addressed the attendees.  She said that her “passion is to help people gain a mastery of the scriptures.”  She went on to provide 5 steps to leading people into the scriptures.  You can read the entire article at The Layman website.  Scroll down in the pdf to page 14 of 28 or page B2 of the periodical itself.

In Naegeli’s fourth of five points, she suggests that people “foster a joyful acceptance of the authority of Scripture.”  She continues, “there are many out there who just don’t care what the Bible says.  They adjust the meaning of Scripture to fit their lifestyles, rather than allowing Scripture to adjust their behavior.  The church cannot be renewed apart from an insistence on Scriptural authority.”

With charity, I will regard Rev. Naegeli’s comments as coming from a sincere heart.  And no one can question the truth of what she presented.  But I find it more than just a little ironic that an admonition to honor the authority of Scripture is coming from a woman senior pastor.  How does she square her “office” in the church with the specific instruction regarding the qualifications for church leadership and the role of women found in Scripture in 1 Timothy 2 and 3, and Titus 1?  Where is the conformity to the authority of Scripture in this apparent contradiction?  Is serving as a senior pastor evidence of her own “joyful acceptance of the authority of scripture?”

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Theological Seminary noted in a recent article that: 

“The feminization of the ministry is one of the most significant trends of this generation. Acceptance of women in the pastoral role reverses centuries of Christian conviction and practice. It also leads to a redefinition of the church and its ministry. Once women begin to fill and represent roles of pastoral leadership men withdraw. This is true, not only in the pulpit, but in the pews. The evacuation of male worshippers from liberal churches is a noticeable phenomenon.

Furthermore, the issues of women’s ordination and the normalization of homosexuality are closely linked. It is no accident that those churches that most eagerly embraced the ordination of women now either embrace the ordination of homosexuals or are seriously considering such a move.

The reason for this is quite simple. The interpretive games one must play in order to get around the Bible’s proscription of women in congregational preaching and teaching roles are precisely the games one must play in order to get around the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexuality.

Put another way, once one is satisfied to relativize the biblical texts limiting the congregational teaching office to men, one can (and almost surely will) be satisfied to employ those same strategies on texts condemning homosexuality. In both cases, the texts are relativized by postmodern ideologies.”

You can read the entire article from Dr. Mohler by clicking here.

Rev. Mary Naegeli said it perfectly…”The church cannot be renewed apart from an insistence on Scriptural authority.”  To that I say AMEN.  And the PCUSA will not realize renewal until they rely upon that authority institutionally and constitutionally.


What’s wrong with that guy?

November 25, 2007

Dennis Francione, the recently resigned head football coach of Texas A&M University has endured a very difficult season this year.  But the difficulty was only partially on the field of play.  The majority of it was self-inflicted when he was caught selling an unauthorized e-newsletter containing confidential information to supporters of Aggie football.  The content of the newsletter was injury reports on players and their expected readiness for the next game.  I suppose that one could naively imagine that all of the subscribers were concerned medical professionals who could offer suggestions for healing, or those who had volunteered to pray for injured players.  But a more plausible explanation, given the cost at what I believe was a $1,200 subscription, was that the inside information might be useful for the purpose of betting on the outcome of Texas A&M football games.  On top of that, Francione failed to report his earnings from this non-coaching activity to the University, as was required by his contract.

Were Francione’s actions a result of extraordinary bad judgment, a misguided moral compass, or outright stupidity?  Well, there might be yet another possibility.  And it had not occurred to me what that was until Friday night after the game and his immediate resignation.  Francione’s departure from A&M was a foregone conclusion.  While he would not talk about it in the final weeks of the season, the news media were reporting, without any equivocation, that Friday’s game would be his last.  I think most people expected an announcement of his termination over the weekend, or early next week.  That timing would have allowed the headlines following Friday’s game to read something like Aggies upset Longhorns.  But, no!  The story line was Fran resigns!  That other possibility I was considering is that perhaps Francione a narcissist?  The characteristics that define narcissism (entitlement, immunity, self-interest, exploitation and exhibitionism), may have been what drove this man to do what was so obviously unethical with the newsletter.  And it might well have driven the timing of his resignation announcement. Rather than allow the team that he claimed to love so much to be in the spotlight as a result of their (surprise) victory over t.u., Francione upstaged them and stole the moment.  Could he not have waited 24 hours to make his announcement?  Even 12 hours to get into the next day’s news cycle? 

One might argue that big egos serve big time coaches well.  After all, it bolsters confidence in a business that requires bushels of it.  But NFL coaches Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, both men of deep Christian faith, demonstrate a humble attitude that could well be emulated by men in all professions.  Dennis Francione needs a brand of humility that comes not from the forced resignation that he has just endured, but from a God who expects that everything we do be to HIS glory and not for our own.  James 4: 6-10 make it clear that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  And provides an imperative:  “Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.”  These instructions are not just for Dennis Francione, but for ALL of us, myself included.  So, what’s wrong with that guy?  Ultimately the same thing that is wrong with all of us…a self-indulgent nature.