You Too Can Right Like a Blogger

I confess that I often write these blurbs and notes in haste and so errors creep in. This column was both amusing and poignant. Here is the text:

You Too Can Right Like a Blogger

By Tony Long The Luddite
The Luddite

Sitting around the cafe the other day, pondering the many ways in which
technology has contrived to screw up my otherwise placid existence, the
talk of my table mates turned to the craft (or is it the art?) of

“There’s a case to be made that the internet has actually helped
improve the quality of writing in general,” said, well, we’ll call him
“Topsy.” I leaned in close to see if any alcohol was present on Topsy’s
breath. Detecting nothing beyond the usual halitosis, I surmised that
he was being serious.

“Make the case,” I said.

Topsy’s line of reasoning, as best I could follow (for nothing is
ever simple in Topsy’s world), is that the easy access and limitless
nature of the web allow you to expose yourself to tons of writing, both
good and bad. Presumably, the average educated swine will gravitate
toward the good writing and, as a result, improve his own skills as he
increases his knowledge. I expressed skepticism.

“Because our chief job in life is pattern recognition,” Topsy said,
pressing his point, “and the chief job of the internet, through
googling, is pattern recognition, what we do by living on the internet
is discriminate between good and bad writing. Bad writing is, by its
genes, something that doesn’t convey information, whether artful or

“The question is, are there enough of ‘us’ out there (I presume he
was referring to the aforementioned educated swine), through this
passive-aggressive process, to make any difference at all in this
overpopulated world?”

I looked longingly at the bottle of Chianti behind the counter, but
resisted the urge. It’s hard enough staying with Topsy’s train of
thought while nursing a latte. I was left to wonder, though. If he’s
right — if only a relative few in our post-literate society can tell
good writing from bad, whether it’s online, in print or scratched in
the mud with a stick — then what’s the point?

As a mere stripling, I was advised that if I hoped to become a good
writer, I should write every day. More than that, I should read good
writing every day. This can be accomplished on the internet as easily
as it can by reading a book or magazine. But if you’re the sort who
prefers People to The New Yorker, well, again, what’s the point?

So my riposte to Topsy was, while the internet may be a nifty
vehicle for delivering one’s polished prose and penetrating insights to
an impatiently waiting world, it can’t help you become a better writer
if you, pardon my French, suck.

Moreover, the internet leads to all sorts of unsavory writing
practices, like blogging. You know, the journal of the 21st century.

Keeping a diary or journal (“journaling” they now call it, thanks to
the modern world’s habit of turning perfectly good nouns into verbs)
was common among the literate before television came along and hooked
us up to the communal drool bucket.

A journal exists for its author to reflect on, well, anything. A
fading love, political turmoil, a spat with a friend, the weather in
Buffalo, New York, on June 10, 1946. The writer is free to express the
most intimate thoughts, because the nature of keeping a journal is to
keep it private.

Occasionally, if the journal belongs to a writer or an artist or a
statesman, the writing is so compelling that it finds its way into
print after the author dies. In the best of those, we are invited into
the mind behind the creative process and we emerge with a deeper
understanding of a masterwork, say, or the thinking behind a crucial
political decision.

Most journals go unread, though, and that’s the way it should be.
The contents were only intended for the writer’s eyes, after all.

A lot of people will tell you that blogging is merely journaling
online. It is not. Blogging is not private, but very public. And very
few blogs involve the kind of introspection that characterizes a
serious journal. Most blogging is sheer exhibitionism, either the
self-absorbed ramblings of an individual blogger or the corporate site
that exists for the sole purpose of making money. (If anyone sees a
disturbing parallel between blogging and column writing, kindly keep it
to yourself.)

This doesn’t mean blogs have to be badly written. It just means that most are.

But let’s be fair and balanced, like Fox News. Of the 27 million or
so “daily diaries” floating like space junk in the blogosphere, there
are a handful that aren’t bad. Some are well written and insightful. But understand that we’re talking about a precious few needles in a mighty big haystack.

Were Truman Capote alive today he might be moved to say, “That’s not writing. That’s blogging.”

– – –

Tony Long, copy chief at Wired News, cries plaintively, “Can’t anybody out there diagram a sentence anymore?”

Lutheran Service Book

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, in which I serve as a pastor, has prepared a new Lutheran hymnal. I have been aware of, and involved in certain ways, in this project for many years. It began when in the mid-1990s, Rev. A.L. Barry, of blessed memory, was serving as president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Rev. Dr. Paul Grime, Executive Director of the Synod’s Commission on Worship, some time soon after he came to serve in this position, began talking about the need for a new hymnal to replace “Lutheran Worship.” Dr. Barry, at a meeting of the Commission on Worship, indicated that 2007 would seem like a good year for a new hymnal to be made available to the Missouri Synod and so the ball was set in motion. Dr. Grime, with the able assistance of his co-worker in The LCMS Commission on Worship, Rev. Jon Vieker, started into the project, a preliminary step along the way being the production of “Hymnal Supplement ‘98.” Well, we are at the point now where the new hymnal will soon be, God willing, a reality. And it is  fantastic. It has been prepared by the LCMS Commission on Worship and has been worked on for many years by committees consisting of literally hundreds of people who have, for the past number of years, devoted themselves to producing for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the wider English-speaking Lutheran community, a hymnal that provides the best of both old and new.

