How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone Not to Proselytize?

Francis Schaeffer on the Origins of Relativism in the Church

One of My Favorite Songs

An Inspiring Song


Friday, August 22, 2014

More Ranting About My Workplace

I know, gentle and most-likely non-existent reader, I know--you're sick of me griping about the shenanigans at my workplace.

Sorry.  Gotta vent somewhere.  This is a BIG part of what anonymous blogging is FOR.


I almost didn't write this post.  I'd made up my mind within fifteen minutes of arriving at work to write a little something, but by mid-day, the thought'd dropped out of my mind.

It took "the girls" to remind me.

They pulled something that completely poisoned what was left of the relationships--well, some of the relationships--around here.  I will explain, to a limited degree.

We have gone from having a relatively deep bench, experience-wise, to having a very thin one, and all in just the last few months.  And all of it--all of it, as far as I am concerned!--directly traceable to the jackanapes in charge.  We have three ladies, Customer Service Reps, up front.  They are unsupervised the vast majority of the time.  Only one of them has more than a year of experience in this surprisingly complicated business.

I do not entirely blame them for what they do.  As I said, they are largely inexperienced and unsupervised and do not have nearly as much to do as the boss thinks they do.  I sometimes wonder if he really knows what they are often up to and is just scared to confront them for fear of not being able to replace them.  Such a fear would not be entirely unfounded.  We have found that, even in the Obamaconomy, it is next to impossible for us to hire people.  In such circumstances, people do things they might not do under closer scrutiny.

"The girls" are getting away with bloody blue murder.  They make mistakes that CLEARLY show that they are not paying attention, or--often!--not even attempting to execute the fundamentals of their jobs.  They lie about it, too, repeatedly claiming in meetings that they ARE TOO executing those fundamentals, even when evidence to the contrary is staring them in the face.  Most maddening of all is the fact that they spend enormous amounts of their day texting and Facebooking on their cell phones.  They KNOW they're not supposed to be doing that when they're supposed to be working.  You can tell by the startled reaction they have when the door opens.  They are wondering if they've finally been caught.

I swear, to walk in on them is to catch them goofing off.  It's maddening.  If you drive a hundred and fifty miles and find that you've been given the wrong, out-of-date-for-years address because someone didn't do what they claim to do, and call and check it, it's maddening. And this goofing off goes on most of the day!

My other driver and I are slowly being driven insane by this situation.  Our boss is completely ineffective.  It is certain that the only three people whom he holds accountable to any sort of standard are the two of us and the warehouseman, the only three people who keep showing up and more than getting the job done.  It's as though he knows we will take it and keep coming back, but as far as I can tell, he hasn't the nerve to confront "the girls" over anything they do wrong, no matter how outrageous.

Recently, one of them was caught--I won't say how--at the casino when she'd called in "sick."

How many places do you know where you could pull THAT stunt and remain employed?

Three guesses how long I'd last if I tried that?

Three guesses how grateful my boss is that neither I nor my other driver ever do such a thing (and for that matter, the warehouseman, who has greatly improved his attendance in the last couple of months)?

At any rate, today, "the girls" made it abundantly clear that my other driver, the warehouseman, and I cannot trust them.  They will stab us in the back without hesitation, and the three of us--well, at least my other driver and I, and I think the warehouseman, too--have made up our minds that, so help us,  the Devil will be eating snowcones before we say one unnecessary thing to anyone else there, especially "the girls," ever again.

All this could be avoided with real leadership on the scene, but that seems to be sorely lacking.

But, as I said, that situation isn't what I made up my mind to write about this morning; it just reminded me to write.

What got me goin' this morning was my boss telling me to Febreze myself.

You may recall that I am a light pipesmoker, not meaning that at around 200 pounds, I am light in weight, but that I do not smoke very much.  Right now, I typically smoke about a quarter-bowl on the way to work, and a bowl before I go to bed.  Hardly anything, really.

I don't know why, but for some reason, it seems to occasionally drive my boss clear 'round the bend.  It's not like it's any of his darned business, anyway, unless I'm breaking company policy on smoking, which I'm not.

All this week I've been smoking Stokkebye's Aroma Dutch Slices.

Smoked it Monday morning.  Not a word.  Smoked it Tuesday morning.  Not a word.  Smoked it Wednesday morning.  Not a word.  Smoked it Thursday morning.  Not a word.

But THIS morning, the boss told me to spray myself down with Febreze, as it was "really strong."


I asked my other driver if she smelled anything unusual.  She leaned over and sniffed and said no.

