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Ben Stein Christmas Commentary (2005)

Ben Stein Christmas Commentary (2005)

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The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary, Sunday, 12/18/05.

Herewith at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart: I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either.

Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important?

I don’t know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise’s wife. Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are.

If this is what it means to be no longer young, it’s not so bad.

Next confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel discriminated against. That’s what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn’t bother me a bit when people say, “Merry Christmas” to me. I don’t think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters! celebr ating this happy time of year. It doesn’t bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it’s just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think
people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution, and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren’t allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too.

But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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    ‚©CRS Communications 2006

    Posted in Staublog in December 22, 2007 by | No Comments »

    Dick Staub: Year-End Update

    Dick Staub: Year-End Update

    Staub & CFC 2007 Update!

    December 17th, 2007
 (Re-posted 12/29/07)

    I’m re-posting this to let you know that this year-end has been very tough for most smaller non-profit ministries. I have read newspaper accounts about charitable giving being down as people brace for recession and that’s turning out to be very true for us and other groups dealing with the holistic renewal of the spiritual, intellectual and creative legacy of Christians in culture. Is there anything you can do to help? Your contribution will be appreciated.
    


    Joy to the World the Lord has come (and so has the end of another year!)

    It is time for my annual report to my readers (staublog, books, religious news service nationally syndicated column), listeners (The Kindlings Muse podcasts, Moody Broadcast Network Culturally Savvy Christian Commentary) supporters & friends. This is also an invitation for you to become a financial partner with a donation at year’s end.

    We rarely remind you that this site (and all our work) is donor supported, so if you have just started reading this blog—please forgive us. If you are a long-time reader–send lost of cash right now!!! You can make a tax-deductible donation via PayPal (click The PayPal button to the left or below) or to the address listed below.

    In 2007 The not-for-profit Center for Faith and Culture (CFC) has continued our mission to rekindle the spiritual, intellectual and creative legacy of next-generation Christians in culture. We do this in three ways:

    1) Communicating: “The Kindlings Muse (TKM)” is our live show taped for podcast (Listen today!) & distributed online and through iTunes. It originates as four shows–TKM @ Hales Ales Brewery and Pub, TKM @ The CS Lewis Centre, TKM @ The Movies and TKM @ Sundance Film Festival (with Windrider)

    2) Building a Community of today’s Kindlings: by hosting by-invitation retreats for ” devout, thoughtful Christian creatives (drawn from the arts, academy and church) already making a significant contribution in culture. Alumni include Lou Carlozo, Craig Detweiler, James Elaine, Mako Fujimora, Grant Goodeve, Nigel Goodwin, Bruce Hermann, Paul Ingram, Rand Miller, Scott Nolte, Rebecca VerStraten-McSparren, Marty O’Donnell, Marcie O’Donnell, Ted Prescott, David Raven, Joe Rehfeld, Jennnie Spohr, Gregory Wolfe and others.

    3) Cultivation of next generation “Kindlings: through a variety of means: writing, speaking and partnering with other organizations like IMAGE JOURNAL, The International Arts Movement and The Windrider Forum. Books like my newly released The Culturally Savvy Christian are another way of cultivating a next generation of kindlings. In 2008 we plan to launch a new Artists & Lecture Series. We would also like to produce our first ever Faith, Art & Ideas Conferences on Orcas Island.

    You play a vital role in our work because none of what we do is possible without your prayers and financial support.

Year-end contributions are especially essential to finishing this year strong and laying the groundwork for next year’s ventures. CFC needs ($) 40,000 by December 31, 2007 and as of December 19 we have received ($) 10,000.

    If you believe in our work of rekindling the spiritual, intellectual and creative legacy of next-generation Christians in culture, please do what you can today! (In the past, readers of this blog have contributed amounts large and small from ($) 5 to ($) 5,000.)

    If you’d like to support this work, please mail your year-end tax-deductible contribution now (to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177) or simply click the contribute button below and make your donation via paypal. Any envelopes postmarked December 31, 2007 or earlier with checks dated December 2007 will be credited in 2007!
    


    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian. Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com


  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in December 15, 2007 by | No Comments »

    The Joy and Camaraderie of Work Well Done

    The Joy and Camaraderie of Work Well Done

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    The Joy and Camaraderie of Work Well Done.

