Monday, October 31, 2005

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Closed Doors

Reverend Edward Johnson, a United Methodist pastor in Virginia who had been put on involuntary leave of absence for denying membership in his congregation to an openly gay parishioner, was reinstated today. (Here's a link to the original story for context.) We United Methodists really don't like gay people today, do we?

To be fair, the ruling is not entirely inconsistent with the Discipline:

The 2004 Discipline invests discretion in the pastor-in-charge to make the determination of a person’s readiness to affirm the vows of membership (¶ 217). Paragraphs 214 and 225 are permissive and do not mandate receipt into membership of all persons regardless of their willingness to affirm membership vows.

Still, Dean Snyder explains how the Council manipulated language to come to this decision.

Personally, I do think that a pastor andor congregation has a right to place expectations on its members. A church might say that, to be a member, one must tithe or participate in a small group or even adhere to certain behavioral standards. Reverend Johnson, by contrast, singled out the sexual orientation of one person as grounds for exclusion.

Let me put it this way: Holding one another accountable for our actions is an important part of our Wesleyan heritage; witchhunts are childish.

Beth Stroud Loses, and So Does The United Methodist Church

Reverend Beth Stroud was defrocked today. My denomination, The United Methodist Church, decided that she is not suitable for ordained ministry because she is not attracted to the right type of person. We don't seem to defrock clergy for bad theology or failing to help members of their congregation grow as disciples; but lesbians are fair game. We have no qualms about denying a female homosexual her calling, her vocation. Why? Because of whom she hates? Because of whom she hurts? Because of whom she betrays? No, because of whom she loves.

More to come.

Another Tinley on the Way

In a previous post I mentioned in passing that I have "a toddler at home and a second child on the way." I then realized that I hadn't yet said anything on this blog about this second child. So here's the big announcement: Ashlee is pregnant, and we are expecting Meyer's little sister or brother to arrive sometime in May.

Here are some pictures of our new youngest child:

Implicit Association Tests: Try One

I don't want to say too much about these tests aside from that they were developed at Harvard and don't take long to complete. (I think it's probably best to go at them cold.) But try out at least one of them. Chances are, you'll learn some disturbing things about yourself.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Another Milestone for Little Meyer

Earlier this evening my 20-month-old, two-and-a-half-foot-tall son walked up the stairs by himself; his only assistance was the handrail that he reached up to hold on to. (So that you don't get the impression that I'm negligent, I should add that I was one step behind him the entire way; but I never had to help him out.) I think I crawled up stairs until I was about five, so I'm very impressed by Meyer's stair-climbing. (At the same time, his fearlessness makes me a little uneasy.)

Subtle (and Not-so-Subtle) Racism

Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Blink, includes a fascinating chapter on the racial bias in favor of white people that exists in the subconscious of most Americans, regardless of race. Apparently, this bias often reveals itself in subtle ways that go unnoticed. Sometimes, however, the bias is less subtle, as demonstrated by Trent Lott's recent slip of the tongue. The former Senate majority leader said, regarding the President's next Supreme Court nominee:

I want the President to look across the country and find the best man, woman, or minority that he can find.

I don't want to pick on Senator Lott too much, because I think many of us are guilty of racist inclinations that we might not even be aware of. Still, given his past actions and remarks, Trent needs to be a little more careful.

Audio of Today's Christian Dissent Live

Today on Christian Dissent Live Cole, Joey, and I discussed Christian sexual education with Mike Ratliff, a long-time youth minister with expertise in this area. We also talked about racism, the United Methodist blogging community and how the church can use technology to bring people together, and how to apply Scripture to current-day issues.

Below are links to some of the articles and websites mentioned on today's show:

  • "Young Singers Spread Racist Hate" (San Francisco Indymedia): about Prussian Blue, a white-nationalist singing group fronted by Lamb and Lynx Gaede, twin thirteen-year-old girls whose parents are outspoken racists

  • Wesley Blog's coverage of the Beth Stroud trial

  • "God, Gays, and Gentiles" (Christian draws parallels between the acceptance of Gentiles in the first century church and the acceptance of "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" in today's church

  • "Stories on Stoles" (Josh about the Shower of Stoles Project, an organization that tells the stories of GBLT persons who have been hurt by the church
  • Friday, October 28, 2005

    CNN: Scary Numbers in America

    CNN today ran a report on some new disturbing statistics regarding the state of our country. (You'll have to watch a Dodge commercial before getting to the actual clip.) The numbers reveal that the United States is struggling when it comes to education, healthcare, caring for the elderly, and keeping people out of poverty. And, as many of us know all too well, wages in the U.S. are stagnant while expenses are increasing rapidly.

    While issues such as education and healthcare are very complex and are affected by several factors, our government has to be held at least partially responsible for the negative direction in which the country seems to be going. I don't think we can place the blame on one administration or one party; but I do think that our elected leaders, by and large, have put politics ahead of leadership. In recent elections candidates have not run on their record or ability to lead but on reasons why they are better suited for the job than their opponents. American politicians are so wrapped up in defeating their opponents (both in elections and in the public eye) that they haven't seemed to put much effort into bettering the country.

    In 2006, when you vote for your U.S. Representative and (possibly) Senator, don't vote for a candidate based on his or her party or based on anything you see on a cable news channel. Dig deeper.

