Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blogger Ethics: Blogging at the Workplace

Fritz analyzes the story of Matt Barber, who lost his job with Allstate Insurance "after penning online essays, which proudly validated his white Christian male heritage while trashing gay marriage supporters." Groups such as Focus on the Family have come to Mr. Barber's defense, and Lutheran Church Charities has set up a fund to help the Barber family with financial difficulties they face in the wake of the firing. (I should add that Barber was making a six-figure salary, so forgive my being wary of charity funds being given to him and his family.)

Though I take issue with Barber's opinions, I feel obligated to defend his right to express them. But, as Fritz points out, Allstate officially let go of Barber because he "was using company resources on company time to dabble as an online conservative columnist." Barber's affiliation with Allstate was also mentioned in the bio included with an especially vitriolic anti-gay column.

Then again, many people blog or participate in other Internet-related activity on company time without being disciplined. I'll admit that I've done some blogging at work, though I rarely do so anymore. I decided a few months ago that office blogging and other extracurricular web surfing was a distraction from my work that I should eliminate. I also make every effort to keep my day job separate from my website, my radio show, and any articles I write that are not related to my day job.

I will say, however, that I work for The United Methodist Church and that, despite my love for the UMC, I sometimes openly disagree with the church's decisions and teachings. For me, the trick is to openly disagree with the church without seeming to do so on behalf of the church. Then again, no one should get the impression that The United Methodist Church would let a goober like me make statements on behalf of the entire denomination. (Bishops with far more influence than I will ever have used their episcopal status to defy church teaching, so anything I write on this blog is pretty inconsequential.)

When I started working on this post, I thought I had a point, but I'm not getting any closer to making one. So try not to blog at work; and if you want to say something controversial, keep your employer out of it. Finally (and I mean no offense to the Barber family), don't donate money to people who, until recently, were making six figures; they're doing OK.

Clemency Granted to Would-Be 1000th Person Executed


Robin Lovitt's death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole a little more than 24 hours before he was to be executed by injection Wednesday night for stabbing a man to death with a pair of scissors during a 1998 pool-hall robbery.

In granting clemency, Gov. Mark R. Warner noted that evidence had been improperly destroyed after Lovitt's trial.

Lovitt would have been the 1000th person executed by the state since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. I guess our nation can put off this disturbing milestone a little bit longer.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Possibly the Best Television Cameo Ever

Soundwave (of Transformers fame) makes a guest appearance on The Family Guy as one of Peter's co-workers. The Quicktime clip that I found is a little rough, but well worth watching. (Personally, I would have preferred that the children in Soundwave's family picture be his Decepticon "cassettes"—Ravage, Rumble, Frenzy, Buzzsaw, and so forth. Oh well.)

Hat tip: Mike Mullins. Clip from Jon Heird via Transformer World 2005.

Blondie, Sex Pistols, Miles Davis to Be Inducted in Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame

From the AP/

C.S. Lewis Opposed to Film Versions of Narnia

Reuters reports that writer and theologian C.S. Lewis, who died in 1963, adamently opposed efforts to turn his Chronicles of Narnia into a series of movies.

"I am absolutely opposed -- adamant isn't in it! -- to a TV version," [Lewis] wrote to BBC producer Lance Sieveking, who had created a radio version of his book which had met Lewis' approval. . . .

"Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare -- at least with photography," he wrote.

One wonders how Lewis's opinion might have changed (or been reinforced) had he lived to experience current-day CGI effects and animation. And even if Lewis would have been unhappy with the big-screen version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he might appreciate that the frenzy surrounding the film has led to a renewed interest in all of Lewis's works.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Christmas Season Is Underway

Meyer has already removed and destroyed three glass bulbs that had been hanging on the Christmas tree. Thus far the cats have destroyed surprisingly little. And as of Saturday November 26, the Tinleys had completed the majority of our Christmas shopping. (Most years, I don't reach this milestone until December 26.)

Congressman Cooper Makes This Constituent Proud

I tire of politicians who complain without offering creative solutions to deal with the subject of their complaints. So I am pleased that my U.S. Representative, Jim Cooper, has not only been vocally critical of the House Republicans' proposed budget, but he also has proposed an alternative.

The Republican-backed budget reconciliation package will cut $50 billion social programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and student loan programs and will not, according to Cooper, decrease the already excessive federal deficit. Cooper's plan, by contrast, claims to cut $50 billion from "handouts Congress has been giving away to corporations."

"Oil and gas companies are reporting record profits of staggering amounts yet Congress gave the industry an $8 billion handout in the energy bill passed this summer, just to go out and do their job,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper said. “That makes no sense. Federal spending should not be based on the special interests of those with access to effective lobbyists in Washington but, unfortunately, corporate entitlements have become an increasing part of business in Washington.”

If I correctly understood a report this morning from Nashville's NPR affiliate, WPLN, (no link to the report available), Cooper's proposal will soon go to committee, where it will likely be defeated.

I appreciate Cooper's efforts to reduce the deficit first by cutting irreponsible spending that benefits the very wealthy and to resist passing spending cuts that will hurt our most vulnerable citizens. I understand that government social programs are often inefficient and have been known to spend money irresponsibly. But cutting funds for programs that benefit Americans in need must be done slowly and carefully, so that no one (for lack of a better phrase) gets screwed. Where immediate and substantial cuts are concerned, start with revenue that goes to people who don't actually need it. (And I'm not convinced that corporations are using most of their hard-lobbied entitlement money to create new jobs.)