I put it down to this being, after all, MY BOSS,  a man who, when he drives my other driver's vehicle, rips off the window tinting that she very neatly put up at her own expense and just slaps it back on when he's done, with all the neatness of a drunken, two-bit hooker, on the grounds that he "can't see through it," the man who, back when I was using Bluetooth (you'd think he'd be GLAD I was using hands-free technology!), used to tell me that he couldn't hear me (all the little old ladies could!).  I put it down, in short, to him being both a little bit nuts and determined to aggravate me.

Well, my first stop was at our local facility and I decided to relay this little bit of insanity to the...well, the senior non-commissioned officer, let's put it that I knew she would enjoy it.  She always has plenty of her own "Deranged Boss" stories to tell; this is the lady that got raked over the coals for having a purple streak in her hair--say, that reminds me...

...One of "the girls," at this point, has so many tattoos it is not possible for them to be covered up and she displays them proudly.  But if I come in, covered with dirt and sweat from actually having had to do something, I'm the one who gets told I look unprofessional.  But I digress...

Oh, by the way, I asked this lady if she smelled anything unusual, and she, too, said no.

At any rate, as soon as I got started, it was, "OMG!  So-and-So is ALWAYS telling me I smell like smoke!"

"But three-quarters of the staff here smoke, and you don't smell any different from them."

"I know!  Why does she keep picking on ME?"

"I think I know why.  It's because you're a leader, and the people in charge of this organization think that their leaders (and those in the public eye, like me) should look and act as though they just stepped out of the pages of BAPTIST LIFE.  They're not supposed to drink (even in moderation), smoke (even in moderation), have purple streaks in their hair, or wear knee-high boots."


And you know, it IS it.  It's not enough for our leaders that we show up on time, or early, or stay late, get the job more than done, go above and beyond, live respectable lives, take care of our spouses and children, stay active in church, and so forth.  They  want us to look and act like THEY think Christians should look and act, and lately, they seem to have decided that it's a job requirement to which they can hold us accountable.

Saying that they can go pound sand is putting it mildly.

And "the girls" can go pound sand.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

They Got It All--Now What?

I think it likely that at this point, my anonymous comments on an unnamed church will not cause any trouble. Only a handful of souls read this blog anymore, anyway.


I'll try to keep it brief.  No one likes long blogposts.

I belong to a church that is in decline.  It was declining when I joined, probably about six years ago now.  The ministry team then consisted of one semi-retired pastor with a background in sales and self-publishing who was serving on an  interim basis, the music minister, who'd apparently been there since the dawn of time, and the youth/education minister.

Within a month or two of me visiting, they'd called a youngish former missionary to the pastorate.  He did, in my opinion, well, but like any other man, he wasn't perfect, and the church continued to decline.  I think there was a definite turning point when he called a series of meetings for Sunday School teachers so that we could, once again, go over his self-authored booklet outlining what the church was all about and what was expected of the membership.  I distinctly recall looking at another Sunday School teacher and saying, "So, I guess the problem is that the membership and teachers haven't been through this booklet enough times?"

Not too long after that, he apparently felt called to go into politics.  I will say no more save to note that it may have been a mistake.

When he left, the church--or, rather, a handful of committee members--invited one preacher after another to preach in our pulpit.  One or two of them I thought might have a chance, particularly one young fellow who, it seemed to me, actually demonstrated an attitude toward outreach and evangelism that might stand a chance of success in our neighborhood, which has changed dramatically since the church's heyday.

And then, they decided that the best thing to do was call back the interim preacher who'd been there when I first started visiting, five years earlier.

I found out later that this man and the music minister had worked together at another church before this.

And then, REMARKABLY, the next step in the plan toward reversing the decline was to call back the youth/education minister who'd been there when I started visiting, even though the man had been let go, oh, three years earlier, as the church had already declined to the point where we couldn't afford to pay him.

And just like THAT, the ministry team that had been there when I started visiting was reconstituted.  Was it intentional?  Was it planned to be like that from the moment our pastor left?  I do not know.  Maybe.

But whether it was planned or not, I couldn't help but think, "Wasn't the church declining under these people?  Why is rehiring them now considered a solution?"

But I know how these things typically go in church life.  I didn't say much, for I knew I'd be accused of divisiveness simply for asking reasonable questions.

Within, I think, six or eight months of this staff's return, attendance dropped from about 150 or so to about 80.  We do have some new members, but we have lost enough "old" members (for lack of a better term) to keep attendance at about that level (or so they say.  I never see more than about sixty.)

That is not a sustainable level for us to keep paying the kind of staff we have, pay the bills on a building the size of ours, and keep running the kinds of programs we always have.  We are either going to go to a totally bivocational staff and shut off parts of the  building and quit doing some things, or we are going to go bankrupt.  Or we are going to grow.

