Three readings (the most recent, already obsolete)

This morning before work time, I read three things (in this order):

1.  Part of the MatthewGospel’s text about Jesus in Gethsemane. (This particular reading would have been well chosen for many people today, but I claim no intentionality—only submissiveness.  As directed, I prayed, read the short text, and responded, as part of a biblical studies group.)

2.  Four pages of material on technologies and techniques to “navigate the digital rehearsal.”  This was written and shared about five weeks ago by a conducting professional I don’t know.

3.  Charles C. Helmer IV’s article that selected thoughts, principles, and words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Christian community, appropriating them to humanity’s current situation.  This article, titled “Bonhoeffer and COVID-19:  ‘Life Together’ in Isolation,” reminded me of Bonhoeffer’s significance in both Christian and 20th-century world history.

Two of the above readings struck me as relatively timeless.  One of them is already obsolete.¹  (Hint:  it’s the one about technology that’s obsolete.)

The ephemeral complexity of our technological landscape boggles the mind, baffles the massive mainstream, and bedraggles the masses.

Our world changes quickly in some of its aspects, but not in others.

– B. Casey, 4/21/20


¹ Today, I also read a few short, work-related documents.  Composed this week, some were either off-base or already obsolete.  I wrote one of the off-base ones myself!

Words . . . and the Spelling Bee

Actor James Spader and his characters have word gifts.  In the scene below, he was losing it (as TV attorney Alan Shore):

Shore’s affliction was word salad.  What a concept.  It must be very difficult to toss your words around like that if you don’t have an actual mental deficiency.

Linguistic perceptiveness can be a curse, but it can also create joy through heightened understanding.  I’m glad my son has some exceptional language ability.  FB tells me that, four years ago when he was in 1st grade, he was reading aloud to me and came upon the verb “present.”  He mistakenly read it as though it were the noun, i.e, a gift.  Then he corrected himself without any help.  I asked him how he knew which meaning was the right one.  He replied, “You can tell by the surrounding words.”

That’s a gift with words, I’d say . . . and it can help him understand other people, scripture, a homework assignment, the intent of lines in a play, and more.

The Podcast “Way with Words” is a new pleasure.  Jedd heard part of an episode for the first time last weekend.  I figured 10 minutes would be enough for a 10-year-old and was about to turn it off, but he said not to.  He liked it.  He too is stimulated by thoughts of words, their meanings, their connections and ramifications, their humor.

In late January, he placed 2nd among all the fifth-graders at his school in the spelling bee.  He asked for definitions to check himself on a couple occasions.  He made it about 12 rounds before being distracted by someone’s cell phone and missing a double “s” that he would know any day of the week.  But no sour grapes.  He was happy with 2nd place and was a good sport, congratulating the very capable winner.

I’m happy that I get to share linguistic interests with him often, and I was proud when he almost won the school spelling bee a few days ago, and I hope he places in today’s county-wide spelling bee, which begins in one hour!

He chose a special outfit this morning, and I adapted.  Below is today’s solidarity attire, on the way to school this morning.

Judging books

Early in life, I learned to care too much what other people think.  I think this was one of Dad’s faults, passed on to me.  I’m generally private about my business, and I’m usually hyper-aware of talking so loudly that the neighbors might hear.  Will someone notice me in jeans on Sunday and think I’m not going “to church”?  Will someone notice me in a sport coat and think I’m some haughty Christian who thinks he’s better than everyone else while going “to church”?

My mom, on the other hand, cares far less about others’ perceptions, and this ends up being one of her faults.  I suppose I got some of this one, too.  Sometimes I’m just going to do the thing I have in mind or heart, no matter what someone might think.  This trait, I think, can manifest strength of character.  It can also betray stupidity.

It’s with these inherited traits in mind that I mention (and discuss a little) a few book titles that I’m embarrassed about.  In other words, I’m afraid these books—and I—will be judged by their covers.  I’ve never gone out in public with some of them . . . or I hide them . . . or I at least think twice.  For the embarrassment, the caring-too-much-what-people-think, I owe Dad.  For the willingness to make it public in this blogpost, not caring too much what naysayers might think, I owe Mom!  (Writing was/is a strength for both of them.)

These titles will come in two supra-categories:  the negative (those I judge to be not for public view) and the positive.

Not for public view

The Politics of Jesus (John Howard Yoder)
I’ve had this book for a couple years but have barely cracked its cover.  It’s written by a now-deceased Anabaptist theologian whose mind has been highly influential but whose character and actions have been seriously (legally) judged.  I’m pretty sure this book is going to challenge me with a deeper view of “politics,” dealing with Jesus’ views and ways and means in the areas of social intercourse and ethics.  That is a much higher road than the pathway that leads to the polarizing party system and the mixing of authentic Christianity with today’s political “right.”

I’m afraid that when people see this cover, they’ll think I actually align myself with the religious right.  Not at all.  I’m interested in pretty much anything that deals soberly with Jesus, but I have no time for those who think Jesus wants to change the government of a contemporary country—or that He was at all concerned with affecting the Roman empire in any political sense.  My Jesus isn’t in the business of geopolitics or national politics, although He cares about all the business of people’s lives.

Standing with Israel (David Brog)
A real academic is not embarrassed about having books on his shelves that take contrary views.  He, in fact, has been intellectually stimulated in dealing with such opposing views, and has incorporated some of their aspects into his own thinking.  I, however, am not this kind of academic.  Not all the time, anyway.  Also, it is not other academic-types who’re likely to see my shelves . . . so I even hide the spine of this book in my own home.  The friends who might see it in my living room would not understand why it’s there, or wouldn’t know to ask, or would likely assume something about my thinking that I’d be horrified about.  I wouldn’t take Standing With Israel out in public.