I didn't vote for Jim Cooper, and I've been more or less ambivalent toward him since he's been in office. But I'm glad to see him articulate an alternative vision for budget reform.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Time Outs" or "Times Out"

Toward the end of last night's game between Notre Dame and Stanford, the ABC broadcasting team (Keith Jackson and someone else) regularly reminded viewers of how many "times out" each team had. "Times out," as a plural of "time out," sounds awkward but seems on the surface to be gramatically correct. The rules of English grammar tell us that nouns have plural forms; modifiers do not. Thus the plural of "passerby" is "passersby," not "passerbies." "Passer" is a noun, meaning "one who passes"; "by" modifies "passer." Therefore "passer" becomes plural, and "by" does not. Likewise, the plural of "attorney general" is "attorneys general." An attorney general is an attorney; "general" is a modifier that describes a particular type of attorney.

In my opinion, however, "time out" is different. Yes, "time," like "passer" and "attorney," is a noun. But when "time" is part of the construction "time out," it functions differently than it would otherwise. One can call a "time out"; one cannot call a "time." A team can have four "time outs" remaining. No one has four "times" remaining. That doesn't make sense. The meaning of the phrase "time out" cannot be determined by combining the meanings of the words "time" and "out." Rather "time out," though it is a two-word phrase, functions as an autonomous word. By contrast, one can see two "passers" (though one may never refer to them as such) or two "passersby." One can contact an "attorney" or one can contact an "attorney general." The modifiers in these cases specify a type of "passer" and "attorney," they do not change the meaning of these words entirely.

"Time out," I think, is more like "playoff." A team doesn't go to the "playsoff"; it goes to the "playoffs." There is a noun form of "play," but the "play" in "playoff" functions differently, and "playoff" is not simply a variation of the noun "play." Therefore, the "s" is applied to the end of the entire construction, not to the end of "play," to form the plural.

Since "time out" is a two-word phrase that functions as an autonomous word, and is not simply a product of its two parts, the entire construction must be made plural. Thus the "s" should be added to the end of the phrase instead of to the end of "time." So, in my opinion, the plural of "time out" should be "time outs."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Going on Holiday

I may or may not post anything for the next few days. Ashlee, Meyer, and I will be in Indianapolis celebrating Thanksgiving with my side of the family, and I'll be trying not to think about all of the responsibilities I'll have to juggle when we return. (I will, however, have to make time to finish an article I'm writing that is due Monday.)

As for the content of my posts, I'm tired of politics (including church politics) right now, so anything I post will probably be about college basketball, books I'm reading, cats, toddlers, or mundane things that temporarily seem interesting to me. I hope that's OK.

Also, I'm not going to get around to updating either Josh or Meyer until we get back. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. This holiday season, I want to make every effort to be a Mary instead of a Martha.

Peace and happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Merry Christmas—It's November 22, and the Tinleys Are Part of the Problem

Does our culture cheapen Christmas by celebrating it for one-eighth of the calendar year? Probably. Nonetheless, Ashlee, Meyer, and I have already put up all of our indoor Christmas decorations. We'll be out of town for the next five days and weren't sure when we'd have another chance to decorate.

While I feel guilty for beginning the Christmas celebration prior to Thanksgiving, I have to admit that I really enjoy spending time in a house lit by Christmas lights and decked out in fake winter flora. Much to the chagrin of the American Family Association, our American family purchased a new tree skirt and a stocking-holder for our unborn second child from Target. Speaking of the AFA, I stumbled upon this article, which finds a way to incorporate the organization's disdain for homosexuality into their campaign to boycott stores that prefer "happy holidays" to "merry Christmas." Poor gay people can't get a break.

Though I am critical of the AFA's attack on certain retailers, I agree with them that Christians should affirm Christmas as a sacred holiday and stay focused on the true meaning of the holiday. The Tinley household does have two fairly large Nativity scenes displayed in our den. One is a stuffed Nativity that Meyer can play with. Unfortunately, I've already rescued Baby Jesus from under a leg of one of Meyer's chairs; and I found Mary on the floor after she narrowly escaped falling into the fireplace. Meyer doesn't yet have a concept of the sacred; of course, he's not even two. He has, however, learned to say "amen" at the end of our prayers.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving and don't worry about people like us who are already looking ahead to Christmas.

Audio of Today's Christian Dissent Live

I'm a couple days late, but here it is. I was only able to do the first hour (by phone) because I had to watch Meyer (who also makes his voice heard during hour 1). During the second hour, Cole interviews Steve Ross, author and illustrator of the graphic novel Marked, an edgy take on the Gospel of Mark.

Next week, we'll all be gone, so we'll probably broadcast a rerun.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Something New Every Day

Today I learned the following, from Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (page 213):

Human mothers in the New Guinea highlands often nurse piglets.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Update/Correction on 2006 Races

In a recent post, "Countdown to 2006", I asked about Republican state representative and former state party chair, Beth Haltemann-Harwell, whom I had assumed (based on earlier rumors) was running for Bill Frist's U.S. Senate seat. I also asked why the Tennessee G.O.P. was not opposing Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen in next year's election. In fact, Haltemann-Harwell will likely be Bredesen's challenger.

I'm slacking off. I'm not doing my research. I'm going for quantity over quality. I'll try harder from now on.

Then again, few consider Haltemann-Harwell a candidate who poses any threat to Phil the Chill. While she is a major player in the Tennessee Republican Party, she lacks statewide name recognition and probably would not be running if the Republicans felt that they could realistically unseat Bredesen. Still, Haltemann-Harwell strikes me as more intelligent and more interesting than other Tennessee Republican. While I don't expect or want her to win the governorship, I hope that (if she is the G.O.P. nominee) she can put some pressure on Phil.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Ubiquitous Silicone Wristband

As I was strolling through the exhibit hall at this weekend's Youth Specialties Convention, I was handed two silicone awareness bracelets: a white one from LIVEPURE, a Christian organization that promotes physcial, mental, and spiritual purity, but primarily sexual abstinance; and an orange one from World Vision's 30-Hour Famine.