    UM Judicial Council to Rule in Stroud Case on Monday

    According to the Associated Press, The United Methodist Church's Judicial Council will rule Monday in the trial of Reverend Beth Stroud, an openly lesbian UM pastor who was defrocked because she is a "self-avowed, practicing homosexual." The initial decision to revoke Stroud's ordination was overturned but later appealed to the Judicial Council, the church's highest court.

    For more information, see Wesley Blog. Shane is covering the trial more closely than the UM News Service.

    Good Night, and Good Luck

    I was excited to learn from this morning's Tennessean that Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney's film about Edward Murrow's efforts to expose Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy during the communist witch-hunts of the fifties, is now playing in Nashville. I've been eager to see this movie, which Roger Ebert gave four stars, since I first heard about it. Now the trick will be finding time to see a movie with a toddler at home and a second child on the way.

    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    Sarah Arthur's New Book

    Walking Through the Wardrobe, a devotional for youth and young adults based on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the latest book by my friend and colleague, Sarah Arthur, is now available from Tyndale/Thirsty (just in time for the movie). You can buy it at Cokesbury. I've worked with Sarah on several youth curriculum pieces, and have found her to be an excellent writer with a sincere passion for ministry with young people.

    Meyer's New Art Piece

    Learn about it at Little Meyer.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    White House Asks The Onion to Stop Using Presidential Seal


    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The White House is not amused by The Onion, a newspaper that often spoofs the Bush administration, and has asked it to stop using the presidential seal on its Web site.

    The seal was still on the Web site on Tuesday at the spot where President George W. Bush's weekly radio address is parodied.

    With headlines like "Bush To Appoint Someone To Be In Charge Of Country" and "Bush Subconsciously Sizes Up Spain For Invasion," The Onion is popular with readers looking for a little laughter with their politics.

    White House spokesman Trent Duffy said people who work in the executive mansion do have a sense of humor, but not when it comes to breaking regulations.

    If I were working at the White House, I would write this off as a battle not worth fighting. I would guess that the President is not behind this decision, but the staffer who decided to go after The Onion is only inviting more satire at his or her leader's expense.

    Swoopes Comes Out—Is It a Big Deal?

    Three-time Olympic gold-medalist, three-time WNBA MVP, and four-time WNBA champion Sheryl Swoopes recently told ESPN The Magazine is a lesbian who has been in a committed relationship with another woman for years. While I commend Swoopes for coming out, she is neither the first professional athlete to do so, nor the best-known. (That title still belongs to Martina.)

    Still, I think Swoopes's story is interesting for two reasons: 1) Homosexuality is often talked of as either a genetic trait or a chosen "lifestyle." Swoopes contends that she has not always been a lesbian, nor does she suggest that she chose to be attracted to women. Maybe Swoopes's case will enable us to have a more honest discussion about sexual orientation.

    2) Swoopes has an eight-year-old child from a previous, heterosexual relationship. This situation is not uncommon. As long as homosexuality is considered by some prominent voices (especially in the church) moral depravity, gay and lesbian persons will try to deny their sexuality, sometimes even marrying persons of the opposite sex and having children. Discussions of homosexuality and "family values" need to take into account homosexual parents of biological children.

    I'm still waiting for a high-profile male athlete to come out.

    New Meyer Pictures


    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    The Week's Most Disturbing Story

    Prussian Blue is a singing duo made up of thirteen-year-old twin sisters Lamb and Lynx Gaede. But despite the girls' hippie-pagan-sounding names, they are actually the children of white nationalists and their lyrics reflect their parents' hateful ideology. Recently, Prussian Blue raised money for hurricane victims, but only the white ones. (Most of their donations were not accepted.)

    These girls are certainly free to say or sing whatever they want or to raise money for whomever they want no matter how frightening their expression of freedom might be. But what about the parents? The girls are homeschooled by their mother, and their father (who no longer lives with the twins) surrounds them with racist symbols and ideas. (He registered the Nazi swastika as a cattle brand. Poor cows.) Parents have a right to pass down their values to their children, but do they have a right to make their children public mouthpieces of hate? Is Prussian Blue an example of exploitation of minors?

    I know; making this into a legal issue is probably a stretch. But beyond their obvious moral shortcomings, it seems that what Lynx and Lamb's parents are doing should catch the eye of the Department of Children's Services.

    Read the article from San Francisco's Indybay.

    Mayor Purcell Ends Speculation About Third Term

    This weekend, Mayor Purcell announced that he will not seek a third term. Of course, no one was sure if Purcell would have been allowed to serve for another four years even if he had wanted to. Actually, according to The Tennessean, Purcell wants to change the Metro Charter to make clear that a mayor may only hold that office for two four-year terms. He also wants to tinker with the charter to reduce the size of the Metro Council.

    Purcell said he would seek to end any ambiguity about the number of terms a Nashville mayor can serve by proposing a charter amendment to limit the office to two terms. He also said he would seek an amendment to cut the Metro Council size in half to 20 members.

    Cutting the Council from 40 to 20 would be a good move; many observers have noted that the current system—40 part-time councilpersons—is rarely productive and never efficient. As I understand it, the rather large local governing body resulted from a compromise between the City of Nashville and Davidson County when the Metro Charter was written in the sixties.

    Anyway, likely contenders for Purcell's seat include former U.S. Representative Bob Clement, Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, and local businessman Lucius Carroll II. I'm not crazy about any of these candidates, though each has valuable experience that he could bring to the office.

