Monday, May 29, 2006

What Dawn Did, pt. 1: Africa, Lower Greenville Baptist Community, and kids

I want to be clear here, and have some things on the international electronic record, about how Dawn Thames fits into the emerging church story, and how the Lower Greenville Baptist Community story is so much hers.

To start with, we had no intention of being involved in the emerging church in the First world. For one thing, our adult lives predate, by ten years or so, the emerging church in America. We spent [those] ten years prepping to go to Africa, to be involved with the churches emerging there. On the way, Dawn got an African studies degree, edited the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky's adult education material for their partnership with a diocese in Ghana, learned how to make west African symbols on fabric (or walls), hemmed the pants of an important Nigerian (nothing untoward, there), and cohosted a Bible study with a French woman chemist, a gorgeous Afrikaaner couple, and a professional couple from Uganda.

Yet, though we indicated to God in no uncertain terms that we loved it in Africa in general, and Zambia in particular, we were not able to stay. And so we came here.

As for Lower Greenville Baptist Community, it was a mutual effort between Dawn and myself from before the beginning. It was our discussions about our shock at the dechurchification of our college Christian friends that led us to start asking people like Dr. Russell Ware for help with a different kind of church for people turned off by what was on offer. That investigation in turn led us to Dr. Bob Williams, who put the LGBC project together. It was Dawn's college roommate Cindy who put us on to Generation X and The Utne Reader, two absolutely essential resources right from the start and throughout the succeeding decade. She also pointed us to various new age and neopagan resources, in particular Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon.

We joined the Lower Greenville Utne Salon together, and it was Dawn who caught the imagination and affection of that group. (One of the perennial jests among this group, all of whom were either not Christian at all or pretty far from evangelicaldom, was that the two topics the group needed to cover that it had not yet were "trips to take with Dawn" and "what it's like being Dawn." Those of you who know her road warrior reputation and remarkable transparency will not be surprised by these. In fact, she's on the road today.)

Dawn came up with the slogan "keeping body and soul together," still a worthy goal for any spiritual community, still relevant to young emerging leaders we know.

Dawn came up with the idea for FallFest, which began as a singer-songwriter event and morphed into StoneSoupStorytelling, which is now coming up on its fifteenth year.

My imbibing tastes are fairly catholic, but I'm a coffee guy, so be it known that it was Dawn who started inviting people over at all hours for tea, to which people responded by A. coming over at all hours to have tea, and B. bringing amazing amounts of amazing teas and tea paraphernalia, leading eventually to the Richmond House Tea Shrine.

It was also Dawn who instinctively knew how to incorporate kids into a witnessing, missionary lifestyle, even in this benighted land of age- and class- segregation and a zillion rules about who and what are supposed to be where when. (Kristen Rudd was to inherit this situation the first time she took daughter Judah to one of her standard hangouts, only to be banned because the place served alcohol and couldn't have minors. Of course, the only liquid Judah was on at the time was breastmilk...but you get the point:) Dawn went through challenges to an integrated life like this one, and christian women are still dealing with it. It was Dawn's obvious care for her kids, but lack of fear for them, that so charmed so many who were fully ready to be mistrusted by Dawn since they had been mistrusted by so many other (Christian) parents: a Wiccan, persons identifying themselves by their homosexuality, even just single guys. It was obvious to them that it was not that Dawn did not care about her kids, nor that she was naive about the world; rather, it was that she was seeking to build, among other things, a safer place for her kids by deploying the rarely-used technique of trusting other people, which in turn challenged them to prove trustworthy.

Now, soon after the Baptists brought us to Dallas, it became apparent that the salary we had, which was generous enough given the utterly experimental nature of what we were about to do, would not be enough to let Dawn work at home. So, to support the ministry (not "mine," for it was very much ours), she went to nursing school and became a labor and delivery nurse, one of the most transportable jobs in the world. It was highly unfortunate at the time that I did not insist either that the Baptists pay her as they were paying me if they were expecting her to provide leadership in this work, or that, if two salaries were too much for a foray into r & d, that they split mine and give her half.

This failure on my part had many negative consequences down the road. Money is not the point--of anything, let alone ministry, nor are titles, and we were living in that reality, which is the real reality we want and need to live in, even now. But in the world of perception, which is real, but is not that real reality, attention follows money, and respect follows titles. This is mere worldliness, but it is almost as true in the church as in the world. Now we wanted to live in reality, and, to their great credit, our handlers in the Baptist world did, too. As you might imagine, however, even, alas, I did not keep up the complete mutuality with which Dawn and I began this work, and latent and inadvertent sexisms and biases against the informal and unofficial and unfunded crept in, giving a sour subtaste to many otherwise good things.