Silicone wristbands were of course popularized by Lance Armstrong, whose Livestrong Wristbands, which are sold for $1 each, have raised tens of millions of dollars for cancer research. As the Livestrong bracelets have grown in popularity, dozens (and possibly hundreds) of advocacy groups, charities, political organizations, and trinket manufacturers have sold or distributed copycat wristbands. Some hope to raise money and awareness; some are just interested in raising awareness; a few even sell these bracelets for profit.

Personally, I think that we, as a culture, have gone too far with the silicone wristbands. If I see someone wearing a red bracelet, for example, I have no way of knowing what that bracelet represents. Thus, the bracelet-wearer is not actually raising awareness by wearing the bracelet. Everyone recognizes and understands the Livestrong wristbands; and most people know that pink silicone bracelets raise money and awareness for breast cancer. But who can sort out the significance of the myriad blue, red, white, black, green, orange, and multi-colored strips of silicone that show up on so many wrists? How do we know whether a bracelet is connected to a cause or is meaningless and was purchased at a drug store?

Lance had a good idea, and it has proven very successful. But now that silicone bracelets in general (and not just Livestrong wristbands) have become so popular, Lance's vision is becoming a tacky fashion trend. And the majority of the copycat wristbands raise little money and little awareness for the cause they champion. I fear that, as a culture, we are asking poorly paid workers in Chinese factories (where most silicone wristbands are manufactured) to spend their days producing more junk that we just don't need.

On the other hand, these wristbands can be beneficial if wearers regard them as a constant reminder to act: What can I do today to ease the effects of poverty? What steps can I take right now to end hunger in my community? Maybe I should set aside part of my next paycheck and donate it to programs that help victims of HIV/AIDS. If these bracelets inspire and motivate the people who wear them, great. But as a fashion trend or means of raising awareness, I could do without the silicone wristbands.

Morning-After Pill Follow-Up

A reader rightly objected to how I used some terms in my recent post on the "morning-after pill." I said wrongly that conception was a two-step process that first involved fertilization and, secondly, implantation. In fact, medically speaking, conception takes place when an egg is fertilized, but a pregnancy begins when the egg implants on the uterine wall. As I understand it, experts and activists continue to debate whether life begins at conception/fertilization or at implantation/pregnancy. Then again, I could be wrong.

I should confess that any knowledge I have on this subject comes second-hand from my wife and from My wife has some expertise in these matters, but my non-medically-trained mind often misunderstands what she tells me or draws unfounded conclusions. My wife knows her stuff; I'm the problem here, and I should probably shut up.

But before I cease discussing contraception and pregnancy, I want to leave you with two things: 1) Given the constraints mentioned above, this post is my most thoughtful and informed writing on this subject. 2) I am still bothered by the FDA audit that was the impetus for my recent post, "Audit Questions FDA Decision on Morning-After Pill".

So I apologize for any misinformation I provided and thank J2 for pointing out my mistake.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Church Marketing Sucks . . .

. . . is the name of a blog that came to my attention this afternoon at the Youth Specialities Convention in Nashville. I watched as the webmasters hoisted a banner on which "Church Marketing Sucks" was written in foot-tall letters. Even though the Church Marketing Sucks booth was not giving away any free stuff, the banner was so alluring that I nonetheless decided to drop by and learn a little more about their operation.

This evening I visited the website. As a blog, Church Marketing Sucks isn't terribly spectacular, despite the catchy moniker. I think that the site has a lot of potential, and I think that the content will become more engaging as more people discover and contribute to CMS. Right now, the periodic peer reviews of church websites are CMS's strongest feature (and a great idea).

Anyway, Church Marketing Sucks is a good site to keep your eye on and (possibly) contribute to. And, in case you were wondering, CMS explains why it uses the word "sucks".

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cold and Darkness in Nashville

This week's Nashville Scene cover story is about Nashvillians afflicted with seasonal affective disorder (aptly abbreviated, SAD). According to writer Jack Silverman (who suffers from SAD himself):

November is winter’s merciless siren, enticing us with her vivid early colors before hurling us into a cold and lifeless dungeon, taunting us like a death row prisoner’s lavish final meal. No month is more bittersweet—the breathtaking radiance of changing leaves in autumn’s peculiar late-afternoon sun, separated by only days from the wintry landscape’s lifeless pallor. I’ll stare at a glowing-orange sugar maple for several minutes without moving, hoping to store its vibrant hue in my neurons as some sort of insulation against the dreariness that will soon permeate my senses.

I almost feel bad that autumn and winter are my favorite times of year. I enjoy living in a city that has four distinct seasons and would actually prefer that Nashville's temperature be a few degrees cooler. (Generally, Nashville is between 5 and 10 degress warmer than Indianapolis, where I grew up.) I am most comfortable when I can wear sweatshirts and sweaters without sweating, and I abhor heat and bright light. So, for those of you who suffer from SAD, I apologize.

Audit Questions FDA Decision on Morning-After Pill


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal health officials didn't follow normal procedures in rejecting over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill -- and some documents suggest the decision was made even before scientists finished reviewing the evidence, congressional investigators reported Monday.

Politics trumped science, immediately charged long-suspicious members of Congress who had requested the independent audit.

Personally, I favor making the "morning-after pill" available over the counter. While some consider the drug a form of abortion, the morning-after pill stops a possibly fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall. Implantation is a necessary second step in the process of conception: Many eggs are fertilized, but do not implant; thus, a pregnancy does not result.

As I understand it, the morning-after pill is meant to be taken shortly after a sexual encounter that might result in the pregnancy. In some cases an egg has not been fertilized anyway, so the pill is irrelevant. In some cases the pharmaceutical prevents the implantation of an egg that would not have attached itself to the uterine wall anyway. Finally, in other cases the morning-after pill stops a fertilized egg from developing into a viable human being.