I have one book in this camp that’s even worse.  I note that it was published by a Time Warner imprint (not a religious publisher such as Zondervan or Eerdmans), and the TW entertainment conglomerate might have been onto something.  I consider this title merely entertainment:  The American Prophecies:  Ancient Scriptures Reveal Our Nation’s Future.  One doesn’t have to go beyond the cover to realize this is balderdash.  Baseless fiction.  Nation Under God is another one I wouldn’t want public, although its content could head in multiple directions.  The Great Church-State Fraud is provocative, and I might carry that one around eventually. 

I’m proud now to own Three Views of Israel and the Church, a thoughtful debate book that presents representatives of three distinct views and includes scholarly challenge to each view.  I’d be cautious about this one—again, because of presumptions about the religious right—but I plan soon to post notes based on gleanings from this book.

Holy Bible (NRSV)
I wish the covers of some Bibles were different.  Believe it or not, I’m actually embarrassed at the words “Holy Bible.”  For the nonbeliever or disinterested party, I fear the “holy” part sounds presumptuous.  And for all of us, I feel a kind of mesmerizing effect that puts us to thoughtless sleep instead of thoughtful introspection.  In other words, we can be lulled by having a “Holy Bible” in our hands rather than pondering and dealing responsibly with the varied contents of this library we call “Bible.”

Yes, I’d let these be seen by almost anyone

On the other hand, some book titles I’ve been proud to carry around, hoping someone might ask me about them:

  • This Beautiful Mess (Rick McKinley)
  • Mere Discipleship (Lee Camp)
  • The King Jesus Gospel (Scot McKnight)
  • The Kingdom of God in the Teachings of Jesus (Norman Perrin)
  • Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Matthew Bates)

Will someone be interested, judging these titles worthy of note?  Will we be able to dialogue about the nature of God’s kingdom—and humans as loyal subjects and disciples?  Will they ponder the words and work of Jesus just a little more?  Do I care too much about what people think?  I’m not a very good ambassador in most ways.  Far too often, I don’t represent my Lord very well, and maybe, just maybe, someone could see my intent in a book, overlooking my personal failings.

What if I carried around a little book titled The Gospel of Christian Atheism without hiding its cover?  Would that start some discussions, or what?  I can hardly wait to get into that one.  According to a cover blurb, this is no atheist author.  Rather, he seeks to promote primitive Christianity; “gospel” and “atheism” are used advisedly, provocatively, in order to attract readers who might not otherwise pick up a “Christian” book.  But what is “Christian”?  I suspect that this author will use a working definition closer to my own than to, say, most journalists’ or evangelicals’ definitions.

For those who aren’t interested in topics of scripture or Christianity:  I’m never ashamed of Grisham novel titles; I recently finished Camino Island and have read a dozen others.  Most of my baseball books are displayed proudly.  Poetry?  Short stories?  Sure.  And I’d be proud to carry The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (Nicholas Carr).  And yes, I just searched the WWW to make sure I have its author’s name correct!

An Angell in the mind field

During some lazy afternoon reading-while-grilling, my mind connected a movie and a wind band piece:  Angels in the Outfield and Angels in the Architecture (Frank Ticheli).  Frankly (pun intended), that Ticheli piece doesn’t appear on my list of favorites of his.  Parts of it remind me of the older Vesuvius, but Angels uses a soprano voice along with the winds and percussion, and a soprano, in my book, is often a detriment.  Plus, I prefer many better baseball movies over “Angels in the Outfield.”

Nonetheless, there is that “angels” thing that connects the two with the noted baseball writer Roger Angell.  I just read an Angellic passage that I wanted to share.  Put this in the categories of random delights, skilled writing, and musicianship—actually being a musician, not just someone who plays “my music” through earbuds as she hibernates from humanity while walking around or hanging out with friends.  Of course, add the category of baseball.  Allow yourself to imagine, to get lost in the little thing called the baseball “box score.”

Angell in March 2015
Roger Angell, baseball essayist

A box score is more than a capsule archive.  It is a precisely etched miniature of the sport itself, for baseball, in spite of its grassy spaciousness and apparent unpredictability, is the most intensely and satisfyingly mathematical of all our outdoor sports.  Every player in the game in every game is subjected to a cold and ceaseless accounting; no ball is thrown and no bases gained without an instant responding judgment—ball or strike, hit or error, yay or nay—and an ensuing statistic.  This encompassing neatness permits the baseball fan, aided by experience and memory, to extract from a box score the same joy, the same hallucinatory reality, that prickles the scalp of a musician when he glances at a page of his score of Don Giovanni and actually hears bassos and sopranos, woodwinds and violins.

Just as one’s baseball imagination can be enlivened by reading a box score, particularly if one knows the players’ names, a similar “hallucinatory reality” permits the conductor to audiate as he studies (and conducts from) a music score.  Those notes are not just gobs of ink.  No, they mean something!  They stimulate the memory and imagination.  They can become uniquely enriching for the human soul.

→ For more on the many-faceted word “score,” try this.  It’s fun!

This week marks the last of my son’s fourth baseball season.  Three games this week!  He has in some ways had his best season ever, and his comprehension and love of the game have grown, but those stats could use some improvement.  (Good thing they don’t publish box scores for this league.)  He’s gotten to pitch a little, and he loves every practice and every game.  We’ll both miss the season when it’s over.

Baseball is a great game, and the relatively slow pace of the game is good for the soul—not lazy at all if you like strategy and imagination!  Thanks to Roger Angell for writing so marvelously about baseball.  Your work, as it deals with the most appealing kind of sports field there is, is also good for the field of the mind.

Of handwriting and old letters

My handwriting is getting worse.  Our son’s handwriting is sporadically OK (e.g., with his name) but isn’t improving as nicely as we’d like.  This interview-blog with Steve Reece, professor of classical languages at St. Olaf College, is about handwriting in ancient letter-writing, and it kept me reading.  The particular passage at issue is Galatians 6:11-18, which begins with the famous exclamation “See what large letters I make . . . in my own hand!”  For a thoughtful professor and researcher, multiple questions arise when students ask a question about such a passage.

