McRibs, McJobs & McCamping

11.07.11 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[3]

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON THE JOURNEY OF LIFE AND FAITH

I mentioned in my last blog that I felt there is a need for greater humility in the body of Christ, both toward one another and in our outward posture.  Here’s something I read recently from Sinclair Ferguson, Scottish theologian and writer that resonated with me on that subject:  “Evangelicalism has presented an appearance of moral one-upmanship rather than a tear-stained face of repentance.”  It’s inevitable that the way we present ourselves, individually or corporately, is going to speak louder than any words we may say.  Do people see in us a Jesus who wants you to have your best life now, with all the material blessings you’re entitled to as a child of the King?  Do they see a benign semi-divine buddy who has minimal expectations for your relationship with him, an inoffensive, all-accepting savior?  Or is he a power player, trying to force change by legislating morality and cozying up to the political elite?    

Which Jesus do people see in us?  The real one?  Or something else?

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Marriage – not to be taken lightly.  I know.  I’ve been through the tempestuous storm of divorce.  But you have to wonder about some of these celebrity Hollywood marriages – and divorces.  The latest is Kim Kardashian.  I still don’t know who the Kardashians are or why anybody cares but she is calling it quits.  After 72 days.  72 whole days.  She says she did a “lot of soul searching” before she came to her decision.  Are you kidding?  At that point most newlyweds are just finding out who snores and how to pretend they’re not home when the in-laws come knocking.  But 72 days is by no means a record for the shortest Hollywood marriage.  Britney Spears and Jason Alexander?  55 hours.  Yep.  Married at noon on Saturday, split by dinner on Tuesday.  It takes me that long to decide what socks to wear. 

On the other hand, Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne have been married for 57 years.  It can be done – even in Hollywood.

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Speaking of the cult of celebrity, at his funeral, Steve Jobs’ sister, Mona Simpson read a eulogy she had written in which she said, “Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.”  As the weeks roll on, the beatification of Jobs continues unabated.  He was no doubt a super-achiever but are we to believe that he somehow held death off until he was finally ready for it, on his terms?  That it was his accomplishment? 

I realize Steve Jobs was an uncommon person; not only an innovative, one-of-a-kind CEO but a towering cultural icon.  Yet it isn’t as though he was on some intentional existential journey.  It isn’t like a script from a Star Trek movie where the challenge is to discover ‘what lies beyond’.  He was just a man, subject to all the phenomena that befalls humankind.  I could understand the phrase ‘achieving death’ in the case of suicide because that is in fact the individual’s goal.  But under the circumstances in which Jobs passed away?  No, he didn’t achieve anything.  He died.  Death happened to him.  Just as it will to all of us someday.  And no matter who or what he was in this life, at this point it is safe (and I think not judgmental) to say he is either in the presence of the One who endowed him with his remarkable gifts or he’s spending a Christless eternity in hell.  As my friend Bruce Barrows would say, “There it is.”

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“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six.  Mother took me to see him in a  department store and he asked for my autograph.”  Shirley Temple

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Does it seem like people are angrier these days?  In fast food drive-thrus, at traffic lights, in stores?  It’s as though the anger baseline got cranked up a couple of notches and we’re surrounded by short tempers and bad behavior.  I don’t know if it’s the economic pressure people are feeling, the frazzled pace of living or nervous anxiety over who’s going to win ‘The Sing-Off’.  But watch out because we haven’t even hit the holiday season yet.  Last year I saw two women in Target fighting over a shopping cart.  As Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief!” 

Even the Queen of England isn’t safe from expressions of bad behavior.  OK, some of you might not appreciate this but did you hear about the guy who mooned the Queen while she was visiting Brisbane, Australia a couple of weeks ago?   Liam Warriner has been charged with public nuisance for his actions as the Queen and her entourage walked through the downtown area.  Appropriate?  No.  Amusing?  Well, forgive me Lord, but I laughed.    

On the other hand, those so-called random acts of kindness do still happen.  A couple of weeks ago someone at work noticed that my back left tire was really low.  I drove slowly to a local tire and muffler store and they removed the nail I’d run over and fixed the tire.  When I asked them how much, they just said, “Never mind, it’s on us.”  I protested but the guy just shook his head and said no.  No gimmick.  No sales pitch.  Just a nice guy who took 15 minutes out of his day to help someone out.  We need more people like that.      

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The ‘No Wonder I’m Confused’ Department:  Robert Jeffress, whose recent comments about Mitt Romney and Mormonism created quite a stir, has a new book coming out, ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’ (Worthy Publishing, 2012).  Jeffress has made it clear that he believes Mormonism is a cult and that “born-again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian over a good moral person”.  Fair enough.  But who does Jeffress credit in the first chapter as inspiration for his book?  Glenn Beck.  He's. A. Mormon.  So let me see if I've got this right; it isn’t ok to vote for a Mormon running for president because he’s a member of a non-Christian cult, but it is ok to celebrate another Mormon as a champion of traditional values, patriotism and religious faith because he employs a vocabulary familiar to many conservative Christians?  I think I need a Tylenol.  The book will be in stores January 3rd, which also happens to be Fruitcake Toss Day. 

