Friday, September 14, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 9-23-07
Jeff Gill

Hebron has seen a fair number of parades down Main Street over the years, with the breadth of the old National Road opening up a broad canvas for scenes of celebration.

Mostly, the celebrations have been baseball related, and involved bands and fire trucks and team members waving while cheerleaders leap and shout.

More somber are the Memorial Day occasions, with many of the same participants, but more subdued, from the Legion hall to the cemetery.

A new tradition may be at hand, with a parade from east to west, starting at the new Kroger parking lot, past the honored dead, into the village, and on through the historic crossroads to where Doc Walter’s office once was, and back to Refugee Road and a final turn into Evans Park.

The Hebron Business Association is organizing a Homecoming Parade this year, Thursday, Sept. 27, commencing at 7:00 pm with the autumnal sun casting long, low rays through the fields ready for harvest and shining on the faces of the band members and Grand Marshals.

Yes, they’ve got a Grand Marshal – actually, a whole raft of ‘em. The newly established “Lakewood Hall of Fame” has a first class of honorees, and confirmed to date for the parade are Ila Mason, Donna Braig, and of course the recently retired Doc Walters.

The parade will end at Evans Park on Refugee Road, on the northwest corner of the village, and a pep rally complete with bonfire will gather ‘round the Lakewood Lancer Marching Band, and led by the Lakewood Cheerleaders (Go, team, fight!).

Beth Walters with Crossroads of Hebron Floral is putting together a grand procession for this parade and Homecoming salute, and you don’t have to be from the Lakewood Schools to enjoy the spectacle and get caught up in the excitement.

This could be an ideal launch for the Fall celebration season, with the Buckeye Lake Fire Prevention parade on Oct. 7 at 1:00 pm down Walnut from Pizza Cottage, the Fairfield County Fair the week of Oct. 7, and the Circleville Pumpkin Show Oct. 17-20 (and Devine Farms on US 40 rocking out the pumpkin-ness all month).

Not to mention a few football games on Friday nights!

Apparently, there are some football games on Saturday, too. I’ve enjoyed some Denison football, which I still argue is the best value in central Ohio, and $2 hot dogs that are worth it (soft pretzels, though, you gotta bring soft pretzels back).

On the whole BigTen Network kerfuffle, I think there’s an assumption made here that could really backfire. Someone, say at an Ohio State, looks out over the 5 am crowd filling the tailgate lots, sees the sea of Scarlet & Gray ™ and thinks – everyone wants a piece of this, no matter what the price.

In the game of chicken with the cable companies, who had better not plead poverty or whine about price gouging (see entry Houses, Glass), both sides seem to think that in the end, we’ll pay a bunch extra to see all the games the Buckeyes play.
Not to be disrespectful of the religion of others, but they may not be that popular.

I’ve been out to stores and on the roads and even in non-sports bar restaurants during fairly major games (no, not Michigan or bowls, c’mon), and life has been going on without let up. No tumbleweeds down Main Street, no crickets in the big box stores, but shiny, happy people going about their business without regard to a football and young men in silver helmets.

Could they put the BigTen Network on premium, and have many fewer people end up caring? Is part of the appeal of “Buckeye Nation” the fact that it was an “everyman” (and some women) kind of experience, and you might have to check three or four different channels, but down in the basement workshop or up in the family room you could have the game on while, gosh, doing other things.

If it has to cost a bunch, however delivered or offered or extorted, I think a significant chunk of central Ohio will slowly, steadily, move on to other pastimes and interests for their Saturday afternoons.

The NFL tried a stunt like this, and found that people just shrugged, didn’t order up the “Obsessive Football Fanatic Channel” in the numbers they thought, and just changed channels to NASCAR. Could this happen to Ohio State?

Me, I’ll be enjoying the fall air this Saturday afternoon. Hope the Bucks win, but I’ll be content with checking the score on-line in the evening, after lighting a nice warm fire.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; contact him at

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Faith Works 9-22-07
Jeff Gill

The Pornification of Nearly Everything [this is somewhat a part II, with part I just below - jbg]

Thanks to some trends in modern culture and education, my son will likely not learn in school about the Greek and Roman pantheon, gods and goddesses whose antics helped the ancients make sense of geography and natural phenomena, including the fertility deity Priapus.

