Previous month:
April 2011
Next month:
June 2011

A father's confession: 5-31-11

What do all the great religions tell us about children?

Bad-Dad To love them. Care for them. Keep them safe. Help them become trustworthy adults. As Jesus himself said, let the kids hang around me for the kingdom of God is made up of these sweet young hearts. (That was a paraphrase.)

Which is one of the reasons child abuse -- particularly sexual abuse -- is so appalling to us.

Today I want to introduce you to a book by a good friend of mine -- David Lieber, a man who loves his children and understands his responsibilities as a father.

But who made on quick, obvious and serious mistake. His 11-year-old son was being a pest and it finally drove Dave to distraction. So to teach his son Austin a lesson, Dave got in his car and drove away from the McDonald's where they had eaten breakfast together -- drove away without Austin.

A few blocks and a few minutes away, Dave came to his senses and returned to get Austin. But by then someone who had witnessed father and son spatting and witnessed Dave leaving had called the police. Oh, my.

In Bad Dad, Dave tells the story of what happened, including the column he wrote about the incident for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where he's been a columnist for years. He sets this engaging tale in the context of his column-writing work and some of the people and events he had previously covered in the suburb where the incident took place.

Was he eventually arrested? Yes. Did child protective authorities come to investigate? Yes. Did the 2008 matter become a hot news story around the country? You bet.

Dave, whom I know through our service together for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, tells it all in this book. In the end, it's another reminder of our responsibilities as parents to love and care for the God-given gifts of children -- no matter how annoying they can be sometimes.

* * *


The History Channel has asked reality TV producer Mark Burnett and his actress wife Roma Downey to do a series on the Bible to air in 2013. Best with withhold judgment until then, but I hope it won't seem like a cross between "Moses Calls 9-1-1 to Extinguish the Burning Bush" and "Wanted: Public Defender for Jesus of Nazareth."

Negotiating our pluralism: 5-30-11

Even Memorial Day finds Americans fighting over religion and its practices.

Interfaith Late last week, for instance, as the result of a court battle, a pastor on Houston was told that -- despite earlier instructions to the contrary -- he'd be able to mention Jesus Christ in a prayer today at a public event in Houston National Cemetery.

I loved the judge's smackdown of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which had reviewed the proposed prayer and ordered the pastor to remove any reference to Jesus:

"The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat's notion of cultural homogeneity."

As the Houston Chronicle reported, the pastor had actually done a good, sensitive job of recognizing that people hearing the prayer might include non-Christians:

Rainey's prayer, less than a page long, includes the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and closes with one reference to Jesus: "While respecting people of every faith today, it is in the name of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that I pray. Amen."

If I'm asked to pray in similar situations, I usually end this way: "We pray in all the names by which we know you." Sometimes I'll say, "I pray in Christ's name but we pray in all the names by which we know you."

Getting to fight about this religious stuff is one more blessing of being an American. Good for us. That's partly why the people we remember today died.

* * *


I've been reading a new book (I'll write about it here later) in which the author is critical of Pope Benedict XVI for, among other things, not speaking much about his youth in Nazi Germany and what he did then. Then, just a day or two ago, B-16 mentioned exactly that period in a meeting with German Catholics. I hope everyone who lived through World War II will leave a record of their deeds and memories to help the world remember what happened and how to avoid repeating it.

* * *



On Being: A Scientist's Exploration of the Great Questions of Existence, by Peter Atkins. You may wonder why, on a blog about faith, I would introduce you to a book by one of the more aggressive atheists now writing. Good question. One answer is to point out again how such atheists -- Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others -- so often misunderstand what they're criticizing. That's what Atkins does in this nonetheless intriguing, small book. (Which, by the way, is engagingly written and full of proper disclaimers about what science so far can prove.) For instance, quite early in this book, Atkins -- properly famous as a chemist and writer about chemistry -- dismisses the creation stories that religions tell. In fact, he says that "science has made more progress with elucidating the early moments, if not the inception, of the universe in the past 300 years than religion has made in the last 3,000." Do you see the problem? Religion's creation stories -- especially those in the Bible -- are not meant to explain much of anything about how the world got started. Rather, they are meant to tell us about the nature and character of God and about humanity's relationship to the divine. Now, that doesn't mean that people of faith haven't misused these stories as scientific accounts. Indeed, they have. And thereby they have caused all manner of problems. But in truth the Bible is not meant to be a scientific or historical textbook. It is meant, as I say, as a window through which to catch at least a glimpse of the divine and divine purposes. I hope Atkins is right that science will continue to dig into the mysteries of creation and tell us all it can about the origins of the cosmos and the origins of human life. People who understand what faith is really about should not be troubled with what science can prove, though we might be a bit troubled by the arrogance of some of the scientists, including Atkins, who speaks in rashly military terms in this book about "conquering the unknown." Atkins, by the way, has said elsewhere that religion is "completely empty of any explanatory content" and even "evil." So you know where he stands when he writes about our "being." I want him and other scientists to succeed in unraveling mysteries of our world. But spare me from attacks on straw men.