Naturally, NO BAPTIST CHURCH will EVER admit that they are not going to try to grow, so our new/old interim--now permanent, if part-time--pastor announced that the plan to grow was to become a "metro" church, by which he meant that it was time to quit worrying so much about the local population and let people know that we were "worth the drive."  I found this so much hubris--after all, we have a huge number of churches in our city, and saying that OURS was worth the drive necessarily involved saying that OTHERS were worth only driving PAST--and, without naming names or naming churches, said something to that effect on Facebook.

I was shortly told by the preacher that this was a Matthew 18 situation and advised that part of the plan was to do things in a spirit of unity and harmony.

He wouldn't have even seen my comment had he not been looking over the shoulder of a Facebook friend who was helping out in the church office.  He wasn't on my "friends" list and I have long had all my settings to "friends only," so make what you will out of his statement that he was in the habit of reading all the things I say on Facebook.

I agreed to keep any further comments off Facebook whilst noting that I disagreed with his proposed approach and, while I hoped to be proven wrong, I thought it likely that the church would be closing its doors within three years.  He agreed that we certainly had a challenge ahead of us.

Since then--several months now--"the plan" has come together.  It consisted of:

1) Removing the pews from our largish sanctuary and spending thousands of dollars on new chairs, and taking up much less space, so as to create a more intimate worship atmosphere.  I spoke in favor of that, actually; anything to get the members to do something DIFFERENT.

2) Focusing mainly on the Sunday morning worship service, de-emphasizing, to a degree, Sunday School, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings--even going to the point of not having Sunday nights at all during the Summer and not having Wednesday evenings consistently.

3) Making sure that all our friends knew that we were worth the drive.

4) Reaching out to the neighborhood businesses.  Exactly why the local businesses were worth reaching out to when the local people were (at least initially) NOT is as unclear to me as it likely is to you.  In practice, all this has meant is that the local Wendy's has given us coupons for free Frosties to use as prizes for a few of our events.

5) Creating a "Welcome Center" for our guests.  In practice that has meant putting two airpots full of coffee, some donuts, and cups into what used to be the foyer and is now the welcome center.

6) Doing everything in a spirit of unity and harmony.  Since, as far as I know--actually, to my certain knowledge, in some cases--the staff has routinely but politely dismissed input from church members, and those members are now FORMER members, having voted with their feet, and I agreed not to put comments on Facebook and to keep my thoughts on these policies out of the church arena (remember: I blog anonymously, and I am naming neither people nor church here, and the odds are very good that only one of my readers even knows where I go to church), the staff may well not really know what it is to experience disunity and unharmoniousness. It seems to me that the staff may not be able to distinguish the silence of the silenced, disinterested, and tired from a spirit of unity and harmony.  It may be that they think a lack of open criticism constitutes having approval.  It may be that they don't realize our near-halved attendance, despite leaving only the non-critical in place, is indicative of anything but harmony and unity.

And maybe there really is unity.  Certainly they've gotten everything they wanted.  They got their old team back.  They got the Welcome Center.  They got the changes in the sanctuary.  They got the focus on the morning worship service.  They got "unity and harmony," or at least an absence of criticism and a series of near-unanimous votes.

So, my question: what now, guys?  The decline hasn't been halted, at least as far as I can tell.  I see nothing--zero, zip, zilch, nada--being either pursued or proposed that is in the smallest iota different from exactly what has failed for a quarter-century now.  We pretty much run the same programs in the same way.  We do nothing different in terms of outreach.  I don't even think we HAVE outreach, unless you want to pretend that doing VBS is outreach (which most churches do; they say that VBS is the church's greatest outreach effort of the year, which, if true, is pathetic, because it is, judging by the numbers I've seen for the last decade, a failure, year after year after year).

You got everything you said you wanted.  What now?  I'll give you credit for wanting to get something done.  But to tell the truth, you three--four, if you count the former pastor--have been instrumental in convincing me of something I had suspected for a long time: most professional ministry staff go to seminary and come away with no more idea what to do, no more real knowledge, no greater grasp of the Word, than the average old lady in the pews.  I suspect that the three of you, and probably certain committee members, thought that if only you were in place as a team again, people who'd left would come roaring back. That the church was declining under you, too, when you were together before, was overlooked.

You all read the same books and the same magazines and go to the same conferences and you all think the same officially approved groupthink.  You just don't THINK.  You just parrot the same stuff everyone else parrots,  and I really do think that if the decline of the North American church in general, and the Southern Baptist Convention specifically, is ever halted, it will be in spite of ministers like you instead of because of ministers like you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Memory Dredged Up

Just a little while ago, I had occasion to remember an incident with my boss, about nine years ago, shortly after he first started.