Some Christians cater to teachers and preachers who believe in the so-called dictation theory, which has God/the Holy Spirit dictating words to apostles (controlling the motions of their hands and arms?)  In the following paragraph, Steve Reece describes another possible scenario, expanding his thoughts to the way we think generally of the production of scripture—and, in particular, the writing of letters:

My impression is that Paul may have sometimes dictated syllable by syllable (e.g., Philemon), but that at other times he may have dictated the words and phrases to his scribe but given him the freedom to use his own diction and style (e.g., some of the Pastorals). The composition of a letter may have been a team effort, as Paul, his companions, and the scribe(s) bounced ideas off one another and read and re-read drafts of the letter. Obviously, if it were determined that Paul used his scribes to varying degrees in the composition of his letters, this would offer another angle from which to contemplate the ongoing debate about the Pauline authorship of some of the letters that have been traditionally attributed to him, particularly with respect to judgments that have been made about the authenticity or inauthenticity of some of the letters based on their stylistic and linguistic traits. Differences in the style and diction of letters may have arisen from the influence of scribes working at various levels of participation with the author/sender, for in such different compositional circumstances we should not expect stylistic and linguistic uniformity.

I found that succinct depiction very helpful.  It dovetails with, and bolsters, some of my comparatively non-studied hunches.  In the following paragraph, Reece deals with the specific of 1Cor 1, speculating a bit:

Incidentally, we appear to have a vestige of Paul’s interaction with a comrade and a scribe at the beginning of his first letter to the Corinthians, which he is dictating to a scribe, perhaps his companion Sosthenes (1.1). An irate Paul declares to the Corinthians (1.14-15): “I give thanks that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that none of you may say that you have been baptized in my name.” Then, perhaps having been reminded by the Corinthian Stephanas – who appears to have delivered a letter to Paul from the Corinthians, was expecting to deliver Paul’s letter in return to the Corinthians, and therefore was a witness to the dictation process (16.15- 18) – that his memory has failed him here, Paul offers an addendum (1.16): “And I also baptized the household of Stephanas, but as for the rest I do not know if I baptized any other.” We seem to be witnessing here a glimpse of the actual process of composition: having misspoken during his dictation, Paul simply had his scribe insert a parenthetical correction, perhaps interlinearly or marginally, rather than requiring him to go back and rewrite the entire section. Later copyists inserted the parenthetical addition into the body of the text, where it has resided, though somewhat uncomfortably, to this day.

Find the entire interview here.

On summer’s end

Summer is over.  Or is it?

This will be a meandering piece about summer, with connections to reading, baseball, the calendar, kids, and the rhythms of life.

Books and baseball
People still have summer reading lists, right?  Maybe not so much anymore.  I spied the quip below on a ne’er-do-well’s Facebook page recently, in the spot where one’s favorite book title is supposed to be:

who reads

I thought, Well, I’m guessing you don’t read much, because you didn’t capitalize that or put a question mark after the question.  (This same person had proudly posted a video of herself drunk while playing video games, so I guess I wasn’t all that surprised.)

My summer reading list, if it really existed at all, was phantom-like.  Recent book grabs include one that presents three views on God’s will and decision making, a Duck Dynasty biography (couldn’t stand much!), and a Stephen Colbert book (I wish he weren’t so caustically one-sided, because he’s genuinely funny).  On my active shelf are a book on the history of words in religion, a history of the Silk Road, and two volumes on the kingship of God.  This summer, I have read some poetry, a little on baseball, and a few pages each from Richard Hughes and Frederick Buechner, plus a few other things.  Oh, and I’ve spent some time reading and studying an ancient, mid-length letter from Paul, including reading two paragraphs in Greek.  Sounds like a lot of reading time, you say?  Nah.  I’m talking about a total of less than 10 hours there.  Pitiful, I know.  And the progress in writing my own next book has been precisely nil this summer.

Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer, a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, is legendary.  My dad’s copy of that one remains where he would have seen it, high on a shelf in his/Mom’s study.  On a lower bookshelf in our home sits Dad’s coffee-table-sized book that chronicles baseball’s summers of ’47-’57 in the lives of the three New York teams—the Dodgers, the Giants, and those dratted Yankees.  The Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast in 1957, rendering summer fun permanently shut down for many.

Our family enjoyed seeing the KC Royals with a friend in Kauffman Stadium last Saturday.  It was a sticky, muggy, summer night, but it was not overly hot, especially after the sun was hidden behind the stadium on the third-base side.  This summer is not a good one for the Royals, to say the least.  It was a great game, though:  the last-place Royals, the 2nd-worst team in baseball, beat the even worse Orioles in the 9th.

Usually two or three times a summer, when I was a boy, my dad and I would go to the Vet to see Phillies games.  There was one memorable, July 4th double header, at which a friend sat with Dad and me in the lowest seats, in straightaway center field, just above the outfield wall with the “408” painted on it in yellow.  I’m not sure I’m creating memories like that for our son, but he has been to three Royals games, a Pirates game with cousins, and a Reds game before he could remember.  He has also played baseball three summers in a row.  According to his 2018 baseball season, summer lasted only about 6 weeks (May-June).

For me, despite one serendipitous baseball game I saw on a nice Minnesota afternoon while traveling, this summer has been the worst on record.  It is not over yet?

Summer, school, and children
For children, summer is almost always something to which to look forward.  They often have summer camp experiences.  Manatawny, a Christian camp in Southeastern PA, was the thing that we kids looked forward to most.  My sisters’ kids all go to similar camps now, too, and they seem to feel the same heart-tugs, while experiencing similar growth of all kinds.  Then there is marching band camp, and several of my sisters’ kids are now doing that annually, too.  Summer is certainly not all bad for kids.