Now why am I telling you all of this? Galadriel said that some things that should not have been forgotten were lost, and much evil and sorrow came of that lapse of responsibility. My memory for stuff like this, things about Dawn that should not be forgotten, is pretty lousy. You can ask me Spinoza's birth year or what the doctrines of the presocratic philosopher Gorgias were, and I'm your guy; but ask me what Dawn and I talked about, or how an event went, in the past--oh, say, a couple of weeks ago--and the fog of memory begins to be overcome by the foglights of tasteful literary fictionalizing. I tend to remember what should have happened...

But I want to accept the elven queen's gifts with a good grace and some energetic effort. In this case, her gift is a free blog with which I can try to carve in functionally-everlasting bits and bytes some truth about the history of Lower Greenville Baptist Community and Dawn Thames's role in it.

[For this reason, by the way, those of you who wish to comment or link to your own correct(ed) memories of what Dawn did for the Kingdom by what she did for those outside it, are cordially invited to do so, as a sort of rolling electronic birthday present.]

So: Peace and joy to you, and to Dawn, on this the 44th anniversary of her physical birth.

This ends part one. You may turn your computer over and continue.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Emerging Church

Since I've lived through this, a word about names and labels.

Part of being in your early twenties is the overpowering desire to get your noun, to find a thing you can say, yeah, yay, I'm this, we're loud we're proud, etc. College sports feeds off of this, so does the gay public relations juggernaut, so do lots of things that want to build identity among groups of unrelated people. Inherently there isn't anything wrong with this. But it has its problems, as zillions of stories about the verkrampfte attitudes in small, tightly-knit but also tightly circumscribed, communities testify. Moreover, there are at least two circumstances where birds-of-a-feather-flock-together is problematic in a bigger sense than when it just happens to be misused. The first is times of transition, when the old categories are breaking down and reshuffling. The other is when eclecticism or cosmopolitanism--that is, the sampling of many cultures, many labeled entities--becomes a way of living.
Right now, in my view, in the postmodernizing transformation currently going on, both of these things are true, and so our heretofore reasonably useful crop of nouns...isn't particularly...useful any more. Liberal and conservative are almost worthless as terms. The British prime minister Disraeli supposedly said he was a conservative when it came to keep ing everything that should be kept, and a radical when it came to changing everything that should be changed. That's just about as useful as 'conservative' and 'liberal' are today. (If you don't believe me, ask yourself three or four times what belief in tax breaks for the rich has in common with opposition to gay marriage.)
Most "emerging church" leaders have felt the agony of the nouns. When Dawn and I started in 1993 doing what eventually led to, among other outcomes, Lower Greenville Baptist Community, the Baptists who were sponsoring us were in the midst of a bureaucratic struggle over whether people who, like us, were starting to do "different" things around the country should be called "non-traditional" or "innovative." Nontraditional was perfectly correct, of course, although I saw the complaint against "non" names; innovative--well, we might be, but it seemed inappropriate to call yourself that. Anyway, this battle of the dictionaries came to a head in 1994. Nontraditional was felt to be negative, and innovative was business lingo, so it won. But we did not call ourselves either of those things. We often called ourselves an urban alternative Christian community, which we felt was exactly descriptive, but our handlers--well, not them, they were cool, but their bosses--thought alternative meant gay and urban meant black...
By 1995 we were starting to talk about postmodernism. But at that time "generation x" talk was peaking, and we were told we were that. This was even though we specifically made a point that, unlike some other outreaches and new churches, we were going to be intentionally intergenerational--that ours was not a generational work. By the late 90s "extreme" was big in youth / young twenties church work, but we also insisted that we were not a stage-of-life or age-cohort ministry. Postmodern seemed quite fine, since we were working in that part of the culture which was leaving modern assumptions behind--in its New Ageiness, had already done so big time.
But the church planting and denominational worlds can leave no trend unconsumed. By the early 2000s, "emerging," a term I first heard used in art studios in Soho in Manhattan in 1998, was starting to appear. "Emergent," a term from science with cachet in some New Age circles, was intentionally picked--at a meeting of a group of leaders Dawn and I had decided not to get involved with, although we knew a lot of them from their days in Texas / days with Young Leader Network--as a term that was kind of nifty in its meaning, digestible and relevant to our cultures, and pretty innocuous, or so it was thought, in the modern culture of most existing churches--whereas postmodern was already coming to be a whipping boy of evangelicals who to me seem to have been clearer on their French poststructuralism than in their missiological anthropology.
In 2003, although Lower Greenville still used 'postmodern'--and alternative, and various other terms--some of us got involved with Emerging Church Network, which seemed fair to be just exactly what it said it was, with the proviso that the focus was on churches emerging in the emerging culture, not churches emerging in the existing culture (which, of course, many are).
Since then there has been a strong attack by Don Carson, among others, on the emerging church, partly because of his being disturbed by Brian McLaren, who is someone I had not heard of and did not meet until the late 90s or early 2000s. In any case, the whole business makes one not want to use any nouns at all, or to do what Lower Greenville did during its organizing push. People were so gunshy of terminology that we used the word "potatoes" rather than "members"--a classic piece of taboo deformation, like using gosh darn or something. I'm tempted to replace all ecclesiastical nouns with verb clauses and adverbial phrases: not a church, but a Jesus-oriented spiritual community, not evangelism but living witnessly (which is close enought to witlessly to be amusing).