Changing sexual attitudes: 5-28/29-11

The American culture is moving -- too slowly, but moving nonetheless -- toward a more enlightened attitude about homosexuality, and religious people are playing a role in that.

Homosexuality A new survey from the Pew Research Center indicates that a majority of Americans, 58 percent, now say homosexuality should be accepted by society.

You can look at the breakdown on responses for yourself, but I hope you'll notice the responses from various segments of the faith community, summarized in this paragraph:

Among religious groups, substantial majorities of the religiously unaffiliated (79%), white Catholics (66%) and white mainline Protestants (65%) say that homosexuality should be accepted. However, just 29% of white evangelical Protestants agree, while more than twice as many (63%) say homosexuality should be discouraged by society.

I find it encouraging that nearly one-third of "white evangelical Protestants" have come around to a more liberated view on this matter, and I suspect that will continue to grow. However, growth will be slow as long as churches in that category continue to adopt a literalistic way of reading scripture. (For my own essay on what the Bible really says about homosexuality, look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.)

The thing I find so satisfying about the total results here is that many segments of the religious groups in our country are ahead of the general population on this issue.

I know this will continue to be a divisive matter within faith communities, including my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), which has just changed its constitution to allow ordination of otherwise-qualified gays and lesbians. But the tide is turning and at some point years from now people in congregations will ask why we were even fighting about this.

* * *


My friends at The National Catholic Reporter, for which I write a biweekly column, are in mourning over the death of their publisher, Joe Feuerherd, of cancer at age 48. Joe was a wonderful journalist who understood the importance of covering religion fairly, thoroughly and with an independent voice. I invite your prayers for his family as well as the staff of NCR.

* * *


Speaking Christian

Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power -- And How They Can Be Restored, by Marcus J. Borg. Of all the people who have been or are part of the Jesus Seminar, Marcus Borg, at least for me, makes the most sense. He's insightful and reasonable and not ideologically driven. That certainly has not been true of all Jesus Seminar scholars, some of whom seemed determined not to reform or educate Christians but to do away with Christianity itself or turn it into something it has never been. In this new book -- which goes remarkably well with Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity -- Borg seeks to help adherents understand what many of the words Christians use today rather thoughtlessly meant in their original scriptural context, and how different -- sometimes radically so -- those earlier meanings are compared with what the words have come to mean in the last couple of hundred years in the hands of biblical literalists. "Biblical and Christian language is rich," Borg writes. "It needs to be redeemed from its cultural captivity to literalism. When understood literally and absolutely, it becomes incredible." Because that is true, many people have walked away from the church, unable to accept a literal Adam and Eve, a world created just a few thousand years ago, a man living in a fish for three days and on and on. Borg takes on the big words in Christianity, from salvation to righteousness to heaven. And he helps readers see interesting and helpful alternative (Borg would argue original) understandings of those words and how their meanings have been misshaped in more recent years to serve fundamentalist or literalistic agendas. What Borg terms a "heaven-and-hell framework" is not unlike a similar model of the faith and its development that McLaren argues has led many Christians astray. And both authors seem quite in harmony with the idea of Phyllis Tickle in her book The Great Emergence, which is that every 500 years or so Christianity has a garage sale and tosses out badly articulated ideas in favor of a reformed view of things -- and we're in the midst of another of those periodic upheavals now. Borg's main targets of criticism here are ideas promoted mostly by Christians who would identify themselves as evangelical or conservative. But his insights should help Christians of all varities rethink what they mean by important words and, thus, give their faith a needed new perspective.