For many, summer is over in the middle of August when school starts way too early.  Two private colleges at which I’ve taught hold classes on Labor Day, having started a week or two previously.  School always started the day after Labor Day when I grew up.  According to just about every U.S. school calendar, summer is by now over for everyone.

Jedd has had some great times this summer (for example, a children’s play, baseball, some travel, a lake, cousins, and swimming).  Speaking of swimming … they drained the town pool weeks ago here, which seems pretty ridiculous since summer persists.  The heat and humidity (or just heat, or just humidity, but rarely any relief) have been oppressive and unrelenting for so long, it seems.  We had a cold winter with little snow for playing, an almost nonexistent spring, and then this beastly summer.  We’ve had, what, six or seven nice days since June?

Summer’s entertainment
Remember the TV show “In the Heat of the Night?”  I never watched it, but I think it was based somewhat on the premise that crime heats up when the weather does the same.  (When is it not hot in a Mississippi town?)  I also recall an episode of M*A*S*H in which everyone’s nerves were frayed because of heat.

Last Sunday night, in the summertime cool of a Lutheran church building, I heard the Midwest Chamber Ensemble, and their opening selection was a rare performance of a work by Arthur Honegger titled Pastoral d’Ete (Summer Pastorale).  This piece shimmered and sang, and it led me to think of other summer-oriented art music. . . .

  • I have a CD of summer wind quintet music that includes Barber’s Summer Music, Op. 31, a provocative piece written well for the medium.  I return to this disc often, including a couple times this summer.
  • Barber’s Knoxville:  Summer of 1915 is not a favorite of mine.  (Few and far between are the sopranos I would listen to on purpose.)  Berlioz’s Nuits d’Ete (Summer Nights) is more pleasing, but still, it’s a soprano.  So, no thanks.
  • As Summer Was Just Beginning, a simple, tuneful, elegiac tribute to the late James Dean, enjoyed at least a decade’s worth of appreciation in the wind band world, but the piece’s fame is now approaching its winter.
  • Vivaldi’s “Spring” from The Four Seasons is well-known, but “Summer,” the second in the set, strikes me as more interesting.  Actually, this Vivaldi string concerto hints more at fall for me, but maybe that’s because I like the still, sometimes melancholy beauty of fall.  Then there is the tempest of the presto 3rd movement.  (May there be no tempests in life this fall.)
  • Frank Bridge’s tone poem Summer is simply wonderful.  What glorious sounds!  If I could rig some great speakers in a park, and if I could order a 70-degree, mosquito-less, summer night, I would sit out under a tree and listen to it again.

I remember a few summer evenings on the grounds of the Mann Music Center, north of Philadelphia, hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra free or at greatly reduced cost, with good friends.  And all these thoughts of music evoke pleasant, breezy, relaxed feelings.  Was this what Jim Seals & Dash Crofts were singing about?  “Summer Breeze makes me feel fine….”?  My summer of ’18 has not been blessed by many of those feelings.

So goodbye, summer of ’18.  I’m done wid’ ya.  I wish I could be assured that I’ll forget you, but I won’t be surprised if you haunt me.  I wish I had seen and hiked in the Rockies this summer, but, failing that, come on, cooler weather and breezier, more chilled thoughts.  Come on, fall concerts and crisp mornings with coffee on the deck.  Maybe I’ll soon be able to walk 20 yards sans sweat or anxiety.  Come on, Major League Baseball’s “Fall Classic.”  Just come on, fall.

To explain and clarify

Caveat lector:  I seem to be in a phase of some comparatively intense, historical pondering, so please consider this difficult-to-categorize post accordingly.  (The thinking here began with the first two installments in a sort-of infinitival series:  “To Serve and Contribute” and, before that, “To Lead and Serve.”  I’ve actually delayed posting this one for quite a while, interposing others that were similarly titled, and having difficulty coming to terms with what to say and how to say it.  If all this is too cryptic, well, just skip this post, wonder what purposes might be served through it, and come back for an unrelated post in a few days on Bible reading and study!)

~ ~ ~

Several years ago, I had a very good telephone interview for a faculty position and had air travel arrangements set for a follow-up, on-site interview.  (I think I was one of two candidates at that point.)  About two days before I was to leave, I received another phone call in which the department chair questioned me about a thing or two, beginning to back off from considering me.  I instantly thought I knew what had happened and have never doubted that I was right:  someone at that college had gotten herself a half-story about a situation, through someone who knew half of it himself (second hand—he wasn’t around anymore, anyway).¹  The first someone had known the second someone in the past, so the connection was easy.  The world of patently Christian colleges is small—and its sense of its own perceptive abilities, sometimes myopic and aggrandized.  The long & short is that I was un-invited for the on-site interview.

A couple years later, the same school was again hiring for the same position.  I did not exactly apply that time, but I did send a personal letter to the chair, revisiting the previous conversation in order to explain and clarify.  That conversation had not ended comfortably.  Inasmuch as it depended on me,² I hoped later to shed light and smooth things over more than anything else.  I’m pasting in some slightly adapted versions of things I wrote in this follow-up letter, with most of the identifying marks removed.

Things back then were, to say the least, in a state of flux.  Personally speaking, I almost never felt secure, and my entire time [there] was marked by instability: the departure under negative circumstances of my predecessor; pervasive angst about administration and turnover; major initiatives that led to more than one openly heated debate….  

The new [ … ] had come in with a flash, spending money [unwisely] and making promises.³  He seemed to be gone from campus as much as he was present that semester.  Relatively soon, he found a new position and left.