Well, enough in my blow on behalf of the Lexicographical Liberation Front, and whatever the LLF can do for the emerging church. As John Searle says, when I talk to you, I have to use words, but don't, as Wittgenstein said, let the terminology bewitch you: it's the thing we're talking about that's real and worthwhile or not, and while there are such things, I think, as useful disputations about words--i am a philosopher, after all--vain disputations about words are just that.

Peace and joy to those who struggle to speak out there

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dennis and Me

One of my weaknesses for which I will doubtless be held accountable is my fondness for Dennis Miller's "rants." In pale imitation of my hero, forthwith...

Having put up most of my life with those whose social ethics I generally agreed with but whose personal ethics I disagreed with, I find myself unbelievably frustrated at having now to put up with those whose personal ethics I agree with, but whose social ethics I don't.
For instance: I suspect that I agree with W. and with Rick Perry on parental notification laws. How to set them up, and how the social work people should, on the ground, deal with things allows for much experimentation. But in general, I think it is a bad plan to eviscerate the concept of a minor at law--we do not keep our kids kids long enough as it is--and parental notification (for abortion, permanent tatoos, marriage licenses, whatever) seem an appropriate part of that to me. Similarly, I find school prohibitions on Christian groups using school grounds for gatherings inexcusable if the schools allow any groups to do so--and I think they should. Why have an empty building every weekend, each evening, all summer, which could be used for community events and groups?
On the other hand, I bet I generally agreed with Clinton administration officials on historic preservation and cultural management regulations, antipollution laws, national health insurance, and increasing public transportation (mainly here I mean trains).
But I was so frustrated that the gay rhetoric that makes sex a social ethical issue rather than a personal ethical issue was so dominant then; I couldn't stand the aiding and abetting given to doctrinnaire Darwinians seeking to stifle Christian input. And on and on.
And, similarly, on the other hand, boondoggles like Perry's giant highway contracts (when what's needed is a bullet train), legalized criminality like Bush's exempting corporations from reporting requirements (there's no reason to do that unless something inappropriate is going on), the constant giving of tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the middle class--every single thing they do seems to be wrong, and seems to mock my common ground with them on faith issues. Sigh.

It's the morning, and I feel calm. When I'm angrier in an afternoon post sometime, I'll return to this subject in ways guaranteed to garner hits...

As Keith Green used to sing, come away, come away, come away with me, my love, come away from this mess...