    In this age of commercialism at the expense of craft, Babette’s plea goes largely unheeded, “Throughout the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist. Give me the chance to do my very best.”

    Irish playwright J.M Synge longed for something more when he observed, “On the stage one must have reality, and one must have joy; and that is why the intellectual modern drama has failed, and people have grown sick of the false joy of the musical comedy, that has given them in place of the rich joy found only in what is superb and wild in reality¢â‚¬¦ In a good play every speech should be as fully flowered as a nut or apple, and such speeches cannot be written by any one who works among people who have shut their lips on poetry.”

    The true artist knows what it means to seem esoteric and constantly struggles with purity of vision over against the siren song of power and acceptability. C.S. Lewis labeled this caucus mentality “the inner ring” and said of it. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”

    His prescription for breaking the hold of the inner ring was to be a craftsman and paradoxically, Lewis believed in taking the path less traveled you would find a company of comrades who to share your calling. “But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises, which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring.”

    This camaraderie appears to be an inner ring but is not–it is friendship. “But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

    These thoughts came to mind when I read interviews with two idiosyncratic actors whose choices are counter-cultural and whose careers show the marks of craft and the camaraderie of work well done.

    First, Martha Plimpton. Hear what she said.

    [ “In the theater, as an actor, you’re welcoming people into your house,” Ms. Plimpton said. “And it just helps to feel some sense of ownership and some consistency of place.”

    And after nearly 30 years as an actor, Ms. Plimpton, 37, has found both. Though she has earned praise and even a comparison to Meryl Streep for her humor and versatility over the years, it is only recently that her position changed from indie character actress to classics star.

    “She’s the secret weapon,” said Jack O’Brien, the director of “The Coast of Utopia.” “There’s something incredibly modest about her and charmingly evasive. She doesn’t lead with her ego. It’s a sort of camouflage that she uses because, truth to tell, she’s the real thing, and everybody knows it.”

    Ms. Plimpton’s parents met while acting in the original production of “Hair” in 1969. But Mr. Carradine, a scion of the acting family, decamped to Los Angeles before his daughter was born he was 19 at the time and Ms. Plimpton was raised by her mother in a rented two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. She still rents it, sleeping in her childhood bedroom; she transformed the other into an office after her mother remarried and moved to Seattle when Ms. Plimpton was about 18. (Ms. Plimpton passed on college, preferring to work.)

    By his own account Mr. Carradine was not involved in his daughter’s early life, but now they are close. He said he planned to be in the audience for the opening night of “Cymbeline.”

    I feel like I’ve inherited from him and his side of my family a sense of knowing my job and what’s required of a person in this line of work,” Ms. Plimpton said. “To recognize that when you do this for a living, you have to be willing to take the good with the bad. There’s a great familial pride in the history of that. It’s like coming from a family of really great plumbers we’ll do mansions and we’ll do shanties, and there’s pride in all of it, as long as it’s done well.”]

    And then there is the ever controversial but somehow loveable Woody Harrelson.

    [The recipient of a fairly charmed career, Mr. Harrelson takes none of it for granted. While many actors spend time in interviews rubbing their chins and talking about plumbing the emotional depths of particular roles, he makes moviemaking sound more like a caper from Spanky and Our Gang.

    “I love getting together and making something with a bunch of other people,” he said, leaving aside the dire, arduous rhetoric that seems to be the default of many other film actors of some renown.

    He is back after an extended break, having temporarily lost his ability to laugh at the business after the campaign against “The People vs. Larry Flynt” in 1997. Gloria Steinem had called for a boycott of the film, which starred Mr. Harrelson as the pornographer editor of Hustler.

    “That sort of broke my heart,” he said, “because what people were saying really had nothing to do with the work and what it was about. It was just politics.”

    What was going to be a short break with his family his wife, Laura Louie, and their three daughters at his home in Hawaii became an extended hiatus, give or take some time directing and acting in theater to keep his chops.

    “I was going to take a couple of years off, but the next thing you know it was almost five years,” he said. “It happily coincided with a time when I was getting a lot less offers from the studios, but if you are not enjoying this job, then there is something wrong with you. The only thing better than being an actor would probably be being a rock star or something like that.”