Going back to our last telephone conversation . . . I recall reacting with a rather strong voice to questions that I believe were based on misinformed suspicion (perhaps “misleading ‘spin’” would be a better way to put it).  [I]t seems that my candidacy was essentially torpedoed by someone who was poorly informed of certain realities and who acted antagonistically.  

[To explain and clarify: This person] and I had had good times and bad times.  He affirmed some of my efforts and gifts, and he ignored or detracted from others.  He laughed with me and caused me more tension than I have experienced with any other boss. . . .  He spoke on isolated occasions with language I consider unbecoming, and he also tried sincerely to inject God. . . .   Some colleagues—who had not had opportunity to see his deep generosity and hard work first-hand—seemed to carry a rather one-sidedly negative opinion of him (as opposed to a mixed one, like mine).  I was as frequently embarrassed by (and intimidated by) his overbearing demeanor and persona as I was impressed by his work ethic and his intent to serve.  A study in contrasts, he.

[At any rate,] … had I been directing, conducting, and teaching for [ …] since the last time you posted this position, we might or might not have enjoyed perfect chemistry, but you would know the real me—someone who cares deeply and works with conviction for his students, his program, his colleagues, and his institution . . . and someone who sometimes comes across defensively or with too much intensity. . . .

——————

All this reminiscence and re-traversing brings fresh emotional pain (to which I am no stranger in general).  I am of the general, unstudied opinion that such reflection is to be engaged in, not avoided.  (I suppose it is usually better under the guidance of a trained therapist!)  Personal growth can occur when we go through the muck and the deep waters.  I’m not so sure I’m growing, and I intermittently smell of muck, but my head is above water.


¹  To describe the situation would be to say too much here.  I had tried to handle it as well as possible.  In hindsight, I suspect the “new” person referred to as “new [ …]” in the second inset paragraph above ignored a red carpet I laid out in order to have the scenario appear a certain way.  I was a scapegoat and later a lame duck, to some extent.

² The particular religious/philosophical alignment of the hiring college turns out to be ironic:  it is affiliated with one of the so-called “peace churches,” but it had unwittingly been a part of a very un-peaceful chain of events.  Here, I do not present myself as a peace-bringer in the first instance, but that was actually a large part of my goal in the follow-up letter quoted above, from a couple years later.  I received no reply.

³ The particular promises seemed to be based more on Christianese fluff than on reality or even faith.  This is beside the point, yes, but I would say it is also another, related, important point.

The benefits you get with H/R

The paragraph below, I assume, was written by an H/R “professional.”  I am pasting this in, so the original remains intact.

Our new colleague will teach in our comprehensive music education program, which includes BME, MME, and Ph.D. students. They will provide leardership in curriculum and program development. They will provide leadership and oversight of the recruitment of undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. music education students. The successful candidate will be a creative, flexible musician, scholar and pedagogue who is an experienced master teacher with substantial K-12 experience as well as college-level teaching experience. They will be responsible for teaching in our comprehensive music education program which includes BME, MME, and Ph.D. students. Our new colleague will provide leadership in curriculum and program development, and will be expected to have a well-developed, active research agenda. They will teach other courses in the music education curriculum as necessary.

Now my observations and reactions.  (You knew there would be some, didn’t you?)

  1. My ambition is to be a learder.  However, I don’t have other learders around to mentor me and showr me what a learder can be.  I even lookerd online for a graduate leardership program.  I can’t finrd a single one.  Maybe if I use fuzzy logic, the search would be more successful?  Can someone out there leard me to the info I neerd?  I will follow if you leard.
  2. In seriousness now … I would like a role in which I could train the world to match plurals with plurals and singulars with singulars.  (Creating a plural of the word “singular” makes me smile . . . and note that it does not have an apostrophe before the “s”! . . . it’s a plural, not a possessive or a contraction.”)  The next-to-last sentence is just fine.  Why not include the last sentence and remove the plural mismatch, like so:  “Our new colleague will provide leadership in curriculum and program development; will be expected to have a well-developed, active research agenda; and will teach other courses in the music education curriculum as necessary.”
  3. I’ll leave the lack of the Oxford comma alone in this phrase:  “will be a creative, flexible musician, scholar and pedagogue.”  Wait.  I didn’t.
  4. On a deeper level:  I find this ad to be a bit ambitious at its core.  Rare would be the person who (1) could legitimately be classed as a “master teacher,” (2) has “substantial” K-12 experience, and (3) also has college-level teaching experience.
  5. I would also think that some “H/R professional” would have read through the posting well enough to know that s/he had repeated almost one-quarter of the material.  If the music department had simply written its own job description, it would have been better.

Layering H/R process on top of process may satisfy regulations and policy without serving the real need.  On the other hand, if there is no process at all, someone or some department will likely need to oversee employment matters, given the litigiousness of our society.  If there is a separate benefits department, there are benefits to be reaped there, although the health insurance benefit is more than it’s cracked up to be.  As I wrote in this post,

Currently, [my wife and I] pay approximately 1/3 of the total cost of our own insurance, and my employer covers the rest of the group-rate premium.  The rates for adding an additional family member [our son] increase dramatically, though—to the point that the deduction from my paycheck to insure three people would be equivalent to half of my take-home (net) pay. 

A very perceptive man once remarked that the “Graduate School” in his institution didn’t add value to the process of getting a graduate degree.  This post from 2016 mentions that right after complaining about the lack of benefit in three food additives, moving to question the value of additions in Christian churches.

And here is a post that briefly mentions three items that I find pretty much without benefit in churches.

Sticklerism

We have sticklers in our family.  I wouldn’t have called my dad a stickler, although he had the highest-level language credential in my extended family and could have carried it off without much trouble.  Dad had the personable habit of deliberately Image result for grammar sticklerspeaking incorrectly on occasion—such as when he would oh-so-politely request, “Pass I the butter.”  Perhaps it is Dad’s tradition that leads my small family now to make up verb forms for entertainment purposes:  “Where be my Bible?”  “Oh, I tooked it and putted it over there.”  Jedd participates in this and knows what he’s doing with it.  We are careful, however, to correct him anytime he lapses into regional patterns (that I hear or read almost every day) with respect to past participles:  “I seen him.  He had ran right past me before I knew it.”

