Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
First, I want to note that the best thing about being an American is the simple fact that in this country I get to express my opinion at the ballot box. With few exceptions there are no threats or efforts to intimidate. Once the vote is in there is peaceful transition. May it ever be so.
Second, the carping has begun complete with Monday quarterbacking trying to figure out why Romney lost the election. No matter the outcome, I still believe he was the better candidate. So why didn't he get elected? I became convinced after hearing the results that the main reason he lost is simply a failure to communicate his message so it could be understood clearly.
What most of us older folks don't get is the fact that the American culture has experienced a dramatic shift. In my lifetime the American culture changed several times. It is no longer the culture of the 1950s where Christianity and Americanism mixed in a kind of civil religion. It is no longer the culture of the 1960s and 70s when so many young people rebelled and focused on drugs, sex, and rock 'n' roll. It is no longer the 1980s, the era of Reagan. It isn't the 1990s which is the era of Clinton. We are now well into the 21st Century and cultural change has become exponentially fast. Whether in "doing church" or "doing politics" the old methods just don't resonate any longer. Oh, those of us Tweeners (those born in the late 1930s and early 1940s) and the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1967) understand the "old ways" but even the Boomers sought change.
You can see cultural change in the way we communicate. I remember gathering around my grandfather's radio to listen to Amos and Andy. In my own home in Ottumwa I listened to radio programs -- The Lone Ranger, Straight Arrow, Sergeant Preston, Father Knows Best... Then came TV and radio was gone. I hurried home to see Pat Moleteri on American Bandstand and Annette Funicello on the Mickey Mouse Club. TV changed everything! I watched the Vietnam War unfold before my eyes. The Kennedy assassination captured all our attention as did the Cuban Missile Crisis before it. Then we began hearing about computers and the computer age burst upon us an we entered the information age. All of that has engendered cultural change occurring faster and faster. TV made us a visual culture. Computers brought us instant information and personal interaction beyond our wildest imaginations.
With every culture shift came a "new language." That new language sounded like English but the computer enabled us to instantly translate English into major world languages with a push of the button. Presidents and world leaders can watch events unfold anywhere in the world in real time. We are living in a different world.
And here's the rub: communicating the old message the old way no longer works! Traditional churches are dying because they aren't communicating. Governor Romney lost the election, not because he didn't promise to give away free stuff. He lost it because he didn't communicate. Just as the traditional church doesn't do well reaching younger generations across all ethnic lines, Romney didn't either. All of this is true not because the message isn't valid; it is true because the message has to be placed in newer forms utilizing different methods. The "old paths" are great but today they need to become multi-lane super highways.
What strikes me is the fact that when I traveled to Myanmar (Burma) I realized that to really communicate I had to have someone translate for me. Even though most of the students who took my courses spoke English, they didn't get the nuances and subtlety of the language. I needed to either learn the language or have a translator. Even then the message got blurred because my whole frame of reference was that of a different culture!
The United States is now a multicultural nation. Those who hope to get a message across today must learn to communicate in a language meaningful to those who are younger and from different ethnic backgrounds. That's true for the church; it is also true for the politicians. The message doesn't have to change! How that message is communicated does!
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012
The workshop focused on traditionalism in the Restoration Movement. I presented it years ago. It may date as far back as the 1980s or the 1990s. Since that time much has changed within the movement itself. Some of the change is for the better, some is not. Large segments of the movement remain tied to traditions.
Younger men and women assume traditions are bad and should be rejected. On one hand, tradition is helpful and provides beauty, meaning, and form to worship and work. Tradition can reflect encapsulated truth and needs emphasis. On the other hand, tradition becomes problematic when it obscures the truth, hinders fulfillment of the church's purpose, or contradicts biblical truth.
First, I need to make some preliminary observations about the Restoration Movement. This historic movement seeks to reach the whole world for Christ. When it began in the early 19th Century it believed division and denominationalism hindered fulfillment of the Great Commission. Thus it sought the unity of believers based on a common recognition of biblical authority. Early leaders point to Christ's prayer recorded in John 17 where he prayed that his followers would be one so that the world might believe....
To accomplish this vision, those leaders called for believers to:
- Throw off unscriptural and traditional creeds dividing Christians.
- Throw off unscriptural and traditional governmental structures designed to defend the creeds.
- Throw off an unscriptural and traditional clergy system.
- They are more related to the church as an institution than they are to God.
- The churches become more concerned with their continued existence than with its mission.
- They can't separate means from ends...means become ends and ends become means. They retain some practices even though they no longer achieve their reason for existence.
- There is more concern with correctness of belief than quality of life.
- They have lost the spirit of Christianity retaining only the form.
- Exclusive cooperation.
- Suspicion of churches that are growing when they are not.
- Stress on what is wrong with "outsiders" than what is right.
- Expecting everyone else to "join their group."
- Boycotting meetings of others with whom they have disagreements.
- Blindness to one's own weaknesses and deafness to outside criticism.
- Ignorance of others and listening to the criticism of others without personal investigation.
- The idea that righteousness is determined by belief.
- The insistence on official or sanctioned literature.
- The belief that unity can only be realized when there is complete doctrinal agreement.
- Greater desire for conformity than for unity.
- The establishment of de facto creeds.
I've always bought brown sugar
in square boxes
with grown letters on the box.
I saw the plastic bags of sugar in the grocery store yesterday.
I could tell by looking that this was a better way.
The strong, air-tight bags would keep the sugar soft and usable.
But I've always bought brown sugar in boxes.
And I reached for the box.
Now, back at home, I wonder why.
Lord, why are we…
why am I…
so reluctant to change old ways?
Some old ways are valid,
but some need changing.
And I cling to square boxes with unthinking tenacity,
Just because I've always bought square boxes.
That is not reason enough.
Times have changed – and are changing
so fast it makes my head swim.
I am obligated to face my days intentionally!
The container that brown sugar comes in is no great thing.
But there are other, weightier matters
That require rethinking – and perhaps revising.
If I am going to live significantly,
I must make my big decisions purposefully,
"New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth.
They must upward still, and onware, who keep abreast of Truth."
Forgive my square boxes.
From Bless this Mess and Other Prayers, by Jo Carr and Imogene Sorley. Taken from Sharpening the Focus of the Church.