Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dreaming in the North American Division

I wasn’t going to include this cartoon because the difference between Opus’ dream and his reality seemed too stark, too different from my Adventist dream and my reality. Then I spoke to a totally discouraged friend who was the confidant of a NAD conference president. This president believed that the Adventist Church in North America had evolved into a self-sustaining bureaucracy incapable of accomplishing anything other than providing employment and retirement benefits.

I am not convinced that this assessment is accurate, but just in case...

From the comic Opus, by Berkeley Breathed
(click to enlarge)

It Is Safer to Meet a Bear

Last week I afflicted you with some of my favorite secular quotations. This week, I offer some wisdom from Proverbs. I, all too often, am not wise and need correction. These proverbs speak directly to me. I want to be willing to be corrected, because "Anyone willing to be corrected is on the pathway to life. Anyone refusing has lost his chance." (Proverbs 10:17) The following quotes from Proverbs are taken from The Living Bible, the paraphrased self-help edition.

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself. 11:24,25

Only a simpleton believes what he is told! A prudent man checks to see where he is going. 14:15

Reverence for God gives a man deep strength; his children have a place of refuge and security. 14:26

We can always "prove" that we are right, but is the Lord convinced? 16:2

It is safer to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool caught in his folly. 17:12

What dainty morsels rumors are. They are eaten with great relish! 18:8

What a shame--yes, how stupid!--to decide before knowing the facts! 18:13

Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight. 18:17

It is harder to win back the friendship of an offended brother than to capture a fortified city. His anger shuts you out like iron bars. 18:19

A wise man restrains his anger and overlooks insults. This is to his credit. 19:11

You are a poor specimen if you can't stand the pressure of adversity. 24:10

It is an honor to receive a frank reply. 24:26

Be patient and you will finally win, for a soft tongue can break had bones. 25:15

In the mouth of a fool a proverb becomes as useless as a paralyzed leg. 26:7

Yanking a dog's ears is no more foolish than interfering in an argument that isn't any of your business. 26:17

If you shout a pleasant greeting to a friend too early in the morning, he will count it as a curse! 27:14

It’s important to know which is which.

Cartoon by Richard Guindon from his book, "Together Again"
(click to enlarge)

Reviewing the Adventist Review

August 14, 2008
Vol. 185s, No. 22

This Review is a one Bouquet and one Black Eye edition. The Bouquet is awarded to Church Needs New Mentality to Combat AIDS, GC Official Says, reported by Ansel Oliver.

Morality arguments are not enough, according to Pardon Mwansa, one of nine general vice presidents of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He advocates the use of condoms. It’s about time “wisdom” prevails.

“That's not to say I don't believe in teaching, it's just that I want to prevent the worst disaster that can come. And, to be on a practical platform, people in the church are not beyond sin. Even people in the church do sometimes lose grip on the "thus sayeth the Lord." And when people lose grip, I think wisdom calls for us to still save them from the disasters and consequences of behavior by any lesser evils available.”

Bill Knott earns the Black Eye. The title of his editorial, Unholy Bypass, is reactionary and even offensive. His comment that, “only the biblically illiterate will insist that God must gladly accept whatever we offer up as worship [in music]” is presumptive.

Mark Kellner’s, The Lure of Sabbath Deception, is informative and well written. However, I have yet to read an explanation of SDA Sabbath observance doctrine that takes into account Romans 14:5.

While I agree with the sentiment expressed in The Devil’s Cheerleaders by Elijah Mvundura, the writing lacks focus, and the illustrations provided: the bright red silhouettes of youthful cheerleaders interspersed in the text, and a giant, “D” labeled megaphone that bleeds across the two-page spread, are distracting and mildly disturbing.

Articles of note include: Carlos Medley’s tribute to John Russert, The Passionate Seeker; Only a Touch by Virchel E. Wood; Religious Freedom Celebrated in Angola and Mongolia; and Lifetime Lessons by Joy Wendt.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Only the curious will learn

The following quotes have made me more thoughtful, and, it is hoped, a little wiser.