Beautiful things

Due entirely to Dawn's verdant opposable digits, most of our perennials and some of our annuals came back this year. The front yard isn't bad these days, and I can say that because I'm bragging on her rock gardens, not my yard, which is an indifferent bermuda triangle between the garden, the sidewalk, and the driveway.
So, just going with ones I know:
African daisies and lavender draw little white butterflies in droves. In Zambia rural highways would be paved for hundreds of feet with flocks of white butterflies, which would rise in a brilliant foggy cloud around you as you drove through them. I hadn't seen them here til Dawn put in her rock gardens.
I still don't know how to prune my Confederate rose, but it has come back for the third year now, when hibiscus relatives like it are barely hardy this far north and inland.
Despite the drought, the roses are huge this year. Not so many blooms, but the canes are long and robust. We've finally started a pergola on the west side to hold the big rose by our bedroom window up off the sidewalk and driveway. And up the lamppost on that side of the house a squash that volunteered from the compost we used to fertilize the flower bed has sent up its huge leaves and tendrils.
Nonfloral beautiful things:
Habib and Cynthia's son Ali and Mark and Mandy's son Andrew are the happiest, most contented babies I've ever seen. It's amazing how unfussy they are, and how unpicky about who holds them how.
Our Beth is the least jealous, most appreciative little sister of a big brother ever. She took all the hooha over his graduation and college search and acceptance with great good grace. A very nice thing to see, when other reactions would have been unfortunate but perfectly understandable.
We were at a patio restaurant in town called Ozona's the other day, and an elementary school teacher, the would-be farmer who runs the school's 'outdoor classroom', spotted us and came over and talked for a long time. It was very gratifying.
We may well sell this house before long, still. Things are so uncertain. And Texas summers are sufficiently miserable that I have really really really grown tired of them in advance, especially in this two-year-long drought we're in. But God granted us a remarkably cool early part of May, and there was day after day after day of cool, beautiful mornings and breezy, clear evenings, and it was, it should be said (fair dues, the British say), beautiful.
The last item in this post is a bit different. When Dawn and I came here, we said we wanted two things from our sponsors. One was no "core group" as it's called, no seed group of established christians with which most church plants begin. We wanted to start from scratch, because we wanted to make a church for nonchurch people, not for church people. The other was that we wanted monthly prayer, accountability, and strategic assistance and ministry advice from wise counselors from our sponsor churches. And I have gone to a monthly oversight meeting every month since November of 1993 as a result. Now it is cool beyond belief that the sponsors have gone along with this. Many many emerging churches suffer because of lousy relations with sponsor churches. But the really beautiful bit is this: I was at the meeting yesterday. I had my things to say, was asked questions, and so forth. But that was not the real game; I wasn't the headlining band, I was the warm-up. To whom did the ecclesiastics from our sponsors pay most attention? To a young woman in our Community with a vision for assisting disadvantaged people in a crappy neighborhood here in town; to the Poes, who have moved with such grace into the pastoral role Dawn and I had for so long; and to reports about things going on with a mission God is drawing together in Denton. And to most of this I was an observer, neither sidelined nor kowtowed to, neither feeling bad that I was excluded nor any need to run the show. Watching in slow motion a handoff taking place in football can be an amazing thing: how the fullback and quarterback fake it, and the ball actually goes to the halfback, and the fluid dance of the quarterback pivoting and extending and retracting his arm, and the backs closing their whole forearms over the ball--for a fan, it can be very cool to see the execution of this done with such precision, like Buckingham Palace guards or something. What I have been seeing for some time with Lower Greenville, and saw again in a great way yesterday, was a handoff. And the gracious way everyone involved, sponsors, Poes, Heather, Mandy, handled it, was beautiful.

Personals column

This'll be in the personal update department.

Reading: Carl Becker's just amazingly well-written The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers, which is all the more amazing for 1. being sparklingly written by the dullest single looking academic in the last hundred years or so, and for 2. being astoundingly frank about the reality and costs of expelling God from the academy--a not-yet-common admission in spirituality-friendly, self-analysis-obsessed postmodern times, let alone in the 50s or whenever this book was written. I guess his theme demanded it: the book is about the era when the intelligentsia departed Christianity...i.e., during the run-up to the American Revolution.

Still reading Randall Collins's gigantic The Sociology of Philosophies, which is a portrayal of how ideas evolve in complex relationship with the evolution of the societies around them. My kinda theory.

Have sent out 7,412 job applications this past ten days. What a soul-sucking endeavor that is. Props to anyone who keeps from self-destructive behavior or socialistic sympathies during a bout of unemployment, because they both come quite, quite naturally.

A certain female daughter in my household pointed out that we did not seem to believe in taking a break. Point well taken. When my kids get up today...I'll try to take them any cool free place I can think of. Regrettably, Dawn's pulling an overtime shift, upon which we are counting financially, but not part of her long-term plan for the use of her days off.