Because the pill is taken during the process of conception in cases where a pregnancy might not have resulted anyway, I do not think that taking the morning-after pill is equivalent to having an abortion. In fact, I think that this drug, if it is easily accessible, could be a valuable tool for reducing the number of abortions. Also, given the prevalence of date rape, I think that having the morning-after pill available over the counter is important.

At any rate, I am bothered by the possibility that the FDA cut corners to keep the morning-after pill behind the counter and off the shelves. CNN reports:

The independent Government Accountability Office reviewed FDA's first rejection, uncovering what they called "unusual" decision-making. Among the findings:

  • Conflicting accounts of whether the decision was made months before scientific reviews were completed.

  • Unusual involvement from high-ranking agency officials.

  • Three FDA directors who normally would have been responsible for signing off on the decision did not do so because they disagreed with it.

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Personally, I Would Prefer Retailers Wish Me "Happy Holidays" Instead of a "Merry Christmas"

    In recent years much has been made of the secularization of Christmas in stores. Some outspoken, self-avowed conservative Christians have expressed outrage toward retailers that openly and prominently favor slogans such as "season's greetings" and "happy holidays" to "merry Christmas" and "happy Hanukah." These critics are rightly concerned that culture is sucking Christ out of Christmas (or, for that matter, the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire out of Hanukah), but I think their efforts are misguided.

    My inner Republican says that businesses aim to select decor and advertising copy that will appeal to the most, and offend the fewest, customers. Some people will shop, some will boycott, and the free-market economy will sort everything out. If the 85% of Americans who identify as Christians really want their shopping malls and junk mail to tell them "merry Christmas," they'll eventually get their wish.

    Frankly, however, as a Christian, I favor any effort to separate Christmas and commerce. The birth of the Christ child needs not be associated with the plethora of once-trendy gadgets that fill America's attics and basements and tacky sweaters and jewelry that fill our nation's thrift stores and pawn shops. Jesus doesn't care whether your parents have a George Foreman Mean, Lean, Low-fat, Grilling Machine, nor does he care whether you buy it at Dillards or Sears. Actually, Jesus would probably be offended that we spend so much money on superfluous junk in his name.

    So, as a Christian, I would prefer that stores not wish me a merry Christmas.

    UMCom Rejects Judicial Council Decsion 1032; Re-affirms Denominational Slogan

    I know that a lot of people are tired of discussing the controversial decisions issued by the United Methodist Judicial Council a couple weeks ago. But yesterday I noticed that United Methodist Communications (UMCom) has weighed in on the matter.

    UMCom is responsible for, among other things, the "Igniting Ministries" campaign—the initiative that gave us the denominational slogan, "Open hearts, open minds, open doors." Apparently, in light of Decision 1032, some United Methodists have requested that UMCom discontinue use of the slogan. If it is OK to deny someone membership because he is gay, they ask, can we really claim to have open hearts, minds, and doors? Good question. UMCom General Secretary Larry Hollen and President Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton responded by issuing a statement that includes the following:

    Since this decision, some persons have asked us to withdraw our denominational promise, “Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors: The People of The United Methodist Church.”

    While we understand those concerns, we believe that it would be a tragic mistake to walk away from a promise grounded in Christ’s love and his commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We believe it would be a tragic mistake to walk away from the thousands of congregations who have made the promise of “Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors: The People of The United Methodist Church” a living reality. We believe it would be a tragic mistake to turn away from congregations who affirm it makes no difference where you come from, how much money you earn, what the color of your skin is, and even, whether you are gay or straight.

    This church is about the people who live out what we say as reinforced in our Constitution and Social Principles. We call on the people of The United Methodist Church to keep before the world the fundamental principle that our hearts, our minds, and our doors are open to anyone seeking a new life in Jesus Christ. Christ rejected no one. Neither can we.

    Here we have a denominational agency essentially rejecting a Judicial Council Decision. I don't care to discuss whether UMCom was right or wrong to issue such a statement or whether I agree or disagree with the agency's actions. Instead, I want to ask, How significant is it for an official church board or agency to essentially reject a Judicial Council Decision? Considering the similar action taken by the Council of Bishops, is it fair to say that the branches of United Methodist governance are engaged in a power struggle? Personally, I appreciate debate and dissent, but what does it ultimately mean for our denominational leaders to be split on a matter as fundamental as who can join the church? Just thought I'd ask.

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    A Frog and a Chicken

    Another Halloween picture, this one courtesy of Little Meyer.

    Remembering My Forgettable Music Career #3: "Chili Meat"

    Chili Meat (April 1994)

    Music by Josh Tinley 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: Chili Meat (MP3)

    For six consecutive summers, beginning in 1993, I worked at Wendy's. I maintain that my experience as a fast food employee was one of the most important experiences of my young life and was crucial to making me the person I am today (for better or worse). But enough with the clichés. Regardless of its subsequent benefits, little of my time at Wendy's was at all enjoyable.

    While setting the pick-up-window speed record with bandmate and co-worker Tim Gober (22 seconds-per-car) was one of the most rewarding experiences of my adolescence, my average day at Wendy's left me with sore feet, a thin coat of grease covering my entire being, dried cow blood on my shirt, and assorted condiments on my pants. Like most things I did in high school, my work at Wendy's was a source of angst and frustration, as well as the subject of one of my early songs.

    Chili Meat's vocal "melody" closely follows the bass line, which is evidence of the difficulty I had playing bass and singing at the same time. The lyrics to the verses crudely recount a typical day on the job: "Face in the greasy food; open a box of spoons; steal a couple fries; been here since ten till noon." The chorus engages all of the senses and demands a reprieve from a hard day's work: "Hear me, smell me, taste me, see me; let me off and then relieve me."

    This recording, from Drywall's No Mustard, features the "Chili Meat Rap," which is possibly the highlight of the song. The rap was not originally part of the song but was tacked on as an intro for the song's second performance (August 7, 1994 at the TA Skate Shop in Indianapolis). By the third show (September 23, 1994 at the Emerson Theatre in Indianapolis), the rap finally settled in as a mid-song interlude.