    Now Mr. Harrelson is in the midst of a rekindled affair. “I love it,” he said of acting in films. “I have never been a big fan of the business of motion pictures, but the process, the work, is really fun if you do it with the right people.”]

    May God grant you the courage of conviction, the perseverance to learn and practice your craft and may you find the fun of doing your work with the right people.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com


  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in December 14, 2007 by | No Comments »

    The Golden Compass & Phillip Pullman¬â„s ¬Å“His Dark Materials Trilogy’

    The Golden Compass &  Phillip Pullman¬â„s ¬Å“His Dark Materials Trilogy’

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our special podcast of The Kindlings Muse @ The Movies: The Golden Compass & Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials Trilogy”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    The Golden Compass and Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials Trilogy”

    During this most blessed of seasons comes the movie, The Golden Compass, based on Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials.

    Pullman is a notorious atheist with an agenda to smuggle disbelief into children’s fantasy literature in what he views as a response to C.S. Lewis, who he complains tried to smuggle belief into fantasy literature through his Chronicles of Narnia.

    He joins fellow atheists Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) in an attempt to popularize a view held by fools, according to Holy Scripture.

    What then shall the thoughtful Christian do?

    1) Recognize Pullman’s talent as a writer and the attraction of the film based on his books.

    The reason kids like the books is that they are imaginative and compellingly written. The movie is less compelling than the books, but will satisfy most readers of the series and will definitely draw large crowds of viewers who have not read the books but will now be more motivated to do so.

    2) See the atheism for what it is and do not fear or overreact.

    There is no question that Pullman is an atheist. Among his more provocative statements are these:

    ¢â‚¬¢ “I am all for the death of God.”
    ¢â‚¬¢ “My books are about killing God.”
    ¢â‚¬¢ “I am of the Devil’s party and I know it.”
    ¢â‚¬¢ “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”95

    There is no question that the books are his attempt to do for atheism what Lewis did for Christianity–write a compelling fantasy that subtly promotes his atheistic views. Pullman detests Lewis and Narnia and has said, I loathe the Narnia books.” Indeed, he calls the message of those books “anti-life,” “cruel” and “unjust.” He even goes so far as to accuse Lewis of being “blatantly racist” and “monumentally disparaging of women.

    There is no question that at the heart of his book is an argument for rejecting religious authority (represented by the straw-man Magisterium) and to position the rebellion of Adam and Eve as enlightenment not rebellion.

    We need not fear atheism. Nothing in the new atheism is new, novel or different from the old atheism. In the 1800’s Philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche announced, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” In my senior year of High School, in 1966 TIME magazine carried a cover story “Is God Dead? It caused a great furor at the time, but take my word for it–God is alive and well.

    So my advice is to chill out a bit. The new atheists are having their day and making their best case, but they will remain a minority and a novelty–entertaining, but not particularly compelling.

    3) Make wise entertainment choices for yourself and your household.

    Having advised us to chill out, I am not saying we don’t need to be vigilant.

    My friend and devout Christian, Adrian Wyard, really likes this trilogy as a reading experience and one that has been useful in sharpening his own beliefs– However, as I pointed out to him in our special “Golden Compass” podcast, he is a well educated man with 30+ years of intellectual and spiritual seasoning–in short¢â‚¬¦ he is not twelve years old!

    No parent should blithely sit idly by while their kid reads this series or heads off to see the movie. As a parent you need to be as actively involved as your child or teen is. If they are reading the series you need to read it; if they are going to see the movie, you need to see it. If you do not want them to read the series or see the films, be prepared to articulate why (and they will not be convinced if you are not well versed in the series).

    Unfortunately, though younger kids may take no for an answer–older kids may just sneak out and see it with their friends–so be on top of this situation and be prepared to engage your kids about the ideas an issues raised by this series. Pullman is good at what he does–you better be better.

    As you will hear in our podcast, The Kindlings Muse @ The Movies: The Golden Compass & Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials Trilogy”, distinctions can be drawn between Pullman’s personal atheism and the less forward way it is expressed in his books.

    There is also a distinction between the books and the way their themes are addressed in the movies. “The Golden Compass” film has been “Hollywoodized” to remove some controversial material¢â‚¬¦you will still see elements, but it is muted.

    4) Identify, empower & develop Culturewatchers in your church.