    Personally, I think the larger question is, What are the big issues that Nashville's mayor will have to face in the next decade? I'm not convinced that the mayor has any real control over the state of Metro schools; and in recent years (thanks in part to Mayors Purcell and Bredesen) Nashville has become very attractive to outside businesses. So what's next? What can our next mayor do to further improve our city? What can he or she not do?

    Meyer Is Temporarily Down

    Thanks to Zach Collier, Meyer's website will no longer have to be hosted by the family's Comcast account. Ideally, the new hosting will enable me to post video clips at Meyer (but don't expect those tomorrow).

    Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Rosa Parks Dies at 92


    Our country loses one of its more softspoken heroes.

    Saturday Morning on the Trace

    I had the fortune this weekend of going cycling with my dad. My father, who is 61, is in much better shape than I am and rides more miles in one week than I do in an entire summer. I like to think that I held my own and kept up, but I suspect that, for my sake, dad was riding somewhat slower than his normal pace.

    We rode down to the Natchez Trace Parkway and struggled up the first major climb before turning around. Nothing is quite as pleasant as riding the Trace in the fall, especially when the wild turkeys are out. Saturday's ride was definitely a nice departure from my normal exercise routine: 45 minutes on a stationary elliptical machine.

    Audio of Yesterday's Christian Dissent Live Finally Available

    Sorry about the delay and sorry that you'll have to download the show in two parts:

    Hour 1

    Hour 2

    Show Description: Joey and I do our best to get by without Cole. We discuss the ubiquity of pornography in America, the ordination of women as clergy, coffee shops in churches, and several other topics. We also play several good songs.

    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    Audio of Today's Christian Dissent Live Available Tomorrow Evening

    Sorry for the delay, but Cole has been out of town, and I'm still learning how to retrieve and upload the audio files. Still, the show will soon be available to Podcast subscribers and other faithful internet listeners.

    Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we had to postpone our interview with Mike Ratliff. He'll probably be on next week, but I'll keep you posted.

    Without Cole or a guest, Joey and I stumbled through the two-hour show, but we discussed some intriguing topics such as the problem of pornography in American culture and the ordination of women in the church. More importantly, we played some good music, including songs by Nellie McKay, Jetpack, John Davis, Bright Eyes, Johnny Cash, and Randy Newman. Look for the MP3 of the show tomorrow evening.

    Methodist Blogger Profile

    John the Methodist of Locusts and Honey kindly interviewed me for his Methodist Blogger Profile series.

    I find that the hardest part of a writing assignment is badgering a source until he or she gets an e-interview finished, finds time to do a phone interview, sends me some literature, etc. In the work I've done for the Nashville Scene, sources have gotten back to me with the information I requested after the article publishes. Yet, my frustration with these sometimes uncooperative interviewees can no longer be justified since I took over two months to complete John's interview.

    Sorry, John, but thank you again for featuring me on your site.

    Friday, October 21, 2005

    This Week on Christian Dissent Live

    Cole will be out of town this week, but Joey and I will be interviewing Mike Ratliff, a youth ministry professional whose expertise is Christian sex education. Listen this Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. CST on Radio Free Nashville, WRFN.

    Remembering My Forgettable Music Career #2: "F Plus"

    F Plus (April 1994)

    Music by Tim Gober and Liquid Diet
    Lyrics by Josh Tinley
    First performed by Liquid Diet, July 1994
    Released on Drywall's No Mustard, April 1995

    Liquid Diet was:

    Josh Tinley: Vocals, bass
    Brian Fuzzell: Drums
    Tim Gober: Guitar

    Free download: F Plus (MP3)

    "Advanced Unified Math" (AUM) was Perry Meridian High School's name for trigonometry and pre-Calculus; Tim Gober and I took AUM our junior year, the year we started Liquid Diet. "F Plus" was my anti-AUM protest anthem.

    Central to the AUM curriculum at Perry Meridian was the "homework quizzes." The day a homework assignment was due, we would go over as a class the solutions to any difficult problems. The following day, we would have a homework quiz, a quiz made up of problems taken directly from our homework assignment. The teacher allowed us to copy the solutions to the problems directly from our homework papers, the idea being that anyone who kept up on homework and paid attention in class should get an easy "A." I neither did my homework nor paid attention in class, and on several occasions I earned the curious F+ grade (not really failing, but not exactly passing, either).

    Tim came up with the riff for "F Plus"; it was his first song. Unfortunately, Tim's perfectly good riff was tainted by my lyrics and horrid non-pitch singing. The verses of "F Plus" consist of a series of autonomous phrases relating to the AUM subject matter or the class itself ("chapter 10; who was 'Venn'?" and so forth), culminating in a declaration of apathy ("my blank stare, I don't care"). The chorus is the repetitive chant, "You can't teach me, you don't own me; you can't teach me, you don't own me."

    It wasn't a good song, but it was short and it was punk and it fit in nicely on our debut EP No Mustard (April 1995).

    Rick Warren Quote to Be Featured on Starbucks Cups

    Is mega-pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren selling out, or is he just participating in a larger socio-cultural discussion that is taking place on hot-beverage cups?

    I don't go to Starbucks very often, but I would recommend their certified Fair Trade coffee. It's excellent coffee, and it helps coffee farmers make a decent living. (On more than one occasion, employees at Nashville-area Starbucks stores have told me that their Fair Trade coffee has been discontinued, but according to they appear to still be selling it.)

    Preds Win in Shootout, Go 6-0

    The Nashville Predators remain undefeated after last night's shootout victory over the Blues. I've never lived in a city with a championship professional team before; could this be the year?