For context, it is important that you know that it was, at the time, quite routine for me to work 11-12 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, due to the routes I had to cover.

And also let me note that he seriously proposed having me go home early on Fridays, so I wouldn't draw any overtime pay.  Not that there wasn't anything to do; he just wanted to avoid having the overtime on his payroll sheets.  Guess he thought it made him look bad.  I let him know in no uncertain terms that I had NO liking for the idea of working 24 hours in two days and not getting an extra nickel out of it. 

Okay, moving on: at this time, my son was 15 years old and not able to drive, obviously.  He had taken a part-time job with the local library system.   He had to be there at six.  I got off at five.  It took me twenty minutes to get home and at least fifteen more to get him to work.  There was obviously next to no time for error, and, in order to avoid complications, when necessary and when I knew I had a busy day, I would come in early.

I had a co-worker, a very intelligent and fine worker, who nevertheless committed something of a faux pas one day; she had promised someone in our little town that I would swing by after normal hours to deliver something.  She thought it no big deal; it was only a few minutes.  I said I didn't HAVE a few minutes, explained why, and in the end, SHE did the delivery.  It was she who'd made the promise, after all.

The next day, that prince of a boss of mine lectured me on it, saying that I should think about putting my kids in daycare, "...because, MOTW, sometimes we have to work late."
REALLY.  That I WAS working late or coming in early at least two days a week and often more was completely forgotten.  That the child in question was FIFTEEN FRECKLING YEARS OLD and TOTALLY IRRELEVANT to daycare never occurred to him.

It was the sort of totally insane and inconsiderate thing that only a true chucklehead untethered to reality would say.

I've been putting up with more of the same for about nine years.  Just today, I looked at my route for tomorrow: eleven stops, leaving from our little town to Harrah (about two hours away), on up through The City, and finishing in Edmond.  Three new people with attendant sets of paperwork to fill out and three installations.  That is about an eleven to twelve hour day.  I don't mind, in a way; I'll take the OT money.  But it galls me that I am so taken for granted that I never get the courtesy of a "MOTW, are you able to do that tomorrow?"

As I've said before, I have to see how someone's health looks and pass an important test, probably early next year.  Then we'll re-evaluate how long I'm staying with these people.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pointless Griping and Moaning

I have to admit to being a little embarrassed about all the workplace griping I've done lately.  I don't like to listen to it in other people, so I expect that others don't like to listen to it from me.

I've had people close to me ask why I don't just leave, if I hate the place so much.  As I've said before, there's more than one reason.  For instance, as my other driver has often said, it's  not the job, it's HIM, referring to my immediate boss.  If it weren't for his bizarre shenanigans,  life'd be a lot more bearable, and we all keep kind of half-waiting for him to stroke out or get caught in some illegality or something.

One thing that just ****** us the **** off (supply your own words) is the way the man either wildly exaggerates, or flat-out makes stuff up.  The senior office lady, a very sharp lady of many years' experience and deep knowledge (far exceeding our boss's), has observed more than once to a couple of us that our boss craves drama, drama that he needs to solve, to make himself feel needed, and if there isn't any drama, he'll create it.

Boy, howdy.  Ain't THAT fun to live with.

You may recall, a few months back, that I was read the riot act over my "attitude," that he was telling me that people were calling in and saying things about how I'd spoken to them, and "the girls" in the office were cringing every time someone called or they had to give me a service ticket?

Turns out none of "the girls" corroborated that, and the only two specific instances of my alleged bad behavior he cited--well, when I next went to those places (by accident--he did not intend to send me!), turns out they had no problem with me at all.

God knows what he heard, but he apparently blew it all out of proportion and used it as an excuse to lecture me about a "chronic" problem--about which I've heard NOTHING for the last three months, which I find odd, for an ongoing problem.

Yesterday and today, the little so-and-so ticked me off by...

Okay, we get a lot of stuff given to us, donated, okay?  And it is pretty much up to us how we use it, and we have done a lot of good with it.  We have also committed a lot of idiocy, so much that I tend to think of it as routine.

Yesterday, there was a ticket in my stack, a donated item ticket, and it had a handwritten note from my boss warning me that the address was changed and that the new address was NOT figured into my route (My boss makes out my route.  Routinely butchers it, too, as he consistently ignores the time frames printed on certain tickets).  Okay.  I checked.  It really wasn't anywhere near the paying customers, and since the ticket was already a week old, and I had been to the City in question three times last week, and despite ample opportunity to insert it into my route last week, I had never seen it before, I just assumed that, LIKE MOST "DONATION" TICKETS, it was something I could do  when I was next in the neighborhood.  Yesterday, I just stuck it at the bottom of my stack and thought I'd go do it if I didn't run out of time.