    For a long time I have felt we need to root our responses to culture in the local church. Why not identify the person in your church who is most drawn to fantasy literature and who is also biblically literate and ask them to be your church’s expert on Pullman’s trilogy. Let them direct you to good material on the web, let them teach a special class on the trilogy–let them be available to talk to parents and kids in your church about the themes. Use the wonderful national resources like the piece put out by the Catholic League and others, but localize and enflesh them in your local fellowship.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com


  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in December 7, 2007 by | No Comments »

    Humans the Hope of Advent?

    Humans the Hope of Advent?

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Humans the Hope of Advent?

    Sunday begins advent. It is a week to ponder expectations, unfulfilled longings, promises made not-yet-kept. Is it worth waiting? Is there hope?

    Read the stories below. I see smoke and mirrors (management consulting). I see ingenious explorations by the bored for the bored amounting to nothing (music score in last supper). I see the inane (Blintz with Giamatti). I see anti-religion smuggled into theatres as muted as religion is smuggled into theatres. (Hint: Read the books, don’t rely on the movies, whether we’re talking Golden Compass, Narnia or Lord of the Rings). I see atheism question for values without God. I see a quest for religion without God. I see televangelists who evidently do not fear the wrath of God.

    So in this advent season I’d rather stake my claims on the not-yet-fulfilled promises of God, than in the tomfoolery of man.

    Here is your sampler of stupid human tricks.

    ¢â‚¬¢ “What exactly do management consultants do?” Michael Kinsley said he asked this of a McKinsey recruiter many years ago. He said, “We provide expertise.” I said, “But you’re thinking of hiring me, and I have no expertise.” He said, “We’ll train you.” Kinsley concludes “Nothing about that interview dissuaded me from the view that consultants spend at least as much energy and brainpower selling themselves to clients as they spend doing whatever the client pays them to do.”

    ¢â‚¬¢ Maria Pala insists there is a 40 second-music score hidden in Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” “By drawing a five-line musical staff across the canvas, the loaves of bread and than ads of Jesus and his disciples form musical notes. The score reads right to left¢â‚¬¦

    ¢â‚¬¢ Some of the most sobering evidence of our societal decline is found in Esquire Magazine’s “Man At His Best” interviews, where you will find inane conversations between young journalists who think it is hip to shape an interview around questions like those posed to actor Paul Giammati, “Are you normally a BLT guy? A blintz guy?” This interview is followed immediately by the column, “and the year’s five best reads.”

    ¢â‚¬¢ Proudly anti-Christian, Phillip Pullman can’t be happy to learn that filmmakers are pinning the success of soon-to-be-released “Golden Compass” on their ability to transliterate his controversial anti-church elements to family audiences. They’ve even trotted out Nicole Kidman, evidently suddenly the poster girl for Catholicism, to defend the film. Kidman, who is Catholic, said she did not want to be involved in a movie that was anti-religious or anti-Catholic. “I come from a Catholic family so that’s not something that my grandmother would be very happy about, and I really don’t think that that’s what I’m involved in,” she told a news conference.”

    ¢â‚¬¢ It seems interesting to me that the burgeoning “Sunday School for a atheist’s kids” movement springs from their desire for help in teaching their kids values. So says Jeninne Lee St. John (TIME 12/3/07) who reports, “On Sunday mornings, most parents who don’t believe in the Christian God, or any god at all, are probably making brunch or cheering at their kids’ soccer game, or running errands or, with luck, sleeping in. Without religion, there’s no need for church, right? Maybe. But some nonbelievers are beginning to think they might need something for their children. “When you have kids,” says Julie Willey, a design engineer, “you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on.” So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for atheist Sunday school.”

    ¢â‚¬¢ That may explain the full page add taken out by the Unitarian Universalist Congregations. In bold print we read “Is God keeping you from going to church?” In smaller print are the slogan “nurture your spirit, help heal our world” and this verbiage: Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the idea of God–or at last someone else’s idea of God. Yet maybe you yearn for a loving, spiritual community where you can be inspired and encouraged as you search for your own truth and meaning. This is a church, you ask? Welcome to Unitarian Universalism.”