We are slowly but surely having the house painted, appliances repaired, attic floored, foundation shored up, etc. Will have to get an electrician who needs money in here to do a lot of tedious minor things. We're doing some of this ourselves, more than we can in the time allotted, really, but only hiring out what we must; to hire out at all is weird--Dawn and I have never "employed" contractors in this way before.
It reminds me of Zambia, where the other expatriate women got mad at Dawn because, when the serf that came with the house moved back to her rural village, we didn't get (another) maid. Our response was, do we look like amputees? I think we can do our own dishes. 'But you can do so much more (sc. for God) if you have a yard man and a maid and a nurse (i.e., a governness for the kids). Perhaps. But we certainly have found in Dallas that parenting in full view of others is working (sometimes pretty hard) for God, too.

Next post: beautiful things.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Yay, Jonathan!

Jonathan graduated last night from TAG, Newsweek's number one public high school in America. It was great: my mom and dad and younger sister were there, along with Miss Maggie and the MattMan and Kent and...Gail--who was at his birth...which is so very cool, that whole lifetime friends thing. Party at LGBC tonight.

I am doing job applications, which is a life-enhancing, self-esteem-building exercise if ever there were one. We'll see.

Reading Don Carson's Becoming Conversant with Emergent. He sort of is. I'll say more soon about this, but the whole web phenom right now about it is I think as much as anything an object lesson in the problems that come when something that is not even yet fully a subject becomes an object. What I mean is, when you are in transition and under construction and undefined, for people to come in and analyze you as though you were coming with your A game in a well-understood competition where we know what counts as success and what's a warning sign and so forth, leads to all kinds of misunderstandings and unfortunate reactions. If we don't know what it is yet, one shouldn't judge it on what it is or isn't. Becoming maybe has different criteria of evaluation than being.

But you know, none of that, no matter how incredibly important it is, however much it may have leapt off the page and really grabbed you emotionally right where you live, none of it is as important to me as the fact that Jonathan got real recognition for what he has really been and become and done already in his life. And that's cool. Congratulations, Jonathan.

Friday, May 12, 2006

New Testament Geek

I suppose that's as good a title for me, and a fairly fitting description of the Christian side of Lower Greenville's work, as any.

Finished Da Vinci Code. Surprised it was such a traditional "international spy thriller" kind of book--a decent page-turner, in the Crichton / Clancy / Grisham sort of way. Depthless, and not even very interested in its ostensible subject matter. Most of the objectionable religious nonsense is in maybe three or four chapters. It isn't any better than, or much different from, Gary Kleier's The Last...uh, whatever. The latter was a Y2K thriller, also with murky stuff about Jesus's female descendants and the Catholic church and...As a matter of fact, DVC sounds like something Brown started on in the 90s, but didn't get ready in time for the 2000 market, and so had to rework it. But not a lot; a bunch of this stuff is in such highbrow films as Dogma and Dracula 2000. It was all done vastly better by someone actually into and knowledgeable about the stuff, namely the Italian semiological philosopher Umberto Eco (he of Name of the Rose) fame, in Foucault's Pendulum. Both XFiles and Alias are better as conspiracy theory books--Brown ends up letting the Masons, the main Catholic church, the supposedly sinister 'priory of Sion,' and even--good grief, of all the people who don't need a break--Opus Dei, off the hook. They're all misunderstood by others or are themselves victims of bad information, overzealousness, etc. The only bad guys are--give me a break!--a fat, wealthy, British cripple, and his greasy French butler! Talk about stereotypes.

Now maybe Brown is like the Wachowski brothers, who made a lesbian detective movie first in order to score cash and cred before making the Matrix series. Maybe there's a lot more to the guy, and other stuff of his is coming out. But my impression was, what a lightweight. Doesn't know anything about the Dead Sea Scrolls (the Catholic hierarchy had nothing to do with the academic turf wars that kept a lot of the less important texts in limbo for decades, and in any case the Qumraners who made them were Essene-like, not gnostic in any way), next to nothing about the gnostic literature (that you know that there is a Nag Hammadi library or can quote (once) the Gospel of Phillip means, pretty much, zero. I have the library, and have read almost all of it (in English). In any case the Gospel of Thomas is much more important--at least the Jesus Seminar got that right. But Brown...), and is apparently unaware of the large Patristic literature, including Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History of the 330s, that pertains to the time period when he allegedly alleges shenanigans took place.

Just a bit more. I'll bet my granddad's ax he can't read any of the languages or make any but plot advancement and marketing sense out of any actual data he managed to get himself into--don't get me started. Not to mention the sexist notion that Mary Magdalene is only of, or is most, interesting if she's married to some important guy, and the "gamist" notion that Jesus must have been married and had biological descendants. He doesn't know anything about early church history or Greco-Roman religions, either, beyond maybe a National Geographic article or two level.