A new web site has been established that will provide a “one stop shop” for news and information about Lutheran Service Book and its various companion pieces, as this information becomes available.

I’ve seen recently first pages of the new hymnal and it is simply gorgeous. It is going to be a tremendous resource, in both style and substance.

I invite you to visit the CPH Lutheran Service Book web site, and bookmark and return often to keep up to date on the progression of the hymnal’s production.

Gore is Good: On the New Horror Movies

Coming home from work today, I found the latest issue of NEWSWEEK waiting for me [April 3, 2006]. A story in the magazine discusses the new style of horror movies that are all the rage at the box office, and most often among the under 25 set. They are incredibly and sadistically gory and gruesome, described by one New York Times critic as “torture porn.” One young man is quoted as complaining after viewing one of them that it was not bloody enough for him. The article reminded me, in a striking way, of Tertullian’s writing De Spectaculis, “On the Spectacles” — a work in which this Early Church Father wrote against Christians viewing the spectacles of the gladiatorial sports that were so common-place in his days, and the theater of his time that featured absolute filth and raunch, live on the stage. Consider how he answers a protest he commonly heard to the concerns expressed about Christians filling their eyes with the “torture porn” of their days:

“Everyone is quick to argue that since all things were created by God and given to man to use, they must be good, since they are all from a good source. We see many good things in the public shows: the horse, the lion, bodily strength, and musical voice. So, since these things all exist by God’s creative will, they can’t be foreign or hostile to Him. And if they are not opposed to Him, they can’t be considered harmful to those who worship Him, since these things are not foreign to them.” [Tertullian, De Spectaculis, Ch. 2]

Some things never change, do they?

Tertullian concludes his magnificent work on this issue, one we do well to ponder today, by offering an alternative to the public shows and spectacles:

“What are the things which eye has not
seen, ear has not heard, and which have not so much as dimly dawned
upon the human heart? Whatever they are, they are nobler, I believe,
than circus, and both theatres, and every race-course.”

Much to think about, don’t you think?

“Evangelical” Theologian Argues for Gay Rights

Louisville, Kentucky—Taking on the most divisive issue in the church today the former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jack Rogers, argues unequivocally for the ordination and marriage of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) in Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church.

A life-long evangelical and a respected theologian, Rogers argues that fidelity to the Bible demands equal rights in the church and society for people who are LGBT. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality describes Rogers’s own change of mind and heart on the issue; charts the church’s well-documented history of using biblical passages to oppress marginalized groups; argues for a Christ-centered reading of Scripture; and debunks oft-repeated stereotypes about gays and lesbians.

“The best methods of interpretation, from the Reformation on down through today, call upon us to interpret the Scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ’s life and ministry. Using this method we see clearly that Jesus and the Bible, properly understood, do not condemn people who are homosexual,” Rogers writes in a stirring conclusion that is sure to provoke debate.

Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality was released this March by Westminster John Knox Press to widespread attention and acclaim. Yesterday, Rogers was the featured guest on KQED San Francisco’s “Forum,” which skyrocketed sales on And next week, Rogers will begin a national book tour with more than twenty speaking engagements confirmed.

The book has also received glowing reviews from some of America’s foremost religious leaders:

“This is an extraordinary book, arguably the best to appear in the long, drawn-out debates within churches over homosexuality,” says J. Philip Wogaman, former senior minister at Foundry United Methodist Church (where Bill Clinton worshipped) in Washington, D.C. “Rogers frames the issues on deep biblical and theological grounds, challenging superficial readings of Scripture. The book is wonderfully relevant… It is a gift to all of us.”

“This book is simply wonderful—an intelligent, well-researched, amazingly helpful contribution by a person of faith to one of the most difficult debates of our time,” declares Joanna Adams, pastor of Morningside Presbyterian Church in Atlanta.

“Rogers’s arguments are relentless, accurate, and devastating to those who claim that there are serious scriptural, doctrinal, or confessional reasons to deprive LGBT people from full participation in the life and ministry of the church,” states the Reverend Elder Nancy Wilson, the Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Church.

“Rogers adds immensely to those who argue for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church and in the clergy,” says the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, Episcopal Church. “His experience in and reflections on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will be useful to people of ALL mainline denominations. Especially helpful was his analysis of how ‘other’ theories (natural law, complementary body parts, etc.) are superimposed onto scriptural texts without any scriptural basis. For those who truly wish to know what the Bible does and does not say, this is a real find.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:     March 24, 2006

For additional information contact:
Gavin Stephens, <>, (502) 569-5713

The Status of Christians In Iran

A report from Ecumenical News International on the status of Christians and other religious minorities in Iran….

Ecumenical News International 
Daily News Service 
27 February 2006 

US watchdog group decries status of religious minorities in Iran


By Chris Herlinger   
New York, 27 February (ENI)–A US religious freedom watchdog
commission says it is “deeply concerned” about what it calls a
worsening situation for religious minorities in Iran.   