    ¢â‚¬¢ Lest you get too smug–consider this news that associates “health wealth” televangelists with evangelicals–Republican Senator Chuck Grassley got on the mail lists of some televangelists–as a result six televangelists who TIME Magazine describes as part of the evangelical “subculture” are under investigation for misuses of donations: Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer and Paula White.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

  • Register for CW

  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com


  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in November 28, 2007 by | No Comments »

    The Quote Collector

    The Quote Collector

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    The Quote Collector

    Readers of my books often comment on the wonderful quotes, observing, I think, that what I lack in my own wordcrafting is offset by the thoughts and expressions of those I read.

    I read therefore I am. By 8:05 this morning my samplings in various books had produced the following collection of quotes.

    ¢â‚¬¢ In their biography of C.S. Lewis Roger Green and Walter Hooper say this of Lewis, a phrase I find comforting because of my own sign off “The pursuit of God in the company of friends.”

    ¢â‚¬¢ James Bryan Smith talks about Rich Mullin’s distinct phrase included when he signed autographs and then quotes a phrase from “Hold Me Jesus,” a song I always think of at Christmas because of the reference to the “prince of peace” and the “Salvation Army Band” (I realize they play year around, but one December I was alone in Zurich and there they were playing Christmas Carols as it snowed on the Bahnhoffstrasse)

    ¢â‚¬¢ Then in “Root of Righteousness” A.W. Tozer quotes Ravenhill and adds his own spice.

    [‘The accent in the church today,’ says Leonard Ravenhill, the English evangelist, ‘is not on devotion, but on commotion.’ Externalism has taken over. God now speaks by the wind and the earthquake only; the still small voice can be heard no more. The whole religious machine has become a noisemaker.”

    ¢â‚¬¢ The Intellectual Devotional informs me that prolific composer Antonio Vivaldi entered the priesthood in 1703 and became a violin teacher, a conductor, and a composer-in-residence at a Venetian conservatory for orphaned girls. This informs my joy in learning that at the top of most of his compositions he inscribed the following words.

    ¢â‚¬¢ George MacDonald read widely and had heard the apocryphal stories about the miracles of the childhood Jesus. He references this and makes it his own in a meditation about praying when your prayers seem labored.

    [My prayer-bird was cold would not away, 

    Although I set it on the edge of the nest. 

    Then I bethought me of the story old 

    Love-fact or loving fable, thou know’st best 

    How, when the children had made sparrows of clay, 

    Thou mad’st them birds, with wings to flutter and fold:
    
Take, Lord, my prayer in thy hand, and make it pray.]

    ¢â‚¬¢ Lewis adds some provocative thoughts about heaven and earth in “The Great Divorce.” This quote illustrates his imagination taking him beyond traditional theology, a quality that irked some of his friends who doubted that a “literature man” should do theology in the first place.

    And so, the day has just begun and the quote collector is irrepressibly about his work.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

  • Register for CW

  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com


  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in November 14, 2007 by | No Comments »

    Diary of an Old Soul. November 16 2007.

    Diary of an Old Soul. November 16 2007.

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Three Lessons. Manage technology don’t be managed by it. Do your best even when it isn’t being noticed. You will regret putting your career ahead of family.

    Get a Life: Go On a Tech Diet
    In the The Culturally Savvy Christian. I raise some questions about technology’s grip on contemporary humans.

    Now along comes Timothy Ferriss telling people to cut back on email, instant messaging and all the other hi tech tools of daily life.

    [“After reading Mr. Ferriss’s recent best seller, “The 4-Hour Workweek” (Crown), Jason Hoffman, a founder of Joyent, which designs Web-based software for small businesses, urged his employees to cut out the instant-messaging and swear off multitasking. From now on, he told them, severely restrict e-mail use and conduct business the old-fashioned way, by telephone. “All of a sudden,” Mr. Hoffman said of the results, “their evenings are free. All of a sudden Monday doesn’t feel so overwhelming.”

    Last spring, Jason DeFillippo, a founder of Metroblogging Global Blog Network a company that oversees more than 700 city-specific blogs heard Mr. Ferriss extol his “low information diet” to a crowd of high-tech devotees at a tech conference this spring. Before the speech was finished, Mr. DeFillippo, who lives in San Francisco, had ordered his book on Amazon. Soon after reading it, he embarked on a crash diet of his own. His nasty addiction to RSS feeds is now a thing of the past, he said. “It’s hard to describe,” said Mr. DeFillippo, 36, “but life was suddenly just more peaceful.”]