Only the curious will learn and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning. The quest quotient has always excited me more than the intelligence quotient. Eugene S. Wilson

The very purpose of existence is to reconcile the glowing opinion we hold of ourselves with the appalling things that other people think about us. Quentin Crisp

The most important function of education at any level is to develop the personality of the individual and the significance of his life to himself and to others. This is the basic architecture of life; the rest is ornamentation and decoration of the structure. Grayson Kirk

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind. Albert Einstein

Good people are good because they have come to wisdom through failure. William Saroyan

Practically all human misery and serious emotional turmoil are quite unnecessary--not to mention unethical. You, unethical? When you make yourself severely anxious or depressed, you are clearly acting against you and are being unfair and unjust to yourself. Dr. Albert Ellis

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without loosing your temper or your self-confidence. Robert Frost

A problem is a chance for you to do your best. Duke Ellington

Perhaps the valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly. Thomas Huxley

With increasing intensity, Christians have been asked the question, "Is there really a spiritual vacuum, a God-shaped void in every human being, the real filling of which is essential to the full development of human nature: And does Christianity make an inward, real, measurable change in a person, or is Christianity just one of several sets of metaphors?" Donald John

I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. So I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (the night before his death)

Praying Today

I thought I had come to terms
With the beauty and savagery
Of the natural world
The size of the universe
And the speed of light
Not to mention
TV and cell phones
The Internet
And photographs of my house
From outer space
And particles so small
That they routinely
Pass through the earth
And touch nothing.

But that was before. . .

I discovered that
I am an ecological planet
Inhabited by trillions
Of microfauna and microflora
That (at least in most cases)
Have worked together
To make “me” into
The improbable ecological Planet “I”
That stands before you
This afternoon.

That was before. . .

I learned that
In the ocean
Two miles down
Fauna and flora
With their attending
Microfauna and microflora
Exist happily in and around
Hydrothermal vents
That spew boiling
Metal sulfide rich water
Heated by magma
Oozing though cracks
In the earth’s crust
(terra firma indeed!)
That hardens
To spread the ocean floor
And put in constant motion
The continental plates
That grind together
To create mountains
And earthquakes
And volcanoes
And tsunamis.

That was before. . .

I read that 600
Newly discovered life forms
Are flourishing four miles down
In stygian blackness
Below the ice in Antarctica.

That was when I
to put it into succinct scientific terms

Right now
I only know that today
I am persevering
Struggling to comprehend
Thanking You
For that
Thing called


Monday, August 18, 2008

Reviewing Adventist World, NAD Edition

August, 2008
Vol. 4, No. 8

This issue is worth reading. Bouquets have been awarded to the cover story, To the Ends of the Earth, reported by Sandra Blackmer, and Mind Cure, by Handysides and Landless. Other pieces worthy of special mention are: Help Along the Way by Jan Paulson; The Third Ministry, Enhancing Healthful living in China by Benjamin and Ester Lau; and God Used a Man by Allan G. Lindsay. What About a Lunar Sabbath? by Angel Manuel Rodriguez earned another Black Eye.

Into Myanmar, reported by Hans Olson, failed to mention that Bo Mya (1/20/27—12/23/06), a Seventh-day Adventist, was the political leader of the Karen National Union, a political organization of the Karen people from 1976 to 2000, and the leader of its military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, a rebel army that waged one of the world's longest ethnic insurgencies in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

The Millennium by David Macdonald, did not further the reader’s understanding of SDA Fundamental Belief #27.

Angel Manuel Rodriguez was awarded a Black Eye for his piece, What About a Lunar Sabbath? Where he discovered this illogical question is even more baffling than why he chose to answer it!

QUESTION: “I’ve been told that the biblical Sabbath was a lunar Sabbath fixed by the moon, rather than a specific day of the week independent of the moon or the sun. What do you think?”

Answer: “Any biblical evidence to support this proposal is lacking. Therefore, I feel uncomfortable honoring the issue by addressing it here. But apparently I should say something about it.”


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Reviewing the Pacific Union Recorder

August, 2008
Vol. 108, No. 8

This month, readers, you get an editorial rather than my usual review. Consider yourselves warned!

A cursory reading of this edition paints a glowing picture of a perfect church. Sixteen articles document community service activities. Adventists are out there being neighborly and doing good. Two editorials call for “disciplined discipleship” and living “together in peace” with other Christians. All this is commendable. However, I’m left with the nagging suspicion that the Recorder is becoming just a public relations exercise and an Adventist advertising kiosk with sunset tables.

