March 2008 Archives

The death of a friend

Michael W. Lehky, a friend of mine from high school has died. Pray for the repose of his soul and for his family. Mike was a good guy - honestly so. There are too few of them.

His obit:

Michael W. Lehky

MASON -- Michael W. Lehky, 45, beloved husband of Julie (Zeck) Lehky; dear son of William and Shirley Lehky; and son-in-law of Thomas and Sharon Zeck; devoted father of Elizabeth D., Christopher M. and Allison M. Lehky; brother of Daniel Lehky, Julie Strittmather and Dawn Clark, also survived by many nieces and nephews. A resident of Mason, he passed away March 23, 2008. Michael grew up in Vermilion, and graduated from Vermilion High School. He was a 1984 graduate of Case Western Reserve with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was a big sports enthusiast, loved the Cleveland Browns, avid golfer and Tiger Woods supporter. He coached his kids in many sports and was involved in numerous mission trips with his church.

His professional career led him to senior vice president of manufacturing at Quebecor World Printing were he spent the last 14 years.Great husband, great father, great son, great friend.

Memorial service at Montgomery Community Church, 11251 Montgomery Road, Montogomery, Wednesday, March 26, at 1p.m. Memorial service at United Church of Christ Congregational, 990 State St., Vermilion, on Saturday, March 29, at 11 a.m.

Memorials may be sent to MCC, c/o Mission Fund or CHCA Scholarship Fund, 11525 Snider Road, Montgomery, OH 45249.

Mueller Parker Funeral Home serving the family. For more information or to send a condolence visit


I'm tellin' ya, Holy Week wears me out. It takes up every bit of me. It is particularly so when the Daily Offices are maintained along with our own services and then the common services of the four Episcopal Churches within a 20 minute walk of each other. All good, but wearing. The places, the smells, the sounds, the people, the remembering. It is now over, it was glorious, lots of people - new and old, and "real life" begins, again. (After a bit of rest, that is!)

It is quite difficult trying to discern this culture, this time, these people, and what it takes to make the reality of the faith - and not just faith as faith or faith in faith, but faith wrapped up in relationship with a personal and apparent God - what it takes to make the faith present in a way that resonates. Honestly, what is the essence of life within the swarm of God and maintenance of life and neighbor and all that life presents to us? What goes on in the minds and emotions of those walking by on crowded streets, sitting next to me in trains speeding through dark tunnels from place to place, people wrapped up in books and iPods and video-games in lives that have little or no time to stop, listen, and consider? What goes on in their minds? What does it take?

In every culture and at every time - in every generation - we have to wrestle with and deal with the question Jesus presents: "Who do you say that I am?" This process of answering that significant questions will be different within each generation, I suppose. What do we say when the quest is no longer for answers to great questions, but the expression or assertion of self - one's own thoughts, feelings, ideas as if the "amateur" is the same as the "expert."

There are those within the Church universal who are determined to take Christianity into a "Brave New World," there are those who wish to take Christianity back to the supposed "glory days" of the 1950's. Then, there are those who wish to be engage in a corrective of the excesses of the Baby-Boomer "60's" generation "reforms." That generation was determined to take the Church out of out-dated traditions and remake it in their own image. What did we get, instead?

"The only alternative to tradition is bad tradition." - Jaroslav Pelican
(From an interview with the late Jaroslav Pelican by Krista Tippett on "Speaking of Faith," March 22, 2008)

A Culture of One

I think the following commentary is very important to consider, particularly with regard to pop-post-modernist notions.

I remember a number of years ago talking to a long-time campus pastor at Kent State University. A great guy who had been interacting with students for a long time and knew the ins-and-outs of the times - the zeitgeist, if you will. He said that 10 years prior he would go on campus and sit and argue with students about Truth - good arguments with atheists and others who absolutely disagreed with his American-Evangelical system or worldview. Now, he said, he goes on campus and no one wants to talk, debate or argue, primarily because he has a hard time finding students who believe in a concept of "Truth." They just aren't interested.

What's the point, when everyone has their own truth and all truths are as valid as any other one. Of course, this idea is applied in completely inconsistent ways. When we all become amateur "experts" - in our own imaginations, at least - who demand the same recognition and consideration as those who have spent a life-time learning, then where do we end up? This is the dilemma and has been for the last 50 years. "Truth" claims become already suspect, and those who assert that there are definable and even absolute "Truths" are not trusted. What then???