    Some Bad Actors Get Big Films. Some Good Actors Never Get a Break
    Based on his standout performance in “No Country for Old Men,”Josh Brolin is suddenly very hot and he is convinced that it is a random occurrence not related to a change in his work ethic of talent.

    A Workaholic Parent’s Lament
    Like every NFL coach, Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles is expected to give 110% to produce a winning football team. As bad as the Eagle’s year has been, the Reid family’s has been worse, cccording to a New York Times piece”

    [“As bad as circumstances are at work, they are even worse at home. Reid, 49, and his wife, Tammy, have five children, and their two eldest, Garrett, 24, and Britt, 22, are in prison, their lives spiraling in a protracted corkscrew brought on by drug addiction.

    The brothers’ struggles have been a sobering reality check for a city that looked at its first family of football and saw a Norman Rockwell painting. The Reids’ private nightmare became a public spectacle on Jan. 30, when their adult sons, who both live at home, were arrested for drug- and gun-related crimes. A police search of the family’s Villanova mansion found guns, ammunition and illegal drugs, according to local news reports.

    In February, Reid left the team for five weeks to accompany his sons to a rehabilitation facility in Florida. People here have debated whether Reid should have extended his leave of absence. The arguments in favor of a long retreat were kindled by the Eagles’ 1-3 record in September and reignited last week by a Montgomery County judge’s critical comments from the bench about the Reids’ parenting.

    Before sentencing Garrett and Britt each to prison for up to 23 months, Judge Steven O’Neill described the Reids’ household as “more or less like a drug emporium.” He also questioned Andy and Tammy’s supervision, and challenged them to be accountable for what goes on under their roof.]

    Coach Joe Gibbs, a dedicated Christian, remembers when he realized his kids were growing up without him.

    Gibbs, coach of the Redskins, said he tried to be home to tuck his two children into bed. One night he leaned over to kiss the younger of his two sons, Coy, and was startled to see that he had facial hair. “I went, ¢â‚¬ËœOh my gosh, this guy’s got a beard and he weighs 200 pounds,'” Gibbs said this week during a teleconference.

    The 66-year-old Gibbs said he had great empathy for Reid. He hinted that those lost moments with his children and now his grandchildren haunted him more than any defeat. “I always worry about them and my relationship with them,” he said.]

    Three Lessons.
    Manage technology don’t be managed by it.
    Do your best even when it isn’t being noticed.
    You will regret putting your career ahead of family.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    Posted in Staublog in November 14, 2007 by | No Comments »

    Understanding Your Life Through Today’s Movies

    Understanding Your Life Through Today’s Movies

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Understanding Your Life Through Today’s Movies

    (This piece first appeared as a Religion News Service column in August 2007.)

    This email popped into my in box recently.

    “Saw a movie I really, really enjoyed the other night. It’s an independent called “Once” that was shot in just 17 days so it’s a little tough to find a theater. But it was worth the drive to Chicago for me and the Mrs.”

    It is not unusual for friends to recommend movies they love, but what is interesting is to ask why that particular movie connected so deeply.

    Mitch volunteered his reason.

    “I was so happy with the ending that I wept a bit. How refreshing to see two people (who were obviously perfect for each other) set aside their own desires and CHOOSE to do the right thing — finding a way to love the ones who they had already made commitments to.”

    If I asked you what movie has connected most deeply with your own journey and asked you to explain why, what movie would you choose?

    In a class I teach at Seattle Pacific University this precise question reveals just how profoundly the answer discloses the tender spots of an individual human soul.

    After explaining that I think the movies we love are often connecting to something in our own journey, I simply ask each student to prepare a creative 6-9 minute first person presentation about the “movie that has touched you most personally and why.”

    I order pizza, bring in soft drinks and wait to see what will happen.

    The first time we did this assignment the first presentation was a shocker.

    Jenny announced she had chosen the movie “Girl Interrupted.” I knew her to be a bright, funny senior, bound for seminary after graduation. With the help of some film students she had prepared an 8-minute movie to tell her story, informing us that she would need 15 seconds at the end to explain her film.