“A consistent stream of virulent and inflammatory statements by
political and religious leaders and an increase of harassment,
imprisonment, and physical attacks against these groups is clear
evidence of a disturbing, renewed pattern of oppression,” the US
Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a

The commission, created in 1998 by the US Congress to monitor the
status of freedom of thought and of religious practice outside
the United States, provides independent policy recommendations to
the US government. 

Michael Cromartie, the chairman of the commission, said the
pattern of rhetoric in Iran appeared to be similar to that during
the early years of the Iranian revolution which, he said,
preceded years of severe human rights violations against members
of non-Islamic religious minorities, particularly the Baha’i

Cromartie said that in recent months members of Iran’s Baha’i
community have again been harassed, physically attacked, arrested
and detained.   

“Christians in Iran increasingly have been subject to harassment,
arrests, close surveillance, and imprisonment,” says the
statement carried on the US commission’s Web site on 27 February.
“Over the past year, there have been several incidents of Iranian
authorities raiding church services, detaining worshippers and
church leaders, and harassing and threatening church members.” It
cited an evangelical pastor who remained in prison even after
being acquitted by an Islamic court on charges of apostasy, or
rejection of faith. 

Conditions for religious minorities were already severe before
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed office in August
but have since worsened, Cromartie said.   

Ahmadinejad and other leading Iranian government officials have
triggered international condemnation during their first six
months in office for public remarks either casting doubt or
denying the Holocaust against European Jews during the period of
the Second World War.   

The commission urged the US government to accelerate efforts to
address the human rights situation in Iran, though it
acknowledged there are few available policy options because the
United States does not have direct diplomatic relations with
Iran. [366 words] 

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International 
Reproduction permitted only by media subscribers and 
provided ENI is acknowledged as the source. 

Ecumenical News International 
PO Box 2100 
CH – 1211 Geneva 2 

Tel: (41-22) 791 6088/6111 
Fax: (41-22) 788 7244 

26 ways in which doing IT Support is better than being a pastor

26 ways in which doing IT Support is better than being a pastor

by Dan Phillips on the Pyromanics blog

Unusually emphatic disclaimer: This is satire (săt’īr’
– “A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through
irony, derision, or wit”). One hopes that every item is ponderable; the
only thing I don’t mean at all is the title — and I really, really don’t mean the title. All clear? Tongues in cheek, then. Here goes:

For the most part:

1. People come to you for help — instead of assuming that, if you really
knew your job, you would intuitively know they needed help, and come to
them without being asked.

 Everyone immediately tells you, to the best of his ability, what his or her actual issue is.

 Everyone who asks you a question really wants to hear the answer.

 Everyone who asks you for help really wants to he helped.

5. Everyone who calls you really does want his/her computer to work the very best it can.

6. You and your callers agree that computer bugs and problems are bad, and should be done away with.

7. When you identify viruses, spyware, unwanted popups, and crashes as
“bad,” and target them for elimination, the folks you help don’t accuse
you of being harsh and judgmental.

8. Nobody who calls you is actually in love with the computer problems and misbehaviors they’re experiencing.

9. When you identify a computer malady you want to eradicate, nobody can wave a book or point to a Big Name who argues that it is actually the
latest, greatest “thing” in computers, and should be earnestly sought
after, cherished, cultivated, and spread abroad.

10. Nobody who calls you for help thinks that he’s hearing a little voice
in his heart telling him that what you’re saying is just so much smelly

11. Everyone to whom you give sensible counsel will hear, heed, remember, and follow that counsel — they won’t insist on “feeling an inner peace” before doing it.

. Everyone thinks you do crucial, important, and respectable work; nobody assumes that it is because you can’t get a “real job.”

13. Everyone assumes you’re well-trained, know what you’re doing, and know at least some things they do not already know.

. While you are expected to be knowledgeable and competent at what you do, you are not expected to be perfect.

. Most times, you know immediately when you’ve helped someone; you don’t have to wait six months, six years, or six decades, to see whether your
fix has “taken” or not.

. On the worst day, if you do even a half-decent job, you can go home
knowing for certain that you’ve really helped 5, 10, 15, 20 or more

. If you don’t know the answer, it’s probably on Google. Somewhere.

. When you discover a new, better, more effective way to accomplish the
goals you share with the folks you help, they’re happy — not angry at
you because it’s different from “the way we’ve always done it.”

. The people you help don’t care how you’re dressed.

. The people you help don’t care how many committees your wife does or doesn’t head up.

. The people you help don’t hold your children to standards their children couldn’t even spell.

22. The people you help don’t periodically form secret committees and whisper-campaigns to get you ousted.

. The people you help don’t all assume they know how to do your job
better than you do, while actually knowing next to nothing about it.

. Everyone is fairly clear on what your job actually is: fix their computer so they can get back to work, or work better.

. The people you help evaluate you by whether you do or do not do your
actual and well-defined job effectively — not by how you “make” them

. The people you help aren’t judging you as inferior to a beloved support technician who died ten years ago.