There is no substantive coverage of the challenges facing our Union and Conference leaders and members. “Why are we having difficulty maintaining our membership?” “Why are parents, in increasing numbers, deciding not to send their children to Adventist schools?” “Why are Adventist churches in small towns closing their doors?” “Why is the church membership ‘aging’?” “Why are expensive evangelistic campaigns, particularly TV and radio efforts, so popular with administrators and so ineffective?”

I offer the NCC Constituency Session reporting as an example of a PR exercise designed to keep the Recorder readership entertained (lulled to sleep, reassured) rather than informed. This article earned a well-deserved Black Eye,

Members attending the NCC CONSTITUENCY SESSION AND HISTORIC EDUCATION SUMMIT listened to music and inspirational devotional talks before getting down to business. Marc Woodson presented the Executive Secretary’s report in which he reported that membership numbers were good but “could be even better”. SPECIFICS NOT REPORTED

John Rasmussen, NCC Treasurer “gave the treasurer’s report, in which he explained the various percentages of how each tithe dollar is spent. SPECIFIC INFORMATION NOT INCLUDED While highlighting the fact that tithe has been going up, the report showed that the slight increase over the past two years was significantly below the inflation factor. Thus, in 2007, the conference’s expenses required the use of some reserve funds”. HOW MUCH IS “SOME”? NOT REPORTED

“Once the three reports had been given, two agenda items were presented to the delegates for voting. The first, a proposal to merge the Northern California Conference and the Northern California Conference Association, passed by an overwhelming majority. THE NCC ASSOCIATION WAS NOT DEFINED THE REASONS FOR THE MERGER UNDISCLOSED. The second item, a proposal to look into changing communication methods for delegates between constituency meetings, failed 103 to 202.” WHY? AGAIN NOT EXPLAINED

“A third agenda item, regarding the Adventist education benefits of constituent churches, was deferred to the afternoon’s education summit, and the session adjourned at 11:53 a.m. for lunch.” THIS AGENDA ITEM WAS NEVER CLEARLY ARTICULATED

“A large majority of those in attendance stayed after lunch for a very important event — the NCC Education Summit. The summit began with Pedersen explaining that the afternoon would be a momentous occasion, because the summit would result in recommendations that could permanently benefit Adventist education in the NCC.” WHY “MOMENTOUS”? WHAT RECOMMENDATIONS?

In the afternoon session, after von Pohle, NCC Education Superintendent finished her presentation, “the attendees separated into three discussion groups, each led by one conference administrator and one education administrator. After about two hours of discussing the assigned topic and its various problems and their possible solutions, the three groups reunited. The groups’ leaders then presented several of the discussion groups' top ideas to the general assembly.” THE ASSIGNED TOPICS WERE NOT IDENTIFIED “TOP IDEAS” WERE NOT MENTIONED

The Pacific Union Conference contains fifty percent of all the SDA members in North America! The Recorder is sent to virtually every Adventist household in the Union.

Readers, we have to let our administrators and editors know that we want to be educated church members; that we are ready, willing, and able to make responsible decisions at both the local level and as constituent representatives.

Administrators, “momentous” decisions must be made very soon. The Pacific Union Recorder can help us help you. Allow us to earn your trust.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Reviewing the Adventist Review

July 24, 2008
Vol 185, No. 21

This is an excellent issue! Bouquets have been awarded to Back to the Future by Cindy Tutsch, Another Form of Legalism by Roy Adams, and Sundae Laws By Michael D. Peabody. (I also reviewed some other excellent pieces.) Calvin Rock earned a Black Eye with his Revisiting "the Obama Message" for totally missing the point and insulting “Whites” as “untested”

The writing is uniformly good and is noticeably superior to the last issue. It makes me wonder if different editorial teams are responsible for different issues.

Back to our Future by Cindy Tutsch is a MUST READ.
“There are also incredible stories of faith and heroism demonstrated in the lives of our early Adventist pioneers. Many of our spiritual ancestors endured bitter cold, oppressive heat, rain, snow, poor-quality and scanty food, smoke-filled accommodations, and separation from family in order to take the gospel to far regions by boat, sleigh, train, buggy, and foot. How did a handful of mostly nonwealthy visionaries build churches and establish publishing houses, hospitals, and schools in the early days of our Adventist movement? The miracle stories of God’s intervention coupled with the faith and sacrifice of His people abound!”