    A Real-Life Fairy Tale Out of Tokyo

    Japan's Princess Sayako has relinquished her crown by marrying a commoner—urban planner Yoshiki Kuroda.


    The marriage means she relinquishes her title, swaps the grandeur of the Imperial Palace for an ordinary apartment, and trades official duties for housework and the supermarket run.

    (As with most fairy tales, this one involves antiquated gender roles.)

    Sunday, November 13, 2005

    Audio of Today's Christian Dissent Live

    I was out today. (See below.) But I'm sure Cole and Joey did a good job. Their guest today was Greg Gardner from Hillsboro Presbyterian Church. (One of our rare non-United-Methodist guests.)

    Am I Putting Ben Folds Before Jesus?

    The Tinley family missed church this morning. Because of an all-church brunch, Sunday school classes were cancelled, so I didn't have to teach. Knowing that Ashlee would be off today and that I wouldn't be teaching Sunday school, Cole graciously let me take a break from the radio show. So the Tinleys decided to set aside the morning for family time.

    I had still planned on going to the late-morning service at church, but as 10:30 approached, it became apparent that the family was in no shape to worship. I had a sore throat, a stuffy head, and a mild achy-ness throughout my body; Ashlee is 13-weeks pregnant and had a difficult morning. Meyer, unlike his parents, felt fine; actually, he felt so fine that the little energy Ashlee and I had was completely expended trying to keep up with him. (As far as I can tell, the cats are healthy, and—aside from a tantrum from Naomi—they have been well behaved. But we don't take any of them to church.)

    So we skipped church this morning. I wouldn't feel so bad, given the circumstances, but Ashlee and I will be seeing Ben Folds tonight at the Ryman Auditorium. The combination of Ben Folds and the Ryman makes this a show that we cannot miss. Ashlee and I saw Ben with the Ben Folds Five the last time he played the Ryman, back in 2000. It was one of the best shows either of us had ever seen.

    Sure, we'll probably feel better by the time we go to the concert than we did this morning; but I still have to ask, Am I putting Ben Folds before Jesus? In the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I should probably add that we will be setting the VCR (yes, we still have one that we use) before we go so that we don't miss Desperate Housewives.

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    The Scene Spoils Metro's Fun

    The Nashville Scene's Bruce Barry puts into context Metro Schools' rising test scores and warns Nashvillians not to be too optimistic about the state of public education in the city. Bruce writes:

    Metro test scores are up, but so are statewide averages. The rise is genuine in the sense that the score jumps are sizeable, but the one-year gains in Nashville mask multiyear trends that are far less impressive and in some cases alarmingly weak. State and local scores are rising while reliable national measures are flat, which seriously calls into question the persuasiveness of state gains. It all makes heaps of test-performance praise for Pedro Garcia and his staff seem like an impulsive rush to judgment.

    Bill O'Reilly Pulls a Pat Robertson

    Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly essentially told terrorists that San Francisco is fair game for an attack. O'Reilly is angry that Frisco residents voted to discourage city public schools from allowing military recruiters on campus.

    If you want to ban military recruiting, fine. But I’m not going to give you another nickel of federal money. If I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. If Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it." We're going to say, "Look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead."

    I personally don't have a problem with military recruiters visiting public schools, as long as they are treated no differently and given no more privileges than college or trade-school recruiters. But I fully understand why the citizens of San Francisco have concerns about predatory and manipulative military recruiting practices.

    At any rate, O'Reilly is totally out of line. While I expect ridiculous statements from the mouths of cable-news personalities, justifying terrorism targeted at a major city because many of its residents disagree with you is sick and inexcusable.

    I'm Very Interested In Hearing Some Half-Baked Theories

    From The Onion.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Happy Birthday Calculus!

    330 years ago today, Gottfried Liebniz first demonstrated that integral calculus can be used to calculate the area under the graph of a function. In college I learned how to wrap a function around the x-axis and use integral calculus to find the volume of the resulting three-dimensional figure. Thanks Gottfriend! (And thanks to Wikipedia for the information.)

    When Youth Pastors Make Freudian Slips

    This video (Windows Media) documents the most painfully embarassing sermon blooper I have ever seen. One might expect teens to chuckle when their youth pastor talks about Lot "pitching tents," but this youth minister bypasses crude clichés and gets explicit (albeit accidentally).

    Hat tip: James Spring

    Professor Rex Matthews on Decision 1032

    Scrambies has received a paper by Candler School of Theology [Visiting} Professor Rex Matthews titled "Why [United Methodist] Judicial Council Decision 1032 Must Be Reversed or Overturned" (PDF). (Candler is affiliated with Emory University in Atlanta.) Decision 1032, issued last Monday, was responsible for reinstating a UM pastor who had been suspended for denying membership to an openly gay parishioner. The decision declares that “the pastor in charge of a United Methodist church or charge is solely responsible for making the determination of a person’s readiness to receive the vows of membership,” a notion that Matthews contests and argues is inconsistent with the UM Book of Discipline. Matthews writes:

    Paragraph 217 [of the Discipline] specifies the vows that anyone desiring to become a professing member of The United Methodist Church must publicly affirm. . . . The language of the introductory statement leading up to the vows clearly focuses on the persons who are making those vows: they profess their faith, they make known their desire to live as disciples, they enter into covenant to keep the vows that they are making. And with whom do they enter into covenant? “They covenant together with God and with the members of the local church.” The pastor acts as an agent in the making of this covenant, but is not a party to it. The covenant is made by the individual with God and the church, under the conditions specified by the church. Nothing in the language of 217 suggests that a person entering into this covenant relationship with God and the church must previously have satisfied the pastor in charge of their “readiness” to do so.

    P-Rob to Dover, PA: "God's Gonna Getcha!"

