Archive for the 'Current Affairs' Category

This message brought to you by…

Last night I took my 3-year old son Jackson to the annual Christmas parade that goes through downtown Knoxville every year (my wife Amy couldn’t go–see our dropshots site for a picture of her broken left foot).  It’s fun to brave the cold and bundle up and see blue-lipped high school marching bands attempt the impossible task of keeping their intonation reasonable in freezing weather.  Boy, do I not miss that.  The parade always features floats of caroling cheerleaders and baton twirlers-in-training, local equestrian and kennel clubs, massive fire engines, and various local businesses and celebrities looking for free face-time. 

You get to sit next to total strangers and whine about the cold and clap and cheer with them for other total strangers who dare walk down the street to be gawked at for the benefit of the community.  It’s good fun, it creates a sense of communal belonging, and delivers loads of warm fuzzies to boot.

And then there are always the churches who put in a float.

I know the intentions are good, but I’ve never really gotten used to the juxtaposition of Bessie the Mayfield cow followed by a live nativity scene on a float pulled by a diesel dualie pickup.  I just hate seeing Jesus compete for attention in that context.  It feels, well, cheap.  Worse, it comes across as preachy:  here come the religious people to remind us that we’re not supposed to enjoy all this other stuff that much. 

What if a church marched in the parade handing out candy, simply blessing the crowd in the name of Jesus rather than in the name of their congregation?  Or better yet, what if they marched behind the crowd handing out free (and high quality) hot cocoa or Starbucks?

Maybe it’s less a sign of the secularization of the holiday than the secularization of Byron, but that’s another post altogether.

What I really wanted to post about was the start of the parade.  First up was Knoxville’s finest on motorcycles with flashing lights and even two mounted policemen (did anyone know Knoxville has mounties?), followed by Mayor Haslam.  So far, so good. 

But then comes the lead float in the parade, and it’s put together by a local Baptist church.  I couldn’t take the picture with my camera (because my mouth was gaping open and my chin was in the way), but luckily my buddy Michael Patrick with the News-Sentinel caught the moment (you’ll want to click on the thumbnail and look at the full-size version):


You’ve got your bald eagle leading the float followed by 3 military guys surrounding an artillery piece.  Overlooking the float is…

Jesus Christ.  The Prince of Peace.  Let it sink in.

And not the baby-in-the-manger version, but the risen victor-King Jesus with crown and purple robe and the U.S. military as his vanguard.  Suddenly, I have new respect and understanding for Muslims who forbid the depiction of the Prophet.  Suddenly, I wish I had a rotten vegetable to throw at the driver of the dualie.

I appreciate and presume that the intent of the float is to 1) honor those serving in our nation’s military and 2) honor Christ.  Regardless of how anyone feels about this or any war, these are both worthy endeavors.  But you can’t do both on the same platform without delivering a more powerful third message, e.g., "Jesus endorses the U.S. military," or "the U.S. military serves the Kingdom of Christ, or worse, "we’ve come to take over your country and kill your men and yes, Jesus is on our side."

You’d like to think that churches would be more sophisticated communicators, especially those churches (like Baptists) that see their mission as primarily being the spreading of a message.  Did nobody step back and say, "Whoa!  Look at what we’re saying here!  Is this how we want to present Christ to our neighbors?"

Churches and organizations need to get this message loud and clear:  what you intend to communicate doesn’t matter.  What matters is what you actually communicate.  You don’t get points for good intentions.  Think twice before you let other issues or symbols share the stage with the gospel. 

Continue reading ‘This message brought to you by…’


The Fine Art of Not Apologizing

What John Kerry said:

“Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard and do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq."

Botched joke or not, it’s a bad one.

The "apology:"

“I sincerely regret that my words were misinterpreted to wrongly imply anything negative about those in uniform, and I personally apologize to any service member, family member, or American who was offended.”

Which just begs for this joke:

English:  if you make the most of it, you study hard and do your homework and you make an effort to have a good vocabulary, you can get credit for apologizing when you didn’t. If you don’t, you get to be stupid and taken advantage of by people like John Kerry.

John regrets (albiet sincerely) that he was misinterpreted?  He’s saying, "I’m sorry that you guys are jerks and can’t take a joke."  Is the sincerity of the regret enough to distract from the fact that he doesn’t actually regret and take responsibility for what he said?

It is so hard to stand up and say, "I was wrong."  Really.  It’s especially hard in the political arena (civic or ecclesiastical) where appearances are everything.  But that’s the price we pay for insisting on having perfect people in leadership over us instead of real people in leadership over us.

I love this pic from the troops who can take a joke and give it right back (click on the image to read the banner text):


Maybe we should all go to remedial apology class? 

Ok class, here is the format for apologizing: 

  1. ‘I am sorry that I [insert personal action that you committed].’  Make sure you don’t forget the period, and take care to not insert explanatory filler before the period. 
  2. After the period, look the person in the face and see if will be a response or a request for more information.
  3. If your apology is accepted, say "Thank you."  If not, say, "I understand.  How can I make this right?"

Class dismissed.

Continue reading ‘The Fine Art of Not Apologizing’

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