On the other hand, he knows what the diagnosis of priapism is, symptom by symptom.

You could say the fault is mine and the Lovely Wife for allowing TV in the living room: guilty as charged, your honors.
Why are these ads for medical enhancement of private moments so pervasive?

Through the summer, I did a great deal of driving. Around Licking County, the “contemporary Christian music” formatted radio stations come to us from Columbus and Zanesville, so from Flint Ridge to the Hartford Fair, I can always find CCM music or the radio.

Sometimes, weaving across the Midwest, neither NPR nor CCM stations could be found, and so I’d leave on whatever mild pop music I last found while waiting to drive into a new broadcast radius.

What jumped out at me, after having listened to so much CCM, where all the songs are rooted in the transformative power of a relationship with God, was the philosophical basis of the songs on pop radio.

Yes, they have a philosophical basis.

Some say CCM is too simplistic, too repetitive; I was saddened to hear that Tony Campolo had run down CCM in worship settings while preaching up at Lakeside this summer, accusing CCM of a “7-11” approach: “seven words repeated eleven times, or maybe vice versa.” Ha, ha, ha, Tony. Cute.

But what I heard with mind-numbing repetition and unimaginative sameness in the most middle-of-the-road, adult contemporary pop music, let alone more youth-culture oriented and harder edged pop, was that sex saves.

No? You don’t think so? Go listen to some, and you tell me. The point, over and over and over, was that the moment of physical encounter, the coming together of a relationship, would change everything, transform your life, and make everything new.

When the Bible says things like that, we call it “apocalyptic literature” and usually find it in Daniel and Revelation and chapters of Matthew and I Corinthians. “Behold, I make all things new” says Jesus as the Christ of God, and when seas melt and the heavens roll up like a scroll, we see end of the world imagery as a sign for how God’s power breaks eternity into time.

Virtually all pop music talks about how everything will change, nothing will look the same, and mysterious transformations echo out from the point where . . .

Hmmm. Can’t really be more specific in a family paper, but you’ve heard enough of the music of our era to know where we’re going in that sermon.

If I owe nothing else to CCM (and as a tool for reaching out to the marginal and unchurched today, I think Christians owe quite a bit to this genre), I’m thankful for how immersion in it helped me hear more clearly what my native culture is saying.

Our culture somehow has gotten the idea that a romantic, erotic relationship can change everything, and really, it mainly seems to preach that sex alone is transformative, no matter who you’re with. Again, if you think I exaggerate, go listen to some after reading this, and you tell me.

At the most extreme, pop music is specifically sexual; even in the most mellow and benign forms, the message is still generally that “doing it” will melt oceans, unroll the skies, and fireworks are the least of the explosions that will ensue.

And you know what? Tell people something often enough, and a fair number will start to believe it. We are surrounded by the wreckage of lives lived trying to find inner transformation and control over an unreliable world by, ah, “doing it” with whomever will help them reach that worldly sacrament.

And it doesn’t work.

Faith communities, particularly Christianity, get a bum rap for being against sex. Speaking for Christianity, which is the faith community that makes sense of my life, we ain’t agin’ it. Not at all. No more than we’re against fire. Fire, sex, they’re good, sure.

Fire is good in a fireplace. Fire between the joists, working its way between the walls to consume the entire structure, is bad. Right?

Sex in a marriage is good. Right? Sure. But sex up in the rafters or under the siding means the entire building is compromised, and likely to fall.

Sex is not going to fix your world, or solve your problems, even when you’re married. What we need to preach and teach and surely live out by example in our communities of faith is that like fire in a fireplace, sex in a marriage makes a house a home, can give light to relationships gathered all about, and can really cook.

But sex without the right setting is like a kid running around with matches lighting curtains on fire to see what happens.
Simple distinctions, which need explaining from the outside in, and the inside out. We gotta preach it, tell it, and live it.