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Did you know:  Steven Colbert teaches Sunday school regularly at his church.  Think about it. 

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If I hear one more soloist do “Grown Up Christmas List” this year, I’m going to throw up.  When David Foster and Natalie Cole first did it in 1990 it was fresh and new.  Amy Grant’s version in 1992 became hugely popular.  But in the last two decades, it’s almost become a cliché, much like Newsong’s “The Christmas Shoes”.  Please – if you feel a leading to sing it at church this Christmas, fight the urge.  You probably just had too much eggnog.

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The McRib.  It’s been around for almost thirty years, making infrequent and unpredictable visits to a McDonald’s near you.  Sure, it’s covered with pickles and onions and slathered with barbecue sauce.  But what exactly is a McRib?  According to one of its creators, Roger Mandigo, and McDonald’s Executive Chef Dan Coudreault, the Mighty McRib is “restructured meat products manufactured by using lower-valued meat trimmings reduced in size by flaking, grinding or slicing. The meat mixture is mixed with salt and water to produce a glue which binds muscle pieces together. These muscle pieces may then be reformed to produce a 'meat log' of specific form or shape, in this case, a boneless patty in the shape of a four-ridged rib slab.”  Among the McRib’s 70 ingredients, azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics like gym mats and the soles of shoes.  No wonder it’s so chewy.       

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“Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness. The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.”   Eric Hoffer

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Harold Camping 3.0 – A recent piece in The Christian Post and carried by other media suggested that Harold Camping had issued a statement apologizing for his failed prophecies.  The next day Camping’s wife Shirley reportedly confirmed that the 90-year old radio evangelist and end-times prognosticator had retired.  But one day later his Family Radio ministry released a statement saying he had not retired.  And in fact, if you examine his statement you could question whether he apologized or not.  The International Business Times observed, "It seems as if maybe Camping's statement is less an apology and more of a point-the-finger at God defense. Camping more or less blames God for his failed predictions, since He was the one 'in charge of everything.' "

I feel bad for people like Robert Fitzpatrick of Staten Island, who spent his entire life savings on billboards emblazoned with Camping’s prediction.  He went to Times Square to await the end, but when the appointed time passed without incident, he didn’t understand why nothing was happening:  “It’s not a mistake”, he said.  “I did what I had to do.  I did what the Bible said”.  He went back to his apartment, dejected.  “I didn’t water my plants, I didn’t do my dishes before I left.  I didn’t expect to go back home.” 

Another reason the situation is sad (beyond the blatant Biblical errors) is that Camping’s organization, Family Radio, has received consistently low rankings from charity watchdog groups, like Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org).  They’re currently rated at 1 out of 4 stars overall and 0 out of 4 stars in accountability and transparency.  Their website (www.familyradio.com) does not provide readily accessible information on audited financials or key staff.  So with revenue of nearly $20 million in the fiscal year ending December, 2009 and net assets worth more than $72 million, shouldn’t more people be asking more questions?  Before they quit their jobs?  Before they fork over their life savings?  Before they tear their families apart? 

I’m not suggesting that Camping is misappropriating funds or that there’s anything improper in their operation, even though they see nothing wrong with their non-orthodox theology or secretive business structure.  But before I sold my home or bought billboards with my kid’s college fund I’d be asking, “So if the world is ending and your ministry is worth more than $70 million – why aren’t you spending all of that and why am I giving you my life savings?”  But we’re so desperate or so willing to believe anything that in the end, we believe nothing at all. 

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Christians debate whether or not to have their kids participate in trick or treating; some do, some don’t.  My uncle Rex still likes to dress up and go around his retireme – sorry, senior living community – and give out candy.  It's easy to spot him – he’s the only Power Ranger with a walker.

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People don’t listen to music anymore, they want to experience it.  There’s a big difference. 

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A few of the words, phrases and names of 2011:  Propofol, “Occupy (fill in the city)”, Irene, Arab Spring, Marriage Equality Act, Gabrielle Giffords, 9-9-9, “Love Wins”, Fukushima Daiichi, 7 billion, Qwikster, News of the World, debt ceiling, Sudan independence, William and Catherine, St. Louis Cardinals, Seal Team 6, Joplin, birther, Zoie Mae*.

 *  our new granddaughter

Comments

Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 11.10.11 Jesse commented

Zoe Mae is the best of that list. I am sure you will agree :-)

on 11.15.11 Kristen commented

You are TOO funny! I agree, I'm sick of that song and a lot of others too. I never ate a mcRib and now I'm really glad! Kristen

on 11.18.11 Chris commented

I always enjoy reading your blogs but it took me awhile to get around to this one. Some of it is very funny and other parts really make a good point. Thank you for giving us something different than the usual boring stuff.

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