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Anti-vegetarianism at Vanderbilt?

    From the Nashville Scene:

    You couldn’t blame Ari Dubin for overlooking the roasted pig’s head. It was impaled on a piece of wood and propped, rather discreetly, in a corner on the front patio of Vanderbilt’s Schulman Center for Jewish Life. When he showed up for work last Monday morning—smack in the middle of the Jewish High Holy Days that begin with Rosh Hashanah and end with Yom Kippur—Dubin simply didn’t notice the porcine porch decoration.

    A staff member called it to his attention. “Someone said, ‘Hey, did you see that?’ ” Dubin, the executive director of Vanderbilt Hillel, a Jewish campus organization, recalls coolly. “I said, ‘No—did you call the police yet?’ So we did.” That’s because a pig’s head on the doorstep of a Jewish life center or synagogue serves as a universally recognized symbol of anti-Semitism. Due to a scriptural prohibition, orthodox Jews don’t eat pork; bigots tend to mine that cultural distinction for harassment and hate crime fodder.

    Someone was sending Vanderbilt’s Jewish community a chilling message during the holiest days of the year. But who would do such a thing?

    No one, according to Dubin and university officials; it was all just a very unfortunate—and offensive—misunderstanding. Here’s what happened: on Saturday, Oct. 8, Vandy’s Sigma Chi fraternity chapter, which is housed across the street from the Schulman Center, hosted their annual football game-day party, at which they roasted a whole pig. After the game, one Sigma Chi brother—acting alone, says the fraternity—thought it would be funny to put the pig’s head outside of Grins (pronounced “greens”), the vegetarian café across the street.

    The joke, you see, was that vegetarians would be upset to find meat on their front porch. (Good one, brah.) Unfortunately for this pig-headed student—whose identity Vanderbilt has declined to release, citing federal student privacy laws—Grins is a kosher vegetarian café, and it’s located inside the campus Jewish life center.

    Trying to intimidate Vandy's Jewish community would have been an egregious crime. But while using a pig-head-on-a-stick to poke on vegetarians is a far more mild gesture, I don't know that it can be passed off as an innocent prank. I'm a vegetarian and have often been amazed by how many people have taken issue with my culinary choices, especially since I have never advocated moral vegetarianism for all people. I don't feel threatened by the head of swine, but I don't find it terribly clever either.

    "I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause on of them to fall" (1 Corinthians 8:13, taken entirely out of context).

    Small Signs of Progress

    Earlier today, I received the following e-mail message:

    My pastor's husband is a middle school teacher currently not working to take care of their four kids. He might be interested.

    The pastor is a woman; the teacher-turned-stay-at-home-parent is a man; and I am the only person I know who received this message who considered it the least bit remarkable. Civilization is growing up.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    The Scene Demands More Candidates

    The Nashville Scene's Roger Abramson (in an excellent editorial) poses that simply voting or staying informed isn't enough. We need more people running for office at the local and state levels. Anyone think I can win an election for the Tennessee State House of Representatives next year? Let me know. (Just so you know, I live in Bellevue and will run only as an independent.)

    The Benefits of Being British

    The British government has announced plans to offer working fathers up to three months paid paternity leave. From the Guardian:

    Under the bill fathers will be able to take up to six months' unpaid leave, but will receive paternity pay for three months if a mother returns to work after six months and before her maternity leave ends.

    This would be at the rate of £106 a week, which would be reimbursed to companies by the Treasury.

    Stateside, we are allowed to take up to 12 weeks (almost three months) according to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but we are guaranteed no paid leave. If our companies happen to provide paid paternity leave, and we choose to take it, we may have to forfeit other benefits provided by the FMLA.

    I don't care if you're a libertarian or a socialist; if you're a baby's daddy, you have to like this social program.

    What Do You Do When the Soap Gets Dirty?

    Yesterday, in the fitness-center locker room at work, as I was walking from the showers back to my locker, I dropped my soap caddy, and my bar of soap fell on the locker-room floor. When I picked up the soap, the dirt and body hair clinging to it reminded me that the floor of the locker room is hardly clean.

    The bar of soap in question was still good for a dozen-or-so showers, so I couldn't just throw it away. But I won't even let my feet touch the locker-room floor; what should I do about a bar of soap that will come in contact with most parts of my body? Who knows what spores and bacteria latched on to the damp surface of my partially used bar of Irish Spring?

    I soon found myself washing my soap. Obviously, I couldn't lather myself in dirt, body hair, spores, and bacteria; and it seemed silly to throw away a bar of soap because it was dirty. Of course, if my body already were covered in dirt, stray body hair, spores, and bacteria, I would use soap to clean myself. I would assume, then, that soap is self-cleaning. Still, I didn't want to take my chances, so I continued washing my soap until I had completely removed any part of the surface that could have made contact with the floor. (And, to be completely honest, I used a little hand soap to clean the bar of soap.) I guess I'll find out today when I shower if my cleaning methods worked.

    What would you have done?

    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    50 Years for Methodists, Over 100 for United Methodists

    From the UM News Service:

    On May 4, 1956, in Minneapolis, the General Conference of the Methodist Church approved full clergy rights for women. Half a century later, the fruits of that action are the nearly 12,000 United Methodist clergywomen who serve the church at every level, from bishops to local pastors.