    Pat Robertson keeps it real. After residents of Dover, Pennsylvania voted out their entire pro-intelligent-design school board, Robertson warned the citizens of Dover, saying, "If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city." I'd like to think that no one still takes Pat Robertson seriously, but people continue sending him money.

    I'm bothered that Pat equates rejecting intelligent design (ID) in schools with rejecting God. (And he's not the only person who feels that way.) According to ID theory, the intelligent designer is not necessarily God. Philip Johnson, founder of the ID movement says that the designer "could be space aliens or time travelers." Granted, many ID adovocates believe that the Christian God is the intelligence behind all of Creation. Then again, so do many evolutionists.

    UM Bishops Need to Offer Solutions, Not Complaints

    I just received in my inbox a "statement of conscience" signed by several United Methodist bishops that was recently published in Zion's Herald. The bishops protest continued U.S. involvement in Iraq by repenting for not doing enough to stop the war in the first place:

    We confess our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated. . . .

    I'm no fan of the Iraq War. I think that the administration manipulated evidence to make a case for war, while dismissing legitimate questions and concerns from church leaders, foreign policy experts, and retired military officers. I also feel that the effects of the war on Iraqi civilians need to be taken more seriously.

    But I don't understand this move by the bishops. If they want to confess not doing enough to stop the war, great; but why do it publicly? and why now? Publishing this "statement of conscience" in Zion's Herald strikes me as self-righteous and divisive: Many United Methodists who have been against the war all along will cheer the bishops' statement; those who have supported the war will only get upset at what their episcopal leaders appear to be doing on behalf of the entire denomination.

    (I should add that this "statement of conscience" is not an official statement of the Council of Bishops or of The United Methodist Church, though one might get that impression.)

    If the bishops really want to raise concerns about the war, they also need to offer solutions. Plenty of people are critical of the war; too few people are putting forth ideas about what to do now. The UM bishops who signed this statement need to meet with retired high-ranking military officials and with experts who really understand the Middle East and American foreign policy. They need to develop a viable strategy for ending the Iraq war and occupation, and they need to present the plan to the administration before going public with it. (The administration probably won't be receptive, but the President is a United Methodist, so it's worth a try.)

    Complaining has its place, but after three years complaints just aren't productive anymore. We need fresh ideas and solutions.

    Wednesday, November 09, 2005

    Countdown to 2006

    Since yesterday was Election Day 2005 (sorry Arnold), now is the time for bloggers, pundits, and barbershop patrons to start wasting time and energy looking ahead to next November. Where I live, there will really be only one race of consequence: the race to fill Bill Frist's U.S. Senate seat.

    Shortly after Frist (who is taking an ill-advised shot at the GOP presidential nomination) announced that he would not seek re-election, Democratic U.S. Representative Harold Ford, Jr. appeared to have an early advantage. Now tarnished by corruption among other members of the Memphis royal family, Ford is no longer even a lock to win the Democratic nomination. Then again, I haven't heard much lately from Ford's primary competitor, State Senator Rosalind Kurita. (Primary has two meanings in that sentence, get it?)

    The Republicans will be choosing between former U.S. Representative Ed Bryant and Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker. Former Congressman and failed gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary is also running, but his prospects don't look so good right now. No offense to Van, but I think he overachieved when he won his U.S. House seat. (A quick question for Republicans: What happened to Beth Halteman-Harwell?) Bryant, the anti-Hilleary Republican, has an army of bloggers hard at work bashing his opponent. As for Corker, I noticed that he cut and pasted onto his website the official statement on "values" that one is issued upon registering as a Republican.

    Technically, Tennesseans will also be electing a governor next year; but no one seems eager to challenge current Governor Phil Bredesen. I'm not sure that anyone is really that impressed with Phil the Chill, who is a Democrat in a Republican state. Why isn't the GOP putting up a serious fight? Personally, I'm hoping for an interesting independent candidate to enter the gubernatorial race—someone who will get 3-4% of the vote, but who will raise important issues that no candidate interested in winning will talk about (someone other than John Jay Hooker).

    My U.S. Representative, Democrat Jim Cooper, will probably get a free pass in 2006. I think I live in one of those congressional districts where incumbants automatically get re-elected. Frankly, I'm not sure why we elected Jim Cooper in the first place, but I have to admit that he's growing on me.

    Until We Have Time Machines . . .

    . . . we will never know what Jesus looked like. The Gospels give us few hints. (They do, however, tell us that Jesus was accused of being a glutton and was asked why he didn't fast. Might the Messiah have been a bit on the plump side?) I often have to find pictures of our Lord and Savior, and I am delighted whenever I find an image of a Jesus who doesn't look like Barry Gibb, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden circa 1992, or fifteenth-and-sixteenth-century German painter Albrecht Dürer, or who doesn't have fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. So I was happy to stumble upon this image of Jesus of Nazareth at Wikipedia. The image is based on a reconstruction (by Richard Nieve) of the face of a first-century Palestinian Jewish man and was prepared for the "Son of God" television series produced by the BBC, Discovery, and France 3.

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    I've Run Out of Energy

    I'm really to tired to post anything this evening, but I feel obligated to make blogging a daily habit. Since today is Election Day in states that have elections this year, I had hoped to preview the 2006 races in Tennessee, which are now less than a year away. As that would require doing some research and citing some sources, I will be writing no assessment of the upcoming campaign tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

    I had also planned to write the third installment of my series, "Remembering My Forgettable Music Career." (You can read the first two: "Dead Frog" and "F Plus".) The next song on the list is "Chili Meat," which I wrote to convey the misery and frustration of working at Wendy's. The lyrics aren't exactly deep, so writing about them wouldn't require a fully functioning brain; but I feel obligated to offer my readers a decent colored pencil illustration for each song. So Chili Meat will have to wait.