Since drafting this post, I received this e-mail message at work:  “I know it got picked up, but havnt saw the _____ yet.”  If noticing these things makes me a stickler or even a vigilante, so be it.  Real sticklers know it’s not about thinking one is right all the time.  We/I make a lot of mistakes, too.  Here’s an indication of the difference between sticklers and normal people:  when I find a typo in an old blogpost that no one will probably ever see again, I actually take the time to correct it.  (I can’t insert “obsessively” before “correct it,” because that would be splitting an infinitive, you know.)

My maternal grandmother, spotlighted with my grandfather here, was something of a stickler, I’d say, and it would have been difficult to catch her in a mistake.  She is known to have corrected the grammar of more than one gracious preacher, including Mike Cope and presumably also the late Jim Woodroof,¹ a giant who moved into the “land of the eternally living”² a few weeks ago.  Grandmother’s known penchant for correcting folks might be what keeps me from doing it as much.  (When I knew her, she would naturally have had the respect that comes with being a senior citizen, and I’m not there yet.)  Even though I keep my vocal corrections to a minimum (and sometimes mutter them so that no one can hear), I often read with pen or pencil in hand.

Has the time for "they" as a singular pronoun come? This grammar stickler says yes.I’ve noticed that a certain parenting e-resource almost always uses the singular “she” in its examples—presumably in an extended fit of over-correction for the years when “he” meant either.  It’s usually easy to avoid the issue by pluralizing everything:  “Every student should do his own work” can become “All students should do their own work” if you don’t like “Every student should do his/her own work.”  I disagree with the “singular ‘they'” image shown here, but no one asked me.  It’s actually serendipitous that I came across that:  a younger friend mentioned on Monday that he knows people who want to be referred to as “they” and not “she” or “he.”  So let us take note that this might not be merely a grammar thing; it’s a gender identity thing.³  Although I would always try to be kind to a person who struggles with identity, I don’t support the related social movement in the slightest, finding it overblown and ironically (perhaps Nazi-istically) intolerant at times.

Since I have a very active “inner stickler,” I am eager (not “anxious,” mind you; the two mean different things) to share some stickler-ish Lynne Truss quotes.  It was with a deep, resounding “Yeah!” that I reread those that appear below.  Does anyone else feel partly like Tarzan, chest-pounding and bellowing, and part-sheepish?  In other words, do you say inside yourself, “Yess!  I feel that way!” immediately before tucking your head as though nothing just happened in there?

In the quotes below, British distinctives such as commas outside quotation marks are the author’s.  All this material was lifted from the web, then later scanned and converted to text.  No errors should be attributed to Lynne Truss.  Enjoy.

~ ~ ~

“…[P]unctuation marks are the traffic signals of language:  they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop.”

“I apologise if you all know this, but the point is many, many people do not.  Why else would they open a large play area for children, hang up a sign saying “Giant Kid’s Playground”, and then wonder why everyone says away from it? (Answer: everyone is scared of the Giant Kid.)”

“Part of one’s despair, of course, is that the world cares nothing for the little shocks endured by the sensitive stickler.  While we look in horror at a badly punctuated sign, the world carries on around us, blind to our plight.  We are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people, except that we can see dead punctuation.  Whisper it in petrified little-boy tones:  dead punctuation is invisible to everyone else — yet we see it all the time.  No one understands us seventh-sense people.  They regard us as freaks.  When we point out illiterate mistakes we are often aggressively instructed to “get a life” by people who, interestingly, display no evidence of having lives themselves.  Naturally we become timid about making our insights known, in such inhospitable conditions.  Being burned as a witch is not safely enough off the agenda.”

“As with other paired bracketing devices (such as parentheses, dashes and quotation marks), there is actual mental cruelty involved , incidentally, in opening up a pair of commas and then neglecting to deliver the closing one.  The reader hears the first shoe drop and then strains in agony to hear the second.  In dramatic terms, it’s like putting a gun on the mantelpiece in Act I and then having the heroine drown herself quietly offstage in the bath during the interval.  It’s just not cricket.  Take the example, ‘The Highland Terrier is the cutest, and perhaps the best of all dog species.’  Sensitive people trained to listen for the second comma (after ‘best’) find themselves quite stranded by that kind of thing.  They feel cheated and giddy.  In very bad cases, they fall over.”

“For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word “Book’s” with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated.  First there is shock.  Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger.  Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker.”

Image result for grammar "we need hyphens"“Yet there will always be a problem about getting rid of the hyphen:  if it’s not extra-marital sex (with a hyphen), it is perhaps extra marital sex, which is quite a different bunch of coconuts.  Phrases abound that cry out for hyphens.  Those much-invoked examples of the little used car, the superfluous hair remover, the pickled herring merchant, the slow moving traffic and the two hundred odd members of the Conservative Party would all be lost without it.”

“We have a language that is full of ambiguities; we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and elusive, poetic and modulated; all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places.  Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking.  If it goes, the degree of intellectual impoverishment we face is unimaginable.”

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

~ ~ ~

Now, from a review of a review of Truss’s book:

The New Yorker does not encourage letters of rejoinder, but Andrew Franklin, Truss’s editor at her publishers, Profile Books, is happy to answer back.  He is not to be outdone in witheringness by Louis Menand.  The problem is mostly the critic’s humourlessness. “If you have no sense of humour”, Franklin thinks, the success of Truss’s book will be a mystery to you.  Misunderstanding the purpose of her book, which is not a style guide but an entertaining “call to arms”, Menand has pedantically reached for a non-existent rule book. “I think he’s a tosser.  You’re welcome to use that,” Franklin remarked when I quizzed him for his views on Truss’s antagonist. “I’d never want to spend an evening in his company.” Rules in English “are more complicated and sophisticated” than he can dream of, he adds. Good writers can break the rules, provided they have learned them before they break them.