    A yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary includes worship services, books celebrating the lives of pioneering clergywomen and writings of other clergywomen, special observances at annual conferences, and a banquet and concert on Aug. 15 during the International United Methodist Clergywomen's Consultation in Chicago, Aug. 13-17.

    I'm glad that we can celebrate this important milestone, but it reveals the church's "Methodist Bias." The United Methodist Church formed in 1968 when The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged at a Uniting Conference in Dallas. The Evangelical United Brethren Church was itself the result of a merger of the Evangelical Association and the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. The United Brethren first ordained women with full clergy rights in 1888, when Ella Niswonger was ordained as an elder.

    Actually, The Methodist Church itself was the result of a merger: The Methodist Episcopal Church; Methodist Episcopal Church, South; and Methodist Protestant Church joined to form one denomination in 1939. We generally trace our history through the two branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church, both of which were slow to grant women full clergy rights. The Methodist Protestant Church, by comparison, was ordaining women in full standing in the late nineteenth century.

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Wesley Blog: Taking Back Sundays

    Shane at Wesley Blog writes:

    On one hand, I think activity on Sundays has gotten out of hand, and Christians are the ones to blame. Many of us use Sundays to catch up on the errands we neglected to make time for during the previous week, so by the time Monday rolls around, we're exhausted.

    Shane acknowledges that asking our culture to again set aside Sunday as the Lord's day would not be reasonable, but adds:

    Maybe making families choose between church and other activities is not such a bad thing. Sure it would be uncomfortable, but isn't Christianity filled with stuff that makes us uncomfortable? Isn't a life of faith full of uncomfortable choices? Besides, it would keep churches from getting lazy about outreach, and it would force us to actually meet the spiritual needs of teenagers.

    Keeping the sabbath is one of those commandments that too many Christians (including myself) are quick to set aside. Possibly more than any other aspect of the Abrahamic religions, the practice of keeping sabbath conflicts with present-day Western culture, in which "productivity" is often held up as the greatest virtue.

    That Kind of Monday

    The picture, while taken back in February, best illustrates the type of day it's been.

    Sunday, October 16, 2005

    Audio of Today's Christian Dissent Live

    Download today's show. We talked about a little bit of everything this morning.

    Saturday, October 15, 2005

    Greetings from Ginghamsburg

    I'm coming to you from the annual Ginghamsburg Change Conference. Ginghamsburg [United Methodist] Church is a congregation of thousands in the northern suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. Ginghamsburg is known as one of the most influential churches in the country. While they have been especially innovative in their use of media, their mission work has been lauded by two U.S. presidents (Clinton and the first Bush). The congregation holds several conferences to show other church leaders what Ginghamsburg has done right.

    I have to admit that, upon arriving, my first impressions of Ginghamsburg [United Methodist] Church were not favorable. The congregation's signage in no way indicated that they were United Methodist (I have yet to see a cross-and-flame anywhere); and, in my opinion, their bookstore has too much Rick Warren and Joel Osteen and not enough material on biblical scholarship and theology. Since books and The United Methodist Church are two of the things I am most passionate about, I came into the conference cynical and scoffing.

    However, after listening to Pastor Mike Slaughter's keynote talk and after being immersed in The Avenue (Ginghamsburg's youth ministry), I've been converted. The people of Ginghamsburg are doing a lot of good things (one of which is the Sudan Project), and an unusually large percentage of the church's members are deeply invested in the congregation's ministries.

    Ginghamsburg stresses that church members are not customers; churches do not exist to entertain or to serve their members. Rather, churches exist to equip their members to do ministry. Ginghamsburg abhors the word "volunteer" because it allows the volunteer to minister on his or her own terms. Instead they use the language of "servant leaders" and "unpaid servants." Ministry, in other words, is not something we do at our convenience. This model of demanding more from members has enabled the people of Ginghamsburg to better use their gifts, talents, ideas, and opportunities in service of God and God's children.

    In general, Pastor Slaughter detests boards and committees in the local church. Ginghamsburg, as a result, has only one board or committee (its administrative council). This is remarkable for a United Methodist Congregation. Anyway, when the administrative board meets, they have a rule: "You can't vote 'no' if it's something that Jesus would do." In my mind this is a true expression of faith.

    I still have reservations about Ginghamsburg, but I recognize now that being a mega church does not render a congregation superficial or materialistic; some churches are large because they have excellent ministries and because they engage their members in service.

    Friday, October 14, 2005

    More on Wesley Blog and Abortion

    I'm not entirely satisfied with my post regarding Shane Raynor's recent post on abortion and The United Methodist Church. I feel this way after reading through the debate generated by Shane'sinitial post. In retrospect, I think my response was short-sighted in some regards. To make myself feel better, I will recommend this comment by Ciona Rouse, which I found especially enlightening.

    Chewbacca to Become American Citizen


    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Out of Office Notice

    I'll be out of town for the next couple days and may or may not be able to post anything. I will be back for Christian Dissent Live on Sunday.

    Harriet Miers's 'Ligion

    To rationalize the otherwise eye-widening and head-scratching nomination of Harriet Miers, the White House and conservative leaders are dropping hints to suggest, "She'll be OK, because she's an evangelical Christian." (See here and here from Think Progress.)

    I will admit that I feel more comfortable working with someone I don't know when I learn that he or she shares my [progressive Christian] religious worldview. But I would need to know a lot more about this hypothetical person before supporting her or him as the next justice of the Supreme Court. And while I love all the people who go to my church, I wouldn't endorse someone for the federal judiciary just because he or she is a member of my congregation (or because she works in the office downstairs).

