Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Re-posted from earlier/farther down -- see Advocate blog for fully linked version to each book and both campaigns:

Notes From My Knapsack – Granville Sentinel, July 10, 2008
Jeff Gill

“Had We But World Enough, and Time”

Andrew Marvell was speaking “To His Coy Mistress,” not to the 2008 election season, but there is a fair sense of urgency in the presentations on both sides of the ballot.

(Pace to all Nader, Paul, and Barr supporters.)

Marvell goes on to hearken to “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” and to consider the reams of print material available online, in magazines, and from street corner fliers stuffed into your unwilling hands even a speed reader might sense “Deserts of vast eternity” before them.

May I recommend books? Seriously, if you want to get up to speed with the full range of opinion on both sides, you might find that the old fashioned print volume does you more good than a stack of magazines. You check the table of contents and index for guideposts and benchmarks where your particular interests are addressed, and flipping back and forth is still an area where the technology of printed and bound pages has no peer. (These are all available in the libraries of Granville, Newark, or Denison, too.)

This is all presuming that there are some who haven’t entirely made up their minds, McCainiacs with qualms and Obamacans with hesitations, plus us mushy middle slow thinkers.

Start with their own books: Obama has famously penned his own two, well worth the time to read right through, “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.” McCain works with Mark Salter of his staff to write “Worth the Fighting For” and “Faith of My Fathers.”

On the current war, whatever you call it, to get a good diversity of views: “Fiasco” by Tom Ricks of the Washington Post, along with “The End of History” by Francis Fukuyama from the distant past of 1992 to see part of the basis for said leap into the heart of darkness (yeah, and read that, too, in a collected Joseph Conrad). Douglas Feith’s “War and Decision” gives the view from inside of the choices that led into Iraq.

“The Assassin’s Gate” by George Packer is the wide view of the Middle East today, and a contrasting but well-reasoned complement is Bernard Lewis’ “The Crisis of Islam.”

Climate change and biotech are intertwined but crucial areas where science and politics intersect with public awareness, and we need to be thinking more clearly than we are about those areas: “Panic in Level 4” is new and excellent, by Richard Preston, author of “The Hot Zone,” and “Cell of Cells” is accessible to the general reader as well thanks to the careful work of Cynthia Fox.

Try the older “Earth In the Balance” from 1992, which reads better than “An Inconvenient Truth” does as a book, both of course by Al Gore; compare to Bjorn Lomborg’s “Cool It.”

And wrap it all up by getting out some Wendell Berry, specifically “The Art of the Commonplace” and “Citizenship Papers.” You might want to read the poetry of “A Timbered Choir” or “The Country of Marriage” just to wash away the taste of politics.

(Psst: Tues., Aug. 12, No Child Left Inside Day!)

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about a good read or tale or idea at
Faith Works 7-19-08
Jeff Gill

Consider the Geeks, They Toil Not, Neither Do They Spin

A church along I-70 has a large banner up in black and burnt orange. Some of you don’t need me to explain much more about it, and not because you’ve driven through Columbus lately.

Bikers know the colors of Harley-Davidson even if they sit astride rice burners and Goldwings, and those colors stand out as ones VBS banners don’t usually select.

The church in question is having a “Biker Sunday,” part of a trend in congregational life to conduct outreach by targeting a group that isn’t known for church attendance, and approaching them on their home territory.

As I said to a fellow preacher last week, we’re all called to share the Gospel “to the ends of the earth,” which may just be nearby but out at the edge of our comfort zone. So a faith community is reaching out to the motorcycling community with a special emphasis Sunday, and the parking lot will doubtless be rumbling that day.

Other area congregations have tried this approach to reach out to men in general, who in general are less well represented in worship than women are. Sports themes have long been a favorite for men’s fellowship groups, especially if a winning coach or marquee player is available, regardless of their own religious literacy. (I’ve sat through too many who are trying to adapt their noon service club standard talk to a church event, and it can be painful to watch.)

More recently, churches have gotten a bit creative about this. They find a supplier of exotic entrees and put on a “Hunters Feast” event, where instead of a bean supper or baked ham loaf the invited males chow down on venison, alligator steaks, and a bit of kangaroo fricassee.

Rattlesnake hors d’ oeuvres go without saying, as does the occasional Rocky Mountain oyster.

And I know a church that has a plethora of carpenters in the pews, so they developed “Wood Samaritans.” Get it? Wood…good…

Not to mention many automotive ministries, “Hot Wheels” and “Gearheads for Jesus” and “Emmanuel Transmission” and so on.

What I’m wanting to ask, or just throw out there and see if anyone bites on the lure, is a particular ministry target group I’ve never heard aimed at.

“Geek Sunday.”

Seriously: many men are, in fact, geeks. We can spell dilithium, know what mineral form it takes (crystals), and some of us can tell you the names of star sytems where it can be found (sorry).

We have schematics for how to construct your own lightsaber, as every Jedi must do for themselves (mine would have a green crystal, natch); we know how many hit points a kobold has, and how to roll percentile for DI.

Plus anyone who made sense of the preceding paragraph can tell you there are some theological points of contact in those fictional ideas, and geeks do discuss them. Geekily.

Just as bikers have many and meaningful discussions about mortality, and destiny, and the destination of the soul after you lay down your ride on a curve that has no edge. I think an occasional Biker Sunday is good, solid, meaningful evangelistic outreach, and good for those that hold them; hunters and folks who fish hold life and death in their hands each time they pursue their craft, and a Wild Buffet can be a good place to draw those conversations into the church precincts.

What I hope doesn’t happen as these forms of outreach grow is that we pass over the less cool, less socially celebrated segments of our communities. “Geek Sunday” is near and dear to my heart, but what about “Runners Sunday,” or “Vegetarian Sunday”? You could have a “Welders’ Sabbath” or a “Geocaching Weekend.”

How’s the edge of your comfort zone holding up? Maybe your church could have a “Goth Sunday” or a “Celebration of Cashiers.”

Think about that – a cashier preaching to us about how the world looks from their side of the register? We might just realize how much we all need forgiveness…

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about your church’s outreach idea at