Are you with me, or are you listening to the radio?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher; contact him at

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Faith Works 9-15-07
Jeff Gill

The Pornification Of Just About Everything

If Britney Spears is news, I’m a network anchorman.

And my name is not Ron Burgundy.

If you watched the increasingly misnamed “morning news” programs last Monday, you were treated to seemingly endless footage of Ms. Spears, mother of two, pop star “musician,” on a stage at an award show, surrounded by skilled, professional, fully-clothed dancers.

Ms. Spears was none of the above.

Most disturbing in some ways was the way the commentary focused on how she is apparently considered “fat.” Look, I saw way more of her than I really want to, and I can say with assurance that for a woman with two kids, one born just months ago, obesity is the least of her worries. She looked more fit and in shape, from a purely physical angle, than eleven of the next ten people I’ll see down at the mall.

I was, and am, a little mystified by the general lack of comment on how she was clearly in a daze, stumbling around the stage, barely knowing the words to the song she was not even close to lip-synching.

She danced badly, you say? No, she looked like a captive in a kidnapping video, doing what her captors were making her do at gunpoint, with too little sleep and maybe some pharmaceutical enhancement.

Forget the fat, which wasn’t there. She was wearing underwear with some sequins justifying the label “clothing,” and she was vaguely simulating a stripper routine, alternating with what my high school principal called inappropriate contact with a dozen different guys (all of whom had to be thinking “eight years of lessons and a knee operation and I’m getting union scale, while this stumbling girl is . . .”).

And it was on every morning show, except for Nickelodeon, which is starting to look downright wholesome.

So clearly putting on weight is the one unforgiveable sin in American culture? That can’t be the point, if look down the sidewalk in any Licking County community is any guide. That, or we’re all unrepentant sinners – hmmmm. . . .

But I think the talk about fat was being used to hide from another issue, which is what dieticians and counselors tell us is what real fat is often about.

Britney Spears was acting out, all too well, the role of a stripper, a prostitute, a porn star. If there was one person, just one person in her life who cared about her as a person at all, they would have looked at her and said “fire me, cut my pay, delete me from your cell phone, but honey, you are in no condition to go out on a stage in front of your peers and a global TV audience, not even to read a cue card.”

But strip club owners, pimps, and pornographers tell their often drugged and intoxicated employees “C’mon, you can do it, just toss back another shot of this and get going.”

The numbers tell the story: Americans are consuming porn at incredible rates, and not just on-line. X-rated movies are said to do more business than the mainstream studios, and that’s the money they admit to, keeping in mind that no one disputes that the involvement of criminal figures in the porn industry is extensive. Print formats and pay-per-view XXX are booming at the same time, with in-room movies so lucrative even the J.W. Marriott company, a very “family values” based company in the past, from their Mormon heritage, feels they have to offer that “service.” (Industry reported average viewing time of in-room movies? Seven minutes, which means weary travelers are usually paying a buck or three a minute for the “service.”)

For a growing segment of the audience, a dazed and confused nearly nude woman constitutes entertainment, or the prelude to it. So why would we have much to say about Ms. Spears other than “sheesh, she’s put on, what? Five pounds? Maybe seven?”

Porn is so mainstream that “stripper-chic” is not a joke term, but a fashion label.

Underlying all this is the American mindset that stripping and prostitution and porn are “victimless crimes.” Yep, there’s those quote marks again.

Friends, I’ve spoken to more prostitutes than most of you, albeit in prison visiting areas and chapels. But don’t let anyone kid you about “victimless.” You just saw another victim of this evil system on stage if you saw TV last Monday (or watched the event, I guess, on Sunday).

She stood there, lost, without a friend, trying to move her body to please us, her audience. Libertarians and feminists and family should be her friends, and they apparently could care less.

Only people of faith, I fear, can see this for what it is: a crime, a tragedy, and a call to candor. Porn wounds and scars and kills, starting with women used and abused by men at every step in the process. It doesn’t need to be banned, it needs to go broke. It should be unprofitable and non-viable and utterly despised.

Some ideas next week; stay tuned.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher; contact him at

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 9-16-07
Jeff Gill

Looking For an Apple

Some local orchards have signs up saying “Due to frost, there will be no apples this fall.”