Why should it have so provoked one of the New Yorker’s leading writers?  “A twisted colon” is one of Franklin’s explanations, but he also has a weightier cultural analysis.  The attack is “deeply xenophobic”.  An American critic who is used to his readers having their eyes only on American culture has seen them reach for an idiosyncratic English book for a discussion of grammar.  So far the book has sold 800,00o copies in the US, about as many as it has sold in Britain.  For the arbiter of matters literary and linguistic in the New Yorker chair, it is, Franklin guesses, just too much.

– https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jul/02/referenceandlanguages.johnmullan


¹ Jim Woodroof’s inspiration is the subject of more than one post on this blog, including this one and this one.  For a generation of Harding students (before my time), at least, he was a legend.  You know how it gets annoying when someone just won’t let an opportunity pass without mentioning his favorite issue?  I decided at some point after having heard a couple of special lectures and having read a couple of his books, that he was the most perfect ample of a single-issue guy I had ever come across.  Here’s the thing:  the “issue,” for Jim Woodroof, was always Jesus.  He always focused attention on Jesus.

² “Land of the eternally living” was the late Cecil Hook’s description of his wife’s soul’s abode after her passing.  For more on Hook and his influence, see this post.

³ I am currently reading God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew T. Walker.  So far, I judge it to be fair-minded and helpful for Christians.

Three theological tidbits

One  I’ve come up short in terms of knowledge so often that it’s hardly worth mentioning.  It’s happened again, in the last couple of weeks, with respect to a theological teaching known as PSA.  Here, PSA is neither an oncologist’s measurement nor a mediaperson’s “public service announcement.”  Theologically, apparently PSA is Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  I didn’t even know anything had been labeled as such, and I’ve never before considered PSA’s pros and cons.  Essentially, I think most people who would call themselves Christians assume some degree of PSA, whereas discriminating, studied theologians have nuanced it and decided on at least a partial yea or nay.

I have only barely started thinking about this, and even a cursory search and scan immediately sends me spiraling suspiciously down a staircase of suppositions.  In other words, I get dizzy with the labels and can’t find my way to the elevator.

Did you know that the root word “atone” is not found in the entire New Testament in the RSV or NASB or NJB translations?  It does appears 4x in the NT in the NRSV, and there are dozens of instances in some English Bibles in the Old Testament (but only 4x in the OT in the Roman-Catholic NJB).  The words “propitiation” and “expiation” come into play here, too . . . but the exegete’s questions must be focused on original-language words such as “ἱλάσκομαι” | hilaskomai and what they mean in context in such passages as Hebrews 2:17.  How intriguing that the only other place hilaskomai is used is in Luke 18:13, and the aorist middle/passive form is not translated “atone” there in any of my English Bibles.  Related, cognate words such as ἱλαστήριον | hilasterion ought also to be considered (and this word is also rendered with multiple English words), but cognates won’t all necessarily refer to the same theological notion.  The questions keep coming. . . .  In pursuits like this one, we deal in concepts, not merely words, and we cannot blindly focus only on the concepts present in the receptor language (in my case, English).  Still, the absence and presence of “atone” or “atoning” in certain English Bibles intrigues me, perhaps betraying theological alignments or biases.  Another interesting “find” is that atonement appears ten times in three apocryphal books (Sirach and 2nd and 4th Maccabees) literature.  Could it be that the literature from inter-testamental period, as appropriated after Christ, influenced a new-covenant theology of atonement?  I really have to stop here for now.

Eventually, I ought to ponder and study more about atonement and PSA.  This notion is potentially highly significant, and its long legs extend into such areas as soteriology, eschatology, and congregational worship.  Theological matters do have ways of extending themselves.  They also have ways of making some of us yawn, recoil, or shrivel.  A friend once relayed to me the following quotes or near-quotes:

“Happy is the Christian who has never met a theologian.” – Vance Havner, an influential Southern Baptist evangelist

I was wandering around lost in a dark forest with only one little candle to light my way when a theologian came along and blew out my candle.  – French Renaissance essayist Francois Rabelais

I can laugh at those, but, in my mind, theology has a forbidding presence—one that I’m only sporadically interested in acknowledging.

Two  In the current Lexham Press catalog, I found a few titles I was interested in:

  1. Honoring the Son: Jesus in Earliest Christian Devotional Practice (Larry Hurtado’s forthcoming work on the worship of Christ in the early church)
  2. The Universal Story (Dru Johnson’s treatment of Genesis 1-11)
  3. The Bible Unfiltered (Michael Heiser’s angle on the supernatural worldview inherent in scripture)

So many titles, however, seem like mere theological meanderings:

  • The Apostles’ Creed:  A Guide to the Ancient Catechism 
  • 1) Christian Essentials and 2) Theological Institutes (two different titles, surely with two different lists/presentations)
  • Studies in Historical & Systematic Theology (series)
  • Introduction to Dogmatic Theology (most of it is, I’d say!)
  • The Theological Correspondence of John Frame
  • No Quick Fix (an exposé of Keswickian “higher life” theology)
  • An Exegetical Theology of 1-3 John

Even the last one’s blurb shows the book to be more connected to “systematic theology” than to 1-2-3 John.  When I do take time for theology, it’s with trepidation.  In a recent “church” visit, I was unwittingly put on notice that I could never belong there, because anyone who does not support X theological construct is clearly viewed as heretical.

Three  I do appreciate the following wise words on the theological bent, so I’ll leave you with them for today.  Don’t miss the final clause about the likely mingling of motivations.