    If you are interested, here is a link to Harriet Miers's Church.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    I Agree With Shane Raynor . . .

    that The United Methodist Church needs to be careful not to become a pro-choice advocacy group. As someone who refuses to identify himself as either "pro-life" or "pro-choice," I like The Book of Discipline's somewhat ambiguous non-stance on abortion:

    Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection.

    Considering the above statement, The United Methodist Church's presence at pro-choice rallies and affiliation with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) make me very nervous, particularly given the beliefs of many of the people in the pews. (I should note, however, that our involvement with the RCRC is the result of a resolution passed by a General Conference.) Personally, I feel that abortion should remain legal, and I have no problem with the church affirming that abortion is justified in some circumstances. However, the church needs also to affirm that abortion is not an acceptable means of birth control, acknowledge that too many pregnancies end in abortion, and make a serious effort to reduce abortions.

    Life on Effexor

    Effexor was the first anti-depressent I was ever prescribed, so it will always have a place in my heart. It made me sweat profusely whenever the temperature rose above 70° F (that's 21.1° C); and I think it was the cause of noticeable weight gain; but the drug also made me more calm, more content, and more productive.

    Anyway, Bitch, Ph.D. recently started on Effexor and has had a slightly different, but equally satisfying, experience.

    Josh Is Back Up

    (in case you were wondering)

    Remembering My Forgettable Music Career #1: "Dead Frog"

    (I plan to make "Remembering My Forgettable Music Career" a regular feature on Scrambies. In this recurring "column," I will reflect on every song I have ever written, one at a time. When possible, I will provide an MP3 of the song for free download and a colored-pencil illustration.)

    Dead Frog (April 1994)

    Music by Josh Tinley and Liquid Diet
    Lyrics by Josh Tinley
    First performed by Liquid Diet, July 1994
    Released on Drywall's Feege Against the Machine, August 1995

    Liquid Diet was:

    Josh Tinley: Vocals, bass
    Brian Fuzzell: Drums
    Tim Gober: Guitar

    Free download: Dead Frog (MP3)

    "Dead Frog" was the first rock song I ever wrote, and by most accounts was one of the worst. After ten years of piano lessons, I had become schooled in music theory and had decided that I wasn't interested in writing music in major keys. I thus set out to write a song that was partially in a minor key and partially in no key at all. And I didn't bother to pay attention to any of the music I was listening to at the time to figure out how a rock song might be structured. I sought originality; unfortunately, I think I found what I was looking for.

    In April 1994 I was all about teen angst. Academically, the second semester of my junior year of high school was my worst to date. I had decided that high school was spoon-feeding me meaningless crap and not teaching me to think, so I stopped trying. I had determined that my peers were mindless products of popular culture, that they had so sacrificed their human capacities to think and feel that they might as well have been frogs. Kurt Cobain had offed himself earlier that month ("now the music's dead"), and the depression and occasional thoughts of suicide I had been experiencing seemed suddenly glamorous. ("When will I find out what it means to die?") I reasoned that if I were to become like my classmates—if I were to become just another frog—then I need not go on living. I would be a "dead frog." (I no longer feel such animosity toward my peers or even my former classmates. While I still have reservations about popular culture, the "dead frog" thing was a phase.)

    "Dead Frog" was about angst, about frustration, about suicide. It was a sermon of judgment and condemnation preached to my peers ("You don't know what it means; you don't know how to think; you don't know if it's real; you don't know how to feel"), while at the same time being a desperate plea asking them for help. (Looking back, it was also a pretty mediocre song.)

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    Less Than Smurfy

    The Belgian arm of UNICEF has created an adults-only episode of The Smurfs, "in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters' village is annihilated by warplanes." The noble intent of this animated short is to draw attention to the plight of children in war-torn nations throughout the world; of course, the 25-second clip has also freaked out several children who happened to see the short film on Belgian television.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    Best of Christian Dissent Live: Evangelism, Kirk Cameron Style (MP3)

    One of my favorite segments from the radio show. (Taped live on October 2, 2005.)

    Are We Numb?

    The earthquake in Pakistan that is now responsible for taking over 30,000 lives has received relatively little coverage for a magnitude its size. (In terms of fatalities the quake is the equivalent of eleven September 11ths.)

    Our country, still struggling with the worst hurricane season in recent memory, may lack the emotional energy to adequately repond to the recent crisis in south Asia. While we don't want to be guilty of "looking out for number one" and ignoring the plight of others, we also don't want to turn our backs on our citizens in the Gulf Coast region whom we are committed to supporting.

    My hope is that, even if we are unable to invest emotionally in the Pakistan earthquake, we can invest financially. Our hearts may be weary, but we still have cash, and international aid organizations know how to put cash to good use.

    Honestly, I have not yet given to the relief effort in south Asia, but I think we all need to consider what we are able to give. We also need to pause in the coming days and weeks to say a prayer for the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

    Related: "UMCOR, Relief Agencies Respond to Asia Earthquake (UM News Service)

    UMCOR Info for Pakistan Earthquake

    The death toll in South Asia has now surpassed 20,000. Here's some information about donating to the relief effort through UMCOR. (The advance number is #232000.)