* * *

P.S.: You're almost out of time to sign up for my July 4-10 writing class at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, "Restless Hearts: Writing Our Way Toward Home." Look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page or just go to: It will be a week that may transform our lives. But if you don't sign up by June 3, it's almost certain you'll be too late.

Revisiting Eichmann's trial: 5-27-11

For many of us who paid attention when the trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann (pictured below, right) in Jerusalem was happening, it's something of a shock to recognize that 50 years have passed.

Eichmann So the question is: Why revisit that 1961 trial, made famous by Hannah Arendt's controversial book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil?

After all, by now anyone with even passing familiarity of the Holocaust knows that Eichmann, though not the architect or even primary actor in that genocide, was guilty of massive crimes. We know that a fascinating trial in Israel found him guilty and sentenced him to death. We know that wilfully blind and ideologically driven Holocaust deniers continue to suggest that all of this was a fabrication.

And we know, above all, that Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe nearly succeeded, wiping out about six million, or about two-thirds of that population. Without Eichmann the figures might have been substantially lower.

A-eichmann Well, there are several answers to the why question, beyond the 50th anniversary. One is that over the years Arendt's account of the trial has been the lens through which most people have understood what happened. But as Deborah E. Lipstadt reports in her compelling and important new book, The Eichmann Trial, Arendt got some of it wrong and, in the end, distorted our understanding of the trial because after publication of her reports in The New Yorker magazine and later in her book, the discussion focused not so much on the trial and its meaning as on Arendt herself.

What Lipstadt has sought to do here is to de-Arendtize the trial. Toward the back of this book, Lipstadt offers what seems like a balanced assessment of what Arendt got right and what she fouled up, and that's a helpful perspective, even if even Lipstadt's conclusions are likely to draw their own controversy.

There is much to appreciate about Lipstadt's relatively brief account of the trial. She knows what to highlight and how to help us understand its meaning.

At the same time, that very brevity (203 pages) leads to a few problems of its own. Just past the halfway mark in the book, for instance, she makes a point about Eichmann being oblivious to the fact that he was making a particular point "before a court composed of Jews, whom the New Testament held accountable for Jesus' fate."

That last phrase may have been how many Christians across history misunderstood things (for my essay on anti-Judaism in Christian history, look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page), but Lipstadt's description is far too simplistic to be allowed to stand unchallenged. Lipstadt should have spent at least a few additional sentences acknowledging that there are many complexities and nuances to her statement, even if she didn't want to take up space teasing them out. (Others have written whole books on the subject.)

By contrast, on the very next page she gets something exactly right when she reports this: "Without the legacy of contempt nurtured by the church, the Final Solution would never have been realized." Later in the book she adds to that insight in several helpful ways, at one point writing this: "Eichmann and his cohorts did not randomly go from being ordinary men to being murderers. They traversed a path paved by centuries of pervasive anti-Semitism."

I would argue (and do in my essay to which I pointed you earlier here) that there were centuries of anti-Judaism (which was theological in nature), and then decade after decade of modern antisemitism (which is racial and ethnic in nature, not theological). But in any case the point is that the Holocaust is simply inconceivable without modern antisemitism, and modern antisemitism is inconceivable without century after century of anti-Jewish teaching from Christianity.

In many ways -- but not all -- the Eichmann trial was a game-changer. Lipstadt has done all of us a service by recreating the trial and its effects for a new generation -- a generation that, like those before it, is quite capable of the kind of evil Eichmann and the Final Solution represent.

Three postscripts:

* As co-author of They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust, I was gratified to find Lipstadt pointing in her new book to the remarkable model of those rare Europeans who did what they could to oppose Nazi Germany's goals, especially by helping to save Jews.

* Lipstadt's book goes well with another excellent new Holocaust-related book, The End of the Holocaust, by Alvin Rosenfeld, which I reviewed here.

* Deborah Lipstadt will be in Kansas City on June 29 to speak about her book at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Library. For details, click here.

* * *


There's one more apparent victim of the recent (and continuing) end-of-the-world bunk. A Florida man drowned in California as he tried to swim across a lake to get to God, and authorities believe he was motivated by talk of the rapture. Biblical literalism -- and its inevitable attendant misinterpretations -- is not only theologically misguided, it also can be fatal.

