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


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.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I Do NOT Smoke "All the Time," Dadgummit!

Have to vent a little bit.  Doubt seriously anyone ever sees it. Nobody reads this thing anymore.

Last night, I was asked if I really wanted to die. Um, no.

Then why are you smoking so much?  It turns out that this meant I was smoking daily, and maybe even more than daily.

My response was, and is, that that is not very much!  Let us review:

I smoke a pipe and an occasional cigar. The ACS and the Surgeon General found years ago, and there has never been any serious research overturning this (questionable as I think the Surgeon General's statistics were) that there was "little, IF ANY" increase in death rates for pipe smokers versus never-smokers. Catch the "if any?" You should.  Means they couldn't actually be sure there was any increase in death rates for pipe smokers.  And that was for people smoking up to ten pipefuls a day.

Furthermore, the stats showed that there was no difference--no difference, period--in death rates from never-smokers for people who smoked five or fewer pipefuls a day, or three or fewer cigars a day, or, for that matter, two or fewer cigarettes a day.  In a huge swath of the country, roughly the area between the Mississippi and the Rockies, pipe smokers who smoked five or fewer pipefuls a day actually lived longer than never-smokers.

For the uninitiated, five pipefuls a day is about a pound of tobacco a month.

Now, for perspective: it is true that I try to smoke as much as I can reasonably find time for.  I cannot smoke in the house; I must smoke in the entryway or on the porch.  I cannot smoke at work.  I cannot smoke in my work vehicle.  I have dinner to cook and so forth.  The gruesome reality is that I often (but not always) pack my pipe about a third of the way full and smoke on the way to work.  I probably only smoke a quarter of a bowl that way, but let's call it a third.  And then, I usually smoke a bowl towards the end of the evening.  And that is usually IT.  Occasionally, I find time to squeeze in another half-bowl in the evening, and occasionally, on a Saturday or Sunday, I might find time for two whole bowls!  It's totally--totally--fair to say that I smoke an average of a ten to twelve bowls a week and NEVER more than fifteen (and that pretty rarely).

Again: totally no difference in death rates for those who smoked fewer than thirty-five bowls a week.  Many in that range actually outlived the never-smokers.

I don't even come close to that level of smoking.  It is impossible for me to find the time.

Not that this will convince any of you who are completely indoctrinated, but there it is.