Here is a "note" or commentary related to culture:

A Culture of One

"In this era of exploding media technologies there is no truth except the truth you create for yourself." That's the assertion of Richard Edelman, the founder and CEO of one of the world's largest public relations companies. The work of PR professionals has always caused concern from people who believe in the importance of truth-telling. But Edelman's observation suggests that in the communications ecosystem that is the Internet, where everyone is a spinmeister, the very idea of truth becomes less and less plausible. The quote from Edelman is in a new book by journalist Andrew Keen called The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture (Doubleday/Currency). "Today's media," writes Keen, "is shattering the world into a billion personalized truths, each seemingly equally valid and worthwhile."

Andrew Keen hasn't always been so negative about the Internet. He almost made a fortune in the 1990s by founding, one of the first digital music sites. Keen got involved in that project because he wanted to make the world's best music more available to more people. But the more time he spent among the digirati in Silicon Valley, and the more he heard the utopian pronouncements of its most energized leaders, the more he realized that his view of culture and theirs were at odds. He wanted to expand the audience for great music. The Web enthusiasts wanted to make money by allowing more people to distribute home-made music, no matter how unimaginative and insipid it was, and collect revenue for all of the web advertising that accompanies the narcissism-enabling websites.

Although he doesn't use the phrase, Keen's book is about the loss of cultural authority. He believes that the survival of the very best forms of cultural expression, in journalism, music, fiction, and other disciplines, requires a network of mediation and accreditation. Cultural institutions that nurture the production of the best cultural artifacts maintain teams of editors, critics, producers, and teachers who have advanced in their careers through years of training and evaluation within a guild or tradition. Over time, some of those institutions earn more trust and respect among their peers than do others, their expertise and ability are acknowledged through an organic process of accountability and recognition. Those cultural institutions can be corrupted and standards can become debased. But without some form of institutionalized judgment established over time in communities of expertise, without, that is, some knowledgeable person to tell you your work isn't good enough to be published, cultural expression easily becomes mere self-expression.

When everyone can self-publish by putting up a few bucks for a website, they don't have to face the humiliation of rejection slips. And when a critical mass of people spend more time reading self-published (and often mediocre) writing, and self-produced videos, less time is spent in the company of credentialed creativity. And that translates into declining revenue for established voices and their intermediaries. Keen is particularly helpful in calling attention to how institutions of cultural authority require economic support to continue to operate. They also require a widespread sympathy to the idea of hierarchies, an assumption that some ideas are objectively better than others, that some commentators are wiser than others, that some creative work is, well, more creative than others.

Twenty or so years ago, cultural conservatives were up in arms about higher education's demotion of the canon of great literature. They attributed this abandonment to the anti-Western bias of campus leftists. But surely the ecosystem of ideas and sentiments encouraged by uncritical use of the Web, energized by its defining myth of the democratization of knowledge and culture, poses a much greater threat than all those tenured radicals.

Posted by Ken Myers on 3/13/08 at Marshill Audio

Hat-tip to Titusonenine


Paolo Nutini

A Scot with an Italian name, believe it or not.

Paolo Nutini

Belief in "Sin"

It seems the outcome of a new study has recently been released that presents what Americans think about sin. The study sample is only 1,000 people, but there you go.

Here is the researcher's website, Ellison Research, and some stuff on the study and its results.

I found a couple things interesting.

Of the 1,000 people polled, 82% found "Adultery" to be "Sin or Sinful Behavior." Of those who "Believe in Sin, but Don’t Define This as Sin," the result was 6%.

Now, consider the results for "Homosexual activity or sex". I'm surprised that only 52% found this to be "Sin or Sinful behavior," while 35% said that they "Believe in Sin, but Don't Define This as Sin."

It would seem that those who can't help but to become obsessed over one issue or one "sin" in order to gain power and raise money or make themselves feel good about themselves, all in the name of the Lord of course, it would seem that Adultery would be a much more valuable sin to focus on, since 82% of the respondents believe Adultery to be sinful while only 52% believe homosexual behavior to be sinful. Why, then, the obsession over homosexuality?

Remember, too, that the recently released results from the Pew Foundation showed that among Mainline and Evangelical Americans (this study had a sample of 35,000 people), there was an equal amount of people, 5% for both, who were "living with a partner." Interesting how the same percentage exists between the two groups, isn't it?

The City #18

Sometimes, walking around the City I get a small, short glimpse of life - a snapshot, a moment in the lives of a few individuals. Sometimes, these snapshots are vividly embedded in my mind and remembering them seems as real as when I experienced them.

The other day I was walking from work to the subway. I crossed the street and walking to the intersection I saw a father with his young son in hand. The father, perhaps the boy's grandfather, was bending low as they walked and was talking earnestly to the boy, about what I'm not sure. The little boy, who was probably an older-three or four years old, was looking up into the sky or at the buildings and was just doing "raspberries."