* * *

P.S.: You're almost out of time to sign up for my July 4-10 writing class at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, "Restless Hearts: Writing Our Way Toward Home." Look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page or just go to: It will be a week that may transform our lives. But if you don't sign up by June 3, it's almost certain you'll be too late.

An old anti-Catholic law: 5-26-11


Yes, of course we still have various kinds of religious prejudice around today that results in despicable behavior of various sorts.

But today let's drop back exactly 347 years and take a look at the virulent anti-Catholic law passed that day in Massachusetts.

It forbid any Roman Catholic priest from entering territory under Puritan jurisdiction -- on penalty of death. Well, there was a bit of leniency. First-time offenders were simply banished. Do it again, however, and you'd be executed.

Lordy, lordy.

The Web site to which I've linked you above offers this explanation:

While the Puritans were inhospitable to anyone who did not share their religious views, they were particularly hostile to Roman Catholics. Puritans had originally separated from the Church of England because they believed it had not cleansed itself fully of "corrupt" Catholic practices. They "purified" worship by eliminating rites, rituals, and outward signs of religion such as crucifixes, holy water, statues, priestly vestments, and stained glass. They also rejected church hierarchy and abolished the priesthood. To them, the Pope was the "Antichrist," and the "Papists" who followed him were in league with the devil.

Now, you can find anti-Catholic prejudice (to say nothing of Islamophobia and other anti-faith feelings) today, to be sure, but thank goodness things have toned down some from those deadly early days on our continent.

Sometimes when we get discouraged about the human tendency to separate and denounce, it helps to see that in a few areas we've made at least a bit of progress.

* * *


Is peace in the Middle East possible? Or are we in for more decades of fruitless violence? Tom Friedman of The New York Times gets it right, I think, when he suggests it's time for some Egypt-like surprises from both the Palestinians and the Israelis. How sad it will be if followers of the three great Abrahamic religions show they cannot find a way to live as neighbors in harmony.

* * *

P.S.: You're almost out of time to sign up for my July 4-10 writing class at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, "Restless Hearts: Writing Our Way Toward Home." Look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page or just go to: It will be a week that may transform our lives. But if you don't sign up by June 3, it's almost certain you'll be too late.

When compassion runs amok: 5-25-11

What is the message of nearly every religion? Play nice. Be kind. The Golden Rule of treating others the way you'd want to be treated. Compassion. Love. Forgiveness. Altruism.

Cold blooded kindness But maybe, just maybe, there can be too much of a good thing. Maybe our wanting to help can do just the opposite. Maybe altruism can become compulsive, destructive, pathological.

That's what you'll inevitably wind up thinking about if you read Cold-Blooded Kindness by Barbara Oakley. Indeed, it's what we should think about so we can see the wounded and needy world in a more nuanced and, thus, helpful way. Life, after all, ain't simple.

In this fascinating book, Oakley tells us the story of Carole Alden, who shot and killed her husband in a trailer in Utah a few years ago. At first -- to Oakley and to many others -- it seemed like an obvious case of Battered Woman Syndrome in which the wife finally has enough and does away with her abuser.

And for sure there are many truly battered women, legitimate victims of domestic violence, in our society.

But we do society and ourselves a disservice if we don't look deeper to see what else might be going on. That's what Oakley has done. And what she has found is a profoundly disturbing case of a woman whose instincts to draw the wounded and needy to her side wind up with terrible -- and even fatal -- unintended consequences.

But this book is more than just a murder story with a counterintuitive moral. It is also a look at some of the scientific and academic studies that investigate domestic violence, psychological disorders and more. This information, weighted toward neuroscience, helps to illuminate the characters and events in the murder story.

One reason this book contains that mix is that while Oakley was writing it, she also was editing a forthcoming book from Oxford University Press called Pathological Altruism. Due out later this year (I have a review copy but have had a chance just to skim it so far), that book will explore in a more academic, scholarly way the dangers of empathic overload.

As religious leaders speak about and promote such concepts as sacrificial giving, unconditional love, prodigal compassion, it might be helpful if they also would consider motive, psychiatric/mental imbalances and other conditions shaping those worthy goals -- but conditions that can cause more damage than they heal.

Maybe love is all we need. But when it comes without any sense of discernment the consequences can be fatal.