    Good night.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    Sexual Activity Rises Among Teen Girls in Tennessee; More Girls Are Victims of Date Rape; Use of Birth Control Declines

    The City Paper reports that new data from the CDC's Youth Risk Behavioral Survey says:

    Sexual activity among female teenagers grades 9-12 in Tennessee has jumped from 47 percent in 2003 to 55 percent in 2004. About 13 percent of girls under the age of 13 have been sexually active.

    The article does not say how the survey defines "sexual activity," but it does make note of some disturbing findings:

    • The percent of teenage girls having sex with more than four persons rose from 12 in 2003 to 15 in 2004.

    • Girls experiencing date violence rose from 9 percent in 2003 to 11 percent in 2004; and those forced to have sex rose from 13 to 15 percent. The article does not report the survey's margin of error, but a 2 percent jump in both categories is very upsetting. These data confirm my suspicion that date rape is a much bigger problem than most people realize.

    • Condom use decreased from 48 percent in 2003 to 30 percent in 2004; use of the pill decreased from 17 to 11 percent. Regardless of margin of error, these are signficant drops.

    We need to do a better job of protecting teen girls from predatory teenage boys, as well as from STDs and unwanted pregnancies. While I think it is extremely important to educate girls about the use of birth control pills and other forms of contraception, I think it is more important to empower girls, to help them reject cultural messages that seek to define young women as sexual objects.

    Has Gay Marriage Ruined Massachusetts?

    A humorous clip that Ed Helms did last week on The Daily Show.

    Subconsciously I Am Very Manly

    I noticed, as I was getting ready for my shower this morning, that I instinctively avoid using the pink towel. I seem to be more comfortable with purple, but definitely show a preference for blue and gray.

    Blogging Methodists

    A new United Methodist blog has formed in hopes of fostering understanding and community after a painful and difficult week for the UMC. I look forward to participating in this new ministry.

    Pray for Evansville

    Late Saturday night a tornado killed at least 22 people in and near Evansville, Indiana. Evansville was my hometown for five years, and it appears that the tornado came fairly close to my old apartment. Those most affected by this storm were the residents of a trailer community just southeast of the city. Pray especially for these persons, some of whom lost everything.

    This Week's Christian Dissent Live

    This week we spent the entire two hours discussing recent UM Judicial Council Decisions. We had a few flubs during the first hour, but the second hour went very well. We were joined by Shane Raynor of Wesley Blog and had a very cordial debate about church policy.

    Saturday, November 05, 2005

    1028: This Week's Overlooked [Relatively] Gay-Friendly Judicial Council Decision

    United Methodists (at least those who keep up with what's going on in their denomination) have had a lot to say about UM Judicial Council Decisions 1027 (ultimately defrocking minister Beth Stroud, a "self-avowed, practicing homosexual") and 1032 (reinstating a pastor who denied membership to an openly gay man), both issued Monday. Because of these two rulings, Halloween was less-than-festive for those of us who support the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life and ministry of the church.

    But as we clean the toilet paper from our proverbial front-lawn trees, there is still a burning candle in our jack-o-lantern. (How's that for a Halloween-themed metaphor?) Compared to 1027 and 1032, Decision 1028 is actually relatively gay-friendly.

    A resolution passed this summer by California-Nevada annual conference to "welcome and include people who may be on the edges in our communities" asked District Superintendents to instruct congregations to (among other things):

    To make plans to welcome and include LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered) persons in leadership roles in the church

    The resolution was challenged on the grounds that it required District Superintendents "to hold churches accountable for a position specifically at odds with ¶304.3 of the 2004 Discipline." That paragraph in the Discipline bars "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" from being ordained as clergy. California-Nevada Bishop Beverly J. Shamana determined that the resolution did not contradict the Discipline, and the Judicial Council affirmed her ruling:

    The Bishop is correct in her ruling that ¶ 304.3 applies to persons in the ordained ministry and the prohibition against certifying, ordaining, and appointing self-avowed practicing homosexuals to serve in the Church. The adopted provision says the district superintendent would be asking for a report on how the church is making plans to welcome lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered persons into the leadership of the church. Paragraph 214 of the Discipline states,“[a]ll people may attend its [The United Methodist Church] worship services, participate in the programs, receive the sacraments and become members in any local church in the connection.…” Further, The United Methodist Church is committed to be in ministry for and with all persons. ¶161G, 2004 Discipline and Decision 913.

    So the UMC's minds, hearts, and doors are not entirely closed to openly gay persons.

    Not So Good

    This evening I have to ask myself why I am such a sports fan. Why do I put myself in a position to be so disappointed by the outcomes of essentially meaningless contests? Today was particularly brutal:

    Vanderbilt scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to tie the game before losing to #13 Florida in double overtime.

    Despite a big fourth-quarter comeback, the Pacers lost by two to the Sixers.

    The Predators blew a 2-0 lead in the third period and lost to the Kings in a shootout.

    I have a feeling the Titans won't fare much better tomorrow.

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Letter From the Council of Bishops

    Cole has posted a recent letter from The United Methodist Council of Bishops in response to Monday's controversial Judicial Council Decision 1032. The letter reads:

    While pastors have the responsibility to discern readiness for membership, homosexuality is not a barrier. With the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church we affirm:

    “that God’s grace is available to all, and we will seek to live together in Christian community. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”(Para. 161g, 2004 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church)

    We also affirm our Wesleyan practice that pastors are accountable to the bishop, superintendent, and the clergy on matters of ministry and membership. The United Methodist Church is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ with all people. We, the bishops of the Church, uphold and affirm that the General Conference has clearly spoken through the denomination’s Constitution on inclusiveness and justice for all as it relates to church membership.