Well, I DID run out of time.  I was trying to get back in time to take my two younger kids to evening VBS, and I barely made it.

In the meantime, the lady had called our office and wanted to know if the item was going to reach her that day.  Our office lady had the misfortune of having to tell her no.

Remember: this was a GIFT from us to her.  WE DID NOT OWE THAT LADY A THING.  Nor had anyone given me the slightest inkling that timing was an issue.

Well, we're working a short week this week, as we are closed on Independence Day (Not that we get a paid holiday, oh, no no no no NO, those are for MANAGEMENT STAFF), and as a result, we have been cramming a lot into each day.  I worked 11 and a quarter hours on Monday, came in half an hour early yesterday, and when I came in an hour early today, did my boss thank me for helping to keep up?

Oh, no no no no NO.  Instead, he first let me know my vehicle was a pit (it WAS dirty, but I literally have not had a chance to touch it up in a week), then let me know that I wasn't filling out a form I created (I am not making this up!) correctly, and that I should have gone by that "donation" household yesterday, that when I didn't tend to things like that, "the girls" had to answer the resulting calls!

Really?  We had that ticket since last MONDAY, I was in the City Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and it was such a burning priority that I never saw it ONCE until  yesterday?  If it was such a hot issue, why didn't he have me take it last week?  Why didn't someone put a sticky note on there alerting me of the fact?

Well, when I took it out today, of course, it wasn't a big deal at all.  The lady had just called to inquire about it, and if someone had just said, "He hasn't been able to get to it yet, next time he's in the area he'll drop it off," that would have been just FINE.

In the meantime, I'm putting in more hours than any other employee, and far from getting THANKED for it, I'm getting castigated for not doing MORE.

I am going to leave.  In about six months, I'll know what I need to know about a certain relation, and I should pass a VERY IMPORTANT TEST, and then, I will consider myself to have a little more freedom.  I am antsy, for my employers--wonderful Christian people that they are--have been known to fire people merely for looking for another job. (I am not making that up).  So when I do decide to start looking, I have to be prepared for the possibility that I may be out of this job before landing the next.

But I will be spectacularly ready to look for work, having spent six or seven months preparing, and if the Obamaconomy allows me the opportunity, I will leave, and frankly, the place will experience a disaster.  There are some things that (literally!) only I can do, I (literally!) cannot be replaced due to a unique set of circumstances that allowed me to acquire qualifications that ordinarily, only college graduates acquire (and if you think a college grad with my certification is going to put up with the pittance I make [I have never been rewarded for the work I had to put in to acquire that certification--never!] and not having any paid holidays, you are out of your mind), willing to work the oddball hours, and, last but not least, I am probably the only thing that's been keeping my other driver there.

My other driver is the best friend I have in this world, and it is likely that my other driver will leave about the same time I leave.  Maybe the same day.

And I won't deny that the ensuing debacle will be fun to watch.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Not Really My Favorite Kind of Republicans: the Horrible Truth About My Workplace Leadership, Part VII

These little rants are written as though addressed to various elements of my workplace leadership.  If you want to know more, seek ye out Part I.


I remember, years ago, going into corporate headquarters and seeing little flyers plastered all over the place, flyers congratulating the company president on achieving his doctorate.  I was impressed, until I asked someone what he'd gotten the doctorate in.

"Secondary Education," is what I was told.  I've never checked it out, but I've no reason to believe the person who told me that was lying or mistaken.  And since I was fully aware that any degree in education is one of the easiest degrees to obtain, perhaps somewhere just above "basket weaving" in difficulty, and since "secondary education" has exactly NOTHING to do with our alleged mission, I suspected, and suspect to this day, that getting that particular doctorate was simply the quickest and easiest way for our company president to get people to call him "Doctor So-and-So."

If that's what he wanted, I have to admit that it worked.  To this day, everyone calls him "Doctor So-and-So," and I would be willing to bet dollars to donuts hardly anyone knows what that degree is, at least outside of his long-term employees.

Later, I asked my boss if he happened to know why the man pursued a degree utterly unrelated to his ostensible job, and he opined that it didn't really matter: "His real job is to schmooze with the politicians in The City."

Great, just great, I thought: the man at the top of our division is a lobbyist.

I think of that story every so often.  I thought of it last week and this week, when every employee got multiple e-mails from corporate leadership, asking them to flood the switchboard at the state capitol, begging them not to cut our Medicaid funding.

Our Medicaid funding.  That was most important.  You didn't mention a thing about areas of Medicaid spending that had nothing to do with your allegedly not-for-profit business.  The doctors and nurses and staff in other businesses that would have to cope with a shrinking state budget didn't concern you.