* * *


I don't get it. Now Harold Camping, latest of the never-ever-ever-right date-setters, has changed his end-of-the-world prediction from May 21 to Oct. 21. Why didn't he pick Oct. 23? After all, that's the date in 4004 BCE on which the world was created (at 9 a.m. Greenwich time), according to Archbishop James Ussher. What's Camping got against symmetry? Just to cover his behind, however, Camping did say that Judgment Day really did happen last Saturday, only in a spiritual -- not a physical -- sense. Yes, and I emptied the kitchen wastebasket in a spiritual -- not a physical -- sense, which is why it still appears to be full.

Reliving seminary history: 5-24-11

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Since the time I worked here on the now-defunct afternoon Gannett newspaper in the late 1960s, I've had a special place in my heart for what then was known simply as Colgate Rochester Divinity School but what today is Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

CRCDS-1 Not only did I take a few lay theology courses (usually one- or two-event seminars) but I also covered the story of the March 1969 occupation of the seminary's administration building by its African-American ministry students.

Students in various educational institutes back then were taking over administration buildings in protest of this or that. But it was a little different at Colgate Rochester. As the school's president explained to me after the occupation ended, he felt as if he were dealing not so much with students as with colleagues.

Toward the end of the occupation, I talked protesting students into letting me go inside the building they controlled so I could speak with them directly and report on what was happening in there. (Besides a bit of a mess from living there, nothing was damaged.)

Later, I sat down with the president and did a long Q&A for the newspaper so he could have a chance to explain things from his perspective.

Because all this happened in pre-Internet days, I wondered what kind of records might be online that reflected the occupation. All I could find was contained in the personal papers donated to the University of Rochester Library by Minister Franklin D.R. Florence, Rochester's top civil rights activist of the time, a man about whom I regularly wrote in my job of covering what we referred to as the race and poverty beat.

CRCDS-2 If you scroll down in the Florence link I've given you in the previous paragraph you eventually find that his papers include clips from the local newspapers about the Colgate Rochester incident, and several of those clips contain my byline.

It's intriguing to me, in light of having covered the protest by black students about their treatment at the seminary and who holds power there that the very year I left Rochester and came to Kansas City, the seminary alma mater of Martin Luther King Jr., Crozer Seminary, moved to Rochester to become part of Colgate Rochester. For synopsis of the Colgate Rochester history, click here.

Well, it was good to be back on campus, if only briefly, and to wander freely through the administration building I once had to talk my way into. I didn't come to Rochester to visit Colgate Rochester but to see extended family. But while I was there I attended the Lilac Festival in Highland Park, right next to campus and, indeed, paid the school $5 to park on campus. Just paying my dues, I guess, along with my respects.

* * *


The good news in our congregation on Sunday was that the parents of our pastor's wife survived the Joplin tornado without injury. The bad news was that dozens and dozens of others did not. And those who survived but lost their homes or businesses need our help. Click here for a piece about ways you can lend a hand.

How certitude misguides us: 5-23-11

Those of you who regularly read me know that I have precious little patience for people who exhibit what I would calls false certitude. That is, the attitude that even -- or maybe especially -- in spiritual matters, they have everything 100 percent figured out.

Certitude They know the mind of God at all times.

They know exactly how the world got created -- sometimes down to the hour and date.

They know who is dead wrong about things. Especially this one.

It turns out that at least some aspects of this sense of certitude are explainable scientifically. I'm reading an intriguing new book (which I'll write more about later) called Cold-Blooded Kindness, by Barbara Oakley. In it she asks, "how and why do we feel that ineffable feeling we know as certainty?"

Here's part of her answer:

"As it turns out, hidden from our active consciousness are underlying neural calculators -- a 'hidden layer' -- that help us grapple with the reality that surrounds us. You might think of this hidden layer as a little like the chip that underlies a computer's computations. You may not know anything about the machine code and assembly language that underlies a computer figuring out the squareroot of 289. But you can apprehend the result -- 17.

"As a consequence of the computations of your hidden layer, you can look at a face and instantly feel a sense of certainty about whether or not you've seen it before. . .But notice that the feeling of certainty we get -- the feeling of I know that face! -- is outside our conscious control. Like it or not, certainty is a feeling -- and emotion -- not a rational conclusion. That feeling can lead you astray. . ."

