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September 07, 2007

Gone, But Not Forgotten

They say that bad things come in threes (though I'm not sure who 'they' are, or how they got so smart). This week seems to have supported this idea, anyway, in the deaths of three people whose lives touched thousands.

D. James Kennedy was a man I watched on TV before I really knew what the difference was between a Presbyterian and a Baptist. He was religious right when religious right wasn't cool, but was willing to let others take the spotlight. He was a pastor, first and foremost, and his people knew and appreciated it. His influence will be felt for generations.

Luciano Pavarotti. Opera was always more my wife's thing (and she prefers Carreras), but even I knew Pavarotti. Of course, he ruined an excellent performance of Turandot for me several years ago, simply because the tenor (who was magnificent) wasn't Pavarotti. He was the only opera many people will ever know -- which is kinda like saying that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is the only Russian novelist that many people will know. It's OK, because they know the best.

And today, we hear about the death of Madeline L'Engle. And everyone is talking about A Wrinkle in Time, forgetting A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time, the further adventures of Charles Wallace and Meg and their family. Interconnectedness is the key, and you don't get the whole story just by reading the first book. Dig deeper, and you'll mine gold.

Three lives that made an impact. Three people who left their mark, and will be missed.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 08:15 PM | Comments (608) | TrackBack

September 09, 2007

Out Of The Mouths of Toons ...

FIRST -- go read Frazz. Now contemplate how much Frazz looks like Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes). Now it's time to discuss:

"If we pay teachers more, would we get better teachers?"

On the one hand, I know of a lot of people who should be teaching, who could teach and do it well. Some of them homeschool their kids, and their kids are pretty intelligent. So I know that they could teach, IF they decided to.

But they don't. They're in private industry making six-figure salaries. They live in upper-middle-class communities, join country clubs, and drive nice cars. They support their local churches. Some teach Sunday School.

If your choice is getting your masters to take a job making $35,000 or taking one making $100,000, it's not a tough choice to make. $65,000 a year isn't worth giving up to get summers "off" (and ask teachers how much of their summers off are taken up by school so they can keep their license). And yes, most states are now requiring teachers to get their masters degrees to keep their licenses (Ohio is one of those states). So teachers have to have an advanced degree to make $35,000 a year. Is it worth it financially? Not for most people.

So who is taking the $35K job? A couple different groups of people -- one is the people who can't do the $100K jobs. The people who aren't qualified. The old adage "Those who can, do. Those who can't do, teach" is often quite true. So we're not getting the best teachers for the money.

On the other hand, there is another group of people who go into teaching. The people who want to make a difference in kids' lives. The people who want to train the next generation. These people would do it no matter how much they get paid -- and they do. They enjoy it. These are the teachers that kids remember years later. And their students go on to great things because of their influence and dedication.

I know teachers who fit both descriptions, and some who fit neither. I've read memos sent out by English teachers that didn't survive my own proofreading (and yes, I used a red pen on them!). I've talked to history teachers who were only in it so they could coach. I've also talked to teachers who could have been doing anything else, but they stay in the classroom year after year, because they care.

We're requiring more and more from our teachers -- more education, more accountability, more time. Shouldn't we be giving them more? Shouldn't we reward the teachers who could be doing something else, but aren't? We spend boatloads of money on just about everything else -- why aren't we willing to invest in our kids' future by paying their teachers enough to make it worth their time? Education is broken, it's true. Why are we expecting people who are making just above minimum wage to fix it?

Posted by Warren Kelly at 03:04 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 15, 2007


Just a quick note to let everyone know that The Holy Observer is back. Put on your satire glasses, read, and enjoy.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 05:04 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 17, 2007

McCain: Oh, By The Way ...

John McCain has decided to let everyone know that he's a Baptist. Of course, he didn't do that in Iowa, or New Hampshire, or California. He did it in South Carolina. Only place there's more Baptists around than in the Carolinas is in Texas (and that's just because it's bigger, and there's more room for us there).

Needless to say, I was skeptical. McCain has been calling himself Episcopalian for a little while now, and that's a LONG way from Baptist (at least the Baptists I hang out with). All of a sudden, with his campaign in jeopardy, he's Baptist.

But then I started thinking -- who am I to judge. And the church he's been attending looks like it's got it together. They even podcast!

But to McCain, denominational label isn't important.

In May, McCain's campaign identified his religion to The Associated Press as Episcopalian, but noted his four younger children are Baptists and he attends the North Phoenix Baptist Church when at home.

McCain grew up Episcopalian and attended an Episcopal high school in Alexandria, Va. On Monday, he spoke briefly about that history and about the Baptist church he now attends. Then, after saying his overall faith is what's important, he concluded: "I don't have anything else to say about that issue."

from the Associated Press article
McCain also finds the Baptist church he's attending "more fulfilling" than the Episcopal church.

So is this an attempt to gain some street cred among evangelical voters? Maybe -- though for many he blew that when he went to Liberty University to speak (of couse, some of us thought Jerry was nuts to invite him in the first place -- evangelicals have long memories, after all). Personally, I think it's his way of addressing the religion issue without making it a huge issue.

And I think he did a pretty good job.