    Sunday, October 09, 2005

    College Football Roundup

    Yes, LSU beat Vanderbilt 34-6, but the score was 9-6 after three quarters. Vandy played well, but the defense wore itself out containing a talented Tiger offense. Next week won't be any easier for the Commodores, but if they can keep their confidence up, they can win a couple more games. has the story of Northwestern College of St. Paul, Minnesota. The school's football team played two games Saturday, possibly the first time any college team has played twice in one day. The games featured a touchdown scored by a junior running back born without full use of his right arm and three tackles by a 40-year-old gym-teacher-in-training. The Eagles won both games.

    Here are my rankings (20 this week):

    1. USC (5-0)
    2. Virginia Tech (6-0)
    3. Texas (5-0)
    4. Alabama (5-0)
    5. Georgia (5-0)
    6. Penn State (6-0)
    7. Florida State (5-0)
    8. UCLA (5-0)
    9. Miami (4-1)
    10. Michigan State (4-1)
    11. Notre Dame (4-1)
    12. Florida (5-1)
    13. Texas Tech (5-0)
    14. Wisconsin (5-1)
    15. California (5-1)
    16. Boston College (5-1)
    17. West Virginia (5-1)
    18. LSU (3-1)
    19. Ohio State (3-2)
    20. Colorado (4-1)

    Audio of Today's Christian Dissent Live

    Today was our monthly "host roundtable." We discussed the Harriet Miers nomination, sex offenders, sexuality and society, and itinerancy among United Methodist pastors. Give it a listen.

    Josh Will Be Temporarily Down

    Zach Collier has offered to host the site and to give me a bunch of space. Josh will be down during the transition, but the new hosting will enable me to do a lot more with the site.

    Also, I'm looking for a domain name to use for this site. Should I go with "" or can you think of something more clever? Let me know.

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    Another Horrible Natural Disaster

    An earthquake measuring 7.6 killed over 18,000 people earlier today in Pakistan and hundreds more in Afghanistan and India. From what I understand, some of the aftershocks have been almost as severe as the quake itself.

    I'll try to provide the UMCOR information for this one when it is available.

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    What Crazy Indiana State Senator Patricia Miller Has to Do With Me

    I didn't post about the proposed law in Indiana that would restrict the reproductive options of gays, lesbians, and singles, because by the time I learned about the story, the proposal had been dropped.

    Noticing that the bill's sponsor, Senator Patricia Miller, is from my hometown of Indianapolis, I decided to do a little research. As it were, my grandmother, uncle, good friend Jason Sisk, and several other friends and acquaintances live in Miller's district. I was also interested to learn that Miller is the Executive Director of the Confessing Movement in The United Methodist Church. I recently expressed concerns about the Confessing Movement at Christian but didn't make the connection.

    Youth Leaders and Sunday School Teachers . . .

    . . . check out Cardversations 2 (Eye-opening Edition), now available from Abingdon Press. This discussion starter kit contains one deck of cards featuring thought-provoking questions about one's faith journey and one deck of cards featuring provocative images. A leader's guide offers suggestions for using the cards and provides relevant Scriptures and follow-up questions. Cardversations is an excellent way to start off a youth group meeting or Sunday school class or to kill time on a road trip.

    Disclosure: I wrote and edited this edition of Cardversations (even though the Cokesbury website has the youth marketing manager listed as the author).

    God, Gays, and Gentiles

    My most recent post at Christian

    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    I Got Nothing

    I try to blog daily and, if possible, to update links andor content at least once in the morning and once in the evening. But today, I'm at a loss. I've been sitting here for about an hour trying to force myself to write about something, searching in vain for a marginally interesting news story that hasn't already been chewed and digested by other bloggers. No luck.

    I suppose I can recommend a book I am reading: The Gospel of Jesus by James Robinson. Robinson is an authority on the Sayings Gospel Q and the Nag Hammadi Codices, and he has put together an accessible and compelling look at the historical Jesus. Robinson is not as poetic as Bruce Chilton, as theological as Marcus Borg, as academic as Paula Frederiksen, or as thorough as John Dominic Crossan, but he is clear and concise, and his conclusions make sense. The book is just over 200 pages long, and it reads pretty quickly.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    Predators Win Season Opener

    I caught the (sold out) game on Fox Sports Southeast. Preds stars Paul Kariya and Scott Hartnell scored the tying and winning goals in the third period. Exciting. If the Titans can't turn things around, the Predators are a promising "plan B" for Nashville pro-sports fans.

    Recommended Reading

    "The Battle Over Gay Teens," this week's Time cover story.

    The Q&A with writer John Cloud from is also worth reading.

    An Open Letter to R. David Paulison

    R. David Paulison
    Acting Undersecretary of the
    Federal Emergency Management Agency

    Mr. Paulison:

    I am bothered by reports that over 90 percent of money from federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery and cleanup is going to companies in states outside the Gulf Coast region. In my opinion FEMA is squandering opportunities to help Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama recover financially from the recent catastrophe and to help create jobs in these states. Intentionally contracting with companies in Gulf Coast states would bring much needed hope to this bleak and desperate situation.

    I am also disturbed by wasteful no-bid contracts that make poor use of tax-payer money. I understand the need for expediency, but feel that area businesses should be allowed to bid on recovery and cleanup work; I also feel strongly that you should give preference to companies from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama that make wise use of federal funds. Even if these companies do not work as quickly as those with whom the government is currently contracting, they will bring much needed jobs and revenue to this depressed region.