Oh, indeed it can lead us astray. Think of all the bin Laden-like radicals it has led astray. More to the point, think of the ways it has led both you and me astray. That's the hard part to do. But we must do it. I'm certain of it.

* * *


Speaking of misguided certitude, perhaps you think that we're now done with doomsday predictions after the world didn't end on Saturday. No, no. We'll always have the date-setters with us. So for some help in how to talk about all this nonsense, click here. But I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't waste my time talking about it with me.

Nature's rational randomness: 5-21/22-11

-- I'm standing on a wet walkway just above the Canadian water falls here and thinking of the wisdom of the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes:

All the rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.

It has begun to rain here, which in some sense means that the water that has evaporated from the falls and the river that serves it has formed clouds, the -- or at least one -- place from which the rivers come. The cycle goes on and on and watching the power of the water racing to the cliff and then free-falling is simply breath-taking.

There is both a wildness to nature and a rationality. There are rules, to be sure: Water evaporates, collects, falls as rain, flushes through rivers. And yet within that rationality there is a sense of randomness, of chance.

It's as if God has set free the world, but not so free as to disobey nature's rules -- at least not without consequences. The rules, however, allow for a great deal of self-expression. That's because the rules are meant to preserve nature, not to dictate to it. And that, in many ways, is how I see God's relationship with humanity and with the whole creation.

Love is not love that coerces. Love sets free. But the paradox is that we can enjoy this freedom most fully only if we understand the rules for living in wholesomeness and submit freely to them.

The water falling below me here seems to know that. And yet on and on it comes, ready to do its beautiful dance of abandonment down the cliff, roaring out its joy.

* * *


Here is the take of a prominent atheist on yet another goofy prediction that the world is about to end (or maybe it did before you saw this). Well, fine, but if you ask me, what's wrong with religion can be repaired by what's right with it.

Time out for humor: 5-20-11

We have carried on here far too long here in a serious mode. It's time for a Friday laugh break.

Laughingface Let me remind you that I don't make these jokes up. If I did they'd be funnier. They come from various sources, including some of you.

1. Three guys die and go to heaven. At the Pearly Gates, St. Peter says to them "whatever you do, don't step on a pink cloud." The first guy goes off wandering. When he comes back, he's accompanied by one of the ugliest women you've ever seen. "What happened to you?" asked the other two. "I stepped on a pink cloud," he replied. The second guy goes off wandering and comes back with an even uglier girl. "What happened to you?" they asked. "I stepped on a pink cloud." The last guy goes off wandering and comes back with the most beautiful woman any of them have ever seen. "What happened?" they asked. The woman responded "I stepped on a pink cloud."

2. A ten-year-old, under the tutelage of her grandmother, was becoming quite knowledgeable about the Bible. Then one day she floored her grandmother by asking, "Which virgin was the mother of Jesus? The Virgin Mary or the King James Virgin?"

3. Mother superior calls all the nuns together and says to them, "I must tell you all something. We have a case of gonorrhea in the convent." "Thank God," says an elderly nun at the back of the room, "I'm so tired of Chardonnay..."

4. The little church in the suburbs suddenly stopped buying from its regular office supply dealer. So the dealer telephoned Deacon Brown to ask why.

"I'll tell you why," shouted Deacon Brown. "Our church ordered some pencils from you to be used in the pews for visitors to register."

"Well," interrupted the dealer, "didn't you receive them yet?"

"Oh, we received them all right," replied Deacon Brown. "However, you sent us some golf pencils...each stamped with the words, `Play Golf Next Sunday.'"

5. An old preacher was dying. He sent a message for his banker and his lawyer, both church members, to come to his home.

When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the preacher held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the bed. The preacher grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything.

Both the banker and lawyer were touched and flattered that the preacher would ask them to be with him during his final moments. They were also puzzled; the preacher had never given them any indication that he particularly liked either of them. They both remembered his many long, uncomfortable sermons about greed, covetousness and avaricious behavior that made them squirm in their seats.

Finally, the banker said, "Preacher, why did you ask us to come?"

The old preacher mustered up his strength and then said weakly, "Jesus died between two thieves, and that's how I want to go."

* * *


When the world ends tomorrow, if at all, I've decided to stick around. For all of you who are Left Behind with me, our pastor will be preaching and I'll be on the blog tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. . .