Just that moment - the earnestness and seriousness of aging men and the frivolity and carefree-ness of little boys.

I've been in a "people are just plain idiots" phase over the last couple of weeks. This glimpse of joyous life brings me back to reality and balance and the realization that I do love God's brazenly chaotic Creation.

Kaiser Cartel

Okay, so for how long have I been saying that non-Episcopalians are picking up our Book of Common Prayer and finding within it a way of faith that is drawing them in? How long?

So, I downloaded the study guild guide (I'm just pathetic at proof reading!) to a book on Christian spirituality written by the director of L'Abri. Guess what, it is full of prayers drawn from, what? Where might those prayers have come? Within this "Evangelical" setting, where did the director pull prayers for the study guide? YES, from The Book of Common Prayer.

Sometimes, I feel like huge groups of people within the Episcopal Church are doing all they can to run away from our own Prayer Book, all the while so many disaffected Christians and people from non-liturgical and Evangelical backgrounds are running to it.

Download the PDF of the studyguide and see for yourselves. Click here.

Today's L'Abri

There are a couple interesting articles in this recent issue of Christianity Today (March, 2008). One article has to do with L'Abri - a "retreat" established by Francis Schaeffer and his wife in the Alps of Switzerland. Lots of '60's - '80's young people flocked (relatively speaking) to L'Abri to debate and then sit at the feet of Schaeffer as he discussed and commented on Christian life within the West and within "Modernism." L'Abri was a haven for those disaffected young people who had a difficult time with the common Evangelicalism and the Christian religion in general.

Schaeffer died during the 1980's and over the years L'Abri has changed from a strongly Evangelical community within the Modernist approach to knowledge and Truth to a now Post-Modernist community that is very different from the place that Schaeffer established when he was at the helm.

I can remember back as an undergraduate in the early '80's dreaming of going to L'Abri. I have to admit that I still want to spend time there even as I have changed and can now feel the inner drive and throb of seeking that many a student deals with (after all, we are always students, are we not?). Frankly, I would love to have such a place here, now, and be part of such a community! It fits well within my notions of "intentional community." The idea of being about the living of an authentic life in Christ as we strive together to not be bound by cultural convention but to understand the unplumbable depths of God's Way.

Anyway, here is a couple paragraphs I think are insightful concerning younger folk:

[Thomas Rauchenstein, a youngish Canadian and a current L'Abri worker, commenting on Schaeffer's presuppositions when making his arguments] "Presuppositionalism can appear to be humble, but actually it's quite arrogant... It says, 'You can't critique my assumptions.' students today have the despair of having lost that certainty." The postmodern critique of objectivity has saturated them. "We're at the transition point, philosophically," said Peltier. "People talk in the language of postmodernism, but what they want from Christianity is very much modern."

In other words, when students say they seek authenticity, what they really want it certainly, an inner knowing. Convinced that they won't find it intellectually, many pursue that feeling of conviction through experience: in the communal life and worship at L'Abri; in the books by emerging church authors that are popular with many students, and in the charismatic worship style that - though Pentecostals have never been a significant presence - is no longer taboo here."

I might suggest that for a significant segment of the student population, the traditional forms of worship - in the sacramental and liturgical - also enable this population to "experience" God in ways that their former/current church-culture did not provide them.

Lambeth and the Bishop

The word has come from Lambeth Palace that Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire will not receive an invitation to the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops this summer. I'm not going to say whether I think this is a good or bad thing, because I just don't know. Part of me says bad, part of me says it is a necessary although regrettable decision that good will come out of. I just don't know. It is all a regrettable and unfortunate mess, regardless.

Here is the report offered by those of the U.S. House of Bishops who were in conversation with the Lambeth Conference officials regarding Gene's participation.

Here is Gene Robinson's response, which I think is a very gracious and responsible response!

Here is the Episcopal News Service announcement.


Wow, we are having a real storm in Brooklyn - almost like a good sideways-rain thunderstorm I liked in Ohio. Rain is pelting the windows. Wind is shaking the windows. This is kind of fun!

The old group Lone Justice (Maria McKee) on their album "Shelter" had a great song about "terrible" and then "gentle" Georgia storms. I miss good thunderstorms!

Changing demographics and attitudes necessitates changing definitions related to those to attend and avoid church.

From the Barna Research Group:
New Statistics on Church Attendance and Avoidance

New Measures

According to Barna, one way of examining people's participation in faith communities is by exploring how they practice their corporate faith engagement. Unveiling a new measurement model, Barna identified the following five segments:

+ Unattached - people who had attended neither a conventional church nor an organic faith community (e.g., house church, simple church, intentional community) during the past year. Some of these people use religious media, but they have had no personal interaction with a regularly-convened faith community. This segment represents one out of every four adults (23%) in America. About one-third of the segment was people who have never attended a church at any time in their life.