If you haven't already figured it out, this whole scenario absolutely galled me.  You belong to a denomination that is so heavily identified with the Republican Party that I have actually run across people who refuse to join it because they believe they would be joining a wing of the Republican Party.  Although I do not, of course, know, I would be willing to give three-to-one odds (were I a gambling man) that every man and woman in the corporate office is a registered Republican.  The fact that the Republican Party is the closest thing we have to an anti-abortion party pretty much guarantees that.

The Republican Party is ostensibly the party of controlling spending, the party of getting government out of things best left to the private sector, of reducing the tax burden.

No one is mad enough to say that the state ought to just stop all Medicaid spending immediately; it would cause too much societal upheaval, as people who've come to depend on it, and all their relatives, would immediately find their lives dramatically changed.  But I would bet dollars to donuts that if you asked rank-and-file Republicans in this state if they thought Medicaid ought to be scaled back, or phased out gradually, you would find most of them would agree.  Certainly precious few of them would say that Medicaid spending should remain static and I bet almost none would say it should increase.

I am as certain as I can be without actually asking you in person, which I am not about to do, for I am sure the ensuing conversation would get me fired, that you would say you're in favor of smaller government.

Say it, yes.  Believe it?  Not so much, it appears.  When it comes to how much money your business gets from the state, you howl and squeal and ask all your employees to join right in.  No suggestions about how to increase state revenue, mind you.  Just, "Don't cut our funding!"

You had the nerve to tell people to tell their legislators that we couldn't continue to do the kind of ministry we do unless the state remained "in partnership" with us, by which you meant, of course, that we wouldn't be able to take some residents unless Medicaid paid part of their tab.

You don't have any faith at all in the private sector to deal with the situation.  You just immediately squeal that you shouldn't be ejected from your place at the trough.

Let me tell you, there is something in politics that has always galled me, and galls me to this moment: when someone has the nerve to suggest that stealing from your neighbors in order to fund your "ministry" or good works is acceptable behavior.  And taxation unrelated to legitimate governmental roles is exactly that, in my book: stealing.

I hate that.  And I would bet almost anything if some liberal came along and told you that he was going to float taxing you to pay for marriage counseling for homosexual couples who got "married" in Vermont you would say you hated it, too.  Yet you had the nerve, when push came to shove, to characterize picking the pockets of the citizens of this state to maintain your margins as the state being "in partnership" with you.  I wonder, ladies and gentlemen, how the people who find their share of that "partnership" coming out of their checks every payday would react to your impromptu lobbying.  What would they think of your motivations?

I don't think they'd think much of it.  I think they'd accuse you of masquerading as small-government conservatives when it comes to everyone else, and being big-government liberals when it comes to yourselves.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe you're not Republicans at all.  Maybe, instead of RINOs, or instead of big-government Republicans, you're flaming Democrats.

But boy, I'd hate to bet on it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Up to HERE with Bogus Applications of Matthew 18

Before I get started, here is the text in question, from the English Standard Version:

 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Okay, there it is.  Got it?  Good.

Now, I have just about had it up to my eyeballs with bogus applications of this passage.  Let's just note the obvious first:

This passage assumes locality.  That is, this is not about something that occurred elsewhere in Christendom, maybe somewhere across the world.  At the time Jesus was speaking, you could go to the offender.  You could take other church members.  This was never about publicly responding to words published or spoken publicly to the whole of society.

The passage says, "...sins against you..."  Whether you take "you" to mean "you" personally as an individual or "you" as the local church (again, the passage assumes locality), the passage is not about something that the offender did to someone else, that is, it's not about--let's just pick something wild as a hypothetical--it's not about you seeing your ostensible brother beating the squeeze out of a little old lady and burning her house down, and then going to him alone, then with two or three brothers, and then, say, to the police.  

The passage says "sins."  This is not about questions of direction, wisdom, brass-tacks decisions, and so forth.

Now, for four quick examples, though many more could quickly--quickly!--be produced:

1) Remember when Brian McLaren was actually being listened to?  You remember Brian McLaren--high grand poo-bah of the so-called "Emergent Church?"  You remember how he wrote several books which, among other things, had pretty severe criticism for just about every stream of Christendom that has ever existed?

When I (and others) critiqued his books and his thinking, I (and presumably others) were piously asked if we had gone privately to Brian to express our concerns first.

Feh.  Fie on that.  He hadn't--at least not that I know of--sinned against me or my church.  What he'd done was very public and required public responses.  It was absurd to say that critiquing his critiques was a "Matthew 18" situation.  It was on the level of saying that the early church was obligated to go privately to Marcion first, before responding to his public heresy by publicly labeling it heresy.  It was on the level of saying that Martin Luther should have traveled to Rome to express his concerns to the pope before nailing up the 95 Theses.