The frost they speak of was back in April.

That’s how growing things works – a frost in the spring leaves you apple-free in the fall, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Our current mindset balks at such an idea. Of course we can do something about it! We can order up a load of apples from New Zealand and dump ‘em in the produce department to pick through, and throw out the culls a week later (with the good Lord alone knowing how many were pitched earlier in the process for lack of cosmetic appeal).

True, the April frost will not cut into our stock of pie filling and applesauce and stuff for bobbing after come Hallowe’en. We will have our apples . . . this year. Probably the next, too.

Meanwhile, apples from New York state will go to Iowa and West Virginia apples will go to Minnesota, and we’ll see Galas and Golden Delicious (ick, personal opinion) with little stickers for Ecuador and down where people stand upside down on the earth.

Does this not seem a bit odd to you? And as energy prices increase, will the silliness become outright irrationality?
If the market has the wisdom I think it is capable of when driven to common sense, usually by price increases, we will see a bit less of perishable foodstuff from across the International Date Line in years to come.

Others will joke “Global warming, huh? Then we should have longer growing seasons in Ohio, not less. Sign me up for a leased landyacht, paid for out of my home equity loan.”

For the record, it’s “global climate change.” The trends, as measured and hypothesized by climate scientists, mean more rainfall some places and less others; reduced snow pack and glacial growth in the Rockies may be part of colder springs, but warmer falls.

If the world mean temperature is going up due to greenhouse gases, or sunspots; if increased particulate matter in the atmosphere is reflecting sunlight back into space to cool other stretches of the planet; if the Great Lakes don’t freeze over anymore during the winter (and they haven’t) – then down-wind of the lakes we may see more snow as a result of the mis-labeled “global warming.”

But there are aspects of what’s going on with temperatures, current and historic, and how we measure that which I grant are not as well understood as some with political agendas would like to say.

To be perfectly candid, I’m much more worried about aquifer depletion, groundwater contamination, and oceanic dead zones. Those are fearfully measurable, and the numbers aren’t good. From numbers to concrete phenomena . . . did you know that there is something, slowly spinning around in the northern Pacific Ocean called “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is the size of Texas? Oceanic scientists call it, ironically, “the world’s largest landfill.” Precise measurements were last taken six years ago, but it’s estimated that the ratio of plastic to living organisms in that water is 10-to-1 by now, or more.

Plastic breaks down on exposure to light, over time, but only into smaller pieces, still floating, very tiny. All those disposable water bottles you saw spinning through an eddy in the creek the other day? There’s a good chance that their fragmentary little selves could add someday to that continent of consumed consumer-ness floating in the Pacific.

That’s in seawater; our own freshwater right here in Licking County is steadily under suspicion, with septic fields and agricultural runoff pushing the entire county closer and closer to across the board sewer and water treatment systems just to preserve drinking water here in Ohio.

Go to Las Vegas, let alone Los Angeles, and figure out where the water for golf courses and green lawns is coming from. Did you know that the Colorado River, the watercourse what carved the Grand Canyon, essentially stops parts of the year, never making it to the Gulf of California? (That was a big hint.)

We’ll figure out what to do about all this short of major disaster. We’ve reduced the hole in the ozone layer with a ban on certain aerosols, and we may well outlaw Kentucky bluegrass and other thirsty transplants as a ground cover in parts of the country. But we’ll need water, fresh, drinkable water, no matter what, and as oil becomes pricier, the means to desalinate and purify water resources will need to change. Grey-water management will not be a specialist term and rain barrels will go from history lesson to everyday housekeeping.

Somehow, just becoming aware of our own local ecosystem seems to be an important part of whatever those changes will be, as you and I are either a conscious, or an unconscious part of being the change. Cheap apples from New Zealand don’t really plug a hole in a local economy, they just fill up a line in a recipe.

Whatever we’re gonna be doing with the oil and gasoline we still have available in another generation, it isn’t going to be that. However it is we get pure water in another generation, we’re not going to be using an apple skin and cargo ship as the delivery method of choice.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he reads that passage about “dominion over the earth” as a two-way proposition. Contact him at