    "The Judiciary" (from The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church)

    "Oh Yeah? Whaddaya Wanna Do About It? Let's Go Then" (Scrambies, November 3)

    America's Next Muppet

    I'm generally wary of big media conglomerates, but I am glad that Disney recently spent $90 to buy the rights to The Muppets. Jim Henson's pantheon of talking animals and strange humanoid creatures played a key role in my early childhood development and continues to occupy special places in my heart, mind, and soul. While I worry that Disney will fail to do The Muppets justice, I am delighted to learn that Disney will be doing something with The Muppets, who sadly have been absent from American pop culture for much of the last decade.

    Disney is planning to return my childhood friends to prime-time with America's Next Muppet, a parody of shows such as American Idol and America's Next Top Model, that will air on ABC.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Former Williamson County Commissioner Threatens Young Children on Halloween

    From The Tennessean:

    FRANKLIN — Charles "Chuck" J. Eades, a former Williamson County commissioner, could face more serious charges for allegedly threatening a group of trick-or-treaters with a rifle.

    Two witnesses told police yesterday that they saw Eades point a gun at an 8-year-old girl.

    Now I wonder if the rumors about "Old Man Shotgun"—the mean, trigger-happy, elderly man who allegedly owned the large piece of property in my neighborhood that was too enticing not to trespass on—were really true.

    Pacers Win Opener

    The Pacers won their season opener last night, defeating Orlando 90-78. Ron Artest, after a slow start, finished with 16 points and 5 assists. But, as the box score suggests, the win truly was a team effort.

    In other sports news, my Nashville Predators, who began the season 8-0-0, lost their fourth straight last night. (To be fair, two of those four losses came in overtime or in a shootout, so the Preds still get partial credit in the standings.)

    Cole Wakefield in Out and About

    My good friend and colleague Cole Wakefield has written an opinion piece, "Loving the Ex-Gay As Jesus Does," that was published in the most recent edition of the newspaper Out and About.

    Oh Yeah? Whaddaya Wanna Do About It? Let's Go Then

    (First, I want to confess that in the first sentence of this comment I accidentally wrote "in" instead of "and." I have been unable to find a way to edit the comment and correct my mistake.)

    Following Monday's controversial and emotionally loaded UM Judicial Council decisions, I figured that United Methodists like myself would need an opportunity to discuss and debate and to vent. And there has been much discussion, debate, and venting on United Methodist blogs.

    I've been impressed by the number of people who have taken an interest in what is going on in the church. (As of this writing, over 200 comments have been posted in response to Monday's decisions.) Many have demonstrated their passion for United Methodism through their frustration or celebration. Unfortunately, as I have continued to read the comments on UM blogs, my denominational pride has waned.

    Let me back up: Judicial Council Decision 1032 states:

    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).

    Many have expressed concern about the wording of this decision, fearing that it gives pastors too much power or that it will turn the United Methodist Church into a congregational (rather than connectional) denomination. While I disagree with 1032, I am open to having some standards for membership. As Christians we affirm that faith should transform an individual—a relationship with Christ should influence his or her attitude and behavior. If faith does not transform, then what's the point?

    Personally, I think that spiritual transformation is revealed most fully, not in sexual orientation, but in how one treats others. And frankly, much of the debate among United Methodists in the past two days has been anything but Christlike. Both those who support the council's decisions and those who oppose them have failed to exhibit humility, patience, grace, or love. We don't sing, "They will know we are Christians by our vitriol and animosity." When United Methodist clergy and lay leaders post childish, insulting comments on popular UM blogs, we distort the teachings of Jesus and the mission of the church.

    As we debate what behavior we should expect from a member of The United Methodist Church, we need to seriously evaluate our own behavior and whether we are being faithful to our call as Christians and our identity as United Methodists. The fighting and insulting rhetoric of the last 48 hours are not becoming of disciples of Christ.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Baltimore-Washington Conference Calls for a Special Session of General Conference

    An interesting development from the D.C. area:

    Dean Snyder reports that the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference earlier today passed a resolution calling for a special session of General Conference to clarify Judicial Council Decisions 1031 and 1032. The resolution reads:

    Whereas Judicial Council Decisions 1031 and 1032 create confusion about the role and responsibilities of pastors, cabinets, bishops, Boards of Ordained Ministry and clergy sessions on matters of local church membership:

    Therefore the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Baltimore Washington Conference calls on the Council of Bishops (according to ¶14 Article II of the 2004 Book of Discipline) to call for a special session of General Conference to be held as soon as possible to clarify the authority and accountability of pastors, cabinets, bishops, Boards of Ordained Ministry and clergy sessions as to whom may be received as member of our churches.

    This could get interesting.

    Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    NBA Action: It's Fantastic

    Today is one of my favorite days of the year: the first day of the NBA season. Tonight, TNT has the Nuggets vs. the Spurs and the Mavericks vs. the Suns. Reggie Miller is joining TNT's broadcast team. The Pacers make their national television debut Thursday on TNT against the Heat.

    My Little Chicken

    I've been so wrapped up in church politics that I haven't even posted anything about the Libby indictment, the Alito nomination, or the avian flu. I don't think I'm going to. I need a break from politics and debates and divisive issues. So here's something that should make everyone happy:

    Yesterday, Ashlee and I dressed up Meyer as a chicken for Halloween. We took our little chicken to both of our workplaces and to see friends and family. Uncle Zach and Aunt Jenny have already posted some pictures. (Ashlee and I still use a film camera, so you'll have to wait for our pictures to be developed and scanned.)

    Conversation About the UM Judicial Council's Decision

    Shane Raynor makes a good point in response to my post, "Beth Stroud Loses, and So Does The United Methodist Church." Still, I respectfully disagree with Shane and do my best to explain why.

    Speaking of Shane, there is some fierce debate on this subject at Wesley Blog.

    As Cole notes, no one participating in these discussions is making any new points nor any visible progress toward reconciliation. Still, debating—even venting—is healthy for the UMC right now.