Well, that's enough. Not a serious engagement with anything, the way Last Temptation tried to be, and an extremely transparent publicity and income ploy. No surprises there, no mysteries to unravel in this mystery.

In happier news, Beth and I are watching Kingdom of Heaven. I should have known Ridley Scott would be thoughtful. What else are we to make of a movie about the Crusades than that it is a commentary on the Iraq war? As far as i know he's got the broad history right: Baldwin or one of the other Crusader rulers of Jerusalem was a leper king, and he or one of the others had a respectful relationship with Saladin, his opposite number among the Muslims. What a contrast to the preening we're-right-because-we're-us, God's-on-our-side-whether-we're-on-his-or-not jingoism of Guy de whatever (in the movie), or the rough unilateralism of Chantillon, who is disgraced and dismissed by the leader of the unified European occupation force. Not to mention the depiction of the good guy as one who, with his men, builds irrigation channels for his Arab subjects' benefit...

And in happier news still, this is Jonathan's last day of classes. Graduation is a week from today: might as well start the congratulations now.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

We're Baa-aack

Hey. No real news tonight, just trying to clutter your rss feeds.

We did four days in the Texas Hill Country (yes, there are hills here...well, there). Camped three nights, rained on every time. Glad my Scout troop forced us to learn what a dry pitch looks like and how to guy out a taut tent fly. We stayed nice and xeric in our little nylon abode.

Congratulations to the off-kilter folks who run the Welfare Cafe in the most unlikely-named Welfare, Texas. Talk about killer, upscale Hill Country food. Wow. Chicken in peach-jalapeno-white-wine sauce, and pork tenderloin in cherries and molasses. Yeah, mama.

My final final tomorrow. Finally broke down and am reading Da Vinci Code, since I get like 12 questions a day about it. Mary Magdalene wasn't a prostitute, okay?

If you get a chance, listen to Archbishop Tutu's reading of "African Prayers" on cd or cassette. Well worth it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Learn It Live It Love It

We'll be out of blog for a bit. Dawn and I are doing some anniversary vacating--23 years' worth, no less. I think the traditional gift for 23 is credit...

Finishing up the semester. I like to teach. Just let me. Okay?

Jonathan and Beth took 40 or so APs between them. I never heard of APs til after high school.

Finished Mitchell Aboulafia's The Cosmopolitan Self, which is not about egoistic decolletage-obsessed New York women, and am working through Annette Baier's Moral Prejudices. I'm writing my August paper on the Aboulafia book. I want to write another article based on Baier.

I'm also enjoying R. C. Sproul in a very different mood than I usually think of for him. His The Consequences of Ideas turns out to be an idiosyncratic, very personal tour through what seem to him to be the high points of Western philosophical history. That he highlights the intersections with Christian theology, and the value or challenge to the latter (i.e., the apologetic situation), is no surprise. But I was fairly stunned to read him musing over, of all people, Parmenides, saying that his (Sproul's) youthful dismissiveness of heavyweight metaphysics (such as Parmenides's) was incorrect, and that he takes Parmenides's struggles with being very seriously now. Wow. A, a nice admission, and B, what a monster thinker to decide to take on at 65 or whatever age Sproul is. (Parmenides was one of the bigger philosophers who lived before Socrates.)

By the way, my gentle readers, you doubtless are the sort to already know this, so I shan't detain you long, but surely you do know that Sproul is, so far as I know (and perhaps unbeknownst to himself? I would love to find that out...), the only major American evangelical theologian to be quoted in a Hollywood film by a lesbian vampire? (She is alarmingly and well played by Annabella Sciora. This most unlikely event occurs in Abel Ferrara's amazing The Addiction.) And that kind of credentialing has got to totally rock a resume otherwise impenetrably clogged with impedimenta such as papers presented, books published, awards received, and similar tedium.

I pray for more such tedium in my life daily...

And a happy conclusion: props to Mandy the Magnificent for emitting boyful new child Andrew. Yay. Saw the small poo factory this afternoon, and got to chum it up with older and somewhat jealouser sister Ruby. News on NPR mostly bad--babies good. Time spent with checkbook baaad--time spent with babies, gooood. Mark and Mandy: Happy Andrew to you!