{Edit}: Here's a new wrinkle on the situation -- McCain has had his kids baptized in the Baptist church, but hasn't done it himself. “I didn’t find it necessary to do so for my spiritual needs,” he said. But he affirms that he's a Baptist. So NOW the whole baptism/church membership thing that the Christian blogosphere has been arguing and debating about (at least my own little neighborhood of it has) is now front page news, thanks to John McCain. Can you be a Baptist and not been baptized as a believer? See my comments on the piece at GetReligion.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 03:33 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

In Memorium: Robert Jordan

Fantasy fans know the name -- the man who brought epic-scale fantasy back to life, many would say. The man who wrote the Wheel of Time series -- a series that now, unfortunately, may never be finished.

I started the series, but got bogged down in a few of the books in the middle of the series and never picked it back up. Jordan writes a lot like I tend to write -- detail after detail, creating a world and then wanting people to describe it. He did it better than I can ever hope to (which is why I tend to stick to non-fiction, for now anyway).

I wasn't going to mention his passing here -- though his life is certainly worth celebrating and remembering, I figured that many people reading (if I still have readers, as long as this blog has been dormant!) wouldn't know him. But reading the announcement on his blog page, I read this

Never, never loose faith. RJ did not. Harriet hasn’t. I haven’t. Going through what we have, our faith is only strengthened. Besides, if God didn’t exist, we would have never had Jim. We did. God does. Remember my Brother/Cousin, my friend, think of him fondly and glorify God’s name.

I know nothing of Jordan's spirituality, but this statement resonates with me. When death strikes close to us, we need to remember the departed, mourn their loss, grieve -- certainly all of that. But we are also to glorify God, for the life He gave to them, for the way they lived that life, and for what they shared with us while they were here. And anticipate that great reunion, when we shall never be separated from them again.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 05:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 19, 2007

Outside the Box

I've mentioned before that I was originally a marketing major, and there's still a lot of the marketing geek in me. I love watching commercials (sometimes more than the shows they're advertising on), and my family will tell you I have an annoying habit of coming up with spontaneous slogans for the little Mom and Pop businesses we pass when we're traveling. It's in me, even though my calling is different now.

One of the slogans I used to live by is "think outside the box." Marketers live and die by their ability to innovate, and that box can kill a career in no time if you let it. So I have always taken pride in my ability to think outside that darn box.

But Joe Thorn makes a great point.

There is a danger in the allure to think outside of the box, especially when it comes to new churches and dying churches. It sounds promising, exciting, and new, but for many “thinking outside of the box” simply boils down to trying something we’ve never tried before. This often means we imitate the ministries of other churches, like Mars Hill, Harvest, Sojourn, Saddleback, or FBC of Whatevertown. We see successful churches doing great things, and in our desire to see God do something great among us we simply copy another ministry. So, while we wind up thinking outside of the box of our own operation (a potentially good thing), we may wind up thinking well outside of the box of our cultural context (a bad thing).
I've seen it happen in churches. Attendance is down, or the 'young people' aren't coming anymore, or the new church up the road is attracting some of our people, and so we start trying to "innovate," which usually means copying someone else's great idea. We forget that what works in California won't always work in Kentucky, or Pennsylvania, or Ohio. The people are different, the culture is different. I can tell you that what works for a church two blocks from my house won't work in a church ten miles away, because the people are different. Different ages, different economic level, different education.

But we also have to be careful to define what box we're thinking outside of. Orthodoxy is, after all, a box. It defines the boundaries of what Christianity is, what the "faith once delivered" consists of. The (dare I use the word?) >fundamentals of the faith. If we start thinking outside that box, we wander into territory that we're not meant to be in. We end up wandering far from the faith, and sometimes we can't find our way back. And we lead whole congregations astray -- people who depend on us to show them what's right, and true. Thinking outside that box can be fatal, and can lead people away from Christ.

So I still like to think outside some boxed. But I'm learning just how important, how valuable, some boxes can really be.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 08:12 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 24, 2007

Invite Him AGAIN!!!

So everyone has been up in arms about Columbia University inviting the idiot from Iran to speak. Now, the idiot from Iran is getting ripped apart by the person "introducing" him (the video is on CNN.com right now).

I'm really enjoying this one. Let's hear it for free speech!

Posted by Warren Kelly at 01:02 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 26, 2007

We Have NO Sense of Humor

I am lamenting the passing of a wonderfully funny blog, the Secret Diary of D. A. Carson. This was a blog that, much in the same vein as the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, poked a bit of fun at evangelical Christianity in general, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in particular. The creators of the site came under fire from the administration at TEDS, and have decided to stop blogging ... for now.

...here's to the administration at TEDS. Hey, admin people, you know how at the end of every Friday the 13th movie they always think they've killed Jason off for the last time? Just checking...
One thing that's pretty obvious in reading the blog -- nobody could possibly think that this was actually D. A. Carson. It's clear that the thing's parody, and it would have slipped under a LOT of people's radars if the folks at TEDS had simply ignored it. But they didn't.

And before we slam the TEDS admin for that, we better remember that the rest of us aren't much better. People would have missed The Last Temptation of Christ movie if we hadn't gotten mad about it, way back when. People would have missed Kathy "What can I say this week to make people remember who I am?" Griffin and her intentionally vulgar and insulting comment if we'd just left her alone. She's a comedian, for crying out loud -- and not a very good one at that. A D-list actor who won a D-list award (a "Creative Arts" Emmy -- for people we've never heard of who do shows nobody watches). She's trying to get attention, and she got it. I'm sure she's really appreciative of all of us.

When people say things that offend us, remember that they did worse to Jesus. And when people make fun of us, remember that there's plenty to make fun of. Unless, of course, you're perfect.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 03:54 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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We Have NO Sense of Humor
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