Theology is a bit like a spider’s web, in the sense that cutting a single strand of a theological framework can drastically alter the shape of the whole.

A good theologian understands the web from many angles. They can identify the fundamental tenets of an intricate system. They can foresee the potential effects of disregarding those tenets in advance. They can perceive when an apparently obscure issue is being used as a proxy for the underlying disagreement — and when it is not actually an obscure issue at all. They can spot patterns, echoes, allusions, and possibilities.

This obviously requires clarity of thought — but it also demands empathy and a wide-ranging understanding of context, since personal motivations are so often mingled with doctrinal ones.

– Academic scholar Maddy Ward

Story and narrative

It’s an age-old problem—distinguishing between stories on the one hand and stories on the other.  (Yes, that’s what I meant to say.)  The problem is precisely that the word “story” can be used in more than one way!

“Let me tell you a story about the storied history of a three-story house.”

Do you think a story that begins that way would be just a story, or will it be history?  The plot might thicken, or it might not.

Children’s bedtime stories might include “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Curious George Goes to the Fair” and “Peter Rabbit” and “Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and Bible stories and something about pigs and pancakes.  How will a child learn to distinguish and interpret all this?  (Then there is the comparison between stories about Santa Claus and stories about Jesus, but that’s another story.  I worry about this off and on, but I don’t recall having trouble separating fact from fiction as I moved into preteen years, so I guess my son will be okay, too.)

As skeptics are quick to point out, not every element in a biblical story may be “true” as a 21st-century western mind conceives of “true.”  To be sure, some discrepancies and inconsistencies appear.  I think some of the difficulties may be traced to textual provenance and editing concerns—i.e., we don’t have the original text or even a 2nd-generation copy of it, so we can’t pinpoint how a new word or different spelling crept in.  Other incongruities indicate that ancient writers weren’t concerned with the accurate reporting of “fact” in the same way we are.  Yet the narratives in our Bibles were written to convey important truths, and they are largely structured around historical realities such as the Herodian dynasty, the 2nd/rebuilt temple, the Philistines, or ancient Egypt.

In interpreting narrative, it is both important and helpful to pay attention to the tools of the storytelling trade, such as . . .

  • the presentation and development of characters 
  • the pacing of a story—where it slows down and spends time, and where its gaps occur
  • the setting 

In the area of “setting,” I recommend this short video produced by The Bible Project

So in a flood, which would you read?

So.

Increasingly, the conjunction “so” seems to be used to launch a comment rather than to connect it to something that went before.  News reporters and interviewees seem often to start commentary with “So . . ,” and it sometimes strikes me as though the interviewer is little more than a necessary prelude, interrupting the interviewee’s presumably superior, ongoing observations.

Q:  “Kristi, what are you seeing there at Comdex?”
A:  “So it’s quite the melée this year.  People everywhere.”
Q:  “What is the best new technology you’ve seen?”
A:  “So this great new app by BlitZGen Creations filters out interviewers’ questions, allowing us more knowledgeable commentators to be heard uninterrupted during the livestream experience.  It’s, like, the coolest thing since the mute button.”

Yeah, yeah.  Whatever, Kristi.

So in the livestream of my life, I am unable to keep up with much.  I always seem to get plenty to eat, to my detriment, but parenting items and household tasks and Bible studies and music projects and other things seem to stay in piles in my head—and also in puddles in the corners of life.  Just when I’d completed a couple tasks, so that things looked better this week (life has a way of balancing out like this), a pipe burst, and we got water in our basement.  Since there is no drain, it took hours to mop and sop up an estimated 25-30 gallons, and we’re grateful for the help of a friend yesterday evening.  We will lose a few items like area rugs and maybe a laptop, but many people have had it much worse.  The actual costs involved will doubtless amount to less than our insurance deductible.  In other words, our monetary losses will not be absorbed (ha) by the insurance company.  The impact on us is probably more to time, morale, and strained backs and hands.  Ah, well.

So as thoughts flood into my mind, in an effort to think about something other than the mess and the work ahead, I read a bulletin about a conference on Linguistics and NT Greek.  Then I clicked on a link about a Discourse Analysis lecture and found it took me to a festschrift in honor of one of the lecturers.  So here are the contents of the book (which is lovingly and beneficently marketed by the Logos folks here):

  • “Discourse Analysis as an Aid to Bible Translation”
  • “Why Hasn’t Literary Stylistics Caught on in New Testament Studies?”
  • “Let Me Direct Your Attention: Attention Management and Translation”
  • “How Orality Affects the Use of Pragmatic Particles, and How It Is Relevant for Translation”
  • “Organization and Allusion in Ezekiel 20”
  • “Breaking Perfect Rules: The Traditional Understanding of the Greek Perfect”
  • “Greek Presents, Imperfects, and Aorists in the Synoptic Gospels: Their Contribution to Narrative Structuring”
  • “The Verbal Aspect of the Historical Present Indicative in Narrative”
  • “Particles and Participles: A Helpful Partnership”
  • “The Semantic Effect of Floating Quantifiers in New Testament Greek”
  • “The Discourse Function of ἀλλά in Non-Negative Contexts”
  • “Information Structure Issues in Copular εἶναι Clauses”
  • “Evaluating Luke’s Unnatural Greek: A Look at His Connectives”
  • “The Use of the Article Before Names of Places: Patterns of Use in the Book of Acts”

So which chapters catch your eye?  Which would you read, and why?  I don’t yet know enough about some of those things to satisfy myself . . .

For there is much to learn . . .

Yet I do not tend to learn what I want to learn. . . .

So I will put my own five choices in the comments, hoping a few readers will do the same.


This has been a blogpost brought to you by the alternative/nonstandard use of coordinating conjunctions (and maybe a couple of adverbs).