2) Not all that long ago, I was driving down the road and noticed that a local church which I had formerly attended had changed its name to something "hipper," for lack of a better word.  And I observed on Facebook and Twitter that this would likely contribute nothing whatsoever to church growth.  Next thing you know, people were telling me it was a "Matthew 18" situation, that I should have first gone to the pastor to privately express my "concerns."

Say what?  Are you mad?  No sin involved, just a difference of opinion.

3) Again, not all that long ago, I made the dreadful mistake of observing that a change in a certain church's direction would a) likely not contribute a blessed thing to that church's growth and b) involved renouncing outreach to the people in the neighborhood.  I didn't mention the church's name nor any individual.  When I expressed my thoughts, I was expressing generalized thoughts about this sort of strategy's viability. But I was told that this, too, was a "Matthew 18" situation.

Again, difference of opinion, not sin.

4) Just over the last few days, there have been a couple of posts elsewhere in the blogosphere regarding the admission of Muslims to one of our Southern Baptist seminaries.  It will not surprise you to learn that one of the comments I read on those posts suggested to the blogger that this was a "Matthew 18" situation and that the blogger should have gone to the seminary president privately, etc., etc., etc.

Oh, for the...

First of all, who is the offended brother here?  Is there even a church in view?  I think not.  One of the offended parties is this man's employer, the Southern Baptist Convention, which--God knows I hate breaking it to you, but someone has to do it--is not the church.

Considering this quote, and assuming that the information is correct (I do not know from first-hand observation, obviously):

... In a faculty meeting in 2012, **************  warned anyone who questioned him about Muslims being admitted into ****************, or anyone who was disloyal to him and discussed this matter with others not associated with *************** would be terminated.

It is apparent that the other offended parties would have been those who were threatened with the loss of their jobs over a difference of opinion or--and this is critical--carrying out further steps in their own Matthew 18 process.

That's what I'm sayin': the blogger wasn't in a Matthew 18 situation; the threatened faculty were.

Over and over and over again, I see "Matthew 18!" being used as an excuse to stifle discussion, dissent, disagreement, criticism of actions and thinking.  It was never meant for any of those things.

This is getting ridiculous.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

What You Say and What You Do: the Truth About My Workplace Leadership, Part VI

These little rants are written as to various elements of my workplace leadership. If you want to know more, seek ye out Part I.

Yes, it's been a little while since the last installment in this series.  Been busy.

Okay, I want to talk a little about that New Person's Class that you sent me to several weeks ago.  I had things to say at the time. Just haven't been able to get to them 'til now.

Now, it's undeniably true that I enjoyed being publicly praised and treated like an intelligent human being for a change, but there were,shall we say, some things I noticed.

First, there were the video clips and pictures. Most of them were snapped or shot a few years ago when some other company's workplace video went viral and your marketing people thought they could duplicate it.  As a result, they had lots and lots of footage of residents and employees dancing on the premises.

In ten years, these video clips, some brochures, and one other thing to be named shortly are the only things I have ever seen our marketing department produce.  The images on the sides of our vehicles, I guess.  Other than eat Convention dollars, I have no idea what marketing does.

And they certainly don't know what we here in our little subdivision of the company do.  I see not the slightest hint in any of their materials that they have the smallest clue what we do. Certainly they are never here.  I have been here for half of our 20-year existence and I recall seeing them here only to shoot the aforementioned video clips and that "one other thing."

That "one other thing"!  Words fail me.  As mentioned, we have grown to our present volume with no effective marketing support, so when we were told that the marketing team was FINALLY going to come spend a day with us, we were very excited.  We thought we would have a chance to help them understand our business.

It turned out they were here to make a half-day long pitch for us to contribute to the employee assistance fund!  And to beg us to "like" their Facebook page!

As far as I can tell, in common with most of our chain of command, marketing still has not the teensiest fraction of an idea what our subdivision does.

And, of course, I saw lots of people I've known over the years in those videos and photos. And all I kept thinking was, "I saw you screw THAT one, and THAT one, and THAT one..."

How about my co-worker who, despite universally-acknowledged superlative work, you let go without any pay raise at all for almost four years (me, too, by the way)?

How about the two key employees who had each been with you for 26 years, each in charge of her own unit, and who both retired on the same day?  They had been there for so long they remembered when you took paid holidays away--away from everyone except management, of course. They had been there for so long they remembered when you took real benefits away. And on the day they retired, you treated them so, so well!  They brought in their own cake and goodies. You miserable sods didn't throw them a retirement party.  You didn't give them a card.  You miserable CLOTS didn't even have the common decency to call or come by to wish them a happy retirement!