    The footage began with Jenny standing at an ocean shore watching a sunset. She then walked into a cabin, opened a prescription bottle and spilled all the pills onto her desk. She swallowed fistfuls of pills as she wrote the words “I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself” on page after page of her journal. In “Girl Interrupted” a depressed young woman hangs herself. In Jenny’s film her face is superimposed into the movie’s hanging scene.

    The room was eerily quiet as Jennie stood up and simply said, “You just witnessed my life between the ages of 13 and 18.” She then sat down.

    Jennie’s fellow students were no longer eating pizza. Uncharacteristically speechless I improvised, “after each presentation we will have a moment of silence to reflect on the presentation we’ve just seen.

    That first, memorable, holy evening, an entire class of young men and women chose to invite us into their pain, and more importantly, to be a witness to and part of their healing.

    Kaitlan expressed her sadness when imagining her wedding day, comparing her absentee alcoholic father with Steve Martin’s role as dad in “Father of The Bride.” Kirk, who originally had chosen a funny scene from “Love Actually,” saw the way the evening was unfolding and chose a different, more revelatory scene, saying, “I had no idea you guys were going to be so honest.” He then used Emma Thompson’s character to explain his fiancé’s problem with trust due to the infidelity in her parent’s marriage, which had been confessed on the very night four years earlier he arrived for his first date with his wife-to-be.

    Film can be a way for us to connect to our story and become acquainted with the interior life of others. It is a common language that opens the door to disclosure on our path from our painful reality towards the fulfillment of our hopes.

    I like the way Frederick Buechner puts it, “in a world where there are no longer books we have almost all of us read, the movies we have almost all of us seen are perhaps the richest cultural bond we have¢â‚¬¦The best of them remind us of human truths that would not seem as true without them. They help to remind us that we are all of us humans together.”

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

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    Posted in Staublog in November 13, 2007 by | No Comments »

    Norman Mailer Is Dead

    Norman Mailer Is Dead

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    “Norman Mailer is dead.”

    The news arrived in an early morning phone call from our daughter Jessica, who lives in Brooklyn, three times zones from our slumbers and a short subway ride from where Mailer died in Manhattan’s Mount Sinai Hospital at the age of 84.

    Mailer was among my most memorable personal encounters. I interviewed him on a retrospectives of his work “Time if Our Times.” (I’ll try to dig up the audio, have it converted to mp3 from tape and post it at the kindlings in the next few days.)

    We met at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago where Bill Young had arranged a meeting on the penthouse suite where Mailer was staying.

    I went to the private reception area and was greeted by a cheerful 28 year-old who asked, “how do you spell that” when I asked to see Norman Mailer. That she did not know of Mailer is a commentary on her, but as you will see, was also a confirmation of Mailer’s worse fear.

    I was uncharacteristically anxious as I headed for his room, because I had been warned of Mailer’s strident, combative, feisty ways.

    Things are often not what you expect.

    When Mailer opened the door he seemed frail and feeble, using a cane to steady himself. He asked if I needed anything to drink, offered me a chair and we got down to our work.

    His opening words still haunt me.

    He pointed to a small desk and said, “50 years ago I was an unknown man sitting alone in a room with a pen and pencil, and now 50 years later I am an unknown man sitting alone in a room with a pen and pencil.”

    It was an odd place to start a conversation with a man who burst on the scene in 1948 with “The Naked and the Dead” and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize twice for “The Armies of the Night” (1968), which also won the National Book Award, and for “The Executioner’s Song” (1979).

    But like the boxers he so admired, Mailer built a career on throwing surprising punches and even in his advancing years he was ready to stand his ground and take on a conversationalist. I actually don’t remember the interview itself.

    I do recall what happened after the interview.

    We had been talking about the Essenes, a first century Jewish sect he admired. He launched into a diatribe about the Apostle Paul who he believed bastardized Jesus teachings into a legalistic religion Jesus himself would have railed against.

    He learned I was a seminary graduate and said, “Oh I wish I would have known you went to seminary. I would have gone out drinking with you. I used to go out and get drunk and talk about sex. Now I go out and get drunk and talk about God. I’m obsessed with God.”

    He went on to say, “I believe God is imminent. He is closer than we can imagine.” “God cannot be both all loving and all powerful” because if he was not he would not have allowed the Holocaust to happen. Therefore I have concluded that God is all loving, but not all powerful.”