+ Intermittents - these adults are essentially "under-churched" - i.e., people who have participated in either a conventional church or an organic faith community within the past year, but not during the past month. Such people constitute about one out of every seven adults (15%). About two-thirds of this group had attended at least one church event at some time within the past six months.

+ Homebodies - people who had not attended a conventional church during the past month, but had attended a meeting of a house church (3%).

- adults who had attended both a conventional church and a house church during the past month. Most of these people attend a conventional church as their primary church, but many are experimenting with new forms of faith community. In total, Blenders represent 3% of the adult population.

+ Conventionals - adults who had attended a conventional church (i.e., a congregational-style, local church) during the past month but had not attended a house church. Almost three out of every five adults (56%) fit this description. This participation includes attending any of a wide variety of conventional-church events, such as weekend services, mid-week services, special events, or church-based classes.

Cross-Pollinating the Church

In addition to those five segments, the Barna report revealed that there is a growing degree of ministry crossover in America. When examining the spiritual participation of adults during the past month, the Barna team discovered that more than one out of every five adults had been involved in two or more types of churches: a conventional church, a house church, a marketplace church, a real-time ministry event on the Internet, or a live ministry event in the community.

Demonstrating the complexity of measuring people’s faith commitments, the Barna study identified the nature of people’s overlapping faith practices.

+ Among adults who were churched (either conventionally or alternatively) 15% had experienced the presence of God or expressed their faith in God through a faith-oriented website within the past month. Half as many (7%) said they had such an experience through a real-time event on the Internet.

+ One out of every eight churched adults (13%) said they had experienced the presence of God or expressed their faith in God through a ministry that met in the marketplace (e.g., their workplace, athletic event, etc.) during the past month.

+ Twice as many churched people (28%) said they had experienced the presence of God or expressed their faith in God through their involvement with a special ministry event (such as a worship concert or community service activity).

+ A majority of the public claimed to have experienced the presence of God or expressed their faith in God through some form of interaction with religious television or radio programs.

Reaching the Unattached

With the final weeks of the Easter season rapidly approaching, the Barna study also identified some of the characteristics of the Unattached that might enable conventional churches or other ministries to more adeptly connect with those people.

Compared to regular churchgoers, the Unattached are:

# more likely to feel stressed out

# less likely to be concerned about the moral condition of the nation

# much less likely to believe that they are making a positive difference in the world

# less optimistic about the future

# far less likely to believe that the Bible is totally accurate in its principles

# substantially more likely to believe that Satan and the Holy Spirit are symbolic figures, but are not real

# more likely to believe that Jesus Christ sinned while He was on earth

# much more likely to believe that the holy literature of the major faiths all teach the same principles even though they use different stories

# less likely to believe that a person can be under demonic influence

# more likely to describe their sociopolitical views as "mostly liberal" than "mostly conservative"

The entire article is worth a read.

The Hermeneutics Quiz

So, I took "The Hermeneutics Quiz" offered by the people of Christianity Today and Leadership magazines. I came out having a "Progressive Hermeneutic." This surprised me, frankly, because I do think I really am more moderate than progressive, unless one can be a "Progressive-Conservative," which is what I've called myself politically since high school. Of course, that probably pans-out to be a plain ole', ordinary, and boring "Moderate."

So, here is where you can take "The Hermeneutics Quiz."

And, here is the related article in the Leadership Journal magazine (online): Click here

The Madgalene Laundry

Back in 2003, Ashton and I went to see "The Magdalene Sisters." It was a horrific tail of the abuse of a "wayward" girl in the Irish Magdalene laundries. A well done movie, I thought, but depressing - if true.

It seems that the story may be just that - a story, rather than the real life depiction of misery. It seems that a new book is coming out that shows that the author of the Madgalene laundry tail was a bit off in her depiction of her life. The "Misery Literature" industry keeps pumping out these supposedly real-life tails, but are they true? It reminds me of the book published here in the U.S. a couple years ago, James Frey's "A Thousand Little Pieces," which I read before it became a rage due to Oprah's endorsement. Boy do I feel used.

Read this article from the Telegraph. What can we believe?

I like this last paragraph of the article:

"O'Beirne's [the author of the book of her "experiences" with the laundry] own feelings about Kelly's [the author of the new book debunking O'Beirne's claims] investigation became clear on Irish TV last November, when he pulled out her birth certificate and school records, showing she had lied about her age, education and alleged adoption. O'Beirne, furious, hit him. As he commented at the time: 'She can beat my back, but she can't beat my book.'"

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