    Thank you,
    Joshua Tinley
    Nashville, TN

    Harriet Miers and Gay Rights

    Much has been made of Miers' answers to a 1989 questionnaire issued by the Lesbian/Gay PAC of Dallas. Many are saying that this document proves Miers' support for gay rights. The first question asks:

    1. Do you believe that gay men and lesbians should have the same civil rights as non-gay men and women?

    Miers answers yes.

    The questionnaire then asks:

    2. a. Do you, as an individual citizen, support repeal of Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code which criminalizes the private sexual behavior of consenting adult lesbians and gay men?

    Miers answers no.

    So she believes in equal rights for homosexuals, but doesn't think that adult gay men and lesbians should be allowed to have consentual sex?

    I know that, considering some of the people Bush could have nominated, I should be relieved and gleeful that he nominated Miers. Honestly, I think I would be comfortable with Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court. Still, I don't want to give her a free pass.

    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Nashville Rhythm Hire New Coach

    My sources tell me that the Nashville Rhythm (our semi-pro basketball franchise) have hired Jerry Meyer as head coach. Meyer played college ball at David Lipscomb University (where the Rhythm play home games), was formerly the head basketball coach at Montgomery Bell Academy, and has been working professionally as a scout. Meyer is also the son of Lipscomb basketball coaching legend Don Meyer.

    Last year's head coach, Ashley McElhiney, left out of frustration with management. McElhiney, the first woman to coach a men's professional team, led the Rhythm to the playoffs, though team owners opted not to accept their playoff bid. (I can think of no comparable decision in all of professional or semi-professional sports.)

    After Sleeping On It . . .

    . . . I feel better about the Miers nomination. I still have reservations, but Gavin's post on the subject has given me some perspective.

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Initial Thoughts on Harriet E. Miers

    The Washington Post has the dossier on Miers.

    I'm glad that Bush nominated a woman, albeit a white woman, but I'm not sure why he nominated someone with no judicial experience. As a United Methodist, I can't overlook that Miers chaired the Texas Lottery Commission before coming to the White House.

    My cynical side tells me that Bush makes appointments without taking into consideration the qualifications for the jobs he is filling. Given recent controversy over the qualifications of other Bush appointees (particularly Mike Brown and John Bolton), I get the impression that, by nominating Miers, the President is giving the finger to the 60% of Americans who don't approve of the job he is doing. Then again, those who seem most upset about the Miers nomination are those who make up the President's base.

    See also: Focus on the Family Statement on the Miers Nomination (Christian Dissent).

    Selling Out

    Cole has Christian loaded with advertisements. Not just Google ads, but real ads. Right now we're pushing Cheap Tickets, Book Closeouts, and iUniverse. In the body of the most recent post (the one linking to the audio of yesterday's show) is a line that reads:

    Broadband Phone Service for local and long distance as low as $7.95 plus 1mo Free

    Nice. I feel so professional being involved with the media empire that is Christian Dissent.

    Scrambies College Football Rankings

    All my teams lost this weekend, so I'll skip the commentary. Here are my top 15 for this week:

    1. USC (4-0)
    2. Virginia Tech (5-0)
    3. Texas (4-0)
    4. Alabama (5-0)
    5. Florida State (4-0)
    6. Ohio State (3-1)
    7. Wisconsin (5-0)
    8. California (5-0)
    9. Michigan State (4-1)
    10. Notre Dame (4-1)
    11. Georgia (4-0)
    12. Florida (4-1)
    13. Tennessee (3-1)
    14. Penn State (5-0)
    15. Nebraska (4-0)

    Sunday, October 02, 2005

    Listen to Today's Show

    This morning on Christian Dissent Live Cole and I interviewed author, pastor, Beliefnet columnist, and former Vanderbilt Divinity School professor Rev. Dr. Renita Weems. The main topic this week was how we understand the truth and authority of Scripture. Cole and I also did our reinactment of Kirk Cameron witnessing to an unsuspecting shopping mall patron. Enjoy.

    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Nashville Area UMC Bishop Dick Wills Expects His Pastors to Do the Following:

    1. Spend time daily reading scripture and allowing it to be what they live "out of."

    2. Take at least one day off every week, no matter what.

    3. Take a two-day retreat from church once a month to focus on spiritual growth and renewal.

    4. Take a one-month sabbatical with pay once every quadrennium.

    (Personally, I could go for a one-moth paid sabbatical once every four years.)

    I think Bishop Wills has put forth a great plan for the pastors in his care. Our culture is so obsessed with productivity that many employers (and even employees) are stingy and wary when it comes to retreat, sabbath, and vacation. Taking time off to refresh ourselves makes us feel guilty and lazy; for businesses, too much paid vacation is often considered a bad investment. When someone is struggling, living paycheck-to-paycheck, we expect that person to work more hours or get another job. In the United States, we don't recognize a "right to rest," but rest is essential to living a healthy and abundant life.

    I hope that the church (including all of its boards and agencies) and society as a whole should adopt some version of Wills' plan. Keeping the sabbath is, after all, one of the Ten Commandments (though many in the church consider sabbath far less important than condemning homosexuality). And, according to the Decalogue, not only are we to keep the sabbath ourselves, but we also are to allow a day of rest for anyone who works for us (even including animals).

    (Hat tip: St. Phransus)

    Potentially Divisive Statement on Unity From the Confessing Movement

    Dean Snyder (Untied Methodist) reports on a statement on church unity recently issued by the Confessing Movement, for lack of a better description a conservative caucus within United Methodism.

    You can read my thoughts on the subject at Christian