I only know Fareed Zakaria from his relatively frequent appearances on The Daily Show. He's always interesting and obviously brilliant. I found an excerpt from his new book The Post-American World, on Newsweek's site.
Zakaria outlines a hopeful, global future and lets us know that things aren't quite as bad as we think they are.
Here's talk radio guy Kevin James of KRLA, which bills itself as "intelligent" talk radio. People wonder what's gone wrong with us, the greatest country in the world. I can tell you in four words: people like Kevin James.
In this clip from May 15, 2008, James gets taken to school by Hardball's Chris Matthews:
Idiot. No doubt he's in line to replace Rush Limbaugh when he retires.
I was just nosing through the news items from the 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. Once again, it's hard to say anything of significance changed. The extension of our mission statement from "Making disciples of Jesus Christ" to "Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world" is hardly noteworthy. And the continued debates on the issue of homosexuality, as usual, generated more heat than light.
One item of interest caught my eye, however:
Delegates to the 2008 United Methodist General Conference rejected two petitions dealing with clergy ineffectiveness and guaranteed appointments.
The delegates followed the recommendations of the ministry and higher education legislative committee and voted 824-25 to not amend paragraph 334.1 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The petitions asked that bishops appoint an ineffective pastor to less than full-time service.
Because the petitions were placed on a consent calendar, delegates also voted on April 30 to reject an effort involving clergy evaluations. The legislation would have allowed a district superintendent to initiate changing the pastor's conference relationship after three evaluations found a pastor to be ineffective and not likely to become effective through training and counseling.
As I read it, this refusal to hold clergy accountable is pretty much a signal of continued decline. Any organization that doesn't hold ineffective leaders accountable need not sit around and wring its hands over why we're not doing better than we are. In addition, the voting down of the legislation pretty much continues our dysfunctional system of guaranteeing appointments, even to individuals who have never, under any circumstances, been effective as pastors.
I realize this may seem somewhat hypocritical since I'm one who has benefitted from the standard of a guaranteed appointment. I do, however, think that most of my work has been effective as a pastor. And, I think my colleagues would probably express a simliar opinion if asked to weigh in on that subject.
It doesn't bode well for us as clergy, however, if we take the track that we're "entitled" to an appointment simply by virtue of having completed seminary and successfully endured the process that leads to ordination. That's a different skill set than the one required to be an effective pastor. Getting through the process is largely a matter of knowing how to navigate a set of pre-determined turns and twists without a lot of surprise along the way; a much different lion than the local church, which has no preset rules and a good number of surprises.
Either way, I think that we, as clergy, need to get over ourselves and stop protecting our brothers and sisters who, while certainly viable church leaders, are evidently not cut out for pastoral leadership. If we can't move beyond this, then there's little use in wondering why our churches aren't growing.
But, then again, I wasn't a delegate to general conference, so I didn't actually see the legislation. But, based on what I read above, it doesn't seem like they're just interested in kicking people out. There's a lot of talk about training and counseling, which means that the process would be involved (and probably long) and would allow for some growth in this arena.
The way I see it (and, keep in mind, this is just my opinion), a tenure system for ineffective leaders is a major contributor to our ongoing decline. I know that we have problems in the pew, as well, but by and large, these can be dealt with through capable leaders who have a bigger agenda than keeping their pension intact and their appointment secure.
All of which leads me back to that mission statement revision as one more puff of blown smoke: After all, we can't very well hope to transform the world when we can't even transform our own denomination.
Great article from Thomas Friedman in the New York Times on why the McCain-Clinton gas tax holiday is a bad idea. Economists of all stripes have labeled this as political pandering at its worst; with no relief on gas prices in sight, the McCain-Clinton strategy is to increase demand by lowering the price, which will, in turn, raise the price because of increased demand.
Friedman's article suggests that we really ought to stop concentrating on short-term fixes and begin investing in renewable sources. Failure to do so will kill jobs and further drive much-needed investment money into other countries, like Germany, where renewable energy research and development is a major priority.
Great speech by Tim Robbins given to the National Association of Broadcasters...whether you like Robbins or not, he nailed the MSM to the wall on this one...and, in the process, presented at least some semblance of a vision for what thoughtful engagement with real issues might do for us. There is profanity in this speech, so let the reader/listener beware.
Everybody who's ever seen Bruce Springsteen live has always told me, "You haven't really heard him until you've heard him live." This, of course, is a pretty standard line for any major fan of any major artist. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to see some really good shows (for a listing, check this out) and anyone who knows me has to tolerate what my wife calls the "Charlie Brown's teacher syndrome" (wah wah wah wah wah wah) when it comes to talking about guitarists and music.
But, really, not to be derivative or anything ... you haven't really heard Springsteen until you've heard him live. And, maybe it's not even so much that as it is about the band. The E Street Band...mmm mmm mmm...
About 9 hours ago, my friend Lonnie Smith and I left the American Airlines Center in Dallas after being treated to two and a half hours of what was, at the very least, the most energetic show I've ever seen. At 58, the "boss" hasn't slowed down and still can move an audience like nothing I've ever seen.
Now, I have nothing to compare this with, of course. People who saw him 20 or 30 years ago are probably in better position to really review this show and I'm sure there are plenty of those out there. But for a first-timer, I can't remember the last time I had my socks just blown off by a concert the way I did last night.
Bruce showed up on stage at about 8:15 (which I understand is pretty much "on time" for him), along with the E Street Band and tore into Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out. It was hard to tell from where I was sitting (we were in the terrace level, right up front center-stage, which gave us a great overall view, but not really what you'd call close - thank God for video venues these days!!), but it was apparent pretty early on that Bruce gets a lot of his energy from the audience and I couldn't tell, but it didn't sound like the audience was giving all that much up front, but by the end of the show, everyone was on their feet, singing along, and giving LOTS back.
Bruce performed some of the best from his new album Magic, including Girls in Their Summer Clothes, Radio Nowhere, Livin' in the Future, Long Road Home, and the captivating title track (which is all about illusion and politics) and made the comment before singing Magic that we were near the end of an eight year run of some really "dark (I think that's the word he used) magic." I bought this CD not long after it was released and have liked it from day one, but seeing him perform these pieces live definitely enlarged my vision of Springsteen's talents. I've always known he was a great song-writer, but had no clue about what kind of performer he was (aside from seeing his HBO special from Madison Square Garden a few years back). And there's an energy that comes across in person that you can't get by watching someone on television.
And, he did a lot of old favorites: Born to Run, Badlands, Jungleland, Dancing in the Dark (where he pulled a bunch of 10- and 11-year-old kids who'd come over from Ft. Worth onto the stage), and Because the Night. My personal fave has always been BTR, and it's a sonic experience just to hear Springsteen shout out, "1-2-3-4," after the break in the middle of the song as they bring it home for the final verse.
If you get the chance, don't miss out on this tour. It's definitely something you'll carry in your heart for a long time.
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out Radio Nowhere Lonesome Day Gypsy Biker Magic Trapped Reason To Believe Prove It All Night Because The Night She's The One Livin' In The Future The Promised Land Girls In Their Summer Clothes Independence Day Devil's Arcade The Rising Last To Die Long Walk Home Badlands
Encore Meeting Across The River Jungleland Born To Run Glory Days Dancing In The Dark American Land