The ESPN video clip from Greg Oden’s first game shows a player who’s already frighteningly good, in just his first college game. I’m all for staying in college four years, but if there’s a college player who looks like he’ll be ready for pro ball soon, it’s got to be Oden. In the meantime, Ohio State’s opponents will have a tough job; I remember seeing Shaquille O’Neal during his college years, and in the few minutes of Saturday’s game, Oden already seems like a more complete player.


A recent post involving Scots accents on Language Log reminded me of my delight at the way a Glaswegian information-booth staffer pronounced my children’s names. She asked who they were, and I pointed to each, saying, “Nate, Si, and Pippa.” She smiled and commented that they were lovely names, repeating (as it sounded to me), “Neet, Say, and Peppa. . . .”

Does that sound correct to any Scots readers?
Continue reading “Accent”

What She Said

“Quoted,” as they say, “for truth”:

Online friends versus real friends. Online life versus real life. All these briar-fences and hedges we construct when we speak so that we don’t admit the possibility that people we meet online are, you know, people, meaning as much to us as people we meet elsewhere.

Dorothea, rock on (or limp on) — QFT.

Not All Greatest

NPR recently featured an audio montage of clips from what TV Land is promoting as “the 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases.” Two comments: One, the list looks to me as though it’s predictably biased toward recent candidates. Two, I wonder whether there’s much point in applying the label “greatest” after the top fifty or so examples. Many of the listed catchphrases were unfamiliar to me, and I doubt that I’d be convinced of their greatness even if someone explained them to me. Even though I haven’t been a TV watcher for a long time, one would think I should be acquainted with any catchphrase that can make a convincing claim to “greatness.”
Continue reading “Not All Greatest”

Jordon Says

Well, Jordon says “It’s ‘Jordon’ with an ‘o’ ” but he quotes Darryl who quotes Pastor Rod who asserts — correctly, to my mind — that pastors need to be theologians.

When people meet to discuss the future of theological education, they almost invariably devise plans that emphasize more and more topics from outside the classical theological curriculum. These plans laudably aim to extend the student’s competence from solely technical, academic expertise (“Pastor, should I be worried about my daughter’s incipient Apollinarianism?” “Not unless she lapses into Eutychianism, my dear; now, please polish the asperorium”) to such valuable skills as small and large group dynamics, elementary accounting and finance, the ever-popular appliance maintenance, roofing, and subclinical diagnostics and therapy. Throw in an increased emphasis on subjects in the umbral area of the classical curriculum — ritual studies, non-Christian traditions and interfaith relations, the histories and literatures of movements that the catholic tradition deemed heretical, to propose a few — and due attention to currents in the church that the dominant Western perspective has overlooked (and in some instances “suppressed”).

I think it would be swell if leaders in the church could handle checkbooks, boilers, thuribles, rabbinic Aramaic, innovative coming-of-age rites, contentious committee meetings, and synodal policy-making with equal aplomb. Oh, and could preach. I vote a very firm “yes” for omnicompetence.

Now, since few will attain that ideal (and I begin by confessing my own merely partial competence), and since we can’t inculcate everything in three years of theological education, we must face the problem of what to emphasize in three years of graduate education. I have two overlapping responses, one as an ecclesiastic (“an open, unrepentant ecclesiastic”), and one as an educator.

As an educator, I believe with greater and greater conviction that people learn what they’re ready and motivated to learn, and that some of them can fake learning what they’re obligated to simulate learning (but don’t care about). I thus advocate a more open curriculum: my proposal at Seabury would involve each professor offering a required introduction to her or his areas of interest, and all other courses would be offered as electives. Students would take the courses they care to, and if they didn’t care to sit through Early Church History or New Testament Introduction, that would be their lookout; they might be such paragons of small group dynamics that they should be accredited on that basis alone, and heaven knows I don’t mind the absence of unmotivated, resistant students.

As an ecclesiastic, I affirm Darryl’s point. However valuable all the pastoral-managerial skills are, they don’t matter if the pastor-managers don’t understand the truth that they’re proclaiming. I predictably compare the practice of theological responsibility to the practice of medical responsibility: do you really want a physician who’s a great organizer of small groups and whose office roof is watertight, who balances the books without help — but who’s a bit spotty on anatomy, diagnostics, and remediation? A pastor (whether of an established “institutional” church or an emergent coffee-shop congregation) needs to understand the gospel she proclaims. That understanding may derive from a graduate degree in theology, or from patient catechesis at the side of a sainted gramma, or even an immediate revelation of the Holy Spirit, but if you don’t know your theology, you’re treating souls without adequate understanding of anatomy and diagnostics.

This has run too long, and I haven’t adequately nuanced my polemic — but the short version runs, “Theology matters.” Well-administered, vaguely spiritual, socially congenial worship groups can get along for a while, but I’m unshakably convinced that the the church thrives where the whole congregation embodies, enacts a deep coherence that unites what they profess, how they spend their time together, and how they shape their lives outside the church. That deep coherence depends on someone understanding theology as well as a doctor understands physical health.

Without End

Today’s World AIDS Day, and our guest preacher, alumnus Chris Griffin, saw me after the service and alluded to a sermon I had preached on the occasion, that was on the web. I remembered it, in a general way, but in an idle moment tonight I went back to reread it.

It was pretty much the way I had thought — but seeing the details, remembering the names and the panels brought back a lot. For Gary and Jerry, for Jack, for David and Jeff and Patrick, I’m posting the sermon in the extended part of this post.

AIDS doesn’t just go away. We have to work together to prevent it, to contain it, and eventually to cure it.
Continue reading “Without End”


In case you hadn’t noticed, today is Friday. I successfully ushered my grant application through the ether to its destination, enjoyed a provocative lecture on storefront churches and their role in academic accounts of American theology (they’re mostly absent, an absence that silently indicts the insularity of the institutionally-established ecclesiastical establishment). I participated in a meeting of our self-study steering committee. I filed forms, sent a thank-you letter, fiiled more forms, staggered home, washed dishes, and told Pippa that it’s an old tradition that on your thirteenth birthday, you get to eat out two nights in a row.

That tradition goes back at least, ooh, twenty-four hours.