I know.  I was there.  I saw it.

How about the people you fired because news had reached you that they were looking for other work?  You didn't try to see what the problem was, did you?  You didn't try to "save" those employees, did you?  No, you just fired them.

You fired other people for taking second jobs.

There were a couple of other interesting things.  You kept bringing up the point that you wanted your residents to feel as much like they were at home as possible--a laudable goal, I admit.  But the interesting thing was something of a bone of contention became evident: you see, not too long ago, you started to discourage your personnel in these facilities from wearing the work clothes that people in their profession have always worn.  Instead, you wanted them to wear "business casual," because your residents needed to feel like they did when they were at home, instead of as though they were in a facility.  The workers accustomed to wearing their "traditional" garb have objected to being asked to wear business casual, on the perfectly reasonable grounds that the stuff's more expensive to maintain and clean, and they deal every day, as one of the ladies at that meeting said, with "blood, urine, feces, vomit, and filth."

Your response at the meeting?  Did you offer a clothing allowance to anyone who would abide by the new standards? Of course not!  You just reiterated that it was all so the residents could experience an atmosphere as much like home as possible.  Of course, it cost you not a cent to ask this of your employees, did it?

Oh--before I go on, let me note that I have seen how this works out in practice.  It's not enough to wear "business casual." It has to be YOUR idea of "business casual."  One of the senior employees at one of the facilities, a lady whom I know well, let me know she'd been "talked to" about her choice of attire (which was perfectly fine, I've seen it), and also ABOUT A SMALL PURPLE STREAK IN HER BLONDE HAIR.  Anything in the employee handbook about that?  No, of course not, but that never stops you people from making it up as you go.  It's pathetic.  That place can't run without that lady, and you're messing with her because your poor, shriveled-up soul can't handle an itsy-bitsy bit of purple in her hair.

Now, to go on.  Remember, the whole idea is to provide an experience as close to what the client had at home, right?

Of course, I have been in all the facilities many, many times.  I have seen it all.  Shoot, I may be the ONLY one who's seen it all.

The other day, I happened in on one of the senior employees in a facility--this is the same one who got "talked to" about her purple streak--on her knees in the storeroom, stocking diapers and the like.  Now, this is a lady of considerable experience and education.  I teased her a bit: "Say, that looks like something that in most places would be done by someone a lot further down the totem pole!" (This is true, by the way.)

She responded, "Oh no...they can't read." And she was serious!  The lower-level personnel in her facility cannot be counted on to read well enough to stock a freaking shelf.  Bear in mind they're helping to take care of the helpless.

Next: like I say, I get around.  It is very curious to me that your facilities are filled--just jammed, in a few instances--with foreigners.

Now, I must interject: don't get me wrong.  As a  rule, I like foreigners, and frankly, the ones at these facilities are generally doing pretty good jobs.  I am on "hugging terms" with some of them.

Nevertheless, you can easily go down the hallway and hear conversations in Spanish and various West African dialects, and a very large percentage of the employees have very thick accents--if they can speak English at all.

I'm serious about that last part.  I am on friendly terms with one Hispanic lady who, when we met at one of these facilities, could scarcely speak a word of English.  Yet she got hired, didn't she?

Now, here's my question: at what point did you conclude that your residents all had experiences at home that included thick foreign accents and hallway conversations in a variety of languages, none of which they spoke themselves?  I mean, you MUST have concluded that, since EVERYTHING is all about the client, and you want your clients to have an experience as close to what they had at home as possible, RIGHT?

Of course not.  You want them to have that kind of experience IF IT DOESN'T COST YOU.  If it costs your employees, FINE.  But if it's coming out of your pockets...well, it's not such a big issue, is it?  And  besides, you'll tell me, you can't GET anyone else.

That, of course, is utter rot.  The upscale facilities--yes, I've been in those, too--have people who grew up with English as their native language, and who can read.  Of course, they cost more money, but they are available.

Now, truthfully, I don't blame you for going with the lowest-cost personnel that can get the job done.  It is what I would do myself.  But I wouldn't then turn around and condescendingly lecture my employees that everything we do is for the sake of creating an atmosphere as much like clients' former homes as possible.

That just isn't true.  I wonder if it's ever occurred to you that it  actually borders on cruel to have a hallway full of dementia patients, surrounded  by staff speaking foreign languages?

Surely it at least occurred to you that it's not an experience those clients grew up with?


You people claim to pay "competitive wages."  I wonder if you realize what it is you are competing for.  Apparently, it's for semi-literate people and/or people who grew up speaking another tongue.