Revisiting "the Obama Message" by Calvin Rock.
“The Adventist Review has continued to receive many thoughtful responses to Fredrick Russell's February 21 column, “The Obama Message.” Among these was this focused piece from Calvin B. Rock. . . We offer it here to continue the dialogue about how the Adventist Church in North America should address the continuing challenge of racial and cultural differences among its members.—Editors.

“Pastor Fredrick Russell’s column of several months ago, “The Obama Message,” contains several disturbing misjudgments, and a curious conclusion that the early successes of Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic Party nomination signal that our church has no further need for its structural accommodation labeled Black or regional conferences.”

In this first paragraph, Rock creates a “straw man” and then proceeds to destroy him, gratuitously insulting “nontested” “White” administrators, members, and congregations along the way. I suggest that you read Fredrick Russell’s column for yourself and decide whether Rock’s summary of Russell’s argument is accurate.

I was reluctant to award Rock a Black Eye until I read his final argument. It is an unwitting testimony for change and The Obama Message!

“The most sobering deterrent to optimism regarding racial conditions in the U.S. is Ellen White’s telling statement of more than a century ago: “The relation of the two races has been a matter hard to deal with, and I fear that it will ever remain a most perplexing problem” (The Southern Work, p. 84).

Sundae Laws by Michael D. Peabody is a delightful MUST READ.
“What few people realize about this simple dessert, however, is that it was actually invented as a loophole to avoid stringent Sunday laws that prevented the sale of “soda water” during the late 1800s. As the wild frontiers of the Midwest transformed into residential streets and the bawdy songs of the saloon faded into “Sweet Adeline” sung by barbershop quartets, members of the clergy began to be concerned about the direction society was taking.”—Editors

“In response to the powerful local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Evanston was among the first to pass a law forbidding the sale of ice-cream sodas on Sunday. A customer soon walked into William Garwood’s drugstore and ordered an ice-cream soda. Mr. Garwood took a look at the situation and made the customer an ice-cream soda without the soda, leaving the syrup and ice cream. Mr. Garwood called this the Sunday soda, or Sunday, and sold it one day a week. The WCTU took serious umbrage at this name that mocked their efforts and demanded that it be changed. Mr. Garwood changed it—to sundae.”

The Fallacy of a Final Theory by Clifford Goldstein
Goldstein argues that “logic alone suggests that any final theory of the natural realm can be found only in a supernatural one.”

Cliff, logic “is the branch of philosophy that deals with the theory of deductive and inductive arguments and aims to distinguish good from bad reasoning”. It is only a philosophical tool. In other words “logic alone” can’t “suggest” anything!

Weight-Loss Diets by Allan R. Handysides and Peter N. Landless
“The simplest approach to weight loss is a total plant-based diet (TPBD) that includes vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium supplementation. A TPB diet tends to have fewer calories than the average lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, and for those concerned with weight it is a simple approach to weight loss. We cannot recommend a TPB diet to people with dietary deficiency, but for obese individuals a TPB diet could answer their need.”

Pew Survey Shows Adventist “Family” views Are Similar to U.S. Evangelicals
by Bonnie McLean and Mark A. Kelllner
Fascinating facts! I was startled to discover that more than half of the Adventist population are registered Democrats. Sadly, “67 percent of Seventh-day Adventists surveyed believed [homosexuality] should not be accepted.”

Taught by a Child by Sandra J. Balli
Balli suggests that intentionally inviting children to lead in your kid-friendly programs may reap untold awards.

“Looking wearily at Ritchie, I wondered what to do about his attention-seeking antics. He was a nice [ten-year-old] kid, I reasoned, even appealing, with tousled brown hair, a mischievous grin, and round, freckled cheeks. After pondering several solutions for keeping Sabbath school manageable, I decided on a standard remedy. I asked Ritchie if he would like to lead song service the next Sabbath. Get him involved, I thought, and all eyes will be on him for at least 15 minutes. Ritchie’s eyes widened at my question, but he didn’t hesitate. ‘Can I be in charge of the whole program?’ he asked.

Kids View edited by Wilona Karimabadi and Kimberly Luste Maran
This is the best Kids View so far. Both editors are to be congratulated for creating what is soon to become, a “stand alone” magazine for kids. It will be free to subscribers and included in the Review.

Another Form of Legalism by Roy Adams is a MUST READ.
Adams’ passionate editorial makes the point that readers should be skeptical of the “diagnostic questions” that produce the misleading conclusions of religious surveys.