    We counterpunched and reasoned–it was intense. The old man was morphing before me into the wild man I had been warned of.

    It reminded me of the opening lines of “The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History,” where Mailer described himself.

    “As Mailer had come to recognize over the years, the modest everyday fellow of his daily round was servant to a wild man in himself: The gent did not appear so very often, sometimes so rarely as once a month, sometimes not even twice a year, and he sometimes came when Mailer was frightened and furious at the fear, sometimes he came just to get a breath of fresh air. He was indispensable, however, and Mailer was even fond of him, for the wild man was witty in his own wild way and absolutely fearless. He would have been admirable, except that he was an absolute egomaniac, a Beast no recognition existed of the existence of anything beyond the range of his reach.”

    My time was up. The next appointment was waiting.

    Mailer grabbed my book and signed it ” a rugged and most interesting hour.”

    And so it was.

    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

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    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in November 10, 2007 by | No Comments »

    Where is Dick Staub?

    Where is Dick Staub?

    Check out Dick Staub’s new bookThe Culturally Savvy Christian.

    Also, click here to listen to our latest daily podcast of “The Kindlings Muse”. “The Kindlings Muse” rekindling our spiritual, intellectual and creative potential.”

    Where is Dick Staub?

    Regular readers of this blog/commentary have noticed a reduction in the number of postings since the summer and the more curious have emailed asking, “What the heck is going on?”

    As in the case of reality most of the time, the answer is at once simple and complicated.

    Dick and his family have moved to Orcas Island, Washington is the short answer.

    The longer answer is slightly more nuanced.

    Though we had vacationed off and on for twenty-five years on neighboring Lopez Island and though the warm summer climes would lead any sane person to considering permanent relocation in paradise–the beautiful landscape, Bald Eagles soaring overhead, seals and occasional orca whale sightings (if you’re lucky) would not be enough to lead us to a move here.

    As a follower of Jesus I have always urged people to leave their comfort zones and follow God wherever he leads and I’ve tried to do it myself!

    For some people that means a call to a foreign land, maybe to some Muslim country hostile to the gospel. For others it means a call to the inner city like our daughter Jessica who teaches in the Red Hook district of Brooklyn or our friends Rich, Anna, Erika and Doug who work in South Central LA, or Wayne and Anne who planted a church in Chicago’s rough and tumble Lawndale district.

    For us the journey to Orcas began six years ago in a conversation with David McFadzean. David (co-creator of Home Improvement) critiqued an idea I had for a proposed nationally syndicated radio show.

    “Dick,” he said, “you and I both know the electronic media has severe limitations. It does certain things well–entertain, inform, create awareness, BUT”, David went on to say, “in my experience, transformation happens local, grassroots, in community¢â‚¬¦in my experience real transformation happens through the local church!”

    That conversation resulted in our creating The Kindlings Muse as local, live events podcast to extend our reach, but rooted with a local group of folks.

    It also made me think about how the local church relates rekindling the spiritual, intellectual, creative legacy of Christians in culture.

    In March Kathy and I felt compelled to sell our home. We figured we could be freed up for more ministry if we eliminated mortgage payment. We decided to sell our house and use the profit to pay cash for whatever we could afford.

    Just a few weeks later I received an email from Grant, a regular reader who wanted to subscribe to this blog and who lives on Orcas Island and serves as Worship Pastor in a local church there. This began a miraculous series of events over the summer in which it became clear that my personal and professional involvement on the pastoral staff of a local church while continuing my work with The Kindlings was both God’s will AND the fruition of the seed planted by David McFadzean a few years ago.

    In short, I received and accepted a call from the Orcas Island Community Church to serve them (as one of nine elders and one of three full-time staff) and to develop initiatives enabling them to better serve the highly educated and artistic population of Orcas Island, Washington. They also encouraged me to continue my writing and my work with CFC and The Kindlings.

    I suspect over time this move will lead to more prolific and content rich blogging, but right now I am reorganizing life around an active Kindlings Muse schedule and regular preaching/pastoring and the adjustments of moving to an island.

    Stay posted. More to come. For now–let me urge you to listen to God and follow God out of your comfort zone. Who knows what will happen next!
    Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

    PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

    PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

  • Register for CW

  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com


  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2007

    Posted in Staublog in November 9, 2007 by | No Comments »